The Stream of Time

What does Henry David Thoreau mean? Is this silly? Opaque? Meaningless? Profound? It’s actually all of those things, and you’ll turn it into whatever it becomes. Clearly people post it as a quote because it means something, so it’s not silly or meaningless, but it can also be so obscure that its nature can conceal its profundity.

Anyone who looks at it and thinks about it long enough knows that you are only ever alive now. You lived 10 years ago, but you’re not alive there now, you’re here, in the present. So any thoughts about your past or about your future are all thoughts, and they are all thought now, about then or later. You can think about other times as a present-time activity. So you can use now to revisit then if you like. The problem is that you do it a lot when you don’t like it, but that can stop.

Sometimes you’re just casting. You’re not after anything, you’re just reminiscing. That’s the best kind of fishing. The kind where it’s just as good even if there’s no fish, or no keepers. And if you’re that casual about your life, then if you pull in something that you think is ugly or unwanted, you can just catch and release–you can just let that collection of thoughts go.

Other times you’re casting looking for pretty specific fish. These are the old hollows you return to in your mind, over and over, in a bid to finally land that big fish and end your fishing. But you fail to notice the irony of fishing to end fishing. You don’t erase unpleasant experiences from your psyche, you just don’t load them into active memory. You don’t fish for what you don’t want to catch.

Understand, your body is alive in the present, but you’re usually not with it in the present, you’re time travelling forward or backward using your thoughts. So your experiences of fear or anxiety or sadness or loss, these are all thoughts about other times, and yet because they are emotionally imprinted, you see them as your life.

You have to take where you go and what you fish for more seriously. Far too many people just fish for whatever their parents fished for, without much thought of whether or not that’s actually the best route to an enjoyable fishing trip. We should use our feelings to grade our thoughts, and if they’re leading us to feel lower or worse, then we should stop thinking them.

You have no big huge miraculous thing to do. You already live within an enlightened state, you just want to be more conscious of it. To do that you only need to stop yourself from fishing in your yesterdays or tomorrows, and instead focus on being on the river now, today. Because that is where you life is lived and that is where your balance is kept. The present literally is a gift. Come alive within it.

peace. s

Scott McPherson is an Edmonton-based writer, public speaker, and mindfulness facilitator who works with individuals, companies and non-profit organizations locally and around the world.

The Master and The Priest

One day a Priest knocks upon a Great Master’s door. When the door opens, the Priest bows. “Master, I have heard from many that you are the greatest teacher of all. I come today to ask if you will please take me as your student. I promise to be very diligent.”

476 Relax and Succeed - Breathe in the futureThe Master sizes the priest up a bit before responding. “I am about to leave for the next village. Walk with me there and I will decide when we arrive.” And with that the Master walks out the door with the Priest scrambling after him.

They walk for several miles in total silence before coming upon a river with a washed-out bridge. A young girl with a basket full of mangoes is standing at the shore, worried. She sees the two men. “Hello! Can you help me? The bridge is washed out and the water is too deep for me to cross. My family will be worrying about me. Can you help me please?”

The Priest begins to explain that they are compassionate, but their Monastic Order cannot touch women, and so they are prevented from being able to help—and that’s about when the Master scoops the young woman and her basket up into his arms and he starts wading across the rushing water. The Priest is mortified. He gives chase.

476 Relax and Succeed - Yesterday I was cleverOn the other side of the river the Master simply sets the woman and her basket down, he bows to her, and continues on his way. The Priest is flabbergasted. He looks back and forth from the woman to the receding Master, and then back again and again before he finally gives chase.

Running up to the Master the Priest breathlessly asks, “Master! You touched that woman! I have been told you are a Great Master and yet you touched that woman when it is against the rules of our order! I need you to explain this to me Master.” But the Master just keeps on walking.

The Priest is really steaming on the subject. After about a mile or two he pipes back up. “Master. I must insist. Our order has a rule. I witnessed you break that rule. I saw you carry that woman. That was wrong. Please explain this to me or I will begin to wonder if I have found the right teacher.” The Master has no reaction whatsoever. He just keeps walking.

By five miles from the river the Priest is apoplectic. “Master! This is impossible! I refuse to take one more step behind you until you explain to me why it was okay for you to carry that woman across the river!?”

476 Relax and Succeed - Do not dwell in the pastThe Master finally stops walking.

He slowly turns to face the Priest. “Indeed. I did carry her across the river. But tell me: in the end, which of us carried her further?”

Remember, there is only now. Everything else is you selectively replaying or speculatively imagining other times. You are where your thoughts are. So the next time you’re mad at someone, remember that it’s you that’s choosing to think about them. It’s not like they’re inside your head squeezing your brain. You decide what emotions you get by choosing your thoughts. Don’t live in the past. Don’t live in the future. Live now with all of your consciousness and you will be amazed at how beautiful the most ordinary-looking life can be.

Let things go. Be in peace. Big hugs. Love you.

peace. s

Scott McPherson is an Edmonton-based writer, public speaker, and mindfulness facilitator who works with individuals, companies and non-profit organizations locally and around the world.

The River of Life

Your ego is racing around trying to figure out how to fit in. It is striving and pleasing and explaining and convincing and arguing and otherwise struggling to be accepted. Meanwhile your spirit sits passively by, watching you chasing drama like you’re in a play. The real you is unperturbed by thoughts of non-belonging; it knows that a character in a dream fighting with another character in a dream is not something to be fixed, it is something to be understood.

115 Relax and Succeed - People may love youImagine a river filled with ice cubes. Differences between people are like the cubes jostling together as they make their way down that river. Yes they make a lot of noise and some might even fracture or break apart, but in the end does that really matter when the ice is made from the same thing as all the other ice? And that also means your cube is made of the same thing as the river itself.

Some cube-lives will melt much sooner than others because their path naturally takes them into the heat of the sun. Others will be kept cold and hard by their surroundings and they will not melt until the river meets the sea. But even then, all the cubes will always be made of water and they will always return to the sea. So why so much drama over the jostling on the way down?

Can you see that you are battling in a vain attempt to stop the flow of life? Saying I don’t want to be jostled by other ice cubes is to say I do not want to exist. Living is the act of being jostled by the flow of the river and the other cubes within it. You’re not supposed to escape it. You’re supposed to accept it. Because in the end, it’s all just water anyway. In the end, the river is is really the the motion of the cubes. People are other cubes, the slope is time and the length is life. When you relax into that it’s a fun ride. Even the scary parts.

115 Relax and Succeed - We are all onePeople criticizing you or teasing you or even hating you is nothing more than the click clack of cubes in the river. It shouldn’t surprise you that the currents and eddies of the larger river would naturally cause individual cubes to regularly meet each other sharply as they travel in opposing directions. But do we really think the river is doing something wrong when that happens? Should the river change its entire flow for the sake of one particular ice cube? Or are the cubes just doing what they would do given the forces acting upon them? And what’s it all really doesn’t matter because again: it’s all water in different states anyway.

Your consciousness will occasionally be low and you will feel the cold harshness of being an ice cube. The hard edges of your beliefs will clash with the hard edges of other people’s beliefs and life will feel cold and hard. Despite that sensation, the river is still the river and the flow is still moving steadily forward and you are always okay–none of these cubes are really any different than any of the others you’ve faced and all of the cubes will eventually melt back into the river to eventually evaporate and reincarnate as a rain or snow or fog and then do it all over again. So why worry or battle or fight or argue your way through it when it ends the same way regardless? It’s a smoother more rewarding ride if you simply go with the flow.

Other people’s views of you are created by the happen-stance angles of your interaction. They do not need to be fixed or repaired or cleared up or prevented or stopped. They are truly meaningless in the grand scheme of things. Accept that you will feel these impacts when they happen. They will cease to matter as long as you stay conscious of the fact that what you are experiencing is not actually your life. What you are experiencing is simply the flow of the river itself. Enjoy.

peace. s

Scott McPherson is an Edmonton-based writer, public speaker, and mindfulness facilitator who works with individuals, companies and non-profit organizations around the world.

Go With The Flow

86 Relax and Succeed - Go with the flowGo with the flow. It’s catchy. You might have even said it to people when you saw them struggling. But what exactly did you mean when you said it? What is going with the flow? If you had to put that into other words what would you say? That’s where a lot of people get stuck. How does one go with a flow anyway?

Let us analogise your life into a river. Way up in the high peaks you melt into a little baby trickle. You burble along to the point of becoming a toddler/brook. You don’t impact the world around you much, but you are continually growing to the point where eventually you’re a creek and you have a real flow/personality of your own. Now you can start to have a hand in shaping your own shores.

Along the way you intersect with occasional tributaries. These are the people that help you become who you become. Through them, your creek will grow and grow to the point where you’re a full-on raging teenaged river.

As a river you will continue to grow you will move through a lot of different terrain (social situations, work situations, ages, eras in time etc.). You will pass through stunningly beautiful terrain, and hostile difficult terrain. Sometimes you’ll be at your kid’s weddings. Other times you’ll be taking your spouse to cancer treatments.

You will sometimes move wide and slow, like when you’re either lazily relaxing, or other times when the bottom’s so shallow you’re not sure which way to flow. Sometimes you will crash through canyons so narrow that your sheer force of being will carve solid rock, just as you may have left a very serious scar on the person you once hurt. Sometimes you’ll move so slowly you’re silent. Other times you’ll thunder with the crush of a waterfall. All of these ways of Being are very different and yet all of this is you.

But none of that really matters because eventually you spill back out into the ocean where you are reunited with All—you become indistinguishable from your surroundings as you diffuse and ultimately evaporate—the infinite parts of you rising into the sky like some ephemeral angel to be reincarnated into new snowfall that will melt into new trickles that will form new brooks, creeks and rivers. This is the cycle of life. But what’s that got to do with defining the phrase go with the flow?

86a Relax and Succeed - Here's how it works100% of that river’s journey is your life. From trickle to ocean, that’s all you. Sometimes you’re lazy and slow. Other times you’re falling so fast you can’t hold on. Sometimes the world tells you where to go and other times you make your mark on it. But whether it’s rapids or flats, the river is the river. Going with the flow just means that you’re okay with whatever part of the river you’re on/being. The point is: don’t stand on the flat parts wishing for more excitement and danger, and don’t stand in the rapids worrying because things are so exciting or dangerous.

Every river has its own flow—and yes, some are more dramatic than others. But they all have to get from the mountain to the ocean, and they’re all going to see a variety of terrain, so don’t get caught up in using your thoughts to want different terrain. Just acknowledge where you are on your river and then go with the proverbial flow. Don’t add to your challenges by talking to yourself about how you wish this part of the river was like another part of another river. Because that’s a nonsense conversation and your attention would be better placed in the Now.

All lives have rapids and slow spots. All move through beautiful backdrops and ugly wastelands. But since there is no getting around those facts why not just stop the internal discussion about what should, could or would be better? Why not just stay quiet?

86-relax-and-succeed-dont-try-to-understandThis is what the Buddhists mean when they talk about acceptance. You stop arguing with what is. It’s not that you become enlightened and you have no more challenges and everything goes your way. Becoming enlightened means to come to an acceptance that there will always be such challenges. The point isn’t to prevent them from happening. The point is to be able to comfortably have them happen.

If things are tough, let them be tough. If they’re going really well—enjoy it fully. But don’t fight gravity by arguing with yourself about which way the river should have gone. It will always go the way it goes, just as you will. The point is that you shouldn’t judge your flow. You should just follow your nature and go with whatever your life presents you.

If your life is currently quiet, then you should be good with quiet. But if it’s rapids, then you should be just as good with the rapids as you are with the quiet parts. Or in other words, you should be just as good with vexation as you are with peace. That’s what it is to live the good life. That’s what people should mean when they say, just go with the flow.

Have an awesome day, regardless of where your water is flowing. 😉

peace. s

Scott McPherson is an Edmonton-based writer, public speaker, and mindfulness facilitator who works with individuals, companies and non-profit organisations locally and around the world.