Increasing Our Understanding

1338 Relax and Succeed - Increasing our Understanding.jpg

That difference is subtle. I’ve used the analogy before –it’s like that day when a person realizes that ‘uncle’ means their ‘Mom’s brother.’ Nothing’s changed, but everything’s changed.

In that case, the uncle becomes a new person in much the same way that we learn math; like that moment when the concept of ‘multiplication’ shifts from being a description of a mathematical function into a fairly basic but universal action in the universe. One’s a noun describing a verb and one’s the verb itself. That is a significant difference.

Rather than some lightning bolt or jolt awake, most people come to greater understanding by taking little steps. One minute we see the world one way, the next moment we can suddenly grasp the concept of multiplication no matter where we see it.

Through the miracle of continued breakthroughs of understanding, the world can, bit by bit, become both less mysterious and more manageable. Mindfulness classes are essentially gatherings designed to incite a-ha moments.

The same thing happens when we understand our egos in a particularly profound way. Through greater understanding and an acceptance of our lack of control of the world, we ironically gain greater control over ourselves.

As people increase their awareness of how reality works, apparent paradoxes commonly come to make sense. Those in turn often lead to new action in our lives. But the action itself can’t be the aim because the clarity only occurs if it is conjured through sincerity and earnestness. Wanting to be a better person is a want, and desires trap us in a state of ego.

Our biggest gains are made when we come to profoundly understand our thinking so well that we simply let it be. It becomes separate from us, like a city walled off by a large garden. In this way our mind must become like a Zen Garden, where the outside world is calmly considered, but where it cannot intrude. After all, the point of a Zen Garden is not to control nature, but rather to slow life down to the speed of our soul.

1338 Relax and Succeed - We can regain the beautiful appreciation

We need to see spaces of no-thought as being like an oasis, just as a Zen Garden has walls that contain the spiritual equivalent of a sailor’s dead calm. They take the wind from our ego’s sails; the walls and plants and water somehow absorb and prevent the echo of our egocentric thinking, and they dissolve the bouts of thought we attempt to begin again.

Over time, we surrender. Eventually we learn to carry the garden within us.

It is important to note that the garden’s beauty does not mean it creates only beautiful flowers, exclusive of thorns. Rather than removing the thorns from our lives, our understanding unites the beauty and the pain in ways we feel are both sensible and profoundly worthwhile.

By living with a deeper understanding of our how our lives happen and what that means for us, we are suddenly transported to a bigger and more exciting landscape in which we have more options and greater access to our own capabilities.

Living with this underlying truth may or may not make us appear more successful to others, but what it will do is ensure that we respect how we feel about our own lives. Having an ego is understandable. Allowing it to control our spirit is unfortunate. We should do all we can to prevent it from succeeding in hobbling our potential for a rich and rewarding life.

peace s

Exhale Your Ego

1310 Relax and Succeed - Surrendering into ourselves

A lot of our stress comes from us being engaged in striving for perfection. Even by definition it’s an impossible problem. Who defines perfection?

Playing an instrument. Dancing, painting. Cooking. Parenting. A religion; yoga; even the Japanese tea ceremony. These are all activities that are best done with an active, creative, present focus. If there’s a precise ‘way’ to do anything, then that’s just another form of expectation.

Even in Buddhist tea ceremony, the precise actions shouldn’t create the headspace, the headspace and the precise actions should become one. Yes, one is designed like a meditation to lead to the other, but in practice they are not one in the same. That’s missing the point. When a wise person points to the moon, we’re not supposed to look at their finger.

Every one of us; let’s all forget our ideas for how we’re supposed to be. Let us just be who we are instead. It’s easier. Surrendering into ourselves is like performing a spiritually relaxing exhale of ego.

Maybe we’re experienced and have a slow steady flow to life, maybe we’re new and are lost but wild with enthusiasm. Neither person is right or failing or doing it ‘the right way.’ We’re all just individuals climbing around on the terrain of life.

Everyone is already living their lives perfectly, we just keep telling ourselves otherwise because we each imagined a different story. But do you see? That is a part of our story too –that we tell ourselves stories that aren’t true.

1310 Relax and Succeed - Doing anything really well

We don’t need to fix anything, we don’t need to improve or be perfect. We just need to realize that the way we already are is totally fine if we maintain a healthy headspace of knowing who we are, and by avoiding the act of telling ourselves that we should be someone different. If we’re not self-talking we can remain fully present for action.

It is unhealthy to be so rigidly focused on rituals, rules and history that we fail to notice our opportunities to make our lives and the world around us into a better place for all. Doing anything really well is not defined by how we do the thing itself, it’s defined by how conscious we are when we do whatever we do.

Without consciousness, we are left to be crippled by our own insecurities. This unnatural over-thinking state leads us to feel discomfort, as the universe naturally urges us to go quiet and come alive.

The universe sees no value having any aspect of itself spin in on any other aspect of itself. That is spiritually unproductive. Self-absorbed self-criticism is unproductive and worse, it can lead us to deny the universe the value of our creative and social contributions to it.

We must get our thoughts out of our way in order to enact our lives. Why not start right now?

peace, s

Mental Health Assignment One

1068-relax-and-succeed-let-go-of-your-cup-of-yesterdayOne of two things happens. Either you’ve already failed at your traditional New Year’s resolutions and you’re happy to restart, or you’re a person who’s more rigid about your commitments and so it feels weird to start this coming Monday instead of on the 1st. But then, that was secretly my first lesson to you….

Who cares where the planet is in relation to the sun when you decide to make changes? Why is the 1st important? Or why target 365 days? You’re not a planet, you’re a person. Your life happens in moments and you can enact health in any moment of any day. Someone you love may be dying and yet you can still feel grateful that their doctor is so good. So remember: you don’t succeed or fail all at once. Each moment is its own opportunity. Every new moment is a restart in the world of mental health.

I want to state that very clearly once more to make sure you’re going into this in a healthy, productive way: the people who are happier, more productive and more connected than you all still have death, disease, accidents, heartbreak, betrayals and trouble to deal with. Seriously. You don’t improve your life by making those things go away.

1068-relax-and-succeed-dont-carry-your-mistakes-aroundYou need to take today and really dispel the idea that you can truly “succeed.” If a champion athlete hasn’t won their first championship yet, are they succeeding or failing at the gym? Or, if they never won a championship but they met their partner at an athletic event, was that succeeding or failing? Did you really want the trophy more than the spouse?

Also, anticipate that it would be very weird if you won 100% of the time. That would be so boring you wouldn’t even do that. Otherwise, why aren’t all of your games against people you know you could beat? Without challenge life has no flavour. We’re not here just to burn calories. We’re here to live, and that means overcoming challenges and growing in capability as a result.

Anticipate days where you’ll struggle. Accept them as valid stones to step on as you cross the water. It’s true, they’re slipperier and more likely to cause to go in, but there’s also no way to move around the lake of life without stepping on some. And you get better as you go. Again, everyone deals with those, even the people whose lives you think are fantastic. They just don’t take a fact and then make it worse with a bunch of fearful thinking.

1068-relax-and-succeed-your-past-mistakesSo what do you do with the fearful thinking? Well that’s the thing, if it’s fearful generally your words are running away with your psyche in your head. You need to employ some detachment. Understand that your thoughts will lead to brain chemistry that will match your thoughts. The trick is, they’ll also appear to you to match the situation, so that’s where you’ll get confused.

That brain chemistry and your emotional reaction are not coming from the world and they are not happening to you. (Read that again.) Your emotions are from your thinking and they are generated by you. Most people leap to thinking that should mean that if they’re your thoughts that you should be able to change them whenever they want. Except those thoughts aren’t yours in the way you currently believe they are, but that’s too much to explain now. You’ll just know that when you’re thinking dies down enough so don’t worry about it. That will happen naturally.

1068-relax-and-succeed-success-is-buried-on-the-other-sideSo here’s your assignment: all you need to do today is to find two or three short biographies of people you admire; people you consider successful. And then read through them and note how nicely all of the really hard, painful parts are written about. “After overcoming that challenge so-and-so poured their heart into their new album…” Oh wait, you mean that rock star had to go through the pain of a divorce to write those great songs? Find their pain. Make them more like you, because you’re more like them than you realise.

Do it. Find the bios. Read them on Wikipedia or in an article. Just take some down time that you would have used to shop or surf the internet and instead do this and start your route to better health. Do the work to dispel the quiet lie you’ve always told yourself. The people you want to be don’t have better lives than you, they just have more control over their thinking. That is a do-able task for all of us, so you can relax until Monday. We’ll start there and we’ll get you where you’re going one moment at a time. Have a wonderful weekend.

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.