Spiritual Priorities

What are your priorities? Not the ones you automatically tell people as part of your ego’s pose in the world. What does your life indicate your priorities are? Where are your actions in life and to what end? Do you spend your day actually trying to get happier, or are you mostly focused on affording what you either have or want?

593 Relax and Succeed - If we do not feel gratefulRecently the New York Times did a piece on John Osburg, the author of Anxious Wealth: Money and Morality Among China’s New Rich. It’s an interesting article in which Osburg is asked about how the wealthiest Han Chinese respond to their success and he notes that, “…there’s no question tastes are evolving, albeit somewhat slowly. Now that every Shanxi coal baron’s mistress can afford Louis Vuitton, in order to differentiate themselves, other new rich are moving on to other pursuits and tastes.”

That trend isn’t exclusively Chinese of course. When I was head of creative at the network in the 1990’s we did a two-part movie-of-the-week with Richard Chamberlain called The Lost Daughter. It was about the Order of the Solar Temple cult, which included many extremely wealthy families from Europe, North America and Australia. Much like the Chinese noted above, these people were very successful in the materialistic world, but once you can buy all the things you’ve dreamed of, how do you distinguish yourself?

So why do people want to be distinguished? Why do they want us to admire them? Because much like victims employ sympathy, admiration is a shallow refection of love, which what they want but don’t feel they can get without achievements. And so in their desperate attempt to find greater meaning, wealthy, educated people were encouraged to not only commit mass suicide, but to murder their own family members as well. Can you see how this unhealthy lust for love can manifest? Because remember, those murders were viewed by the parents as acts of love.

593 Relax and Succeed - Carrot and stickNone of that is much different than a victim sacrificing their enjoyment of their own short time on Earth to instead focus on garnering sympathy. Not loving someone is seen as reasonable, but not giving someone sympathy is seen as cruel and the people who use sympathy subconsciously know this. And so they tell their sad story and they get their imitation of love.

Now if their attempts to find value in themselves is what leads them to healthy spirituality then that’s great. If some crazy-rich Lamborghini-driving 29 year old Han ends up discovering true enlightenment by hanging around Monks for status, then the route up the mountain isn’t what matters—it’s the view once you’re up there.

So do you see that you can save yourself from trying to achieve material success in your own life? Can you see that you’re just on some kind of weird treadmill-ladder where no matter how long you climb you still get off at the same height? So you might as well jump off now. Think of how developed you’d be if you invested the same time on your spiritual development as you do in making, saving and spending money. When you think about it, that’s the vast majority of your waking day.

What I like about all of this is that it’s media-friendly. These stories will travel well. And these are stories of the richest people in the world who are placing their spiritual development above their material success. Material success is simply not enough anymore. Not in an age where someone like Ambani can build a billion-dollar 400,000 square foot (37,000 square meter) 27 story house for a family of six. Once you get to that kind of ridiculous excess you literally start to look crazy instead of successful and so people realize that they need to find something that people can genuinely respect. And in the end, when push really comes to shove, the only thing people will ever wholeheartedly respect is if you unconditionally love them.

593 Relax and Succeed - RevolutionIf it continues like this we’ll either destroy the world or we’ll come to the realization that ever-increasing wealth isn’t the answer to happiness, satisfaction and ultimate success and it may very well be the super-wealthy that signal this change. If they start being honest, humble and public about how disappointing their lives are, then that may be the signal for the next big change, which is not a political revolution, an industrial revolution, nor a technical revolution—it’s a spiritual revolution. Not a revolution of religion. One of compassion. Of prioritizing the happiness and security of people rather than focusing on economies. We can invest in ourselves instead of in the stock market. In the end the investment in yourself pays far better dividends.

Look at your life honestly. How much of it is spent shopping or working? How much of it is about money and how much of it is about happiness and life and meaning? Because far too many people wait until they’re seriously ill or dying before ever considering these questions and that’s unfortunate. Because most people who do consider them end up realizing that they’re not actually living the life they truly want and they begin to make changes. Don’t be brainwashed by your society. Don’t have silly, meaningless priorities because that’s what some business needs. Live your life by being present in it. It doesn’t matter what you wear or drive or where you live. What matters is, do you feel connected to other people and do you find it easy to give love? If you have those two things then you have everything that anyone ever truly wanted or needed.

peace. s

Day to Day Spirituality

As I’m ageing I’m more interested in using things like Buddhism to help calm my busy days down but I’m so busy I never get time to meditate or anything. Do you have
any tips for finding time to be spiritual?

Timeless Seeker

Dear Timeless Seeker,

Can you see how you assumed that your regular life was separate from your spiritual life? Have you ever travelled to Asia? If so, unlike in North America or Europe, did you notice how people’s spirituality is sprinkled throughout their day? In places like Thailand or Cambodia etc. there will be little shrines everywhere with offerings of Coke and Twinkies and chips etc. You see monks all over the streets and in general a much larger percentage of the population is 291 Relax and Succeed - Can I call you backsomewhat engaged with their spirituality on a daily basis. Only in the West did we fit spirituality into a single day with only the most devout doing any work the rest of the week. In fact, far too often people are praying for the weak on one day and preying on the weak every other day.

If you’re alive you’re being spiritual. The only question then is, how conscious are you? Do you realize that your business dealings have a spiritual nature? The way you raise children and interact with friends is spiritual in nature. Even the way you drive is spiritual, which I referenced last year in my past blog, Inevitables. In fact a lot of the issues people are struggling with are precisely because they keep seeing their spirituality as separate from their life rather than than seeing their life as a manifestation of their spirituality or lack thereof.

So the fact is, you have ample time to be spiritual, you just have to understand spirituality differently. It is a prayer to show patience. It is a spiritual offering to be generous. In bed, rather than re-hashing your day or planning tomorrow, you can be developing a quiet mind, or during a stressful time you can meditate on gratitude. Kindness, friendship, compassion, appreciation, laughter, joy, creative work and especially love are all very spiritual acts. Rather than thinking about these things while you do them, instead invest yourself completely in the act and forget about judging it. The only self-talk debates you should be having would be to self-debate/meditate yourself out of a state of ego. So if you want to use your thoughts to put yourself back on track that’s fine, or to use self-talk to help to understand a spiritual concept—those are all meditations. But the rest is simply your ego judging and wanting and complaining about what is.

291 Relax and Succeed - If the only prayer you saidDo not cove your spirituality into parts of your day, have your day emerge from your spirituality. Yes, it will feel odd at first to prioritize things like patience or assistance or generosity. You’ve been sold your entire life on the ideas of selfishness, separation and accomplishment. Rather than joining others as an equal and falling in love, you’re encouraged to win. And what you win is ego-status or materialism. You get stuff or you get things that only exist in other people’s consciousness like a good reputation or status or wealth. These are not things that exist on a spiritual plane. There are no coffins with storage spaces for your reputation, title or money. Instead invest in the real you. The eternal you. Because that’s who you really are, and that’s who you’re always Being whether you’re choosing to be conscious of it or not.

I wish you every good fortune in your exercises. Make it a game to find more and more ways and times to be consciously involved in your spirituality. Let rushed people into line-ups, work on being kinder and develop healthier relationships with co-workers, spend your lunch being quiet-minded rather than on social media.

The upside is that this blog is spiritual in nature, so at least the time you spent doing this was a complete success on the being spiritual front—good for you! Now go do that with the rest of the day. Turn your phone off at lunch and just experience the world itself with your five senses. Shut your yakking monkey-mind up and just Be. You’ll be surprised how just that one small change will alter your life.


peace. s

The Friday Dose #1

As my regular readers know I’ve slightly changed my format this year for Monday through Thursday. Fridays I had historically always posted a video, a re-blog, an article or an audio clip. I had originally planned to continue that plan this year as well—and I will, in a way. What changed it was that as I sat down to write the first one of this year I had something 283 Relax and Succeed - Change the way you look at thingshappen that’s never happened in all the time I’ve written this blog—I got stuck. I wrote three different versions but I didn’t like any of them. And I did not feel like writing a fourth. Luckily I teach this stuff so I knew exactly what to do.

Rather than engage in frustrated thoughts where I worried about how late I’d have to work, or about how I should have done this or that differently, instead I got up and went and did dishes. I called up my best friend and stuck my hands in the warm water. In my relaxation and before she could even answer the phone, I realized something. I realized that I had another challenge that I had left un-thought-of because I currently had no solution. Now, in the quiet of my mind—where it was not distracted by any noisy frustrated thinking—these two issues found each other and they co-resolved. My friend and I agreed to talk later and I came back into my office to write this.

I have a lot of readers who come each day to the blog but they neither Follow it, nor do they belong to any social media like facebook, twitter, pinterest or tumblr. But they have expressed interest in what I think about things and, by extension, what things I think about. So their only regret about preferring as much electronic privacy as they have is that they miss out on the other posts I do on facebook that are not a part of the blog. These include links to articles, additional audio and video recordings, or even photos. I got asked to email these each month but that’s simply too prohibitive once there’s a certain number of people, but I think you can see where this is going anyway.

A lot of my friends tell me they count on me for a lot of the really cool and interesting stuff I find on the web. This year Fridays will be when I will post that week’s collection of any material I’ve found that relates to our pursuits here. The nice thing about this switch is that it makes the postings searchable, which is remarkably not possible on facebook.283 Relax and Succeed - There is one thing one has to have

So what will I include on Fridays? Well, I’ll design them to feel a bit like special discoveries. It will be a case where you never know what exactly you might find, but I’ll endeavour to ensure that you always feel it was worth it to have come. It might be an article on Buddhism or psychology. Or it might be a demonstration of love or an interview with someone who’s done something amazing. It might be some fascinating scientific detail or a medical discovery. It could be a beautiful song, a philosophical stand-up comic, or just a baby or a dog being really really funny. But they will all be things that will be chosen to stretch, challenge and create enjoyment and growth for your mind. They will always relate to what I’m doing here at Relax and Succeed. This new regular instalment will be called: The Friday Dose. I call it that because it’ll always be a dose of something tasty and good for you. Welcome to the First Edition.

We’ll begin with this beautiful story about love and loss, as a music star Fiona Apple demonstrates wonderful courage in what was surely a torrent of complaints, pressure and anger. I’m sure there was discussions of legalities, ethics and conscience, but by demonstrating the values of actual True Love, Fiona demonstrates a healthy kind of selfishness that the world could use more of:

Fiona Apple Cancels Tour

And I’ll also share this empowering piece on Matthieu Ricard, the Buddhist Monk whose brain scans demonstrated that he is the happiest man ever tested:

The Happiest Man on Earth

And if you like that, you might also want to check out this wonderfully engaging video of him:

The Habits of Happiness

Please feel free to email me any links you might find to relevant things, and always feel welcome to email me any feedback or requests you have relating to the blog or my social media.

Thank you for your time and attention. I trust you’ll find the postings as rewarding as I did. Enjoy.

peace. s

The Friday Dose is a collection of cool, interesting and surprising things that are chosen for their potential to distract you away from any painful thought loops that may currently be disrupting your sense of perspective. Save these for when you’re feeling low and you want to change your perspective. They’ll help Enjoy. And please let me know if you bump into any broken links. Thanks!

Making Magic Tea

Winner: Scott’s Favourite Blogs of 2013 #3

Imagine an ocean of consciousness. Take a small portion of it and fill an individual teapot. That teapot is you. That is your consciousness. The scooping of that water is your birth. And when you are born your water is clear. But you do observe very closely what types of tea are regularly made in your vicinity. So if your family gets angry a lot you’ll either be motivated to drink that tea too because it’s familiar, or you’ll avoid it because you’re tired of it, but either way your family will have largely dictated which teas you prepare most often. The point with spiritual growth is to take conscious control over the preparation of your own tea.

179 Relax and Succeed - What sort of experienceYour consciousness is an opportunity. The convection of your very Being will allow you to make any tea you choose. But to enjoy the tea of life as much as possible we must take ownership of the brewing process. We must consciously choose to make the tea we wish to experience.

The biggest challenge to that is that we often losing track of our sense of choice. But that is where our taste comes in. Because if we throw in teabags without really considering their affect, or if we just throw in whatever our Dad or Mom did in this or that situation, then we’re not really actively alive at all. We’re not choosing our life at that point, we’re following a script. We’re drinking whatever we were told to drink whether we like it or not. This can be as minor as crying at weddings to as serious as domestic abuse. But even if you like crying at weddings—it would be much better that it was you choosing that fate, and not your history.

If you don’t like how your tea tastes, then that is not your tea. That is what individuality is: personal taste. Other people can tell you chamomile is amazing, but if you don’t like it then it’s not for you. The fact that it tastes bad to you is what’s supposed to prompt you to stop drinking it and stop making it. It’s a signal to change teabags. It’s a signal to change the contents of your thinking. It’s a change to what is contained within your consciousness. So don’t blame others when you’re drinking something you don’t like. Take responsibility for that because that also means you’re assuming control. Control over your choice of teabags. Control over your life experience.

179 Relax and Succeed - The legendary cellistYou make tea all day long. You just go from this moment/sip to that moment/sip. But you are always having some tea. So stop complaining about it as though someone handed it to you. This stops being a restaurant when you’re about two. Once you can talk you slowly and clumsily start making your own tea. Maybe you’ll get lucky and you’ll mostly make pretty nice teas. Or maybe you’ll start off making teas you really don’t like. But either way, you have to experiment to figure out both what your favourite tea experiences are, and also how to change bags quickly and easily. When it comes to the latter, it’s really only a matter of practice. The more you change teabags the better you get at changing teabags. After you have that skill, knowing what you like to drink is easy.

Get conscious of the process of being alive. This is your short-lived opportunity to be a tea-maker. So go ahead and make some terrible teas when you’re younger. Drinking those will be what teaches you that the tea is ultimately your responsibility. Then go through a phase where you practice changing teabags and you experiment with other people’s tea choices. Eventually you figure out which teas are truly your favourites. From there you simply brew those every opportunity you get.

Before you know it you will remember that the pot of consciousness that is you will be poured back into the ocean of consciousness from which it came. And that will be the end of tea held in the shape of You. Free to flow and mix without judgment, the former You will melt and become an integral part of the vast and infinite ocean of consciousness that will eventually be scooped up to be reincarnated as other individuals opportunities to choose lives of their very own.

peace. s

Scott McPherson is a writer, public speaker, and mindfulness facilitator who works with individuals, companies and nonprofit organizations around the world.