What We Do With Our Lives

1357 Relax and Succeed - Right now I'm stuck somewhere between

The meme above conveys a popular agony. People feel their lives are unsettled when past events have lead them to undesirable present events which make the prediction of future events difficult or foreboding. In a state of ego, it’s possible to spend our entire lives spinning in place, doing little more than that very speculation.

The problem with using our consciousness in that way is that people mistake their speculative thoughts for them actually having a ‘bad life.’ Life not going as we planned much of the time is no basis to judge a life by, we share the world with nearly 8 billion other people who also influence our days.

We are boats, not the ocean. If our hope is to choose destinations and then assume the winds will carry us there is to take a fairly self-centered approach to the ‘weather.’ The winds carry many sailboats so we can’t all have favourable winds all of the time. The storm that rips our sails also creates work for sail-makers.

The question is, when the winds of fortune are not blowing for us, are we better to invest our time in growing in some way, or in making our vessel even stronger, or on simply resting? Or are we going to spend it below deck, with no real view, just charts, and then talk to ourselves or whoever else will listen just so we can complain or lament the winds that did or are not blowing?

Everyone has to really stop and think about that quote above. We’ve all done that. We’ve all been there, wishing it was different. Okay, the present may be painful, but it’s not a life-fail. Those ruminations and speculations are simply what we’re doing and what we get is a painful feeling while we are doing them.

The answer to the meme isn’t to offer the person and entirely new and impossibly perfect life without struggle, it’s to answer the question honestly. “You are actually sitting, while you type out regrets about the past and future when you could otherwise be doing other living, that felt other ways, but rumination and speculation are what you chose.”

1357 Relax and Succeed - Failure is an option

The pain is not in the events themselves, it is our assessment of them. Sometimes our unwanted events are other people’s most desired events. The world is the way it is. It is filled with bounty and beauty but no one needs anyone’s help appreciating that. Our tests and the beauty of our own spiritual strength emerge from the other times, where our story takes an ugly turn.

These are the very real times when we are genuinely unloved by those we love, or we don’t get the jobs we needed but were truly qualified for, or when we don’t get picked by the team and our dream dies, or when the way we are or what we do makes really makes friendships difficult.

Even if all of that goes well, we can still end up pursuing an entirely admirable course in life only to realize it does not lead where we had wanted to go and it’s too late to double back. These are all painfully routine feelings, even for those living ‘the good life.’ But the fact that they are ‘routine’ is a clue to where our peace can be found.

These are all realities that no spiritual practice can entirely dispel. To desire their removal is understandable prior to greater understanding, but once we do understand we appreciate that the problem was not what we desired, those genuinely are great things. Our problem is that we desire, because spiritual practice is about dispelling desire.

If they are unhealthy, what do we trade for dispelling our desires and the ruminations they inspire? We get the very real and present drama of living. In a novel or film we can enjoy a dramatic journey filled with conflict or emotional danger because we have no desire to ‘perfect’ the protagonist’s story. We’re reading it for the drama —for the ending to be unexpected.

It is possible to do the same thing with our own life. We can see our lives less as something to perfect and instead something to marvel at. And the marvelling happens naturally, just as soon as we turn off all of the speculating. That leaves space for the rest of the universe to find some room in our consciousness. And that is when we can actually feel peacefully at One with the world as it is.

peace. s

Type One and Type Two Fun

1260 Relax and Succeed - By seeking pleasureI heard an astronaut on the radio yesterday. When asked if it was fun to do a spacewalk, he responded that it was Type Two Fun, meaning it’s not the kind of fun that you really feel while you’re doing it. The two are very different, but it’s often easier to look at the day around the fun to help determine whether it’s Type One or Type Two Fun.

Type One Fun days are often a lot easier. That’s stuff like going to the beach, or having a party, or going to a good show. Type Two Fun comes from experiences where our own attention needs to be highly focused and the experience is more demanding, like on a spacewalk, or during a big dance number in a show, or when I race my brother’s race car. It’ll be a fun memory when I think about it later, but at the time I need to stay present to keep a very fast car from hitting a wall.

Type One is fun at the time. Two is rewarding later. Rather than suffer for our whole life by trying to avoid Type Two days, we’re all better to understand that inactivity and a lack of motion or creation will lead to our worst suffering. Meanwhile the pain endured to acquire strength or skill ends up as stored energy that releases Type Two Fun when our own personal genius makes itself known through action.

1260 Relax and Succeed - Dwell in possibilityType One Fun is easy. But yin and yang means that there is no getting around certain kinds of suffering in life. Let me write that again: there is no getting around suffering in life. Not for anyone. Young people die, you can’t fight City Hall, and around the world the weak suffer. What makes existence holy is when we accept this fact and we begin turning an idle sadness about life into an action that converts difficult times into rewarding Type Two Fun. Med school is hard. Saving lives feels awesome.

The only help people ever need with Type One Fun is if they start to dose it with thin pleasure, from things like drug addictions etc. But for the most part Type One Fun is easy to enjoy, just possibly harder to find. Opportunities for Type Two Fun abound. They are plentiful all around us. Every complaint points to a potential Type Two Fun solution. Like with being a doctor, refugee camps are hard places to work. Saving lives there feels awesome.

When we’re urged to do what scares us it’s not the fear that has the value, it’s the discovery. Doing things outside our comfort zone increases the size of our comfort zone, and as that circle expands, its growing perimeter encounters increasingly more opportunities to do the sort of things we tend to look back on with pride and self-satisfaction. That’s credit we know we’re truly due, and it never feels better than when we rightfully give it to ourselves.

1260 Relax and Succeed - For most people their spiritual teacherIf most of us look at our lives, our suffering is caused by our resistance to things that are “hard.” That fact is a demonstration of how we all live in illusory worlds, because if we stopped to meditate on our own lives for just a while, we would suddenly make the genuine connection between our suffering and our avoidance of challenges, versus our joys and our overcoming of them.

You will make choices regarding your path every day. Some will be motivated by fear, others by fun, but for greater clarity we require a greater level of consciousness about those choices. Rather than perpetually seeking Type One Fun and torturing ourselves in that act, we are better to fully grasp the value and profound rewards that go with taking on Type Two Challenges.

Don’t hide from what scares you. Use the yin in your life to make room for the challenges that you can then convert into a wave of Type One Fun. It’s in you to do. Enjoy your day.

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.

What’s Your Hidden Agenda?

1255 Relax and Succeed - The moment I saw youOur ego is sly. It’s been with us since we were little, so its voice is so ubiquitous that it just disappears into the background. But it has an agenda, and the problem for our soul is; that isn’t our agenda, it’s our ego’s.

Our ego doesn’t like challenge, or discomfort or pain. Avoiding those experiences means that our ego makes us pay for that resistance with anxiety, insecurity and suffering. It’s really not a very good trade; living in an ego state where you need things to be your way when your soul is fine with how things already are–including you.

A good example of this is when people are super upset. Presuming the experience isn’t common, people rarely see anyone extremely upset and it can be alarming at first because everyone’s family does that differently. Some people talk about suicide or destroying things, others go dark and silent for days, other attack those present with lashing words. Regardless of what it looks like, it’s when someone is in in an egocentric state and they are experiencing serious distress.

1255 Relax and Succeed - Never in the history of calmSo how does an ego react? Our ego isn’t really interested in the world, it’s focused on its own personal impression of the world, but our ego can’t even have a personal impression of anything because it is created by other people and experiences. It’s like a recording, or a Turing Machine, or set of levers. It’s not very flexible and it only has access to knowledge but no wisdom.

When someone is extremely upset our ego wants them to calm down quickly because it’s uncomfortable for our egos to be in challenging circumstances. Instead we generate anxiety as we struggle to figure out what to say to achieve our own agenda, yet when someone’s in distress, our agenda isn’t going to be relevant whether we want it to be or not.

Our soul has no agenda, so it needs nothing from the other person. It merely observes and responds by nature. This means rather than trying to think of the right thing to say, (which is like using our hand to smooth the ripples out of water), our soul can simply be present. It rightfully understands that it is present for the other person’s experience, but it’s not having the other person’s experience. That alone should generate some helpful gratitude.

1255 Relax and Succeed - To obtain satoriOnce we’ve taken away our personal resistance to the behaviour we’re witnessing we can then have our natural wisdom take over. When we’re in that state we seem to say just the right thing, even if it immediately might not feel like it to our ego. Rather than asking the person’s ego to find the soul that creates it, instead our soul invites their ego to surrender and be at peace in the chaos. Your ego wants them to feel better, your soul is prepared to join them in feeling badly.

It isn’t hard to see that if we’re prepared to feel badly then we get to avoid the anxiety, worry and second-guessing involved with trying to figure out the right thing to say. Sometimes there is no right thing. Sometimes the person just needs time while they feel loved and then the process can unfold. But no matter where anyone is in that state, no one is wrong, no one is lost, and no one is right and no one is found. We are all simply either being an ego or being ourselves and we will balance between the two as the act of living our lives.

Take time to be present with suffering even if it’s your own. Rather than fix it just observe it. Prove to yourself, that can be more comfortable being present than being happy, and in doing so, enjoy your day.

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.