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.

Big Mistakes

1244 Relax and Succeed - there is always a simplicityIn life we will vary in our risk-taking. Some people have the sort of childhood that encourages them to be naturally bold, whereas others like things to be safer, with less risk of major downsides. It’s one kind of doctor that wants to deliver babies and another who will do your surgery. There’s some overlap, but they specialize for a reason.

Even if we’re the type of person that is careful about risk, our circumstances can alter our natural setting. Being unusually attracted to a person can lead us to be braver, romantically, than we might ever have been before. There’s entire industries built around offering the poor unlikely though not impossible relief from constant struggle. Even going a long time without a win can really motivate someone to take chances they otherwise wouldn’t.

The trick is, even when we’re reacting in-the-moment and we know our extra effort or courage is coming from a much-desired opportunity, we still must stay aware of how we have shifted our identity and what we have left at risk. That doesn’t mean you never take chances–you have to to live–but it does mean that they’re calculated. This not only helps you succeed, it also helps you fail.

1244 Relax and Succeed - Things are just thingsWhen answering readers questions about time management, I’ve posted before that sometimes a failure to succeed is not even within reach. I myself have very elderly and frail parents that often can’t wait, but I also need to earn a living and attempt to maintain the rest of life, including maintaining friendships, although that last one is often the sacrifice when caring for people who generally can’t be left alone for a long stretch. There is no amount of management that solves that.

The worst thing we can do is regret that we may not be able to avoid failure in some significant way. Either you’ll run out of time, resources or enthusiasm before you’re done or not. Understanding those limits allows us to act quickly, and with as much wisdom as possible, if things tumble out in unpleasant ways. This is inevitable in any life, so we can’t live seeking to avoid it, we must learn to surf the bad waves as well as the good ones.

The hardest part for people is their attachments. If we believe we need some object or amount or victory before we can feel good about our lives, we’ve lost control. But if we feel our duty is to say balanced and minimize damage, then we’re just doing what we’ve always done–we’re managing our life with the most balance possible.

1244 Relax and Succeed - The reason most people give upIf staying on your surfboard requires you to throw away some valuable weight, spending time assessing the loss will only delay your reaction and generate more pain. Conclude, accept, act and then move forward with grace and dignity. Ultimately there is no other way and resistance only creates more pain and delays things further.  It’s not like your priorities will dissipate just because you have. No matter how bad the work day was, your children or your parents or your other responsibilities don’t cease to exist. In fact, they’re a gift. Because when you can’t do much to improve your own life, a really great reaction is to try to improve someone else’s.

Don’t dwell on big mistakes, even if you worked hard to plan or work around them. Don’t get caught up in ideas of fairness or the volume of your effort, those are all irrelevant at some point. Take solace in the fact that the effort will still have helped strengthen you, even if the effort itself failed. Knowing how to face hardship is ultimately more valuable than any other life skill, and even there, you can fully exercise your character and values.

Everyone experiences hard times. If you’ve put in a good effort and tried your best, as the Dalai Lama notes, there is no basis for any regret. We can take a moment for the painful acceptance to sweep over us but, once it has, our duties are usually self-evident and there is little else to do but to change paths and begin walking anew. By that point, the only thing that will make it particularly painful will be your own voice, in your own head, discussing what-ifs. Those can be compelling, but they are also created by and for you. So you’re free to create them. But all your ego will do is keep you from the clarity you require from success. Even in the din, a quiet mind will stay closer to wisdom.

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.

Silently Floating

You’re born floating in the middle of a beautiful river. You don’t even know there is a shore. You know only the floating of the water. As you age you learn you can affect your movement around the water and you attempt to do so, but you often become frustrated when the river is itself and does not meet your expectations.

Maybe it is the currents pulling you in challenging, stressful directions. Maybe it’s too shallow where you are and you are skimming along, irritated. Maybe it is rocky, and you’re bouncing along in frustration and a bit of fear. Maybe you’re actually hitting some really big rocks pretty hard and it’s so frightening that you’re angry at the world for scaring you so much. Or maybe you’re marooned with damage, depressed and unmoving on the shore. But if you’re reading this you haven’t done the equivalent of suicide and gotten out of your boat. Which is good. Because there’s something you’ve misunderstood.

Yes, you do control yourself. But you do not control the river. The banks are set by fate, by your parents, your times, your culture, your individual experiences. The difference will be in their banks, not in the flow of the water. That’s the point. The flow is guaranteed like gravity. You are destined to return home to the sea. The only question is, how much will you allow yourself to flow?

What is it not to flow? It is to imagine things as being wrong. It’s to image the river being a faulty river. Rivers can only do as rivers do. They are guided by principles. Your thoughts about the river are not the river itself. Your opinions exist only in your consciousness; the river is indifferent. But then why think resistant thoughts at all?

We often mistake our own flow for a mistake, and in attempting to correct it we fight our flow. It is this misunderstanding that misleads us. It’s not a mistake that the water is shallower and rougher near the shore. Nor that there are sharp rocks, or waterfalls or dangerous eddies. These are all normal things for any river, and all parts of the river will experience them to some degree. That isn’t the world or the water being wrong, that’s layering thought over top of flow to create resistance.

The narratives about your unfulfilled desires, your worries, your fears, your complaints against yourself and those around you–those are like psychological attempts to damn your river. You’re trying to force a direction change with pure thought, but you don’t stand a chance in the face of the river of life. Your must surrender and float.

Stop your judgments. Flow past your irritations, frustrations, and bouts of temper or depression. Replace them with a silent appreciation that, even with these challenges, to flow is to live and to live is exalted. It is easily the most underrated thing in society today; to merely be alive to experience existence. So many die without having ever truly opening their eyes.

Don’t argue with your white water. Don’t try to back away from a waterfall. Don’t try to muscle your way out of an eddy or escape from the rocks. Flow. Stop your paddling, wanting, resisting thoughts and flow.

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.

The Value of Pain


It shows up at times where we’re thinking of others. That’s why we don’t notice its value. When we use our experiences with pain, it will be in some kind of compassionate act. To heal them is to heal ourselves when we feel that level of empathy. That is when we see another’s pain as our own. That is when we feel a sense of oneness with another person.

Let us immediately distinguish pain from suffering. Suffering is psychological and it leads to psychological pain, which is only just now becoming important for people to distinguish from physical pain. As I noted in yesterday’s post, relative to our cellular structure language is a very new creation. As a result, our body keeps reacting under the assumption that we’re in physical danger, when really we’re just worried about what someone will think of us on social media. Clearly those things should not been seen as equally important or meaningful.

While the same chemicals can get triggered, with physical pain it can take a long while to heal, whereas sincere efforts at understanding the structures of psychological suffering can quickly reduce it almost completely, and over time people can soon learn how to deeply love their own lives. But we gain access to loving it by trading away our psychological suffering in exchange for acceptance of the certainty that we will experience both physical and non-optional psychological pain.

Physical we’re already ready to accept, and to what degree we accept it is generally referred to as our pain threshold. But buying office supplies for our new job, signing our married name, imagining our life as someone different–these are all either hopeful or wildly hopeful fantasies. We’ll all do them sometimes, but that doesn’t make it wise. It just makes ego human.

There is no need nor benefit for us to spend a lot of time leaping into a made-up future to concoct expectations. We can just stay in the now, where we can actually take action to impact our future, and in doing so we become less likely to avoid causing ourselves future psychologically pain.

Non-optional psychological pain is when our circumstances have changed so suddenly and so drastically that we literally have brain wiring that just isn’t set up to manage it. It’s impossible to be someone and not take on a world view, but if you’re a soldier and you get your legs blown off, then you’re suddenly someone who needs a revised identity. Same for someone who goes broke, has a divorce, loses a job or through the death of a loved one.

The depth of our love with our loved ones relates to the level of pain we’ll experience when they die and our brain can no longer interact with them in the present. That’s why it still tries, often until death. I haven’t lost a parent yet, but I know a lot of people who still ask their deceased parents for advice all the time. They’re just wired into too much other stuff. Their beauty is that they’re literally hard to forget.

By living through very painful experiences, we become valuable to anyone else experiencing those things, and in a ways that could not be known by people who had never actually been in the same position. This is the basis of empathy: our own psychological and physical pain. And when we’ll feel its value is when we bestow our empathy on anyone whose pain we truly share. Having surrendered ourselves into a state of oneness, healing them is to heal ourselves. And that is the value of our pain.

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 Value of Anger

Eckhart Tolle on Anger

Nature isn’t stupid. It didn’t give you a collection of useless emotions. It gave you love to bond you to your community, it gave you fear to keep you safe. You have your bell and your thunderbolt, as the Buddhists might say. A little love and you have appeal, a lot and you have a romance. Have a bit of fear and you’re excited, have too much and you bare your teeth in anger.

There’s a lot of folks today that figure that once we’re advanced enough that we’ll drop that last one (as though we’re being graded by someone other than our own egos). We will see a less angry world for sure, but going so far as to think that anger is beneath love is to live in a dualistic world of ego. Things simply are. You may have noticed that the world functions the way it will regardless of your opinions about it.

Of course, it’s not like we’re helpless in this life. Maybe we don’t control the ocean, but we can learn to be a pretty skillful sailor. That said, even skillful sailors have to face storms. Big human emotions are like storms. But even facing those can be exhilarating and expanding if done with an open attitude.  A grandmother’s patience was won by raising her own terrible two-year olds. If you take the problem away, you also take away the sense of achievement that goes with overcoming it.

What you do want to avoid is egocentric anger. This is a fabricated, thought-based anger that is based on something like your hopes or expectations. Don’t go blaming anger for that though. You were living in ego having those hopes or expectations. Those are thoughts, those aren’t the world. Pain will create the feeling of anger. But angry thought-based emotional suffering is all ego.

You getting mad about not getting something you want is not the same thing as you getting mad at an attacker and fighting for your life. Yes, they’re the same emotion, but when you were built, nature didn’t figure you were going to invent language and then sit around all day and tell yourself scary or frustrated stories that then called for a chemical that your body wanted for much more serious circumstances. It’s you telling you the stories. You can’t blame nature for needing aggressive emotions to exist.

A lot of you won’t like that idea. You want a holy that looks like yoga and sounds like Eckhart Tolle. All quiet and calm. Hey, Eckhart does know what he’s talking about. For sure that is someone presenting the truth. But in all honesty, as awesome as he is, would you really want an entire world filled with Eckharts? He’s pretty low key….

What Eckhart is saying is critically important and people should listen when that’s what they’re ready for. But Eckhart’s not who you think to call when you want to go to Burning Man with your kids, or white water rafting with your summer, beer-drinking friends. He’s not who you’d think of racing to if you were super excited about something. His calmness would absorb the excitement. Like all of us, he’s right for some situations and not for others.

The world needs variety. There’s a lot of ways to be enlightened. Don’t fall for the idea that it looks like nervous people want it to. Those are egos. Listen to Eckhart. That’s one form of enlightenment. But so was Mozart, and you might be familiar with the fact that his personality was almost the exact opposite of Eckhart’s. Meaning Mozart’s crazy life, and Symphony No. 40 and the first movement of ‘Allegro,” are also the sound of enlightenment.

Your job as an enlightened being isn’t to stop all of the world’s tumult. Your job is only to move through that tumult as yourself. The scenic flats of the river and the raging rapids are all legitimate aspects of your river. Sometimes you’re a teacher like Eckhart, sometimes you’re a teacher like a raging two year old. You can learn a lot from Eckhart. And you can learn a lot from the two year old. Because in the end, the differences won’t be in them, they will be in 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.