It Starts Now

Video below.

You’re worried and you want certainty. You don’t want to make a so-called “big” decision in case you choose the wrong thing. And yet, as expensive as it is to your life, your mind and your body, you will worry despite the fact that it does nothing but stretch out the decision time. In fact, it’s helpful to recognise that a decision-making delay is the only reason there’s even room in your life for worrying.

The universe rather obviously wanted a you to exist. That’s why you’re here. You’re part of nature. You just have this odd habit of talking to yourself like your someone undeserving of respect, as though the stories you tell yourself in your head matter as much as the fact that the universe bothered to create you in the first place.

Just accept you’ll make mistakes and then trust yourself. Give up on figuring it out before you get to the moment you’re in. Failing is a part of the story you’re in, it’s not anything more meaningful than that. This is a massive drama. Don’t even try to imagine how your role ultimately fits in, just trust that your lines will occur to you when you need them. The best kind of prepared you can be is to be relaxed and to have faith in yourself.

It hurts less. It really does. Too many of your attempts to preserve your life, your health, your sanity and your reputation are all more painful than just facing life as plain old you. Again, your job’s not to be an impressive character, your job is to be you so that the story can unfold naturally. Just live without all of that second-guessing. The second-guessing is the pain. Again: the second guessing is the pain.

All the planning in the world can still not guarantee success. Accept that fact and begin living within reality, where your control is limited, but your ability to adapt is fantastic. Rather than being a rigid person looking for a perfect world, be a flexible person who comes to enjoy the leaps and tumbles that go with discovery, realisation and enjoyment.

If you’d just stop your efforts to avoid suffering, you wouldn’t have to suffer so much. Leap. It’s okay. Life will catch you.

Have a great weekend everyone.

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 Confrontation

She let him have it. How dare he speak to her that way? They were friends, she was hurting and he attacked her. He went right for the jugular, refusing to respect what was happening and what it all meant. Her heart was broken.

“I can’t believe you said that to me.”

“I can’t believe you asked me to believe something so ridiculous.”

“I never asked you to believe anything! I was hurt. I came to you for help and you acted like my problems are nothing!”

“What problems?”

She’s incredulous. He was right there. He did it! And now he’s claiming he doesn’t know what’s going on?! She was livid. “I just finished telling you about how my boss has been treating me and you acted like it didn’t matter!”

“Okay, first off, can we at least try to calm down enough so that we’re not yelling back and forth?” He took a breath and steadied himself. His voice was warmer when he spoke. “Look Syd, we’ve known each other a while now. If you haven’t figured out that I care then pay more attention because it should be obvious for a variety of reasons. Who rescued you when blew your rent on that crazy gift for your Mom?”

“She was worried she was going to die!”

“I remember. That’s why I gave you money I really didn’t have. Of course I thought your Mom was important. Who took her special meals up every time you couldn’t? Who sat and played her dice game with her? Don’t act like I haven’t shown I care.”

She shuffles in her place, uncomfortable. He puts his arm around her. “When that guy dumped you I’m the one that invited you over for dinner, and it was me that was sitting beside you and it was me that put the mirror on the chair across from you because it was me who told you I wanted to make sure you had dinner looking across the table at someone beautiful.”

She jags a cry. She’s emotional, and he’s mixing a bunch of sweet and awful moments together really fast. “What’s that got to do with anything?”

“That’s us Syd. That’s what we do. A girl dumps me, I come see you and you tell me I have a nice ass or that girls are dumb anyway and you help. Even if I’ve been a dick. You show you care. And I do too. So that’s who we are so you can’t take today and rewrite all of that. You can if you want, but to me you’re the same person, which is why I don’t want to hear this shit anymore.”

She’s incredulous that he’d attack her after they just calmed it down. “What shit?”

“This shit about you being weak. This shit about you going into a depression because of your boss. I know you. So it’s insane to ask me to believe that you’re too weak for this. It’s offensive to you, and you asking me to pretend you’re weak is offensive to me. I know who I know, I know who I see every day.” It’s weird. He’s complimenting her and giving her shit at the same time. She gets up, back to him, crosses her arms and paces nearby. It doesn’t seem to bother him.

His tone shifts down a bit. “And who I see is a strong woman who made it through her Mom’s cancer and her parent’s divorce, and her breakups and mine–and she survived Grady Marsh in high school and yes, she was knocked around for sure.” He leans in to stress his point. “But the weeble wobbled and it didn’t fall down Syd. You were fine then you’ll be fine now, so all of this dramatization is exactly that.”

“Don’t reduce my life to some lame plea. And so I’m just supposed to go everyday and get treated like shit? Is that it? I should just be fine with how she treats me?”

“Of course not. She’s a classic over-compensator. She feels like a fraud who doesn’t really deserve her job and so she feels uncomfortable around any capable person and she over-compensates. It’s classic. It’s hardly personal. She’ll do it like a robot to everyone who she perceives has the ability, intelligence or beauty that she doesn’t have. And don’t act like you’re helpless.”

“Oh what, I confront her and wait for her to get angry and undermine me and then just surrender my job? That’s what she’d do.”

“Maybe. Depends on how you approach it. But regardless, either fix it, leave it or stop bitching about it. She’s always been like that; you should either go in and accept that as the landscape of the job, or make a formal complaint and wait to get fired, or just leave. But stop talking like you’re weak with no options when you’re really only scared. You’re an adult.”

“This is a painful thing, why can’t you see that?”

“I can. But no one said there’d be no pain. You live around enormous numbers of people in horrible pain. My point is it won’t last so it doesn’t need us to engage with it so much.”

“I’ve put in five years there. Why should I have to leave!?

“Why not leave? Why are you assuming where you go would be worse? Maybe it would be better. Maybe you’d meet your new boyfriend who becomes your husband there. Syd, stop acting like these mental attachments matter.”

He urges her to sit back down next to him and she does. “Let me clear it up Syd: the world isn’t fair. Go to a children’s hospital and see people with real challenges. Even your own sister. She’s a single mom of a sick kid, she has to work two jobs, and your once-had-cancer mom helps but you don’t. Your life looks pretty good you know. I know it’s no princess-life but come on. We gotta remember, 25% of the people walking past us will get cancer and a bunch of the rest of them are those people’s families. Maybe that’s still us, so maybe this isn’t so bad really.”

“I don’t think you understand what being depressed is.”

He’s not angry, but he is firm. “Now you’re being disrespectful to me. Please don’t pretend you’ve got some feeling I don’t. Don’t pretend that everyone you know hasn’t suffered horribly in their life. All of us feel like just throwing in the towel sometimes. I know that hurts and so does everyone else over about ten years old, so don’t put a spotlight on your problems like they’re the only ones that count because the rest of us have some challenges too you know. When was the last time you asked about Brian?”

Her eyes widened and she hid a gasp. “I’m so sorry. I was so caught up in what’s been happening that I didn’t even think to ask. I’m so sorry.” She takes a step toward him but she can see he needs some space.

“Thanks. Mom says he’s good. We’ll wait and see how the chemo did.”

“I’m so sorry. We should go see him.”

The whole thing between them is a bit weird for her now. He seems comfortable, just stung. “Yeah. He’d like that.”

“I’m sorry.”

“Syd, just stop okay? Just stop with all of the whining. You’re not depressed, it’s just when small shit goes wrong somehow your dad taught you this habit of spinning it around in your head for forever and for what? What’s all that thinking do but dump a bunch of awful-feeling chemicals into your brain? How does that help you solve your issues with your boss, or Palestine and Israel, or climate change, or women’s rights, or any other thing you’ll get all down about? It’s just a stupid waste of time and a bad habit and you always defend it. It steals energy from our friendship that could be used more wisely.”

He turns toward her, almost intimately. “It’s why you forgot to ask about Brian. You’re always too wrapped up with thoughts about yourself that you never stop to ask what you’re missing and yet you’re famous for not noticing major things in people’s lives.”

“I am not!”

He just looks back at her. She can tell that it’s true. She has a moment where she caves in a bit. She hates the thought that among her friends she’s known as the one who hogs the pain limelight. But to her credit, that reputation doesn’t feel comfortable, so she takes a good breath, sits up straight and she turns to him. “Okay… okay… so you’re saying I’m strong and so you’re not mad at me and you’re mad at me for acting like I’m weak.”

“Yes. You I love. I know you. It’s the behaviour. It’s beneath you. It’s like watching an alcoholic hurt themselves. I won’t blame the alcoholic for drinking themselves, but I won’t buy them a bottle either.”

She sits with that for a bit. If her parents made it to Canada, through all of that hell back home, then how could the child of those strong people act like a shitty boss would be enough to knock her entire life off track. The longer she considered it the more the stronger feeling built until finally she turned to him. “Okay. Okay then tell me what your brother loves and then lets go get a lot of whatever that is.”

He turns to her. He’s crying. She touches his shoulder. “I’m so sorry I hurt you.”

“I’m not crying about that.”

“What’s wrong then?”

“Nothing. You’re just so beautiful when you love people.”

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.

Self Harm

1091-relax-and-succeed-the-mind-is-responsible-for-the-feelingsThis week we’ve discussed spiritual and psychological violence. You’ve worked on altering your external discussions to remove that sort of violence from what you say; you’ve worked on your internal discussions regarding how you judge others; and today you’ll work on the most damaging version: attacks on yourself.

The concepts of cutting or self-sabotage can be difficult for happy people to understand. But it is possible to use internal violence against ourselves so effectively that we also begin to believe we deserve physical pain as well. We start to use the pain to divert our attention away from the even-more-painful thinking. The point isn’t to stop the cutting, it’s to stop the thinking.

The illusion that there is something wrong with us is created through comparison. If your parents were verbally hard on you then they would have taught you to be hard on yourself within your thoughts and there will always be a comparison. If we’re not careful we can start to think the training for our thoughts is actually who we are, but just because someone judges you as something doesn’t mean that’s what you are, it just means that’s their style of judgment.

1091-relax-and-succeed-dont-let-your-struggleThe trick is, you can’t get back into a healthy mode by trying or changing or effort because it’s all an illusion. Everyone is naturally psychologically and spiritually healthy, but we can be convinced–and then we can continue to convince ourselves–that somehow we are not worthy unless we do this or that thing.

As strange as it seems to the person who’s made a habit of doing it, there’s nothing wrong with them other than they’re currently engaged in painful thinking. That’s why they still have friends and family that love them and are often confused. None of it makes sense unless you’re the person thinking the thoughts. They still see the same old lovable, potential-filled you.

When you look in mirror you don’t see you, you see a jumble of judgments about you. When you consider who you are, you don’t look at yourself very thoroughly; you’re more likely to cherry pick out all of your biggest challenges. But if you didn’t have those challenges you’d be perfect and that would be boring. You’re here to move around all that, not overcome it. Mountain climbers don’t chisel the mountain out of existence, nor do they want to stay on top. Their life’s joy is just trying a life of different routes.

1091-relax-and-succeed-i-am-made-and-remade-continuallyToday’s meditation is to compete with yourself or your partner to catch yourself internally using the words I and you, because that’s the two words you’ll often use when you talk to yourself. (e.g. If I don’t get this paper written I’ll fail this class; come on Sara, you can do it.) Keep in mind you do this all day every day so there will be lots of opportunities for you to catch yourself.

Just like you did yesterday with another person, today you do that with yourself. You listen to that criticism and then you find a way to rephrase it to yourself in more positive, encouraging terms. This can feel silly and meaningless, but that’s because you think your big problems need big solutions, but really you don’t have big problems, you just have an overabundance of  counterproductive thinking.

Don’t stop altering your external conversations; keep shifting those to be more positive as well. For every interior criticism you have about someone or something, rewrite it to be most positive. And today add interior and exterior criticisms of yourself. You’ll feel like you’re getting away with something or you’re letting yourself off easy, but in reality it’s that easy. Don’t add another layer of argument about that. Just do it.

Your reality is not made from things it’s made from ideas. The ideas that are real in your world are the ones you believe. Start believing in a stronger, more lovable version of yourself, because despite your very real concerns, that’s the real you. Believing anything else will continue to be a painful denial of that much larger spiritual reality. Bottom line, the universe doesn’t make mistakes and the universe made you. Anything else is just thinking.

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.

Real Peace Is Not What You Think

1022-relax-and-succeed-i-am-not-what-you-think-i-amYesterday we discussed Decision Fatigue and how it is wearing a lot of people out today, but a lot of people are misunderstanding what their peace has to look like. Making lots of decisions about your life is stressful, yet responding to needs of those we love often has a strange, compelling effortlessness which is representative of the psychological and spiritual peace you’re looking for.

One of the best examples of this is infant parenting. People can find parts of it nerve-wracking as they try to figure out what the right thing to do, but even that is just us dithering between ego choices rather than quieting our mind and calmly trusting our instincts like we’re forced to do in an emergency. It’s also why people working in refugee camps are often calmer and enjoying life more than successful people with nice office jobs. What to do is often so clear, important and obvious that there is no need for but-if thinking.

This is why stay-at-home moms will often have a strange transition as their kids reach more independent ages. Even by 2 or 3 years old they have enough ability to communicate that we begin treating them more like adults and we start heaping expectations on them, which of course they can either satisfy or not satisfy, but that’s where the over-thinking of the mother starts because it theoretically could go differently….

1022 Relax and Succeed - Forget trying to find your path

Strange huh? When the responsibility is shared with the child because they can communicate now things can go well or go poorly because blame is possible. The child can have listened or not have listened, so in a way they can now misbehave for the first time ever. They now have enough control over themselves that the mother can regain her sense of expectation, which in turn spawns a sense of depression.

What happens to all of us in these cases is that we mis-ascribe the source of the pain. The mother will think she’s just lost two years of her life and never thought much about herself. A fireman will wish there weren’t so many candles at Christmas that start fires, or the surgeon will imagine how the surgery might have gone if they’d only known about…. It is the revisiting of these choices that is stressful not the choices themselves, because at the time of making them they often weren’t choices they were simple reactions to life-threatening events. No time to over-think.

So the Mom ends up feeling depressed that she didn’t to have a bath or read a book in the last two years and yet she will often look back on those very years as some of the best of her life. Why? Because she was largely selfless during them. And what is it to have no ego? It is to be selfless; it’s literally to avoid using the mind to create a self than can then think wanting-for-itself thoughts. She didn’t mind not having a life of her own because she had no time to stop and think about it.

1022-relax-and-succeed-there-is-tremendous-happinessSo don’t think you need a quiet hardwood room with tatami mats on the floor, don’t think you need a book or a glass of wine, don’t think you need to be bent into some particular shape; peace can be wherever you go and in whatever you do, but the secret is to make friends with the present moment. It’s not to second-guess what happened, it is a time to be and not to do.

You don’t need emergencies to winnow down your thoughts, you can stop yourself from building them in the first place. Work on focusing your mind rather than creating wanting thoughts and you will find yourself in the same peaceful state of mind shared by a meditating Monk, an athlete in the midst of their best performance, an artist at the height of their creativity, and a parent who is fully mindful of the needs of their child rather than on wants of their own.

Remove your personal thoughts that would compare, judge or want and you are instantly free. The only question is, will you look at your life and actually see that you were at your best when you were forced to trust yourself rather than think, and then having confirmed that; will you be vigilant and practice your mindfulness today?

peace. s

PS This is a companion piece to the post Decision Fatigue.

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 Four Noble Truths

1015-relax-and-succeed-the-buddhaUnderstanding the secret behind a clear, rewarding life is not a matter of intelligence, it’s a leap into a paradox. Enlightenment is the action behind a rewarding life. It is a motion through experience. Even repeated actions are each given moment by moment attention. It is to simply be aware of experience without the creation of nor attachment to an experiencer.

A student once asked me why she saw several different versions of The Four Noble Truths. Since this blog is all about clarifying popular quotes it seemed a fitting basis for a blog and so I’m answering her question here.

The phrase, Suffering is universal, and the phrase, Life means suffering essentially say the same thing. If you want life you must also take suffering. They’re a package deal. But the noble truths should not be seen independently. They are almost more a riddle than a checklist of rules.

1015-relax-and-succeed-four-noble-truthsClearly we don’t have to reconcile the two when they both say, The origin of suffering is attachment, but we do have to define attachment. This doesn’t just mean attachments to things, people, or places, it also includes ideas. Like for instance, you will suffer if you’re attached to the idea of becoming detached. (Now there’s a tricky one.)

Again the two versions agree in their third stanza: The cessation of suffering is attainable. Now it gets interesting. Note that the first truth said that there was no way around suffering and yet here it says you can cease it. Logically, that means that you have to take it during your lifetime but you can learn to stop it for periods of time. You can exert limits on suffering, you just can’t make it vanish or you also wouldn’t know happiness. By accepting some suffering you avoid most suffering, but without the contrast joy will disappear.

Now to speak to the biggest difference–or apparent biggest difference–because I would argue these two statements are different phrasings of the same thing; Path to cessation of suffering is detachment means detached from an outcome. You can only be enlightened if you don’t want to be enlightened. You cannot have any attachment to an external outcome and achieve an enlightened state. That only happens when you have no personal feelings or desires, just pure experience.

1015-relax-and-succeed-the-four-noble-truthsThe alternate version is, Gradual self-improvement is the path to the cessation of suffering. This too is saying there is no identity nor any state of enlightenment there is only the act of becoming enlightened. You can’t have the goal of enlightenment and then know that as an individual you achieved it, you can only enact enlightenment through focusing on learning how to cease suffering. Again, it’s not a state, it’s an action. You just move around the spokes of the four truths. The road home is home.

Learning to manage your suffering will make you more ephemeral, flexible and free. Conversely, not wanting to suffer is to bring suffering directly to the smallest, weakest version of you there is. Learn how to suffer wisely. Much of this entire site is dedicated to helping you do that. Make it a priority in your life. There’s nothing else you could do that would make as much difference in how much you enjoy your life.

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.

Stolen Happiness

Scott’s tied up in a burlap bag, bound and gagged. I know this because I did it to him. I’m Stella, Scott’s evil twin. All of his stupid positiveness drives me nuts. I’m taking over. Let’s face it; life is crap and we all know it. There’s no getting out of this alive, it’s just a matter of how long and how badly you suffer until then.

I had some crook bilk me out of $400 last year. $400! Scott figures I should forgive that guy by forgetting about him. Screw that. I think about that jerk every day all day. I imagine how I’d get my revenge, I think about who could have stopped him so I can be mad at them too, and I imagine my life if it never happened and the comparison is agony, so no one can tell me that thief didn’t ruin my life. Just look at all of that!

The whole thing just stresses me out. Scott says I should change my focus so that I’m not giving myself stress-chemicals. Well maybe that’s what they’re for! Yeah, I know I’m not being chased by a sabre-toothed tiger, but maybe this exam for work is today’s version of a tiger. Don’t tell me I’m not stressed. I can list every single reason why.

1010-relax-and-succeed-lifes-not-fairIt’s not like I can look forward to a brighter future either. If anything it’ll probably get worse. Someone in my family must have broken a lot mirrors or walked under a lot of ladders because I’ve been plagued by bad luck all my life. Or maybe I just have more people stabbing me in the back. It’s not like you can trust people.

Scott believes you’re better to bet on the goodness in people, that it’ll lead to a better life than the opposite. Yeah sure. I’ll just assume this guy walking down the street isn’t a rapist. What’s he doing on this street? Why’s he walking? I know he’s a neighbour but he’s a creepy one. Look at him. He’s smiling. See? Creep. He just comes home from work and watches TV. There’s probably bodies in the basement or in jars somewhere.

Nope. You can’t risk dying just for some stab at a good life. Then it’s over. Then what? Then you have zero opportunity to actually get that good life you’ve been waiting all this time for. You don’t want to die bungee jumping or learning to fly or by asking someone to dance. Better to wait for the good luck others get. Once you have that you can start your life. For now it’s just too risky out there. You might lose some face.

1010-relax-and-succeed-12-symptoms-of-a-spiritual-awakeningScott claims our feelings of being hurt are some kind of interpretation we do with personal thinking. Interpretation? I don’t care if I was being treated badly, I still got dumped; I don’t care that I wasn’t home when it happened, someone robbed me; and I don’t care if I found out I’m cancer-free, I can’t believe they worried me so much with all of that unnecessary testing. People should show me more respect!

You can see why the world’s so crappy. The reasons are laying all over the place but you don’t see anyone doing anything about it. No one cares. The idiots. If they had half a brain they’d have some compassion. Well screw them. They’re in this sinking, stinking boat too. I can’t wait for it to sink. I just want to go to sleep. I find thinking about all this just so exhausting.

Here’s hoping your day isn’t as bad as mine’ll probably be.

STELLA

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 Shining

No one has a perfect life but there are ways to experience suffering where you’re still able to access feelings that include happiness and contentment. Life is that grand. It’s worth it even when it feels terrible, which explains why soldiers in a war will fight for their life, against all odds,  just for the right to stay alive even though it’s in the middle of a war.

Why is it spiritually or psychologically beneficial to be okay with your suffering? The idea that you are a story rather than an entity can seem very abstract and hard to grasp and yet that little layer of narrative is the only thing that separates you from that wonderful sense of connection and oneness you’ve felt at times in your life.

Living that way is profoundly healthy. As I’ve noted before, it’s why during the European invasion of North America no Natives wanted to go live in European “culture” and yet tens of thousands of Europeans abandoned their civilisation to join peaceful equanimity of the Natives. More like cells in a larger organism the Natives didn’t have individualised perspectives or problems, they saw themselves as part of a complete whole that was simply being. They had no personal stories there was only the story of All and how can you not belong in a story of All?

1005-relax-and-succeed-the-game-is-not-about-becoming-somebodyYour only problem is that you see experiences as being yours. They are happening to you. But look at it this way: Imagine there is a central light source covered by a sphere filled with little holes. As your hole opens the light shines out and you are born. The light itself cannot hope to comprehend the fuel behind the source, the design of the creation that formed them, nor even the nature of light itself. The beam has a source but it cannot know that source.

The light must travel through the first few feet to get to further distances and yet as the light moves “forward” it is still the entire beam of light, not just its farthest reaches. During its travel the light will go through very dark areas, very light areas, it will bounce off reflective surfaces and be impeded by fog or rain or smoke. Our tendency as ego-stories is to talk about our lives as though they are the fog or rain or smoke rather than understanding that those are experiences your life is travelling through. The experience and experiencer get confused.

Is it on one level harder for the light to move forward through a fog? Yes. Does the light know this by thinking about it? No. Does it slow the parts of the light down that are unimpeded? No. So does the fog exist? Yes, on one level, but not as a limiting fog; just as an experience. The light doesn’t know fog or smoke or mirrors. It just shines. So yes the fog is “harder” than the mirrors, but to who?

1005-relax-and-succeed-in-order-to-love-who-you-areIf there’s no you–if you stay aware that you’re the entire beam and that the fog is the fog and not the light failing–then there are experiences being experienced but no one is using words to attach themselves to those. You’re simply not making those part of a personal story. They aren’t seen as being your experiences, they’re seen as where your light is shining.

This is a very simple thing but when we look at it from the wrong angle it can seem like it’s ridiculously complex. If you showed the average person the details behind how a battery chemically worked, how a bulb technically works and how the light travels in physics terms, the whole thing can seem overwhelming and yet everyone knows that a flashlight will illuminate whatever you point it at.

To shine is to live. It’s a wonderful thing. Yes your light will be impeded. Yes some experiences will leave parts of it in shadow forever, and yes our beam eventually meets enough that it fades out of being altogether, but these are also all the very same experiences that allow each beam to feel like an individual when in the end we are all merely portals emerging from one common source.

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 Friday Hoax: Lessons in Misery

It’s April 1st, so I thought I would do a reverse-post. Rather than telling you how to have a rewarding life, I’ll focus on how to be miserable. It might be more illuminating than you imagine. Ready?

897 Relax and Succeed - You should text himIf you would like to be miserable you must be prepared to be committed. Suffering requires much more dedication than peace. It’s not a natural state, you must create it with your will and determination. Otherwise each new moment is like an open net through which all of your bad feelings can escape. You must aggressively re-capture all of your negative thinking if you hope to maintain sadness, anger, bitterness, resentment, guilt, anxiety or fear for any duration.

Since your natural unthinking state would be peace it is important to be vigilant. Think often and think a lot. The longer you can go all day and still stay talking to yourself the more in ego you’ll be. It’s easily dissatisfied with what its critical comparisons of virtually everything and everyone, but if you don’t turn that disappointment into emotional chemistry you can experience what’s the point?

If you want to be release this painful chemistry you have to be prepared to invest a great deal of your time thinking about–and telling others about–your misfortune. You don’t have to have more misfortune than anyone else–in fact statistically, sad people often test as more fortunate than happy people. You can easily have lots going for you and you can still ruin it. You’ve got guilt, self-hate, tragedy-stretching, blame, even basic complaining.

897 Relax and Succeed - You miss 100Even the most dedicated person can get really tired of thinking of new things to complain about, so it can be helpful to find something in your past or future to feel bad about today. Future worries and fears are great because they can convert to anger the fastest. While the past may seem more finite with fewer opportunities, in reality it’s just as open as the future.

The way your memory works is that you essentially rewrite it every time you revisit it, and any memories that brush against your old ones can also influence them too. Memories can easily be adjusted to be better or worse than the event that took place. You can even remember things that never happened. It’s up to you, but you can guess what the people really good at misery choose. They remember bad times. Often.

One of the best ways to use memory for misery is to find someone in your past–an ex lover, an ex boss, a bully at school–someone that there’s no real reason for you to think about, plus your thoughts about them are very consistently painful. There’s your answer. Drag them into your daily thoughts for weeks, months, years or even decades and you have one of the easiest and most effective routes to a bitter and wasted life.

897 Relax and Succeed - Friends are like potatoesIf you can, find an angle to play that can last a lifetime. You can turn that into a broad identity. This is very valuable because initially others can be annoying by rallying around a sad person in a foolish attempt to cheer them up. If you’re able to dodge this by resisting their kindness then you can really set yourself up isolation, which in turn helps you fortify your very deep and effective identity of suffering.

The very best route to long term suffering is victimization. By placing yourself in that state of official suffering you remove people’s ability to motivate you toward something better. Victims and the afflicted are given a hallowed status in our society and it’s possible to play that like a fiddle if you’re good at it. Any story will do but, whatever you do, don’t go competing in the Olympics if you’re lucky enough to end up with a story as good as being in a wheelchair.

Victimization and misfortune work really well to keep happy people at bay and thereby protect you from their influence. Even better; your dedication to your sadness will eventually attract other sad people who recognize your skills. Just watch yourself find each other at parties! You’ll be able to turn nice events into sad ones in no time at all if you have help from someone good at commiseration.

897 Relax and Succeed - People inspire youKeep in mind, the world will be conspiring against you at all times. Positive, happy, life-affirming events happen at a much, much faster rate than the negative and unpleasant ones, plus there are dangerously happy people all over the place. These improvements in the world are seen in the form of steady drops in crime, lower infant mortality, increased life expectancy, real incomes, food supplies, health delivery etc. etc. etc. The world is getting massively better so you’ll have to really focus to convince yourself it’s getting worse. Facebook, the news and some negative friends can really help in that regard.

Bottom line, suffering takes effort. If you’re not prepared to replay non-stop useless negative self-critical narratives, then maybe you’re not cut out for sadness. If you can’t walk around with crazy-high expectations then being angry all the time may not be for you. If you can see that things really are getting better then you should lower your hopes for a miserable life.

You can do it. I have faith in you. The real question will be what do you do from here? Take the easy route and have a great day, or prove to us you really mean it by reinforcing a negative identity as many times as possible between now and bedtime. The choice and power are yours. Use them wisely Young Skywalker.

The Sadness Guru

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

The Friday Dose #103

881 FD Relax and Succeed - When was the last timeThe most challenging times for you will be when you face prolonged sections where you feel more suffering than joy. Good feelings will still be available to you and you will have positive experiences, but there is no doubt there are times when the struggle feels acutely uphill. I refer to those times as your (roughly) eight year cycles.

To stay healthy through these periods, it’s important to maintain an awareness of a longer perspective on your life. The struggle for change is often preceded by a growth. You might need some new friends, a new job, maybe you change where or how you live, you gain a new perspective–a turn into a new you. You’re the caterpillar fighting it’s way out as a butterfly.

Doesn’t it make sense that you would need to begin a new life? Not entirely new–but it really does feel like another section; another level of being a person. It’s a particular kind of maturing. We tend to mark our life by these events. So learn not to lament them while you’re in them. The dentist doesn’t always feel fun at the time but they’re worth it. Same with the awkward and unpleasant feelings that go with growth. Rabbi Dr. Twerski does a good job of explaining the concept:

If life’s enjoyable, enjoy it. If it’s a struggle, enjoy the chance to grow toward even broader horizons. No matter why, have some kind of a wonderful weekend everyone.

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.

Resistance to Change

774 Relax and Succeed - Perhaps our eyes need to be washedWhen I meet a new student I can pretty quickly tell if they’ll learn what I’m teaching them now or later. I get why the later group wants it to be later. When you already feel overwhelmed who wants someone suggesting that what you need is more responsibility? I get that it’s entirely counter-intuitive. But as with many things we eventually come to understand, the truth is hidden in the apparent paradox.

I know that feeling of profound sadness. Everyone does. No one gets out of life without a healthy dose of all of the feelings. And that sadness–it’s darkness is so heavy. It suffocates your spirit. You simply cannot imagine anyone reaching you there. It is horribly lonely and it steals your spirit to live. People that commit suicide aren’t angry, they’re tired. The suffering just seems so uniform and relentless that there seems to be no point in continuing. And so it makes sense that you might initially hate me for saying you should do more.

I know that anyone who’s feeling down does not want to be there and that you would have tried every sensible thing you could imagine to get yourself out. I have faith in you. At the same time, I know from experience that the answer is more tricky than difficult. The example I often use is learning to multiply numbers. To say it’s hard isn’t accurate, but learning it requires a leap of understanding much like this does.

774 Relax and Succeed - Believe that life is worth livingSo I’m not really asking you to work harder by taking more responsibility, I’m asking you to take it easier by assuming more responsibility. If you will accept only one idea–if you will accept only one responsibility–you will be free of almost all of the others. But before you take it you can’t see why the others would vanish so you resist the change. Even though what you’re doing is leading to sadness you will continue down that path rather than take on weight you don’t think your spirit can handle. Fair enough.

But when you’re ready all you need to do is this one thing, in an albeit pretty profound way: you need to accept the idea of suffering in your life. I know, weird isn’t it? Your suffering disappears if you accept suffering. If you’ll just own when you feel crappy–if you’ll just let that be–then you can shift your way out into better feelings. But if you take the better-feeling time and dedicate it to wishing and hoping that you never had nor never will suffer, then you suffer almost all the time.

Do you see the duality of it? By accepting suffering you give happiness something to contrast against. You can’t find the happiness when there’s no contrast. So if you consistently stay in a state of wanting-to-be-happier then you’re essentially blocking happiness. If you resist suffering then you are inviting more of it by thinking about wanting it gone. As always, appreciation feels good, wanting feels bad.

774 Relax and Succeed - While experiencing happinessThe simple fact is that everyone has been knocked down repeatedly in life. You’ll idolize some music star but ignore the single line in their interview about having “surrendered 10 years to a drug addiction.” 10 years! 3500 agonized days described just like that. Or we treat a Hollywood divorce like it’s somehow less crazily painful than anyone else’s divorce. But we skip past all those dirty details and we note all the good stuff that happened before and after. So why not do the same thing with your own life?

You can’t like being alive all the time or you wouldn’t even know what enjoyment was. So suffering is a mandatory portion of the yin and yang construction of the universe and you literally need it as much as you need happiness. And yet when it comes you send it away as though it doesn’t belong in your life. But it does, so it returns and knocks again and asks you to accept it. But you reject it and reject it and your entire life ends up invested in dealing with nothing but suffering.

Surrender. Allow. Lots of days won’t feel easy to enjoy but that doesn’t mean that they can’t be appreciated. Appreciation is separate from enjoyment. You may not enjoy your workout but you appreciate it helps you enjoy more of the rest of your life. You may not enjoy the company of your mother but without her absolutely none of your life would have ever happened.

774 Relax and Succeed - When you complain you make yourself a victimThe only line you want to draw isn’t between happiness and sadness. That effort just leads to a lot of sadness. No, the only line you want is between worthy of your time or not worth of your time. So feeding yourself is work but it keeps you alive so it’s worthy of your time. We don’t need more happiness we need less meaninglessness.

Way too much of what you do each day is truly and profoundly meaningless. Get rid of ego-based, churning actions like doing things out of obligation, or not asking for help, or even just complaining etc. etc. Forget achievements and being impressive or even liked. Just focus on the value in each moment. It’s much easier than trying to straddle your past and your future simultaneously.

Yes, you will suffer. If you’re suffering now you’re in the perfect position to spot appreciation. The person in the darkest room finds the pinhole of light first. But you can’t see it and complain it’s too small. You have to focus on it and study it, and as you grow closer it will expand to take up much more of your view until all you can see is mostly the light, leaving the darkness to recede to the point where it is only seen as one thing: the frame for all of your happiness.

May peace be with you.

Love, s

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