The Terror of Freedom

1045-relax-and-succeed-you-all-laugh-because-i-am-differentA lot of people can relate to yesterday’s post about having to perform so much for the world. Ways to dress for work, ways to act around your parents, peer pressure from friends, pretending not to be offended by enemies; it’s all a lot of work keeping everyone happy. And yet, as bad as it is, doing the opposite feels terrifying.

You know them. Maybe it’s the crazy guy who walks down your alley talking to himself. Maybe it’s the religious nut standing on the box at the corner. Maybe it’s a boorish co-worker with the offensive sense of humour, or that irritating acquaintance who’s always willing to share their views. You don’t want to be like them; crazy, zealous, rude or obnoxious.

1045-relax-and-succeed-i-like-weird-peopleYou know what? They don’t want to be like you either. Because as noted when we started and in yesterday’s entire post; everyone finds it very stressful having to serve everyone else all the time. A lot of people need some external lubrication to be able to publicly relax at all. Everyone just wishes they could do what they want, when they want. And that, deep down, is why the guy in the alley, the woman on the corner, the guy at work and that irritating lady all bug you so much. What you really don’t like is their freedom.

You have this sense that’s been programmed into you to follow rules. You want to wear fashionable clothes in school, you want an impressive job with an impressive title, you accept certain behaviours and harshly judge others. Your society drew you some basic lines, your culture added more, and then your family and friends filled in the details until you were surrounded by rules; by ways to be wrong.  But your rules are really fears.

It’s scary to sing with your full voice and yet it really helps you hit the notes if there’s more pressure on your vocal chords. It’s scary to be the first to dance but then every partner’s still potentially available. It’s scary to be the first to say I love you but it’s wonderful when they say it back. And that thrill is what makes it so exhilarating.

1045-relax-and-succeed-how-your-life-feels-is-the-shadowWhat’s so wonderful about it is that you’re trapped in the moment waiting for your response. That moment feels exalted. It glows. You are super-alive in that moment. To feel that wonderful sensation you only need to sing deeply; dance with abandon; and love unconditionally. You can actually feel what you want. You just talk yourself out of that inspired feeling all the time.

The lucky people aren’t the rich or good looking ones, the winners are the free people. The people that love you, but they do not care what you think because they know your thoughts are as ephemeral and meaningless as theirs are. They love you selfishly, because it feels good.  And those people can get along with virtually everyone without much trouble, but the one thing they won’t do is surrender their freedom just so others will like them. Don’t surrender yours either. The people who really love you won’t even ask you to.

Think for yourself. Be willing to be different and still feel good. And that will make it so much easier for your most profound relationships to find you in a crowd of noisy egos.

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.

Get Lost

1017-relax-and-succeed-getting-lost-is-not-a-waste-of-timeWhere did you think you were going anyway? Even if you did manage to live your A-List life with no divorce, no cancer, lots of money; you’re still gonna have some bad days. You’re still gonna have problems. But even problems and bad days are just sets of experiences.

Wherever we had them, whoever we had them with, doing whatever we were doing, all we can ever have is experiences. There are no good or bad lives, although I know fashion and celebrity magazines and websites sell the idea that there’s a route through them to the good ones. But what’s a good one?

I’ve got a friend with a five and ten year plan and he never varies from it. It’s gone perfectly. He’ll be able to retire by 40 with everything paid off and lots invested. He’s also a bit uptight, so his wife is bored and the marriage is shaky. I’ve got another friend who travels and he works as a welder when he needs money and he mostly just hangs out with locals visiting until he eventually leaves to meet other people in other places. He’s got a woman in every port and they’re always happy to see him. Each of those guys thinks the other’s life is irresponsible and nuts.

1017-relax-and-succeed-when-you-danceWe can argue freedom versus responsibility but that that’s an ego-argument because in the end both of these people are simply having experiences, the same as you and me. That’s what’s being alive is; having experiences. That’s why you’re only technically alive when you’re in a coma. Your ability to process experiences is greatly reduced. That’s like starvation to your soul. You’re consciousness is a flashlight. What it shines on is what you feel. To stay still is painful stagnation. Otherwise there are no mistakes, there’s only what you shine on.

Most people imagine their spiritual growth as steps up some mystical staircase of wisdom, but in reality it’s not really a gaining of knowledge; our eyes just adjust to the dark and we gain an increased awareness of the world that was always around us, even if it hasn’t been in the spotlight of our attention. The darkness can be made of many things, including everything from traffic rules to ideas about love , and even really strange things like; does it really make sense that a bunch of wildly varied physical types, doing wildly varied amounts of physical activity could all share a common dinner time? That’s an idea, not a thing. Most of our lives are invisible agreements like that.

When we get lost we lose both our certainty and our identity. Forced to live in the moment we wake back up. You might know this feeling if you’re an enthusiastic traveller; when you first get somewhere it’s like your senses are all on steroids. Plus, when you travel no one knows you so your identity is irrelevant. So you’re really awake and aware and you’re not giving much thought to who you are in the world. That sounds like enlightenment. No wonder vacations are so relaxing!

1017-relax-and-succeed-dalai-lamaMost of your suffering is due to being knocked off course. But whose course? What gave you the right to write lives out for everyone you meet? Do they get to do that to you too? Of course you’d hate that. But you have to meditate on this set of facts. If it really is a bad idea you have to let it go. And I mean let it go like; totally surrender the idea as completely unworkable. You can’t have it hanging there like a remote possibility.

You cannot direct the ocean’s waves. The world is too huge and too complex. Our lack of acceptance of that reality binds us to our hopes and dreams and those are what rise to the heights from which our disappointments topple. We’re better to act wisely in a moment of being lost than to be unconscious but on track with some theoretical plan that isn’t taking the present moment into account.

We can catch glimpses of life matching our hopes and then extrapolate that it’s possible to do that with an entire life but those are more the exceptions than the rules. This isn’t to say that life can’t still be awesome and that you can never plan anything, but if your life is rewarding it will become that way because you are consciously building the experience you’re having, not because you’re fumbling the present because you’re busy planning for a later time and a different set of circumstances that will likely never come anyway, (and even if it does the best you can do is enjoy it, which could have been done in the current moment were it not for the planning for later moments).

There is no way, no route, no road, no path. There is only a way of going, and it isn’t happy and it isn’t sad; it isn’t calm and it isn’t excited, it’s just going. It is the act of having experiences. It’s less time than we all think we’ll get, so invest it wisely. By the end of your life, where you’ve been and who you’ve been won’t be nearly as important as how you’ve been.

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 Dose #116: Present Moments

At any given time there are many very wise people walking this earth. These are people who have stumbled, worked, studied, practised and in my case lucked into seeing an underlying truth that impacts us all. These people are all guides, offering direction to us all.

Dan Millman is one of those gurus and his book, The Way of the Peaceful Warrior (and the film that was made from it) are yet another telling of the same tale told in these blog pages. People often tilt towards nonfiction when they want to accomplish something and yet the stories in “fiction” are often truer than any other kind that are told. If you haven’t seen the film I would consider it.

You put art on your walls, you spend time with friends and you watch various media. How much of it is done with eye toward expanding the happiness in your life? Would you hang a painting that makes your place look hip or because it made you happy? Do you listen to music that uplifts and motivates you or music that regurgitates your most emotional thought-filled moments? And do you watch movies filled with violence and victimisation or do you use that art-form to try to grow through art?

This film comes with some excellent, relevant recommendations. You can add mine to the list.

You always have choices. Remember that you can make them from a perspective of happiness. 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 organisations locally and around the world.

Tatami Living

Birth. You wake up in a giant room that is so large you cannot see its end in any direction. The ceiling is too high to see and the infinite floor is comprised of simple weaved tatami mats. You’re not sure what direction you’re facing or where you are because your borders are unknown. Where are the walls? Will you live five years? Twenty-three? Forty-six? Seventy-one? 100?

792 Relax and Succeed - A life is but oneYou cannot know if one direction dead ends before another. The concept is too vast for your awareness. The only option is surrender. So what does surrender look like? Surrender is when you forget the room and just look at the next step. Each tatami will connect to many others. Your life is comprised of which ones you choose.

When you are a child you enthusiastically crawl aimlessly and happily across the mats motivated by nothing more than your own sense of self. You live with a sense of wonder about what you don’t know. And you are most often happy.

Eventually you are taught ideas. You learn concepts from other people like right and wrong and so you think you need to start to plan for the future. The very act of planning leads you to believe that such a future will exist. It is assumed there will be no deadly car accidents, no falls into a wheelchair, or divorces or just points where you’re just plain exhausted. You ignore those possibilities and start to think you can outthink the room itself.

792 Relax and Succeed - Remember the entrance doorYou start to believe you can beat this thing. That you can be smart enough, play your cards well enough, choose the right path through the tatami and somehow you’ll be saved from the wall. Maybe it’s being rich or being popular or maybe pious. And that belief leads you to come to expect certain outcomes, and an attachment to outcomes and expectations is not a healthy sign for your advanced spirituality. It is where disappointment is born.

Maybe you decide in your thoughts that you want no debt. Or more money. Maybe a better body. A boyfriend? Nicer boss? Nicer car? It doesn’t matter. What matters is that you forget the tatami you’re on and you start imagining one a long way away. And to get there you follow the instructions of others who have been there or claim to know where it is. Except they too have no idea where they started or what direction they were facing or where their borders were. So while their path may have worked for them you will have to do it originally. You cannot follow their path to get to their destination. Your path is yours and your destination is yours–unless you surrender it to egocentric desire.

It is fine to have a tatami preference and to choose to spend some time there when you find it, but searching for it means missing out on everything else. If your mind is on that destination tatami then it is not on the tatami you are on now. And that’s important because you need the real you to steer that other you so you can discover the tatami you’re looking for. Not find it. Discover it.

792 Relax and Succeed - Meditation nirvana silenceIt’s like a friend who spent half a day mixing paint trying to get the exact colour of orange she was imagining. She saw a fellow artist in the studio had mixed the exact tone. When she asked him how he found it he simply told her, I just kept mixing until I saw something that made me stop.

If you want to be a success in the ego world you know how. I know people whose bookshelves are filled with books on making money. That information is all over the place. Work hard, work smart, invest, be better, or marry rich, cheat, commit a crime–there’s many ways to get material success. But there’s loads of people with that success that killed themselves so that obviously can’t be the answer everyone’s really looking for. Who cares if you walk into the wall in Ralph Lauren if you’re miserable?

The happiest people I know are the ones who are still like children–they have no plan. Many are fantastically successful in the traditional sense too but that was never their aim. That wasn’t where they were trying to get. It was where they ended up after taking the steps they found rewarding. So you can plan to date someone or hope to earn this or that, but the happy people are foregoing planning for living. They simply looked around them and their next move is toward the most appealing tatami. It isn’t a step on the way to somewhere. That tatami is an experience unto itself. It should be chosen for itself.

792 Relax and Succeed - Nature does not hurrySo what’s all this tatami stuff mean in your real life? It means you want to avoid putting your career before your kids because your boss won’t visit you when you’re dying but your kids might (if you step on some loving mats). It means don’t waste singledom by waiting to date. Don’t squander extra meditation and calm-time by calling it waiting. It is just time. All else is a value judgment made using your thoughts.

So you don’t have to calculate which path is best. You don’t have to study and name and classify every tatami. All you have to do is look at the mats immediately in front of you and pick the one that is the easiest to appreciate as being worthwhile.

Forget where the walls are. Forget trying to beat the room. Forget trying to climb or race or achieve. Forget trying to get anywhere specific. It’s the how, not the where. Just be on the tatami you are on and step to the tatami that feels appealing next. All the rest is truly pointless rumination.

Have fun.

peace. s

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

The World of Feeling

Where do you live? And I don’t mean your body. That’s not you. Otherwise everyone whose body died would be dead and we know that’s not true. In cases similar to mine lots of people have had their body die and then they’ve resurrected. So you isn’t your body, it’s whatever’s in your consciousness. The contents of your consciousness—your beliefs, self-identity and 673 Relax and Succeed - How good you feelhabitual narratives all define what you act like and therefore who you believe you are. So if you are the sum all of your thinking then where you live is your consciousness.

That is where you spend your time. You’ve almost completely abandoned the world by 25 years old and you would only make a real connection with it when you played sports or maybe camped. Outdoor adventurers tend to stay a bit more in touch, but for the most part people spend most of their lives swimming to and fro in their own thinking. So you have this choice, which is to take the world in, or you can output an opinion about the little bit of it you pay a little bit of attention to. Just think about some of the opinions you have of other people and how insanely second and third hand and unreliable they are. We’re crazy.

So now there’s two primary places you can situate yourself in human consciousness. You can live in the world of ideas. These are things like your culture or your laws or your rules or manners or ways of doing things. So in WWII a guy could say that he was a junior officer and had been ordered to kill people and in the world of ideas that can make a kind of sense. But in the human world, the world of feelings, everyone knows that killing feels wrong. A technical thought-based version of reality does not excuse the fact that a human being murdered other human beings. So it’s possible to be technically correct 673 Relax and Succeed - Without the Taoaccording to the rules and yet your behaviour could still be entirely immoral. It is important to remember that we live within that bizarre duality every single day.

Because I have long-lived with an awareness that people actually live in their consciousness, I was often at odds with those around me. Without realizing they had done it, they would all work toward a judgment of and then alignment with one of a few dominant perspectives. Like for instance, the idea of good and bad. So if you live there, music must be ranked very seriously and where I live you just listen. There’s no right or wrong things to enjoy. You can like this kind of music instead of that, wear this instead of that, vote for them instead of them, you can like these people or companies or objects. But most people live where there are fashions and trends and things are new or desired. I’ve generally surrounded myself with extremely impressive people, so I rarely had conflicts with their humanitarian views but I still was living in a different place when it came to the reality I was living in.

How this difference would translate is that their priority would be to reconcile the discussion in the room to those dominant perspectives, whereas I would see the room as an emotional soup, where maybe one area was too hot and tipped toward temper, or another might be too heavy and sinking to the bottom. This is so hyper-subtle that no one is even aware they are doing it. My reaction is to ignore the cultural frameworks and live in the part of the world where we feel our lives happen.

673 Relax and Succeed - And those who were seen dancingSo say a discussion about music came up. In the discussion are four people. Amy, Bill, Clark and me. I’ve heard Amy mention that she’s having a really rough week and she’s been feeling really down on herself and so my perspective on the room is that there is a low spot among my friends and it is my nature to want to raise it. Let’s say that I also know that Bill is a super nice guy who loves Amy but he also has very strong opinions, so he is like a sharp spot on this landscape. She’s tender, he’s sharp. No one’s wrong, but that’s the landscape I see. Meanwhile the others will be talking about music.

So for instance, let’s say they’re talking about who the most influential band would be. And let’s say Amy picks someone I really don’t like or respect much. And let’s say Bill picks my favourite band and he defends them brilliantly and then attacks Amy’s choice just as brilliantly. Clark, who has the same favourite band agrees that Bill is “right” simply because Bill agrees with his view. Rather than get on board and actually tell a truth in that world, a tell a truth in my world and I lie and say I like Amy’s band because I know she needs to feel supported right now, and I know Bill’s going to go at her hard so I give him a lot of reasons why I think she’s right so he can focus his bluster on me instead of on her because I feel great and she doesn’t. It’s no different than making soup for someone sick.

People will later say I lied about what bands I like to try impress Amy for my ego. Or they’ll criticize me for liking a band I don’t like. But none of that matters to 673 Relax and Succeed - Compassion is a Verbsomeone like me. Because I live in that other world. Reputation lives in that world of rules and ideas and conformity. I live where Amy feels. And in that world, I made a difference and it was good. So I live with that feeling every day.

I encourage you to join me in living in the world of feeling. It’s a much easier world to negotiate, it’s infinitely more peaceful without all of the judgment and you can do a lot of good there. You will irritate more people from that other world but I’m sorry, you can’t have it both ways. Either you’re judging people or you’re not. If you don’t judge their moods and decisions and just help them when they’re struggling and support their successes when they are succeeding, then you will find you will have lived an extremely good life.

Have yourself an awesome day.

peace. s

Born Again

If you look at it from the right angle, being told you were dead is a big plus in life because it gets you to really appreciate that being alive is actually quite a privilege. So first my dad almost lost me due to my massive brain injury when I was five, and then I almost lost him in 1983 when he ended his roofing career by doing a 3 meter head-first dive into concrete. He’s had cancer, he experiences strokes, and the other day my parent’s neighbour found him 669 Relax and Succeed - Every experience no matter how bad it seemsunconscious and bleeding on her front sidewalk.

I have been keenly aware since I was five that just as I almost did, people can vanish and often without warning. One minute we can talk to them and the next minute we can’t. When Mom and I got to to the hospital physical Dad was there but mental Dad wasn’t. He didn’t know who we were or what had happened. It’s the first time I remember seeing my mother look scared, and Dad looked lost. It must be a terrible sensation to not be able to reel in your own identity. And at the same time it shows that our identity is little more than a collection of our memories and habits.

As I sat in the Emergency Room waiting area I couldn’t help but notice the worried expressions on nearly every face. Everyone was living in the future or the past. They were wishing someone hadn’t tried that trick on their bike, or they wish their diet had been better the last 20 years. Or if they were living in the future they were speculating about what might happen. That’s when I was reminded of how most people see things.

Because I knew very profoundly that I really could lose my father at any second, I did not waste a moment of our time together by wondering about times other than the moment we were in. In that moment I could see that he was scared and that he didn’t even know what would bring him comfort, and so I just held his hand and told him I loved him and that worked pretty well. With no offence to the others intended, if you were watching them closely you 669 Relax and Succeed - You have to embrace getting oldercould see they were so busy worrying about what they might lose that they weren’t very present at all with the people they were there with—including the patient.

Despite my awareness during the emergency I was aware that night that I had undergone a fundamental shift in my self-identity. I was born again as I realized that my time as a part of the next generation was approaching and it allowed me to come to realize that I’m unnerved by the idea of living without my father. I didn’t know it until this last accident happened, but I know of no safer place than in the presence of my entirely non-judgmental, fully supportive father. He’s always displayed courage, decency, kindness, generosity, compassion and intense interest.

My dad has been genuinely excited by everything that’s excited me. He loves it when I love my life and I do not like the idea of living without my hero and that knowledge has changed me. But rather than lament where I am in life I accept that these transitions are a natural part of my love for him and our movement though life. If I don’t resist them with wanting thoughts I will be able to fully immerse myself in the moment, and that’s better because that’s where I’ll find my Dad.

My parents are both way past the national average for lifespan. Mom teaches exercise three times a week and Dad volunteers all over the place plus he walks every neighbour’s dog. That’s what he was doing when he fell. But at their age things can change in an instant and so I’m fully 669 Relax and Succeed - Learn to appreciate what you haveaware that I could have another two decades of goodbyes or that the next one might be the last one. That can feel terrifying if I think about it from a what do I lose? perspective. But if I think about it as a simple reality, it suddenly makes my already beloved parents even more precious.

My Dad is my hero and I love my Mom thoroughly. If my life has been this great clearly they got a whole bunch of stuff right. If it works out that I get another 20 years I will be grateful for every single day. But if it ends sooner I will still be living in a state of mind where I am routinely, unbelievably grateful that these two amazing people are my parents. And loving that fact is about the best thing I can think to do with however much time we have left with each other.

Thanks Mom and Dad. If you were wondering if you succeeded—I can’t imagine a greater success than helping a kid to live a life that he’s absolutely loved. I love you both more than you can imagine.

hugs and kisses, s

PS Oh yeah, and as for Dad’s fall—his brain bleed is healing and he’s thankfully back on his anti-stroke medication. We’re going to watch some playoff hockey games together this week. 🙂

Values for Living

People often wonder, am I doing the right thing? Is there something better or more important I should be doing? We’re always asking the world who it wants us to be and it’s sitting there looking impassively at us, waiting for us to be the only thing we ever could be—ourselves.

668 Relax and Succeed - They say love is the best investmentIf you want to calculate the value of anything you’re doing you have to put it into terms of time. That’s your limited resource. It’s how much of that you’ll pay that determines how valuable you actually believe something is. So if you’re a $1,000 dollar an hour lawyer and you buy your wife a $350 dollar dress then you’ve invested about 20 minutes in her, whereas if you hand made her a birthday card that might take you two hours plus the time buying the craft supplies at the store plus the time to earn the money for that, so in that case the card would be worth more than the dress.

This not only applies to relationships with our lovers, but also the relationships we have with our children, or even our employees or co-workers. You can work to get a promotion that results in more hours but higher pay so that your kid can ride in a nicer car, or those hours can be spent at a less stressful job and more of that time can be invested in spending nows with the actual kid. Using this scale I think you can easily see that most of the Western world is wasting their lives on things that ultimately have no value. No one lays on their death bed wishing for more time in a mall or on social media. They want more time with their brother, or their wife or their son.

Every day you make choices regarding where you invest the time of your life. Like a vein of gold running through rock you have no idea when your lifetime will come to an end. And so starting to spend it more wisely is something that should be done as soon as possible. Do not always assume there will be more time. The vein will eventually be emptied. The answer that defines your life is, what did you invest your time in?

668 Relax and Succeed - It is no bad thingStart calculating your life based on how much time you’re giving to the different aspects of your life. Is enough going towards sleep? And how about food? Is enough going toward buying, preparing and paying for quality food? And is your time spent repetitively, or on debts for things that no longer assist us you in being happy? Because you need far less than you realize. If you slow down the rate of your desires you’ll be able to shift into the speed of life. This is where the most valuable thing is: connection. Maybe it’s you connecting to nature. Maybe it’s you connecting to your lover, or your family or to your friends. Or maybe it’s you connecting to yourself. That’s what life is. The time spent in those states of interplay with other aspects of the universe—that is when you are alive. Owning things has absolutely nothing to do with that. Those are the decorations around life but they are not life itself.

Spend less time adorning your life and talking about your past or future choices and start making choices in the moment you are in. Stop commentating on your life and others and start living as a verb instead. Don’t have a lifetime of items and opinions at the end of your time here on Earth. Have a lifetime of experiences. Have a lifetime of living.

668 Relax and Succeed - I was dyingSo many are bound up by thoughts about the paths that they believe were theirs to happiness. But there is no path to happiness. Happiness is how we walk any path. It is a choice to accept everything that comes and not argue with it because it steals our attention away from the experience we would otherwise be having. Talking about life is not living life. Decorating life is not living life. Being in the moment you are in is the only way we can actually live our lives consciously. The sooner we realize that the sooner we do it and the sooner our decisions start to more closely reflect who we truly are.

What are you currently investing your time in? What does that say about your values? Because we can make all the excuses we want, but where our time is is where our heart is and possessions don’t have a heart. Even the people in our life must be freely choosing to spend their time with us before a connection is truly achieved. Love cannot be possessed. It can only be lived and experienced as a collection of decisions about how we chose to invest the value of our lifetime.

peace. s

Good Feelings Bad Feelings

You might think you want to be happy all of the time but in reality you would not enjoy that. In fact you wouldn’t even be aware that there was anything to enjoy unless you had something to compare it to. The only reason you can see these black letters is because they are on this white page. So you need both things, hence the idea of Yin and Yang. But while you may require both for existence to happen, you nevertheless will have emotional states you prefer. So rather than saying an emotion is good 659 Relax and Succeed - If you are too excitedor bad it would be better to describe them as emotions you enjoy for long periods, and emotions that derive their value from their rarity.

It can feel really, really good to have a good cry and yet no one wants to be depressed. We all love the feeling of falling in love but the very nature of it demands that it come to an end in one way or another, so in a way we are setting ourselves up for pain and disappointment by pursuing that joy. I love my parents dearly and so when I lose them it will be painful, whereas I have friends who had terrible parents and they were relieved when they were gone. For every positive feeling there’s a negative one. The trick for us is to stay conscious about what we’re entertaining within our consciousness so we can spend more time with the feelings we enjoy. We just don’t want to entirely lose touch with the value of our more poignant or intense feelings.

The world will always have its Yin and Yang. As a monk on a train once lead me to conclude that the secret of life is that everything changes. So how this works is that when things are good you should be grateful because it will change. And if things are going badly, don’t worry too much because it will change. So you can see in that equation 659 Relax and Succeed - There is nothing good or badthat there are still bad feelings, but they are inextricably connected to this Yin and Yang circle of existence. Each needs the other much like a wave is made of a trough and a peak and yet you cannot separate the two parts.

Do you see then that this is how you listen to songs, read books, or go to the movies or watch TV? You volunteer to be scared or worried or angry or sad and you do this because the nature of the program allows you to accept the idea that this pain is limited. You’ll only suffer for a maximum of a couple of hours and then the movie will end. This act of acceptance happens in your head and is the act of not thinking about an alternative. So the reason you like movies more than your life is because you’re not in a movie theatre thinking, I’m really scared in this horror and I want to go home! Because you know you went for the thrills! And it’s just like that with the rest of your life.

You’ve already lived all of the perfect lives. This is the one you chose to live Now. If you genuinely accept the dramatic, sad or torturous parts of life then you also get to experience the most wonderful joys. It’s a package deal, the only problem is you keep wasting your peak by complaining that you want a wave without a trough. You think that resisting thought over and over. You wonder how it might be or how it would have been. You do not accept now for now. You do not see your life as a 659 Relax and Succeed - If only we would stop tryingtheatrical display in the way you see the movie. And so you take it more seriously and that leads you to suffer more in the real world. And you’re doing it by experiencing the very same feeling that you’ll happily pay for at a theatre!

Start seeing your life less as a competition or pursuit for happiness. Be content instead. Be fine where you are. Offer no resisting thoughts to the moment you are in and you will discover that a wonderful peace is waiting for you there in that mental silence. Quiet your arguments about how you wish things were and watch your own life like a movie instead. Enjoy all of it, the good parts and the bad. Because when you can do that you are free of most of the agonies in this world and that is a beautiful thing.

peace. s

Understanding Ego

Winner: 2015’s Blog of the Year #5

Look, I love you alright? How long do you expect me to watch you torture yourself in all the many ways that you do? Life is awesome. Life is stupendous. There is so much beauty and amazingness in every day that there’s no excuse not to be shouting boisterously from the rooftops. But you? This person that I love. Not you. I don’t get to see you realizing your greatest self. Instead you doom me to watching you weaken and undermine yourself on a routine basis. It’s like watching someone stick pencils in their own eyes.

652 Relax and Succeed - Don't have your mood affect your judgmentIt’s super simple. You’re a crazy hypocrite. I’m doing the same thing when I’m letting my ego get the best of me. But it’s still crazy. You’re in your head bashing your past decisions. But you’re bashing them using the wisdom you gained from those bad decisions. Duh. Painful and crazy. And if you’re not doing that then you’re worrying about your future as though you’re incapable of working out what to do when that’s not true either.

You’ll have all of these options about what to think about or do, and–like pulling the only bad book out of a giant bookcase–you’ll angrily go recall some series of events that only generates anger because you had the audacity to pre-imagine an outcome and then you got attached to that fantasy, as though everyone in the world is the cast in some play created by and for you. The world is not supposed to go your way but that still leaves tons and tons of room for it to be awesome.

Out of the thousands of days of your life you’ll sometimes focus exclusively on all of the worst days you’ve lived. You’ll be so low-consciousness that you will choose to re-live your worst moments. That’s when we all feel suicidal. Everyone does that at least once if not semi-routinely. But like I said, I love you, so it’s painful to watch you volunteer for all of that suffering. Because even though you are thinking all of those negative thoughts, I can see that the real you is okay and it’s just the thought-you that is suffering. When the real you changes the thoughts from suicidal to appreciative you go from weak to strong.

652 Relax and Succeed - Learn to see your emotionsRemember: you are where your consciousness is. But how would you expect to feel if you load your consciousness up with concerns about time and money and status and fears and guilt and regrets? So maybe you should start treating your consciousness more like it’s your mouth. Because then maybe you’ll be more careful with what you put in it.

Stop talking to yourself. Quiet your mind. If it’s coming to you in words it’s your ego every time and it should be quieted and ignored. This is so easy. Just practice it: it doesn’t matter if you’re getting blame or if you’re blaming, if you’re angry, hurt, sad, proud, nervous, insecure–whatever. That’s just an idea-suit you’re wearing. That’s an ego. It’s a collection of ideas about a self (you) that filters out truths about the world around you. So you never see what other people see and they never see what you see. Because we all live in the haze of our own thinking. Within that haze, everyone is genuine and everyone feels misunderstood.

So here it is in a nutshell: it’s like we all move through the world in space suits that are our egos. They are ideas that limit us. And we fill those suits with a magical gas called thought and those thoughts are guaranteed to distort our sense of what’s going on outside of our suit. It’s why on a day when your thought choices are positively distorting the world (a good day), someone will cut you off in traffic and you’ll be quite relaxed and sanguine about it. And on other days you fill the same suit with different thoughts and you’ll call that a bad day and all of a sudden you’re in the movie Death Race 2000.

652 Relax and Succeed - Who is it that is awareYou’ve gotta start realizing you’re the creator of the thoughts you’re not the thoughts themselves. Your society and experiences build your suit, but the real you controls what thoughts the inside-the-suit-you will see the world through. Everyone gets a suit, you’re always looking through a personal haze, but everyone also has total control over the thoughts that go into creating that haze. But you must consciously seize control over your thinking.

The space inside that suit is your consciousness. And the real you is who chooses what thoughts you will fill the suit with and, therefore, which direction your thoughts will distort your view of the world. And it’s not like you have to worry either way—the worst thing that can happen is that you fill your suit with some unpleasant gases for a while. That doesn’t change the world, just your view of it. The suit is always removing old gas and adding new gas anyway, so even if you do nothing your conditions and perspective will change.

It’s not hard: think happy thoughts and things look great. Think negative ones and things turn down. And so wise people are just quiet-minded people. They choose an appreciative, enjoyable and rewarding view and that’s what allows them to see everyone else more clearly. Spiritually and psychologically healthy people don’t usually get their feelings hurt (or for long if they do) because they know not to take things personally. They know that the egos around them aren’t really seeing anyone accurately. People are seeing the judgments and opinions and beliefs that are swirling around inside their suits. So stop putting so much energy into getting people to respect your thinking and instead put that effort into quieting it. Because a clear-headed suit makes the good life a lot easier to find.

peace. s

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

The Double Whammy

Egos are tricky creatures. They’re slippery because we study them with our minds—which is the same thing that creates them in the first place. So it’s like a snake eating its own tail. But one thing you can rest assured of: if it’s talking it’s your ego. So just go quiet. Because otherwise your ego will have you tied in knots.

643 Relax and Succeed - I've been overthinking about overthinkingHere’s how it works: First you develop a sincere appreciation for the idea that your feelings do emerge from your thinking. When that makes more sense to you, you naturally start to try to be more conscious of your thinking. The first thing that happens is that—for the first time in your life—you notice how much you think, and how negatively. While it can feel worse, this is actually a victory because it demonstrates you are more aware. But always remember it is common for people to think they’re failing because they’re finally noticing how much they think. If you’re noticing your thinking—regardless of what that thinking is—then you are doing just fine. That awareness is what’s key. To have that you have to have the perspective of the real you–the originator of the thoughts.

The next thing you’ll do is you’ll focus all of your attention on those negative thoughts. So rather than focus on the thoughts you enjoy (as a way of learning to experience those feelings more often), most people will try to quash the negative thoughts instead. It’s like an anti-war rally when it could have been a peace rally.

643 Relax and Succeed - Over-thinking ruins youThe real problem with that is that then the people will start to add to the problem by criticizing themselves for being negative—but of course that’s just more negativity. So you can’t notice you’re thinking negatively and then try to scold yourself into peace. Quite the opposite. Allow yourself to have that thought but see it for what it is—something that has arisen in no other place than your own consciousness. And in doing that those thoughts will become less powerful and more malleable. In fairly short order you’ll find yourself having pretty good control over where your thoughts go for one simple reason: you will have practised doing so by being more consciously aware that you are making these thought decisions all day long.

Yes, in a way it’s fair to say that the point of all of this is to stop negative thinking. But that’s very simplified and really it’s more that you’re looking to be content. Content if things are going well, but also content if they’re not. You don’t want to wrestle a thought storm into submission, you want to recognize it for its ephemeral nature. You want to accept that your ego sometimes races. You want to observe the negative thinking dispassionately. It merely is but it is not good and it is not bad. It is merely happening and you are present for that event. Can you see the distance you want to gain from your ego? That you want to see it as an echo created by your society rather than some precious, fragile identity to be protected? You’re much bigger than that and only your ego convinces you otherwise.

Do not beat yourself up when you think negatively. Accept that without those thoughts you wouldn’t be able to recognize what you’re trying to avoid. Be grateful for whatever is happening so long as you are aware enough to know that something is always happening. Be okay with yourself. Your entire self. Including the piece that occasionally slips into ego. Because that part needs loving too.

Now go create yourself a terrific day. 😉

peace. s

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