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