The Present Moment

Maybe you’ve read Eckhart Tolle’s The Power of Now. Maybe you’ve studied a lot of Eastern spiritual philosophy and the idea of the present moment is very agreeable to you. Or maybe you’ve worked on blocking out your busy thinking in an effort to find that magical gap of peace known as Now. It can be a tricky concept to wrap our heads around, so for those still 642 Relax and Succeed - Stop waiting for Friday for summerstruggling with the idea, I offer you this metaphor in the hopes that it will help you appreciate the subtle quality that gives almost all of the value to what I’m describing.

Imagine that you are walking along a road with your phone in your hand. You have two fundamental choices: look up and around at the world you are currently walking through, or look down at your phone. Note that one of these choices is real and the other is virtual. Because no one is going to contact you on your phone about Now, except maybe to ask you where “you” are. But if it’s on your phone it’ll almost certainly be about a time other than Now. You’ll be planning a future meeting or talking about what happened on the weekend. Text, call, watching a video—it’s all you focusing on times other than Now. Being on the phone equals not being present.

So if the world is the road, then sometimes you’re walking uphill and sometimes you’re walking downhill. Sometimes life needs more of your effort to move you forward and sometimes you’re moving downhill and control is needed more than effort. It’s always changing and everyone is always on the road. Everyone is always taking steps whether they realize it or not. So if you’re alive then you are taking steps. The question is, are you watching 642 Relax and Succeed - Nowwhere you’re going or are you looking at your phone? Are you paying attention to the choices available in the present moment or are you passing that by as you invest your consciousness in things past and future?

If you’re looking at the future or past instead of watching where you’re going then your odds of tripping and falling increase greatly. Not only will you trip more often, you’ll also realize that—in looking down so much—you have undoubtedly walked right past a lot of valuable intersections where you could have changed the direction of your life in a positive and significant way. But we miss all of those chances if we’re too occupied with talking about our past or how we’re afraid to re-live it in our future.

Life is going to give you an amazing number of chances. People we call lucky or successful are merely the people who were tuned into Now. They are awake and aware to make their choices. Most of us can look backwards and find lots of examples of times where we did not pursue our opportunities as much as we later wish we would have. So stay conscious. Don’t assume that you’re missing out by not being where you already are. Your life is always where you are in the present moment. The only question is how awake are you to that moment and how much of your consciousness is dedicated to other places and other times?

642 Relax and Succeed - The present moment is filled with joyBe present. Don’t claim life isn’t giving you what you need if you’re not even watching for what it’s presenting you. Because no future or past opportunity can come close to the value of any opportunity for which you are present and available to make a conscious choice. That will make the sort of difference in your life that everyone is seeking.

Accept that that road will have its ups and downs. Accept that the view won’t always be good, so yes use your phone to delve into the happier parts of your past when you need to. But don’t live there. The present moment has far too much to offer. So good or bad, no memory will add as much value to your total enjoyment of life as being awake and aware for the present moment. Stop the noise of your busy thinking and the noise of the outside world. Dive through media and social norms and get into where life truly happens. Pay attention to where you are, when you are, and you will guide your life with the clarity of authenticity.

Start right now. Pick times to check your phone and otherwise switch it off. Learn to get back into the here and now. Because otherwise it seems crazy to complain about not feeling good. Especially when we’re making choices that would naturally lead to us not feeling good. We just have to get conscious and make better choices. So, instead of “have a great day,” I’ll finish off with, “have an awesome collection of Now-moment choices.”

peace. s

Other Perspectives #58

Far from your memory being separate from you, it more or less is you. You collect data on the world as you grow up and other people inform how you interpret that data. And the details surrounding that subtle act of translation is what makes up your identity. So if you were happy and you chose to think of a sad event, then it was not the event that made you sad it was your current sad thoughts about that past event. You could just as easily shift back to the current happy event and think about that, and then you would feel happy instead. So your memory is not some separate creature that roams through your brain like it has a mind of its own. It’s your mind and you’re doing the wandering by choice. Sure, go through a period of mourning the death of a relationship. But only do that as long as it feels good to do it. Once it starts to feel bad that’s the signal that you’re supposed to shift your thinking. That’s why it feels bad. So don’t spend much life living in past sadness wondering what if? People can drag that thinking out for decades. It’s terrible. Meanwhile life slips by. There’s no need. Sure it’s harsh sometimes. Accept that and move on. Not one of us has the market cornered on suffering. A decent percentage of the people we meet every day are going through huge challenges, be it serious medical treatments, a child or parent with serious disabilities, learning a new language, a violent spouse, the threat of unfair deportation, they’re in line to lose their job, or they have an addiction. Everyone has struggles. So life will already give us enough hills to climb. We don’t have to make it even harder for ourselves by adding in unnecessary barriers, like choosing to recall a past relationship rather than enjoy today by doing whatever feels right for the you you are today. Do not live in the past. For every moment you are doing it you are letting your present slip by. And the present is the only time you have available in which you can act. So live now. Appreciate what’s working, accept what isn’t and march on. But don’t use your ability to think to go retrieve painful memories. That’s simply a misuse of your consciousness. It’s innocent and easily fixable, but it can only be done by you. So please do choose yourself a beautiful day. Thanks! 😉

peace. s

Note: Everyone who posts or shares a quote does so with the very best of intentions. That said, I have created the series of Other Perspectives blog posts in an effort to prevent some of these ideas from entering into people’s consciousness unchallenged. These quotes range from silly to dangerous and—while I intend no offense to their creators—I do use these rebuttals to help define and delineate the larger message I’m attempting to convey in my own work. I do hope you find them helpful in your pursuit of both psychological and spiritual health.

Life Lessons

If you read me regularly you know I often point out that an enjoyable life comes from the simple act of appreciation, and yet so few people ever bother to really turn that into a daily verb. They’ll say they want a better life and that they want to be more spiritual, but then they’ll promptly use all their free time to compare themselves with people they perceive as even more fortunate, but they won’t do it with the many billions more who are less fortunate. Why pursue wanting thoughts instead of appreciative thoughts when the former hurt and the 628 Relax and Succeed - The more I understand the mindlatter feel wonderful? That’s a question you really should be asking yourself.

I live in Alberta. This is a place that, for the time being, a nineteen year old kid can make $120,000 a year as a welder and he’ll still complain about it. And because everyone knows so many people like that, people where I live don’t realize that they are among the richest people on Earth. When I recently asked several locals how much they thought you needed to earn to be in the top 1% of global earners, I got guesses like 20 million and low guesses were about 2 million. The real answer (on that day) was $56,400. Most of the people I talked to were double that number and you could see their minds try to adjust their place in the world to this sliver of people at the top. Suddenly they realized that what they thought the world was—that was just the top 1%. They thought they were struggling and so they imagined themselves at somewhere in the bottom half of worldwide earners. They thought they were in the bottom half when they were actually in the top 1%. Do you see how your thinking can steal your joy?

I want you to take a moment to actually appreciate where you really are. It’s my hero’s birthday today (the day I’m writing this). My Dad already had grey hair when I was born, so we have a fascinating spread between us. He was born before the Great Depression on a rural farm in Scotland. He was the youngest of eight children and he was born before the 628 Relax and Succeed - No we don't always get what we wantavailability of antibiotics so he was lucky to have survived Scarlet Fever as a kid. He’s a clever guy but he only had the chance to go to grade eight, and by seventeen years old he was lying about his age so that he could follow his brothers and sisters into service in World War II.

Before the war Dad was pushing a plow behind a horse, and then he helped to cut the wheat with a scythe and they stacked it by pitch fork. Eight kids starts to make sense doesn’t it? Had I been a farmer in my era, I would do all of that “work” with one machine, in my sleep, while a movie was on in the cab of my self-driving GPS-controlled combine. To say life is easier doesn’t even get close to capturing the level of difference. And that’s my Dad and I’m right on the Gen X border. That’s one generation to me. Just a bit ahead of him and there’s no cars, electricity or even running water.

Take a moment to think about that. What my Dad would take a day of super hard work to do I could probably do quite casually in under 10 seconds. I worked alongside my Dad for a long time. My dad could work hard. And he might have only had grade eight but give him two thimbles, some twine and a fish hook and he’ll build you a part that will get your car to the next town for the real repairs. My friends and I couldn’t build a house, fix a car, repair an electrical motor, hunt an animal, clean a fish, do enough math and bookkeeping—by hand—to run a small business, and we certainly couldn’t deliver a baby cow. Our dads were either in the war or they lost their dad in the war—whether that father came home or not. No vaccines, 628 Relax and Succeed - Some people feel the rainpenicillin was barely invented, they all lost siblings to bombs and bullets and various diseases that we no longer fear. That was normal.

Parents expected to lose a kid along the way. Just think about that. Today that would be headline news and possibly cause the parent to stop living their life. Back then it would have been seen as unfortunate but it couldn’t stop you. You still had another seven or more kids to look after back when a washing machine looked like a single piece of corrugated metal. Can you imagine having today’s attitudes about housework when washing clothes meant grinding eight kids clothes against a rough surface for several hours in water that was heated in a kettle hung over a wood stove that you cut the wood for? Think about that next time you spin the dial for an extra rinse. I do and I still appreciate my washing machine every single time I use it.

It was just through proximity not wisdom that I knew how tough our parents were. The first white person to climb Mount Everest only died in 2008 and he did that climb in leather and wool. Life got much easier during my lifetime and it’s no younger person’s fault that they 628 Relax and Succeed - Life is a series of thousandsdon’t immediately consider how challenging something might have been even shortly before they were born. People had higher levels of acceptance and appreciation because it was easy to see how much tougher it had recently been.

There were no homes for older people so a lot of families had grandparents living with them so you heard stories. And people still visited farms where you went back in time a bit. You’d see outhouses and kerosene lamps still being used every day. But now I know tons of young people whose grandparents are in a special home they visit for an hour every few months. They have never been to a farm and their parents both have desk jobs on computers and so to them their parents life doesn’t look a lot different than theirs. Not very many kids today get to see what I did when I looked at my Dad. By 17 my Dad was in WWII, and both my parents families lost members in the war and to the war. What an insult it would have been to say to my dad that my safe, easy car-riding life was too hard.

People squander their own happiness. They use their ability to think to want—to compare themselves to others even more fortunate. So the 1%er ends up spending half their day using their thoughts to envy someone in the .0001%??? Does that sound wise to you? Or could all the suffering you’re complaining about be coming from that?

628 Relax and Succeed - Gratitude changes everythingMeditation is consideration. Siddhartha sat under a tree asking himself where suffering comes from and 49 days later he’s the first Buddha. You can do likewise, but instead of using your thinking to negatively compare yourself, instead use it to appreciate how fortune you are. Because if I’m having trouble completely quieting my thinking for whatever reason, I’ll just shift to leading my thoughts toward considering what my day would have looked like for my parents, or even more extremely, for my grandmother. Hitching a horse, riding to town, blah blah. But one minute in I realize my “bad, slow day” is actually accomplishing more in a half hour than my grandmother could have even hoped to do all day, and I would have been safer, warmer, and far more comfortable. And that awareness makes me grateful, and if you’re feeling grateful then you’re okay. It’s as easy as that.

You have a lot to be grateful for. So go create yourself a great day by investing your consciousness in things that are easy to appreciate. Trust me. They’re always there.

peace. s

Recoupling

A lot of my student/clients are struggling marriages. If I’m given enough time and they are both genuine and earnest enough to allow me to take them through a process, then only one of two outcomes takes place. Either they fall back in love, or things end shortly thereafter.

??????????????????????????????????????????I consider myself successful either way because I don’t save marriages, I show people the way to have enjoyable, rewarding lives. If the relationship actually makes it unnecessarily difficult for the participants—including kids—to enjoy life, then the raised awareness of either one or both partners leads them to take action. They will be less interested in preserving their legal status and more invested in circumstances that are more conducive to healthier, happier living for both partners, be that together, alone or with different partners.

Even if you’re going to stay together and have a fun, successful relationship, you still need to know how to get through rough times. Those are inevitable. You need to know what they feel like, otherwise you wouldn’t be able to recognize the fact that you’re usually happy. Fun times are easy, but when you’re experiencing them actually take some time to pay real attention to how your mind is processing events.

You’ll see that your optimistic view has you noting many opportunities for you to be happy. By contrast a person creating negative feelings will be able to sit in the same context and notice nothing but what’s lacking or wrong. So the most important starting place for any couple is for it to be made up of two people who are genuinely dedicated to their own happiness. Not structureless, self-indulgent pleasures, but a rather a 627 Relax and Succeed - We're all entitledgenuine appreciation for the value of rest, recouperation and the space for creativity to take place in—be that time, space or both.

Sure, if someone’s got cancer or whatever then they get to be a bit needy and surivival is good enough, we don’t need to add to their struggles by holding them to some super-high standard for happiness. We all have tough times like that. That’s when love kicks in and carries the most weight. But other than those times where you simply need love and support, a central relationship responsibility is to your own happiness. If you can’t do that then there’s no point in complaining to a partner. People don’t make other people happy. People can ultimately only make themselves happy.

If you know how to be happy then you will have many go-to thoughts to jump toward that can be far more pleasant than the ones that go with a bad marriage. To escape to higher-frequency busy thoughts you need to be able to recognize that you are lost. Fortunately our emotions do a great job of signalling us because the angier we get the louder we get. And once we’re angry we’re not fighting the point anymore because making a point doesn’t require hurling insults. Wanting to win against someone—that can quickly degrade into name-calling and cheap shots. 

So if you hear your voice raised, then it’s a virtual guarantee that you are locked in ego and doing things that are likely to run contrary to your larger objectives. You are far better to take your chemical-filled blood and yell back, “I can tell by the fact that I’m ?????????????????????????????????????????????????yelling that I’m saying things I may not mean and so I’m going to take this anger, go outside for a walk to calm down so that I can talk to you about this more constructively because we both deserve that…!” That’s actually helpful; to just announce that you’re lost and then try to create a delay until your consciousness can settle a bit. As angry as they may be, the other person will recognize you’re attempting to be genuinely helpful to the situation. If both parties are on board then that’s the best possible scenario.

Once people have calmed down they generally don’t need any help. They fell in love without help. They just need assistance seeing each other. So know that angry temporary blindness or fears will cause us to miss important details and react in counterproductive ways. So as much as possible just delay your relations with others until both parties are more able to be genuinely constructive. Do that and you will reduce the amount of resentment moving forward, and that is what will keep your relationship healthy: leaving the past in the past and searching for the best possible present. It’s always there to do.

Enjoy your day.

peace. s

Galloping Thoughts

I have several friends who own and/or passionately love horses. I’ve asked one friend in particular some fairly deep philosophical questions about the horse-rider relationship and because she’s an intelligent, introspective person she’s helped me understand a lot. Most of my readers are women, and most horses are owned by women, and so it occurred to me that using a horse in a metaphor might be both welcome and helpful. And to be honest it worked surprisingly well.

604 Relax and Succeed - The riders hands are not to controlOkay, so you’re the rider. This represents The Observer—or your spirit in other terms. This is the always-healthy part of you that goes unnoticed when we’re living in ego. The horse represents your thoughts. And the terrain represents the world around you. And so your riding skills represent your ability to control the horse of your thoughts so that it will take you where you want to be, all while taking into account the terrain that is presented.

The critical thing to remember in all of this is that the horse still has volition. Yes a violent rider can worry a horse into where he wants it to go, and a good rider can cooperate with the horse so that there is no discernible division between horse and rider. But good rider or bad, the horse still maintains the freedom to bolt and do damage. So will the terrain be fatiguing and will you become tired as a rider? And will your horse use your low consciousness to exert its power? Because if it does, it will ride and ride and ride toward all sorts of hell until the rider actively intervenes with enough intention to actually quiet the horse so that its direction can be changed.

This is the advantage of the rough ride of emotions. When you and the horse are working together to better both of your situations, your movement through the world is quick and sure-footed and smooth and enjoyable. But at times when the terrain has worn you out, when you have walked up too many hills, and your fatigue turns to inattention, before you know it the horse has bolted and it’s racing off toward something dangerous. This doesn’t mean you’ve failed as a rider. Otherwise the universe wouldn’t need the rough feelings to help guide you. No, you need some unpleasant parts to even be able to recognize the pleasant parts. So unpleasant feelings are the result of the horse being allowed to run willy-nilly. Stay mindful.

604 Relax and Succeed - Changing my thoughtsEat and sleep well and get even moderate exercise. That’s like looking after your horse. And then develop your skills and accept that for every hill you go down you will have to go up. And if your thoughts are moving in a painful direction you must use your skills to change the horse’s focus. So when you’re in those phases don’t be too hard on yourself when your patience runs thin. But always use it as a reminder that you can develop the appropriate sensibilities to be able to get your horse back on course before it ever wanders too far off your path

Remember, the terrain is the terrain. You can’t change that. But you can control the horse to a large enough degree that even uphill slopes can feel pretty rewarding. That’s all very happy people do. They just don’t let their thoughts settle in negativity. They raise their gaze and search for positivity.

So here’s the deal: you don’t need to change your life. Start taking more active control over your thinking, stop being angry about, or complaining or whining or crying about the horse your childhood mounted you on. Every single horse brings its challenges. So forget about wishing you were on another horse and instead take control over your own riding. Because if you can get reasonably good control over your thinking—which everyone can if they try—then it doesn’t matter what horse you were born onto because you have essentially guaranteed yourself a fantastic ride through life.

Your thinking will often be helpful when taking you where you want to go. But it should not be allowed to run amok. Use it like rider jumping fences. But don’t just let your thoughts wander unrestrained. No one can be happy that way.

Focus your thinking on the things you appreciate and it is impossible not to enjoy your day. Make that choice. Go quiet inside. Connect. Be.

And have yourself and awesome day.

peace. s

Pain versus Suffering

People often start off on the wrong foot by coming to me thinking that their friends recommended me because they’re so happy. They think I make people happy. Sure, they end up happier, but that’s almost the exact opposite of what I actually teach them.

599 Relax and Succeed - We do not see things as they areI teach them to suffer. Only I teach them to suffer wisely.

Wise suffering? I know, weird eh? Who knew I was going to bump into such truths when I stumbled into figuring this out. So how do you suffer wisely? The answer is acceptance. Because if you meditate on the subject more closely you will see that it’s not really the pain that bothers you, it’s the concern that your suffering will linger or even stay.

As I’ve noted many times before, if emotions were actually good or bad then theaters and bookstores would be empty. No one would offer to pay perfectly good money to buy a book, bring it home, put some time into reading i, and then have it deliver to them the very thing that they tried to avoid all day—whether that’s fear or worry or profound sadness. But no, we’ll break our own hearts with Ivanhoe, or sit in dread with Stephen King, and we’ll even pay for the privilege. So in the end your own life proves to you that emotions themselves are not good or bad.

So what’s with this lingering-staying-suffering part? Please pay attention to the fact that everything I’m talking about here takes place entirely in your consciousness. And within your consciousness, because you choose to believe that some emotions are bad, when they show up in your life your reaction is to panic. You start to think to yourself, “Oh no, not sadness. I don’t want sadness again. Why do I keep dating people? It’s always painful! I’m so stupid! No wonder no one wants me,” etc. etc. Okay, so the realization of loss was something your pre-thought non-illusory mind experienced. But because your society trained you well, 599 Relax and Succeed - One day things will get betteryour brain immediately sought to categorize that thought into separate ideas that you describe to yourself using labels called words.

What you need to grasp is that it isn’t your breakup from two weeks ago that’s making you cry for days on end. The pain of loss and the occasional recognition or reminder of recent loss will understandably trigger the sad feeling we think of when we think of losing someone. The pre-word, pre-thinking feeling. But if you fully feel that without hesitation—and if you’re not afraid of any emotions—then you simply move into the next moment and feel your thoughts about that. These are those times when you might say that it felt good to cry. So if you’re only crying when you actually want to cry, then you just have to deal with the occasional painful feeling that gets stirred up when your consciousness is unexpectedly reminded of your past.

If however you choose to think a streaming narrative similar to the one I created above, then you will experience that as your emotions. Feelings come before the words, after the words it’s emotion. It’s why babies can feel love but not jealousy. One is before words so babies can feel that, but they can’t build the one after words until first they learn words. So what’s actually hurting you two weeks later isn’t your breakup, it’s your thoughts about the breakup. It’s the words. Because if you wouldn’t keep telling yourself stories about how it could have gone or how it should have gone, then those words would go quiet and you would feel what you were experiencing in the current moment—like the view, or a sound or smell—instead of chemically constructing a past or future experience out of unpleasant, judgmental words.

599 Relax and Succeed - We cannot control the windIt’s no different than reading a book. If your consciousness is considering a painful idea you will experience pain, just like when your consciousness is intentionally focused on the most rewarding thing you can find—then you feel exalted. You don’t feel what happened, you feel what you’re thinking about in this moment. So can you time travel and choose to think about painful things from the past? Of course. It’s how most of the world manages their sadness. But just the same you can manage your happiness too. You can choose to focus on what you’re grateful for.

This is all actually quite easy to do, so if you’re telling yourself I’m being flippant or that I’m wrong, understand that what you’re trying to do is off target. Because this is incredible easy. Remember at the start I said that people got happier by suffering wisely? Okay, so now maybe this explanation will make more sense: To suffer is to choose to think unpleasant pain-engaged or pain-resisting thoughts (they both involve pain equally), and all of this gets done in the hopes that the pain will somehow magically go away because we’ve suffered enough. So you have to put work into this. You have to choose to go in that painful direction—there’s effort #1—and then you have to put effort #2 into creating all 599 Relax and Succeed - If you want to be happyof the narratives that pedal the bicycle of your ego.

My way you just stop thinking, focus your consciousness on the most enriching, pleasant thing you can find and that naturally feels good. But to do that you have to accept the unpleasant feelings first. You can’t be thinking you live in some dream-world where the pain might possibly stop because you want it to, or that there is some magical way to live where you’ll never be in pain again. If you don’t work to hold those crazy beliefs then you only have to experience the feeling of actual pain but not the daily suffering of ego. (Things like being offended, or thinking people are wrong about their politics or art. It’s all very taxing.)

599 Relax and Succeed - The journey is the rewardYou will suffer. Many times. So stop trying to worry it away from your future, or regret it away from your past. Be present instead. If a powerful feeling is appropriate then feel it. But don’t use your ability to think in words as a way to torque a feeling into an emotion. Be sad when it’s appropriate to be sad. Be fearful when it is wise to be fearful. But the rest of the time just let your consciousness relax in silence—which is otherwise known as… happiness.

peace. s

 

FOMO

It’s a relatively new acronym. We didn’t need an acronym before because this fear was so rare. You might experience it a couple or few times a year, whereas now you can experience it many times in an hour. Most social networking has inadvertently become primarily about activating that fear: the fear of missing out.

100 years ago you might have felt this if you had to leave for university knowing that your brother was coming back from the war, or that the horse and carriage that you were riding on couldn’t hope to make it home in time for your sister’s birth. But today you can experience this feeling minute by minute just by watching social media. You can be told about all of the amazing places you aren’t seeing, or the amazing meals you’ll never cook. You’ll see the exercise results you’ll never achieve, you’ll see the parties and events 594 Relax and Succeed - We waste so many daysand concerts you didn’t go to, the clothes you can’t afford—you’ll see all the choices you didn’t/couldn’t/wouldn’t make.

The point is, you’ll be able to compare. It’s like internet dating: it’s easy to think of a relationship as disposable if you know there are websites with literal lists of other potential choices. But of course Barry Schwartz has studied choice (Barry Schwartz: The Paradox of Choice) and what we learned was that more choice simply translates to more chances for you to be wrong and disappointed. So despite what retailers tell you, more choice does not make you happier it makes you sadder. And the same goes for choices regarding what to do with your most precious commodity, time. Too much choice can freeze us with confusion. Brains aren’t wired up to be able to track the myriad of choices and decisions that need to be made each and every day in today’s world.

So how does this translate to life? Here’s how a lot of 1st world people’s lives go today: starting around lunch or after work, people start watching the various emails and newsfeeds on their phones to help them decide what to choose to do that night or on the weekend. Of course, they might have already committed to an event two weeks ago via social networking, but the very nature of social networking means that even if something is scheduled, you’ll still compare it to what options have shown up since you made the “commitment.” The problem is that these choices just keep scrolling by much like our life will if we’re not careful. Because what a lot of people are telling me today is that they’ll get home and waffle between choices until it’s somewhere between 9:00 and 11:00pm and then they feel it’s too late to start 594 Relax and Succeed - Exist to be happyanything and so they end up doing nothing. Ironically social networking has inadvertently made everyone far less social.

Of course what you’re seeing on social networking isn’t what’s actually going on. Because most people aren’t really telling you what’s really going on. There’s no more ego-based world that social networking. Most people are just struggling to post lives that look as impressive as their friends’ appear to be. And so all unflattering but honest photos are untagged and any remaining photos will all be from what you perceive as your good side so we essentially get to see the same photo over and over and over. Plus any unflattering remarks or statements are deleted or edited or blocked. All weakness is hidden unless we actually want people to feel sorry for us, in which case the feeds will be subconscious solicitations for sympathy masquerading as love. But that’s the last resort, so most of what we’re seeing are social lies that are attempting to position people for Andy Warhol’s famous 15 minutes of fame, albeit often only within our own social circle.

Social networking can be very useful and I’m happy to use it effectively to achieve positive ends. But if I didn’t have to be on it I wouldn’t. Not because I’m against it, but because I would have so much living to get done that I wouldn’t have the time. You see this with people that live in the mountains. They often can’t get cell phone access and so their kids grow up largely without phones being their primary source of information. The world is their source of information and entertainment and enjoyment. So when they are exposed to technology it all just seems like lame approximations of life rather than life itself. To a kid from the mountains most city kids look like the people in the pods in the movie The Matrix. They’re not really alive, they’ve just been convinced they are by what they’re seeing. The truly interesting people are actually out doing interesting, exciting and expansive things in the real world not the virtual one. They don’t share and forward videos of lions doing cool things. They get on a plane, fly to 594 Relax and Succeed - Plunge boldly into the thickAfrica and they go see some actual lions. And half the time they don’t take a camera with them to prove to you their ego’s winning. It’s quite a difference from a life spent scrolling on a phone.

Don’t sit at home watching your options/life scroll by in some news feed. Don’t sit in a coffee shop looking at your phone or you won’t see the attractive, appealing person who’s trying to get your attention. And remember that life was meant to be lived. It’s not a show. It’s not a performance. You’re not supposed to be lauded for your wardrobe or hair or cinematography—your life is not a production. You are simply supposed to live. But to do that, you have to stop spending so much time watching life looking for the best thing possible, and instead get out into the world and just simply do the best thing available in the moment you’re in. That leads to an awesome life. So just make life a verb and the rest will be fine.

Now of course all of this is deeply ironic because you are likely reading this via some news feed on your phone or computer. But again, nothing is good or bad, it’s merely how we use something and then what are the consequences? So make your use of technology more conscious. Actually ask yourself if you’re using it like an addict uses substances to avoid dealing with life, or if you’re really using it to improve yourself or to make active, conscious and life-affirming decisions about what to actually do with this incredibly brief experience we have with life itself. Because as anyone on their death bed will tell you, time is the most valuable thing you have and so how you spend it should always be at the forefront of your mind.

Don’t waffle over choice. Choose and make that choice a verb. Whatever else you might do in that same time is irrelevant as long as you enjoy or get some reward from what you did choose to do. And that is always possible and it’s entirely up to you.

Thank you for your time. Have yourself a wonderful day.

peace. s

Energy Conversion

I have a dear friend who I respect a great deal. He’s a good man but he’s going through a tough time. He’s losing one of his closest friends to cancer. It’s going to happen quickly—which in some ways can be a blessing in disguise. But there is no way of getting around the fact that this will require a massive adjustment to a new reality for my friend.

568 Relax and Succeed - We are the loveIn situations like that people always search for meaning. Everything happens for a reason people will say. But of course the reason is created in our own minds. The reason is constructed by us for us. And so we would do well to carefully consider where we are going to place this substantial density of meaning.

No matter what we’ll go through Kubler-Ross’s stages of dying, all the time muttering to ourselves about whatever stage we’re in. But we can force our pain out through those activities in our consciousness, stage by stage, or we can convert the energy from that pain into something meaningful. This is one of the most powerful things a human being can do. We can take in one kind of energy and we can act to flip it into its inverse. We can turn that energy 180 degrees.

The way we do this is to fully feel our pain. Don’t back away from it, move toward it. Feel its texture. Feel what it’s made of. Feel the details of those agonizing thoughts. Study them like a scientist would study a chemical reaction or the behaviour of an animal. Just watch yourself closely and come to better understand your pain. And in doing so you will become aware of the preciousness of life itself. Of the temporaryness of it. Of its fragility. And yet, of its potential vitality.

568 Relax and Succeed - When you arise in the morningYou will realize that just as some friend’s family did not know they were losing their father only one hour before the news arrived, the same could unknowingly happen in your own family tomorrow. And so rather than turn that into some maudlin loss of purpose, turn it the exact opposite direction and see life for the exciting opportunity that it is. Opportunity for what? For love in all of its forms. Laughter, camaraderie, empathy, romance, friendship, joy. Convert the agony of loss into the unrestrained openness of unconditional love.

You have a choice you either consciously or subconsciously make every single moment. You choose how to analyze the Is-ness of the world. So yes, you can look at the death of a friend as a horrible injustice and no matter how healthy you are your mind will spend at least some time in the angry stage. But the sooner we can reach acceptance, the sooner we can begin to take our grief and convert it into love. Love for the person leaving us and love for those still with us.

That is the awareness that death brings with it. When juxtaposed to death we can suddenly appreciate that life itself is a verb. That before being healthy or happy we must simply be. And when something reminds us that nothing lasts forever and everything changes, we realize that everything includes us. That we and all of our loved ones are temporary spacemen on this little rock hurtling through the cosmos. We are but a blip on the timeline of the universe. Which is why it is all the more important that we love all we can for the short time we’re here.

It’s a wonderful opportunity, life is. Just ask anyone who’s losing theirs if you should waste yours and you’ll always get the same answer. Live. Live fully and deeply and bravely. Because things like failure or loss mean nothing. We all end up dead anyway. So don’t waste your life wishing for a different one. Live this one as fully as you can. Because to do that is a choice, and to not make that choice is to surrender the most valuable thing you have.

peace. s

The New You

People are always telling me about how bad their life is. What they mean is: so far they have made the kinds of choices that have lead to a life that wobbles between unpleasant and tolerable, with occasional spikes into worthwhile and deeply rewarding. But you can spend way more time intentionally feeling much better about your life if you know how.

550 Relax and Succeed - You are not directedThe mistake people make is that they spend most of their lives wishing for a different and better situation than they’re currently in, and they justify that useless fantasy by telling themselves that it might have really happened if your past had gone differently than it did. Well your past didn’t go that way so—as I’ve said before—if you’re aunt was a man she’d be your uncle. There’s no point in discussing ifs. It’s what is that counts.

So imagine there’s a bunch of different souls of you, and they take turns running your current body through the universe. So imagine we’re at soul three, going into four. (the Dalai Lama’s at 14!) The old soul—the one that has the endured the most recent experiences and that has collected the the most recent wisdom—s/he leaves the body and the new you jumps in. BAM. You’re suddenly the physical, live version of you for the very first time. It’s all new to you. Really basic stuff would be fun because it would be just like your first time. It would be like being each previous version of you for a short while before you caught up to who you are today. Hot, wet, funny, celery, dogs. It would be amazing to experience those things with five senses for the first time again. But the best part? Each successive soul leaves their wisdom behind! I know! It’s crazy what a great deal that is but that’s what happens. You step in fresh and you get all of their knowledge, wisdom and experience. Get ready to rock.

Can you imagine that? You’re free. Clear. Yes, you have those memories within your brain, but the old you doesn’t hang around to explain your history because all you really need is the wisdom. So you would just move forward with clear-headed, open and aware innocence. You’d be a genius. And you always can be. You just have to shut down your judgmental, opinionated mind and stop returning to/recreating past dramas in your imagination. Your past is not now. It’s what you do now that will build your future. So don’t waste that opportunity by lamenting where you wish you could have been or on what might have happened. Instead fully live the life you’ve chosen so far, but do it more wholeheartedly. See it for what it is: an opportunity to be alive. You’ll realize what a privilege it is when you feel your death approaching.

550 Relax and Succeed - Go quiet with genuine faithEach morning, step out of bed and remind yourself that these are early days for this new you. Feel the surfaces under your feet. Smell the air. Make eye contact with pets as though you’re truly getting to know them for the first time. Taste your beverage like you’ve never had liquid in your mouth before. Be fully alive. Remind yourself that you have been asleep, your predecessor has departed and you have awoken into this life. There is no need for historical thinking. You can simply move forward with a quiet mind in the present moment, and if you feel compelled to think about anything, it’s your future.

Your past does not dictate how well your life will turn out. It is moment to moment decisions that ripple out into effects on a moment to moment basis. So your future isn’t mapped and decided—your past is irrelevant. Just be in the moment you’re in and make the choice that feels right. Because this new you has nothing else to go on but feel. So go for it. It’s a lot less work than all the guessing and planning and speculating and worrying that you were doing before. And it will leave you more aware and awake to enjoy the incredible life that will come from trusting yourself. Because in the end, where you end up matters way less than who’s present when you get there. Have a great day.

peace. s

Directing Your Life

Imagine your life as a high-tech movie that is shown as it is made. This movie will play only once, in only one direction, and only one frame will be in front of the bulb of consciousness at any given moment. That frame is known as the present moment. Once you have seen a frame you will never see it again. Since the film is being made as it’s shown, you do have the option to re-create a previous frame in a later scene, but it still won’t be the original frame—it’ll be a new one that you have purposefully built to look like the old frame. Life is always new, even if that newness is invested in reconstructing previous times.

525 Relax and Succeed - Life is like a movieKeep in mind that the film is being made as it is being shown. When we say we have become conscious, what we mean is that we have become aware of our role in the creation of our film/reality. If we change our thoughts we will change how things are. Can you see then how this saves you from suffering about the past? Can you see how, just by understanding this one point, you can be free of a big chunk of optional suffering?

Once you’re conscious you know that you decide which movie you’re making. So you know that you can’t blame flashbacks on the characters in the scenes. Those thoughts are yours. So if you’ve chosen to edit in some flashback from a painful time in your life then that is your choice. But then don’t expect to feel happy during a sad scene. If you want to re-construct an unpleasant past event then of course you get the emotions that go with it. It’s a very simple system. But likewise, being happy’s that easy too.

You’re the Director. You decide how you want your story told. If you choose to make horrors or maudlin dramas then don’t be surprised when you get the appropriate reactions. The real question is, are you going to choose to meaninglessly re-construct troublesome past experiences, or are you going to use that same psychological energy to create some new and worthwhile experience instead?

525 Relax and Succeed - She could never go backThe film that’s been shown has been shown. You can’t go back and fix the past. The more you return to it the more you keep it alive in the present moment. You can argue for how compelling it is. You can suggest it’s natural to re-live it. But none of that explains why you aren’t that way about dozens of other things in your life. No, sorry: you choose your thoughts. If you’re thinking painful ones then that is not because those thoughts weigh more or something strange like that. “Important thoughts” are ones you think often, whereas “unimportant thoughts” you barely think at all. That is the only difference between the two—the weight of your consciousness.

You can’t make a film by thinking about the scenes you’ve already shot. Those are done and you’ve moved on. You have to get focused on the scene you’re in. Using current scenes to meaninglessly repeat previous scenes is insane. Recognize your freedom and ability. Create scenes that are easy to enjoy. Forget the idea that you will make the present better by revisiting the past. Save yourself from your own flashbacks and be alive today instead.

Now go and have/create/direct yourself a wonderful day!

peace. s