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. 🙂