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.