A Balance of Needs

1268 Relax and Succeed - Mindfulness is the aware.jpgMaybe it’s a few friends of yours. Maybe it’s you and you know it. Maybe it’s you and you aren’t aware of it; but we’re all somewhere on the self and other spectrum. Regardless of how various individual people define us, we can all appreciate that some people will be more selfish than others, just as we know some will give beyond their capacity to give.

Notably, either extreme appears pathetic from the middle. To be fair, the people on the extreme ends also don’t often have many good opinions about the people in the middle, and notably; they’re often viewed as the least-informed about life.

The most balanced people rarely experience their balanced nature because they have so little variation to compare it to, and so the experiences they do have tend to be filed under shocking, unpleasant or maybe bad simply because they’re so comparatively big. In that way life kind of works the way a lemon does, where it shocks you when you’re a baby, but lots of experiences with something means that today you can convert that lemony tartness into refreshing enjoyment.

1268 Relax and Succeed - There seem to be two kinds of searchersMost of you will know these varying spiritual states as political distinctions. People seen as over-generous and foolish by one side are seen as compassionate and generous by the other. Likewise, the ones viewed as selfish and careless are seen by their own side as focused and successful. Each of these opinions and every single one in between are all largely valid, which helps us realise the truly meaningless nature of opinions, because what we’re really talking about is the many ways people are.

There’s no correct place to be on this spectrum. You’re not healthier near the middle and sicker on the extremes, although those can be byproducts of being in those positions. Everyone on that spectrum suffers, just for different reasons. The two far ends of the spectrum find each other’s pure existence to be painful. In between people argue about what the priorities in life should be and how they should be accounted for. And in the very middle a bunch of people are pretty good at intellectually appreciating all the various positions taken, but they’re all a little lifeless due to a lack of extreme experiences.

This idea can be disappointing to a spiritual seeker because it indicates that a common theme is true; you are already home. The reason this idea gets confused is that we see our spirit as a thing, on its way somewhere, when it would be better to think of ourselves as a principle in motion. So it’s like we’re the principle of gravity and the body we live in is doing the falling that we call living. Yes, your nature is to pull toward the center–to fall–which also explains why the center can be confusing and disorienting to those born too close to it, making their subsequent lives feel shallow and often unlived.

1268 Relax and Succeed - It is not outer awarenessCan you accept that your nature is to move toward balance and that is the pull of life you feel each day? And can you simultaneously accept that your nature includes the idea that where you’re headed isn’t better than where you are, it’s just a different balance point with different challenges? The point isn’t to get anywhere, it’s to go; to live; to be. External outcomes ultimately don’t matter. It’s what Shakespeare meant with that “To be or not to be,” stuff.

Are there different types of prices for experiencing the various positions on this spectrum? Indeed there are. But pain is pain. It’s the part of life that allows you to contrast your joy, so there is no point in avoiding it. There are enlightened beings living all over the spectrum. The trick isn’t where you are, it’s how aware you are.

Wake up. Know yourself. And know that others are themselves too. And then work toward a less judgmental world where, more and more, you simply let them, and yourself, fully be.

peace. s

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

To Know Oneself

1249 Relax and Succeed - To know oneselfBruce Lee (and I’m sure many others) said that we should study ourselves in action with others in order to better-know ourselves. Many people will hear this and do a cursory glance at their lives, literally looking for examples of them being polite or generous and that will be it. They’ll have self-passed themselves when really what they did was forgo an opportunity for valuable self-reflection.

To study ourselves in action, it is the action within our consciousness that counts. It’s possible to be extremely polite to someone while intentionally manipulating them into something they wouldn’t do had they not been intentionally mislead. What counts is in our internal intentions. When we listen to people, do we truly listen without expectation, or are we in a constant dialogue with ourselves, criticising them at every phrase?

How casual have we all become about our subtle mental criticisms of others? We live within our consciousness. Whether we’re constantly bitching about them, or wanting to be someone other than ourselves, both have us in equally unpleasant landscapes of thought. It’s like going on vacation to a place we’re sure to despise.

1249 Relax and Succeed - The money does not see his own backsideWe have to learn to not accept these mental headspaces. We have to learn to pay attention to that suffering more. Yes, I’m suggesting that we focus on when we’re taking a crap between our own ears. Because that’s what we’re doing when we think uncharitable thoughts about ourselves or others. Other people don’t feel our brain chemistry, we do. Seriously: if we know these thoughts are painful, then voluntarily thinking them is like choosing to open spoiled food so we can smell it better.

We all need to pay more attention to what our brain is doing because, if you’re like most of us, half the time our mind is on autopilot, flying whatever routes our childhood caregivers taught us to fly even if that makes no sense for our own destinations in life. Then when we do become conscious, our unconscious life will feel strangely robotic, as we come to realise that we have no idea why we personally are doing what we’re doing.

Whatever it is–your drinking, your job, your temper, your sadness, your lack of trust–these are all things that were taught to you. They are not the natural you, they are the squashed by your packaging version of you. It is you, but you’re distorted and out of shape. And you can see that shape in how you internally react to others.

1249 Relax and Succeed - You cannot have a positive lifeIf you watch yourself closely, you’ll soon realise that you’re likely to do the same thing one of your parents did (or in rarer cases, the exact opposite). That’s your ego following programming. To be free you have to make that programming conscious. It’s usually painful, so that helps you spot it when it shows up so that you can change direction and end that suffering.

Today, every time you catch yourself criticising either you or someone else, take a moment of meditation and prayer and follow your criticism with a compliment. If you make the latter in person and out loud, you’d be amazed at how fast you can start remembering not to think ill of others.

It’s a good saying, really; “Think ill of others.” To do so is the act of poisoning ourselves with negative thoughts. Clearly that is something we should avoid doing. Let’s take steps in that direction today. By the way, I think you’re awesome.

peace. s

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

Correcting Yourself

1236 Relax and Succeed - He who carves the buddhaPeople think they’ll feel better if they perform better in some specific way, but it’s not achievement that allows us to feel great, it’s mindfulness. It is when we are fully absorbed in what we are doing that we and the act we are performing become one, whether the person is still or busy, their state is peaceful clarity.

Today, rather than constantly criticizing yourself with your own ego-centric thinking try going peaceful instead. As an exercise, when speaking with others today, watch for language that is corrective and then veer away from that need to be right and instead surrender into silent acceptance. Listen to an idea you disagree with and feel the motivation to speak to–and then don’t.

By practicing the act of acceptance we become better listeners. Use today to your advantage. Make a game of it. See how many times you can catch yourself doing it; see how quickly you can change direction; and see how gracefully you can make your shift. Be still amidst ideas you disagree with. Do these things and you will become stronger.

Awareness, recognition, response. It’s yours to do.

peace. s

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

The Value of Pain


It shows up at times where we’re thinking of others. That’s why we don’t notice its value. When we use our experiences with pain, it will be in some kind of compassionate act. To heal them is to heal ourselves when we feel that level of empathy. That is when we see another’s pain as our own. That is when we feel a sense of oneness with another person.

Let us immediately distinguish pain from suffering. Suffering is psychological and it leads to psychological pain, which is only just now becoming important for people to distinguish from physical pain. As I noted in yesterday’s post, relative to our cellular structure language is a very new creation. As a result, our body keeps reacting under the assumption that we’re in physical danger, when really we’re just worried about what someone will think of us on social media. Clearly those things should not been seen as equally important or meaningful.

While the same chemicals can get triggered, with physical pain it can take a long while to heal, whereas sincere efforts at understanding the structures of psychological suffering can quickly reduce it almost completely, and over time people can soon learn how to deeply love their own lives. But we gain access to loving it by trading away our psychological suffering in exchange for acceptance of the certainty that we will experience both physical and non-optional psychological pain.

Physical we’re already ready to accept, and to what degree we accept it is generally referred to as our pain threshold. But buying office supplies for our new job, signing our married name, imagining our life as someone different–these are all either hopeful or wildly hopeful fantasies. We’ll all do them sometimes, but that doesn’t make it wise. It just makes ego human.

There is no need nor benefit for us to spend a lot of time leaping into a made-up future to concoct expectations. We can just stay in the now, where we can actually take action to impact our future, and in doing so we become less likely to avoid causing ourselves future psychologically pain.

Non-optional psychological pain is when our circumstances have changed so suddenly and so drastically that we literally have brain wiring that just isn’t set up to manage it. It’s impossible to be someone and not take on a world view, but if you’re a soldier and you get your legs blown off, then you’re suddenly someone who needs a revised identity. Same for someone who goes broke, has a divorce, loses a job or through the death of a loved one.

The depth of our love with our loved ones relates to the level of pain we’ll experience when they die and our brain can no longer interact with them in the present. That’s why it still tries, often until death. I haven’t lost a parent yet, but I know a lot of people who still ask their deceased parents for advice all the time. They’re just wired into too much other stuff. Their beauty is that they’re literally hard to forget.

By living through very painful experiences, we become valuable to anyone else experiencing those things, and in a ways that could not be known by people who had never actually been in the same position. This is the basis of empathy: our own psychological and physical pain. And when we’ll feel its value is when we bestow our empathy on anyone whose pain we truly share. Having surrendered ourselves into a state of oneness, healing them is to heal ourselves. And that is the value of our pain.

peace. s

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

Your Big Chance Is Now

You are born at the top of a wedge. That is the furthest from death you’ll ever be, but you immediately begin sliding downward. At first you enjoy it, like a child on a slide in a park. You run down hills, you love openly, your effortlessly glide your way down your path in life.

And then you reach a point where you begin to wonder where you’re supposed to go on this giant wedge of life. Left, right? Up, down? It’s a weird time, where you’ve surrendered the free-flowing sliding of your youth for a more conscious kind of sliding where you’re attempting to control your direction, but the incline and the steady slipperiness of the slope mean you’re often not getting where you’re trying to get.

Eventually you become aware that the wedge will not get less slippery, and that it must inevitably end, and so you start to take a little or a lot of time vainly trying to find a way to slow your descent. But since there is no way to do that, your only option is to either slide down gracefully or waste your opportunity by clinging so close to the edges of the wedge that you actually fall or jump off the side and vanish. But every other route down is equal.

As you begin to notice the wedge thinning, you begin to ask yourself what this wedge is made of. And eventually you figure out that it’s piles of experiences, and then you realise there will naturally be fewer of them every year and they can never be recovered. Meaning the only question is; how deep will you go today? You can lead a nervous, superficial life and barely leave the surface, or you can delve deep into yourself and your beliefs and you can find depth in even the most ordinary experiences.

No one knows how steep their wedge is. Some end abruptly while others stretch on for more than a century. So don’t ask how much longer your wedge reaches, focus on how deep it is where you are. Because stretching that wedge out to forever is meaningless unless you’re actually experiencing each day. And doing that won’t mean your times are perfect, but it does mean you will have stopped struggling through life.

As the Zen saying goes, Zen is not some kind of excitement, it is to focus on our everyday routine. We don’t need to bungee jump, experience world travel or have a baby, we can just actually slow down and taste our food, we can actually sit still and do nothing but actually listen to a song, or we can look at our friends as though we’ve never met them, or heard their voices before.

1187 Relax and Succeed - Spot the phoneWe can focus on virtually anything. To prove it to yourself, just try to find the phone in the picture of the carpet above. (I promise, there is one.) You’ll see how that once you begin to concentrate your consciousness, you can soon fill it with the act of your search, and in doing so you push out all other thinking and thereby impact your mood. Looking for the phone on the carpet is an action, thinking frustrated thoughts about not being able to find it, is ego. Any action feels better than any ego.

You’re on the incline. No one knows how far down it’s slope, but what we do know for sure is that the wedge under your feet is the wedge that’s available for living. So get deep now. Focus your consciousness more intentionally. And in doing so, increase your presence and your connections, because that is the only answer you’re looking for; the joy of a rewarding life.

Keep your head up and watch for depth. It’s always where you are, it’s always right underneath everything you’re doing, and it’s always yours to access. Start living the depth of your own life now.

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