Personal Reality

Ha! Last week’s blog was about being over-tired and I accidentally posted an early draft instead of the finished blog. It’s fixed now, but that’s how life goes sometimes. The lesson is that it’s possible to still be okay even with a total screw-up. I’m wise enough to know that mistakes are inevitable so…. found one!

Okay. To my knowledge, the piece below is the one I mean to post today. I guess time will tell….

If you don’t think reality is personal or flexible consider this: It was my Dad’s 93rd on Sunday. I had had a productive but scattered week and ended it by shifting many Saturday tasks to Friday to give me time to prep a big birthday dinner. Those events got stored in my brain in a variety of ways, including linking to my sense of accomplishment (I was energized by my productivity), and my sense of time and scheduling.

Everything inter-wires in our minds. Anything related connects to anything related through our neural network. It’s why it’s often easier to remember things you hand write in your unique script vs. things you typed, where your hand doesn’t move down the line with the words. Wiring in those motions is another cross-wired memory with our physical sense of the world.

What my productivity meant was that I woke up with the knowledge that much of my Saturday work was done, so my brain turned Saturday morning into Sunday. See how powerful we all are? I bent reality without even meaning to. I worked for two-thirds of the day before I realized that, to a lot of the rest of the world, it was Saturday.

Of course, to someone on the other side of the Date Line it could be a day later, or to remote islanders untouched by civilization it was no day of the week at all. It was simply daytime, and a season for the foods they eat, because that’s what shapes their reality, not a calendar that their mind adopted from some ancient Romans. As it stands, it’s curious that we use that.

Look at the months for example. Augustus Caesar was mad that Julius Caesar had more days, so Augustus stole two from February so he got 31 days too. Is jealousy any basis for a calendar?

Our life is what we feel and experience. And within my personal reality –which is the only one that is ‘real’ to us– I enjoyed the same feeling you would get if someone told you they were adding an 8th day to your week. I felt as though I had been given a day because, to me, I had been. That’s how reality works. People can say we’re ‘wrong’ but that idea is irrelevant to us until we believe we’re wrong. And even then, if they’re wrong too, they could have convinced us of  the wrong thing again!

Once, when my ex wife and I couldn’t remember the word shuttlecock her mind came up with the invented term, birdmonton baddy. We worked on accepting that until our pre-internet brains stumbled into remembering that it was actually badminton birdy. It’s still funny today and I’m glad it happened. It was even useful here. See? Wrong thing converted by time into a right thing.

This is an aspect of comprehending reality that many struggle with. They’ll say to me, “But it’s not Sunday, it’s Saturday. You were wrong!” But by whose measure? I live in my reality, not yours or some abstraction. And when we say it’s ‘wrong’ are we saying the person on the other side of the Date Line, or the remote islander who has it being forever today is wrong? Why is a bizarre ancient Roman system better than that tribe’s?

At least the tribe’s is called today and that is, after all, the only day we are able to do anything at all. We can’t act yesterday nor tomorrow, so today is the only real day we’re alive. Meanwhile, our day names are rather arbitrary, created by the whims of the various people that formed them. Look at the months for example. Augustus Caesar was mad that Julius Caesar had more days, so Augustus stole two from February so he got 31 days too. Is jealousy any basis for a calendar?

Whichever of the umpteen calendars we choose to use, their only purpose is to coordinate activity between realities. It’s like the number two again. There’s no where where anyone can go show a child a number two (well, okay, maybe a number two, but you know what I mean.) Arabic numbers are representations of facts, they are not things in and of themselves. I can’t bring two twos to your house. Months are likewise, as is time.

Of course, we’re doing this all the time. We live like many things that aren’t real are real. So let’s take the rest of our day and consider some common language we use. Ask ourselves if those are actually things, or just ideas. Because we can’t get wet from the word water, so it’s important to draw the distinction between the two. (Just don’t step in a number two while walking your dog. That smell will not be an abstraction.)

People want to get healthy. They want to heal. They want to stop thinking. But all you really need to do is look at reality closely. Because the more you inspect it, the less substantial it will be. And if you can reach past your own mind, you begin to enter the realm of flexibility that Jill Bolte Taylor accidentally fell through while having a stroke. While that’s a weird way to have it, just visiting there for a few moments left her permanently changed. Which proves that we don’t really have to fix reality. We just have to understand it.

Enjoy your day.

peace. s

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.