Comparing Us and Them

 

1304 Relax and Succeed - Don't judge her or yourself

Excluding my experience teaching in prisons, every single student/client I have had would be deemed as ‘successful’ by most people who knew them casually. All of them looked –and more importantly were– the sort of people all of us would like to be in one way or another. And yet they all came with what they felt at the time were crippling problems.

In our heads, we tend to do negative comparisons with people we see. If we’re angry or disappointed in the world, then we tend to be insulting and judgmental about people. But if our negativity is turned inward, then we only notice the qualities they have that we feel are missing within ourselves (e.g. I wish I could wear clothes like that, or, that guy is smooth and polished and I’m a bumbling idiot.)

But inside those smooth and polished exteriors, people come to me largely at a moment of transition. Sometimes the transition is mistaken for a crises, but most are just ordinary people that have developed negative feelings about themselves or their lives for all kinds of very human and understandable reasons.

Some are struggling with grief, others with fear. Some have addictions, some are anxious, some lack confidence, some aren’t sure who to become next. There are senior business people that want to have a heart to heart without losing face, parents who want to admit they are failing (but generally aren’t), and cheating spouses.

There are people tired of hating, bosses who need easier but more effective ways to manage people, people who need to forgive someone –and some are even crippled by guilt by having done some truly awful things in their lives.

They all come as a way to move forward and create positivity; as a way to atone for their past. But each and every one would look like a successful person you might envy on the street or at work. Think about that the next time you’re using your uninformed beliefs about others to beat yourself up with.

In our heads, we tend to do negative comparisons with people we see.

Remember, we all might think harsh thoughts and have periods in our life that we regret, but the regret is the sign that we are good people otherwise we wouldn’t feel that. Instead, we are better to face that pain full on because it is ours. After that, we should see ourselves as human and forgive ourselves.

Instead of wallowing in negative emotions, we are better to enact our regrets via the expression of positivity within the world around us, through the living of our lives. So let’s all just forget all the self-doubt and comparisons and have a great day enacting positivity in our little parts of the world. Thanks for reading.

peace. s

Real Princesses Have Real Problems

1302 Relax and Succeed - Princess Grace

Blinding expectation leads many of us to struggle with achieving our goals. Since everyone’s primary goal is belong, we tend to expect the love and acceptance we seek to come in a particular form, which causes us to miss when we’re actually getting offered what we need.

A good example of this innocent mistake can be seen in the film Grace of Monaco, starring Nicole Kidman as an extremely impressive version of the real princess (and Tim Roth doing an equally brilliant turn as her husband, Prince Rainier). It’s a stellar cast and script, but in today’s age of action heroes these sorts of profoundly human stories too often get ignored.

The fact that the writer managed to tell a profoundly human story about a princess was no easy feat. I’m not sure how accurate the film is (I do know a friend of Prince Albert’s –their son– and will try to find out), but for the purposes of this piece all that matters is that the writer a) used a very real event in history and, b) he accurately portrayed the princess making a common human mistake.

The backstory is that Grace Kelly grew up as the daughter of a wealthy American businessman. Grace constantly felt inferior to her sister and unloved and disrespected by her parents. Many people can relate to those feelings which is what makes a film about a princess, universal.

People short on love from the sources we’re told we ‘should’ get it from (like our parents), will often then seek that love in a much shallower, but broader sense from a much larger group of people simply because it’s safer. Who notices a few people not clapping in a room full of clapping people? Celebrity love is spread thinly enough to act as a form of fallibility insurance.

This is why many unloved people seek to be stars of various types. (It’s also why the disenfranchised in society join gangs and hate groups.) We all move towards people who care for us. That is where we are accepted and safe, and the highest form of love is love without conditions.

That is where we are accepted and safe, and the highest form of love is love without conditions.

Needing to feel cared for and admired, it’s no surprise that Grace the disappointing daughter had a decent likelihood of ending up in a job where she was loved regularly by people too distant to disappoint her. But despite her fame and success as an actress, she still did not feel accepted or respected by her family, and her mother refused to offer anything more than cold comfort.

As a demonstration of how important acceptance is to human beings, Grace’s response to not being respected and loved was to be swept off her feet into a fairy tale wedding with a Prince. Surely being Royalty would impress her family. Surely being a princess was romantic. But apparently not.

Grace’s problem in the film is that she wants to be loved so desperately. But her husband has a duty to the State and plays the sort of role that means he cannot be the husband she seeks. He is an able and trustworthy partner, but he was raised in too rigid a life to have developed the warm sensibilities she sought.

But remember what we said about expectation? Grace’s problem wasn’t that she couldn’t get love and respect, it’s that she kept trying to get it from people that couldn’t give it. For her parents it was pride and ego that were in the way; for her husband, duty and decorum.

1302 Relax and Succeed - The Meaning of Life

Critical to the story is that her marriage overlapped a crises for the Principality of Monaco. Having no taxes, France saw all of her businesses leaving the nation for Monaco. De Gaulle –the former French Resistance leader turned President of France– wanted Prince Rainier to force a tax on the Monaco’s citizens.

France had complete control of Monaco’s utilities, supply chains and harbours. They had little to bargain with. De Gaulle was threatening tanks in their streets.

The turning point in the story is when Grace realizes that her husband does love her, but must play his role. She also realizes that Monaco needs her, and that her own role actually means something.

Grace is media savvy, and so she knows that even Presidents are subject to public opinion. By surrendering her efforts to get love from a singular source like her parents, or her husband, Grace was free to become her own person by serving her people in the greatest role of her life –that of their Princess.

Grace didn’t need love as much as she needed to be valued.

I would like to think that the final scene captures the moment fairly honestly, because the very quiet and subtle film wraps up rather neatly and beautifully with the results of Grace’s growth.

In a metaphor of her own life, Princess Grace not only cleverly saves the nation (no spoiler for you there –it is still there after all), but in doing so she demonstrates that a person’s ability to value themselves does not depend on the fickle love of others.

Our self-worth is inherent. Once we become aware of that we have few needs, from there we need only find how to serve with the abundance that is us –not enacting what we have to offer is as painful as not knowing it’s there.

We are at our best when we feel secure about ourselves. Without the debilitating drag of our insecurities, were are automatically left with an abundance of love to share with others. So rather than expecting love to come to us in the form of affection, we need to maintain an awareness of the fact that some of love’s greatest forms are actually found in the sense of exaltation that can only be created by sincerely giving our all.

peace, s

Composing The Song of Our Life

1293 Relax and Succeed - Composing the Song of Our Life

A record label recently ‘signed’ an algorithm to a recording contract. Should the idea of a computer writing some of our music bother us? It’s not hard for something like that to feel strange, or alien or even uncomfortable or unpleasant. But it might not be as weird as it initially seems. And this really does have something to do with how our minds work.

Firstly, this initial record deal is more for mathematical, Brian Eno-like soundscaping than what we’d think of as composed songs. But it’s only a matter of time. After all, notes are mathematical divisions of natural vibrations and instruments simply create their own unique vibrations. When those waves hit our ears it’s our minds that turn them into music.

We don’t have to feel threatened by this new idea. Even if computerized songs get as good as humans, that does not mean humans have to stop writing songs. Human music won’t be suppressed, it will be added to. But learning about this can help us.

Algorithmic music (it even sounds musical), will be just another form of music, much like dividing acoustic and electric performances, or bands from DJ’s, or how we recently added new genres like Blues, the various forms of Jazz, many forms of Rock, R&B, Disco, Grunge and, Hip Hop/Rap.

Each of those types represent groups of patterns that have a rough mathematical border that can overlap other borders for other types, hence country-punk, and jazz-funk etc. I’m hyper conscious of patterns, but the fact that you know the differences between those music types proves that you comprehend this math as well. It’s just that you perceive your results more as a feeling or a reaction or a definition (the name you give the genre).

Note: if an older person has never listened to newer music then their brain won’t have learned that math and they may misidentify two Rock forms –say, Metal and Grunge– as one group, much like a kid in elementary can know odd numbers from even numbers but they have no idea which ones are prime.

So what’s this got to do with our spirituality or psychology? The answer is that explains why we get bored with things after doing them for a long time. A common reaction to music for people in their mid 30’s to 40’s is that they find they suddenly become far less interested in new music. This isn’t to say they’ll never enjoy a new song or that they are not open, but they are representing what it is to be full.

By full I mean that our brains have heard enough songs and enough patterns that by those ages we know those patterns so well that little can sound new to us. Evidence of this is the way that, around those ages, we start thinking of these patterns (in music or movies or shows) as being, like this meets this, or that meets that with a bit of that in it. Rather than new sounding fresh, instead you can hear combinations of known patterns mixing.

1293 Relax and Succeed - Like people some songs are popular

Now that you can see you have this skill, consider that you also divide up humans very much like that. Stereotypes like optimists, pessimists, leaders, shy people, Scottish people, mothers, bankers and firefighters are all groups of patterns on top of other patterns, because our mothers are also sisters, and accountants and baby sitters etc..

Personality types are also a part of those patterns, and when families say things like, “Dad’s being Dad again,” or “Raj, why are you always late?” they are expressing what they perceive as that person’s unique pattern. This is why family caregivers carry so much information about loved ones without even realizing it. They simply sense that something is wrong yet they may not know why, even though they are being kind of mathematical about it.

Since these patterns impact personality types it makes sense that it also informs how we know how our friends or co-workers are likely to meet the various patterns in the world (like songs, or traffic etc.) For instance, at a rest without influence, some people think in patterns that create sadness. Others idly create happiness, and still others worry or plan or create. For every type of person there is a pattern to our thinking, and our current conditions will influence those patterns in real-time.

The problem comes in when people see another pattern and wish it was theirs. This is to misunderstand the nature of the universe’s orchestra. Yes, we can improv portions and any song can change its genre at any time, but it also important to note that none of us is wrong being as we are. We just need to enjoy and capitalize on being whoever that is. Some people will like that pattern of being and others won’t. But that’s not personal. It’s just how the patterns go, just like some people like jazz and some don’t.

People’s appreciation of us is a separate issue, but all lives are like beautiful songs. Indeed, some are sadder, some happier, some angrier, still others confused, or even profound. But just as music contains flats a sharps, there are no truly wrong notes for us to play in life, and we can always change our style if we feel it’s worth it.

Even if we feel off-key, or that our timing is off, rather than turn our thoughts against ourselves we are better to simply learn to stop that critic. Because no matter how weird we or others think we are, in the end, the only way for us to play our special song is for us to ignore all judgment and to simply be natural.

peace. s

PS If you are not in Canada but would like to listen to the podcast linked, the international version if available here: CBC Q Podcast

Optimistic Nihilism

1272 Relax and Succeed - What is reality to youA lot of my students come to me with an issue or a problem. In most cases, their attraction to solving that issue will cause them to see most of the lessons through that lens. But every now and then I get a more philosophical student, who comes with a problem but quickly finds themselves, like me, fascinating by these very ideas themselves.

I recently worked with a gentleman who was having challenges activating his own life due to an honest sense of nihilism. The simple fact was, he had legitimately noticed a fact about reality but he didn’t see how it was possible to do much with that discovery and so it had trapped him rather than freed him. I recently ran into the video below and thought it was quite a good technical explanation of most of the process he did before he came to me, and it also includes a lot of what we focused on after we were working together.

It’s not all here of course, or I’d have just shown him this video, and even having done it personally, that doesn’t mean all of his problems are solved of course. It simply means that he no longer things they’re a problem to be fixed, but rather that they form the landscape he’s negotiating as he lives his life. In the end, it’s going to rain. The only question is; will that keep you from living your life, or are you prepared to get wet sometimes in your pursuit of meaningful experiences?

Are you prepared to be responsible for your own life? If you are, you are freed to have

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.

Avoid Getting Caught

1234 Relax and Succeed - One day I woke upDespite our self-criticisms all of us are actually smart and capable. Our problem isn’t our potential, it’s our limits on that potential. The potential is always ready to go by nature. It’s not that we aren’t realizing it, it’s that we’re holding ourselves back by being tricked into going the wrong direction.

We should think of ourselves as a fish. Our three-dimensional world gives us the ability to move in any direction. Eating another fish would be like combining ourselves with another part of the universe and we would use the energy to grow even larger and more capable.

The ego-based world is more like bait. There’s some fisherman who lives in a world nothing like ours, and they’re going to pull us into their two-dimensional world and eat us up. Knowing the difference between bait and nourishment is key to our enjoyment of life.

1234 Relax and Succeed - We don't need anything more

Today, on each and every decision that we can recognise (we’ll probably identify less than 10% of them), we must ask ourselves whether the decision we made/are making was/is about more, or for better? Are we just trying to get more time, more money, more stuff, more respect, or more control etc.? Or was/is the decision about improving how we feel about our life?

We have very healthy feelings just before we quit a job we despise, or just before we end a taxing relationship. We’re giving up more for better and it feels good. That’s like flailing and getting the hook out of our mouth.

All day long we make these little decisions and brick by brick they build our world. So greater consciousness is critical, but to do this we need awareness. But our radar can’t learn to pick up that other 90% if we don’t start with trying to find the big, easy 10% that affects 90% of our life. We shouldn’t be working hard to save things that have no meaning.

1234 Relax and Succeed - Nothing makes a fish bigger
Nothing makes us wiser and more capable than learning to tell the difference between bait and nourishment.

No one really wins an argument. Achievements are always short-lived. Comfort breeds complacency. Ease makes us dull. Control crushes value. Money can’t buy happiness, status is fleeting and dangerous, and attachment destroys love. We can’t want more. We must seek better or our lives are an endless loop of consumption of people, things and places.

We shouldn’t get hooked and swallowed up by a two-dimensional world that limits our heights. Rather than forever seeking more–as though some gap in ourselves will be filled by achievement–we must all turn our eyes away from the collection of life and toward simply sharing in its remarkable abundance and beauty, because we sure don’t need much when the life we’re leading is rich.

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.

 

Surrendering Into Your Path

Life Reality Quotes Reality Quotes About Life | Quote AddictsYou’re busy trying to maintain or improve your life. Maybe you’re physically busy but a lack of time to plan means that you never get to arrange the moves that would save you. Or maybe you have too much time to plan and you procrastinate through over-consideration; you literally think yourself into non-action. Either way, it doesn’t seem like you’re moving forward. Or are you?

Goals provide can provide direction, but if the goal is too specific it can act as an unrealistic and therefore painful expectation. Your wants will be tied to your goals. And those wants will be painful if you assume your route to where you’re going is the straightest, most logical one. Sometimes it’ll be a crazy set of circumstances that lead you where you’re going without you even realising it.

Other times you’ll get the thing you aimed for and then wonder why you wanted it. Pretty much everyone who pursued a relationship (work or professional) that they left voluntarily will understand that feeling. It feels like you went the wrong way. But what exactly is wrong if there’s only so many feelings you can have? It’s not like any one route changes those. Those are about how you live, not where or with whom.

1231 Relax and Succeed - Our prayers should be for blessingJust as their are agonised people in every situation, there are also very contented people living in almost every circumstance you can imagine, including suffering from illness and living in poverty. The fact that that is true doesn’t have to prevent us from being motivated to easing suffering, but it does point to the fact that the externals of our lives are not what dictates a good or bad life experience. You can’t make decisions about your life that build a perfect life.

If you look more closely at, and meditate seriously upon your life, there’s no evidence whatsoever that you actually know which way your life should go. There’s been plenty of times you fought for something you didn’t ultimately want. There’s been times where you cast things aside that you later realised were extremely important to you. You do this all the time, every day, with big and little things. You just have to start being more conscious.

Within the next 24 hours, talk with a friend or even an acquaintance,. Help each other find the strongest example you can find of a time where you totally fought against some idea only to realise later that it was a profound gift. Then find a time where you were completely dismissive of something that had great value.

1231 Relax and Succeed - Forget trying to find your pathDon’t do this to beat yourself up as though you made a mistake though. Do this and truly contemplate that the thoughts you’re having today are just that; thoughts. They are now judgments about then. They are not reality, reality changes as you change. Even the past.

Study your the connection between your thoughts and your emotional experience of reality. Being conscious of that function is the only route to anything that could even remotely be called, “the good life.” It isn’t how it is. It’s how you’re taking it. Resist less, flow more.

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.

Interpretations

This blog is about taking the common quotes people see and then extrapolating them into useful practices that can affect your life today. To that end, today I leave you to do that very thing for yourself.

Your healthy realisation will come when you figure out how both of these quotes can be true at the same time. And you’ll know how dedicated you are to your spiritual development by how different you feel about finding your own meaning versus having me find some of it for you.

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 Life Story

There’s debates about who said it or who said it first, but somewhere sometime someone said that every writer has to write a million words of shit before they’ll write anything any good. The number itself is largely a metaphor for the fact that in everything in life, we get good by doing. And the more we do (either in intensity or duration or both), the more skilled we get at that thing.

Just as in life, every writer wants to be good because they know the tools. They know the alphabet, so they have their hammer; and they’ve read sentences–which is like watching a house being built–so that’s where they start. But it’s absurd to think they’ll be as good of a carpenter on that first job as they’ll be in 25 years.

That logic applies to anything. The conscious person who learns with intensity learns more than someone with less intensity, and someone conscious who puts in more time also learns more than someone who puts in less time or who uses less consciousness. This is is true of writing, cooking, raising kids, teaching, or–yes–living.

Living is a skill. So yeah, physically and mentally you eventually deteriorate, so maybe your life-work gets a bit sloppy near the end, but by then everyone’s forgiving you. But otherwise you just get better and better at living life every year you live it, and the more conscious you are the more your learn. That’s all well and good. The problem comes in when you want the wisdom before you’ve even had the experiences that teach it.

Your expectations of yourself and your life start off pretty wacky. Because you can edit your writing you think you can edit life. And because of that you’ll go through these periods where you’ll feel like you’re totally failing because you’ll be nowhere near your targets and you can’t fix your past. But it’s not your life that’s the problem, or your ability to edit; it’s your expectation that you would know things before you learned them. You do that all the time and yet it’s truly crazy.

Graceful living requires only one thing: live the moment you’re in fully and presently. That means being in it and aware of it, rather than thinking about what-ifs or regrets. Things going in challenging ways aren’t failures, that’s just the texture of the surface you’re climbing. And when you reach the summit of your own peak–your own death–you’ll have a better understanding that you weren’t supposed to climb the highest mountain or the hardest–you were just supposed to climb. Which mountain you started on never really mattered.

You will know more tomorrow than today, and today you know more than you knew yesterday. If you go back and rethink and rethink over and over, re-editing all of your life’s work, you’ll never get much writing done and you won’t get much living lived.

Trust that as the writer writes, the writer improves. Forget the early pages. They’re both written and read. Because that’s the other important thing; other people will only glance at your book just as you’ll only glance at theirs. You might read deeply into maybe half a dozen books in your life. Because it turns out these weren’t being written to be read, the were written for the writing’s sake.

Stop worrying about your mistakes and just write–just live. You were never supposed to be perfect. You were just supposed to be here. That in and of itself, is perfect.

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.

Love in the Trenches

They were out at the lake. The husband had just yelled at his wife for how how dissatisfying he found his lunch. He barely tasted it, choosing instead to storm back down to the lake and take another shot at fixing that stubborn boat engine. The very liberated daughter had watched the whole thing and she clearly was not happy.

“Why would you let him talk to you that way? If Ray ever spoke to me that way I’d show him the door.”

The mother just smiled as she picked up her husband’s uneaten food. She sat at the counter and ate it herself while they talked. “Ray’s way to be angry is to get quiet and cold. Honey, if I left your father every time he was upset we would have been divorced hundreds of times over.”

“All the more reason! Why do you let him treat you like that again and again? You didn’t raise me to be weak like that.”

The mother took a moment before speaking. “You’re right, we didn’t teach you to be weak. But what’s your definition of strong? He was one of the few liberated husbands when we were young. He cooked for you kids, he helped with school work, and he always made sure there was a roof over your head even if he really didn’t like what he was doing for work.”

“That’s 20 years ago! If you’d made him behave back then you probably wouldn’t be dealing with this now.” The daughter was very piqued.

“He’s not a child. And how exactly do you make someone behave? Withhold affection? Make demands? Fight with him? Why would withholding, demanding and fighting do anything for a relationship?”

“Mother! You just made him a incredible quinoa salad and he insulted you! He could at least appreciate that you made it for him!”

The mother pushed her meal aside and she went to the fridge and she started to make a sandwich. “Your father doesn’t like quinoa, you know that. When he was at the peak of his career I used to complain about him not being home enough.”

“Well he wasn’t.”

The mother returned to the fridge for more ingredients. “He wasn’t successful to spite me. Why would I criticise him for something I was proud of? Aren’t you trying to get a promotion right now? Do you see that as an attack on your relationship with Ray? Of course not. You’re trying to succeed at being a good professional, like we raised you to be. It’s a sign of respect to others to do your job well. You know your father always says that.”

“He still shouldn’t talk to you that way.”

The mother stopped and looked at her daughter for a long moment before speaking. “I’m not sure what ‘shouldn’t’ means. Your Dad was in pain. I was just being compassionate. I’m not a pushover.”

“What pain?! He wasn’t in pain! He couldn’t get the stupid boat motor working and so he got angry at you, like he always does when something breaks.”

The mother went back to finishing the sandwich. “Your father prides himself on being able to fix things, it’s what made him look capable in front of his Dad. He feels like he’s letting his Dad down, or he’s not being a man, if he can’t fix something. He’s always been like that.”

“All the more reason for you to tell him it’s time to stop.”

The mother smiled. “I might do that if I could figure out a way to stop getting mad at him. Demands don’t fix relationships honey. Love does.”

“Love doesn’t yell at someone for making them quinoa.”

“That’s right, love doesn’t. He knows I made it because you and Ray were coming out. Your father just told me is that he’s feeling a long way from feeling good. That’s the problem, not whether he likes quinoa. My job isn’t to demand that he like the food you and I like it’s to love him when he feels unlovable.”

“He yelled at you!! Why would you be helping him!! It should be him crawling back up here to apologise to you!”

“Crawling?” The mother smiled at the thought. “Your father’s having his version of a tough day. He stayed too long trying to fix the boat and now he’s really hungry and he came up to eat and found something he finds totally unsatisfying. He gets angry when he’s hungry. That’s just being human.”

The daughter notices the sandwich. “You’re making that for him!”

“He’s hungry. I’m just being practical. He’s in a better mood after he’s eaten. When I’m menopausal and screaming at him for no reason, these are the things he remembers to help balance things out. You see him upset about quinoa. I see a man I care about having a bad day; a man who’s proven himself over and over for all of us.”

“Your expectations are too low.”

“I’m trying not to have any.” The mother picks up the sandwich and starts for the pier. “Sweetheart, you guys just had a baby. You’ve been exhausted and your hormones are going wild. I’ve seen you be pretty mean to Ray, but ninety percent of the time he just takes it because he loves you.” The daughter chases after her.

“That’s a baby! How can you compare that to a boat motor!?”

“Pain is pain. It doesn’t matter whether you broke a foot or a leg.” As they near the water we can see the daughter really cloud over. She is harbouring a lot of anger toward her father. The mother stops and addresses her before walking onto the pier where he and Ray are working.

“Honey. Again: your father’s problem is that he’s suffering. I’m not going to debate whether he deserves to or not. What makes a marriage isn’t weighing whose suffering is worse. I can think about me and what I want, but does he really look like he’s got much to give right now?” Just then the father hurls a wrench angrily onto the pier. The mother kisses her daughter on the cheek and walks out onto the pier and offers the sandwich. He half-heartedly thanks her, but he seems a bit embarrassed.

Later that afternoon he does get the boat going. After a nice steak dinner he suggests a boat ride. Ray suggests, “Should we head down to Half Moon Bay?”

The father walks to his wife’s side and puts his arm around her. “Diane likes the view down by the promenade. I thought we’d go down there.” The mother turns to the daughter, winks and smiles.

Later, while the father and Ray do the dishes, the mother sits down for a tea with her daughter. “Ray might go under soon and we all know it. Every business like his is struggling in this recession and he just had a baby. If that happens you can kick him while he’s down and demand that he do the impossible and undermine his confidence. But after 35 years of marriage I can tell you, you might find that you’d get where you’re going quicker if you just made him some sandwiches instead.”

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.

Everyday Spirituality

Actually working to understand why ancient quotes can still be useful today is what this blog is all about. It’s not like drive-thru religion where you get a quick dose of spirituality without all the rules, and its not like traditional religion where following all the rules automatically leads to salvation regardless of the other deeds in your life–this is about those other deeds being your church. This is about you being dedicated to being human.

Reading quotes, finding one that vaguely applies to your situation and posting it on social media does not mean you’re pursuing your spirituality, it means your ego likes being seen as being spiritual. You can’t just dress the part, go to yoga and post the quotes; you have to ask yourself challenging questions. Questions like, what does the quote I posted really mean; or how can I take yoga from stretching and flexing into actual personal development?

The answer is meditation, but not the Ohmm meditation that monks do. You want to be like Siddhartha, sitting under the tree pondering why suffering exists. You want to ask yourself questions that don’t appear to have answers. You want to know how one wise guide can tell you to be peaceful by rejecting victory and loss, and yet another tells you that you can’t be balanced until you agree to lose.

The key is to understand desire. Desire requires a result. You’re after something. You have a specific outcome in mind and your life is oriented toward achieving that outcome. The problem with the outcome is that is that it’s theoretical. This is why even the slowest fifty year old is wiser than a someone in their early 20’s thinks they’ve found their answer.

You can’t have the answer because that will change as you become different people through your experiences. We tend to think we’ve found the answer when we find a route to the future that finally makes sense to us, but then we think we’re lost when our old answer doesn’t suit our new selves and we feel trapped or directionless. It’s not the answer that changed, it’s the person asking it.

It’s a constant rejuvenation process. That’s why they call it spiritual practice. But aging is like a church where you’re constantly delivered new real-life parables that need explaining. Why did that person try so hard to date you and then leave you? Why did you think this was your dream job and now you hate it? Why can’t you lose weight the way you want to? What is the definition of the word friend?

Over time we ask countless questions but we look for the answers outside of ourselves. We conclude either we are good and the ex is wrong, or we are faulty and they’re right; the dream job either has the wrong boss, or maybe you do really suck; you’re either mad at your mother for teaching you bad eating habits or you self-hate; and you conclude either that your ex friends are bad people or you conclude you’ve not been good enough. Winning and losing, winning and losing.

Even when you win, now you have to stay on top. That takes effort and you’ll be a different person sometime within the next eight or so years, so maybe that effort won’t seem wise. That’s because winning and losing are funny terms. They almost shouldn’t exist as static ideas. They only mean something in the moment you’re in.

If you listen to interviews with people over 50 years old, almost invariably you’ll hear them discuss their challenges more than their successes. They almost seem bored or uncomfortable with success because by then they’ve realised it’s largely chance. They also know that when you get there it doesn’t look like it did when you embarked on that journey.

After enough disappointing “wins” we start questioning the meaning of winning. If half of North American marriages end in divorce, then those marriages weren’t a dream come true; they devolved into a nightmare. But if you knew that at the time you wouldn’t have chosen it as your path. And yet as you age you realise that your marriage wasn’t wrong, it just didn’t work out long term. You still walk away with a better idea of what kind of person you’re really looking for in the future.

Victory and loss are tied together. If we live without the desire for a victory we cannot lose. We don’t need goals so much as targets. The getting there isn’t the point, it’s about being sanguine for as much as the journey as possible.

Victories and losses are judgments laid over top of events. Remove that static idea and the meaning of those moments can always change, meaning any defeat could become a victory, and any victory a defeat. Everything lives in potential. There’s no need to win now when we know can we live in a way that seeks value from all our interactions, even the ones we attempt to avoid.

peace. s