The Conscious Unconscious

1256 Relax and Succeed - Until you make the unconscious consciousOur aim should be to have a rewarding life. Any external goal will takes us away from that and everything and everyone becomes about that goal. We like people who help us get what we want and we don’t like people who impede what we want; but only in hindsight do we recognize that some very unhealthy people or choices came from pursuing an external goal, and that the real value laid hidden; weaved into the smallest moments in our lives.

What does this look like in practice? It’s the athlete who pursues a gold medal with such fierce determination that they can yell at those around them for not supporting them enough. Whether they win the gold or not is irrelevant, but later they can look back at their own child, or someone else they influenced with their success, and they can recognise that they were often modelling terrible human behaviour in their blind pursuit of their goal.

A gold prospector can leave home to seek riches, but whether they strike it rich or not, they may primarily find discord, greed and mistrust. What was supposed to add wealth to their lives could easily add suffering and pain and loss. Yet later, whether they lay in a shed or a mansion, they will pine for the lost friendships that were developed through hard-fought experience, all while they recall the the incredible views from their mountaintop campsites that were all too soon ignored in favour of angry discussions about the progress toward “the gold.”

1256 Relax and Succeed - The alchemists in their search for goldJohn Lennon reminded us that “Life’s what happens when you’re busying making other plans.” Most people’s dreams don’t come true, and yet many people who’ve had theirs come true didn’t achieve their objective, they altered their perspective. Usually when they’re about to lose an important part of their lives, rather than focusing on their original external goal, people begin to notice the accidental value they have acquired through simply being alive.

Do that for yourself today. Ask yourself, what occupies your thoughts? What exactly are you trying to make happen in your life , including doing things to ensure nothing happens? Where do you currently see the value in that activity? What other value does it have other than how it relates to your larger goal? No one has a big family, people have individual kids that add up to a big family. The value isn’t in the size, it’s in the each kid, so that is where our focus should be.

We all need a place to start and an external goal is as good as any. We just need to induce ourselves into motion. Once we are active, if we’re paying attention, we’ll realise that the big smashes and hits at the start do break off large pieces of our largest self–the one with the most potential. But what they leave is an increasingly refined shape until, over time, we do not see those “losses” as losses. We come to realise that each experience shapes us, and if we allow life to do it, it naturally exposes who we truly are.

You’re somewhere along your journey. I starts out with zeal and confusion and steadily marches towards contentment and clarity. In the end your goals in life will have been largely irrelevant to your living of it, so figure out what they are and look at the prices you pay, and ask yourself how you’re likely to feel about your life after you’ve achieved or surrendered your goal. Will it have seemed worth it? If not, make it worth it now, rather than pine than you didn’t then. This is what it means to be present.

Have a wonderful day everyone.

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.

The Bucket List

1238 Relax and Succeed - It is pleasant to have been to a placeMuch like the film The Princess Bride, I’ve haven’t yet ran into any people who disliked The Bucket List after seeing it. As with anything I’m sure they’re out there, but most people of all ages find that it has a stellar cast, a excellent script that is both funny and touching, and the final production all comes together quite tightly. It’s a very moving but highly enjoyable experience if you haven’t experienced its rewards yet.

While studios vy for our attention with giant, effects-filled extravaganzas, it’s always been humorous to me that these simple stories, generated by boring, elderly people, are the ones that sneak up on us and become beloved. It is fitting that The Bucket List is deceptive about its value, because it’s a great lesson regarding a common human mistake.

The film features Morgan Freeman as a very plain but dedicated family man who works as a mechanic, but who reads about the world with the hope of one day seeing its wonders. In contrast, his hospital roommate is played by Jack Nicholson, the extremely wealthy man who owns the hospital they’re in, and who can go anywhere and do anything, but his life is otherwise empty. Where one man’s life has depth, the other’s is shallow.

1238 Relax and Succeed - We must let go of the life we have plannedJack Nicholson is living the life we all believe we want. He has wealth, power, and the beautiful companions he surrounds himself with are easy to come by. But he’s dealing with a potentially fatal disease regardless, and all of his control of the hospital cannot help. Meanwhile Freeman feels like he’s dying with his dreams left inside of him, unlived. Nicholson has money, Freeman has dreams, and so despite the laments of Freeman’s wife and family, the two men set off together to tick off the items on their respective bucket lists.

Freeman’s wife is shocked he would leave his family considering his condition and potentially short time, but Freeman cannot escape the fact that he feels unfulfilled; that his life has been too small. In contrast, Nicholson appears totally fulfilled, but as the film progresses and the two men are away from home longer and longer, Nicholson begins to question the value of his life, as does Freeman. Where the rich man sees little, the poor man begins to recognise his wealth.

This is the nature of getting lost. It’s necessary in order to be found. People haven’t ruined their lives when they feel incomplete at 35 years old. They are on their way, first away from the relative peace and security of innocence, and eventually to boomerang our way back to what matters. We appreciate life when we are young and very old, but in the middle we’ll often get caught thinking too much and trying to achieve. The film lets us play out our dreams to their logical end, whereas we usually stop at the objects of our desires.

1238 Relax and Succeed - Fall in loveMoney, travel, achievement nor power can hope to bring us the peace, connection and value that comes from our relationships with those around us. As the old saying goes, they don’t put luggage racks on hearses. We all only have so much time. Sure, there’s things we want. But how many of us would trade the value already in our lives to get it?

Take some time today to really check in with your values. If you had six months to live and someone offered you the chance to jet off with no complications, no worries, and no financial strain, to experience all of your material greatest dreams, would you trade what you already have? Would you sacrifice that precious time by being away? For anything at all?

Too often we do as the Morgan Freeman character does; we live rich and full lives wishing for a rich and full life. Take the time. Look for what matters. And if we find it, we should be grateful that we began to realise that value long before our final departure.

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.

Hiding From Life

You’re sitting there terrified. You’re a little ball, crushed down by your own cruel judgments. You peek out at life, brushing against it here and there and feeling electrified, knowing it’s so much better than the little space you live in. But you don’t have the courage to venture out. You just feel too weak and too unprepared and too broken. You think many thoughts.

You know what’s weird? Successful people can’t figure that out. They are completely baffled by that. They are as confused by you as you are. You see, you see you as you, but they don’t. Successful people see people as people.

If you’re presenting as a weak person you would assume Einstein was Einstein and you were you so you’d never even try to be him, and yet a successful person would just think Einstein had a brain and he used it to study a subject, which is why there’s tons of students today that know more than even Einstein did. He may have been first to that subject, but that just made it all easier for the rest of us. Now there’s teachers. He had to teach himself. So give him creativity, but his brain couldn’t do more than yours, it just did more than yours.

So why should you care? Well, first off, you’re in agony. I’ve yet to meet the person who wouldn’t like a bigger more exciting life, no matter how small or big their life was. The only challenge for people who think small is their extremely low tolerance for routine psychology. Almost anything is too much. So rather than learn to turn down the volume on their own TV, the insanely shy person just never watches anything and is neither entertained nor informed. They literally miss out on life itself.

Why’s this matter? Because nothing matters. You’re not going anywhere. No one’s judging you. Heaven is an inkpot, you are a splash in that inkpot, and hell is forgetting that you’re always on your way to returning to heaven and rejoining everything and everyone that ever was. This is seriously far more like one long crazy dream than you’ve ever thought. In fact, it’s almost more honest to see your dreaming self as the real you, and your waking self as the asleep one. That’s how ego works. It wakes up in a world made of thinking and spends its life trying to escape.

So life is kind of like an escape room. It’s not like you’re really trapped, you’re getting out for sure, eventually, even if you do nothing. But why have the arc of your inkdrop sit in a room terrified? Literally, what are you avoiding other than happiness and joy? You’ve got worry and pain and agony in there with you. Why not break out? You just end up in a new room anyway. Figure out how to be 30 years old and they’ll lock you into the 40’s room. But it’s fun getting out.

Look, we have this hospital in Edmonton called The Stollery Children’s Hospital. It’s pretty obvious it’s filled with both tragic and heroic stories. But one thing I can assure you, is that some mother sitting bedside with her ten year old, with a child that may only live for another week–that mother knows the value of you sitting still.

That mother would give anything for her little girl to have the years you’re getting. You couldn’t blame her for finding it painful that you’d waste them hiding and not living, and yet your inclination is to hear that and beat yourself up even more. Do you see how you do it to yourself and that you’re actually free? Do you see how you forgo life to think those thoughts?

Life’s the biggest opportunity anyone get, and you got it and sick kids didn’t. That would be like me asking everyone to push me around on a wheelchair when I’m fine. It’s disrespectful to ourselves, others, and to the universe itself. Feeling that sense of ongoing respect for life itself is good for us. Life is the most fortunate opportunity anyone gets.

Give up on hiding. You’re only inviting agony and your space shrinks over time. Besides, it’s fun out here. You don’t watch an entire afternoon of kids playing and then focus on one skinned knee. That will obviously lead to unhappiness.

Think about what you’d do this week if you knew by next week you’d be in some North Korean prison, locked up in solitary for the rest of your life. Suddenly the few days you have left would be all the time you’d have to go all of those important places and eat all of those foods and listen to all of that music and see all of those important people and say all those important things you want to say. So say them. Far from dangerous, your vulnerability is what will create the connection you’re seeking.

Call me or someone else if you need to. It’s okay. You’ll be fine. Lots of us love you. But you have to come out so they can find 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.

The Horns of a Dilemma

1020-relax-and-succeed-this-wayIn every life people will reach big moments where they have to choose between two very different opportunities that are mutually exclusive. It could look like a great new job in your old field versus an entry-level job in an industry you’ve always want to work in, or maybe you have to decide between a job opportunity and love. Maybe it’s between having a baby or not. There’s lots of ways we can be stuck trying to decide the undecideable.

To decide comes from French and before that, Latin, and it essentially means to cut off. So you have reached a point in a path of life where one path necessarily cuts you off from another. It’s either this or that but never both. We think what is painful is our inability to see far enough down the path to know which one works out better, but just that thought means we believe that a decision today will determine the rewards in our life later, when that’s just not true.

The notion of a path to success and a path to failure misunderstand what it is to succeed and what it is to fail. Your life is a set of experiences, not a set of gradings by you or anyone else. No one can tell an elementary school teacher who loves their job that they should have chosen something more valuable, because they are the one enjoying their job. That joy is a feeling they experience, it isn’t a theoretical gain in people’s imagination. Being called successful isn’t the same as feeling a real connection to your own life.

1020-relax-and-succeed-if-you-cannot-do-great-thingsYou being important happens in other people’s heads, your daily joy is in your head. How others–or even a changing you with your fluctuating priorities–view your life choices from a distance isn’t as important as how much you enjoy those choices in the individual moments you’re in. So it’s not the path that’s good or bad, it’s your walking of it.

There’s a lot of people trying to improve their life through better life-choices at key moments rather than trying to improve it moment by moment. Even terrible marriages that are better abandoned will still have a lot of fun and joy in them, that’s why they happened in the first place. So a “failed” marriage can have been largely good, but that bad part might still be serious enough that the person may still have to leave the relationship. But that doesn’t erase the parts of it that were or are good, it just makes the payment worth more than the benefit. So you leave, but not because the other path was bad, but rather because it was unwalkable, which is like having no choice at all.

The agony we feel at these times of choosing is based on our thought-based bouncing between two very nebulous, ambiguous ideas. The truth is, each path will contain it’s own unknown opportunities for suffering and it’s own unknown opportunities for joy; we won’t know what those are until we live those moments, which is why the style of our walking is more important than the choice of our path.

1020-relax-and-succeed-hold-onWhat will make any path bad is constant comparison to any road not taken. Our imagination regarding what would have happened is just an uninformed guess. Whatever we think we know, we’d have to be there to be sure. People tend not to advertise the downsides of their choices lest they look bad to others, so we never really know what a life feels like until we live it. But if that’s the case, then there’s no point in torturing ourselves over a dilemma. We’d literally be better to flip a coin, choose, and then dive back into the world’s individual moments with our eye pointed toward joy, because looking for it is how it’s found. It’s not the path you’re on, it’s the perspective you take while you’re on it.

What path are you on that you’d like to be off? What’s making the current path bad? Is it really bad, or are you just trapped in a state of wanting when deep down you’re not even really sure what you’d get if you got what you want? Because no matter what path you’re on, nothing will make it feel worse than wanting to be on another path.

Be where you are. Live consciously. Maybe the job or spouse or choice you’ve made really is a great choice. Maybe you just haven’t realised that because you’ve been too busy wanting something else instead. Either way, you never really have to worry about going the wrong direction because your life happens in your consciousness where there are no paths, there is only presence or want, and you are always in control of which of those two states you’re in.

peace. s

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

Spinning Uncertainty

921 Relax and Succeed - I will not die an unlived lifeA crippling activity has invaded human life. The two fundamental ways of being have been increasing in contrast. The first way involves a boldness that presupposes much of the world is what we make of it. The second way involves endless loops of thoughts but very little activity; calculation after calculation is made in an attempt to avoid any downsides or suffering. This is what it is to surrender our life to ego.

Why is avoiding mistakes so important? What is so expensive about them that people would literally defer life itself if we calculate even a single downside? The downsides are all connected to ego, not the being that thinks the ego into existence. Your spirit doesn’t care what you earn, it just seeks enough to be satisfied because it is rewarded by growth not money. Your reputation will suffer no matter what you do because your enemies will lie about you incessantly. And your day-to-day status is largely irrelevant to a task at hand. So if none of these things amount to much, why are people spending so much of their lives trying to avoid them?

There are people in this world who are aggressively living their life in the understanding that it truly is a limited opportunity. They aren’t worried about your judgments about them. They’re not selfish bullies pushing their way to the front because the healthiest people are also well aware of their connection to others. But if you hesitate to seize an opportunity they will not feel badly about snatching it up. It isn’t their job to give your life to you and they know it.

921 Relax and Succeed - Be decisiveThese “successful” people enjoy their own lives. Yes they have challenges like everyone, but they live largely on their own terms. They trust themselves. They believe their dreams are worthwhile and that they are capable of achieving them. And maybe most importantly they believe they are permitted to fail. They won’t feel bad when something goes wrong, they’ll just collect the lesson and continue on. No spinning for the successful. Spinning is the act of an ego. While the spirit does the ego talks.

Today far more people spin than ever before. It’s an illness. Everyone’s just sitting around using their thoughts to create dis-ease. They spin on relationships. They spin on jobs. They spin on major decisions. They spin on minor decisions. They spin on almost every decision. And if we asked them how their life was spent upon their death, the vast majority of it would have been spent contemplating life rather than living it.

This can play out in the most subtle ways. For instance, I was recently at the grocery store. It was early evening and the store was packed with people sorting out the week’s meals. Every line was super long. I only had a basket and so I joined the express line. Right as I joined it a clerk who knows me from the store strode up and mentioned that he would be opening the next till and he asked me to join him.

921 Relax and Succeed - Why complicate lifeAs I moved over I got the attention of the two people who were ahead of me in line and I pointed out the opportunity and offered it to them. The harried woman at the front and the angry man behind her both immediately recognized what was happening and both were clearly frustrated that the “new line” had started behind them. Recognizing their frustration I again offered them the front of the new line. Both rejected it for no good reason–clearly their till was held up on a price check.

The rest of us went through very quickly and by the time I walked out four people had been through my till and the harried woman and angry man were both still waiting to put their stuff on their conveyor belt. They both looked very unhappy. Extremely unhappy. Maybe they were unhappy with the cashier, but she obviously needs the price for things she’s ringing in so blaming her made no sense. And I got the hairy eyeball too, but as you might imagine I didn’t feel bad at all. I had offered.

If they couldn’t even represent their lives better than that by 50-60 years of age then me being polite would make little difference. They both clearly wanted to jump ahead in line (who wouldn’t?). They were both clearly upset with their cashier and the four us who beat them through the till. But do you think I cared? Why would I? I was polite. And the people behind me had no issue with me offering them the chance. It was the people who saw the chance and somehow talked themselves out of something they naturally wanted that were responsible. They wanted to be seen as patient and good.

921 Relax and Succeed - If you want to be happyYes, take others into account. Be good to others as a way of being good to yourself. But life is a verb and it will be what you make of it. Don’t surrender your days to meek deferrals of life itself. If she took me up on the offer the woman would have gone faster, been grateful to me and the other four people who were now letting her into our line, and she would have walked out feeling happy and lucky. Instead she balked at the offer of help in an egotistical attempt to look noble or proper or polite. What she got for that was wasting her time, misplaced frustration at the cashier and those of us in the other line, and then she left the store tense and upset and she took that home to whoever she was going to see.

Life is made a zillion little daily solutions. If you’re not taking others into account then the world will soon teach you that your strategy lacks a future. But if you take others too much into account–to the point where you automatically place others needs above yours–then you’re no longer living a human life and you’re merely a slave to convention and obligation. Life is bigger than that.

Set yourself free. Stop all the spinning thoughts. See the world as kind and generous and inclusive and you will happily take chances like the one I gave those people. But if you see it as difficult and scary and socially expensive, then you can literally be alive without living.

You’re not pushy or selfish if you simply represent your own life with some confidence. And you don’t need to go get the confidence. Those two people were confident in what they wanted, they just weren’t confident they deserved it. And to me, their lack of belief in their own value was the worst thing that happened in that line that day. Don’t be meek. Life is short. Live yours.

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.

Generations

Something bad happened and almost no one noticed. Now something really good has happened and again, no one has noticed. I get it. My broken brain is weird. So it sees these shifts in general patterns in how we’re wiring kids with the things we tell them, how we educate them, what we do, and the experiences they’ve had. And that leads to societal impacts.

906 Relax and Succeed - One of the best ways I knowThe first trend I saw wasn’t long after I left school when I was aware of how new approaches to education would lead to future issues in large segments of the population. In the 60’s people were even taught by doctors and parenting experts that love was dangerous and it would undermine a child’s skill-building. They pendulum was then swinging in the direction of, no pain no gain.

By the 80’s pop psychology was big and this was the beginning of both a positive and an unsettling trend. At least it laid the groundwork for something better to follow. Those differences are at the heart of the debate of why those under 35ish often feel so different than those over 40ish.

The differences are real. They had to be. They childhoods were entirely different. In the 60’s everyone was forced to grasp the concepts of cause and effect and that unfortunately got perverted into earning one’s keep.

906 Relax and Succeed - We've bought into the ideaPart of this trend was from the idea of original sin, and so everyone was starting off in a hole and needed to work to get out. If you were still in the hole after a while that was perceived to be because you weren’t using your spiritual strength to climb out, as opposed to you were injured or in a much deeper hole.

Then we decided love was important to child-rearing (go figure), and the pendulum swung too far in the opposite direction–toward individualism and love. People were lied to and told they could do it all on their own, and the idea was that all you needed was love, but then love was presented by advertising as: the acceptance of your peers. (Please “like” this post. 😉 )

So a group that was unloved thinks the only way to create value in yourself is to work hard to earn it. This is great in that it created a lot of the world’s greatest things, but it also leaves little room for the joy of living. The group that was untested is often left largely incapable in classical senses, but maybe that’s not a bad thing if what you’re building is subconsciously something quite different.

906 Relax and Succeed - Calvin and HobbesIncreasingly there’s more people who can do both. Yes, many have taken the worst of it by becoming strict promoters of hard-work and individualism as shallow routes to ego-success. But increasingly more and more people are choosing loving generosity, where they’re so good at love and compassion that they have learned to care more about others than themselves in many ways. This is very healthy.

Where this creates a conflict is that adults are pushing kids towards classic responsibilities of which 80% will still apply. But they can’t see the other 20% that involves imagining a world so different from the older group that they often have trouble seeing it at all. So the Burning Man Festival looks crazy rather than beautiful.

Meanwhile the more modern kids are left psychologically frail, where too much of their self esteem depends on external praise, but at the same time they’re less interested in ownership and control and they’re more motivated toward connection and creating happiness. If we combine these two generation’s strengths we’re really accomplishing something.

906 Relax and Succeed - How to change the worldThis is why I stay happy. You can see that people over 40 are slaves to the man, and you can see it that kids are lazy and lack motivation, or you can say that that the over 40 crowd really does have useful strengths all while the under 30’s are leading us toward a brighter, more egalitarian future.

People can now imagine a future without borders and race, where we work together to fulfil the largest number of needs rather than make crazy sacrifices towards the achieving the largest number of wants for a tiny selection of people. It’s a massive shift. And people should take heart.

We’re going in a very positive direction. Pretty much like we continually have. And that seems like something we can take pleasure in enjoying. So have yourself a fantastic Monday and instead of looking for what you don’t like about the world, try meditating on what good things emerge from those same things. You’ll surprise yourself and you’ll get better at seeing the best in life more often. And that is the biggest way you can make the most useful contribution to the best in all of this. I wish you every good fortune. Have an awesome week!

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.