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.