#YEG Secular Sundays Announced

1322 Relax and Succeed - In every walk with nature

I had previously noted that my schedule in caring for my parents leaves me with too little time to engage in nature with like-minded souls. In order to resolve this and simultaneously do something worthwhile in the world, I am experimenting with Secular Sundays, a way for the non-religious to still have a gathering for spiritual purposes, in the greatest temple ever created: nature.

Barring emergencies, the #YEG Secular Sunday Walks will commence in Edmonton, AB at 11am on Sunday July 7th. If you would like to know which path we’re walking any given week, please just drop me a note at scottis@relaxandsucceed.com.

Depending on how many of us there are, I may begin the walk with a brief talk. After that, people are welcome to walk with me to ask questions, and there may in fact be former students who’ve lived this way for some time who also can likely answer some questions. At the very least, everyone will be people who love the subject matter.

If you’re looking to grow spiritually, and if you want to get out, get some exercise but not be strained, and if you would like the company of others that have similar values regarding cooperation, compassion, empathy, respect and love, then this might be just the walking group for you.

peace, s

Secular Sundays: Souls in Nature

1312 Relax and Succeed - Nature is generous to the soul

Time together in nature. It’s good for us if we’re able to achieve it. Our souls know the sky. And it’s a very nice temple to walk in.

Whether it’s what we eat, or how and when and with whom we eat it, or if it’s walks outside or time with a book, we must ensure that we are not expecting our minds to compensate for a life that is drastically out of a balance in terms of expenditures of energy versus opportunities for rejuvenation.

I too am expending a lot of life energy in balancing many serious responsibilities so I can relate to the need to find opportunities to actively cultivate peace. As hard as it can be at times, we all must make room to rest or else everything will become even more stressful.

Rest is not a selfish luxury of ego; that’s called sloth. That’s what we do when we deny the world our love and capability. Contrary to that, rest is what a healthy mind needs to sustain its hold on equanimity and enthusiasm for life.

To that end, for those readers who are located in Edmonton, I am looking at doing Sunday walks that would be around various trails in the city, with the walks built around the idea of shared experience with our natural world. These might be 90 minutes in length, with maybe 20-30 minutes spent lingering here or there before or after for some discussion. It will be very informal.

Depending on whether there’s just a few of us or more, maybe a short talk might start the process, but it would be more to walk and Be together, and maybe I can answer some questions along the way.

I suspect they would start some time in June. If you’re in Edmonton and would like to be part of these proposed Sunday spiritual walks, send me an email to the address below and on the first Sunday that I start the walks I will let you know where we can meet to begin.


Whether there are many or I pick the wrong week and end up walking alone, even if only for a short time, I am very much looking forward to getting back into Edmonton’s forest system to reconnect with all that is around us. Maybe I’ll see you there. Happy trails.

peace, s

Friluftsliv Day

1222 Relax and Succeed - FriluftslivAllow this meme to act as a signal–as a sign–in your life. You want to be more peaceful, you want to slow down and reconnect, you want to feel more natural. Well then, start by feeling more of nature itself. Let’s not forget, the concept of cities and buildings are still very new to human beings. A massive part of your brain was built around being out doors.

Whether it’s a walk to get something you might otherwise drive to, or maybe a lunchtime park-walk with a co-worker, or even just paying a bit more attention to the trees and grass while watching a child play their outdoor sport. The idea is to get your busy egotistical thoughts out of your head where they create suffering, and instead use your awareness to take in all that nature has to offer–including more peace of mind for you.

Make your choice now. Take action to enact that choice at the appropriate time today, and then know that you have taken actual steps forward, toward your psychological and spiritual goals. By simply dedicating some small amount of time to intaking the world rather than filling your consciousness with words, you will gain significant benefits both immediately and over time. Breathe.

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.


967 Relax and Succeed - The earth has music for those who listenThere is a much easier way to deal with life than the ups and downs of the roller coaster that most people voluntarily climb onto every day. Everyone today has big problems and they’re looking for big sweeping solutions. The habit has become to seek some grand catharsis, or to see a doctor for an answer-all pill, or to come to someone like me in the hopes of suddenly finding clarity or enlightenment, as though it’s a quick cure and not a way to practice living.

It’s as though we collect rocks from every negative experience and we put them in our pockets and over time they weigh us down. We keep looking for someone outside of us to assume responsibility for all of our rocks when our low-consciousness finally notices that they’re really weighing us down. Enough rocks can really slow your progress. Then things can get really heavy and you can eventually find it difficult to even move, and if still nothing is done there can be physical consequences.

Another less-drastic option is to maintain your being and your life. That is to say, rather than battling disorder and disease you can instead nourish and nurture health. Whereas the battles tend to be ugly and have victims, the maintenance of health is often very enjoyable and rewarding. So you can collect rocks and then look for someone to dump a pile of them on, or you can go for a walk every day and drop a few out as you go, by yourself. That’s called empowerment.

Last year while working with an organisation that promoted both nature and wellness, I was surprised to learn they had never encountered the Japanese idea of shinrin-yoku. It literally means forest bathing. As I’ve noted in posts for years now, walks are not idle efforts. Careful scientific study has externally proven what anyone who spends time in nature knows internally: nature has an impact on us.

These impacts include things like pheromones given off by trees, the soothing quality of the sounds of running water, and even the general quality of the air because of course plants and trees are really the cleaning system for our atmosphere. Our exposure to nature also provides opportunities for unexpected experiences with other people and animals, which can be much richer experiences than just sightings.

When was the last time your bare feet touched the Earth off your own property or not on some beach? How often do you walk barefoot around the nature in your own neighbourhood? Kids used to climb dozens of trees and develop all sorts of useful spatial awareness skills but now there are many kids who have never even been allowed to attempt such a connection.

Touching a tree, smelling a flower, skipping stones on water, seeing the sunlight dapple in through the leaves; these are all very old very human experiences. To trap ourselves in a world of right angles, where everything is labeled and processed and pre-set is to live in an inhuman world. Comfort is not nature. Nature addresses both the outsides and the insides of us.

967 Relax and Succeed - Daily tip wanderI have been unable to walk through my nearby beloved ravine for about a week now. It’s rare that I’m so busy that I can’t create time for doing nothing but walking and breathing. I often do sessions walking through it and for good reason. If you don’t think nature has much value to your psychological and spiritual goals, I can assure you that anyone who spends a lot of time in nature will clearly indicate its value if it’s removed from their life. They will immediately start to feel weighed down by small amounts of stones that you’d never even notice in your busy world.

Go for a walk. Skip some of your own stones across a pond. Commune with a duck. Hug a tree. Wade in a creek. Because bringing a smartphone and looking for Pokemons is fine, but being distracted in nature is to miss the point. Your life is all about efficiency and sense and value but how does that look like it’s working for everyone?

People have never been more stressed. Meanwhile, if you pay attention to the mountain climbers, the naturalists, the hikers and the campers in your life they will all share a uniquely healthy spirit. That isn’t them being more successful than you as a person; that’s them being more connected to the world as an aspect of their own nature. You can do that too.

Forget concepts and roles and responsibilities. Join us. Join the universe. Find your own nature. And make sure you toss a few stones out every single day.

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.

The Pilgrimage of Your Life

You don’t remember being born. Who knows what mysteries the people who carried you travelled through? You slowly wake along the way. Whoever forms your family moves along the road and you move with them.

798 Relax and Succeed - If you just keep moving forwardEventually you are able to walk yourself and you join the jostle of humanity that shares the road with you as a part of their own path. You learn it is possible to slip and fall and scrape yourself. You even see some step off the edges in the steeper sections and they are gone. If you watch where you’re putting your feet you’re fine. But if you forget where you are it’s easy to trip.

During your journey you will come to wonder where it is everyone is going? What is the purpose of this walk? What will happen when we arrive? Much of what your fellow travellers have taught you now comes into question as you interact with the other pilgrims.

Some of these people are funny, some are exciting. Some are beautiful, some are ugly. Some are kind and some are cruel. At least for while you’re with them. Over time you develop your own attitude about walking and you find that the pace of your steps–the frequency of your being–leads you to find yourself walking in sync with other travellers who take a similar view. This is friendship, or what is sometimes called The Law of Attraction.

798 Relax and Succeed - You really are gonna make itYou will love some fellow travellers and some will be difficult to be around. Sometimes there’s enough room to escape and sometimes the road is simply too narrow. Some people scream back at the fellow walkers who they do not enjoy. Others plug their ears, others try to run and still others attempt to change the other walker’s attitude.

No one chooses who they share the road with. Sometimes you would rather have fewer people around, sometimes you’re alone and you long for others. Everyone does all these things–it’s a long walk. And where you are is where your steps have taken you, but where you end up won’t depend on the steps you’ve taken, your future will depend on which steps you currently are taking.

Some people simply walk. They ask few questions and they accept what other walkers claim is true. Others exhaust themselves running all over the path trying to make sure they never miss anything–but they do anyway. The crowd forces you to keep moving. It’s the nature of the road.

798 Relax and Succeed - The closer I getOther people are always looking around and questioning their fellow travellers. They are driven by their curiosity about where the road is leading. The ones who wonder about their destination marvel at those that don’t. And the people that don’t have the desire to answer that question wonder why people would spend the time questioning instead of simply talking or walking? Of course neither is right or wrong. They’re just different kinds of walkers.

During your walk it is inevitable that everyone will occasionally lose focus and trip and fall, and everyone will also have places where the path is washed away and we are required to make leaps that simply exceed our ability to jump. In most cases the closest of our fellow travellers are quite excellent at picking us up and carrying us when those times happen. You will do some carrying and you will be carried. This is the nature of the road.

Eventually you will find you have a weakness, or you will suffer an injury–or maybe you just walked a really long time–but eventually you notice yourself slowing down. More of the other walkers are now passing you on their own way. You slow to a crawl, and you begin to very seriously question whether or not you will ever reach your destination.

798 Relax and Succeed - We are all just walkingSome people realize it sooner. But everyone, before they die–whether it comes slowly in a hospital or quickly in an accident–everyone has the moment where they suddenly realize that they have never seen any other walker reach their destination either. And it is then that even the most unexamined life will come into focus and you will realize that you were never actually going anywhere.

Eventually you’re either carried or you lay down, but there’s a point where you simply cannot go on. This is where you “stop.” It all seems so arbitrary and yet it is so profound. Peace envelopes you as you realize that during your entire journey, the road home was home, and that hallowed place you were trying to reach was where you had always been. All is well. Welcome home.

peace. s

Scott McPherson is a writer, public speaker, and mindfulness facilitator who works with individuals, companies and nonprofit organizations around the world.

The Trip

Let us metaphorize your life as a trip. Everyone who is born gets a trip. Where you start your life is the city you were born in, where you are now is where you currently live, and where you’re going is to the end of your life, which is whatever town you ultimately arrive at. Some of these lives are long—the towns are very far apart. With some lives, you barely leave town and you’re at the end of the road. Children’s hospitals are filled with these short-trippers, and seniors homes are filled with the long-trippers. But everyone gets a trip.

592 Relax and Succeed - Remember happiness isNow of course like the cities and towns of this world, there are all kinds of people on this Earth. And you intersect with all of them just like the routes to these various cities intersect. There’s even some people travelling from very near you to the same place that you’re ultimately going. These people are your friends because their perspective is similar to yours. There’s also people coming from where you’re going and toward where you started. But wait a second. Let’s think about that. Say those towns are where I live: in Edmonton and Calgary, the latter of which is 300km south of me. At 1084 meters above sea level, my cousin in Calgary would start with height. That altititude is like being born into a fortunate, healthy family. Not that Edmonton would be hugely disadvantaged, but at 671 meters my journey in life would mean I would have to climb 413 meters uphill and my cousin in Calgary will walk 413 meters downhill. Of course our journey is not a straight one, and we may go up and down thousands of times as we head toward our final destination, but in the end our lives will total out differently and his will have had more downhill sections. It will have been easier.

The unevenness of the terrain represents the unfairness of life. The world is not flat. Some of us are born in rich countries with good education systems and maybe we get great parents too. We can also get one powerful negative influence and we’ll blow our advantages. Some of us get terrible parents and suffer under poverty and strife, but having to survive through all of that is what gives people the strength to turn into a superstar. And the opposites are obviously both true too. But bottom line, people do not have equal shots at pleasure and leisure and relaxation and happiness. But since that’s a given, you’re far better to learn to appreciate what you do have rather than agonize over what someone else got. Because how much you have isn’t the issue. It’s how much you appreciate.

592 Relax and Succeed - Your journey has moldedIt’s hard to tell when you’re young what altitude you actually started at. Because you’ll compare yourself to those international lives like movie stars or musicians. But remember, to be world famous means that part of their celebrity journey will be by plane. But what goes up must come down, so those are round trips back to altitudes that are ultimately pretty close together. Being lauded on stage feels fantastic when you do it, but not doing it makes being alone a lot worse than it otherwise would be. So they might be at great heights while they are on stage, but then they crash back down to real life to the point where a flight from New York to Sydney isn’t a rise of 36,000 feet, it’s a trip from 25 meters to 200 meters, so in the end it’s more uphill than downhill.

So what’s the point? The point is that the people going uphill will use more energy than the people going downhill. While energy and happiness are connected they are not the same. Because someone can use half as much energy walking downhill as someone going uphill, but if they’re using their thinking to think heavy thoughts, then they are burning even more energy that way than they would by walking uphill with a better attitude.

Do you see? Every life goes up and down. But you don’t stand on your road and vainly complain to your society or some non-existent chess-playing God, begging for a better route—you learn to enjoy the act of walking. Those are the moment to moment steps of your life. You want to slow your trip down to those individual steps. Rather than worry about the end of the road or even where you’re going in general, just focus on the step you’re taking. That’s what it is to live in the moment. And remember: don’t call it a good step if it’s downhill and a bad one if it’s uphill. Your journey is your journey and this is how you get there so there’s no reason in judging it when you have to live it either way.

592 Relax and Succeed - Don't stumble over somethingSure, acknowledge that you occasionally get winded on the hills. But also remember that whether you’re descending a hill or climbing out of a valley you are not prevented from seeing wildlife, or smelling flowers, or feeling the breeze, or seeing some mountains or cloud formations in the distance. Your route does not dictate the mood of your journey. Never lose sight of that fact. Even uphill, it’s still possible to focus on gratitude. But if I’m not mindful my thinking will turn to complaining, which is like having one foot in the ditch, which just makes my trip more difficult and painful. It’s like bringing up painful thoughts of the past. Why add that effort to today’s walk?

You’ll go the distance either way. Why make it worse with bitchy, negative, judgmental, gossipy, vengeful or hateful thinking? That’s like putting vinegar in your water bottle. Blech. There’s no reason to do that when your bottle will hold fresh water just as well. And it is always you that decides what it’s filled it with.

Don’t ruin your own journey by comparing it to others. Yeah, some people will have it easier. But you know what? If you’re reading this blog then you probably live in a 1st World country, and if that’s the case then we can pretty much guarantee that your home town is at a much higher elevation than probably 98% of the towns on this Earth. And if you can’t be grateful for that kind of good fortune then you’re really working hard to be miserable.

Here’s hoping you choose yourself a much more pleasant journey. It’ll be better for you and anyone walking alongside you. Now go have a great day, uphill or downhill. 😉

peace. s