Appreciating Kindness

1105-relax-and-succeed-a-persons-actionsWelcome to the last day of the month and to the end of your first two months of micro-meditations. You can take pride in your dedication because exercises like these absolutely do have an impact on how broadly you’re able to view “reality.”

It feels good to have a positive impact on the world around you. Here at Relax and Succeed I’ve encouraged people to engage in March Kindness Month, a creation based on a program in Singapore I was aware of from the 1990’s. This program was taken up by a variety of teachers around the world and the students in their classes helped add to the total amount of human compassion and kindness that was expressed over the last few years. That kind of thing generates a tangible impact in the world.

Leading up to those micro-kindness goals it’s worthwhile for us to take a good look at kindness more attentively so that we can appreciate its actual impact in the world. Our understanding of it often ends with the belief that it’s a good thing to do, but rarely do we slow our minds down to truly understand why.

1105-relax-and-succeed-spiritual-practice-is-not-just-sittingIn today’s meditation your goal is simply to tune your awareness radar to acts of kindness. You can hear about them on the radio or a podcast, you can see them in a video or program, or you can note them live and in-person at work, in public, and at home. It’s not only healthy to be tuned to these events, moreover your careful observance of these moments will demonstrate the resonating power behind simple acts of kindness.

As I’ve written about before, simply waiting a bit longer than average to hold a door for someone will often elicit the same behaviour from the person who the door was held for. Their odds of looking behind them for the rest of the day goes up. Their odds that they’ll be willing to hold a door just a bit longer than average will go up, and by these small gains the world can change.

We’ll save your action for March, but for today, in watching these examples, your assignment is to simply try to see the echo of the generous and thoughtful behaviour. Note the person’s emotional reaction, which will be demonstrated through their facial expressions and body language. Maybe they’ll even offer some words of thanks, and then echo the action with someone else. Whatever it is, big or small, recognise those gains as real things in the universe; things that never would have existed were it not for the original act.

Gandhi wasn’t kidding when he said, “Be the change you want to see in the world.” The change in the world is literally made of massive collections of these tiny acts. People are naturally generous, connected and compassionate, but without us modelling that behaviour for others, they have little chance of breaking out of their egocentric thoughts to the point where they can even recognise their ability to impact the world in this positive way.

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.

Appreciating Contrast

1104-relax-and-succeed-the-bad-newsWhat is a day made of? Because it’s a lot more than 24 hours. If it’s your last day of your vacation it can rocket by, and yet if you’re waiting for an ambulance with a loved one, minutes can feel like hours. Time is pretty flexible within our consciousness.

The two examples of above demonstrate that time is dictated by experience. Experiences we don’t want feel long and experiences we do want slip by quickly. So days are made of  your desire for, or resistance to, experiences. Since want is a habit of ego we’re better not to have any expectations, but obviously there are some experiences that are easier to feel better about than others.

Watching a gut-wrenching film can be painful, but it can also bring us closer to people in the long run. On the other hand, as soon as we see an old friend for the first time in a long time we feel fantastic. Of course, neither would feel like anything unless each had the other to contrast itself against. This is the nature of oneness–the yin and yang of being.

1104-relax-and-succeed-i-must-also-have-a-dark-sideAs you’ve heard me say before, this means there is not good things or bad things, but rather things you enjoy and things that help you appreciate enjoyment. So walking normally has no value unless you’ve been unable to do so for some time. Time with loved ones becomes more precious after the loss of a loved one, etc.

Both things are required for existence, but one’s very easy for you and the other creates value, but you wont read this blog to figure out how to enjoy nice things; you’ll spend most of the year reading this blog trying to figure out how to see the value in the more difficult experiences.

If both are necessary, why is one easy and the other more difficult: because one you’ve dreamed of, and the other was either unconsidered or it was a nightmare. One felt in alignment with who you believe you are and the other feels out of alignment with that. To become our greatest selves, we must expand to the point of still feeling in alignment even when we’re experiencing things we do not naturally enjoy.

Your physical reactions to the chemistry you feel as your emotions are your experiences. What chemistry you get depends a lot on how your spirit approaches those variances. You see some people bothered a great deal by relatively small things, and yet you see others who can stay calm during remarkably tempestuous periods. One of these people would be lost in ego, and the other will have developed spiritual awareness.

1104-relax-and-succeed-we-could-never-learnToday’s meditation focuses on recognising this difference. Your job today is easy. Find three examples in your life that demonstrate this difference but using the same events. That is to say, find one experience that you did like that you no longer do, and then find two that you disliked that now you’re grateful for. And once you’ve defined what they are, really spend some actual time revisiting how you felt at the time in each of them. Directly contrast those two different feelings about the same event.

Remember those good feelings, and remember when you applied new thoughts to them and they evolved into things you’d consider negative. And then think about those painful or difficult things, and then really spend time considering that those same events now feel genuinely valuable. That’s it. It’s an easy one but again, these add up. If you’ve done these every week, you will have expanded yourself.

Meditate on past experience. Recognise the changeability of events, and witness your consciousness making that flex. That isn’t the world, that’s you. Own that difference. Find it, and learn enough about it that you truly start to get an understanding that the difference between then and now is simply your approach to whatever it is. Because that is your great power in this universe, but you cannot flex it until you can better understand it, so use today to increase your understanding. And don’t forget to enjoy your day while you do it.

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.

An Appreciation of You

1103-relax-and-succeed-the-purpose-of-this-lifeThis week we started off with gratitude for uncommon things. Then we discussed judgments and how they separate people. They’re essentially the opposite of gratitude. One makes you feel abundant and cared about and the other leads you to feel alone and insecure. Today we develop the resilient part of you that gets you through the difficult times so that you can get to better times.

If this resilience is going to be truly helpful to you in dark times then it will need to be handy, so it’s best if it’s actually an aspect of yourself. People drug themselves or anaesthetise themselves with alcohol or distract themselves with technology, but these all pale in comparison to the high one gets from believing in our actual connection to the universe. It’s a very real thing.

Let’s look at who and what you actually are. Factually, your DNA is 99.9999% the same as an ape, so how much different could you be from Albert Einstein, or Usain Bolt, or Adele, or Stephen King, or The Pope or anyone else on Earth? You can be grateful for that, and you can also feel grateful if you’re not challenged even more, because you’re also almost identical to Stephen Hawking.

1103-relax-and-succeed-if-science-proves-some-beliefNo matter who you are, 99% of the mass of your body consists of just six chemical elements: oxygen, carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, calcium, and phosphorus. Potassium, sulfur, sodium, chlorine, and magnesium make up that last 1%. In physics terms, you’re literally made out of the dust from the parts of old stars from the universe’s past. Seriously.

Get down to the quantum level and the air in your lungs and all of those elements start bleeding into the background of the world. As Jill Bolte Taylor described in her Stroke of Insight, the border between you and an external world is pretty tenuous. If we had vision that saw it, and you were standing in a river, how would the water that makes up so much of your body differ from the water in the water? And what about the atmosphere in your lungs? Is that the world or you?

To say that you’re not connected is frankly ridiculous. You can think thoughts about being separate, but you’ll still be all of those connected things thinking those ephemeral thoughts. You’re still made of the universe and you live within the universe, so any separation is an illusion created by your temporary thinking. You’ll still just dissolve back into the world when you end, like ink returning to the inkwell. What you’ll think about that will be irrelevant.

1103-relax-and-succeed-at-the-deepest-level-of-beingYou were born of the universe and you will return to the universe. This is just a layover on your flight through eternity, so you might as well enjoy it. It’s not like you’ll be graded on your performance. Everyone gets to go home equal in the end.

You can think thoughts about how this truth also makes you like all the people you don’t like, but you have to remember that there are people that love those people. So no matter who you decide to use as an icon of your existence, they will be loved. You can’t get away from it. You belong in the most fundamental way that no one can take it away from you. You are truly a child of the universe and you truly are connected to all.

So if this is all factually true, why would you waste that existence thinking thoughts of separation and weakness when you could be grateful for those connections? You could worship yourself not as a self-centered ego, but as a genuine and critical aspect of the universe. You weren’t created by accident. The universe wanted you to be, so Be. That’s why the original Hebrew word for God kind of means Is-be. Be your Is. Stop being a definition and start just plain being.

1103-relax-and-succeed-you-exist-in-timeToday’s meditation is simple: find five things to be truly grateful for about yourself. If you saved a friend, be grateful you saved that wonderful life. If you’ve had a child be grateful for the act of creation. If you helped someone in a way that matters, own that. Five compliments from you to you about you. When you’re better you could find a zillion of them. But for now five will do. Five will give you a nice launch into your weekend. Enjoy. You are loved.

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.

Banished From The Tribe

1102-relax-and-succeed-you-not-wanting-meLike apes or wolves or ants, humans are cooperative creatures. Living and working alone are challenging things that can few can do throughout their lives, and if they do they’ll generally pay a big price. Even people who say they live without others needed others to even exist.

You can’t (currently) be born without parents (and even without those you’d need scientists). If all some guy in the bush has is a log cabin and an axe, he needed both the inventor of the axe and he would have needed to have seen someone else’s cabin to imagine one so he could build it. And even he will likely hit the local store when he needs some salt or tools. We’re all living on the backs of all of the other generations before us.

Our desire to be part of the safe and well-fed is ancient and natural. Anything else threaten death, hence the power of potential banishment and shunning that was noted in yesterday’s meditation. People naturally focus on being valuable enough and well-liked enough to maintain the security of the tribe. It’s like your brain’s primary directive, which is why you find being rejected so painful. It’s like someone saying, “We don’t think your genes needs to go any further than this.”

1102-relax-and-succeed-maslows-pyramidWe can all easily think of the times it hurt to be rejected, but what about the times we did the hurting? What about group criticisms people joined in on on social media? What about a group of schoolgirls actually cooperating to cut another person out? What about having your support for one group lead you to even verbally attack the member of another group? What about you rejecting someone because someone more established in your group stopped dating them? Or what about even how you would have handled someone leaving the company you worked for?

Socially it’s a very common, modern experience to exclude someone if they get laid off or fired. Being fired can feel to others like it’s different because it’s “deserved,” but then we all have to ask ourselves how perfect we actually are. Getting fired for a genuine mistake is like being fired for being human. Certainly some things are blatant and need action, but sometimes it’s just that a decent manager and a good employee clash. And in the case of the layoff, generally the immediate boss and the person being laid off would rather not have participated at all.

1102-relax-and-succeed-a-team-is-not-a-groupEven though it’s in an office and everyone’s dressed nice, to your brain–which evolved for that other tribal, cooperative world–these are all examples of being shunned. We all have our family group, our friend group, and our work group. These are tribes we travel between and they often overlap.

Being removed from any of these groups will be among the most painful experiences of a person’s life. If you were aware, you’d know that from your own experience. Any time it happened to you it was a very particular kind of pain and you literally need to go through Kübler-Ross’s Five Stages of Grief (denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance). It’s extremely painful. A company I once worked for laid someone off and that lead very quickly to a particularly ugly suicide and no one in the company was the same afterward.

In today’s meditation, find an example of where your personal awkwardness about how to behave lead you to passively shun someone. Own it. Don’t make excuses, just make the connection between your choice and their pain. Connect the two in a direct fashion. This won’t be a pleasant meditation, but it will increase your empathy and natural self-centeredness.

1102-relax-and-succeed-sometimes-painful-things-can-teach-usIf you do this meditation successfully–if you feel that pain and own that responsibility for your part in it–then it will be one of the fastest results you’ll ever get from a meditation. Because if you do it right, then your brain will understand that idea so well that you are very unlikely to go through the next similar experience without very naturally experiencing lower levels of ego and much greater levels of empathy, which will in turn drive you to more active compassion.

This is the kind of thing that would turn you into that one person that won’t be awkward with the former employee. You may not be able to get them back into your group, but your actions alone could change how hurt that person feels and how much they trust the world going forward. This is no small meditation. In small steps, it is these ones about our common human relations, that are the most valuable meditations you can do. For you and for them.

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 Ego’s Tools

1101-relax-and-succeed-ubuntu-is-very-difficult-to-renderThis is a particularly good exercise. If you’re reading this then it’s likely that you generally like people. Some socialised peopled can behave anti-socially on, ironically, social media, but most feel the tug to be tribal. We know deep down that being separate from the group is more dangerous and less enjoyable. This is why prisoners describe the lack of freedom as most painful, even when their conditions might otherwise seem good.

Jail is our modern equivalent to shunning. Before you got kicked out and had to find a way to survive by catching 100% of your own food, making 100% of your own clothes and 100% of your own fire-making and socialising. In prison you get your jump suit and your food that’s heated over a stove, but it can still be a dangerous place unless you become a high enough ranking person to have protection, but even that pits you against other similar-strength people. We’re all really better off getting along.

Of course living with others does require a compromising approach that seeks something that works well for everyone, and yet at the same time if we have to sacrifice too much of who we are then we’re better off finding a group that matches us better. That said, adaptations on our part also expand us, so learning to get along with those you don’t get along with is an actual life skill.

1101-relax-and-succeed-teach-your-childrenOver the last couple decades there has been an increasing amount of judgment in the First World. Fed, watered, sheltered, the lower portions of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs is covered, meaning you’re looking for things to do. Those things used to largely be actions, not idleness.

Actions would be things like developing yourself, enhancing your environment, playing games or sports with others, being artistic through music or dance or carving or painting or weaving or whatever. Even at the turn of the last century it was an activity for a family to actively sit around a radio and listen. Yes, listening was an actual activity. It was something you completely did, not something that was on while you did other things.

Today there are a lot of people doing none of those things. A lot of people watch a lot of TV or spend a lot of time on the internet, and what’s there is what’s here–lots of words. I write professionally, but words are the ego’s tools, so that’s why when I’m healthiest I make the time to drag race, play drums, garden, or play some type of strategy game. These things are very involving and yet they involve little or no words. It’s why lots of kids have taken up knitting.1101-relax-and-succeed-we-are-just-an-advanced-breed

All of the judging people are doing is done in words. They think their judgments inside their own heads and then either say them or write them, or they don’t. But the judgment’s happened either way. That judgment is an ego-action inside our heads that separates us from our human tribe.

You might find it unpleasant imagining giving help to someone you don’t like, but imagine being able to get the help normally associated with a friend, from literally everyone. That’s what Star Trek imagined and that’s where we’re generally headed. A whole bunch of us want fewer borders and a greater emphasis on saving Earthlings, not just Earthlings like us. So that is where we’re going. The question is, what will you do to get yourself there?

Today’s meditation is easy, and yet it’s one of your most challenging yet: find gratitude in a place where you’d least expect it. Ask a few friends or people you see regularly: what sort of people do you complain about most? Maybe they’re rich, maybe they’re poor, maybe they’re intolerant of other cultures, maybe they’re from another culture, maybe they vote differently from you, maybe they’re in jail, maybe they have a temper or are boring–it doesn’t matter, it all works for the exercise.

1101-relax-and-succeed-god-created-our-skin-tonesThe idea is to stretch your own definition of what kind of person meets the definition of an acceptable person. As an example, personally, the biggest challenge I have is watching people with helpful power withhold it for personal reasons that have little to do with expanding the entire tribe.

I find it difficult watching an executive allow his staff to be abused; watching a wealthy person not take action to improve the world; watching someone be grotesquely self-centered, things like that. I’m mostly upset that they steal the joy of connection that goes with helping others. They’re stealing from themselves.

So to challenge my own judgments, I went out and found an example that proves my definition is one dimensional. You do the same. Take the type of person you don’t like, and then find a person who meets that description that you do like. Like I said, easy, and in a way quite the challenge. Find your type. Genuinely accept someone from that group into your group. That’s it. Because that will be a lot.

1101-relax-and-succeed-bill-gates-is-better-that-batman

http://www.frugaldad.com/

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.

Discoveries in Gratitude

1100-relax-and-succeed-interrupt-anxiety-with-gratitudeA feeling of want cannot exist without thoughts of being incomplete. You want this relationship, this person, this thing, this job, this money, this respect, this opinion. But opinions are just thoughts. There is no point in even trying to manage someone’s history, or something as ephemeral as someone’s constantly adjusting perspective. Which means no one’s opinion is truly worth you even thinking about. It would change anyway.

Respect is worth little unless it is self-respect. Lots of people have respected others who committed horribly violent acts, but it is difficult to respect oneself when people either worship or fear you because both of those things are sublimation, not cooperation. They aren’t with you, they just don’t want to be against you. With self respect you can be all alone and you can still comfortably stand up for what you believe in.

Money is a proxy. It isn’t anything more than a storage device for the value of your work or maybe your family’s work (and if you own something, then everyone who works for you volunteers to give you a portion of their daily value). But even if you get lots of it, impressing someone with money or things is mistaking sizzle for steak. They aren’t impressed with you, they are impressed with what you can potentially do for them. Stop doing it and you’re back to being worth nothing to them because it was never you in the first place.

1100-relax-and-succeed-people-were-created-to-be-lovedNo matter how cool a job looks there are always downsides. What thing has only one side? You obviously can’t have an upside if there’s no downside. So famous musicians have to battle with who they can trust, or with drug and alcohol issues, or with always being away from home. Big business people spend a lot of their lives with lawyers and accountants. Little jobs have less power and pressure but they also have less control. Whatever you get you give something up. Managers are less likely to be able to use their status to leave early; they’re more likely to leave late.

Things are things. A new outfit doesn’t change who you are to anyone unless you’re very young, and even then…. Doctors can have their stethoscope and white coat ceremony when they enter med school but they know nothing more after they put it on than before. Lots of people are terrible drivers in beautiful cars. And cars get dated, clothes get dated, fads are group-think and they’re subject to constant change.

Which brings us significant people. When you’re living in ego, thinking your way through life; when someone moves away from you don’t see that as having to do with them, you think that’s about you. Your translation is that if they don’t want to be close to you that there’s something wrong with you, when just as many people leave personal relationships because they don’t feel good about themselves.

1100-relax-and-succeed-awareness-is-like-the-sunFinally, if one particular person doesn’t love you, then that does not leave you unloved, whether it’s a romantic relationship or even your own parents. Unloveable? Seriously. There’s over seven billion of us. There are only so many ways to be, so we would surely find millions who knew experiences like ours and who understood and loved us.

Today’s meditation is easy. If you’re working with a partner or partners then set a time to discuss your findings and then you have from now until then to find five things to be genuinely and significantly grateful for that you’ve previously taken for granted. Five things that you’ll share with your partner(s) at your prescribed time.

Remember, these have to be things you haven’t considered before. The idea is to expand your ability to enjoy life by getting you to see it as more expansive than you’ve previously realised. To do this it can only be you pushing out your own envelope, but it’s a pretty nice task to be asked to find things that please you.

1100-relax-and-succeed-thank-youThey’re always there. Find them. Seriously. If you don’t take this simple task seriously then you aren’t taking changing your life seriously–and that’s fine. But don’t avoid changing it and then complain. Either change it or keep it, but if you keep it then finding five things should extra easy. And remember, this is important. These exercises are all much more meaningful than you ego can appreciate. These are how you get to where you want to be.

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.

Other Perspectives #52 The Sequel

1099-relax-and-succeed-parenthood-is-about-raising-and-celebratingIt’s the Family Day long weekend here in Canada, so here’s a blog about never underestimating the members of your family: