The Controller

He had done it again. They had their work day planned out, but once again their boss had other plans for them to do something far less useful. Robyn was angry as she slammed the box down onto the pile. “Why does he do this every single day? He knows we have all of those filings that have to be ready for Monday. It’s like he wants us to fail. This stuff can wait.”

Bodhi set down her box neatly on the pile. “Do you have fun plans for the weekend?” she asked, smiling.

“Don’t change the subject. You’re always smiling, always happy. He does this to us every day! We would get twice as much done if we didn’t have a boss.” Bodhi just smiled in agreement. “Why do you just take this and never complain?”

Bodhi stopped and looked at Robyn inquisitively. “Would complaining change it?”

Her tone was so genuine it ruffled Robyn. “That’s the only power we have. Maybe if his life is miserable enough he’ll actually considering doing something the smart way.”

“Arent you just torturing yourself? And I also think his life is not short of misery.”

“Good.” Robyn moves another box, but she likes the idea of her boss suffering. “Wait–why?”

Bodhi catches her look and answers, “Have you seen his wife drop him off in the morning?”

“The hag that’s always yelling?”

“Yes, that’s the one.”

“Can you blame her? If he’s like this at home too it must drive her crazy.”

“I wonder which is the chicken and which is the egg?”

You can see the wheels turning in Robyn’s head as she tries to figure out what Bodhi meant. “You mean, did she get bitchy because he’s an idiot, or did he become an idiot because she’s bitchy?” Bodhi nods. “What difference does it make? We still have an idiot for a boss either way.”

“My father was very controlling of my mother. It caused a lot of battles between her and my brothers and sisters.”

“But let me guess; you took it just fine.”

“I noticed that after being controlled so badly, my mother needed to exercise some control. Almost to–I don’t know–get her equilibrium back.”

“So you’re saying after your Dad was a jerk your mother over-compensated and she was a jerk too?”

“I think that’s how my brothers and sisters saw it, but they saw me as spoiled because my mother was better with me.”

“Were you the baby?”

“No. But I was the only one who let her regain her balance.”

“What do you mean?”

Bodhi thought for a moment. “It’s like Mr. Dillon. He begins his day by feeling attacked and belittled but reacting will only make things worse. Once his wife is gone, Mr. Dillon is like my mother–he needs to regain his balance.”

“So he abuses us to feel more in control? Is that what you’re saying? Great. So we have a ten year old for a boss.” She slams down her box into the pile.

Bodhi stops, causing Robyn to pause as well. Bodhi points to a stress crease in the box Robyn just slammed down. “More human than child. Mr. Dillon treats you badly and you treat this box badly and it gets these lines; these bends in the corner that make the box less stable when we stack them.”

“So?”

“But you feel better when you slam them down…?” She doesn’t sound judgmental when she says it.

“It helps me work out my frustrations to pretend the box is his face.” They both laugh.

“Could we be Mr. Dillon’s boxes?”

Robyn pauses and gives that a serious think. “Wait. So you’re saying that the way he treats us after his wife is the way I treat these boxes after I deal with him?”  Bodhi nods, wondering. “Well if he is, then he’s definitely putting some wrinkles into my corners too.”

Bodhi laughs as Robyn slams down another box. “No offense Robyn, but I think you put those on yourself.”

“Yeah, well it made me feel better.”

“That’s why I never mind doing things like this.”

“You don’t mind that he distracts us from important work to do stupid grunt tasks?”

“My brothers and sisters thought I was sucking up to my mother by always making her tea after my father left.”

“Weren’t you?”

“I was helping her return to balance so that she and I could begin our day in peace. My brothers and sisters would fight with her for the rest of the day.”

Robyn throws the last one on top. She seems unconvinced. “So you’re saying that the reason stacking this crap doesn’t bother you is because to you it’s not stacking boxes, it’s returning Mr. Dillon to equilibrium?”

Bodhi smiles. “I must meet people where I find them.” They walk together to the coffee room and each pours a fresh cup.

“Is that why you have fewer wrinkles than me even though I’m half your age?”

“No. That’s just because I’m Asian.” They laugh together. Bodhi looks at the clock. “Only half an hour. And now we have the rest of the day to get important things done.”

“Fine. I’ll trade a dumb half hour to have peace the rest of the day. But I still want to sneak a dating app onto Dillon’s phone. Maybe if he had a nicer wife we’d have a nicer boss.”

Bodhi smiles, accusing, “Aren’t those apps where you get your dates Robyn…?”

“Uh, yeah, fat chance. That is one grenade I’m not willing to jump on for my coworkers.”

Bodhi laughs. “Enjoy the rest of your day Robyn.”

Robyn smiles. “Thanks Bodhi. You too.”

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.

Cooperative Opposition

The reason you worry about you and your life and I don’t, is because you think you’re a Jennifer or a Sam or a Julie, and I see the you that you are before your parents named you. You were still a being then. You were awake and aware. But you had no identity. You hadn’t been taught to be anyone yet, so you were simply present. So I’ll talk to Sara about Sara’s life, and I’ll engage in its dramas, but it’ll all feel a lit like TV to me. Like even if we get it wrong it’s only on a stage.

After the real you was born into your body, slowly people told you who you were. You were Kelsey, or a girl, or smart, or finicky. And you believed them, so you started watching the world less generally and more specifically. You weren’t going to be satisfied with any path now. Now you wanted your path.

Meanwhile, who’s learning all this? Who learned to be you? Where did the being go that was there before the name and definitions went on? Are you your name? The sum of your thoughts? Are you your brain; an accident of biology? A byproduct of electrical signals moving through cells? Or is that just more story you told yourself?

How would you know one way or the other anyway? Who would you ask? And how can you be sure they’re not misleading you or that they’re even real? You can’t. So what’s left? What do you do? It’s a reasonable question, but you’re asking the wrong person. I don’t mean by asking me, I mean the person that needs to exist before you could do something.

Doing is ego. Being is reality. As egos do, they are someone, somewhere and they accomplish or fail to accomplish something. All those some’s are definitions. Beings happen. They aren’t limited by definitions. They just are, so their being and their doing are unified. The thinker and the thoughts are unified. This is what it is to be in flow.

How this works in practice is that if you’re talking to someone there’s two reasons ways in which you can disagree with them. The first is when your ego feels uncomfortable being isolated from the other person. Your being knows you’re still linked, but your ego feels you need to reunify you, so you try to get them to agree with you, or it’s like they’re questioning your very existence. The problem is, their ego feels the same way. Hence arguments that can escalate and if not faced with clarity, will devolve into grudges. You can’t be clear-headed and have a grudge.

The other way is to not be opposed to them, but to be doing something entirely independently from them that includes them. So what your being is doing is that it’s exploring the universe and this other being is cooperating with you like two tentacles on one octopus, as I like to say.

When you hold a soup bowl in front of you, your hands work in opposition to accomplish a joint task that benefits both of you. So it is with debating spirits. They’re not against each other, they’re leveraging each other for the sake of mutual exploring. This is how both science and co-writing music should work.

You’re not attached to your idea, so the argument doesn’t get into personal ego-based personality, but you do act as a representative of a perspective. The other person represents another idea. And together you give each other a leg up until you both find a mutual way out of the cave they’re trapped in together. Viewed from a healthy perspective, a conflict done well can help expose more of the universe to us. Every time you were proven wrong your ego might have shrank, but your world got bigger.

Your mind isn’t in some location. It looks through your eyes and hears through your ears and touches with your fingers, but you are just a visitor in your body. You’re an avatar that is slowly realising that it is not itself, but rather the product of another unknown being that you act on behalf of.

The point isn’t to know who that other being is because that is unknowable. The point is to be grateful for being and then be. Your avatar can trip and fall, but the real you is always safe at home. So there’s no point in fighting with, or feeling uncomfortable around what are apparently opposing avatars. Just always remember that the being inside your avatar is the same one that’s in everyone else’s avatar, and that being is simply treating all of us like the arms of itself, as it works together to create a unified expansion of all of us.

peace. s

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

Love in the Trenches

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Well he wasn’t.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Your expectations are too low.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

peace. s

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

All of Us

You know those Russian nesting dolls? The ones that all look essentially the same but are painted a little differently as you progress down in size? Those are a great metaphor for what it’s like to get along with others. Back in the days of them always being hand made, each set had its own theme and each doll was not only a slightly different size, but each was also given its own unique take on the overall theme. These layers of identical dolls are like the many aspects of people, including ourselves.

Maybe you like music, you have a really close family, you like discussing things from a philosophical perspective and you think trust is a relationship’s foundation. That would take us four dolls down, but they go forever, with many more superficial interests at the surface and many deeper needs expressed in the smaller, hidden versions of you.

People you immediately like have outside shells that look a lot like yours, so you immediately feel comfortable around them. Good friends will match a lot of your layers, giving you lots of things and perspectives in common. Those are the friends you not only do things with, but you’ll talk politics or religion with them.

Deeper dolls are reserved for lovers and lifelong, best friends. These people seem to be able to match you as far down as you can go, and even then, by the time you find some that don’t, no one cares because it seems so insignificant compared to the tons of matches that you do share. These are the people you can bring your smallest, darkest selves out with.

Likewise, people you don’t like at first have a shell that you find unappealing in some way. It’s boring or threatening or depressing. People you develop a real dislike for are ones where you can go down several layers and not find a match. Neither of you feels comfortable. But it’s important to remember that it’s not anyone’s fault or failure when we run into cases where there are no apparent matches. They’re just non-matches. A pear isn’t letting an apple down by not being an apple.

Of course, eventually everyone has a match. We have been a lot of people. We all have a lot of layers. If we go down deep enough, we eventually find some kind of touchstone–some kind of thing that relates us. We were both beaten by our mothers, or we both found out our partners were gay when we got left in a divorce, or we both secretly want to be DJ’s.

Enemies are nothing more than people who gave up on you–or who you gave up on–before you found those matches. And I’m not saying you should look for them because there’s a lot of other people you can be out having fun with. Life isn’t a test. You don’t have to take the hard way through it. But it’s helpful to remember that; if life forces you into a situation, there are ways to develop a bond.

Even if you got down to your last doll and there was no match, you then realise that you do have something in common: you’re both made of layers and you both have some small dark ones very few have seen. There’s no reason to hate that. Thinking someone has no value means you are falling for an illusion. You’re causing yourself suffering by voluntarily putting your own psyche through the act of hating, or actively thinking badly about, another person. You’ll blame them for your feelings, but that’ll be you.

People you like aren’t better than people you don’t like. They just agree with you more. Remember that when you’re agreeing–and especially when you’re disagreeing–because maintaining an awareness of that fact will truly help the whole world to get along better, and that will bring the most out of all of us.

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 7-5-3 Code

Yesterday I gave you some basic strategies to avoid having your irritations and frustrations evolve into anger. Today I’ll tell you the more challenging part, which is how to recover once you’re upset. Before I set the context, fair warning: you might find parts of this story difficult.

In life in general I do attempt to set myself up to do well under challenging circumstances by basically following the same code a Samurai would use for health. I will admit it’s been tough getting enough sleep in these last few years that have included caring for my parents–but I eat pretty well, I have natural exercise built into my life, and I actively care about myself and the world around me.

As this blog is a testament, I always seek and greatly value having a calm, clear, alert awareness in order to achieve a healthy emotional balance and the highest levels of performance. But I can’t do that all the time and the day I’m going to tell you about was preceded by a week of bad food, too little sleep, and a loss of awareness.

Work was extremely busy and it was a very critical time on a long project. My parents had a stomach flu and didn’t want to eat, and what they wanted to eat came right back out one end of them or the other. At 91 they don’t move fast so I was cleaning up all over the place and yes, it was super gross.

I was doing a lot of extra cleaning and wiping and fluid checking (during which I was washing up incessantly to try to avoid catching it too because that would even be worse). Since I generally cook for them and I wasn’t joining them in their dry toast, I wasn’t eating either. I was always often finishing so late that it prevented me from getting enough important work done and that made me think too much. It was a recipe for disaster.

A while ago we had to shift Dad to an adult diaper. It’s just a minor one, mostly for the 10% of the time where he quits peeing just a moment after he puts himself back into his shorts. In those cases you can say, “Dad you should change,” and after he finally hears you he’ll do it fine on his own.

But this day included the flu. I’d just sat down after cleaning up vomit in three different parts of the house when he very notably jumped up off the sofa and then shuffled faster than I’d seen him go since his last stroke. Look, this is where I’m just going to be candid. Dad’s got a liquified stomach, 91 year old legs trying to get him to a toilet 40 feet away, and along the way his only defense is a 91 year old asshole. It’s just not as snug as it was when he was younger, and it’s okay if you laugh.

Sure enough he couldn’t keep it together and whatever happened before I got the door opened I’m not sure, but to put it bluntly there was a lot of poo–including on Dad, the wall, the bathtub, everywhere. It smelled worse than anything I’d ever encountered in my life. I worked to hide my gagging from him.

This is where I felt myself start a rise. My mistake was, I wasn’t fully aware of my father’s vulnerable state or it easily would have moved me to active compassion. No, I made the experience about me, and so rather than being present with him I started thinking about how long it was going to take me to clean everything up.

Dad had his diaper back up and so I gave him a bag to put it in and I asked him to put on a new one. I got to cleaning the bathroom all while thinking about the uncompleted important work sitting on my desk. The smell was brutal, and now my stomach was starting to rumble too.

About halfway through cleaning the bathroom (I’ll save you the horrible details), I stopped thinking about me for a moment and that helped me realise that Dad can’t balance, and so he sits when he changes his pants. I looked at the mess and thought to myself, Dad went in there to change a dirty diaper…!

I leapt up, raced to his bedroom and sure enough, he’d stood up to pull off the old one. It was overfull and didn’t keep it’s contents together, so his ass is still covered in poo. And just as I came in–just after he drops the dirty diaper half on the floor and half into the bag I gave him–he does what’s logical to his Dementia-influenced mind and yes, he sat down on the bed to put on a new diaper. I tried to stop him but it was too late. It was awful. I snapped at him. “Great Dad. Now I’ve got to wash the bedding too!” It did not feel good to say.

I ordered (ordered!?) him back into the bathroom because I had to get him cleaned up before I finished cleaning the bathroom, floor and bed. I had already calmed myself down quite a bit by the time I was helping him get cleaned off. It was an extremely intimate moment for both of us. This wasn’t a baby who doesn’t understand what you’re doing for them. We’re both adults and it was the first time he’d needed that level of help in the bathroom. I could see the shame in his eyes–something I never saw before in my life. My heart immediately broke.

As I stopped thinking about me and started getting present with him and his vulnerability, my rectitude flooded back and I used courage to move past my own shame. I placed my hand warmly on my Dad’s naked back. I looked him in the eyes, and with open honesty and sincerity I said, “I’m sorry for getting upset Dad. You’re more important than my schedule. You’re my Dad and I love you. That was my fault. I’m sorry. I’m learning how to do all this Dementia stuff too. I’ll do better next time.” He liked that.

That helped me shift my own emotional tone even further, and the kindness and respect that I attempt to always to cultivate returned. As I wiped him off and he relaxed into his new reality, I looked him in the eye and we connected in a way we never have in all my life. He was saying thank you with his eyes in a very tender and loving way, and as I rubbed his back I warmly and lovingly responded, “You’re doing great Dad. You’re just sick that’s all. We’ll get through this together. I’m with you through this no matter what. You’ve been a great Dad. I love you and I’m here for you.”

He’ll forget it all happened in twenty minutes. But our experience was real. He started to offer an apology but I told him that it wasn’t necessary. He was sick and I was caring for him and I had not done my duty. My parents had been there for all of my gross kid-parts, I was not going to shy away from them when it was their turn to need the same care. He could count on me. And boy, could I see the comfort that last part gave him.

I cannot tell you how much I respect healthy, professional care workers who do these same things, with the same levels of compassion,  all for people who are entirely unknown to them. I now know how they’re able to do those very tough jobs; it’s because, just like everything else in life, if you’re willing to push past some really challenging feelings, you’ll end up experiencing important and meaningful things that too many people miss out on.

As gross and as challenging as it was, I now wouldn’t trade that day for anything. I wouldn’t trade the moment that Dad and I shared for anything. And I was happy to wash those sheets. Yes, I would be late getting work done and people were going to be upset. But my Dad was okay, and I’d been the person I most like to be; comforting. When I finally laid my head down on my pillow I went to sleep feeling like it had been a really good day.

You too can turn your worst days into your best. But it requires an awareness of the present moment and the ability to change your emotional tone by adjusting the focus of your mind. Practice both now. No matter who you are you’ll need it. And when you do, you’ll understand even more why it’s so important. Because if people behave according to their deepest feelings, loving someone in the trenches bonds a relationship together like nothing else.

peace. s

PS And if you’re wondering–yes–just as they were getting better I did actually catch the flu myself. 🙂

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.

Protecting Others

No one needs help when life feels like it’s going great, and yet that’s a great time to study wisdom because you have a lot more to do with your good times than you realise. Understanding your responsibility for your emotions when you feel good about them is generally much easier than when you’re in pain.

People don’t want to assume the responsibility for their own bad days because when they first look at the idea they’re viewing it from ego, not from health. Your ego sees that responsibility as a status drop and it feels embarrassing. When you’re healthy you know that with the responsibility you get empowerment.

Accepting that your pain is generated by you and not your circumstances means you can then control your response. Maybe you don’t know how yet, but theoretical control over your personal experience of life is still better than the capricious nature of happenstance.

Leaving the quality of your day up to others is dangerous primarily because most of the other people you’ll meet will be in a state of ego, so they’ll be looking out for their ego and its status, not yours. In that state they’ll only care for you if they see some transactional gain. The only people you’d be safe around (most of the time) would be really healthy people. But if you are one of the healthy people then it’s like you’re inoculated.

The first thing you can do is try not to enter a situation with your gun already loaded. A trigger being pulled by circumstance is far less dangerous if you’re not walking around ready to go off. Any potential explosive reactions from your previous experience must be unloaded from your consciousness or it’s like going into a trigger-happy town with a fisst full of explosives. One shot from another person and you’ll blow big-time.

The second thing you can do is focus your attention on the importance of maintaining an empty chamber. If you can start with your emotional gun being empty and benign, and you add no bullets, that makes any triggers meaningless. But if you participate in the kind of resistant thinking that leads to you load up your weapon during an interaction, then even if you arrived empty you’re just making it more likely that someone’s going to get shot.

The third thing you can do is keep to actively unload your emotional gun then holster it in real time. This is the part people have more trouble with because they’re in a heightened state of emotion when they try. But the more you do it the better you get at it. In fact, how you behave when things are bad is much more important than how you behave when things are good.

When there are zero triggers you can be more relaxed about the state of your gun. But you can’t count on that, so you’re better to stay conscious. In fact, expanding and developing skills like awareness and de-escalation are what egos basically do in life, though they often do so unconsciously and unintentionally.

That’s what life is. We either learn to be more assertive about defending our true selves or we become less assertive about defending our ego selves. And we learn by trial and error. So life is one big long giant accidental emotional gunfight where it looks bad, but secretly everyone’s actually making an effort to be more peaceful, which makes forgiveness a very useful skill.

There’s no need to panic about the shots you fire because like everything else they only exist for a moment. At the same time, some shots can be fatal to a relationship, so we also don’t want to be overly casual about how important the management of our consciousness is. If we can get conscious enough, we can even turn the shots we take into opportunities for healing.

Tomorrow I’ll tell you about a time where I pulled the trigger and shot angry words at one of the most important people in the world to me. Fortunately a high degree of awareness allowed me to immediately regret it and, even more fortunately, my immediate assumption of responsibility allowed the moment to not only be saved, but in the end we were better for the experience. In the world of peace it’s possible to convert negatives into positives.

For today, I’d just check in with yourself every 15 minutes or so and ask yourself about the status of your gun. Let’s see if we can all avoid shooting someone for the 24 hours it’ll take us between now and tomorrow’s post. Have a great 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.

MoK: Humble Kindness

Today, in the first day of our final week in the March of Kindnesswe tune our awareness radar to those who might be inclined to feel “beneath” us. This isn’t to say you would act like you were above anyone; I’m talking about how they might feel. Employees can be nervous around bosses, kids often can’t recognise the respect a parent or teacher has for them, and street people know that many people will avoid even looking at them.

If you’re more senior in your company then think about what an example you set if you stop to help a lower level employee. You’re literally teaching them that continuing to care about coworkers is part of the job of being an executive. If you’re a teacher or parent, (and provided it’s rare), giving a kid a break on a general rule can actually develop a mutual respect that can be called upon later. And for street people, there’s times where the lack of human acknowledgement can be psychologically painful, so even a basic acknowledgement is extremely valuable.

Today, pay attention to your surroundings from the perspective of people fitting in. You’re looking for the chance to help someone feel included. Maybe it’s a senior who spends too much time alone and you let them in ahead of you at the grocery store. Maybe it’s a conversation you’re willing to have with a homeless person. Maybe it’s slowing down to kid-speed when you normally wouldn’t. The point is to help someone be seen through a kind interaction.

We all generally do kind things for those who we feel are important, or who are important to us personally. Well today is about doing something for people who can’t do anything for you. They might not be able to ever match your kindness to them, but that’s almost exactly what makes it especially worthwhile. If there’s no eventual gain in it for you, then the person on the receiving end really understands that the kindness was about them.

Most of us have trouble sensing our own advantages in life. It’s easy to take them for granted. But everyone who would trade places with us would recognise those advantages. That’s an indication of where they feel they’re at. The idea is to take some of that advantage and apply it to them. There’s a particularly nice feeling that goes with helping someone when you know that it’s unlikely that they’d ever be able to reciprocate.

Look at the world. Who would like to be you for a day? Take anyone who might feel that way and then spontaneously give to them. Maybe it’s a smile, a compliment, a conversation or even material assistance. But the idea is to make someone who might sometimes feel insignificant and actually help them feel like they are significant.

I’ve already had the world literally deliver my opportunity to me. Someone had to start their day by telling me they had screwed up really badly and that I would pay a price for their mistake. Whereas I may have allowed my disappointment and concern to be my reaction, instead I offered total humility.

I explained that I was not bothered by the price I would have to pay, and I told the offending person about a few times where I too had let others down. Those examples got the two of us on a more level footing and I could hear the relief in their voice. They had anticipated the person being angry, and instead they got connection. I was going to take blame that they knew really belonged to them.

They were relieved and surprised. The relief was thanks to the help, but the surprise came because they hadn’t anticipated that I would value them enough to bother to reach out to rescue them. It helped both of us start our day feeling good. I’m actually grateful to them for that opportunity. Now go find yours. It’s a particularly nice way to add someone kindness to someone else’s life.

Thank you everyone. Have a great day.

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.

MoK: Marching For Peace

Yesterday’s act of kindness was an important one. I’d like to think all of you participated in being kind to yourselves even though that often feels difficult and unnatural. It’s a shame we’ve constructed society in such a way that we find something that healthy to feel that unnatural. Similarly, it’s a shame we find making amends with others difficult to the point where, if it happens, it’s usually only half-intentional. Today is about becoming fully intentional.

As the old saying goes, except for a few cases in life, you’re better to be happy than be right. Being right implies that the other person must be wrong. This reinforces that subject-object division between you and the rest of the world with which you are otherwise naturally unified.

The separation between you is strictly made of thought–it’s made of your beliefs about what is right and wrong, and about your perceptions of what really happened. In addition, let’s face it, we all have those examples where, deep down, we actually know that we’re at minimum complicit in the confusion, if not entirely at fault.

In some cases we even feel guilty, even though we still come across as defensive about the issue. What hurts is that we are good people, and so when that happens we know our words and actions lacked respect or integrity. We feel that lack of responsibility as the pain that leads to our defensiveness.

Our job on todays assignment for The March of Kindness is for us to find one of these examples and to let it go. Even better if we can actually settle the disagreement formally, and the ultimate goal would be to apologise–even if it’s for something small. The point is, if it requires real effort and challenge then we’re overcoming something and we’re benefitting along with the person we’re apologising to or forgiving.

Find your example, examine your reactions and your behaviour and really come to a better understanding about how your personal, ego-based motivations overrode your natural integrity and personal nature. Reinforce your own goodness in this way. Maybe you say something, maybe you don’t. Maybe you write something, or send a card or email or even a text. Maybe you just stop being passive-aggressive towards them.

Even if your apology or forgiveness or act of letting go is silent, or even if it’s done with full knowledge that the other person really was in the “wrong,” make this an active and meaningful act of kindness. This isn’t just about you, it’s about the world. It’s about the other person and about creating more peace within one or both of you.

By accepting our responsibilities to create peace we also gain empowerment over our actions. By being able to forgive or apologise, we become more expansive and capable, and by letting go of our disagreements and grudges, we not only free ourselves, but we all make an important contribution to there being less discord and more harmony in the world. And after all, that is the entire point of The March of Kindness.

Thanks for your participation. Much love.

peace. s

MoK: Tolerance as Kindness

Thank you all very much for your patience while I’ve been ill. It turns out that your patience is quite fitting, because today our March of Kindness assignment will involve determining the subtle difference between patience and tolerance.

We feel patience with someone when we perceive that they generate some degree of value in our lives that we do not want to lose. Maybe that value is that they’re the clerk at the store and we need their help to purchase something that has value to us, or maybe it’s a co-worker whose advice you value and so you offer to look after their dog while they’re away, or maybe it’s a very sick spouse that has such tremendous value that their partner can serve them for many years, despite receiving no reciprocation. It all depends on how much one person perceives the other’s value.

Because we start from a position of goodwill, we tend to use the word patience for situations we deem as reasonable. We begin to use the word tolerance once we feel we’re extending past what is reasonable or, in other words, past the point where the other person’s value has run out in proportion to the request being made. But what about those people that start with no value in our emotional bank?

When meeting most strangers very few of us will presume the worst, and many of us will presume something so positive that we’ll offer our own positivity in advance. But there are some people that we immediately assume we’ll be out of alignment with. The reasons don’t matter much; maybe we have unpleasant history between us, or maybe they’re just in a group we’ve defined as undeserving of our patience, but when people have no deposits in our patience bank then they are immediately borrowing from our tolerance account. This form of kindness is more dangerous to us, like an unsecured loan; where we’re unsure–even suspicious–about ever being paid back.

When we use tolerance we’re no longer investing in value we will receive ourselves, tolerance is an investment in the Bank of Karma. That’s when–instead of believing in an individual manifestation of a person–we believe that the fundamental oneness of the universe is expansive, or “good.” We believe on some elemental level that if we put positivity in, some positivity will result for someone, somewhere. Today we want to use tolerance as a way of sending some of that good karma out.

Today’s act in our March of Kindness will be to actually seek out people or ideas that we traditionally have no tolerance for. Maybe all we do is comment on a politician we see in the media, or maybe we’re aggressive with street people, or a we’re a contrarian on social media, or maybe some stranger’s just asking you for directions and you don’t want to be disturbed; the idea is that the kindness you show today has no value to you personally–in fact, your expression of it may exact a small price.

As I stated previously, we don’t improve the world unless we convert some darkness into light, so today’s act is particularly important. All you have to do is find one example of where you would offer negativity–a comment, a judgment, a challenge, a rebuke–and instead offer tolerance.

There’s a lot of us, so if we each just take one bit of negativity and, instead of offering it to the world, we hold it back out of a sense of kindness and tolerance, then we will absolutely have made the world a better place. That’s where we all want to live, and the March of Kindness is about helping us get there. Thank you for participating in our collective journey.

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.

MoK: Patience as Kindness

Thank you for bearing with my late posts while I traverse a few challenging days on the family health front. Fortunately, today’s act in the March of Kindness is one that suits your willingness to wait perfectly. Patience is all too often invisible when it should be seen as the loving act of kindness that it truly is.

From letting little passive aggressive statements go by unchallenged, to taking care of something that was someone else’s duty, we all express a lot of quiet patience each day. The problem is that we often only note our behaviour when it feels beneath us, meaning you’ll notice the few times you’re impatient far more than the times you are patient.

Even knowing that everyday life requires all kinds of patience, it is nevertheless a kind and generous act, and so adding one more act of conscious patience can do nothing but good for all involved.

Today your March of Kindness assignment is simple: Keep your awareness up, and find just one opportunity today where you feel an impulse to offer a suggestion or you feel you’re going to react in an impatient way, and then divert that impulse into non-action. Let your action be stillness.

Interestingly, the time we choose to show extra patience might coincide perfectly with when a person really needed something to go well or they’d snap. We all know how good it feels when someone shows us patience when we know we didn’t act in a way that encouraged it. We might as well create more opportunities for those things to happen.

Make your own displays of patience more conscious, and find a way to add just one more act of patient kindness to today and you will have made the world better with your presence. Thank you for that. And thank you for your patience in receiving these last few posts. Enjoy your 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.