The Rise of Anger

It comes in two ways. The first is swift and sharp. If you’re quick you’re on edge. You’ve been chemically rattled. Maybe it’s too much emotion for too long, or maybe too little, or maybe not enough sleep, or hanger (hunger-based anger). These are all common major contributors to quick swipes of meanness between either loved ones or strangers. Treat those more like signals and figure out how you need to get comfortable, and then either sleep or eat.

The nice thing about quick anger is it usually passes fast. Even we’re a little alarmed by our reaction. It came out of nowhere (nature) for us too. So once it settles, learn to go apologize right away. It helps if people understand the difference between simmering anger and a flash. That way next time they might lovingly suggest you eat or rest. But even if they don’t; it’s good to get good at giving apologies to those who are bad at accepting them.

There are also those times where your anger still rises quite quickly on some particular news or event, but it’s not a sudden irrational chemical reaction. These are things you’re rationally upset about. These are things you can explain to the person you’re mad at. You know, those how could you do that!? what took you so long?! what were you thinking!? things.

This latter type of anger can very nearly be avoided altogether. Quick anger is a type of pain. It’s unavoidable given a set of circumstances. Anyone feeling your chemistry wouldn’t like it. But suffering is when we choose to do it–when it’s optional. That’s anger other people might not have in the same situation. That’s because they’d have a different narrative.

Suffering is an ego-action and that takes a narrative. The narrative needs us to populate it with language. Language is something we learned, so it is post-now. It’s us describing a moment ago, not living that moment now. So the fact that we can explain our anger is a sign that it’s egocentric.

The suffering is a narrative which would would include elements like an expectation or two, an attachment or three, and maybe a few beliefs about propriety bouncing around in there too. Well just like it takes me energy to write these words it takes us energy to think a narrative to ourselves. So we’re actually investing energy in our own suffering.

The trick with this sort of suffering is that we get caught up in the whirlwind of our own thoughts. We start being the thoughts instead of remembering we’re the thinker. But if we’re the bike and not the rider, then how do we stick anything in spokes to stop the wheels from spinning? Usually there’s a crash before we remember that we’re a rider on a bike and not the bike itself. We have to learn to feel when we’re peddling.

It’s an expenditure of energy. That energy can create the narrative that’s pissing us off, or it can absorb the world in a way where all of our senses blend together into one giant, wonderful awareness. How we invest it is up to us. But we’re not failing when we put our energy into a narrative. Narratives exist. Without an out there is no in. Just don’t keep yourself there by building yet another narrative about having created a narrative that took you there in the first place. Just let it all go and dive into awareness instead. That’s how you find your way back. Quiet.

We all need to be more tolerant about people’s sharp moments. They need our patience and care. And when we’re wound up ourselves, we have to watch for opportunities to divert or steal energy from our angry, ultimately fearful, narratives, because otherwise that’s when we’ll do damage to our lives.

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.

Mood Orbs

The ego world is made up of physical objects and narratives about people, places and things, including concepts like time or obligation or fairness. The ego world looks like a physical place, with it’s focus on a clock and an expectation list. There are places and time, and people who love us should arrive at a place on time–for instance.

Alternatively, the real world is made of experiences that are generally either happy, sad, fearful or angry. These fundamental ways of being include every type of experience related to them, so happy also means loving, connected, laughing, even horny. And it’s opposite, sad, can range from bored to lonely, to depressed etc.

In the real world, rather than a place and a clock and a checklist for happiness, there is only a container, and some orbs of experience. Rather than a clock counting time, the container holds experiences. So “time” isn’t some numbers, that’s what an ego calls the act of us simply grabbing whatever experience we feel like choosing and putting it in our experience clocktainerSo how’s this all work practically? Let’s say we’re in a hot car and our ego is waiting for our spouse for a long time. Our ego will use that time to spin a narrative and hidden in that narrative will be orbs of experience. If the narrative is negative, so too will be the orbs. If we emotionally feel disappointed, or frustrated or disrespected, then we used our time to tell ourselves narrative stories where our ego-characters justify emotions like disappointment, frustration or disrespect.

Telling that story is what our spirit is doing rather than living. It’s enacting an ego by using self-talk to consult the clock and the memorized checklist, and to then blame our spouse for our ‘time being wasted.’ When they get back to the car we’re likely to argue about their disrespect towards us. So the thinking leads to a fight.

Of course it’s possible for physical meat-me to transcend all of that ego. Instead of filling time up with narratives I can do the opposite of resistant thinking and I can accept instead. This means we stop looking for what we expect–which is our spouse to come out of the house on time even though we know full well they never do. Instead we can anticipate a positive outcome of some sort, and then immediately look for our opportunities to fill our clocktainers of life with something pleasant.

This means each of us has heaven and hell within us. In hell we are trapped by thought patterns we’ve been taught to think in (we mimic one of our major caregivers), and that leaves us emotionally helpless, like a flag on the pole of our history, waving in the winds of other people’s choices. In heaven we have freedom. We are not stuck in the ground, and rather than blowing in the winds of other’s choices we can make my own choices about how to view things, and in doing so we can create the sort of stability that gets us through tough times.

That’s our choice in life. We can wait in a car for a time and we can experience the negative orbs of emotions that we find on our unmet checklist, or we can turn on the car stereo and we can experience the beautiful orbs of joy that are contained within the music. One is a story filled with sad and angry experiences to load into our clocktainer, and the other are songs we love that are filled with whichever experiences fill us with life.

Think of it: our ego can’t handle someone being a bit late, and yet our spirit can love even the saddest song. Do you see our invincibility if we live in spirit and not ego? Even sad things become treasured, whereas in ego even your spouse’s arrival isn’t good news.

Don’t live in ego with time and events and places and people and things. Live in spirit, where there is freedom and a fullness that makes even the worst parts of life very much worth living.

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 Value of Anger

Eckhart Tolle on Anger

Nature isn’t stupid. It didn’t give you a collection of useless emotions. It gave you love to bond you to your community, it gave you fear to keep you safe. You have your bell and your thunderbolt, as the Buddhists might say. A little love and you have appeal, a lot and you have a romance. Have a bit of fear and you’re excited, have too much and you bare your teeth in anger.

There’s a lot of folks today that figure that once we’re advanced enough that we’ll drop that last one (as though we’re being graded by someone other than our own egos). We will see a less angry world for sure, but going so far as to think that anger is beneath love is to live in a dualistic world of ego. Things simply are. You may have noticed that the world functions the way it will regardless of your opinions about it.

Of course, it’s not like we’re helpless in this life. Maybe we don’t control the ocean, but we can learn to be a pretty skillful sailor. That said, even skillful sailors have to face storms. Big human emotions are like storms. But even facing those can be exhilarating and expanding if done with an open attitude.  A grandmother’s patience was won by raising her own terrible two-year olds. If you take the problem away, you also take away the sense of achievement that goes with overcoming it.

What you do want to avoid is egocentric anger. This is a fabricated, thought-based anger that is based on something like your hopes or expectations. Don’t go blaming anger for that though. You were living in ego having those hopes or expectations. Those are thoughts, those aren’t the world. Pain will create the feeling of anger. But angry thought-based emotional suffering is all ego.

You getting mad about not getting something you want is not the same thing as you getting mad at an attacker and fighting for your life. Yes, they’re the same emotion, but when you were built, nature didn’t figure you were going to invent language and then sit around all day and tell yourself scary or frustrated stories that then called for a chemical that your body wanted for much more serious circumstances. It’s you telling you the stories. You can’t blame nature for needing aggressive emotions to exist.

A lot of you won’t like that idea. You want a holy that looks like yoga and sounds like Eckhart Tolle. All quiet and calm. Hey, Eckhart does know what he’s talking about. For sure that is someone presenting the truth. But in all honesty, as awesome as he is, would you really want an entire world filled with Eckharts? He’s pretty low key….

What Eckhart is saying is critically important and people should listen when that’s what they’re ready for. But Eckhart’s not who you think to call when you want to go to Burning Man with your kids, or white water rafting with your summer, beer-drinking friends. He’s not who you’d think of racing to if you were super excited about something. His calmness would absorb the excitement. Like all of us, he’s right for some situations and not for others.

The world needs variety. There’s a lot of ways to be enlightened. Don’t fall for the idea that it looks like nervous people want it to. Those are egos. Listen to Eckhart. That’s one form of enlightenment. But so was Mozart, and you might be familiar with the fact that his personality was almost the exact opposite of Eckhart’s. Meaning Mozart’s crazy life, and Symphony No. 40 and the first movement of ‘Allegro,” are also the sound of enlightenment.

Your job as an enlightened being isn’t to stop all of the world’s tumult. Your job is only to move through that tumult as yourself. The scenic flats of the river and the raging rapids are all legitimate aspects of your river. Sometimes you’re a teacher like Eckhart, sometimes you’re a teacher like a raging two year old. You can learn a lot from Eckhart. And you can learn a lot from the two year old. Because in the end, the differences won’t be in them, they will be in you.

peace. s

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

What’s the Difference Between a Justification and an Excuse?

The words are so similar that it’s obvious they will be interchanged. Even native English speakers aren’t certain of the difference if you press them, other than the fact that a lot of them know that lame more often modifies one, while good often qualifies the other. After all, who’d rather offer a lame excuse when they can offer a good justification?

To start with, it’s important to remember that the vast majority of the time most people do not intend to do harm. If they do it’s usually because they feel they’re trying to regain ground they feel they have already lost, so they see it more as justified revenge. But even a retaliation is really a new attack, so it’s really just another aggressive form of blaming someone for over-blaming you. In essence then, harm is another form of blame.

Since blame is an offensive act, the only logical reaction is a defensive one, so we shouldn’t be surprised that justifications and excuses are both defensive terms. The difference is, the justifier believes their reasoning to be valid, whereas in an excuse we generally believe that someone is trying to avoid their actual responsibilities. But if that’s the case, who decides which it is?

Remember from paragraph two; people don’t see themselves as starting problems. They see blame as them making things right. If someone won’t accept our blame then we feel things cannot be made right, and this just intensifies the blame. But what do we mean by made right?

The fact is, most people give justifications but hear excuses, so what your explanation is called is often dependant on who’s naming it. That’s why it’s called being held responsible. It’s not like anyone feels you would stay still for it if you were going to experience blame. Even your dog hides when it feels it’s done something wrong.

This means the sender sends blame, the blamed offer their justifications, and then the blamer either accepts the justification or they rename the justification an excuse. But even if you don’t want to accept an excuse, that doesn’t mean that the person who did it doesn’t feel justified. This leaves us with one act with two definitions, which is yet another clear demonstration that the world is clearly made up of individual perspectives, not one central truth.

In the end there are neither justifications or excuses, there are only the opinions or judgments of those ascribing them. Which begs the question, why do you feel it necessary to offer so many justifications to the opinions you hear? You know when you feel good about what you’ve done and when you feel bad. That should be your divining rod, not people’s random, ever-changing opinions.

Forget making excuses for your life. Forget justifying it. See these words for what they really are: explanations that people will either accept or not accept. How honest you’re being will have little to do with whether they believe you or not, so if the person has power over you through your attachment to either love or money, then accept the fact that until you get out of that situation you may need to live as though you share their opinion when you don’t. But even that is a weighted choice. In most cases you can leave.

People will make judgments about your life all the time. You job isn’t to make them stop or to justify your actions. Your only spiritual responsibility is to do your best to stay on a path where you feel good inside about your reasons, even if they were only good reasons when you made the decision. After the moment it was made in, even your own view of it is just another opinion. And you don’t want to live in that kind of self-talk because trust me, you are far too great a being, living in far too fantastic a universe, for any opinion to ever be able to encapsulate all the wonder that you truly are.

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 Ugly Confession

Dear Diary,

You know what hurts so bad? It’s all my fault. I know I said it wouldn’t happen again, but it’s my period and my thoughts got the better of me and I–wait. No. I know I can’t say that. Those are my thoughts, they’re my responsibility. But whatever. I thought them and they hurt so leave me alone!!

(I just want to quickly note here that Welsh boys have beautiful square jaws. I had not noticed this before today, but there are two guys in our chem class and they’re from Wales and they are h-o-t. I digress.)

So, I saw Dave sitting with this girl. This woman. I know I probably shouldn’t have been there in the first place. Yes. My thoughts drove me to do that too. My thoughts. Yes. My responsibility. Okay. So I guess what I’m saying Dear Diary is that I had a choice to go bra shopping with my sister, and I need bras, and instead I drove across town to stalk my own boyfriend.

I am so grateful that diaries do not have eyes to stare at me in shame.What good could come of an emotional girl alone in a car with her worried thoughts? I. Should. Have. Known. But no, I went in. Yes Dear Diary. I went in.

Of course she had the audaciousness to be gorgeous. Just what I needed. For my boyfriend to be having meetings with an accountant who looks like Beyonce. I feel sick. I thought this shit ended when I was a teenager.

For the first time in my life I’m too ashamed to tell you what I did. It’s that bad. It’s U-N-F-O-R-G-I-V-A-B-L-E. It was awful for her, it was awful for him, it was awful for anyone who even saw it happen. And here’s the best part….

It wasn’t a romantic lunch.

That was his boss’s daughter. I called him a two-timing cheat–I told her he beat his dog! Have I lost my mind? Why would I say something like that? I was just so…. MAD. I KNOW I KNOW I KNOW. Mad because of my thinking. I couldn’t have been mad about her. She was trying to help him. And do you know the worst part? She was nice. Super really truly nice. I #*&%ing hate that.

So there I was, without you, on the weekend, with Dave. I can’t write to you, I can’t get these feelings out, and I am just avoiding too much eye contact with Dave because I have no idea what to say. What do you say after something like that? What do you say to your own girlfriend when by 22 she has totally destroyed your career and your life?

I know. You would think he would want to dump me in the street. But do you know what he did? He told me he’d never seen me this quiet before. And so he sat down with me and he asked if it was about what happened with Tina (her). I told him I was afraid if we started talking that he would break up with me. That seemed to really hurt him knowing that and he hugged me.

He told me I was horrible. He reminded me of times I was horrible before. And he told me he didn’t want to live with me doing things like that for the rest of his life–BUT… he also thinks I’m the most beautiful thing in the world and he wants to be with me forever!!!!!!!

CAN YOU BE-LIEVE THAT!????????He said he loves me. Not just good me. And he knows loving bad me is harder. but he loves all of me anyway!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!. He loves all of me, including the horrible parts. He loves my horrible parts because their they’re mine!!!! Can you believe that?????

If there was ever a man to learn to control my own thoughts with it’s this one. If he can love me like that then I want to love him like that back. Can you imagine how that would feel!!!!????

I have to stop speculating and live in the now. I just don’t want to wake up one day and he’s with someone else–Okay. Oops!!! There’s the future right there. Sorry. I guess I’ll just keep this in mind and do it moment by moment.

Do you think that one day I could forgive myself and love myself the way he loves me? Dave’s self-love doesn’t feel egotistical it feels like respect. Maybe I should start there. Tomorrow I’m going to treat myself with respect. And I guess not having to be perfect means I can at least relax into being me. I just wish “me” hadn’t ruined Beyonce’s dress like that. I’m so sorry Dave. I’ll think less and love more. I promise.

peace-out. Dave’s <3 Love <3

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.

Michelle’s Understanding

This is the second part of a post started yesterday.
Michelle was already busy working when Alex got into the office. Knowing she was having a freakout the day before, Alex had dropped by to see how she was today. “You’re in early!”

“As you know, there is too much to do.”

“I cancelled my yoga tonight. Thank goodness this only happens once in awhile.”

“Oh, hey, I tried your trick yesterday but it drove me crazy.”

“What drove you crazy?”

“Thinking about how this cohesive whole–this potentially amazing project–got reduced to little pieces by someone’s impatience.”

“Not impatience, aggressiveness. We don’t call an early bird impatient. He just wants the worm more.”

“Yes. She was a worm and she dug us right into the ground.”

Eee. Alex isn’t sure if clarification is a good idea. “Uh… in that analogy our boss is the bird, not the worm.”

“What. Ever. Can’t I just hate her?”

“Sure. I’ll save you some time. I’ll just put some poison in a bottle with her name on it.”

Michelle eyerolls. “It did not work. My thoughts were bouncing all over the place.”

“Okay, first off that’s not what I said I did. FedEx does not load a truck to go to the West End and then the North Side and then the South Side, and then back to the North Side and then back to the South SIde”

“Okay I get it.”

“Half their day is spent between where they really need to be. I didn’t mean spend all of your time between everything. Our fluid department was compressed by time and responsibility into a gas where all the molecules now have space between them. You just find the most important molecule and handle it. Then find the next most important and handle it. But yeah, bouncing between them and never actually settling in? That feels awful when I do it.”

“Well it felt awful yesterday.”

“At least that should keep you from doing it again today.” Michelle looks at her lamely. “Sorry.”

Michelle sits back in her chair and regards her friend. It’s a statement, not a question: “So instead of bouncing between all of these worries I pick the most important one and just deal with it.”

“That’s what I do, yes.”

“And that’ll make me feel better?”

“Why wouldn’t you  feel okay if you did that?”

“Because all of that stuff still needs to be done.”

“That’s just you drifting between different responsibilities with your thoughts. That’s the thing you said you wouldn’t do.”

“That’s it?”

Alex almost feels bad. As though she’s really let Michelle down. “Yeah.”

“So these responsibilities are just… ideas, and me thinking about one, then the other, then another–that is what I’m doing that you’re not? You’re just not drifting between the gaps? You’re just staying on your molecule? And then you go molecule to molecule. None of the worrying…” Michelle started to seem buoyed by the idea. “Hmmm.”

Alex looked like she’s about to say something, but when she looked at Michelle something subtle had changed. There was now a certainty to her, as though Michelle’s posture itself is some kind of highly balanced yoga movement. Her voice sounds less uncertain and more confident the longer her realisation lasted. It seemed that she has gotten what she wanted the day before. So Alex just stepped back and grabbed her briefcase. “Have a great day Michelle.”

Michelle looked up, looking entirely unperturbed. “Thanks Alex. You too. Why don’t you come over for dinner on next week, when this haze has all blown past?”

“That sounds good Michelle. That sounds really good.”

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.

She Said Lenny

She Said Lenny, by Jim Donovan (film below)

There’s a of people who believe the idea of genderless love is silly and yet others who believe it is exalted. None of this is written to change your mind, but it is provided as a potential insight into the other side’s views.

The world itself might seem like a thing but it is in fact a concept you have. The trick is, your brain’s identity is comprised of how you’re taught to see things, and we were all taught when we were younger. So no matter how old you are, the older you get the more different the world gets from the one you were raised to initially understand. My parents have trouble understanding ideas that are based on ideas that were developed long after they were young.

Today, at least in the Western world, we have this weird thing: we currently have two generations cohabitating and yet one grew up with “gay people” and the other group didn’t. Of course gay people either accepted or stressed over their own knowledge of this fact, but the point is, it wasn’t a common concept shared in the culture. Straight people rarely if ever heard about gayness. We quite literally didn’t know it existed. Liberace was creative and flamboyant, not gay. Rock Hudson and Richard Chamberlain were dashing leading men that women fawned over. No one said anything about them loving men.

Can you be blamed if a secret is kept from you? Because you surely and simply cannot be blamed if you learn a life-altering secret and it takes a while for your brain to install that new idea. Like in this case, maybe the idea of genuine homosexuality. Remember, in some countries there’s still a lot of disbelief about the reality of being gay. Even where I’m from in Canada, being gay was only “made legal” in 1967, and gay people couldn’t be married until 2005, and yet Canada was the fourth nation in the world to make it legal.

History is short, and the people that don’t understand homosexuality or bisexuality or transexuality are all being very honest. Those things have never really been planted as ideas in their minds and, once they were, they were treated in very hostile ways by people’s existing beliefs  because that’s what brains do. So for many the new idea didn’t survive. But we’ve all done that, just about things other than being gay. We all do that with ideas we’re not accustomed to. Even having crutches can be stressful because it asks us to alter our view of our own place in the world.

Meanwhile the new generation are more like the Greeks, who had many words for love. That’s better than one word, but it’s still carving an incredible whole into pretty incomplete pieces. So more mature people are somewhat correct; the world generally isn’t improved by creating more definitions because a definition is just another word for a separation or a difference. That creates the potential for duality and conflict and boom, we all have a mess to deal with. Better that we forget the words and divisions and just respect love as love.

Understand: the big new concept-acceptance process is brain-difficult for any person who tries to learn, whether it’s learning something else, or learning that homosexuals can experience the same genuine love the person feels in their own relationships. It’s equally hard for some person who’s accepted those ideas to understand that there could be people who are very genuine in their sense that homosexuality is wrong. Both things just feel wrong to opposing view. We can make it legally right, but that still won’t help some people to change their minds.

This short film, She Said Lenny, by Jim Donovan, is a great example of someone experiencing the moment where their ideas about the world are challenged. Much as the lead character learns in the film The Crying Game, this doesn’t mean straight people need to convert, or that gay people need to be angry that others don’t share their views. It is possible for us to agree to disagree, so long as we’re willing to let others be as free as we ourselves are.

Society is a work in progress. The good news is, history has always added more and more types of people to the accepted family, and that is becoming increasingly easier as people like NASA seriously begin to plan to meet potential cultures from other planets. It’s good we’re practicing this skill with other types of humans in a way. Maybe it’ll make it easier for us when the Darius Kasparaitis lands on Earth and we actually meet Hakan Loob, the leader from from the planet Jyrki Lumme. Won’t that suddenly make us all feel like one family.

peace. s

PS With thanks to my buddy Craig for pointing the film out to me.

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.