Trusting Love

 

1315 Relax and Succeed - Adults can choose where they goWhy do so many young women have a lack of faith in the love of their partners? There are many reasons for that, but almost all women do face at least one common enemy.

Due to many of the thought-shaping forces in society being quite blunt and broad, many of us end up impacted by the same social memes, advertising techniques, fashions, trends, tropes and clichés. We all share many constructs in society, and in fact society itself is a construct. But it would be good if it could be a helpful one.

Of course these forces all hit us slightly differently, but the ones that are designed as marketing and propaganda will have been built to capitalize on insecurities that many of us share. For this reason we can see patterns of behaviour in various marketing demographics, and one of the groups in which these effects are easiest to see, is in girls and young women aged 14-30.

Women overall take a beating in the marketing and advertising world. They are subjected to messages about being too fat, not curvy enough, their hair’s all wrong, their skin and breath are bad, they have a poor diet and they’re not sexy enough. Let’s see, what do we have there? A too, a not, a wrong, a bad, a poor, and a not enough. How’s a girl to survive?

The worst places an insecure self-view can take us is into unhealthy relationships where we are too focused on pleasing the other person and not enough on nurturing what’s healthy for us –which would hopefully include the behaviour of our romantic partners. That sort of inferior sense can cause people to stay in relationships they would be better to leave.

The worst places an insecure self-view can take us is into unhealthy relationships where we are too focused on pleasing the other person and not on nurturing what’s healthy for us —

Almost as bad, those same forces can mean that even people who find healthy relationships can have trouble accepting the idea that they truly deserve love. I have a former student who is a classic example of this.

She says she’s shy but really she’s just a little bit, and just when she meets someone. But then almost everyone is a little bit, they just hide it in different ways. She’s also very smart and she thinks thoughtfully about things, so she’s very interesting to talk to.

I can’t say if you’d think she was pretty or the ‘right’ weight, because those are subjective personal opinions. All I can say is that she seems pretty to me and her weight seems right in every way but one: she doesn’t like it.

If you saw her most people would find her thin, yet she’s noted she goes through phases of worrying about her weight. This absolutely breaks my heart. We are talking about an amazing person here. She could really go anywhere with her future, she’s trying to be as wise as a person can be about living.

She also has a mother that, like all mothers and daughters, she has struggles with sometimes. But that’s also the same mother that brought her to me a few years ago when she was worried about her, so clearly she cares, even if they have some trouble connecting at this stage in their lives. That is hardly uncommon.

In addition to the backstop of her own background and capability, she also has only praise for her boyfriend, and her descriptions of him are the sort that genuinely make me happy. He treats her well, and with respect.

She’s not a showpiece or a doormat. He admires her but he is confused by her insecurities. He doesn’t understand how she can be so smart and not calculate that she must be impressive just by looking at the evidence in her life. And he would have a point.

Obviously he’s dating her because he thinks out of all of the women he could pursue, she is the most amazing. Guys are not known for aiming for second best. We’ll either go for first or torture ourselves waiting for the courage to try. Bottom line, if he’s with her it’s because he wants to be.

1315 Relax and Succeed - Even if we find love will we accept

Now don’t get me wrong, even if she has some understandable insecurities, they still have a wonderful relationship. She’s stunningly helpful to him –I doubt he can know how fortunate he is having so little to compare to at his age.

If she’s extremely emotional and inclined to be unreasonable, she actually lets him know that she can’t discuss the issue until later because she knows she’ll be unreasonable. To many people, that’s a dream girl right there.

Of course, once she calms down, 90% of the time they have nothing to discuss, which might explain why the relationship is much more appreciation than drama. What I like most about it is they usually seem to either discuss interesting ideas or have fun. They are young and have much to learn like all of us, but it sounds like a really good match –if only she could accept that she deserves it.

So here we have a pretty, slim, smart, strong, wise young woman with support coming in different ways from both family and her boyfriend and circle of friends, plus she’s very mature about how she approaches both her career and her relationships, yet when she feels weak she feels all too, and not, and wrong, and bad, and poor, and lacking, and just not sexy enough.

She has every indication that she is incredible, leaving the only reason she feels that way is largely because of advertising and marketing campaigns that swirl around people’s heads and that get traded between young ladies like dark whirling Pig Pen-like tornadoes of thought. Their social media can be horrifying.

It was tiny little her against an army of highly paid psychologists and advertising specialists. It is that haze of external sales pitches that has brainwashed her to the point where it prevents her from seeing who I see, who her friends see, and who her boyfriend sees. A totally 100% acceptable person. Just like everyone reading this.

We did make a lot of headway in that she continues to be remarkably helpful to her relationship and she’s now found ways to finish school despite facing some bullying, and show now has at least part of her post-school life sorted out in a way that excites her.

Like everyone, she will still have life struggles, but by learning more about how she participates in her own creation of her reality she has already freed herself from constraints that many adults still strongly feel held back by.

All that said, her realizations won’t be complete until she reaches one key point. She currently cannot fully appreciate the reasons why her boyfriend loves her, or why her friends love her, or why I admire her as a person, and why her mother sees her as loaded with potential. There’s too many marketing ideas poisoning those facts.

It is a process, but one she has begun in earnest. If she didn’t, he would be forever trapped having to build her up when he would rather just enjoy his time with a woman that he already sees as complete.

Sure, finishing school, fostering a healthy relationship and finding a career path are no small things to accomplish. But it is important that she continue to watch for examples that help to prove to herself that she truly deserves the love she gets, and that her boyfriend really does think she’s perfect just the way she is.

It is a process, but one she has begun in earnest. If she didn’t, he would be forever trapped having to build her up when he would rather just enjoy his time with a woman that he already sees as complete. That would eventually wear him out, so she’s on the right path and so far it’s going well.

By the time we were officially done she actually already was where she wanted to be. She’s a great person who’s finished school, has a job she’s happy about, and she has a supportive and loving boyfriend. All she has to do now is make that final leap to believing that she’s really worthy of everyone’s love. That’s where everyone is waiting for her.

Of course, the same goes for everyone reading this. An amazing collection of natural forces needed to occur for each person to exist as an individual. The universe wanted us to be yet so many of us question our value.

We should waste no time questioning the universe. Instead, we should join my student in accepting ourselves so that we too can get on to the business of offering our courage, compassion and love to all those we share this world with.

Other people loving us does not have its full effect unless we feel worthy. Only thoughts keep us from that naturally receptive state. We do not need to build ourselves up to be good enough for the love we get, we simply must lower the thought barrier we have between us and our knowledge that we, along with everyone everywhere, is born  worthy of love we receive.

peace, s

 

Exhale Your Ego

1310 Relax and Succeed - Surrendering into ourselves

A lot of our stress comes from us being engaged in striving for perfection. Even by definition it’s an impossible problem. Who defines perfection?

Playing an instrument. Dancing, painting. Cooking. Parenting. A religion; yoga; even the Japanese tea ceremony. These are all activities that are best done with an active, creative, present focus. If there’s a precise ‘way’ to do anything, then that’s just another form of expectation.

Even in Buddhist tea ceremony, the precise actions shouldn’t create the headspace, the headspace and the precise actions should become one. Yes, one is designed like a meditation to lead to the other, but in practice they are not one in the same. That’s missing the point. When a wise person points to the moon, we’re not supposed to look at their finger.

Every one of us; let’s all forget our ideas for how we’re supposed to be. Let us just be who we are instead. It’s easier. Surrendering into ourselves is like performing a spiritually relaxing exhale of ego.

Maybe we’re experienced and have a slow steady flow to life, maybe we’re new and are lost but wild with enthusiasm. Neither person is right or failing or doing it ‘the right way.’ We’re all just individuals climbing around on the terrain of life.

Everyone is already living their lives perfectly, we just keep telling ourselves otherwise because we each imagined a different story. But do you see? That is a part of our story too –that we tell ourselves stories that aren’t true.

1310 Relax and Succeed - Doing anything really well

We don’t need to fix anything, we don’t need to improve or be perfect. We just need to realize that the way we already are is totally fine if we maintain a healthy headspace of knowing who we are, and by avoiding the act of telling ourselves that we should be someone different. If we’re not self-talking we can remain fully present for action.

It is unhealthy to be so rigidly focused on rituals, rules and history that we fail to notice our opportunities to make our lives and the world around us into a better place for all. Doing anything really well is not defined by how we do the thing itself, it’s defined by how conscious we are when we do whatever we do.

Without consciousness, we are left to be crippled by our own insecurities. This unnatural over-thinking state leads us to feel discomfort, as the universe naturally urges us to go quiet and come alive.

The universe sees no value having any aspect of itself spin in on any other aspect of itself. That is spiritually unproductive. Self-absorbed self-criticism is unproductive and worse, it can lead us to deny the universe the value of our creative and social contributions to it.

We must get our thoughts out of our way in order to enact our lives. Why not start right now?

peace, s

The Road Home Is Home

1307 Relax and Succeed - The road home is home

I recently heard about a scientific study that involved ‘improving sports.’ I found the desire to remove mistakes from sports refereeing to be a good example of the two sides of an issue that society currently faces in all areas of life.

Our drive for fairness is admirable and natural and is at the heart of cooperative societies, but our simultaneous discomfort with normal, progressive human fallibility can become obsessive, as it currently feels it’s becoming.

A recent study found that baseball referees made wrong calls on pitches about 10% of the time. That made sense considering what they are doing, which is to track a tiny, high speed object through a fictional piece of three-dimensional space. Missing only 10% felt very impressive to me. Refs getting calls wrong is a part of the drama of a game. But to the researcher, this was something to be fixed.

Indeed, we can attempt to ‘fix’ that with technology but the question becomes, do all of these perfections in all areas of life lead humans to develop entirely unrealistic expectations about other as yet-imperfect human systems, or even about other people or ourselves? Did we teach ourselves perfectionism by trying to perfect everything around us?

1307 Relax and Succeed - Only progress not perfection

We’re in gyms because we don’t think we’re perfect enough. We alter our diets because we don’t think we’re perfect enough. We redecorate and dress ourselves in repeated attempts to attain perfection. We even fear death because we’re so sure that one lifetime isn’t enough to make the case for our own value, because those mistakes keep bringing our value down –we think.

Technology and systems improve over time because each generation can build upon the one before it. But every generation starts off ignorant to the emotional challenges in life, and we all must face them individually. Maturing is learning, and learning involves being wrong, there is no getting around it.

The struggle through life is our life. That is what it is to mature, to grow and to partake in the rewards of living. To mistake the struggle toward perfection to be a failure to achieve perfection is to lose the value inherent in mortality.

Vampires are doomed to an eternity where they can perfect their external selves, but nothing can save them from the eternal horror of watching all of their great loves age and pass on. Only humans are granted the grace of a temporary state, and the great loves that go with the preciousness of limited time.

With all the wonderful experiences available in life, we are better not to waste that time worshipping the notion of perfection.

If we seek perfection our ‘improvements’ to ourselves and the world can ultimately do more damage to our lives than good. But that can only happen when we have failed to notice the value of limited time.

Improvements are positive, but they come to us just as much from our enjoyment of life as from our efforts to consciously improve. It is important for each of us to not get so attached to being better that we forget to simply be at all.

What you seek, you shall never find.
For when Gods made man,
They kept immortality for themselves.
Fill your belly.
Day and night make merry,
Let Days be full of joy.
Love the child that holds your hand.
Let your wife delight in your embrace.
For those alone are the concerns of man.
   – The Epic of Gilgamesh

Forget perfection. Today, just live.

peace, s

Beautiful

1306 Relax and Succeed - The song Beautiful by Linda Perry

Yesterday I was fortunate enough to run into an excellent interview with Linda Perry, who I’m a huge fan of. That lead me to think about one of her biggest songs. In fact, in the interview, she notes how she was going to sing it before she heard it done another way. It’s very telling. And there’s a little secret in her interview about the start of the song.

Part of its magic is that the song carries the same message that this blog does. Whether they are yours or someone else’s, always remember: words can’t bring you down.

Everyday is so wonderful, then suddenly, its hard to breathe
Now and then I get insecure, from all the pain
I’m so ashamed

I am beautiful no matter what they say
Words can’t bring me down
I am beautiful in every single way
Yes words can’t bring me down
So don’t you bring me down today

To all your friends you’re delirious
So consumed in all your doom
Trying hard to fill the emptiness, the pieces gone
Left the puzzle undone, is that the way it is

You are beautiful no matter what they say
Words can’t bring you down
Cause you are beautiful in every single way
Yes words can’t bring you down
So don’t you bring me down today

No matter what we do
No matter what we say
Were the song inside the tune, full of beautiful mistakes
And everywhere we go, the sun will always shine
And tomorrow we might awake on the other side

Cause we are beautiful no matter what they say
Yes words won’t bring us down, no
We are beautiful in every single way
Yes words can’t bring us down
So don’t you bring me down today

You’re beautiful too. You really are. I promise.

peace, s

Comparing Us and Them

 

1304 Relax and Succeed - Don't judge her or yourself

Excluding my experience teaching in prisons, every single student/client I have had would be deemed as ‘successful’ by most people who knew them casually. All of them looked –and more importantly were– the sort of people all of us would like to be in one way or another. And yet they all came with what they felt at the time were crippling problems.

In our heads, we tend to do negative comparisons with people we see. If we’re angry or disappointed in the world, then we tend to be insulting and judgmental about people. But if our negativity is turned inward, then we only notice the qualities they have that we feel are missing within ourselves (e.g. I wish I could wear clothes like that, or, that guy is smooth and polished and I’m a bumbling idiot.)

But inside those smooth and polished exteriors, people come to me largely at a moment of transition. Sometimes the transition is mistaken for a crises, but most are just ordinary people that have developed negative feelings about themselves or their lives for all kinds of very human and understandable reasons.

Some are struggling with grief, others with fear. Some have addictions, some are anxious, some lack confidence, some aren’t sure who to become next. There are senior business people that want to have a heart to heart without losing face, parents who want to admit they are failing (but generally aren’t), and cheating spouses.

There are people tired of hating, bosses who need easier but more effective ways to manage people, people who need to forgive someone –and some are even crippled by guilt by having done some truly awful things in their lives.

They all come as a way to move forward and create positivity; as a way to atone for their past. But each and every one would look like a successful person you might envy on the street or at work. Think about that the next time you’re using your uninformed beliefs about others to beat yourself up with.

In our heads, we tend to do negative comparisons with people we see.

Remember, we all might think harsh thoughts and have periods in our life that we regret, but the regret is the sign that we are good people otherwise we wouldn’t feel that. Instead, we are better to face that pain full on because it is ours. After that, we should see ourselves as human and forgive ourselves.

Instead of wallowing in negative emotions, we are better to enact our regrets via the expression of positivity within the world around us, through the living of our lives. So let’s all just forget all the self-doubt and comparisons and have a great day enacting positivity in our little parts of the world. Thanks for reading.

peace. s

A Fear of Embarrassment Limits Our Lives

1303 Relax and Succeed - A Fear of Embarrassment

Most of the times where we find ourselves held back from following our nature, what holds us back is our habit of re-thinking thoughts relating to judgments made about us by others. These can be very debilitating.

It is true that sometimes judgments by others can have serious repercussions in our lives. But it is also true that most times, all that would happen is that we would possibly get in some form of trouble or even more likely, just be embarrassed.

But what does being embarrassed even mean in a world where we are guaranteed to ‘make mistakes?’ That’s like saying we’re not allowed to be human. Embarrassment might help us steer ourselves to better cooperative behaviour, but who can take a demand for zero mistakes seriously? Embarrassment doesn’t denote a failure, it is simply a step on the path to who we will be.

If past criticisms or our mental replaying of those criticisms leads us to feel embarrassed then it’s critical for us to remember that those thoughts are our responsibility –they are not forced on us by the situation. We must take responsibility for choosing to think those thoughts over all of the other potential thoughts we could just as easily have focused on. Those debilitating beliefs about ourselves are what create our resistance to life.

Let’s all spend the the next few days trying to source our own resistance in our daily situations. Well often find we’re really only afraid of being embarrassed, yet we also make mistakes at things we’re good at. So why are we okay with those mistakes but not the others?

1303 Relax and Succeed - Birds aircraft and human beingsIt’s worthwhile to ask ourselves; why is doing this or that thing quite difficult for us when that same thing isn’t difficult for others? And why are some things that others find very hard, so incredibly effortless for us?

It’s good to notice those differences and ask those questions, because we’ll come to see that all people are more alike than they might otherwise seem. We are less notable than embarrassment often makes us feel. Everyone screws up.

Each idea in our heads will have a source that will have shaped what that idea means to us personally. It’s why we like certain kinds of movies but not others, and why other people disagree about our views of them. They simply have a different set of thoughts about the things in the movie. This is what it is to be an individual.

Regardless of the sources of our individuality, judgments about our Selves that limit us must be seen for what they are: nothing more than thoughts. Self consciousness and embarrassment are states of thinking that can be changed.

Unfamiliar situations can rightfully make us feel uncomfortable, but our thoughts have no actual power to stop us from taking action in our lives despite the internal blabbing of our egos.

We can’t let our thoughts stop us from realizing all that we are. Because that person is far too expansive and powerful for a definition in mere words.

Let’s all enjoy our day.

peace, s

Putting Bullies to Bed

1297 Relax and Succeed - Grandpa Mom's not right

“Grandpa.”

“What?”

She takes a moment. She feels like maybe it’s an idea too hard to sell. “Mom’s not right about everything….”

Grandpa chuckles. “Oh, I know honey. I remind her of that probably a bit too often for a guy that wants a healthy relationship with his daughter.”

“I told Mom that Sasha and Mercedes were picking on me. But she just said I should ignore them. But I can’t. They’re in my school!”

Grandpa frowns, with his hands on his hips. He’s clearly thinking about something seriously. Then: “I’ll get a bunch of the guys I play cards with and we’ll go over to the school and we’ll beat your bullies with dead snakes and then drive over them in our scooters. How’s that?”

The kid giggles. “Grandpa. I mean it.” She pleads, “They’re mean.”

“No snakes eh….” By the time people are grandpas they’ve often learned a lot about being a human and about how adults get formed by childhoods. He can tell this might be a big moment, so he drops down beside her and slows himself down.

He restarts by tucking her in tighter, which she always likes. “Well sweetie, you know your Mom and I disagree about all kinds of things because we’re different people who do things different ways. But we both love you, which is why I agree with your Mom on this one.”

“But you can’t just ignore people when they’re there grandpa!”

“I ignore you when you bug me for candy.”

The kid finds this defense exasperating. “That’s candy. This is people! It’s not the same!”

Grandpa rears up. “AHA. There’s our answer right there.”

“Where? What answer?”

“You think candy and insults are different.”

“Grandpa, everyone wants candy. Everyone. No one wants people being mean to them.”

“No, you want the candy, not me. I don’t want candy. To me you’re just some kid bugging me for candy while I’m trying to read my book. That’s kind of like those girls trying to bug you while you’re playing. It’s the same.”

It is, but it’s not. That’s frustrating for her because she wants her pain. “I’m not confused. They’re mean to me.”

I tightens his embrace around the cocoon of comforters wrapped around her. “Aww sweetie, I’m sorry you’re hurting. I’m not saying it doesn’t hurt if that’s what we’re focused on. But I want to save you from that and we can’t make those girls go away.”

He just pets the child’s head for a bit before restarting. “Look, I don’t mind so much when you want candy. But it’s still not good for you to eat all that sugar, so as the grandpa your Mom deputized me in the candy police–

“The Candy Police???” Even a little kid thinks he’s getting a bit rich.

“–yes, because you’re too little to do what we adults call the ‘self-regulation of impulses.’”

“The what?”

“Nothing. Grandpa accidentally tossed a $20 dollar word into a $5 dollar conversation. My fault. What I meant was, adults know when it’s okay to do what we want, and when we shouldn’t. At least mostly. Except maybe your uncle Danny. Anyway, the deciding what to do and what not to do –that’s most important part of life.”

“So how do I make them decide to stop being mean?”

“You can’t. They’re free, just like you. You don’t want to be forced to do what they want you to do –do you?”

“NO.”

“Then you can’t tell them what to do either.”

“Grandpa, everyone wants candy. Everyone. No one wants people being mean to them.”

“But I don’t like it!”

“Well that makes sense, they’re being mean. No one likes that. But they don’t control what you focus on. That’s the thing you get to decide. Your Mom’s right. You can ignore them by deciding to focus on something else.”

The kid rolls her eyes. This grandpa has clearly never been to school. “Grandpa, you can’t just not listen. They’re right there.”

“No, I get that sweetie. There are times when you can hear the sound waves coming out of their mouths and those do hit your eardrums. When you’re there. But they’re not here now, right? They’re not in your bedroom on a weekend?”  Just in case, he checks under the bed.

Where’s he going with this? She’s so confused she can’t even figure out how to respond, so he just gets an exhasperated “Grandpa…!”

“No, I mean it. I’m serious. I swear, you’re confused about something. You don’t have to believe me. I’ll explain it.”

“I’m not confused.”

“Just about this one thing –you just haven’t had anyone explain this to you. I’ll make sure to give your Mom heck for not teaching it to you yet.”

This can be Mom’s fault? That makes the lesson much more palatable. She leans a little further into the idea her grandpa is pitching. He can see a common enemy has got them allied. That makes presenting an idea much more likely to succeed. “You like when we go fishing, right?”

“What’s this got to do with Sasha and Mercedes being mean to me?”

“That is a very good question and I promise to answer it. But first you have to tell me if you like fishing and if you do, tell me why?”

“You know why.”

“Why?”

She protests being forced. “Grandpa.”

“You like riding in Grandpa’s boat, right? You like when we stop the motor and just float, and you like how the shiny metal makes the bright lines on the water and the sound the waves make when they hit it.”

She restresses: “Sasha and Mercedes Grandpa, Sasha and Mercedes.”

“I’m getting there. I promise. In this story they drown –sort of.”

Now the kid’s more interested. “Really?”

Grandpa suddenly goes Zen and asks the obvious. “What’s a boat?”

“What? It’s a boat. Like your boat. The thing we go fishing in.”

“Yeah, but what is it. What does it do?”

1297 Relax and Succeed - Does a boat float on the water

“Boats don’t do anything. They just float.”

“Float where?”

Is he serious? “Grandpa. On the water.”

“On it, or in it?”

“Well…” she gives it super serious consideration. “…mostly on, but some of it is in –the parts where our feets go.”

“So then, a boat is kind of like a hole filled with air, down in the water?”

This is a crazy funny idea. “Grandpa, water can’t have holes!”

“Sure it can. They’re called ‘boats.’ If the sides of the boat weren’t there but the water still stayed back, wouldn’t there be a hole in the water where the boat was?”

“You mean if there was no boat?”

“Yeah, but the water stayed where it was.”

Okay wait, maybe he does have a point she’s starting to think now that she’s picturing it…. He’s getting an affirmative look so he continues.

“Okay. So a boat is a little like a hole in the water where we put our feet when we fish. But what makes the boat float is that the water can’t get in, right?”

“It would be a dumb boat if water got in Grandpa.”

Now it’s his turn to laugh. “They needed you on the Titanic.”

“What’s the Titan…”?”

“It was a big boat, but they forgot to keep the water on the outside.”

“That was dumb.”

“Suuuper dumb. But we gotta get back to Sashes and Mercedy there–“

She rolls her eyes and stresses, “Sasha. And. Mercedes….”

“Whatever; the ones that drown. So here’s what your Mom means by ‘ignore them.’ She means that your mind is like a boat you own. You can invite anyone you want into your boat, but the boat only floats –ours minds only stay healthy– if we keep the water out. And Sasha and whatshername are all wet.”

That gets him a giggle, but mostly she’s thinking, brow furrowed. “Sasha and Mercedes are made of water?”

“Well, not really them, it’s their thoughts that are the water.” He takes a moment to think of a way to describe it. “You know how you can’t run fast in the water when I chase you at the pool? That’s ’cause water slows us down. When you hear Sasha and Mercedes say mean things, that’s like hearing the water against the side of the boat. But when you put their water in your head it slows you down. But the water never gets into the boat unless we decide to think about the mean things that people like Sasha and… Merrrrr….–“ Oh oh.

“MERCEDES! MERCEDES! MERCEDES! MERCEDES!”

“–MERCEDEEEESSSS– say. Right? Get it? Them saying mean things at school is the water hitting the side of your mind –the side of your boat. But you thinking of them here in your bedroom, tonight, days later –that’s you pouring their water into your boat. Remember, boats float in water, not on it.

“So all our lives people will splash mean things in our direction, but none of that matters if we stay dry in our boat. So that’s what your Mom means. You sitting here in bed thinking about insults you got hours or days before now is you inviting those girls into the space in your boat when you could have been thinking about me….” Grandpa hangs his head, dejectedly.

She realizes he’s trying to steal her victim thunder. “Grandpa…”

“It’s true. You were thinking of them instead of us going fishing. Who do you feel better spending time with?”

“You. Of course.”

“So take me in your boat instead of them. I take you in mine. That’s why I miss you when we go to Arizona.”

1297 Relax and Succeed - You can invite anyone

She’s not sure she likes this. She’d like this to be Sasha and Mercedes issue to manage.

“Come on. Whose boat is it?”

She tries to wait him out, but he only raises his eyebrows until she reluctantly clucks out a quick, “Mine.”

“Exactly. Your boat is your mind and your job as the Captain is to keep the water out. Right Captain?”

“Can I get a hat?”

“A Captain’s hat?”

“Yeah.”

“We’ll see what we can do. But do you think you can keep Sasha and–“

She warns him with a look–

“–Mercedes,” he adds carefully “from getting inside your boat?”

“I don’t want their dumb mean faces in my boat.”

“Perfect. Then just don’t think their thoughts. Their thoughts are the water. You only take a thought when you need a drink. They’re not for filling boats. Especially polluted water like theirs.”

“Yeah. Polluted.” She looks like maybe she feels better.

With kids he knows it often will take a while for an idea like this to stick so he reminds her one last time. “Okay, so where’s the boat we want to keep dry?” She taps her head. “Right. And who’s the lake?”

“MERCEDES, and Sasha.”

“Right. And what’s the water?”

“What they think.”

“Their opinions. Right. And so who’s the Captain that keeps water from getting into your boat?”

“ME!”

“RIGHT! See. They can bang water against the side of your boat all day. But you practice keeping that water out then your boat will not sink my dear. Every boat gets some water in it because storms make the waves big. But we can always bail out what got put in, so you just remember to keep the inside–“ he taps her on the noggin “of your boat as dry as you can, okay?”

“Dry as a bone grandpa.”

“I believe that. You bonehead.” He lightly raps his knucks on her noggin.

She giggles. “I’m not a bonehead.”

“Sure you are. Your a chip off your Mom’s bonehead.”

Now she loves when he does this. “Mom’s not a bonehead!”

“She was when she was a teenager, ask your grandma.”

“Did she put a lot of water in Grandma’s boat?”

Grandpa stops and refocuses, sensing an opportunity for some fun and a chance to be a good husband. “You know what? That is a very good question. It’s such a good question that; the next time your Mom and your Grandma are together –and it’s a time when your Mom is really mad at Grandma– that would be a really good time to ask your Mom about the water she splashed into Grandma’s boat when she was in high school. If she’s mad at Grandma that would be a good time for her to remember the times she got Grandma all wet, don’t you think?”

That gets a big few nods in the affirmative. He gives her a little nod of agreement. They are on the same page. He switches to an official tone. “Ready for sleep mode?”

She nods her agreement.

“Okay. five deep slow ones.” The little girl takes five very slow breaths in and out in time with her grandpa. It sounds like they’re already asleep. “Good. That helps slow the machine down. Now you just keep breathing like that, and soon you get to dream! Tomorrow morning you can tell me about all the things you did in your dreams, okay?”

“Thanks Grandpa.”

He kisses her on the head. “Boat dry sweetie, okay?”

She nods, he smiles, and out goes the light as the bedroom door closes.

From the darkness, a confident little whisper responds, “Aye aye, Captain.”

peace. s

Composing The Song of Our Life

1293 Relax and Succeed - Composing the Song of Our Life

A record label recently ‘signed’ an algorithm to a recording contract. Should the idea of a computer writing some of our music bother us? It’s not hard for something like that to feel strange, or alien or even uncomfortable or unpleasant. But it might not be as weird as it initially seems. And this really does have something to do with how our minds work.

Firstly, this initial record deal is more for mathematical, Brian Eno-like soundscaping than what we’d think of as composed songs. But it’s only a matter of time. After all, notes are mathematical divisions of natural vibrations and instruments simply create their own unique vibrations. When those waves hit our ears it’s our minds that turn them into music.

We don’t have to feel threatened by this new idea. Even if computerized songs get as good as humans, that does not mean humans have to stop writing songs. Human music won’t be suppressed, it will be added to. But learning about this can help us.

Algorithmic music (it even sounds musical), will be just another form of music, much like dividing acoustic and electric performances, or bands from DJ’s, or how we recently added new genres like Blues, the various forms of Jazz, many forms of Rock, R&B, Disco, Grunge and, Hip Hop/Rap.

Each of those types represent groups of patterns that have a rough mathematical border that can overlap other borders for other types, hence country-punk, and jazz-funk etc. I’m hyper conscious of patterns, but the fact that you know the differences between those music types proves that you comprehend this math as well. It’s just that you perceive your results more as a feeling or a reaction or a definition (the name you give the genre).

Note: if an older person has never listened to newer music then their brain won’t have learned that math and they may misidentify two Rock forms –say, Metal and Grunge– as one group, much like a kid in elementary can know odd numbers from even numbers but they have no idea which ones are prime.

So what’s this got to do with our spirituality or psychology? The answer is that explains why we get bored with things after doing them for a long time. A common reaction to music for people in their mid 30’s to 40’s is that they find they suddenly become far less interested in new music. This isn’t to say they’ll never enjoy a new song or that they are not open, but they are representing what it is to be full.

By full I mean that our brains have heard enough songs and enough patterns that by those ages we know those patterns so well that little can sound new to us. Evidence of this is the way that, around those ages, we start thinking of these patterns (in music or movies or shows) as being, like this meets this, or that meets that with a bit of that in it. Rather than new sounding fresh, instead you can hear combinations of known patterns mixing.

1293 Relax and Succeed - Like people some songs are popular

Now that you can see you have this skill, consider that you also divide up humans very much like that. Stereotypes like optimists, pessimists, leaders, shy people, Scottish people, mothers, bankers and firefighters are all groups of patterns on top of other patterns, because our mothers are also sisters, and accountants and baby sitters etc..

Personality types are also a part of those patterns, and when families say things like, “Dad’s being Dad again,” or “Raj, why are you always late?” they are expressing what they perceive as that person’s unique pattern. This is why family caregivers carry so much information about loved ones without even realizing it. They simply sense that something is wrong yet they may not know why, even though they are being kind of mathematical about it.

Since these patterns impact personality types it makes sense that it also informs how we know how our friends or co-workers are likely to meet the various patterns in the world (like songs, or traffic etc.) For instance, at a rest without influence, some people think in patterns that create sadness. Others idly create happiness, and still others worry or plan or create. For every type of person there is a pattern to our thinking, and our current conditions will influence those patterns in real-time.

The problem comes in when people see another pattern and wish it was theirs. This is to misunderstand the nature of the universe’s orchestra. Yes, we can improv portions and any song can change its genre at any time, but it also important to note that none of us is wrong being as we are. We just need to enjoy and capitalize on being whoever that is. Some people will like that pattern of being and others won’t. But that’s not personal. It’s just how the patterns go, just like some people like jazz and some don’t.

People’s appreciation of us is a separate issue, but all lives are like beautiful songs. Indeed, some are sadder, some happier, some angrier, still others confused, or even profound. But just as music contains flats a sharps, there are no truly wrong notes for us to play in life, and we can always change our style if we feel it’s worth it.

Even if we feel off-key, or that our timing is off, rather than turn our thoughts against ourselves we are better to simply learn to stop that critic. Because no matter how weird we or others think we are, in the end, the only way for us to play our special song is for us to ignore all judgment and to simply be natural.

peace. s

PS If you are not in Canada but would like to listen to the podcast linked, the international version if available here: CBC Q Podcast

Favourites

1291 Relax and Succeed - Favourites

Sometimes favourite children exist unconsciously, sometimes they are known but unspoken, and sometimes parents come right out and admit that they have favourites. The latter choice can seem cruel when our culture isn’t used to it, but it might be worth our time to revisit some cherished ideas.

Parents are people before they are our parents. When they were young some school acquaintances were attractive as friends, others were left only schoolmates. The same with dating. People don’t want to ask out everyone they meet in the bar. Some stand out for reasons we can’t really explain. Chemistry, we call it.

So it goes with favourite children. The parent doesn’t love them more. They’re just the ones the parent finds enjoyable as a friendship as well.

Is it really so odd that a single human might, in a group of three or four other humans, have a preference for time spent with one in particular? Or is that more what we’d all expect –in any other circumstance except parenting? Again, we’re talking about time and attention, not love.

Of course, in most cases these feelings go both ways. Most kids like one parent more than the other. Does that mean we’re rejecting the other parent? No. It just means we’re human and have preferences. If every kid baked a different kind of cake we’re not bad people because we’ve happened to like chocolate all our lives. That’s not to say it will always happen, but when it does it’s a natural reaction.

Thoughts that these attractions are unnatural can lead to crippling guilt when it shouldn’t. Society implanted the thought of it being ‘wrong’ to like one family member over another but society is nothing but a set of external lessons we all unconsciously agree to and then apply through our thinking. There’s nothing guaranteeing the rules we develop are all correct, or true, or that they will or should stay that way.  Each new generation sheds some.

1291 Relax and Succeed - There are enough people

If we took all the expectation of out it, ‘favouritism‘ is simply people being attracted to time with people that align well with them. If a child comprehends ‘favouritism’ in such a way that they see it as merely shared perspectives or interests –and that it’s simply a personal preference and not a value judgment– then it’s much easier for a child to accept it as normal when it happens.

It’s important that it feels normal to them because in life it will both happen to them, and they will ‘perpetrate’ that judgment on others. Kids also feel terrible guilt about having a favourite parent or sibling or friend, and they also often worry that they may not be other people’s favourite children, siblings or friends.

Put in the right context those preferences are presented as entirely normal, which is in a way, offering the child a form of future freedom to simply like what and who they like without feeling a need to feel guilty about their preferences. There are enough people and experiences to go around.

Since having a favourite is natural, hiding it is difficult. We have to ask ourselves, is it better for kids to have context for the behaviour than to witness evidence that may lead them to think they are unloved despite people’s words?

The subject feels pointy and awkward at the start, but over time we cannot help but notice that it comfortably explains a lot of what troubles many others. After all, none of us was ever built to satisfy everyone.

peace. s

A Life Well-Lived

1276 Relax and Succeed - Authenticity the courage to be yourselfA lot of the reason that people feel like they may not be doing the right thing in life is because they have pre-constructed the concept of success in their imagination and what they imagine isn’t an action, it’s a definition or result. While a healthy person is merely fascinated by what they’re doing, someone lost and uncertain will be trying to raise their value, status or power in some way, shape or form.

Since the media is a nearly unavoidable force in the raising of a child it is important to see a child’s actions as not only being based on the child’s caregivers, but also on other significant forces like media trends, which lead to all sorts of unintended consequences, like the formations of things like cultures of irreverence, or of uptalkers for example.

One of the other unintended consequences of media as a learning force is that children automatically and unknowingly come to see success as being linked to popularity or fame, hence “be famous,” has only recently been added as an answer to the question, what do you want to do with your life? (People used to say astronaut, or doctor or deep sea diver.)

1276 Relax and Succeed - Study hard what interests you mostThe truth is, fame and fortune are not at all what makes a good life. Richard Feynman won a Nobel Prize almost because he was a famous iconoclast, too dedicated to his own curiosity to ever get anywhere had it not been for the fluke that his curiosity primarily landed in one field (while he was well respected in many). But if his passions had not been in physics right while physics was literally exploding (he worked on the atomic bomb), his life may have been much less notable. Likewise, most truly great lives are not noticeable to anyone but the people living them, and those closest to them.

I was recently at the funeral of my parent’s neighbour. I’ve known her since I was three. As I sat in the pew at the church listening to the speakers, I was struck by how much I admired the woman, and almost precisely because she was so different from me. Since being teased relentlessly as a kid I’ve ignored other people’s views in favour of a set of guiding principles so, I’ve always liked my life and how I live it, but that doesn’t mean I can’t appreciate equally authentic lives that unfold in their own unique ways.

Whereas I am a quick thinking enthusiastic person who has generally held leadership positions and would be in that tiny group of people that takes action when others won’t, she was extremely gentle and appreciative; always a safe harbour for any and all troubled neighbourhood kids. I’ve travelled the world and had awesome jobs and worked in film and TV and made lots of money–my life looks like (or rather used to look like)–the kind of life people would want to have. Hers was much smaller, but it was equally a rich life and it was very well lived. I had fun in my other life, but I’m actually more like her now.

1276 Relax and Succeed - Don't change so people will like youJust as I had cared about the big exciting things I was doing, she was caring deeply about the smaller more intimate details of life. Where I might be inspiring or informative, she offered comfort and support. She earned the love of her family throughout her life. She was enthusiastic about her work while she was a worker, and as a homemaker she was one of those dream Moms who always has a warm smile and fresh homemade food. She was also a very dedicated and loving parent and stand-in parent to her own child and many others.

If someone asked me today; if you couldn’t live your life, which life would you live, I have generally answered I’m loving the life I have. But if you forced me to choose, a life entirely like hers seems, to me, as enjoyable and as profound as my own has been, and the change of pace would be educational I’m sure. What’s curious about this is that many of my students come to me wanting to be more like I was, and by the time we’re done they want to be more like themselves, which is often much more like my parent’s very successful neighbour with her very successful life.

She died wanting more. That can feel like it should be sad, but it’s really the opposite that’s sad; when they’ve gone past their desire for life the death feels more like a relief. But right up until the end she had a tomorrow to be excited about and, when she finally realised she wouldn’t get that, she became just as excited by what was next, smiling just before her death, uttering the words, “my parents…” It really doesn’t get more beautiful than that and I am glad such a wonderful woman got such a fitting end to a life very well lived.

Life is in the details. Don’t always look above you. Sometimes what you’re looking for is already around you, or even possibly something you previously left behind. But do not assume bigger is better. Better is whatever your nature leads you to. In that regard, may your life be as successful as hers.

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.