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

Emotional Control in the Face of Frustration

 

1301 Relax and Succeed - Emotional Control in the Face of Frustration 2

Here’s a reasonable question that hit me last month: why did I get up extra early to get my work completed so I could drive in -34C (-29F) to pick up my father on a day where he did not need a ride?

Finding out that I was actually a day early can be the kind of thing that can lead us to revisit the extra early wake-up and the cold drive and feel angry about losing sleep, not to mention for freezing for no good reason. Very cold weather makes angry thoughts easy to produce.

Doing those disappointment and frustration-based calculations makes sense to almost everyone. But wisdom suggests we stop and ask ourselves if our initial reaction is truly helpful in the situation we’re in. So that’s our assignment this week: to mitigate our common negative reactions with deeper understanding

Take each day and the most frustrating part about it, and then track back to why it that thing bothered us more than other things. We will find that we held some expectation that was not being met.

The question is, what was our unreasonable expectation? Collect enough awareness regarding our expectations and we become able to recognize them in operation and then work around them.

If we’re not blaming others we can use the energy we would have expended on blame to instead fuel more productive action.

Understand that the issue can still bother us, we can even have a burst of blame before we settle. But by understanding that our feelings are logical and sensible means they are less painful to own and we’re less likely to blame –or hold on to blame placed on– the other people involved in our frustration. It simply makes no sense to do that to them because we know we’re reacting out of the logic of who we are and what we are facing.

If we’re not blaming others we can use the energy we would have expended on blame to instead fuel more productive action.

Logically it shouldn’t surprise us that people who hate being afraid will be particularly bad when things are scary, or that shy people will be uncomfortable in crowds. That’s not something going wrong, that’s something making sense.

Likewise, if we have an expectation that we will never behave as though it is the wrong day of the week, or that winter in Edmonton won’t be cold at times, then we would be defying common experiences many have already had. But if we accept that those are mistakes people commonly make, then when it happens to us, we can be half-ready.

1301 Relax and Succeed - The more we do anything

In my case, upon arrival I was fairly quickly informed that I had the wrong day. This is where a flash of frustrated anger sparked my conscious attention. I could feel the pang of that frustration in my gut and I did a check-in. What was I thinking about? Two phrases: So I froze for nothing, and; I’m an idiot who really could have used that sleep.

Okay, so now I can add to my problem by continuing to think about comparing my morning to a warmer one where I remembered what day it was, or I can accept I made this weird decision and ask why.

Once we get good at it, it doesn’t take long to track why, which is why a week’s worth of examples will be helpful. The more we do anything the better we get at doing it.

In my case, I had a big day on that Thursday with some big meetings and a rare visit with a friend, so I spent most of Tuesday organizing life so I could make that Thursday work. So since that Tuesday, I’d primarily thought about and dealt with, Thursday.

Knowing how the brain works, I knew I had essentially ‘primed’ the idea of Thursday in my mind so it would be the most prominent day in my imagination. I even dreamed about Thursday on Tuesday night, which is partly why I woke up under the presumption that it was Thursday.

Do you see how those events took me out of now? I was so focused on future thoughts about how Thursday might play out that I wasn’t actually listening to the radio or noticing the many clues that it was Wednesday that day. Having an expectation and rushing my thoughts into Thursday meant I was blind and deaf on Wednesday.

Seeing the logical sense in what I did, I accepted that that is what a brain will do, and the entire issue was left to die in the past and I lost any sense of frustration. I just had some toast with Dad and headed back to start writing this.

See? In the end, it was even a gift, because I needed an example exercise for this blog. Funny how the world works out.

Go from now and until next Monday try to find your way out of frustration by truly understanding and accepting how easily you got there. You’ll know if you’ve truly understood the innocence of your sources because then the acceptance part is easy. We can hardly blame ourselves for making sense.

Thanks for reading. Enjoy your day!

peace. s

Conscience as a Sign of Health

1288 Relax and Succeed - Photo - Someone feeling badly

If just before you started reading this you were using your thinking to criticize yourself, this your chance to stop.

Those thoughts don’t improve us even if we did screw up because it’s not the screw up that’s really the issue, it’s our thoughts about it. Those are after-the-fact thoughts about the past. If it’s in the past that can only be ego and egos are dangerous. You have to keep an eye on them.

The fact that we don’t feel good about whatever transpired is only because we already know we could have done better. That demonstrates that we are good people with good judgment because our judgment was able to detect something out of alignment with the range that we use to define our self.

If we let it, our negative reaction to exceeding those limits is what, over time, nudges us closer and closer to being able to live out our greatest potential. This is the process of getting wiser.

This is the point at which many people suggest that we need rules to be ‘good.’ But if they’re saying that they usually mean they want alignment with whatever they think everyone should do. But that’s impossible because we can’t all demand that. While rules can be useful, they aren’t needed to define ‘good.’

Everyone except psychopaths is familiar with the hounding a human conscience can give us. Many of us adults still feel badly about things we did as youngsters. But what is our conscience?

Think of it like an old fashioned thermometer. Humans are good from about +60C to -60C, (or -76F to 140F). Above or below that and we’re in enough trouble we’re likely to die. Our conscience is like a range of things that our real self –the self that creates our ego– has for our behaviour. That part of us is very wise –except for in psychopaths. They don’t have lines that are further out than ours, they don’t have any lines at all. The rest of us have healthy lines for a very logical reason.

1288 Relax and Succeed - Photo - Even huge mistakes

We as individuals are a part of a much larger flow created by our species. We’re all ultimately programmed to try to stay alive and see the next generation move on. Since we breed we obviously need others to do that, plus working in groups is safer than working alone, so our nature is to find ways to cooperate.

All of us can temporarily lose track of that connection when our thinking gets crazy, but our nature is to work to stay alive, not work to destroy what we need to stay alive; including others and their support.

Even huge mistakes are just ways of learning, growing, and maturing. Sometimes we inflict ours on others, sometimes they inflict theirs on us; sometimes we are teachers, sometimes we are students. Sometimes the universe benefits from regret, sometimes it benefits from tolerance.

Our ability to understand that flow of pain and regret in a non-personal way is the lesson we are all unwittingly teaching each other through the living our lives. And it’s also why many wise people have said, when you finally become a real guru you realize that everyone around us, has always been a guru.

peace. s

Accepting Reality

1285 Relax and Succeed - We can make any experience our teacher

I used to run the precusor to what a website now is. It was linked up three other writer’s BBS’s. One of those guys took his time off during the writer’s strike to create a TV series that did very well. It was built around a character named Garfield that a guy he knew was trying to sell as a cartoon to newspapers. At the time I think Mark was writing on Cheers. He essentially described sitcoms this way: Act One a guy gets a date, Act Two he steps in dog poo, and Act Three was when the poo got from his shoe to his hat.

If viewed the right way, re-starting the blog right before a pile of unforeseen complications is a bit like being in a sitcom. Either I laugh at the unlikely nature of each additional complication or I perform a narrative docu-drama in my head about a sick person with a heavy workload. Which one sounds like a good investment of my consciousness to you?

Maybe I flick past that sad brain-channel a couple times to test it. But the fact that it feels bad is my signal to change channels to something that expands me (which, granted, sometimes can be the sad thing). We can make any experience our teacher, so I’m better to face adversity in a way that allows me to practice the act of learning from the experiences.

By staying conscious instead of thinking about the past or the future too much, I was aware that some unusual surprises to my schedule had me unusually run down. So it wasn’t surprising when a simple head cold took me out. That was win number one: when I got sick I didn’t feel disappointed. I looked at the facts and being sick made a lot of sense. So I slid into acceptance of the fact that life was just doing what it often predictably does. I had no motivation to feel my illness was ‘unfair’ in any way.

I did quickly and necessarily calculate the illnesses negative impacts to my schedule and life, but that process didn’t take long because before I was even done adding things up I realized that there was no way I was getting it all done, so it wasn’t like the volume was the issue, it was the priority.

I could have had a meaningless debate in my head about how important my entire list was, but that’s obvious because the things were on my schedule in the first place. But equally obvious was the fact that clearly it all wasn’t possible to get done while being sick, so the question was only: what should be sacrificed? Any thoughts about what ifs or I wish it were’s would only be consciousness-time invested in meaningless thinking.

…but why not feel guilty later about the stuff that is late?

Did you see that?

Pretty subtle wasn’t it? I just bent reality back there. I torqued time. (We all do things like that routinely, but try and tell someone to do it voluntarily and suddenly we’re all full of excuses about why we can’t.)

If I got sick because I was harried then clearly my schedule was over-full. No one is really motivated to keep their schedule over-full except the few people who are using that schedule to avoid something that maybe should be on their schedule. But for the rest of us our schedules are as they are because it’s just a part of life that reality will often give us more marbles than jar.

If you asked me the day before I got sick, all of those things were must-dos by a certain dates. Yet by getting sick, I managed to push the future back to a later date, allowing me to prioritize the important things and then pepper the rest into the following weeks until I’m caught up. Some of the dates on those musts didn’t appear flexible until they needed to be. Such is the triage required for adult life.

Yet still it’s easy to imagine you asking, but why not feel guilty later about the stuff that is late? The answer is acceptance. I don’t believe I should feel guilty when what’s happened is reasonable, and getting sick is a part of life.

The day before I got ill was the end of a period of working past a reasonable limit and that eventually caught up with me. Since I was aware that I was gambling the gains of the extra work against the risk of making myself ill, when I got sick my brain immediately went into acceptance mode because the extra work had been done consciously, with the knowledge that there was a risk and reward trade-off in action.

1285 Relax and Succeed - If we've only thought of one

This is the big advantage of living in the Now. Decisions are conscious; where we think about what we’re truly choosing and all the ways it could potentially go. If we’ve only thought of one expected and desired consequence of any decision or choice, then we haven’t really thought about that choice at all.

By living in the now, I make my later easier because rather than wonder why I got sick, I can instead accept that the gamble that I took means that I sometimes do not win. Again, there is little to no war of words in my head about how it should be the other way when it simply isn’t. I can’t change the deal I made with the world after the fact, I can only ensure that when I make it I am conscious. That one small thing could save many from a lot of suffering.

To whatever degree we can, we benefit by avoiding the act of filling our heads with self-talk about how we wish things were, or how bad the price will be, or even blaming the person we believe lead to our problem or made us ill. Having these initial thoughts is natural and none of us should criticize ourselves for having immediate reactions. But entertaining them without serious consideration can steal our lives away if we don’t remain vigilant about our thinking.

Enjoy your days.

peace. s

PS Because my parent-care schedule makes this challenging, if you guys spot any typos or formatting errors in a blog, feel free to message me through the facebook page or here.

Adult Parents Adult Children: It’s not always easy

1241 Relax and Succeed - Everyone grows at different ratesNow that Baby Boomers are the age they are, many are having to manage challenges relating to unsatisfactory relationships with their adult children, including complete estrangement. Things like the opioid crisis, shrinking job opportunities, and even anger over the parent’s past divorce or the child’s current one can all create rifts as the child–however old–works through their own personal issues.

The reason the Baby Boomers were less likely to hold their parents responsible for their struggles was simply because, at least the western world, the idea was that your accomplishments were always your responsibility, and so therefore they were also your own. Some families were naturally supportive and others offered little incentive or inspiration at all, but regardless the notion didn’t exist that a parent could or could not set their child up for success. Success was generally seen as a post-parenting adult pursuit. They were just supposed to keep you alive and make you into a responsible citizen.

Once psychology went from something philosophers studied to something that was used on laypeople, it took some time before people like Dr. Joyce Brothers popularized it on TV and then people like Benjamin Spock suggested there were better and worse ways to raise a child and suddenly a family was something to be analysed and graded and altered if it wasn’t thoroughly efficient at creating wealth and status and happiness. For the first time, a child’s adult problems could now be the parent’s fault. There was now a list of things that they ‘should’ have done.

1241 Relax and Succeed - If you've never been hatedWithin a few generations the unconscious families of the 60’s and 70’s gave way to the highly conscious–some might say overly self-conscious–parenting that is so concerned with micromanaging success that a new term was required: helicopter parent, which spawned the resulting term: adulting, to describe that period where the child becomes aware that they cannot be insulated from the responsibilities of life forever. Yet still today if a kid isn’t a Baby Einstein half the parents are worried they’ve destroyed their entire future already and so they try even harder.

Meanwhile the younger Boomers consider their parents in The Greatest Generation, and Millennials consider their Boomer parents, and both are either coming home or not coming home out of a sense of anger and disappointment. Now all of their personal struggles have been attached to all these new ideas about parenting that didn’t even exist when they were young. A parent can’t use 2017 techniques in 1970, and yet they will be judged by today’s standards, not those of the years during which the parenting happened.

1241 Relax and Succeed - Yes we are adults
The fact that this exists says a great deal.

In the 60’s western doctors were still teaching that it was unhealthy to show love to your children because it would steal their strength. Like today, those parents were following what they were being taught, but what they learned was from the infancy of the psychological movement and many mistakes were made. It’s no easy task. As we now know, what replaced it was possibly even worse, and efforts at improvement have instead lead to a record number of people who struggle psychologically.

In none of this has the parent really done as much wrong as the child’s perspective might lead them to imagine, which is why there is so much estrangement today. The kids who feel they’ve failed and are ashamed to come home, choose to hide. The ones who’ve been taught to feel that they were owed more either stay defiantly away in an attempt to exact some pain in revenge for the perceived mistake, or they come back angry wanting to know what deficit in their parent lead to such a huge mistake? That child will often get particularly emotional because if the issues aren’t with the parenting, then the fault will fall to the child, and that can be a terrifying responsibility to face.

1241 Relax and Succeed - One cannot be taught the valueA parent in 1960 couldn’t prepare their child for an internet, world any more than a parent today can prepare their kid for the world in Blade Runner 2049, or the one in GATTACA, because a kid born today is roughly the age of the lead characters in those films. Think about a world of robots and gene editing and uploaded consciousness and who knows what kinds of business and political structures; and then ask yourself if the parents of Boomers could prepare for a post-WWII world filled with divorce, women’s liberation, intercultural marriages, a health craze, and working online?

Given how old they are when they do it and what circumstances at that time are, and how much the world is changing around them, plus how uncertain the future has always been, no one can ever really know what a parent should do to prepare for a future that’s so unknown most of us can’t even begin to imagine it. Children will never understand the challenges of parenting until they are a parent themselves, and they will not understand what it’s like to be a senior parent dealing with adult children until they themselves have adult children. Experience is something that we have to wait to happen.

That’s why I like the Kierkegaard quote, “Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.” And so, as tragic as some cases are, in every case a parent will have passed from this Earth before the child is even capable of fully processing what their relationship was. This creates poignant and sad events for people, but they are genuine events nevertheless. But they still are not signs of either a parent’s or a child’s failure. It’s simply how life is destined to go when parenting is seen as a subject-object concept that we should analyse rather than simply experience.

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.

Those Kids Today

1216 Relax and Succeed - We don't grow when things aren't easyIt’s pretty rare when I reblog and it’s always for a really good reason. With kids back to school, and parents and children struggling more than they ever have, it’s important to focus things down to their essence. Toronto Occupational Therapist Victoria Prooday writes a blog and it’s not surprising that this was one of her most popular.

For those who can see this subject clearly, her recommendations will look like simple common sense. But in a world where parents, teachers and children feel pulled in a million directions by a million marketers, educators, administrators, and websites all saying different things, it becomes difficult to tell what really counts. But if you want a healthy adult capable in the maximum number of situations, this is excellent advice.

Why are our children so bored at school, cannot wait, get easily frustrated and have no real friends?

I am an occupational therapist with 10 years of experience working with children, parents, and teachers. I completely agree with this teacher’s message that our children are getting worse and worse in many aspects. I hear the same consistent message from every teacher I meet. Clearly, throughout my ten years as an Occupational Therapist, I have seen and continue to see a decline in kids’ social, emotional, and academic functioning, as well as a sharp increase in learning disabilities and other diagnoses.

1216 Relax and Succeed - Victoria Prooday replacement

Today’s children come to school emotionally unavailable for learning, and there are many factors in our modern lifestyle that contribute to this. As we know, the brain is malleable. Through environment, we can make the brain “stronger” or make it “weaker”. I truly believe that, despite all our greatest intentions, we unfortunately remold our children’s brains in the wrong direction. Here is why:

  1. Technology

Using technology as a “Free babysitting service” is, in fact, not free at all. The payment is waiting for you just around the corner.  We pay with our kids’ nervous systems, with their attention, and with their ability for delayed gratification. Compared to virtual reality, everyday life is boring. When kids come to the classroom, they are exposed to human voices and adequate visual stimulation as opposed to being bombarded with the graphic explosions and special effects that they are used to seeing on the screens. After hours of virtual reality, processing information in a classroom becomes increasingly challenging for our kids because their brains are getting used to the high levels of stimulation that video games provide. The inability to process lower levels of stimulation leaves kids vulnerable to academic challenges. Technology also disconnects us emotionally from our children and our families. Parental emotional availability is the main nutrient for child’s brain. Unfortunately, we are gradually depriving our children of that nutrient.

  1. Kids get everything they want the moment they want

“I am Hungry!!” “In a sec I will stop at the drive thru” “I am Thirsty!” “Here is a vending machine.” “I am bored!” “Use my phone!”   The ability to delay gratification is one of the key factors for future success. We have the best intentions — to make our children happy — but unfortunately, we make them happy at the moment but miserable in the long term.  To be able to delay gratification means to be able to function under stress. Our children are gradually becoming less equipped to deal with even minor stressors, which eventually become huge obstacles to their success in life.

The inability to delay gratification is often seen in classrooms, malls, restaurants, and toy stores the moment the child hears “No” because parents have taught their child’s brain to get what it wants right away.

  1. Kids rule the world

“My son doesn’t like vegetables.” “She doesn’t like going to bed early.” “He doesn’t like to eat breakfast.” “She doesn’t like toys, but she is very good at her iPad” “He doesn’t want to get dressed on his own.” “She is too lazy to eat on her own.” This is what I hear from parents all the time. Since when do children dictate to us how to parent them? If we leave it all up to them, all they are going to do is eat macaroni and cheese and bagels with cream cheese, watch TV, play on their tablets, and never go to bed. What good are we doing them by giving them what they WANT when we know that it is not GOOD for them? Without proper nutrition and a good night’s sleep, our kids come to school irritable, anxious, and inattentive.  In addition, we send them the wrong message.  They learn they can do what they want and not do what they don’t want. The concept of “need to do” is absent. Unfortunately, in order to achieve our goals in our lives, we have to do what’s necessary, which may not always be what we want to do.  For example, if a child wants to be an A student, he needs to study hard. If he wants to be a successful soccer player, he needs to practice every day. Our children know very well what they want, but have a very hard time doing what is necessary to achieve that goal. This results in unattainable goals and leaves the kids disappointed.

  1. Endless Fun

We have created an artificial fun world for our children. There are no dull moments. The moment it becomes quiet, we run to entertain them again, because otherwise, we feel that we are not doing our parenting duty. We live in two separate worlds. They have their “fun“ world, and we have our “work” world. Why aren’t children helping us in the kitchen or with laundry? Why don’t they tidy up their toys? This is basic monotonous work that trains the brain to be workable and function under “boredom,” which is the same “muscle” that is required to be eventually teachable at school.  When they come to school and it is time for handwriting their answer is “I can’t. It is too hard. Too boring.” Why? Because the workable “muscle” is not getting trained through endless fun. It gets trained through work.

  1. Limited social interaction

We are all busy, so we give our kids digital gadgets and make them “busy” too. Kids used to play outside, where, in unstructured natural environments, they learned and practiced their social skills.  Unfortunately, technology replaced the outdoor time.  Also, technology made the parents less available to socially interact with their kids. Obviously, our kids fall behind… the babysitting gadget is not equipped to help kids develop social skills. Most successful people have great social skills. This is the priority!

The brain is just like a muscle that is trainable and re-trainable. If you want your child to be able to bike, you teach him biking skills. If you want your child to be able to wait, you need to teach him patience.  If you want your child to be able to socialize, you need to teach him social skills. The same applies to all the other skills. There is no difference!

1216 Relax and Succeed - Parents only have 2 jobsTRAIN YOUR CHILD’S BRAIN

You can make a difference in your child’s life by training your child’s brain so that your child will successfully function on social, emotional, and academic levels. Here is how:

1. Limit technology, and re-connect with your kids emotionally

Surprise them with flowers, share a smile, tickle them, put a love note in their backpack or under their pillow, surprise them by taking them out for lunch on a school day, dance together, crawl together, have pillow fights

Have family dinners, board game nights (see the list of my favorite board games), go biking, go to outdoor walks with a flashlight in the evening

2. Train delayed gratification

Make them wait!!! It is ok to have “I am bored“ time – this is the first step to creativity
Gradually increase the waiting time between “I want” and “I get”

Avoid technology use in cars and restaurants, and instead teach them waiting while talking and playing games

Limit constant snacking

3. Don’t be afraid to set the limits. Kids need limits to grow happy and healthy!!

Make a schedule for meal times, sleep times, technology time

Think of what is GOOD for them- not what they WANT/DON’T WANT. They are going to thank you for that later on in life. Parenting is a hard job. You need to be creative to make them do what is good for them because, most of the time, that is the exact opposite of what they want.

Kids need breakfast and nutritious food. They need to spend time outdoor and go to bed at a consistent time in order to come to school available for learning the next day!

Convert things that they don’t like doing/trying into fun, emotionally stimulating games

4. Teach your child to do monotonous work from early years as it is the foundation for future “workability”

Folding laundry, tidying up toys, hanging clothes, unpacking groceries, setting the table, making lunch, unpacking their lunch box, making their bed

Be creative. Initially make it stimulating and fun so that their brain associates it with something positive.

5. Teach social skills

Teach them turn taking, sharing, losing/winning, compromising, complimenting others, using “please and thank you.”

From my experience as an occupational therapist, children change the moment parents change their perspective on parenting. Help your kids succeed in life by training and strengthening their brain sooner rather than later!

*****

I see it all the time in my own work. Mental illness and stress are up. What we’re doing isn’t working. This is what will. If you’re anywhere near Toronto and are having trouble with your own children or you’re aware of others who are, considering sharing this and going to see Victoria’s team. Because whatever you see in your toddler or pre-teen will be amplified as they age, and both you and your children will be the ones living with the consequences of any maturing that hasn’t been achieved.

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.

 

Pressured by Indecision

We think it’s the situation. We feel the pressure comes from the deadlines, or the bosses, or the schedule, or maybe it’s the kids, family obligations, commitments or responsibilities. But we tend to experience it as an outside-in kind of pressure but that’s misleading because it’s really inside-out.

Pressure isn’t some force your boss sends through an email or that your kids write down in your schedule. It’s something we create within ourselves with our resistant thinking and yet it’s a useful signalling system. Feeling down is not the same as overwhelmed and if there’s one thing I see a lot of otherwise “successful” people doing, it is being overwhelmed.

We’re in the midst of one of worst recessions ever where I live and you can easily tell that a lot of the population is struggling with bills, juggling two part time jobs instead of one full time (if they’re lucky), and they can’t afford as much external support etc. etc. etc. Bosses know they can be more demanding in a tight job market, and the time and money challenges impact marriages, kids relationships with their parents, diets, and even health. As I often remind people, nowhere in the deal to be human does it say that life will only give you 50 marbles for your 50 marble jar.

Pressure starts on the 51st marble and increases from there. Eventually we can get to the point where no matter what we accomplish with busy-ness we’re still seeing marbles drop all over the place. By then we know we’ve waited a bit long to act and so the universe is starting to yell. You may think it’s outside-in pressure, but the universe understands it’s inside-out.

The so-called pressure is created by you wanting to hold onto all of those marbles and their relative importance, so you take on too much work to try to prevent losses. It is also created by watching marbles fall and wanting that to stop, so that also creates a painful sense of loss. And finally, it is also created by wanting to avoid the consequences if we let the marbles fall.  Since the first two are impossible, the reduction in resistance (aka pressure) will take place only when we cease imagining a future that can’t exist and we quiet our minds and accept our current situation and then make our sacrifice.

As an example, I have to make my own decisions about being overloaded with marbles. Not only do recessions tend to create a lot of marbles, but so does looking after two elderly parents and their many appointments, keeping up with two households and two yards, all while trying to maintain a high level of work and also accomplishing some critical administration tasks that modern life requires. Right now, my daily demands would literally take 28 hours per day to complete. Oh yeah, and I’d like to sleep and eat in there too somewhere.

For those reasons and many others, starting next week I’m cutting the blog down to one a week for the remainder of the summer. The timing is coincidental but good. A lot of my regular readers are less frequent in summer (understandably), but the real reason is I simply cannot afford the time.

The blog is important to me because I know it’s helped people I’ve never even met except by email or phone, and I know it’s also a touchstone for many of my former students and that they use it keep themselves on track. In both groups, I’m pleased to report that those that keep themselves the most balanced read the blog the most. So I know it has a lot of value to a lot of you but I must weigh that against my context. As important as each marble is, I simply cannot hold more than 50.

So how do I decide what to spill? That’s a personal judgment call every time, but if we resign ourselves to the fact that these decisions actually need to be made then we can just wake up from our pressured suffering and remember that we are still free. We prioritize things and then cut from the bottom. It’s actually quite easy, it just takes a while before we’re prepared to accept that, without changes, we’ll never catch up on our marbles. The time in between is called pressure, but it will always be created by delayed decisions and it will always be resolved by deciding which sacrifices to make.

We can be a bit like the proverbial frog in boiling water with pressure. The temperature can rise slowly and we can accommodate our expectations to a degree, but eventually we’re scalded with some harsh, painful truth. So it’s better to drop the excess marbles before someone tries to add so many that they smash the whole glass. And dropping them won’t even be too painful. You just have to remember to avoid focusing on the 20 that fall so you can focus on the 50 you saved 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.

MoK: Tender Mercies

Dear Readers,

May this find you well. I have a strange entry for today’s March of Kindness assignment. Today we will unexpectedly focus on kindness toward ourselves. Valuing ourselves is a form of self-respect and it is distinct from the unhealthy selfishness that causes us to feel guilty, or that requires us to distract ourselves from facing our relevant responsibilities.

For the first time in the many years that I’ve have blogged here and elsewhere, I simply cannot create the time or the very specific meditative headspace I require to write the sort of blog post I feel you all deserve. The needs of my family and friends have been tremendous over the last many weeks and there comes a time when we must face that if we have almost no time to even sleep or eat, then those things must take priority lest we risk the health of the body our consciousness resides in.

This being the case, let’s alter today’s planned March of Kindness post into this: find the area of your life where you personally are overwhelmed and surrender. If the only overwhelming thing you truly have in your life is your own anxious thoughts, then slow those down and open your awareness and then reach out to someone who is truly overwhelmed. Either way, the world is made better.

Kindness toward yourself or kindness toward another, it’s all kindness and it’s worthwhile. I’d like to thank you for your kindness in understanding my situation, and I wish you every good-fortune with your own self-kindness today.

Regards, 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.

Fears

1032-relax-and-succeed-dont-place-your-mistakesI’ve got a rare situation that’s given me an equally rare state of mind to write from. This makes it an ideal time for me to write about how I’ll face this emotional challenge, because the nicest thing about living in the present moment is that you trust that you learn from experience so you feel authentically bad about unfortunate things, but then you can move on.

You feel hits to your ego but you don’t hold grudges nor do you worry about what might happen and maybe most importantly you don’t beat yourself up. You accept that everyone learns and everyone makes mistakes, you grab the lesson with humility and then move on as soon as you’re sure the lesson’s been learned. There’s no extra time wasted in ruminating on should’a could’a would’as. But today I crossed that line we all have within us; the mistake that bothers us the most because it betrays some fundamental aspect of ourselves that we place great faith in.

1032-relax-and-succeed-courage-is-the-decision-to-favour-actionI had figured out by nine years old that the human mind could not really be trusted despite people’s best intentions. This lead me to develop a series of thought-tests that I would put my own ideas and other people’s ideas through to ensure they were solid. Today I did the thing that bothers me the most: I didn’t make use of a mental tool that I knew I had built for a reason when I know full well I only build those tools when it’s important.

What a lot of my students start off doing is they start telling themselves stories about what they should have done. Then another part of the brain will calculate the damage, and then it’ll be angry that it happened at all, and then fear of what will happen, then the consideration of an alternate future where you made the opposite decision, and finally self-criticism for making the same mistake yet again despite the fact that making the same mistake actually makes a lot of psychological sense.

1032-relax-and-succeed-if-all-else-failsI will feel strongly compelled to react in all of the ways noted above. I suspect I will bounce into actually doing those things for bursts of time. But I spend so much time peaceful that I will notice when I’m tortured, so that’ll be a good cue. From there I’ll pursue strategies to take my mind off the painful useless subject and place it on better things.

This means that the idea becomes like a ball of pain on a ping pong table, where my natural reaction to the approaching pain is to swat it away. I think of those words and narratives as little balls of pain and when I run into one in my head I hit it away but shifting my attention to something more productive and peaceful.

I will wage this little battle for as long as it takes before my mind finally accepts the situation fully, and meanwhile I’ll have been able to take immediate action to mitigate any additional damage. That’s as good as you can do after a mistake, and dreaming like it was possible to never make one was something I surrendered many thousands of surrenders ago.

Bad feelings feel bad for a reason. Just by their sensation they urge you not to think them. So when you feel in pain, don’t turn inside yourself and self-discuss that pain. Recognise that as coming from your thinking and then shift it. That power is always in your hands and the more you use it the stronger you’ll be.

Have a wonderful day everyone.

peace. s

PS. Funny side-note, it turns out I hadn’t made the mistake I thought I had. Good thing I didn’t engage in a bunch of painful, useless thinking about something that was ultimately just a false belief.

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

The Caged Bird

986-relax-and-succeed-when-a-caged-bird-singsThis is one of those quotes that can feel nonsensical at first; as though it means nothing at all. The truth is, it’s a story about the incompatible brain states of happiness and comparison. These sorts of clever sayings can provide a great deal of learning but they are so ubiquitous they are now seen more as declarations than learning tools.

In this case we must ask the question, what transpires? A caged bird sings, other birds gather and the caged bird ends up experiencing longing. Again we ask, why does the caged bird sing? Because it has a song in its heart. It is its nature. And why do the other birds gather? They are attracted by the song. So then why does the singing bird end up feeling tortured?

We as humans outside the cage know the bird’s original nature was outside and in a flock, but if the bird has lived in the cage for so long that it is now that bird’s known and comfortable home then it has no desires for great flights of distance or a sharing of life with a large flock of other birds. It knows its owners and its feeding schedule and how to entertain itself where it is. And yet it does not entirely lose its nature, the bird still sings.

When the other birds show up the bird can now recognise his own bars. It can now see a limitation that did not live as a possibility within the bird’s mind before birds existed outside the bars. Now the bird can compare its formerly happy existence to another existence it knows little about other than it includes more birds. That desire for the fresh and new is where the sensation of longing is formed. Previous to that the bird was happy because it had no desires and the same is true for all of us.

986-relax-and-succeed-if-you-think-that-peaceThere is no point in chasing happiness. It is not somewhere else, it is not doing something else and it is not someone else. Happiness is a way of seeing things. You do it all the time but it’s such a clear-headed state that you don’t actually note what you’re doing. If you did you’d see that when you feel great you aren’t using your thoughts to create a you that is separate from something or someone desired, you’re just being-doing. You are a human being in motion. Suffering is when we forgo that to wish instead.

Go inside. Use these quotes to shape your meditations. What are your desires? What is your flock? Were you in a boring but decent marriage until you met someone else? Did you see someone’s renovation and want one of your own? Or how about if your friends roll around in their new car? It is the comparison that creates the desire which leads to the suffering. It’s why the Buddha said, “There is no fear for one whose mind is not filled with desires.”

Think back to when one of your cages was built and ask how and why that happened. What’s been brought to your attention that wasn’t a problem before you knew about it but now it is? Can you see that your life hadn’t changed only your idea of it had? Can you see that the difference in your ideas was that you suddenly felt separate from happiness? Suddenly you felt your happiness was created by something outside of yourself. Study that source of suffering closely and I guarantee you will have begun a very useful meditation.

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.