The Kid in the Basement

1342 Relax and Succeed - We make more sense than we think we do

I had been doing classes for many years before I got a call from a parent hoping to dislodge one of their children from their home. Now I get them regularly. (It’s okay, the kids end up doing fine.)

These were never unloving calls. Far from kicking the kid out in anger or disappointment, the parent was concerned that they had somehow failed to help the child discover an inspiring life.

On top of that the parents were very naturally starting to feel resentful about being taken advantage of by another adult, and they did not want that feeling to grow with a child they loved.

That really is loving on the part of the parent because the issue is not really their fault. It’s actually no one’s ‘fault,’ it’s just a step in some people’s journey.

No one eats for us, no one sleeps for us, no one spiritually awakens for us, and we are the only ones that can find our calling. Our problem is that we often mistake a ‘dream job’ for ‘a calling.’ The former is about superficial success with largely no effort, but the latter is about how we can mysteriously work our butts off on things that matter to us. (Check out the video of the Japanese toymaker here for an example.)

In truth, ‘our calling’ will evolve throughout life, and even when we believe we are ‘off target,’ the perspective of age exposes that even our mistakes end up being key parts of our journey through life. We make more sense than we think we do.

Even those that feel they know what they want to do and are highly motivated are rarely actually picking a career –although that is more likely in the professions. More often we are only possibly choosing a field of work, because as we learn about any job we will tend to find things out about it that we like and don’t like, and that is likely to change the course of what we do.

Too many people want to start off inspired when it works the other way around –we find inspiration by doing. For that reason, in the end it may be that viewing any job unrealistically is really a blessing. They need to look shiny and exciting for us to pursue them, because they will all be hard in some way –hence the pay. But work is interestingly a spiritual aspect of our lives in a roundabout modern way.

1342 Relax and Succeed - Even bad choices inevitably move us forward

Work is good for us for one simple reason: it’s the verb of us contributing to those around us. In hunter-gatherer times, we shared the food we picked or caught. Today we all have jobs and there’s a big system, but it’s really the same thing, just scaled to almost 8 billion people. Not contributing to that can eat someone up from the inside because it’s unnatural for us.

This represents the most dangerous downside for the person lodged in the figurative basement: the longer they stay there they more they will begin to ruminate on why they are not creating value within their life. And rumination is ego and that soon will turn ugly.

Creating is natural, so denying our drive to contribute places pressure on us to create an excuse. And that excuse –framed as self-talk with our ego– is either that society isn’t worth it, or we aren’t. Neither idea is healthy to dwell on.

Every ‘basement dweller’ I’ve worked with was a person with folded wings. They weren’t broken, sick, incapable or fearful. They were simply so interior –so wrapped up in their own thoughts– that they couldn’t see the world. And if we can’t see the world, we can’t find our way in. Our thoughts can prevent us from spotting our inspiration.

Whether it’s our families, our jobs, or in nature, when we’re clear-headed the world  appears to us like an amazing party, filled with people we are fascinated in. Our problem shouldn’t be finding excitement within us, it should be trying to decide which spectacular thing to pursue.

Kids don’t get jobs and leave basements because they are guilted out, or angered out. Those things eventually lead to being kicked out and that’s a hard route for all parties involved. But people will happily leave their parent’s basements when they see themselves more clearly. Rumination keeps us trapped. Inspiration spreads our wings.

No one eats for us, no one sleeps for us, no one spiritually awakens for us, and we are the only ones that can find our calling.

Once people see themselves and the world without their habitual cloud of thought, they dislike the idea that they would waste their precious, limited time on Earth being static. Wasting their creativity and enthusiasm simply seems wrong to them in a profound way. And as any mature person knows, it doesn’t really matter where any person starts, it’s the starting itself that is the life skill.

I once worked with a secret musician who was living uninspired. By feeling better about herself, she felt more self respect and ended up getting a starter job on a car lot. And despite learning a lot and liking the people, the downsides of that job highly motivated her to work harder on her music.

She still has a straight job that she likes better than the car lot, but music would never would have become a part of her income if she hadn’t first recognized its value by comparing it to something worse. And music is where she met her fiance.

Therein lies the weird beneficial paradox of health. Over time and in looking back, we come to learn that even when we believe we’ve made bad choices, they inevitably take us forward.

peace, s

Getting Along

Interesting term when one stops to look at it a moment: getting along. To get is to have or hold or receive something, but what are we getting? Along means to move ahead on some type of path. When the word was created the idea was that it was to take and, and long, and push them together into one word. So essentially the word means that you have found a way to continue to move forward.

Of course, the fancy word for this is diplomacy. This is when we take two or more perspectives that are in deadlock and they are jostled and realigned and adjusted so that all of the parts that can align, do align. This creates a greater unification of needs and that removes friction and that’s what gets things further along. So with people you like and enjoy, you simply go. But with people you find challenging in some way, some getting along is required.

In school it’s easier to align yourself with people like you because you have so many chances to mix and there’s so many of you. But at work you’ll often be in smaller teams, so figuring out when to concede and when to hold ground is more difficult because you can’t just join another group. And at work your boss won’t give you a low grade–they’ll fire you. At work the problem might even be with your actual boss.

A lot of people were raised by a parent to start off with demands. But if everyone only made demands how would anything get anywhere? Obviously everyone has to enter into a negotiation or discussion or debate with the idea of some concessions automatically built into the premise of the meeting, otherwise you’re just re-meeting to re-express previously stated demands.

Negotiation, debate and discussion require flexibility on everyone’s part. When things are stuck, what people get through some concessions is… along. They can back away and keep things as they are, or they can move forward by trading absolutes for acceptable losses.

I’m not sure if they still do this there, but I’d been told while living in Budapest that one of the nearby governments (Czech maybe?) had a process whereby unions and companies had to submit a closed, fixed bid on their arrangement. Then three judges would pick one of them, without alterations. I suspect the story is true in some way because, in principle, what would happen for most people’s minds is in alignment with what the storyteller told me, and that is that invariably the two sides would make extremely similar offers, which just goes to show they both knew where starting from extremes would lead anyway.

We don’t need to be forced to do these things. We don’t need to be left with no options before we consider another path. When we’re in conflict with someone else’s needs, rather than our own objectives, we’re better to share the objective of getting along. That means instead of finding a statement that represents your own interests, you state something that moves things forward; something that leads towards peace, or cooperation, or openness, or eventually, agreement.

Interestingly it appears around the 1700’s before someone puts get and along together to form the notion of moving forward in unison, and that is sometimes referred to as living harmoniously. That’s a good term, because in a harmony everyone still has their own individual note; everyone’s just made some adjustments so they blend well with others so that the whole can equal more than the sum of the parts. And that’s the secret. Adding each individual position in any conflict will not total as much as if each part surrenders something to a larger whole.

Next time you’re in conflict, spend less time asserting your position and more time looking for ways to align it with the opposing views. Sometimes it’s true, it cannot be done. But far too often people fail at finding a compromise simply because no one was willing to compromise on principle. Winning might get you everything. But compromise does get everyone something.

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.

Banished From The Tribe

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

peace. s

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