The Rise of Anger

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

peace. s

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

The 912

Life will deliver disaster, it’s simply a byproduct of existence. Since it cannot be avoided, and since every happy person you know has faced some, what’s really important is our ability to respond to life’s big tragedies. At those times we need to pull together. We need a new rallying point. We need to share a common idea that we can all participate in as citizens of the world.

9/11 now represents a disaster that literally altered the course of humanity. Recently I heard a woman talking about Gander, Newfoundland, and the stories that are the basis for the Broadway hit and Tony Winner, Come From Away. This was the small maritime town in Canada that had an airport big enough for all of those US-destined planes to land when US airspace was closed.

Her point in noting it was that it was a grand example of the natural spirit of humanity. As the best was drawn out of people by the needs of others, we saw an example of how the vast majority of human beings feel about each other: we’re naturally connected. For this reason she called the Gander experience a 912 moment.

I like that. I like that she not only noticed that heroism follows disaster, but that she flipped the names of the days to make her point, because that’s really what all of us need to do. Disasters are inevitable. Our reaction to them is flexible. It would do all of us good to move through our own 9/11 moments watching for the inevitability of the 912 reaction.

The faster we spot that reaction the faster we’ll feel better and be able to amplify it. Sympathy is people joining us in pain. Empathy is them remembering their own pain. Assistance requires sacrifice. Dedication requires love. These are all 912’s. Let us all make this a part of our personal list of experiences.

The Buddhists talk about there being no single sided coins. So if we call up tails and lose a toss in life, the 912 moment shall be hereby described as the moment in which we begin to see or recognize the horizon–it’s that moment when we can see that there is another side, that part of tragedy itself is the response of love in whatever form. It is in recognizing and accepting that relationship that we find internal peace.

Accept that you will have your alarming and painful days. But just as readily accept that there will be a response, both within you and without you. You will find strengths that would not have emerged without the tragedy, and people will demonstrate love in ways you could not otherwise have known. Do not live in hope and fear. Instead, accept the duality of life by not only accepting its 911’s, but in doing so you also guarantee yourself the reality of the 912.

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.

Downers

A lot of our thinking stays within us and we’re the only ones that ever know our perspectives exist, but sometimes our thinking externalizes into actual spoken words. Since these words flow in the patterns that create our personalities, we can learn a lot about ourselves by listening carefully to ourselves with others.

As we start trying to catch ourselves we’ll need to do it with big things, and after the fact. Thinks like: what was the overall tone of my last conversation? What all did we talk about? Who started which subjects? What did I engage with and what did I ignore?

Eventually we start catching ourselves within a conversation and we suddenly become aware of where we are in that moment. If you don’t like where we’re at when we do, we suddenly prove how easy it is to change one’s thoughts because we’ll switch instantly and easily. We’ve all done this every time we’re having a big fight with our spouse and then someone from work calls and we answer the phone all cheery and positive. We’ll even flicker between the work identity and our married identity instantly as we cheerily say a sentence with a smile in it, and then as we listen we glare daggers at our partner.

When catching our conversations, first we’ll note a lot of them are sad, or dull, or whiny, or angry, or if we’re lucky maybe they’re relaxed, or fun or hilarious or lively. If we cultivate a lot of the first four we’ll reach for “relaxed” or “lively,” but generally people who are struggling have conversations that sound like people struggling. There’s lots of talk about how misunderstood they are, or what they can’t do, what their limits are, what resources are missing, or how hard, unfair or bad things are.

It will also help to monitor those we talk to. If we’re all having a great time, then we’re good. If one of us is always down and the other is always trying to pull the other up, then that’s strained and it’ll inevitably end. If both of us are always down then we’ve been down long enough that we’ve formed a group of people who like to meet because we’re all so good at negativity.

Once we get better at listening to ourselves while we’re in-conversation we start to spot patterns. We go to certain people for certain things. We have certain patterns attached to certain activities or times of day. Some people will lean on us, others we will lean on. But overall if our tone averages as enjoyable then we’re good, and if it averages as negative for too long then people will slowly disengage and we’ll only hold on to other people who actually worship and nurture sadness like we do.

None of us likes to think we’re negative. When we are negative we prefer to view it as misunderstood, wounded, or betrayed, or weak, or burdened with history. We discuss how no one understands us, or we talk about the hurts we have suffered, or how people have been unfair. We discuss our inabilities and justifications for those inabilities incessantly, and we also claim that things that happened five years ago prevent us from taking action today.

All of this negativity presents as forms of resistance to being, to creation. But every one of us has within us the capacity to alter our world. Even Stephen Hawking’s broke, diseased body took the one thing he had –an abundance of idle time– and he used it to develop his mind to the point where it has travelled farther our into the universe than anyone ever has. And it was all done from a wheelchair.

It will hurt to be inactive in the world. We were built to contribute. Even ants change the world. We certainly were built to build; families, businesses, friendships, community. So we can take our life energy and talk ourselves and those around us into a sad, small, depressing lives filled with suffering, or we can use that same life energy to go out and help others realise something great about themselves or the world. And regardless of our awareness of the fact, our life will be made of the moment by moment choices we make in that regard.

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.

Wisdom in Action

People often ask, which students do best? I explain that the ones that don’t try –but that love the learning and listen well–are best. And who continues to do best? Easy: those most dedicated to their practice. This appears to be the most mundane and obvious part of being healthy, and yet it’s the number one place people lose touch with it.

It’s important to remember that you talk to egos all day long. They try and pull you into ego-world constantly, discussing problems or gossiping or commiserating. You need to defend yourself with meditations that get you back on course. People don’t learn this stuff and float away like Yoda. It’s called a practice for a reason.

Possibly the best student I’ve ever had for dedication to practice is a woman was always very successful at loving people but her anxieties had prevented her from fully realizing all of her personal and professional opportunities. I really liked the woman I met, and the one I know now pretty routinely brings great happiness to me because she’ll post things on social media that are great lessons for all of her friends.

Below are two sample messages from many she’s written like this over the last few years. I often wonder if the people who are always impressed with her resiliency ever notice that about half of her happy and positive social media posts are about things most people would view as “going wrong.” Here’s two great ways to take action in your own life so that others can contribute to your peace and happiness. But always remember, no one will take that action if they don’t see you taking it first:

So normally kindness comes easily to me, it’s second nature, but today it’s something I’m having to do very consciously, especially because although I’m comfortable letting myself be in a low emotional space today I am aware that it has nothing to do with the people I am interacting with.

So today I am finding it more difficult than usual to be my pleasant self with customers, but alas it is part of my job being in customer service to do my best to provide pleasant interactions. That being said I was being especially kind to someone today, in a very small way, but no one looking on would know I struggled with simply extending my kindness today.

A few minutes after this interaction another customer came to pay and commented to me how beautiful she thought it was what I did, which again was really a very simple kindness that we should extend to everyone but was difficult for me today. She told me how she really appreciated seeing me make someone’s day, at which point I very obviously broke into tears and thanked her for letting me know that, as today I was struggling and her simply pointing out that she had noticed had inadvertently made my day!

See how she let that other woman help her feel better? We need to be open to that. So many times people will offer us ways to be happier and we won’t take them. But of course, the more she does it the better she gets:

Talk about a morning full of ninja brain training! Was scurrying around trying to get out the door for work. As I’m locking the door I rest my big bin full of wire wrapping supplies on the deck railing. Mentally told myself to be careful. Locked the door, turn around to grab the bin and instead knock it off.

Bin takes a big fall smashes to pieces, craft stuff goes everywhere. I unlock the door to go inside and grab a bag to put everything into and quickly lock the door and shut it behind me so I can leave as soon as I collect all of my fallen stuff. Have everything collected and I’m ready to go. Wait. Wait. Where are my keys. Oh that’s right, I used them to unlock the door and then hurriedly locked and walked out without grabbing my keys.

Spend the next while breaking into my own house to the extreme amusement of my dogs as I climb through the window, close the window, grab my keys, and finally get on my way to work! Let myself have a few moments of frustration and anger and then because I’ve learnt how to use my thoughts for the better I let it go and decided, hey this was the perfect opportunity to work on my consciousness and my patience!

And somehow through all that I made it to work on time! However I am now offering FREE HUGS all day from 10-9 at Bonnie Doon while I’m at work because I know I could use a hug and maybe you could to!? So come get your free hug, I’ll even throw in a smile!

See that? She was in need, so what did she offer? Generosity. Now that’s wisdom in action. And these are all things we can all do. So let’s be like her and do them, shall we? After all, it is our life.

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.

Good For You

Good for you. Have you ever stopped to really think about that phrase? Think about when you say it; it’s always when someone’s had something good happen in their life. And the more they had to do with their success the more enthusiastic we are. We’re happy for lottery winners, but we deeply admire those with the talent to create success, and our admiration increases in proportion to how hard they needed to work for it.

Good for you. It’s a double entendre. On one hand it means that whatever has happened is good news for you and that you are to be congratulated. On the other hand it can also note a well-earned victory means that notable successes are drawn from notable efforts. All of that hard work is good for you, so the earned victory not only impresses us, it inspires us.

It is in these moments in which we can feel our interconnectedness. Our happiness for the other person is an experience we have within our consciousness. The other person doesn’t even experience that. They see someone in the act of loving and that in turn inspires them to essentially love our love for them. It’s like a feedback loop of love.

And who is unpopular? An ego. An ego considers only itself, just as an insecure person doesn’t consider themselves enough. You want to balance on humility, where you get to selfishly be you, but you’re developed enough as a soul that you understand that nothing is better for you than what is good for others.

How then should this impact our days? If we know an open channel can generate opportunities for valuable connections, and we know closing ourselves off selfishly creates a feeling of separation and emptiness, then why not watch for the former and ignore the latter?

Most people spend most of their day in their head, talking to themselves. And when I say, “talking to,” what I really mean is attacking, reminding, debasing, criticizing, and fearfully undermining their own sense of self.

Why fill your head with all of those busy negative words when you can treat your consciousness more like a Star Trek tractor-beam? You just lock onto something you know you want and you pull it closer. And closer doesn’t mean in a possessive way, it means in a oneness way. It means you start to feel the same happiness they’re feeling but it’s about something that happened to them, not you. That’s connection. We live for that.

So today, like everyday, you’ll go through life switching between the creation of personal narrative that confirm your egocentric impression of the world, or you’ll engage in a very active silence that seeks to pull in the universe in an act of loving awareness. It’s why on a “good day” almost everything seems sweet or beautiful or wonderful or kind, and on a “bad day” it seems like the world’s filled with jerks.

Don’t try to stop your thinking. Switch the energy you use for thinking into being. Reading is thinking another person’s thoughts. A picture isn’t that different from reading, and an actual face isn’t so different from a photo of a face, so it isn’t a huge leap to move from you thinking your personal painful thoughts, to thinking an author’s thoughts, to studying a portrait, and then on to looking at an actual face. That’s all reality, not your opinion about reality.

Thoughts can get so busy they can lead to us feeling like we’re drowning. Reasons to feel good are laying all over the place and they buoy us up. Your day is filled with moments. Take as many as possible, and fill them with the fruits of your observations rather than waste them on yet another stream of unpleasant, unproductive thoughts.

You only have so much time on this Earth, so stop trying to impress everyone else and start living as though your life is actually yours. Because nothing will impress people more than how loving you’ll be once your egocentric, wanting thoughts are quieted in favour of you engaging in loving appreciation.

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.

Michelle’s Understanding

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

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

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

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

“What drove you crazy?”

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

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

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

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

“What. Ever. Can’t I just hate her?”

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

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

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

“Okay I get it.”

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

“Well it felt awful yesterday.”

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

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

“That’s what I do, yes.”

“And that’ll make me feel better?”

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

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

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

“That’s it?”

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

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

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

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

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

peace. s

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

Terror and Beauty

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You are so mindful in the moments that arrest that you fill your consciousness with everything; time stops and terror and beauty merge. You lose your definitions, your labels–you even call it indescribable!

It can be the majesty of a big cat chasing a graceful gazelle, it can be the incredible power and beauty of Niagara Falls, the cold isolation of Mount Everest, or even the fragile preciousness of a newborn baby. And if you’re Chad Cowan, you turn that vision for the awesome into your work.

In Chad’s beautiful film Fractal, and in each of these photos by other people, we see individuals who can recognise the harmony between our senses of beauty within terror. They seek the exhilaration that hides behind fear. Apparently the Greek’s name for God was agape. I guess that makes sense. It means awe, and awe contains within it both beauty and terror. Such is the yin and yang of the East

Look at your own life. Is it on the other side of your fears? Are you bold enough to be who you truly are? There is both reward and consequence for being true to yourself, and it is our willingness to accept both that converts our adversity into the excitement of one of life’s big events.

Where are your fears? Follow them. Your life is waiting for you, hidden in their shadow.

Decide something bold about your life within the next 5 minutes. Don’t give yourself time to overthink. Just think of something that’s on the other side of a fear, because you cannot hold the coin unless you’re willing to accept both sides.

Take your choice. Spend the rest of today and tonight feeling like it’s already true, and then tomorrow morning–begin. Enact that choice as though you do it every day without even thinking about it. Because it never really was fake it to make it; it should always have been, making it is always preceded by faking it.

Your life is waiting for you. Go get it.

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.