MoK: Absorbing Shots

Today for the March of Kindness we’ll focus on negativity. Negativity itself is not a problem, it is a critical aspect of life. You truly cannot have up without down, nor happy without sad, so we don’t want negativity to completely disappear, but we also don’t want to entertain it for longer than is necessary.

Negative things are really nothing more than signals. Your freedom lies in how you respond to the negativity in others, and when doing this it might be best to think of something like tennis or ping pong as a metaphor.

If people express their negativity toward you it can be responded to in one of two ways. If you choose to meet the negativity in a hard, reflective way, that is like hitting a shot back. Someone insults you, so you insult them back. By meeting their shot with a shot of your own, you join them in the exchange of negativity. This will continue until one of the egos involved feels it has “won.”

If the person is responding to previous points they feel you (or people like you) have scored against them, they will keep hitting negative serves to you until they feel they’ve scored an equal the number of points. This is actually a healthy process that keeps relationships internally balanced so that resentments do not build.

The only way to shorten a game of negativity is to not hit a shot back. If you intentionally miss a shot fired at you, or if you strike it back weakly, this means the person has won their point and has less of a reason to continue throwing more negativity your direction. Again, once they feel they have won that game it will naturally end.

So how do we absorb a shot? It’s really quite easy: instead of responding with a hard argument back, we can instead offer the softness of kindness. But what does this look like in practice?

Say we’re in a class at school and someone tries to bring us down with a negative comment, we can simply respond with a compliment back. So rather than participating in the game of negativity exchange, you can toss the ball back with no intention of scoring a counterpoint. Eventually the person gets tired of you not playing and they stop serving to you.

In an office, if someone is being negative about something, you can choose to kindly find a way to agree with them rather than argue back. It can feel very counter-intuitive to not offer your best argument in return, but you can do that if you remember that real winning is when you dissolve the disagreement rather than beat another person.

Today in the March of Kindness our jobs are easy. We each make the world a lot better by finding at least three chances for us to offer kindness were you could easily offer disagreement. All you’re trying to do is find people who want to have a game of negativity but then you let them win. They challenge you for a seat on the bus and you offer it to them. They want that parking stall, it’s theirs. They want to dislike you or your friends, let them. Easy.

Do you see how generous that is? You’re offering to lose. That is so kind. That is what we do for very little kids. We understand they’re growing, so we let them beat us in games by intentionally avoiding our own best game. In those cases we’re more interested in the development of the person than we are in personally winning. We just forget that once we’re adults, but the effect is exactly the same.

Participate in the March of Kindness. Make someone else feel like a winner and you will have made the world a better place. Because there are no losers with kindness.

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.

The Ego’s Tools

1101-relax-and-succeed-ubuntu-is-very-difficult-to-renderThis is a particularly good exercise. If you’re reading this then it’s likely that you generally like people. Some socialised peopled can behave anti-socially on, ironically, social media, but most feel the tug to be tribal. We know deep down that being separate from the group is more dangerous and less enjoyable. This is why prisoners describe the lack of freedom as most painful, even when their conditions might otherwise seem good.

Jail is our modern equivalent to shunning. Before you got kicked out and had to find a way to survive by catching 100% of your own food, making 100% of your own clothes and 100% of your own fire-making and socialising. In prison you get your jump suit and your food that’s heated over a stove, but it can still be a dangerous place unless you become a high enough ranking person to have protection, but even that pits you against other similar-strength people. We’re all really better off getting along.

Of course living with others does require a compromising approach that seeks something that works well for everyone, and yet at the same time if we have to sacrifice too much of who we are then we’re better off finding a group that matches us better. That said, adaptations on our part also expand us, so learning to get along with those you don’t get along with is an actual life skill.

1101-relax-and-succeed-teach-your-childrenOver the last couple decades there has been an increasing amount of judgment in the First World. Fed, watered, sheltered, the lower portions of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs is covered, meaning you’re looking for things to do. Those things used to largely be actions, not idleness.

Actions would be things like developing yourself, enhancing your environment, playing games or sports with others, being artistic through music or dance or carving or painting or weaving or whatever. Even at the turn of the last century it was an activity for a family to actively sit around a radio and listen. Yes, listening was an actual activity. It was something you completely did, not something that was on while you did other things.

Today there are a lot of people doing none of those things. A lot of people watch a lot of TV or spend a lot of time on the internet, and what’s there is what’s here–lots of words. I write professionally, but words are the ego’s tools, so that’s why when I’m healthiest I make the time to drag race, play drums, garden, or play some type of strategy game. These things are very involving and yet they involve little or no words. It’s why lots of kids have taken up knitting.1101-relax-and-succeed-we-are-just-an-advanced-breed

All of the judging people are doing is done in words. They think their judgments inside their own heads and then either say them or write them, or they don’t. But the judgment’s happened either way. That judgment is an ego-action inside our heads that separates us from our human tribe.

You might find it unpleasant imagining giving help to someone you don’t like, but imagine being able to get the help normally associated with a friend, from literally everyone. That’s what Star Trek imagined and that’s where we’re generally headed. A whole bunch of us want fewer borders and a greater emphasis on saving Earthlings, not just Earthlings like us. So that is where we’re going. The question is, what will you do to get yourself there?

Today’s meditation is easy, and yet it’s one of your most challenging yet: find gratitude in a place where you’d least expect it. Ask a few friends or people you see regularly: what sort of people do you complain about most? Maybe they’re rich, maybe they’re poor, maybe they’re intolerant of other cultures, maybe they’re from another culture, maybe they vote differently from you, maybe they’re in jail, maybe they have a temper or are boring–it doesn’t matter, it all works for the exercise.

1101-relax-and-succeed-god-created-our-skin-tonesThe idea is to stretch your own definition of what kind of person meets the definition of an acceptable person. As an example, personally, the biggest challenge I have is watching people with helpful power withhold it for personal reasons that have little to do with expanding the entire tribe.

I find it difficult watching an executive allow his staff to be abused; watching a wealthy person not take action to improve the world; watching someone be grotesquely self-centered, things like that. I’m mostly upset that they steal the joy of connection that goes with helping others. They’re stealing from themselves.

So to challenge my own judgments, I went out and found an example that proves my definition is one dimensional. You do the same. Take the type of person you don’t like, and then find a person who meets that description that you do like. Like I said, easy, and in a way quite the challenge. Find your type. Genuinely accept someone from that group into your group. That’s it. Because that will be a lot.

1101-relax-and-succeed-bill-gates-is-better-that-batman

http://www.frugaldad.com/

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.

Sanctuary

1077-relax-and-succeed-breatheYou have imagined sanctuaries but you likely have imagined something other than what your soul needs. You believe you need to get away from your life to some deserted island before you can get some peace and rest, but you can also do that by diving deeper into your own life.

You’ve been sending your consciousness out into the world over the last several meditations. Rather than spinning within yourself like a whirling ego storm you’ve worked to remember how to be a kid and open yourself up. Rather than swirling destructively within yourself you’re sending your consciousness outward, where it is more like a breeze from which valuable dreams can be snatched.

You’ll have put a lot of energy in your life and into improving yourself. Studying, practising, repeating, doing, going, enduring, strengthening, striving, reaching and working are all other names we put around the concept of improvement. But how much energy have you invested on slowing down? How much value have you placed on being quiet inside, or still, or empty?

1077-relax-and-succeed-all-of-us-need-time-to-be-boredIf you’re a parent, look at your kids: how much of your time is invested in helping them learn how to do things versus organising their life to also very consciously include opportunities to develop peace? Tranquility? Being alone? Listening skills? Or even the endurance required for boredom? How many opportunities for that did your parents give you?

If you were fully grown up before the internet showed up then you had a childhood where a lot of your time was your own. You would have found plenty of opportunities to relax and have Calvin and Hobbes-type conversations. If you’re still in the workforce today, have kids today, or if you are a kid who was born before 1970, then you have seen the steady devaluation of free time and peace of mind. Today’s it’s a badge of honour to be busy, when that’s a sign that things are going poorly, not well.

You can’t fit too much life in and live it deeply and fully. That’s like spending fifteen minutes at ten parties a night and then saying that you see your friends a lot. They’re not checkboxes, they’re people. You can’t download their history, their state of mind, or your own awareness and the natural sense of compassion that accompanies it. The only thing that’s useful with them or with yourself is presence. And yet….

1077-relax-and-succeed-the-most-wasted-of-all-daysYou’re an expert at not being present. You think you can multi-task. You can do. You consider doing so important that doing gets its own category: The To-Do List. But is there a not-to-do list? Is free time part of your schedule? Is it a priority? No, we live in a cult of efficiency. Today your worth is calculated based on what you’ve done, not who you’ve helped; especially if that’s yourself.

Today’s assignment is for you to create some actual peace. This is one of the most serious meditations so far: divide the day into your morning, your afternoon and your evening. Within the framework of each add an opportunity for peace. Each day provide an opportunity that is at least fifteen minutes long. One quarter of one hour out of each six, and then at least six to sleep (which is like another meditation). That’s only 1/24th of the three sections you’re awake for. Surely you can put that toward your mental health.

You can watch cat videos, look through old photo albums that lead to happy feelings, you can listen to peaceful music, go for a quiet walk, laugh, sit in the library and just watch people without judgment, concentrate on the people in your life that you love, or even peruse the Relax and Succeed page since that’s what it’s there for. All you’re seeking is a quiet mind with good feelings but no words.

1077-relax-and-succeed-people-will-do-anythingYou’ll feel resistance. You’ll feel the pull of your ego. It’ll taunt you saying things like you don’t have time for this, or how’s this going to help you? or whatever. Yak yak yak. It’s always there commenting. So what? You’re ego’s an idiot. It sees all kinds of limitations that aren’t really there, it talks you out of lots of great experiences and it runs you down regularly. Your ego is no friend to you so certainly don’t let it talk you out of dedicating yourself to something that is both so easy and so beneficial.

Set them. Get serious about them. Maintain them with the dedication you apply to the important things in your life like money or your phone. Set all of that aside and remember how to be. Because you’re not really sick or broken or lost, you’re just doing instead of being. So practice being. Start now.

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.

Mental Spin Class

1076-relax-and-succeed-suffering-is-not-holding-youIt was entirely normal that a lot of you struggled with yesterday’s meditation. That doesn’t mean it wasn’t productive. The reason it was hard is the same reason that most people are seeking more personal peace with others, ourselves and the world around us. We want to surrender into each other. But there’s these damned thoughts in the way.

When you say, “I can’t stand how Darlene makes it sound like her grandkids are smarter than everyone else’s,” what you mean is: when Darlene talks about her grandchildren I have internal conversations where my ego talks to my self and in doing so it leads me to experience unpleasant brain chemistry that I feel as the emotions I don’t enjoy.

Maybe your conversations surround how you feel insecure about how you raised your kids, and now you feel that your divorced, formerly addicted single mom daughter is something to be ashamed of. Maybe Darlene’s daughter is a chess master who is also an Olympic figure skater. That can lead your inferior-feeling self to want to bring Darlene down a few notches in your thoughts.

1076-relax-and-succeed-the-quieter-you-becomeMaybe you’re fine with whoever your kids and grandkids are but you’ve always had a thing about superiority. That family down the street used to make your mother cry with her comments about your family’s modest life. People like that are jerks. Anyone who displays any kind of superiority has been well thought-out a long time ago. As an adult you can just play that angry recording.

It doesn’t matter what the reason is. What matters is that resistance to someone else’s being feels terrible. It’s unproductive. Fortunately it’s also voluntary. In fact it takes effort. But yesterday, in one of your meditative attempts to be more peaceful, you ended up possibly even more irritated. And that’s okay. It’s instructional.

What often happens is that people do something like this: There’s Darlene, at it again. No. No. Don’t go there. Don’t think about Darlene, don’t think about Darlene, don’t think about Darlene…” I think you might already be getting my point. It’s like your ego and your self are arguing in your head like those two old guys in the balcony in The Muppets. One’s bitching about Darlene and the other’s bitching that he doesn’t want to discuss Darlene. That’s a lot of talking about Darlene.

When a figure skater is spinning really quickly they are keeping their own physical energy near them, away from the outside world. Like them, when you spin thought-loops in your head you keep all of that spinning energy bundled up inside of your consciousness when it should be open to the entire world.

When a figure skater wants to stop their spin they don’t win some kind of argument; they open up and release the energy to the world around them. As the forces are released the spinning stops. Until then the vision of the skater is blurred. Likewise with your psychology. Spin it around Darlene and you’ll get dizzy and upset. Release those thoughts and turn your attention to the surrounding world and you’re free.

Since so many of you struggled yesterday, let us repeat today: choose the same or a different person. Your objective is simple: As you listen, catch your ego starting to spin and then open and release. The idea is that you want to recognise  that you’re focused on your own spinning thoughts. You want to throw your attention outward and without expectation.

1076-relax-and-succeed-i-even-overthink-my-overthinkingWherever you are, a good way to practice this would be for you to try to release yourself by noting something you’ve never noticed before about your location or the people with you. Maybe it’s that someone’s wife is taller than them, or that their eyes are blue; maybe there’s a yellow thumbtack stuck in the ceiling, or there’s a cut in the floor. It doesn’t matter. It’s the act of refocus and release that counts.

Watch for irritation, see yourself spinning, release your consciousness. You already do this in your life. It’s time you started doing it consciously. Have a great day.

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.

Understanding Insomnia

It drives me absolutely crazy!!! Every night I have to listen to my husband’s deep breathing. He falls asleep as soon as his head hits the pillow and I’m left up for hours trying to sleep while he breathes like a sleeping elephant. Help!!!

signed,
Sleepy Spouse

Dear Sleepy Spouse,

I take it that “…breathes like an elephant,” wasn’t referring to snoring, but actual deep breathing. So what you’re essentially saying is that you are troubled when your husband can sleep when you can’t. I’m not sure envy or jealousy are effective routes to where you want to go, so rather than being upset about it maybe you can look to your husband for a lesson. Why exactly is it that he can so quickly fall asleep?

Let me begin by saying you’re in extremely good company. Based on my experience a very large percentage of at least first-world women find it very difficult to fall asleep and, based on my practice, a very large percentage of those also have husbands who can drop off to sleep quickly and easily the vast majority of the time. I have never had a man hire me to work on his insomnia but I have had lots and lots of women contact me about it. So what’s with this gender split?

Simply put, a lot of women talk or self-talk more than the average man. Like all things there are many exceptions, but there’s definitely a gender split when it comes to communication. It’s the women who generally wish their men would communicate more, not the other way around.

290 Relax and Succeed - Ego says Once everytyhing falls into placeWomen have their language centres engaged much more heavily in daily living. And I know pop psychology from the 60’s through the 80’s told you that it was healthy—but it really isn’t. There is less confusion in silence. Then actions speak louder than words. So you might criticize your spouse for not talking enough, but in fact all of that talking just leads to more and more complex issues, which then require even more talking to sort out. This is not a formula for peace of mind.

What this translates to is that women are often engaged more heavily in self-dialogue as a means of analyzing, understanding and reacting to events outside of themselves. On average women are much more interested and invested in their spirituality and their psychology, so they tend to be much better students when I’m imparting enlightened living. Men are generally less motivated to do that work, but that is in part because they are naturally a touch closer to enlightenment simply by virtue of having quieter minds.

Because men have historically been capable of affecting more actual change, they do not use their thoughts as much to battle the is-ness of things, which inadvertently creates a quieter, more peaceful mind. On average they simply do not spend anywhere near as much time “solving issues” in their own imaginations, they’ll say something out loud. Where this impacts sleep is by habit of thought.

Men are taught to perceive that it is okay to have a strong opinion so they are also okay with other competing opinions. When they run into someone who feels the opposite way, in a subtle way there was already an acceptance that opposing opinions would exist, and so those competing views are taken less personally and thought about less often. At least in today’s culture women often have their opinions disregarded, and so rather than a strong opinions they’ll be more inclined toward a stronger sense of right and wrong. There is a way things should be, and if they aren’t that way then a lot of women will give that subject a great deal of thought.

Come bed time men are more likely to lay down and, without stimuli, they feel no need to think about anything. (Insert your own jokes here.) In fact men will often find their wives insomnia inexplicable, and they’ll respond to it just by saying, “just go to sleep.” Of course that’s maddening to the people who don’t know what that means. They don’t understand the verb of it.

What is it to: just go to sleep? Well here’s your explanation: going to sleep is laying down when you’re tired and going quiet inside. After that, sleep will just show up naturally if you’re not constantly yakking to yourself. Otherwise it’s literally like laying there with a third person in bed who simply won’t shut up. If you’re busy thinking wake-time thoughts then don’t expect to sleep as well as the person who isn’t lying there dosing themselves with all kinds of wakeful chemistry generated by thinking awake-time thoughts.

290 Relax and Succeed - Sometimes the easiest wayYou don’t solve “problems” in your head, you create them. There really is no such thing as a problem and nothing is really right or wrong. As Shakespeare said, “Nothing is good or bad but thinking makes it so.” If you have fewer ideas of how other people should be then you obviously see fewer transgressions and you’re then also not inclined to discuss them as though they are problems versus, what is.

Can you see how this fits you? You think your husband is doing something wrong—something offensive to you by what—mocking you by sleeping? The deep breathing is called relaxation. It’s nice that he doesn’t snore don’t you think? And of course you’re going to be awake if you’re laying there trying to sort out your life or asking yourself why you’re not already asleep. Would you fall asleep if someone next to you was talking non-stop? So why’s it different when it’s you inside your own head?

The reason your husband’s asleep is because he climbs into bed with the very simplistic idea that he only has one thing to do: fall asleep. And doing that happens naturally when you’re tired if you just stop being awake. And again, the definition of being awake is to actively think about your day when it’s over. It’s dumping the chemistry for wake-time events into your brain when it should be being dosed with the chemistry for sleep.

290 Relax and Succeed - There is nothing good or badYou can’t lay in bed and think about tomorrow or earlier today and hope to go to sleep. Sleep happens in the now, so you have to quiet all of those other conversations so that you can listen for the quiet of present moment.

Don’t psyche yourself out. Don’t check in with the clock like a scoreboard. You only have one thing to do. Go quiet. You have tiredness going for you. You have the dark going for you. You have being horizontal going for you. You have all of these natural signals that will help you tip your biochemistry toward sleep. And it’s not like sleep is unnatural. There are few things more natural. You getting in the way of the sleep is what’s unnatural.

Do babies have trouble falling asleep when they’re tired? Nope. Why not? Because they don’ t know words yet so they can’t use them to build ideas about the past or future which contain fearful, worried, angry or even excited thoughts. They just get the chemistry that comes naturally with being tired, darkness, and horizontalness—sleep. You really don’t need to figure out how to fall asleep. You have to learn how to stop keeping yourself awake.

290 Relax and Succeed - Be still like a mountainIt’ll take time because you’re currently addicted to your thinking patterns. Changing rooms etc. might help you change thought patterns, but since you’ll eventually want to move back into your bedroom you might as well just stop over-thinking while you’re still there. At first it’ll drive you crazy to tell yourself to stop talking to yourself because that’s just more talking. You’ll start over and over and over and over and over. But if you just keep redirecting yourself back to a quiet mind that is empty, within a month or so you will have built the off-ramps in your brain and going quiet will be easier.

Eventually what will happen is that you’ll start associating your bed with sleep and not insomnia. Sleep is what will rush in to fill the space where you used to talk to yourself. So your husband isn’t special or crazy—he’s functioning entirely naturally. He just never started talking to himself in bed so he doesn’t have to stop it. You did, so you do.

Stop all of the thinking. Stop all of the judging and planning and self-flagellation. Just go quiet. Maybe even use his breathing as a rhythm to focus on. Most of the world group-sleeps and it helps to listen to others sleep if your mind isn’t battling the sounds rather than flowing with them. So rather than laying there making yourself angry or frustrated, instead be quiet and let yourself be peaceful and you too will find that sleep is just as natural for you as it is for any human being alive.

Have a great sleep!

peace, zzzzz

Scott McPherson is a writer, public speaker, and mindfulness facilitator who works with individuals, companies and nonprofit organizations around the world.