The Art of Believing

Intuitively you know it, but it’s rare even among writers for a human being to break language down enough to realise how ephemeral it really is. It always surprises me that it can accomplish anything at all it’s such a faulty, misunderstood communication system. Half the time it’s like broken Morse Code where 25% of the dots and dashes are missing plus both parties got different versions of the codebook from their parents and culture.

Writers and scientists and a few weird researchers like me are the ones who look at communication crazy-closely. We slow it down, watch it unfold, and in doing so we can see why people say they’ll do things they never intended to do, or why a spouse doesn’t relax when their partner curtly tells them that they’re “fine.” Yeah, their tone sounds a bit pleasant, but….

These are all communications indeed, but the words used will often combine with the tone and circumstances and history to create entirely different meanings, and often that meaning will even be intentionally imprecise. The people we know well don’t really do this any better than anyone else but over time we do get to know each other’s codebooks a little, so friends have more success than strangers, but still….

None of this should surprise us. If you listen for it today you’ll realise that often times people are speaking precisely because they don’t want to communicate accurately. “We’re looking into it,” if it’s said to a boss, can just as easily mean, “We’re trying to figure out how to tell about you this without getting fired.”

Of course parents know this process all too well. Many times the year’s backpack gets tossed out the following year because the kids actually lied about cleaning all their old lunches out of them before putting them away for the summer. Imagine that. A kid lying to their parents. It’s almost as though they’re trying to hide something…. And look at that. I’ve ended three sentences now with ellipses (…) Even I’m implying things I’m not saying.

Isn’t it weird that you roll around in these lies and misdirections every day and you don’t even really acknowledge it? There’s nothing you can do about it, so it’s not like it’s worth worrying about, but you could benefit enormously by keeping in mind that it’s always happening. It is not crazy to walk away from any exchange thinking to yourself, “Okay, I think I understand what they meant.” That way, if it turns out you didn’t–no problem. You didn’t have the expectation that you had.

We all need to believe something to function but it’s important that we not mistake our interpretations of the world for the world itself. There’s no way to talk about the world itself because no one sees the world, everyone justs sees their perspective on it. It’s like we’ve all gathered around the base of Mount Everest. Everyone has a different view; everyone can see something others cannot, and they can’t see things that some others can. In that scenario it’s just crazy to want to be the person who sees through everyone’s eyes. No one has that view unless you want to call that the God-view.

Your view of things, your view of ideas, your view of other people, and your view of yourself will not align with others views. If you look at your life you’ll see a ton of it gets wasted in your efforts to reconcile these views. You invest a lot energy trying to get people to see things from your perspective when that’s rarely necessary and it never really works anyway. You’d be far better off to just let things be, including misunderstandings, and particularly including misunderstandings about you.

This is why you trusting yourself and your naturally cooperative heart is so important. All of the other information that you have could be faulty. And everyone’s using different information anyway, so what’s the point in reconciling just this or that one? You can let all of that balancing and correcting and sorting out and fixing to other egos and you can live a spiritual life instead.

Be okay with being misunderstood. Be okay with misunderstanding. Be okay with truths. Be okay with lies. Understand that these all make sense from their individual perspectives, and that you can never hope to grasp all of the complexities. You are better to let go and flow instead.

Don’t compare events to what you thought would happen based on discussions, just accept them as they are and move on to the next moment. That is what it is to truly understand communication. That is how you use your understanding of it to free yourself to live a fulfilling life. Accept but don’t believe. Live in the mystery. It really works. I really mean it.

Have a wonderful week everyone.

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.

Spiritual Lessons From Sport

Even for non-sports fans, sports offers excellent examples of how people behave when they’re functioning from an enlightened perspective. The lesson I’ll present today surrounds my own city, Edmonton, Canada, and our hockey team, The Edmonton Oilers.

The context is that Edmonton got an NHL team at the end of the 70’s and within only five years that team began a run of 5 Stanley Cups. Frankly, it created very high expectations that have since proven quite painful. With one almost accidental exception, the team has floundered at the bottom of the entire league for twenty years.

The contrast between the two team histories had made Edmonton hockey fans a somber bunch. There wasn’t much to rally good thoughts around. Recently, into the vacuum created by seasons of finishing last, came a once-a-generation elite draft pick and a brilliant new coach and GM and the nicest arena in sports. Suddenly the team has gone from vastly underachieving to significantly overachieving.

An important part of the lesson is that normal is defined by whatever you’ve gotten used to. For a generation of Oilers fans losing was normal, so winning stood out like a sore thumb. It was sure easier to enjoy. If your team is dominant–as Edmonton was in the 80’s–then you couldn’t help but half-expect to win. And that is a recipe for disaster.

When you expect wins and they don’t come it’s painful. Likewise, expecting losses and getting wins feels especially good. Fortunately, that phenom player really is as good as they said he was, and so are the coach and GM, so in short order orange jerseys and t-shirts were selling like crazy to very, very happy fans who were suddenly forming more of an actual identity around the team, (now that the team finally had one).

Here’s another important part of the lesson: most people started off the year excited by the fact that we might make the playoffs for the first time in eleven years. And then boom. We beat the really good team we’re up against and we’re in the second round of the playoffs. It was Oilermania in Edmonton. Suddenly this previous source of anger and frustration and sadness has people feeling awesome, and how awesome depended entirely on all of that anger and frustration and sadness.

At public screenings of the game total strangers embraced after goals. They are now a family of fans. For good luck, there is now a First Nations drum circle done by Oiler fans prior to every game. I have witnessed people I know to have racist feelings about Natives, showing support for the Native drum circle. Stop and think about what’s happening in that person’s mind.

A guy has a very dim view of First Nations Canadians. This is innocently because of the part of the province he grew up in and some early programming from his parents, plus some unfortunate early experiences. So he’s always felt entirely justified. If he sees one of these guys as a Native then he’ll take a dim view of the very same person he will embrace if the guy’s beating a drum at an Oiler game! Think about that. The Native guy has multiple identities within the mind of the racist fan. And that racist opinion is so thin that it can be burst by an orange jersey. This is real bridge-building between cultures.

Even non-hockey fans got into these playoffs. They weren’t joining in the love of hockey. They were joining in on that wave of positive civic feelings. And why not? Why not make choices that help you feel connected and good? That’s how healthy, connected people do it. Once everyone was in a healthy state of mind, when the team finally lost something very interesting happened.

People think they’re not being successfully spiritual if they don’t dispel their expectations. It’s true, that’s a path to the path. But as I always say, you can’t have path without not-path, so that “wrong part” is actually equally important to your spirituality, hence yin and yang and the acceptance of suffering that the Eastern philosophies suggest. So yes, dispel your expectations, but don’t think you’re “outside” of spirituality if you have them. As long as you accept the teeter totter you’re on, you do get to trade your expectations for intense experiences.

In the end what happened was that everyone would have been happy if the team just made the playoffs at all, so this year everyone felt that the team had exceeded expectations. They were able to trade those exceeded expectations for very little pain when the team finally did lose in the third period of game seven of round two.

Yes, many fans were disappointed in that seventh game, many said so when interviewed. But to a person, they also said that it had been a wonderful year, they were proud of their team, proud to be a part of the fanbase, they’d made many friends and they lived in excited anticipation of next year. That is wonderful! They became voluntarily part of a family. They fell in love with the team and each other, and they’re hopeful. And for this year, they are literally happy about losing.

Of course, all of this will set up our expectations, so if we don’t make the playoffs next year people will be especially disappointed. I won’t have that expectation, just anticipation. So I’ll avoid the roller coaster. But I might join it for the playoffs, voluntarily. Why? Because it’s fun. And because, when it comes to true spirituality, even when you’re out you’re in. This is the yin and yang of life that we all must accept before we can live in peace. Here’s hoping this lesson helps you understand how that state of mind works. Have a great weekend everyone.

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.

Chore Procrastination

Most of us know the feeling. Your housework has been there for two weeks but you have been a master procrastinator. But if someone’s coming over, suddenly the procrastination is gone and your housework becomes the most important thing in your world. This shift in your values points to an important piece of information.

You started off fine that your house wasn’t picture perfect. Then suddenly someone else was going to see it, and now your place suddenly didn’t look good enough. For this person you will leap to cleaning your space, but for yourself… nah. So what’s going on there? What’s your brain doing? Because half the time the person coming over can be a stranger you’ll see once in your life, like a repairman.

You’re worried about being judged. Maybe about how clean you are, how organised, how much money you have, whatever. There’s something that you know about yourself that you’re trying to hide from others. That shame isn’t good for you. My mother used to wash walls every other week. Then she hit menopause. Boom, we had a freezing house and Mom was no longer interested in sheet-ironing. And as her kids we thought it was great. It seemed like her priorities had improved.

Sometimes you just want your externals to reflect how you feel inside. It makes a very clear kind of sense that when you’re trying to get your life in order, you’ll start with getting your space in order. Those natural impulses are all fine. But the fearful egocentric ones–the ones where you’re worried about belonging–those are unnecessary. You live inside belonging. What some individual human feels about you is relatively nothing. You are loved by the universe.

That can sound corny right? I don’t need to clean my house because the universe loves me? But it’s true. I don’t mean there’s some persona called the universe that loves specifically you, I mean that the universe is a very loving and supportive place if you go to the right places within it. But it’s our job to go where the oasis is. It’s easy to find. It feels like love.

There are people who know you well enough that they’ve seen your house in disarray. They’re still your friends, and you still manage to stay relaxed while they’re over and the place is a disaster. Okay, that’s more like an unconditional relationship. They’ve seen your messy, they’ve seen your neat, and both are fine by them. That’s someone who loves you as a verb. Anyone who judges your space is merely speaking innocently from their ego.

Relax. Be yourself. All of you. Sure, people will judge the real you. But they’re already judging this performance-you anyway, so what’s the difference? You may as well pay to be you as pay to be someone else.

The universe has some suffering built into the deal, but there’s no reason we have to invite more by worrying about other’s judgments. If people aren’t prepared to accept the real us then they’re not interested in an authentic relationship. That doesn’t mean there’s something wrong with them, they’re just finding their way like we all are. But if we are being judged, we’re wiser to invest ourselves in the parts of the universe that love us back.

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.

Egos and Salespeople

Richard and Alice didn’t even want to be there, but they had been in an accident and they needed to replace their car. They tried being stealthy but the salesman’s training took care of that. He was ready. Everything about his training taught him how to take full advantage of whatever kind of personality was in front of him.

Alice was just as shy as Richard but, for little more than sexist reasons, she pushed–and Richard accepted–the lead shy person’s position and so he’s the one that talked to Sammy. Richard immediately tried to play his cards close to his chest, but all that he and Alice talked about were safety features, so Sammy figured out that scaring them into buying it was the fastest, surest way to sell them a new van that was more expensive than the one they came in for.

Sammy talked about features, but he was sneaky about always adding in little references to how his van had this or that feature that kept them safer than other vans. Half the time Sammy was making the name of the feature up, and he had no idea what the competitors vans had for safety or features, but he knew if he said his was safest and the customers trusted him, then they’d never check. Besides, Mac was the kind of salesman that told the truth about that sort of thing and he was always in trouble with their managers for reading research instead of selling. Sammy didn’t need that hassle. He wanted to be a good employee.

In a short time Sammy had them scared into dealing with him only, and he had scared them into his van specifically, and then he scared them into a price. Of course his manager started them far higher than the monthly payment number they gave him, but that’s how Sammy’s boss contributed to the psychological assault. And that way Richard and Alice are so off balance that they never even noticed that the monthly payments added up to a lot more than the van plus the interest.

For their part, Richard and Alice are legitimately scared. They can’t deal with those other lying, thieving salesmen. Good thing Sammy warned them about them. And it has to be the D-Lux model, not for all of those expensive features, but rather because that’s how they get the best safety equipment. Besides, Sammy had got them such a great deal. (Sammy also made sure they felt in line to have several more accidents during their driving history.) So they felt they had no option except to nearly double their original monthly payment budget.

Once they’d agreed to that, Sammy handed them over to Polly. She’s the dainty, cute girl that works in the finance office. She was going to take care of the “paperwork” with Richard and Alice, and Sammy had told her about his good friends Richard and Alice, so innocent-looking little Polly also knew to tell a bunch of really frightening stories as she recommended various insurance or protection options. Totally scared of theft, accidents, death and every projectile imaginable, Richard and Alice doubled the price of the van again.

Finally they get word back from the bank but now they’re scared again! After all of this work and planning, the bank won’t approve the loan. Oh no! They can’t let the van go now! It’s the last one like it! Of course none of this is true, but with Sammy, Polly and their manager saying it, Richard and Alice panic. Yes, of course they’ll pay more!

Boom. Polly got her bonus–because had they not been willing to pay more, then the interest rate problem would have suddenly been solved by Polly’s genius instead or Richard’s wallet. So in the end, Richard and Alice got the van that will destroy their future finances and they’re even relieved to have it. They’re so grateful to Sammy for focusing on their safety and not their wallets that they’re planning on sending him business.

On a sidenote, when they picked up their van, Richard and Alice were so excited and happy that they didn’t even notice Mac, the honest salesman, being escorted out of the building with his belongings. Which was too bad for Mac, because the next day he ended up missing out on the free cake to celebrate Sammy’s win as Employee of the Month.

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 Teacher

She taught Education. She had been asked a reasonable question: what should they do when confronted with a racist student? How should they protect the student under attack? What was the best discipline for the student doing the attacking? She understood their impulse. Her own reaction as a young teacher back in the 90’s was to come down hard. But then she told her students about him.

He was a handsome boy; bright, very engaged. He sat right near the front. It had been a week since he’d been to class. The parents said they would ensure he came, but still no Cameron. She was on her way home when she finally spotted him.

He was sitting at a coffee shop table with a fruit drink, reading a comic book. He didn’t know what to do when she just sat down across from him with her coffee and a big friendly smile on her face. “Hi Cameron!” He froze like a deer in the headlights, caught off guard by her friendly approach. “Don’t worry. You’re not in trouble. I know what the problem is. Everything is going to be fine now. You’re safe.” He was baffled.

“Safe from who?”

“From whoever is bullying you.” His eyes rolled a bit. He seemed less nervous. It was like he was mocking her efforts. “It’s okay Cameron. You’re not weak for needing help. We have to stand up to racism together. Just tell me who the student is and I promise, they’ll be disciplined harshly. I’m pretty sure I already know who it is anyway.”

“Oh yeah? And who’s that?” he finally said.

“It’s Nathan, isn’t it.” He just laughed her off like a fool. “It’s not funny Cameron. This this is a serious issue. If it’s bad enough he’ll be kicked out of school.”

“Well then I guess you’ve already done your job then, haven’t you?” he offered. Now she was confused and he now felt more confident.

“What are you talking about?”

“I’m talking about me. I’ve already left. You don’t need to kick me out.” She stared back at him, truly lost and confused and he knew it. He let her stew while he built up his courage. He loved her as a teacher, but it was time. Finally, he stepped forward to offer his coup de grâce. “I’m the racist Ms. Simms. I’m the bad guy in this story.”

“Cameron I have no idea what you’re talking about.”

“At least you got that part right.” She looked at him imploringly. He was a good student. She wanted to be a good teacher. But he almost seemed angered by her compassion. “I’m from South Africa Ms. Simms.” He paused. “I’m white.” She was still lost.

He spun the comic around and pointed to a character. “I’m the villain. I’m the bad guy.” She looked at him confused. “I had dogs back home that were trained to attack black people Ms. Simms. The person you want to kick out of school isn’t Nathan, it’s me.”

It was like someone flipped her world upside down. She started a hundred thoughts and finished none. He was South African. He was white. And South Africa was under sanctions for Apartheid. “But…” all of her preconceptions were smashing into what he’d said, and what she knew. “Cameron how could that be? Just because you lived in South Africa, that doesn’t automatically make you a racist.”

“Yes it does Ms. Simms. It does. Because I was. I was a racist. Do you understand? My friends and I beat black people.” She reacted as though he struck her. She flinched, and it made him feel more confident. “That’s right. I sicked my dogs on black people. They bit them. Badly. And I felt nothing. They were animals. I cared more about my dogs.”

She sat there feeling like someone had punched her in the stomach. She had no way to process what he was saying and he knew it, so he doubled down. “You’re from here, Canada. You talk to black students the same way you talk to white students, and Chinese students, and Native students. You’re a Canadian. You were taught to respect these people. I was taught to have dogs. Dogs that were trained to attack black people. And I was happy to use them.”

“But you’re not that person now…” she was almost begging him to confirm it. She couldn’t reconcile the nice kid she knew and the stories he was telling her.

“When you grow up and everyone around you thinks a certain way, you don’t even notice it. I was in Canada for months before I saw a white person treat a black person with respect. I’d never seen it before in my life. I thought he was crazy, or weak. My father thought he was both.”

“Do you still feel that way? Do you still want to attack black people?” Now he was uncomfortable. He didn’t. Canada had rubbed off on him in a year. He wasn’t friends with any coloured people, but he knew people he liked that were. He was going through his own conflicts. He couldn’t tell her how he felt because he didn’t know either. “How could you believe such a thing?” she asked.

“You thought I was a nice kid, right? You believed that. You took the little bit you knew and you told yourself a story about me and you believed it. So that’s who I was. I was who you thought I was. Well, the same for me. Everyone around me believed black people were animals, so I thought so too. I didn’t even know there was an option until I moved here.”

“But you’re so compassionate Cameron. I’ve seen you be kind. It’s why I like you.”

“It’s just guilt. I’ve done some very bad things.” That seemed to upset him.

“But you didn’t know better.”

“That’s no excuse. You said it yourself.”

She had. She now knew that had been a mistake. It had never occurred to her that she might not be able to recognise the racists. Her judgment felt too easy now, too casual. Now she felt like the bully. “I’ve made a mistake Cameron. I’m sorry. You’re making me realise that now. I’d never thought of the racist as a victim too.”

“A victim of who? We had all of the power.”

“I don’t mean the power. I mean the… awareness. The understanding. You had no way of knowing that you were participating in racism. I see that now. If everyone around you does it, then it’s normal. You’re making me realise now that I grew up in a family that had some pretty harsh ideas about Indians–about Natives–and I’m… maybe I’m not as good a teacher as I thought.”

“You’re fine Ms. Simms. You’re one of the most popular teachers in the school. The problem isn’t you. It’s me.”

Now she was feeling stronger. “No, it isn’t. The problem is that I didn’t have a discussion about racism, I just called one side good and the other side bad and that was it. I didn’t leave you any room. I didn’t leave a space for you and that’s my fault. That’s my failing. I not only let you down as a teacher, I let that whole class down and I see that now. I need your help Cameron.”

“My help…?” He was lost. He was young enough that he thought in absolutes. But she was changing her mind. And it was opening up new possibilities.

“I want you to teach us Cameron.” He seemed shocked. “I mean it. You’re right. I don’t know what I’m talking about. Just like you I’ve never even questioned my biases until now. I’m no better than you and you’re no worse than me. The problem here isn’t you. The problem is a lack of understanding. You can help us with that. Racism is subtle here in Canada. We like to think we have none, and yet I displayed some to you. I was intolerant of you. We have to fix that. This class can be better and it will be better if you explain it to us. We need to know why you had those dogs. We need to find our own versions of those dogs. Will you help me? Will you help us?”

She seemed serious. He liked her. And he liked school. He really wanted to be more comfortable with his black classmates but he had no idea where to start. Maybe this was his chance.

“Please Cameron. I mean it. I really need your help with this.” He looked at her a long time. He wanted so badly to believe he was a good person. He so badly wanted her forgiveness. He wanted all black people’s forgiveness. He started to cry. I mean cry. It started as tears but soon he was sobbing. She went around the table and put her arm around while he sobbed.

After a while someone appeared next to them. It was Robert. He was a sensitive boy. He’d been a refugee from Somalia. He was black. “Are you okay Cameron?” he asked. Cameron looked up and started to cry even harder when he saw who it was. Robert sat down across from him and took his hands his own. “It’s okay.”

Cameron looked at him through his tears. He felt so incredibly bad that he started a new jag of tears. He squeezed Robert’s hands. “Robert will you help me?”

“Of course I will.” He pulled Cameron up, into an embrace. He held him closely as Cameron bawled on his shoulder. People started watching them but they didn’t care. This was the beginning of it getting better.

When she looked up at her university class she was crying. They were too. Even the harshest, toughest boys. She took a moment to gather herself before speaking. “If I teach you anything in this class I’d like it to be this: you will learn more from your students than you can ever hope to teach them. So remember that when you’re at the front of your classes. Remember to never, ever, stop being a student too. Because in all of my years of teaching, no one ever made me a better teacher than Cameron and Robert did. Your job isn’t to police what’s good or bad or right or wrong. Your job is to build understanding. Do that, and you’ll have done the most important kind of teaching there is.”

And with that the bell rang.

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.

All of Us

You know those Russian nesting dolls? The ones that all look essentially the same but are painted a little differently as you progress down in size? Those are a great metaphor for what it’s like to get along with others. Back in the days of them always being hand made, each set had its own theme and each doll was not only a slightly different size, but each was also given its own unique take on the overall theme. These layers of identical dolls are like the many aspects of people, including ourselves.

Maybe you like music, you have a really close family, you like discussing things from a philosophical perspective and you think trust is a relationship’s foundation. That would take us four dolls down, but they go forever, with many more superficial interests at the surface and many deeper needs expressed in the smaller, hidden versions of you.

People you immediately like have outside shells that look a lot like yours, so you immediately feel comfortable around them. Good friends will match a lot of your layers, giving you lots of things and perspectives in common. Those are the friends you not only do things with, but you’ll talk politics or religion with them.

Deeper dolls are reserved for lovers and lifelong, best friends. These people seem to be able to match you as far down as you can go, and even then, by the time you find some that don’t, no one cares because it seems so insignificant compared to the tons of matches that you do share. These are the people you can bring your smallest, darkest selves out with.

Likewise, people you don’t like at first have a shell that you find unappealing in some way. It’s boring or threatening or depressing. People you develop a real dislike for are ones where you can go down several layers and not find a match. Neither of you feels comfortable. But it’s important to remember that it’s not anyone’s fault or failure when we run into cases where there are no apparent matches. They’re just non-matches. A pear isn’t letting an apple down by not being an apple.

Of course, eventually everyone has a match. We have been a lot of people. We all have a lot of layers. If we go down deep enough, we eventually find some kind of touchstone–some kind of thing that relates us. We were both beaten by our mothers, or we both found out our partners were gay when we got left in a divorce, or we both secretly want to be DJ’s.

Enemies are nothing more than people who gave up on you–or who you gave up on–before you found those matches. And I’m not saying you should look for them because there’s a lot of other people you can be out having fun with. Life isn’t a test. You don’t have to take the hard way through it. But it’s helpful to remember that; if life forces you into a situation, there are ways to develop a bond.

Even if you got down to your last doll and there was no match, you then realise that you do have something in common: you’re both made of layers and you both have some small dark ones very few have seen. There’s no reason to hate that. Thinking someone has no value means you are falling for an illusion. You’re causing yourself suffering by voluntarily putting your own psyche through the act of hating, or actively thinking badly about, another person. You’ll blame them for your feelings, but that’ll be you.

People you like aren’t better than people you don’t like. They just agree with you more. Remember that when you’re agreeing–and especially when you’re disagreeing–because maintaining an awareness of that fact will truly help the whole world to get along better, and that will bring the most out of all of us.

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: The Songspinner

You took on a challenge. You volunteered for the March of Kindness. Rather than just wanting the world to be kinder you lead the way and you were kinder by example. Undoubtedly along the way you even encouraged someone who didn’t even know what the March of Kindness was and yet you would have influenced them to do something positive. You should feel good about that.

On the final day of the march we’re going to focus on the kindness that is you. You can do nice things, and you can take action you wouldn’t normally take, but if we really want to impact the world we must appreciate that our general disposition is like a chemical we add to the mix of daily reality. We can be caustic or inert, we can flow we can fizzle, but if we’re looking closely we can see that our frame of mind–our mood–helps set the tone for others around us. Today is about you recognising that power.

Yes, you are important. No matter who you thought you were, you are like a radio station that has the ability to play music people dance to or you can play music that brings tears to people’s eyes. Which songs you play are up to you. But just as others experience your frame of mind as a part of their landscape, it is also part of yours. Recognising the value of you being in a positive frame of mind is largely what motivates people to stay there. It’s simply a nicer place to be.

Today you want to choose a good mood. You want to see your frame of mind as coming from your intentions, not the fluke of the events in your day. The one thing you do have control over is your own mind. You may not be used to taking control, but there’s no one thinking those thoughts but you. You started them, you can stop them.

If we look with the wonder of a child we see that the world is filled with glorious beauty. And if we look at the world and see all that we don’t approve of, then the world appears ugly and our enthusiasm for life drops. Today is about you fully owning the fact that your little radio station does impact the listeners in your station’s range. The people who interact with you will be impacted, the only question is how.

Start to see that you are the DJ spinning the tunes. Remember that if you feel a sad ballad within you that’s because you played one. And if you feel something that makes you feel like dancing, then that too is you. Start owning that radio station and start impacting your world by being more conscious regarding your choice of songs. Don’t want things to be different, play different songs and make the world different.

Today your final steps in the March of Kindness are about recognising yourself as a constant source of reality. You can’t expect to always do it but, as often as possible, if you intentionally play happy, lively songs, then you can expect a life that is happier and has more life in it. Crying has it’s place. But we’re better to spend more of our life dancing.

Today, you be the music. And never forget, long after the March of Kindness is over, you will carry with you each and every day the ability to impact your world and the lives of the people around you. That’s not just a responsibility, that’s also empowerment. Wield your power wisely and enjoy your day and your life. Thank you for joining me for this year’s march.

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: Acknowledgement

There are a lot of ways to take action in this world. Some people do it through clubs they belong to. Others do it casually, as circumstances arise, while still others become formal volunteers or contributors. Even if it’s in small ways, most people contribute to the world around them in a generous and thoughtful way.

People hold doors, do favours, offer money, or engage in labour all for the benefit of someone else. Today in the March of Kindness our job is simple: we want to watch life for these acts. We want to openly acknowledge the act as being generous and kind. It’s one thing to think inside your own head, Wow, it was nice of that lady to carry that older lady’s bags to her car, and something entirely different if you thank her on behalf of the world.

The impulse to be kind is already alive and well in the person, but we all know how it feels to get criticised. It makes us feel smaller and weaker. Using the same mechanism, getting acknowledgement for doing helpful positive things helps us feel stronger and more capable. But too-often the acknowledgements are silent. Why would we stay quiet about delivering such good news?

Today your job is to notice the little things people didn’t have to do and to acknowledge them. The gratitude feels good for us to experience, and every one of us would be motivated to do even more kind things if we were more consciously aware of how it helps us to feel like we belong. Being valuable to the group is a win-win for all involved.

It’s funny that we can be afraid to say nice things to people. Do we really think people are going to get angry and upset with us for bringing up their niceness? Most people light right up. It’s a nice connection between people and it’s worth developing. But for that sense of unity to exist in your community, people need to be able to sense their bonds. They can’t be silent and uncertain. We have to speak up and offer praise more than we offer criticisms.

Just yesterday I had a grocery store clerk help me load grocery bags into my arms, a tech support person was particularly helpful, I had a woman hold a door for me at an office building, I had a friend drop by to offer some expertise on an important family issue, and I got a welcome invitation to an event. And that’s just off the top of my head.

Today is about acknowledging those good things in life, whether we’re the benefactor or someone else is. The idea today is to focus our grateful attention on people who are taking action. Before the day is out try to offer at least three different acknowledgements. Turn your radar on to how kind the world is and you’ll see that it’s better than you might have thought.

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: Humble Kindness

Today, in the first day of our final week in the March of Kindnesswe tune our awareness radar to those who might be inclined to feel “beneath” us. This isn’t to say you would act like you were above anyone; I’m talking about how they might feel. Employees can be nervous around bosses, kids often can’t recognise the respect a parent or teacher has for them, and street people know that many people will avoid even looking at them.

If you’re more senior in your company then think about what an example you set if you stop to help a lower level employee. You’re literally teaching them that continuing to care about coworkers is part of the job of being an executive. If you’re a teacher or parent, (and provided it’s rare), giving a kid a break on a general rule can actually develop a mutual respect that can be called upon later. And for street people, there’s times where the lack of human acknowledgement can be psychologically painful, so even a basic acknowledgement is extremely valuable.

Today, pay attention to your surroundings from the perspective of people fitting in. You’re looking for the chance to help someone feel included. Maybe it’s a senior who spends too much time alone and you let them in ahead of you at the grocery store. Maybe it’s a conversation you’re willing to have with a homeless person. Maybe it’s slowing down to kid-speed when you normally wouldn’t. The point is to help someone be seen through a kind interaction.

We all generally do kind things for those who we feel are important, or who are important to us personally. Well today is about doing something for people who can’t do anything for you. They might not be able to ever match your kindness to them, but that’s almost exactly what makes it especially worthwhile. If there’s no eventual gain in it for you, then the person on the receiving end really understands that the kindness was about them.

Most of us have trouble sensing our own advantages in life. It’s easy to take them for granted. But everyone who would trade places with us would recognise those advantages. That’s an indication of where they feel they’re at. The idea is to take some of that advantage and apply it to them. There’s a particularly nice feeling that goes with helping someone when you know that it’s unlikely that they’d ever be able to reciprocate.

Look at the world. Who would like to be you for a day? Take anyone who might feel that way and then spontaneously give to them. Maybe it’s a smile, a compliment, a conversation or even material assistance. But the idea is to make someone who might sometimes feel insignificant and actually help them feel like they are significant.

I’ve already had the world literally deliver my opportunity to me. Someone had to start their day by telling me they had screwed up really badly and that I would pay a price for their mistake. Whereas I may have allowed my disappointment and concern to be my reaction, instead I offered total humility.

I explained that I was not bothered by the price I would have to pay, and I told the offending person about a few times where I too had let others down. Those examples got the two of us on a more level footing and I could hear the relief in their voice. They had anticipated the person being angry, and instead they got connection. I was going to take blame that they knew really belonged to them.

They were relieved and surprised. The relief was thanks to the help, but the surprise came because they hadn’t anticipated that I would value them enough to bother to reach out to rescue them. It helped both of us start our day feeling good. I’m actually grateful to them for that opportunity. Now go find yours. It’s a particularly nice way to add someone kindness to someone else’s life.

Thank you everyone. 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 organizations locally and around the world.

MoK: Compliment Day!

Three full weeks of positivity. A bunch of people, each doing a few kind acts per day. Both individually and collectively we have literally changed the world for the better. Stop and think about that. It’s like being a soldier in the Love Army, where you shot people through the heart and mind with acceptance, understanding and love. I can’t believe how amazing you are.

We never know who we caught at what time. There’s no way any of us could know it at the time, but with this many people, surely one of us caught at least one person on a really difficult day. Someone was heading toward suicide, or some other very negative act, and our little March of Kindness–likely without them even knowing it exists–may very well have saved their lives, or at least their day.

We’ve all had those days, weeks, months and years. Maybe we lost someone important to us. Maybe we got news that our dreams were not going to pan out the way we’d hoped. Maybe a relationship ended. These things happened in life. And yet just stop and think about those days where someone’s actions felt more like a life preserver than anything. Good for us! We made a difference.

So with only one week left, today let’s return to something from the end of week one; only then you were giving compliments as a way of shifting your thinking away from you and your thoughts, and toward someone else. Today we’ll act the same, but inside ourselves we won’t be doing it as a symbiotic act. This time we think about what we’ve done, we feel strong and capable, and then we give from that position of strength.

As the title obviously suggests, it’s Compliment Day. We stand up tall, we remind ourselves of our strongest times and then we turn on our awareness, looking for things and acts and people we admire. Today you’re a compliment machine. Today you make people around you feel good through your willingness to openly acknowledge them.

It can be their coat, their hair, their smile, their manners, sense of humour, work, or character. All compliments count. You are a fountain of strength and sharing today. Today you surprise and please people. And in doing so, between all of us we’re sure to incite someone to spontaneously join us. Without doubt, one of us will tip a positivity-compliment domino and it will keep tipping through a number of people as the good feelings pass like a wave.

I’ll start off by complimenting all of you and your willingness to work on your own mental health, resiliency and society. Even the kids in schools that participated had to buy-in. That was voluntary and as a fellow human being I really appreciate the fact that you did that. Thank you. Thank you–personally–thank you thank you thank you for having the big heart and great attitude that you have. I love that quality in you.

So today, get out there and give those compliments. Let your full cup runneth over into the lives of those around you. Make a co-worker or classmate feel great about their effort, or attitude or style. Make a stranger feel good about who they appear to be to others. Make those closest to you realise that you do notice the little things.

Thanks again for your participation. You’re all just awesome. What a great thing that a bunch of strangers would meet on a website and agree to be kind and generous to a bunch of other strangers and friends. Who does such a thing? Us, that’s who. Us, people who care. We’re the ones who are strong. We’re the ones filled with love. And today we express that love! And we enjoy every minute of it!

Have a great weekend everyone. For my part I’m going to carry this compliment thing all the way to Monday and our final week. You have a spectacular three days and I’ll see you all back here on next week. Until then, much love to each and every single one of you.

peace, s

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