The Star Trek Problem

1266 Relax and Succeed - Star Trek Star Trek was an attemptAlex was just trying to watch Star Trek but he had trouble focusing because he was very upset about what was happening at work. The owner of the company had set up a test to see who should get a promotion. Alex and a co-worker had both worked hard at that test and not only did the co-worker stab him in the back at the last moment, but later he learned that his competition had a secret deal with the boss! It was infuriating. It had been bothering Alex for weeks and tonight he was particularly upset.

“You know, sometimes you don’t act like you care when I’m telling you this stuff.”

“Oh, sorry. I didn’t mean to give you that impression. I just don’t want to engage in conversation about it because every time it comes up you end up really upset, and I care about you so I figured you’d rather watch Star Trek and get your mind off it than to be upset. I didn’t mean for you to feel unsupported.”

“Well I’d like a little more empathy over here. Going through all of that really hurt.”

“I’m sorry Alex. I know you’re hurt. It’s why I came over even though I had plans tonight. When we have an expectation of how things are going to go, it’s a very painful thing when we find out we’ve been working under false pretenses. I know you’re hurt, it’s why I didn’t go to the game tonight and came over instead. But if I care about you I have to do it the way I do it because I don’t know any other way.”

“Well it’s not helpful and I’d prefer if you’d at least consider doing it my way. And how can this crap not upset you? You believe things should be fair, right?”

“Okay, first off, we’re watching Star Trek, so this feels a little Borg-y.”

“Borgy?”

“Sorry. Aren’t they they race that needs you to assimilate to their perspective because they can’t tolerate individuality?”

1266 Relax and Succeed - Star Trek Picard“I’m not asking you to give up your individuality I just want some support for this crap that happened at work! I am not Borging you dude.”

“Okay, I’m sorry. I care about you, and it sucks that you got hurt. I don’t like any part of that. But I don’t look at the world the way you do so it’s hard for me to do what you want.”

“What’s so hard about giving me support?”

“But that’s not what it feels like to me. To me it feels like I’m engaging in co-dependency.”

“Co-dependency? I’m not addicted to getting screwed over at work dude.”

“Are you sure you’re not maybe a little addicted?”

“How do you figure I’m addicted to pain because I got ripped off and lied to at work–all so some idiots could rip me off based on a bunch of lies?”

“I don’t mean you’re some crazy addict, but look; here’s how I see this stuff: You’re upset because you thought for sure you had the inside track on the project that was going to win over your boss . Then you found out that the goof you work with had lied to you about what the boss wanted. So you were mislead and it hurts. That part I totally get because that is super crappy. But you love Star Trek. To me, what the guy did at work isn’t so much a problem; it’s just a Kardashian being a Kardashian.”

“They’re Carda–ss–ians, not celebrities with big butts. And what, you mean he’s just a greedy scummy liar who’s trying to get power for himself?”

“Pretty much, yeah. And you’re half-Klingon, so now you’re all revenge-y because to you, your word means something.”

“How’s that help me?”

1266 Relax and Succeed - Star Trek Cardassian“But if he’s one of the girls with the big butts, isn’t scummy part of the deal? Isn’t that the difference between the crew and the captains on these shows? The crew gets caught up wanting the character to be who they want them to be, and the captains always take them as they are and they manage that instead? So I was just saying, be like a captain. Don’t take what he did personally. He would have done it to whoever he was up against. He’s a… Carda-ssss-ian.”

That did make Alex feel a little better. The guy at work had always been pretty consistent, so it was helpful seeing him as a Cardassian and not as the jerk he was personally. “Yeah, but that still doesn’t explain my boss being a prick.”

“Doesn’t it? To me that makes sense too. Your boss just does what greed does. He’s 100% greedy Ferengi. The Cardassian offered not to ever go after the Ferengi’s job if he got the promotion. He’s lying and you know it, but the Ferengi would happily support the Cardassian being promoted if he felt like it would keep him in charge of the rest of you.”

Alex did have to concede that his boss was pretty Ferengi. “So, what…? You’re saying rather than being personally pissed off about this I should just see it as my Klingon honour being offended by a Cardassian political move that was supported by a greedy Ferengi?”

“Pretty much, yeah.”

Strangely, Alex had to admit; that made it all seem more sensible, and he liked the idea that he got to assume the role of Captain in the deal. “So this is how you deal with stuff like this?”

“I’m half Vulcan half human. I use logic for stuff like your work thing, but I’m still human enough to care that my buddy got hurt.”

“Why did you say I was only half-Klingon?”

“This stuff all happened a few weeks ago. I got that it offended the Klingon part of you, but the fact that you’re still thinking about it now makes me think that maybe your Klingon Dad slept with a Trill, because I think you’re holding onto this memory for longer than it’s worth.”

Alex gave that a think and conceded that it was reasonable. “At least Trills are hot.”

“You do still have that going for you.”

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.

To Know Oneself

1249 Relax and Succeed - To know oneselfBruce Lee (and I’m sure many others) said that we should study ourselves in action with others in order to better-know ourselves. Many people will hear this and do a cursory glance at their lives, literally looking for examples of them being polite or generous and that will be it. They’ll have self-passed themselves when really what they did was forgo an opportunity for valuable self-reflection.

To study ourselves in action, it is the action within our consciousness that counts. It’s possible to be extremely polite to someone while intentionally manipulating them into something they wouldn’t do had they not been intentionally mislead. What counts is in our internal intentions. When we listen to people, do we truly listen without expectation, or are we in a constant dialogue with ourselves, criticising them at every phrase?

How casual have we all become about our subtle mental criticisms of others? We live within our consciousness. Whether we’re constantly bitching about them, or wanting to be someone other than ourselves, both have us in equally unpleasant landscapes of thought. It’s like going on vacation to a place we’re sure to despise.

1249 Relax and Succeed - The money does not see his own backsideWe have to learn to not accept these mental headspaces. We have to learn to pay attention to that suffering more. Yes, I’m suggesting that we focus on when we’re taking a crap between our own ears. Because that’s what we’re doing when we think uncharitable thoughts about ourselves or others. Other people don’t feel our brain chemistry, we do. Seriously: if we know these thoughts are painful, then voluntarily thinking them is like choosing to open spoiled food so we can smell it better.

We all need to pay more attention to what our brain is doing because, if you’re like most of us, half the time our mind is on autopilot, flying whatever routes our childhood caregivers taught us to fly even if that makes no sense for our own destinations in life. Then when we do become conscious, our unconscious life will feel strangely robotic, as we come to realise that we have no idea why we personally are doing what we’re doing.

Whatever it is–your drinking, your job, your temper, your sadness, your lack of trust–these are all things that were taught to you. They are not the natural you, they are the squashed by your packaging version of you. It is you, but you’re distorted and out of shape. And you can see that shape in how you internally react to others.

1249 Relax and Succeed - You cannot have a positive lifeIf you watch yourself closely, you’ll soon realise that you’re likely to do the same thing one of your parents did (or in rarer cases, the exact opposite). That’s your ego following programming. To be free you have to make that programming conscious. It’s usually painful, so that helps you spot it when it shows up so that you can change direction and end that suffering.

Today, every time you catch yourself criticising either you or someone else, take a moment of meditation and prayer and follow your criticism with a compliment. If you make the latter in person and out loud, you’d be amazed at how fast you can start remembering not to think ill of others.

It’s a good saying, really; “Think ill of others.” To do so is the act of poisoning ourselves with negative thoughts. Clearly that is something we should avoid doing. Let’s take steps in that direction today. By the way, I think you’re awesome.

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.

Create More Unity in Your Community

1247 Relax and Succeed - If you want others to be happyWe evaluate, we name, we label, we judge, we value. Totally lost in ego, we use words like truth to represent what is really only our personal view. Reacting more to our own thoughts about things than the things themselves, we seek to remove all of our opportunities for personal growth by removing any and all offending ideas from our daily experience.

Is it any wonder that the world feels fractured when most individuals are walking through it with the constant urge to subdivide it down into groups rather than behaviours? How does it help to either subdivide or be angry at the perpetrator of domestic violence for instance? To be angry is to add even more negativity. It’s fine as an initial response, but once that washes over us our job isn’t to have a personal emotional reaction, it’s to do something constructive for our community.

Unity is created in a community when people from all walks of life can feel safe that they will be met with compassion and understanding when they’re struggling. That means the wealthy elderly lady walking her dog is equal to the strapping young man with the sort of childhood that leads him to be violent. People find it easy to be sympathetic to the little old lady even though (like every human being), she’s certain to have done some truly terrible things in her life. But our personal speculation about her will often be quite generous.

1247 Relax and Succeed - There are too many of usMeanwhile we have difficulty expressing compassion for a fearful or angry young man with equal challenges and his own set of mistakes. Our job isn’t to look at his clothing and terms of speech and his behaviour and then evaluate him, label him as an offender and his wife as a victim, and then dole out our compassion according to those judgments. Our job is to care about each of them in conjunction with their relationship.

To help we need to understand what in his life would lead him to be violent, and what in her life would lead her to stay for that violence. Our initial judgments are uninformed and useless. They happen inside our head. Even if they do externalize, they’re often just as ugly as what they’re judging.

The world does not benefit from our thoughts, it benefits from our actions. And that action should not be to judge and divide people into good or bad groups, our role is to support anyone struggling, whatever that struggle may look like. Right now, people are inclined to hate the very people that they should be loving the most.

1247 Relax and Succeed - Look out for each other

When we’re unhealthy and locked in ego we’re going to talk about how bad things are and who needs to change. We’ll start filling our social media with angry recriminations of this or that group, or we level this or that judgment about this or that social media post; or we comment on the news, on the behaviour of athletes, and politicians, and celebrities, and on and on and on. Meanwhile children watch us make those judgments, and we pass on to them a world more ever more steeped in the useless egocentric personal views that populate most people’s social media.

Those children deserve to see us offer them examples of where we find our own way past a negative judgment to find some positive sort of action, but instead we offer them endless examples of our judgments of how the world should be, or how it’s supposed to be. Even most television shows now involve someone actively judging someone else in a way that actually determines that person’s fate. It’s all built to appeal to our egos, not the unifying best that is at the heart of who and what we are.

We all have to drop that arrogance. It’s not our job, nor does any one of us know enough to be able to singularly know what the right answer is in any situation. We all need to stop casting judgments and making suggestions, and we all need to start getting to know our enemies better. We have to move toward the people we dislike the most, because the conflict is happening within us, not in the larger external world.

1247 Relax and Succeed - Compassion is a verbIt is we who must lower our sense of right and wrong and instead ask how we can help situations traverse the distance from tense and unpleasant to calm and rewarding. Remember, every time you either consistently negatively judge, or universally accept another person, you are engaged in the very deepest and most destructive state of ego. That’s like failing to throw a life preserver so you can instead scream at a drowning person about how they should have learned to swim many years ago. It’s cruel and it does not serve the larger community.

As Roger Waters said, (it doesn’t just apply to formal schooling), “We don’t need your education, we don’t need your thought control.” Indeed. Stop putting bricks of judgment between you and others. If you want to prove you’re developing spiritually, try tearing down your own wall, be vulnerable, and connect. Because while your judgments only serve to make the world worse, you compassion is the glue that can hold a society together through it’s most difficult times.

Trade in your judgments. Be a positive, constructive spiritual citizen in your community. If everyone learns how to do that, then when it’s us that’s struggling, we too will benefit from the compassion of those around us. Let’s all take immediate action to improve ourselves and the world in this way. I do hope you’ll join me.

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.

Mountains of Motivation

1237 Relax and Succeed - Success did not give meOur egos have a desire for predictability precisely because they are created by the fixed ways of thinking that we have been subconsciously taught. Any impediment to our original direction is always seen in direct relation to that direction. It might create glee because we compare it favourably to our expectations, or it may create suffering via our unmet expectations.

The funny part about that process is that we have no clue what would really be good for us. Examples of this include things like; a person is dating person A, and then they happily see the appearance of person B as a positive diversion from their wedding plans from person A. The problem is that everyone thinks their marriage will be in the successful 50%, but despite the good feelings in that moment, marrying person B could very easily turn out to be a decision the person would be inclined to regret.

If we can’t know what is ultimately right for us, it seems fair to ask where should we go? But the reason that question seems more complicated than it really is that the common and correct answer is always met with a but….

1237 Relax and Succeed - Decide who you want to become

Those that do pursue their answer by pursuing their passions will then have people say they’re crazy or irresponsible. This applies as much to someone wanting to be a musician as it does to business genius who would rather raise children, or a great athlete he wants to be a carpenter. A job’s status or income does not make being married to someone financially secure and negative better than someone financially limping, but who’s very enjoyable or exciting to be around.

We shouldn’t assume that any emotion is negative, it’s how it’s used in a current context that demonstrates its value. The adrenaline rush of war can lead a former soldier to express rage in inappropriate contexts, but that same adrenaline addiction is what pushed a large group of war veterans to face the repeated attempts necessary to successfully scale Mount Everest. Again, it all depends on how our chemistry is applied.

Some might say that those men would have been better to be home and caring for their families and there’s a very good case to be made for that. Yet, if long term experience in war has tuned a person’s biology towards violence and extreme emotions, isn’t it reasonable that their reaction would not be the same as ours? And for the same reasons, namely our personal life experiences? Some of us will be healthiest knitting. Others will need to jump from airplanes. We should accept these differences.

1237 Relax and Succeed - Life is simply a series

Rather doing what some might, and joining therapy and make the slow biological switch back to different tendencies, does it not make a kind of sense that those former WWI soldiers might choose instead to invest their honestly earned intense temperament in something meaningful to who they were at that time? That they would follow the guidance of their experiences just as we follow ours? After all, there are many young people who should be grateful that a profoundly unprepared or poorly suited parent acted as they did. Desertion can be an extremely loving act.

Other than hurting others–which healthy people feel a natural inclination to avoid–people should feel free to pursue whatever emotions and motivations make sense to them, regardless of whether or not others from other perspectives deem it boring or insane. We all need to find the right context, and we may appear off balance to others, but if our soul feels good about it the results will do remarkable things; like like turn middle-aged angst into a soulful career, or an angry anti-establishment rebellion into something like The Beatles, or maybe even Nirvana.

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 Four Ways To Choose an Occupation

1232 Relax and Succeed - My philosophy isDid you choose your work, or did your work choose you? People often approach selecting their occupation in one of four ways:

  1. Early life experiences can lead people to choose an occupation by thinking about what might bring either status or the money that people try to use to buy status. Really these are efforts to belong and they are why many aren’t happy with their work. It’s not really done for them, it’s done for others, and so they often don’t work out and people end up in the sorts of unintentional jobs that no one plans to be in. These jobs can sometimes feature excitement or proximity to status or money, or prestige, or respect. These are the main motivations that most of us use, and yes, these are linked to our unhealthy egos and our desire to prove ourselves.
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  2. Early life experiences can point people toward seeking and planning for security and dependability in their work. These are those often dull jobs that many wonder why others do them, and yet they have a plodding regularity with a continuous team that can form a healthy rhythm. But they’ll get stifling if there isn’t excitement elsewhere in life. This is like my oldest brother, who was born right after WWII, and so it’s no surprise he would seek something secure and so he worked for the government, in a union, in a trade. Secure, secure, secure.
    1232 Relax and Succeed - You will never be admired
  3. Many people were not raised to plan much of their life, so they largely go with the flow, having the momentum and direction of their professional life dictated by their initial work experiences. If we’re not driven, this is the easiest least ego driven route, and it we’re paying attention, we’ll still find our way. My second oldest brother just loved cars, so he worked at a gas station where he pumped gas for a car salesman who gave him a job, which lead to a management job, and eventually him owning his own car dealerships and sponsoring his own race car. A lot of it was entirely accidental, but because he always tipped towards his nature it ended up fine.
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  4. The people everyone wants to be are the driven ones simply because the choice itself is so easy. Maybe they’re famous too, like an athlete or artist, but whether it’s that or they toil in obscurity, they’re obsessed, or passionate or even single minded. They don’t care about the price, they care about this other thing outside themselves; finding that scientific answer, creating that song, telling that story, engineering that amazing thing. These are often the most expensive lives, but they’re also often thrilling. This is like me going into film–storytelling really. As a matured I found that the form of storytelling wasn’t as important as the medium, but the desire to connect with others through stories has always had a strong pull in me, almost like I’m responding to me own person Force.

Group One is created by the human ego. It has the most thinking involved and is therefor the most agonizing. Just be yourself. If security makes you comfortable, then make other areas of your life exciting. The brother I have that lives the safe life has also travelled around the world and seen some of its most profound and exciting sites.

Or just pick anything and wait for your interest to reveal itself, as my brother with the car dealerships did. He was just following his interest in cars and now he has a very nice life.

And if you have a passion, then you’ll know because you’ll be paying the prices to pursue it, however crazy they look to others. Maybe that’s being in movies, or maybe that’s leaving everything behind for the sea.

It’s called an occupation. Don’t think about how other people will think about. You’re being occupied by it, not them. So make sure, however it looks to others, that it suits who you feel you really are.

Above is a very meditative video–it’s even in 4k if you’re looking at this on a good enough screen. It might help explain why seamen take what other people assume is often a boring or even dangerous job. It isn’t hard to see that it’s the sort of thing that could really attract a soul seeking peace. See if you can use it to slow your mind down. Breathe deeply. Enjoy.

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.

Alex’s Secret

Despite the fact that she rarely liked Alex’s answers, Michelle often found herself in her office when she was upset. It was a bumpy time. We’ve all had them. Demands become too high. We get unreasonable, impossible requests and, no matter what we do, a big price will be paid in one way or another.

Both of them knew there was no way such a large project could ever be properly built in the four weeks given to them. A good team could easily spend that much time in the planning stage, where most of the savings in time and money happen. Now everything would be compressed and patience would be commensurately short.

Michelle was freaking. Her mind raced with the impossibility of it all. Over and over she discussed those painful realities with herself and anyone else who would listen. One wondered how much she might have gotten done during all the worrying, but that was water under the bridge. Now she was sitting in Alex’s office crying.

“This is gonna be a disaster.”

“It may not be as good as it might have been, but even then–who knows? Maybe the rush exposes some advantage…?”

Michelle rolled her eyes. “Stop with the crazy optimism. Why does everything always have to be rosy, or good with you? Why can’t you just let this suck?”

Alex comes out from behind her desk and sits next to Michelle, orienting herself toward her. “I’m sorry about that. I didn’t intend to let you stop you from feeling your own legitimate feelings. I did think this sucked.” Alex takes a moment and composes herself. “We knew when she gave us this assignment it was crazy. It put everyone under enormous pressure.”

“For no good reason.”

“Maybe. Her job is to capitalise on opportunity, not create the most ideal administration situation possible. We’ve all benefitted from projects she’s brought into the company with that attitude, so we can’t turn on her when that same quality isn’t convenient for us personally. That feels selfish to me. Like we’ll take but we won’t give. She has to work around our strength and weaknesses combinations too.”

“But how do you handle it?”

“You used the word ‘pressure.’ The most rigid people in life snap and break more often than anyone. They’re too incapable of responding to a lot of the unexpected twists and turns that are part of life. They suffer a lot. I’m more of a fluid person. I like to stay flexible. That’s why I said I did feel what you feel, not that I do feel it now. When we got this assignment I felt an earthquake.”

Michelle feels better with that connection. “So you truly thought it was bad too?”

“You’re not alone. I knew right away it would create an unpleasant effect. I meditated on what would happen and I realised that I could stay flexible for a time, but that eventually our compressed schedule would mean we would reach the point where the the pressure increased too much and it would have to turn to a gas–our beautiful whole would have to be split apart–atomized–into a divided whole.”

“And that’s what’s happening now?” asked Michelle.

“Yes. We still manage to occupy the same space, we’re still all 100% busy, but now we’re more diffused in our impact. I knew by now most of us would be bouncing from emergency to emergency. I guessed that would kick in about a week beforehand and so I reminded myself that I could stay calm in all of that, and then I did my work and waited.”

“That’s it?” Michelle’s disappointed. “Before, you knew you could concentrate and get things done, and then you knew you’d be spread too thin and that shit wouldn’t get done, and so you just waited for the shit to hit the fan? That’s your secret?”

“Kind of, yeah.” Alex was sorry she couldn’t give it to her in a way where it seemed more valuable. “I’m bouncing just like you, so I’ve been eating and sleeping really carefully so my health holds up. And if I start to feel anxious I just check in and remind myself that I knew it would be like this, and to just drop the smallest stuff and handle the emergencies.”

“So you’re telling me you just accept failure?”

Alex seems half offended by the idea. “No. I accept that, considering the limitations we’re under, this is the very best job that could be done. I never do work I’m not proud to do.”

“What if it bombs though?”

“I never do work I’m not proud to do.”

Michelle just sits with that for a long while. “So then, according to you I should just go back to my office and get as much of the most important stuff done as is reasonably possible?”

Alex is very sincere when she says it. “What else could you do?”

Michelle realises she has a point. As she rises to leave, we can see she’s lost in meditation about her own understanding.

“Have a great day Michelle.”

“Yeah, thanks Alex. I’ll think about what you said and maybe I’ll try it.”

“I think you already have.”  Michelle looks at her confused. Alex continues, “Only I did it back when the assignment got handed out and you’re doing it now. I just selfishly prefer to do my freaking out and meditating when it’s calm. Try it next time. Maybe you’ll like it too.”

peace. s

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

Banished From The Tribe

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

peace. s

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

Being Liked

1052-relax-and-succeed-open-your-handsLikes on social media are no different than likes in person. They’re given out rather casually and they’re taken away with little notice. This is because no one is responsible for the fair dispersal of likes, they just tumble out of whatever conditions naturally form them, with the landscape being made up of moment to moment opinions.

It isn’t frivolous to seek likes to some degree. We need them to survive. Even covering the bottom of Maslow’s Pyramid of needs is difficult when we’re alone, and achieving procreation and the other higher stages is effectively impossible. So partnerships and group pursuits are key to our survival both physically and emotionally.

That said, we also don’t want to live entirely for others. Our cooperation must in a way be selfish. Each individual must live and look out for themselves. At the same time if an individual who is struggling to contribute, or in cases where they’ve done something wrong and they require forgiveness, if they’re liked enough then popularity can act like a get out of jail free card.

1052-relax-and-succeed-none-of-us-is-as-smart-as-all-of-usThe idea of stored value in the form of good feelings can’t be sought for their own sake or that is a shallow, ego-driven life lived for others. But if they are done as part of an actual, active awareness and understanding that we really do need these other people, then even if a person is a child or elderly and therefore less useful in obtaining food etc., they are still safe.

So why can’t an office be like that? The problem in the office is that if the company’s goals cannot incorporate normal human pursuits then everyone is working for pay and not as a way of pushing the group forward, and that sort of shallow motivation simply will not last.

If we’re not interesting in being liked then the company society deteriorates. People start having wants that are out of sync with their contributions. Because bosses are seen as hierarchical over employees, we learn the very unnatural lesson that someone’s likes have bizarrely been made more valuable than other people’s likes. Now someone can just have one key person in a company like them and that can be enough for them to advance even though that would make zero sense to all of us other apes.

1052-relax-and-succeed-without-the-taoUltimate we must be balance being free with our natural desire for likes, because there is no point in having more likes than you need. In that case you would be seen as greedy and that would then result in less likes. Rich people the world over are seeing this now too whether they were generous or not. Overall we’ve now reached the point where the average world citizen has seen their internal scale tipped and they now see the group’s sharing of value is out of balance. Entire groups are now jostling to reorganise to see the sharing of resources be more equitable.

Why don’t we always act this way in homes and schools and companies and societies? Because now we no longer have the Tao holding us together. We’ve substituted our natural comprehension of our need of others and we’ve attempted to codify that into laws and rules and guidelines, but these are inhuman concepts that will often not match the actual temperament or feelings of various people.

In some cases there are revolts. Apes are killed, spouses leave, company employees start sabotaging the group, governments are removed, people are arrested or shamed. And this hardens divisions, and yet divisions themselves are fine. Sales shouldn’t really love accounting, they’re two different roles in the group that require different kinds of brains. But you need each one. If I didn’t get any wild pig today then I really need your berries and likewise. But when I convince myself your berries are worth less than my pig because I worked harder to get mine rather than me noticing they’re equal amounts of food, then that is the start of trouble: disrespect in the group.

Sometimes disrespect is what teaches an out of line group member the value of being in line. But this isn’t some rigid law-based line. The natural line has more flexibility. It has more understanding. It would look less to the rules and more to the moment. Hopes and expectations of others would be altered according to the situation whereas where laws always apply and there is only leniency in sentencing.

How are you in your groups? It’s fine for people in different groups to dislike you, or even for some people in your group to dislike you. But being cared about and for is a key part of enjoying life so we want to nurture that. We just don’t want to go so far that we surrender our core values and beliefs for ideas or groups that we do not truly believe in.

Find a group that encourages your participation and input by respecting you, and that respect should include compassion and the assumption that the relationship will be managed according to the Tao. That’s why even monkey’s recognise this elemental value in life. Selfishness for ourselves is essential in that our best behaviours are naturally driven by wanting to help provide for a generous and caring group.

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.

Releasing Motivation

1039-relax-and-succeed-you-have-been-criticisingThe reason artists are often called “crazy” is that the two states of creativity and insanity are really degrees of the same thing; few people talk to themselves more than artists need to, and more talking to yourself than that starts to get dangerously close to being lost in thought, otherwise known as “crazy.”

Most people have a boss with deadlines and job descriptions they have to fulfil so they can’t see how much that format is making them work, because even entrepreneurs know it’s much harder when there’s no external deadline imposed. But at least an entrepreneur has a client they’re servicing, but the reason they find marketing the hardest part is the same reason art’s difficult; there’s not only no boss, there’s no customer and the job is pure open space. As an artist you can’t even go to work until you decide how big your canvass should be.

Athletes might bemoan their hours spent training, but most artists would trade them that feeling for the agony of finding it difficult to create. I get a lot of mock hate-comments from artist friends who can’t figure out how I can do other writing and these pages every day by 7am. When your thoughts hold you back creating is very very hard indeed. I remember that sense well.

1039-relax-and-succeed-dont-think-about-making-artIt’s terrifying to start a piece of art because you have a lot of notable things to think about. You have big, public ways to fail. If you’re an author you’re probably comparing yourself to literally the very best people in the world. If you’re a painter you’re worried about $2,500 in paint and canvass you have to invest before you can even try to sell it. If you dance you’re worried about injuries and being a musician on the road has all sorts of potential pitfalls. It can easily make you crazy if you do too much thinking and too little creating.

We’re all such harsh critics. We could still have our opinions and yet talk to people with the approach we’d use with them a kid, where we’d have fewer expectations and where we’d want to be more encouraging. But as adults we make it painful to show personal things. We offer our negative opinion; our corrections. And even if they’ve paid us for that opinion, it still hurts them to hear voices of nonacceptance. And so creating art is hard. The climb is high and the fall feels long.

What’s important for the artist or any other person to remember is that these distances we’ve climbed and these heights we fall from all exist only within our imaginations. You’re not linear. You didn’t advance and then fall back; you expanded and then expanded again. The courage to create work is hard enough; the courage to show it publicly is even more precarious. These are victories not failures. These are what every great artist experiences. It is simply the act of moving past our fears and into an act of creation.

1039-relax-and-succeed-act-without-doingWe tend to think that when things are painful we must be doing something wrong but we only feel that way because there’s a cult of feeling good when in truth you wouldn’t even be able to sense feeling good without feeling bad to compare it to. So we must embrace feeling unsettled and wounded too, lest the art of our lives be shallow and hollow.

Artists spend very little time actually physically creating their art. What they do is spend time doing is observing life and then capturing poignant, worthwhile moments of it in art so that we too can benefit from their keen observations. Maybe they see something funny, maybe it’s what lead them to no longer be racist, it doesn’t matter; their only job is to place it in the world for us to find in the format we personally understand things in, whether that’s dance or painting or any other form.

Artists would benefit if they treated their art more like work, but before they can do that they must have enough respect for themselves that they actually feel genuinely motivated to live up to their own deadlines. If an artist is excited about what’s next then it makes sense that they’ll be excited to complete the project they’re working on, and that’s what gets the deadlines met; not a boss, not a date on a calendar–a genuine desire to finish so that more can be created. That’s a lesson the rest of the work-world can learn from successful artists.

Find what matters about your work even if that ends up being your co-workers having better days so they go home to their kids happier. As long as you feel genuinely motivated to create that positivity by doing what you’re doing, then the doing of it won’t feel much like work because it won’t be. It’ll be your life. It’s time you started actively living more of it. I’ll be better for everyone.

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.