Accepting Reality

1285 Relax and Succeed - We can make any experience our teacher

I used to run the precusor to what a website now is. It was linked up three other writer’s BBS’s. One of those guys took his time off during the writer’s strike to create a TV series that did very well. It was built around a character named Garfield that a guy he knew was trying to sell as a cartoon to newspapers. At the time I think Mark was writing on Cheers. He essentially described sitcoms this way: Act One a guy gets a date, Act Two he steps in dog poo, and Act Three was when the poo got from his shoe to his hat.

If viewed the right way, re-starting the blog right before a pile of unforeseen complications is a bit like being in a sitcom. Either I laugh at the unlikely nature of each additional complication or I perform a narrative docu-drama in my head about a sick person with a heavy workload. Which one sounds like a good investment of my consciousness to you?

Maybe I flick past that sad brain-channel a couple times to test it. But the fact that it feels bad is my signal to change channels to something that expands me (which, granted, sometimes can be the sad thing). We can make any experience our teacher, so I’m better to face adversity in a way that allows me to practice the act of learning from the experiences.

By staying conscious instead of thinking about the past or the future too much, I was aware that some unusual surprises to my schedule had me unusually run down. So it wasn’t surprising when a simple head cold took me out. That was win number one: when I got sick I didn’t feel disappointed. I looked at the facts and being sick made a lot of sense. So I slid into acceptance of the fact that life was just doing what it often predictably does. I had no motivation to feel my illness was ‘unfair’ in any way.

I did quickly and necessarily calculate the illnesses negative impacts to my schedule and life, but that process didn’t take long because before I was even done adding things up I realized that there was no way I was getting it all done, so it wasn’t like the volume was the issue, it was the priority.

I could have had a meaningless debate in my head about how important my entire list was, but that’s obvious because the things were on my schedule in the first place. But equally obvious was the fact that clearly it all wasn’t possible to get done while being sick, so the question was only: what should be sacrificed? Any thoughts about what ifs or I wish it were’s would only be consciousness-time invested in meaningless thinking.

…but why not feel guilty later about the stuff that is late?

Did you see that?

Pretty subtle wasn’t it? I just bent reality back there. I torqued time. (We all do things like that routinely, but try and tell someone to do it voluntarily and suddenly we’re all full of excuses about why we can’t.)

If I got sick because I was harried then clearly my schedule was over-full. No one is really motivated to keep their schedule over-full except the few people who are using that schedule to avoid something that maybe should be on their schedule. But for the rest of us our schedules are as they are because it’s just a part of life that reality will often give us more marbles than jar.

If you asked me the day before I got sick, all of those things were must-dos by a certain dates. Yet by getting sick, I managed to push the future back to a later date, allowing me to prioritize the important things and then pepper the rest into the following weeks until I’m caught up. Some of the dates on those musts didn’t appear flexible until they needed to be. Such is the triage required for adult life.

Yet still it’s easy to imagine you asking, but why not feel guilty later about the stuff that is late? The answer is acceptance. I don’t believe I should feel guilty when what’s happened is reasonable, and getting sick is a part of life.

The day before I got ill was the end of a period of working past a reasonable limit and that eventually caught up with me. Since I was aware that I was gambling the gains of the extra work against the risk of making myself ill, when I got sick my brain immediately went into acceptance mode because the extra work had been done consciously, with the knowledge that there was a risk and reward trade-off in action.

1285 Relax and Succeed - If we've only thought of one

This is the big advantage of living in the Now. Decisions are conscious; where we think about what we’re truly choosing and all the ways it could potentially go. If we’ve only thought of one expected and desired consequence of any decision or choice, then we haven’t really thought about that choice at all.

By living in the now, I make my later easier because rather than wonder why I got sick, I can instead accept that the gamble that I took means that I sometimes do not win. Again, there is little to no war of words in my head about how it should be the other way when it simply isn’t. I can’t change the deal I made with the world after the fact, I can only ensure that when I make it I am conscious. That one small thing could save many from a lot of suffering.

To whatever degree we can, we benefit by avoiding the act of filling our heads with self-talk about how we wish things were, or how bad the price will be, or even blaming the person we believe lead to our problem or made us ill. Having these initial thoughts is natural and none of us should criticize ourselves for having immediate reactions. But entertaining them without serious consideration can steal our lives away if we don’t remain vigilant about our thinking.

Enjoy your days.

peace. s

PS Because my parent-care schedule makes this challenging, if you guys spot any typos or formatting errors in a blog, feel free to message me through the facebook page or here.

Slow for Improvement

1265 Relax and Succeed - Wonderful things will happen todayLife is filled with choices and one of the first ones we make is why, when and how we wake up in the morning. The slowest, gentlest awakening allows us to make a gradual shift from our sleeping state to our waking. Waking up at the last possible minute to a screaming alarm, means that the very first encounter that your mind has with the day is being startled into it with panic and demands. It’s not an ideal start.

If we’re tired a lot, rather than going to bed earlier, most people get louder alarms and shock themselves even worse in the morning. This exacerbates the problem when the real answer is to stop paying attention to schedules and days and time and try to pay more attention to how you feel. This doesn’t make you late if you do it right, it makes you flow. You have to have an awful lot of fun in those hours before bed before you’ll equal the life advantages to being well-rested for the entire next day.

Listen to your body when it screams for sleep. Adjust your life accordingly; don’t make it one of the many bricks you voluntarily take on that weight down your day. Even if you’re late, rushing is a compulsion but it’s generally not effective. We get out of our routine and we spend so much time getting mad at ourselves by forgetting things. That’s compounded by our own mapping out the consequences of being late, from traffic, to angry bosses, to the worst parking spot on the lot, that it just leads us to make more and more mistakes, which leads to more angry conversations when in the end the only cure would not be to fix the time but to fix your mindset.

1265 Relax and Succeed - May your choices reflect your hopesThe time you can’t change. Your approach to your day is always yours to choose. Breathe. Again: understand the value of how you start. Take a few moments to appreciate it. Don’t judge it, don’t give it weather or time or any other meaning, just wake. Then take a moment to collect yourself. You can note if you’re late that you’ll need to be efficient, but that’s setting an intention, not generating panic.

We’re not comparing ourselves to being perfect, we’re noting that our day will require us to be sharp, and so setting that tone consciously allows us to be doing what is appropriate rather than rushing to simply meet a schedule with no value placed on the mindset we arrive in. Can you see that harried days happen in your head, while the more focused ones are more of a verb; an action? We need to center ourselves over that action and not the words around the action.

In the end, most people’s lives are bad because they are completely unmanaged. People put far more attention into some trivial thing they purchase than they do toward managing their own days. Too often our lives aren’t coordinated or designed to create a rewarding life, they strictly meet the current tyranny of a clock.

1265 Relax and Succeed - The ego is nothing otherWe often still need to be places at specific times to coordinate our efforts with others, but that still leaves us with ample choices about our bedtime, our sleeping arrangements, and how we choose to wake up. Don’t let daily life experiences like that happen by accident and without consideration of how your morning can set the stage for a healthy day. Wake up gently, feel the qualities of a worthwhile day gathering, and when you feel enthusiasm for the day strike, that’s your time to move.

Don’t live out of blind habit. Take a moment in the morning after waking to simply assert to your being. What sort of day do you intend to extract from your daily events? Will you watch for their downsides or their upsides? You can always switch at any moment during your day, but no moment sets the right tone for a day like those first moments after waking. Spend them wisely.

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.

True Action

1264 Relax and Succeed - The best place to findSome people approach the act of learning to manage their consciousness with fears that it is too difficult for them to do (it isn’t), or they may have have fears that without thoughts about religion or guilt that humans are destined to descend into chaos, but these are very weak and bleak views of ourselves and of humanity, unsupported by history and daily experience.

Certainly humans get a lot wrong, but for better or worse we managed to go from just another ape to being the dominant species on the world with 7.5 eventually to be 11 billion people. Clearly we cared enough to about people to do that, and now that we’re starting to get slightly competent with that we have switched our attention to the other living things that comprise our environment.

Despite our many mistakes, humanity also offers daily examples of compassionate, heroic responses to need, from cleaning oil-slicked seagulls, to entertaining the elderly, to inventing a simple, yet life-saving, medical technology. These aren’t the sort of stories that fill the news and sell lots of security systems or insurance, but they happen every day nevertheless.

1264 Relax and Succeed - The truth is everybody is going to hurt youThat connection to the others around us that leads to heroism is where we’re at when we’re healthiest. But we can’t be in that state if we’re slicing up the world and the people in it into labels, and then sorting them by how we value them at that time. That is one valid representation of the world, but it’s not the only one, but our judgment process delays our action and takes it out of the realm of in-the-moment callings and makes it a thought-based decision.

A hunting animal doesn’t make a decision. It skips straight from awareness to action in a constant whirling flow like a spinning Yin and Yang. A gazelle does no pro and con list as it tries to evade a cheetah. At that point it is so involved in appreciating its own life that it surrenders thought and the animal trusts the secret forces inside itself that are telling it which way to go and when. After that it’s simply chess between it and the cheetah doing the exact same instinctual in-the-moment thing.

We feel impulses. There is a consistency to them. If we’re looking for our calling we should look for what naturally matters. You might be the biggest toughest guy on the block, but if every time you see a special needs kids you go soft and react the instant you see an unmet need, then maybe despite all that tough exterior, you’re a caregiver.

1264 Relax and Succeed - You can sufferEgos will feel guilt about not being home for the kids, or about not wanting to be home for the kids. But trusting ourselves means that we do whichever one we feel is necessary for our fulfilment and we accept the consequences of that choice. Modelling being oneself is also important to children. Freedom isn’t freedom from pain or consequences, it simply allows us to make the kinds of sacrifices we find it more natural to make, despite how significant  or unwise they may appear to others.

Let’s take today and pay attention to our reactions to the world. Where are our impulses and what do they have in common? We’re not looking for the cloying needs of our egos, we’re talking about actions where we can’t recall having decisions attached to them. These are times where we’ve acted as our true selves in an actual present moment.

These moments of reality pepper our days. As uncomfortable as our calling might feel to our ego, we need to ask ourselves what those moments say about who we fundamentally are and therefore where we might find the heart of our calling. Asking that through observation is important because, after all, no one knows the answer to that better than we do.

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.