Life Skills: Creating Space

1220 Relax and Succeed - Until you have real compassionAt work, or in our personal lives, we will sometimes be present when people get big news or experience extremely painful circumstances. People tend to respond in one of three ways when witnessing others in crisis. Some will avoid the situation, which leaves the other person emotionally isolated and the person doing the ignoring feels helpless and weak. Some move toward the situation with the intention of helping the person feel better and they’ll tend to hurry that process and create more resistance to the act of acceptance. And in the third instance, the witness is simply open and available.

Creating a safe space for someone requires a certain type of clarity or/or courage. You have to appreciate emotions as transient experiences, not problems to be solved. They are less like a lock to pick or a weight to lift and they more like weather. That means you should appropriately prepare. If you can’t be quietly comfortable with a crying person, you will lack the necessary strength to make a difference in a “big” situation.

Keep your eyes open today. Hopefully you won’t run into something huge, like a death or shocking betrayal of some type; but while most won’t see anything huge, we will all have our own versions of the most emotional thing we’ll witness all day. When you see it happen–when you watch someone transitioning through a level of understanding about something–don’t rush them through it. Let them set the pace. Simply be present. You’re more powerful than you think so that makes a bigger difference than you think.

1220 Relax and Succeed - Compassion in a crisesStart paying attention to the emotional weather others are experiencing and begin to open up to the idea of simply adjusting yourself to their weather, rather than pushing them towards your own expectations by forcing them in a direction that you’d find more comfortable. Simply put: you’re not who you should be worrying about if someone’s facing something big. Fortunately for you, there’s no way for you to suffer if you’re so busy taking care of someone else that you never even ask yourself what you’d want. By not setting any expectations, you become available to the present moment.

If you do this exercise today you will make a difference. Either way, you’ll stand a decent chance of getting an opportunity to practice this life skill again soon. Keep this in mind; that big moment isn’t about you, it’s about the other person. Your job is not to save them, it’s to be with them in hell while they find their own way out.

Rather than its relentless pursuit of perfection, our society will actually see significant gains when each of us simply develops our own personal skills and strategies for coping with the rigours that make life feel worthwhile and meaningful.

Today let us say that the change we want to see in the world is a greater level of compassion and connection. And now let us go forth into our day and watch for our opportunity to help make the world even just a little bit better.

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.

Real Feelings

1218 Relax and Succeed - Real feelings don't go awayThere are two ways to react to feelings that are so meaningful in our lives that they return repeatedly. These include the shocks associated with PTSD, or the sadness that accompanies grief, the pain of a broken heart, or the sting of a deep betrayal. These are generated by some of life’s biggest experiences; experiences we can all expect to have in our life at some time.

May I suggest you think of it much as you would if there was a bee in your house. As much as you may fear it, or as aggressive as the feeling-bee might be, the more we attempt to make those feelings go away the more we are inviting encounters with the feeling-bee. Those encounters are also likely to incite the activity of the bee itself. In short, the more we deal with the bee the more we will have to deal with the bee.

Our other option is surrender. This is not to say that you won’t get bees in your home. Certain feelings permeate life, and avoiding them is to avoid life. To never worry about a bee in your home is to never feel at home. So bees must be accepted along with homes. But trying to rush the bee out of a home is to disrespect the life of the bee itself. It is not an unnatural or incorrect experience. It is appropriate to its own season.

1218 Relax and Succeed - Allow natural feelingsIt is important to remember that no bee stays in your home forever. It either escapes, or it dies. There is no need to panic. You simply want to keep an open mind just like you want an open window. You want to stay open to new ideas and areas of focus; you want do other things and to let the bee escape when it naturally finds its way out. So always remember to always leave room within yourself for new and less threatening experiences.

Learn to be comfortable with your feeling-bees because they will always arrive in their appropriate season. But do not close your windows and chase the bee until you’re emotionally exhausted. Accept the bee, open your windows, and allow the bee to leave when nature has found its way to that moment.

Look at your own life. See which bees you chase most often. Find the ideas you repeatedly seek and find and attempt to swat out of your life. Recognise those as voluntary, unaccepting acts. Instead, accept them as battles that you yourself are engaging within yourself.

You can stop at any point and simply open your heart-windows up to new experiences. By allowing fresher feelings to enter, you give yourself a better chance of escaping the fear and potential pain. So allow your bees. Open your windows rather than resist. The rest is to invite being stung.

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.

Low and Behold

1215 Relax and Succed - A person who thinks all the timeDid you take yesterday’s lesson and start your morning off with an intentional approach to your day? Did you spark yourself with some energetic music or activity? Because if you want to have better days, you must start with as good of a morning as you can. To do that you need to take control of what you can and create the most intentional morning possible each and every day.

Yesterday I posted a singer that I stumbled upon and listening to that song accidentally lead me to listen to another song of hers and I thought I would post it today for two reasons. The first is that she’s discussing something very important for the management of your life, and the second is that as an artist she’s still way too small for her lyrics to be easy or even possible to find. Meaning; the only way you can actually know what they are is for you to listen carefully–something that rarely happens today.

You can start each day off as well as you can, but that doesn’t mean that either the day won’t deliver some challenging curveballs, nor does it mean you’re impervious to your own chattering mind during the day. So what’s a conscious person to do? Stay conscious.

This song’s called Worry, Don’t Weight Me Down. If you worry, that’s like inviting thoughts about fear, and that will lead you to feel badly. So that’s not good. But if you don’t fear worry, and if you don’t avoid worry, then low just is. Your fear doesn’t become magnetic nor compelling. But wanting it gone is to engage with it. So we can’t push worry away, we can only note its presence and permit its travel through us.

In essence, this is like having radar for when you’re afraid. This is where your emotions are less of a hassle, and more of an early warning system. Maybe your city has those amber alerts, where people’s radios and TV’s suddenly blare an emergency signal to let people know about natural disasters or missing children. Well your emotions should be a system like that. You don’t want to panic, but if you hear your own alarm going off it’s time to take action.

Many people will create dread, or fear and that ties them to original feeling. But if we recognise it as a shift, and we stay conscious, we will know that the way out is the same way we got in, only rather than unconsciously sliding down, we want to consciously float back up again. The way to do that is to let go of the thoughts that are weighing you down with the fearful feeling.

1215 Relax and Succeed - You choose to think a lot

You don’t fight them, you don’t argue with them because that is putting energy into them. That’s feeding your dark wolf as the Natives say. You want to feed the white one. Feed the one about hope and meaning and grace and beauty. Learn to direct your thinking in ways that benefits you, all while understanding that you cannot even know to make these turns in your path if the world doesn’t throw some unexpected ditches at you. So don’t lament your worries. They’re as much a part of your path as your good times. Both would be meaningless without the other.

Listen to Ms. Costelo again. Listen to the words. Feel what it feels like to focus your mind and not have other thoughts intervene. Develop that muscle. That is the only one that will flex enough to actually improve your quality of life. A good life still has some difficult parts to it. But there’s never any doubt that a life well lived is always one worth living.

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.

PS A reader only recently noticed that I’m active on facebook and other social media. If you’d like links to articles or sites that may be helpful in your journey, considering joining me there as well.

Hiding From Life

You’re sitting there terrified. You’re a little ball, crushed down by your own cruel judgments. You peek out at life, brushing against it here and there and feeling electrified, knowing it’s so much better than the little space you live in. But you don’t have the courage to venture out. You just feel too weak and too unprepared and too broken. You think many thoughts.

You know what’s weird? Successful people can’t figure that out. They are completely baffled by that. They are as confused by you as you are. You see, you see you as you, but they don’t. Successful people see people as people.

If you’re presenting as a weak person you would assume Einstein was Einstein and you were you so you’d never even try to be him, and yet a successful person would just think Einstein had a brain and he used it to study a subject, which is why there’s tons of students today that know more than even Einstein did. He may have been first to that subject, but that just made it all easier for the rest of us. Now there’s teachers. He had to teach himself. So give him creativity, but his brain couldn’t do more than yours, it just did more than yours.

So why should you care? Well, first off, you’re in agony. I’ve yet to meet the person who wouldn’t like a bigger more exciting life, no matter how small or big their life was. The only challenge for people who think small is their extremely low tolerance for routine psychology. Almost anything is too much. So rather than learn to turn down the volume on their own TV, the insanely shy person just never watches anything and is neither entertained nor informed. They literally miss out on life itself.

Why’s this matter? Because nothing matters. You’re not going anywhere. No one’s judging you. Heaven is an inkpot, you are a splash in that inkpot, and hell is forgetting that you’re always on your way to returning to heaven and rejoining everything and everyone that ever was. This is seriously far more like one long crazy dream than you’ve ever thought. In fact, it’s almost more honest to see your dreaming self as the real you, and your waking self as the asleep one. That’s how ego works. It wakes up in a world made of thinking and spends its life trying to escape.

So life is kind of like an escape room. It’s not like you’re really trapped, you’re getting out for sure, eventually, even if you do nothing. But why have the arc of your inkdrop sit in a room terrified? Literally, what are you avoiding other than happiness and joy? You’ve got worry and pain and agony in there with you. Why not break out? You just end up in a new room anyway. Figure out how to be 30 years old and they’ll lock you into the 40’s room. But it’s fun getting out.

Look, we have this hospital in Edmonton called The Stollery Children’s Hospital. It’s pretty obvious it’s filled with both tragic and heroic stories. But one thing I can assure you, is that some mother sitting bedside with her ten year old, with a child that may only live for another week–that mother knows the value of you sitting still.

That mother would give anything for her little girl to have the years you’re getting. You couldn’t blame her for finding it painful that you’d waste them hiding and not living, and yet your inclination is to hear that and beat yourself up even more. Do you see how you do it to yourself and that you’re actually free? Do you see how you forgo life to think those thoughts?

Life’s the biggest opportunity anyone get, and you got it and sick kids didn’t. That would be like me asking everyone to push me around on a wheelchair when I’m fine. It’s disrespectful to ourselves, others, and to the universe itself. Feeling that sense of ongoing respect for life itself is good for us. Life is the most fortunate opportunity anyone gets.

Give up on hiding. You’re only inviting agony and your space shrinks over time. Besides, it’s fun out here. You don’t watch an entire afternoon of kids playing and then focus on one skinned knee. That will obviously lead to unhappiness.

Think about what you’d do this week if you knew by next week you’d be in some North Korean prison, locked up in solitary for the rest of your life. Suddenly the few days you have left would be all the time you’d have to go all of those important places and eat all of those foods and listen to all of that music and see all of those important people and say all those important things you want to say. So say them. Far from dangerous, your vulnerability is what will create the connection you’re seeking.

Call me or someone else if you need to. It’s okay. You’ll be fine. Lots of us love you. But you have to come out so they can find 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.

You’re Gay and No One Knows

Hi.

Welcome. I appreciate you checking in. You’re in the midst of one of the bigger moments in life and I don’t want you to feel alone. You’re safe here. You can be whatever you want, including being confused about what you want. I just want to give you a better sense of the context you’re in so you can use that awareness to help you make decisions about your life.

First off, you started off unsure if you were gay or not. That was hard enough in the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s when gay people were just starting to be public, but at least then you were only choosing between straight and gay. Today you’re in the new millennium and you’re dealing with the erasure of all the lines, so now it’s harder to tell if you’re gay or maybe bi or is that a trans feeling…?

The truth is, it doesn’t really matter which one you are, they’re all okay. In reality we’re on a spectrum, we’re not all divided up into neatly named pie slices, so the words don’t matter. But if you’re anything other than straight, you’ll still have to figure out how to manage people that feel threatened by you.

By threatened, all I mean is that they were taught that the world is divided into pie slices and they believe that sexuality is just one big pie. There are no other slices as far as they’re concerned. And yet there you are, proving you exist. That’s pretty challenging for someone who has no storage place for you in their brain. It’s literally just as hard for them to imagine homosexuality as it is for you to imagine heterosexuality, (or possibly monosexuality).

Your family might respond lovingly and supportively. But if they don’t that doesn’t mean they don’t approve. Parents love their kids, so if the parent knows some other parents who won’t approve of their kid, then that scares them. They don’t want you to get hurt. And yes, they’ll worry about what people think of them just like you worry about what people will think of you.

They’re right to be afraid. Some people can be very ugly when they’re scared. If your parents or relatives were taught to be very religious, depending on how the religion manifests, you might find them the most frightened. They’ll not only be worried about you being physically attacked, they’ll worry for your soul in eternity. It’s a generous and kind motivation–to save your soul–it’s just misguided by some beliefs that many people don’t share. Focus on their intentions, not their reactions and it’ll be easier to see their true motivations.

Keep in mind, any time we’re in any kind of minority it can inadvertently lead to us believe that maybe we’re wrong. In a way it’s nice that we trust our fellow citizens so much, and yet generational changes mean that we can easily get confused about what’s acceptable to those around us. Trust yourself. If you only want to be yourself and you have zero desire to victimize anyone else, then you’re very likely on the right track.

Remember, these times are some of the most emotionally tumultuous that you will ever experience in your lifetime. These are likely your first huge emotions, so this will have some really roller-coaster parts to it. But don’t think when it’s intense and scary that it’s wrong. Life’s like that sometimes, especially during the big stuff.

Just like everyone else before you, you too will get your sexuality sorted out in good time. We all just naturally feel a little wobblier when we’re entering new territory, so it’s important to have faith in your very best guild: your self.

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.

Your Big Chance Is Now

You are born at the top of a wedge. That is the furthest from death you’ll ever be, but you immediately begin sliding downward. At first you enjoy it, like a child on a slide in a park. You run down hills, you love openly, your effortlessly glide your way down your path in life.

And then you reach a point where you begin to wonder where you’re supposed to go on this giant wedge of life. Left, right? Up, down? It’s a weird time, where you’ve surrendered the free-flowing sliding of your youth for a more conscious kind of sliding where you’re attempting to control your direction, but the incline and the steady slipperiness of the slope mean you’re often not getting where you’re trying to get.

Eventually you become aware that the wedge will not get less slippery, and that it must inevitably end, and so you start to take a little or a lot of time vainly trying to find a way to slow your descent. But since there is no way to do that, your only option is to either slide down gracefully or waste your opportunity by clinging so close to the edges of the wedge that you actually fall or jump off the side and vanish. But every other route down is equal.

As you begin to notice the wedge thinning, you begin to ask yourself what this wedge is made of. And eventually you figure out that it’s piles of experiences, and then you realise there will naturally be fewer of them every year and they can never be recovered. Meaning the only question is; how deep will you go today? You can lead a nervous, superficial life and barely leave the surface, or you can delve deep into yourself and your beliefs and you can find depth in even the most ordinary experiences.

No one knows how steep their wedge is. Some end abruptly while others stretch on for more than a century. So don’t ask how much longer your wedge reaches, focus on how deep it is where you are. Because stretching that wedge out to forever is meaningless unless you’re actually experiencing each day. And doing that won’t mean your times are perfect, but it does mean you will have stopped struggling through life.

As the Zen saying goes, Zen is not some kind of excitement, it is to focus on our everyday routine. We don’t need to bungee jump, experience world travel or have a baby, we can just actually slow down and taste our food, we can actually sit still and do nothing but actually listen to a song, or we can look at our friends as though we’ve never met them, or heard their voices before.

1187 Relax and Succeed - Spot the phoneWe can focus on virtually anything. To prove it to yourself, just try to find the phone in the picture of the carpet above. (I promise, there is one.) You’ll see how that once you begin to concentrate your consciousness, you can soon fill it with the act of your search, and in doing so you push out all other thinking and thereby impact your mood. Looking for the phone on the carpet is an action, thinking frustrated thoughts about not being able to find it, is ego. Any action feels better than any ego.

You’re on the incline. No one knows how far down it’s slope, but what we do know for sure is that the wedge under your feet is the wedge that’s available for living. So get deep now. Focus your consciousness more intentionally. And in doing so, increase your presence and your connections, because that is the only answer you’re looking for; the joy of a rewarding life.

Keep your head up and watch for depth. It’s always where you are, it’s always right underneath everything you’re doing, and it’s always yours to access. Start living the depth of your own life now.

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.

It Starts Now

Video below.

You’re worried and you want certainty. You don’t want to make a so-called “big” decision in case you choose the wrong thing. And yet, as expensive as it is to your life, your mind and your body, you will worry despite the fact that it does nothing but stretch out the decision time. In fact, it’s helpful to recognise that a decision-making delay is the only reason there’s even room in your life for worrying.

The universe rather obviously wanted a you to exist. That’s why you’re here. You’re part of nature. You just have this odd habit of talking to yourself like your someone undeserving of respect, as though the stories you tell yourself in your head matter as much as the fact that the universe bothered to create you in the first place.

Just accept you’ll make mistakes and then trust yourself. Give up on figuring it out before you get to the moment you’re in. Failing is a part of the story you’re in, it’s not anything more meaningful than that. This is a massive drama. Don’t even try to imagine how your role ultimately fits in, just trust that your lines will occur to you when you need them. The best kind of prepared you can be is to be relaxed and to have faith in yourself.

It hurts less. It really does. Too many of your attempts to preserve your life, your health, your sanity and your reputation are all more painful than just facing life as plain old you. Again, your job’s not to be an impressive character, your job is to be you so that the story can unfold naturally. Just live without all of that second-guessing. The second-guessing is the pain. Again: the second guessing is the pain.

All the planning in the world can still not guarantee success. Accept that fact and begin living within reality, where your control is limited, but your ability to adapt is fantastic. Rather than being a rigid person looking for a perfect world, be a flexible person who comes to enjoy the leaps and tumbles that go with discovery, realisation and enjoyment.

If you’d just stop your efforts to avoid suffering, you wouldn’t have to suffer so much. Leap. It’s okay. Life will catch you.

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.