MoK: Tender Mercies

Dear Readers,

May this find you well. I have a strange entry for today’s March of Kindness assignment. Today we will unexpectedly focus on kindness toward ourselves. Valuing ourselves is a form of self-respect and it is distinct from the unhealthy selfishness that causes us to feel guilty, or that requires us to distract ourselves from facing our relevant responsibilities.

For the first time in the many years that I’ve have blogged here and elsewhere, I simply cannot create the time or the very specific meditative headspace I require to write the sort of blog post I feel you all deserve. The needs of my family and friends have been tremendous over the last many weeks and there comes a time when we must face that if we have almost no time to even sleep or eat, then those things must take priority lest we risk the health of the body our consciousness resides in.

This being the case, let’s alter today’s planned March of Kindness post into this: find the area of your life where you personally are overwhelmed and surrender. If the only overwhelming thing you truly have in your life is your own anxious thoughts, then slow those down and open your awareness and then reach out to someone who is truly overwhelmed. Either way, the world is made better.

Kindness toward yourself or kindness toward another, it’s all kindness and it’s worthwhile. I’d like to thank you for your kindness in understanding my situation, and I wish you every good-fortune with your own self-kindness today.

Regards, 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.

MoK: Cheering and Applause

Yesterday our focus was on our criticisms and our act of kindness was to offer a positive for any negative. Today we want to add momentum to others. We want to add even more strength to people who feel strong. In other words, we want to encourage others in areas where they are already expressing belief in themselves.

It’s one thing to be kind to the person who got cut from the team, but it’s also useful to cheer for those that made it. A lot of us are naturally responsive to people when they’re down, but we can tend to forget that even people on the way up are still facing challenges. It never hurts to add your own belief in someone to their own belief in themselves.

It might seem strange to listen to other people talking or to watch social media for signs of strength, but that is part of why these acts of kindness are also good for us. We want to live with intention. Most of us are trained at sympathy, but we’re often less aware of, or vocal about, those times when we feel the person is already taking care of themselves. Today’s about celebration.

Watch the people you know and the world around you for things worth celebrating. Don’t let your support be invisible, clearly state it. We all tend to offer more corrections than congratulations. If our awareness is scanning the world for strength that alone is a good thing. Our support of that strength just makes it all that much better.

A small percentage of people will find this exercise easy, but many more will find it almost confusing. We get very focused on fixing what’s broken, when it’s equally important to share in others ongoing success and joy.

Find examples of people recovering, of people endeavouring, and of people celebrating. Support all of them, whether they’re starting down, on their way up, or if they’ve already succeeded. This isn’t about the external event, it’s about the direction of the person overall. Adding a positive number to a negative one helps, but it’s equally valuable to add positive numbers to other positive numbers.

Find the positive. Add your support. It can be someone you know who’s decided to quit smoking or it can your national team in a sport you don’t even really know much about. How close you are to the subject is irrelevant, the idea is to add ourselves to positive things. Today, rather than your kindness being about preventing bad things it’s about loving good things.

Start right now. It’s highly likely you have some form of social media in your life. Scan it until you find something great and don’t just “like” it, actually write a message of support. Help someone feel seen. Spend some time describing that support. It’s nice to write, “you can do it,” but it’s even better to state, “I’ve always admired your courage.”

Today, your assignment in the March of Kindness is to add your positivity to some existing positivity. Do it as many times today as you can. It’ll feel good for you and for the person being supported. And if you’re watching for good things to support, you’ll be surprised at how many you can find.

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.

MoK: Setting an Example

Most of us wouldn’t mind having an ego if it was nicer to us, but for some reason we often replay internal recordings of other people’s negative views rather than their positive views. This is really quite a remarkable tilt to your psyche considering the fact that you can get ten compliments and only one criticism and you’ll constantly replay that one criticism inside your own head while you ignore all the compliments.

Most people can’t even cite the positive views that others have of them because they ignore those. But they can remember criticisms from a decade or three earlier. People’s entire adult lives can be dedicated to trying to quash an early criticism. But you’re not supposed to be perfect. That would not only be boring, but it would also stress out everyone around you.

Of course, we don’t want to act as negative weight in our relationships, but your friends are people who recognise what you add to their lives and they’ve silently agreed to endure your more challenging aspects in return for the upsides of your company. That’s a form of unconditional love. They might occasionally be frustrated by one quality or another, but if they’re hanging around it’s not because they’re contracted to, it’s because they truly think you’re worth it.

Your friends are people you trust, so why not trust them about you too? If they think you’re worth hanging around then why don’t you? It’s not egotistical to be pleased that people love you and that you add good things to their lives. Being funny is no small thing, nor is being compassionate, or accepting, or supportive. So why focus on the few times you might lose your temper, or say something you later regret? Your friends have their faults too and you don’t look at them that way. Why do it to you?

So the point is to stop reciting your own weaknesses to yourself and to focus more on your strengths. Likewise, you want treat those around you the same. Once we’re all consistently modelling that behaviour every kid will grow up in that world and they’ll think it’s normal to give compliments and to forgive people for also having qualities that a few others might find challenging.

Well today I’ve got you cornered. The one thing I can count on you is for you to be self-critical, so if I tie your March of Kindness assignment to that addiction, I can be assured you’ll actually do a lot of kind things today, and since compliments are good for people this can be a really meaningful day.

Today, keep your eye out for any criticism of yourself or another. No matter who you directed it at, your job is to counter that judgment by focusing on a quality. This means that, following every self-criticism, you either note something you’ve done that had real value; and if it’s regarding someone else, then give them a compliment, and if they’re not handy, then compliment any other person. It all goes into the karmic pool, so no kindness is wasted.

Listen to your own thoughts and words. Every single time, pay the price and do something nice. If you were mean to yourself, remind yourself of something good you’ve done or do. If you attack anyone else, even if only in the confines of your own mind, then externalise positivity where your negativity once was.

This can mean complimenting someone on their politeness, or their humour, their helpfulness or their dedication to their family–it doesn’t really matter. The idea is that we’re training ourselves to be kind rather than critical. And if you want to see the world change fast, just get everyone to actually do that.

I’ll start us off. I’d like to compliment you all on reading this, because if you are it’s because you both want to be a better person and you want a better world. That is awesome. Thank you so much for just being that kind of person, because only the people who focus on positive change will make it happen.

Go out there today and compliment yourself and others. It can become quite addictive once you see the reactions on the people around you. And if you’re going to have an addiction, that’s the one to have.

Have a wonderful day everyone. And thanks for participating in the March of Kindness.

peace. s

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

MoK: Absorbing Shots

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

peace. s

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

MoK: Musical Chairs

1109-relax-and-succeed-mok-we-may-not-have-it-all-togetherWorry happens in two directions. We can worry about ourselves or we can worry about others and/or the outside world. Neither one actually is an action in the world, both are thought-spins that decrease our ability to act simply due the fact that worrying takes both time and energy.

If you study the concept of worry closely enough you will see that everyone worries about the same thing: belonging. Humans are pack animals, so belonging is at our core. Not belonging is both lonely and risky, whereas belonging is to thrive.

For a child, not belonging to their school social structures creates stress. The human mind knows it’s natural state is connection to others, so when a child has their belonging threatened they will experience stress. This can happen via a parent or teacher or a fellow student inadvertently communicating that a child will not belong to the successful strata of society unless their performance improves on some front; social, intellectual or physical.

1109-relax-and-succeed-mok-if-you-want-to-go-fast-go-aloneAdults are also prone to worry because they also believe that their appearance, their level of success or their social skills may lead to them never being accepted at work, in a relationship, or with friends. Essentially everything a human being does is designed to increase their level of belonging to society’s various groups. There’s safety in numbers.

Since you’re doing this and others are too, it becomes a bizarre game of musical chairs where everyone wants to sit, and yet everyone senses there aren’t enough chairs. This leaves people permanently on guard or, in other words, worried. So rather than try to be the best chair-sitter, today will be about how you can add more places to sit.

Group cohesiveness is a group activity. It doesn’t really matter who goes first, or whose need is greatest, the fact remains that the more people feel a part of a group the healthier they will be and the more important maintaining the health of the group will be to them. In short, giving begets giving.

1109-relax-and-succeed-mok-before-you-pass-judgmentTo use the musical chair metaphor, we can remove our own worry by surrendering the idea that we need a chair for ourselves. We can remove another’s worry by informing them that if they do not get a chair themselves, that we will offer them our lap, and if that isn’t enough to allay their fears, we can extend the offer to say that they can have the entire chair.

There is no guarantee that this will create belonging–sometimes it won’t–but precisely because we are all pack animals, cooperation is still the most likely route to increased cooperation and so, over time, people all end up coming to that conclusion. It’s just a matter of when.

If people can either have our lap or the whole chair, it then becomes difficult for them to not offer their own chair or lap to us. This isn’t to say they will offer it, but over time they’ll discover they can’t always win, and so the best safety net is ultimately to work together. If an entire room of musical chairs does this it essentially means no one is ever without a place.

Your job today is to find someone who is worried; about what doesn’t matter. Your only job today is to make it clear to that person that you will not remove yourself from their life. You simply have to find a way to communicate to them that your support for them is truly unconditional, meaning you don’t expect perfection from them. They’ll always have a seat with you.

1109-relax-and-succeed-mok-those-who-have-a-strong-senseWithout the worry that perfection is required they are free to relax into themselves, and that relaxation is the type of security that soon translates to generosity. If you have no worries about your own sense of belonging you naturally start proving your strength and capability by offering others the chance to feel that way too. It’s just human nature.

Today, when you see a person struggling with belonging, reach out to them. Offer them that unconditional support. In doing so you will prove you have enough because you can give, and by giving you will begin to build the bonds that successfully tie together a happy and confident society.

Find your example and act. Because anything you do for another is truly something you’re, in a wonderful way, doing for yourself. We’re all in this together. It’s time we started making that clearer. And don’t forget to enjoy the process. After all, you’re doing something very nice by alleviating another’s worry, so feel good about that and enjoy your day.

peace. s

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

MoK: Sad Kindnesses

1108-relax-and-succeed-it-is-not-enough-to-be-compassionateToday in the March of Kindness we’re dealing with sadness, which for the purposes of this discussion we’ll divide into two categories. The first is unwelcome sadness within ourselves, and unwelcome sadness in others, and the second is a welcome sadness in ourselves and/or welcome sadness in others.

Unwelcome sadness will have destructively overstayed itself. It could be anything from chronic to simply overdue for a change. In the case of longer term sadness, part of the challenge is that we will often have already overtaxed others ability to provide compassion, meaning our act of kindness can be to relieve that pressure from those around us.

This isn’t to say our pain isn’t necessarily valid, but we all must remember that everyone has their own visible and invisible challenges as well, so focusing too much on our own sadness can lead to a form of selfish disrespect for those around us. We’re unlikely to be the only people from whom the extension of compassion would be appropriate, and no one’s supply of energy for such things is limitless.

1108-relax-and-succeed-mok-be-kindChronic sadness can be a challenge for those around us because it becomes invisible through its consistency. Essentially, sadness becomes a personality trait rather than an emotional state. We and others can eventually accept a sad identity and we won’t attempt to change it out of respect.

If we’re one of the people who’s been locked into some form of long-running destructive sadness, we can add kindness to the world by consciously choosing to rescue those around us from having to talk, act and work around our personal own personal suffering for today. Rather than asking for energy we can emit it.

If someone is currently experiencing welcome sadness–that is, meaningful sadness related to a death or other very profound life event–then we can extend our kindness by avoiding the desire to rush the person out of their healthy state of grief. Sadness can accomplish important things of us, and often just assessing which is which in ourselves and others can be a very valuable awareness exercise.

1108-relax-and-succeed-mok-if-you-love-someoneToday, either enact your kindness by consciously removing your long term sadness from the lives of others, or practice kindness by exercising compassion regarding someone else’s temporary but meaningful sadness. What’s important is that this action is intentional and obvious. If you’re lucky enough to have no sad people in your life at the moment, feel free to use someone from the News.

The former can be the announcement of a commitment to choose positivity for the day, and the latter can come in the form of a simple expression of empathy that you’re aware that sometimes these experiences are necessary, and yet you want the person to clearly know that you do care despite the fact that you’re providing “space” for their experience.

These are both kind and simple acts that are not particularly socially awkward so this act in the March of Kindness will likely be easier for you than yesterdays. Don’t forget to stay conscious. This can be a very healthy form of connection.

Now go be kind, and then have a wonderful weekend. We’ll start again on Monday. But don’t think you can’t continue to exercise these first few forms of kindness over the weekend. Take care.

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.

MoK: Converting Anger

1107-relax-and-succeed-mok-sorryEveryone gets angry, it’s just some hide it better than others. But passive-aggressiveness and yelling are both disruptive to human relations. It’s important to remember that you do have the chemistry within you to create anger for a reason. It does serve a purpose. But everyone gets tired, everyone gets hangry, everyone has some easy days and some that are particularly challenging.

Today’s acts in our March of Kindness are simple and straightforward. The first thing have you have to do is identify when you last got angry towards a specific person, then contact the person immediately after you’ve identified them and offer an unequivocal apology.

The most valuable apology is in person, looking the person in the eye, offering zero excuses, just responsibility. Next most valuable is a phone call, where they can hear the sincerity (and possibly discomfort) in your voice that signals your willingness to suffer a bit for what you feel is important–namely respecting that person.

1107-relax-and-succeed-mok-never-ruin-an-apologyOther electronic forms of apology are less personal and less effective but at least they’re a step in the right direction, so if you don’t have the courage for in-person then the next best option is a clear email that outlines your understanding of the lack of respect you’ve shown, that expresses your sincere regret, and that makes a commitment to do better in the future.

Text or instant messenger apologies are the weakest but again, are still far better than no apology at all. If you do this you can increase the value somewhat by also apologising for the fact that your sense of guilt makes it difficult for you to offer the apology in a more personal form. Own your weakness, don’t add it to the insult to the other person.

And finally, apologies to friends are critical to ongoing friendships, but the world is improved when we add people to the number we’re prepared to respect, so in many ways an apology to an opponent or enemy can be the most useful type for society overall. It models good behaviour and reduces tension in both parties.

1107-relax-and-succeed-mok-the-first-to-apologizeIt’s better not to overthink these. Just define the person, choose the form and then do it. It’ll take a few moments and the only suffering you’ll do is between your own ears, within the confines of your own consciousness. The harder it is to do, the better you’ll feel once it’s over. And who knows, maybe you’ll even get one yourself.

If we want to grow as people we must be willing to function outside our own comfort zones. The fact that this feels awkward is directly related to its value to the other person. Let’s start making apologising more common, because it’s human nature to eventually get tired of apologising for the same mistake and that’s usually what leads to us actually changing.

Do it, and do it ASAP. The March of Kindness needs your kindness to be active.

And have a wonderful day 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.

The March of Kindness

1106-relax-and-succeed-the-march-of-kindnessIf you read yesterday’s blog you know that a few years ago I started doing the March of Kindness. Thanks to some teachers and schools from around the world this idea was actually practiced. It not not only put a lot of positive action into our world, it also reduced ego by focusing us on the needs of others.

March includes twenty-three weekdays. That’s twenty-three days of action, and the only action you need to undertake today is to right-click on the photo, save it, print and sign it and then post this notice in a location where you are sure to see it during each of those twenty-three days.

The world is a big place, but it changes one individual at a time. By signing and committing to these principles, you are placing yourself among the important change-makers from around the world. This isn’t just for people like the prophets, or Gandhi, or Rumi, or Martin Luther King, it’s for you as well.

Let us join together and help make the world the incredibly creative, loving and supportive place it has always had the potential to be. Don’t forget to enjoy the process. Have a wonderful day 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.

Appreciating Kindness

1105-relax-and-succeed-a-persons-actionsWelcome to the last day of the month and to the end of your first two months of micro-meditations. You can take pride in your dedication because exercises like these absolutely do have an impact on how broadly you’re able to view “reality.”

It feels good to have a positive impact on the world around you. Here at Relax and Succeed I’ve encouraged people to engage in March Kindness Month, a creation based on a program in Singapore I was aware of from the 1990’s. This program was taken up by a variety of teachers around the world and the students in their classes helped add to the total amount of human compassion and kindness that was expressed over the last few years. That kind of thing generates a tangible impact in the world.

Leading up to those micro-kindness goals it’s worthwhile for us to take a good look at kindness more attentively so that we can appreciate its actual impact in the world. Our understanding of it often ends with the belief that it’s a good thing to do, but rarely do we slow our minds down to truly understand why.

1105-relax-and-succeed-spiritual-practice-is-not-just-sittingIn today’s meditation your goal is simply to tune your awareness radar to acts of kindness. You can hear about them on the radio or a podcast, you can see them in a video or program, or you can note them live and in-person at work, in public, and at home. It’s not only healthy to be tuned to these events, moreover your careful observance of these moments will demonstrate the resonating power behind simple acts of kindness.

As I’ve written about before, simply waiting a bit longer than average to hold a door for someone will often elicit the same behaviour from the person who the door was held for. Their odds of looking behind them for the rest of the day goes up. Their odds that they’ll be willing to hold a door just a bit longer than average will go up, and by these small gains the world can change.

We’ll save your action for March, but for today, in watching these examples, your assignment is to simply try to see the echo of the generous and thoughtful behaviour. Note the person’s emotional reaction, which will be demonstrated through their facial expressions and body language. Maybe they’ll even offer some words of thanks, and then echo the action with someone else. Whatever it is, big or small, recognise those gains as real things in the universe; things that never would have existed were it not for the original act.

Gandhi wasn’t kidding when he said, “Be the change you want to see in the world.” The change in the world is literally made of massive collections of these tiny acts. People are naturally generous, connected and compassionate, but without us modelling that behaviour for others, they have little chance of breaking out of their egocentric thoughts to the point where they can even recognise their ability to impact the world in this positive way.

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.

Appreciating Contrast

1104-relax-and-succeed-the-bad-newsWhat is a day made of? Because it’s a lot more than 24 hours. If it’s your last day of your vacation it can rocket by, and yet if you’re waiting for an ambulance with a loved one, minutes can feel like hours. Time is pretty flexible within our consciousness.

The two examples of above demonstrate that time is dictated by experience. Experiences we don’t want feel long and experiences we do want slip by quickly. So days are made of  your desire for, or resistance to, experiences. Since want is a habit of ego we’re better not to have any expectations, but obviously there are some experiences that are easier to feel better about than others.

Watching a gut-wrenching film can be painful, but it can also bring us closer to people in the long run. On the other hand, as soon as we see an old friend for the first time in a long time we feel fantastic. Of course, neither would feel like anything unless each had the other to contrast itself against. This is the nature of oneness–the yin and yang of being.

1104-relax-and-succeed-i-must-also-have-a-dark-sideAs you’ve heard me say before, this means there is not good things or bad things, but rather things you enjoy and things that help you appreciate enjoyment. So walking normally has no value unless you’ve been unable to do so for some time. Time with loved ones becomes more precious after the loss of a loved one, etc.

Both things are required for existence, but one’s very easy for you and the other creates value, but you wont read this blog to figure out how to enjoy nice things; you’ll spend most of the year reading this blog trying to figure out how to see the value in the more difficult experiences.

If both are necessary, why is one easy and the other more difficult: because one you’ve dreamed of, and the other was either unconsidered or it was a nightmare. One felt in alignment with who you believe you are and the other feels out of alignment with that. To become our greatest selves, we must expand to the point of still feeling in alignment even when we’re experiencing things we do not naturally enjoy.

Your physical reactions to the chemistry you feel as your emotions are your experiences. What chemistry you get depends a lot on how your spirit approaches those variances. You see some people bothered a great deal by relatively small things, and yet you see others who can stay calm during remarkably tempestuous periods. One of these people would be lost in ego, and the other will have developed spiritual awareness.

1104-relax-and-succeed-we-could-never-learnToday’s meditation focuses on recognising this difference. Your job today is easy. Find three examples in your life that demonstrate this difference but using the same events. That is to say, find one experience that you did like that you no longer do, and then find two that you disliked that now you’re grateful for. And once you’ve defined what they are, really spend some actual time revisiting how you felt at the time in each of them. Directly contrast those two different feelings about the same event.

Remember those good feelings, and remember when you applied new thoughts to them and they evolved into things you’d consider negative. And then think about those painful or difficult things, and then really spend time considering that those same events now feel genuinely valuable. That’s it. It’s an easy one but again, these add up. If you’ve done these every week, you will have expanded yourself.

Meditate on past experience. Recognise the changeability of events, and witness your consciousness making that flex. That isn’t the world, that’s you. Own that difference. Find it, and learn enough about it that you truly start to get an understanding that the difference between then and now is simply your approach to whatever it is. Because that is your great power in this universe, but you cannot flex it until you can better understand it, so use today to increase your understanding. And don’t forget to enjoy your day while you do it.

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.