Too

1230 Relax and Succeed - When you judge someoneThere were other smaller signs steadily after the accident, but it wasn’t until Junior High School that I started to have mature enough experiences that the differences between me and others was becoming strange. I was confused hearing people described as too…. Too tall, too fat, too talkative, too mean, too quiet, too untrustworthy, too smart, or their stories were too big.

I knew by then words were very important to how people saw the world, but it would be years before I would realise that everyone I was watching was taking their own thoughts seriously; that they had no separation between their thoughts and their life. I could only be in alignment with them using the word too if we had a context. There are just simply times when Simon is too big to fit through a hole, or Beth is too tall for the uniform. That I understood.

When I got confused was when someone used too when they spoke of someone else, away from others (gossip). With no context I didn’t understand how someone could be too anything. To what standard was the person measured? Who set it, and why is it there? Certainly I understood politeness was a form of social dancing, where everyone more or less knew their role. And I knew that culture was taught and that it evolved as it was passed from generation to generation, but to me those were like a communication system that gave people a starting place for each new meeting. But what was too?

1230 Relax and Succeed - To other peopleOf course, eventually I figured out that the thing they were comparing everyone to was their own personal ideal. It wasn’t even how they thought the other person could be a better person. The frustrations and demands and judgment was all about the other person doing what the person judging them wanted them to do. I went through those motions sometimes, but it never occurred to me to see my perspective on it as a universal truth.

If the want being sated was based on any personal gain, then I couldn’t identify with hurting someone else to elevate myself. But if the person was in pain, here again I could re-connect with people, because that was an experience I knew from my own life. In fact, to me, anguish was defined as a period of time during which I took my thinking too seriously. But once I felt better I was fully aware that my judgment was an illusory expectation painted onto that other person–it wasn’t the actual person. (This makes forgiving much easier.) Again, no one was too anything.

Too tall is statuesque to some. Too fat is cuddly to others. People that talk a lot take pressure off shy people. Mean people are often hurt people who have high degrees of empathy once they learn to get distance from their thinking. Quiet can be contemplative. Untrustworthiness can exist as a positive or negative force. Too smart is a form of deferential respect, and exaggerations are so common they’re why every 30 year old discovers that life isn’t much like we’d been lead to believe when we were younger. It’s much more… practical than that. In the end, we’re hunter-gatherers with a good imagination. We still need purpose, and we still experience our thinking as the world.

Listen today to your own voice. Don’t just form words, have the real you monitor what your ego says. Observe your own behaviour and recognise the ephemeral connection between thought and your daily life experience. You’ll still be you, making most of the same “mistakes,” (also known as being you). But increased awareness can prevent you from developing, reinforcing or sharing your judgments about someone else’s identity, because those will only ever be true within your own consciousness. We should free others from having to live in the shadow of our expectations. There are just too many of us making the request at the same time.

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.

Lowering Your Standards

1229 Relax and Succeed - The difficulties of lifeTeams talk about demanding the best from their athletes. Companies talk about excellence and enthusiasm from their employees. Spouses want the partnership they agreed to in their wedding vows. Parents want the sort of children that don’t get into trouble. All of those things are achievable. Just not all the time.

First off, the world is three quarters of the way to its 10 billion person maximum, so the rest of us would wonder why any one person would think that it should be their standards we’re all living up to. Of course that person will argue that it’s not their standard, it’s society’s, and they’ll use their friends as examples. Except their friends are their friends because they share similar standards. It’s what everyone knows is right…? Right…?

Two things: What gets defined as the right thing to do will depend on a lot of things, most certainly where a person’s from and how they reacted to their upbringing. Secondly, how anyone behaves will always depend on how they feel at that moment.

1229 Relax and Succeed - Try being nice to the next personEveryone has their worst days. 365 days a year, a 75 year life, that’s 27,375 days. At least 30 of those are going to be horribly agonizing, and about another 1,000 will be pretty awful too. That’s not bad in a full lifetime. Despite some long stretches of sad, that’s still way way more happiness than sadness.

The problem starts when things are out of balance–when we’re doing either really badly or we’re doing overly well. Those states lead us to start over-thinking the reasons for each, which means our ego is given almost constant existence. As a result of us thinking too much, our own standards get rigidly imposed on the world. But expecting others to operate at our tightest standards during their toughest times–that’s simply unrealistic. Get two people in that same self-righteous state at the same time and that’s where the worst conflicts happen.

It makes no sense to expect the best from people if we know we all have really bad times where our behaviour is definitely not good. We should fully anticipate that way may meet people during our day that are in the midst of one of their 1,000 worst days. That isn’t a day to add our standards to their list of things to think about. That’s our day to improve the world with our grace; to create the sort of emotional space for that person that we wish existed when we’re in that vulnerable state.

1229 Relax and Succeed - The world would quickly improve ifPeople will be amazing beautiful generous beings without us needing to punish or entice them towards that. We don’t have to worry about making people better, but we can make it easy for them to be at their best. So today, let’s all take the most difficult person we meet, let’s set it as our goal to improve that person’s life at least a little through our behaviour.

Even if they fail to see it, let’s let our actions help enact the very greatest parts of ourselves. That way we most certainly benefit, and whether the person we helped or offered patience to notices or not, they will have too. So think about having a friend or co-worker join you in this endeavour, because these are the simple daily changes that, done en masse, change the world.

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.

Meet Your Brain

1228 Relax and Succeed - Rowboat and whaleThere’s a lot going on under the surface. You imagine your physical life. They anesthetize your brain, not the part of your body they’re operating on. Your pain, your loves, the very idea of your self are all concepts that exist within the confines of your consciousness. They exist as energy–as information moving through your mind and the way you do it is like no one else. No other human being will have your perspective. Ever.

Stop trying to manage the details of your external life. Study how your thoughts translate to your day. Rather than ruminating, spinning and literally being your own thinking, take a step back and meditate instead. Ask who you actually are, and ask where does your pain take place? What is that pain made of, and how can an anesthetist make it go away so easily?

Even when you think you’re failing, that failure is only happening within your personal consciousness. Others won’t even notice, they’ll be too busy building their own ideas of failure for themselves inside their own consciousness. So just relax. You are a wonder. Get to know yourself. Meet your brain.

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 Straw that Breaks the Camel’s Back

1227 Relax and Succeed - Serenity is not freedom from the stormWhat good is developing your spirituality if it can’t help you through your day? The fact is, advanced spirituality can come and go at any moment, so developing your recovery skills is key. (Oh yes, it does sometimes disappear once you have it, it’s just easier to get it back).

When this skill is most useful is when you’ve already had a day where you’ve forgot you’re the thinker and instead you’ve been living the thoughts. That means you’ll have loaded a lot of the day’s baggage onto the back of your proverbial emotional camel. Then, when you’ve done something like spilled juice on the new carpet, the dog had an accident, your child has not done as you’ve asked, or work or your spouse is still doing that thing that drives you crazy, you reach that straw that breaks your camel’s back and you lose it. So today we’ll talk about five psychospiritual strategies to get you through those moments.

1. You:

You even thought as you walked away from the counter, filling this cup of coffee, this full, with the dog and kids running around was not a good idea, but that just makes you even madder when a moment later it lands on your carpet. Since talking to yourself leads to greater suffering, go quiet and accept instead. Time does not go backwards. The coffee is there now. The question is, how does the you in that moment react? You can think about a past that wasn’t and be in pain, or you can start cleaning juice and get on with your day with a more peaceful heart. Action or thoughts. Solution or suffering. Take a big breath. Exhale your frustration and the thoughts that surround it. Do not think about things you cannot change. Act instead of thinking.

1227 Relax and Succeed - You are in charge2. Your Pets:

They’re animals, not people. They don’t really understand whatever language you’re speaking to them. But they get how you feel. So don’t scream at an animal that you want to listen to you. Appreciate that when you’re upset it’s like slipping into a costume that makes you look like someone your dog would never trust. Work with the dog as a dog, not against the dog and with your schedule, because however important the schedule is, the dog will still be a dog. The act of wanting it to be a different dog doing different things will generate unnecessary suffering. Breathe. Think about sensing some part of your own body, like a leg muscle or your lungs moving. Get out of your thoughts and back present with the dog where you can cooperate.

3. Your Children:

Here’s the wild difference between a parent and any kid under about 27 years old–the parent’s brain is literally more developed. From our late teens to mid to late 20’s, all a kid is doing is wiring their experiences into the matrix of data that they will feed into their consequence-generator. This is so they can pre-imagine their potential results and possibly alter their plans prior to failure. But the parent has to remember, the way that system is built is through failure. So rather than viewing a ‘failure’ as the kid letting you down, see it instead as an opportunity to constructively  discuss what process might have prevented the issue in the first place. That way you encounter these things less often. Give them tools, not hell, because the former is useful to both of you, while the latter is painful for both of you. Remember, if you’re angry you’re adding to the issue, not subtracting from it. Stay conscious of that.

4. Spouse/Work:

Find what you enjoy about your job or marriage and focus on that. Putting your attention on the same issues or problems over and over just solidifies them in your consciousness, which blinds you to your opportunities to avoid the suffering those resistant thoughts create. Be mature; either accept it’s not bad enough to make you leave, or stay on your own terms. But those terms are not made by prescribing every detail of your day to your spouse or employer, they’re achieved by you choosing to adopt a healthy attitude about seeking upsides regardless of their behaviour. When you see behaviour that frustrates you due to its consistency, recognise that your partner and your co-workers all also need to deal with the frustrations that are created by you. That added bit of humility will help center you and focus you on a healthier response.

1227 Relax and Succeed - The only people who find good days5. The System:

Come on, how good could any world work with people like me, you, your spouse, your kids and your co-workers all making it happen? We’re all learning and making mistakes as we go. Frankly, we should be pleased and amazed that nearly eight billion people have figured out how to cooperate as well as we have. And we do better every single week, so don’t focus on society’s failures, focus on its future with optimism and enthusiasm that the best is yet to come. The only people who find good days are the ones that look for them. So do not focus on painful things, choose to focus on things you find uplifting.

Do not let simple or repetitive issues rise in your consciousness. When they appear, see them as potentially painful choices and then find yourself in the present moment and use that presence to choose to focus on the positives involved, and on what can be done. And if it’s too painful for that, then sometimes a good cry is what belongs in our present moment. But either way, it helps a lot if we consciously avoid spending all day loading up our emotion camel by thinking about previous frustrations, because that way you have no straw to break when you spill your coffee.

Now go consciously seek out a great day from all of the events that will present themselves. Your success is within 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.

Agreeing to Disagree

1226 Relax and Succeed - Agree to disagreeIt’s a lost art. So many are caught up in a need to oppose and conquer. We have not improved the world by converting people to our way of seeing things, we have only manipulated their perspective to temporarily align with ours. But over time their view will develop nuances ours doesn’t have because ultimately their perspective is not ours and never will be; they are them and we are ourselves.

Science is like a language we’ve all agreed to use for planning public policy, but everything else is personal opinion. Everyone sees things from a slightly different perspective, meaning that in a healthy world we will most certainly find many people that will disagree with us. That’s no indication anything is wrong.

Sometimes other people will  be right, sometimes you will. And your idea of right or winning will change over time. There is no way to gets it all 100% right, all the way through. Not even close. So next time you’re arguing, just keep in mind that maybe you’re the one that’s missing something. That humility will bring you closer to people.

1226 Relax and Succeed - You don't have to attendTake today and search for an opportunity to feel your resistance to an idea, and then understand that your resistance is created by your unaccepting thoughts about their idea. That’s natural–those aren’t ideas that you feel are compatible with you. But that’s a much different thing than saying they aren’t compatible with the other person’s way of being.

You’ll feel it, maybe in your jaw or stomach or chest. A desire to react. A sense of resistance. A rise to do battle. Note that feeling and check in with what idea you don’t want to be in a room with. Very rarely will these ideas have much material impact on your life, but note how married to those ideas you are. Indeed your very identity emerges from them much like a detailed piece of art emerges from the dots in pointillism.

Your arguing ego is nothing more than an identity that emerges from your current set of beliefs, much like these dots make up this image. Over your lifetime the dots will move as you grow and change, and that will change who you believe you are unless you learn to see past your own thoughts.

1226 Relax and Succeed - Pointillism
This work provided courtesy of GenericZombium

Note that your thoughts exist only in your consciousness. Note that they have no existence until you enact them into behaviour. Note that you can let an idea exist, allow it to pass through you, and then let it go and you will feel fine. In fact, you’ll very likely feel much stronger than you would if you’d entered an argument and won it.

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.

Changing Your Life

1225 Relax and Succeed - If you're not going anywhereWe’re all guilty of it. We want our lives to improve and we have these things that we know would help, but we just can’t get others to cooperate with our plans to improve our situation. Eventually though, we reach a maturity where we realise that they are thinking precisely the same thing about us.

This isn’t to say that our lives couldn’t be improved if others made the changes we’re suggesting, but the fact remains that you have a massive amount of control over yourself and you have little to no control over others, so you are far better to invest your energies in improving your life through things that you control, that can happen for sure versus things you don’t control and only might happen.

We all know that every single one of us has some habits that may be difficult for those around us. You have to have a personality, so we don’t want to remove any quality because on the other side of it will be something useful; like you’re pushy, but when leading is a crappy job the pushy person will still take it and save everyone else. But the point is to mature so that we can apply that ability when it is most useful and not the most damaging.

1225 Relax and Succeed -  To improve our livesPick your issue. It can be small, that’s fine. Maybe you tap your fingers too much, or you’re not polite, or you rush, or you won’t make decisions, or you’re a bully in meetings. Just stay conscious of that one thing for today and try to influence how often or how meaningful the impacts to others might be. And maybe if you do end up doing that thing you do, consider apologising.

Just this one bit of simple mindfulness will make a big difference to not only the other people around you, but more importantly it will also strengthen your mindfulness overall. You will also end the day feeling good about your successes in altering your behaviour. So ignore when your old self emerges and be happy when you adjust. This isn’t about where you are on some scale, it’s about taking you wherever you are and expanding your capacities.

Pick your issue, maybe leave a note or two to yourself or in your daily calendar, and then stay conscious of yourself. That awareness alone will pay additional dividends throughout your day, and who knows, someone might even notice. 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.

The Parent Trap

1224 Relax and Succeed - We must accomodateYou’re a parent and obviously you want to do a great job of raising your kid. Or maybe you know a parent who’s trying to do that. Either way, people have no idea what the future will look like so it’s essentially impossible to raise a kid for success. About all anyone can do is raise their children to be flexible enough that they can thrive in any future.

My grandmother lived on the prairies before steam powered machines hit the farms. One bad growing season and people in her generation literally starved to death in the middle of Canada. My parents both served in and obviously survived, WWII. Not all their siblings did as well. For my parent’s generation and all the generations before them, being a good parent was pretty straightforward: keep the kids alive, and try to teach them some basics about staying alive and getting along with others.

That was it. No books, no manuals, no classes. There weren’t different philosophies or theories to follow or adhere to. There were no real major rules to be broken as a parent as long as your kid wasn’t a criminal. And most people turned out pretty healthy and certainly happier than people test as today. Today it’s much different. Today there’s a lot of choice available regarding parenting styles.

1224 Relax and Succeed - A bad moment and bad dayStyles. Before, when two parents met for lunch, one parent could see the other parent’s kids were alive and they’d talk as two adults about things unrelated to their kids. Today people meet and fretfully discuss the latest article they read that either promises the path to certain success or that explains what is certain to lead to disaster. It’s all very binary, as though parenting is either good or bad when really it’s neither.

As much as we like to dress it all up in psychological terminology, “parenting” a child is really them just the kid mimicking or reverse-mimicking whatever the caregiver does. Parents are simply the child’s most common examples of human behaviour. So if someone truly wants to be a great parent, other than loving their child, they should simply let the child be and focus instead on being the best person–and best example–they can be.

Oh, and as you’re trying to be that great example, don’t forget that when you do set a bad example, you shouldn’t beat yourself up over it because that sets another bad example. Instead we should accept our responsibility and know it felt bad because it was out of alignment with who we really are. And if we have that feeling, then the child will be parented just fine. Accept mistakes as lessons and move on. Because even if that was the only skill you taught your child, they would have learned a lot.

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.