The Emotional Wobbles

1209 Relax and Succeed - Happy piggy desk wobblerBoing. Maybe you even have one of these wobblers on your desk or dashboard. They remind me of people. When we’re younger we have an idea of our lives that is unperturbed. It’s starts as a straight line. We have a general direction and lots of energy and we see no reason why our crisp clean dreams won’t line up.

But dreams are a form of expectation, and when we’re young we tend to overvalue the happiness that will be derived from the achieving the expectation, which leads to unhealthy attachments. Simultaneously we undervalue our own internal peace. Many of us can remember some early, less mature relationships that we took to be true love, when really those were just some of our first encounters with non-familial love, so they felt a bit intense due to a lack of contrast. We overreact because we don’t have that spectrum of experience to balance things with yet.

Our love is true then in the sense that we see none of the person’s undesirable traits when we look at them, but when we have limited experience it’ll be highly conditional love based on the person meeting our expectations, which were based on our dreams. But they can’t act out our dreams. They have a dream of their own that they expect us to be a part of. And when we both first feel that impact to our egocentric, thought-based dreams, it sends us reeling. Our pendulum naturally swings hard to one side, which in turn generates a near-equal and immediate response and we all fly back in the opposite direction.

1209 Relax and Succeed - Things that matterBecause your dreams of your future depend on this person loving you, you are prepared to reach too far to bend yourself into your dream. But the more you demand, the more the person insists on being themselves and the more they move away from you, and the push and pull between your ego and spirit have you penduluming back and forth for a while before you calm down. (As an example, think of how teens and parents push against each other’s wills.)

What you really want in your life is love, but if you mistake the person for the love then you can end up wobbling strongly off your center in your attempt to connect to them, when in fact you’re actually reaching for a finger instead of noticing that it’s pointing at the moon. You eventually surrender your dream as you realise you’ve miscast it. As you wobble your way out of those thoughts your emotional swings are consistently less dramatic until life gets almost too still and too boring.

Over time we get sanguine about the impacts. As each hit comes and does the same thing, and as we see ourselves react, it’s not like our life is rocked less; it’s more that we accept the extreme motion as a natural result of the intensity of the original event. Rather than making it worse by hurrying to calm it, we learn to just ride it more like a seasoned circus performer whose act is to gracefully balance. They can do that because they stop focusing on the external motion and they focus instead on maintaining their internal center of balance.

1209 Relax and Succeed - Focus on the goal not the obstacles

With any event, the less you focus on the impact and the faster you focus on the way out, the better. But this means letting go of our attachments and even after we’ve grown in wisdom, that’s not a painless process. But then again, we need some sources of sorrow too, don’t we? Otherwise we’d lose all of the beautiful relevant art as well as all of the empathetic experiences we share and connect through.

Allow yourself to swing from side to side when you’ve taken a hit. But don’t make that emotional sway your identity. You’re still the thinker of those thoughts, you’re not the thoughts themselves. You still get to choose your thoughts and your attitude about life. They’ll just get interrupted by emotional extremes while your wobbles are extreme. But once you feel them, use that as a signal to reset and calm your internal voices.

Over time, and by nature, the swings always reduce in intensity as you learn to let your internal arguments go. And by the time you’re life is too still, a part of you will be secretly conspiring to get some drama back. Because deep down our spirit likes that drama. You can tell because, when you stop to think about it, most of our wobbles actually originate with us.

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.

Scarred Childhoods and Adult Relationships

If we learn not to overthink we can often do it with smaller, less important stuff, but we struggle with what we call the big stuff. Of course little and big stuff just refers to stuff your life trained you to think of a little versus the stuff your life taught you to think a lot.

In reality we’re all really works of art, so let us say that God or the universe created your base stone and now your parents are walking along a gorgeous cliff of fantastic marble. They see a piece they love and so they have a big chunk cut out of it, and they load it onto a land barge.

They brace it with timbers and they slowly drag it down the mountain to where you will become you. In this metaphor the chipping of your stone is like birth and infancy. You won’t remember it, but it’ll leave marks on your stone nevertheless and your mother will sure remember dragging you down that hill.

Next you’re in Michelangelo’s studio, where the raw potential of your stone begins to be shaped into the vision your parents imagined. They’re the ones that shape the early you, and in doing so they offer you fantastic opportunities while simultaneously camouflaging other potential versions of you. These include genetic memories that create physical issues from birth are like cracks that emerged during travel from the cliffs to the studio. They will impact what the stone can become, but not how much it can be valued.

Regardless of who we are, over time the Michelangelos of life will use friction to shape us, at first knocking off big chunks defined as male or female or black or white or athletic or brainy, and later as more refined choices, like electrical engineer or watercolour painter or pediatric nurse, or eventually as you’re known for being challenging, or soft, or wise.

As we age we begin to realize that the Michelangelo’s in our lives not only carve and shape us intentionally, but they also grind into our stone unconsciously as a side effect of their personal working style. Some areas will be rubbed so long and hard that over time they score the base stone so deeply that it cannot be hidden. This of course isn’t a fault in the stone, it’s a just a byproduct of being shaped by just a few artists near the start of life. Plus those artists will usually have been trained in the same family of artists, so they’ll all tend to grind the same spots out of the same habit.

As you age so too do the Michelangelos around you. They go from using hammers and chisels to just the chisels, and eventually they reduce to scraping, before later moving onto sanding and finally polishing. Each stage will refine us, and as we grow wiser we get wiser about only giving access to better artists,. Every stone has scars, but the wisest artists know how to make the most of them.

Everyone had parents. Everyone had someone–or a lack of someone–raise them, and those forces were the strongest in your life and they left the most indelible marks. Sometimes those lead to beautiful arcs in our life, and others just disrupted areas that would have otherwise gone smoothly. But there is no point in lamenting those scars any more than we lament the base that the sculpture must sit on. Far from being problems, these are just the essential elements of having been in the studio at all. No sculpture is created without them.

When we’re in a relationship and something really bothers us, it is literally caught in our groove. And it’s not our essential stone that’s reacting to it, it’s how we were impacted by childhood. So you can work your whole life searching for the best artists and yet like a bad tattoo, they can only do so much because they have no choice but to work with the unconscious choices that the early, less experienced artists left behind.

Your job in life is not to try to orient your sculpture so that no one sees your scars, nor are you supposed to wear yourself out trying to remove or hide the marks that others have left on them. Instead you are simply supposed to realise that every sculpture has them as a natural part of their creation.

Keep in mind, you can’t blame those early artists for screwing up, because later in life you suddenly realise that you too have been an artist, and through your blind ignorance to the fact that your actions were shaping others, you too will have accidentally scored some people’s stone. And it is understanding that –that inevitable chaining causal reality– that when understood, allows us to shift from being psychologically better, to finally achieving a sense we could call peace. That way it all makes more sense.

The world isn’t broken. People don’t need fixing. People simply need to stop believing that the world’s job is to create perfect sculptures. Instead we must accept that life is a verb. It’s not a statue, it’s the sculpting. And since we all need and are sculptors, and since we all will improve throughout life, suddenly what were failures become more like beautiful attempts at loving and artful creation, much the way childhood fingerpainting may not be good even though it’s gorgeous.

Thanks to our early life, if we look carefully we’ll find we often attract people that seem to have deep scars in their marble precisely where we’ve been trained to look for them. If your Dad yelled a lot, then you stand a good chance of marrying someone familiar like that (or the exact opposite). At that point you have two choices.

You can forever lament that they ended up with the same damage one of your sculptors had, or can note that they are looking right at your scars too. A lack of acceptance can mean you’re the worst possible people for each other, but an act of acceptance can make them the best possible person for you. Because one way you’re just staring at each other’s damage but ,at the same time, if you both focused on getting good at it, who’d possibly be better at overlooking at a fault than someone who spent their life around it?

Don’t lament that art needs sculptors, nor that sculptors get better by creating art. Simply focus your energy on not scarring anyone else more than than is necessary and then ignore what scars you can. Because every time we grind unproductively into into another person’s pain, we only serve to make the scar fresher and deeper.

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.

Coaching Spirit

Here’s one that’s likely to hit you in the feels. While the media can be really focused on money and status and achievement, in the end we all know that what really makes something impressive is empathy, connection and love. People pulling together is always more meaningful than a solitary achievement. The story about the sacrificing parent is always more poignant than the tale of actual victory.

For too many young children today sports is looked at like career training, when its most valuable contribution to society is that it teaches teamwork. It clearly demonstrates the value of chaining human capacity together to accomplish something bigger than any individual could achieve. In this way it is a beautiful metaphor for living.

The truth is, you don’t want enlightenment as much as you think you do. It’s pretty boring. It’s hard to feel something when you feel everything. And you can’t even share an experience because you are both the experience and the experiencer. You’re you and everyone else. In oneness there’s no one to hang out with. So we use our infinite power to create duality and opposition and drama and bingo! We’re interested in this drama called life. Nowhere is this opportunity exemplified more than in most sports.

You begin each season with the odds stacked against you. Maybe 30+ teams are vying for one championship. You are essentially signing up for pain. With pro sports you are volunteering to participate in a giant public drama where your agony may end up on full public display. And you do all of that for the slim chance that maybe you’ll do it this year.

Despite being disappointed for 50 straight years, Toronto hockey fans still line up to buy tickets filled with excitement. What else would enlightenment look like other than a group of people being thrilled to participate in something they can almost be guaranteed will be an agonising drama? Every league in the world is filled with people happy to sign up for likely failure. So if we can do that with a sport, why’s it so hard with our life?

The truth is, you just want a little bit of enlightenment. Just enough to take the pain away–you think. But then someone explains that to get rid of the pain you must accept the pain. You must become one with your pain. At that point it’s not an obstacle, it’s an experience and we can survive those, easy. It’s what every losing sports fan has to do every time they lose.

As Sam Houston State coach Matt Deggs so nicely puts it, rather than full enlightenment, you want the drama. Because in the heat of that, what you really enjoy is the joy of coming together. You naturally enjoy connection and communion more than the tearing apart and division, and this is how even a losing team can generate a winning experience. Because you can’t really enact enlightenment alone. It needs the whole universe.

Sports fields, workplaces, and within our own families, this sort of deep connection and appreciation can exist. All it needs is a few open people who are prepared to open up, be vulnerable, and love regardless of the setting. The question now is, are you one of those people? And if so, where will you share love today?

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 Freedom to be Beautiful

What kind of beauty are you interested in? Through movies and music videos and other kinds of  marketing for societal and cultural ideas, there’s a superficial, ego-centered view on beauty that involves comparing ourselves to advertised standards. But in that case superficial is really just another term for thin-skinned, so people who subscribe to that belief definitely worry and suffer a lot.

The other kind of beauty involves confidence and soul. It risks vulnerability to share connection. It risks judgment to realize potential. And nothing as wispy as the opinions of others has any hope of stopping it. Beth Ditto is a great example of how the size and scale of modern media is making more room for ideas that aren’t dictated by advertising objectives of the makeup or clothing industries.

You do not need to look like her, or her, or her. You don’t need to look like him or him or even him. That is mimicry. That isn’t even close to being. It’s literally the other side of the coin from being. You either perform being someone or you be yourself, but if you’re using comparison or fear to dictate your choices then you are not as courageous as Beth and you won’t find your own version of her beautiful voice.

The pressures on young men cause them to keep their real attractions secret. In the locker room immature males seeking approval will suggest that anyone who doesn’t like the hottest possible girl has their masculinity in question. This isn’t actually an anti-gay perspective even though they might even use that term. This isn’t being against gays, it’s about being cock of the roost. It’s about wanted to be the most masculine, not fear of being the least feminine. Half the time the guy is touting a girl whose type he’s not even sincerely interested in.

Of course, in the girl’s locker room the girls who do align with an immature boy’s attractions will then try to create even more separation from them and their competition by trying to draw attention to how others don’t align with what is actually a rather bizarre external reference. No healthy person wants the look or body of another person, they want to be themselves.

Young women are particularly bombarded with these ideas via the media and it starts so young it’s difficult for a woman to protect herself when even her own mother is probably also a victim of these false beliefs. We all have to have a real dedication to ourselves and to the individuality of others so that our culture begins to adopt a healthier set of standards that involves people feeling fulfilled instead of feeling coveted.

Make room for yourself. Make room in your opinions of others. Be the change you want to see by stopping your own judgments. Question others judgments. And pay more attention to who is really living big. Because those are the people who can teach you to do it too.

Have a fantastic week everyone. Start it off by giving yourself permission to be you. Accept yourself. That won’t mean everyone responds to you positively, but it will mean they’ll be prompted to deal with you more honestly. And if you get to be you, that’s all you really need.

peace. s

PS You might also want to check out Beth’s song Oo La La, which I also love.

She Said Lenny

She Said Lenny, by Jim Donovan (film below)

There’s a of people who believe the idea of genderless love is silly and yet others who believe it is exalted. None of this is written to change your mind, but it is provided as a potential insight into the other side’s views.

The world itself might seem like a thing but it is in fact a concept you have. The trick is, your brain’s identity is comprised of how you’re taught to see things, and we were all taught when we were younger. So no matter how old you are, the older you get the more different the world gets from the one you were raised to initially understand. My parents have trouble understanding ideas that are based on ideas that were developed long after they were young.

Today, at least in the Western world, we have this weird thing: we currently have two generations cohabitating and yet one grew up with “gay people” and the other group didn’t. Of course gay people either accepted or stressed over their own knowledge of this fact, but the point is, it wasn’t a common concept shared in the culture. Straight people rarely if ever heard about gayness. We quite literally didn’t know it existed. Liberace was creative and flamboyant, not gay. Rock Hudson and Richard Chamberlain were dashing leading men that women fawned over. No one said anything about them loving men.

Can you be blamed if a secret is kept from you? Because you surely and simply cannot be blamed if you learn a life-altering secret and it takes a while for your brain to install that new idea. Like in this case, maybe the idea of genuine homosexuality. Remember, in some countries there’s still a lot of disbelief about the reality of being gay. Even where I’m from in Canada, being gay was only “made legal” in 1967, and gay people couldn’t be married until 2005, and yet Canada was the fourth nation in the world to make it legal.

History is short, and the people that don’t understand homosexuality or bisexuality or transexuality are all being very honest. Those things have never really been planted as ideas in their minds and, once they were, they were treated in very hostile ways by people’s existing beliefs  because that’s what brains do. So for many the new idea didn’t survive. But we’ve all done that, just about things other than being gay. We all do that with ideas we’re not accustomed to. Even having crutches can be stressful because it asks us to alter our view of our own place in the world.

Meanwhile the new generation are more like the Greeks, who had many words for love. That’s better than one word, but it’s still carving an incredible whole into pretty incomplete pieces. So more mature people are somewhat correct; the world generally isn’t improved by creating more definitions because a definition is just another word for a separation or a difference. That creates the potential for duality and conflict and boom, we all have a mess to deal with. Better that we forget the words and divisions and just respect love as love.

Understand: the big new concept-acceptance process is brain-difficult for any person who tries to learn, whether it’s learning something else, or learning that homosexuals can experience the same genuine love the person feels in their own relationships. It’s equally hard for some person who’s accepted those ideas to understand that there could be people who are very genuine in their sense that homosexuality is wrong. Both things just feel wrong to opposing view. We can make it legally right, but that still won’t help some people to change their minds.

This short film, She Said Lenny, by Jim Donovan, is a great example of someone experiencing the moment where their ideas about the world are challenged. Much as the lead character learns in the film The Crying Game, this doesn’t mean straight people need to convert, or that gay people need to be angry that others don’t share their views. It is possible for us to agree to disagree, so long as we’re willing to let others be as free as we ourselves are.

Society is a work in progress. The good news is, history has always added more and more types of people to the accepted family, and that is becoming increasingly easier as people like NASA seriously begin to plan to meet potential cultures from other planets. It’s good we’re practicing this skill with other types of humans in a way. Maybe it’ll make it easier for us when the Darius Kasparaitis lands on Earth and we actually meet Hakan Loob, the leader from from the planet Jyrki Lumme. Won’t that suddenly make us all feel like one family.

peace. s

PS With thanks to my buddy Craig for pointing the film out to me.

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.

Terror and Beauty

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You are so mindful in the moments that arrest that you fill your consciousness with everything; time stops and terror and beauty merge. You lose your definitions, your labels–you even call it indescribable!

It can be the majesty of a big cat chasing a graceful gazelle, it can be the incredible power and beauty of Niagara Falls, the cold isolation of Mount Everest, or even the fragile preciousness of a newborn baby. And if you’re Chad Cowan, you turn that vision for the awesome into your work.

In Chad’s beautiful film Fractal, and in each of these photos by other people, we see individuals who can recognise the harmony between our senses of beauty within terror. They seek the exhilaration that hides behind fear. Apparently the Greek’s name for God was agape. I guess that makes sense. It means awe, and awe contains within it both beauty and terror. Such is the yin and yang of the East

Look at your own life. Is it on the other side of your fears? Are you bold enough to be who you truly are? There is both reward and consequence for being true to yourself, and it is our willingness to accept both that converts our adversity into the excitement of one of life’s big events.

Where are your fears? Follow them. Your life is waiting for you, hidden in their shadow.

Decide something bold about your life within the next 5 minutes. Don’t give yourself time to overthink. Just think of something that’s on the other side of a fear, because you cannot hold the coin unless you’re willing to accept both sides.

Take your choice. Spend the rest of today and tonight feeling like it’s already true, and then tomorrow morning–begin. Enact that choice as though you do it every day without even thinking about it. Because it never really was fake it to make it; it should always have been, making it is always preceded by faking it.

Your life is waiting for you. Go get 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.