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.

Getting Along

Interesting term when one stops to look at it a moment: getting along. To get is to have or hold or receive something, but what are we getting? Along means to move ahead on some type of path. When the word was created the idea was that it was to take and, and long, and push them together into one word. So essentially the word means that you have found a way to continue to move forward.

Of course, the fancy word for this is diplomacy. This is when we take two or more perspectives that are in deadlock and they are jostled and realigned and adjusted so that all of the parts that can align, do align. This creates a greater unification of needs and that removes friction and that’s what gets things further along. So with people you like and enjoy, you simply go. But with people you find challenging in some way, some getting along is required.

In school it’s easier to align yourself with people like you because you have so many chances to mix and there’s so many of you. But at work you’ll often be in smaller teams, so figuring out when to concede and when to hold ground is more difficult because you can’t just join another group. And at work your boss won’t give you a low grade–they’ll fire you. At work the problem might even be with your actual boss.

A lot of people were raised by a parent to start off with demands. But if everyone only made demands how would anything get anywhere? Obviously everyone has to enter into a negotiation or discussion or debate with the idea of some concessions automatically built into the premise of the meeting, otherwise you’re just re-meeting to re-express previously stated demands.

Negotiation, debate and discussion require flexibility on everyone’s part. When things are stuck, what people get through some concessions is… along. They can back away and keep things as they are, or they can move forward by trading absolutes for acceptable losses.

I’m not sure if they still do this there, but I’d been told while living in Budapest that one of the nearby governments (Czech maybe?) had a process whereby unions and companies had to submit a closed, fixed bid on their arrangement. Then three judges would pick one of them, without alterations. I suspect the story is true in some way because, in principle, what would happen for most people’s minds is in alignment with what the storyteller told me, and that is that invariably the two sides would make extremely similar offers, which just goes to show they both knew where starting from extremes would lead anyway.

We don’t need to be forced to do these things. We don’t need to be left with no options before we consider another path. When we’re in conflict with someone else’s needs, rather than our own objectives, we’re better to share the objective of getting along. That means instead of finding a statement that represents your own interests, you state something that moves things forward; something that leads towards peace, or cooperation, or openness, or eventually, agreement.

Interestingly it appears around the 1700’s before someone puts get and along together to form the notion of moving forward in unison, and that is sometimes referred to as living harmoniously. That’s a good term, because in a harmony everyone still has their own individual note; everyone’s just made some adjustments so they blend well with others so that the whole can equal more than the sum of the parts. And that’s the secret. Adding each individual position in any conflict will not total as much as if each part surrenders something to a larger whole.

Next time you’re in conflict, spend less time asserting your position and more time looking for ways to align it with the opposing views. Sometimes it’s true, it cannot be done. But far too often people fail at finding a compromise simply because no one was willing to compromise on principle. Winning might get you everything. But compromise does get everyone something.

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.

What Defines You?

1085-relax-and-succeed-the-ability-to-observe-without-evaluatingYesterday we meditated on the sources of judgment. Who is it you want to be better for? Today we’ll ask about what their definitions are made of. Where did they emerge from and why are they so different depending on the source? Why do some people hate you and others love you?

Humans named a bunch of things so that made us feel like we’re somehow above what we are, but once people get pushed near the lower two echelons of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, we’re all pretty much apes. If the lead chimp in a group is decent at sharing, then the group is stable and tight. But if the leader is greedy or selfish, the others can sense that and they will, one by one, band together, and they’ll eventually take action.

We would all like to believe we’re above that, and yet we all know most parents would easily die–or even kill–for their children. This would include stealing food from someone else if your child needed badly enough, and it would justified by your love and sense of protection. The problem is that we’re all still individuals, and so we all put the line where we’d start stealing in a different place.

1085-relax-and-succeed-opinion-is-the-mediumYour friends are essentially the people that agree with where your line is because there’s is in a similar place. They’ll call that match correct, right, moral, or even sane. If you’re either inside or outside their line you will be incorrect, wrong, immoral, dangerous and crazy. Of course these are just judgments within the confines of their own consciousness. But people will act on those thoughts, which is why they matter to a degree.

This line is circular, but more importantly it’s also irregular. It might be shaped like a D or it might have a wedge cut out of it like pie. A person could be super-nice in almost every way and yet be a terrible -ist. Misogynist, racist, even a terrorist. That’s why the neighbours of double homicide say things on the news like, “I never would have expected it. He kept such a nice lawn.” The housekeeping and home maintenance part of his circle was nice and round–the rest, not so much.

Everyone assumes everyone either is, or is supposed to be, a perfect circle, when in fact there is no such thing. With others, if you see a good chunk of curve then you extrapolate that its curves won’t change. No matter who they are, until you see those sides you’ll assume they have a nice round circle when you might have just been judging an entire human being based on his lawn.

1085-relax-and-succeed-one-of-the-greatests-tragediesSince the advent of popular psychology people’s expectations of this perfect roundness has become very firm and unforgiving. Others are disappointed if they mistook you for someone else. They guessed your circle was round and anything short of that is you failing.

When people fall in love their senses are impacted by chemicals and they naturally round off every wobbly or irregular part of their partner’s circle. But, as they know each other longer and longer, and wander further around each other’s circles, their expectations rise. Before they could round off those wobbles in their own head. Eventually they’ll start asking you to do something about them. And that’s when trouble starts.

Our circles are too big and changing them is challenging because that’s not really the way to live. You’ll actually do more to improve the roundness of yourself by accepting the shape you already are, then watch for opportunities for you to use that shape in some way that benefits you and others. Otherwise you’ll spend your entire life neurotically bouncing around the inside of your circle, trying desperately to round off every side that someone meets. This is why weddings are stressful. There’s so many other circles to try to match at once…

1085-relax-and-succeed-who-am-i-to-judge-othersEach of these judgments exists only within the reality of the person making it. You do the same with others and you all do it with yourselves too. Today your meditation is for you to find three occasions where; 1) you did change your circle and you regretted it, 2) you didn’t change it and regretted it, 3) you wanted to change it but couldn’t, and 4) and a time where you did change and you didn’t regret it.

As you might guess, the middle two are to help you understand the world better, but the main value is in the difference between why #1 felt like it did and #4 felt so different. The first is where you became someone for someone, while the other is you became more of your true self. Your job is to be your true self, that’s why that one feels so good while the other is unpleasant.

Find your examples. Four of them. Try to spend some time examining your headspace at that time. Recognise your fluctuating state, and that the judgments of others are not absolute. They are based on their own circles. Your friends accept your circles no matter how they’re shaped, and your health will be represented by how many imperfect circles you will accept. Now do your spiritual exercise or I’ll judge you. 😉

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 Rules

Your ego knows the rules. It knows how to dress you, it knows how to dance, how to sing, and even knows how to eat and how to sleep. And this alignment between you and these external limits is defined by fear. Your ego knows that if you step out of line you run the risk of embarrassment and embarrassment feels a lot like being shunned and that’s an ancient way to get people in line. If we lose the support of those around us we are in trouble indeed.

Various cultures have various rules and that can include anything from how they greet each other, what language they use to share ideas, or even what tools they use or don’t use to eat. You can be perfectly in line with Ethiopian culture and still potentially offend a person who’s been taught to value British culture, and yet beneath those rules those two people could potentially be very respectful best friends.

1031-relax-and-succeed-everything-you-wantBut how do you be best friends when one of you speaks Dutch while the other only speaks Inuktitut? The two souls could get along, but we have these ego-suits our cultures make us wear. And yet we see how thin those suits are, because as soon as the two people learn to communicate they literally build their own hybrid culture where they just ignore the details of their external cultures.

Some very famous friendships have achieved some amazing things in this way, including Tenzin Norgay and Sir Edmund Hillary climbing Mount Everest, or the closeness shared between the 14th Dalai Lama and Heinrich Harrer. Some servants become close friends to their masters and vice versa. So the rules aren’t an issue, the rules are just loose agreements that we can break, we just don’t due to fear.

The people who do break these invisible rules are progressively called, open, eclectic, eccentric, strange, weird and even dangerous, but often times the only thing they’re doing is functioning outside of the rules society silently likes to teach each child. We like patterns and our culture is a set of patterns. Anyone outside of that is an outsider to us.

1031-relax-and-succeed-become-friends-with-peopleThis means that you have the ability to be friends with virtually anyone, which is great, but let’s focus on you. Because your ego doesn’t discuss much except these rules and your speculations about breaking them or maintaining them. Your ego is an expert on the rules, so when it’s talking to you it’s always from the rule-based, fear-based perspective. If you’re going to a party dressed like an actual clown your friend will actually try to talk you out of it and they might even desert you that night in a desire to avoid any reflected social shame you face.

Since your ego is little more than a rule expert, then the only reason for it to talk is for it to try to balance your natural drives with the rules, which is why your ego is primarily critical. The best thing to do is do what Norgay and Hillary did and just forge ahead together, but that’s only two people. Trying to get more people than to be free gets near impossible.

If you want to be a true individual living a truly spiritual life, you must surrender the rules and trade it for the Tao. You want the flow of a compassionate existence more than you want laws and protection. One is human, one is a thought-based idea. One is you behaving, the other is you feeling empathetic and compassionate.

Of off this is why you get upset if you spill food on your shirt at lunch. Imagine that: an adult having their day ruined by some mayonnaise on their shirt. Does that sound like a developed soul? No, that sounds like an ego trying to be liked by being in-line to the point where you’ll feel like everyone’s judging your stain, and if they’re following the rules they will. But so what?

What we’re talking about is just a framework in our head and the words are creations by our heads, for our heads. We certainly shouldn’t be using those words to punish ourselves. If you truly understood what was happening you wouldn’t need any rules for you to feel shame or regret. Those are nature’s way of keeping us cooperating in a way that’s good for all of us and those feelings don’t require words and they do permit for much more freedom.

Forget those words. Forget replaying some insult from 10 years ago. Stop listing all of the things that might go wrong. Stop looking for reasons you or others are out of line with the rules. None of this is hard. It’s not the start of something difficult, it’s the stopping of something difficult. Do not use your thoughts to weaken yourself. Those are only words taught to you by your culture. They cannot hurt you unless you believe them.

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.