Switch Day

1240 Relax and Succeed - Feelings are just visitors

Don’t make the mistake of assuming the externalities of your life improve if you come to greater awareness. They often will, but that’s a byproduct and it’s missing the point. The point is that living with greater awareness about how you function means that you can be okay in any situation, not that you can turn any bad situation into a good one. This isn’t about changing the world, it’s about changing you to better suit the world.

One of the weird downsides to your own health is that the more people live in ego, the sicker you’ll appear. Egos adjust to society, but society is a construct. A healthy person moves through the world moved by their internal motivations, not by external rules. They’re not good or decent or compassionate because it’s legal or the right thing to do, they’re those things because they see innocence in everyone because they know they used to be that person too; someone often lost in thought. And so compassion feels like it’s in order.

This means you’ll defy convention, you won’t feel motivated to accept invitations you don’t want, you’ll say ‘no’ more often, you’ll spend your time with the world rather than talking about the world in unaccepting ways, and you won’t engage with people in the often hurtful gossip that egos can build whole ‘friendships’ around. But maybe the weirdest thing you do will be to make an emotional switch that others presume is impossible.

1240 Relax and Succeed - Your mind is an attention-pointing deviceA good example is an argument. Even in the heat of the moment, we can maintain our sense that we are not our thoughts. This third-person observer-view provides us an escape route, but it doesn’t mean the other person will take it with us. I have angrily said to people, I know I love you so I know something is off because I’m yelling! But I cannot get to that love right now, so I just want to stop! Their reaction is generally to look at you like you’re nuts. That is not a change they’re likely to have witnessed before.

Calming down and engaging in a normal conversation then makes that worse. Because a healthy person lives in the moment, so they don’t worry about the past because they cannot act to change it. Healthy people focus on where they can make a difference, which is why they rarely if ever complain about weather. So they let it go and just want to reconnect.

Meanwhile, the other person is still engaged in ego, talking to themselves about you instead of talking to you. To them you must still be angry too so now your positive change seems suspicious or even unhealthy. Funny isn’t it; that we can get so sick that having someone calm themselves and treat us better leads to us thinking something’s wrong?

1240 Relax and Succeed - A mood isn't weatherBottom line, the switch is the healthiest version of being responsible. It is a move from a fearful and painful emotion to a centered and loving feeling. But to be able to do it in a situation like intense anger, you need to practice it on smaller emotions. So today find one. Find just one situation where you’re in the midst of feeling strongly and negatively, and then make your own switch. Acknowledge where you are, accept that the move you’re making is challenging, and then stumble through it as best you can. Do that enough times and you can get really good at it, just like you learned to walk by falling.

Do it today. Find your example of feeling betrayed, or sad, or frustrated, or angry, or depressed, or fearful, and note that those sensations are created by your brain chemistry which in turn is incited by your thinking. Remember that the feelings aren’t you, that they are what you are doing, and then do something else more likely to generate better feelings. Use the video in yesterday’s blog post if you need to.

Prove to yourself you can make this change and then practice it. Because if everyone can do it, then calming down suddenly will look normal, rather than strange. And prolonged anger will look less healthy, and that in turn will motivate people to avoid it. In this way, individual by individual, society will shift to healthier behaviours. You absolutely can do it. But to do it you must choose to do so. Start making that choice 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.

Worried Thoughts

Winner: Scott’s Favourite Blogs of 2014 #1

Even just this week alone I cannot count how many people have told me about things they worried about that never came to pass. To do that is to entirely misunderstand reality. Reality is absolutely not what’s going on outside of you. Reality is the processing you do inside of you. Stop just reading that and take a moment to really think about it.

567 Relax and Succeed - Worry often gives a small thingYour life experiences are not things that take place in some exterior world, they are things you think about in the world within your consciousness. That’s why the Buddha said your world arises from your thoughts. Not because it’s some airy-fairy, ambiguous, important-sounding spiritual statement—but because it’s actually true in the most practical sense possible.

If you went to the mall to shop and then you took your kids to their after school class and the entire time you sat there worried about the price of your car repair, or that your sister will be mad about you being away for her birthday, or about what will happen at work tomorrow, or whatever—then the experience of your life was not about malls or kids classes—it was about worry!  You might have been standing in front of a clothing rack or you might have been watching your kid throw a ball or learn dance moves, but if your consciousness was focused on worrying about things in the past or things in the future, then you were not present for the moment you were living. Your ego was busy doing what egos do, which is think about and judge things rather than simply experiencing them with open awareness.

Don’t take this lightly. You dedicate gigantic portions of your life to various kinds of worry. Worrying if someone likes you, worrying if someone’s recognizing your work, worry about financial concerns, or parenting worries, or worries about how the roads will be when you drive home, or about a pending visit from a difficult relative. You invest truly insane amounts of time in useless ruminations about countless subjects and if we could just get you to reduce that you would have massively changed your life.

567 Relax and Succeed - Worry is a total waste of timeYou need to get to know worry. You need to become friends with it. You need to really know how worry feels. Because that’s the great thing about how you’re built. You have a signalling system wired right into you. If you think a worried thought you will get a worried feeling. Your brain will respond to your thinking by dosing you with the chemistry that allows you to feel your own thought-experiences. This is how your life is made. Thinking is the fabric of what you experience every day. So you need to start paying much closer attention to what those thoughts are focusing on. Because way too often they’re just wandering around unattended, with you thinking in subconscious patterns you learned as a kid. Okay, fine, you had to start somewhere. But your experiences at six years old should not be completely shaping your reactions to things 25 years later. The past is the past. You need to process the present moment in the present moment.

Worry feels specific. It’ll sit in a specific place in your body. It’ll feel a specific way. Stop seeing that as the result of the external events and start recognizing it for what it is—a choice. Your body is signalling you that you’ve made a choice to worry. Since worry never fixed anything, use that signal for what it is and consciously choose to think about anything other than something that’s worrying you. Practice that movement in your mind and you will get better at it. You will get better at changing your mind. This isn’t difficult. It simply requires you to maintain an awareness of how you feel and then to take responsibility for that feeling by checking in with your thinking and moving it when necessary.

You are always only one thought away from feeling better. Do not surrender your life to pointless worry. Not when there are so many other wonderful things to think about. So go have yourself a spectacular day by noticing all of the spectacular things about it. 😉

peace. s

Other Perspectives #25


438 Relax and Succeed Rebuttal - Fear is temporary

Okay let’s be careful with this one. The first part: fine. You feel fear—which is a rush of neurochemistry—as long as you’re thinking the fearful thoughts. When those change, as they inevitably do, so too does your chemistry. But what do we mean when we say, “regret is forever?” I’ll buy that if you’ve done something and you don’t like the results, then any time you think of it you’ll again feel the pain of not liking the results and we can call that regret. But it’s the word forever that’s concerning me. Because you have no storage place for regret within you. There isn’t a part of your brain that stores regrets, there’s no internal organ filled with regret-juice. You feel regret when you think about what happened and compare it to what you would have liked to have happened. It’s what egos do. They time travel, they judge and they compare. So no, regret does not have to be forever. You can accept what happened. You can accept that you either did not know enough to prevent it then, or you did not do enough, or you didn’t want to do anything. Whatever you must accept. And once that is achieved, there is no reason or purpose behind continuing to think about it. Without the thoughts you can’t have the chemistry and voila, you are free of regret and yet not the lessons you want regret to reinforce. Nice huh?

peace. s

Note: Everyone who posts or shares a quote does so with the very best of intentions. That said, I have created the series of Other Perspectives blog posts in an effort to prevent some of these ideas from entering into people’s consciousness unchallenged. These quotes range from silly to dangerous and—while I intend no offense to their creators—I do use these rebuttals to help define and delineate the larger message I’m attempting to convey in my own work. I do hope you find them helpful in your pursuit of both psychological and spiritual health.

Being Human

More comment than question: I find it interesting that even if the question has no relationship to my life I still always learn something important in every one of your answers. It always seems like there’s at least one or two sentences where I think, ‘wow I never thought of seeing it that way.’ I just wanted to say thanks.

Grateful Reader

Dear Reader,

Thank you so much! What writer wouldn’t like a compliment like that? And if you don’t mind, I would like to use your comment-not-question as a jumping off point for a discussion about something important. Something you referred to when you noted that every blog—regardless of the relevance of the question—seems to be helpful to you. I hear that all the time. And it speaks to how much the same we all are.

422 Relax and Succeed - Your emotions shouldn't be dictatingPsychological understanding is based on the fact that each psyche will be logical. What’s different are its available routes of thought, which are dictated by experience, and included in that will be how bold or timid someone might be, how informed about relevant information, how well they might reason, and what they might value. But they will all process their information in the same way everyone else will. They will feel whatever they think and they will mistake their beliefs for universal truths just like the rest of us do when we’re in a state of ego. Despite our differences, we are all the same in how we create our egos.

The range of human feeling that we refer to as emotions are fabricated from language. Fear is primal—it keeps us alive. It is a feeling. Anger is fear turned aggressive and this is used to attack for defensive purposes and possibly for acquiring food. Love is what breeds compassion and care which leads to survival which leads to continuing this adventure which is, deep down, the point. But we share all of our feelings with most of the rest of the world, animals included. Emotions are distinctly human and they emerge from the complexities of language.

The very thing that we proudly display as what separates us from animals, is the same thing that makes the animals healthier than us. Because worrying that there might be a bear near where you’re hunting is one thing. But being afraid that your boss will yell at you because you were late because your daughter threw up on you just before you left for work—well that’s something entirely different. One is about literally not existing and the other is about clashing in imaginary psychological space. And yet language causes us to use the same neuro-chemicals for 422 Relax and Succeed - I am in charge of how I feelboth. One can kill us, the other is just something we imagine, and yet we walk around treating them equally simply because our biology hasn’t caught up to our ability to invent things like words, abstract concepts and languages.

We have to stop seeing ourselves and others as the individual thought patterns we were trained to be by experience. Yes, this sets your initial course. But as soon as you are actively conscious you can choose your direction. You can shape your personality. To surrender that idea as though it is impossible is to be like the guy who throws his frozen computer out the window, as though the hardware is the problem rather than the software. We can always introduce patches to the software. But we should look at other people as processors of information with filters made of belief systems, and because we ourselves are looking through a similar distorting lens, we find are left completely unable to find a fixed place to judge from, and so once we have that realization we can relax into simply being. There’s nothing wrong anymore. There is no way to judge. Things just are. It’s stunningly healthy.

I appreciate you sending in the generous compliment. But I also appreciate that it fed nicely into something I’ve been looking for a question on, because I think it’s an important principle worthy of everyone’s consideration: emotions confuse and misguide life, being guided by feeling leads to an authentic life. It’s worth being able to tell the difference.

Thanks again for the kind words.  Have yourself a wonderful day, week, month and year.

peace and love, s

Other Perspectives #6

Houston street am

Note: Everyone who posts or shares a quote does so with the very best of intentions. That said, I have created the series of Other Perspectives blog posts in an effort to prevent some of these ideas from entering into people’s consciousness unchallenged. These quotes range from silly to dangerous and—while I intend no offense to their creators—I do use these rebuttals to help define and delineate the larger message I’m attempting to convey in my own work. I do hope you find them helpful in your pursuit of both psychological and spiritual health.