Conscience as a Sign of Health

1288 Relax and Succeed - Photo - Someone feeling badly

If just before you started reading this you were using your thinking to criticize yourself, this your chance to stop.

Those thoughts don’t improve us even if we did screw up because it’s not the screw up that’s really the issue, it’s our thoughts about it. Those are after-the-fact thoughts about the past. If it’s in the past that can only be ego and egos are dangerous. You have to keep an eye on them.

The fact that we don’t feel good about whatever transpired is only because we already know we could have done better. That demonstrates that we are good people with good judgment because our judgment was able to detect something out of alignment with the range that we use to define our self.

If we let it, our negative reaction to exceeding those limits is what, over time, nudges us closer and closer to being able to live out our greatest potential. This is the process of getting wiser.

This is the point at which many people suggest that we need rules to be ‘good.’ But if they’re saying that they usually mean they want alignment with whatever they think everyone should do. But that’s impossible because we can’t all demand that. While rules can be useful, they aren’t needed to define ‘good.’

Everyone except psychopaths is familiar with the hounding a human conscience can give us. Many of us adults still feel badly about things we did as youngsters. But what is our conscience?

Think of it like an old fashioned thermometer. Humans are good from about +60C to -60C, (or -76F to 140F). Above or below that and we’re in enough trouble we’re likely to die. Our conscience is like a range of things that our real self –the self that creates our ego– has for our behaviour. That part of us is very wise –except for in psychopaths. They don’t have lines that are further out than ours, they don’t have any lines at all. The rest of us have healthy lines for a very logical reason.

1288 Relax and Succeed - Photo - Even huge mistakes

We as individuals are a part of a much larger flow created by our species. We’re all ultimately programmed to try to stay alive and see the next generation move on. Since we breed we obviously need others to do that, plus working in groups is safer than working alone, so our nature is to find ways to cooperate.

All of us can temporarily lose track of that connection when our thinking gets crazy, but our nature is to work to stay alive, not work to destroy what we need to stay alive; including others and their support.

Even huge mistakes are just ways of learning, growing, and maturing. Sometimes we inflict ours on others, sometimes they inflict theirs on us; sometimes we are teachers, sometimes we are students. Sometimes the universe benefits from regret, sometimes it benefits from tolerance.

Our ability to understand that flow of pain and regret in a non-personal way is the lesson we are all unwittingly teaching each other through the living our lives. And it’s also why many wise people have said, when you finally become a real guru you realize that everyone around us, has always been a guru.

peace. s

MoK: Marching For Peace

Yesterday’s act of kindness was an important one. I’d like to think all of you participated in being kind to yourselves even though that often feels difficult and unnatural. It’s a shame we’ve constructed society in such a way that we find something that healthy to feel that unnatural. Similarly, it’s a shame we find making amends with others difficult to the point where, if it happens, it’s usually only half-intentional. Today is about becoming fully intentional.

As the old saying goes, except for a few cases in life, you’re better to be happy than be right. Being right implies that the other person must be wrong. This reinforces that subject-object division between you and the rest of the world with which you are otherwise naturally unified.

The separation between you is strictly made of thought–it’s made of your beliefs about what is right and wrong, and about your perceptions of what really happened. In addition, let’s face it, we all have those examples where, deep down, we actually know that we’re at minimum complicit in the confusion, if not entirely at fault.

In some cases we even feel guilty, even though we still come across as defensive about the issue. What hurts is that we are good people, and so when that happens we know our words and actions lacked respect or integrity. We feel that lack of responsibility as the pain that leads to our defensiveness.

Our job on todays assignment for The March of Kindness is for us to find one of these examples and to let it go. Even better if we can actually settle the disagreement formally, and the ultimate goal would be to apologise–even if it’s for something small. The point is, if it requires real effort and challenge then we’re overcoming something and we’re benefitting along with the person we’re apologising to or forgiving.

Find your example, examine your reactions and your behaviour and really come to a better understanding about how your personal, ego-based motivations overrode your natural integrity and personal nature. Reinforce your own goodness in this way. Maybe you say something, maybe you don’t. Maybe you write something, or send a card or email or even a text. Maybe you just stop being passive-aggressive towards them.

Even if your apology or forgiveness or act of letting go is silent, or even if it’s done with full knowledge that the other person really was in the “wrong,” make this an active and meaningful act of kindness. This isn’t just about you, it’s about the world. It’s about the other person and about creating more peace within one or both of you.

By accepting our responsibilities to create peace we also gain empowerment over our actions. By being able to forgive or apologise, we become more expansive and capable, and by letting go of our disagreements and grudges, we not only free ourselves, but we all make an important contribution to there being less discord and more harmony in the world. And after all, that is the entire point of The March of Kindness.

Thanks for your participation. Much love.

peace. s

The Universal Apology

949 Relax and Succeed - Forgiveness is the best formEveryone’s done stuff they wish they hadn’t. Lots of it. Life’s tricky. We feel stressed, we get tired, hungry, we misunderstand things or we’re coming from a place of pain or fear and we just say or do the wrong thing.

Sometime’s our focus is so riveted on something else that we’re oblivious to fact that we’re causing serious damage. It’s not like we meant to–and even if we did we felt justified at the time. But there’s just some things we don’t feel good about. We cannot think of them and feel okay, and yet we will have foregone the chance to make a connection through an apology so, while we may not be suffering, we’re also not expanding our capacity for love and connection.

This post will be the universal apology. The one from all of us to all of us. Because no matter when it was, anyone who isn’t a sociopath or psychopath has wanted to give one of these to a lot of people. That doesn’t make us bad people, it just shows that we’re people and that the badness or goodness is really just another judgment. So if you’re really stuck because you can’t figure out how to apologise to someone, you can always just send them this.

 

To Whom It Did Concern,

How do you even start an apology for something as terrible as I did to you? I don’t really see myself as a bad person but if I look at what’s gone on there is no way to excuse myself. I recognise that I was not behaving in a way that makes me feel good about myself as a person.

949 Relax and Succeed - The past cannot be changedDeep down I believe everyone deserves to be treated well, but what happened to you has shown me that I am obviously capable of getting so focused on what I perceive as my personal problems that I forget I might be being a very big problem for someone else. It’s like I felt I was on a ocean and I was thrashing because I was sinking, but I forgot that the ocean itself is made of people trying to stay afloat. It was selfish and I’m sorry. I thrashed you and there’s no way for me to take it back.

I suppose the pain of that knowledge is what sears this into my memory. I’m certain I’ll hurt people in all kinds of dumb ways because I’m human, but I don’t want to hurt anyone ever again the way I hurt you. I’m not even going to promise I can do that, but I’m going to put everything I have available into succeeding because it’s important to me; because you’re pain was and is important to me.

It seems amazing to ask you for a favour after being so selfish and hurtful to you but I do actually need one. I’m gonna work on this change really hard but if I’m honest I have a feeling that it’ll only be natural to be bunny-hopping two steps forward and one back for a while. So if you could extend a bit of forgiveness on those backward steps as I work on being more loving and generous in my relations I would appreciate that. Even if you can’t; I fully respect why and I’ll still give the commitment my all.

949 Relax and Succeed - Far from what I once wasMost important in all of this for me is that you know I don’t blame you. I know life’s always a mixed bag. Maybe you have your own letter you’d write about the same thing where you see yourself as someone who owes someone an apology, but this is how I see it and this is how I feel and for those reasons it’s important to me that you give the ownership of this to me.  It was my fault.

I did it. Intentionally, accidentally, blindly; it doesn’t matter. I hurt you. I did it. Give it to me. Stop thinking about it and know that I accept the responsibility and that it is my burden to carry until I convert into a better self. Regardless of how you choose to feel after receiving it, I will always keep an open mind about our future simply because I am so confident in the value of you and I’m equally confident in my desire to work toward living up to being someone you would genuinely love and respect.

Thanks for even giving me the time to read this. I really do care. I wish you all the best. I really do. All the time. Big hug.

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 Apology

895 Relax and Succeed - I wonder which mistakeAre you happy about your ability to be energy-aware yesterday? Were you able to see people’s dealings with you as experiences they were having rather than ones you needed to have? Were you, like a matador dodging a bull, able to turn your ego aside and allow someone’s aggressive thought to pass by? If you succeeded in that, then congratulations. Practice that skill and you’re a long way towards improving your life substantially.

“Letting” someone be angry with you, or be sad or upset around you does require us to keep our ego at bay. But what about inviting them to be upset? What about reminding them of something unpleasant or painful? What if you had to demonstrate your spiritual and psychological strength by apologizing for something?

This is one of the most generous acts you can participate in. You know that from receiving them. It’s shockingly rare. Egos have no interest in that responsibility, whereas your soul lives somewhere where that storm is taking place in a sky so vast that you can both recognize it and see it for what it really is–an act like any other.

895 Relax and Succeed - We rise by lifting othersYou are not being judged. You do not get points or a reward for doing the right thing. This isn’t about you appearing noble or fair or any other thing. Those are all ego-achievements. This is less about an achievement for your soul and more like an awakening of it. You’re not on a ladder of development and apologizing is higher up the rungs than where you are. The reward in life isn’t where you get to, it’s about how connected you get.

Apologizing is a form of connecting and when you’re getting mentally healthier it becomes less scary and more rewarding. Think about how good it feels to get one. People remember these things for their entire life.

I’ve already explained that you don’t pay a price for not apologizing–it just means you’ve stayed asleep. Many do until just the moments before death. But being awake and truly alive is the most vibrant, rich and rewarding life you can have. It’s a wonderful world where even your mistakes lead you to greater connections with the rest of the universe.

895 Relax and Succeed - Apologizing does not always meanThis is a guru-act. You have to be Buddha-like to pull it off. You have to truly have understood your own mistake so well that it loses its personal nature. Even if it was an intentional act, you must see your act as misguided thinking and that it was never about the other person. You must see not only their innocence, but yours as well.

Once it can be seen as an innocent collision at a psychological level we become less focused on the details of the story, instead we simply see innocence and suffering, and as wise and aware people we thrive on finding opportunities to unify with the universe. We feel secure in our own being and we simply want to help–to connect.

So screwing up with someone is like getting a chance to connect spiritually. Except when most people do something they later feel was genuinely out of sync with their spirit, they compound that by feeling regret or guilt for long periods of time. Meanwhile the other person is thinking victim-thoughts. Now we have two people lost in the wrong kind of thinking. Angry ones and guilty ones. Better that thoughts drop in favour of connection.

895 Relax and Succeed - Let your light shineSee clearly. Accept yourself at a low point. Okay, so you did something you wouldn’t repeat. That’s evidence you’re a good person (a “bad” person wouldn’t care). You know it would feel better, it’s just scary. But even if they have a bad reaction, that won’t last long and it won’t leave you worse off than feeling guilty. At least one of you is clear-headed.

Find something you’ve done that you genuinely feel was a mistake. Take that thing, see the form of your innocence in causing it, and then contact them and offer the apology. It’ll be like jumping off the high diving board for the first time at the pool. It feels genuinely scary when you first start doing it, but pretty quickly you learn that the reward for facing that is one of the most liberating feelings you can give yourself.

See if you can give that feeling to yourself today. Pick the person and apology within the hour and make the apology before the end of the day. You can do this. Go for 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.

Other Perspectives #36

504 Relax and Succeed Rebuttal - Apologies don't mean anything

This perception is so common that it’s actually at the heart of much of the world’s interpersonal strife, and it gets applied in a very self-serving manor. So if it’s you who accidentally over-committed yourself and you genuinely feel bad, then you offer a genuine apology, you’ll expect it to be taken sincerely. But we’re all personality types, and if you’re the type that likes to help you’ll get caught accidentally over-committing throughout your life. This is not you failing to be sincere about your apology, it’s simply the other side of you being a dedicated helper. You do feel badly about how things resulted for the offended party, but it’s not like that’s what you were aiming for. It’s a by-product of who you are. So daydreamers are creative but often late because they’re daydreaming. They aren’t failing the all-important you if they sincerely feel badly when they’ve kept you waiting. But they also don’t owe it to you to change their entire personality just to cater to your desires, rules or promises. Because if we make them timely we’ll also lose some very valuable and important aspects of their creative personality. If you make Einstein have a tidy office he may very well not become Einstein. And the same goes for every personality type. Some are good at schedules and organizing but bad at taking direction from others. Others are terrible at leading but are good confidante’s. Some are good confidantes but they’re terrible in group settings. Every coin has two sides, so stop asking other people to be one-sided coins just because that’s what you want. If you stop and really think about it a moment, you don’t want to be held to this standard either because it’s absolutely impossible. If you’re messier than your roommate, you can’t suddenly adopt their standards any more than you can suddenly drive as well as them, or feel comfortable singing in public because they can, or lose your fear of heights just because they don’t have that fear. We each are ourselves. We can change to a degree, but only in our own time through our own sense of things. So if your lover hits you then yes, they are capable of changing but that doesn’t mean they’ll figure out how. So their apologies are sincere but you simply have to accept who they are and you might have to end that relationship if they’re not going to make that change asap. Either way, that’s still not them failing you, that’s them being raised to have counter-productive life strategies. But just like you can’t change yourself for the better instantly just by knowing what “better” is, neither can they. So stop asking for the impossible. Accept who you’re with whether they’re late, or messy, or horny or violent and then act accordingly. Don’t stay in unhealthy situations, but at the same time, don’t equate apologies with commitments to change because those are two different things and even most commitments to change are little more than sincerely well-intentioned efforts to be someone we ultimately are not.

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.

Other Perspectives #15

378 Relax and Succeed Rebuttal - Learn to admit your mistakes

Admitting to mistakes I’m all for. We’ve built cultures that are so aggressive, negative and punitive that we’ve discouraged people from being honest. So yes, admit your mistakes and in doing so own them and learn from them. But if you think you can stop people from exaggerating, embellishing or even downright lying about you—then think again. You have virtually no control over the actions of others and if there’s anything egos thrive on, it’s gossip. Egos feel it’s far better to sit and judge other people’s behaviour rather than making efforts to influence and direct their own. Let’s be clear: people will say things about you that aren’t true. They’ll say them for reasons that have nothing to do with you and everything to do with them. They’ll say them because they don’t want to take responsibility, or they don’t want to be seen in a bad light—they’ll even say them because they’re jealous of your success or ability or confidence. You can’t spend your life worrying about that. That’s like worrying about rain or wind. It’s going to happen regardless, so why invest so much time pretending you can do anything about that? You’re far better off to focus on building your Self and your sense of the world than you are in defending yourself against hollow accusations. In the latter case you gain nothing, in the former you expand your very being. And in the end, there’s no greater victory than that.

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 offence 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.