World Kindness Day

1379 Relax and Succeed - Remember there's no such thing as a small act of kindness

As promised, I am working on some pieces about my experience, the fear, and dealing with intense pain. Due to the depth required for those subjects I will need more time to fully assemble those ideas. You are better served if I can find ways to make my experience useful to you in the most material ways possible.

In the meantime, I am grateful that it happens to be World Kindness Day. That fact allows me to take the time to write and finalize those pieces, as well as celebrate this day by discussing how we can extend our sentiments beyond this single day, so they may imbue our lives throughout our year.

We can often see our kindnesses or our gratitude as things we give to others, but this is only because we tend to see our reality as being ‘out there,’ in some external sense. With a deeper understanding, we realize that all of our ‘experiences’ happen within our consciousness, which means genuine expressions of gratitude or kindness are even more our experiences than they are those of the people we may be helping or showing kindness toward.

Today, and going forward, I would strongly encourage everyone to join me in the daily meditation of seeing life not as something happening to us, but rather an experience we are co-creating with the universe, moment by moment. Like the cells of a single organism, our state does impact the state of those around us, just as those parts of reality also affect us, so control is not our answer.

Just as we will sometimes not be at our best, so too will other cells in the organism that is our larger society. There is no hope of us fully grasping or controlling that reality, but we can learn to accept it in ways that are profound, and that permit us to understand what people mean when they say things like, “Before I was enlightened I suffered. After I was enlightened I suffered.”

Acceptance adds a form of grace to the latter portion of that statement. By living in that way, we build no residual resentments, attachments or expectations, although we may experience them fleetingly. Likewise, we all regularly experience enlightened moments. What everyone seeks is a somewhat efficient route from their suffering, and to their moments of grace.

While we are never free of what the Buddhist’s call the cycle of samsara, we can learn to move within it with greater awareness and psycho-spiritual skill.

How this takes shape in real time can be demonstrated with my recent pain, and the fears around potentially losing my sight. As with anyone, the pain was agonizing, and the fears were based in very real potential outcomes. We can come to see that external reality as ‘our environment,’ much like the banks of a river are not the river, but they do form –and are formed by– the flow of our lives.

What gives us grace is our ability to remember that, like the river, periods of tumultuous rapids and frightening waterfalls are only parts of our overall flow through the moments of our life. All rivers change as they move through the geography of our reality, so all states are temporary. This is why I often refer to a wise Buddhist monk who once told me that the secret to living is that “everything changes.”

As we experience intense pain, we can become aware that our state is temporary. This turns our agony into a waiting-game of positive anticipation. We don’t know when or how we might feel better, but we know that the river of our lives continues to flow even though our pain can leave us inactive.

The above describes why suicidal thoughts can be natural, and yet ultimately foolhardy, because they operate on the presumption that nothing is changing if we are still. But whether rapids on a river last for 10 miles or one, our surrounding geography will eventually change our flow whether we act or not. In this way our own patience is a form of meditation or prayer.

If we can see this clearly, it allows us to simply let our suffering ‘be.’ That wisdom is reflected in Paul McCartney’s advice to John Lennon’s son in the song, Hey Jude,” wherein he reminds the boy that despite our periods of personal darkness, it is worthwhile to maintain our conscious anticipation and movement toward better experiences to come.

1379 Relax and Succeed - The level of our success is limited only by our imagination

Again, while our suffering in life is often unavoidable, what allows us to flow forward is our deep knowing that all of our states of mind are always temporary. This also means that, when we see others in states of suffering, we should not see our acts of kindness as merely gestures –in fact these actions are what shape the banks of other’s rivers.

In many cases, our own ‘rapids’ will dissolve thanks to the efforts of others, both seen and unseen. That being the case, in closing, I would like to thank the many people who very recently and greatly contributed to the gradual easing of my own suffering.

Without these people I would surely have struggled far more, and while my gratitude is my own to feel, I do hope they each saw their own kind acts as their own meditations on gratitude, empathy and compassion. In this way, my own pain can act as an opportunity for grace for those around me.

In terms of specifics, I would like to take this opportunity to single out those who have, and continue to, allow this struggle through the rapids of my life to move from near intolerable, to places where I can now feel deeply grateful to no longer be in the worst parts of the experience.

To this end I offer deep and special thanks to Doctors Baker and Sia, as well as the entire remarkable staff at the Alberta Retina Consultants. In addition to them, I would also like to thank the support and surgical staff at the Royal Alexandra Hospital, as well as the family and friends that supported me throughout this process.

These people include Don, Anita, Henry, James, Nick, Mike, Kirsten, Christina, Brian, Jarrid, Christian, Sausan, Sue, and for the compassion shown by Tracy, Beth, Rob, Dwayne and Charlotte (and any others my addled state may have forgotten).

As I also live in a nation with nationalized health care, I would also like to thank my fellow Canadians for your contributions toward making such a system work in my time of need.

In closing, today, as you move about your own World Kindness Day, remember that you are not only lifting weight from the specific people you help but, in total, you are also adding to a much larger force that, along with others, is easing suffering throughout the universe itself.

peace. s

Connection and Expansion

1271 Relax and Succeed - Connection and expansionWe know it’s good for us to practice gratitude each day. We endeavour to steadily move through our day from observation to observation without layering any words over our connection to whatever or whoever it is that we’re appreciating. But while words themselves are a product of the subject-object world of the ego, the feelings behind them can both be genuine and worthwhile.

What we often do not do as an aspect of gratitude, is to stop to look back to find a very precise example of someone warranting our reconsideration and appreciation. Birthdays make us think of individuals, and things like anniversaries or marriages cause us to think about those events in our own lives, but there is no occasion in society that asks us to slow down and consider to whom we may not have shown the sort of gratitude that would feel as good for us to express as it would for them to hear.

Whether they know how important they are to your life or not, find this unsung person. Find them via social media or through friends, or work or school. Figure out who they are today, and find them and talk to them before Monday. If we’re going to grow by pushing outside of our comfort zone to talk to someone from out of the blue, then it’s nice that it gets to be for someone who’s done so much for us.

1271 Relax and Succeed - Feeling gratitude and not expressing itNo matter how timid we are about grabbing our own lives, surely we can see the value in making a genuine connection of genuine appreciation, because if we won’t even reach and grow for people we like, then our problem isn’t whether we’re good enough, our problem is we’re being too cowardly to ever learn enough to get good.

Free yourself. Any danger is strictly psychological and it lives only as your own opinion inside your head. Your thoughts of isolation do not mean you weren’t born belonging, but to revel in that belonging you need to embrace it with the depths of your soul. Open up. It’s less painful than our masks.

Thank someone. Not for them, for you. It’s in you to do.

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.

Symbolic Living

1261 Relax and Succeed - Today is a great dayPresence isn’t a difficult or complex thing to achieve and yet most of us live entirely symbolic lives. We’re not with the world, we just pass symbols about the world back and forth. We say and do things like think and talk about how terrible a news story is, and yet we don’t really stop to think about how terrible the news story really is for the individual human beings involved.

This isn’t to say we’re bad people, we’re simply unaware. We know inside we’re fundamentally good, which is why our ‘bad’ behaviour bothers us and our good behaviour is a source of pride. But today life is so busy–so filled with symbolic work–that we’ve lost touch with a deeper, richer reality. Our mind glances off things, or skims over them, but we don’t slow down to stop except in the most extreme circumstances.

Today is Thanksgiving in the US. The name is pretty self-explanatory and yet every year on Canadian Thanksgiving it’s easy to hear people passing platitudes around about being grateful, and yet the fact that they even are platitudes is a demonstration that they are other people’s analytical expressions of meaning and not our own. We generally don’t even think about most things deeply enough to even come up with our own expressions to describe them.

If you want to know how to live an unaware, emotionally wrought life of tortuous ups and downs then know that’s what it looks like; when people wish each other Happy Thanksgiving, talk about being grateful, say their platitudes, and then mindlessly go right back to their usual awareness level/personality where it’s easy to watch those very same people spending the entire day enacting their their normal, unconscious, ungrateful personality.

1261 Relax and Succeed - Thank youNo matter where you live, don’t make gratitude a symbolic word, make it a call to action. Instead of riding to work thinking about that person you’re mad at, or that thing you feel guilty over, or that thing you regret and or are worried about, and replace those with some easy meditation; what in our lives are we each taking for granted? What fruit is laying around our lives bruised and uneaten simply because we never gave it its proper exalted place on the table, in our personal cornucopia?

We must prevent ourselves from long bouts of self-centered rumination about ‘our lives’ and we should instead meditate from the perspective of a guest–a witness–to our own lives. In doing so, by taking life less personally, it’s easier to comprehend our impact within a greater whole and to see our causal relationships with others. From there it’s easier to appreciate who has brought what into our lives.

Pay more attention to your thoughts. Watch yourself and how you jostle symbols in egocentric self-conversations about how you want things. See that as the noise that it is, and invest your energy in digging more deeply into where the riches in your life are really coming from. Do that and you’ll be grateful for even the worst parents in the world, because even if they are terrible, just conception and birth are the two biggest gifts we will ever get–it is through those that we get any chance at all to have any kind of life, and life itself is the grandest of adventures.

Wake up. Stay aware. Be grateful. It’s that easy. Here’s to all of 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.