The 912

Life will deliver disaster, it’s simply a byproduct of existence. Since it cannot be avoided, and since every happy person you know has faced some, what’s really important is our ability to respond to life’s big tragedies. At those times we need to pull together. We need a new rallying point. We need to share a common idea that we can all participate in as citizens of the world.

9/11 now represents a disaster that literally altered the course of humanity. Recently I heard a woman talking about Gander, Newfoundland, and the stories that are the basis for the Broadway hit and Tony Winner, Come From Away. This was the small maritime town in Canada that had an airport big enough for all of those US-destined planes to land when US airspace was closed.

Her point in noting it was that it was a grand example of the natural spirit of humanity. As the best was drawn out of people by the needs of others, we saw an example of how the vast majority of human beings feel about each other: we’re naturally connected. For this reason she called the Gander experience a 912 moment.

I like that. I like that she not only noticed that heroism follows disaster, but that she flipped the names of the days to make her point, because that’s really what all of us need to do. Disasters are inevitable. Our reaction to them is flexible. It would do all of us good to move through our own 9/11 moments watching for the inevitability of the 912 reaction.

The faster we spot that reaction the faster we’ll feel better and be able to amplify it. Sympathy is people joining us in pain. Empathy is them remembering their own pain. Assistance requires sacrifice. Dedication requires love. These are all 912’s. Let us all make this a part of our personal list of experiences.

The Buddhists talk about there being no single sided coins. So if we call up tails and lose a toss in life, the 912 moment shall be hereby described as the moment in which we begin to see or recognize the horizon–it’s that moment when we can see that there is another side, that part of tragedy itself is the response of love in whatever form. It is in recognizing and accepting that relationship that we find internal peace.

Accept that you will have your alarming and painful days. But just as readily accept that there will be a response, both within you and without you. You will find strengths that would not have emerged without the tragedy, and people will demonstrate love in ways you could not otherwise have known. Do not live in hope and fear. Instead, accept the duality of life by not only accepting its 911’s, but in doing so you also guarantee yourself the reality of the 912.

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.

MoK: Acknowledgement

There are a lot of ways to take action in this world. Some people do it through clubs they belong to. Others do it casually, as circumstances arise, while still others become formal volunteers or contributors. Even if it’s in small ways, most people contribute to the world around them in a generous and thoughtful way.

People hold doors, do favours, offer money, or engage in labour all for the benefit of someone else. Today in the March of Kindness our job is simple: we want to watch life for these acts. We want to openly acknowledge the act as being generous and kind. It’s one thing to think inside your own head, Wow, it was nice of that lady to carry that older lady’s bags to her car, and something entirely different if you thank her on behalf of the world.

The impulse to be kind is already alive and well in the person, but we all know how it feels to get criticised. It makes us feel smaller and weaker. Using the same mechanism, getting acknowledgement for doing helpful positive things helps us feel stronger and more capable. But too-often the acknowledgements are silent. Why would we stay quiet about delivering such good news?

Today your job is to notice the little things people didn’t have to do and to acknowledge them. The gratitude feels good for us to experience, and every one of us would be motivated to do even more kind things if we were more consciously aware of how it helps us to feel like we belong. Being valuable to the group is a win-win for all involved.

It’s funny that we can be afraid to say nice things to people. Do we really think people are going to get angry and upset with us for bringing up their niceness? Most people light right up. It’s a nice connection between people and it’s worth developing. But for that sense of unity to exist in your community, people need to be able to sense their bonds. They can’t be silent and uncertain. We have to speak up and offer praise more than we offer criticisms.

Just yesterday I had a grocery store clerk help me load grocery bags into my arms, a tech support person was particularly helpful, I had a woman hold a door for me at an office building, I had a friend drop by to offer some expertise on an important family issue, and I got a welcome invitation to an event. And that’s just off the top of my head.

Today is about acknowledging those good things in life, whether we’re the benefactor or someone else is. The idea today is to focus our grateful attention on people who are taking action. Before the day is out try to offer at least three different acknowledgements. Turn your radar on to how kind the world is and you’ll see that it’s better than you might have thought.

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.

Reasons for Optimism

954 Relax and Succeed - Be the lightBecause the news trades in fear, anger, sympathy and titillation you have been innocently lead to believe that the world is much, much worse than it really is. The news is one hour long: a couple minutes for the intro intro, a few minutes of flashy graphics interspersed, a few minutes for what’s going on in your city, a few for your country and then huge chunks for what is essentially entertainment: weather and sports. Over a quarter of it is advertising, which means you see almost nothing about what’s actually going on around you. That’s hardly enough time to encapsulate even a tiny fraction of humanity’s achievements each day.

Every single day a huge number of friendships get made, degrees are earned, citizenship is obtained, freedoms are gained, and things are learned. Much joy is felt and there are many very good reasons to be optimistic. Everyone imagines everything growing worse and there’s many signs that won’t happen the way people are imagining.

We invented terrible bombs in the 40’s and put treaties on them and started dismantling them within 50 years. Pollution was a byproduct of the work-saving era of the Industrial Revolution. The point was to save people from backbreaking work, not to create pollution. So that was generally our first big worldwide issue but there was no internet so the world couldn’t get organised as quick as it can now. By the time we hit acid rain we got on it and fixed it pretty quickly. We tackled the ozone layer, CFC’s and now we’re on carbon. We’re doing pretty good. We actually fix things faster than we break them, not to mention that disease treatments make important advances every day.

954 Relax and Succeed - Everyone thinks of changing the worldThe news makes its money selling fear and uncertainty, not confidence. What’s wrong with our world isn’t that big stuff because that’s clearly going better than the news will ever give it credit for. What’s wrong with our world is that we talk to ourselves and others about what we don’t like but we don’t actually do the things we claim we like.

Politeness isn’t something for chumps or losers. Maybe a gangster would say that but gangsters live to about 25 so…. Politeness is simply the acknowledgement of the presence and value of another human being. It’s odd that politeness ever got perverted into being something we shouldn’t prioritise for our own sake. We win in that exchange.

How many calories or milliseconds does it take to hold a door for someone? And yet how nice is it when someone takes the time to hold it for you? It’s not like you needed to use a lot of calories on the door either, but this way you both acknowledged each other in a society whose primary sickness is its self-centred focus. Despite the fact that the connections consistently feel good you often choose to do things that then prevent you from making more of them.

954 Relax and Succeed - Today will never come againYou do a lot of very active things to cut yourself off from other humans. Have you looked at those things to see if you want to keep all of them? Yes, you need down time and alone time, but most people are starved for more contact. Stop making that a problem of the world’s and start creating your own personal solutions by actually taking opportunities to make just the simplest of connections; smiling as you walk by on the street, saying good morning to co-workers, buying the person behind you a coffee, holding a door.

The world does not get better because we’re smart and know what other people should do. The world and our own lives get better because we’re just plain nicer, more patient, more tolerant and more loving than we’ve ever been.

peace and love. 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.

Fort McMurray’s Everyday Hereos

Things start to get pretty intense about a minute in.

Obviously near where I’m from is on the front of almost every nation’s news as we all stand by rather helplessly, watching an entire, large and modern city being burned to the ground in what is now Canada’s largest disaster. The situation is clearly awful and what these people have endured is devastating. My heart pours out to them.

I am currently making plans to free time up to allow me to donate my services to the evacuees. In the meantime, I’m going to take the advice of Mr. Rogers and I will focus on what is happening now, which is a lot of kindness and generosity. This tragedy will in many unfortunate ways expand the awareness of people in a way that will forever change them. At the very same time there can be no heroes without tragedy and this is just as important to remember.

915 FD Relax and Succeed - Love changes everythingOne can view these events from a negative perspective and see all gloom and doom. Certainly we will all naturally feel in that place for periods of time when the scale of a tragedy is so huge. And yet at the same time it is not dishonest to say that the news here has literally been jammed with a massive number of beautiful stories of people showing their compassion and love for strangers. It’s like the line from the film Starman about how human beings are always at their best when circumstances are at their worst.

I am extremely proud of the citizens of Fort McMurray, the first responders and the citizens of my city, province and country. There are no religions in this tragedy. Everyone has been helped by everyone. There are no races in this tragedy. Everyone has been helped by everyone. There are no histories, no grudges, no resentments, no anger, there is only assistance shared. All labels are off. This is a human tragedy and in the heat of it everyone understands how pointless those labels are.

This sense of shared value even extends to all things human’s love because many of those heroes I spoke of have broken into homes to collect trapped pets. Some of the people who have lost everything will soon be reunited with their most valued friends thanks to these heroes. People were running out of gas and unemployed oil workers were spending their money to fill hundreds of jerry cans with gas before they raced up toward the fire to fuel the evacuees on the way out.

915 FD Relax and Succeed - When I was a boy

People were standing along the roadside with bottles of water, packages of diapers, signs directing people to useful services, hugs. Companies offered all of their equipment and staff, oil companies gave tankers of fuel and all of their equipment, cab drivers gave free rides, restaurants free food, volunteers sprung from every corner. And not to mention the heroics of the first responders. And all of this–when you’re really down–that is the stuff that can make all the difference. (It’s even useful to simply donate to someone else who helps.)

I am working on a project of my own to increase the level of my own assistance. In the meantime, keep a good thought. Stay positive, focus on the heroes and accept the tragedy. And in your own lives, remember: all of these people had problems and troubles before this all started. And now none of those things matters, because what does matter has become obvious.

You don’t really need a tragedy for you to be able to be grateful about simple things. Almost none of these people knew what items they should take in a fire before they left Fort McMurray. All of them do now. Figure that out for yourself. And then ask yourself, who and what would you be grateful for even if you’d actually lost everything? Because those are the most parts of your life.

With my heart in Fort McMurray, s

(Thank you for your patience regarding my absence. My curious bit of time-travelling will obviously be very informative and I do plan on writing down some very useful things for you that I’m now able to impart. It’s going to take me a while to figure out how to describe all that strangeness, but in the meantime there is plenty to discuss.)

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.

Trust Your Self

61 Relax and Succeed - Some people look for a beautiful placePardon me for being pretty direct but, the fact is, you talk tough in your imagination but 99% of you behave like you’re sheople. Almost all of you are terrified of doing something unacceptable. You’ve been so successfully convinced that you are unlovable that you choose to be timid everywhere you go. (Except maybe in your car, where its steel and glass enclosure allows you to exercise your tough imagination a little more vocally or with your middle finger.)

Other than little gasps here and there too many of you live in dread fear all day long. I’ll give you an example.. You see this sort of thing all the time: Remember, I live in a place where winters are pretty cold. I was in a coffee shop on the day I wrote this. There was a line-up right to the door. Usually the line curls around the inside of the shop, but every now and then it will be like today, where people have inadvertently lined up toward the door, which eventually leaves the people coming in with no where to go. This, despite the fact that half the restaurant is available for the line.

Today the answer was extremely easy and obvious to everyone there: the line-up should shuffle over to the available aisle rather than leave an increasing number of people out in the bitter cold. Two separate pairs in the line-up even openly stated what should happen, but no one took any action. And yet it was obvious that no one was comfortable with the fact that their inaction was leaving people outside, where it was cold. Finally I was done my observing and I simply stated, “Let’s we all shuffle over here, then those people can get in where it’s warm.” Everyone instantly and enthusiastically agreed. They just needed someone to go first.

61a Relax and Succeed - I have a free will and there is nothingThe reason I spoke up is because I could care less what anyone thinks of me. Those are thoughts. I care about the experiences people are having and I saw people unnecessarily suffering due to the inaction of others and so I acted. But I am not a nicer person than the rest of the people in that line-up. I’m not more capable of love. Everyone there clearly had a sympathetic reaction to the people outside. So it’s not what I can do that makes me different. It’s what I don’t do.

Everyone there had the same impulse. To act. To do something simple, and decent and human. And yet the pull of their very nature failed to outweigh their ego-voice, which suggested that maybe someone else should do it, or that it was fine the way it was, or whatever justification they told themselves to explain away what their nature was urging them to do. This is the only reason there are bullies in the world. Because most people actually empathize with the victim, and yet they’ll act on behalf of the bully just to avoid possibly being socially rejected, even if that rejection is from thugs. The worst part about that isn’t the bully. It’s you who’s giving up your free will!

You can never be free if you let others dictate your actions. You should not be lawful just because something’s legal. You should be lawful because your inner self has no desire to take what is not yours, nor does it have any desire to hurt or damage people, places or things in any way. The laws should just coincide with your own sense of community and respect. And most importantly, your sense of community must be founded in a strong sense of love.

61 Relax and Succeed - Without the taoThere are countless times each day when you could brighten another life. Doing so also brightens yours. So stop thinking you can’t say hello to people in the elevator at work. Stop thinking you can’t just go knock on your neighbour’s door and introduce yourself. And for that matter, stop thinking you can’t tell the manager that he shouldn’t touch you like that. You’re you. Trust your feelings.

You don’t need to be timid to belong. You belong by nature. And nature wants you to boldly be you. So the next time you see something silly like I did today, be the micro-hero and just fix it with a few kind and generous words. It really does feel good, and you’ll help to show others how they can act more authentically too.

So today, don’t enjoy your day by chance. Enjoy it by design. Go make friends. Because it always has been you that creates those. 😉

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.