The Teacher

She taught Education. She had been asked a reasonable question: what should they do when confronted with a racist student? How should they protect the student under attack? What was the best discipline for the student doing the attacking? She understood their impulse. Her own reaction as a young teacher back in the 90’s was to come down hard. But then she told her students about him.

He was a handsome boy; bright, very engaged. He sat right near the front. It had been a week since he’d been to class. The parents said they would ensure he came, but still no Cameron. She was on her way home when she finally spotted him.

He was sitting at a coffee shop table with a fruit drink, reading a comic book. He didn’t know what to do when she just sat down across from him with her coffee and a big friendly smile on her face. “Hi Cameron!” He froze like a deer in the headlights, caught off guard by her friendly approach. “Don’t worry. You’re not in trouble. I know what the problem is. Everything is going to be fine now. You’re safe.” He was baffled.

“Safe from who?”

“From whoever is bullying you.” His eyes rolled a bit. He seemed less nervous. It was like he was mocking her efforts. “It’s okay Cameron. You’re not weak for needing help. We have to stand up to racism together. Just tell me who the student is and I promise, they’ll be disciplined harshly. I’m pretty sure I already know who it is anyway.”

“Oh yeah? And who’s that?” he finally said.

“It’s Nathan, isn’t it.” He just laughed her off like a fool. “It’s not funny Cameron. This this is a serious issue. If it’s bad enough he’ll be kicked out of school.”

“Well then I guess you’ve already done your job then, haven’t you?” he offered. Now she was confused and he now felt more confident.

“What are you talking about?”

“I’m talking about me. I’ve already left. You don’t need to kick me out.” She stared back at him, truly lost and confused and he knew it. He let her stew while he built up his courage. He loved her as a teacher, but it was time. Finally, he stepped forward to offer his coup de grâce. “I’m the racist Ms. Simms. I’m the bad guy in this story.”

“Cameron I have no idea what you’re talking about.”

“At least you got that part right.” She looked at him imploringly. He was a good student. She wanted to be a good teacher. But he almost seemed angered by her compassion. “I’m from South Africa Ms. Simms.” He paused. “I’m white.” She was still lost.

He spun the comic around and pointed to a character. “I’m the villain. I’m the bad guy.” She looked at him confused. “I had dogs back home that were trained to attack black people Ms. Simms. The person you want to kick out of school isn’t Nathan, it’s me.”

It was like someone flipped her world upside down. She started a hundred thoughts and finished none. He was South African. He was white. And South Africa was under sanctions for Apartheid. “But…” all of her preconceptions were smashing into what he’d said, and what she knew. “Cameron how could that be? Just because you lived in South Africa, that doesn’t automatically make you a racist.”

“Yes it does Ms. Simms. It does. Because I was. I was a racist. Do you understand? My friends and I beat black people.” She reacted as though he struck her. She flinched, and it made him feel more confident. “That’s right. I sicked my dogs on black people. They bit them. Badly. And I felt nothing. They were animals. I cared more about my dogs.”

She sat there feeling like someone had punched her in the stomach. She had no way to process what he was saying and he knew it, so he doubled down. “You’re from here, Canada. You talk to black students the same way you talk to white students, and Chinese students, and Native students. You’re a Canadian. You were taught to respect these people. I was taught to have dogs. Dogs that were trained to attack black people. And I was happy to use them.”

“But you’re not that person now…” she was almost begging him to confirm it. She couldn’t reconcile the nice kid she knew and the stories he was telling her.

“When you grow up and everyone around you thinks a certain way, you don’t even notice it. I was in Canada for months before I saw a white person treat a black person with respect. I’d never seen it before in my life. I thought he was crazy, or weak. My father thought he was both.”

“Do you still feel that way? Do you still want to attack black people?” Now he was uncomfortable. He didn’t. Canada had rubbed off on him in a year. He wasn’t friends with any coloured people, but he knew people he liked that were. He was going through his own conflicts. He couldn’t tell her how he felt because he didn’t know either. “How could you believe such a thing?” she asked.

“You thought I was a nice kid, right? You believed that. You took the little bit you knew and you told yourself a story about me and you believed it. So that’s who I was. I was who you thought I was. Well, the same for me. Everyone around me believed black people were animals, so I thought so too. I didn’t even know there was an option until I moved here.”

“But you’re so compassionate Cameron. I’ve seen you be kind. It’s why I like you.”

“It’s just guilt. I’ve done some very bad things.” That seemed to upset him.

“But you didn’t know better.”

“That’s no excuse. You said it yourself.”

She had. She now knew that had been a mistake. It had never occurred to her that she might not be able to recognise the racists. Her judgment felt too easy now, too casual. Now she felt like the bully. “I’ve made a mistake Cameron. I’m sorry. You’re making me realise that now. I’d never thought of the racist as a victim too.”

“A victim of who? We had all of the power.”

“I don’t mean the power. I mean the… awareness. The understanding. You had no way of knowing that you were participating in racism. I see that now. If everyone around you does it, then it’s normal. You’re making me realise now that I grew up in a family that had some pretty harsh ideas about Indians–about Natives–and I’m… maybe I’m not as good a teacher as I thought.”

“You’re fine Ms. Simms. You’re one of the most popular teachers in the school. The problem isn’t you. It’s me.”

Now she was feeling stronger. “No, it isn’t. The problem is that I didn’t have a discussion about racism, I just called one side good and the other side bad and that was it. I didn’t leave you any room. I didn’t leave a space for you and that’s my fault. That’s my failing. I not only let you down as a teacher, I let that whole class down and I see that now. I need your help Cameron.”

“My help…?” He was lost. He was young enough that he thought in absolutes. But she was changing her mind. And it was opening up new possibilities.

“I want you to teach us Cameron.” He seemed shocked. “I mean it. You’re right. I don’t know what I’m talking about. Just like you I’ve never even questioned my biases until now. I’m no better than you and you’re no worse than me. The problem here isn’t you. The problem is a lack of understanding. You can help us with that. Racism is subtle here in Canada. We like to think we have none, and yet I displayed some to you. I was intolerant of you. We have to fix that. This class can be better and it will be better if you explain it to us. We need to know why you had those dogs. We need to find our own versions of those dogs. Will you help me? Will you help us?”

She seemed serious. He liked her. And he liked school. He really wanted to be more comfortable with his black classmates but he had no idea where to start. Maybe this was his chance.

“Please Cameron. I mean it. I really need your help with this.” He looked at her a long time. He wanted so badly to believe he was a good person. He so badly wanted her forgiveness. He wanted all black people’s forgiveness. He started to cry. I mean cry. It started as tears but soon he was sobbing. She went around the table and put her arm around while he sobbed.

After a while someone appeared next to them. It was Robert. He was a sensitive boy. He’d been a refugee from Somalia. He was black. “Are you okay Cameron?” he asked. Cameron looked up and started to cry even harder when he saw who it was. Robert sat down across from him and took his hands his own. “It’s okay.”

Cameron looked at him through his tears. He felt so incredibly bad that he started a new jag of tears. He squeezed Robert’s hands. “Robert will you help me?”

“Of course I will.” He pulled Cameron up, into an embrace. He held him closely as Cameron bawled on his shoulder. People started watching them but they didn’t care. This was the beginning of it getting better.

When she looked up at her university class she was crying. They were too. Even the harshest, toughest boys. She took a moment to gather herself before speaking. “If I teach you anything in this class I’d like it to be this: you will learn more from your students than you can ever hope to teach them. So remember that when you’re at the front of your classes. Remember to never, ever, stop being a student too. Because in all of my years of teaching, no one ever made me a better teacher than Cameron and Robert did. Your job isn’t to police what’s good or bad or right or wrong. Your job is to build understanding. Do that, and you’ll have done the most important kind of teaching there is.”

And with that the bell rang.

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.

Wabi-Sabi Awareness

When people want to learn how to be they’ll often (and entirely without irony) ask me, what should I do? Well there’s the obstacle right there; you can’t do anything. You can’t enter a state of being by doing. Being shows up precisely when you stop doing.

The reason our egos are willing to perform and not enact our true selves is because we’re looking to a fill a want. We think something’s missing so we’re trying to make ourselves and our lives acceptable to those around us. We want some acknowledgement and applause for our performance. But in the real world we are love, living within love, interacting only with other love. So we don’t need anything. Our wants are merely egotistical ideas in our heads.

In looking after my parents there are many helpful things I can do for them. To them I’m doing something for them, but when I’m healthiest and it’s going best I’m simply being in love with them. If I act from a place of love then my actions are a part of my being, and only then can the products of my active love actually generate real value between us.

This is important when caring for people who need help. Often their interactions with us can be very limited so you truly have to be able to immerse yourself in the simplicity of your relationship. Parents of babies, those caring for the severely disabled, and those looking after very elderly but beloved parents are all examples of people that gain great value from unifying themselves with that connection.

The essential simplicity in that type of care is what exposes its value to the person performing it. Essentially hopeless, these people needs are demanding and they can often limit rewards; the child is very challenging and ungrateful, the disabled person will not improve with better care, and the beloved parent will get worse and die. There is nothing we can do about those things, and so understanding a child or person or parent’s imperfection and impermanence is what leads to acceptance and appreciation.

Wabi-Sabi is a Japanese term that’s difficult to turn into English, but it refers to a form of simple beauty that emerges in part from an acceptance of the ever-changing, disordered impermanence of life. So think of a kid on a farm with big dreams of hitting it big in the city. When then they come back home spiritually worn out from adulting, they actually feel the slow pace of life. And it is that new appreciation that allows them to experience their beloved but imperfect parents and siblings in a more profound way.

The feeling of Wabi-Sabi usually refers to those calm but imperfect gardens with the raked stones that you know from popular culture. For a farm person from the west, they get that feeling when they sit having a coffee looking out at the old barn where they used to have to do chores and where they hid as children from their parents.

With enough time and enough memories, as dilapidated and imperfect as it is, the barn gains a certain rustic beauty to it that it would not have were it not for the time needed for all of those memories to grow, and the fact that it may not even be there to contemplate by the next visit. Better to take it in. Better to be with it now.

If I do a bunch of things to help my parents stay alive then I am clinging. But if I am present and accepting of everyone’s imperfection and impermanence, then I can fully be with them. Babies will grow. The disabled will not improve. The aged will die. These are all things to grieve at times but, for the most part, if we can see them from the perspective of Wabi-Sabi then we are engaging with the most beautiful and essential aspects about them.

Do not lament imperfect things and do not cling to certainty. Because after all, it is the very bitter-sweetness at the basis of our feelings of Wabi-Sabi that are what makes the barn worthwhile, the garden beautiful, the baby precious, the disabled person valued, and the parent appreciated.

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: Sad Kindnesses

1108-relax-and-succeed-it-is-not-enough-to-be-compassionateToday in the March of Kindness we’re dealing with sadness, which for the purposes of this discussion we’ll divide into two categories. The first is unwelcome sadness within ourselves, and unwelcome sadness in others, and the second is a welcome sadness in ourselves and/or welcome sadness in others.

Unwelcome sadness will have destructively overstayed itself. It could be anything from chronic to simply overdue for a change. In the case of longer term sadness, part of the challenge is that we will often have already overtaxed others ability to provide compassion, meaning our act of kindness can be to relieve that pressure from those around us.

This isn’t to say our pain isn’t necessarily valid, but we all must remember that everyone has their own visible and invisible challenges as well, so focusing too much on our own sadness can lead to a form of selfish disrespect for those around us. We’re unlikely to be the only people from whom the extension of compassion would be appropriate, and no one’s supply of energy for such things is limitless.

1108-relax-and-succeed-mok-be-kindChronic sadness can be a challenge for those around us because it becomes invisible through its consistency. Essentially, sadness becomes a personality trait rather than an emotional state. We and others can eventually accept a sad identity and we won’t attempt to change it out of respect.

If we’re one of the people who’s been locked into some form of long-running destructive sadness, we can add kindness to the world by consciously choosing to rescue those around us from having to talk, act and work around our personal own personal suffering for today. Rather than asking for energy we can emit it.

If someone is currently experiencing welcome sadness–that is, meaningful sadness related to a death or other very profound life event–then we can extend our kindness by avoiding the desire to rush the person out of their healthy state of grief. Sadness can accomplish important things of us, and often just assessing which is which in ourselves and others can be a very valuable awareness exercise.

1108-relax-and-succeed-mok-if-you-love-someoneToday, either enact your kindness by consciously removing your long term sadness from the lives of others, or practice kindness by exercising compassion regarding someone else’s temporary but meaningful sadness. What’s important is that this action is intentional and obvious. If you’re lucky enough to have no sad people in your life at the moment, feel free to use someone from the News.

The former can be the announcement of a commitment to choose positivity for the day, and the latter can come in the form of a simple expression of empathy that you’re aware that sometimes these experiences are necessary, and yet you want the person to clearly know that you do care despite the fact that you’re providing “space” for their experience.

These are both kind and simple acts that are not particularly socially awkward so this act in the March of Kindness will likely be easier for you than yesterdays. Don’t forget to stay conscious. This can be a very healthy form of connection.

Now go be kind, and then have a wonderful weekend. We’ll start again on Monday. But don’t think you can’t continue to exercise these first few forms of kindness over the weekend. Take care.

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 Sillage of Life Itself

1095-relax-and-succeed-you-are-the-templeHow was your focus on yesterday’s meditation on taste? Hopefully some of your discoveries surprised you. That would indicate you’ve seen something in a deeper way than previously. Today we’ll be doing the same thing with scents, although in this case it’s important to remember that your sense of smell is closely linked to your memory.

We evolved as humans, so your most valuable asset when eating would be determining the safety of your food. Remember, to early life and mankind; which smells were safe and which were dangerous were as important as a pilot today remembering how to fly an airplane. Get it wrong and people die. You come from a long line of successful smellers.

With few exceptions most of you won’t track things anymore by scent. We have food inspectors for that. You watch TV and have a phone and a computer. You watch screens. In the last few decades you have shifted a great deal. Now your sight is what takes up the vast majority of your mind’s focus.

1095-relax-and-succeed-the-mind-is-like-an-icebergYour job today is to turn the world into a scentscape. Rather than focus on visual directions, follow the flow of a current of air on which a scent of cinnamon buns travels. Trace perfumes and colognes. Who is wearing what? Maybe you even get a chance to smell some flowers or chocolate or perfume or cologne today….

Use your mind to define the scents. Can you pin down what it is before you can see it? What can you learn from a scent? Treat it as though it has secret information hidden in it because it does. It is possible to smell carefully.

What you’re searching for is a memory link as your awareness focuses on scent all day. Without sniffing anything dangerous, start smelling packs of paper at work, smell the food wafting by from nearby tables at lunch, smell people, don’t just see them. Smell flowers, and plants and the air around you.

Assign everything a scent quality other than nothing. You have to find at least one word for each situation you’re awake in. Oh and by the way, you’ll be terrible at this at the start. That’s how little you do it. But it’s not like the scents aren’t there. They just haven’t gotten your attention in a very long time.

1095-relax-and-succeed-sillage-the-scent-that-lingersMove through your day with this one added awareness operating and you will have literally exercised the size of your consciousness. It feels weird and clumsy and inefficient at first, but like weightlifting or studying, you get better at the things you practice. Just do it and your mind will develop. With few exceptions; you can tell a peppery wine from a fruity one with only your nose.

You’ll still execute your day. You’ll still get your jobs done. But make sure to set up timely reminders to yourself to stay aware. Maybe stick a post-it note to your coffee cup or computer screen. But do it. What you smell isn’t as important as that you smell. Becoming conscious of the world takes practice. Most people have only been focusing on their internal egocentric conversations for many years. We all miss a huge percentage of what’s going on.

In today’s meditation you smell your way through your day, counting how many times your memory is spontaneously triggered to remember some unrelated event. If you’re working with a partner then compare your numbers. Who noticed more things? To care about who wins is to still be in ego. What counts is the awareness. There are no losers in this meditation.

Enjoy your day. Add dimension to it. Do the meditation. Expand yourself.

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.

Accounting For Taste

1094-relax-and-succeed-nothing-happens-just-because-we-are-awarePart of why people think too much is that they’re too idle. You can be, or think about being, but you can’t do both. Whereas healthy people invest themselves in the actions, others use more thinking to try to stop their thinking but, you don’t stop thinking; you replace it with activity. The activity of being alive.

The problem is that most people don’t even know what life activity even looks like. Even the idea of basic listening, or patience, or openness is too-often seen as unproductive; as though all of the value is in how much someone does, not how well they do it. But if we’re only doing then that means those tasks are for other people, but even if they’re for other people we should still be alive while we do them.

You can repeat an action and still be alive while doing it. You can still do something generous and do it for you. But to do so you must slow down your thinking and deepen your focus. Once you do this, you’ll see the world slow down and it will make more sense because you will be taking in more information.

1094-relax-and-succeed-life-is-a-seriesA good way to do this is through your senses. We’ll start today with your sense of taste. You’ll have to stay aware to remember to do it when you eat or drink, but otherwise your job in today’s meditation is wonderfully simple: simply taste anything you consume.

Seems weird doesn’t it? Lots of people can think, I already taste everything I eat, but that’s actually pretty unlikely. Most people are so busy using their mind to create internal dramas that they rarely just focus on the taste experience.

This meditation is two-fold in that it helps you maintain a level of awareness throughout the day so that you can catch yourself eating or drinking, and then once that experience starts you can work on adjusting your focus down to that one sense. The idea is that your brain is doing nothing but tasting the food. No commenting, no desires, no words, just taste whatever it is and be fully aware of all aspects of that flavour.

1094-relax-and-succeed-rather-than-being-your-thoughtsIt seems easy but it does require a constant low-level awareness on what you’re doing so that you’ll be more alert. But the real gold is if you can really find yourself noticing a substantial difference in eating or drinking. It shouldn’t feel like fuel even if it is. It’s not just something you do on the way to something else, it’s literally an action that keeps you alive. Invest more in it. Besides, a lot of the food you eat is presumably really good.

Pay attention to everything you eat or drink until bedtime. Tomorrow, either make a mental note in the morning of the day-before’s favourite taste experience, or share your top moments of awareness with your meditation partner. It’s a nice meditation to do. You not only gain in awareness, but it makes lunch taste a lot better. Enjoy.

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.

Psychological Violence

1090-relax-and-succeed-non-violence-is-the-weapon-of-the-strongYesterday’s was a very worthwhile meditation. The more you exercise that awareness the better you’ll get. Even a very negative person will change so subtly that they’ll never actually remember when they started being positive naturally, rather than doing it by conscious choice. Unless you change it back, that’ll be who you are to anyone who meets you going forward.

At first it can be hard to find the language to convert negative, separating ideas into positive, connecting ones. Our language emerges from our experience, so in this case you’re forcing yourself at the start. But over time your language structures will reshape to match your behaviour and you will have a new positive “personality.”

The next step in your psycho-spiritual development is to also stay aware of the internal conversations you’re having with yourself. You not only separate yourself from the outside world by speaking words that divide, you also do this within your consciousness as you use words to draw lines between labels.

1090-relax-and-succeed-nonviolence-means-avoidingWhether you can justify your judgment or not is irrelevant; the point here is choose to embrace soulful, connective feelings vs egocentric, divisive emotions. We do this by converting our internal conversations the same way we started doing yesterday with external conversations.

Once we have switched our internal conversations, that will also have an impact on our external conversations, and internally we will grow increasingly quiet until eventually we find there is very little reason to think much at all. Examples for you to catch might include:

  1. You might catch yourself saying something about your boss; “I can’t stand how he sounds so superior when he asks for things.”
  2. Or maybe it’s a reaction you have regarding a difference between your parenting style and your spouse’s; “He shouldn’t let them get away with that or they’ll start doing it all the time,”
  3. Or maybe it’s the sort of passing comments someone at school makes; “She thinks she’s so important but really she’s just a bitch.”

1090-relax-and-succeed-empathy-has-no-scriptYou not liking something, you expressing a difference over something, or you wanting to limit someone’s freedom to express themselves; those are all examples of negative, divisive statements. Those could instead be:

  1. “I suppose my irritation about how he asks for things is similar to when people get frustrated with me for being indirect.” This makes the two of you similar instead of making one the aggressor over others.
  2. “I respect when he has to do it too; because watching a decision you genuinely disagree with in relation to something as important as your kids is quite difficult and I know he doesn’t always agree with my choices.” This unifies you as experience-havers and it respects humility and the idea that other ways may be just as beneficial as yours.
  3. “To have to enter a room and establish an instant position of superiority must require someone to start off feeling extra-insecure about not being important.” This depersonalizes the behaviour while also being compassionate.

1090-relax-and-succeed-my-religion-is-very-simpleToday’s meditation is simple: Catch yourself a minimum of ten times. When you catch yourself internally saying something negative about another person, make the switch to some other story that is still honest, but is more forgiving, supportive or compassionate.

It shouldn’t be hard to find opportunities for understanding at this point in history considering almost everyone has taken a very strong position in recent elections. It’s not like you have to know the people personally to do this exercise. The only important part is to really do it.

These ones are big. These generate a lot of your so-called problems. Do this meditation earnestly and daily and you can absolutely change your life. If you’re working with a partner, compare how many times you caught yourself and then discuss your best conversions to help you feel a sense of pride, accomplishment and ownership. That will only make them easier to do in future moments, and that’s important because our entire future is made of the little steps we take within the individual moments that will become both our future and our past.

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.

You Will Be Good

1080-relax-and-succeed-use-your-smile-to-change-this-worldYou might have noticed a bit of order in what I’m doing. As you attempted yesterday’s meditation you would have struggled with the circular thoughts I discussed in Mental Spin Class. These meditations all play into each other over time but I can’t explain half of them because there’s no words for the concepts. These exist in the gaps in between and beyond our current definitions but, even if I could, I would rather not be the guy to further divide up the world with more labels.

For most of you one of three things happened yesterday. You didn’t dedicate yourself to the exercise; you did and you were successful at catching lots of thoughts but they likely demonstrated how negative your ego is; or you did do the meditation but it was super hard to catch yourself thinking.

1080-relax-and-succeed-when-you-see-something-beautifulEven if you caught yourself thinking a lot, it still would have been a tiny percentage of what you actually thought. You swam in your own thoughts all day much like a fish swims in a lake. Those thoughts are generally narratives in which you are judging yourself or some person or some aspect of the world. Either that or you’re asking questions that will allow you to judge something (e.g. I’m getting old. Why did you do that? How long until the flight arrives?).

Today you’re going to do the same exercise except this is where your score from yesterday comes in. You’re going to be intentional today. Today you’re going to try to make sure your plus-total is big and healthy. Make your minus-score small, because it represents you being less healthy. Rather than the peace to be quiet, you’ll find it easier to give yourself reasons to be positive so let’s start there. (You’ve already accomplished more than you’re able to realise.)

1080-relax-and-succeed-there-are-those-who-give-with-joyThis is all about you getting yourself into the frame of mind that will permit you to make the sorts of shifts you’ve wanted to make. You’ve been dedicated before, but you were trying to do it intellectually and that won’t work. Plus you’ve likely been confused by an increasing number of people who try to sound like me or others like me, and yet I can tell that many of the people attempting to teach this stuff don’t really know what it is I’m imparting here. So be kind to yourself (and to them).

Melt your personal, individual thoughts into general awareness. Rather than placing something in it, simply pay attention to your attention. It’s like a vacuum that sucks up experiences. If you fill it with enough poisonous thoughts they will definitely seep out into your own life and negatively impact you. Likewise, filling it with appreciation will only make it your life run better.

Be intentionally positive. Give yourself credit. Compliment people and then give yourself credit for contributing to their day and get two points-in-one. Breathe in nice things and exhale negative things. Breathe in the future and exhale the past. Do that and you will be good.

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.

Nurturing Empathy

1074-relax-and-succeed-nurture-more-kindnessI’ve been pleasantly surprised by the depth of your meditations. People aren’t letting themselves off easily. That’s excellent. Frankly, the more realistically you view yourself the better others will start to look. We all generally hold others to higher standards than we can maintain ourselves.

When you did the meditations last week you discovered that you had forgiven people, but that it was unlikely an official pronouncement with a definite end date. Instead it was a process where your developing understanding allowed you to slowly let a thought go as it made less and less sense. What happened is that your narrative about their transgression lost its momentum.

That momentum comes from your dedication to think it. When we say something means a lot to us, what we really mean is that it’s a thought we volunteer to think a lot. Sometimes those thoughts are worthwhile. They can be part of grieving or recovery. But far too often they are someone just spinning on negativity that has no purpose in their life.

1074-relax-and-succeed-we-are-oneFortunately, it is difficult to maintain a narrative that makes no sense to you. Once understanding has increased, connection is increased. With the two people being able to see each other within each other, the differences become less important and the similarities become comforting. This is literally what the world needs more of.

How this works in practice is that, as other people talk to you they add their perspectives to yours. You expand, capable of seeing more and farther. In doing so, more people can be included in that family of people you’re prepared to care about. Those additions to your perspective come in two ways; you meditating your way into a discovery or someone delivering you an observation.

You’re in control of your own thinking so you can do the meditating on your own, but how can you help the discovery process? You can’t do that to yourself; that would be meditating toward an internal insight. You can only assist in the discovery process of someone else. To that end, today you will become more aware of a healthy person’s role in life.

1074-relax-and-succeed-darkness-cannot-drive-out-darknessSick and unhealthy people think about themselves a lot. Healthy, balanced people think of themselves very little, although their generosity is a version of them being selfish about giving. They know it feels good to invest more in others than yourself, and so they selfishly do so.

Today you’re looking to avoid creating your own ego-self by pointing your consciousness out, rather than in. Rather than load your attention up with self-reflective egotistical thoughts about you, instead you want to focus outward, on the experiences of others. Watch people’s faces as they listen to others talk. See their emotional reactions as their personal experience. Note how it might differ from yours. Watch for your opportunities.

Today’s meditation is simple: Watch the outside world for an opportunity to provide context. In short, you want to find at least one opportunity today to expand the awareness of someone else. Keep in mind, this cannot be done correctively as that assumes they already have the knowledge and aren’t using it. You have to invite them to include the knowledge by making it harmless.

1074-relax-and-succeed-teach-peaceYou cannot ask someone to assume the identity of jerk. You cannot defy their current beliefs. Your only job is to expand the context from which they might choose to view an event. That’s it. Just plant a seed. Just find a way to present that idea in supportive way. If you succeed at this, before you know it the other person can integrate the added information into their understanding, thereby making it theirs and boom; we have empathy.

Get out of your own head. Today, get at least one compassionate connecting idea into the head of at least one other person and do it without sounding preachy, instructive or superior. Just wonder out loud and leave the rest to the inherent goodness of their spirit. Do that and you’ll have done more for yourself than you ever could have imagined. Enjoy your day everyone.

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.

Expanding Perspectives

1071-relax-and-succeed-you-choose-your-attitudeIn yesterday’s meditation, how many of you noticed that virtually all of you would have started off only noticing one kind of reality change? Most of you either picked all internal or all external on day one. If you picked a mixture, congratulations. That’s a sign of health. Of course, you would have to do a test like this on a variety of occasions to see if that was your set-point, or just the state of mind you were visiting that day, but in general all new self-awareness is helpful.

If you chose three internal changes on day one then you feel better when you take action in the world. Overall that’s great, except you will feel worse when you can’t take action. You’re the group that doesn’t like waiting. You feel uncomfortable with the unknown. The more consistently you’re in that group the more consistently you’ll avoid not-knowing and your problems will start there.

1071-relax-and-succeed-the-day-you-decide-thatIf you chose three external changes on day one and you haven’t recently suffered from something like PTSD, then that choice is your first indication that your brain can sometimes have a tendency to see itself as against the world.  If the world seems to always be dumping unwanted changes on you, then it’s helpful for you to know that your mind was innocently wired in a way that will lead you feeling victimised. That’s useful information, but it’s not like it prevents you from accomplishing your objective.

Whether through security or insecurity, most of us want to chart our own path. We want control over the variables so we can maximise our performance. For that reason, on day one most of you thought of when you impacted the world. Day two was when when most people started thinking of the forced changes. Those are the ones you didn’t expect or want. A partner left you, you lost a job, you were forced to leave your home, you lost a support system etc.

These are the times your brain was asked to be someone new rather than deciding it wanted to be someone new. And it didn’t like it. While there are degrees of this, sudden external changes are forms of PTSD, which essentially means you have a brain wired for a situation you’re not in.

1071-relax-and-succeed-let-your-pastObviously being in your home with many common things around you and a consistent job can make the PTSD of a lost relationship easier. On the flipside, some soldier in some foreign land without their loved ones for support and few familiar mental touchstones means that the PTSD would be more dramatic and thorough.

We all prefer the enacted changes because when you make a change you’ve been slowly rewiring your brain for some time and your big day is the day you start using that wiring to do something significantly bigger in the outside world (leave your relationship, your job etc.). In short, you’re ready for your change. It’s like the IT department got everyone’s computer ready before the big switch.

The opposite of that is when you suddenly need a whole system of brain wiring that you don’t yet have. That feels unnerving and you feel off balance. It would make sense for you to be more easily frightened and unstable during that time. Do you see the comfort in that? It makes sense that you’re uncomfortable. Already that’s an improved state if discomfort. At least it seems logical.

1071-relax-and-succeed-people-are-capable-at-any-timeIn this week’s meditations, most of you would have started with internal changes. Those are ones you’re proud of. They’re the ones where you felt stronger afterwards. They also feel more like they belong to you because you chose them. That’s an important distinction. You own the ones you choose better than you own the ones that weren’t your choice. We’ll be more focused on the ones you don’t want.

The desire to know and the act of avoiding mystery will often cause more trouble in your life than resisting the original experience. For this reason, in today’s meditation your job is to find two of each. If you find more, great, it all helps. But give your partner a breakdown of at least two choices you made that didn’t go well, and two that were forced on you where you ended up leaving you better off.

Study your own life closely. We want to disconnect the idea that life is better when you know what’s going to happen. Because if we study it long enough, you’ll accept that that simply isn’t true. And that unexpected news is unexpectedly good news.

Do your meditation then relax and have a great day. You took a helpful step forward.

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.

Resolving to Change

1065-relax-and-succeed-your-teacher-can-open-the-doorYou really can do it this year. The reason your results will be different will be because you’ll be using a completely different approach. All we need to do is chart a clear, simple path into the new year. We want small, daily steps so that nothing feels overwhelming and yet over time you finally start getting somewhere.

To begin you need to accepting some fundamental ideas. They’re not difficult, but they are a bit radical because; rather than being things that you understand, these are things that you enact, or do, or even better: be. Idea One: Forget trying to understand, you already know. You need to act.

People tend to think they’re on a ladder, and they imagine that when they get to a certain height that the ladder ends and they can suddenly see in every direction and then it’s all clear going forward. That’s what they think enlightenment is. But up and down is an ego thing, and enlightenment isn’t really up from ego, it’s more the other side of it. The real you is like the light that travels through your thinking and forms the shadow that is your ego. You’re not trying to escape it, you’re trying to understand it.

1065-relax-and-succeed-the-ego-is-a-veilRather than being on a ladder, imagine you’re standing in a beautiful and sometimes dangerous landscape. Ego is like walking around in a blindfold. Enlightenment is merely taking your blindfold off so that you can make sure your individual steps are as good as they can be. You want to walk near the flowers and streams, not near the sharp rocks and thorns.

Idea Two: regardless of how clear your vision is, there are places where you can be cornered by cacti and the only way out is to get poked. That’s nature, that’s life. Those places are a part of any healthy garden. But if you’ll allow that reality then you get to take your blindfold off. There’s not that many places where you’ll get completely trapped, and at least with the blindfold off you won’t be you trapping yourself unnecessarily.

So there’s the two things you need to accept to begin: that things can’t be perfect, but having accepted that fact your only job now is to actually enact your mental and emotional and spiritual health as an action in your own life. Forget trying to understand, live your wisdom instead.

Each week I’ll start us off on Mondays with an objective designed to increase your understanding, peace and strength. These will be simple actions that will expand who you are as a person over time. We’ll finish off this first week with some preparation and then next Monday we’ll begin with the actual assignments.

1065-relax-and-succeed-surround-yourself-with-people-who-talk-about-visionsI would recommend you find a partner or group to undertake these exercises with. It will help a lot if you can avoid gossip and instead meditatively discuss your results and also learn from each other’s experiences. We’ll also try to use a little friendly competition to keep you on your awareness toes.

So this is it. You can do it if you want to. Or you can distract yourself with more ego-focused types of temporary satisfaction. You can shop, or binge-watch or get high. You won’t get judged either way; you can live either life. But if you want to travel the path that fewer take, the one deeper into the garden, then these posts can hold the signs that guide you along your journey.

Now relax and enjoy or accomplish things in your own life for the rest of the day. You have no self-improvement required until you read again tomorrow. Then you’ll have a simple task and then your trainer will let you off the hook and you can relax or accomplish things again. These little tests often won’t seem like much. But over time these steps absolutely will take you where you’ve been wanting to get to.

We’ll cover a few more arrangements over the next few days and then on Monday you begin. The commitment to do so is the first part, so congratulations on that already. Happy New Year. Thank 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.