Holiday Blog: Other Perspectives #39

It’s a holiday here in Canada so here’s a reminder for today:

522 Relax and Succeed Rebuttal - Change the voice in your head

Ideally we are quiet-minded and there are no voices in our head. But okay, if we can’t quiet ourselves enough to point ourselves toward that silence, we can at least direct ourselves toward thinking charitable, compassionate and loving thoughts about ourselves.

That’s not ego. That’s the real us. We are decent people, we do care and we do want to love and to be loved. And of course like everyone else we have some struggles and peccadilloes, but that doesn’t change our worthiness in the slightest.

We are as integral to the universe as anyone else. So keep in mind (no pun intended) that every single voice inside our head is just us talking to ourselves. It’s absurd that we would pay attention to that voice as though it has some profound meaning.

Silence. Silence has profound meaning. Talk is all ego by nature. Maybe it lines up with reality, maybe not. Self-talk presents us with a divided world where comparison leads to suffering. Ego divides and describes. Our spirit doesn’t.

We should all do our best to try to use our minds as an awareness and absorption input device and not as an opinions and language output device. And we always always always always need to remember that any voice in our head is meaningless and it holds zero power to make us do anything unless we inexplicably choose to act on hollow thoughts.

If we’re going to think anything, think positive thoughts. But as much as we can, we should just try to be really, really quiet. After all, ff we’re quiet enough, wisdom is all that’s left. Take care.

peace. s

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Emotional Awareness

1283 Relax and Succeed - Start seeing your interactions

I eat and sleep very well given the chance, but due to various responsibilities and circumstances I am often unable to get as much sleep as I would prefer, and I often am forced to skip meals because there are many cases like this recent one that legitimately prevent that from happening.

Dad recently has had several visits to Emergency where I am his guardian. If you go in before a meal, you can’t just leave your dementia dad in a hospital waiting room while you run across a parking lot of pure ice to get to the nearest source of food, (which isn’t even healthy), because he could wander away. And it’s not like I can take him with me; at his pace it’d take an hour in – 25C weather just to get there and we’d miss our call after two hours of waiting to get into see the doctor while they rightfully attend to much worse situations.

I did contribute to a panel for that hospital that recommended healthier food be available since it was a health facility, but they just added Rice Krispie Squares to a vending machine of chips. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

The lack of sleep and food can biochemically throw anyone off balance. Once I notice those bad feelings my awareness kicks in and if there’s no negative thinking attached then I know it’s biochemical. If I can’t eat right then, I am left to manage it actively like most of you are learning to. Note: that that won’t mean that I am somehow above being abrupt, unfair or even mean. Even the Dalai Lama has a temper. We’re all human.

Just last night my mother was watching the old film Outbreak and it features numerous scenes of people being very reasonably unreasonable –it’s too bad YouTube doesn’t have the part where Hoffman and Rene Russo scream at each other in sleep-deprived states. Those are realistic events in people’s lives. Any parents of toddlers know that frustration is essentially guaranteed as a part of the process.

This is why tolerance is valuable. Expecting others to always be at their best is simply crazy as a belief. And that’s also why I leave those unfortunate experiences in the past. I do my best to apologize, but I won’t feel guilt because I have no expectation of being superhuman. The whole reason I feel bad is because I’m a decent person who didn’t meet my own standards, so my standards are fine.

Reactions make sense given their context. But dragging them out of that context for inspection is a huge waste of time. By then all the people involved are in totally different states of mind that makes entirely different things possible.

I’m human. I just accept it. It’s just as crazy to think that you can can control your emotions under adverse conditions as it is to think you can walk on a broken leg. You can, but will hurt like hell and not do you much good unless you’re walking to a hospital.

So here I am, after two weeks of racing around catching plates just before they hit the ground. I’m exhausted, distracted, and I have a huge amount to do. I need to marshal my internal resources. I need to take action to change my state of mind and I thought you might learn something from me describing what I’ll do as I shift from survival mode to my usual enthusiastic zeal. This is a great exercise for anyone at any time, so consider joining me in trying this for the rest of your day:

The idea is to get out of thoughts about ourselves, because those are the ones that are debilitating us. To do this, we need to focus on other things or people. That being the case, when we leave the presence of anyone for the next couple days –even on the phone or via text or via social media etc.– we should just take a moment to earnestly meditate on what happened from their perspective (as much as that is reasonably possible).

Note whether the other people were likely to see our interactions as being positive or negative. But don’t just count arguments or meetings or parenting –also count shorter relations like holding doors for strangers, not yelling at your kid when tempted, or even saying thank you. Those are all volunteered positives. Every interaction with another person should be taken into consideration.

If you do feel a response was negative, you can apologize, but don’t make things worse with even more negative and guilty thoughts about the past. We don’t really need to worry about what happens either way anyway, because, of course, over time, negatives can become positives and positives can become negatives.

Reactions make sense given their context. But dragging them out of that context for inspection is a huge waste of time. By then all the people involved are in totally different states of mind that makes entirely different things possible.

We can feel it was bad to be fired, but if our next job introduces us to a beloved career and maybe even our spouse, then, looking back, getting fired seems like one of the best things that ever happened to us. Likewise, we can feel great about learning we got a promotion only to find out our personality and our new job description do not fit well together, and later we view the promotion as the beginning of the end.

Nothing is good or bad, only thinking makes it so. That’s why we let the past go and focus on the present moment. It’s practical. And if others do likewise, tolerance absorbs the balance.

Remember: how many people do we leave better off, versus how many we leave worse off, is not what’s important. This isn’t a comparative numbers game in the end, because it’s highly likely that we’re all far nicer than any of us will give ourselves credit for. So this isn’t about us being guilted into being nicer. It’s about us understanding the practicalities of how to get back on track as quickly as possible. That’s actually the fastest way to expand that capacity in us, not guilt or tortured regret.

So let’s pay attention to the thinking we do today. Let’s see our interactions with others less as what we did, and more about how everyone –including us– felt doing it. Awareness of that dimension of being makes more things understandable, and an appreciation of how bad things innocently happen is what gives us the wisdom to also know how to make a shift as soon as we’re able. It’s something we get better at the more we practice the act of letting go.

After a screw up, we should just apologize and forget it as soon as possible and get focused on the present moment so we don’t screw up again. The fact that you feel badly about it is all the proof you need that you’re truly a good person.

Here’s to all of us staying conscious enough to create ourselves a wonderful day.

peace. s

 

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.