Chore Procrastination

Most of us know the feeling. Your housework has been there for two weeks but you have been a master procrastinator. But if someone’s coming over, suddenly the procrastination is gone and your housework becomes the most important thing in your world. This shift in your values points to an important piece of information.

You started off fine that your house wasn’t picture perfect. Then suddenly someone else was going to see it, and now your place suddenly didn’t look good enough. For this person you will leap to cleaning your space, but for yourself… nah. So what’s going on there? What’s your brain doing? Because half the time the person coming over can be a stranger you’ll see once in your life, like a repairman.

You’re worried about being judged. Maybe about how clean you are, how organised, how much money you have, whatever. There’s something that you know about yourself that you’re trying to hide from others. That shame isn’t good for you. My mother used to wash walls every other week. Then she hit menopause. Boom, we had a freezing house and Mom was no longer interested in sheet-ironing. And as her kids we thought it was great. It seemed like her priorities had improved.

Sometimes you just want your externals to reflect how you feel inside. It makes a very clear kind of sense that when you’re trying to get your life in order, you’ll start with getting your space in order. Those natural impulses are all fine. But the fearful egocentric ones–the ones where you’re worried about belonging–those are unnecessary. You live inside belonging. What some individual human feels about you is relatively nothing. You are loved by the universe.

That can sound corny right? I don’t need to clean my house because the universe loves me? But it’s true. I don’t mean there’s some persona called the universe that loves specifically you, I mean that the universe is a very loving and supportive place if you go to the right places within it. But it’s our job to go where the oasis is. It’s easy to find. It feels like love.

There are people who know you well enough that they’ve seen your house in disarray. They’re still your friends, and you still manage to stay relaxed while they’re over and the place is a disaster. Okay, that’s more like an unconditional relationship. They’ve seen your messy, they’ve seen your neat, and both are fine by them. That’s someone who loves you as a verb. Anyone who judges your space is merely speaking innocently from their ego.

Relax. Be yourself. All of you. Sure, people will judge the real you. But they’re already judging this performance-you anyway, so what’s the difference? You may as well pay to be you as pay to be someone else.

The universe has some suffering built into the deal, but there’s no reason we have to invite more by worrying about other’s judgments. If people aren’t prepared to accept the real us then they’re not interested in an authentic relationship. That doesn’t mean there’s something wrong with them, they’re just finding their way like we all are. But if we are being judged, we’re wiser to invest ourselves in the parts of the universe that love us back.

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.

An Appreciation of You

1103-relax-and-succeed-the-purpose-of-this-lifeThis week we started off with gratitude for uncommon things. Then we discussed judgments and how they separate people. They’re essentially the opposite of gratitude. One makes you feel abundant and cared about and the other leads you to feel alone and insecure. Today we develop the resilient part of you that gets you through the difficult times so that you can get to better times.

If this resilience is going to be truly helpful to you in dark times then it will need to be handy, so it’s best if it’s actually an aspect of yourself. People drug themselves or anaesthetise themselves with alcohol or distract themselves with technology, but these all pale in comparison to the high one gets from believing in our actual connection to the universe. It’s a very real thing.

Let’s look at who and what you actually are. Factually, your DNA is 99.9999% the same as an ape, so how much different could you be from Albert Einstein, or Usain Bolt, or Adele, or Stephen King, or The Pope or anyone else on Earth? You can be grateful for that, and you can also feel grateful if you’re not challenged even more, because you’re also almost identical to Stephen Hawking.

1103-relax-and-succeed-if-science-proves-some-beliefNo matter who you are, 99% of the mass of your body consists of just six chemical elements: oxygen, carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, calcium, and phosphorus. Potassium, sulfur, sodium, chlorine, and magnesium make up that last 1%. In physics terms, you’re literally made out of the dust from the parts of old stars from the universe’s past. Seriously.

Get down to the quantum level and the air in your lungs and all of those elements start bleeding into the background of the world. As Jill Bolte Taylor described in her Stroke of Insight, the border between you and an external world is pretty tenuous. If we had vision that saw it, and you were standing in a river, how would the water that makes up so much of your body differ from the water in the water? And what about the atmosphere in your lungs? Is that the world or you?

To say that you’re not connected is frankly ridiculous. You can think thoughts about being separate, but you’ll still be all of those connected things thinking those ephemeral thoughts. You’re still made of the universe and you live within the universe, so any separation is an illusion created by your temporary thinking. You’ll still just dissolve back into the world when you end, like ink returning to the inkwell. What you’ll think about that will be irrelevant.

1103-relax-and-succeed-at-the-deepest-level-of-beingYou were born of the universe and you will return to the universe. This is just a layover on your flight through eternity, so you might as well enjoy it. It’s not like you’ll be graded on your performance. Everyone gets to go home equal in the end.

You can think thoughts about how this truth also makes you like all the people you don’t like, but you have to remember that there are people that love those people. So no matter who you decide to use as an icon of your existence, they will be loved. You can’t get away from it. You belong in the most fundamental way that no one can take it away from you. You are truly a child of the universe and you truly are connected to all.

So if this is all factually true, why would you waste that existence thinking thoughts of separation and weakness when you could be grateful for those connections? You could worship yourself not as a self-centered ego, but as a genuine and critical aspect of the universe. You weren’t created by accident. The universe wanted you to be, so Be. That’s why the original Hebrew word for God kind of means Is-be. Be your Is. Stop being a definition and start just plain being.

1103-relax-and-succeed-you-exist-in-timeToday’s meditation is simple: find five things to be truly grateful for about yourself. If you saved a friend, be grateful you saved that wonderful life. If you’ve had a child be grateful for the act of creation. If you helped someone in a way that matters, own that. Five compliments from you to you about you. When you’re better you could find a zillion of them. But for now five will do. Five will give you a nice launch into your weekend. Enjoy. You are loved.

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.

Banished From The Tribe

1102-relax-and-succeed-you-not-wanting-meLike apes or wolves or ants, humans are cooperative creatures. Living and working alone are challenging things that can few can do throughout their lives, and if they do they’ll generally pay a big price. Even people who say they live without others needed others to even exist.

You can’t (currently) be born without parents (and even without those you’d need scientists). If all some guy in the bush has is a log cabin and an axe, he needed both the inventor of the axe and he would have needed to have seen someone else’s cabin to imagine one so he could build it. And even he will likely hit the local store when he needs some salt or tools. We’re all living on the backs of all of the other generations before us.

Our desire to be part of the safe and well-fed is ancient and natural. Anything else threaten death, hence the power of potential banishment and shunning that was noted in yesterday’s meditation. People naturally focus on being valuable enough and well-liked enough to maintain the security of the tribe. It’s like your brain’s primary directive, which is why you find being rejected so painful. It’s like someone saying, “We don’t think your genes needs to go any further than this.”

1102-relax-and-succeed-maslows-pyramidWe can all easily think of the times it hurt to be rejected, but what about the times we did the hurting? What about group criticisms people joined in on on social media? What about a group of schoolgirls actually cooperating to cut another person out? What about having your support for one group lead you to even verbally attack the member of another group? What about you rejecting someone because someone more established in your group stopped dating them? Or what about even how you would have handled someone leaving the company you worked for?

Socially it’s a very common, modern experience to exclude someone if they get laid off or fired. Being fired can feel to others like it’s different because it’s “deserved,” but then we all have to ask ourselves how perfect we actually are. Getting fired for a genuine mistake is like being fired for being human. Certainly some things are blatant and need action, but sometimes it’s just that a decent manager and a good employee clash. And in the case of the layoff, generally the immediate boss and the person being laid off would rather not have participated at all.

1102-relax-and-succeed-a-team-is-not-a-groupEven though it’s in an office and everyone’s dressed nice, to your brain–which evolved for that other tribal, cooperative world–these are all examples of being shunned. We all have our family group, our friend group, and our work group. These are tribes we travel between and they often overlap.

Being removed from any of these groups will be among the most painful experiences of a person’s life. If you were aware, you’d know that from your own experience. Any time it happened to you it was a very particular kind of pain and you literally need to go through Kübler-Ross’s Five Stages of Grief (denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance). It’s extremely painful. A company I once worked for laid someone off and that lead very quickly to a particularly ugly suicide and no one in the company was the same afterward.

In today’s meditation, find an example of where your personal awkwardness about how to behave lead you to passively shun someone. Own it. Don’t make excuses, just make the connection between your choice and their pain. Connect the two in a direct fashion. This won’t be a pleasant meditation, but it will increase your empathy and natural self-centeredness.

1102-relax-and-succeed-sometimes-painful-things-can-teach-usIf you do this meditation successfully–if you feel that pain and own that responsibility for your part in it–then it will be one of the fastest results you’ll ever get from a meditation. Because if you do it right, then your brain will understand that idea so well that you are very unlikely to go through the next similar experience without very naturally experiencing lower levels of ego and much greater levels of empathy, which will in turn drive you to more active compassion.

This is the kind of thing that would turn you into that one person that won’t be awkward with the former employee. You may not be able to get them back into your group, but your actions alone could change how hurt that person feels and how much they trust the world going forward. This is no small meditation. In small steps, it is these ones about our common human relations, that are the most valuable meditations you can do. For you and for them.

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.

Being Liked

1052-relax-and-succeed-open-your-handsLikes on social media are no different than likes in person. They’re given out rather casually and they’re taken away with little notice. This is because no one is responsible for the fair dispersal of likes, they just tumble out of whatever conditions naturally form them, with the landscape being made up of moment to moment opinions.

It isn’t frivolous to seek likes to some degree. We need them to survive. Even covering the bottom of Maslow’s Pyramid of needs is difficult when we’re alone, and achieving procreation and the other higher stages is effectively impossible. So partnerships and group pursuits are key to our survival both physically and emotionally.

That said, we also don’t want to live entirely for others. Our cooperation must in a way be selfish. Each individual must live and look out for themselves. At the same time if an individual who is struggling to contribute, or in cases where they’ve done something wrong and they require forgiveness, if they’re liked enough then popularity can act like a get out of jail free card.

1052-relax-and-succeed-none-of-us-is-as-smart-as-all-of-usThe idea of stored value in the form of good feelings can’t be sought for their own sake or that is a shallow, ego-driven life lived for others. But if they are done as part of an actual, active awareness and understanding that we really do need these other people, then even if a person is a child or elderly and therefore less useful in obtaining food etc., they are still safe.

So why can’t an office be like that? The problem in the office is that if the company’s goals cannot incorporate normal human pursuits then everyone is working for pay and not as a way of pushing the group forward, and that sort of shallow motivation simply will not last.

If we’re not interesting in being liked then the company society deteriorates. People start having wants that are out of sync with their contributions. Because bosses are seen as hierarchical over employees, we learn the very unnatural lesson that someone’s likes have bizarrely been made more valuable than other people’s likes. Now someone can just have one key person in a company like them and that can be enough for them to advance even though that would make zero sense to all of us other apes.

1052-relax-and-succeed-without-the-taoUltimate we must be balance being free with our natural desire for likes, because there is no point in having more likes than you need. In that case you would be seen as greedy and that would then result in less likes. Rich people the world over are seeing this now too whether they were generous or not. Overall we’ve now reached the point where the average world citizen has seen their internal scale tipped and they now see the group’s sharing of value is out of balance. Entire groups are now jostling to reorganise to see the sharing of resources be more equitable.

Why don’t we always act this way in homes and schools and companies and societies? Because now we no longer have the Tao holding us together. We’ve substituted our natural comprehension of our need of others and we’ve attempted to codify that into laws and rules and guidelines, but these are inhuman concepts that will often not match the actual temperament or feelings of various people.

In some cases there are revolts. Apes are killed, spouses leave, company employees start sabotaging the group, governments are removed, people are arrested or shamed. And this hardens divisions, and yet divisions themselves are fine. Sales shouldn’t really love accounting, they’re two different roles in the group that require different kinds of brains. But you need each one. If I didn’t get any wild pig today then I really need your berries and likewise. But when I convince myself your berries are worth less than my pig because I worked harder to get mine rather than me noticing they’re equal amounts of food, then that is the start of trouble: disrespect in the group.

Sometimes disrespect is what teaches an out of line group member the value of being in line. But this isn’t some rigid law-based line. The natural line has more flexibility. It has more understanding. It would look less to the rules and more to the moment. Hopes and expectations of others would be altered according to the situation whereas where laws always apply and there is only leniency in sentencing.

How are you in your groups? It’s fine for people in different groups to dislike you, or even for some people in your group to dislike you. But being cared about and for is a key part of enjoying life so we want to nurture that. We just don’t want to go so far that we surrender our core values and beliefs for ideas or groups that we do not truly believe in.

Find a group that encourages your participation and input by respecting you, and that respect should include compassion and the assumption that the relationship will be managed according to the Tao. That’s why even monkey’s recognise this elemental value in life. Selfishness for ourselves is essential in that our best behaviours are naturally driven by wanting to help provide for a generous and caring group.

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 Performance

1044-relax-and-succeed-half-of-life-is-lost-in-charming-othersI know you’ve believed it all of your life. You think people are being figurative when we tell you that reality happens in your imagination but we’re not. And until you face that absolute fact that ties us all together, you will suffer because you will spend all of your time trying to satisfy a bunch of other people’s heads when that’s impossible because they all see you their own way.

Your belief is that reality is the events and practices of your life. You can’t be happy at work because it’s called work and you reserve your happiness for the word play. You’re like that to the point where you can even dislike other people for the fact that they love their job. Or maybe you you believe you can only be happy if you’re with one particular person because the definition of you as half of that partnership is all you need to cause your brain chemistry to change.

1044-relax-and-succeed-anxiety-is-the-worst-use-of-imaginationSo you’ve let your society tell you what’s good and what’s bad and you live up to it. For the vast majority of you, any unknown food is also an unwanted one. Pregnancy has to be an awful, painful experience you need drugs for. Or if someone in your family is afraid of heights they can teach you to be too. But does it really seem likely that heights themselves are dangerous? Of course not, people stand at the edge of substantial heights all the time.

Could I find people who like unpopular things? Could I find people who love their job? Can I find women who valued pregnancy and went through it without drugs? Due to simply no other choice, that would be more than half the women on Earth so you can definitely find them. And as noted, there’s no shortage of people walking in places featuring extremely high heights. Maybe you also believe these people are working with more than you are. Maybe you really just aren’t that good. Unfortunately, that one probably is believable to you.

Your life is an emotional experience. You list it as things that made you happy and things that made you sad, when really it’s things you allowed yourself to think gratefully about, versus things you want to be different. It isn’t the difference you need to gain, it’s the wanting you need to lose.

1044-relax-and-succeed-you-were-born-an-originalYou perform so much of your life to please others it’s ridiculous. Every life has challenges and it is experience that helps us find where the line is between things we should accept versus things we should put our energy into changing. But if you want to change yourself every time someone else wants you to act this or that way then you’re not even living your own life, you’re reading a bunch of other people’s disconnected scripts.

Go ahead, be yourself. The people who will respond most positively to it are your people and you don’t need anything to earn their love and support other than be yourself. It’s so much more relaxing that it leaves you tons of extra energy that you can use to become even better version of you. Stop wanting your life to be different. Appreciate how it is. Because the latter happens inside your head, meaning the act of appreciation is always within your control. And if you’ve got that, you’ve got happiness no matter where you are.

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 Rules

Your ego knows the rules. It knows how to dress you, it knows how to dance, how to sing, and even knows how to eat and how to sleep. And this alignment between you and these external limits is defined by fear. Your ego knows that if you step out of line you run the risk of embarrassment and embarrassment feels a lot like being shunned and that’s an ancient way to get people in line. If we lose the support of those around us we are in trouble indeed.

Various cultures have various rules and that can include anything from how they greet each other, what language they use to share ideas, or even what tools they use or don’t use to eat. You can be perfectly in line with Ethiopian culture and still potentially offend a person who’s been taught to value British culture, and yet beneath those rules those two people could potentially be very respectful best friends.

1031-relax-and-succeed-everything-you-wantBut how do you be best friends when one of you speaks Dutch while the other only speaks Inuktitut? The two souls could get along, but we have these ego-suits our cultures make us wear. And yet we see how thin those suits are, because as soon as the two people learn to communicate they literally build their own hybrid culture where they just ignore the details of their external cultures.

Some very famous friendships have achieved some amazing things in this way, including Tenzin Norgay and Sir Edmund Hillary climbing Mount Everest, or the closeness shared between the 14th Dalai Lama and Heinrich Harrer. Some servants become close friends to their masters and vice versa. So the rules aren’t an issue, the rules are just loose agreements that we can break, we just don’t due to fear.

The people who do break these invisible rules are progressively called, open, eclectic, eccentric, strange, weird and even dangerous, but often times the only thing they’re doing is functioning outside of the rules society silently likes to teach each child. We like patterns and our culture is a set of patterns. Anyone outside of that is an outsider to us.

1031-relax-and-succeed-become-friends-with-peopleThis means that you have the ability to be friends with virtually anyone, which is great, but let’s focus on you. Because your ego doesn’t discuss much except these rules and your speculations about breaking them or maintaining them. Your ego is an expert on the rules, so when it’s talking to you it’s always from the rule-based, fear-based perspective. If you’re going to a party dressed like an actual clown your friend will actually try to talk you out of it and they might even desert you that night in a desire to avoid any reflected social shame you face.

Since your ego is little more than a rule expert, then the only reason for it to talk is for it to try to balance your natural drives with the rules, which is why your ego is primarily critical. The best thing to do is do what Norgay and Hillary did and just forge ahead together, but that’s only two people. Trying to get more people than to be free gets near impossible.

If you want to be a true individual living a truly spiritual life, you must surrender the rules and trade it for the Tao. You want the flow of a compassionate existence more than you want laws and protection. One is human, one is a thought-based idea. One is you behaving, the other is you feeling empathetic and compassionate.

Of off this is why you get upset if you spill food on your shirt at lunch. Imagine that: an adult having their day ruined by some mayonnaise on their shirt. Does that sound like a developed soul? No, that sounds like an ego trying to be liked by being in-line to the point where you’ll feel like everyone’s judging your stain, and if they’re following the rules they will. But so what?

What we’re talking about is just a framework in our head and the words are creations by our heads, for our heads. We certainly shouldn’t be using those words to punish ourselves. If you truly understood what was happening you wouldn’t need any rules for you to feel shame or regret. Those are nature’s way of keeping us cooperating in a way that’s good for all of us and those feelings don’t require words and they do permit for much more freedom.

Forget those words. Forget replaying some insult from 10 years ago. Stop listing all of the things that might go wrong. Stop looking for reasons you or others are out of line with the rules. None of this is hard. It’s not the start of something difficult, it’s the stopping of something difficult. Do not use your thoughts to weaken yourself. Those are only words taught to you by your culture. They cannot hurt you unless you believe them.

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.

Rocking the Boat

1025-relax-and-succeed-its-okay-if-people-dont-like-youOur ability to remember things only starts a little before most people start going to school, so our idea of how the larger world works will often come from that experience and not our home one. If we’re Korean and our family and friends are Korean then being Korean is fine, but if the kids in the school have never seen a Korean face or heard a Korean name, they can think the new kid is strange and someone to be avoided. This can cause insecurities that can last a lifetime even though there’s nothing wrong with the kid.

Eventually in school everyone does make at least a few friends. Interestingly, the kids with the fewest friends are generally outcasts who are already functioning in some way that causes society to pass some judgment on them. Nerds are cool now, but it wasn’t that long ago that being good in school and knowing about things like Dungeons and Dragons or comic books meant you’d be ostracised or even beat up.

The strange upside to being ostracised is that it’s actually much more accurate to adult life. So you can go through school as the most popular person but that still won’t save you from all of the judgments others will make about you. Some of those judgments will be true, others will be entirely false, but you’ll lose just as many friends over the lies as the truth–likely even more.

1025-relax-and-succeed-do-what-you-feel-is-rightMeanwhile, the teased kid eventually gives up and just starts being themselves as they get used to the teasing. This, it turns out, is one of the most important lessons a person can learn. That kid becomes impervious to the opinions of others. Without any airs that kid can meet their friends as themselves and that is a profoundly underrated thing.

One of the best advantages to being yourself is that it helps your real friends find you in a crowd. Often people will connect with the wrong people because they think someone’s this or that way when really they’ve just been performing to maintain their status with others. And the egos do this even though the actual person will eventually have to show up and disappoint everyone who thought they were someone else.

Genuinely enjoying the act of making someone happy is one thing, but it’s not a healthy or enlightened thing to make people happy if you’re spending that time performing actions or saying words that feel unnatural to you. Eventually you’ll get hangry or be short on sleep or you’ll have had a stressful time and you’ll show your true self and then just watch a bunch of people desert you for nothing more than a few low days.

Frankly, if you look back at your life you can probably easily find people you’ve never spoken to again and yet all they would have done is offend you with an opinion or approach that wasn’t one you’d use. Look at how remarkably conditional our affections are; we see it so often it becomes normal, so we get to the point where we actually expect people to perform for us. They’re not supposed to be themselves, they’re supposed to be who we expect them to be.

So how’s the outcast in school end up better off? It hurts them more at the time because they found out before anyone how incredibly silly people can be with their opinions, but in getting used to it they’re getting used to the adult world where people’s expectations just increase more and more and more over time. Eventually you can get to the point where an entire 20 year friendship can end over just one series of misunderstood text messages, as though those messages somehow unlock some secret identity they’ve been hiding for two decades.

Half the time people show me one of those and say, can you believe they said that? and I won’t even be able to find the offence they’re talking about without all of the history they’re loading the text with. Even the word ok gets seen as some sign of hostility. If people are going to be that finicky then the problem isn’t you, it’s their ridiculous standards. People aren’t here for you and you aren’t here for them. We’re all in this together and we either act like that or we pretend we can somehow survive without people that disagree with us.

By fifty most people have realised that their giant collection of school friends was really just a bunch of other insecure kids who were taught all kinds of unrealistic expectations. Those same expectations will cause people to desert or blame others and before they know it everyone’s left with just their true friends; the people who will accept them warts and all. And the outcast had that already in school. It was the rest of us living in a fantasy, not the kid playing D&D.

Don’t perform for others and don’t ask others to perform for you. The problems aren’t out in the world they are within you. You have resistance to other people’s ways of being just like they have resistance to your way of being. How can it make sense for two people who believe in democracy to hate each other because one’s a Democrat and one’s a Republican when they can’t even have the democracy they value so much without each other? It’s crazy, and yet people do it every day.

There’s a lot of people sitting on the gunnels of your boat and almost nothing will knock them out. A lot of people never intended to stay so they have gotten on and off and various ports of call. Others really needed some serious storms to get knocked out, but a precious few clung to your boat extra hard during the storms and those are the people who are willing to tough out the hard parts of life with you. That’s your tribe and those are the most valuable people you’ll know. So don’t see yourself as losing friends as you age, see it as chiselling away acquaintances to reveal the solid foundation of your very best friendships.

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.