There are two types of stress. One is brought on by a set of conditions and the other is brought on by a set of thoughts. One is obligatory, one is voluntary. The first is quite natural but the second is a construct. In fact the second version didn’t even exist until language had progressed far enough to develop abstract terms like and time and achieve and complete. As much as it might seem like it, those are not things they are ideas. And when the Buddha refers to the illusion it’s those ideas he was referring to.
Thanks to some lottery-win kind of incredible luck (coupled with a lot of really hard work) my entire life will drastically change this week. For a large chunk of time I have been under a great deal of time stress. The demands of my life mean I simply haven’t been able to afford more than four hours sleep each day, virtually every meal has been rushed, and if those two things were happening you can easily guess that I also haven’t been getting regenerative time with friends or family either. Laughing and relaxing are worth a lot. These things all constitute what we’ll call external physical stresses and they can carry quite an accumulative impact.
What I wasn’t doing was adding psychological stress on to my physical stress. That is to say, I accepted my workload and schedule as a fait accompli. It was simply going to happen. so I didn’t carry out my long day having any kind of argument with myself about the fairness, reasonableness or danger of it. I could have, but I just took the step in front of me. Sometimes that step was to plan for 50 steps ahead, but after the plan was created I was back to the step I was on.
Of course I would stray off that path relatively regularly, especially when I was particularly tired or hungry. But my emotions—the bad ones, the ones I don’t like—would occur and I would immediately check in as to their source. Of course the chemistry I feel is the chemistry I’ve asked for with my thinking. If I’m sitting thinking worried or anxious or angry or sad thoughts about my situation then I am dumping the chemistry out for different flavours of stress. So if I’ve asked for them I shouldn’t be surprised that I got them.
The sensation—the emotions I didn’t like—was what signalled me to go quiet and accept my physical stress. Psychological Stress is always self-created and voluntary. That’s not to say it isn’t useful to experience at times, but overall it’s quiet debilitating to people and it’s generally best to avoid it.
Believe in yourself. Don’t argue with your hills. Look forward to how your greatness will conquer them. Sense your own victory as though it has already happened and then just carry out the motions. Any suffering is only thinking.
It’s no irony to me that this young man can see the value of life far better than most. It is no surprise to me that he would learn Zen Master mind control. He had no choice. He needed it just to survive. And if you have the courage to watch this, keep in mind that if Jonathan Pitre can find this many ways to be grateful and positive, then the only thing that’s stopping you from doing likewise is you. This is one of the most courageous people I’ve ever encountered:
That’s pretty powerful, huh? I know. I cried, and then I sat there afterwards, almost embarrassed at how bad I am at being grateful. I needed this just to get me centred again. Fortunately it worked perfectly. I’ve always loved Alan Watts:
Who would have ever thought that compassion would be the key to a winning formula in an ultra-masculine sport? You would think something like car racing wouldn’t even be a team sport, but it very much is. And when I listened to former Formula One World Champion Peter Windsor discuss what was required to win at that level, I wasn’t surprised to learn that he used the same techniques that any smart business leader will use with any team working in any business.
When asked how and why Nigel Mansell was able to win a World Championship in Formula One racing, his Team Manager Peter Windsor (now head of Formula One‘s web presence) pointed out that you ultimately needed two things: an intensely passionate team who had found ways to truly love what they did, and those people had to be as passionate about each other as they were for winning. And so Peter Windsor, a journalist with no real business experience, was able to assemble a winning team in the toughest, richest sport in the world. So why is a guy with no business experience beating people with tons? Because you can go to work and spend 15 years learning, or you can do like a lot of people I know and you can do the same year 15 times and not learn a thing. Peter Windsor learns.
There are two kinds of managers: militaristic and humanistic. The former believes you should listen because of your title and the manager’s title and it’s simply a top-down pyramid where the crap flows downhill. The humanistic manager is much more humble and open. He’s more like oil and his team members are like engine parts. His job is to keep them flowing smoothly. He can’t presume to know how to manage the group because the group dictates that, not the manager. What a ridiculous idea that the same management systems would apply to a different group of people! So a bunch of lazy introverts requires the same techniques as a bunch of A-type overachievers? Hardly. And anyone who thinks so is absolutely going to be a blind manager. Blind to what? Blind to what needs actual management.
Engineers are very often very technical and almost Asperger-ish in their disinterest in human emotion. This is precisely because they see the emotions as being extraneous to the process—which it’s hard to argue—but nevertheless, as the rest of know, those very emotions are often at the core of our efforts. So some of the engineers can be passionately focused on winning by ignoring emotion whereas others on the team will be just as passionate about the teammates themselves. So part of Windsor’s job was to either run interference between these two groups, or to ensure that they are the right sorts of people to be able to communicate effectively without his help. Because you can have the smartest people in the world working together and it will be useless as long as they can’t communicate and share their abilities. And that told me that Windsor would have succeeded in any business he went in to. Because he understands that ultimately what makes a team successful is how well it shares.
Lewis Hamilton is a brilliant, intuitive driver. He’s just come off a winning season but Windsor’s concerned about his next season. They’ve changed engineers from one that was very human and engaged with Lewis as an intuitive. He would listen carefully to Lewis’s intuitive feedback and he would translate it into the numbers on his computer screen. This year they’ve gone with a different engineer and Windsor rightfully picks up that this may be fatal for Lewis’s season. If the person responsible for the car can’t communicate well with the person driving it, then I think you can see that F1 truly is a team sport, because the car will end up being worked on hard and built to some strange standard that lives in the unshared world of two people who aren’t truly communicating. Windsor would know to either go translate, or get a different engineer. That is the smartest kind of management—to see a team as an organic, living being that must be treated like a living thing and not a list of jobs that pull on each other like levers.
If you’re in business and you’re looking to maximize the impact of your team, the most important thing you can do is clearly identify the goal, and then ensure that every team member is genuinely invested in helping his teammates achieve their aspect of that larger goal. So in essence, everyone is helping everyone, which removes what I term friction in a business.
Friction slows a race car down and friction slows a business down. If you have two or more people infighting over something, then the life force that those people arrive at work with each day will not be expended on getting the car to go faster or the business to do better, it will be expended battling against each other. Now that friction can be healthy when used for development of ideas when it’s done in the most positive ways. But it cannot be allowed to drift into personal friction, where people are now battling each other. Once we start yelling we’ve stopped arguing for a point and now we’re arguing for ourselves.
There was a lot of business people at the event this past weekend. It took place at one of my clients, Modern Auto Body, a super-high end auto body shop that more reconstructs high end cars than fixes them. And the audience was filled with financially successful business people. But financial success doesn’t mean those businesses didn’t have even more head room. Because anyone in there that wasn’t running their team with the respect for friction that Windsor has—that business person has left a lot on the table. Because a stronger manager would draw more value from those same people by treating them, not as pegs filling job slots but, as human beings who spend half of their waking life at work. If you can make that work inspiring and have the team feel like a family, then you will have created the hardest, most conscientious workers there are.
I loved the event and I loved spending some quality time with a man who I not only respect for his achievements, but also for his humanity. I think it was summed up nicely when I asked a female non-race fan if she had enjoyed his talk, and she told me that she had loved it, and that it was very impressive to her how much Windsor genuinely cared about his team. She noted that he always knew such beautiful personal details about the lives of his team members, and that he always spoke with such reverence about everyone from the driver and engineer all the way on down to the 160th member of the team. I had the same reaction. It’s the same one I have whenever I’m around the people who’ve lead the most holistically successful lives. Because if you just win races but hate every minute of it, then you haven’t won anything at all. So ultimately it wasn’t the World Championship that made Peter Windsor—it was the love for his co-workers that made him the great man and leader that he still is to this day.
Now go be a good team member on whatever team you’re on, be it at home or work. And always remember to drive safe out there. All the best. 😉
The Other Perspectives series is about challenging existing beliefs, so this one might seem easy to dismantle as spiritually illogical when my message is always that you’re not responsible for what others choose to think, nor are other people responsible for your thoughts. But at the same time we must take into account that we are surrounded by people who are still asleep. And so they do take opinions (other people’s and their own), far too seriously—which is a psychological and spiritual mistake—but that being the case, it would be wise to pay attention to where their realities come from. People learn better when they feel safe and happy and their minds are open. So while you don’t want to go sacrificing too much, at the same time there’s no need to share harsh words or criticisms in 95% of cases. I know people who were given minor insults forty years ago and still most of their life is spent trying to avoid fulfilling that childhood definition. People are overly sensitive, and yes we’re—and they’re—going to say things we don’t mean when we’re angry or upset, but nevertheless we need to have a faith in the inherent goodness of people. What they say to us quite literally has far more to do with how they’re feeling about their life than about any one person in the present moment. And regardless, one waver on anyone’s part is not a death knell. So since all that correcting isn’t working anyway, why don’t we commit and go for it? What if we said: don’t bother speaking unless you have something nice to say. Because that’s good for both you and everyone else. It will bring out the best in everyone. Yes, like anything in life from jetlag to a new baby, changes take time to get used to. But if you truly make it a priority in your day it will soon become a healthy habit. And by changing yourself you will have made the whole of the world better too. Congratulations.
Note: Everyone who posts or shares a quote does so with the very best of intentions. That said, I have created the series of Other Perspectives blog posts in an effort to prevent some of these ideas from entering into people’s consciousness unchallenged. These quotes range from silly to dangerous and—while I intend no offense to their creators—I do use these rebuttals to help define and delineate the larger message I’m attempting to convey in my own work. I do hope you find them helpful in your pursuit of both psychological and spiritual health.
Before I took more control over my thoughts I had a bit of a temper. It wasn’t bad by temper standards, but there’s people you’d never say had a temper and I wanted to be one of them because it seemed to me that it was a damaging state of mind to be in. Now I can still get angry if I’m tired or hungry—even really angry every few years if those conditions are extreme—but it’s been decades since I’ve had anything you’d call a temper. It’s not a common place I go to. I’ve got it down to fairly minor levels of irritation with occasional moments of sharp frustration and thankfully whatever negative state of mind I get into I can also get out of pretty quickly.
I don’t totally want to dispel my negative emotions because I need them for contrast so that I know which feelings I truly want to actualize in my life. They are like guidance systems—like the rumble strips on the side of the highway. They quite clearly tell me I’m headed in the wrong direction. Sometimes our battle is with our ego—where we’re just talking to and undermining ourselves. But if we follow our sense of something—if we’re working hard at it and it still feels unpleasant despite the fact our mind is quiet and uncomplaining, then that is the universe’s communication to you that it’s time for the next part of your adventure. This is not a problem. This is notification of an opportunity.
All emotions are reactions to calculations in our consciousness. If we see a tiger and our brain processes what it knows about the humans and tigers and the reaction is fear, that in turn doses you with adrenaline and a variety of other biological agents. So if you’re focused on irritating and frustrating things all day long—as a great many people voluntarily do—that leaves you primed to have an angry reaction. Most of the chemistry is already present and you just need to add a trigger and you’ll jump up to the next level of chemistry, which takes your intense frustration and adds the last dose to create full-on anger. And yet, if that same trigger had hit been injected into the day of a person who hadn’t spent their day in that part of their brain, then the impact would have been far less pronounced.
Getting angry is something everyone does. It’s human, so there’s no reason to make it go completely away. But do we want that flush of chemistry to lead us to make poor decisions for our future? Obviously not. So it’s in our own best, selfish interests to try not to go there any more than we have to. And you don’t fix that just before you explode in anger. You fix it by not priming yourself all day to get angry. Because if you do that you’ll start spending so much time angry that instead of being frustrated you actually will have a temper.
You don’t want your emotional set-point to be an angry, tight emotion. Go there when it’s appropriate, but in a huge number of cases you’ll never even need to start feeling that way. Because if you’re not watching the world all day for stuff that bothers you, then that frees up time for you notice how great people and the world really are. And that is like armour for whenever you do have to deal with things you don’t enjoy.
Stop letting your thoughts run wild or they’ll convince you you’re the issue rather than that your thinking is unconscious. Use your emotions as guides to help you pay better attention to where your thoughts are at, and if you don’t feel good just shift your attention to something better. Stop yourself at irritation or frustration–before you reach anger. Divert your thinking and divert the chemistry. The more you do it the more you get better at it. Do that enough and you will have built yourself an amazing untempered life. 🙂
You don’t usually think of your daily movement as exercise, nor do you see your food as nutrition. That only happens if you’re conscious about losing/gaining weight, or if you have a medical reason. Otherwise you’re just moving when you’re moving and you’re eating when you’re eating. But let’s take a moment to look at that from another perspective.
If you are very conscious about your physicality then you will spend less time self-talking with your ego and instead you’ll be fully in your body. When I help a hockey player improve his or her mental game, I’m getting him or her to stop thinking so they can start being. You don’t have to be deep in the playoffs to be in the zone, you can be in the zone when you’re vacuuming. Because that zone has nothing to do with the sport—it has to do with the state of mind of the participant. So yes, eat healthy and keep moving and in shape, but all of that means nothing if you’re not enjoying the life you’re trying to extend. Which is where the food analogy comes in.
Think of your thinking as eating. If you eat junk it might taste awesome, but you will pay for that if you continue to do it over time. There are no rights and wrongs, but there are definitely consequences. So you eat at home and you eat out. Home is your thoughts. You have virtually total control over what gets cooked and how it gets eaten. Away is outside ideas that you get exposed to. So watching your favourite TV show or reading a book or listening to the news, or having a conversation with a friend—all of these things are like dining out. And like food to a body, exposure to unhealthy thoughts will eventually construct an unhealthy psyche.
If you watch shows about crime all day long on TV, then you will definitely become more paranoid, suspicious, and frightened. If you watch COPS all the time you’ll view both the police and the black community differently than if you didn’t watch COPS. This is why psychologists often get depressed. Their job is to sit and listen to people’s worst days all day long. How could that not suck? Whatever you put into your consciousness will generate an immediate result, and over time that result will become a habit.
If your friends all bitch, you’ll start to bitch. If you stand around while people judge people, you’ll start to judge people more. If you watch the news every night you won’t be told the most useful things, or the most important. You’ll be told what will keep you in your seat until the next commercial, and that will overwhelmingly be things that frighten or anger you, and they’ll usually finish off with something to titillate or charm you. But that’s how the news gets chosen. By how likely the story is to keep you seated using primarily fear and anger. They want you to be scared or angry so you’ll keep watching. But over time, that pollutes your mind. It gets you to believe in a world that doesn’t exist. The crime rate’s gone down in my city for something like 37 straight years, and yet I’ve never seen the place more worried about bad things happening.
Pay attention to what your mind consumes. Because if you’re not conscious about the effects, you’ll end up inadvertently reprogramming your mind in ways you may not enjoy. Think of every conversation and every piece of media as a plate of someone else’s reality, and every moment you continue to be around it you are spooning more and more of that reality into yourself.
You are what you eat. Eat thoughts and ideas that expand your spirit and you will help the whole world be healthy.
My husband left me for my best friend almost 15 years ago and everyone says I should be over it. That’s easy to say, but not-thinking about someone when
they have betrayed you is hard. I read your blogs and I know that I have to
forgive him but I don’t want to. I want to be mad. I think he deserves it.
But I’m worried that’s not the right thing spiritually.
I hope it helps you to learn that this is very common. It’s very human. It really is. Lots of people feel that way. They look at their life and there’s nothing really wrong with now, it’s just that there’s this thing that’s lurking in the past. And we’re worried it’s going to happen again, so we’re extra alert and on watch for anything suspicious. The only problem with that is: almost anything can look suspicious if that’s the eye you’re looking at it with. Oops.
Let’s get real, okay? Because you’re talking about a psychological place as though it’s where you live, and yet you’re ignoring actual reality. Your suspicious thoughts about your spouse will cause you to have a chemical reaction relating to being threatened. But of course there is no immediate threat—there is only the story you’re making up to tell yourself. You claim this is just you being cautious or thinking ahead, but in reality it’s just an excuse to think a thought whose chemistry you’re addicted to.
Reality does not happen outside of you. There is no objective reality. We each see the world differently because our experiences have trained us to have different sets of filters on our eyes and other senses. So there is no way to reconcile and align everyone’s realities. You can only surrender to the knowledge that all any of us will ever see is whatever we are imagining at any given moment. And so it doesn’t matter what happens outside of you, what matters is what you think you’re supposed to do with what’s happening inside of you.
Your issue isn’t that this thing happened. Every life has horrible experiences a person could choose to remember. Your issue is that you keep choosing to remember the same set of events over and over and over for a decade and a half. Go ahead, tell us how hard it was and how we don’t understand your pain. You still know there’s nothing in life that should be taking 15 years to get over.
This isn’t 15 years ago. This is daily for you. Your resentments, your fears, your thoughts, considerations, ruminations and opinions are where you spend your day. That is the chemical structure of where you’re choosing to live. So you want to forgive your ex-husband for one simple reason: he doesn’t even know you’re hating him, meanwhile you’re surrendering your life to hating while he’s out living his life. This is a crazy addiction and it’s time you broke it. You’re like a person who drinks poison in the hopes that their enemy will die.
Start by listening to people who you know love you. So if your family or friends are trying to get you to go out, go! These people love you. Why would you assume time with them would be anything other than nurturing and caring? Have more fun. Take the energy you used to put into remembering this event or being afraid of that event and instead use that same energy to do something fun or exciting or rewarding. Live. This is a short trip we have here. You don’t want to sit still wasting it.
The past is the past. It does not dictate the future any more than a wake pushes a ship, as Alan Watts used to say. If you spend a lot of time talking about or thinking about days gone by then you are spending today reliving yesterday. It’s your choice, but when you feel death coming I can assure you that you will be wanting more time for life and you will wonder why you chose to squander so much of it while you engaged your consciousness in thoroughly pointless and painful activities like remembering only the painful parts of your past.
You are a free person. You can take your thoughts in any direction you choose. So don’t keep habitually choosing the same directions out of blind habit. Become conscious. Think actively. Use your thinking to create the world where you want to live. It’ll never be perfect, but that’s what’s so perfect about it–there’s always something interesting to do. We just have to have our eyes open to so that we can notice it when it does present itself.
Stop being a habit and start being alive. Disengage from old thinking. Change your thoughts, change your life. There’s a lot of living that needs to be done and we need you to climb aboard your own life and sail it into uncharted waters. It’s time to start investing your days with your awareness raised, which will in turn help you realize much more joy and wonder out of this grand adventure that is life.
If we have eyes like a child, we can easily turn the smallest thing into the greatest experience. Life is fantastic. Stop reliving old ugly parts of it and start having a true adventure. We’re waiting for you. I’ll see you out there. 😉