Switch Day

1240 Relax and Succeed - Feelings are just visitors

Don’t make the mistake of assuming the externalities of your life improve if you come to greater awareness. They often will, but that’s a byproduct and it’s missing the point. The point is that living with greater awareness about how you function means that you can be okay in any situation, not that you can turn any bad situation into a good one. This isn’t about changing the world, it’s about changing you to better suit the world.

One of the weird downsides to your own health is that the more people live in ego, the sicker you’ll appear. Egos adjust to society, but society is a construct. A healthy person moves through the world moved by their internal motivations, not by external rules. They’re not good or decent or compassionate because it’s legal or the right thing to do, they’re those things because they see innocence in everyone because they know they used to be that person too; someone often lost in thought. And so compassion feels like it’s in order.

This means you’ll defy convention, you won’t feel motivated to accept invitations you don’t want, you’ll say ‘no’ more often, you’ll spend your time with the world rather than talking about the world in unaccepting ways, and you won’t engage with people in the often hurtful gossip that egos can build whole ‘friendships’ around. But maybe the weirdest thing you do will be to make an emotional switch that others presume is impossible.

1240 Relax and Succeed - Your mind is an attention-pointing deviceA good example is an argument. Even in the heat of the moment, we can maintain our sense that we are not our thoughts. This third-person observer-view provides us an escape route, but it doesn’t mean the other person will take it with us. I have angrily said to people, I know I love you so I know something is off because I’m yelling! But I cannot get to that love right now, so I just want to stop! Their reaction is generally to look at you like you’re nuts. That is not a change they’re likely to have witnessed before.

Calming down and engaging in a normal conversation then makes that worse. Because a healthy person lives in the moment, so they don’t worry about the past because they cannot act to change it. Healthy people focus on where they can make a difference, which is why they rarely if ever complain about weather. So they let it go and just want to reconnect.

Meanwhile, the other person is still engaged in ego, talking to themselves about you instead of talking to you. To them you must still be angry too so now your positive change seems suspicious or even unhealthy. Funny isn’t it; that we can get so sick that having someone calm themselves and treat us better leads to us thinking something’s wrong?

1240 Relax and Succeed - A mood isn't weatherBottom line, the switch is the healthiest version of being responsible. It is a move from a fearful and painful emotion to a centered and loving feeling. But to be able to do it in a situation like intense anger, you need to practice it on smaller emotions. So today find one. Find just one situation where you’re in the midst of feeling strongly and negatively, and then make your own switch. Acknowledge where you are, accept that the move you’re making is challenging, and then stumble through it as best you can. Do that enough times and you can get really good at it, just like you learned to walk by falling.

Do it today. Find your example of feeling betrayed, or sad, or frustrated, or angry, or depressed, or fearful, and note that those sensations are created by your brain chemistry which in turn is incited by your thinking. Remember that the feelings aren’t you, that they are what you are doing, and then do something else more likely to generate better feelings. Use the video in yesterday’s blog post if you need to.

Prove to yourself you can make this change and then practice it. Because if everyone can do it, then calming down suddenly will look normal, rather than strange. And prolonged anger will look less healthy, and that in turn will motivate people to avoid it. In this way, individual by individual, society will shift to healthier behaviours. You absolutely can do it. But to do it you must choose to do so. Start making that choice today.

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.

Pressured by Indecision

We think it’s the situation. We feel the pressure comes from the deadlines, or the bosses, or the schedule, or maybe it’s the kids, family obligations, commitments or responsibilities. But we tend to experience it as an outside-in kind of pressure but that’s misleading because it’s really inside-out.

Pressure isn’t some force your boss sends through an email or that your kids write down in your schedule. It’s something we create within ourselves with our resistant thinking and yet it’s a useful signalling system. Feeling down is not the same as overwhelmed and if there’s one thing I see a lot of otherwise “successful” people doing, it is being overwhelmed.

We’re in the midst of one of worst recessions ever where I live and you can easily tell that a lot of the population is struggling with bills, juggling two part time jobs instead of one full time (if they’re lucky), and they can’t afford as much external support etc. etc. etc. Bosses know they can be more demanding in a tight job market, and the time and money challenges impact marriages, kids relationships with their parents, diets, and even health. As I often remind people, nowhere in the deal to be human does it say that life will only give you 50 marbles for your 50 marble jar.

Pressure starts on the 51st marble and increases from there. Eventually we can get to the point where no matter what we accomplish with busy-ness we’re still seeing marbles drop all over the place. By then we know we’ve waited a bit long to act and so the universe is starting to yell. You may think it’s outside-in pressure, but the universe understands it’s inside-out.

The so-called pressure is created by you wanting to hold onto all of those marbles and their relative importance, so you take on too much work to try to prevent losses. It is also created by watching marbles fall and wanting that to stop, so that also creates a painful sense of loss. And finally, it is also created by wanting to avoid the consequences if we let the marbles fall.  Since the first two are impossible, the reduction in resistance (aka pressure) will take place only when we cease imagining a future that can’t exist and we quiet our minds and accept our current situation and then make our sacrifice.

As an example, I have to make my own decisions about being overloaded with marbles. Not only do recessions tend to create a lot of marbles, but so does looking after two elderly parents and their many appointments, keeping up with two households and two yards, all while trying to maintain a high level of work and also accomplishing some critical administration tasks that modern life requires. Right now, my daily demands would literally take 28 hours per day to complete. Oh yeah, and I’d like to sleep and eat in there too somewhere.

For those reasons and many others, starting next week I’m cutting the blog down to one a week for the remainder of the summer. The timing is coincidental but good. A lot of my regular readers are less frequent in summer (understandably), but the real reason is I simply cannot afford the time.

The blog is important to me because I know it’s helped people I’ve never even met except by email or phone, and I know it’s also a touchstone for many of my former students and that they use it keep themselves on track. In both groups, I’m pleased to report that those that keep themselves the most balanced read the blog the most. So I know it has a lot of value to a lot of you but I must weigh that against my context. As important as each marble is, I simply cannot hold more than 50.

So how do I decide what to spill? That’s a personal judgment call every time, but if we resign ourselves to the fact that these decisions actually need to be made then we can just wake up from our pressured suffering and remember that we are still free. We prioritize things and then cut from the bottom. It’s actually quite easy, it just takes a while before we’re prepared to accept that, without changes, we’ll never catch up on our marbles. The time in between is called pressure, but it will always be created by delayed decisions and it will always be resolved by deciding which sacrifices to make.

We can be a bit like the proverbial frog in boiling water with pressure. The temperature can rise slowly and we can accommodate our expectations to a degree, but eventually we’re scalded with some harsh, painful truth. So it’s better to drop the excess marbles before someone tries to add so many that they smash the whole glass. And dropping them won’t even be too painful. You just have to remember to avoid focusing on the 20 that fall so you can focus on the 50 you saved instead.

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.

Falling For Your Life

If you feel like everything is going wrong you can relax. If you’re worried you’ve made some terrible decision that will doom you, you haven’t. You just tend to think that feelings will stay when feelings are bad but no feeling is final. They just keep piling up until they make a big pile called your life.

That makes no sense to you because you want to know what to do, how to improve, how to grow and repair and fix and change. You wonder why you’re not enough, or why the world is the way it is, and yet everything is perfect. You imagine perfect as where everyone gets along, but that would be a boring life. You watch no movies or TV about everyone getting along perfectly because that would not interest you.

What interests you is overcoming. What you overcome is largely irrelevant, but your spirit punishes you for sitting still and it rewards movement and creation, and so your spirit naturally feels enthusiastic about movement. So live more of your life and plan less of it. Being aware in the moment will do you more good than an ideal plan.

Remember the Kierkegaard quote I noted a few weeks back? Life can only be understood backwards but it must be lived forwards. Your job isn’t to consciously understand why your flake of snow landed here or there, your job is to just pile up into your natural life; your job is to just stay awake and react naturally from there. Yes, naturally will include “mistakes” and naturally will also include “improvements” you’ve made on previous “mistakes” but that’s more an evolution than conscious change. You want to stop being so conscious of your self-judgments and more conscious of your actual life.

The truth is you can’t go wrong. What feels wrong is when you don’t yet understand looking back, the life you’ve already lived going forward. But those are two separate processes. Stop expecting them to align. The living is always ahead of the understanding. That’s not things going wrong, that’s things going perfectly.

Stop complaining about where you are and who you are and what you’re doing. You don’t even know where you’re really going. So surrender your need for specific outcomes. Instead, anticipate that, whatever comes, if you live with awareness and allow your wisdom to flow, your next step will make itself apparent, even if that step seems crazy at the time.

Every life is a crazy path. But don’t ignore yours because it isn’t matching your expectations. Frankly, your expectations would be too low. Your life has greater intentions for you than that.

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.

Managing Frustration

You know those times where you work hard on something and yet no matter how hard you try or how important it is, it just won’t work? It’s worthwhile focusing on how to manage frustration because unmanaged, it soon becomes anger. Then, before you know it it’s not your challenge that’s the challenge, it’s your state of mind.

Step one is to be more emotionally aware. Don’t be the frustration, realise that it is a product of your use of your consciousness. If you want to change how you feel you need to change what you’re focused on. The frustration emerges from that focus being on your desire. All you start seeing is that a) you want it, and b) you can’t have it. But those are both things that don’t relate to your actual problem, they are judgments regarding your inability to solve it. That’s quite different than tackling the actual solving.

After I’ve noted I’m feeling the emotion, the first thing I try to check for is my two common mistakes: I’m overtired or really hungry. I’m normally better at these, but with my life being very naturally busy at this stage there isn’t as much choice in these matters as I would like. But I can still make sure I rest and eat when it’s most helpful. It’s a challenge I’m actively working on.

Another action to take is to remove yourself temporarily from the problem. Ideally this is to do something entirely unrelated, like spending time playing a game, or walking in nature, seeing loved ones (including pets), as well as things like cooking or other non-word-based activities like gardening or photography. It can even be a 20 minute power nap.

It’s said that Thomas Edison, when stuck on a problem, sat in a rocking chair with a fork pinched between his two fingers, which he hung over a metal pie plate he placed on the floor next to him. As he fell asleep his grasp would ease, the fork would clatter down and Edison would be awakened in a fresh state of mind, having let go all of his previous avenues of thought.

Remember, frustration is the overuse of one area of your mind. You burn it out, and if you’ve been through it exhaustively then the answer just isn’t there. The only thing that prevents you from abandoning the path you’re on is your own self-generated internal dialogue about how much work you don’t want to abandon. That causes your narratives to keep trying to meaninglessly convey the importance of your deadline or the thing itself. It doesn’t matter how important those are if you’re not looking in the right place for your answer. It’s time to accept that reality and regroup and set out in a new direction. Your emotions are guiding you wisely.

After you’ve done your reset, simply relooking at the problem will often present new ideas for solutions. This is where all of your seemingly wasted previous work becomes useful because, by working so hard on figuring something out, you get to know its component parts extremely well. Once you find your path you really can move faster.

Sometimes this needs to be done multiple times on a task. I watched a guy go for about 20 walks on his way to trying to building a model airplane. I remember him telling me that he found it hard to surrender, but he knew from experience that it was better to go for the walks than to smash the airplanes. Indeed, it’s easier if you start the management process before you’ve lost your cool numerous times.

A lot of anger would be avoided if people managed their irritations and frustrations more actively. Work on yours this week. Stay aware of your state of mind and actively manage it to your maximum benefit. You’ll be more productive, happier and you’ll enjoy what you’re doing a lot more. Here’s to a great week for all of you.

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.

Completely You

Your ego spends its time trying to think it’s way through its existence. It wants to find what you perceive as a healthy route through life, and you want your route, not just any route. You imagine there is a tightrope to walk and that you need to work to maintain your balance. The answer always feels outside of you. You do not imagine this tightrope is in fact the entire universe and that you were born balanced.

You’re a terrible procrastinator because you have this fear of not doing it right, or maybe you think it isn’t the right thing for the real you to do. Whatever your ego’s story is, it will always talk to you about its fears or limits. But then the deadline looms too closely and then what happens? Boom. You can work. There is so little time left that you rationally don’t have the time to think about unproductive things, and you zoom through the work. So why can’t you do that the rest of the time?

You keep looking for a route with none of the things that you tend to call mistakes, or problems, or difficulties, or struggle. And in doing so you create for yourself a ton of opportunities for mistakes, problems, difficulties and struggle. Your answer isn’t to do something differently, it’s to feel differently about what you do. All of those so-called challenges are in fact life, and the overcoming of them is living it. Only your layer of egocentric stories makes all of those things personal.

The radical part for you is to imagine your crazy, screwed up life as actually being lived perfectly, where even your questions are a part of your answer. Like the stumbling, bumbling, goofy source of comedy that many smart stories contain, you are in fact perfect in your imperfection.

Indeed the world rolls forward on the basis of you continually trying to make sense of it, but the point isn’t for it to make sense, the point is to enjoy the act of converting its potential into a form of personal sense. That’s how you reconcile everyone’s disparate opinions–you allow them to stay separate. It’s like every drama you’ve ever watched. If it had no conflict to overcome you would never have watched it. Each channel is showing a different drama and yet the only reason anyone watches any of them is for the drama itself.

Can you imagine looking at your life but not feeling personal about it? Can you imagine living it more like your ego is a game piece, than a person? That your ego is merely the character you play in this game? And that it’s an improv piece, so there’s no way for you to get any lines right or wrong, they just lead to something funnier or less funny….?

That’s your life right there. If you can see this whole thing is just one big silly drama that just ends with you leaving the cast, then it all seems less serious. And ironically, by making the “results” of your “life” less serious, you’ll make the living of that life much more profound.

You don’t need to be found, you have never been lost. You don’t need more, you need less. You don’t need to change, you need to realise. Just for today, try to imagine that your life is going perfectly–imagine that even your embarrassing moments or terrible performances are all a part of what you’re supposed to do as an enlightened person. Because that’s true.

There is no way to be outside of this game. All you can do is play or not play. So don’t avoid playing so that you can figure out how to play. Do the crazy-radical thing and accept yourself instead, and all the love you’ll ever need will flow to you when you do.

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.