The Suffering Child

Parents are often inadvertently cruel to their children. It’s an entirely innocent mistake. They don’t even notice they’re doing it because they don’t recognize that they live in a separate reality from their kids. That’s the kind of thing I would think about. It’s the reason I’m weird. The things I spent my childhood and adolence and adulthood thinking about are not the kinds of things people usually think about—at least not until they’re doing something like studying philosophy in university. And so without that more complete perspective, very loving parents can easily end up really disrespecting their own kids.

566 Relax and Succeed - Too often we underestimate the power of a touchThe trick is that both the parent and kid will generally see the world as being out there and happening to them. It’s an outside-in approach. But in reality it’s the other way around. The outside world exists because of the choices you make in your interior world—the world of your thinking. And because the definition of an individual is someone who thinks their own thoughts, it means that everyone is living in a different matrix of belief and awareness.

How this translates to the relationship between a parent and child is that the parent uses their life reference points when discussing things with their kid. But that lacks empathy, because you’re not really talking about the same thing. Case in point: if a kid is going through their first romantic breakup it’s normal that they’re completely upended by the experience. Tortured. Agonized. Maybe in tears, maybe angry, maybe so hurt they bury themselves. But it’s real pain. The problem is that the parent then contextualizes this against their life experience.

What this all means is that the parent looks at the breakup on a 50 year scale of life events. With that kind of perspective they can realize that they have had numerous painful breakups, but that’s been mixed in with marriages, babies, illnesses, the deaths of people and pets. The experience is graded on a much finer curve with an adult. But the adult needs to remember that, whether you’ve cut off a finger or an arm, it hurts all the same. That from the kid’s perspective, the breakup could be the most painful experience they have ever had.

566 Relax and Succeed - A smart person knowsSure they will eventually have additional experiences that will make the current one seem less powerful, but for now this is all they can know and telling them about how it’ll feel better is useless to them. We don’t hear about experiences, we have them. That’s the only way we know anything. If it’s the kid’s worst experience ever then it deserves compassion. They don’t know that it won’t seem so bad when compared to the rest of their life. So their biggest loss is best compared to your biggest loss—even if that loss is much greater in relative terms. Because that’s the point: everything is relative.

Don’t be dismissive of your kids experiences. Take the time to remember what these things are like at their age. Be like a writer and actually take the time to remember what it was like to be different ages. You might be surprised at what you remember. And the more you do it, you might be surprised at how good you get at it. And that will help a great deal with being empathetic toward your children.

Bottom line, it’s important to always respect the feelings of others as genuine. But in doing so, always do your best to remember that pain is pain and diminishing that with casual offers of future comfort is to miss an opportunity to make a powerful and useful connection with another human being. And all the better if that human being is your child. Have an awesome day.

peace. s

The Fearlessness of Innocence

My kids will try anything. I want to be more like that. Why are children so fearless?

signed,
Admiring Parent

Dear Parent,

Please don’t want to be like that because then that’s what you’ll be being—someone wanting to be fearless rather than being someone who is fearless. And really meditate on that idea because there’s gold in there. Wanting is a verb. If you’re verbing that, you can’t be verbing being fearless. You’re always being something, start getting conscious about the choices you’re making through the narratives you’re telling yourself with your thoughts.

416 Relax and Succeed - It's not  the future that you're afraid ofThe advantage your kids have is they’re not “grown up” enough to have many judgmental thoughts about the world so they’re in the world. When I was in Irian Jaya deep in the mountain jungle I saw very little children doing amazing things. I asked a very wise anthropologist if she’d ever seen any of the kids fall when they would traverse great heights by walking across narrow trees, she said in 23 years she’d never heard of a child falling.

What impressed me so much about her was her wisdom: she had used that experience to realize that she had accidentally and inadvertently taught her children to be afraid. We would all feel comfortable crossing a few meters walking on a relatively narrow line on the pavement. But make that line a tree across a deep rocky gorge and does our body change? No, our thoughts change. We start thinking about falling. Because either we’ve fallen or our parents or others have told us about other people falling. So the term is perfect—we literally psych ourselves out.

So it doesn’t matter if you’re crossing a gorge on a tree trunk or if you’re trying to decide if you’re going to date again, if you’re anxious that’s because you want (there’s that word again) to avoid the pain you’ve experienced before. So your mind isn’t focused on building or creating something beautiful, it’s on avoiding something ugly. You don’t move forward looking backward. The fact that human beings are naturally buoyant proves that anyone can swim. What the people who “can’t swim” prove is that you can really hold yourself down with worried, fearful thinking.

416 Relax and Succeed - Stop being afraidYour kids don’t have enough history to do what you’re doing. And their friends aren’t constantly giving them advice on how to avoid pain they’ve experienced. But as an adult you try to avoid painful past experiences, and the advice your friends give will be designed to help you avoid the pain or realize the benefit they previously did, but in many cases this information is only valuable in the original context and it would only apply if you had their personality and their reaction to things. The most valuable thing anyone can do to be both happy and adventurous is to place more energy on what you want to happen than you do on what you don’t want to happen.

Stop living in your head. Stop using your imagination to calculate the downsides of every choice you make. Make them boldly and don’t try to define yourself with them, just use them as a springboard for your next set of choices. But don’t be so busy avoiding the past that you forget to live out the gift of the present moment. Because whatever mistakes you made in the past, they won’t be as damaging to your life as they will be if you use them as an excuse to throw away your future.

peace. s

Trying Not To Hate

I can’t stand a woman I work with. All she does is complain all day about everything and everybody. I’ve sat next to her since I started a few weeks ago and it doesn’t matter who she’s talking to the conversation’s all negative. She criticizes all of us and she has an opinion about every subject in the world. I’m starting to hate her and I know that’s not a good thing for me. What would you recommend I do in a situation like that?

signed,
Trying Not to Hate

Dear Trying,

How wise of you to be proactive about the feelings you were experiencing throughout your work day. I’m very impressed. And your situation is a common one so it’s good that a lot of people will be able to read about it and we can start to change everyone’s days for the better.

382 Relax and Succeed - I have decided to stick with loveFirst off, of course we all know people like this. They won’t talk about the fact that the warm weather’s a day away, they’ll tell you that the cold weather has lasted over a week. And if it’s been warm, they won’t talk about enjoying that weather, they’ll tell you about how they dread what’s coming. Essentially any subject will be referred to in critical, judgmental, opinionated, habitual ways. Early on in life too many things got wired into negativity. These are people who are very unlikely to have had healthy home lives. Essentially what you’re hearing and seeing on the outside is a direct reflection of what’s going on in the inside too. One is the shadow of the other.

Of course the person this bothers the most is the woman herself. By repetitively and consistently choosing that course-of-thought she guarantees herself a steady dose of the sort of brain and body chemistry that is hard on a person. Stress is not a good thing. To be negative is to not accept what is. It is pushing back against the Tao—the current of life—and it feels like swimming upstream because, in a cosmic way, that’s exactly what it is. She’s torturing herself with chemicals and she isn’t even aware of it. The problem for us is that she’s infected you.

At least the fix is easy. You have to reinvent her in your imagination. You have to see her a different way. Right now you’re turning what she is as being about you or having something to do with you. Such is not the case. She just is. Everyone is just a marionette for their thoughts and she’s no different. So don’t let her get you thinking in negative terms. Instead, watch her like an entomologist might watch an insect. (I don’t mean that derogatorily, I just want something we wouldn’t have cuddly feelings about.) Be passive. The scientist doesn’t think the insect is putting on a performance for him. It is simply being what it is and he is watching it in an attempt to understand it better. Do that with her.

382 Relax and Succeed - It's all about loveActually learn to watch how she forms the negativity. Understand how she hears things and what word choices she makes. You’ll see that she’s not negative, she just sees the world through very dirty glasses and so she’s just calling it as she honestly sees it. You’ll also catch her doing it to herself. Or maybe you’ll catch her doing the exact oppositeshe’ll never say anything negative about herself because she just can’t stand that anymore. But whichever one it is it will have grown out of how she was treated when she was little.

As you watch her more closely you also might notice that her life is very small and repetitive. Angry negative critical people don’t get invited out a lot, and not many people want to be their friends except other angry negative critical people. But they’re generally quite isolated both literally and figuratively. You may spot a sign of some kind of passion flickering under the armour. And it will be something warm. Something gentle and kind. Plants, horses, a faux romance with a movie star, romance novels, cats. There will be some attempt to find some warmth. Which is the basis of Step Two.

In Step Two, now that you’re not taking the way she is so personally, you can choose to make an attempt to impact your environment in a positive way. There’s no guarantee it will work because she has to actually change her thinking and you don’ t control that. But you can influence it. At this point the fact that she won’t attract a lot of friends will mean it will be easier for you to have an effect.

382 Relax and Succeed - Water is the softest thingAll you have to do is engage her in those one or two subjects where she can find joy. Talk about those with her. Build a positivity bond between you and her so that when she sees your face she associates it with happiness. Because there will be chemical bleed. If she’s just been super happy because she was having a discussion about Arabian stallions, then if a co-worker walks up and asks her something, rather than her being in her usual negative state of mind she’ll be in a positive one and so her first response is far more likely to be warmer. That’s how we all work.

So watch her, find out what makes her happy, engage her with that and then continue to watch her learn to see things in more positive ways. The great thing about it is it will help keep you mindful too. Because if you’re watching her then you won’t be creating a you with your thinking. You’ll simply be Being. And in that state you’ll notice a lot. So use what you learn to keep things steered toward the positive and you’ll slowly start to rewire her understanding of the world to include more positive responses.

She’ll be bad at it at first and you’ll feel like you’re failing but in reality it takes a while to build speed. It’ll start off that you’ll be excited to hear anything positive. And then you’ll get bits of days where she’s pretty good. And it will build and build (with the odd tumble backwards too), and within about three months you can have had quite a shift happen already. And if you maintained it she would be pretty nicely rewired within a year. She would still have times where she was down and negative, but once people have been truly happy they don’t want to stay in negativity anymore. She only stays there now because she’s never truly known happiness. But after she changes, she’ll let herself be negative for a while, but she’ll eventually shift by choice simply because she’ll know how. Because you’ll have taught her.

That’s a pretty good bet anyway.

Good luck with it. Negativity is an insidious thing. I’m glad you’re being proactive about defending your life. It’s too short to waste any of it hating anyone. Give her my love.

peace. s

 

The Creation of Ego

I am in the over 50 crowd now and thoroughly enjoying the time I can spend exploring my spirituality and your insights compliment my everyday life. One of the biggest parts of my life is my beautiful Granddaughter. I have the time now as Gramma and not Mommy to watch in wonder as she explores life and develops her own ideas. It occurred to me the other day as I watched her have a temper tantrum that we have an opportunity to remove the ego from her thinking and teach her to be free and present. She is only three and already asks questions like “Are you mad at me?” which drives me crazy. So I guess I’m asking,
when and how do we learn the ego? And what can we do differently as we
guide our children to a healthy life?

signed,
Loving Grandma

Dear Loving,

What a beautiful question. Thank you for asking it. And I’m pleased to hear you’re finding the blog useful in your personal development. It’s a wonderful thing isn’t it—to stop being our ego-selves long enough to actually notice other people being their ego-selves? That’s what 320 Relax and Succeed - Playing dress-up at age fiveyou’ve done with your granddaughter—you’re no longer an ego watching an ego. In those cases you have no awareness that you even are an ego. But you now know how to assume an out-of-ego perspective so now you can see hers too, because it’s built the very same way as yours—from thoughts we tell ourselves that we believe.

This will be a tricky question to answer in anything less than a book. Here goes:

The ego is largely a construct of language. When we morphed grunts into nouns or verbs we had no idea our creativity would lead us to create a language so complex that even the people who use it don’t have a very good grasp of it. How many people could give a really good definition of the word while or how many know that discrete and discreet are two different words? We have complex concepts made of words—things like borders and nations and money and laws and the economy and justice and fairness.

None of those things actually exist but we all act like they do. And the little thought-monkey that climbs around on those word-based concept-frameworks is your ego. And you have a different ego for every framework. And you get really really uncomfortable when your frameworks merge because there’s this weird sensation inside you because you can’t be different people for different people all at the same time. That’s why people are so nervous at their weddings. It’s a convergence of their many selves. They have to be the wild drinking buddy to their friends all while being impressive to the new relatives all while trying to look good for the cameras, and be organized enough to make sure the event is going well and—oh yeah, there’s that romantic part you don’t want to forget. Egos are busy. The Ego lives in many worlds and each is constructed of many words.

I’m definitely up for minimizing the amount of ego a child builds. This can be done by modelling caring cooperative supportive behaviour both toward and around the child. If they feel loved and see others sharing love, then that will be their understanding of what it is to live. It is also important that children have a proper understanding about how reality works and how people routinely get lost in ego anyways. So as soon as they’re able we want to ensure that the child understands that thoughts are where their feelings come from, not other people or events. This prevents them from ever experiencing psychological bullying because they simply won’t choose to replay the insults in their own consciousness because they both know better and it feels better not to (which is very reinforcing).

320 Relax and Succeed - It's not who you areWe should also model humility. So when we do get caught up in ego, we should draw attention to it, apologize for anything we did that was unloving and then forgive ourselves so that the child can see that they too are allowed to be human. We don’t need them or ourselves to be perfect to belong. Everyone belongs by birth. So their efforts to deal with their egos shouldn’t be for us, they should be for themselves. It should be a selfish act to take control over your own ego. It should be because you want to feel more joy. All the more important that the child gets modelled joy. Oh how many parents forget to model the simple enjoyment of life. Most often they are instead, understandably modelling obligation and work.

The child will learn language and get lost in ego. That’s essentially inevitable. But don’t worry about that too much because if there can be no sense of being found if there’s also not a sense of being lost. If there is no ego, there is no not-ego, for without the contrast you couldn’t even know you were Being. So don’t lament your granddaughter developing an ego to some degree. It makes the world dramatic. And it gives us something to do. And if we do that thing in just the right way, then life is wonderful no matter what happens.

So first we don’t even know there’s an is. And then we turn into an am, where we have preferences and dislikes. And then we’re a me and we have ownership and rights. And finally we’re an I with dreams and plans. I is when we finally have enough perspective to recognize there was an is and an am and a me and that you are currently being an I. And when we see how ephemeral all of these identities are we feel lost, because lost is where we should be after travelling through is, am and me and I.

320 Relax and Succeed - There are years that ask questionsThis is the point where we start to realize that we didn’t have a childhood. That’s when we realize our past is flexible. That it is changeable. That we can alter our view of things that happened and we can see that mean people were actually being protective, or angry people were actually depressed. And we realize that we weren’t what we thought we were either, and we realize even what we are today is in a state of flux, so that even makes the current us rather nebulous as well. So if it’s all up for grabs, why worry? It’s as Shakespeare said, “All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players: they have their exits and their entrances; and one man in his time plays many parts, his acts being seven ages.”

Make sure the little girl learns over time how to quiet her own thoughts, how to take conscious control over what she’s thinking whenever possible (which is really often), and then let her Be. Model joy and wonder and connection and that’s what she’ll head toward. The rest is just a drama. What character she writes for herself is less important than her awareness that it is only a character. She can think any egos thoughts she chooses, we just want to make sure that she doesn’t confuse the thoughts with the thinker.

And on what you should specifically do to help her not form an overabundance of ego? That’s easy: you should model living without ego rather than living with one, as much as possible. And I’m sure you’re already doing a better job at that than you realize. 😉

peace. s

What Are You Good At?

73 Relax and Succeed - Where the magic happensAs strange as it sounds, lot of people don’t really want to be free. That’s because the brain is good at what it’s already done and it’ll take the path of least resistance it if can. It will go toward whatever feels common. That’s what our brain got good at, so that’s the terrain it’ll seek. After that the only question regards self-perception, which will either tip toward the confident and deserving, or the insecure and undeserving.

What this means is, if you’re a confident person but your brain got good at being yelled at by an angry Dad, then you will have hated being treated that way; meaning you will pay significant prices in your life in your effort to only date people who never yell. But if you got good at being yelled at and you felt like you deserved to be yelled at, then your brain will literally be more comfortable with a spouse who yells and makes you feel smaller. Strange eh?

The first person is concerned when they’re yelled at. The second gets uncomfortable if they’re not yelled at. You’ve seen this. We all have friends who consistently choose people who treat them poorly. They just don’t know they’re free. They think they deserve to be where they are, rather than they chose to be where they are.

73 Relax and Succeed - Live out of your imaginationTo be truly free you must abandon the idea that your past must dictate your future. Just because your brain processed yelling so much that it became your “normal,” doesn’t mean you need yelling. It’s true that your ego will be so used to it, that for a while there will be an echo of desire for consistency. For a while, not being yelled at will feel a little uncomfortable.

This discrepancy will cause you to notice that you’re not-doing something. But that discomfort is just the feeling of you moving out of your comfort zone. But that’s a wonderful thing if your comfort zone includes allowing yourself to experience poor treatment by others.

I’ve used the example before: pig farmers don’t smell pigs. They’re so used to it—it’s so normal in their lives—that it’s not even there. The same goes for being treated poorly by others. If it happened a lot when you were young, you’ll think that’s normal. You’ll think that’s what you deserve. But no one deserves anything. Things just are, and you either choose to be near them or you choose to not be near them.

73a Relax and Succeed - I always wonder whySo if you want to live near pigs—or people that treat you poorly—then go ahead. That’s how freedom works and the people around you should respect your choices just as they want you to respect theirs. Just don’t blame the pigs for the smell they always have. And don’t blame people for being who they are. Just decide whether or not being near their smell is actually worth it to you.

What you’re used to is not what you are. If you have a boss that constantly belittles you, then your problem isn’t your boss (that’s his problem). Your problem is that some collection of experiences convinced you to have such a low view of yourself that you feel you either deserve poor treatment, or they convinced you that you’re so weak that you need someone else to come and rescue you from it. Neither of these things are true.

What you’re used to is not what is inevitable in your life. What’s inevitable is that you will live out your choices. And you will choose circumstances that align with who you believe you are. So believe you are strong, and beautiful, and worthwhile. Accept those facts as absolute, and then decide where and how you want to live. Because you don’t want to be choosing to live with pigs just because you’re used to a life that stinks.

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.

The Purpose of Life

You’re looking for purpose. To be settled onto your path. You want to know where you’re going so that you don’t waste energy by going the wrong way. You think you’ll have peace once you figure that one small thing out. Once you know what it all means—what it’s all for—then you’ll be able to make the sort of decisions that will guarantee success and then25 Relax and Succeed - I don't know where I'm going you’ll have earned the right to relax.

Mmmm. Maybe not.

Of all people kids are happiest. They can find joy in an old shoe box. They laugh way more than adults and they can learn like no one else. Just think of it: you learned at least one language, (maybe as many as three or four), without even trying to learn it/them, and without anyone really trying to teach it/them to you. You are a genius. Language is a fantastically complex system of algebra and you had huge chunks of it learned by two or three years old, and you were very fluent by six. Amazing. Seriously, totally, absolutely amazing.

Do you think maybe a kids enjoyment of life has something to do with how fast they learn?

Kids don’t have goals. No objectives, no plans, no grades they’re trying to get–no imaginings of their possible futures. They weren’t trying to learn to walk, or talk. They just wanted to join us either physically, or through communication. There was never any trying. Only doing. To a young enough child there is no failure, only the steps along the way. Kids primarily live in the Now right up until we teach them to do otherwise by modelling our worries and obligations and hopes etc. etc. etc.

Do you really think you can’t live like that? That you can’t forget all that you want to happen and instead focus on and enjoy what is happening? You can. But to get back into the present, you can’t have half of your consciousness focused on worrying about failure or judgment. You have to be childlike and un-self-conscious.

25 Relax and Succeed - Ego says once everything falls into placeYou have to trust yourself and the universe so thoroughly that you don’t even draw a distinction between you and it. Things are just happening. You are just following instinct. There is no self-talk invested in discussing your performance. There is only performance. There is only the verb of you Being. Not thinking about being; Being.

Stop talking to yourself about how things could have been, or how they will be once this or that happens. Live like a kid. Trust that there is value in what you are naturally interested in. Enact that interest as much as you can. Drop internal conversations about where your life should or could go, and instead feel where you would like it to go. Have enough respect for yourself that you’ll actually give your own natural impulses their proper place in the universe.

The universe is a big place. It has room for every idea and it needs you to enact yours. We all contain impulses within us that we should trust. Those impulses are currents within the Flow of Tao, and it is through us that the universe intended to enact them. Resistance will feel uncomfortable and unpleasant. Go instead with the Flow and know the peace of meaningless purpose.

No go enjoy being you. That’s all the universe ever intended.

peace. s

Alan Watts on Life Purpose:

Unselfconscious Wisdom

I like the childlike simplicity behind the design of this quote. It speaks to a sort of wisdom. The clear, unselfconscious wisdom of children. Children make decisions based on what is likely to improve their experience, rather than what is likely to improve their reputation or status. The reason this is wise is that 19 Relax and Succeed - As I let go of self-judgmentreputations and social status exist only in other people’s imagination, whereas your experiences are what you know as your life.

Imagine a group of kids playing in a sand box. These kids all play together a lot and they are bound together by their mutual pursuit of fun. They genuinely like each others company. So when Kid A steals Kid B‘s toy bulldozer, Kid B will only be bothered until he notices something that looks fun. And he’s so focused on fun that he’ll pick the most fun choice even if that turns out to be Kid A again. If Kid A stole the bulldozer too many times he would become not-fun. So Kid B would then walk away from the friendship not out of pride or righteousness, but simple because the other kid wasn’t fun anymore. Adults can’t have fun like that because they can’t forgive like that, and that’s because adults judge.

What would an adult do in the same situation? First they would argue. Probably for some time. They would mention ideas like fairness, and rightness and wrongness, and they would have all kinds of reasons why Kid A shouldn’t have taken the bulldozer. Blah blah blah. The fact is he did take it. So then if there wasn’t violence following the argument there would be distance. Maybe some pouting. Maybe social attacks, like calling the other person’s friends and saying things to undermine them. There would certainly be gossip—everyone would need to hear the story. The recounting. The perspective. All over a little bulldozer. “But it’s the principle” they would argue. Meanwhile, the kids play.19 Relax and Succeed - Sometimes you need to talk to a two year old

Pride, envy, jealousy, bigotry, are all thought-forms. You don’t feel those like love or compassion. They aren’t immediate, like instrumental music. Those emotions are based on lyrics. There’s a story that goes with those sorts of emotions. Adults tell themselves those stories because adults believe that the world of rules in their head is somewhere they can actually live. Kids haven’t even built such a place yet, and so no concept of being jailed there can exist. They are free to live in a state of forgiveness.

Kids are less interested in who’s right and who’s wrong, or who’s to blame, or even who’s truly different. The one thing you don’t want to be with a kid is not-fun. Then they’ll focus on any difference you have and be cruel. But if you’re fun you’re in. Fun can mean captivating like a good teacher, or engaging like a great movie or painting or book. Or it can mean laughing and playing with friends. The point is to be focused on the living, and not on trying to make our living look good to others. There are no others. We’re all one. So forget about others thoughts and focus instead on what looks like fun. Because that’s all you were ever supposed to do.

Be childlike. Enjoy your day not by gathering, but by letting go. You can do it. You already have.

peace. s