Losing Your Cool

I acted like an asshole. It happens. I took a negative situation and instead of converting into a stronger, better connection with the other person, I lost the moment and I ended up compounding the complexity of the issue with too much thinking. I regret it, but I’m okay with it–if that makes sense.

764 Relax and Succeed - Show respect even to people who don't deserve itI have a church near my home that’s used by a few different groups and one rather ironic congregation in particular is pretty famous in the neighbourhood for disrespecting the neighbours (and really, each other too). They’ll park blocking the road, or they’ll block the alley almost every week and they’ve even been so bold as to park on a neighbour’s driveway, trapping him in his garage for two hours. This always feels decided un-Samaritan-like.

This group experienced a lot politeness from the bolder neighbours initially, although the quieter group was calling tow trucks so maybe those two forces cancelled each other out. In the end it’s never really changed. When I got home after running errands the other morning I saw the contractor down the street having to back his trailer all the way down the alley. The more convenient exit that I was coming in through was blocked enough on my side that he wouldn’t fit.

I rolled down my window and spoke to the young couple who was now blocking the other side of the lane too. I politely let them know that a neighbour would surely call the city if they left their vehicle there. The husband indicated he would move it (as many often claim they will and then don’t). And sure enough, when I walked back he hadn’t. Now the fact that I walked back already shows I was lost.

764 Relax and Succeed - It may look as if the situationWhy did I walk back? Why did I personally feel the need to police the situation? The truth: I hadn’t had enough sleep and I was grumpy. It had nothing to do with these parkers. I was out very late at a friend’s wedding and I was operating on a few hours sleep and it probably didn’t help that I hadn’t had my morning coffee. I’ll usually catch myself being a bit short and I can usually settle myself immediately by just dropping any internal conversation and/or any attachments. Today I chose not to lose the attachment. Today I let the conversation in my head roll.

So I walked back to see if the future I wanted to live in had come true. Remember, I tell you that wanting is an ego-pursuit because it is. My ego wanted that guy to respect that contractor. I used to be a contractor and so I connected him to me, and I imagined him as a decent hard-working guy who was respectful and yet he was being forced to do something difficult for no good reason. Those thoughts added to my negative brain chemistry, which made it more likely that I would convert even more neutral experiences into negative thoughts.

I got attached to them moving the vehicle; I thought I needed it to be happy. And so when I saw their truck unmoved I was actually happy to see the wife returning to get her wallet, which she’d forgotten. I still quite politely told her about the contractor’s trailer and tried to contextualise that it wasn’t a petty request; it really was a big hassle for the guy to have to back out.

764 Relax and Succeed - Choose and direct yourselfI’m not sure, maybe my tone sounded sharp or maybe I had bad body language or maybe she’d been up late at a wedding too and maybe she was just as grumpy as me. She’s entitled. Either way, her reaction to my explanation was, “It’s only for two hours on a Sunday. You must hate God.”

What?!?! My reaction to that statement was far too rapid. My immediate calculation was that she had deflected their personal responsibility onto us, and worse she had justified it by suggesting my very kind and decent neighbours were only asking because we hated God. That lack of personal responsibility and that debasement of God really struck me inside and a feeling came over me that leads to bad news every time.

It’s a little rise. That’s how I feel it. Up until that point I can recoil my thinking quite effectively. After that it races forward and I get a shot of adrenaline and it invariable pushes out words that will be sarcastic and condescending. That kind of arrogance inspires me to want to stab someone with words that will reduce their confidence in that arrogance. And so I said something I deeply regret.

764 Relax and Succeed - When you judge anotherMy terrible and intentionally hurtful reaction to “you must hate God” was a lie. I said, “no, my family was just intelligent enough that they didn’t raise me to absolve myself of being an asshole with my car by conveniently believing in an invisible man in the sky.” That statement suggests that I’m against people believing in God or that I don’t believe in what could be called a sense of God when that’s not true. I have no issue with God. But I pretended to so I could stab her with some science. She scowled and was off and I was left with the sort of ugly feeling that really motivates you not to repeat the action that lead to it.

With no positive course of mind to pursue I simply walked away, but as I did I was already well aware that I’d gotten lost in my thoughts. I immediately began to introspect. My ego wanted. It wanted that vehicle moved and it didn’t like someone turning God into a lame excuse for behaviour that defied the story of the Good Samaritan. I acted superior. My response was to really focus on how much I did not like that feeling and I used that to motivate me to learn from the experience.

By the time I’d walked the few hundred feet home I had settled. I went through what happened to look for where my thinking took over. I realised that I should have noticed the first unsettled sense when I was motivated to walk back. From there it was the attachment to the car being moved, and then my thoughts tying this one experience to all of the previous ones–which of course she’s not responsible for. And finally my ego’s distaste for people using a positive symbol to justify negative behaviour did not help. I’m bad with hypocrisy.

764 Relax and Succeed - Your best teacherI deeply regret what happened but I can’t go back in time so I’ll take it as a lesson. I’m human and I allow for mistakes. But maybe from now on, on the nights where I know I’m going to get very little sleep, I can leave myself a note for when I wake up. Something that reminds me that I might be inclined to be grumpy and to keep an eye out. I think today that would have been enough to do it because when the negative thoughts showed up I could have contextualised them relative to me rather than to her. Lesson learned.

The reason I can’t regret it too much is that this is the yin and yang of life. We need these little moments to remind us where the path is. You can’t have a path without there being not-path. The path I’m usually on feels very warm and pleasant. This did not. It reminds me why I endeavour to stay as mindful as I can each day and so I am grateful for having had the experience.

If the lady I spoke to just happens to be reading this: you have my wholehearted apology. That wasn’t a nice way to speak to you. It’s wonderful you’re enjoying your two hours of holiness. My desire for my neighbour to avoid some unnecessary frustration and the expense of a late-charge on a rental was pointless if I was going to add that negativity to your day. Again, I’m sorry I was unable to be a better person at that time. Thank you.

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 Friday Dose #57

630 FD Relax and Succeed - The most precious gift

Today’s Dose is a mixed bag, although all of it does relate to our pace of life to some degree. Let’s start at the New York Times, where Mandy Len Catron—a writing teacher at the University of British Columbia—wrote a pre-Valentines piece on falling in love. It’s probably an exercise that a lot of struggling couples would benefit from….

How to Fall in Love with Anyone

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Next we’ll go to a—thankfully short—piece 😉 written by Anne Bogart on the nature of being busy and small changes you can make that will have a big impact on your life. It’s a subject I’ve written about many times but today there’s few things worthy of more discussion than trying to slow everyone back down to a speed at which they can actually live:

The Business of Busyness

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Next we’ll have a look at what science has to say. I’m sorry to report that it’s confirming what I’ve been writing to you—you’re not actually multitasking and no your arguments of efficiency and effectiveness aren’t working. The pace of modern life is little more than a series of addictions. This will not change unless you make a conscious effort to do so. Delaying that change is tantamount to a slow suicide. You truly don’t need to work as much as you do. You need to see that time-stress as damaging as you would see working with chemicals, or radiation. You would know that limited exposure was wise. But with time you have no such limits—but you should. And if you don’t read this, won’t it just be because you’ll tell yourself that you don’t have the time…?

Why the Modern World is Bad for your Brain

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And because that’s all rather intense, let’s finish on the antithesis of a fast-paced life and slow things right down. I have no idea why this has such a beautifully meditative quality, but when I would show it to friends and I would go to shut it off part way, they would always stop me, wanting to see more—which is a bit odd, interestingly enough, although I find I too am in this group that always watches it far longer than I would think I would. I suspect it’s because an aspect of my brain knows it’s intentionally grabbing that calm thought almost as a defence mechanism. Enjoy:

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Have yourself a wonderful day. And think about slowing it down a bit, eh? You don’t succeed and then relax. You relax and succeed. 😉

peace. s

The Friday Dose is a collection of cool, interesting and surprising things that are chosen for their potential to distract you away from any painful thought loops that may currently be disrupting your sense of perspective. Save these for when you’re feeling low and you want to change your perspective. They’ll help Enjoy.

Enlightenment 101

People are looking for some grand, sweeping epiphany. They want trumpets and clouds and at least a moment of glory. But that’s not what enlightenment looks like. It’s not pomp and circumstance. It’s not an ultimate. It’s not a peak. It’s not a summit or an achievement, nor is it exciting. True enlightenment is to move through life with your awareness open to, and watching for, your own simple, flowing good-fortune. It is not a giant moment, it is a collection of tiny, simple moments. As Eve Ensler says, “Love is this simple gathering of daily kindnesses that add up to an amazing life.”

466 Relax and Succeed - It is up to you to see the beautyStop wishing to be struck by enlightenment and instead invest your day in the way that will actually make a material difference to your life. You can sit on the bus or train or in your car and notice everything about everyone that you do not like. Or you can do exactly the opposite. One leads to the agony of ego and the other leads to the peace of wisdom and understanding.

Stop using your psychological energy to judge others with your thoughts. Stop using that energy to create criticisms and judgments of yourself as well. As often as possible avoid using your life force energy for anything negative. Negative things generally feel bad, so that’s how you can quickly identify them. Then as soon as you are able, shift your thinking to something of a higher frequency. Empty the teacup of your mind of the rotten tea, and leave yourself empty so that you can pour in positive experiences.

Surrender wanting things a certain way. Start to open up to the excitement of anticipation rather than the disappointment of expectation. Stop wanting specific things to make you happy and start instead looking for other gifts. I remember I was once disappointed that I got a book for Christmas when my brother got a new high-tech plastic hockey stick blade. As it turned out that book lead directly to a lifelong love of reading for which I am eternally grateful. So my expectation of getting something “as good as my brother’s” actually caused me to snub 466 Relax and Succeed - I am grateful forone of the best gifts I’ve ever received. Bottom line, we should stop being so sure that we know what will make us happy and instead we should just watch the mystery of life unfolding in front of us and we should jump in whenever we feel the natural impulse.

Can you see how much easier it is than trying to impress everyone? You don’t have to be thinner, or prettier or stronger or tougher or a better dancer or fighter or skier or mathematician. You can just be you. And then you can just start watching for the almost constant awesomeness that the universe delivers to anyone who has their eyes and mind open.

Stop trying to make some big important spiritual achievement. Stop trying to be successful or spiritual, or Buddhist or Hindu or Muslim or Christian or Jew or Enlightened or or or. Just look right in front of you, in the moment that you are in, and keep your eye out for what you like. Far more often than not the world will greatly exceed any expectations you might have had with your limited imagination. Trust the universe. It may be mysterious, but that’s where all it’s awesomeness comes from, so just run with it.

Create a great day for yourself by keeping your eyes, mind and heart open. You can start right now. Start collecting the sort of experiences that will add up to a truly great day and that is precisely what you will have. Enjoy.

Much love, s