The 912

Life will deliver disaster, it’s simply a byproduct of existence. Since it cannot be avoided, and since every happy person you know has faced some, what’s really important is our ability to respond to life’s big tragedies. At those times we need to pull together. We need a new rallying point. We need to share a common idea that we can all participate in as citizens of the world.

9/11 now represents a disaster that literally altered the course of humanity. Recently I heard a woman talking about Gander, Newfoundland, and the stories that are the basis for the Broadway hit and Tony Winner, Come From Away. This was the small maritime town in Canada that had an airport big enough for all of those US-destined planes to land when US airspace was closed.

Her point in noting it was that it was a grand example of the natural spirit of humanity. As the best was drawn out of people by the needs of others, we saw an example of how the vast majority of human beings feel about each other: we’re naturally connected. For this reason she called the Gander experience a 912 moment.

I like that. I like that she not only noticed that heroism follows disaster, but that she flipped the names of the days to make her point, because that’s really what all of us need to do. Disasters are inevitable. Our reaction to them is flexible. It would do all of us good to move through our own 9/11 moments watching for the inevitability of the 912 reaction.

The faster we spot that reaction the faster we’ll feel better and be able to amplify it. Sympathy is people joining us in pain. Empathy is them remembering their own pain. Assistance requires sacrifice. Dedication requires love. These are all 912’s. Let us all make this a part of our personal list of experiences.

The Buddhists talk about there being no single sided coins. So if we call up tails and lose a toss in life, the 912 moment shall be hereby described as the moment in which we begin to see or recognize the horizon–it’s that moment when we can see that there is another side, that part of tragedy itself is the response of love in whatever form. It is in recognizing and accepting that relationship that we find internal peace.

Accept that you will have your alarming and painful days. But just as readily accept that there will be a response, both within you and without you. You will find strengths that would not have emerged without the tragedy, and people will demonstrate love in ways you could not otherwise have known. Do not live in hope and fear. Instead, accept the duality of life by not only accepting its 911’s, but in doing so you also guarantee yourself the reality of the 912.

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 Value of Pain


It shows up at times where we’re thinking of others. That’s why we don’t notice its value. When we use our experiences with pain, it will be in some kind of compassionate act. To heal them is to heal ourselves when we feel that level of empathy. That is when we see another’s pain as our own. That is when we feel a sense of oneness with another person.

Let us immediately distinguish pain from suffering. Suffering is psychological and it leads to psychological pain, which is only just now becoming important for people to distinguish from physical pain. As I noted in yesterday’s post, relative to our cellular structure language is a very new creation. As a result, our body keeps reacting under the assumption that we’re in physical danger, when really we’re just worried about what someone will think of us on social media. Clearly those things should not been seen as equally important or meaningful.

While the same chemicals can get triggered, with physical pain it can take a long while to heal, whereas sincere efforts at understanding the structures of psychological suffering can quickly reduce it almost completely, and over time people can soon learn how to deeply love their own lives. But we gain access to loving it by trading away our psychological suffering in exchange for acceptance of the certainty that we will experience both physical and non-optional psychological pain.

Physical we’re already ready to accept, and to what degree we accept it is generally referred to as our pain threshold. But buying office supplies for our new job, signing our married name, imagining our life as someone different–these are all either hopeful or wildly hopeful fantasies. We’ll all do them sometimes, but that doesn’t make it wise. It just makes ego human.

There is no need nor benefit for us to spend a lot of time leaping into a made-up future to concoct expectations. We can just stay in the now, where we can actually take action to impact our future, and in doing so we become less likely to avoid causing ourselves future psychologically pain.

Non-optional psychological pain is when our circumstances have changed so suddenly and so drastically that we literally have brain wiring that just isn’t set up to manage it. It’s impossible to be someone and not take on a world view, but if you’re a soldier and you get your legs blown off, then you’re suddenly someone who needs a revised identity. Same for someone who goes broke, has a divorce, loses a job or through the death of a loved one.

The depth of our love with our loved ones relates to the level of pain we’ll experience when they die and our brain can no longer interact with them in the present. That’s why it still tries, often until death. I haven’t lost a parent yet, but I know a lot of people who still ask their deceased parents for advice all the time. They’re just wired into too much other stuff. Their beauty is that they’re literally hard to forget.

By living through very painful experiences, we become valuable to anyone else experiencing those things, and in a ways that could not be known by people who had never actually been in the same position. This is the basis of empathy: our own psychological and physical pain. And when we’ll feel its value is when we bestow our empathy on anyone whose pain we truly share. Having surrendered ourselves into a state of oneness, healing them is to heal ourselves. And that is the value of our pain.

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.

MoK: Acknowledgement

There are a lot of ways to take action in this world. Some people do it through clubs they belong to. Others do it casually, as circumstances arise, while still others become formal volunteers or contributors. Even if it’s in small ways, most people contribute to the world around them in a generous and thoughtful way.

People hold doors, do favours, offer money, or engage in labour all for the benefit of someone else. Today in the March of Kindness our job is simple: we want to watch life for these acts. We want to openly acknowledge the act as being generous and kind. It’s one thing to think inside your own head, Wow, it was nice of that lady to carry that older lady’s bags to her car, and something entirely different if you thank her on behalf of the world.

The impulse to be kind is already alive and well in the person, but we all know how it feels to get criticised. It makes us feel smaller and weaker. Using the same mechanism, getting acknowledgement for doing helpful positive things helps us feel stronger and more capable. But too-often the acknowledgements are silent. Why would we stay quiet about delivering such good news?

Today your job is to notice the little things people didn’t have to do and to acknowledge them. The gratitude feels good for us to experience, and every one of us would be motivated to do even more kind things if we were more consciously aware of how it helps us to feel like we belong. Being valuable to the group is a win-win for all involved.

It’s funny that we can be afraid to say nice things to people. Do we really think people are going to get angry and upset with us for bringing up their niceness? Most people light right up. It’s a nice connection between people and it’s worth developing. But for that sense of unity to exist in your community, people need to be able to sense their bonds. They can’t be silent and uncertain. We have to speak up and offer praise more than we offer criticisms.

Just yesterday I had a grocery store clerk help me load grocery bags into my arms, a tech support person was particularly helpful, I had a woman hold a door for me at an office building, I had a friend drop by to offer some expertise on an important family issue, and I got a welcome invitation to an event. And that’s just off the top of my head.

Today is about acknowledging those good things in life, whether we’re the benefactor or someone else is. The idea today is to focus our grateful attention on people who are taking action. Before the day is out try to offer at least three different acknowledgements. Turn your radar on to how kind the world is and you’ll see that it’s better than you might have thought.

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.

MoK: Compliment Day!

Three full weeks of positivity. A bunch of people, each doing a few kind acts per day. Both individually and collectively we have literally changed the world for the better. Stop and think about that. It’s like being a soldier in the Love Army, where you shot people through the heart and mind with acceptance, understanding and love. I can’t believe how amazing you are.

We never know who we caught at what time. There’s no way any of us could know it at the time, but with this many people, surely one of us caught at least one person on a really difficult day. Someone was heading toward suicide, or some other very negative act, and our little March of Kindness–likely without them even knowing it exists–may very well have saved their lives, or at least their day.

We’ve all had those days, weeks, months and years. Maybe we lost someone important to us. Maybe we got news that our dreams were not going to pan out the way we’d hoped. Maybe a relationship ended. These things happened in life. And yet just stop and think about those days where someone’s actions felt more like a life preserver than anything. Good for us! We made a difference.

So with only one week left, today let’s return to something from the end of week one; only then you were giving compliments as a way of shifting your thinking away from you and your thoughts, and toward someone else. Today we’ll act the same, but inside ourselves we won’t be doing it as a symbiotic act. This time we think about what we’ve done, we feel strong and capable, and then we give from that position of strength.

As the title obviously suggests, it’s Compliment Day. We stand up tall, we remind ourselves of our strongest times and then we turn on our awareness, looking for things and acts and people we admire. Today you’re a compliment machine. Today you make people around you feel good through your willingness to openly acknowledge them.

It can be their coat, their hair, their smile, their manners, sense of humour, work, or character. All compliments count. You are a fountain of strength and sharing today. Today you surprise and please people. And in doing so, between all of us we’re sure to incite someone to spontaneously join us. Without doubt, one of us will tip a positivity-compliment domino and it will keep tipping through a number of people as the good feelings pass like a wave.

I’ll start off by complimenting all of you and your willingness to work on your own mental health, resiliency and society. Even the kids in schools that participated had to buy-in. That was voluntary and as a fellow human being I really appreciate the fact that you did that. Thank you. Thank you–personally–thank you thank you thank you for having the big heart and great attitude that you have. I love that quality in you.

So today, get out there and give those compliments. Let your full cup runneth over into the lives of those around you. Make a co-worker or classmate feel great about their effort, or attitude or style. Make a stranger feel good about who they appear to be to others. Make those closest to you realise that you do notice the little things.

Thanks again for your participation. You’re all just awesome. What a great thing that a bunch of strangers would meet on a website and agree to be kind and generous to a bunch of other strangers and friends. Who does such a thing? Us, that’s who. Us, people who care. We’re the ones who are strong. We’re the ones filled with love. And today we express that love! And we enjoy every minute of it!

Have a great weekend everyone. For my part I’m going to carry this compliment thing all the way to Monday and our final week. You have a spectacular three days and I’ll see you all back here on next week. Until then, much love to each and every single one of you.

peace, s

Scott McPherson is a writer, public speaker, and mindfulness facilitator who works with individuals, companies and nonprofit organizations around the world.

MoK: Compassionate Connections

Even in times of trouble or pain, authentic compassion can connect us to others in a very meaningful way. If most of us stopped to consider it fully, we would have a greater appreciation for compassion as a positive, binding and powerful force in our lives.

When we feel good we call compassion friendship. It’s when we share in someone else’s life and life feels better that way, no matter what’s happening. When you stop to really think about why your friends are your friends, you’ll tend to think of the times when you bonded over particularly awesome, or particularly terrible circumstances.

Our relationship highs and lows are what bracket the known limits of a friendship. For some people that means they’ll be invited to every party but they wouldn’t help you move on a long weekend. For others it means you may have anointed each other as best friends at your weddings, but maybe you also had to share a kidney. None of these are right or wrong, they’re just what frames your relationship with that person.

Compassion is the force that both establishes and maintains our relationships. The more people we feel compassionate toward the more connected we feel. If we want a better world we don’t have to make friends with people we’re already friends with, we have to find ways to connect to those we feel are quite different.

Today your assignment in the March of Kindness is to simply watch for an opportunity for compassion with someone you normally wouldn’t think to share it with. Maybe they’re a stranger, or maybe you know them too well and have never even considered enhancing the bond between you. Maybe it’s boss to employee, or child to parent, or teacher to student, or maybe you just never even talk to strangers to help them feel more comfortable.

You’re not looking for something big, just look someone in the eye for long enough that they know you mean it, and connect with them. It can be in words or actions or even non-actions. It doesn’t matter if all you’re saying is something as small as thanks for stopping at the crosswalk, or something as big as sharing in the death of a loved one, it all counts.

The point is only that moment of connection. If we all did this consciously every day then everyone would feel seen, heard and appreciated much more than we all do know. And why don’t we do this otherwise? Mostly because we’re lost in egocentric thought, and that’s the very point of these exercises. To get us out of our heads and back into the world.

We’re not trying to make some huge change overnight. But during one month, we’re actually consciously improving our relationships with others, the world and ourselves. And by practicing it each day, we really do become more sensitive, aware and responsive.

Your assignment is one compassionate connection before the day’s end. If you do more, you’ll benefit more; that’s up to you. But even that one example will make you more conscious of the value of these connections, and as each of us makes these intentional choices each day, we all add our individual drops to the collective bucket of a better world.

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 March of Kindness

1106-relax-and-succeed-the-march-of-kindnessIf you read yesterday’s blog you know that a few years ago I started doing the March of Kindness. Thanks to some teachers and schools from around the world this idea was actually practiced. It not not only put a lot of positive action into our world, it also reduced ego by focusing us on the needs of others.

March includes twenty-three weekdays. That’s twenty-three days of action, and the only action you need to undertake today is to right-click on the photo, save it, print and sign it and then post this notice in a location where you are sure to see it during each of those twenty-three days.

The world is a big place, but it changes one individual at a time. By signing and committing to these principles, you are placing yourself among the important change-makers from around the world. This isn’t just for people like the prophets, or Gandhi, or Rumi, or Martin Luther King, it’s for you as well.

Let us join together and help make the world the incredibly creative, loving and supportive place it has always had the potential to be. Don’t forget to enjoy the process. Have a wonderful day everyone.

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.

Nurturing Empathy

1074-relax-and-succeed-nurture-more-kindnessI’ve been pleasantly surprised by the depth of your meditations. People aren’t letting themselves off easily. That’s excellent. Frankly, the more realistically you view yourself the better others will start to look. We all generally hold others to higher standards than we can maintain ourselves.

When you did the meditations last week you discovered that you had forgiven people, but that it was unlikely an official pronouncement with a definite end date. Instead it was a process where your developing understanding allowed you to slowly let a thought go as it made less and less sense. What happened is that your narrative about their transgression lost its momentum.

That momentum comes from your dedication to think it. When we say something means a lot to us, what we really mean is that it’s a thought we volunteer to think a lot. Sometimes those thoughts are worthwhile. They can be part of grieving or recovery. But far too often they are someone just spinning on negativity that has no purpose in their life.

1074-relax-and-succeed-we-are-oneFortunately, it is difficult to maintain a narrative that makes no sense to you. Once understanding has increased, connection is increased. With the two people being able to see each other within each other, the differences become less important and the similarities become comforting. This is literally what the world needs more of.

How this works in practice is that, as other people talk to you they add their perspectives to yours. You expand, capable of seeing more and farther. In doing so, more people can be included in that family of people you’re prepared to care about. Those additions to your perspective come in two ways; you meditating your way into a discovery or someone delivering you an observation.

You’re in control of your own thinking so you can do the meditating on your own, but how can you help the discovery process? You can’t do that to yourself; that would be meditating toward an internal insight. You can only assist in the discovery process of someone else. To that end, today you will become more aware of a healthy person’s role in life.

1074-relax-and-succeed-darkness-cannot-drive-out-darknessSick and unhealthy people think about themselves a lot. Healthy, balanced people think of themselves very little, although their generosity is a version of them being selfish about giving. They know it feels good to invest more in others than yourself, and so they selfishly do so.

Today you’re looking to avoid creating your own ego-self by pointing your consciousness out, rather than in. Rather than load your attention up with self-reflective egotistical thoughts about you, instead you want to focus outward, on the experiences of others. Watch people’s faces as they listen to others talk. See their emotional reactions as their personal experience. Note how it might differ from yours. Watch for your opportunities.

Today’s meditation is simple: Watch the outside world for an opportunity to provide context. In short, you want to find at least one opportunity today to expand the awareness of someone else. Keep in mind, this cannot be done correctively as that assumes they already have the knowledge and aren’t using it. You have to invite them to include the knowledge by making it harmless.

1074-relax-and-succeed-teach-peaceYou cannot ask someone to assume the identity of jerk. You cannot defy their current beliefs. Your only job is to expand the context from which they might choose to view an event. That’s it. Just plant a seed. Just find a way to present that idea in supportive way. If you succeed at this, before you know it the other person can integrate the added information into their understanding, thereby making it theirs and boom; we have empathy.

Get out of your own head. Today, get at least one compassionate connecting idea into the head of at least one other person and do it without sounding preachy, instructive or superior. Just wonder out loud and leave the rest to the inherent goodness of their spirit. Do that and you’ll have done more for yourself than you ever could have imagined. Enjoy your day everyone.

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.