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.

Let More Be

1189 Relax and Succeed - One person's craziness

Every year it seems, people are increasingly focused on their differences and very little heed is being paid to our overwhelming similarities. What’s curious about those differences is that they’re all theoretical. If you look beyond your personal beliefs to the greater truth that forms all realities they’re all equally uncertain.

Like everyone else, you’ve changed your mind about a subject or two in your life. Maybe you’ll even admit to executing a few of life’s inevitable flip-flops too. Maybe you thought Person A was your friend, then you thought they weren’t, and then they were again. It’s not like Person A was flip-flopping who they were. You were just changing the opinion you colour them with.

The fact is Raj or Sirah or Dennis or Clare or Sydney or Dylan sound like a group of friends when really that’s just a collection of words. Because who are those people? Not only will they each change at their own rates and for their own reasons throughout their lives, but likewise, so will their opinions of each other. So who is what, when?

1189 Relax and Succeed - Reality is negotiable“Society” is nothing more than the averaging of everyone’s assembled–yet still individual–views. We draw a Venn Diagram with seven billion circles and we find the layers of overlap and we call that “normal.” Whether it’s about people or things or ideas, we all come to accept ideas at different times.

Some people believe things as soon as they like them. Others need tons of proof. Others need high quality scientific proof. Others will only believe people they like, and they’ll never believe anything coming from someone they don’t like. Others doubt everything. We’re all on this spectrum somewhere.

This means the rules and ideas and concepts that shape and guide our society are like a collective amoeba, organically working its way along as we all pursue things that are in alignment with our current capabilities and our individual natures. This is the subtle person by person way that a society’s fundamental perspective can appear to suddenly shift, when really all that happened is that the slow ebb eventually tipped your personal scale.So collectively, first we believed there were Kings and Queens who killed you if they didn’t approve of you. Then only wealthy land-owning men could vote, and you could be destroyed if they didn’t approve of you. Then only men could vote, and you could be destroyed if they didn’t approve of you. And then women could vote, and thankfully there’s no one left for them to prove their strength to because at least all of us humans all equal.

The strange thing about “differences” is that you could still find people today who still believe only landowners should be allowed to vote. There’s people that still think only men should. And some think children and eventually animals should be able to. We are all alive on the same planet at the same time. So all of these views co-exist. Is that really something to get upset about? Doesn’t that just make sense? How else could it be?

So, if we’re all changeable, and none of us knows what we might believe in the future, then surely some of the views that we’re hearing today are actually correct and we will eventually change our mind. Maybe it’s about a musician or maybe it’s about a spouse, but that means big argument or small, you may just be arguing for a view you won’t have later.

Just think back. I’m sure you can find some painful examples of where you held a belief you no longer do. Everyone has loads of those. When I was a kid my neighbour used to want to be a fire truck. I doubt he does now. More recently, for a while, another neighbour thought they wanted to be married. But like I suspect the fire truck kid did, she ended up changing her mind about that. (I sure hope she also remembered to change her “divorce is failure” belief while she was at it.)

Who knows what you’ll believe a year from now? Why not just breathe out? Why not just let other views co-exist with yours like books in a library? You don’t have to read them, but if the cover ever does catch your interest, you can thank the people around you for placing that book in your library of potential beliefs. And if you never pick that book up. That’s fine too. You’ll leave plenty lying around that other people won’t read either.

The world appreciates the efforts of your good heart but there’s no need to suffer to save it. Yes, there are things for you to care about. But mistaking caring for worrying is like mistaking the efforts of love for the efforts of resistance. As Mother Teresa said, skip the anti-war rallies. Go to the ones for peace. So it is with life. Don’t resist it so much. Let more go. Be more fluid and flexible. Let things be. And in so doing, be free.

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.

Good For You

Good for you. Have you ever stopped to really think about that phrase? Think about when you say it; it’s always when someone’s had something good happen in their life. And the more they had to do with their success the more enthusiastic we are. We’re happy for lottery winners, but we deeply admire those with the talent to create success, and our admiration increases in proportion to how hard they needed to work for it.

Good for you. It’s a double entendre. On one hand it means that whatever has happened is good news for you and that you are to be congratulated. On the other hand it can also note a well-earned victory means that notable successes are drawn from notable efforts. All of that hard work is good for you, so the earned victory not only impresses us, it inspires us.

It is in these moments in which we can feel our interconnectedness. Our happiness for the other person is an experience we have within our consciousness. The other person doesn’t even experience that. They see someone in the act of loving and that in turn inspires them to essentially love our love for them. It’s like a feedback loop of love.

And who is unpopular? An ego. An ego considers only itself, just as an insecure person doesn’t consider themselves enough. You want to balance on humility, where you get to selfishly be you, but you’re developed enough as a soul that you understand that nothing is better for you than what is good for others.

How then should this impact our days? If we know an open channel can generate opportunities for valuable connections, and we know closing ourselves off selfishly creates a feeling of separation and emptiness, then why not watch for the former and ignore the latter?

Most people spend most of their day in their head, talking to themselves. And when I say, “talking to,” what I really mean is attacking, reminding, debasing, criticizing, and fearfully undermining their own sense of self.

Why fill your head with all of those busy negative words when you can treat your consciousness more like a Star Trek tractor-beam? You just lock onto something you know you want and you pull it closer. And closer doesn’t mean in a possessive way, it means in a oneness way. It means you start to feel the same happiness they’re feeling but it’s about something that happened to them, not you. That’s connection. We live for that.

So today, like everyday, you’ll go through life switching between the creation of personal narrative that confirm your egocentric impression of the world, or you’ll engage in a very active silence that seeks to pull in the universe in an act of loving awareness. It’s why on a “good day” almost everything seems sweet or beautiful or wonderful or kind, and on a “bad day” it seems like the world’s filled with jerks.

Don’t try to stop your thinking. Switch the energy you use for thinking into being. Reading is thinking another person’s thoughts. A picture isn’t that different from reading, and an actual face isn’t so different from a photo of a face, so it isn’t a huge leap to move from you thinking your personal painful thoughts, to thinking an author’s thoughts, to studying a portrait, and then on to looking at an actual face. That’s all reality, not your opinion about reality.

Thoughts can get so busy they can lead to us feeling like we’re drowning. Reasons to feel good are laying all over the place and they buoy us up. Your day is filled with moments. Take as many as possible, and fill them with the fruits of your observations rather than waste them on yet another stream of unpleasant, unproductive thoughts.

You only have so much time on this Earth, so stop trying to impress everyone else and start living as though your life is actually yours. Because nothing will impress people more than how loving you’ll be once your egocentric, wanting thoughts are quieted in favour of you engaging in loving appreciation.

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.

Getting Along

Interesting term when one stops to look at it a moment: getting along. To get is to have or hold or receive something, but what are we getting? Along means to move ahead on some type of path. When the word was created the idea was that it was to take and, and long, and push them together into one word. So essentially the word means that you have found a way to continue to move forward.

Of course, the fancy word for this is diplomacy. This is when we take two or more perspectives that are in deadlock and they are jostled and realigned and adjusted so that all of the parts that can align, do align. This creates a greater unification of needs and that removes friction and that’s what gets things further along. So with people you like and enjoy, you simply go. But with people you find challenging in some way, some getting along is required.

In school it’s easier to align yourself with people like you because you have so many chances to mix and there’s so many of you. But at work you’ll often be in smaller teams, so figuring out when to concede and when to hold ground is more difficult because you can’t just join another group. And at work your boss won’t give you a low grade–they’ll fire you. At work the problem might even be with your actual boss.

A lot of people were raised by a parent to start off with demands. But if everyone only made demands how would anything get anywhere? Obviously everyone has to enter into a negotiation or discussion or debate with the idea of some concessions automatically built into the premise of the meeting, otherwise you’re just re-meeting to re-express previously stated demands.

Negotiation, debate and discussion require flexibility on everyone’s part. When things are stuck, what people get through some concessions is… along. They can back away and keep things as they are, or they can move forward by trading absolutes for acceptable losses.

I’m not sure if they still do this there, but I’d been told while living in Budapest that one of the nearby governments (Czech maybe?) had a process whereby unions and companies had to submit a closed, fixed bid on their arrangement. Then three judges would pick one of them, without alterations. I suspect the story is true in some way because, in principle, what would happen for most people’s minds is in alignment with what the storyteller told me, and that is that invariably the two sides would make extremely similar offers, which just goes to show they both knew where starting from extremes would lead anyway.

We don’t need to be forced to do these things. We don’t need to be left with no options before we consider another path. When we’re in conflict with someone else’s needs, rather than our own objectives, we’re better to share the objective of getting along. That means instead of finding a statement that represents your own interests, you state something that moves things forward; something that leads towards peace, or cooperation, or openness, or eventually, agreement.

Interestingly it appears around the 1700’s before someone puts get and along together to form the notion of moving forward in unison, and that is sometimes referred to as living harmoniously. That’s a good term, because in a harmony everyone still has their own individual note; everyone’s just made some adjustments so they blend well with others so that the whole can equal more than the sum of the parts. And that’s the secret. Adding each individual position in any conflict will not total as much as if each part surrenders something to a larger whole.

Next time you’re in conflict, spend less time asserting your position and more time looking for ways to align it with the opposing views. Sometimes it’s true, it cannot be done. But far too often people fail at finding a compromise simply because no one was willing to compromise on principle. Winning might get you everything. But compromise does get everyone something.

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 Friday Dose #136

I haven’t done a Friday Dose in a while, but what I teach people has always been in pretty nice alignment with Dr. Gabor Maté. I recall early in his career he was seen as strange or even ridiculous, but I knew that he actually understood addictions and how the mind works far better than most other people.

If you’re a regular reader there is nothing here you wouldn’t have already read in thes Relax and Succeed pages many times before, but it’s a Friday, so sit back and relax for four minutes and have your mind expanded. And then and ask what that expansion means for your life.

You have a natural peaceful self. Don’t waste your life trying to change the part that isn’t the real you.

Have a wonderful weekend everyone.

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.

Stumbling Together

Yesterday I talked about how no one can take your spiritual or psychological journey for you. That prompted a friend to quote me and ask the question, “If you can say, ‘once you’ve understood what you’re trying to understand, you realise that no one can take this journey for you, and so no one needs your help,’ then why do you teach this stuff?”

It was worth discussing. I had wondered the same thing myself. But in doing that wondering I realised that just as some people’s nature came forth as music, or woodworking, or dance, or raising children, or cars, or gymnastics, or math, mine comes from helping others see how remarkably beautiful the universe is in this very special way.

I don’t take the journey for them. Let’s not mistake the finger pointing at the moon for the moon. I see a lot of beauty in this world. To not share it feels unnatural, as though we’ve driven past the most amazing waterfall ever and I never mentioned it to the rest of the people on my tour bus. That almost seems cruel to me. It’s like hogging all the majesty for myself. It’s too big for me. There’s room for all of us in there.

If people can’t see that beauty and they’re living a dead, repetitive life, they come across to me like people standing still, stabbing themselves in the eyes, ears, mouth and nose and then cutting their hands off. They’re literally using a kind of spiritual violence against themselves. By doing things like thinking they’re ugly or stupid or worthless, they’re cutting themselves off from the universe.

How could I walk past that and not act? That would be like a musician writing a beautiful or powerful or emotional song and then not sharing it with the rest of us. What good does it do for her to keep that music to herself?

Keep in mind that even categorising yourself as attractive, or smart or capable, you’re creating division between yourself and others. Those are all comparative terms, and as I explained to my friend; the very act of comparison means there must be at least two things to compare, and if we’re separate we’re lost.

My friend doubted I never felt lost and he was right. Of course I do. Why have feelings if you’re not going to feel them? I asked him why he felt it was necessary to avoid something like that? He claimed it was because it felt so painfully lonely, but I argued that were it not for that painful feeling, we wouldn’t place such a great value on togetherness. You can’t ride the downhills unless you peddle up the uphills.

All of our lonely suffering is like a thought bubble within the dream of something greater than us. If I fall down in life I land in the palm of the universe. Our feelings are just nature generously steering us toward the good life. Not the good life in the sense that if you’re good you’ll enjoy life, but more that if you enjoy life you’ll be what often gets called good.

What confuses us is that sometimes the world needs us to play villain, so we all take a turn. I’m sure we can all remember a lot of the truly crappy things we did to people thanks to some misunderstanding to be sorted out now or in the future, or because we ourselves were feeling low and we pulled them down because because we desire togetherness and yet we can’t figure out how to get where they are. That’s why if someone makes you angry, you instantly feel a little to a lot better once they get angry too. At least now you’re in the experience together.

We were given all of the tools we need. Our emotions weren’t the point, they were the pointer. They not there for us to rate and rank. They’re to be lived. And this is a giant improv. So no one knows your lines but you. No one knows who your character is but you. They’ll all have a guess about who you are out of habit, but that’s their reality, just like you have a view of them that is your reality. Those were never designed to be reconciled.

We’re not supposed to argue over whose reality is right, we’re just supposed to share what we see and then we let the universe unfold. Sometimes we take action, sometimes not. But that’s irrelevant because we’re not competing. Our only job is to be ourselves. And sharing that binding, central truth is what leads me to feel connected.

If it’s done right, all sharing is selfish. So to answer to my friend’s question about people’s individual journeys and my role in guiding them; I don’t help them find their way for their sake, it’s a selfish act. My connection to, empathy for, and experience with their lostness is what connects us. In that vulnerability our separate selves melt and together we become whole. That is what it is to be generous with your life. And that creates the greatest feelings I have ever known.

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: Sharing Kindness

There are a lot of ways for a person to communicate their connection to us. We’ve used things like patience and tolerance and compassion and appreciation, and today we’ll take on sharing.

It’s easy to forget that sharing is a form of connection. It often happens spontaneously, making it a good example of how effective our intuitions can be at guiding our lives. If no one’s using guilt as coercion, most people will share because it would feel strange not to. That wrong feeling inside of us is a divining rod for your spiritual future. It literally tells you who you are.

This is not to say we would all be sparked to share at the same time, for the same reasons, but each of us would feel that impulse at some point. Ignoring it will be disruptive to our relationship with the other person, and denying it would not feel good to us. This is where guilt can be a unifying, healthy force. If we don’t act on those feelings when they come to us organically, (as a result of the situation and not a demand), then we have sacrificed our sense of self. That never feels good.

Likewise, sharing out of contrived guilt also does not feel good. It feels like a connection being strained, not one being strengthened. Sharing must be sincere for it to be constructive, just as denying a sincere impulse to share will be destructive. I’m sure you could think back right now and find a couple examples of each situation in your memory.

Maybe you share their workload, maybe it’s your lunch. Maybe you take some blame on their behalf, maybe you sit with them to help share their pain. Maybe you just share some kind words with a stranger, or some time with a lonely senior. What you share isn’t as important as the sharing itself.

When sharing is done in that spontaneous way, you are in a way respecting your own internal motivations and those literally define the real you. Whether you tolerate them or test them, your limits are things you experience, they are not fences made of words. You feel it when you violate what you believe is right.

Today you want to live with open awareness. You want to simply open up to the world and let it happen around you, but your personal radar will be watching for a certain reading–you’re looking for a particular type of connection. You’ll feel it as a spiritual impulse. But normally, and by habit, you would normally strain the impulse through your personal psychology, and this is where ego can infect our spirit.

If the act of sharing requires a certain boldness, but you see yourself as shy, you’ll be tempted to stop yourself–but don’t. That’s exactly the kind of internal barrier we want to ignore. That form of egocentric self-protection is what keeps you from experiencing the glory of your personal relationships.

You are expansive. You don’t need protection, you have much to offer. Today is about offering it. Go find your opportunity. Have your connection to others be at the forefront of your mind. The impulses that arise from that state of confidence and connection can be trusted to be the very best parts of ourselves. It’s time to exercise them.

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.