Where Defines You?

Sorry this was late everyone. I got hacked.

1087-relax-and-succeed-as-soon-as-you-are-bornWe’ve talked about how your name is interpreted by every person. We talked about how people will judge you based on your alignment with their judgments, and when you’ve lived determines what kind of living you can earn. It was pretty impossible to be an IT person in 1860 and it’s a lot harder to find work as a blacksmith now than it would have been then.

Today we add how where you’re from defines you, where you’ve been defines you, and where you are defines you. And remember, each of these who, what, when and where layers are all happening simultaneously. You are an ocean, with one current going one direction and others traveling in their own, and yet all are the ocean. And on top bobs your ego like a boat, thinking it is moving up and down, when really it is the universe.

As an example, the town you’re from can define your physical ability to withstand big climactic changes, what teams you feel passionate about, or even what your politics are. You won’t even know you absorbed these identities. Additionally, your nation defines your culture, what tastes in foods you’re loyal to, and what language you speak. In turn your language further informs your understanding of the world. Languages can break down the idea of something as obvious as colour into as few as three categories while others can create hundreds!

1087-relax-and-succeed-i-am-somehow-less-interestedWhere you’ve been defines you because that will impact how flexible you believe the world is. Before you’ve eaten at someone else’s house for the first time, you think you know how each food tastes, but really you know how your family cooks. Then you leave your country to backpack around the world and you discover there’s places that can’t even buy your foods let alone cook them the same way.

Where you are defines you because I’m sure ancient grass-skirted Polynesians seemed strange or even scary to the first whites who met them, but they eventually figured out they were super peaceful and now today things travel by media, so even if you’ve never seen Hawaii personally, you can go there virtually, and therefore pretty much half the world now knows how to Hula.

How they combine is this: Imagine you’re a tourist on holiday, it’s the nation you’re visitings national holiday, and you’re at a ceremony laughing and singing while you learn their cultural dance. You can imagine that’s a very pleasant experience. Maybe you make lots of local friends you dance and sing with.

1087-relax-and-succeed-all-wars-are-civil-warsNow imagine it three years later, after a revolution, and you’re a doctor in the military of what is now viewed as an opposing force. You still love the place and you think you’re still the same person with the same name, and you’d operate on anyone from either side. You thought you were there to help, but the locals might see the uniform in the new time and context and rather than dance with you they’ll want to attack you even though you’d personally save them. People can literally kill people that they would be life-saving friends with in another time or context.

Today’s meditation is to ask three questions and get three answers to each: How has the city you’re from shaped you? How has your nation shaped you? How has where you been shaped you? And if you’re not currently in your birthplace; how has where you are right now defined you? Because as people from “away” well know, you can live in Canada’s Maritimes since you were ten years old and yet you will never be considered a local by the locals.

Don’t just get easy answers. Try to find at least one surprise in there. These process are always worth a lot more if you find yourself surprising yourself by what you discover. Because those discoveries are what expands you. They literally push out envelopes of possibility. So be as big as you’re able, because it’s a grand universe and it’s just waiting for you to discover that for yourself.

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.

The Rules

Your ego knows the rules. It knows how to dress you, it knows how to dance, how to sing, and even knows how to eat and how to sleep. And this alignment between you and these external limits is defined by fear. Your ego knows that if you step out of line you run the risk of embarrassment and embarrassment feels a lot like being shunned and that’s an ancient way to get people in line. If we lose the support of those around us we are in trouble indeed.

Various cultures have various rules and that can include anything from how they greet each other, what language they use to share ideas, or even what tools they use or don’t use to eat. You can be perfectly in line with Ethiopian culture and still potentially offend a person who’s been taught to value British culture, and yet beneath those rules those two people could potentially be very respectful best friends.

1031-relax-and-succeed-everything-you-wantBut how do you be best friends when one of you speaks Dutch while the other only speaks Inuktitut? The two souls could get along, but we have these ego-suits our cultures make us wear. And yet we see how thin those suits are, because as soon as the two people learn to communicate they literally build their own hybrid culture where they just ignore the details of their external cultures.

Some very famous friendships have achieved some amazing things in this way, including Tenzin Norgay and Sir Edmund Hillary climbing Mount Everest, or the closeness shared between the 14th Dalai Lama and Heinrich Harrer. Some servants become close friends to their masters and vice versa. So the rules aren’t an issue, the rules are just loose agreements that we can break, we just don’t due to fear.

The people who do break these invisible rules are progressively called, open, eclectic, eccentric, strange, weird and even dangerous, but often times the only thing they’re doing is functioning outside of the rules society silently likes to teach each child. We like patterns and our culture is a set of patterns. Anyone outside of that is an outsider to us.

1031-relax-and-succeed-become-friends-with-peopleThis means that you have the ability to be friends with virtually anyone, which is great, but let’s focus on you. Because your ego doesn’t discuss much except these rules and your speculations about breaking them or maintaining them. Your ego is an expert on the rules, so when it’s talking to you it’s always from the rule-based, fear-based perspective. If you’re going to a party dressed like an actual clown your friend will actually try to talk you out of it and they might even desert you that night in a desire to avoid any reflected social shame you face.

Since your ego is little more than a rule expert, then the only reason for it to talk is for it to try to balance your natural drives with the rules, which is why your ego is primarily critical. The best thing to do is do what Norgay and Hillary did and just forge ahead together, but that’s only two people. Trying to get more people than to be free gets near impossible.

If you want to be a true individual living a truly spiritual life, you must surrender the rules and trade it for the Tao. You want the flow of a compassionate existence more than you want laws and protection. One is human, one is a thought-based idea. One is you behaving, the other is you feeling empathetic and compassionate.

Of off this is why you get upset if you spill food on your shirt at lunch. Imagine that: an adult having their day ruined by some mayonnaise on their shirt. Does that sound like a developed soul? No, that sounds like an ego trying to be liked by being in-line to the point where you’ll feel like everyone’s judging your stain, and if they’re following the rules they will. But so what?

What we’re talking about is just a framework in our head and the words are creations by our heads, for our heads. We certainly shouldn’t be using those words to punish ourselves. If you truly understood what was happening you wouldn’t need any rules for you to feel shame or regret. Those are nature’s way of keeping us cooperating in a way that’s good for all of us and those feelings don’t require words and they do permit for much more freedom.

Forget those words. Forget replaying some insult from 10 years ago. Stop listing all of the things that might go wrong. Stop looking for reasons you or others are out of line with the rules. None of this is hard. It’s not the start of something difficult, it’s the stopping of something difficult. Do not use your thoughts to weaken yourself. Those are only words taught to you by your culture. They cannot hurt you unless you believe them.

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 #121: In Other Words

973 FD Relax and Succeed - 6 duendeA lot of different perspectives created a lot of different cultures. They ate different foods, they sang different songs, they faced different weather, terrain, seas and they all had different temperaments. Languages grew out of various groups and the words those cultures needed suited the way they saw the world.

I’m not sure what you’ll each feel about each word but it’s interesting that these are often the only cultures that will have this word, and in some cases they can be the only people in the world who even have a basis to discuss certain subjects. It really shows us that even right in front of us there are big differences. Someone speaking another language will live in a different reality because while you might not be, for them the entire world in front of them could be either masculine or feminine.

I’m a big fan of Marija Tiurina’s work, and I would encourage you visit her site and see how her style has evolved from the ones presented below. Art is subjective but most of you will be very impressed by what you’ll see. As as an expression of the differences that can exist in language, here’s a few of Marija’s wonderful examples. Enjoy.

973 FDb Relax and Succeed - torschhluss
973 FDc Relax and Succeed - Cafune

973 FDd Relax and Succeed - palegg

973 FDe Relax and Succeed - schlimazl

973 FDf Relax and Succeed - gufra

973 FDg Relax and Succeed - age-otori

973 FDh Relax and Succeed - tingo

973 FDi Relax and Succeed - baku-shan

973 FDj Relax and Succeed - luftmensch

973 FDk Relax and Succeed - kyoikimama

973 FDl Relax and Succeed - tretar

973 FDm Relax and Succeed - schadenfreude

Again, her name is Marija Tiurina.

Slow your mind down, slow your life down, pay more attention to art. Breathe. And have a wonderful weekend.

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.

Your Local Identity

What did yesterday’s meditation teach you that you didn’t know about yourself? Because that awareness is important: meditation is a study, and it should ultimately be a disassembly of the self.

875 Relax and Succeed - Within each of usWe’ll continue today from how you were affected by your nation and on to how your region and city and daily life function and how that impacts your daily thinking. It also starts to hint at the things you chose in life, like where you go and why. And that hints at who you’ve already become.

Your nation is an identity you experience rarely, whereas you live inside the culture and society of your area every day. There will a tone there. Regardless of what government wins, the majority of the people’s politics will tilt one direction or another. They’ll have certain beliefs and push certain ideals. What is your area known for and how do you fit into that identity? Are you a cheerleader or critic? Why?

If you grew up somewhere else then what you miss and what you wouldn’t go back for will tell you a lot. If you’re in your home town location will have been affected more subtly.

To know yourself through where you live just look at what is on your walls.  If there’s lots of pictures of sports stars or sexy girls but none of your children then that says something. If you’re married but your bedroom is decorated in a way that decidedly tilts toward the masculine or the feminine, that says something. Are you extremely neat and orderly or are you comfortable being scattered? This is all useful info regarding clear indicators of how you’ll react to people and situations. What you do, where you go and what you purchase is why Google can predict you.

875 Relax and Succeed - A man is notWhat do you keep as mementos? What do these say about you? What videos do you keep? What websites to you bookmark? What music do you listen to and why?

Also look at the places you like to go. What do they have in common? Yes, people aren’t usually too dull–they’ll have some outliers in their calendar, but for the most part people like the same restaurants etc. for the atmosphere and staff. So what is the atmosphere at your favourite places? What is it that these things conjure for you? Are you trying to look grown up and business-like or like a laissez-faire hipster bohemian…?

Stores spend a lot of time on their branding. Do you value your hard work and then work hard to make sure your money is going as far as it can, or do you value free time and keep a job that keeps you flexible over maximizing income? Each ownership group will usually have three stores in each mall that all progressively increase in price and status. Which one is yours and why?

875 Relax and Succeed - How you do anything

How do you drive in your city? Do you leave early and avoid rushes and if you have to wait once you’re there that’s okay, or are you perpetually scanning for a faster route even if that’s by seconds? That’s two very different people and you could answer a lot of questions about them and get them right from just that bit of information. So what do people really conclude about you and why?

Look more closely at where you live. Do you have the littlest house in a posh neighbourhood? Or maybe it’s the nicest or the neatest place in a rougher one. Maybe you chose your house for security reasons. Maybe privacy. Maybe view. Maybe schools. What was your ego secretly responding to when you chose that house? Even if you didn’t choose it you can still known what you like and don’t like about it.

Learn these things, add them to yesterday’s meditation and you should be learning a lot of things you didn’t know about yourselves. I appreciate a lot of you writing to tell me what you’ve learned–isn’t it shocking what we don’t know about ourselves? Feel free to put that stuff in the comments section if it’s easier.

Stay aware. Have a great day, discover more about yourself, make obvious use of that new knowledge and then tomorrow we’ll delve into one of the most important things that you ever had impact you. Enjoy your days!

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.

Finding Yourself

Winner: 2015’s Blog of the Year #2

In my lifetime I am pleased to say that I have played a part in inspiring a great many people to go on significant travel adventures. As anyone who’s gone on such a trip knows, these often constitute one of the most important experiences in the shaping of who we ultimately become.

663 Relax and Succeed - In all affairsOvercoming challenges builds confidence and strength and seeing how other cultures handle various situations exposes your own culture to be a choice rather than a fait accompli. This frees people and opens their minds. I am very pleased to say I currently have two friends traipsing around the world on my suggestion and it’s been absolutely thrilling re-living my own travels through them.

There are vacationers, holidayers, travellers and trekkers. The first two groups stick to tours and lodgings that remind them of home. The latter two seek exactly the opposite of home and they’re the ones that are truly travelling as opposed to sight-seeing. Every traveller knows that strange sensation of getting out into the streets after a long haul flight. There’s this wonderfully surreal feeling of, wait a second… wasn’t I just there and now I’m here?!?!

A change like that always seems so curious to your brain at first. It’s aware the entire culture has shifted. Every face looks different. Maybe they drive on the other side of the road and the food all smells different. I’ll never forget eating turkey with peach sauce in a restaurant in Budapest only hours after I had been playing with my band back in Edmonton. That’s still my most memorable changeover. That shock to the brain is a very cool feeling that I’ve always enjoyed. I know I’m building new pathways in my brain by being exposed to these differences.

839 Relax and Succeed - If you want somethingAs you travel your own assumptions about the world and yourself get stripped away. How you use a payphone. How you sit when you eat. What you eat at what times of day. How you use a toilet. How introverted or intelligent or rich you seem to other people. All this stuff changes and as it does it exposes to you that your culture doesn’t do it the right way, your culture is literally made out of the way that it does things.

There can be many cultures within one country—you can get a recipe for some authentic Italian cooking from someone in northern Italy and it will look nothing like the authentic Italian cooking from a different family in southern Italy–or even just across the street. What we call “tradition” is really just a habit passed from one generation to the next.

You also realize that food is just a word. It can be applied to all kinds of things that you’ve never traditionally thought of as food. Like monkey brains. But then, to devout Hindus you eating beef is pretty grim. In Europe you can order tongue or tail in restaurants. Watermelon juice is common in Asia whereas Black and Logan Berry is often served in Eastern Europe. North Americans buy special food for their dogs. The entire world has habits that its culture has taught it and so many times people are seen to be wrong if they exist outside of those habits, but these are just ways of being. And there’s no reason they can’t all comfortably co-exist.

663 Relax and Succeed - Go find yourself firstWhether you’re a traveller or not, take a look around your life at the assumptions that you make. Look at how you have a list of acceptable things to eat for breakfast. The fence in your head that is created by the definitions you were taught is precisely what the Buddha meant when he talked about seeing through the illusion. You can have a giant cinnamon bun or a hunk of sausage or chili for breakfast if you want. You’re an adult. You can run with scissors. But so much of your life has been dictated to you by what you’ve been taught to think. Seeing past these limitations is what allows people to become fully themselves. And in being fully themselves, they can finally truly see others.

Whether you go on a big trip or not make sure you challenge your own assumptions. Build a life that suits you rather than pointlessly struggling to become someone that suits a pre-ordained life. That isn’t your life. That’s the chalk outline of a life. You can be much bigger than that. The only thing that’s stopping you is an ephemeral wall of thought. As the composer Roger Waters said, it’s time to tear down the wall.

Love you all.

peace. s

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

Parenting in the Digital Age

I do not envy the people struggling to pull off raising a child in the new millennium. There are challenges today that have never existed before, and many routes through life that most parents have never even considered as a part of their parenting options. But if we want healthy children then we must consciously give them an environment that promotes both their physical and mental health as well as the ongoing maintenance of both.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIn creating this post I came to learn that it is best presented as a four-parter that includes last week’s Friday Dose (which includes a set of links to relevant documentaries etc.), and yesterday’s Other Perspectives. In this posting I will cover the culture of fear and the value of freedom, mistakes and the nature of growth. In the next I’ll cover advertising, ego, insecurity and inter-personal connection.

First off, let’s remember how different it is for kids now that just a short time ago, because these are the biggest changes that the human brain has had to face since the construct of abstract language. This is big. Really big.

Let’s talk about children’s media environment rather than just the internet. When I was a kid you were too focused on playing outside to really find TV all that inviting. Yeah you had your big shows you watched, but we only had three channels so even until the invention of video tape there was no way to even see a re-run. The three channels shut off at 1am and turned back on at 6am and that was it. That meant we used to be influenced primarily by our family’s values and the values of their friends and the immediate culture you lived in. Today you’re influenced by your friends and peers even at home—via social media—but more importantly you 607 Relax and Succeed - If you don't fit inare influenced by two additional groups, and those groups do not have the same agenda for your life that you have at all.

Politics and advertising create most of the current zeitgeist. Countries used to be much more unique, and while they still are to some degree, the spreading of media has homogenized the whole world. People are dressing more alike, listening to the same music, and eating the same foods. What’s important is that the homogenization was designed by people who had a motive. Your motive is to raise your kids to be happy, successful, good-quality citizens who can contribute to their culture in a meaningful way all while building a life they find to be largely secure, rewarding and enjoyable. Politicians want you and your kids to vote for them, and advertisers want you to to get you and your kid’s money. How this shapes your brain is no small issue.

A key political strategy almost everywhere is to create an us by creating a them. The them is generally another society you can compare yourself against—so when your own country is in political turmoil politicians create an enemy. Maybe that’s a war with another country, or maybe it’s stoking fears at home about who among us might be untrustworthy or dangerous. It’s very easy to ask people to support your politics if you want to stop crime or violence. Who doesn’t want to do that? But there’s tons of research: jails don’t stop crime and there’s no indication laws do either. The one thing that science has proven over and over is that the easiest, cheapest way to stop crime is to make a solid investment in early childhood development. Norway did that and ended up having to close a large number of their jails.

607 Relax and Succeed - My friends love is better than anger
At this writing there’s an upcoming Canadian election. This man was a politician but I’m not attempting to influence anyone politically. My use of it is strictly for the quote.

Now the fact is that, no matter where you are, there have never been fewer criminals and there’s never been less violent crime. Never. Anywhere. And yet in survey after survey people are worried about what might happen. The biggest fear I hear about is abduction, and yet this is remarkably unlikely. Yes, agencies that get their funding for children’s protection will give you statistics that don’t mention they include stats on every divorced spouse who was turned in for having their own kids back to their vengeful spouse one hour late. Think about how seldom you hear an Amber Alert. Hardly ever. And when you do, you almost always learn it’s one of the parents or a grandparent that has taken the kids away from a situation they (rightly or wrongly) feel is bad for the kid. That’s not the sort of abduction that they do fear-laden TV shows about.

Cases where it isn’t someone known to the kid are so rare they make international news. Remember the British girl who went missing in Spain? That was 2007. Or the little girl who was kidnapped and murdered in Toronto? That was 2009. Just try to think of them and you realize there’s hardly any and there’s billions of people who’s children can make the news. If you were in poorest parts of Asia or Africa or South America I can see being concerned about your kids being grabbed because there’s an easy profit motive there—mostly so they can sell them to rich white people. But for the average North American, European, or even most Asians, Africans or South Americans, there is no rational reason to worry about your kids every day.

The number one place by far for a child to die is in a car with their parents. So why are parents so casual about driving around, and yet people are getting complaints from schools and parents, or their kids are even being taken by police or child services because parents let them walk to school??? So we don’t worry at all about the still-very-unlikely but much much much more likely 607 Relax and Succeed - Miracles start to happenstuff? Instead we’re going to freak out our kids by worrying about things as likely as lightening strikes? If you’re doing this you need to realize that you’ve been living in a culture of fear and it is adversely affecting your children.

Children learn from experience but adults can get like insurance mathematicians who are busy calculating the extreme potential downsides to every single thing that the child even might do. A woman in an interview said that she wouldn’t let a 10 year old and a six year old walk home alone because if something happened she didn’t think the 10 year old would know what to do. When the reporter asked what sort of things might happen outside of the aformentioned highly unlikely worst case scenarios, the best the woman could come up with was that the six year old might fall. Fall? From the height of a six year old? Oh yeah, you need maturity and a medical degree to deal with that, don’t you?

Let’s not be ridiculous. Can something happen? Of course, the aforementioned girl in Toronto was walking with her brother but he regretfully left her to walk another kid home. But it’s important to place that in the appropriate context, which is that hundreds of millions of young people made it to school just fine that day and hundreds of other days entirely safely. So why would anyone presume to load their kid with the entirely unrealistic fear that they have to limit the child’s life in the hopes of lengthening it? To avoid something incredibly unlikely? Generations of kids walked to school. I never ever remember hearing of a kid falling on the way to school and getting hurt. And even if they did, we’re going to limit the hundreds of millions of kids lives to try to potentially save one all while we’re losing thousands in cars?! It doesn’t even make sense.

We are teaching children to be afraid. Youngish parents write to me as though it’s the generation behind them that’s afraid, but my generation can easily see that there was a change, and for those paying close attention, it showed up when TV and later the internet took off. Kids didn’t used to read the paper. But they could overhear the news. And as more stations were created there was more competition for advertisers and so the news got increasingly sensationalized in the fight to get people to advertise to. News stations then went to 24 hours, so they had to find and even create news. As I’m writing this Fox news was just noted world wide for having had to apologize four times in a single day for reporting fear-mongering things that they later admitted were based on absolutely nothing. So why did those alarming stories get reported if they were made up? OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABecause they would attract viewers. That’s great for shareholders but very bad for your kid.

We’re also teaching children to be weaker. There are studies going on regarding why kids increasingly have no sense of direction. What they know so far is that modern brain scans show we all have neurons that keep track of where the sun is as you walk, and with experience it helps your brain understand where things are in relation to each other. So there’s no such thing as a bad sense of direction, there are just unpracticed and undeveloped senses of direction. But if a kid gets driven everywhere, how are those brain structures going to get built? They can’t. And so the kid becomes smaller than the parent when the idea is that the parent helps the kid be bigger than they themselves ever could have been.

You only have two jobs as a parent: to teach your kids what they need to know to live without you, and to love them. Of course they need to know they are loved, but they also need to know how the world actually works. Insulating them from that is literally constructing an incapable 607 Relax and Succeed - A child does not have to be motivatedkid and it’s why we’re increasingly seeing parents showing up to conduct their kids job interviews. My instructions to the companies I advise is to never hire these individuals because their parents are very obviously proving that they have built a child that is actually entirely unprepared for the workplace, or likely even society in general.

Sitting in a jungle four degrees off the equator and most of the way up a 4,200 meter (14,000 foot) mountain I asked an anthropologist what she had learned from the tribes she had studied for 23 years. She told me it was that she had unwittingly but grossly underestimated her children. We saw children as young as five walking across tree trunks to cross very high gorges and they would do so without an adult nearby. They were trusted and they responded to that trust by simply watching the people around them, all of whom walked confidently across the makeshift bridge. And then the kids did what every kid does—and they mimicked it.

So you can teach your child to mimic fear. Or you can teach them to act confidently. Because in 23 years that anthropologist never, ever heard of one of those kids falling. And even if one did, that wouldn’t change those parents. Because they’re not busy worrying. They’re not guided by fears about jaguars or snakes. They’re busy living a good life and in doing so they’re showing their kids how to do the very same thing. And every kid needs parenting like that. So who’s teaching your kids to avoid fear and enjoy life?

peace. s

Note: Tomorrow we’ll talk about how advertising and social media are changing how children’s brains are structured and what that means for them/you as adults.

The Friday Dose #22

407 Relax and Succeed - When someone is impatient

This week’s Friday Dose is a wildly mixed bag. We’ll start with this National Geographic study on what intermarriage will do to the human face over the next 35 years. I love this because racism disappears when you can’t look at someone and then jam them into a definition you already have. We’ll all be better off when everyone’s beige:

What the Human Face will look like in 2050

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I’ve travelled a lot and every time I return to North America I note how much it whines. How it is easily one of the richest places in the world and yet it seems like the richer we are, the weaker we get. We don’t need much to upset us. The rest of the world lives with much less and they are subsequently better at gratitude. Here’s an indication of how different things are depending on where you are:

16 Children’s Bedrooms from Around the World

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And we’ll close with a video from the show Q, on CBC One, where Chilly Gonzales (the musical genius) does a cool little piano lesson before playing his new song, Tarantula. If you want to jump right to the song you can head straight to about the 2:30 mark, but the little lesson’s pretty cool:

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Here’s to a wonderful weekend for you and all those you love.

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. And please let me know if you bump into any broken links. Thanks!