A Celebrated Departure

I recently got a call from a student. She’s a very emotional person and she called shortly after she had just put down her beloved cat, the same one that took her through puberty and all of the major events of her 20’s, including her parent’s divorce, a family suicide, an addiction, a recovery, and eventually the woman’s own divorce.

Those are some of the most tumultuous years in life and the cat was connected to countless major memories. This is precisely the sort of thing that would have heavily derailed the woman previously, but this call wasn’t one about agony and it wasn’t a call for help, it was more a call of communion. This was a call about love.

The death would have been a completely devastating experience if viewed from an egocentric me-first perspective. She would have missed the cat terribly and missing something is a verb; it’s an action. That’s the act of wishing the cat would still there even though she’d know it wasn’t, but she wasn’t experiencing the pain of wanting. This woman has learned how to take the peaceful path through life and instead of the pain of wanting she felt the joy of love.

994-relax-and-succeed-keep-your-hands-openThe call I got was to share that love. She knew very few people would know how to respond. She didn’t want sympathy or commiseration–those are well-intentioned acts by others but they take the person back to thinking about the life in a wanting and painful way and what this woman wanted was a celebration of the cat’s life and she knew I would understand that. If anything, she felt a tiny flicker of guilt that it didn’t hurt more.

This isn’t to say the act itself wasn’t extremely sad–it very much was–but that pain didn’t last past the moment of transition because she was not attached to the cat with wanting thoughts, instead she was able to love the cat clearly enough to let it go. When she felt the cat’s body go limp she knew the spirit had left the animal to make its next move. Rather than agonise over its departure she was celebrating its existence. She was lucky to have had her.

In the little version of life there is a little dash of life between two great darknesses. In the big version of life it’s all light, it’s merely where in the universe is that light currently shining? She wasn’t upset because he cat was gone because to her it simply wasn’t–it was merely done its time with her. She understood that limitation as one of hers, not one of the cat’s.

994-relax-and-succeed-we-are-not-human-beingsTo illustrate what she did differently than most people consider your morning coffee. The sides of the cup represent an inside and an outside; an alive and a “dead.” We could say that those sides are created by our own sense of self. The woman accepts that her human existence is on a timeline and so is the cat’s, which means right from the outset there will be times where they do not overlap. On a spiritual level she knows they are one, but by she accepts that within human existence part of the deal is accepting the fact that both she and the cat are free. If the cat’s ready to move on she has to love it enough to let it go. She cannot be attached through her thinking, she must accept its will.

In this way the cat’s life is consumed by the woman. Like the coffee surrounded by the cup the life isn’t lost, it is absorbed. It is taken in. It becomes one with the woman. So can you see that it makes no sense for her to keep drinking when the coffee is gone? She cannot have the cat because the cat is already fully within her. And rather than agonise that the cat is gone she is grateful that she was able to drink it in while it was there. The cat’s life was not squandered, it was fully appreciated. From a spiritual perspective that is like living forever.

Death is profound and yet it is also very simple. It is our mental attachments that make it feel daunting and sad and personal to our egos, but if we live in a deeply spiritual way we can see death more as a release or completion–as though it is a song that has been sung. A song that must now move off into the universe to be heard by some lucky new listener.

Live openly. Listen to the universe for love. No matter what your circumstances, some is always there to be heard.

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 Value of Caring

What is the value of death? Of funerals? Is there a way to experience these tragic events and draw strength, resiliency, connection, love?

951 Relax and Succeed - Stop and take a momentI was at the funeral of an out-law family member this week. He learned as a relatively young man that he had been dealt a difficult hand which would prevent him from leading a full and involved life. This reduction in his capacity for involvement was always a very painful experience for his family. Everyone always wished more for his future.

Deaths like this can be tricky. I’m sure many came to the funeral concerned about how it might feel. There were certainly people that could have tilted the entire experience toward something really depressing–something that circled and focused on all that was missed. But that wasn’t what happened. In fact, the exact opposite happened. It was one of the most inspiring funerals I had ever attended.

Eulogies are difficult to write at the best of times and this was to be a celebration of a life unlived. The difficult job, given to the eldest, was taken with grace. When many would have hidden behind quotes and scriptures and platitudes, instead she dove into the heart of it and there she found her gold. It was her words that opened everyone’s eyes and hearts.

951 Relax and Succeed - Do small things with great loveThe value of a funeral is in what the life can teach the rest of us. That’s how their spirit is passed on; when we inform our lives by the lessons provided by theirs. In that way we literally make them a part of ourselves. And yet some lives do such a bad job of lining up with society that the presumption is that they are failures and that they have nothing to offer. All the check-boxes are ticked off and no one gives it any real thought. It’s just a shame.

But then a sister takes a deep hard loving look and she’s surprised by what she sees. She’s further surprised that she’s surprised because as she sits with the knowledge she realises that some part of her always knew it–just like everyone in that room subconsciously knew it: the deceased was never seen to be suffering. Yes he experienced pain but he never dwelled there. The person everyone perceived as having a sad life had actually always been happy.

It’s a strange thing for everyone to miss isn’t it? No one actually missed it, but no one at the time every gave it the value it deserved; we were all too focused on what was missing. Everyone else was focused on what was missing his life. He didn’t mind because he never noticed; he was too focused on caring about all of our lives.

951 Relax and Succeed - For everything you have missedI remember going to the funeral of an extremely wealthy man who I had grown very close to and the saddest part about it was that I didn’t hear anyone talking about him the way he told me he wished they would. He wanted to be seen as being a person who people liked because he personally left them feeling better than he found them. Put another way, the billionaire wished he could have given people the feeling that the man with the “sad” life got to give. So in the end whose life was rich?

The billionaire was a good man and his life meant a lot to me due to the many poignant conversations we had about life, but even he said that the lesson of his life was to avoid the choices he made because they were external and hollow. He wanted people to remember him as someone nice. He wanted himself remembered the way we’ll all remember Ray: as a guy who was always smiling and was always genuinely interested in how you were. And when you stop to really think about it, it’s just amazing what that’s worth.

Rest in Peace Ray.

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.

A Brighter Light

Gifts can arrive in such unlikely packages. A friend mine is the sort of person who makes you instantly smile when you recall him. In fact, he himself has an absolutely infectious smile. He’s kind, intelligent, he’s extremely enjoyable company, he’s a loving soul and he is quite simply what my father would call a good man. There is no higher praise from my father.

809 Relax and Succeed - SunriseToday my heart broke for my friend. Because my father is my hero and my friend just lost his. We spoke a bit about his home and his life when we met a few years ago. It was clear that he had an understanding of what his father had given him throughout life. And I knew he must have given him a great deal because that is the only way to become a good man. To have people who truly and deeply believe in you.

The friend and I met doing business with each other and became friendly based on his warmth. That warmth showed through when he recently posted a quote in relation to his father’s passing. I read quotes all day–they’re what this blog is about: breaking down the quotes to deeper meanings. But today my friend introduced me to what very well may be the most beautiful quote I have ever seen in my life.

I’m well aware of Tagore, I’m interested in his work and yet somehow–remarkably–this quote about the lamp eluded me. It is quite simply the most elegant, graceful and accurate description of death I have ever seen. Indeed, for every student of mine I’ve taught I have urged them to do what I saw tribal Fijians do when I was very young man.

809 Relax and Succeed - Death is not extinguishing the lightWhile my friends caught a nap I ended up on what was supposed to be a short side-trip with a local, that ended up being an education into the rituals of dying. I had thought I was at a celebration because I was. This was no funeral. This was described to me and it certainly looked like more of party. It was like Thanksgiving but for a person.

Everyone was celebrating the person’s existence and they expressed their gratitude for what that person had given them. It will be a painful process, but I do hope my friend is able to stay in touch with that very sentiment. Because his father gave him one of the greatest gifts a father can give a son: the gift of character. His son’s lives will be forever bettered by that gift and the light of their father will always shine because of it.

The reason I love the quote is that–for the person we love the light never really feels like it changes. As the full light of morning strikes we can stop telling ourselves a story in the darkness of individuality and instead we can become one again with everything.  And who among us would not move toward this brighter light? Who among us cannot appreciate the incredible infinite beauty of an expanding sunrise over the limitations of the lamp?

This is not a death. To the real soul it is a type of awakening. Truly a dawn. It is those of us left behind who cast our thoughts into the deepest darkest reaches of loss. But for my friend’s father, he has finally moved to the only place immense enough to express all of the infinite love he feels for his wife and children now that he is truly free.

With love and tears, s

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

The Friday Dose #81

We lost two giants last week. Two men with immense capacities for compassion. Most people know Dr. Oliver Sachs thanks to the film about him entitled Awakenings with Robert Deniro and in which Dr. Sachs is played by Robin Williams. Sachs was quite a character, having had an unusual life that included everything from setting weight-lifting records to being a best-selling author. The brilliant program RadioLab recently did a piece on Sachs once he knew his cancer had spread and the would soon be dying. It’s a lesson and grace that we can all learn from:

Dr. Oliver Sachs Faces His Own Death

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Next of course is Wayne Dyer. Wayne’s a legend in the transformational community and from my personal perspective, one of the clearest writers on the subject. Marianne Williamson’s (A Course in Miracles) prayer is so beautiful and thorough that I feel no need to add anything else. I wish every life was celebrated in this way:

We will all come to pass. Our days are limited and they are filled with potential. Use up as much of your own as you are able because there is no prize at the end–it’s the living that’s the prize.

Have a wonderful weekend.

peace. s

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

Father’s Day

This past Father’s Day felt different for me. Anyone who reads me knows my Dad’s been my hero since my first trip to Australia. My Aunt and Uncle had such positive views of my parents, and I respected my Aunt and Uncle so much that I began to reconsider who my parents might be—not as my parents—but as individual people living their own lives.

712 Relax and Succeed - Life is too ironicI’ll be forever thankful to particularly my Aunt Ev who did such a great job of helping me to learn to recognize those qualities in all adults. She also did a great job of explaining some of the challenges of adulthood that too-often kids assume are things about them rather than about adulthood. That was the beginning of my father becoming my hero.

As I’ve written in these pages, Dad had a massive brain injury of his own when I was young and he was not expected to live the night. Two weeks later he was out of a coma, slowly regained his memory and his brain became a subject of debate between me and a very talented neuroscientist.

Because it was well-before the 2000’s the prevailing wisdom was that, because brain cells didn’t replace themselves in the same way they do in the rest of the body, this lead everyone to conclude that the brain didn’t change. It does grow new cells, but there was no recognition of other changes. I knew the brain had what is now called neuroplasticity and that it can and did change all the time. Her beliefs lead her to the conclusion that my father would get worse. I was young then and I couldn’t explain very well at the time how I knew for sure, but I assured her that my father would improve and that the brain does grow and change, and those two things are now known to both be true.

712 Relax and Succeed - It is not joy that makes us gratefulThe funny thing is, even though the doctors that night told Mom and I that Dad wouldn’t make it, and even though his head was this weird shiny smooth pumpkin of bruises and tubes, and there was nothing recognizable about his head, I was still entirely sure he would be fine. I literally had zero worry for him—I was more concerned about how my Mom was. But this year—after his last fall, that actually frightened me. That brought time into focus. I try not to think about time, but for Mom and Dad I’ll do anything.

I may get 20 more Father’s Day with my Dad. But I also know that he’s way past the national average for age and so this year’s could also be our last. An acute sense of that had Dad glowing in the dark this year. My parents have always been so precious to me but I have modelled myself after my father. And the idea of living without him terrifies me. But I happily go toward that terror because I know by facing my fears I will be making him even more precious and that will make us even closer.

My Dad has this one particular skill. He can be fully invested in you. This means that if you are in front of him and you’re angry about how you can’t stand Mark, and that Mark is the reason for all of your pain and suffering, my Dad would not join you in attacking Mark. But he would support you completely as you attacked Mark. He would be genuinely sorry you were in pain and he wouldn’t argue with you about Mark. You would get full empathy from him.712 Relax and Succeed - I never had a policy

Now, if my Dad went to see Mark and Mark told the opposite story—the one where you’re the jerk—then again—my Dad would not join in on any bashing of you. But he would fully support Mark. He would be sorry Mark was in pain. But Dad knows only support. He has no attack. He can just be with you in whatever moment you’re both in, and he doesn’t need any opinions of his own when he’s there. He’s there for you.

If you think you have unlimited Father’s Days, or Summers, or Christimas’s or Tuesdays, then you’re fine. But eventually you figure out you don’t, and then each of those things becomes stunningly special. Far from wanting just one more Father’s Day, you’ll want one more weekend, one more day, one more hour.

I’m not a vampire and neither is my father. We have hearts and our souls will eventually leave them. That temporary nature is the very quality that gives life its richness. It is what the vampire can only taste in small doses but humans can activate throughout their lives.

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I have my father’s sense of humour. I remember distinctly the day I learned courage from him. I remember distinctly when I learned compassion from him. And he taught me what it was like to be with a human being who was sincerely and completely invested in connecting with me. Experiencing that connection always felt so incredibly good and it gave me so much strength that still today I do my utmost to have as many of my exchanges be like that as possible. Dad has always left people better than he found them.

I’m grateful that my Aunt woke part of me up while I was still young enough to have a very deep and wonderful relationship with my parents. I will miss my Dad if he leaves this Earth before me. But in the meantime I won’t let my fears eat up my insides. Not when I can use them to push me even closer to Dad.

Reconsider the people around you. Do not take them for granted. That would be stealing from yourself.

Have an awesome day.

peace. s

The Friday Dose #73

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Today’s Dose is about the remarkable, consistent and unconditional love of animals. Our pets love us in such a pure way. They know everything about us and yet if we’re not conscious enough to do anything about it, they still let us get away with fair amounts of neglect and they will still meet us with love.

Today your mental distraction starts with the brilliant mind and eye of a German photographer who specializes in pets, and in particular Dog photos that could be featured in ways that communicate their personalities. Her work is delightful, it’s gorgeous and it’s very likely to make you happy. Ladies and Gentlemen, I bring you Elke Vogelsang and her models:

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Elke Vogelsang Photography

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And after that bit of lightness we will proceed on to an absolutely beautiful film that will has a great lesson for all of us in life. It’ll make you cry in that way we all love doing, where you feel better afterwards–even you tough guys out there. This is a story narrated by Denali, about his life with cancer, and the living he did with his best friend, Ben Moon. I highly recommend it:

Thanks everyone. If anyone’s interested in any more dog material, here’s the link to my last day with my beloved dog Mo: Mo-ments

Have a great weekend everyone. Love who’s present.

peace and love. s

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Born Again

If you look at it from the right angle, being told you were dead is a big plus in life because it gets you to really appreciate that being alive is actually quite a privilege. So first my dad almost lost me due to my massive brain injury when I was five, and then I almost lost him in 1983 when he ended his roofing career by doing a 3 meter head-first dive into concrete. He’s had cancer, he experiences strokes, and the other day my parent’s neighbour found him 669 Relax and Succeed - Every experience no matter how bad it seemsunconscious and bleeding on her front sidewalk.

I have been keenly aware since I was five that just as I almost did, people can vanish and often without warning. One minute we can talk to them and the next minute we can’t. When Mom and I got to to the hospital physical Dad was there but mental Dad wasn’t. He didn’t know who we were or what had happened. It’s the first time I remember seeing my mother look scared, and Dad looked lost. It must be a terrible sensation to not be able to reel in your own identity. And at the same time it shows that our identity is little more than a collection of our memories and habits.

As I sat in the Emergency Room waiting area I couldn’t help but notice the worried expressions on nearly every face. Everyone was living in the future or the past. They were wishing someone hadn’t tried that trick on their bike, or they wish their diet had been better the last 20 years. Or if they were living in the future they were speculating about what might happen. That’s when I was reminded of how most people see things.

Because I knew very profoundly that I really could lose my father at any second, I did not waste a moment of our time together by wondering about times other than the moment we were in. In that moment I could see that he was scared and that he didn’t even know what would bring him comfort, and so I just held his hand and told him I loved him and that worked pretty well. With no offence to the others intended, if you were watching them closely you 669 Relax and Succeed - You have to embrace getting oldercould see they were so busy worrying about what they might lose that they weren’t very present at all with the people they were there with—including the patient.

Despite my awareness during the emergency I was aware that night that I had undergone a fundamental shift in my self-identity. I was born again as I realized that my time as a part of the next generation was approaching and it allowed me to come to realize that I’m unnerved by the idea of living without my father. I didn’t know it until this last accident happened, but I know of no safer place than in the presence of my entirely non-judgmental, fully supportive father. He’s always displayed courage, decency, kindness, generosity, compassion and intense interest.

My dad has been genuinely excited by everything that’s excited me. He loves it when I love my life and I do not like the idea of living without my hero and that knowledge has changed me. But rather than lament where I am in life I accept that these transitions are a natural part of my love for him and our movement though life. If I don’t resist them with wanting thoughts I will be able to fully immerse myself in the moment, and that’s better because that’s where I’ll find my Dad.

My parents are both way past the national average for lifespan. Mom teaches exercise three times a week and Dad volunteers all over the place plus he walks every neighbour’s dog. That’s what he was doing when he fell. But at their age things can change in an instant and so I’m fully 669 Relax and Succeed - Learn to appreciate what you haveaware that I could have another two decades of goodbyes or that the next one might be the last one. That can feel terrifying if I think about it from a what do I lose? perspective. But if I think about it as a simple reality, it suddenly makes my already beloved parents even more precious.

My Dad is my hero and I love my Mom thoroughly. If my life has been this great clearly they got a whole bunch of stuff right. If it works out that I get another 20 years I will be grateful for every single day. But if it ends sooner I will still be living in a state of mind where I am routinely, unbelievably grateful that these two amazing people are my parents. And loving that fact is about the best thing I can think to do with however much time we have left with each other.

Thanks Mom and Dad. If you were wondering if you succeeded—I can’t imagine a greater success than helping a kid to live a life that he’s absolutely loved. I love you both more than you can imagine.

hugs and kisses, s

PS Oh yeah, and as for Dad’s fall—his brain bleed is healing and he’s thankfully back on his anti-stroke medication. We’re going to watch some playoff hockey games together this week. 🙂

Light Up Your Life

It is understandable when significant events have an impact on our lives. There is nothing wrong with feeling a sting of pain or jab of remorse or to be choked with sorrow. These are all legitimate ways to experience life. You just don’t want to stay spinning on those states of mind when you were meant to move on. In fact the pain is there to indicate to you that you 662 Relax and Succeed - I know now that we never get over great lossesare not supposed to ruminate on thoughts of that type and that it is time to move on to other things.

You have two choices after you’ve experienced hardship, pain or loss. You can allow those experiences to diminish you—to crush your spirit—and you can shroud yourself in dark thoughts about the past or damning ones about the future. Or you can accept those experiences as valuable and in doing so integrate them into your being. Previous experience is what creates empathy and that leads to compassion which is a form of love and connection. So pain and suffering are ultimately an invitation to have more love and connection in your life. But not if you hide away and shroud yourself in wishful thinking.

Everyone you meet has experienced great pain. And you can see how it’s affected them. For some they are hunched and tired and defeated, whereas others are bright and empathetic and aware. Some relive their pain regularly whereas others are only glad to have survived it. My father said there was only two ways to come back from WWII: sorry you went or glad you made it back. These aren’t two different wartime experiences, these are two different choices about how to process the fact of being in a war. So the person in pain will say that their experience is the source of their suffering just as the compassionate person will say that the very same experience is the source of their compassion.

662 Relax and Succeed - Sunlight I met a girl onceI’ve referred to kintsukoroi in a previous blog. It’s the Japanese practice of repairing broken pottery with gold. The notion is that no one should be upset by a broken vase because it now has the opportunity to be even more beautiful. The same holds for people. As Dr. Elisabeth Kubler-Ross points out, the cracks are where the light gets out. The uninjured are of little comfort to a grieving person. But someone who understands? That person is invaluable. That person can connect with you. That person can share your pain and thereby diminish its intensity. You are grateful for those people in your life.

I am not suggesting that you enjoy your next struggle. But do keep in mind that it is in a way a form of Life University, where are you being constantly re-trained in matters of the heart. Do not let your unpleasant experiences lead you to lock yourself away. This is like getting your angels wings and then not flying. After those events you are made more powerful, larger and more connected. In fact your own strength will increase with each additional person you help. And all the time you will be bound together by the gold of your relationship—the bond of shared pain.

Life is sometimes beautiful and rewarding. And other times it is harsh and cruel. But the way to beautiful and rewarding from harsh and cruel is often through someone who has enough experience with the latter that they can lead you to the former. And it’s important to remember that sometimes that person will be you.

peace. s

Energy Conversion

I have a dear friend who I respect a great deal. He’s a good man but he’s going through a tough time. He’s losing one of his closest friends to cancer. It’s going to happen quickly—which in some ways can be a blessing in disguise. But there is no way of getting around the fact that this will require a massive adjustment to a new reality for my friend.

568 Relax and Succeed - We are the loveIn situations like that people always search for meaning. Everything happens for a reason people will say. But of course the reason is created in our own minds. The reason is constructed by us for us. And so we would do well to carefully consider where we are going to place this substantial density of meaning.

No matter what we’ll go through Kubler-Ross’s stages of dying, all the time muttering to ourselves about whatever stage we’re in. But we can force our pain out through those activities in our consciousness, stage by stage, or we can convert the energy from that pain into something meaningful. This is one of the most powerful things a human being can do. We can take in one kind of energy and we can act to flip it into its inverse. We can turn that energy 180 degrees.

The way we do this is to fully feel our pain. Don’t back away from it, move toward it. Feel its texture. Feel what it’s made of. Feel the details of those agonizing thoughts. Study them like a scientist would study a chemical reaction or the behaviour of an animal. Just watch yourself closely and come to better understand your pain. And in doing so you will become aware of the preciousness of life itself. Of the temporaryness of it. Of its fragility. And yet, of its potential vitality.

568 Relax and Succeed - When you arise in the morningYou will realize that just as some friend’s family did not know they were losing their father only one hour before the news arrived, the same could unknowingly happen in your own family tomorrow. And so rather than turn that into some maudlin loss of purpose, turn it the exact opposite direction and see life for the exciting opportunity that it is. Opportunity for what? For love in all of its forms. Laughter, camaraderie, empathy, romance, friendship, joy. Convert the agony of loss into the unrestrained openness of unconditional love.

You have a choice you either consciously or subconsciously make every single moment. You choose how to analyze the Is-ness of the world. So yes, you can look at the death of a friend as a horrible injustice and no matter how healthy you are your mind will spend at least some time in the angry stage. But the sooner we can reach acceptance, the sooner we can begin to take our grief and convert it into love. Love for the person leaving us and love for those still with us.

That is the awareness that death brings with it. When juxtaposed to death we can suddenly appreciate that life itself is a verb. That before being healthy or happy we must simply be. And when something reminds us that nothing lasts forever and everything changes, we realize that everything includes us. That we and all of our loved ones are temporary spacemen on this little rock hurtling through the cosmos. We are but a blip on the timeline of the universe. Which is why it is all the more important that we love all we can for the short time we’re here.

It’s a wonderful opportunity, life is. Just ask anyone who’s losing theirs if you should waste yours and you’ll always get the same answer. Live. Live fully and deeply and bravely. Because things like failure or loss mean nothing. We all end up dead anyway. So don’t waste your life wishing for a different one. Live this one as fully as you can. Because to do that is a choice, and to not make that choice is to surrender the most valuable thing you have.

peace. s

The Suffering Child

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

peace. s