Let Your Soul Breathe

1373 Relax and Succeed - Let Your Soul Breathe

Today we will do. Every day we all do. We have many identities, and there are things that each of them do. We are more Humans Doing rather than Humans Being. Ego’s do. But under it all, our souls still be.

When speaking with a Rabbi while travelling, I noted that, in general, names have meanings. Some are intentional names that have significant religious, or conceptual, or referential meanings, (I have a friend whose name means “Light of God.”), and some people even have accidental ones, like Miller, Butcher, or Farmer.

When I asked about the Yiddish name for God, Yahweh, he took a long time to consider what I had asked before explaining that the name was almost like –what I will now call– a yin and yang symbol. The two parts flowed together like the crest and the trough of a wave; inseparable. Indivisible. The two parts of this ‘wave’ were Is and Be.

We may ask what Is our ego doing? But under the ego’s ups and downs, and inseparable from it, our souls presence is consistently being. We might think that a wise person is one who can shift more energy into being, but being is very still. It’s beautiful, but not much happens. And souls like a full life.

On the other hand, when we feel badly is generally when we’re overloading the doing. If one makes us rise and get top heavy, where we start to teeter, it is the other that draws our center of gravity downward to stillness, where the power of being is always there, flowing through the present moment.

As we move about our days today, let us segment them phase by phase. The drive or ride to the freeway is one. Journey down the freeway is two. Exit is three. Arrive at work and enter is four. Greet our co-workers is five. Turning on our computers and getting set for our day is six, etcetera, etcetera.

All of those things are things our work identities are doing. But today we will add a small but meaningful meditation to the times in which we switch tasks or conversations. These are our oases of being.

The way we achieve this being is to break for a moment between tasks, and to do the following exercise from a previous post:

828 Relax and Succeed - Periodically during your day

It is likely our egos will find this frustrating. Egos are emotional. Our souls have feelings. But our frustration is a good sign. That’s our ego banging on the door, wanting control of us back.

Switching identities takes a few moments for the breathing exercise. Our identity will sometimes do things for hours. That is how greedy our egos can be as they bang away with their frustration. The ego wants.

Our souls are generous. They do not want, they give. These little breaks to be can add a great deal of power to our day. So we must move past our ego’s frustrated resistance, like an itch during a meditation session. We must dispel its power with our presence. We must learn to use the breathing to stop the course of our minds.

Let us begin today. As we switch between tasks, let us breathe and bring presence into the next task. Let us feel it lower our spiritual center of gravity. Let it slow the course of our minds.

And when the frustration goes, and our days become more peaceful, we will know that our doing and being are flowing in balance, giving us wide and awesome opportunities to do, while always maintaining enough life for us to simply be.

peace. s

Waking Up Our Kids

1292 Relax and Succeed - Over-thinking steals livesIt’s common for people to wish they’d learned to control their thinking when they were younger. What’s effortless to learn for largely egoless kids is a bit harder when we’re older, that’s fair. More importantly, for a kid, a lot of suffering can be avoided or abbreviated if we know how to manage our emotions earlier in life.

Phones and computers and automation give many of us a false sense of control. But when we are faced with situations that are overwhelming, increasingly people are finding they are incapable of managing that very normal aspect of life. Lessons on managing our feelings needs to start young –younger than we might think.

Every parent should at least consider waking their kid up in a way that helps them truly understand how the world and our minds merge to create our reality. Rather than just telling them to get up and being perfunctory about getting them physically ready, if possible, we should consider taking a moment to get them psychologically ready too.

Kids generally assume that whatever their parents are doing is what’s happening in every house. Normal is whatever our parents do routinely. So if they wake up and they witness us taking a moment to set an intention for a good day, and if we casually expect that they should do likewise, those things quickly instill that healthy ritual as a normal part of waking up.

A parent can present the idea like it’s a big moment –like when a kid doesn’t have to wear diapers anymore– or, if the kid’s older, it can be said much like you might tell them that they have to remember to grab their skates for hockey practice.

It’s either exciting or pedestrian, depending on how much child-like wonder your kid is still functioning with. I’ll use a young kid in the example. In my admittedly highly idealized example, it starts as easily as:

“Tomorrow when we get up we’ll get you started on setting your intentions,”

“What’s that?” the kid may say in some form or other.

“Well, without an intention people’s feelings are kind of like flags or balloons. They just float in the direction the wind is blowing. And you know how people have good moods and bad ones?” The kid nods. “Well, other people’s moods and our own thoughts are the ‘wind’ everyone has in their day.”

“The wind?”

“Yeah, it’s like a wind of thinking. Sometimes it blows us along and makes things better, like when people cheer for us or when we’re thinking lucky thoughts. But sometimes it blows hard right at us, like when a lot of people are picking on us, or if we’re mad, or sad. Some days there’s no wind, but most days there’s at least a breeze. So it’s important to start the day with an intention to not get blown off course.”

“What happens when we’re blown off course?”

“Well, we’re just individuals. We’re very strong and we have lots of control, but sometimes we’re hungry, or over-tired, or sometimes we’re just surrounded by too much sadness or anger. But we don’t want to stay angry or sad –or even get angry or sad if we can avoid it, right?”

“I don’t want to be sad.”

“I don’t want you to be sad either, but we have sad feelings because sad is a part of life. Without sad we lose a lot of love songs, and love songs are beautiful. As we get older we start to understand what to do with sadness –because we can use it to find more happiness if we do it right. But some sadness is just built into life. The way to avoid being too sad for too long is to set an intention to have a good day. That way you avoid the avoidable sadness.”

“You mean we can not feel sad? How?”

1292 Relax and Succeed - Stop thinking and end your problems

“Sometimes you ‘can not feel sad.’ Other times it’s the right feeling for what’s happening, like when we were sad at when we had to take Pepper to the vet to go to sleep.”

“I miss Pepper.”

Cuddles the child. “I do too honey. Thinking about Pepper can be a nice kind of sad though, right? That’s the kind of sad it’s okay to feel. Missing Pepper is because we loved her.”

“There’s good sad and bad sad?”

“Yeah. Good sad is the sad we want to feel. But sometimes you don’t want to feel sad, or we’re tired of feeling the kind of sad we liked and now we want to feel better. When we feel that feeling we have to shift our attention to different things.”

“… what kind of things?”

“Well, if we don’t want to be sad then we can’t think our own sad thoughts because they’re sad. And we don’t want to think other people’s negative thoughts –stuff like insults– either, because that hurts too. Auntie Sara sometimes makes herself sad because she thinks she should look different. But we love Sara exactly the way she is, don’t we.”

“I love Sara… Why does Sara want to be different?”

“Well, wanting is made of thinking. So Sara is thinking about looking different than she does and she likes the person in her thoughts better.”

“So she doesn’t like her real self?!”

“Sometimes. Yeah.”

This genuinely dismays the child. “Why? Then why doesn’t she stop thinking that?”

“I guess she forgot to. Maybe because she didn’t have the habit of setting her intention for the day.”

“How do I do that?”

“It’s when we decide how we’re going to use our focus for a day. All day long we all each decide what we think about. Nobody else thinks for us. So if you’re thinking about Pepper and it’s making you sad but you like that kind of sad, you can keep focusing on your thoughts on Pepper. But if you’re too sad and you want to stop, instead of thinking about Pepper you have to think about something or someone that makes you happy, like the time we went horseback riding, or when you went on the airplane.”

“I can think about that?”

“You can think about anything you choose.”

“That will make me happier?”

“Yup –if you choose thoughts that make you happy.”

“Can it be a rabbit?”

Every parent knows this kind of stifled laugh when kids introduce an idea from nowhere. “Yeah, sure it can be a rabbit. It can be anything that makes you happy.”

1292 Relax and Succeed - If we don't like something

“How?”

“You and your ‘how’s.’ Okay. Well, when think about nicer or happier things our brain stops making chemicals that make us feel sad, and it starts making ones that feel better. Sad feelings, happy ones, when we’re mad, or laughing –all of our feelings come from inside us, from our thinking.”

“Inside of us?” The kid goes cross-eyed trying to get a look past their forehead to their brain.

“We kind of ask for our feelings. But when we’re young we only know how to do that when it’s easy, like when we get to do something fun. But when we’re old enough, it’s time to start learning the important part. That’s where we learn to to stop being too sad even when a sad wind is blowing.”

“How do I stop being sad when I don’t want to anymore?”

“Just the way I said –you just change to think about something nicer –that you feel better about.”

“That’s all?”

“Yup. It’s pretty easy. But the voices in our heads can get tricky. They try to tell us we don’t want to be happier when really we know we do, but our thoughts get confused by the chemicals.”

“The sad chemicals?”

“Any of them can confuse us. Wait until you’re older and fall in love. The first time doing that is really confusing. But like everything, we get better at things the more we do them. That’s why it’s important to start practicing when we’re young.”

“I don’t want to be sad like Sara. Sara’s beautiful.”

“Awww honey. Yeah, she is. I don’t want her to think that either. Or for you to think like that about yourself. But doing that is easier if we set an intention. So when we wake up, before we completely get up we have to remember to stop for a few moments. That’s when we do our little meditation.”

“A medit… a m… a what?”

“A meditation. That’s when we take some time to remind ourselves that our thoughts create how we feel each day. And then we remind ourselves that we want to feel good that day. That way, if we forget during the day –and everyone does sometimes– then the intention from the morning reminds us of what to do. If we don’t like our feelings we have to change our thinking. Do you think you’re ready to start trying that?”

If it’s a matter of ready, most kids will jump at the chance to prove more capability and freedom.

“Okay. I’m going to do mine out loud so you have an example, but you can make up your own. What’s important is that it reminds you of your power. No one can change our thoughts but us. Okay, are you ready?”

By now the kid is fascinated to hear what magic spell comes next. And it’s about as close to a real one as we need. Eyes closed, the intention begins.

“Today if I lose my way and I get lost in my thoughts, I will use this intention to remind me that I want to make the most of my day, and so I do not want to dwell on sad, or angry, or guilty, or mean thoughts about myself, my life or any other person or thing.

“Instead of choosing to feel badly I will choose to feel better as soon as my intention reminds me to focus on something better. I thank my intention for helping me keep my thinking in control and thank you for making this little monkey here,” snuggles the child, “so that I always have such a beautiful little monkey to think about to help me when I’m sad.”

“You think about me when you’re sad?”

“I do. When I think of you it makes me happy.”

“When I think of me that makes me happy too.”

“That’s a whole other conversation about identity and ego my little Confucius. Let’s save that talk for a few years.”

“Okay. Can we get a rabbit?”

peace. s

The Straw that Breaks the Camel’s Back

1227 Relax and Succeed - Serenity is not freedom from the stormWhat good is developing your spirituality if it can’t help you through your day? The fact is, advanced spirituality can come and go at any moment, so developing your recovery skills is key. (Oh yes, it does sometimes disappear once you have it, it’s just easier to get it back).

When this skill is most useful is when you’ve already had a day where you’ve forgot you’re the thinker and instead you’ve been living the thoughts. That means you’ll have loaded a lot of the day’s baggage onto the back of your proverbial emotional camel. Then, when you’ve done something like spilled juice on the new carpet, the dog had an accident, your child has not done as you’ve asked, or work or your spouse is still doing that thing that drives you crazy, you reach that straw that breaks your camel’s back and you lose it. So today we’ll talk about five psychospiritual strategies to get you through those moments.

1. You:

You even thought as you walked away from the counter, filling this cup of coffee, this full, with the dog and kids running around was not a good idea, but that just makes you even madder when a moment later it lands on your carpet. Since talking to yourself leads to greater suffering, go quiet and accept instead. Time does not go backwards. The coffee is there now. The question is, how does the you in that moment react? You can think about a past that wasn’t and be in pain, or you can start cleaning juice and get on with your day with a more peaceful heart. Action or thoughts. Solution or suffering. Take a big breath. Exhale your frustration and the thoughts that surround it. Do not think about things you cannot change. Act instead of thinking.

1227 Relax and Succeed - You are in charge2. Your Pets:

They’re animals, not people. They don’t really understand whatever language you’re speaking to them. But they get how you feel. So don’t scream at an animal that you want to listen to you. Appreciate that when you’re upset it’s like slipping into a costume that makes you look like someone your dog would never trust. Work with the dog as a dog, not against the dog and with your schedule, because however important the schedule is, the dog will still be a dog. The act of wanting it to be a different dog doing different things will generate unnecessary suffering. Breathe. Think about sensing some part of your own body, like a leg muscle or your lungs moving. Get out of your thoughts and back present with the dog where you can cooperate.

3. Your Children:

Here’s the wild difference between a parent and any kid under about 27 years old–the parent’s brain is literally more developed. From our late teens to mid to late 20’s, all a kid is doing is wiring their experiences into the matrix of data that they will feed into their consequence-generator. This is so they can pre-imagine their potential results and possibly alter their plans prior to failure. But the parent has to remember, the way that system is built is through failure. So rather than viewing a ‘failure’ as the kid letting you down, see it instead as an opportunity to constructively  discuss what process might have prevented the issue in the first place. That way you encounter these things less often. Give them tools, not hell, because the former is useful to both of you, while the latter is painful for both of you. Remember, if you’re angry you’re adding to the issue, not subtracting from it. Stay conscious of that.

4. Spouse/Work:

Find what you enjoy about your job or marriage and focus on that. Putting your attention on the same issues or problems over and over just solidifies them in your consciousness, which blinds you to your opportunities to avoid the suffering those resistant thoughts create. Be mature; either accept it’s not bad enough to make you leave, or stay on your own terms. But those terms are not made by prescribing every detail of your day to your spouse or employer, they’re achieved by you choosing to adopt a healthy attitude about seeking upsides regardless of their behaviour. When you see behaviour that frustrates you due to its consistency, recognise that your partner and your co-workers all also need to deal with the frustrations that are created by you. That added bit of humility will help center you and focus you on a healthier response.

1227 Relax and Succeed - The only people who find good days5. The System:

Come on, how good could any world work with people like me, you, your spouse, your kids and your co-workers all making it happen? We’re all learning and making mistakes as we go. Frankly, we should be pleased and amazed that nearly eight billion people have figured out how to cooperate as well as we have. And we do better every single week, so don’t focus on society’s failures, focus on its future with optimism and enthusiasm that the best is yet to come. The only people who find good days are the ones that look for them. So do not focus on painful things, choose to focus on things you find uplifting.

Do not let simple or repetitive issues rise in your consciousness. When they appear, see them as potentially painful choices and then find yourself in the present moment and use that presence to choose to focus on the positives involved, and on what can be done. And if it’s too painful for that, then sometimes a good cry is what belongs in our present moment. But either way, it helps a lot if we consciously avoid spending all day loading up our emotion camel by thinking about previous frustrations, because that way you have no straw to break when you spill your coffee.

Now go consciously seek out a great day from all of the events that will present themselves. Your success is within you.

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.