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.

Real Feelings

1218 Relax and Succeed - Real feelings don't go awayThere are two ways to react to feelings that are so meaningful in our lives that they return repeatedly. These include the shocks associated with PTSD, or the sadness that accompanies grief, the pain of a broken heart, or the sting of a deep betrayal. These are generated by some of life’s biggest experiences; experiences we can all expect to have in our life at some time.

May I suggest you think of it much as you would if there was a bee in your house. As much as you may fear it, or as aggressive as the feeling-bee might be, the more we attempt to make those feelings go away the more we are inviting encounters with the feeling-bee. Those encounters are also likely to incite the activity of the bee itself. In short, the more we deal with the bee the more we will have to deal with the bee.

Our other option is surrender. This is not to say that you won’t get bees in your home. Certain feelings permeate life, and avoiding them is to avoid life. To never worry about a bee in your home is to never feel at home. So bees must be accepted along with homes. But trying to rush the bee out of a home is to disrespect the life of the bee itself. It is not an unnatural or incorrect experience. It is appropriate to its own season.

1218 Relax and Succeed - Allow natural feelingsIt is important to remember that no bee stays in your home forever. It either escapes, or it dies. There is no need to panic. You simply want to keep an open mind just like you want an open window. You want to stay open to new ideas and areas of focus; you want do other things and to let the bee escape when it naturally finds its way out. So always remember to always leave room within yourself for new and less threatening experiences.

Learn to be comfortable with your feeling-bees because they will always arrive in their appropriate season. But do not close your windows and chase the bee until you’re emotionally exhausted. Accept the bee, open your windows, and allow the bee to leave when nature has found its way to that moment.

Look at your own life. See which bees you chase most often. Find the ideas you repeatedly seek and find and attempt to swat out of your life. Recognise those as voluntary, unaccepting acts. Instead, accept them as battles that you yourself are engaging within yourself.

You can stop at any point and simply open your heart-windows up to new experiences. By allowing fresher feelings to enter, you give yourself a better chance of escaping the fear and potential pain. So allow your bees. Open your windows rather than resist. The rest is to invite being stung.

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 Voice of the Soul

Hey, you guys wake up. You see this?

What?

She’s just sitting there again.

Like before? Just sitting there thinking about all the things that she doesn’t like about her life? Why does she do that? It’s like putting us in prison. Doesn’t she feel how much it hurts us?

Oh she feels our hurtin’ bad kid, she just doesn’t understand.

Doesn’t understand what?

See, unlike animals, humans have language so they develop this framework they call ‘psychology.’

Psy…cholo…gy…?

Yeah. See, they can use their mind to talk to themselves, and they mistake their own talking for us.

Why would they mistake their own talking for their soul?

Well, see, they’re kind of loving their pain more than they’re loving us. That’s where they’re focus is. They don’t get that we’re a collection of experiences to be lived. When they’re lost they think that a soul is like this perfect shining thing, and so they keep sitting still and then they use their thoughts to compare themselves to their other thoughts about whatever their personal idea of perfection is.

Perfection?! And they each have their own ideas of perfection???

Yeah. Some wanna be skinny, some wanna be smarter or more popular or richer.

And they think if they get that they’ll get closer to us?

They think those things are us. Like I said, they think we’re a thing.

I’m still confused. What do you mean a “thing?”

Like, uh… an entity. They think we’re like a blob of glowing perfection or something.

A glob of…?

I know. But you gotta understand, they’re innocents. They all start like that. The boss figures if we lose them early, then they have their early life to learn to relax when they’re lost. When they do that they’re immediately home. It actually works pretty good. They call it, surrendering.

So if they go quiet they surrender then we start getting lived, but instead they’re trying to find the peace of surrendering by thinking about some blob of perfection?

They’re ‘better self,’ yeah. And, usually they won’t use the blob, they’ll use some other person –which is even crazier I know –but look– I’m not explaining it good. See, they think we’re like this thing that stays forever. They don’t get that we’re a collection of experiences that leaves oneness and returns to oneness. They don’t get that they have to spend us. They think they have to expose us, or be like us, or be pure, or extra nice or something. They think we’re a thing they get or achieve and not an activity they do.

So why don’t you just tell her!? Otherwise she’ll cry all night again for no reason and then we never get lived!

I know. It’s painful. But that’s all we can do is make it hurt. That’s us yelling as loud as we can. She’s the one that has to get up and walk us toward some unhurt. It can be anything. Peace, relaxation, kindness, generosity, fun, laughing, togetherness, love. She could use the legs and move toward any of those things, but we can’t just whisper in the ear. Her thought-words would drown us out. We talk in feelings.

I dunno why she wouldn’t listen. Otherwise she’s just letting us die inside her for no good reason.

I told you, it’s not like I can turn our feelings into words and then whisper them in her ear.

Then let’s signal someone else and get them to tell her.

Sure. Right. Now how the hell do you propose we do that?

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.

Foul Moods

945 Relax and Succeed - Was it a bad dayYou can use whatever theories or concepts or excuses you like but in the end the feelings you experience do not come from external things. You are not some victim of your day. You’re not a victim at all. You can tell yourself you are but what you really are is a participant. And in this game anything can happen, including crappy stuff to you and me.

The problem is that people want to be happy when it’s healthier to be pointed toward happiness. First off, happiness is only a tiny portion of life to focus on so it’s a bit boring; plus it’s difficult to enjoy one’s life based on happiness when all worthwhile successes are necessarily preceded by challenges and the failure naturally associated with learning. Such is the Yin and Yang of life.

If the route to happiness is necessarily through pain and struggle then we’re doomed before we start. But what if we didn’t want to be happy? What if instead we were just oriented toward happiness? Then even when we are at our darkest, happiness is still in view and therefore possible. And moving toward it feels good because we’re continually feeling better than we previously did. After all, good feelings can only exist as a contrast to not-good ones.

945 Relax and Succeed - A mood isn't weather

Your day does not enter your life like a storm and stay. Days are days. The issue is you start making yourself the star of the day. When the photocopier breaks that’s not a part of all of your co-worker’s days, it’s yet another hassle for you to live through. Our ego puts itself in the middle and then thinks the world was supposed to go the way it thought it would. The unpleasant feelings we get come from comparing what we got to what we wanted.

If you don’t feel good it’s because you are entertaining thoughts that lead you to suffer. Yes there might really be unfortunate things happening but it’s impossible to make those go away by fantasising about other ways things could have been. Once something has passed it cannot be changed and can only be accepted.

What you think of as a bad day is really just a day where you’re placing a particularly negative lens over everything you see. Stop calling that a mood and using it as an excuse to punish others and yourself. Free yourself from that thought prison and understand that you can at any time begin watching the world around you for positive things. The more you do it the better you get at it until you eventually–and often easily–find yourself with a completely different and wonderful life.

Have yourselves a great day.

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.

Converting Energy

894 Relax and Succeed - You will know that forgivenessSince there is no blog on Thursday, these are the final three installments of the kindness challenge we’re doing through March. Fittingly, I saved the toughest ones for last. We exercised your spirit all month in preparation for these. We’re in the playoffs now.

We’ll still go from easiest to most challenging, so we’ll start today with kindness through graciousness. This is still very challenging for some but even then, for most of us, if you got enough irritants in a row people will start to have it bleed into their own consciousness. We start seeing the issue personally. It becomes a narrative within us and then we suffer.

This is the nature of karma. The negativity spreads through various manifestations of the universe. As I’ve written before, there is a common misunderstanding about karma. It is of a spiritual nature, and being so it relates to our state of oneness, not our separate ego-state. So as I often say, it’s not what comes around goes around, it’s more like someone peed in the pool.

894 Relax and Succeed - Water is softSo today we’re focused on the karma we generate, and we want to start by disconnecting that from the karma we receive. This is your opportunity in the universe. This is how you contribute. So how this works is that you have to start allowing things to move past you, as though there is no you for the idea to get disturbed by as that current of energy travels past. Rivers get eddies and chop and white water around bridge supports and obstacles but otherwise it flows smoothly. Same with you. Don’t have anything personal sticking up and things will flow right past you.

So what constitutes an obstacle in the flow? Words assembled into sentences which become personal narratives. So stop your opinions regarding what is or what could be, and simply accept and then act originally.

Divorce this moment from the last. What happened in that last moment only matters if you want to conjure it again for this next moment. That’s a choice. So don’t act originally and then repeat energy unconsciously. Recognize that this is where there we can make all of the difference in life. This is what it is to live consciously.

894 Relax and Succeed - You can saveSo today when someone is rude to you or takes some advantage you might otherwise categorize as unfair (or if you do it to yourself by taking a moment to recall past offences), just leave those echoes out of the next moment and respond with graciousness as much as possible for the entire day until you go to bed.

You’ve practiced this a bit, but this is a concentrated day after a month of prep work so don’t assume it will be hard. Tricky maybe, hard: no. Pay attention to how you fail. Is it certain people that can get you off balance? Or is it situations that steadily wear you down? Paying attention to things like that can be some of the most important meditating you can do.

Become a transformer. Take any negative energy you receive and convert it into humour, patience and kindness. Because this right here is how the world and you get closer to your ideals. And hey, this is all about positivity, so don’t forget to have fun. 😉

peace. s

Scott McPherson is an Edmonton-based writer, public speaker, and mindfulness facilitator who works with individuals, companies and non-profit organizations around the world.

Recognition of Involvement

Winner: 2016’s Blog of the Year #10!

So this week we know two things: our Dominant Negative Emotion and our Dominant Positive Emotion. Your mind has lots of things wired into those two emotions and so those are the ones to which you have the most effective route. Your brain’s like that–the more you do of something the better it gets at it.

861 Relax and Succeed - Today I listen to my feelingsFor our example today we could use sadness or anger but since it’s so popular, let’s say you spend most of your day anxious. Maybe you got laid off and there’s no work so you started your own little business but every day you’re freaked out that in you’re in over your head, it’s more than you can handle and you feel lost and afraid about your future and you lack trust in yourself. Again, it can be any emotion; this is just an example.

And let’s say the enjoyable thing you can easily experience is compassion. You can be having a terrible day–be all caught up in your own egotistical suffering and then you can see an injured dog being rescued on social media and suddenly you’ve switched from anxiety about your future to a form of caring love for the animal and thoughts instead about its future. You’re so invested in the animal that you’re not even creating a you to do any suffering.

This example works particularly well because compassion is tied to someone else’s suffering. For your mind, it’s not a giant leap to stay in suffering mode and yet focus on someone else. That once-removed understanding of the pain is the same thing that makes watching suffering in a movie actually resonate. It’s not your pain, but you feel it as pain you personally understand.

861 Relax and Succeed - Feeling unsure and lostWell it’s time you got to understand your own pain like that. That way, if you can’t shift to a better-feeling emotion you can still feel okay being in a painful situation. That’s an important distinction. Pain is mandatory in life. Everyone feels it. But suffering is the egotistical thought layer we place over the world and we invent suffering and claim it’s pain. It isn’t. Psychological pain is very fortunately a choice.

You can’t blame people a few years ago for thinking this was crazy. Common belief in psychology was that it worked the other way around. Your mental health affected your thinking, not that your thinking affected your mental health. Now they’re old fashioned if they think that people are victims. We can’t out-victim people who went through the worst of WWII, so if they can still have fruitful lives so can anyone else. It’s a matter of understanding our choices. It’s a matter of valuing this awesome opportunity called life.

Remember, because you have a preference for an experience that feels good that does not mean that the undesirable emotions and experiences are incorrect or otherwise something to remove from your life. You want to learn to spend the least amount of time there possible, but there is still tremendous value in the contrast that negative experiences provide.

861 Relax and Succeed - You are innately mentally healthyThere cannot be a path of enlightenment if there isn’t a not-path. And it’s not a path to enlightenment, because that makes it sound like it’s a destination when it’s actually an action–a verb; a way of moving through the universe. It is to be awake. To see the creation of your emotions and the possibility of a shift. Just wondering about that change for one day will do you tremendous good.

These are not small steps you’re taking every day. It’s you learning to see the world in a different way. If we do this long enough you’ll not only have the benefit of each lesson, but you’ll also have the larger total benefit of having assumed as natural, an entirely new way of seeing the world. A way so comfortable it can eventually replace the flawed version of reality you’re struggling to manage today.

That’s your assignment: watch your two biggest emotions. See how they each rise within you. Wonder about those sources. You’re wiser than you think. If you’re sincerely doing the exercises you’re likely to have a very helpful insight about how you can be more peaceful with yourself. It’s those little a-ha moments that we’ll stitch together into a new understanding. It’ll be fun. See you tomorrow for the act of the switch.

peace. s

Scott McPherson is an Edmonton-based writer, public speaker, and mindfulness facilitator who works with individuals, companies and non-profit organizations around the world.

Your Emotional Home

858 Relax and Succeed - You attention pleaseHow was your awareness throughout the day? Of course you lost track of your focus countless times, we all do. How quickly and how often you recover the Present Moment is a sign of your development.

You want to practice (there’s that verb again) being aware. You want to practice watching yourself. You want to have it become second nature that your ego is not allowed to run your life without your awareness.

You know from your Monday meditation what your dominant emotion is and what happens to you when you experience it. Don’t lament having a Dominant Emotion–you’ll always have one that shapes your personality more than others. Yes, ideally that would be love or compassion, but all of the emotions are valid. They just shouldn’t be experienced in isolation. Too much of any emotion dilutes its value–including too much happiness.

858 Relax and Succeed - You don't have to be greatSo maybe we want peace, maybe love, maybe compassion, maybe strength. Once you know how to manage your consciousness you realize those are all pretty close together so any will do fine. But if you’re reading this then presumably you rarely visit the positive emotions–maybe you even miss them. It’s not fun living life if on a daily basis you’re spending too much time with the emotions you find difficult.

Sadness, guilt, worry, anxiety, anger–whatever–it doesn’t really matter which one you’re coming from or going to, in the world of consciousness they’re all equal. It’s not that one is harder than the other–what’s tricky is the changing from one to the other. But I say tricky and not hard because all it takes is practice. That’s the value in the Dominant Emotion–if it’s where you are most often then it’s also your most frequent opportunity to practice changing.

The value in this exercise is that we want to work on noticing the physical manifestation of our Dominant Negative Emotion and then let that lead us to realize we’re thinking about the situation in a way that would definitely lead to the reaction we’re having. That immediately takes the blame from other people being responsible for how you feel. Having owned the reaction, we can now start preparing the shift to choosing something better to think about. This is difficult at first, but it gets better with practice and I’ll cover more on the switch later.

858 Relax and Succeed - Occupy the presentSo remember: pay attention to that body part. Note when it’s reacting in a way that signals you that you’re experiencing that Dominant Emotion. Check in with your thinking to see where it’s at, then notice the relationship between your thoughts and that feeling. Easy right? All you’re trying to do is re-catch yourself over and over so that you generally think that emotion into existence and then immediately become aware of it. That already makes you a fantastically much more conscious person.

Every time you feel that tight gut or tight forehead or that sick feeling or whatever else, don’t lament. Just check in and look at it. Don’t wish it away–that’s just thinking about it even more. Just recognize it and you will have taken a big step. You’ve got two days to work on this. Leave a note or something to remind you and then just do your best. Just always remember, it’s a practice not an achievement. Each moment is new.

peace. s

Scott McPherson is an Edmonton-based writer, public speaker, and mindfulness facilitator who works with individuals, companies and non-profit organizations around the world.