The Value of Pain


It shows up at times where we’re thinking of others. That’s why we don’t notice its value. When we use our experiences with pain, it will be in some kind of compassionate act. To heal them is to heal ourselves when we feel that level of empathy. That is when we see another’s pain as our own. That is when we feel a sense of oneness with another person.

Let us immediately distinguish pain from suffering. Suffering is psychological and it leads to psychological pain, which is only just now becoming important for people to distinguish from physical pain. As I noted in yesterday’s post, relative to our cellular structure language is a very new creation. As a result, our body keeps reacting under the assumption that we’re in physical danger, when really we’re just worried about what someone will think of us on social media. Clearly those things should not been seen as equally important or meaningful.

While the same chemicals can get triggered, with physical pain it can take a long while to heal, whereas sincere efforts at understanding the structures of psychological suffering can quickly reduce it almost completely, and over time people can soon learn how to deeply love their own lives. But we gain access to loving it by trading away our psychological suffering in exchange for acceptance of the certainty that we will experience both physical and non-optional psychological pain.

Physical we’re already ready to accept, and to what degree we accept it is generally referred to as our pain threshold. But buying office supplies for our new job, signing our married name, imagining our life as someone different–these are all either hopeful or wildly hopeful fantasies. We’ll all do them sometimes, but that doesn’t make it wise. It just makes ego human.

There is no need nor benefit for us to spend a lot of time leaping into a made-up future to concoct expectations. We can just stay in the now, where we can actually take action to impact our future, and in doing so we become less likely to avoid causing ourselves future psychologically pain.

Non-optional psychological pain is when our circumstances have changed so suddenly and so drastically that we literally have brain wiring that just isn’t set up to manage it. It’s impossible to be someone and not take on a world view, but if you’re a soldier and you get your legs blown off, then you’re suddenly someone who needs a revised identity. Same for someone who goes broke, has a divorce, loses a job or through the death of a loved one.

The depth of our love with our loved ones relates to the level of pain we’ll experience when they die and our brain can no longer interact with them in the present. That’s why it still tries, often until death. I haven’t lost a parent yet, but I know a lot of people who still ask their deceased parents for advice all the time. They’re just wired into too much other stuff. Their beauty is that they’re literally hard to forget.

By living through very painful experiences, we become valuable to anyone else experiencing those things, and in a ways that could not be known by people who had never actually been in the same position. This is the basis of empathy: our own psychological and physical pain. And when we’ll feel its value is when we bestow our empathy on anyone whose pain we truly share. Having surrendered ourselves into a state of oneness, healing them is to heal ourselves. And that is the value of our pain.

peace. s

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

Stumbling Together

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

peace. s

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

The Friday Dose #112

927 FD Relax and Succeed - Words are a pretextLiving life is first more psychologically peaceful and then a lot more spiritual if you only increase your awareness. Keep in mind that the things you think about each day are ego-related things. All your ego can do is pass around symbolic words but it is only thinking so it does not touch the world. To live you must be active about living. You must make choices that lead to happiness.

If you’re feeling low or stressed or any other feeling you don’t like, look around you and ask if that sense is appropriate. If you’ve just lost someone close to you then it makes sense to be in a state of despair shortly thereafter, but if you’re in that state of mind regularly and the reasons are far more general, then you will only feel better once you take action.

As I’ve stated many times, any stillness must be filled with internal spiritual activity or you will feel crushed by your lack of life. Likewise, if you strongly connect with the natural world–including other people–then you will feel larger than life. But this is a choice that only you can make.

Here’s a good example of how small changes can have a big impact over time. I know for anyone over 35 years old, taking advice from this young lady might even seem humorous and I do realize that before certain key life experiences our comprehension of what’s required for life is limited. While even early battles with serious childhood disease can’t fake that kind of perspective, I urge you to give her a listen anyway. The points she’s making remain entirely valid and they are worth your time. I do hope it helps you set yourself up for a really wonderful weekend.

Enjoy your days everyone!

peace. s

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

Emotional Equalization

We have two ways of thinking about the world. One way is separate and egocentric where the world happens to you, and the other is connected and impersonal where only experience exists. The first produces patterned thinking and repetition based on past experience, the latter produces authentic, original ideas. It is helpful for us to know that when we’re in the ego-state we’re inclined toward a process of equalization.

926 Relax and Succeed - I just want a hugWe Human Beings have ways in which we are smart that we don’t fully understand. As an animal we’re reading more cues than we’re consciously aware of. We’ve added a lot of egocentric evaluation to these senses so we’re confused regarding what we’re supposed to do with the information available.

I’m not sure if you saw the recent articles about the studies in European theatres, but using sensors researchers recorded audiences watching the same 100 films and they collected the scents from the pheromones that people exhaled in their breath during the movie and because everyone’s breath was essentially the same, they got a sort of scent/emotional fingerprint of each film.

As the audience’s emotions shifted during the story so did their pheromones. It got to the point where they researchers could put the sensor on you, have you watch a film, and just by watching your pheromones they knew precisely which of the 100 films you were watching! Now science just found that out, but you can bet that you’ve known it in a subtle way all of your life. This is how a dog knows if you’re nervous.

926 Relax and Succeed - Trust your hunchesWe all know if we’re relaxed and aware that it’s not hard to tell if someone’s displaying a false emotion. False pain, false fear, false anger. We don’t know how we know, we just sense that the person’s faking. Now think about how that comes into play when it’s time for empathy.

Someone being sympathetic means they are looking down at us from an emotional distance. They either don’t have the right experiences to fall back on or they choose not to consider them in relation to the other person, but that distance will create a separation that we now know has a scent signature. So the person receiving the sympathy actually knows it’s sympathy, not empathy.

Sympathy is when you’re at the top of a hole in the ground and you look down at someone at the bottom of the pit and you say, “That looks like it sucks.” Empathy is when you jump down in the hole with them, hug them and then say, “Hey, I’m sorry this happened but don’t worry. We’ll sit here until you feel up to it and then I’ll lead you out. I’ve been down here before.” The former smells like bullshit to us and it does not help us because we have not equalized our scents.

Y926 Relax and Succeed - When you loveou’ve all done this when you’re angry. You’re yelling at your partner, you’re frustrated and you feel isolated and helpless and they sincerely help and help and help. But the sincerity of the help is the issue, because sincere help when you’re in that state just smells like sympathy. So it isn’t until you upset your partner that finally you feel better. Once they blow up too you feel strangely closer and more in alignment and you relax.

Just knowing this can make it less frustrating to us when we catch someone being unhelpful with their own recovery. We get it’s not them being difficult; it’s nature. In an ideal world we won’t drag them down to our low-consciousness separate feeling. When we’re self-aware we can choose to go the opposite direction and try to rise to the better feelings that our partner is offering.

Of course it helps if the partner stoops to meet us halfway but maybe they don’t notice the opportunity so you can’t count on that. We must be grateful when they notice and respond, we must be forgiving when they take a helpful route but one that forgets to align with us, and sometimes they’ll feel just as lousy as us and they’ll be more interested in trying to get you to align with them rather than the other way around. These are all reasonable ways to be human.

Even when we have trouble it is due to our efforts to resolve issues. The layer of language over instinct has created a period of confusion where we have not necessarily aligned our use of words with what really goes on. As time goes on, with things like this blog etc, people will come to understand human nature much better and if they do that improved relations are inevitable.

If your partner is struggling and you can feel they’re trying to get you to join them in low consciousness, don’t get defensive. Don’t demand that they meet you. Do your best to meet them halfway. You’re the strong one: you offer a safe place to rendezvous. They need you. Not to be patient until you blow up, but to be present. Because benign open presence feels like pure love, and it helps basically any situation.

Become more aware of your emotional tone and how it interacts with the people around you. We are animals and we do operate with certain sensory inputs, but that doesn’t mean we can’t process all of that through simple wisdom rather than a complex web of external knowledge. Trust yourself. All you have to do to reconnect with that flow of information is to stop believing that all of the things that are happening around you are happening to 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.

The Friday Dose #104

Are you repressed or empathetic? Does that make your life better or worse? How big is your tribe? Who do you let in it and why? Would you let in people you don’t like if you really thought it would help you?

The reason we do March Kindness Month here is 885 FD Relax and Succeed - True happiness is givingbecause empathy is a specific thing you do. If you don’t do it enough you’ll start thinking there’s something wrong with the world when really there’s only something wrong with your connections. The old ideas of survival of the fittest are dead. Science has proven that’s only true to a small degree, because a group of cooperating people will always defeat a group that’s selfish and uncooperative, which is why we show this beneficial tilt toward cooperation, empathy and connection.

Start exercising your empathy and your life will improve. If someone ahead of you is carrying boxes, run ahead and get the door. If someone’s coming for the elevator, hold it up for them. Let someone into traffic. Be patient with a clerk having a tough day. Do a surprise favour for a family member. Call someone and let them know you think they’re special. And if you really want to do something meaningful–be nice to someone who isn’t nice to you.

There are a zillion ways to express your empathy and compassion. If you don’t do any of them then don’t expect to feel any better. And if you do them, those acts may not always make you or the world better-off, but they definitely give you the very best odds at a good life. And those odds are plenty good enough to make it worth it.

Be nice as a habit and do it because it’s good for you. That kind of selfishness the world can use more of. Have a great weekend everyone!

peace. s

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

Swapping Sexes

884 Relax and Succeed - First of all he saidHow did you do at your meditation yesterday? Were you able to hold your attention on your schoolmate or co-worker’s perspective? Did you learn something about them that makes them more human, more connected, more deserving of your empathy?  If you did that much you did a lot.

Today we’ll focus on the differences between the genders. What’s it like to live in your society as the opposite sex? Men have more personal freedom and often a greater sense of safety, a woman will have more freedom to experience her full range of emotions but she will feel almost instantly less safe. These are not small challenges for each gender to face. These are some of the biggest issues each group has.

It’s terrible to say, but even in a modern country like Canada the most recent stats show women making on average 72 cents for every dollar a man makes. Guys, just take whatever you buy today and multiply the cost by 1.28 and you’ll quickly realize it would take you far longer to recover or get ahead. And remember–these are for a lot of the same kinds of jobs.

884 Relax and Succeed - Empathy isGuys–imagine how ridiculously unfair you would think that was if it was men of your colour, nationality or body type? How would you feel if something arbitrary like that almost certainly guaranteed that you would be up for fewer promotions, get sexually harassed, and make 72% of the guy’s pay? Face it: we’d be furious and we would take action. And if our sisters and mothers and wives and daughters didn’t leap to help us that would feel terrible.

Ladies–imagine how difficult it is to be the one who is carrying the lion’s share of the total costs of living? Most people couldn’t maintain important aspects of their lifestyle without their 72% salary being married to a 128% salary. And maybe you make more, but you don’t feel like you could leave your job if you’re being abused, mistreated, threatened or even if you just can’t stand it. Without the guy the household topples and everyone’s living a much different lifestyle. That can be extremely stressful at time and it can make work feel like a jail.

Whether it’s work feeling like a jail or a dark street feeling like a very real threat, we walk through each day without an enormous amount of consideration for how the other half lives. Just watch your spouse for one day and imagine doing what they’re doing. Imagine if all of the responsibilities were swapped? Imagine if you had to even know what they know, or if ladies couldn’t call friends when they were distraught or men couldn’t protect themselves in everyday situations.

884 Relax and Succeed - Where there is no loveThe fact is, you probably haven’t had much cause to think at all about your spouse’s or brother’s or mother’s or son’s lives. Doing so will expand your awareness and that will open you up and that will feel good. Get out of your head. Establish empathy with more people. Stop thinking about how they affect you and start thinking about how they are impacted by you.

There is greater connection and increased respect between people who understand each other’s experience. Men will never know what it’s like to have a baby and women will never know what it’s like to first in line for dangerous duty, but we can invest ourselves in the healthy action of leaving our own thoughts and worries behind for a day so that we can expand our meditating abilities and establish better relations with the opposite sex. Actually do it. It will expand who you are.

Now go have a great day everyone. I gotta go figure out where I’m gonna put this tampon….

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.

Ego vs Peace

807 Relax and Succeed - I am discouragedWhen I write to you it’s to slow things down. People see a quote, they like how first strikes them and they hit share or like or whatever. But that’s it. Done. Gone. Sometimes these are primary bits of wisdom that are so impressive they’ve lasted thousands of years and yet they are almost always given only the most superficial attention.

When a Student asks: “I am very discouraged. What should I do?” it could be initially be viewed as flippant for a Master to respond by suggesting the student “Encourage others.” Because it feels a lot like the Master is saying, if you’re not doing anything useful then go help someone else. And maybe it means that. Or maybe that and something else….

Who is this “I” that the student is referring to? Where does the student’s discouragement take place? The Master directs the student to acting on behalf of their true self. If the student’s issue is their ego then they must be taken out of that state.

807 Relax and Succeed - A man who conquers himselfThe student’s discouragement emerges when their internal narration creates a subject and object situation where comparisons are made to either someone else or to the student’s own expectations of what was going to happen. The “I” has wants and it never feels good when it does. So by saying “Encourage others,” the Master is asking the student to kill their ego by stealing the energy that it uses to exist.

Your ego comes into being as your empathetic and compassionate thoughts about others drops in favour of a small collection of habitual perspectives that you always use. These perspectives (e.g. pessimist, helper, victim, leader) all reflect the world back in consistent ways, so you add that consistency into your world view–what is known to you as You. The Real You is the one thinking your Ego You into existence.

If you are not mindfully conscious then every time you’re not thinking about some thing or some person outside of yourself then you will be using your thoughts to create an “I.” That self will have filtered personal experiences rather than just having the larger open experiences–as you would in the moment, without any thought put into an opinion about the experience that would require an individual to have that opinion. Better to stay in the flow as the Taoists say.

807 Relax and Succeed - The stronger you becomeIf you’re suffering then take that Master’s advice. Find out how much you really have by thinking about anyone or anything other than yourself. A flower, a friend, a pet, a person on the street; just take a moment to think about their life instead of yours. Look around you and see the lives you walk past every day. Not the people. The lives. Invest in those instead of yourself and your “views” and you will be a calmer and happier person.

The people you’re around every day have loved ones who are dying. Some have dangerous secrets. Some wish they could tell you they love you. There is much much more going on that just what you replay in your head. So a good place to start is to notice someone who feels like you and listen to them carefully. Odds are you’ll have some wisdom for them. And by sharing it with them you will be bringing it into your life as well, and you’ll be surprised at how much energy and vitality you get by simply expressing your natural compassion.

Your journeys matter to me. I 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.