Old Books New Covers

1331 Relax and Succeed - Know your enemy

Our egos are active when we are sitting in judgment of ours or other’s thoughts and behaviours. To avoid this enervating activity it is often helpful to have an external focus for our attention. For this reason let’s begin the week with a meditation and exercise that might take moments, or days –but for however long it lasts we won’t be thinking about ourselves, and that’s a healthy thing.

We need to choose a person we generally avoid. Maybe someone we actively dislike, but it can even just be someone we wouldn’t normally ever choose to associate but we have no strong aversion to. It doesn’t have to be the way Steve Martin felt about John Candy at the start of Planes, Trains and Automobiles. We just have to start from a place where we feel the impulse that this other person doesn’t ‘fit’ with us in some way.

The question is, do we feel that way because they don’t fit with us? Or because when we met them we unknowingly judged them based on our own random state of mind at that moment? Did our imagination place a mask over a person we actually don’t know?

Maybe we don’t like how they are in the world. Maybe they are clumsy, or too talkative, or too timid, or their beliefs clash with some of ours. Maybe we don’t like something they did or didn’t do, or maybe they just seem boring, or they remind us of someone who did something painful to us long ago and our reasons are essentially subliminal.

In the end, the reason we feel a disconnect with the person is less important than the following fact: the recognition of the inherent value of others is bestowed on others by us, it cannot be magically earned by the people we are judging.

1331 Relax and Succeed - The recognition of the inherent value of others

Once we’ve found this sibling, or co-worker or classmate or other person, let’s set about learning something new about them. We’re not prying into their lives, we re-looking at its public aspects like; who their friends are, or do they hold doors for little old ladies, do they make their own lunch? We can even just listen more closely to what they say and what it implies.

We may have to get to know them through various means in order to see them in a more three dimensional way, but if we have to do it in person without them realizing it, that can offer a lot of lessons to an aware person. A great deal can be learned by practicing the act of listening to someone super-closely.

We’ll all know we’ve completed the exercise when we find something that clashes with our belief about the person. We’ll feel that as a mild surprise. Maybe their favourite basketball player is ours. Maybe they love the same poem, or band, or idea. Maybe their sister is an alcoholic too. Or maybe they are one of the few people that understands how it feels to watch your mom die in Grade Four.

When we find this thing we’ll know it because we will –if we’re paying attention– quite notably feel the chemical shift in our bodies. As our minds change, our bodies will too.

Somehow we feel this shift in much the same way that most of use can feel the release of our white blood cells during an illness. In that case, we’ll will often say things like, “I think my cold is turning,” 15 minutes after the release. In this case, the realization about the other person will also release a form of tension within us.

That tension will have been created by us expending energy, thinking subconsciously limiting thoughts that served to restrict who that other person might be, even if all we were doing was not inviting them into our circle.

By relaxing our definition to fit our new information –by thinking different thoughts about them– we allow other people to more successfully be themselves near us, and that warms relations between us. This is what can make it such a useful exercise for society.

Remember: we find something we like about someone that we formerly ignored or didn’t like. Then we find a way to connect with them anyway until we sense that we really have changed our idea of who the person is (for the better).

The nice thing about this is, even if we fail at the exercise, even just trying it will have positive impacts as an exercise in compassion. Enjoy the process. This is us getting healthier.

peace. s

Close Your Identity and Open Your Consciousness

1234 Relax and Succeed - I'm drowning in a sea

People tend to suffer because they believe in a fixed identity. They believe deep down they are someone–the person they imagine–and they try to tune themselves to that internal ideal. Other people will certainly disagree as to our assessments of ourselves just as we would disagree with their assessments of themselves. We often disapprove of ourselves too, because most of us are about as hard on ourselves as we are on our enemies.

Seeing one’s developing self as an enemy that must be destroyed is largely why people are in so much pain. How can any of us enjoy the experience of our life if our experience takes place in our consciousness, and our consciousness is occupied with attacking our illusory, thought-based selves? It’s like our consciousness’s internal puppet show where one hand is hero, the ideal us; while the other hand is the villain, constantly and painfully measuring the distance between our ideal and our pathetic self.

It is possible to have an ideal for a target and yet not live a life of internally disappointed measurement. Rather than destroying ourselves we must kill that idea of measurement. It’s not part of the natural world so it cannot survive without our attention.

1233 Relax and Succeed - If you're using your thoughtsOnce we ignore our own thinking long enough we start to feel how ephemeral and meaningless thoughts are relative to action. Once we have that, we develop a better sense of time, where we realise we cannot possibly change things from the past, and so thinking about painful mistakes in the present makes little sense. If the thought stings then the experience has done its job and we have learned. We don’t need to add beating ourselves up with our word-based thoughts. By feeling badly we’ve proven that’s not the direction we’re naturally inclined to go.

We must also recognize that our thoughts are not our own, they were cultivated by our society. We’re encouraged to think certain things about ourselves and discouraged about thinking other things. Our entire egocentric life is made of those silent rules. It’s why you feel self-conscious when there’s a stain in your shirt even though everyone’s spilled food on themselves in their lifetime. The problem really isn’t you, it’s that culture of measurement; of judgment.

This can really impact us when issues become particularly emotional. Because we will all self-reinforce our identities; the more time we spend with people who share a set of beliefs that we share, the more certain and extreme those beliefs will become in the absence of respected disagreement. Most of the major problems now seen around the world are linked to this idea.

1233 Relax and Succeed - Commander Locke to Morpheus

While most of the world is pretty flexible and could live happily under many different systems in many different societies, some feel more threatened and are therefore more defensive, and that leads to anger. This effect can be see from ISIS to the Westboro Baptist Church to the KKK to the do-gooder mobs that destroy the lives of people who make big or small mistakes that violate–or appear to have violated–the social ideal; like the attacks on celebrities, or those on people over their food choices, or even through well-intentioned political correctness.

Let’s take a half hour of our lunch today and review our own lives. How many different points of view do we listen to? Are we in a feedback loop, where our microphone is too close to our speaker? Are the opinions that form our world just loops of ideas that go out of our microphone to be amplified by those who already agree with our ideas? Because that just makes us shout even louder into our microphone and the whole thing just gets louder and louder until it’s a frenzy. Those get built one person at a time, they can only be taken apart by each individual becoming conscious of their previously unconscious involvement.

If all of our friends live like us, share a lot of our beliefs and perspectives, and rarely disagree with our views, it’s almost certain we live in an ego feedback loop that will generate lots of suffering for each member because we will begin to mistake each other for the world itself. Conversely, healthy people are attracted to new ideas that challenge how they see the world. It’s a sign of the confidence they have in their true self. They remain open to the idea that they are big enough to be able to flex toward any idea that makes good sense to their being, because they rightfully see themselves as worthwhile aspects of the universe.

Let get out of our bubbles. Expand our minds. Any fear is a trick. It’s only misinterpreted excitement. We should go lovingly toward what challenges us. Especially including the people we assume we disagree with, because even if we don’t ever become friends with them, we will have both have learned more about both finding and making valuable friends.

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.

Peace Through Understanding

1083-relax-and-succeed-the-truth-is-you-cant-try-to-let-goFor the sake of your symbiotic relationship with society it is good to cultivate a personal sense of peace. This why the people we struggle with the most are the ones that are also the most valuable in the development of our spiritual and psychological resilience.

In yesterday’s meditation we identified what you had gained thanks to your spiritual enemy. You think about this person too often, they anger you too quickly, and you just feel like you would be a much happier, better person if they didn’t act this or that certain way! Breathe.

You cannot be found until you’re lost. You’re born without ego, you learn how to ego from other egos and then you try to get your way back out of your ego-suit. That’s pretty much what life is. Your ego is like this tight, restrictive piece of clothing that won’t allow you to bend or lean or fold any part of your body without your ego pinching you painfully.  Stuff like; Way to go, skip the gym again, never lose this weight, never get a date, or whatever yours says to pinch you.

1083-relax-and-succeed-let-no-man-pull-you-low-enoughAs we know, your Temari ball was built around whatever the insult it was that dug in and stuck. You heard all kinds of things your entire life, some good some bad. This is one you decided to prove wrong. Can you see what you did?

When you’re young you’re the child of your parents. You have your own personality but you don’t really have an identity that doesn’t relate to a pretty fixed set of people; your family, the kids at school. But then in your tweens you need your own identity. You have to be someone. And as I’ve discussed in this blog many times before, kids usually start with the opposite of the parent because they’re not even sure what else there is to be.

This is where you make a choice about life again. Imagine that before birth you were something more akin to a verb than a noun, and that you chose your childhood. Now imagine that this is the same moment where your soul chooses your first mask of adulthood. This is the first character you pick up to play that seems to match what your untested beliefs are.

1083-relax-and-succeed-experience-that-most-brutal-of-teachersMaybe you chose Party Girl, or Fashion Guy, or Thrift Mart Artist, or Super-Serious Athlete, Eclectic Musician, or Political Junky, or Comic Nerd or even Yoga Vegan. There’s nothing wrong with those other than your inflexibility. You’ll invest a lot in your identity and so if someone asks you to step out of it for any reason it can feel uncomfortable. You’ll argue with them. You’ll feel resistance.

After you pick the first adult identity you end up choosing a second one anyone anyway, and it’s often a ricochet off of your first identity and your disillusionment with aspects of it. The sooner you get intentional about creating peace rather than just reacting to unrest, the sooner you get back to the pleasant state of mind you enjoyed as a kid.

Over the next three days your meditation is to stay vigilant, watching your internal narratives for any references directly to, or that somehow relate to, your villain and how they make you feel. The idea is that each time you think of them, you replace that narrative with what you figured out yesterday.

1083-relax-and-succeed-if-it-comes-let-itIf your ex drives you crazy but your kids are your joy, then when you think of the ex start remembering that without them you don’t have the children. Really poke holes in the person that doesn’t accept your ex, because that’s your ego. It hurts you.

The truth is that great things came from this other human, so that person is obviously super valuable. The problem is, that’s not what you look for when you deal with them. You start listing how they’re difficult. This is about acceptance.

You can tell the angry story or you can remember they’re connected to life and beauty and love. That choice is yours and your life is made of a big long line of those choices. Those are the experiences of your lifetime. As often as possible, make them consciously.

Have a wonderful weekend everyone. All the best with your meditations. These ones are big.

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.