Nurturing Empathy

1074-relax-and-succeed-nurture-more-kindnessI’ve been pleasantly surprised by the depth of your meditations. People aren’t letting themselves off easily. That’s excellent. Frankly, the more realistically you view yourself the better others will start to look. We all generally hold others to higher standards than we can maintain ourselves.

When you did the meditations last week you discovered that you had forgiven people, but that it was unlikely an official pronouncement with a definite end date. Instead it was a process where your developing understanding allowed you to slowly let a thought go as it made less and less sense. What happened is that your narrative about their transgression lost its momentum.

That momentum comes from your dedication to think it. When we say something means a lot to us, what we really mean is that it’s a thought we volunteer to think a lot. Sometimes those thoughts are worthwhile. They can be part of grieving or recovery. But far too often they are someone just spinning on negativity that has no purpose in their life.

1074-relax-and-succeed-we-are-oneFortunately, it is difficult to maintain a narrative that makes no sense to you. Once understanding has increased, connection is increased. With the two people being able to see each other within each other, the differences become less important and the similarities become comforting. This is literally what the world needs more of.

How this works in practice is that, as other people talk to you they add their perspectives to yours. You expand, capable of seeing more and farther. In doing so, more people can be included in that family of people you’re prepared to care about. Those additions to your perspective come in two ways; you meditating your way into a discovery or someone delivering you an observation.

You’re in control of your own thinking so you can do the meditating on your own, but how can you help the discovery process? You can’t do that to yourself; that would be meditating toward an internal insight. You can only assist in the discovery process of someone else. To that end, today you will become more aware of a healthy person’s role in life.

1074-relax-and-succeed-darkness-cannot-drive-out-darknessSick and unhealthy people think about themselves a lot. Healthy, balanced people think of themselves very little, although their generosity is a version of them being selfish about giving. They know it feels good to invest more in others than yourself, and so they selfishly do so.

Today you’re looking to avoid creating your own ego-self by pointing your consciousness out, rather than in. Rather than load your attention up with self-reflective egotistical thoughts about you, instead you want to focus outward, on the experiences of others. Watch people’s faces as they listen to others talk. See their emotional reactions as their personal experience. Note how it might differ from yours. Watch for your opportunities.

Today’s meditation is simple: Watch the outside world for an opportunity to provide context. In short, you want to find at least one opportunity today to expand the awareness of someone else. Keep in mind, this cannot be done correctively as that assumes they already have the knowledge and aren’t using it. You have to invite them to include the knowledge by making it harmless.

1074-relax-and-succeed-teach-peaceYou cannot ask someone to assume the identity of jerk. You cannot defy their current beliefs. Your only job is to expand the context from which they might choose to view an event. That’s it. Just plant a seed. Just find a way to present that idea in supportive way. If you succeed at this, before you know it the other person can integrate the added information into their understanding, thereby making it theirs and boom; we have empathy.

Get out of your own head. Today, get at least one compassionate connecting idea into the head of at least one other person and do it without sounding preachy, instructive or superior. Just wonder out loud and leave the rest to the inherent goodness of their spirit. Do that and you’ll have done more for yourself than you ever could have imagined. Enjoy your day everyone.

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.

Extending Kindness to Ourselves

We’re still in March Kindness Month so we want to stay on theme, but it’s Monday, so I have an easy one to start your week. Today you’re going to be kind to yourself in a Maslow kind of way. Food and shelter. Going forward you’re going to make two tiny changes for yourself.

886 Relax and Succeed - Create healthy habitsFirst, become more aware of your body. In previous posts I’ve talked about how only one in ten cells in “your body” are actually you; how most of “your bodyweight” is just the organisms that live in and on us and keep us alive. See yourself as their host and realize that when they are doing well, so are you.

Imagine your mouth as an entry port into your space station. You don’t let just anyone or anything in. You want to make sure that every arrival is about nurturing your society, not destroying it. You will get occasional attacks by viral or bacterial forces, but you have an army of white blood cells you’ll begin recruiting the moment you sense an attack underway.

Let’s make sure your troops and citizens are well-fed. Take the day and be hyper-aware of what goes into your mouth. Food and drinks. Find one that you consume fairly regularly that you know you would benefit from changing.

886 Relax and Succeed - Don't call it a dreamThere’s a tiny portion of your community up near your taste buds that likes to run things because it’s near the gate, but your Consciousness is Captain, so the orders come from you as long as you’re awake and in the Captain’s seat. So get your awareness on duty and find that one muffin or soft drink or chocolate bar or whatever, that you can switch for something else.

A doughnut for an apple. A sugary drink for a water. Candy in the drawer replaced by nuts and berries. Your morning cereal shifts from sugary to fibery. Rather than sparking yourself with coffee, try some natural sugars in some orange slices. Switch one common side dish for a healthier side dish. Stop buying one unhealthy food and replace it with one healthy one.

Now it’s important that when you do this you keep in your awareness why: because you will feel good and that’s what you really want. You don’t want someone to date, or to lose weight, or to live somewhere else, you want to feel good for most of your life. Well you don’t do it by changing things outside of you, you do it by changing the inside of you.

886 Relax and Succeed - Your life doesn't get better by chanceWe also want to change what you load into your consciousness, so also look at where you live and how it impacts your senses. Remove one unhealthy reminder or thing and replace it with only one other–better–thing. So you’ve always had a broken coaster on your office chair. Fix it. Or you have a picture up of an ex and you replace it with one of a new friend. Get nicer sheets. Finally put a brighter bulb in that lamp you read by. Tidy up that crazy drawer.

Do these things and always remember to be grateful each time you encounter them. These are literally steps in your expansion as a being. Every time you eat that banana instead of a chocolate bar, congratulate yourself. Every time you wake up from a good sleep on your new pillow, be grateful that you made the switch. Live your healthy pro-your choices.

Associate your choices and your actions as being the things that define the quality of your life. Increase your awareness of that relationship and you will find yourself progressively feeling more in control. Be kind to you: one food, one thing. By the end of the day, write your switches down on a note and leave it somewhere so you’re reminded to maintain it. March. It’s half over. It’s not too much to ask. Trust me, you’re worth it. Be kind to you today. One food, one thing. Go.

peas. 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.

Feeling Like a Fool

You can’t lose. You really can’t. Because you either get the thing you want or you get something that makes you bigger. That’s how your world works. It’s one or the other. So you can have a great time hanging out with your beloved cousin, or you could have that same cousin suffer an injury and nearly die—or maybe they do die. So in one scenario you gain because you enjoy yourself, and in the other scenario you learn what it feels like to lose someone close to you. And so later when you’re around people who are going through a loss similar to that, you’ll be more empathetic and you’ll often know what to do or say just through your experience. The cracks are where the light gets in, so to speak. When everyone else is crippled by their lack of experience you know what to do.

653 Relax and Succeed - An adventure is only an inconvenienceLikewise, if you fail a test you also become more resilient. Maybe you’re more familiar with the pressures surrounding the test, or maybe you’re becoming more resilient to outside judgment. Everyone’s lives are littered with failed tests and no one more-so than the sort of person who wants to achieve a lot. Want to be an astronaut? Then fail a lot. Because you have to be good at a lot of things to be an astronaut and to be good at a lot of things you have to have failed at them first. When my brother was a salesman and he knew that one in ten people was a real buyer, he knew that a non-buyer was someone who had kindly checked off one of his nine empty boxes and he would be grateful for them because he understood they were just as necessary as the one who actually bought. And so my brother always met his next sales prospect with a great attitude and that gave him a much better chance at increasing his odds from one in ten to two in ten and that one small difference made him rich.

Maybe you’re in an exciting, whirlwind romance where you feel like you’re floating twenty feet off the ground. Or maybe you’re bawling your eyes out for the fifth night in a row because you got dumped. Either way you win by enjoying the romance and the back rubs and the cuddles and the cares, or maybe the very absence of those things has raised your awareness of the value of those things and so you are now more likely to place greater value on your future partners. Or maybe you’ll be better at choosing a partner next time. But 653 Relax and Succeed - Pain means you're growinghowever it happens, the loss of a relationship results in a gain in awareness about something useful, usually involving how you could have been a better partner. This is why they say the second spouse gets what the first one paid for. Again, you win no matter what.

In each and every case there will be some form of good fortune for us in every experience. The only question is, do we strictly look at everything for what we expected or do we look at life to see what we’ve actually received? Because in many cases we will get lessons that we did not even know we would need some day and yet in many cases those lessons will prove to be more valuable than the original benefit we sought by undertaking the activity. Certainly all of us know the wonderful level of comfort that gets created by someone who has been where we are and who is comfortable being there with us. That empathetic connection alone is worth a lot.

As the Buddhist’s say, there are no one-sided coins. You either get the benefit you were expecting or a benefit you weren’t expecting, but either way you win so never get too down on life. If it looks like you’re losing just wait a while. Your vision will clear and soon you will happily be on your way as you once again notice the incredible good fortune that every single life enjoys.

Every day is a gift. Treat today like that’s what it is and it’ll treat you pretty well right back. Have a great one!


Life to the Fullest

When most people say they want to change, what they mean is they want to act in ways that they think will advance their life toward more enjoyment and less toil or trouble. So if they can quit smoking, their health will improve and they’ll get more time with the grandchildren. Or if they calm their temper down they’ll hold their beloved marriage together. Or if they can just focus a little more at work they can impress the boss and earn that coveted promotion. So that’s why they want to change. Millions of reasons like that.

502 Relax and Succeed - I'm not interested in competingThe tricky part is that we have to beware of desires that are ego driven be that through gaining wealth or status or power. If your aim is to be “above” everyone else, then there’s no healthy way to do that. You can’t have an egoic pursuit done in a spiritual way. You can accept certain goals in the understanding that you live in a world ruled by ego, but you can’t actually subscribe to those values because those two worlds are mutually exclusive.

You can’t live spiritually and value egotistical gains. So we’re not talking about you changing by moving “up” relative to other people (although that may be a relative byproduct of you following your nature). We’re talking about you finding the ideal place for you to manifest the biggest, grandest, most capable and satisfying version of you that exists. Because a good life isn’t defined by what you own or how your lovers look or any other external thing. Your life is an experience. What counts is, how good are your experiences on average? Are you satisfied with how your own life tastes? Because an ugly decanter can still hold the world’s finest wine.

If you feel the tug to change that feels less like guilt and more like an aspiration, then that’s the kind of changing you can productively engage in. Changes that are dictated by your nature. Changes that you are naturally motivated to make. Changes that feel like they make you bigger.

Life is a verb. Even if you live past the national average it’s over in a blink. The longer you live the shorter life seems. So the point isn’t to get it right because there is no such thing as right. Because that guy? The one who dates the exciting girlfriend who’s gorgeous? And she thinks he’s the greatest guy that’s ever existed? And they barely argue and even when they do they have fantastic make-up sex? Those people might make their living by politely robbing banks with guns. You want to say that a person like that doesn’t get a good life because of the bank robbing, but I’m sorry to report that that 502 Relax and Succeed - The more room you give yourselfis not how the universe actually works. If you’re in Bonnie and Clyde Jr.’s life, it’s exciting and fun and free and that’s why—despite their social transgressions—these people often become folk heroes. In a way we envy their freedom—their total disregard for all the damn rules.

As illegal and morally challenging as their behaviour might be, they cannot be said to be leaving their lives unlived. Most in the 1st world can’t say this though. Most die with loads of regrets. A few about things they’ve done. But far more about things they never even tried. You don’t have to rob banks. Try singing in public. Or asking someone out on a date. It’s crazy how timid you are about pursuing your dreams. But whatever you do, don’t waste your existence chasing things you lose when you die. Invest that life energy into weaving your own life experiences into the infinite fabric of the universe.

Stop trying to change into someone else who does different things. Instead, become your fully realized self and then see how you act. The lives you admire aren’t perfect. They’re just authentic. So if you realize your authentic self, you might find that version of you needs a lot fewer changes than you might currently imagine.

Now go live a bold and interesting life. You might as well. Because no matter what you choose, the worst that can happen is a bold or interesting experience. So you win either way.

peace. s

2013’s Blog of the Year

Happy New Year Everyone.

And so we have arrived. This seems very a very fitting winner to be announced on a January 1st. It was a close race between the first seven winners but the last three were all way out in front, with third, second and first all being roughly 50% larger than each other. This enormously popular posting is like a hybrid in that it features a short story by the great guru Tony DeMello. I’ve seen this story presented in a variety of ways but I’ll admit that I personally like my version best. 😉

This is a blog posting about Realization. The Realization that you are awesome beyond your dreamsthat you are connected to a sea of love by every fibre of your Being. And the only thing that prevents you from experiencing that wonder is your own limiting thoughts. You tell yourself a rigid little story and then you volunteer to live within its borders. This post is about pushing those borders outward. 280 Relax and Succeed - Argue for your limitationsIt’s about making that into a habit. It’s about you deciding to abandon the Pursuit of Success in favour of Engaging with Expansion. So yes, we can choose to be alone at the top. Or we can be connected to All. One feels hollow, the other feels full.

You’re ready. You were always ready. You can change at any time of day on any day of the week. But since 2014 is rolling in anyway you can use it as an official starting point. Just remember: a Resolution doesn’t have to succeed on January 1st. You can go in steps. Of course you’ll still get lost in your thoughts. Of course you’ll still have experiences you’ll wish you could figure out how to stop. But if 2014 is the year you truly dedicate yourself to raising your awareness , and if you work toward managing your thoughts more and your life less, then I can absolutely guarantee you that you will see progress.

So you can finish becoming the new person you want to be on the next January 1st. Because you get good at doing things by doing them. So you have to keep doing them. Just keep quietly moving toward maintaining your Awareness more of the time. That is why they call it a Practice. You don’t succeed 100%. You just practice. Get conscious. Trust me, it won’t take as long as you think and you’ll be steadily improving along the way anyway. It’s easily worth it.

This is your year. It’s time to clear the decks, throw out the old baggage, and especially and most importantly imagine yourself not as the person trying to become who you want to be—imagine yourself already being that person. Because that is how you get from here to there. It’s that simple. All you have to do is believe it. The people with great lives—the people who soar—they all have great lives because they believe they are worthy of great lives. Just like you. So as you work toward your own increased awareness of the incredible power of your own thoughts, I offer you this little piece of encouragement, also known as The Blog of the Year:

Fly Like An Eagle

You’re sitting there trying to figure out which road to take. Are you this, or are you that? Should you be in school or at a job? And what job? Working for who? And who should you be in a relationship with? Or should you be in a relationship at all? Should you choose this city or that one? This car or that one? Should you have skipped this 280 Relax and Succeed - Rather than spend eonsparty to be at that other one? Should you have said this or that? Blah blah blah goes your head.

Shoulda coulda woulda. If your aunt was a man she would be your uncle. Why are you even thinking/talking-to-yourself about what-ifs? Your speculation is meaningless. Stop using your thoughts to want to be somewhere or someone else. Stop using your internal conversations to discuss a different history with yourself. Can’t you see that your life is sitting still while you have those incessant internal conversations?

There are no wrong choices, there are only the choices you make. Be Present where you are because no amount of planning will give you a safe and secure path through life. You being safe and secure is not the point. You being alive is the point.

Your life is not a set of events. Read that again: your life is not a series of events. Your life is a stream of experiences. Stop trying to manage the events and start trying to manage the experiences. Because two people can be at the same event and have vastly different experiences. The difference between them is not where they were or what was happening outside of them. The difference was what they chose to focus their attention on within themselves.

That choice—the choice of what you invite into your awareness—is what forms your life experience. So st0p thinking about how you wish you could fly and start re-imagining yourself as someone who already can. Because the only thing keeping you grounded is your belief that you can’t fly.

280 Relax and Succeed - Your life is not a set of eventsYou’ll see me post Tony DeMello talks on the page occasionally. Tony was a Jesuit Priest, but more importantly he was an enlightened psychologist and a hilarious guy. He used to tell a story about you that I’ll paraphrase from memory:

Someone once took an egg from an eagle’s nest and placed it under a barnyard hen. A chicken sat on the egg and eventually it hatched. All his life the little eagle grew up with chickens and he did as the chickens around him did. He walked around pecking at the ground for worms and insects, clucking and cackling, and like them he occasionally fluttered his wings for a short hop through the air.

Years passed and the eagle grew very old. One day he was pecking away with all of the chickens in the yard and a large shadow passed overhead. The barnyard eagle looked up in awe at a magnificent, giant golden eagle. It hovered effortlessly over the farmyard, held aloft by only a small breeze. The little bird asked his chicken-friend, “Who is that?!” 

The other chicken looked up to see the eagle floating majestically, high above them. “That is the eagle. He is the king of the sky. He has the freedom to fly wherever he chooses.”

He’s magnificent,” said the eagle. “I so wish I could fly like he does.”

Yes, that would be nice,” replied the chicken. “But the eagle belongs to the sky. And we are chickens, and chickens belong on the ground.” 280 Relax and Succeed - To be or not to beAnd so the eagle looked back down to the dirt of the barnyard, where he began scratching and picking at the dry ground again.

And in the end the eagle never did fly. Instead he lived and died just like all of the other barnyard chickens. Because that is what he thought he was.

You are not a chicken. You are an eagle. So stop looking downward in some panicked effort to find more or better worms than your neighbour. Forget competing with the chickens of ego. Stop using the weight of your own judgmental thinking to hold your spirit down. Instead, use the wings of your imagination to lift you to heights you previously did not know belonged to you. You’ll not only have a much greater perspective, but your freedom will be an inspiration to all of the other chickens.

There is no right or wrong way to fly. There are no good or bad paths through the sky. There is only flying. Now go be an eagle.

peace. s


Heads or Tails?

124 Relax and Succeed - Your value doesn't decrease
Every coin has two sides. But whether you place it face up or face down the coin’s potential remains the same. The question is, are you a heads up person, or a heads down person?

Every human being you interact with will present various challenges and opportunities. These two things always go hand in hand. Sometimes that reality is easy to see. For instance; if you lose a job you don’t like and are facing a financial crisis, you’re also being presented with an opportunity to find a job you enjoy a lot more. If you get divorced, you then have the chance to build a better relationship. And if a child rebels against certain activities, they are simultaneously pointing toward their own developing nature. So it is important to remember that, not getting what we want might actually be a way of  getting more.

Karen Kain wasn’t in fact—as many very strict-minded people had suggested—an unruly child who had no future because she couldn’t sit still in school. Karen Kain became one of the greatest ballerinas in history because some really aware person noticed that movement was Karen’s place in life. Place the wrong people around her and Karen Kain never dances. Instead, she learns to hate herself for simply being a graceful, energetic person. That beautiful energy can be made her enemy.

Those clumsy judgments about what defines success is what lead 90% of the world to the uninspired lives they are living. The question is, do you nurture people’s greatness or do you punish them for not meeting expectations?

124 Relax and Succeed - Einstein's office the day he died
Where this will affect your life the most will be in your closest relationships; your romantic relationships, your parent/child relationships, and your employee/employer relationships are all loaded with opportunities to either expand or choke another person’s spirit.

If you’re the sort that has a lot of struct rules and standards and arrogant ideas about how things should be done, then those around you will always be transgressing and your relations with them will be unnecessarily negative. If on the other hand, if you’re the sort of person that helps people expand, you will most often be admired and supported by those around you simply because you reflect back to everyone what is great about themselves. One kind of person helps people grow, the other type makes them shrink. Well, we’re all both of them, but it’s which one are you most-often being when your conscious?

I know a man who was raised to be responsible. He’s always on time, he responsibly puts things away and his surroundings have always been very organized and peaceful. Being that sort of person, he was attracted to people who introduced new and exciting ideas to him because they were comfortable with a freedom he didn’t have—the freedom to be random. To be disorganized. To be messy. And so he eventually married an artist.

His artist wife liked his neatness. She aspired to that because her parents had always chided her for being messy when in fact they meant creative. That made his organization very attractive to her. and yet, if she adopted it she would lose some of what allows her to be successful as an artist. As an organized person, he sees things laying around as a mess. She sees them as source of inspiration. The beauty of the relationship is, he understands that how she is isn’t the same as how he is—and most of the time that’s okay with him.

124 Relax and Succeed - Trade your expectation

It’s not that he learned to like the messes. He doesn’t. But he understands and accepts that the seeming chaos is where her art lives, and that any resistance to that lives only inside his own consciousness and it’s his own responsibility. And so, rather than asking her to conform to his idea of beauty like her parents did, he accepts his frustrations as the tail of the coin.

He’s okay with that because he knows that on the other side of that coin is the heart of the person he loves. And for his wife’s part—she’s keenly aware that he gives her that space and she shows her gratitude in other areas of life that are important to her husband. A healthy relationship isn’t you being happy all the time with however things are. It’s when you feel unconditionally supported for being whoever you are.

You will also see this happen in workplaces too. People imagine a job description and they attempt to place it over everyone equally when that’s as impossible as it is foolish. Employee is a word, not a thing. There is work to be done, and there are individual human beings to do it. They will all accomplish it in unique ways because they all think as differently as they look.

You will only become frustrated and unsuccessful as a manager if you believe all of your employees should function in the same way (which is curiously often the way the manager would do it). Even if they are doing exactly the same job, one can’t take the slow, detailed, highly organized person and ask them to be bolder and more dynamic. Nor can we  sensibly ask a fast-moving free-thinker to function in a stifled, highly organized way. Both of these people can be excellent employees. But not if they are managed by someone who wants them to regularly trade personalities. It’s simply impossible.

124 Relax and Succeed - You don't go to work every day

You don’t go to work every day asking water to be more like wood and wood to be more like water. You apply wood where wood makes sense, and water where water makes sense. That is most of what management is: that simple awareness. But if you ask 95% of managers, they’ll never have even thought of their employees in those terms. They’ll only have a list of what they would have done if they were the employee.

Another place you’ll witness this sort of craziness is in parenting. More than any other group, children constantly hear they are being wrong. If they aren’t attracted to, interested in, or good at math or science or language, they are seen as lacking. If they’re not naturally interested in the piano, they’re scolded for not trying hard enough, or not being dedicated enough. How about if they just don’t like playing piano?

I know a guy who loved taking things apart as a child. He was constantly in trouble for disassembling parts of their house. This behaviour was seen as a problem to be fixed. In reality, that kid was in a kind of university for understanding how things work. And so he’s extremely mechanically inclined.

In a zombie invasion, he’s the guy we’d all want on our team because he can fix things he’s never even seen before because that’s how his mind works. So if his parents had won and had he not found a teacher that nurtured his natural interests, he well may have grown up to be a guy who would not only hate himself, but he would be entirely useless in a zombie invasion.

124 Relax and Succeed - Stop hating yourself
Your job is not to point out a route for other people. Your role is to be aware of the way they naturally are, and then accept that those qualities will be applied to whatever is being done. So if the husband forces his wife to be clean and organized, he will kill the part of her he fell in love with.

If we ask one employee to act like another one, then we are completely misunderstanding what an individual is and we are surrendering most of their potential. This is why most workplaces are filled with unhappy, uninspired employees. It’s been beaten out of them by clumsy well-intentioned attempts to force them to be someone they’re not.

If you’re raising a child, you’re not supposed to know which direction they’re supposed to go. You’re supposed to watch for what is naturally them and then nurture that. We don’t benefit from telling lovers, children or employees to be someone else. We benefit by providing them with the resources they need to fully be who they naturally are.

Accept that the way you want things is not the way things should be. Instead watch for success and nurture that. Because it will show up in surprising places, and each time you find some you will grow as a person. And on top of that, your life will be made easier through the love and support of people who appreciate your rare willingness to support who they already are.

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.