Recoupling

A lot of my student/clients are struggling marriages. If I’m given enough time and they are both genuine and earnest enough to allow me to take them through a process, then only one of two outcomes takes place. Either they fall back in love, or things end shortly thereafter.

??????????????????????????????????????????I consider myself successful either way because I don’t save marriages, I show people the way to have enjoyable, rewarding lives. If the relationship actually makes it unnecessarily difficult for the participants—including kids—to enjoy life, then the raised awareness of either one or both partners leads them to take action. They will be less interested in preserving their legal status and more invested in circumstances that are more conducive to healthier, happier living for both partners, be that together, alone or with different partners.

Even if you’re going to stay together and have a fun, successful relationship, you still need to know how to get through rough times. Those are inevitable. You need to know what they feel like, otherwise you wouldn’t be able to recognize the fact that you’re usually happy. Fun times are easy, but when you’re experiencing them actually take some time to pay real attention to how your mind is processing events.

You’ll see that your optimistic view has you noting many opportunities for you to be happy. By contrast a person creating negative feelings will be able to sit in the same context and notice nothing but what’s lacking or wrong. So the most important starting place for any couple is for it to be made up of two people who are genuinely dedicated to their own happiness. Not structureless, self-indulgent pleasures, but a rather a 627 Relax and Succeed - We're all entitledgenuine appreciation for the value of rest, recouperation and the space for creativity to take place in—be that time, space or both.

Sure, if someone’s got cancer or whatever then they get to be a bit needy and surivival is good enough, we don’t need to add to their struggles by holding them to some super-high standard for happiness. We all have tough times like that. That’s when love kicks in and carries the most weight. But other than those times where you simply need love and support, a central relationship responsibility is to your own happiness. If you can’t do that then there’s no point in complaining to a partner. People don’t make other people happy. People can ultimately only make themselves happy.

If you know how to be happy then you will have many go-to thoughts to jump toward that can be far more pleasant than the ones that go with a bad marriage. To escape to higher-frequency busy thoughts you need to be able to recognize that you are lost. Fortunately our emotions do a great job of signalling us because the angier we get the louder we get. And once we’re angry we’re not fighting the point anymore because making a point doesn’t require hurling insults. Wanting to win against someone—that can quickly degrade into name-calling and cheap shots. 

So if you hear your voice raised, then it’s a virtual guarantee that you are locked in ego and doing things that are likely to run contrary to your larger objectives. You are far better to take your chemical-filled blood and yell back, “I can tell by the fact that I’m ?????????????????????????????????????????????????yelling that I’m saying things I may not mean and so I’m going to take this anger, go outside for a walk to calm down so that I can talk to you about this more constructively because we both deserve that…!” That’s actually helpful; to just announce that you’re lost and then try to create a delay until your consciousness can settle a bit. As angry as they may be, the other person will recognize you’re attempting to be genuinely helpful to the situation. If both parties are on board then that’s the best possible scenario.

Once people have calmed down they generally don’t need any help. They fell in love without help. They just need assistance seeing each other. So know that angry temporary blindness or fears will cause us to miss important details and react in counterproductive ways. So as much as possible just delay your relations with others until both parties are more able to be genuinely constructive. Do that and you will reduce the amount of resentment moving forward, and that is what will keep your relationship healthy: leaving the past in the past and searching for the best possible present. It’s always there to do.

Enjoy your day.

peace. s

The Comforts of Home

You’re pretty hard on yourself. You imagine everyone is watching your life like a personal performance and you want to make sure they’re all taken care of. You want to keep them entertained and happy. You want them to like you. In these clawing, depleting motions you crawl away from your own being so that you can put on a performance for them.

623 Relax and Succeed - I can't tell you the key to successWho’s them? Wow. There’s your parents. Siblings if you have them. Then enemies. Schoolmates and facebook friends. There’s even the them that is suggested to you by advertising. They lead you to believe that everyone’s just watching you for mistakes. Well I can tell you they aren’t. Because people like me don’t care about your mistakes and the remaining 97% of people aren’t looking at you because their ego is making them do the same thing you are! They’re sitting in their life thinking worried thoughts about what you think of them.

People think I’m kidding, but even school bullies are just being proactive about their fears. Rather than figure out how to face a challenge they try to intimidate everyone to the point that no one ever challenges them. It’s easy to win battles you never have to fight. Likewise, girls with fragile spirits will tease others to protect themselves.

People’s background motivations are easier to spot than you might think. But to be aware in that way you do have to have a quiet mind. You cannot be busy building narratives about your opinions or views of what’s going on. You can’t even be with them in a dress that is green because even that is too much of your opinion dividing up the whole. Just be open and aware with no expectations. Have faith in your ability to understand. Because that is the only way to spot the person beneath the performance.

Seriously. You can always go back to living the old way if this doesn’t work. But just take one day and dedicate it to this one shift: instead of talking about how you look bad or how you wished you looked differently, focus on others. As you watch them walk by the food court or whatever, just try to look at them and imagine what they beat themselves up for in the mirror every morning.

623 Relax and Succeed - When we cultivate true love of selfIs it their looks? The balding head or expanding belly? Is it their shoes? Or that 5 year old blouse? Or maybe it’s their dark roots, or what they’re ordering for lunch. Maybe it’s their kids, or that they can’t quit smoking. Maybe they feel trapped in a job where they don’t feel respected, or that they haven’t felt beautiful or loved in years. There’s a lot of things written on people’s faces that are worthy of compassion if you’d only stop assuming that everything is about you. Because every expression you have ever seen is a product of that person’s thoughts about their life and therefore their “reality.” And rarely does it have anything to do with you. And all too rarely does it feel any better than yours.

Spend some time meditating on why you do virtually everything you do. Really meditate on the reasoning behind every action of your life. You might be surprised at how often you come to the conclusion that your own actions were only undertaken because you hadn’t inspected them closely for value. Because way too much of your life is dedicated to building or maintaining an image, and not enough is being invested in living a real life.

Stop dancing for us. Stop being who you think will be acceptable to us. Sure there will be people that will judge the real you as well. But there’s people judging you now, but you don’t get the joy of fulfilling your role as the real you. You don’t owe us anything. But the world would be better if your life was joyful. So stop worrying about what anyone else is thinking and instead open your awareness and simply take in the many reasons to be joyful. Because that state of mind is ultimately your home.

peace. s

Guilty Parents?

I saw your comment on facebook. My heart broke when I read it. You love your child so much, and yet you cannot look at the autism without questioning your decision to vaccinate. I feel for you. The way you’re feeling is entirely understandable. And yet at the same time, I’m writing to you to provide a wider context because I believe it will help you to better understand your decision and the consequences. As you read this you may feel you’re getting an indication of where I’m going with all of this. But many were surprised to find where I ended up, so I do hope you’ll take the whole journey with me.

619 Relax and Succeed - People who urge youScience is based on skepticism, so unlike many people I’m very open to the challenges put forth to any scientific idea. That’s how we’ve always moved forward with our knowledge and it is often the people who are considered quacks and idiots who are the people who were far enough outside of conventional thinking to actually be able to see something obvious that others missed. If you haven’t heard of him, Dr. Barry Marshall was thrown out of medical conferences for being a quack and yet today if you go into the doctor with an ulcer you’ll get Dr. Marshall’s treatment. So we have to keep an open mind to the minority because they’re more likely to find something revolutionary. Dr. Marshall was a case of people not giving credit to an idea without even testing it. They dismissed it without studying it and that was the failure in their science. As I said, good science is vigilant skepticism working hand in hand with creativity.

My profound concern regarding your feelings are that you have missed a critical detail in your calculations of responsibility. It took Dr. Marshall a long time to convince the world he was right. So you understand that at the time—despite the fact that better information existed—every ulcer patient did what their good doctor told them to and so they engaged in ultimately useless treatments when they could have been having Dr. Marshall’s. But they never knew about Dr. Marshall’s findings because no one had bothered to verify if they were true. So someone feeling bad because they didn’t use a treatment they didn’t even know about is like someone feeling bad because they didn’t pick the winner of the Best Picture Oscar a day early. Yeah, everyone knows the who won the next day, and those accountants they always introduce knew before that, just 619 Relax and Succeed - Being considered crazylike Dr. Marshall. But you accept that you can’t know who won the Oscars before they open the envelop, and so you don’t feel guilty for not knowing.

In your case you wish you had known about the study that suggested there was a link between autism and vaccines. The key difference I want to address is that your situation is completely different than the one with Dr. Marshall. Because the Autism-MMR study was done by Dr. Andrew Wakefield, and he is nothing like Dr. Marshall. Dr. Marshall had done good science and was provably correct. In Dr. Wakefield’s case, his results couldn’t be repeated in quality studies anywhere in the world. Eventually the heat turned up and Dr. Wakefield was forced to admit that a combination of his own ego, and his financial investment in a medical test that would only be profitable if vaccines weren’t used, lead him to completely fabricate his results and his conclusions.

He’s been forced to be quite public about it because his admission was thought to have finally settled the challenge that better science had made. In the end he still seems to more embarrassed than ashamed, and he only came forward when reporters couldn’t find any trace of the children that had supposedly been in his study. Knowing he had been exposed he quickly admitted that he invented children and invented their symptoms and invented their results and yes he knows parents are putting their kids in real danger because of his lie. This was a complete and total lie as stated by the man who did it. So what I want you to do is a little mind game with me—but you can’t pretend to do it, you have to really imagine these things happened.

Imagine that Dr. Wakefield doesn’t tell this lie. Let’s say he chooses a different lie. After all, it was an act of creativity. He could have picked anything. Let us say he said it was a bacteria alive in blue cheese and it was the cause of autism if consumed. Can you see if he had told that lie instead of the one he made up, 619 Relax and Succeed - When facing a single treethat you would have absolutely no reason whatsoever to even consider your child’s vaccine as the cause of his autism. Seriously. How could you? There’s a zillion things in this world, why would you pick that one? If no one pointed at it why would you pick it? You could pick a dog bite when he was young. Or the fact that you live near a refinery. Or maybe he ate blue cheese once so maybe that’s it… Can you see you wouldn’t do that? That the only reason that you or anyone else ever looked at vaccines as the cause of autism, is because Dr. Wakefield told you a complete lie, and now, almost 20 years after he lied, here is this loving, wonderful parent feeling guilty about doing something that every appropriately trained medical doctor would have told you to do (well, except for maybe an over-the-top conspiracy theorist).

I’m an interesting age when it comes to this discussion. 4 years younger than me and it looks totally different. Because my little sister came into a school filled with healthy kids. It wasn’t like that for me. For anyone that paid any attention in my grade, you could see that the kids just a few years ahead of us had been ravaged. Deformed kids. Crippled kids. Dead kids. Lots of them. People today use death stats etc. but that’s crazy. My brothers went to school almost two decades before me and when I asked my mother if she was worried that sending them to school might kill them she said “Not so much dying, no. There was only a few that died at the school. I didn’t want their faces all twisted up or them having kidney problems or be all crippled up. Not many died but there was lots of kids who had that kind of thing.”

619 Relax and Succeed - Truth what is itThis wasn’t rare. That’s the whole problem. It was too common. The measles vaccine for instance came out the year I was born. Imagine my mother sending my older brothers to school when kids had been crippled and died, or had encephalitis—which is still why everyone reacts so seriously when there’s a meningitis outbreak. Kids did permanent damage to their organs, and yet for my older brothers there were multiple, known viruses moving through society and absolutely no way to protect yourself. Sending your kid to school could literally ruin their life, and the odds were much much higher of that than the odds of having an allergic reaction and dying from a vaccine—which absolutely can happen. But that’s still 100,000’s of kids compared with about 100. Those numbers are way too far apart for you want to be in the other group, and it’s why the vast majority of people against vaccines are under 55. Because otherwise that’s just super bad math.

I remember so many crippled kids older than me that it was simply a fact of how I saw those classes of older kids. They were the crippled and deformed kids. And you don’t see a lot of them hobbling around today because a lot of them died before 40, so even if they survived a lot of them are long gone already. I got to graduate with the class I started with. My brothers, 15 years older, had a completely different school experience. I still remember seeing all of those strange, deformed legs moving down the hallway with that strange dragging step. And because of how it was passed, it was often multiple kids in one family.

In the case of polio, it’s a shame that even survivors like Neil Young and Joni Mitchell have a far better chance of dying much sooner than they would have had they never had polio. Even the lowly chicken pox (varicella) leads to a very painful herpes zoster condition in one in five people who had it. The mumps can make you sterile and as late as 1980 the measles was still killing as many as 2.5 million people per year worldwide. Plain old undefined influenza still kills almost 5500 people a year in Canada, and many of these conditions are more dangerous to adults than kids. And even if you survived polio, you still paid with 619 Relax and Succeed - Be certain in the religion of loveyears of being crippled as a kid and you’ll often die younger. That’s because the body paid a price because it took some time for Neil Young’s body to figure out what that virus was. It took it years of being crippled to figure that out and then build an immune system response strong enough to fight it. So in Neil’s case his immune system worked its ass off and it won the war and so we have Neil Young songs to listen to. But a lot of kids did the fighting for years but their bodies didn’t respond quickly enough and they died or were permanently crippled.

A vaccine is simply an isolated version of the answer to a virus attack. Every researcher knows what the human body does to fight a virus, so they take the answer from someone who’s already beaten it and they multiply it into doses and give it to you. Most of the worry people have about vaccines is about the fact that the entirely natural piece has to be bound to agents that allow your body to “grab” the answer and use it, but even those agents have been tested like crazy. Because we’re all human the answer to these diseases is the same for all of us. And once it solves it, all your body needs to do is go build its army. So there’s lots of unproven claims about vaccines that don’t stand up to rigorous study, but all a vaccine does is tell your body the answer that it might not have otherwise figured out in time, so that it can start responding faster. It’s exactly what Neil Young’s body did but you get to skip the crippled part.

619 Relax and Succeed - I've seen and met angelsThese diseases aren’t cured by corporations. The researchers have always been and still are largely the children or siblings of people who were affected by that disease. They’re not part of some conspiracy or some thieving money-grabbing scheme. Half the time in the old days they would test the thing on themselves. So could we still find something out 50 years from now that proves vaccines may be dangerous? Yes, we always have to keep our minds open to such a possibility, lest we end up like the people that suppressed Dr. Marshall’s ulcer findings. But we must also use whatever the best information is at this time. And to an overwhelming degree, all of the serious, highest-standard studies done by doctors—with far better morals that Dr. Wakefield’s—have shown the same thing. There is no link between autism and vaccines and you only think that because of Dr. Wakefield’s desire to be rich and famous. Again, if he thought blue cheese would have gotten him all that attention then he would have told you that and then you’d feel guilty about blue cheese.

The fact that you care so much is all the illustration I need to know you are a good parent. And I’m fine if you want to harbour low-percentage ideas in case they might be true—someone has to in case they turn out to be. But right now—today and on the day you got your child vaccinated—on those days there was no question you made the safest possible choice and I can absolutely guarantee you would have the full and total support of any sane, reasonably 619 Relax and Succeed - Butterflies don't know the coloreducated mother who had to watch their kids go through school before, and then after vaccines. There were absolutely zero anti-vaccine mom’s in our school back then because every two minutes another schoolmate would clack past the vaccine line with his metal legs.

Don’t beat yourself up. You already have a tough enough job raising a special needs child. You need to love yourself as much as you love that child. Because you did make a good decision and because Jenny McCarthy is just like you—she’s a parent who feels guilty, so she’s looking for the reason to be anything but her. But it wasn’t either one of you. I’m sympathetic to your terrible situations. But that does not mean there is any way on this Earth that Dr. Wakefield’s magical lie could ever climb out of a needle and into your child. You are a good parent. You really are.

With love and the biggest hug ever, s

 

Bathwater Babies

Hey everybody slow down with all the judgmental thinking. Everyone’s gotten very absolute recently. Increasingly since the 80’s there’s been this polarization of everything. Politics is more divided and vehement. People’s uninformed opinions about child-rearing will be offered 617 Relax and Succeed - It is the mark of an educated mindaggressively to total strangers. People argue about the environment and art—particularly music. It used to humbler. More often it would be I like this or that band, and now it’s become my band’s genius and yours shouldn’t even exist.

People will talk like nations will collapse if certain governments got into power and yet if the news didn’t tell them who won an election the vast majority of people’s actual lives would have virtually no indications of which party was in power at what time—because life really changes more due to what’s going on immediately around us than by what government is in power.

Even in friendship things are upside down. I was horrified to hear about a study that demonstrated that modern students minds see a strong link between friendship and likes. Yikes. Your best friend isn’t the friend that always agrees with you. That’s a lap dog. Everyone’s unique so if you talk long enough you’ll have opinions that differ from even those closest to you. But your best friend isn’t just a cheerleader. They are also the person that will speak up on your behalf even when you won’t and no one else will either.

617 Relax and Succeed - These days respect meIf you’re drinking too much and people at the office are starting to smell it, then it’s not the people that smile and pretend they don’t know. Those aren’t your friends. No, it’s the guy who takes you into your office, closes the door and tells you that he’s concerned about your drinking. That guy gets hated. You hate that guy for telling you that because you know it’s true and you wanted to keep living the way you were. Plus the office will hate that guy for causing a scene. But he doesn’t care about that because your friend cares about you. And he can see your life from the outside and so he knows you’re heading for disaster. And so he speaks up, even though it will likely cost him the friendship. That’s how much a best friend loves you. They’ll break their own hearts just so that you benefit.

People get into camps now. They try and win. The other side is stupid. Anti-Vaccine Pro-Vaccine, Pro GMO Anti-GMO, Protect Animals Eat Meat. Honda Toyota, Pepsi Coke, it goes on and on. And so few people can see the other side as being in any way reasonable. Too many people are just shouting and no one’s listening. There’s some good arguments to be heard on both sides of most issues. But you have to actually listen for them. You cannot tell them.

617 Relax and Succeed - Listening does not meanOther people know things you don’t and so you have to listen to them to find out what those things are. Because if you can listen to both sides evenly and you have a decent mind for reason, then you’ll be fine. But, if you’re deciding based on dogma—and you don’t even really examine any other ideas—then you can’t really say that you’ve come to the conclusion that your answer is the best one. You’ve voluntarily left data out, so in essence you are guessing. Science checks. Logic checks. Mathematics checks. There’s no absolute reality. But the measurements of science are the closest thing we have to a shareable reality.

If you’ve only voted for one party your entire life, and you’ve never supported an idea by any other party, then you can’t really say that you chose your position through examination. You adopted it culturally maybe, or you inherited it, or your society insists on it, but again—it isn’t a conclusion if it’s never changed in 40 years. Come on, not only do you change a lot in 40 years, but every party accidentally elects at least one unqualified person every 40 years.

Most of your opinions are entirely unexamined regardless of what they’re about. If you were actually questioned on any subject on which you’d offered an opinion in the last week, you would freeze up as you realized you know almost nothing about it. Not the court cases in the news, not the headlines on facebook, not even about subjects you probably should know 617 Relax and Succeed - Compassion can be put into practicemore about, like all of the important the rules of the road or how to look after your health, or what breed of dog best suits your lifestyle.

We all have to stop having knee-jerk opinions that see babies thrown out with the bathwater. We’re throwing too many good ideas away in our attempt to oppose the other. Instead we use our ability shape our media landscape and so now we build egotistical shrines to our own opinions with our choice of shares. We must open our minds. We must begin to listen to people we have marginalized or blocked out. It’s not like the world couldn’t use some new ideas that would create opportunities to grow and learn and expand.

If we all spend a bit less time judging and a lot more time having fun, life will be even more rewarding going forward. But we really do have to stop focusing on any differences and focus instead on the fact that we all want fundamentally the same things out of life—namely love, joy support and inspiration. Ready? Less judging more compassion: go!

peace. s

Parenting in the Digital Age

I do not envy the people struggling to pull off raising a child in the new millennium. There are challenges today that have never existed before, and many routes through life that most parents have never even considered as a part of their parenting options. But if we want healthy children then we must consciously give them an environment that promotes both their physical and mental health as well as the ongoing maintenance of both.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIn creating this post I came to learn that it is best presented as a four-parter that includes last week’s Friday Dose (which includes a set of links to relevant documentaries etc.), and yesterday’s Other Perspectives. In this posting I will cover the culture of fear and the value of freedom, mistakes and the nature of growth. In the next I’ll cover advertising, ego, insecurity and inter-personal connection.

First off, let’s remember how different it is for kids now that just a short time ago, because these are the biggest changes that the human brain has had to face since the construct of abstract language. This is big. Really big.

Let’s talk about children’s media environment rather than just the internet. When I was a kid you were too focused on playing outside to really find TV all that inviting. Yeah you had your big shows you watched, but we only had three channels so even until the invention of video tape there was no way to even see a re-run. The three channels shut off at 1am and turned back on at 6am and that was it. That meant we used to be influenced primarily by our family’s values and the values of their friends and the immediate culture you lived in. Today you’re influenced by your friends and peers even at home—via social media—but more importantly you 607 Relax and Succeed - If you don't fit inare influenced by two additional groups, and those groups do not have the same agenda for your life that you have at all.

Politics and advertising create most of the current zeitgeist. Countries used to be much more unique, and while they still are to some degree, the spreading of media has homogenized the whole world. People are dressing more alike, listening to the same music, and eating the same foods. What’s important is that the homogenization was designed by people who had a motive. Your motive is to raise your kids to be happy, successful, good-quality citizens who can contribute to their culture in a meaningful way all while building a life they find to be largely secure, rewarding and enjoyable. Politicians want you and your kids to vote for them, and advertisers want you to to get you and your kid’s money. How this shapes your brain is no small issue.

A key political strategy almost everywhere is to create an us by creating a them. The them is generally another society you can compare yourself against—so when your own country is in political turmoil politicians create an enemy. Maybe that’s a war with another country, or maybe it’s stoking fears at home about who among us might be untrustworthy or dangerous. It’s very easy to ask people to support your politics if you want to stop crime or violence. Who doesn’t want to do that? But there’s tons of research: jails don’t stop crime and there’s no indication laws do either. The one thing that science has proven over and over is that the easiest, cheapest way to stop crime is to make a solid investment in early childhood development. Norway did that and ended up having to close a large number of their jails.

607 Relax and Succeed - My friends love is better than anger
At this writing there’s an upcoming Canadian election. This man was a politician but I’m not attempting to influence anyone politically. My use of it is strictly for the quote.

Now the fact is that, no matter where you are, there have never been fewer criminals and there’s never been less violent crime. Never. Anywhere. And yet in survey after survey people are worried about what might happen. The biggest fear I hear about is abduction, and yet this is remarkably unlikely. Yes, agencies that get their funding for children’s protection will give you statistics that don’t mention they include stats on every divorced spouse who was turned in for having their own kids back to their vengeful spouse one hour late. Think about how seldom you hear an Amber Alert. Hardly ever. And when you do, you almost always learn it’s one of the parents or a grandparent that has taken the kids away from a situation they (rightly or wrongly) feel is bad for the kid. That’s not the sort of abduction that they do fear-laden TV shows about.

Cases where it isn’t someone known to the kid are so rare they make international news. Remember the British girl who went missing in Spain? That was 2007. Or the little girl who was kidnapped and murdered in Toronto? That was 2009. Just try to think of them and you realize there’s hardly any and there’s billions of people who’s children can make the news. If you were in poorest parts of Asia or Africa or South America I can see being concerned about your kids being grabbed because there’s an easy profit motive there—mostly so they can sell them to rich white people. But for the average North American, European, or even most Asians, Africans or South Americans, there is no rational reason to worry about your kids every day.

The number one place by far for a child to die is in a car with their parents. So why are parents so casual about driving around, and yet people are getting complaints from schools and parents, or their kids are even being taken by police or child services because parents let them walk to school??? So we don’t worry at all about the still-very-unlikely but much much much more likely 607 Relax and Succeed - Miracles start to happenstuff? Instead we’re going to freak out our kids by worrying about things as likely as lightening strikes? If you’re doing this you need to realize that you’ve been living in a culture of fear and it is adversely affecting your children.

Children learn from experience but adults can get like insurance mathematicians who are busy calculating the extreme potential downsides to every single thing that the child even might do. A woman in an interview said that she wouldn’t let a 10 year old and a six year old walk home alone because if something happened she didn’t think the 10 year old would know what to do. When the reporter asked what sort of things might happen outside of the aformentioned highly unlikely worst case scenarios, the best the woman could come up with was that the six year old might fall. Fall? From the height of a six year old? Oh yeah, you need maturity and a medical degree to deal with that, don’t you?

Let’s not be ridiculous. Can something happen? Of course, the aforementioned girl in Toronto was walking with her brother but he regretfully left her to walk another kid home. But it’s important to place that in the appropriate context, which is that hundreds of millions of young people made it to school just fine that day and hundreds of other days entirely safely. So why would anyone presume to load their kid with the entirely unrealistic fear that they have to limit the child’s life in the hopes of lengthening it? To avoid something incredibly unlikely? Generations of kids walked to school. I never ever remember hearing of a kid falling on the way to school and getting hurt. And even if they did, we’re going to limit the hundreds of millions of kids lives to try to potentially save one all while we’re losing thousands in cars?! It doesn’t even make sense.

We are teaching children to be afraid. Youngish parents write to me as though it’s the generation behind them that’s afraid, but my generation can easily see that there was a change, and for those paying close attention, it showed up when TV and later the internet took off. Kids didn’t used to read the paper. But they could overhear the news. And as more stations were created there was more competition for advertisers and so the news got increasingly sensationalized in the fight to get people to advertise to. News stations then went to 24 hours, so they had to find and even create news. As I’m writing this Fox news was just noted world wide for having had to apologize four times in a single day for reporting fear-mongering things that they later admitted were based on absolutely nothing. So why did those alarming stories get reported if they were made up? OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABecause they would attract viewers. That’s great for shareholders but very bad for your kid.

We’re also teaching children to be weaker. There are studies going on regarding why kids increasingly have no sense of direction. What they know so far is that modern brain scans show we all have neurons that keep track of where the sun is as you walk, and with experience it helps your brain understand where things are in relation to each other. So there’s no such thing as a bad sense of direction, there are just unpracticed and undeveloped senses of direction. But if a kid gets driven everywhere, how are those brain structures going to get built? They can’t. And so the kid becomes smaller than the parent when the idea is that the parent helps the kid be bigger than they themselves ever could have been.

You only have two jobs as a parent: to teach your kids what they need to know to live without you, and to love them. Of course they need to know they are loved, but they also need to know how the world actually works. Insulating them from that is literally constructing an incapable 607 Relax and Succeed - A child does not have to be motivatedkid and it’s why we’re increasingly seeing parents showing up to conduct their kids job interviews. My instructions to the companies I advise is to never hire these individuals because their parents are very obviously proving that they have built a child that is actually entirely unprepared for the workplace, or likely even society in general.

Sitting in a jungle four degrees off the equator and most of the way up a 4,200 meter (14,000 foot) mountain I asked an anthropologist what she had learned from the tribes she had studied for 23 years. She told me it was that she had unwittingly but grossly underestimated her children. We saw children as young as five walking across tree trunks to cross very high gorges and they would do so without an adult nearby. They were trusted and they responded to that trust by simply watching the people around them, all of whom walked confidently across the makeshift bridge. And then the kids did what every kid does—and they mimicked it.

So you can teach your child to mimic fear. Or you can teach them to act confidently. Because in 23 years that anthropologist never, ever heard of one of those kids falling. And even if one did, that wouldn’t change those parents. Because they’re not busy worrying. They’re not guided by fears about jaguars or snakes. They’re busy living a good life and in doing so they’re showing their kids how to do the very same thing. And every kid needs parenting like that. So who’s teaching your kids to avoid fear and enjoy life?

peace. s

Note: Tomorrow we’ll talk about how advertising and social media are changing how children’s brains are structured and what that means for them/you as adults.

Pain versus Suffering

People often start off on the wrong foot by coming to me thinking that their friends recommended me because they’re so happy. They think I make people happy. Sure, they end up happier, but that’s almost the exact opposite of what I actually teach them.

599 Relax and Succeed - We do not see things as they areI teach them to suffer. Only I teach them to suffer wisely.

Wise suffering? I know, weird eh? Who knew I was going to bump into such truths when I stumbled into figuring this out. So how do you suffer wisely? The answer is acceptance. Because if you meditate on the subject more closely you will see that it’s not really the pain that bothers you, it’s the concern that your suffering will linger or even stay.

As I’ve noted many times before, if emotions were actually good or bad then theaters and bookstores would be empty. No one would offer to pay perfectly good money to buy a book, bring it home, put some time into reading i, and then have it deliver to them the very thing that they tried to avoid all day—whether that’s fear or worry or profound sadness. But no, we’ll break our own hearts with Ivanhoe, or sit in dread with Stephen King, and we’ll even pay for the privilege. So in the end your own life proves to you that emotions themselves are not good or bad.

So what’s with this lingering-staying-suffering part? Please pay attention to the fact that everything I’m talking about here takes place entirely in your consciousness. And within your consciousness, because you choose to believe that some emotions are bad, when they show up in your life your reaction is to panic. You start to think to yourself, “Oh no, not sadness. I don’t want sadness again. Why do I keep dating people? It’s always painful! I’m so stupid! No wonder no one wants me,” etc. etc. Okay, so the realization of loss was something your pre-thought non-illusory mind experienced. But because your society trained you well, 599 Relax and Succeed - One day things will get betteryour brain immediately sought to categorize that thought into separate ideas that you describe to yourself using labels called words.

What you need to grasp is that it isn’t your breakup from two weeks ago that’s making you cry for days on end. The pain of loss and the occasional recognition or reminder of recent loss will understandably trigger the sad feeling we think of when we think of losing someone. The pre-word, pre-thinking feeling. But if you fully feel that without hesitation—and if you’re not afraid of any emotions—then you simply move into the next moment and feel your thoughts about that. These are those times when you might say that it felt good to cry. So if you’re only crying when you actually want to cry, then you just have to deal with the occasional painful feeling that gets stirred up when your consciousness is unexpectedly reminded of your past.

If however you choose to think a streaming narrative similar to the one I created above, then you will experience that as your emotions. Feelings come before the words, after the words it’s emotion. It’s why babies can feel love but not jealousy. One is before words so babies can feel that, but they can’t build the one after words until first they learn words. So what’s actually hurting you two weeks later isn’t your breakup, it’s your thoughts about the breakup. It’s the words. Because if you wouldn’t keep telling yourself stories about how it could have gone or how it should have gone, then those words would go quiet and you would feel what you were experiencing in the current moment—like the view, or a sound or smell—instead of chemically constructing a past or future experience out of unpleasant, judgmental words.

599 Relax and Succeed - We cannot control the windIt’s no different than reading a book. If your consciousness is considering a painful idea you will experience pain, just like when your consciousness is intentionally focused on the most rewarding thing you can find—then you feel exalted. You don’t feel what happened, you feel what you’re thinking about in this moment. So can you time travel and choose to think about painful things from the past? Of course. It’s how most of the world manages their sadness. But just the same you can manage your happiness too. You can choose to focus on what you’re grateful for.

This is all actually quite easy to do, so if you’re telling yourself I’m being flippant or that I’m wrong, understand that what you’re trying to do is off target. Because this is incredible easy. Remember at the start I said that people got happier by suffering wisely? Okay, so now maybe this explanation will make more sense: To suffer is to choose to think unpleasant pain-engaged or pain-resisting thoughts (they both involve pain equally), and all of this gets done in the hopes that the pain will somehow magically go away because we’ve suffered enough. So you have to put work into this. You have to choose to go in that painful direction—there’s effort #1—and then you have to put effort #2 into creating all 599 Relax and Succeed - If you want to be happyof the narratives that pedal the bicycle of your ego.

My way you just stop thinking, focus your consciousness on the most enriching, pleasant thing you can find and that naturally feels good. But to do that you have to accept the unpleasant feelings first. You can’t be thinking you live in some dream-world where the pain might possibly stop because you want it to, or that there is some magical way to live where you’ll never be in pain again. If you don’t work to hold those crazy beliefs then you only have to experience the feeling of actual pain but not the daily suffering of ego. (Things like being offended, or thinking people are wrong about their politics or art. It’s all very taxing.)

599 Relax and Succeed - The journey is the rewardYou will suffer. Many times. So stop trying to worry it away from your future, or regret it away from your past. Be present instead. If a powerful feeling is appropriate then feel it. But don’t use your ability to think in words as a way to torque a feeling into an emotion. Be sad when it’s appropriate to be sad. Be fearful when it is wise to be fearful. But the rest of the time just let your consciousness relax in silence—which is otherwise known as… happiness.

peace. s

 

The Truth About Lying

Mankind has come a long way but we’re still pretty brutal with each other on a fairly routine basis. And I don’t mean insults or cruelty, although those things are becoming increasingly popular unfortunately. What I mean is that we’re so judgmental of those closest to us.

Because some people some where at some time invented the word trust and the words lie and betray, and the phrase let me down, people have come to see these things as absolutes in much the way more and more people see politics. Because you’re one way doesn’t mean you can’t see 598 Relax and Succeed - If we could look into each other's heartsor enjoy the benefits of another way. There’s times in life when one political reaction might prove better than another, just as there are times in life where the truth is not as neat a thing as our judgmental minds would like it to be.

Say your beloved Mom is undergoing chemotherapy and she’s asked you to go wig shopping after she starts to lose her hair. Even if she looks worse than you’ve ever seen her look, are you lying if she asks you how she looks and you tell her “great!” with a big fake smile? No, that’s not lying unless you’re far too literal for healthy human relations. That is clearly an act of love to anyone who’s even remotely in touch with the healthiest parts of themselves. But it doesn’t even have to be that dramatic.

If we say people don’t like lying, what is it they don’t like? It creates a more unpredictable future, so more tension. They don’t like that it also means they have to take into account an ongoing future uncertainty regarding everything the “liar” says to them. And that applies to their past dealings as well, so they wonder about any other potential fallout or false assumptions. And it gets seen as a violation of our commitment to that person. All of that has value and meaning, but it’s not the whole story. Because if we look at why people lie (and everyone does it all day long, they just don’t perceive the things as lies in many cases) , then 598 Relax and Succeed - Most people don't really want the truthwe quickly see that in a huge number of cases the lies only exist to protecting the feelings of the person they’re talking to, someone else, or themselves.

The first two—protecting who you’re talking to, and protecting someone else—those are pretty common and they’re probably easy for you to imagine. But what is it to protect yourself? A good example comes from my younger years. I was dating a stunningly attractive girl that every guy I knew expressed envy over and I agreed. Every time I looked at her I couldn’t believe how lucky I was. But you know what? Beautiful girls often have people focus on their beauty when they’re young. And so they forget that people will love them for who and how they are—that they’re beauty is a separate issue. And so despite the fact that they’re the most beautiful people in any society, they are often commensurately insecure about being beaten out by someone even more attractive.

Over time that insecurity built because there was no action to remove it, but there was steady additions to it. Eventually it gets cumbersome then onerous and finally it’s exasperating. The only thing that was unattractive to me about my girlfriend was that she was constantly questioning my dedication to her. She never realized what an insult that was. And it also resulted in a lot of angry jealous rages which were embarrassing for me as a young man, and it was on more than a few occasions quite extreme.

What those reactions would encourage me to do is lie. Not to really conceal anything meaningful. But because it’s easier on the relationship. So when I was visiting her, would I 598 Relax and Succeed - We are very good lawyerswant to tell her I was at a mall buying shoes from a girl I went to school with that I’ve bought shoes from for 10 years? No. Because that would far too likely lead to an evening-wasting argument about why did I buy them from her rather than from a store two minutes closer? So instead I would lie and say that I was playing video games in a friend’s basement. And that lie is a bad idea, because if she finds out about it she either won’t believe my reasoning and she’ll trust me even less, or she’ll be furious about my reasoning.

So sure, long term the truth as we know it is better. But we would all do well to be a bit more accepting and tolerant of less-than-perfect behaviour. Because unless we’re going to all do that ourselves—and I know that’s not actually possible or desirable—then we really have no business holding other people to what are ultimately inhuman standards. More people lie for good reasons than bad ones. They’re often trying to be kinder, not more selfish.

So be kinder yourself. Let more go. Don’t be so defensive, so busy and so judgmental. Your lack of tolerance will do as much damage to your heart as to your relationships. Relax. See as much value in getting along as you do in being right. And don’t hold people to standards that you yourself couldn’t honestly meet. The world isn’t better when we’re all perfect. The world is better when we’re all open-minded and tolerant.

Have yourself a great day.

peace. s

The Authentic Life

I spent most of my adult life working in film and television, so using acting as a metaphor for life is very natural. In this case I’ll be using different types of actors as examples of how to live in a state of ego versus a state of being. I realize both “ego” and “being” might seem like nebulous terms, but hopefully this metaphor will resolve that in a way that is helpful to you.

The ego actor is a performer. He needs the audience’s approval. For him rehearsal is waiting, the ego actor is alive only in front of others. Acceptance, support and 597 Relax and Succeed - Truly healthy peopleapplause are very important to the process. This actor may be very, very talented through careful and dedicated study, but there will still be an important difference between them and the true artist.

I’ve known a lot of actors and like in most jobs, a small percentage were truly stellar. And not surprisingly, those actors were all very similar. They weren’t just super-talented, extremely authentic performers, but they also treat crews extremely well, and they’re generous with other cast members (whereas the ego actor wants to steal scenes). They’re in my experience generally loving, smart, supportive parents and I would rank them among some of the most compassionate and aware people I’ve met.

When I teach film I’ll often point my students to my friend Shaun as an excellent example of a true artist. I’ve used him before when talking about authenticity because his life demonstrates to students the most artful, skilled and sensitive approach to acting they could hope to have. Every time I’ve worked with him he is all about the work. He has so much personal character he would recommend his character come across worse if he felt it helped the production. He’s a team-player that comes up with excellent ideas and he makes everyone around him better.

597 Relax and Succeed - Be yourselfSo how does he actually do that? It’s because he’s completely about the performance itself. There is no Shaun in there. Shaun’s needs and agendas are gone and the production and the character’s needs prevail completely. This singular and powerful focus strips away all of his busy personal thinking in favour of him using every useful input to contribute to his being of the character. He’s not striving to be impressive, or seen as talented, or even just to be accepted, but all of that and more happens anyway because his performances are so wonderfully authentic.

So while the ego actor is trying to win over an audience the true actor is trying to most authentically realize a character and story and then whatever happens happens. Except one to his brother, Van Gogh didn’t sell a painting in his life. So why didn’t he change styles? Because he wasn’t painting for us. He wasn’t painting to sell. He was painting to explore. To delve. To know. And as Shaun’s strong career demonstrates, audiences can sense that focus on the work itself. They find the generosity of the performance to be magnetic. Meanwhile the clown has changed clothes and faces so many times no one can figure out who he is to see if they might possible like that person without all of his makeup and costuming on.

No matter what your job is, don’t perform through your life. It’s what egos do and we’ll all do it sometimes, but if you’re vigilant you can easily ensure you don’t do it often or for long. Then eventually it’ll just be your nature to be more natural.

597 Relax and Succeed -  There are people in your lifeSo don’t put on clown makeup and try to make people laugh. Don’t trip and fall for applause and don’t repaint yourself to be who the audience wants you to be. Don’t try to fit into what people want. Be more like the creative archaeologist. Uncover a brilliant example of what you’re doing and take your pleasure from the experience itself rather than from people’s approval. We’ll all love that.

Real artists don’t just make art. Some are lawyers and doctors and concrete workers and teachers. You can do anything authentically. And that’s always better. When the agenda is to achieve good ends for others we’re all okay. We get into trouble when we’re not focused on good ends but rather on struggling to ensure we’re acceptable to others. One is exhausting and the other is enriching.

Be an authentic actor in your life. Be true to yourself, trust that you’re always ending up in the perfect place and then don’t ruminate on the alternatives. You don’t need sequels or re-takes. You just need to leave your ego behind so that you can be fully and completely present for your all-too-brief time here on the stage of life.

Have yourself a wonderful, artful day.

peace s

2014’s Blog of the Year #5

582 Relax and Succeed - I searched for God

*

Obviously a lot of people loved the winning post, but if people are actively anti-religious it’s one that can sit funny in their head. Because the winner features a God that scientists can actually believe in, and yet if anything it adds to or expands upon the idea of most religious versions. If you read it carefully you see that I am marrying the idea of God with a non-religious, non-judgmental, non-separate entity. It’s like the Frank Lloyd Wright quote, “I believe in God, only I spell it nature.” I suppose it’s fitting that it would win Blog-of-the-Year status right in the midst of celebrations by many different religions. So without further ado, here’s the link to the 5th most popular blog for 2014:

CLICK BELOW TO READ:

2014’s Blog of the Year #5

peace. s

Individual Fears

For some people it’s skiing off a cliff. For others it would be talking to millions on the radio. Or maybe it’s airplanes. Or being a parent. For some it would be a night alone. Or having to read a book. It could even be as simple as eating in front of other people. Everyone has their own collection of fears. In fact, that’s not a bad way of describing what your ego is. It’s largely a collection of the things you avoid.

571 Relax and Succeed - Worry often gives a small thingSo what can we learn from the radio host that is afraid to have kids and the Mom who’s terrified to spend the night alone in her house? That we are all the same. The fear that the radio host feels is the same sensation that the Mom feels about her own fear. These are common senses. In fact, it’s really not so much you that’s experiencing the fear but rather fear is being experienced and you create a “you” in your consciousness to be the sieve through which that experience funnels into the universe.

So fear is fear no matter the cause. And no, none of those people are crazy for skiing off cliffs or reading a book. The only difference between them and you is they simply do not have a word-based ego-argument for why they can’t do whatever it is. It’s not that you have to grow to believe you can do something—you automatically believe it. The problem is, as you grow you learn other people’s beliefs and the conflicts can lead to disbelief. And that is how you limit yourself. You think these thoughts—you tell yourself these stories in your consciousness, and then you think you can’t do something when really it’s just a matter that your story has convinced you to believe that something is impossible so you don’t even try.

Your fears are voluntary. Other people tell different stories than you, which proves other stories can be told. You just have a habit of telling yourself the same story every time you climb the ladder to the high diving board at the pool. You talk yourself out of it by discussing all that could go wrong, when the only difference between you and the person who does it easily is that they are telling themselves a story about how great an experience it will be.

571 Relax and Succeed - If you want to flyYes you all have this flexibility to change your mind about your opinion about something or someone or somewhere. But don’t be too hard on yourself or others for being lost in ego. It takes some time and the act of repeatedly making the choice to change your thinking before that process becomes natural. And remember, almost everyone around you is locked in ego and so everyone is modeling it to everyone else, which is why ever since social media was invented, the whole thing is starting to look like a giant insane feedback loop of embattled, angry, worried, and depressed people.

Stay aware. Watch for opportunities to change your thinking. Use some kind of signals. End every phone call or text by checking in with your feelings. Use them to analyze the quality of your thinking. If what you’re ruminating on isn’t materially useful in resolving the issue, then you’re better to just drop it. You need to learn that skill. You need to learn to drop compelling negative thoughts. In the end it is easy. It’ll just take a while for you to remember to do it more often than not.

Be vigilant. Use your ubiquitous phone to trigger the habit to check in with the temperature of your thinking. If it gets too hot or too cold, dial it over to something more useful and rewarding. It really is easier than you think. You just have to be willing to keep doing it until your brain is done rewiring. It doesn’t take long. Why not start right now? 😉

peace s