Getting Along in the Kitchen

1213 Relax and Succeed - At some point you just have to let goWhat’s the saying? “Too many cooks spoil the broth?” Families cook best together for one simple reason: they generally all had the same teachers. But all you have to do is go to your first love’s parent’s place for dinner and suddenly you’re encountering things that your brain reads as wrong. By the time you’re married this can result in big fights in the kitchen that are largely over illusions.

I’m born and raised on the prairies, so I’ll stick to the foods I know. Maybe your Mom made gravy thick and they make it thin. Maybe they like raisins in the stuffing and you don’t. Maybe you like dryer meat and they like it super juicy. Maybe they think their list of spices is the right one and yours is the wrong one. It doesn’t really matter what the argument is over, if it’s not about creating poisons to eat then it’s largely a discussion about nothing.

There is no right way to cook food. There’s how you cook it and how much the people eating it like it. That’s it. Yes, some might be more popular, but that’s not the same as better. It’s just different. And it’s amazing what our minds can do to our bodies when our mind doesn’t like something. Literally, we can end up temporarily not liking a food out of habit, despite the fact that we’d get over it and like it just as quickly as we got addicted to what we’d previously eaten, which was in almost no time.

1213 Relax and Succeed - We are often more frightened than hurtThe point isn’t really the food though–it’s the argument. Arguing over cooking is a great example of two people presuming there is a common reality. We are all one, but the closest thing we have to truth in the ego world of thought is science, which is why the poisoning is important. But other than that everything is subject to opinion and even the science will often change and evolve over time. So there’s no hallowed ground for anyone to stand on and point fingers.

We simply have to accept that it makes sense that other people would have differences in their physical makeup and their thought processes and that those things would result in foods tasting differently. It’s literally one of the definitions of being an individual: you perceive through your own senses.

Frankly, no one can even prove we’re not inside a simulation, so for all you know your excellent steak is the same as the one in the film The Matrix.

Our senses are interpreted by us, for us. We have no idea how accurate they are. We know there are famous synesthetic composers who literally see music, so that shows how flexible our senses are. Even drug use proves that our mind can create amazing experiences which feel thoroughly real. So the question is, if you can’t tell reality from what you believe reality is, then why would you argue with your beloved about the reality of how a food should be cooked?

If you want to get along with others better in the kitchen, understand that your ideas about cooking are the same as theirs. Even if your training is superior, that doesn’t guarantee you’re right, it just means the other person might be wise to listen more. So don’t make being right about the food your aim in a good relationship or you’ll end up ending it.

Rather than argue about the peas, make peace. Make that your focus next time you’re having an argument in the kitchen and you just might find that someone surprises you with something–and someone–you end up loving.

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.

Accounting For Taste

1094-relax-and-succeed-nothing-happens-just-because-we-are-awarePart of why people think too much is that they’re too idle. You can be, or think about being, but you can’t do both. Whereas healthy people invest themselves in the actions, others use more thinking to try to stop their thinking but, you don’t stop thinking; you replace it with activity. The activity of being alive.

The problem is that most people don’t even know what life activity even looks like. Even the idea of basic listening, or patience, or openness is too-often seen as unproductive; as though all of the value is in how much someone does, not how well they do it. But if we’re only doing then that means those tasks are for other people, but even if they’re for other people we should still be alive while we do them.

You can repeat an action and still be alive while doing it. You can still do something generous and do it for you. But to do so you must slow down your thinking and deepen your focus. Once you do this, you’ll see the world slow down and it will make more sense because you will be taking in more information.

1094-relax-and-succeed-life-is-a-seriesA good way to do this is through your senses. We’ll start today with your sense of taste. You’ll have to stay aware to remember to do it when you eat or drink, but otherwise your job in today’s meditation is wonderfully simple: simply taste anything you consume.

Seems weird doesn’t it? Lots of people can think, I already taste everything I eat, but that’s actually pretty unlikely. Most people are so busy using their mind to create internal dramas that they rarely just focus on the taste experience.

This meditation is two-fold in that it helps you maintain a level of awareness throughout the day so that you can catch yourself eating or drinking, and then once that experience starts you can work on adjusting your focus down to that one sense. The idea is that your brain is doing nothing but tasting the food. No commenting, no desires, no words, just taste whatever it is and be fully aware of all aspects of that flavour.

1094-relax-and-succeed-rather-than-being-your-thoughtsIt seems easy but it does require a constant low-level awareness on what you’re doing so that you’ll be more alert. But the real gold is if you can really find yourself noticing a substantial difference in eating or drinking. It shouldn’t feel like fuel even if it is. It’s not just something you do on the way to something else, it’s literally an action that keeps you alive. Invest more in it. Besides, a lot of the food you eat is presumably really good.

Pay attention to everything you eat or drink until bedtime. Tomorrow, either make a mental note in the morning of the day-before’s favourite taste experience, or share your top moments of awareness with your meditation partner. It’s a nice meditation to do. You not only gain in awareness, but it makes lunch taste a lot better. Enjoy.

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.

Reactions to Failure

Staying conscious is being mindful. If your head isn’t full of self-conversation then much more of the world can get inside you. You notice more and that’s helpful. So when a friend and I were recently disagreeing about an important issue we were working on I noted quite clearly that in the middle of the discussion of the good friend said, “have you eaten?”

972 Relax and Succeed - Sometimes when things are falling apartMe being upset lead to a friend asking if I’d eaten, meaning she had related my mood to my food. I trust her so we ate and I did feel better as my body chemistry regulated. It turned out I just needed some sugar. You could leave it at that but if you’re going to think don’t ruminate, meditate. So I spent the next two days meditating on how that happened.

In that meditation I recalled another similar experience where I had snapped at a different friend for very little reason. At the time my reaction had been so strangely immediate that it registered with me. I remember meditating then on the fact that I loved the friend so it didn’t make sense, plus I hadn’t been thinking any relevant negative thoughts. So what was the cause? My disappointment over how I treated my friend was what motivated my meditations.

After more consideration I realised both situations reminded me of when I got upset really easily for about eight months when I was in my late teens. I was going through a growth spurt and my off-balance chemistry gave me a different personality for a short time. And now here was a friend responding to me being unreasonable by asking me if I’d eaten. Food relates to body chemistry. Can you see if you’re more aware that the truth becomes obvious? The question was, how did it happen?

972 Relax and Succeed - Never regret anythingSometimes the big challenges in life are so obvious and huge in our lives that they cause us to miss some of the smaller implications. A few years ago I underwent my life’s most difficult period where rather than an 8 hour day and a 40 hour week I needed a 40 hour day and a 280 hour work week just to avoid disasters, but that in turn lead to a series of sub-decisions that were far less conscious. Life can deliver us more than we can handle. That happens.

There is no good way to prioritise the very serious and absolute demands presented by very elderly and sick parents, a book deadline, your life’s work, the needs of clients and the business that pays your equally important mortgage, or even your basic life obligations like the fact that you need to eat, drink, sleep, grocery shop, and personally groom, plus you’ll have needs relating to everything from house and yard work to necessary car repairs or maintenance and of course there’s the never-ending administration that life requires.

I knew during that time that I would be letting friends down and I accepted there would be a price. I worked with my doctor on a plan for so little sleep and so much work and I developed a special diet, but even then I accepted there would be both a price and a limit. I worked off an insanely inhuman schedule that I still can’t believe I maintained.

972 Relax and Succeed - A friend is someone who understandsDespite all that effort I was still constantly letting everyone down, including myself. I never had enough sleep and I had quietly developed terrible eating habits over time. I was still eating healthy, but I would often go to bed at 2am realising I hadn’t eaten since breakfast at 5am the previous day. And there in my mediation was my answer: In my busy-ness I had accidentally learned not to eat.

Because historically we can be chased by wild animals the desires to eat and to pee can be deferred to later. Pain stays, the desire to eat comes and goes. I got so used to dealing with not being able to eat that it became an unconscious habit to just immediately dismiss the desire. I needed to get conscious about food again.

For the next several weeks I watched myself closely. Sure enough, once I was watching I caught myself tons of times deferring the desire to eat. As often as possible I would remember to respond to it and I’m currently about half way to re-teaching myself to eat when I’m hungry. That’s how busy-minded we can get: we can forget something as basic as eating.

972 Relax and Succeed - Don't deny what's occurringSo can you see that I’m now glad the friends reactions were pain because I care about them? And I’m glad one defended herself by asking me if I’d eaten? Without those signs that I was off the path how could I have rediscovered the path? I needed those ditches to help me find the road. Of course we always want to treat loved ones well, but part of love is that they can help us make it through tough times like that and then we can do the same for them. That’s how love serves.

So now I’m grateful that the universe has taught me to appropriately value food and that my friends were patient and now that I do have the time to eat I’m getting conscious enough to actually do it. So this can help you too if you remember that if you have a problem don’t focus on the problem itself, ask yourself what its source is.

Believe you are a good person that is lost not a bad person that needs changing because that is the greater truth. If you approach your mistakes that way you can see your innocence and then make the change without guilt. Speaking of not feeling guilty, another great truth is that I’m hungry right now so, if you’ll excuse me I’m going to get something to eat. In the meantime, you have yourself a stellar day. Bon appetite.

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.

Healthy Body Healthy Mind

In previous blogs I’ve discussed how the unusual thinking that resulted from my accident caused me to be confused by people’s fear of death and their distaste for being wrong. I also find people approach their physical health in a rather strange way.

789 Relax and Succeed - I workout because I love my bodyWhy is exercise seen as work? Or an obligation? Or that it’s done to stave off aging or to prevent a loss of beauty? Why can’t it be an act of love?

Imagine you have two brains in a drawer that goes through the middle of your head. If you pull it to the one side you’re using one brain, pull it to the other side and you’re using the other brain. It’s called changing your mind. Absolutely anyone can do it at any time.

Now imagine that these two brains are filled with stories. One brain has wiring to take the world and process it as either painful, wounded, debilitating, or sad, and it can lead to feelings of isolation and a loss of enthusiasm for life in general.

The other brain is wired to see everything as a plus. So whatever is input gets processed in a grateful, strong, respectful and happy way. And you choose which drawer to use for every single thought you think.

789 Relax and Succeed - I feel energized and happySo do you want to see your food and your daily exercise as a diet and a workout? Is a restricting word and almost violent one the best way to describe something you do every day? What if you ate and were active as a part of loving yourself? Of loving your body?

What does a quadriplegic miss? What can’t they do in their chairs? These are things you currently take for granted. They see the basic movement of a human body as a gift–as something to be enjoyed. Don’t go to the gym because you hate your body, go because you love it. Treat it like Yoga. Get your mind fully immersed in the movement rather than the stillness.

And why do people find it easy to stick to healthy diets after years of junk food? Because very shortly after changing their diets they’ll notice all kinds of health benefits from how they sleep to how they use a bathroom. Their vision and hearing appears sharper. They feel stronger and they have more balance. And they crave things like carrots and spinach and yes maybe some meat too if in their own experience they reacted positively to it. Don’t let your food be a source of guilt. Honour your body and honour the food. You’re both worthy.

789 Relax and Succeed - You are what you eatDon’t turn your health regime into a cruel dictatorship. Don’t look at food as an enemy, but rather as a lover. Don’t look at exercise as working anything out, it’s instead an exploration of your own physical being. If you were an alien given a space ship you’d want to take it out for a spin and have fun with it. Same for your consciousness inside your body. Take it for a spin. Have some fun with it.

Love yourself like you love no other. And make eating, activity and sleep an honoured part of your day. These are not the things you squeeze in around work. These are fundamental human experiences and for you to be healthy they must be too. Have a wonderful day.

peas. s

Scott McPherson is a writer, public speaker, and mindfulness facilitator who works with individuals, companies and nonprofit organizations around the world.