What’s Your Hidden Agenda?

1255 Relax and Succeed - The moment I saw youOur ego is sly. It’s been with us since we were little, so its voice is so ubiquitous that it just disappears into the background. But it has an agenda, and the problem for our soul is; that isn’t our agenda, it’s our ego’s.

Our ego doesn’t like challenge, or discomfort or pain. Avoiding those experiences means that our ego makes us pay for that resistance with anxiety, insecurity and suffering. It’s really not a very good trade; living in an ego state where you need things to be your way when your soul is fine with how things already are–including you.

A good example of this is when people are super upset. Presuming the experience isn’t common, people rarely see anyone extremely upset and it can be alarming at first because everyone’s family does that differently. Some people talk about suicide or destroying things, others go dark and silent for days, other attack those present with lashing words. Regardless of what it looks like, it’s when someone is in in an egocentric state and they are experiencing serious distress.

1255 Relax and Succeed - Never in the history of calmSo how does an ego react? Our ego isn’t really interested in the world, it’s focused on its own personal impression of the world, but our ego can’t even have a personal impression of anything because it is created by other people and experiences. It’s like a recording, or a Turing Machine, or set of levers. It’s not very flexible and it only has access to knowledge but no wisdom.

When someone is extremely upset our ego wants them to calm down quickly because it’s uncomfortable for our egos to be in challenging circumstances. Instead we generate anxiety as we struggle to figure out what to say to achieve our own agenda, yet when someone’s in distress, our agenda isn’t going to be relevant whether we want it to be or not.

Our soul has no agenda, so it needs nothing from the other person. It merely observes and responds by nature. This means rather than trying to think of the right thing to say, (which is like using our hand to smooth the ripples out of water), our soul can simply be present. It rightfully understands that it is present for the other person’s experience, but it’s not having the other person’s experience. That alone should generate some helpful gratitude.

1255 Relax and Succeed - To obtain satoriOnce we’ve taken away our personal resistance to the behaviour we’re witnessing we can then have our natural wisdom take over. When we’re in that state we seem to say just the right thing, even if it immediately might not feel like it to our ego. Rather than asking the person’s ego to find the soul that creates it, instead our soul invites their ego to surrender and be at peace in the chaos. Your ego wants them to feel better, your soul is prepared to join them in feeling badly.

It isn’t hard to see that if we’re prepared to feel badly then we get to avoid the anxiety, worry and second-guessing involved with trying to figure out the right thing to say. Sometimes there is no right thing. Sometimes the person just needs time while they feel loved and then the process can unfold. But no matter where anyone is in that state, no one is wrong, no one is lost, and no one is right and no one is found. We are all simply either being an ego or being ourselves and we will balance between the two as the act of living our lives.

Take time to be present with suffering even if it’s your own. Rather than fix it just observe it. Prove to yourself, that can be more comfortable being present than being happy, and in doing so, enjoy your day.

peace. s

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

The Confrontation

She let him have it. How dare he speak to her that way? They were friends, she was hurting and he attacked her. He went right for the jugular, refusing to respect what was happening and what it all meant. Her heart was broken.

“I can’t believe you said that to me.”

“I can’t believe you asked me to believe something so ridiculous.”

“I never asked you to believe anything! I was hurt. I came to you for help and you acted like my problems are nothing!”

“What problems?”

She’s incredulous. He was right there. He did it! And now he’s claiming he doesn’t know what’s going on?! She was livid. “I just finished telling you about how my boss has been treating me and you acted like it didn’t matter!”

“Okay, first off, can we at least try to calm down enough so that we’re not yelling back and forth?” He took a breath and steadied himself. His voice was warmer when he spoke. “Look Syd, we’ve known each other a while now. If you haven’t figured out that I care then pay more attention because it should be obvious for a variety of reasons. Who rescued you when blew your rent on that crazy gift for your Mom?”

“She was worried she was going to die!”

“I remember. That’s why I gave you money I really didn’t have. Of course I thought your Mom was important. Who took her special meals up every time you couldn’t? Who sat and played her dice game with her? Don’t act like I haven’t shown I care.”

She shuffles in her place, uncomfortable. He puts his arm around her. “When that guy dumped you I’m the one that invited you over for dinner, and it was me that was sitting beside you and it was me that put the mirror on the chair across from you because it was me who told you I wanted to make sure you had dinner looking across the table at someone beautiful.”

She jags a cry. She’s emotional, and he’s mixing a bunch of sweet and awful moments together really fast. “What’s that got to do with anything?”

“That’s us Syd. That’s what we do. A girl dumps me, I come see you and you tell me I have a nice ass or that girls are dumb anyway and you help. Even if I’ve been a dick. You show you care. And I do too. So that’s who we are so you can’t take today and rewrite all of that. You can if you want, but to me you’re the same person, which is why I don’t want to hear this shit anymore.”

She’s incredulous that he’d attack her after they just calmed it down. “What shit?”

“This shit about you being weak. This shit about you going into a depression because of your boss. I know you. So it’s insane to ask me to believe that you’re too weak for this. It’s offensive to you, and you asking me to pretend you’re weak is offensive to me. I know who I know, I know who I see every day.” It’s weird. He’s complimenting her and giving her shit at the same time. She gets up, back to him, crosses her arms and paces nearby. It doesn’t seem to bother him.

His tone shifts down a bit. “And who I see is a strong woman who made it through her Mom’s cancer and her parent’s divorce, and her breakups and mine–and she survived Grady Marsh in high school and yes, she was knocked around for sure.” He leans in to stress his point. “But the weeble wobbled and it didn’t fall down Syd. You were fine then you’ll be fine now, so all of this dramatization is exactly that.”

“Don’t reduce my life to some lame plea. And so I’m just supposed to go everyday and get treated like shit? Is that it? I should just be fine with how she treats me?”

“Of course not. She’s a classic over-compensator. She feels like a fraud who doesn’t really deserve her job and so she feels uncomfortable around any capable person and she over-compensates. It’s classic. It’s hardly personal. She’ll do it like a robot to everyone who she perceives has the ability, intelligence or beauty that she doesn’t have. And don’t act like you’re helpless.”

“Oh what, I confront her and wait for her to get angry and undermine me and then just surrender my job? That’s what she’d do.”

“Maybe. Depends on how you approach it. But regardless, either fix it, leave it or stop bitching about it. She’s always been like that; you should either go in and accept that as the landscape of the job, or make a formal complaint and wait to get fired, or just leave. But stop talking like you’re weak with no options when you’re really only scared. You’re an adult.”

“This is a painful thing, why can’t you see that?”

“I can. But no one said there’d be no pain. You live around enormous numbers of people in horrible pain. My point is it won’t last so it doesn’t need us to engage with it so much.”

“I’ve put in five years there. Why should I have to leave!?

“Why not leave? Why are you assuming where you go would be worse? Maybe it would be better. Maybe you’d meet your new boyfriend who becomes your husband there. Syd, stop acting like these mental attachments matter.”

He urges her to sit back down next to him and she does. “Let me clear it up Syd: the world isn’t fair. Go to a children’s hospital and see people with real challenges. Even your own sister. She’s a single mom of a sick kid, she has to work two jobs, and your once-had-cancer mom helps but you don’t. Your life looks pretty good you know. I know it’s no princess-life but come on. We gotta remember, 25% of the people walking past us will get cancer and a bunch of the rest of them are those people’s families. Maybe that’s still us, so maybe this isn’t so bad really.”

“I don’t think you understand what being depressed is.”

He’s not angry, but he is firm. “Now you’re being disrespectful to me. Please don’t pretend you’ve got some feeling I don’t. Don’t pretend that everyone you know hasn’t suffered horribly in their life. All of us feel like just throwing in the towel sometimes. I know that hurts and so does everyone else over about ten years old, so don’t put a spotlight on your problems like they’re the only ones that count because the rest of us have some challenges too you know. When was the last time you asked about Brian?”

Her eyes widened and she hid a gasp. “I’m so sorry. I was so caught up in what’s been happening that I didn’t even think to ask. I’m so sorry.” She takes a step toward him but she can see he needs some space.

“Thanks. Mom says he’s good. We’ll wait and see how the chemo did.”

“I’m so sorry. We should go see him.”

The whole thing between them is a bit weird for her now. He seems comfortable, just stung. “Yeah. He’d like that.”

“I’m sorry.”

“Syd, just stop okay? Just stop with all of the whining. You’re not depressed, it’s just when small shit goes wrong somehow your dad taught you this habit of spinning it around in your head for forever and for what? What’s all that thinking do but dump a bunch of awful-feeling chemicals into your brain? How does that help you solve your issues with your boss, or Palestine and Israel, or climate change, or women’s rights, or any other thing you’ll get all down about? It’s just a stupid waste of time and a bad habit and you always defend it. It steals energy from our friendship that could be used more wisely.”

He turns toward her, almost intimately. “It’s why you forgot to ask about Brian. You’re always too wrapped up with thoughts about yourself that you never stop to ask what you’re missing and yet you’re famous for not noticing major things in people’s lives.”

“I am not!”

He just looks back at her. She can tell that it’s true. She has a moment where she caves in a bit. She hates the thought that among her friends she’s known as the one who hogs the pain limelight. But to her credit, that reputation doesn’t feel comfortable, so she takes a good breath, sits up straight and she turns to him. “Okay… okay… so you’re saying I’m strong and so you’re not mad at me and you’re mad at me for acting like I’m weak.”

“Yes. You I love. I know you. It’s the behaviour. It’s beneath you. It’s like watching an alcoholic hurt themselves. I won’t blame the alcoholic for drinking themselves, but I won’t buy them a bottle either.”

She sits with that for a bit. If her parents made it to Canada, through all of that hell back home, then how could the child of those strong people act like a shitty boss would be enough to knock her entire life off track. The longer she considered it the more the stronger feeling built until finally she turned to him. “Okay. Okay then tell me what your brother loves and then lets go get a lot of whatever that is.”

He turns to her. He’s crying. She touches his shoulder. “I’m so sorry I hurt you.”

“I’m not crying about that.”

“What’s wrong then?”

“Nothing. You’re just so beautiful when you love people.”

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.

All of Us

You know those Russian nesting dolls? The ones that all look essentially the same but are painted a little differently as you progress down in size? Those are a great metaphor for what it’s like to get along with others. Back in the days of them always being hand made, each set had its own theme and each doll was not only a slightly different size, but each was also given its own unique take on the overall theme. These layers of identical dolls are like the many aspects of people, including ourselves.

Maybe you like music, you have a really close family, you like discussing things from a philosophical perspective and you think trust is a relationship’s foundation. That would take us four dolls down, but they go forever, with many more superficial interests at the surface and many deeper needs expressed in the smaller, hidden versions of you.

People you immediately like have outside shells that look a lot like yours, so you immediately feel comfortable around them. Good friends will match a lot of your layers, giving you lots of things and perspectives in common. Those are the friends you not only do things with, but you’ll talk politics or religion with them.

Deeper dolls are reserved for lovers and lifelong, best friends. These people seem to be able to match you as far down as you can go, and even then, by the time you find some that don’t, no one cares because it seems so insignificant compared to the tons of matches that you do share. These are the people you can bring your smallest, darkest selves out with.

Likewise, people you don’t like at first have a shell that you find unappealing in some way. It’s boring or threatening or depressing. People you develop a real dislike for are ones where you can go down several layers and not find a match. Neither of you feels comfortable. But it’s important to remember that it’s not anyone’s fault or failure when we run into cases where there are no apparent matches. They’re just non-matches. A pear isn’t letting an apple down by not being an apple.

Of course, eventually everyone has a match. We have been a lot of people. We all have a lot of layers. If we go down deep enough, we eventually find some kind of touchstone–some kind of thing that relates us. We were both beaten by our mothers, or we both found out our partners were gay when we got left in a divorce, or we both secretly want to be DJ’s.

Enemies are nothing more than people who gave up on you–or who you gave up on–before you found those matches. And I’m not saying you should look for them because there’s a lot of other people you can be out having fun with. Life isn’t a test. You don’t have to take the hard way through it. But it’s helpful to remember that; if life forces you into a situation, there are ways to develop a bond.

Even if you got down to your last doll and there was no match, you then realise that you do have something in common: you’re both made of layers and you both have some small dark ones very few have seen. There’s no reason to hate that. Thinking someone has no value means you are falling for an illusion. You’re causing yourself suffering by voluntarily putting your own psyche through the act of hating, or actively thinking badly about, another person. You’ll blame them for your feelings, but that’ll be you.

People you like aren’t better than people you don’t like. They just agree with you more. Remember that when you’re agreeing–and especially when you’re disagreeing–because maintaining an awareness of that fact will truly help the whole world to get along better, and that will bring the most out of all of us.

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.

MoK: Compassionate Connections

Even in times of trouble or pain, authentic compassion can connect us to others in a very meaningful way. If most of us stopped to consider it fully, we would have a greater appreciation for compassion as a positive, binding and powerful force in our lives.

When we feel good we call compassion friendship. It’s when we share in someone else’s life and life feels better that way, no matter what’s happening. When you stop to really think about why your friends are your friends, you’ll tend to think of the times when you bonded over particularly awesome, or particularly terrible circumstances.

Our relationship highs and lows are what bracket the known limits of a friendship. For some people that means they’ll be invited to every party but they wouldn’t help you move on a long weekend. For others it means you may have anointed each other as best friends at your weddings, but maybe you also had to share a kidney. None of these are right or wrong, they’re just what frames your relationship with that person.

Compassion is the force that both establishes and maintains our relationships. The more people we feel compassionate toward the more connected we feel. If we want a better world we don’t have to make friends with people we’re already friends with, we have to find ways to connect to those we feel are quite different.

Today your assignment in the March of Kindness is to simply watch for an opportunity for compassion with someone you normally wouldn’t think to share it with. Maybe they’re a stranger, or maybe you know them too well and have never even considered enhancing the bond between you. Maybe it’s boss to employee, or child to parent, or teacher to student, or maybe you just never even talk to strangers to help them feel more comfortable.

You’re not looking for something big, just look someone in the eye for long enough that they know you mean it, and connect with them. It can be in words or actions or even non-actions. It doesn’t matter if all you’re saying is something as small as thanks for stopping at the crosswalk, or something as big as sharing in the death of a loved one, it all counts.

The point is only that moment of connection. If we all did this consciously every day then everyone would feel seen, heard and appreciated much more than we all do know. And why don’t we do this otherwise? Mostly because we’re lost in egocentric thought, and that’s the very point of these exercises. To get us out of our heads and back into the world.

We’re not trying to make some huge change overnight. But during one month, we’re actually consciously improving our relationships with others, the world and ourselves. And by practicing it each day, we really do become more sensitive, aware and responsive.

Your assignment is one compassionate connection before the day’s end. If you do more, you’ll benefit more; that’s up to you. But even that one example will make you more conscious of the value of these connections, and as each of us makes these intentional choices each day, we all add our individual drops to the collective bucket of a better world.

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.

What Defines You?

1085-relax-and-succeed-the-ability-to-observe-without-evaluatingYesterday we meditated on the sources of judgment. Who is it you want to be better for? Today we’ll ask about what their definitions are made of. Where did they emerge from and why are they so different depending on the source? Why do some people hate you and others love you?

Humans named a bunch of things so that made us feel like we’re somehow above what we are, but once people get pushed near the lower two echelons of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, we’re all pretty much apes. If the lead chimp in a group is decent at sharing, then the group is stable and tight. But if the leader is greedy or selfish, the others can sense that and they will, one by one, band together, and they’ll eventually take action.

We would all like to believe we’re above that, and yet we all know most parents would easily die–or even kill–for their children. This would include stealing food from someone else if your child needed badly enough, and it would justified by your love and sense of protection. The problem is that we’re all still individuals, and so we all put the line where we’d start stealing in a different place.

1085-relax-and-succeed-opinion-is-the-mediumYour friends are essentially the people that agree with where your line is because there’s is in a similar place. They’ll call that match correct, right, moral, or even sane. If you’re either inside or outside their line you will be incorrect, wrong, immoral, dangerous and crazy. Of course these are just judgments within the confines of their own consciousness. But people will act on those thoughts, which is why they matter to a degree.

This line is circular, but more importantly it’s also irregular. It might be shaped like a D or it might have a wedge cut out of it like pie. A person could be super-nice in almost every way and yet be a terrible -ist. Misogynist, racist, even a terrorist. That’s why the neighbours of double homicide say things on the news like, “I never would have expected it. He kept such a nice lawn.” The housekeeping and home maintenance part of his circle was nice and round–the rest, not so much.

Everyone assumes everyone either is, or is supposed to be, a perfect circle, when in fact there is no such thing. With others, if you see a good chunk of curve then you extrapolate that its curves won’t change. No matter who they are, until you see those sides you’ll assume they have a nice round circle when you might have just been judging an entire human being based on his lawn.

1085-relax-and-succeed-one-of-the-greatests-tragediesSince the advent of popular psychology people’s expectations of this perfect roundness has become very firm and unforgiving. Others are disappointed if they mistook you for someone else. They guessed your circle was round and anything short of that is you failing.

When people fall in love their senses are impacted by chemicals and they naturally round off every wobbly or irregular part of their partner’s circle. But, as they know each other longer and longer, and wander further around each other’s circles, their expectations rise. Before they could round off those wobbles in their own head. Eventually they’ll start asking you to do something about them. And that’s when trouble starts.

Our circles are too big and changing them is challenging because that’s not really the way to live. You’ll actually do more to improve the roundness of yourself by accepting the shape you already are, then watch for opportunities for you to use that shape in some way that benefits you and others. Otherwise you’ll spend your entire life neurotically bouncing around the inside of your circle, trying desperately to round off every side that someone meets. This is why weddings are stressful. There’s so many other circles to try to match at once…

1085-relax-and-succeed-who-am-i-to-judge-othersEach of these judgments exists only within the reality of the person making it. You do the same with others and you all do it with yourselves too. Today your meditation is for you to find three occasions where; 1) you did change your circle and you regretted it, 2) you didn’t change it and regretted it, 3) you wanted to change it but couldn’t, and 4) and a time where you did change and you didn’t regret it.

As you might guess, the middle two are to help you understand the world better, but the main value is in the difference between why #1 felt like it did and #4 felt so different. The first is where you became someone for someone, while the other is you became more of your true self. Your job is to be your true self, that’s why that one feels so good while the other is unpleasant.

Find your examples. Four of them. Try to spend some time examining your headspace at that time. Recognise your fluctuating state, and that the judgments of others are not absolute. They are based on their own circles. Your friends accept your circles no matter how they’re shaped, and your health will be represented by how many imperfect circles you will accept. Now do your spiritual exercise or I’ll judge you. 😉

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.