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.

Rocking the Boat

1025-relax-and-succeed-its-okay-if-people-dont-like-youOur ability to remember things only starts a little before most people start going to school, so our idea of how the larger world works will often come from that experience and not our home one. If we’re Korean and our family and friends are Korean then being Korean is fine, but if the kids in the school have never seen a Korean face or heard a Korean name, they can think the new kid is strange and someone to be avoided. This can cause insecurities that can last a lifetime even though there’s nothing wrong with the kid.

Eventually in school everyone does make at least a few friends. Interestingly, the kids with the fewest friends are generally outcasts who are already functioning in some way that causes society to pass some judgment on them. Nerds are cool now, but it wasn’t that long ago that being good in school and knowing about things like Dungeons and Dragons or comic books meant you’d be ostracised or even beat up.

The strange upside to being ostracised is that it’s actually much more accurate to adult life. So you can go through school as the most popular person but that still won’t save you from all of the judgments others will make about you. Some of those judgments will be true, others will be entirely false, but you’ll lose just as many friends over the lies as the truth–likely even more.

1025-relax-and-succeed-do-what-you-feel-is-rightMeanwhile, the teased kid eventually gives up and just starts being themselves as they get used to the teasing. This, it turns out, is one of the most important lessons a person can learn. That kid becomes impervious to the opinions of others. Without any airs that kid can meet their friends as themselves and that is a profoundly underrated thing.

One of the best advantages to being yourself is that it helps your real friends find you in a crowd. Often people will connect with the wrong people because they think someone’s this or that way when really they’ve just been performing to maintain their status with others. And the egos do this even though the actual person will eventually have to show up and disappoint everyone who thought they were someone else.

Genuinely enjoying the act of making someone happy is one thing, but it’s not a healthy or enlightened thing to make people happy if you’re spending that time performing actions or saying words that feel unnatural to you. Eventually you’ll get hangry or be short on sleep or you’ll have had a stressful time and you’ll show your true self and then just watch a bunch of people desert you for nothing more than a few low days.

Frankly, if you look back at your life you can probably easily find people you’ve never spoken to again and yet all they would have done is offend you with an opinion or approach that wasn’t one you’d use. Look at how remarkably conditional our affections are; we see it so often it becomes normal, so we get to the point where we actually expect people to perform for us. They’re not supposed to be themselves, they’re supposed to be who we expect them to be.

So how’s the outcast in school end up better off? It hurts them more at the time because they found out before anyone how incredibly silly people can be with their opinions, but in getting used to it they’re getting used to the adult world where people’s expectations just increase more and more and more over time. Eventually you can get to the point where an entire 20 year friendship can end over just one series of misunderstood text messages, as though those messages somehow unlock some secret identity they’ve been hiding for two decades.

Half the time people show me one of those and say, can you believe they said that? and I won’t even be able to find the offence they’re talking about without all of the history they’re loading the text with. Even the word ok gets seen as some sign of hostility. If people are going to be that finicky then the problem isn’t you, it’s their ridiculous standards. People aren’t here for you and you aren’t here for them. We’re all in this together and we either act like that or we pretend we can somehow survive without people that disagree with us.

By fifty most people have realised that their giant collection of school friends was really just a bunch of other insecure kids who were taught all kinds of unrealistic expectations. Those same expectations will cause people to desert or blame others and before they know it everyone’s left with just their true friends; the people who will accept them warts and all. And the outcast had that already in school. It was the rest of us living in a fantasy, not the kid playing D&D.

Don’t perform for others and don’t ask others to perform for you. The problems aren’t out in the world they are within you. You have resistance to other people’s ways of being just like they have resistance to your way of being. How can it make sense for two people who believe in democracy to hate each other because one’s a Democrat and one’s a Republican when they can’t even have the democracy they value so much without each other? It’s crazy, and yet people do it every day.

There’s a lot of people sitting on the gunnels of your boat and almost nothing will knock them out. A lot of people never intended to stay so they have gotten on and off and various ports of call. Others really needed some serious storms to get knocked out, but a precious few clung to your boat extra hard during the storms and those are the people who are willing to tough out the hard parts of life with you. That’s your tribe and those are the most valuable people you’ll know. So don’t see yourself as losing friends as you age, see it as chiselling away acquaintances to reveal the solid foundation of your very best friendships.

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.

The Friend Test

930 Relax and Succeed - You are the average of the five peopleIf you’re looking for a litmus test to see how well you’re doing at life one of the best ones you have available would be to look at who you spend your time with. And I don’t mean their title, like your boyfriend, or your sister or your coach, I mean what they’re like in the world.

Do they cheat, manipulate for advantage, withhold important information, intentionally mislead others, do a lot of drugs, commit crimes, be violent, or be generally unkind or selfish? Then that is who they are. We are what we do. And so the meeting point between the characters of your closest companions will shape your new normal. Stay there long enough and that’s who you’ll become.

For this reason one of the healthiest things we can do is nurture our relationships with positive, healthy people. You still always want to feel like you could be happy on your own if that was the case, but in general the people you see the most often should be influencing your life toward growth, expansion and discovery.

930 Relax and Succeed - The people we surround ourselves withLife is this series of choices that feel like they’re about one thing when we make them. Later we often find out we were choosing more than we thought. You thought you chose your friends but in fact they were largely your friends because that’s who you went to school with. Proximity did most of it. Families move and kids make new friends. School ends, work starts and before you know it you mostly have a new set of friends. They’re far more incidental than we usually realize. Those few that travel with us throughout our life are the ones that are our deepest and truest friends.

So the deep and true friends are indicators of who you fundamentally are. The qualities that they have that attract you are indicators of your most defining values. Your more incidental friends are the indicators of how you’re behaving, not who you are. So if everyone leaves work to do drugs or go get drunk then that will create a different life than people who go to the gym or take classes.

Expansion is natural. Growth is inevitable. To even slow it down is so painful that people will usually need substances to numb the pain created by their resistance to be creative in the world. Unhealthy people are always hidden away, either wounded or doing things they’d prefer others didn’t see. Healthy people smile, they’re lives are full and they’re active. A lived life looks like it’s being lived.

930 Relax and Succeed - Make your lifeA lot of people slip onto a treadmill and their life becomes a steady uninspiring pattern. No one they know does much and they don’t either. There’s little new and rarely something to get genuinely excited about. Life does not have to be that way. There are people living it with zest and zeal. Not every minute of every day, but a lot of the time. They are moving toward life. They are taking chances, accepting challenges and pursuing their dreams. Where they end up doesn’t matter because it’s the going that matters, not where we go.

Look around your life. Ask yourself what it says about how you’re living. Ask if that’s how you want to be living and if it’s not, begin looking for things to change that will shift you more off balance; something that will require you to act to succeed. That is expansion: solving problems, creating things and friendships and experiencing moments of genuine joy. These things don’t happen by accident, they happen by intention. Take today, assess and then act with intention. Life has much to offer.

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.

Trading Jewels

902 Relax and Succeed - Imagine a worldImagine we all live on a planet where instead of clothing, everyone is covered in a strange kind of jewel. These jewels contain the energy that keeps the aliens alive, but they will only work on an individual for a short period before needing to be transferred to someone else. If transferred, the act of trading creates a boost in energy for both jewels.

All day long people pass these jewels back and forth. Just like us, these aliens evolved. So just like sex feels good for most of us, trading glowing jewels feels good for them. And all you have to do to accomplish it is be in the presence of the other person and then you touch each other. That’s it. Just making contact in the most basic way will release the jewel into each other’s hands.

While a lot of other really interesting things happen on this planet, this trading of energy is the basis of it all. Take that away and none of the other structures or organizations work anymore. So it’s both enjoyable and important.

902 Relax and Succeed - When we are happyIf someone holds a jewel too long they can take it past its natural point. This stresses the jewel because in that state it cannot produce its full amount of energy, which means the alien will weaken. It also makes it more difficult to trade, because now you must find someone in good shape to trade with you because they’re the only ones with enough spare energy to run themselves and recharge the dull, unenergized jewel back up.

This rescue from a negative position is an important function on this planet because relatively regularly the demands of being an alien will require more energy than the alien has time available for trading. This means everyone inevitably hits periods where their dull jewels really start to show. This of course erodes the energy available for both life and for trading.

Since a quarter of the population will also be low on glow at any given time, they can only trade with the other 75% of the population, and not all of them are motivated to trade. If a “healthy” person is getting close to their own limits for energy obviously they’re not going to be inclined to trade with anyone on the low energy side.

902 Relax and Succeed - I am drivenFortunately that gets made up for by the people who’re the best at trading. They’re very often not only glowing, but they’ll also glow brighter than the average person. It’s kind of like candles. The more you light the brighter it gets around you and the easier it is to stay within that high energy.

These aliens are important because not all of the positives actually have enough energy left to make a trade worthwhile, so they’ll just tread water and then watch for opportunities to wander by that will allow them to get back onto the positive side. If not, they’ll get too dull and then they’ll also need very focused and serious attention by some trained jewel traders or very dedicated volunteers.

These would be people like me. We smooth and ease the processes of trading jewels. Many people grew up while their parents were in a dull stage, and so they only learned observed and learned the habits for a very rare and low quality trade. This creates diminishing returns without the alien knowing why. This generally results in the duller group using each other to vampire energy around, until they one by one eventually figure out that the only long term solution is greater proximity to the glowing group.

902 Relax and Succeed - The first to helpLow energy aliens do not expect to be attractive to people with energy. That’s just not how things work. But everyone knows what it’s like to have low energy, so they just have to find someone who’s in touch with that memory and they’ll have the necessary empathy to be motivated to make a trade where the volunteer will have to choose to lose. On Earth we call those volunteers friends.

The healthiest aliens tend to develop similar vampire networks that the unhealthy low-energy people have, except theirs are much more conscious. They aren’t reactionary (rushing out to get energy after you’re desperate for it), they monitor themselves closely and then consciously create a life that encourages regular exchanges. Remember, jewels gain energy from a trade, so if glowers trade with glowers you can see how easy that can get for everyone involved.

We’re just like this other planet in the end. Except instead of trading different coloured jewels we trade kindness, compassion and generosity as glowing jewels and sadness, bitterness and worry as dull ones. Just like on that planet, few people here are motivated to trade with people who consistently offer only low levels of negative energy in exchange.

902 Relax and Succeed - What you giveThe secret to life isn’t finding some never ending stream of generous glowing people, it’s to understand that the easiest way to keep the energy levels of everyone up is if everyone focuses on regular trades of glowing energy. The glowers have figured this out. They didn’t luck their way into more glowing. Hardly anyone does that. No. Most of them lived their way into that group. They made the choices that lead to that success.

Don’t lock yourself away. Get out and be with people in positive situations or don’t expect your moods to improve. And if you don’t have the energy to help a friend who always seems in need, then don’t dull your own jewels by wasting energy on feeling guilty. Yes it’s nice to be generous, but it’s ultimately a shortage of energy that motivates a poor trader to eventually figure out that the answer isn’t more energy, it’s more trading.

So get out there and trade today folks. Remember, it feels good. So have a great one. Make it so.

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.

Friends for Life

A good percentage of people have a fix-it parent; that person who perpetually offers advice that no one asked for. They’re generally people who try to create peace by trying to create predictability outside of themselves. They couch it all as advice, but really they’re the type of personality that is often more comfortable when its telling other people what to do. It’s all well-intentioned and in all likelihood a lot of it is useful and true. But all that advice doesn’t add up to what a friend can give you in no time.739 Relax and Succeed - friendship will not stand the strain

Deep friendship is a state of unconditional love. Unconditional love is love without conditions. Conditions are limits or rules or things we’ll tell ourselves a story about. And we’ll do that right up until we exact some kind of cold-shoulder revenge after which we’ll stop telling ourselves that story and we’ll start telling ourselves a more satisfying one. But those narratives, rules and limits are all creations of the mind. They are all thoughts you have about the other person and your situation but they are all based on your personal perspective and priorities.

Friends love us enough—they see enough good in us—that we are invincibly connected. They can make it through any external disruptions because they believe in the core of us. They know where our balance point is, even when we’re profoundly off balance. As soon as we stop moving violently they step in and hug us with words, silence, or arms and soon we are at peace and are gaining perspective. This is the great value of friendship: their peace of mind leads to enough space for us to go through an experience and come out the other side without feeling judged.

739 Relax and Succeed - Maybe the most helpful thingDo you see how love works? You don’t need to build bridges of love toward people. You need to take down your barriers of judgment. Right up until you get to the last one: the idea that you have to know the person. Friends are great examples of how powerful we are because they are the only people we listen to for listening’s sake. And if we’re real friends the only time we offer advice is when we’re specifically asked for it.

A lot of people say their spouse doesn’t listen to them. Well then you probably don’t listen to yours, but you do probably listen to your best friend. Start paying attention to where your brain is at with the friend. Because that open non-judgmental state of mind is what allows the love in you to shine through unimpeded. Practice knowing that feeling. Know it well and conjure it up in other areas of your life. Before you know it you’ll be facing lineups, flight delays and irritable people with grace and humour and everyone will be talking about what a great listener you are.

When we look at it closely our friends are our friends less for what they give us and more for what they accept from us. If two people can still see the best in each other during their darkest times then there is no real reason for that relationship to ever be undermined. Fairweather friends need you to behave in ways that they find acceptable. They’ll be great right up until you disagree with them. But a true friend loves and accepts you regardless of your views or behaviour. And that simple lack of judgment is at the heart of what makes any relationship great.

Call your best friend, thank them for doing what they do and then have yourself an awesome day.

peace. s

Other Perspectives #64

666 OP Relax and Succeed - Don't fear the enemy

I get why someone would write this quote. It always hurts worse when our expectations are higher. The more certain we are that someone cares for us the more painful it is if we end up hurt when actions they take don’t meet our expectations. But the problem wasn’t actually ever with them—it was with our expectations. People are all the same. The ones we call our friends are the ones that think like us, and so we live within the assumption that they will always think like us, which is impossible. They are them and we are us. They can’t think our thoughts any more than we can think theirs. That’s what an individual is: a person who thinks for themselves. So will you meet duplicitous people? Yes. Will you meet some that agree with you for years and then not? Yes. Will you be able to tell those two people apart? No. Will you change in your lifetime? Yes. Will some other people see those changes as negative when you think they’re positive? Yes. So were you wrong to make those choices? No, of course not. You were being you just like your friends are themselves. People are just being and the ones we call friends are the ones that are being kind of like us during the time we call them friend. But if they start making decisions that we don’t agree with—decisions that don’t meet our expectations—then the ego’s inclination is to make that the fault of the friend when really it’s the natural result of living too seriously in the world of expectation. A stranger can’t really let you down because you have very few expectations of them. So remember, you don’t get friends or lose friends. That’s just a word for convenience. Your friends are the people who see the world the way you do and the way you see it changes and so therefore your friends will naturally evolve along with you too. So you don’t even have friends so you really don’t have to worry about fake ones. Just live. Sometimes it hurts. Meh. So it is for all of us. It’s still easily worth it. Don’t turn people being people into narratives of betrayal. The only person that will suffer is you. Now go have a nice day with the people you enjoy hanging out with. You know, your friends. 😉

peace. s

Changes of Perspective

Winner: 2015’s Blog of the Year #8

People are often surprised when I say I don’t change people but that I change their awareness. They wonder how that can help if, for instance, a couple doesn’t change whatever behaviour patterns are leading to their difficulty. I would agree in the cases of physical or emotional abuse, but there’s not always a need for anyone to change their behaviours so long as better understanding exists. Things will never be perfect, so it’s important in any relationship that we have ways of dealing with the harder, darker parts of our partner because every partner will have those, including you and me.

629 Relax and Succeed - The truth is that the more intimately you know someoneI was trying to think of a good example of how this awareness affects your perceptions of what’s really going on and how that awareness makes your responses much wiser and more informed. I was surprised to run into such a good example. A client reminded me of one insight that he and many other clients have noted as being very helpful. In their cases, each of them found their relationships improved a great deal when they had a better understanding of lalochezia (lalia, speech + chezō, to relieve oneself). It’s often used in a medical context, but it’s how–when you’ve hit your finger with a hammer–screaming a swear-word can actually help you feel better.  In those cases, yelling is an attempt to equalize pressure in much the same way that a race-car is designed to have parts fly off to help dissipate accident energy. It can be a good method of quickly getting rid of unpleasant and negative chemistry.

A recent example of where an increased awareness of this helped someone was a very quiet and relatively diminutive boyfriend who was struggling with worry because he found his girlfriend’s angry screaming so threatening. His parents were British and went to the right schools. If anything life was maybe a tad cool, but it was always highly civil. He’d seen plenty of cold shoulders but he had never heard a person yell at their partner until he started dating.

His wife on the other hand came from an embattled house where the parents and children routinely screamed insults at each other. The boyfriend knew her family as much closer and warmer than his, so when they shouted at each other it always felt like violence to him and he would shrink back in fear. I was fortunate enough to be on the phone with him one night when she went off on one of the rants he dreads. Having finally heard one myself I was able to meet with them and help them a great deal.

629 Relax and Succeed - LalocheziaI explained to him that there were two types of yelling and insults. One is cutting and deeply personal and it’s designed to hurt the person listening to it. This is the very lowest and most destructive form of exchange. Fortunately there is also a version of yelling and even insults that is almost therapeutic. I explained the concept of lalochezia to him and then told him about this example:

Before he moved away I used to have a friend who would phone me on occasion. Sometimes he would call and say, “Hey do you have a moment to talk? I’m upset.” And I would ask him if he wanted me to change the course of his thinking or should I let him be angry? Sometimes he would choose the latter.

On those days it felt better to him to express his anger so he was looking for a safe place to do that where no one would get hurt. How respectful. So on those days I would tell him to go ahead and then he would start complaining about whatever had first upset him. If it was bad, he would chain it into other problems and in the worst cases he would even start attacking me. But when I say worst case I don’t mean that I was attacked. I mean that he felt so horrible that he attacked someone I know he knows loves him. That made my heart go out to him. And that is precisely my point. By having this empathetic view, what would make a lot of people angry instead made me even more compassionate.

629 Rel ax and Succeed - Hurt people hurt peopleSo why not demand that he behave better? Because then I’m asking him for something and he’s already in trouble. If I do that I want to be right rather than wanting peace with my friend. I’m not mad. I feel good. By demanding that the other person grow a whole new personality you are throwing away a gift.

There’s a dude yelling at me, bringing up mistakes I made five years earlier and saying those events define me as this ugly thing or that useless person and am I getting angry? Do I feel attacked? No, I’m in love with my friend and I understand. And I know how much he appreciates that he has this freedom with me and that after he calms down he’ll remember I’m the only friend he has that can do that. Eventually he burns the chemistry out of his bloodstream and rather suddenly he’ll shift. We’ll both be able to tell it happened by the sound of his breathing and his voice. I’ll ask him, “Are you good?”

He’ll take a moment to be sure. “Yeah. Yeah, I think that’s it. Thanks. Everything okay for you?”

He wants to make sure he hasn’t hurt my feelings. He hasn’t. “Yeah, hey, no problem, but I gotta go okay? I’ve got a deadline.”

No problem. Thanks again. I owe you one.”

629 Relax and Succeed - try not to confuse attachment with loveWe’d hang up and, despite the fact that I just listened to negativity and anger directed toward me personally, I would still feel good that I had been useful to a friend I love and care about. His day was better because of our friendship. That feels good. The yelling didn’t make my day worse. It made it better. That whole thing took 15 minutes. 15 minutes. Things are what you think they are. And, in a beautifully poetic way, by calling me in that state of mind where I could model the opposite State of Mind, wouldn’t you know—he started absorbing that state himself. So the thing I would have tried to force into him via convincing ended up there naturally through listening. Voila.

So it’s important that I teach a client to take stock of the reality being experienced by the person they’re talking to, because they cannot apply their reality to the other people’s reactions. They have to listen to the type of angry words they’re hearing and make sure that the situation isn’t the opposite of what they’re assuming. Rather than them needing protection it may be that their partner than needs love and support.

Only with practice can the entrance to that process be as clear as with my buddy and I, but if you know this is what to listen for then you can watch for these situations shaping up throughout your day. Once you identify that they’re struggling, you go voluntarily right down there with them and then your natural buoyancy reminds them of their own. You feel where their energy is at and you harmonize with them and invite them higher, to greater perspective and more internal peace. But you do that by simply staying strong in the face of their experience. Just be sanguine and in love with them, regardless of what they say in that crazy State of Mind. I swear, they’ll love you for it. Just make sure you start bowing out as soon as it stops feeling like you’re doing something helpful.

Much love, s