Stormy Days

1334 Relax and Succeed - How high is less important

People want to have no bad days, but without those we couldn’t have the happy ones. Things only exist in relation to other things — but that’s a big subject that needs it’s own post.  This one is about how –when we’re experiencing a challenging day– we can still manage our minds well.

Even if we were worse on a hard day than on a much easier day, it’s not how high we climb, it’s how far. On days where we start in a hole, getting up to ‘even’ is an achievement. If we don’t allow that flexibility into our reality, then we have an unhealthy expectation that will lead to feelings of disappointment.

If we forego setting an expectation and just stay in the moment, where we do our best to try to ensure that each moment is as good as we can make it, that can add up to a spiritually successful day.

Those are the days where we don’t get caught up in our own thought-battles, we break free of them despite their emotional gravity. It does not improve the externals of the day, but within that framework, we can still maintain a form of peace. The entire film Life is Beautiful is based on this idea.

Yesterday was a day of frail parents, critical deadlines, upset people, too many places to be at too many times, it included weakness, defeat, some fear and some intense frustration, and it was all done on too little sleep and too much coffee. It was a day where 100 marbles rolled towards me but my hands could only fit 50. It was overwhelming.

Much of the day was spent on frustrating, complex, incorrect and extremely slow automated phone systems. Sometimes we, (a friend helped and got caught up in my frustration), were quite irritable after finally reaching someone, so the best we could do was be good models for quick and earnest apologies over our curt tones. In fact, bad days are generally good chances to practice apologizing.

1334 Relax and Succeed - It isn't our job to shine

It’s fine to have days like that if we didn’t hadn’t previously told ourselves that there is a way to manage life were these days don’t happen. If we accept that they do, then we just kick into managing them.

At the end of the day, if we look up and we can say to ourselves, I did all I could with the energy and awareness I had available, then we don’t need to really do any judgment after that.

Eventually the storm water is under the bridge, the weather passes, and what we have left is that we did what we did with the best of intentions and the day ended up as it did. If it was unpleasant, then the day ending is like getting off a ride we’re not enjoying at a fair.

Even if a day ends up horrible, some are like that in the roughly 28,000 days most of us will average on Earth. Is even 1,000 horrible days really that bad on a 28:1 ratio? If we want more than that, aren’t we getting a bit greedy?

We need those painful experiences that help us feel painful love songs. We lose a lot of empathy for our loved ones if we’ve never had our hearts broken. Empathy relies on us having experienced many kinds of pain. Besides, just the desire for things to always be better will itself add many bad days to our lives.

It does none of us any good if we walk around with idealized ideas about ourselves in our heads. Our lives can experience any weather, any day. We’re not supposed to be able to stop the storms, we’re just supposed to remember that, despite storms, we will live to shine another day.

peace. s

The Tyranny of Expectation

1329 Relax and Succeed - If our expectations are not met

It all happened in the foothills of the mountains, in a cold hard rain, in a tiny trailer that had a leak in the roof. The levelling jacks, the battery and the water pump all failed. Half the stalls in the campground were empty due to just the weather. It was raining so hard we had to keep the fire going or we would never get it going again, so we didn’t have enough wood.

I got really sick, so my friend had to pack up her two little wet, cold kids alone, all so she could drive an hour in each direction just to buy more firewood. The kids were pinging off the trailer walls all weekend. It was freezing outside and diapers meant the little one was in and out of her rain suit constantly. Mud was everywhere, and everything smelled like smoke and sweat and diapers. It was an awesome weekend.

If that seems unlikely or impossible, consider that the only reason that people don’t have worthwhile weekends in situations like that is due to the Tyranny of Expectation.

Rain, cold, crying kids, illness, bad smells, and yet there I was loving it (well, except when I was sickest, then I took a while to happily enjoy not loving it). My contentment in those circumstances is a good illustration of how peace occurs.

The person who gets to go on regular holidays considers time off normal, so they take that for granted and they want more. That’s how anything in nature moves forward –it gather’s more and more life as it goes.

The people with time off, who can afford to go –they’re past wanting any break. That’s assumed. Their current identity owns that reality (or so they believe). Having that, now they want a great holiday. Our ego sets that as a quiet but powerful expectation.

And it comes with strings.

If our expectations are not met we will pay an emotional price. We are disappointed. That is the feeling we get when experiencing the gap that exists between our in-that-moment expectation and our in-that-moment reality. To the contrary, due to my previous context I had it easy this weekend.

1329 Relax and Succeed - Contentment and happiness occur

Nine years of compressed care-giving and earning a living have lead me to experience the same set of rooms, the same set of painstaking and often unpleasant actions, the same frenetic, unpredictable schedule, and the same types of simple conversations and same list of dull tasks, repetitively, for years in a row with no days off. That kind of experience gets etched into anyone’s brain.

I’m not complaining, we’ve found ways to truly enjoy it. I chose it and it has its profound rewards for all three of us. They mostly visit their friends and play games, and it’s made me a better person. But it’s definitely not what one should could call easy or fun, which is why I have the routine. Much of it isn’t very motivating, so the schedule keeps me moving forward. Without it being packed to over-full, I would be even farther behind than I am.

There’s no way one person can get my entire daily to-do list done, so I have to focus on what I can get done and on keeping the biggest fires out. That’s doing well in the current context. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ . All of us will have times like this in our lives. We shouldn’t let our egos think something’s wrong.

I’m surviving that well because of the act of acceptance, but the holiday allowed me to make use of the principle that reality is relative. That’s why I had a great weekend. I had no expectations. I was too busy beforehand to even consider thinking of any. I was simply happily anticipating things being different. Otherwise, it had no parameters, so as soon as we’d left home I won.

Despite the rain and cold and challenges, we had fun playing board games and playing make believe, we covered some river safety, respect for plants and animals, and it felt good to model a positive attitude in difficult circumstances because that will be what will become the kid’s version of ‘normal’ when facing adversity.

On top of all of those benefits, the rain made things smell good, and the river was roaring. I also love the sound of a crackling fire and, thanks to the rain, that one needed to be lit all the time just to stay lit. Despite all of the smoke, I look back on the weekend as having been filled with wonderful freshness. It is a joyous thing to be in the presence of the bright spirit of little kids.

Precisely because my life is so repetitive it was easy for me to appreciate the difference and value that even crappy camping offers. But in principle, this can happen even for people living without that extreme contrast.

Disappointment for any of us will begin with anything below our ideal expectation. We are better to have never used our thoughts to create the expectation at all. Contentment and happiness occur not because our situations are ideal, but because we respond to things in a way that respects our time on this Earth. Life is short. We should enjoy as much of it as possible.

Sometimes feeling bad is what we want to do and we should let ourselves have that kind of happiness too. But when we’re ready to feel better, it’s nice knowing that a shift of focus and a dropping of our expectations can quickly convert a bad experience into a good one. It’s a skill worth practicing.

peace. s

Angry People

1324 Relax and Succeed - Anger can be useful to a point

Hands up if you’re one of many people who feel like we’re all surrounded by angry people too often? Many will even concede to being angry people too often lately. It’s a prickly world these days. It feels like it’s time to pause and breathe.

This is not to say that people don’t have very real reasons to be angry. Pain leads to anger, and that comes in many forms, so the legitimacy of everyone’s anger is not the point of this piece. The point of this piece is that anger has its place.

It’s primary job is in motivating human beings out of a state of inertia, which is important. As anyone who’s had to get off the sofa to do weekend yard work knows, inertia can be a major obstacle between ourselves and useful action. Anger is like an explosive force that allows our soul to get moving. Throughout history anger has both taken and saved a lot of lives.

Anger is valid, but it should not be viewed as a final result, or an outcome, or a destiny to simply accept. That pot will eventually boil itself dry.

Anger is a motivator and indicator. Unless it’s being employed to physically fight for our lives, the experience of it is a signal to us that we are in an unacceptable position. Our first and most natural reaction is to respond to that by waking up all of the energy inside ourselves with a roar. Hence the anger.

1324 Relax and Succeed - Do not stop at anger

But to stop at anger is to be corrosive to our own lives. Anger should not exist for its own sake. Once we’re awake we need to calm down, use wisdom, and make a plan to succeed at improving our situation. If we just get angry we’re trapped in a cycle because only we can get ourselves out of our own thought loop habits. The point is for these things to serve us.

Once we realize that we’re angry we can take action to calm down. The anger has done its job. We should thank it, then calm and assess. What is making us angry? Anger comes from fear, so look for forms of threats to things like our income, status, relationships and health. Once we’ve defined the issue, we can focus on that in a strategic way.

If we’re going to allow strong emotions room to swell as we share love or compassion that’s fine. But anger isn’t a place to live. It’s like a stop light. Ignoring it can place us in real danger. Likewise, letting it lead our lives is just as dangerous. We’ll never get anywhere.

If there is action to take we should take that action with confidence. If acceptance is required, we should know that doing so makes us stronger. There is no point in thinking about things if nothing can be done, our thoughts would be better focused on the moment we’re in.

Finally, we also must remember there will also be situations where patience is the best answer but we’re too tired or hungry to deliver it. This is not a failure, this is life. Everyone’s anger will eventually get the best of them. Sometimes we’re the student, and sometimes we’re the teacher. To learn tolerance, we all need examples of people that don’t appear to deserve it, and sometimes we are those people.  ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Use anger as a signal, do what’s possible. The rest is acceptance. That’s a healthy place to be.

peace. s

Emotional Control in the Face of Frustration

 

1301 Relax and Succeed - Emotional Control in the Face of Frustration 2

Here’s a reasonable question that hit me last month: why did I get up extra early to get my work completed so I could drive in -34C (-29F) to pick up my father on a day where he did not need a ride?

Finding out that I was actually a day early can be the kind of thing that can lead us to revisit the extra early wake-up and the cold drive and feel angry about losing sleep, not to mention for freezing for no good reason. Very cold weather makes angry thoughts easy to produce.

Doing those disappointment and frustration-based calculations makes sense to almost everyone. But wisdom suggests we stop and ask ourselves if our initial reaction is truly helpful in the situation we’re in. So that’s our assignment this week: to mitigate our common negative reactions with deeper understanding

Take each day and the most frustrating part about it, and then track back to why it that thing bothered us more than other things. We will find that we held some expectation that was not being met.

The question is, what was our unreasonable expectation? Collect enough awareness regarding our expectations and we become able to recognize them in operation and then work around them.

If we’re not blaming others we can use the energy we would have expended on blame to instead fuel more productive action.

Understand that the issue can still bother us, we can even have a burst of blame before we settle. But by understanding that our feelings are logical and sensible means they are less painful to own and we’re less likely to blame –or hold on to blame placed on– the other people involved in our frustration. It simply makes no sense to do that to them because we know we’re reacting out of the logic of who we are and what we are facing.

If we’re not blaming others we can use the energy we would have expended on blame to instead fuel more productive action.

Logically it shouldn’t surprise us that people who hate being afraid will be particularly bad when things are scary, or that shy people will be uncomfortable in crowds. That’s not something going wrong, that’s something making sense.

Likewise, if we have an expectation that we will never behave as though it is the wrong day of the week, or that winter in Edmonton won’t be cold at times, then we would be defying common experiences many have already had. But if we accept that those are mistakes people commonly make, then when it happens to us, we can be half-ready.

1301 Relax and Succeed - The more we do anything

In my case, upon arrival I was fairly quickly informed that I had the wrong day. This is where a flash of frustrated anger sparked my conscious attention. I could feel the pang of that frustration in my gut and I did a check-in. What was I thinking about? Two phrases: So I froze for nothing, and; I’m an idiot who really could have used that sleep.

Okay, so now I can add to my problem by continuing to think about comparing my morning to a warmer one where I remembered what day it was, or I can accept I made this weird decision and ask why.

Once we get good at it, it doesn’t take long to track why, which is why a week’s worth of examples will be helpful. The more we do anything the better we get at doing it.

In my case, I had a big day on that Thursday with some big meetings and a rare visit with a friend, so I spent most of Tuesday organizing life so I could make that Thursday work. So since that Tuesday, I’d primarily thought about and dealt with, Thursday.

Knowing how the brain works, I knew I had essentially ‘primed’ the idea of Thursday in my mind so it would be the most prominent day in my imagination. I even dreamed about Thursday on Tuesday night, which is partly why I woke up under the presumption that it was Thursday.

Do you see how those events took me out of now? I was so focused on future thoughts about how Thursday might play out that I wasn’t actually listening to the radio or noticing the many clues that it was Wednesday that day. Having an expectation and rushing my thoughts into Thursday meant I was blind and deaf on Wednesday.

Seeing the logical sense in what I did, I accepted that that is what a brain will do, and the entire issue was left to die in the past and I lost any sense of frustration. I just had some toast with Dad and headed back to start writing this.

See? In the end, it was even a gift, because I needed an example exercise for this blog. Funny how the world works out.

Go from now and until next Monday try to find your way out of frustration by truly understanding and accepting how easily you got there. You’ll know if you’ve truly understood the innocence of your sources because then the acceptance part is easy. We can hardly blame ourselves for making sense.

Thanks for reading. Enjoy your day!

peace. s

The Straw that Breaks the Camel’s Back

1227 Relax and Succeed - Serenity is not freedom from the stormWhat good is developing your spirituality if it can’t help you through your day? The fact is, advanced spirituality can come and go at any moment, so developing your recovery skills is key. (Oh yes, it does sometimes disappear once you have it, it’s just easier to get it back).

When this skill is most useful is when you’ve already had a day where you’ve forgot you’re the thinker and instead you’ve been living the thoughts. That means you’ll have loaded a lot of the day’s baggage onto the back of your proverbial emotional camel. Then, when you’ve done something like spilled juice on the new carpet, the dog had an accident, your child has not done as you’ve asked, or work or your spouse is still doing that thing that drives you crazy, you reach that straw that breaks your camel’s back and you lose it. So today we’ll talk about five psychospiritual strategies to get you through those moments.

1. You:

You even thought as you walked away from the counter, filling this cup of coffee, this full, with the dog and kids running around was not a good idea, but that just makes you even madder when a moment later it lands on your carpet. Since talking to yourself leads to greater suffering, go quiet and accept instead. Time does not go backwards. The coffee is there now. The question is, how does the you in that moment react? You can think about a past that wasn’t and be in pain, or you can start cleaning juice and get on with your day with a more peaceful heart. Action or thoughts. Solution or suffering. Take a big breath. Exhale your frustration and the thoughts that surround it. Do not think about things you cannot change. Act instead of thinking.

1227 Relax and Succeed - You are in charge2. Your Pets:

They’re animals, not people. They don’t really understand whatever language you’re speaking to them. But they get how you feel. So don’t scream at an animal that you want to listen to you. Appreciate that when you’re upset it’s like slipping into a costume that makes you look like someone your dog would never trust. Work with the dog as a dog, not against the dog and with your schedule, because however important the schedule is, the dog will still be a dog. The act of wanting it to be a different dog doing different things will generate unnecessary suffering. Breathe. Think about sensing some part of your own body, like a leg muscle or your lungs moving. Get out of your thoughts and back present with the dog where you can cooperate.

3. Your Children:

Here’s the wild difference between a parent and any kid under about 27 years old–the parent’s brain is literally more developed. From our late teens to mid to late 20’s, all a kid is doing is wiring their experiences into the matrix of data that they will feed into their consequence-generator. This is so they can pre-imagine their potential results and possibly alter their plans prior to failure. But the parent has to remember, the way that system is built is through failure. So rather than viewing a ‘failure’ as the kid letting you down, see it instead as an opportunity to constructively  discuss what process might have prevented the issue in the first place. That way you encounter these things less often. Give them tools, not hell, because the former is useful to both of you, while the latter is painful for both of you. Remember, if you’re angry you’re adding to the issue, not subtracting from it. Stay conscious of that.

4. Spouse/Work:

Find what you enjoy about your job or marriage and focus on that. Putting your attention on the same issues or problems over and over just solidifies them in your consciousness, which blinds you to your opportunities to avoid the suffering those resistant thoughts create. Be mature; either accept it’s not bad enough to make you leave, or stay on your own terms. But those terms are not made by prescribing every detail of your day to your spouse or employer, they’re achieved by you choosing to adopt a healthy attitude about seeking upsides regardless of their behaviour. When you see behaviour that frustrates you due to its consistency, recognise that your partner and your co-workers all also need to deal with the frustrations that are created by you. That added bit of humility will help center you and focus you on a healthier response.

1227 Relax and Succeed - The only people who find good days5. The System:

Come on, how good could any world work with people like me, you, your spouse, your kids and your co-workers all making it happen? We’re all learning and making mistakes as we go. Frankly, we should be pleased and amazed that nearly eight billion people have figured out how to cooperate as well as we have. And we do better every single week, so don’t focus on society’s failures, focus on its future with optimism and enthusiasm that the best is yet to come. The only people who find good days are the ones that look for them. So do not focus on painful things, choose to focus on things you find uplifting.

Do not let simple or repetitive issues rise in your consciousness. When they appear, see them as potentially painful choices and then find yourself in the present moment and use that presence to choose to focus on the positives involved, and on what can be done. And if it’s too painful for that, then sometimes a good cry is what belongs in our present moment. But either way, it helps a lot if we consciously avoid spending all day loading up our emotion camel by thinking about previous frustrations, because that way you have no straw to break when you spill your coffee.

Now go consciously seek out a great day from all of the events that will present themselves. Your success is within you.

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.

Protecting Others

No one needs help when life feels like it’s going great, and yet that’s a great time to study wisdom because you have a lot more to do with your good times than you realise. Understanding your responsibility for your emotions when you feel good about them is generally much easier than when you’re in pain.

People don’t want to assume the responsibility for their own bad days because when they first look at the idea they’re viewing it from ego, not from health. Your ego sees that responsibility as a status drop and it feels embarrassing. When you’re healthy you know that with the responsibility you get empowerment.

Accepting that your pain is generated by you and not your circumstances means you can then control your response. Maybe you don’t know how yet, but theoretical control over your personal experience of life is still better than the capricious nature of happenstance.

Leaving the quality of your day up to others is dangerous primarily because most of the other people you’ll meet will be in a state of ego, so they’ll be looking out for their ego and its status, not yours. In that state they’ll only care for you if they see some transactional gain. The only people you’d be safe around (most of the time) would be really healthy people. But if you are one of the healthy people then it’s like you’re inoculated.

The first thing you can do is try not to enter a situation with your gun already loaded. A trigger being pulled by circumstance is far less dangerous if you’re not walking around ready to go off. Any potential explosive reactions from your previous experience must be unloaded from your consciousness or it’s like going into a trigger-happy town with a fisst full of explosives. One shot from another person and you’ll blow big-time.

The second thing you can do is focus your attention on the importance of maintaining an empty chamber. If you can start with your emotional gun being empty and benign, and you add no bullets, that makes any triggers meaningless. But if you participate in the kind of resistant thinking that leads to you load up your weapon during an interaction, then even if you arrived empty you’re just making it more likely that someone’s going to get shot.

The third thing you can do is keep to actively unload your emotional gun then holster it in real time. This is the part people have more trouble with because they’re in a heightened state of emotion when they try. But the more you do it the better you get at it. In fact, how you behave when things are bad is much more important than how you behave when things are good.

When there are zero triggers you can be more relaxed about the state of your gun. But you can’t count on that, so you’re better to stay conscious. In fact, expanding and developing skills like awareness and de-escalation are what egos basically do in life, though they often do so unconsciously and unintentionally.

That’s what life is. We either learn to be more assertive about defending our true selves or we become less assertive about defending our ego selves. And we learn by trial and error. So life is one big long giant accidental emotional gunfight where it looks bad, but secretly everyone’s actually making an effort to be more peaceful, which makes forgiveness a very useful skill.

There’s no need to panic about the shots you fire because like everything else they only exist for a moment. At the same time, some shots can be fatal to a relationship, so we also don’t want to be overly casual about how important the management of our consciousness is. If we can get conscious enough, we can even turn the shots we take into opportunities for healing.

Tomorrow I’ll tell you about a time where I pulled the trigger and shot angry words at one of the most important people in the world to me. Fortunately a high degree of awareness allowed me to immediately regret it and, even more fortunately, my immediate assumption of responsibility allowed the moment to not only be saved, but in the end we were better for the experience. In the world of peace it’s possible to convert negatives into positives.

For today, I’d just check in with yourself every 15 minutes or so and ask yourself about the status of your gun. Let’s see if we can all avoid shooting someone for the 24 hours it’ll take us between now and tomorrow’s post. Have a great day everyone.

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.

Kind Words

We’re nearing the end of March Kindness Month so it’s time to start increasing the scope of our awareness. It’s easier to be compassionate to children or the elderly or the frail, so to stretch ourselves this week we’ll focus on difficult people.

890 Relax and Succeed - Judge each dayYou’re already friends with your friends. That part of your life doesn’t need special attention, but taking the teeth out of a difficult person can really improve your day, especially if it’s someone you see regularly.

So we’ll start off by literally watching for people whose body language, words and manner all inform us that the person is upset. Maybe it’s the cashier at the grocery store, maybe it’s a co-worker, it can even be a family member. Just get outside yourself by extending kindness to someone locked in a cycle of suffering.

We’ll start off with some nice words. Offer a compliment, maybe support or even defence. Look someone in the eye and connect with them. It’s funny how hard someone will work to get the after-tax dollars necessary to buy something nice to make them feel better and yet this kind of small action in life is free and easy and yet it’s the place where most people fail to turn their mental health dreams into a practice.

890 Relax and Succeed - Small actsThese small actions count for you far more than for the person you’re offering the support to. You feel what you live. If you live generously you feel rich, even if all you’re giving is smiles and patience and some kind words. This is the one thing everyone’s short of today. Just some basic human connections that say, “yes, I see you and I care.”

It isn’t that the struggle forward through life doesn’t have real challenges. It just means that those aren’t actually very bad to deal with when you feel you have the support of the community. But as we work with people we don’t live near, and our kids are bussed to school with kids from too far away to be active friends, and a lot of people pull from their cubicle at work to their cubicle garage at home and they never even meet their neighbours, we shouldn’t really wonder why we don’t feel better.

Free yourself from thoughts about yourself. Get your awareness pointed outward instead of inward. Find someone having a bad day and just say some small supportive thing to them. A kind word, a compliment on an accomplishment or themselves, point out a good quality, even just smile, wave, and extend some patience. It might not be enough to shift their mood completely, but if they run into two good things in a row they’re on a new trajectory.

Use words to share positivity. It’s not hard and you’ll both benefit. They only reason you wouldn’t is habit, and that’s what this is all about–developing healthier habits. So act. You don’t get mentally stronger by thinking about mental health. You get that way by enacting it. So let’s go make a difference. Go say something nice to someone whose day could use it.

peace. 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.

Recoupling

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Enjoy your day.

peace. s

Fighting Words

Winner: Scott’s Favourite Blogs of 2014 #3

Most of you take way too much way too seriously. Someone can exhibit a behaviour a single time and you can completely revise your opinion about them as though some deep dark secret has been revealed. Grow up. You know what? People get tired. And hungry. Or they’re ill in some way you can’t see. Or in pain. Or on a medication that’s challenging. Or maybe they’ve had a horrible experience in the past that the current situation is reminding them of. There’s a lot of legitimate reasons for people to respond in a hostile manner and very few of them have to do with you.

496 Relax and Succeed - I'm sorry for what I saidA lack of food or sleep will actually impact your blood and brain chemistry. Ruminating thoughts will wear you out emotionally, making you much more sensitive and reactive. Maybe you have had several disappointing experiences recently and this one’s the straw that breaks the camel’s back. Or maybe, deep down, the person’s just scared and what we’re seeing as anger is actually fear.

Yes, we have to assume more personal control than people are currently inclined to exhibit. We don’t have to be prudish or Victorian, but patience and kindness and generosity do lubricate a society rather nicely. So everyone wins if everyone is being actively compassionate with each other. At the same time we have to let others and ourselves be human. We can’t demand perfection from them or us or we’ll be angry and depressed and so will they, and who wants to live in a society filled with that?

We need to have thicker skin. If someone’s usually decent and now they’re rude or lashing out, then you’re better to presume they’re struggling than to presume you’re being attacked. And so instead of offering a defense, you can offer a helping hand. Use your personal strength and understanding to move past their words and focus on what you and the other person have in common.

496 Relax and Succeed - Love me when I least deserve itAngry words are untrustworthy. People are venting off their anger and they’re capable of saying things they absolutely do not believe. They can be loud and intense and relentless and still it can all just be how they’re feeling now. In an hour they could just as easily be focused on something more appealing and all of their opinions would have subsequently changed. So let others and yourself have your moments. If you know you’re hungry and grumpy, then sure, let people know to watch out. But if you slip and snap at someone, don’t beat yourself up over that. Everyone will do it at various times in their life, so it’s simply human. So relax and be kind to yourself.

Don’t judge others on a lack of information. And don’t take things personally. Because your boss might have spoken to you sharply because he really needs a cheese burger. And that’s nothing you should be spending your lunch hour worrying about.

There’s a lot of reasons people are temporarily unreasonable. Give them that freedom so that you can have it too when it’s your turn. If we all do that, the world will be a much more peaceful place. I hope you’ll join me in tolerance. Have a wonderful day.

peace. s

The Blame Game

You have to begin by appreciating the fact that you and absolutely everyone around you is in a constant, moment-by-moment fluctuation between ego and wisdom. And so we’ll never completely get rid of ego because of course it is Yang to wisdom’s Yin. So what we’re shooting for is a largely enlightened society where there are enough people living in wisdom for long 470 Relax and Succeed - Even the nicest peopleenough stretches that they can absorb and not re-transmit the negativity that tends to emit from ego.

One of the key ways we can express negativity is through frustration, anger and blame. Blame is the result of the chaining together of expectations that are then compared to what is and then a judgment is made—and this is all taking place in only your consciousness. The fact that an ego would tell itself such a story should hardly be surprising. So when someone points the finger of blame at you, remember to understand it as being impersonal.

As I noted, blame is about comparing what is with what we wanted. Arguing the logic that they had no business making their initial assumption in the first place will not go over well when people are feeling frustrated. What we should do instead is really put ourselves into their shoes. See what’s happened not from your superior position of knowing what happened behind the scenes, but what it looks like to them. I can give you a great example.

I have a client I really like and she is friendly and reasonable and even generous. But you know those tasks or projects that just end up being the Bermuda Triangle of activities? Where no single major thing goes wrong. In fact, if the disappointed person was there to witness it, they would easily understand and wouldn’t feel let down at all. And most people will give you the benefit of a doubt even if they didn’t see it themselves. But when you get those fluke instances where one person runs into several consecutive experiences like that, it makes sense that the part of their brain that’s starting to feel familiar is: incompetence. Now, on our end—precisely because 470 Relax and Succeed - Breathe deep and let gothings had gone so badly—everyone was working extra, extra hard in an effort to make up the difference. So it’s really bad math when things keep failing by fluke. Because the harder the people try, the more negativity they face. It’s no one’s fault. It’s just the natural flow of things.

So whenever the woman would express frustration in an email, one co-worker would feel she was being unreasonable because she wasn’t respecting how hard everyone was working in their efforts to try to ensure things went right. When you’re ignoring other people’s needs to address someone else’s it’s easy to feel gratitude would naturally flow from that. But if the person is continually not having their promised needs met, it makes sense that their egoic narrative would begin to loop angrily through the region that includes incompetence. I on the other hand wanted only to resolve the woman’s concerns immediately. Her frustrations seemed entirely understandable to me and I wasn’t insulted at all whenever she expressed them. I understood that from her perspective it was impossible to see how hard everyone was working to resolve things.

We can’t really live successfully if our objective is to avoid any and all discord. But we can eliminate a lot of the unnecessary discord by being more patient and understanding about the sources of people’s behaviour. If you understand that someone is reacting to their narrative rather than your reality then it’s much easier to not take their responses personally.

As much as possible try not to lay blame. It’s largely counter-productive. But if you lay it, forgive yourself. And if you’re the one blamed, take it in stride. It’s not that big a deal. Just hear it remembering that the blame is them responding to their internal monologue, not yours. Realities are separate and they can be quite different. So don’t exasperate yourself by trying to get other people to live in yours. It just can’t be done. So when people blame you, just remember that they forgot that you can’t see their reality nor live up to all of their expectations.

Now knowing all of this, I wouldn’t blame you at all for having yourself an uber-fantastic day!

peace. s 😉