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