The 912

Life will deliver disaster, it’s simply a byproduct of existence. Since it cannot be avoided, and since every happy person you know has faced some, what’s really important is our ability to respond to life’s big tragedies. At those times we need to pull together. We need a new rallying point. We need to share a common idea that we can all participate in as citizens of the world.

9/11 now represents a disaster that literally altered the course of humanity. Recently I heard a woman talking about Gander, Newfoundland, and the stories that are the basis for the Broadway hit and Tony Winner, Come From Away. This was the small maritime town in Canada that had an airport big enough for all of those US-destined planes to land when US airspace was closed.

Her point in noting it was that it was a grand example of the natural spirit of humanity. As the best was drawn out of people by the needs of others, we saw an example of how the vast majority of human beings feel about each other: we’re naturally connected. For this reason she called the Gander experience a 912 moment.

I like that. I like that she not only noticed that heroism follows disaster, but that she flipped the names of the days to make her point, because that’s really what all of us need to do. Disasters are inevitable. Our reaction to them is flexible. It would do all of us good to move through our own 9/11 moments watching for the inevitability of the 912 reaction.

The faster we spot that reaction the faster we’ll feel better and be able to amplify it. Sympathy is people joining us in pain. Empathy is them remembering their own pain. Assistance requires sacrifice. Dedication requires love. These are all 912’s. Let us all make this a part of our personal list of experiences.

The Buddhists talk about there being no single sided coins. So if we call up tails and lose a toss in life, the 912 moment shall be hereby described as the moment in which we begin to see or recognize the horizon–it’s that moment when we can see that there is another side, that part of tragedy itself is the response of love in whatever form. It is in recognizing and accepting that relationship that we find internal peace.

Accept that you will have your alarming and painful days. But just as readily accept that there will be a response, both within you and without you. You will find strengths that would not have emerged without the tragedy, and people will demonstrate love in ways you could not otherwise have known. Do not live in hope and fear. Instead, accept the duality of life by not only accepting its 911’s, but in doing so you also guarantee yourself the reality of the 912.

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: Humble Kindness

Today, in the first day of our final week in the March of Kindnesswe tune our awareness radar to those who might be inclined to feel “beneath” us. This isn’t to say you would act like you were above anyone; I’m talking about how they might feel. Employees can be nervous around bosses, kids often can’t recognise the respect a parent or teacher has for them, and street people know that many people will avoid even looking at them.

If you’re more senior in your company then think about what an example you set if you stop to help a lower level employee. You’re literally teaching them that continuing to care about coworkers is part of the job of being an executive. If you’re a teacher or parent, (and provided it’s rare), giving a kid a break on a general rule can actually develop a mutual respect that can be called upon later. And for street people, there’s times where the lack of human acknowledgement can be psychologically painful, so even a basic acknowledgement is extremely valuable.

Today, pay attention to your surroundings from the perspective of people fitting in. You’re looking for the chance to help someone feel included. Maybe it’s a senior who spends too much time alone and you let them in ahead of you at the grocery store. Maybe it’s a conversation you’re willing to have with a homeless person. Maybe it’s slowing down to kid-speed when you normally wouldn’t. The point is to help someone be seen through a kind interaction.

We all generally do kind things for those who we feel are important, or who are important to us personally. Well today is about doing something for people who can’t do anything for you. They might not be able to ever match your kindness to them, but that’s almost exactly what makes it especially worthwhile. If there’s no eventual gain in it for you, then the person on the receiving end really understands that the kindness was about them.

Most of us have trouble sensing our own advantages in life. It’s easy to take them for granted. But everyone who would trade places with us would recognise those advantages. That’s an indication of where they feel they’re at. The idea is to take some of that advantage and apply it to them. There’s a particularly nice feeling that goes with helping someone when you know that it’s unlikely that they’d ever be able to reciprocate.

Look at the world. Who would like to be you for a day? Take anyone who might feel that way and then spontaneously give to them. Maybe it’s a smile, a compliment, a conversation or even material assistance. But the idea is to make someone who might sometimes feel insignificant and actually help them feel like they are significant.

I’ve already had the world literally deliver my opportunity to me. Someone had to start their day by telling me they had screwed up really badly and that I would pay a price for their mistake. Whereas I may have allowed my disappointment and concern to be my reaction, instead I offered total humility.

I explained that I was not bothered by the price I would have to pay, and I told the offending person about a few times where I too had let others down. Those examples got the two of us on a more level footing and I could hear the relief in their voice. They had anticipated the person being angry, and instead they got connection. I was going to take blame that they knew really belonged to them.

They were relieved and surprised. The relief was thanks to the help, but the surprise came because they hadn’t anticipated that I would value them enough to bother to reach out to rescue them. It helped both of us start our day feeling good. I’m actually grateful to them for that opportunity. Now go find yours. It’s a particularly nice way to add someone kindness to someone else’s life.

Thank you everyone. Have a great day.

peace. s

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

MoK: Compliment Day!

Three full weeks of positivity. A bunch of people, each doing a few kind acts per day. Both individually and collectively we have literally changed the world for the better. Stop and think about that. It’s like being a soldier in the Love Army, where you shot people through the heart and mind with acceptance, understanding and love. I can’t believe how amazing you are.

We never know who we caught at what time. There’s no way any of us could know it at the time, but with this many people, surely one of us caught at least one person on a really difficult day. Someone was heading toward suicide, or some other very negative act, and our little March of Kindness–likely without them even knowing it exists–may very well have saved their lives, or at least their day.

We’ve all had those days, weeks, months and years. Maybe we lost someone important to us. Maybe we got news that our dreams were not going to pan out the way we’d hoped. Maybe a relationship ended. These things happened in life. And yet just stop and think about those days where someone’s actions felt more like a life preserver than anything. Good for us! We made a difference.

So with only one week left, today let’s return to something from the end of week one; only then you were giving compliments as a way of shifting your thinking away from you and your thoughts, and toward someone else. Today we’ll act the same, but inside ourselves we won’t be doing it as a symbiotic act. This time we think about what we’ve done, we feel strong and capable, and then we give from that position of strength.

As the title obviously suggests, it’s Compliment Day. We stand up tall, we remind ourselves of our strongest times and then we turn on our awareness, looking for things and acts and people we admire. Today you’re a compliment machine. Today you make people around you feel good through your willingness to openly acknowledge them.

It can be their coat, their hair, their smile, their manners, sense of humour, work, or character. All compliments count. You are a fountain of strength and sharing today. Today you surprise and please people. And in doing so, between all of us we’re sure to incite someone to spontaneously join us. Without doubt, one of us will tip a positivity-compliment domino and it will keep tipping through a number of people as the good feelings pass like a wave.

I’ll start off by complimenting all of you and your willingness to work on your own mental health, resiliency and society. Even the kids in schools that participated had to buy-in. That was voluntary and as a fellow human being I really appreciate the fact that you did that. Thank you. Thank you–personally–thank you thank you thank you for having the big heart and great attitude that you have. I love that quality in you.

So today, get out there and give those compliments. Let your full cup runneth over into the lives of those around you. Make a co-worker or classmate feel great about their effort, or attitude or style. Make a stranger feel good about who they appear to be to others. Make those closest to you realise that you do notice the little things.

Thanks again for your participation. You’re all just awesome. What a great thing that a bunch of strangers would meet on a website and agree to be kind and generous to a bunch of other strangers and friends. Who does such a thing? Us, that’s who. Us, people who care. We’re the ones who are strong. We’re the ones filled with love. And today we express that love! And we enjoy every minute of it!

Have a great weekend everyone. For my part I’m going to carry this compliment thing all the way to Monday and our final week. You have a spectacular three days and I’ll see you all back here on next week. Until then, much love to each and every single one of you.

peace, s

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

MoK: Reaching Out With Awareness

Hey there beautiful reader, I’ve got an easy one for you today. You’ve put so much positivity into the world in March that I wanted to thank/reward you with something simple that can add as much to your life as it does to someone else’s.

Today’s action in the March of Kindness requires you to maintain awareness of the world around you. Your eyes and ears have to be on-guard for an opportunity. You want to watch and listen for your chance to be helpful.

This can be anything really. But the idea is that the person can tell that you’ve gone out of your way to help. Maybe you’re leaving a building with no automatic doors and you see a mother with a big stroller heading toward a set of double doors. Running back to help her is clearly out of your way–and that’s what helps her feel “seen.”

The point here is the “seen” part, not the favour. It would be like if someone at work was overrun with work, and you took half your lunch to help them and they’re not even in your department. That’s so rare it’ll feel weird for them that you’d even offer, which is sad in a way. That’s what this March of Kindness is about; weaving kindness more deeply into our lives, our days and our societies.

One of the best places to do these things is with people with whom you are the most familiar. How often does a husband just say to his wife spontaneously, Hey honey, I was thinking it would be nice if I expressed my love in same tangible way that eased your life. Is there anything I can fit into this half hour that I could do for you that would have a big impact on your day or life? That would be something she’d be likely to tell her friends about it would be so notable.

Even small acts like the ones referenced in this article are valuable for the very same reason that the woman being “seen” with the stroller is. It’s the recognition that makes people feel cared about more than the act. Literally, it’s the fact that they were even in your awareness that counts.

Turn up your awareness. Tune into what’s going on. Watch your social media for opportunities rather than things to get outraged about, and then act. If everyone did this every day, the world would literally change. This is why this post from the facebook page yesterday was there. In poor places like Burundi, people need each other more and that need creates tighter, happier communities.

And do me one favour? Enjoy it while you do it. Imagine the feeling they’d have if they suddenly found out the thing you’re doing is taken care of. Because that lightness–that happiness–is really what you gave them.

Have a wonderful 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.

MoK: The Powerful You

Surprise!

I know; I haven’t done posts on Saturdays in a few years but I owe you one from Friday. I appreciate your patience. First my parents were very ill with a stomach flu and then as soon as I got them through the worst of it I ended up catching it too. Once nice thing about being sick is that you really appreciate your everyday health a lot more, and that sense of grace helped me create, at least in my opinion, a particularly helpful post for you today.

When we’re struggling it’s natural for us to look for help. Our brain gets a lot of its base ideas from childhood, but that’s generally when our needs are necessarily met by others. As we age we progressively learn that we are much more capable than we imagine, and then as we decline near the end of life we return to a more childlike state of neediness.

Since very few infants read my blog, nor a huge amount of seniors, I tend to focus on the tough bits; the bits in the middle where we’re trying to discover our strengths and resiliencies. This is when a conflict arises between how you have seen the world versus how you will need to see before you can move forward. We all know this moments–these epiphanies–they’re those a-ha! moments where we suddenly realise we’ve been making a big, simple mistake.

Mistake is the right word because it’s not like you were making your life difficult on purpose. The mistake is generally thinking that there’s something wrong with us versus understanding that something is wrong with our perspective. Wanting to feel better is a perspective. Importantly, it’s a perspective that presumes that we need help.

Sure, sometimes we really do need help. Little kids want to do things themselves but often can’t, and seniors are often late in realising they need help. But those realities are very different from thinking we need help. Stephen Hawking obviously needs a lot of actual help, but he never would have become who he is by assuming he couldn’t do things. That’s easy for anyone to do. Even the most powerful, wealthy and beautiful people in the world face all the same human struggles and pains you do, they’re just better at hiding them.

Importantly, thinking we need help requires us to presume a state of weakness. We are reaching up. But what if this is where our mistake is? What if we’re assuming our childlike identity when it’s not the right tool for the job? And if an old identity isn’t going to help, and our current identity is experiencing struggle, then what’s required is a new identity.

As counter-intuitive as it seems at first, the answer to our wanting feelings is not for us to get what we want. That just reinforces the weak identity as being who we actually are, when what we need is to choose who to be. Wanting something implies first that there is a separate “me” and that there’s something missing, when neither is true. That’s just the subject-object nature of the conversations you have with yourself.

The way to feel better is to stop that conversation, and the way to do that is to stop making the assumption that your feelings are a result of the world rather than the result of your own thinking. So instead of listing our wants and needs to ourselves and others, we’re better to shift to not thinking about ourselves and instead focusing on the needs of others.

Even if you’re in a down state, you still have fantastic resources. Even your painful experiences are helpful to those going through those things right now. So even at your weakest you have a great deal to give. We can see this with babies. They’re 100% needy, and yet they get loved like crazy just for being. You’re actually still like that.

So this weekend, no matter what we feel our current state is, our assignment in the March of Kindness will be to feel stronger by finding a way to be generous. The important aspect of this is that you cannot generate generous feelings in the weak part of your mind.

By focusing on others you cease to create the troublesome, needy you and instead your mind is focused on the outside world. By taking generous action, you reinforce to yourself that you also contain strong identity, and strong identities tend not to review their problems, they’re too busy reviewing the strengths they have available.

Get out there today and be generous. Share yourself with others and feel more connected, worthwhile and powerful in the process. You can do a lot of little things or one big thing, but by doing either you add much more positivity to the world, you model healthy behaviour to others, and you prove to yourself that you are a multi-dimensional being with many forms. And if you’re aware of that truth, then no matter what state you’re in you know the answer isn’t to change the world, it’s to change yourself.

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.

MoK: Absorbing Shots

Today for the March of Kindness we’ll focus on negativity. Negativity itself is not a problem, it is a critical aspect of life. You truly cannot have up without down, nor happy without sad, so we don’t want negativity to completely disappear, but we also don’t want to entertain it for longer than is necessary.

Negative things are really nothing more than signals. Your freedom lies in how you respond to the negativity in others, and when doing this it might be best to think of something like tennis or ping pong as a metaphor.

If people express their negativity toward you it can be responded to in one of two ways. If you choose to meet the negativity in a hard, reflective way, that is like hitting a shot back. Someone insults you, so you insult them back. By meeting their shot with a shot of your own, you join them in the exchange of negativity. This will continue until one of the egos involved feels it has “won.”

If the person is responding to previous points they feel you (or people like you) have scored against them, they will keep hitting negative serves to you until they feel they’ve scored an equal the number of points. This is actually a healthy process that keeps relationships internally balanced so that resentments do not build.

The only way to shorten a game of negativity is to not hit a shot back. If you intentionally miss a shot fired at you, or if you strike it back weakly, this means the person has won their point and has less of a reason to continue throwing more negativity your direction. Again, once they feel they have won that game it will naturally end.

So how do we absorb a shot? It’s really quite easy: instead of responding with a hard argument back, we can instead offer the softness of kindness. But what does this look like in practice?

Say we’re in a class at school and someone tries to bring us down with a negative comment, we can simply respond with a compliment back. So rather than participating in the game of negativity exchange, you can toss the ball back with no intention of scoring a counterpoint. Eventually the person gets tired of you not playing and they stop serving to you.

In an office, if someone is being negative about something, you can choose to kindly find a way to agree with them rather than argue back. It can feel very counter-intuitive to not offer your best argument in return, but you can do that if you remember that real winning is when you dissolve the disagreement rather than beat another person.

Today in the March of Kindness our jobs are easy. We each make the world a lot better by finding at least three chances for us to offer kindness were you could easily offer disagreement. All you’re trying to do is find people who want to have a game of negativity but then you let them win. They challenge you for a seat on the bus and you offer it to them. They want that parking stall, it’s theirs. They want to dislike you or your friends, let them. Easy.

Do you see how generous that is? You’re offering to lose. That is so kind. That is what we do for very little kids. We understand they’re growing, so we let them beat us in games by intentionally avoiding our own best game. In those cases we’re more interested in the development of the person than we are in personally winning. We just forget that once we’re adults, but the effect is exactly the same.

Participate in the March of Kindness. Make someone else feel like a winner and you will have made the world a better place. Because there are no losers with kindness.

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.

Appreciating Kindness

1105-relax-and-succeed-a-persons-actionsWelcome to the last day of the month and to the end of your first two months of micro-meditations. You can take pride in your dedication because exercises like these absolutely do have an impact on how broadly you’re able to view “reality.”

It feels good to have a positive impact on the world around you. Here at Relax and Succeed I’ve encouraged people to engage in March Kindness Month, a creation based on a program in Singapore I was aware of from the 1990’s. This program was taken up by a variety of teachers around the world and the students in their classes helped add to the total amount of human compassion and kindness that was expressed over the last few years. That kind of thing generates a tangible impact in the world.

Leading up to those micro-kindness goals it’s worthwhile for us to take a good look at kindness more attentively so that we can appreciate its actual impact in the world. Our understanding of it often ends with the belief that it’s a good thing to do, but rarely do we slow our minds down to truly understand why.

1105-relax-and-succeed-spiritual-practice-is-not-just-sittingIn today’s meditation your goal is simply to tune your awareness radar to acts of kindness. You can hear about them on the radio or a podcast, you can see them in a video or program, or you can note them live and in-person at work, in public, and at home. It’s not only healthy to be tuned to these events, moreover your careful observance of these moments will demonstrate the resonating power behind simple acts of kindness.

As I’ve written about before, simply waiting a bit longer than average to hold a door for someone will often elicit the same behaviour from the person who the door was held for. Their odds of looking behind them for the rest of the day goes up. Their odds that they’ll be willing to hold a door just a bit longer than average will go up, and by these small gains the world can change.

We’ll save your action for March, but for today, in watching these examples, your assignment is to simply try to see the echo of the generous and thoughtful behaviour. Note the person’s emotional reaction, which will be demonstrated through their facial expressions and body language. Maybe they’ll even offer some words of thanks, and then echo the action with someone else. Whatever it is, big or small, recognise those gains as real things in the universe; things that never would have existed were it not for the original act.

Gandhi wasn’t kidding when he said, “Be the change you want to see in the world.” The change in the world is literally made of massive collections of these tiny acts. People are naturally generous, connected and compassionate, but without us modelling that behaviour for others, they have little chance of breaking out of their egocentric thoughts to the point where they can even recognise their ability to impact the world in this positive way.

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.