Increasing Our Understanding

1338 Relax and Succeed - Increasing our Understanding.jpg

That difference is subtle. I’ve used the analogy before –it’s like that day when a person realizes that ‘uncle’ means their ‘Mom’s brother.’ Nothing’s changed, but everything’s changed.

In that case, the uncle becomes a new person in much the same way that we learn math; like that moment when the concept of ‘multiplication’ shifts from being a description of a mathematical function into a fairly basic but universal action in the universe. One’s a noun describing a verb and one’s the verb itself. That is a significant difference.

Rather than some lightning bolt or jolt awake, most people come to greater understanding by taking little steps. One minute we see the world one way, the next moment we can suddenly grasp the concept of multiplication no matter where we see it.

Through the miracle of continued breakthroughs of understanding, the world can, bit by bit, become both less mysterious and more manageable. Mindfulness classes are essentially gatherings designed to incite a-ha moments.

The same thing happens when we understand our egos in a particularly profound way. Through greater understanding and an acceptance of our lack of control of the world, we ironically gain greater control over ourselves.

As people increase their awareness of how reality works, apparent paradoxes commonly come to make sense. Those in turn often lead to new action in our lives. But the action itself can’t be the aim because the clarity only occurs if it is conjured through sincerity and earnestness. Wanting to be a better person is a want, and desires trap us in a state of ego.

Our biggest gains are made when we come to profoundly understand our thinking so well that we simply let it be. It becomes separate from us, like a city walled off by a large garden. In this way our mind must become like a Zen Garden, where the outside world is calmly considered, but where it cannot intrude. After all, the point of a Zen Garden is not to control nature, but rather to slow life down to the speed of our soul.

1338 Relax and Succeed - We can regain the beautiful appreciation

We need to see spaces of no-thought as being like an oasis, just as a Zen Garden has walls that contain the spiritual equivalent of a sailor’s dead calm. They take the wind from our ego’s sails; the walls and plants and water somehow absorb and prevent the echo of our egocentric thinking, and they dissolve the bouts of thought we attempt to begin again.

Over time, we surrender. Eventually we learn to carry the garden within us.

It is important to note that the garden’s beauty does not mean it creates only beautiful flowers, exclusive of thorns. Rather than removing the thorns from our lives, our understanding unites the beauty and the pain in ways we feel are both sensible and profoundly worthwhile.

By living with a deeper understanding of our how our lives happen and what that means for us, we are suddenly transported to a bigger and more exciting landscape in which we have more options and greater access to our own capabilities.

Living with this underlying truth may or may not make us appear more successful to others, but what it will do is ensure that we respect how we feel about our own lives. Having an ego is understandable. Allowing it to control our spirit is unfortunate. We should do all we can to prevent it from succeeding in hobbling our potential for a rich and rewarding life.

peace s

Conscience as a Sign of Health

1288 Relax and Succeed - Photo - Someone feeling badly

If just before you started reading this you were using your thinking to criticize yourself, this your chance to stop.

Those thoughts don’t improve us even if we did screw up because it’s not the screw up that’s really the issue, it’s our thoughts about it. Those are after-the-fact thoughts about the past. If it’s in the past that can only be ego and egos are dangerous. You have to keep an eye on them.

The fact that we don’t feel good about whatever transpired is only because we already know we could have done better. That demonstrates that we are good people with good judgment because our judgment was able to detect something out of alignment with the range that we use to define our self.

If we let it, our negative reaction to exceeding those limits is what, over time, nudges us closer and closer to being able to live out our greatest potential. This is the process of getting wiser.

This is the point at which many people suggest that we need rules to be ‘good.’ But if they’re saying that they usually mean they want alignment with whatever they think everyone should do. But that’s impossible because we can’t all demand that. While rules can be useful, they aren’t needed to define ‘good.’

Everyone except psychopaths is familiar with the hounding a human conscience can give us. Many of us adults still feel badly about things we did as youngsters. But what is our conscience?

Think of it like an old fashioned thermometer. Humans are good from about +60C to -60C, (or -76F to 140F). Above or below that and we’re in enough trouble we’re likely to die. Our conscience is like a range of things that our real self –the self that creates our ego– has for our behaviour. That part of us is very wise –except for in psychopaths. They don’t have lines that are further out than ours, they don’t have any lines at all. The rest of us have healthy lines for a very logical reason.

1288 Relax and Succeed - Photo - Even huge mistakes

We as individuals are a part of a much larger flow created by our species. We’re all ultimately programmed to try to stay alive and see the next generation move on. Since we breed we obviously need others to do that, plus working in groups is safer than working alone, so our nature is to find ways to cooperate.

All of us can temporarily lose track of that connection when our thinking gets crazy, but our nature is to work to stay alive, not work to destroy what we need to stay alive; including others and their support.

Even huge mistakes are just ways of learning, growing, and maturing. Sometimes we inflict ours on others, sometimes they inflict theirs on us; sometimes we are teachers, sometimes we are students. Sometimes the universe benefits from regret, sometimes it benefits from tolerance.

Our ability to understand that flow of pain and regret in a non-personal way is the lesson we are all unwittingly teaching each other through the living our lives. And it’s also why many wise people have said, when you finally become a real guru you realize that everyone around us, has always been a guru.

peace. s

Connection and Expansion

1271 Relax and Succeed - Connection and expansionWe know it’s good for us to practice gratitude each day. We endeavour to steadily move through our day from observation to observation without layering any words over our connection to whatever or whoever it is that we’re appreciating. But while words themselves are a product of the subject-object world of the ego, the feelings behind them can both be genuine and worthwhile.

What we often do not do as an aspect of gratitude, is to stop to look back to find a very precise example of someone warranting our reconsideration and appreciation. Birthdays make us think of individuals, and things like anniversaries or marriages cause us to think about those events in our own lives, but there is no occasion in society that asks us to slow down and consider to whom we may not have shown the sort of gratitude that would feel as good for us to express as it would for them to hear.

Whether they know how important they are to your life or not, find this unsung person. Find them via social media or through friends, or work or school. Figure out who they are today, and find them and talk to them before Monday. If we’re going to grow by pushing outside of our comfort zone to talk to someone from out of the blue, then it’s nice that it gets to be for someone who’s done so much for us.

1271 Relax and Succeed - Feeling gratitude and not expressing itNo matter how timid we are about grabbing our own lives, surely we can see the value in making a genuine connection of genuine appreciation, because if we won’t even reach and grow for people we like, then our problem isn’t whether we’re good enough, our problem is we’re being too cowardly to ever learn enough to get good.

Free yourself. Any danger is strictly psychological and it lives only as your own opinion inside your head. Your thoughts of isolation do not mean you weren’t born belonging, but to revel in that belonging you need to embrace it with the depths of your soul. Open up. It’s less painful than our masks.

Thank someone. Not for them, for you. It’s in you to do.

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.