The Teacher

She taught Education. She had been asked a reasonable question: what should they do when confronted with a racist student? How should they protect the student under attack? What was the best discipline for the student doing the attacking? She understood their impulse. Her own reaction as a young teacher back in the 90’s was to come down hard. But then she told her students about him.

He was a handsome boy; bright, very engaged. He sat right near the front. It had been a week since he’d been to class. The parents said they would ensure he came, but still no Cameron. She was on her way home when she finally spotted him.

He was sitting at a coffee shop table with a fruit drink, reading a comic book. He didn’t know what to do when she just sat down across from him with her coffee and a big friendly smile on her face. “Hi Cameron!” He froze like a deer in the headlights, caught off guard by her friendly approach. “Don’t worry. You’re not in trouble. I know what the problem is. Everything is going to be fine now. You’re safe.” He was baffled.

“Safe from who?”

“From whoever is bullying you.” His eyes rolled a bit. He seemed less nervous. It was like he was mocking her efforts. “It’s okay Cameron. You’re not weak for needing help. We have to stand up to racism together. Just tell me who the student is and I promise, they’ll be disciplined harshly. I’m pretty sure I already know who it is anyway.”

“Oh yeah? And who’s that?” he finally said.

“It’s Nathan, isn’t it.” He just laughed her off like a fool. “It’s not funny Cameron. This this is a serious issue. If it’s bad enough he’ll be kicked out of school.”

“Well then I guess you’ve already done your job then, haven’t you?” he offered. Now she was confused and he now felt more confident.

“What are you talking about?”

“I’m talking about me. I’ve already left. You don’t need to kick me out.” She stared back at him, truly lost and confused and he knew it. He let her stew while he built up his courage. He loved her as a teacher, but it was time. Finally, he stepped forward to offer his coup de grâce. “I’m the racist Ms. Simms. I’m the bad guy in this story.”

“Cameron I have no idea what you’re talking about.”

“At least you got that part right.” She looked at him imploringly. He was a good student. She wanted to be a good teacher. But he almost seemed angered by her compassion. “I’m from South Africa Ms. Simms.” He paused. “I’m white.” She was still lost.

He spun the comic around and pointed to a character. “I’m the villain. I’m the bad guy.” She looked at him confused. “I had dogs back home that were trained to attack black people Ms. Simms. The person you want to kick out of school isn’t Nathan, it’s me.”

It was like someone flipped her world upside down. She started a hundred thoughts and finished none. He was South African. He was white. And South Africa was under sanctions for Apartheid. “But…” all of her preconceptions were smashing into what he’d said, and what she knew. “Cameron how could that be? Just because you lived in South Africa, that doesn’t automatically make you a racist.”

“Yes it does Ms. Simms. It does. Because I was. I was a racist. Do you understand? My friends and I beat black people.” She reacted as though he struck her. She flinched, and it made him feel more confident. “That’s right. I sicked my dogs on black people. They bit them. Badly. And I felt nothing. They were animals. I cared more about my dogs.”

She sat there feeling like someone had punched her in the stomach. She had no way to process what he was saying and he knew it, so he doubled down. “You’re from here, Canada. You talk to black students the same way you talk to white students, and Chinese students, and Native students. You’re a Canadian. You were taught to respect these people. I was taught to have dogs. Dogs that were trained to attack black people. And I was happy to use them.”

“But you’re not that person now…” she was almost begging him to confirm it. She couldn’t reconcile the nice kid she knew and the stories he was telling her.

“When you grow up and everyone around you thinks a certain way, you don’t even notice it. I was in Canada for months before I saw a white person treat a black person with respect. I’d never seen it before in my life. I thought he was crazy, or weak. My father thought he was both.”

“Do you still feel that way? Do you still want to attack black people?” Now he was uncomfortable. He didn’t. Canada had rubbed off on him in a year. He wasn’t friends with any coloured people, but he knew people he liked that were. He was going through his own conflicts. He couldn’t tell her how he felt because he didn’t know either. “How could you believe such a thing?” she asked.

“You thought I was a nice kid, right? You believed that. You took the little bit you knew and you told yourself a story about me and you believed it. So that’s who I was. I was who you thought I was. Well, the same for me. Everyone around me believed black people were animals, so I thought so too. I didn’t even know there was an option until I moved here.”

“But you’re so compassionate Cameron. I’ve seen you be kind. It’s why I like you.”

“It’s just guilt. I’ve done some very bad things.” That seemed to upset him.

“But you didn’t know better.”

“That’s no excuse. You said it yourself.”

She had. She now knew that had been a mistake. It had never occurred to her that she might not be able to recognise the racists. Her judgment felt too easy now, too casual. Now she felt like the bully. “I’ve made a mistake Cameron. I’m sorry. You’re making me realise that now. I’d never thought of the racist as a victim too.”

“A victim of who? We had all of the power.”

“I don’t mean the power. I mean the… awareness. The understanding. You had no way of knowing that you were participating in racism. I see that now. If everyone around you does it, then it’s normal. You’re making me realise now that I grew up in a family that had some pretty harsh ideas about Indians–about Natives–and I’m… maybe I’m not as good a teacher as I thought.”

“You’re fine Ms. Simms. You’re one of the most popular teachers in the school. The problem isn’t you. It’s me.”

Now she was feeling stronger. “No, it isn’t. The problem is that I didn’t have a discussion about racism, I just called one side good and the other side bad and that was it. I didn’t leave you any room. I didn’t leave a space for you and that’s my fault. That’s my failing. I not only let you down as a teacher, I let that whole class down and I see that now. I need your help Cameron.”

“My help…?” He was lost. He was young enough that he thought in absolutes. But she was changing her mind. And it was opening up new possibilities.

“I want you to teach us Cameron.” He seemed shocked. “I mean it. You’re right. I don’t know what I’m talking about. Just like you I’ve never even questioned my biases until now. I’m no better than you and you’re no worse than me. The problem here isn’t you. The problem is a lack of understanding. You can help us with that. Racism is subtle here in Canada. We like to think we have none, and yet I displayed some to you. I was intolerant of you. We have to fix that. This class can be better and it will be better if you explain it to us. We need to know why you had those dogs. We need to find our own versions of those dogs. Will you help me? Will you help us?”

She seemed serious. He liked her. And he liked school. He really wanted to be more comfortable with his black classmates but he had no idea where to start. Maybe this was his chance.

“Please Cameron. I mean it. I really need your help with this.” He looked at her a long time. He wanted so badly to believe he was a good person. He so badly wanted her forgiveness. He wanted all black people’s forgiveness. He started to cry. I mean cry. It started as tears but soon he was sobbing. She went around the table and put her arm around while he sobbed.

After a while someone appeared next to them. It was Robert. He was a sensitive boy. He’d been a refugee from Somalia. He was black. “Are you okay Cameron?” he asked. Cameron looked up and started to cry even harder when he saw who it was. Robert sat down across from him and took his hands his own. “It’s okay.”

Cameron looked at him through his tears. He felt so incredibly bad that he started a new jag of tears. He squeezed Robert’s hands. “Robert will you help me?”

“Of course I will.” He pulled Cameron up, into an embrace. He held him closely as Cameron bawled on his shoulder. People started watching them but they didn’t care. This was the beginning of it getting better.

When she looked up at her university class she was crying. They were too. Even the harshest, toughest boys. She took a moment to gather herself before speaking. “If I teach you anything in this class I’d like it to be this: you will learn more from your students than you can ever hope to teach them. So remember that when you’re at the front of your classes. Remember to never, ever, stop being a student too. Because in all of my years of teaching, no one ever made me a better teacher than Cameron and Robert did. Your job isn’t to police what’s good or bad or right or wrong. Your job is to build understanding. Do that, and you’ll have done the most important kind of teaching there is.”

And with that the bell rang.

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.

Shine On You Crazy Diamond

A group of seniors were being interviewed on the radio about what kind of person they were when they were younger versus today. Without any of them intending to, or likely even noticing, all of them gave the same answer.

All the answers sounded different in that they involved different qualities and situations, but all of them essentially said: I have this one skill I’m known for, plus I had these particular experiences that helped changed me for the better in this particular way that I’m proud of, and I knew it would help me if I changed this one other thing about me but, oh well, I tried but it didn’t work out and I eventually I just gave up.

My favourite part was how comfortable they were with themselves. They were not only letting themselves own failure, they were even letting themselves have their victories. They were proud of what they could do, proud of what they learned, and they accepted what they couldn’t do.

They hadn’t built some perfect soul like you’re trying to. You’re trying to be mistake-free, with a perfect life. What you really want to know how to do is fall. If you’re really good at falling and getting back up, then you’re a champion. Those seniors experienced a lot of unwanted falls before they ran out of time to fix them, which lead them to realise there was no point in worrying about changing anyway. They always seemed to be too busy living. They would have just have to accept who they were.

Note: it wasn’t like they were unaware. They were always aware of how they were challenging for others as a person. But we are who we are and after a lifetime of trying, eventually they just decided those so-called faults weren’t worthy of any more attention. They said things like, I probably should have spoke up more, but that just wasn’t me; I know was too pushy a lot of the times but what are you gonna do–and I did get a lot done; I spent two decades drunk. I can’t get that back, so I’m just thankful for being sober today.

Rather than spend much time or emotional energy on the negative thing, they shifted pretty fast to an oh well perspective. What are you gonna do? several of them said. It was very casual and comfortable. That’s the sweet sound of surrender. That’s someone no longer striving because they’re too busy being.

Don’t wait until you’re 75 to give yourself permission to be multifaceted. On a diamond we see the table and its pedestal. But the reason the light fires back out of the table with such an intense sparkle is because of all the angles below the setting. They aren’t pretty in and of themselves, but those angles are just right for reflecting your light back out of your more polished sides. They are what allow the top of the diamond to shine. Yes, maybe you wish you’d had a better relationship with your Dad. But the fact that it wasn’t good was why you worked so hard to nurture the excellent relationships you have with your kids. It’s all connected.

It doesn’t help to look at the bottom of someone else’s diamond nor does it help to look at yours. Your brashness will create opportunities for you and others, your shyness will give chances to some that wouldn’t get one, your fears make you excellent at advice on bravery, and your outrageousness brought joy to many.

That’s what all of those people learned in their lifetime; you’ll change in ways you never planned to that are really meaningful, so just let those happen; and you won’t change in some ways even though there’s some benefits to it, but that’s just how it goes so you might as well just settle into being who you were born to be and enjoy it.

That’s good advice for all of us. Find out who you are–all of you–accept that person and then just live. Accept that you were never supposed to play any other part but yourself. That flawed, sometimes embarrassing person is who the world really wanted you to be. Thank you for playing your part. Without you, we’d be missing out on an important part of life.

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 Rarest Kindness

By this point we will all have contributed a lot of positivity to the world through our actions in the March of Kindness. Congratulations. Collectively we’ve done a lot. Now it’s time we remembered to include ourselves in that process.

Just as everyone around us benefits equally from kindness, we do too, and in this often fast-paced world too many of us are either so focused on what we’re doing, or we’re too focused on caring for others, to have the time or energy left to care for ourselves.

The greatest kindness anyone can pay to anyone is simply to be present. These are those times when the person feels seen or heard or understood or that a strong connection exists. But most of us have a much better sense of when that’s happening with other people than with ourselves.

When we sense conflict with others we feel an automatic impulse to repair it because in the end, the deepest part of us knows we need each other. This brings the other person or people into focus our awareness and our impulse is to act. Unfortunately, when we have conflict within ourselves we attempt to resolve the conflict by trying to “improve” rather than by making a stronger connection.

You know that improvement feeling. That’s those times where you talk to yourself critically and talk about what you should have done or should do. You spend a painfully large percentage of your life doing that and it’s all for naught. You don’t get better by “improving” yourself, you expand by being present with the world and acting on your nature. When you help others is a great example of that. So today it’s time to shine that same light upon ourselves.

Your act today in the March of Kindness is very simple. Immediately after reading this (or as soon as you have at least 10 full minutes to focus on it), take about five to ten deep breaths. Fill your lungs. Oxygenate your mind and body. Give it part of the fuel that will power your perception.

First, look at your life. Not in that critical, judgmental way you usually do, but look at yourself like you would view a friend or relative you love a great deal. Now imagine someone loving you the same way you love that friend. Imagine that friend just got back from a year away and they’d been in a monastery or something–you couldn’t talk.

Now imagine that they’ve just heard about what’s been going–and I mean literally do this, not brush your way through it quickly like it’s silly. Caring for yourself is not silly. Remember, this friend just heard about your life and they love you. This person that loves you comes back from the monastery all peaceful and caring. They don’t have a lot of money available and they understand you have some real responsibilities, but they know and love you. What act of kindness do they suggest?

Maybe it’s simple–they take you out for your favourite meal. Maybe it’s that they convince you to skip the gym to see a beloved childhood movie. Maybe it’s extra sleep. Maybe they take you for a walk and they discuss with you all of your good times, all of your achievements, all the times you felt proud of yourself. Wouldn’t that be different from all of that self-criticism!

Or here’s a a couple rare ones: Say no to someone when you usually wouldn’t. Or here’s the most challenging one of all. They help you with something. But you’re thinking, Scott, there’s no actual friend. This is me and me. I get it. What I mean is that you find something you need help with and you actually ask for the help you never ask for. Now there’s a rare one.

That’s it. Easy. Be a present open, aware and loving friend to you. But you have to take this seriously. Do you get it? This one’s very important. You can’t shortcut it, cheat it, downplay it or dismiss it–this friend loves you and they’re wise. Take what they suggest you do and then do it. You’re worth that. I’m absolutely certain of it. Do it. I love 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.

When Defines You?

1086-relax-and-succeed-caveman-man-barcodeYes, when defines you. Really, this is kind of obvious. If I take you back to the Middle Ages, no matter who you are you’re bigger than da Vinci. You’re the greatest genius ever. You would casually be able to do things that would have been astounding in other times.

Sure, a Knight from the round table might find the steel armour of your car fascinating, but you would appear like a God with your ability to drive it. By the same logic, if we put you 200 years into the future you’d likely be lost. You’d be looking for a kitchen, not a replicator. And even if you found one you wouldn’t know how to use it and you might not even recognise half the food.

Can you see that you’re neither smart nor dumb? You can know a lot about now and be considered smart, or you could know very little and be seen to be dumb, and yet we could take Einstein into the year 2500 and he would be clueless. Einstein would have no idea how to use the internet. See? In some ways you’re smarter than Einstein, but even though that’s obviously true, you don’t feel smarter than Einstein do you?

1086-relax-and-succed-remember-when-many-jobsNow let us look at who you’ve been in the past. When you were born you were helpless. Eventually you got to the point where you could look after some basics, and then you were primarily independent, and maybe in your thirties or forties you will hit your peak. By then there’s another generation coming along with a bunch of new things you’re not even interested in learning.

Many of the new things and ideas won’t appeal to you because by then you’re interested in things worth a lot more than any identity. After that, even without conscious development, most people will slowly stop fighting to protect their identity just because it starts to seem so meaningless once you’ve hit the point where you really do accept that you’re going to die. This is one of my only two advantages over everyone else. By five I knew you could die.

First you need others, then less so, then not much, then more so, and finally you reach a point where you couldn’t even hope to help yourself. That’s everyone’s point of ultimate acceptance, but you don’t have to wait for death for it. You can accept yourself now.

1086-relax-and-succeed-life-of-modern-peopleToday’s meditation asks you to look back at your life to find: three separate versions of yourself. Pick three ages where your identity changed. Look at how different these people are. They might not even strike up a conversation at a wedding they’d see themselves as so unrelated. You could easily get into arguments with different versions of yourself!

For example, I could list being below the age of consent. You might have been able to drive the car when you were 13, but in most countries you’re at least 18 before you are defined as being someone capable of driving. Later, they’ll take your licence way–maybe even prematurely–because you have been defined by your age just like you were when you got the licence.

Then I could take myself in my 20’s, when both the world and I had the idea that I should be married. That was somehow automatic. That identity was given to me by my culture. I got married to a wonderful person just so I could be the person I was supposed to be at that age. But we both faked it. We were trying to be something for other people but, the truth is, we just hadn’t met the people we wanted to marry yet. And that would have been fine; we would have made good friends if we had not been so subtly defined by our time.

1086-relax-and-succeed-i-love-you-every-stepFind out who you’ve been. See how much you’ve changed. There’s been people that loved every version of you and yet you could argue with yourself. So ask yourself; if these different versions of me could even disagree about me, then why would I even try to impress other people? Seriously, think about that last sentence carefully.

Three ages. Don’t stop until you’ve caught yourself being surprised at how different you really were. For this reason, this can be a great exercise to do as a pair or in a group; especially if they’ve known you a long time. Many of them would see your changes better than you can. Do this exercise. Become less solid and more fluid and you will flow through life with greater grace.

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.

Nurturing Empathy

1074-relax-and-succeed-nurture-more-kindnessI’ve been pleasantly surprised by the depth of your meditations. People aren’t letting themselves off easily. That’s excellent. Frankly, the more realistically you view yourself the better others will start to look. We all generally hold others to higher standards than we can maintain ourselves.

When you did the meditations last week you discovered that you had forgiven people, but that it was unlikely an official pronouncement with a definite end date. Instead it was a process where your developing understanding allowed you to slowly let a thought go as it made less and less sense. What happened is that your narrative about their transgression lost its momentum.

That momentum comes from your dedication to think it. When we say something means a lot to us, what we really mean is that it’s a thought we volunteer to think a lot. Sometimes those thoughts are worthwhile. They can be part of grieving or recovery. But far too often they are someone just spinning on negativity that has no purpose in their life.

1074-relax-and-succeed-we-are-oneFortunately, it is difficult to maintain a narrative that makes no sense to you. Once understanding has increased, connection is increased. With the two people being able to see each other within each other, the differences become less important and the similarities become comforting. This is literally what the world needs more of.

How this works in practice is that, as other people talk to you they add their perspectives to yours. You expand, capable of seeing more and farther. In doing so, more people can be included in that family of people you’re prepared to care about. Those additions to your perspective come in two ways; you meditating your way into a discovery or someone delivering you an observation.

You’re in control of your own thinking so you can do the meditating on your own, but how can you help the discovery process? You can’t do that to yourself; that would be meditating toward an internal insight. You can only assist in the discovery process of someone else. To that end, today you will become more aware of a healthy person’s role in life.

1074-relax-and-succeed-darkness-cannot-drive-out-darknessSick and unhealthy people think about themselves a lot. Healthy, balanced people think of themselves very little, although their generosity is a version of them being selfish about giving. They know it feels good to invest more in others than yourself, and so they selfishly do so.

Today you’re looking to avoid creating your own ego-self by pointing your consciousness out, rather than in. Rather than load your attention up with self-reflective egotistical thoughts about you, instead you want to focus outward, on the experiences of others. Watch people’s faces as they listen to others talk. See their emotional reactions as their personal experience. Note how it might differ from yours. Watch for your opportunities.

Today’s meditation is simple: Watch the outside world for an opportunity to provide context. In short, you want to find at least one opportunity today to expand the awareness of someone else. Keep in mind, this cannot be done correctively as that assumes they already have the knowledge and aren’t using it. You have to invite them to include the knowledge by making it harmless.

1074-relax-and-succeed-teach-peaceYou cannot ask someone to assume the identity of jerk. You cannot defy their current beliefs. Your only job is to expand the context from which they might choose to view an event. That’s it. Just plant a seed. Just find a way to present that idea in supportive way. If you succeed at this, before you know it the other person can integrate the added information into their understanding, thereby making it theirs and boom; we have empathy.

Get out of your own head. Today, get at least one compassionate connecting idea into the head of at least one other person and do it without sounding preachy, instructive or superior. Just wonder out loud and leave the rest to the inherent goodness of their spirit. Do that and you’ll have done more for yourself than you ever could have imagined. Enjoy your day everyone.

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.

Gradual Growth

1073-relax-and-succeed-we-can-live-without-religionIsn’t it strange learning something in a non-linear way? I have to do it that way because I’m showing you something that you can’t understand by processing it in the usual way. In fact, that usual way is what causes you all the trouble, so I have to work around it by doing things your logical mind can’t fully understand.

Today’s meditation involves the reason you’ll feel like you have problems and how it often connects to your ideas about time. The brain is decent at storing things, but it’s best dealing with now because in reality that’s the only place you can ever really be or act to change your life. It makes sense that if you have something you want to solve, you need to deal with it around the time that you perceive the problem.

Our focus today is, was that really a problem? Or was it simply a lack of understanding? What is a problem?

Problems are things that we think might cut us off from others. Connection is natural and anything that threatens that is something to be dealt with. So if someone’s mad at you, what does that imply? Your problem is their anger and so you want to explain so you can fix it. Or maybe their problem is that they feel you betrayed them and you want them to understand. Or maybe they want something different than you so you have to explain how they should want what you want.

1073-relax-and-succeed-the-practice-of-forgivenessThink back to three people you’ve been upset with in your lifetime; three people who you now have forgiven despite the fact that they never apologised or maybe even changed. Some little things are fine, but include at least one big thing. Ask yourself what changed between when you were mad and when you let it go? Did they change or did you?

If you look closely, your forgiveness would have come easily once your understanding and empathy increased. Once you either understood the world or yourself better you adjusted your judgments. This is no small thing. This means you can change others by changing yourself.

People are not fixed points in a fixed universe. They look different from every angle, like Earth might from different directions in space. Look at it one way and it’s the Pacific, another and it’s the Himalayas. How you saw others would be like aliens looking at the Himalayas and concluding that the entire planet was a mountain range that reached up over 6,000 meters (20,000 feet). But you need a broader, more well-rounded perspective before you can really say you have even a basic understanding of Earth. The same goes for people.

1073-relax-and-succeed-the-future-is-something-which-everyone-reachesFind your examples. Note your forgiveness and see that it was acceptance. Note how they didn’t change, you did. A change in your perspective changed who they are to you because there is no truth. There is no hallowed ground to stand on. Everything is a perspective. This is about abandoning the desire for certainty to live in the reality of mystery. You think you don’t like mystery, but over time I will prove to you that you really do.

What I do is weird, I know. But if you read the testimonials on my website or talk to people who’ve worked closely with me, they’ll all tell you that they too were lost before they were found. This isn’t linear knowledge, it’s more a congealing of truth. It’s harder to measure, but it’s happening.

Despite the fact that it’s difficult to perceive for you right now, I can guarantee that doing these exercises this week actually changed who you are. Over time those will add up and one day you’ll look in the mirror and you’ll suddenly realise that you’re a different person. And much like understanding others from the distance of time, that’s when you’ll understand what I’m doing now. In the meantime, congratulate yourself on making changes and have a great weekend.

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.

Observational vs Instructional Parenting

1019-relax-and-succeed-it-is-easier-to-build-strong-childrenWhen European settlers first came to North America one of the first clashes of culture existed in the realm of parenting. Corporal punishment was generally not used in the native cultures because they did not believe in corrective behaviour from an authority figure. Like most tribal cultures, they believed an entire community raised a child and that children learned to behave in alignment with their culture not by being told how, but rather by watching other people actually living in alignment with that culture.

Europeans on the other hand had unwittingly assumed the Christian original-sin belief into their daily life and so the idea was that no one was born worthy and rather one earned one’s worth. In the native cultures the worth of anyone was never in question. The European system lead to a top-down almost military style with the father in command, his wife second and then the children by order of age and gender. Meanwhile there weren’t even  things like lineups for native cultures, so therefore there were also no need to “order” people or things.

1019-relax-and-succeed-when-a-flower-isnt-bloomingAs well-intentioned as it is, the European model is based on a hierarchy rather than mutual respect. Being bound to someone by words and ideas is one thing, but caring about someone enough to make sacrifices for them is a much different thing. This is like the difference between a soldier fighting because he was told to by someone he doesn’t respect, versus he does so out of love for his leader.

The idea the natives naturally used is the one everyone’s actually using either way, whether their culture realises it or not. Kids don’t learn by what you tell them, it’s how we act. And if we realised that more consciously we would literally change the world.

The northernmost tribes in Canada, from the Gwich’in in the West all the way through all of the Inuit cultures and all the way East past the Innu to the Beothuk, the cold and barren surroundings and limited food sources have meant over time that patience, tolerance, cooperation and generosity are excellent strategies for staying alive. Since you couldn’t and can’t cultivate food you have to cultivate relationships that can lead to group dinners that ensure all are fed regardless of their individual hunt’s success. When you can end up living in the confines of an igloo it helps if you have an agreeable personality.

1019-relax-and-succeed-your-work-is-not-to-drag-the-worldSimilarly the Japanese and other Asian cultures learned to cultivate a courteous, respectful manner with others because the hydraulics of the terraced rice paddies meant that your neighbour had to choose to let you have the water next. These interdependencies can be seen as a lack of freedom, but they can also be seen to create more freedom. What is the point of any amount of freedom if it is primarily spent in a state of worry or fear when it could be spent cooperating with friends?

It is notable that these cultures are both very quiet. Words are seen as less important than the control of behaviour. This isn’t done in a subservient way; it’s done for the greater good of all. But for that to happen we first have to believe that a) we ourselves are capable of good behaviour, b) that our children are capable and naturally inclined to want to learn, and c) that lessons are not as important as examples.

Most parents I see are panicked that things are much worse than they are. Invariably I meet a caring, engaged parent who has the same kinds of flaws all of us have. Because people are generally good, just by living their lives the way they naturally do they end up raising really great kids too. Don’t worry if your child doesn’t follow every order exactly right. That won’t be what makes good character.

1019-relax-and-succeed-imagine-what-seven-billion-humansWhat’ll make a good fellow tribesman won’t be precise behaviour, it’ll be the general compassionate awarenesses that would lead them to do things like notice an older person struggling behind them, leading them to hold that door open a little longer for that fellow tribesman. What’ll make a good tribesman is not asking for apologies, but giving them. Then giving them will be natural to a child, just like they learn to avoid giving them. And forgive yourself for when they learn the bits about you you wish they wouldn’t. You’re worth those bits anyway.

Believe in yourself. Believe in the children around you. They’re all just waiting to sprout into something amazing if they just get the rest of us doing a bit of cultivating of ourselves. If we accept ourselves while we strive to grow, from there the kids will just naturally follow our lead, but lead we must do. Here’s to you exhibiting a great day of admirable behaviour.

peace. s

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

The Friday Dose #130: The Time Machine

You’re wiser now than you were then. Stop talking yourself into hell for how far you have to go and instead live in heavenly gratitude for how far you’ve come. Think back five years. Just think how different your life would have been had you known what you know now. Own that. That is wisdom and you got it the only way it comes–by living your way through it. You are bigger today than you were yesterday. Congratulations.

You’ve got one minute: what do you say from the wisdom of your experiences?

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.

Maintaining Awareness

1002-relax-and-succeed-drink-tea-slowly-and-reverentlyPeople often ask me if what I “teach” will last. The truth is, I don’t so much teach it as show you how to experience it. Once you know that you know it (like you know how to multiply numbers), you realise it’s just not something you forget. It’s a verb, not idle knowledge.

Now, my insight was the opposite of my students because they realise they are thinking and I realised the rest of you didn’t know you were thinking but the effect is the same: when you first encounter this profound truth there definitely is an extreme high of joy that extends for months, but even that feeling we can get used to. Our guard goes down and some ego creaks in.

1002-relax-and-succeed-be-not-afraid-of-going-slowlyI get asked if the glow of my initial realisation still exists today and I’m clear that I have no idea. Maybe I’m just as well off but that awareness is now so common it’s nearly invisible to me, or maybe I’ve slipped back into more ego but not all ego. There’s no solid ground to judge something like that from, so it really falls to our nature: do we feel like more study would deepen our connection or are we happy with where we are?

Now, all this said, we all still go through those roughly eight year cycles I often write about. Once you’re good at being someone it’s time to be someone else, so it’s during those times I usually hear from former students/clients. They’ll wonder if they need the guidance because they can see they still perceive the world differently than the full-time egos around them, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t more to explore. This journey has no end. In the end it’s up to them.

The first part of the process is often about a series of small realisations that add up to a much different perspective, but even in the cases of profound and sudden change (those are very exciting), that first blush is the first step into this new reality but it certainly doesn’t show us that entire reality. I’m lucky, I’m constantly reminded to stay in my health because it’s my job to wander around inside this truth and show it to people.

D1002-relax-and-succeed-life-is-a-one-time-offero I know I make the world with my thoughts? Yes. Can I still get caught up taking those thoughts too seriously? Yes. But without not-path you can’t have a path, so that in itself is not us being outside of the truth, it just means we’re failing to recognise it as the truth. In this way the path is like a Mobius Strip. If you think you’re off the path you’re off the path. Believe you’re on and you’re on. The rest is awareness management.

There comes a time in a more advanced student’s life where they’re ready to get past managing emotions and they want to truly delve into the constructs of reality. This is deep work for me and it’s my favourite to do. This is where psychology meets spirituality. It still makes surprising sense for such ineffable subjects, but it is also grand and mysterious all at the same time. The challenges in the journey definitely get more pleasant once you’re through the door.

How far people want to take their study is up to them but they certainly don’t need me, Buddhism or Yoga. You’re always your own best teacher. At the same time, if you’re the sort that prefers to have an experienced guide along the way, that’s valid too. Which one is right for you only you can feel, but either way, the yin and yang of the path and not-path will always be where you are and you always be safe there regardless of what you think.

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.

Turning Over

990-relax-and-succeed-being-on-a-spiritual-pathEveryone wants balance but to be perfectly in balance means that you’re also static. Life isn’t like that. Life moves. So rather than wanting balance we should seek balance. A student studying martial arts in a temple in Asia doesn’t stand on one foot and want balance, when the student loses balance it is immediately sought. Likewise, once the sensei sees that balance has been struck the student is intentionally pushed off balance and offered the chance to continue growth. The lesson is as much in the pushing as in the recovery.

In the example the student represents an individual consciousness and the teacher becomes the world. As you pass each grade you are given harder work. As you lift more weight you are given more weight to lift. As you get each promotion your responsibilities grow. When you’re single you learn to be together. When you’re a couple you learn to accommodate a family. When you’re older you learn to live with your partner in a house without kids. And of course eventually we must prepare to lose control of even our bodies and minds. This is how the sensi is like the world.

If we place this on a turning wheel it might be easier to grasp the notions of yin and yang. Rather than separate entities these are two parts of one entity, like the a wave has both a crest and trough but both things can only be experienced in unison. There is no border or line between yin and yang. This should be seen more like a pot of hot water mixed with a pot of cold water. Where they mix there is no line but they they are nevertheless two separate parts of one larger body (of water, in this case).

990-relax-and-succeed-good-judgment-comes-from-experienceNow let us turn our wheel into a clock. From 9:00 until noon is when you’re grasping a concept and then growing in your ability. Noon is when you crest in that ability and the wheel continues to move forward into your new future (a new relationship, job, financial situation, whatever), but now you’re unprepared and you can feel the wheel begin to sink. By 3:00 you’re now heading toward the ground fast, you’re upside down by 6:00 and it all just seems like it’s going to crush you.

Alas, at the base of our experience we render our old selves apart and we reconstitute our idea of our new self as stronger and more capable, and we begin a slow rise. We still feel upside down right up until 9:00 again, but at least things seem to be making more sense. But 9:00 we’re back on the rise and making use of all of the lessons we learned from 6:00 until 9:00, making those critically valuable times.

Of course your life is made of many wheels at once. Your relationship wheel, your work wheel, each friend has their own wheel, your health, your habits etc. etc. When we’d say our biorhythms are high we have many wheels rising. When we say we’re very down is when they all line up going the other direction. But most of our life is a mix, which is important, because it means there’s usually some area of life we can focus on where things are rising toward better feelings.

990-relax-and-succeed-when-there-is-great-doubtWhat people want is a wheel that’s had the 3:00 to 9:00 part removed, but that wheel wouldn’t turn very far. This is why acceptance is so important. We must come into life knowing that the teacher will push us off balance. Our job is not to stop the meddling teacher, our job is to recover balance. So there’s no life skill that saves you from trouble, but there is one that helps you rapidly recover your balance.

It is important to remember that you cannot even seek balance if you’re still complaining about it not being there. The complaint period is the descent from 3:00 to 6:00, but after 6:00 we’re accepting our situation or we’re acting to change it. That is the only way to move forward. Everything else is braking fear. It’s why so many people are stuck. They’re trying to avoid the bottom part of the circle of life, but without the bottom life cannot turn.

Look at each area of your life. Which wheels are rising and which are falling? Can you sense the resistance of your suffering? Can you feel where are you slowing yourself down by preventing your spin toward 6:00? Success is not avoiding 6:00, it’s to turn through it as smoothly and evenly as you would any other time. So it is to be in the flow, full of acceptance and moving forward.

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.