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.

The Conscious Unconscious

1256 Relax and Succeed - Until you make the unconscious consciousOur aim should be to have a rewarding life. Any external goal will takes us away from that and everything and everyone becomes about that goal. We like people who help us get what we want and we don’t like people who impede what we want; but only in hindsight do we recognize that some very unhealthy people or choices came from pursuing an external goal, and that the real value laid hidden; weaved into the smallest moments in our lives.

What does this look like in practice? It’s the athlete who pursues a gold medal with such fierce determination that they can yell at those around them for not supporting them enough. Whether they win the gold or not is irrelevant, but later they can look back at their own child, or someone else they influenced with their success, and they can recognise that they were often modelling terrible human behaviour in their blind pursuit of their goal.

A gold prospector can leave home to seek riches, but whether they strike it rich or not, they may primarily find discord, greed and mistrust. What was supposed to add wealth to their lives could easily add suffering and pain and loss. Yet later, whether they lay in a shed or a mansion, they will pine for the lost friendships that were developed through hard-fought experience, all while they recall the the incredible views from their mountaintop campsites that were all too soon ignored in favour of angry discussions about the progress toward “the gold.”

1256 Relax and Succeed - The alchemists in their search for goldJohn Lennon reminded us that “Life’s what happens when you’re busying making other plans.” Most people’s dreams don’t come true, and yet many people who’ve had theirs come true didn’t achieve their objective, they altered their perspective. Usually when they’re about to lose an important part of their lives, rather than focusing on their original external goal, people begin to notice the accidental value they have acquired through simply being alive.

Do that for yourself today. Ask yourself, what occupies your thoughts? What exactly are you trying to make happen in your life , including doing things to ensure nothing happens? Where do you currently see the value in that activity? What other value does it have other than how it relates to your larger goal? No one has a big family, people have individual kids that add up to a big family. The value isn’t in the size, it’s in the each kid, so that is where our focus should be.

We all need a place to start and an external goal is as good as any. We just need to induce ourselves into motion. Once we are active, if we’re paying attention, we’ll realise that the big smashes and hits at the start do break off large pieces of our largest self–the one with the most potential. But what they leave is an increasingly refined shape until, over time, we do not see those “losses” as losses. We come to realise that each experience shapes us, and if we allow life to do it, it naturally exposes who we truly are.

You’re somewhere along your journey. I starts out with zeal and confusion and steadily marches towards contentment and clarity. In the end your goals in life will have been largely irrelevant to your living of it, so figure out what they are and look at the prices you pay, and ask yourself how you’re likely to feel about your life after you’ve achieved or surrendered your goal. Will it have seemed worth it? If not, make it worth it now, rather than pine than you didn’t then. This is what it means to be present.

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.

Create More Unity in Your Community

1247 Relax and Succeed - If you want others to be happyWe evaluate, we name, we label, we judge, we value. Totally lost in ego, we use words like truth to represent what is really only our personal view. Reacting more to our own thoughts about things than the things themselves, we seek to remove all of our opportunities for personal growth by removing any and all offending ideas from our daily experience.

Is it any wonder that the world feels fractured when most individuals are walking through it with the constant urge to subdivide it down into groups rather than behaviours? How does it help to either subdivide or be angry at the perpetrator of domestic violence for instance? To be angry is to add even more negativity. It’s fine as an initial response, but once that washes over us our job isn’t to have a personal emotional reaction, it’s to do something constructive for our community.

Unity is created in a community when people from all walks of life can feel safe that they will be met with compassion and understanding when they’re struggling. That means the wealthy elderly lady walking her dog is equal to the strapping young man with the sort of childhood that leads him to be violent. People find it easy to be sympathetic to the little old lady even though (like every human being), she’s certain to have done some truly terrible things in her life. But our personal speculation about her will often be quite generous.

1247 Relax and Succeed - There are too many of usMeanwhile we have difficulty expressing compassion for a fearful or angry young man with equal challenges and his own set of mistakes. Our job isn’t to look at his clothing and terms of speech and his behaviour and then evaluate him, label him as an offender and his wife as a victim, and then dole out our compassion according to those judgments. Our job is to care about each of them in conjunction with their relationship.

To help we need to understand what in his life would lead him to be violent, and what in her life would lead her to stay for that violence. Our initial judgments are uninformed and useless. They happen inside our head. Even if they do externalize, they’re often just as ugly as what they’re judging.

The world does not benefit from our thoughts, it benefits from our actions. And that action should not be to judge and divide people into good or bad groups, our role is to support anyone struggling, whatever that struggle may look like. Right now, people are inclined to hate the very people that they should be loving the most.

1247 Relax and Succeed - Look out for each other

When we’re unhealthy and locked in ego we’re going to talk about how bad things are and who needs to change. We’ll start filling our social media with angry recriminations of this or that group, or we level this or that judgment about this or that social media post; or we comment on the news, on the behaviour of athletes, and politicians, and celebrities, and on and on and on. Meanwhile children watch us make those judgments, and we pass on to them a world more ever more steeped in the useless egocentric personal views that populate most people’s social media.

Those children deserve to see us offer them examples of where we find our own way past a negative judgment to find some positive sort of action, but instead we offer them endless examples of our judgments of how the world should be, or how it’s supposed to be. Even most television shows now involve someone actively judging someone else in a way that actually determines that person’s fate. It’s all built to appeal to our egos, not the unifying best that is at the heart of who and what we are.

We all have to drop that arrogance. It’s not our job, nor does any one of us know enough to be able to singularly know what the right answer is in any situation. We all need to stop casting judgments and making suggestions, and we all need to start getting to know our enemies better. We have to move toward the people we dislike the most, because the conflict is happening within us, not in the larger external world.

1247 Relax and Succeed - Compassion is a verbIt is we who must lower our sense of right and wrong and instead ask how we can help situations traverse the distance from tense and unpleasant to calm and rewarding. Remember, every time you either consistently negatively judge, or universally accept another person, you are engaged in the very deepest and most destructive state of ego. That’s like failing to throw a life preserver so you can instead scream at a drowning person about how they should have learned to swim many years ago. It’s cruel and it does not serve the larger community.

As Roger Waters said, (it doesn’t just apply to formal schooling), “We don’t need your education, we don’t need your thought control.” Indeed. Stop putting bricks of judgment between you and others. If you want to prove you’re developing spiritually, try tearing down your own wall, be vulnerable, and connect. Because while your judgments only serve to make the world worse, you compassion is the glue that can hold a society together through it’s most difficult times.

Trade in your judgments. Be a positive, constructive spiritual citizen in your community. If everyone learns how to do that, then when it’s us that’s struggling, we too will benefit from the compassion of those around us. Let’s all take immediate action to improve ourselves and the world in this way. I do hope you’ll join me.

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.

Training Day

You gotta serve somebody, as Bob Dylan said. That’s what the series The Sopranos is about. Even a championship team in sports only wins the right to have every other team try just a little bit harder against them next time they meet. So in the end, no one really wins, which is why it’s somewhat mindless for so many people to be looking for a life where they don’t lose.

The weird kids get teased by the cool kids, but those outsiders also tease the cool kids for being so predictable. The average kids huddle in the middle, just hoping to be accepted if they keep their head down. But you can’t waffle about who you are. People sense that inauthenticity and they tend to not trust or like it.

Meanwhile, the confident and motivated go off and become Kanye West, Johnny Depp or Mozart. None of them care what you think about them, they’re going to picks the songs or films that they really want to do as artists. Hilary didn’t climb Everest to impress you and me. He and these others were all climbing destinations within themselves. They were responding to their own natural drives rather than using their ego to talk them out of what they felt the urge to do.

Is it possible you’ve misunderstood resistance and they didn’t? What if it isn’t an impediment, or a block or something preventing you from succeeding? What if resistance is only there to strengthen and sharpen your abilities, much like Bruce Lee would use a sparring partner? He had someone fight against him as a form of training for going forward. This is a lesson worth paying attention to.

Rather than seeing difficulties in your life as problems blocking some predetermined success, imagine that your life is more like some video game, where you’re wandering around and the entire point of the game is that it randomly tosses you challenges to overcome as a way of advancing you through itself. How would difficult people appear then?

Start off with the idea that you do know what you should do and you’ll do it right up until you know you should do something else. Trust yourself. Then see any detours or challenges related to your goals as having been intentionally placed there by your trainers.

It’s as if you have a superior from James Bond and they start off your day saying, “Okay Jennifer, as you move through your day we’ve inserted several irritating and challenging interactions for you to help train your responses. Over time we’ll get your impervious to these sorts of things so that you can reserve your energy for what counts, so watch for them.”

If that was how it was set up you’d be totally okay with meeting irritating people. And why? Because you’d always be telling yourself, this person isn’t really like this, they’re just acting this way as a part of my training. So the very same irritating or troublesome behaviour would suddenly be okay because it had been rewritten in meaning within your consciousness. Nothing in the outside world changed, just your idea about it. Do you see now how the world is an illusion made of your thoughts?

An enlightened person is just someone who cannot shake the knowledge that this whole thing is going perfectly and that we’re all helpful players in each other’s games. That means everyone you meet is perfectly helping your execute your life and you’re helping them execute theirs. It’s all very peaceful when you just let it unfold without expectation or regret.

Stop pushing against life. That uncomfortable sensation is within your consciousness, it does not exist in the world without you creating it for yourself with your thoughts. Just allow things to be, even if they’re not ideal or even close to the way you’d want them. Be more accepting. Let more thoughts pass through you undiscussed or encountered. That is what it is to be free of suffering by accepting that there will always be suffering.

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.

Your Life Story

There’s debates about who said it or who said it first, but somewhere sometime someone said that every writer has to write a million words of shit before they’ll write anything any good. The number itself is largely a metaphor for the fact that in everything in life, we get good by doing. And the more we do (either in intensity or duration or both), the more skilled we get at that thing.

Just as in life, every writer wants to be good because they know the tools. They know the alphabet, so they have their hammer; and they’ve read sentences–which is like watching a house being built–so that’s where they start. But it’s absurd to think they’ll be as good of a carpenter on that first job as they’ll be in 25 years.

That logic applies to anything. The conscious person who learns with intensity learns more than someone with less intensity, and someone conscious who puts in more time also learns more than someone who puts in less time or who uses less consciousness. This is is true of writing, cooking, raising kids, teaching, or–yes–living.

Living is a skill. So yeah, physically and mentally you eventually deteriorate, so maybe your life-work gets a bit sloppy near the end, but by then everyone’s forgiving you. But otherwise you just get better and better at living life every year you live it, and the more conscious you are the more your learn. That’s all well and good. The problem comes in when you want the wisdom before you’ve even had the experiences that teach it.

Your expectations of yourself and your life start off pretty wacky. Because you can edit your writing you think you can edit life. And because of that you’ll go through these periods where you’ll feel like you’re totally failing because you’ll be nowhere near your targets and you can’t fix your past. But it’s not your life that’s the problem, or your ability to edit; it’s your expectation that you would know things before you learned them. You do that all the time and yet it’s truly crazy.

Graceful living requires only one thing: live the moment you’re in fully and presently. That means being in it and aware of it, rather than thinking about what-ifs or regrets. Things going in challenging ways aren’t failures, that’s just the texture of the surface you’re climbing. And when you reach the summit of your own peak–your own death–you’ll have a better understanding that you weren’t supposed to climb the highest mountain or the hardest–you were just supposed to climb. Which mountain you started on never really mattered.

You will know more tomorrow than today, and today you know more than you knew yesterday. If you go back and rethink and rethink over and over, re-editing all of your life’s work, you’ll never get much writing done and you won’t get much living lived.

Trust that as the writer writes, the writer improves. Forget the early pages. They’re both written and read. Because that’s the other important thing; other people will only glance at your book just as you’ll only glance at theirs. You might read deeply into maybe half a dozen books in your life. Because it turns out these weren’t being written to be read, the were written for the writing’s sake.

Stop worrying about your mistakes and just write–just live. You were never supposed to be perfect. You were just supposed to be here. That in and of itself, is perfect.

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.

Falling For Your Life

If you feel like everything is going wrong you can relax. If you’re worried you’ve made some terrible decision that will doom you, you haven’t. You just tend to think that feelings will stay when feelings are bad but no feeling is final. They just keep piling up until they make a big pile called your life.

That makes no sense to you because you want to know what to do, how to improve, how to grow and repair and fix and change. You wonder why you’re not enough, or why the world is the way it is, and yet everything is perfect. You imagine perfect as where everyone gets along, but that would be a boring life. You watch no movies or TV about everyone getting along perfectly because that would not interest you.

What interests you is overcoming. What you overcome is largely irrelevant, but your spirit punishes you for sitting still and it rewards movement and creation, and so your spirit naturally feels enthusiastic about movement. So live more of your life and plan less of it. Being aware in the moment will do you more good than an ideal plan.

Remember the Kierkegaard quote I noted a few weeks back? Life can only be understood backwards but it must be lived forwards. Your job isn’t to consciously understand why your flake of snow landed here or there, your job is to just pile up into your natural life; your job is to just stay awake and react naturally from there. Yes, naturally will include “mistakes” and naturally will also include “improvements” you’ve made on previous “mistakes” but that’s more an evolution than conscious change. You want to stop being so conscious of your self-judgments and more conscious of your actual life.

The truth is you can’t go wrong. What feels wrong is when you don’t yet understand looking back, the life you’ve already lived going forward. But those are two separate processes. Stop expecting them to align. The living is always ahead of the understanding. That’s not things going wrong, that’s things going perfectly.

Stop complaining about where you are and who you are and what you’re doing. You don’t even know where you’re really going. So surrender your need for specific outcomes. Instead, anticipate that, whatever comes, if you live with awareness and allow your wisdom to flow, your next step will make itself apparent, even if that step seems crazy at the time.

Every life is a crazy path. But don’t ignore yours because it isn’t matching your expectations. Frankly, your expectations would be too low. Your life has greater intentions for you than that.

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.

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: a) I have this one quality or skill I’m known for, b) plus I had these particular experiences that helped changed me for the better in this particular way that I’m proud of, and c) 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 owning their failures, they were even letting themselves have their victories. They were proud about what they could do, humbled of what they had learned, and they happily accepted what they couldn’t do. In listening to them, the genius was in the balance.

They hadn’t built some perfect souls like so many are trying to. We’re all trying to be mistake-free, with a perfect life. Wisdom tells us that what we really want to know how to do is fall.

If we’re really good at falling and getting back up, then we’re destined to be some kind of champion just through mere repetition is that’s what it takes. Those seniors experienced a lot of unwanted falls and eventually ran out of time to recover from all of them.

Rather than feel like failures, those low points were when they realized there was no point in worrying about changing. They always seemed to be too busy living to ever get to prioritizing those changes anyway –and in hindsight, most people end up quite satisfied with their lives.

Those older people had no other choice due to time and mortality. They had to accept who they were. But the lesson for all of us was that, when they did that, it felt great. Accept yourself. You’re worth it.

Note: it wasn’t like they were unaware. They were always aware of how they were challenging for others as a person because everyone is challenging to some kind of personality. It’s only a matter of figuring out which type. But even then….

We are who we are and, after a lifetime of trying, eventually those seniors surrendered and 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;  or, I know was too pushy a lot of the times but what are you gonna do? I did get a lot done; or something like, 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.

That’s good guidance for all of us. As we seek and find out who we are–all of us, warts and all–we must get to a place where we can truly accept that person and then just live our own lives.

Accept that we were never supposed to play any other part but ourselves. That flawed, sometimes embarrassing person is who the world really wanted us to be. Thank you for playing your part. Without you, the rest of us would be missing out on an important part of life.

peace. s

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.