The Apology

895 Relax and Succeed - I wonder which mistakeAre you happy about your ability to be energy-aware yesterday? Were you able to see people’s dealings with you as experiences they were having rather than ones you needed to have? Were you, like a matador dodging a bull, able to turn your ego aside and allow someone’s aggressive thought to pass by? If you succeeded in that, then congratulations. Practice that skill and you’re a long way towards improving your life substantially.

“Letting” someone be angry with you, or be sad or upset around you does require us to keep our ego at bay. But what about inviting them to be upset? What about reminding them of something unpleasant or painful? What if you had to demonstrate your spiritual and psychological strength by apologizing for something?

This is one of the most generous acts you can participate in. You know that from receiving them. It’s shockingly rare. Egos have no interest in that responsibility, whereas your soul lives somewhere where that storm is taking place in a sky so vast that you can both recognize it and see it for what it really is–an act like any other.

895 Relax and Succeed - We rise by lifting othersYou are not being judged. You do not get points or a reward for doing the right thing. This isn’t about you appearing noble or fair or any other thing. Those are all ego-achievements. This is less about an achievement for your soul and more like an awakening of it. You’re not on a ladder of development and apologizing is higher up the rungs than where you are. The reward in life isn’t where you get to, it’s about how connected you get.

Apologizing is a form of connecting and when you’re getting mentally healthier it becomes less scary and more rewarding. Think about how good it feels to get one. People remember these things for their entire life.

I’ve already explained that you don’t pay a price for not apologizing–it just means you’ve stayed asleep. Many do until just the moments before death. But being awake and truly alive is the most vibrant, rich and rewarding life you can have. It’s a wonderful world where even your mistakes lead you to greater connections with the rest of the universe.

895 Relax and Succeed - Apologizing does not always meanThis is a guru-act. You have to be Buddha-like to pull it off. You have to truly have understood your own mistake so well that it loses its personal nature. Even if it was an intentional act, you must see your act as misguided thinking and that it was never about the other person. You must see not only their innocence, but yours as well.

Once it can be seen as an innocent collision at a psychological level we become less focused on the details of the story, instead we simply see innocence and suffering, and as wise and aware people we thrive on finding opportunities to unify with the universe. We feel secure in our own being and we simply want to help–to connect.

So screwing up with someone is like getting a chance to connect spiritually. Except when most people do something they later feel was genuinely out of sync with their spirit, they compound that by feeling regret or guilt for long periods of time. Meanwhile the other person is thinking victim-thoughts. Now we have two people lost in the wrong kind of thinking. Angry ones and guilty ones. Better that thoughts drop in favour of connection.

895 Relax and Succeed - Let your light shineSee clearly. Accept yourself at a low point. Okay, so you did something you wouldn’t repeat. That’s evidence you’re a good person (a “bad” person wouldn’t care). You know it would feel better, it’s just scary. But even if they have a bad reaction, that won’t last long and it won’t leave you worse off than feeling guilty. At least one of you is clear-headed.

Find something you’ve done that you genuinely feel was a mistake. Take that thing, see the form of your innocence in causing it, and then contact them and offer the apology. It’ll be like jumping off the high diving board for the first time at the pool. It feels genuinely scary when you first start doing it, but pretty quickly you learn that the reward for facing that is one of the most liberating feelings you can give yourself.

See if you can give that feeling to yourself today. Pick the person and apology within the hour and make the apology before the end of the day. You can do this. Go for it.

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.

Other Perspectives #73

Newsflash. Life is not a competition. And if you have chosen to enter some contest that involves physical competition then that’s why it’s called a con-test. The prefix “con” means convene, condone or connection. So a contest is a test that involves some convening and some connection and you certainly have to condone to compete. A Roman can throw you in with the lions but he can’t make you compete. That has to be a choice. So if you’ve chosen to compete then you should be happy and enthusiastic about exercising and practising because that’s the course you chose for your life. And if you’re not competing then why in the world would you care about when other people are at the gym? You’re not in a competition with them and if you believe you are then start by recognizing that act as an entirely ego-based action. The Tarahumara Tribe run 100 mile foot races that can feature half the tribe and there is no accounting of who won or who finished in what order. They run for the love of it. So unless you’ve chosen to be happy by competing, you should exercise for the same happy reasons. Because if you’re doing it right it feels great even when it doesn’t feel great. Love your body, love your life. But do not live it in competition with others unless you keep that in proper perspective because otherwise that is a recipe for an unhappy existence. Now go have an awesome week.

peace s

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Pain versus Suffering

People often start off on the wrong foot by coming to me thinking that their friends recommended me because they’re so happy. They think I make people happy. Sure, they end up happier, but that’s almost the exact opposite of what I actually teach them.

599 Relax and Succeed - We do not see things as they areI teach them to suffer. Only I teach them to suffer wisely.

Wise suffering? I know, weird eh? Who knew I was going to bump into such truths when I stumbled into figuring this out. So how do you suffer wisely? The answer is acceptance. Because if you meditate on the subject more closely you will see that it’s not really the pain that bothers you, it’s the concern that your suffering will linger or even stay.

As I’ve noted many times before, if emotions were actually good or bad then theaters and bookstores would be empty. No one would offer to pay perfectly good money to buy a book, bring it home, put some time into reading i, and then have it deliver to them the very thing that they tried to avoid all day—whether that’s fear or worry or profound sadness. But no, we’ll break our own hearts with Ivanhoe, or sit in dread with Stephen King, and we’ll even pay for the privilege. So in the end your own life proves to you that emotions themselves are not good or bad.

So what’s with this lingering-staying-suffering part? Please pay attention to the fact that everything I’m talking about here takes place entirely in your consciousness. And within your consciousness, because you choose to believe that some emotions are bad, when they show up in your life your reaction is to panic. You start to think to yourself, “Oh no, not sadness. I don’t want sadness again. Why do I keep dating people? It’s always painful! I’m so stupid! No wonder no one wants me,” etc. etc. Okay, so the realization of loss was something your pre-thought non-illusory mind experienced. But because your society trained you well, 599 Relax and Succeed - One day things will get betteryour brain immediately sought to categorize that thought into separate ideas that you describe to yourself using labels called words.

What you need to grasp is that it isn’t your breakup from two weeks ago that’s making you cry for days on end. The pain of loss and the occasional recognition or reminder of recent loss will understandably trigger the sad feeling we think of when we think of losing someone. The pre-word, pre-thinking feeling. But if you fully feel that without hesitation—and if you’re not afraid of any emotions—then you simply move into the next moment and feel your thoughts about that. These are those times when you might say that it felt good to cry. So if you’re only crying when you actually want to cry, then you just have to deal with the occasional painful feeling that gets stirred up when your consciousness is unexpectedly reminded of your past.

If however you choose to think a streaming narrative similar to the one I created above, then you will experience that as your emotions. Feelings come before the words, after the words it’s emotion. It’s why babies can feel love but not jealousy. One is before words so babies can feel that, but they can’t build the one after words until first they learn words. So what’s actually hurting you two weeks later isn’t your breakup, it’s your thoughts about the breakup. It’s the words. Because if you wouldn’t keep telling yourself stories about how it could have gone or how it should have gone, then those words would go quiet and you would feel what you were experiencing in the current moment—like the view, or a sound or smell—instead of chemically constructing a past or future experience out of unpleasant, judgmental words.

599 Relax and Succeed - We cannot control the windIt’s no different than reading a book. If your consciousness is considering a painful idea you will experience pain, just like when your consciousness is intentionally focused on the most rewarding thing you can find—then you feel exalted. You don’t feel what happened, you feel what you’re thinking about in this moment. So can you time travel and choose to think about painful things from the past? Of course. It’s how most of the world manages their sadness. But just the same you can manage your happiness too. You can choose to focus on what you’re grateful for.

This is all actually quite easy to do, so if you’re telling yourself I’m being flippant or that I’m wrong, understand that what you’re trying to do is off target. Because this is incredible easy. Remember at the start I said that people got happier by suffering wisely? Okay, so now maybe this explanation will make more sense: To suffer is to choose to think unpleasant pain-engaged or pain-resisting thoughts (they both involve pain equally), and all of this gets done in the hopes that the pain will somehow magically go away because we’ve suffered enough. So you have to put work into this. You have to choose to go in that painful direction—there’s effort #1—and then you have to put effort #2 into creating all 599 Relax and Succeed - If you want to be happyof the narratives that pedal the bicycle of your ego.

My way you just stop thinking, focus your consciousness on the most enriching, pleasant thing you can find and that naturally feels good. But to do that you have to accept the unpleasant feelings first. You can’t be thinking you live in some dream-world where the pain might possibly stop because you want it to, or that there is some magical way to live where you’ll never be in pain again. If you don’t work to hold those crazy beliefs then you only have to experience the feeling of actual pain but not the daily suffering of ego. (Things like being offended, or thinking people are wrong about their politics or art. It’s all very taxing.)

599 Relax and Succeed - The journey is the rewardYou will suffer. Many times. So stop trying to worry it away from your future, or regret it away from your past. Be present instead. If a powerful feeling is appropriate then feel it. But don’t use your ability to think in words as a way to torque a feeling into an emotion. Be sad when it’s appropriate to be sad. Be fearful when it is wise to be fearful. But the rest of the time just let your consciousness relax in silence—which is otherwise known as… happiness.

peace. s


Ugly Secrets

There’s been a recent news story in Canada that has many people polarized and it speaks to the power of perspective. A prominent national radio host has been fired and he claims it is because he has been defamed by what he describes as a former jilted lover who is now claiming consensual BDSM sex was in fact non-consensual. Naturally any woman who’s endured the horror of anyone using any means to obtain non-consensual sex will be immediately reminded of the intense level of violation that they experienced. Similarly, any man who’s been falsely accused will also be reminded of their own horrors in finding it impossible to defend themselves against 538 Relax and Succeed - We all have secretsunprovable he-said she-said allegations that will echo throughout the rest of their lives.

It’s just a horrible situation all-around and while I felt the sting of it because I myself have experienced such an attack, I simply have no idea regarding who might be telling the truth. There are additional alleged victims coming forward who may be able to back up the original story, and yet the host is wealthy and popular and there is always the possibility that people do have ulterior motives. All I know is that something terrible happened, I just don’t know which parties have been wronged and I wish I did because I would extend my compassion because any of those positions would be agonizing to be in.

I can’t say I’m a huge fan of the host himself but I am an unabashed fan of the show and I will even give the host props for being a far above-average interviewer and many superstars agree. He’s often gotten interviews from people famous for not giving interviews. And at the same time, those skills don’t mean he can’t have horrible ideas about how to relate to women and it is entirely plausible to me that his fame could have tipped an already potentially dangerous personality into a literally dangerous one. If he has been hurting women then I’m glad it’s come out so he can be stopped and so they can be supported.

Because I cannot know, I don’t give the matter much thought because that would be little more than painful ruminations to no good end. But others are jumping on all kinds of bandwagons and their views are informed by their histories and beliefs. Some say there’s no chance several women could all be lying and yet it would be easy to find examples of such things. 538 Relax and Succeed - My parents divorcedLikewise, people can like the host and hate the idea that they were aligned with a rapist and so they can easily be defending him as a way of avoiding their own guilt-by-association. People lie for all kinds of reasons, and my point here is that the reason we should not take our opinions seriously is because they are based on beliefs and not on some hard reality.

You might be familiar with the website PostSecret. This was a clever idea for a site started by Frank Warren. The premise is that people mail in anonymous postcards containing secrets that they find difficult to maintain because they are so meaningful. Of course some of the cards themselves can be faked so the fact that they exist is no guarantee that they are true. And yet at the same time, doing the work I do, my sofa is a bit like a PostSecret seat where people admit to me secrets that they are sometimes suicidal about.

By now I’m sure you’re wondering what kinds of things I mean, so I’m using some actual PostSecret examples here in the photos to illustrate the kinds of things I mean. The worst example I can recall from my own practice is from many years ago. Two sisters who—when they were tweens—fabricated an affair for their father because they were angry at him. The whole thing rolled out of control and the parents divorced, leading to the mother being deeply depressed where she has in turn fallen into abusing both painkillers and alcohol. The younger sister came to me nearly a decade later concerned that her older sister was suicidal over their mother’s increasing self-abuse.538 Relax and Succeed - I said I miscarried

I’m sure you can see that as young kids it was easy for them not to extrapolate out what kind of things might unfold in an adult mind. I know for sure they never planned on causing their parents to divorce. They destroyed their own home and pushed their heartbroken mother to the brink, all over something that never actually happened. It’s tortuous to them that their father still loves them even though they know he is livid over what happened. He feels entirely violated and cannot believe anyone would be so heinous as to do such a cruel thing, and his own daughters often hear their father angrily describing the villain(s) in the worst possible terms, without him ever realizing that he is telling the story to the perpetrators. They routinely hear him describing the worst kind of person possible and they know he’s describing them. In essence, what took a few days to concoct has now lead to four people leading hellish lives for over a decade. That’s 40 years worth of suffering all for one childish lie. That’s a big one.

Now we can judge these girls for not coming clean. We can say it’s their responsibility, we can say they were clearly wrong, but they were eleven and thirteen. This was raging hormones combined with intense anger meeting naive minds and clever technical abilities. It was the perfect storm and it took down what otherwise had been by all accounts a great marriage—which is in part why it was so devastating to the mother who had thought her husband was incapable of such a thing—and indeed he likely was/is.

538 Relax and Succeed - I'm in too deepIf you don’t think they’re paying for it, think again. One has a drug problem and the other was suicidal. They live with this every single day. Everything they do reminds them of it. They are thoroughly self-hating. Imagine listening to your beloved father describing what he would like to do to the person who set him up when you know he’s describing what he would like to do to you. That if your own father knew it was you, he would want to kill you. It’s just heartbreaking and there’s no reason to think the truth would do anything other than make it worse. At least both parents love their kids. If they know the truth they’ll lose that too.

Please don’t assume you know things because people have told them to you. Everyone lies for reasons that make sense at the time. And sometimes these stories roll wildly out of control. I’ve had clergy admit that they stopped believing in God but still preach because they need the work. I’ve had people admit they accused people of horrible things that were not true, even though those accusations ruined the person’s life. I’ve had a grown man crying in front of me because he was so lonely after his wife left him that he kicked their beloved dog when the animal wanted to leave the room. He was just so hurt that the dog didn’t want to love him when he needed it so badly. After that,he organized everything in his life around the needs of the dog all in an effort to alleviate his guilt.

538 Relax and Succeed - If you didn't hear itPeople are logical once you know what the details and the values in their psyche are. But because we don’t know either the details or the values, we can only guess if what they are presenting is accurate. And as the examples above indicate, that includes the people closest to us, and even if they sincerely love us dearly. Life is much more complex than the movies make it seem.

So how can we live? By surrendering. By accepting our inability to know. By living in the mystery rather than desiring certainty. Because that permits a certain kind of clarity. It’s why I can hear both sides of the debate about the radio host and I know that almost every theory I hear could be true. And I also know they could not be true. So rather than having a useless opinion about the subject, I prefer to do what I can to inject the world with some love and positivity and I leave the rest to the universe. Because I cannot do anything about what did or didn’t happen. But I can choose to invest myself in sweeping in front of my own door, and in doing so I can hopefully inspire others to do likewise. And if we all do that the whole world may not be perfect, but it will be better.

peace. s

Other Perspectives #15

378 Relax and Succeed Rebuttal - Learn to admit your mistakes

Admitting to mistakes I’m all for. We’ve built cultures that are so aggressive, negative and punitive that we’ve discouraged people from being honest. So yes, admit your mistakes and in doing so own them and learn from them. But if you think you can stop people from exaggerating, embellishing or even downright lying about you—then think again. You have virtually no control over the actions of others and if there’s anything egos thrive on, it’s gossip. Egos feel it’s far better to sit and judge other people’s behaviour rather than making efforts to influence and direct their own. Let’s be clear: people will say things about you that aren’t true. They’ll say them for reasons that have nothing to do with you and everything to do with them. They’ll say them because they don’t want to take responsibility, or they don’t want to be seen in a bad light—they’ll even say them because they’re jealous of your success or ability or confidence. You can’t spend your life worrying about that. That’s like worrying about rain or wind. It’s going to happen regardless, so why invest so much time pretending you can do anything about that? You’re far better off to focus on building your Self and your sense of the world than you are in defending yourself against hollow accusations. In the latter case you gain nothing, in the former you expand your very being. And in the end, there’s no greater victory than that.

peace. s

Note: Everyone who posts or shares a quote does so with the very best of intentions. That said, I have created the series of Other Perspectives blog posts in an effort to prevent some of these ideas from entering into people’s consciousness unchallenged. These quotes range from silly to dangerous and—while I intend no offence to their creators—I do use these rebuttals to help define and delineate the larger message I’m attempting to convey in my own work. I do hope you find them helpful in your pursuit of both psychological and spiritual health.