The 912

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

peace. s

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

MoK: Acknowledgement

There are a lot of ways to take action in this world. Some people do it through clubs they belong to. Others do it casually, as circumstances arise, while still others become formal volunteers or contributors. Even if it’s in small ways, most people contribute to the world around them in a generous and thoughtful way.

People hold doors, do favours, offer money, or engage in labour all for the benefit of someone else. Today in the March of Kindness our job is simple: we want to watch life for these acts. We want to openly acknowledge the act as being generous and kind. It’s one thing to think inside your own head, Wow, it was nice of that lady to carry that older lady’s bags to her car, and something entirely different if you thank her on behalf of the world.

The impulse to be kind is already alive and well in the person, but we all know how it feels to get criticised. It makes us feel smaller and weaker. Using the same mechanism, getting acknowledgement for doing helpful positive things helps us feel stronger and more capable. But too-often the acknowledgements are silent. Why would we stay quiet about delivering such good news?

Today your job is to notice the little things people didn’t have to do and to acknowledge them. The gratitude feels good for us to experience, and every one of us would be motivated to do even more kind things if we were more consciously aware of how it helps us to feel like we belong. Being valuable to the group is a win-win for all involved.

It’s funny that we can be afraid to say nice things to people. Do we really think people are going to get angry and upset with us for bringing up their niceness? Most people light right up. It’s a nice connection between people and it’s worth developing. But for that sense of unity to exist in your community, people need to be able to sense their bonds. They can’t be silent and uncertain. We have to speak up and offer praise more than we offer criticisms.

Just yesterday I had a grocery store clerk help me load grocery bags into my arms, a tech support person was particularly helpful, I had a woman hold a door for me at an office building, I had a friend drop by to offer some expertise on an important family issue, and I got a welcome invitation to an event. And that’s just off the top of my head.

Today is about acknowledging those good things in life, whether we’re the benefactor or someone else is. The idea today is to focus our grateful attention on people who are taking action. Before the day is out try to offer at least three different acknowledgements. Turn your radar on to how kind the world is and you’ll see that it’s better than you might have thought.

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.

Reasons for Optimism

954 Relax and Succeed - Be the lightBecause the news trades in fear, anger, sympathy and titillation you have been innocently lead to believe that the world is much, much worse than it really is. The news is one hour long: a couple minutes for the intro intro, a few minutes of flashy graphics interspersed, a few minutes for what’s going on in your city, a few for your country and then huge chunks for what is essentially entertainment: weather and sports. Over a quarter of it is advertising, which means you see almost nothing about what’s actually going on around you. That’s hardly enough time to encapsulate even a tiny fraction of humanity’s achievements each day.

Every single day a huge number of friendships get made, degrees are earned, citizenship is obtained, freedoms are gained, and things are learned. Much joy is felt and there are many very good reasons to be optimistic. Everyone imagines everything growing worse and there’s many signs that won’t happen the way people are imagining.

We invented terrible bombs in the 40’s and put treaties on them and started dismantling them within 50 years. Pollution was a byproduct of the work-saving era of the Industrial Revolution. The point was to save people from backbreaking work, not to create pollution. So that was generally our first big worldwide issue but there was no internet so the world couldn’t get organised as quick as it can now. By the time we hit acid rain we got on it and fixed it pretty quickly. We tackled the ozone layer, CFC’s and now we’re on carbon. We’re doing pretty good. We actually fix things faster than we break them, not to mention that disease treatments make important advances every day.

954 Relax and Succeed - Everyone thinks of changing the worldThe news makes its money selling fear and uncertainty, not confidence. What’s wrong with our world isn’t that big stuff because that’s clearly going better than the news will ever give it credit for. What’s wrong with our world is that we talk to ourselves and others about what we don’t like but we don’t actually do the things we claim we like.

Politeness isn’t something for chumps or losers. Maybe a gangster would say that but gangsters live to about 25 so…. Politeness is simply the acknowledgement of the presence and value of another human being. It’s odd that politeness ever got perverted into being something we shouldn’t prioritise for our own sake. We win in that exchange.

How many calories or milliseconds does it take to hold a door for someone? And yet how nice is it when someone takes the time to hold it for you? It’s not like you needed to use a lot of calories on the door either, but this way you both acknowledged each other in a society whose primary sickness is its self-centred focus. Despite the fact that the connections consistently feel good you often choose to do things that then prevent you from making more of them.

954 Relax and Succeed - Today will never come againYou do a lot of very active things to cut yourself off from other humans. Have you looked at those things to see if you want to keep all of them? Yes, you need down time and alone time, but most people are starved for more contact. Stop making that a problem of the world’s and start creating your own personal solutions by actually taking opportunities to make just the simplest of connections; smiling as you walk by on the street, saying good morning to co-workers, buying the person behind you a coffee, holding a door.

The world does not get better because we’re smart and know what other people should do. The world and our own lives get better because we’re just plain nicer, more patient, more tolerant and more loving than we’ve ever been.

peace and love. 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.

Spirituality is a Verb

Maybe you attend a church or synagogue or mosque or temple. Maybe you read scripture or are knowledgeable about the philosophies behind your religion. Maybe you dress a certain way, sit a certain way and meditate a certain way. But those are all just things your ego is doing. Spirituality is a verb. It is an act of love. It doesn’t discuss what should be done by us or others. It acts. It is love in motion.

24 Relax and Succeed - The simplest acts of kindnessTake all of the energy you currently put into telling others how they should vote, how they should eat, what manners they should have, what opinions they should have of what people, places or things, plus take all of the energy you put into religious rituals and invest all of that life force into sharing more love. Use it to hold open a door for someone or give up the good parking space to someone else. Buy the next person in the drive-through their coffee. Look after someone’s kids so they can go on a date night. Offer to help a neighbour with something. Pick up some litter. Take in a rescue dog. Instead of being impatient with the crying baby in the check-out lineup, try to see if you can help. Or let them ahead of you in line.

There are a million ways in which we can all make the world a much better place. Every day we all sit and complain about how it is all while we pass up countless opportunities to do nice things. In doing so we lose the wonderful feeling that goes with generosity. We don’t say hello to people we pass. We don’t smile at strangers. We don’t compliment people. We don’t demonstrate patience, offer assistance to others or slow down to offer condolences to those who are suffering. We steal loving experiences from ourselves by saying we’re busy, that we have obligations or that we don’t know how to respond. In truth all we’ve ever needed to do with others is Be Present.

24 Relax and Succeed - Beginning today treat everyone one you meetStart today. Put three circles on a post-it note and check one off for every intentional good deed you do. Make it something out of the ordinary. Buy someone having a bad day a lottery ticket and wish them luck. Buy the favourite beverage of a co-worker you don’t like and give it to them. Make rather than buy (even if you’re terrible at things like that) a card for your spouse. Do a chore that’s normally not yours to do. Or here is one of the most valuable ones because you are shifting negative energy into positive energy: show kindness and generosity when you’re unfairly attacked by someone.

The world won’t get better when other people smarten up, it’ll get better when we make it that way with our actions. It is literally filled with opportunities for us to enact our inner beauty. Don’t pass yours up. It’s an easy, fun way to build yourself a truly wonderful life.

How are you going to start loving the world?

peace. s