Fostering Self-Respect

1350 Relax and Succeed - Fostering Self-Respect

People keep thinking the world’s a terrible place and yet people who are psychologically healthy see only challenges and fundamentally good people at various states of life who impact those challenges in a variety of ways that make sense. The Buddhists call this ‘causality.’

We have all done things we wouldn’t do today, so when people move in what we might call the ‘wrong’ direction that is really just humans being human. If they can’t avoid that then we can’t either, so the real problem is our thinking –our judgment.

The media makes a lot of money off our strongest emotions –fear, anger and sexuality– and they do not tell us really what is happening, they tell us whatever is happening that is likely to incite those emotions because that’s what keeps our eyeballs tuned into their product and their job is to sell ads or themselves.

But those financial incentives should be seen as just that: only an incentive. We can choose to see all of the countless great things that happen every day.

The reason this matters is because it is brain-training. If we constantly judge others for being ways we’re not, and if we constantly look for what’s wrong, scary or disrespectful, we aren’t defining who the ‘bad’ people are, we are teaching ourselves to be be judgmental and disrespectful to ourselves. Our brains get good at actions. Which directions they are aimed at is irrelevant.

How many people watch for kind or generous acts conducted by drivers or pedestrians? Who watches for people helping others with their kids, or small kindnesses offered in a grocery store lineup? Who sees the book recommendation from a co-worker as an act of love? They had a wonderful experience and want to share it with us. That is a beautiful thing.

1350 Relax and Succeed - Our ways of interrelating with each other

As someone who does this all the time, I see evidence of how the world is amazing every single day, from scientists making life-saving discoveries to new parents losing all of their sleep to care for a newborn, to signs designed to help us find where we’re going, or a boss correcting our work so that we don’t lose our jobs. Even something as simple as walking by a park shows that, at some point, some people cared enough about others to want them to have some green-space.

By seeing the best in the world around us we help ourselves to see those qualities within ourselves too. We benefit from exercising that muscle. We benefit from the practice. When we feel strong, and when we feel like we have many allies, we are powerful beings.

The problem is less our differences and more about how we choose to live with them. Because the problem with two people disagreeing over an issue is not that they differ, it’s when they will employ hatred and a lack of respect and then claim the other person deserves it for merely disagreeing with our beliefs —no matter what those beliefs are.

If we want to know how spiritual we truly are, we find out in our exchanges with those with whom we do not agree. That will tell us how we treat ourselves during challenging times, because that is when we also question our own wisdom and question our own worth.

Criticism takes us nowhere, but compassion and humility will get us where we want to be. And that can not only change us, it can change the world, because young minds will use us as the guides for their own behaviour.

peace. s

 

Light The Darkness

1317 Relax and Succeed - Light the Darkness

The biggest challenge for society is also the biggest challenge for most individuals; to find a way to love our enemies. But this is not as hard a thing as one might imagine. What we need is not some new level of love, our natural love is plenty. What we need is, understanding.

Racists of all types are obviously sources of tremendous suffering to many. And people will say that hate doesn’t overcome hate, but just as quickly they will justify mean-spirited exchanges or even violence by talking about the need to ‘fight back’ against ugliness. The fighting back itself is a form of ugliness. That strategy has been tried for a long time. It’s simply not what works.

Irrational fears of other cultures are no different than irrational fears about water, or airplanes or germs. People aren’t evil for not understanding something. They’re not stupid just because they don’t have enough experience with something to understand it. Fear of the unfamiliar is built into us by nature. We all share that.

In cases of racism, let’s not turn it into actual people. It’s just some misinformation and an honest human survival mechanism triggering unnecessarily due to a lack of conditioning. Even what times we eat were established by conditioning, so we should all be able to relate to how ideas come alive within us feeling very much like our nature. That is why it doesn’t help to scream at a racist to change.

From a racist’s perspective they are simply being rational. What they are missing is more nuanced experience with their subject. So we have to kindly invite them to walk alongside us while we get them more familiar with some ideas that might at first seem very foreign and uncomfortable.

1317 Relax and Succeed - Make the world brighter

If anyone is going into foreign and uncomfortable territory, we’d all want someone friendly along. But we have to do the friend part first, but few of us want to go there. It takes spiritual courage.

If we attack people for attacking others we are only showing that we’ve lost sight of another person’s humanity when that is exactly what we must appeal to. But it must be their spirit that we speak to, not the framework of their ephemeral ideas.

We first must be trusted by their soul. Only then can we inform. With greater understanding, fear and anger naturally have no place and serve no purpose. The problem solves itself through understanding.

We don’t need to fight fire with fire. We don’t just want to strive toward justice in this world. We want to be forgiving, and even go so far as to extend compassion to those who oppose us. That is the emotional territory that truly leaves our ‘opponents’ off balance –it’s too rare a reaction.

If we’re looking for an advantage in life, then love is likely the answer. People see so little of it from those they disagree with, that it almost shocks them into a kind of spiritual submission.

Learning how to give love sincerely in difficult cases is a spiritual achievement in and of itself. So let us make forgiveness of those we disagree with our spiritual practice for the rest of this week. Let us see if we can find new ways of engaging with old challenges. Because when the world feels dark, the wise shine brighter.

peace, s

Shifting Identities

1287 Relax and Succeed - Politeness is to human natureIf you don’t think you have different identities just try this: the next time you’re talking to someone you don’t like, imagine that someone you respect more than almost anyone is listening to the exchange.

If you do that earnestly you’ll find that you’ll choose more charitable and productive words and even friendlier body language with whoever you’re dealing with, even someone you don’t like.

But why would you be nicer? Or nice to someone you don’t like? Are you a brown-noser? A climber? A show off? Not really.

You would feel the urge to be nicer because, while you might possibly have been unusually nice to someone you don’t like anyway, what this thought experiment demonstrates is that we all subconsciously desire, more than anything, to belong.

This means that if someone we respected was watching us, we would naturally want to demonstrate our virtue to increase our value to them, and by extension their group. That doesn’t mean the virtue itself is entirely false. It simply means it was real virtue triggered by events.

Since a group of cooperating people will always out-compete a group of selfish people, we were built to be pack animals. This means that any action that ingratiates us to, or protects our status within, a group will be naturally appealing to a healthy human, even if only on a subconscious level. Sometimes it makes us feel good to help others and we do it for the joy we get, but it is also beneficial to be seen to be helping others, sincerely or otherwise. It builds community. Our impulse is natural.

But why would you be nicer? Or nice to someone you don’t like? Are you a brown-noser? A climber? A show off? Not really.

We have to keep in mind, chimps and bonobos are farther out on the evolutionary bush than we are, by millions of years. They are newer to evolution than we are. We are animals who are civilized, but still animals. We naturally feel safer in groups than alone, and that inclination in us explains everything from disenfranchised kids joining gangs, to why former team-sport athletes often struggle with depression after retirement. People need a tribe of some sort.

Having a place in a group is where we belong, and any feeling outside of that drives us toward belonging like thirst leads us to water. That’s why the world feels so harsh right now.

1287 Relax and Succeed - We shouldn’t build sharp tall fencesEveryone’s so judgmental that no one feels acceptable and that’s lead to insecurity that in turn leads to loneliness etc. etc. We shouldn’t use harsh judgments to build sharp, tall fences around ourselves when we are also stumbling through reality. We need each other, including each other’s forgiveness for our own inabilities.

There are two major ways to connect ourselves to others: the love we share that is comforting, and/or our value in terms of what we can contribute to their lives. Put another way, someone who protects us from dragons can get away with being grumpy; and being lovable is simply dragon-slaying love with a nicer role. But what binds us is a shared responsibility to each other. Denying that is painful, fulfilling it feels good, even if that involves fighting ‘dragons.’

Every role done well has value, and every tribe can carry a struggling member for a time. This is the value of community, and our ability to appreciate that value explains why we naturally become more aware of the value of kindness while we are in the presence of others.

Enjoy your days.

peace. s