Psychological Knots

409 Relax and Succeed - Let go or be dragged

I recently posted the photo above on this blog’s social media and it struck me as being particularly relevant right now. There are various terms in society that people use or run into without really thinking about them, yet examining those concepts are important meditations to undertake.

Yes, some people can go routes like Transcendental Meditation and that does help the mind clear. But for many people that is not their favoured route to our shared, central truth. Fortunately, there are many paths up the mountain.

For many in the West particularly, our subtly Socratic society means we are often more comfortable approaching wisdom or clarity by disassembling ego. This is generally done with a guide, by studying the language –the labels– that shape the conversations our egos conduct with us.

As an example, when I work with a group of women who have organized themselves into a lunchtime workplace, spirituality/self-help group, the aim of the ten week course is to guide them to experience epiphanies that relate to their personal definitions of Self.

Each of them will be unique people, but they all get healthier by doing the same thing; we simply challenge the value and necessity of achieving their individual desires, yet we do it in ways that do not threaten the vitality they live life with.

This is not the sort of self-examination most people are practiced at, hence my role. It takes some explaining to help people understand how it’s not a paradox to have a motivating goal and yet not have an attachment to it.

1339 Relax and Succeed - Learn to cut through

If we were watching ourselves more closely, we would know that when times are good, most of us can be pretty good about non-attachment. But when they’re not, if we err, it will often be through our attachments to what we perceive as necessary outcomes that may not be viable, whether they feel ‘fair’ or ‘deserved’ or not.

Our desire for an answer is itself not an answer, so there is no point in adding to our pain with voluntary psychological suffering. If we’re conscious, the pain of that mistake is usually what gets us to redirect our thoughts into some form of action, even if it’s a bit feeble or incapable of providing our desired answer. Even feeble action feels better than worried rumination or speculation.

Attachments and desires. The Buddha was right, they generate suffering. In those groups of women they each find hidden attachments they have held that were framed in ways they simply could not see before. And once those attachments and their meanings get exposed in a profoundly deep ways through our dialogue, their own understanding leads them to a natural process of bunny-hopping to greater peace and mental health.

Once we have see how they are created and how they function, conscious people win increasingly more battles with their desires until they reach the point of total surrender. It’s a beautiful, empowering thing and the journey’s a joy as well.

There are ways out of the tangle of our own thinking. It’s a form of self care to take action to untie the knots that we carry in our psychology. And asking for help isn’t a sign of weakness shown toward others, it is a sign of strength shown to ourselves.

If we’re really ready, we needn’t suffer longer than we have. We can learn to understand.

peace. s

Discovering Mindfulness

1336 Relax and Succeed - Discovering Mindfulness

Not learning; discovering. Mindfulness is not something we come to know, it’s something we come to do. Allow me to illustrate.

Imagine two days. If anyone asks us, we say that the first day was wonderful. If they ask why, we explain that we spent the first day typing letters to people who had won awards for doing wonderful life-changing things for strangers.

If they ask about day two, we all say it was horrible. One of our worst days at work, ever. If they ask why, we’ll explain that we had to transcribe sessions of brutal torture, and write letters to inform innocent people of the untimely and violent deaths of their innocent loved ones.

Let us review the facts. We are at the same desk, using the same computer and software, working for the same bosses, being paid the same amount, writing in a room the same temperature, with the same soundscape.

If all else is equal, then the only difference between a wonderful day at work and a horrible one is what is inside our heads while we’re there. Considering how ephemeral thought is, that is a wide pendulum swing –from wonderful to horrible– all using the same bits of reality, with the only difference being our thoughts. That’s worth meditating on.

1336 Relax and Succeed - When we're healthy we're all achieving

As important as they clearly are, for a beginner, trying to entirely stop our thinking is often a frustrating route that ends up taking much longer than taking steps.

First we must understand our thinking in new ways. From that level of awareness we can begin to see how it can become easier to be less affected by it. Rather than stopping our thinking, we learn to make it less relevant. After all, we do need it sometimes. We can’t have a path without a not-path.

Clearly what’s in our heads matters. I won’t pretend that shifting our understanding is ‘easy,’ but it’s also not hard. I’ve said it before –it’s like learning to multiply numbers. It seems really obscure until you suddenly ‘get it.’ Then we wonder what’s actually different between when we couldn’t and when we can?

I had an insight myself today, where I realized that what I actually do with students is just describe things from the perspective they’re seeking. Because it’s very natural for me, I can analogize it. That means I can remove their ego from their deliberations regarding the sense of what I’m saying. It depersonalizes the principles involved. Then I take them back to their life with the principle established, which they often quickly realize also applies to their situation.

This isn’t a traditional top-down intellectual offering, learning this is more getting onto the same level to share the flame from a common candle that illuminates a shared path. I’m no different from you, I’m just more experienced doing this because I had the good fortune to have an accident. But when we’re healthy, we’re all achieving that health in essentially the same way. And that makes that a way worth knowing.

peace, s

The Parent Trap

1224 Relax and Succeed - We must accomodateYou’re a parent and obviously you want to do a great job of raising your kid. Or maybe you know a parent who’s trying to do that. Either way, people have no idea what the future will look like so it’s essentially impossible to raise a kid for success. About all anyone can do is raise their children to be flexible enough that they can thrive in any future.

My grandmother lived on the prairies before steam powered machines hit the farms. One bad growing season and people in her generation literally starved to death in the middle of Canada. My parents both served in and obviously survived, WWII. Not all their siblings did as well. For my parent’s generation and all the generations before them, being a good parent was pretty straightforward: keep the kids alive, and try to teach them some basics about staying alive and getting along with others.

That was it. No books, no manuals, no classes. There weren’t different philosophies or theories to follow or adhere to. There were no real major rules to be broken as a parent as long as your kid wasn’t a criminal. And most people turned out pretty healthy and certainly happier than people test as today. Today it’s much different. Today there’s a lot of choice available regarding parenting styles.

1224 Relax and Succeed - A bad moment and bad dayStyles. Before, when two parents met for lunch, one parent could see the other parent’s kids were alive and they’d talk as two adults about things unrelated to their kids. Today people meet and fretfully discuss the latest article they read that either promises the path to certain success or that explains what is certain to lead to disaster. It’s all very binary, as though parenting is either good or bad when really it’s neither.

As much as we like to dress it all up in psychological terminology, “parenting” a child is really them just the kid mimicking or reverse-mimicking whatever the caregiver does. Parents are simply the child’s most common examples of human behaviour. So if someone truly wants to be a great parent, other than loving their child, they should simply let the child be and focus instead on being the best person–and best example–they can be.

Oh, and as you’re trying to be that great example, don’t forget that when you do set a bad example, you shouldn’t beat yourself up over it because that sets another bad example. Instead we should accept our responsibility and know it felt bad because it was out of alignment with who we really are. And if we have that feeling, then the child will be parented just fine. Accept mistakes as lessons and move on. Because even if that was the only skill you taught your child, they would have learned a lot.

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.