Energy Conversion

I have a dear friend who I respect a great deal. He’s a good man but he’s going through a tough time. He’s losing one of his closest friends to cancer. It’s going to happen quickly—which in some ways can be a blessing in disguise. But there is no way of getting around the fact that this will require a massive adjustment to a new reality for my friend.

568 Relax and Succeed - We are the loveIn situations like that people always search for meaning. Everything happens for a reason people will say. But of course the reason is created in our own minds. The reason is constructed by us for us. And so we would do well to carefully consider where we are going to place this substantial density of meaning.

No matter what we’ll go through Kubler-Ross’s stages of dying, all the time muttering to ourselves about whatever stage we’re in. But we can force our pain out through those activities in our consciousness, stage by stage, or we can convert the energy from that pain into something meaningful. This is one of the most powerful things a human being can do. We can take in one kind of energy and we can act to flip it into its inverse. We can turn that energy 180 degrees.

The way we do this is to fully feel our pain. Don’t back away from it, move toward it. Feel its texture. Feel what it’s made of. Feel the details of those agonizing thoughts. Study them like a scientist would study a chemical reaction or the behaviour of an animal. Just watch yourself closely and come to better understand your pain. And in doing so you will become aware of the preciousness of life itself. Of the temporaryness of it. Of its fragility. And yet, of its potential vitality.

568 Relax and Succeed - When you arise in the morningYou will realize that just as some friend’s family did not know they were losing their father only one hour before the news arrived, the same could unknowingly happen in your own family tomorrow. And so rather than turn that into some maudlin loss of purpose, turn it the exact opposite direction and see life for the exciting opportunity that it is. Opportunity for what? For love in all of its forms. Laughter, camaraderie, empathy, romance, friendship, joy. Convert the agony of loss into the unrestrained openness of unconditional love.

You have a choice you either consciously or subconsciously make every single moment. You choose how to analyze the Is-ness of the world. So yes, you can look at the death of a friend as a horrible injustice and no matter how healthy you are your mind will spend at least some time in the angry stage. But the sooner we can reach acceptance, the sooner we can begin to take our grief and convert it into love. Love for the person leaving us and love for those still with us.

That is the awareness that death brings with it. When juxtaposed to death we can suddenly appreciate that life itself is a verb. That before being healthy or happy we must simply be. And when something reminds us that nothing lasts forever and everything changes, we realize that everything includes us. That we and all of our loved ones are temporary spacemen on this little rock hurtling through the cosmos. We are but a blip on the timeline of the universe. Which is why it is all the more important that we love all we can for the short time we’re here.

It’s a wonderful opportunity, life is. Just ask anyone who’s losing theirs if you should waste yours and you’ll always get the same answer. Live. Live fully and deeply and bravely. Because things like failure or loss mean nothing. We all end up dead anyway. So don’t waste your life wishing for a different one. Live this one as fully as you can. Because to do that is a choice, and to not make that choice is to surrender the most valuable thing you have.

peace. s

The Suffering Child

Parents are often inadvertently cruel to their children. It’s an entirely innocent mistake. They don’t even notice they’re doing it because they don’t recognize that they live in a separate reality from their kids. That’s the kind of thing I would think about. It’s the reason I’m weird. The things I spent my childhood and adolence and adulthood thinking about are not the kinds of things people usually think about—at least not until they’re doing something like studying philosophy in university. And so without that more complete perspective, very loving parents can easily end up really disrespecting their own kids.

566 Relax and Succeed - Too often we underestimate the power of a touchThe trick is that both the parent and kid will generally see the world as being out there and happening to them. It’s an outside-in approach. But in reality it’s the other way around. The outside world exists because of the choices you make in your interior world—the world of your thinking. And because the definition of an individual is someone who thinks their own thoughts, it means that everyone is living in a different matrix of belief and awareness.

How this translates to the relationship between a parent and child is that the parent uses their life reference points when discussing things with their kid. But that lacks empathy, because you’re not really talking about the same thing. Case in point: if a kid is going through their first romantic breakup it’s normal that they’re completely upended by the experience. Tortured. Agonized. Maybe in tears, maybe angry, maybe so hurt they bury themselves. But it’s real pain. The problem is that the parent then contextualizes this against their life experience.

What this all means is that the parent looks at the breakup on a 50 year scale of life events. With that kind of perspective they can realize that they have had numerous painful breakups, but that’s been mixed in with marriages, babies, illnesses, the deaths of people and pets. The experience is graded on a much finer curve with an adult. But the adult needs to remember that, whether you’ve cut off a finger or an arm, it hurts all the same. That from the kid’s perspective, the breakup could be the most painful experience they have ever had.

566 Relax and Succeed - A smart person knowsSure they will eventually have additional experiences that will make the current one seem less powerful, but for now this is all they can know and telling them about how it’ll feel better is useless to them. We don’t hear about experiences, we have them. That’s the only way we know anything. If it’s the kid’s worst experience ever then it deserves compassion. They don’t know that it won’t seem so bad when compared to the rest of their life. So their biggest loss is best compared to your biggest loss—even if that loss is much greater in relative terms. Because that’s the point: everything is relative.

Don’t be dismissive of your kids experiences. Take the time to remember what these things are like at their age. Be like a writer and actually take the time to remember what it was like to be different ages. You might be surprised at what you remember. And the more you do it, you might be surprised at how good you get at it. And that will help a great deal with being empathetic toward your children.

Bottom line, it’s important to always respect the feelings of others as genuine. But in doing so, always do your best to remember that pain is pain and diminishing that with casual offers of future comfort is to miss an opportunity to make a powerful and useful connection with another human being. And all the better if that human being is your child. Have an awesome day.

peace. s

The Wisdom of Mandy Patinkin

218 Relax and Succeed - Life can only be understoodWhat is your life? Your experience of life takes place in your consciousness. So if you’re somewhere pleasant but you’re thinking unpleasant thoughts, you will have an unpleasant experience that you will blame on the subject of your thoughts, rather than on the fact that you are choosing to think them.

Growth comes when we recognise our own culpability in our experiences. When we stop blaming others, or the world, or some event, and instead we accept that our life is like any other and it is not made better by having this or that thing or person or experience. It’s made better by what we choose to think about.

So what do you spend your day thinking? What battle are you forever locked in? Everyone has at least one: what’s yours? Do you feel forever scarred by a betrayal and you perpetually tell yourself what you would say to them if you had the chance? Are you a victim of some terrible event that you keep telling yourself shouldn’t have happened? Do you spend your time speculating about what you suspect are other people’s judgments about ? Or are you like Mandy Patinkin, and you live telling yourself a story about how you in particular were ripped off because your dad died when you were young?

Those stories take up a lot of time and energy. They are far more of your day and life than you realise and changing them will make a big difference. But as Kierkegaard said, “Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.” So being lost isn’t a problem. That’s life. But having an insight—realising that you make more sense than you thought—is a profound moment, as is evidenced by Mr. Patinkin in this video. It’s not like his life still wouldn’t be grand without this knowledge, but there’s no doubt that being aware of that choice and choosing something different is a giant opportunity in life that you should seize as soon as you are able.

Figure out your central story. Listen to your thoughts and you will see strong patterns emerge, and those patterns will tell you who you are subconsciously being. Make the subconscious conscious and you are free. Pay as much attention to the quality of your thinking as you do to the quality of your clothing, cars and phones and you’ll have profoundly improved your life.

Enjoy.

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.