World Kindness Day

1379 Relax and Succeed - Remember there's no such thing as a small act of kindness

As promised, I am working on some pieces about my experience, the fear, and dealing with intense pain. Due to the depth required for those subjects I will need more time to fully assemble those ideas. You are better served if I can find ways to make my experience useful to you in the most material ways possible.

In the meantime, I am grateful that it happens to be World Kindness Day. That fact allows me to take the time to write and finalize those pieces, as well as celebrate this day by discussing how we can extend our sentiments beyond this single day, so they may imbue our lives throughout our year.

We can often see our kindnesses or our gratitude as things we give to others, but this is only because we tend to see our reality as being ‘out there,’ in some external sense. With a deeper understanding, we realize that all of our ‘experiences’ happen within our consciousness, which means genuine expressions of gratitude or kindness are even more our experiences than they are those of the people we may be helping or showing kindness toward.

Today, and going forward, I would strongly encourage everyone to join me in the daily meditation of seeing life not as something happening to us, but rather an experience we are co-creating with the universe, moment by moment. Like the cells of a single organism, our state does impact the state of those around us, just as those parts of reality also affect us, so control is not our answer.

Just as we will sometimes not be at our best, so too will other cells in the organism that is our larger society. There is no hope of us fully grasping or controlling that reality, but we can learn to accept it in ways that are profound, and that permit us to understand what people mean when they say things like, “Before I was enlightened I suffered. After I was enlightened I suffered.”

Acceptance adds a form of grace to the latter portion of that statement. By living in that way, we build no residual resentments, attachments or expectations, although we may experience them fleetingly. Likewise, we all regularly experience enlightened moments. What everyone seeks is a somewhat efficient route from their suffering, and to their moments of grace.

While we are never free of what the Buddhist’s call the cycle of samsara, we can learn to move within it with greater awareness and psycho-spiritual skill.

How this takes shape in real time can be demonstrated with my recent pain, and the fears around potentially losing my sight. As with anyone, the pain was agonizing, and the fears were based in very real potential outcomes. We can come to see that external reality as ‘our environment,’ much like the banks of a river are not the river, but they do form –and are formed by– the flow of our lives.

What gives us grace is our ability to remember that, like the river, periods of tumultuous rapids and frightening waterfalls are only parts of our overall flow through the moments of our life. All rivers change as they move through the geography of our reality, so all states are temporary. This is why I often refer to a wise Buddhist monk who once told me that the secret to living is that “everything changes.”

As we experience intense pain, we can become aware that our state is temporary. This turns our agony into a waiting-game of positive anticipation. We don’t know when or how we might feel better, but we know that the river of our lives continues to flow even though our pain can leave us inactive.

The above describes why suicidal thoughts can be natural, and yet ultimately foolhardy, because they operate on the presumption that nothing is changing if we are still. But whether rapids on a river last for 10 miles or one, our surrounding geography will eventually change our flow whether we act or not. In this way our own patience is a form of meditation or prayer.

If we can see this clearly, it allows us to simply let our suffering ‘be.’ That wisdom is reflected in Paul McCartney’s advice to John Lennon’s son in the song, Hey Jude,” wherein he reminds the boy that despite our periods of personal darkness, it is worthwhile to maintain our conscious anticipation and movement toward better experiences to come.

1379 Relax and Succeed - The level of our success is limited only by our imagination

Again, while our suffering in life is often unavoidable, what allows us to flow forward is our deep knowing that all of our states of mind are always temporary. This also means that, when we see others in states of suffering, we should not see our acts of kindness as merely gestures –in fact these actions are what shape the banks of other’s rivers.

In many cases, our own ‘rapids’ will dissolve thanks to the efforts of others, both seen and unseen. That being the case, in closing, I would like to thank the many people who very recently and greatly contributed to the gradual easing of my own suffering.

Without these people I would surely have struggled far more, and while my gratitude is my own to feel, I do hope they each saw their own kind acts as their own meditations on gratitude, empathy and compassion. In this way, my own pain can act as an opportunity for grace for those around me.

In terms of specifics, I would like to take this opportunity to single out those who have, and continue to, allow this struggle through the rapids of my life to move from near intolerable, to places where I can now feel deeply grateful to no longer be in the worst parts of the experience.

To this end I offer deep and special thanks to Doctors Baker and Sia, as well as the entire remarkable staff at the Alberta Retina Consultants. In addition to them, I would also like to thank the support and surgical staff at the Royal Alexandra Hospital, as well as the family and friends that supported me throughout this process.

These people include Don, Anita, Henry, James, Nick, Mike, Kirsten, Christina, Brian, Jarrid, Christian, Sausan, Sue, and for the compassion shown by Tracy, Beth, Rob, Dwayne and Charlotte (and any others my addled state may have forgotten).

As I also live in a nation with nationalized health care, I would also like to thank my fellow Canadians for your contributions toward making such a system work in my time of need.

In closing, today, as you move about your own World Kindness Day, remember that you are not only lifting weight from the specific people you help but, in total, you are also adding to a much larger force that, along with others, is easing suffering throughout the universe itself.

peace. s

Trusting Love

 

1315 Relax and Succeed - Adults can choose where they goWhy do so many young women have a lack of faith in the love of their partners? There are many reasons for that, but almost all women do face at least one common enemy.

Due to many of the thought-shaping forces in society being quite blunt and broad, many of us end up impacted by the same social memes, advertising techniques, fashions, trends, tropes and clichés. We all share many constructs in society, and in fact society itself is a construct. But it would be good if it could be a helpful one.

Of course these forces all hit us slightly differently, but the ones that are designed as marketing and propaganda will have been built to capitalize on insecurities that many of us share. For this reason we can see patterns of behaviour in various marketing demographics, and one of the groups in which these effects are easiest to see, is in girls and young women aged 14-30.

Women overall take a beating in the marketing and advertising world. They are subjected to messages about being too fat, not curvy enough, their hair’s all wrong, their skin and breath are bad, they have a poor diet and they’re not sexy enough. Let’s see, what do we have there? A too, a not, a wrong, a bad, a poor, and a not enough. How’s a girl to survive?

The worst places an insecure self-view can take us is into unhealthy relationships where we are too focused on pleasing the other person and not enough on nurturing what’s healthy for us –which would hopefully include the behaviour of our romantic partners. That sort of inferior sense can cause people to stay in relationships they would be better to leave.

The worst places an insecure self-view can take us is into unhealthy relationships where we are too focused on pleasing the other person and not on nurturing what’s healthy for us —

Almost as bad, those same forces can mean that even people who find healthy relationships can have trouble accepting the idea that they truly deserve love. I have a former student who is a classic example of this.

She says she’s shy but really she’s just a little bit, and just when she meets someone. But then almost everyone is a little bit, they just hide it in different ways. She’s also very smart and she thinks thoughtfully about things, so she’s very interesting to talk to.

I can’t say if you’d think she was pretty or the ‘right’ weight, because those are subjective personal opinions. All I can say is that she seems pretty to me and her weight seems right in every way but one: she doesn’t like it.

If you saw her most people would find her thin, yet she’s noted she goes through phases of worrying about her weight. This absolutely breaks my heart. We are talking about an amazing person here. She could really go anywhere with her future, she’s trying to be as wise as a person can be about living.

She also has a mother that, like all mothers and daughters, she has struggles with sometimes. But that’s also the same mother that brought her to me a few years ago when she was worried about her, so clearly she cares, even if they have some trouble connecting at this stage in their lives. That is hardly uncommon.

In addition to the backstop of her own background and capability, she also has only praise for her boyfriend, and her descriptions of him are the sort that genuinely make me happy. He treats her well, and with respect.

She’s not a showpiece or a doormat. He admires her but he is confused by her insecurities. He doesn’t understand how she can be so smart and not calculate that she must be impressive just by looking at the evidence in her life. And he would have a point.

Obviously he’s dating her because he thinks out of all of the women he could pursue, she is the most amazing. Guys are not known for aiming for second best. We’ll either go for first or torture ourselves waiting for the courage to try. Bottom line, if he’s with her it’s because he wants to be.

1315 Relax and Succeed - Even if we find love will we accept

Now don’t get me wrong, even if she has some understandable insecurities, they still have a wonderful relationship. She’s stunningly helpful to him –I doubt he can know how fortunate he is having so little to compare to at his age.

If she’s extremely emotional and inclined to be unreasonable, she actually lets him know that she can’t discuss the issue until later because she knows she’ll be unreasonable. To many people, that’s a dream girl right there.

Of course, once she calms down, 90% of the time they have nothing to discuss, which might explain why the relationship is much more appreciation than drama. What I like most about it is they usually seem to either discuss interesting ideas or have fun. They are young and have much to learn like all of us, but it sounds like a really good match –if only she could accept that she deserves it.

So here we have a pretty, slim, smart, strong, wise young woman with support coming in different ways from both family and her boyfriend and circle of friends, plus she’s very mature about how she approaches both her career and her relationships, yet when she feels weak she feels all too, and not, and wrong, and bad, and poor, and lacking, and just not sexy enough.

She has every indication that she is incredible, leaving the only reason she feels that way is largely because of advertising and marketing campaigns that swirl around people’s heads and that get traded between young ladies like dark whirling Pig Pen-like tornadoes of thought. Their social media can be horrifying.

It was tiny little her against an army of highly paid psychologists and advertising specialists. It is that haze of external sales pitches that has brainwashed her to the point where it prevents her from seeing who I see, who her friends see, and who her boyfriend sees. A totally 100% acceptable person. Just like everyone reading this.

We did make a lot of headway in that she continues to be remarkably helpful to her relationship and she’s now found ways to finish school despite facing some bullying, and show now has at least part of her post-school life sorted out in a way that excites her.

Like everyone, she will still have life struggles, but by learning more about how she participates in her own creation of her reality she has already freed herself from constraints that many adults still strongly feel held back by.

All that said, her realizations won’t be complete until she reaches one key point. She currently cannot fully appreciate the reasons why her boyfriend loves her, or why her friends love her, or why I admire her as a person, and why her mother sees her as loaded with potential. There’s too many marketing ideas poisoning those facts.

It is a process, but one she has begun in earnest. If she didn’t, he would be forever trapped having to build her up when he would rather just enjoy his time with a woman that he already sees as complete.

Sure, finishing school, fostering a healthy relationship and finding a career path are no small things to accomplish. But it is important that she continue to watch for examples that help to prove to herself that she truly deserves the love she gets, and that her boyfriend really does think she’s perfect just the way she is.

It is a process, but one she has begun in earnest. If she didn’t, he would be forever trapped having to build her up when he would rather just enjoy his time with a woman that he already sees as complete. That would eventually wear him out, so she’s on the right path and so far it’s going well.

By the time we were officially done she actually already was where she wanted to be. She’s a great person who’s finished school, has a job she’s happy about, and she has a supportive and loving boyfriend. All she has to do now is make that final leap to believing that she’s really worthy of everyone’s love. That’s where everyone is waiting for her.

Of course, the same goes for everyone reading this. An amazing collection of natural forces needed to occur for each person to exist as an individual. The universe wanted us to be yet so many of us question our value.

We should waste no time questioning the universe. Instead, we should join my student in accepting ourselves so that we too can get on to the business of offering our courage, compassion and love to all those we share this world with.

Other people loving us does not have its full effect unless we feel worthy. Only thoughts keep us from that naturally receptive state. We do not need to build ourselves up to be good enough for the love we get, we simply must lower the thought barrier we have between us and our knowledge that we, along with everyone everywhere, is born  worthy of love we receive.

peace, s

 

The Friday Dose #136

I haven’t done a Friday Dose in a while, but what I teach people has always been in pretty nice alignment with Dr. Gabor Maté. I recall early in his career he was seen as strange or even ridiculous, but I knew that he actually understood addictions and how the mind works far better than most other people.

If you’re a regular reader there is nothing here you wouldn’t have already read in thes Relax and Succeed pages many times before, but it’s a Friday, so sit back and relax for four minutes and have your mind expanded. And then and ask what that expansion means for your life.

You have a natural peaceful self. Don’t waste your life trying to change the part that isn’t the real you.

Have a wonderful weekend everyone.

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.