MoK: Casual Kindness

There are many ways to spread kindness into life. Most people remember the direct ways, like doing things for people or offering them a compliment, but there are also the indirect ways. Since people are experiencing what they’re thinking about, changing how someone thinks is to change how they feel.

Parents do this with their kids all the time. You’ve seen it. The kid is screaming about something, and then the parent introduces something new to bait the consciousness of the kid. Hopefully it’s not a threat or a gift, because if that happens too often that person will end up unhealthy. But if it’s an experience then it can be expansive.

So there’s the screaming kid at the grocery store, and the parent says, Do you want ride your bike this weekend with the adults, on the adult trails? And the kid starts thinking about that and they switch from anger to excited in no time. So why don’t we do that as adults? Adults actually argue with you to hold on to the idea that’s painful to them. Don’t try to change the subject on me! (Even though all the discussion in the world wouldn’t fix anything.)

You don’t want these efforts to feel forceful. It’s not some wedge of distraction you hammer into a conversation, but if you’re truly listening the way we all should–very intently and with no other purpose than listening–then you will find yourself struck with opportunities to turn the conversation toward something more enjoyable. It’s your nature. The trick will be getting out of its way.

If humans were designed to tune to negativity we never would have made it out of our first cave. We’d have been too scared. But instead we’re tuned for possibility. We see opportunities. So if you give someone an opportunity for positivity, well, that’s like bait to a fish. Eventually they’ll bite. And if you’re a patient fisherperson who doesn’t try to force the hook in, then you might find that you can succeed on your first try.

Today in the March of Kindness you want to listen carefully to the overall tone of a conversation. If it’s angry or sad or defeatist, listen intently and a natural response will occur to you that would pull the conversation toward something more pleasant and more productive. If you do it well people shouldn’t even notice that you did it.

That’s all that happy people do. When someone shoots them a ball of negativity, they gracefully give them back an easy play on a winning shot. You abandon the subject of their conversation and you focus instead on the tone only. You don’t argue any point, you simply offer a route to something more enjoyable.

You might have to offer it three times if they’re really upset, but eventually everyone would rather pedal their bike on a downslope. Just don’t listen with an agenda. Patiently listen and what to say or do will occur to you. Trust it. Your doubts are only made of thinking.

This is a very subtle form of kindness, and yet once you’re good at this it will be the one you’ll get to use the most. The sheer subtlety of it means it faces less resistance and it gets better results. So join the rest of us today and find some silver linings and help some others notice them too. Because in the end, we’re all in this life thing together.

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.

The Eightfold Path

1016-relax-and-succeed-all-beings-trembleYesterday we discussed two common descriptions of the Four Noble Truths. In the other common expression of those Truths the final stanza is different from those discussed yesterday in that it tells you that the path to the cessation of suffering is The Eightfold Noble Path, which relates to the Truth’s daily manifestations. In short, you must live in daily alignment with your spirituality lest your spirituality be a hollow theory rather than enacted enlightenment.

Right View merely means that you must perceive things as they truly are, which are manifestations of your thoughts about reality. Your ego must not colour reality and then react to itself rather than to the world. Your opinions about people are not those people.

Right Intention relates to the respect contained within your intention. This is why some people can use what gets called a racist word in a non-racist way; people are confident of their intention and so the word’s meaning can be altered. Likewise, people can use all of the right words but still fail on The Eightfold Path because they maintain status-based intentions, even if that’s just who’s right and who’s wrong.

1016-relax-and-succeed-the-eightfold-noble-pathRight Speech means that your words must heal and not harm. This gets trickier when it comes to telling people painful truths like talking to them about an addiction but, even in those situations, if we calm ourselves we will know those times when the only thing preventing us from speaking up is that our ego wants to be liked more than our spirit (which is the same in all of us) wants to be respected. Use your words to heal and not harm.

Right Action is to take the same positive attitude with behaviour that you take with communication, so if your friend is going to leave a party drunk and drive home then you have to not only say something, you have to take the keys too. You cannot worry about your ego being liked the next day; you have to do the right thing in the moments you’re in and not wish you did them later. Most guilt comes from non-action.

Right Livelihood is one of the trickiest ones for people because we can get good at justifying things when they reflect well on our ego and make our material life better. When it comes to relating Right Speech and Right Intention and Right Action, to our work, it’s suddenly easy to understand why Upton Sinclair said, “It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends on not understanding it.” There’s a lot of people who pray regularly who will still comfortably prey on a fellow human being. Those would be useless and hollow prayers.

Right Effort means that you want to move in increasingly more loving, nonjudgmental and cooperative ways so that Right Action and Right Words flow more naturally from the direction your life is always pointed.

1016-relax-and-succeed-four-nobel-truthsRight Mindfulness relates to your internal thoughts. Are you an ego talking to itself in words, or are you your spiritual self; a wordless observer who acts wholly based on the steps above? Without proper mindfulness it would be impossible to maintain the other aspects of the path. Your mind must be quiet and your understanding of The Four Noble Truths must be solid.

Right Concentration means that your mind needs to practice the underlying focus for all of the other steps in the Path. If you cannot maintain a relatively steady and active understanding of The Four Noble Truths then you cannot see those steps manifested in your path even though they may be right in front of you.

Look at your life. See where it does not align with these behaviours. You will feel a resistance within yourself wherever your behaviour requires justification. You might be able to explain it to yourself using ego-based words about what’s good for you, but in the end we all know we can feel when we’ve done something wrong. So in the end, when he said “When I do good I feel good, when I do bad I feel bad. That is my religion,” even Abraham Lincoln proved he was living by The Eightfold Path even though he wouldn’t have ever heard of it.

The Four Noble Truths and The Eightfold Path are not difficult concepts to understand. They are challenging to live on a daily basis if we function from a place of ego, so make sure you quiet that frightened, judgmental voice within you and your path will appear before you. From there it’s really just a matter of you deciding to be as absolute as possible about sticking to your path, and even that’s not hard when you get to see the kind of people walking that path alongside you.

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.

Maintaining Awareness

1002-relax-and-succeed-drink-tea-slowly-and-reverentlyPeople often ask me if what I “teach” will last. The truth is, I don’t so much teach it as show you how to experience it. Once you know that you know it (like you know how to multiply numbers), you realise it’s just not something you forget. It’s a verb, not idle knowledge.

Now, my insight was the opposite of my students because they realise they are thinking and I realised the rest of you didn’t know you were thinking but the effect is the same: when you first encounter this profound truth there definitely is an extreme high of joy that extends for months, but even that feeling we can get used to. Our guard goes down and some ego creaks in.

1002-relax-and-succeed-be-not-afraid-of-going-slowlyI get asked if the glow of my initial realisation still exists today and I’m clear that I have no idea. Maybe I’m just as well off but that awareness is now so common it’s nearly invisible to me, or maybe I’ve slipped back into more ego but not all ego. There’s no solid ground to judge something like that from, so it really falls to our nature: do we feel like more study would deepen our connection or are we happy with where we are?

Now, all this said, we all still go through those roughly eight year cycles I often write about. Once you’re good at being someone it’s time to be someone else, so it’s during those times I usually hear from former students/clients. They’ll wonder if they need the guidance because they can see they still perceive the world differently than the full-time egos around them, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t more to explore. This journey has no end. In the end it’s up to them.

The first part of the process is often about a series of small realisations that add up to a much different perspective, but even in the cases of profound and sudden change (those are very exciting), that first blush is the first step into this new reality but it certainly doesn’t show us that entire reality. I’m lucky, I’m constantly reminded to stay in my health because it’s my job to wander around inside this truth and show it to people.

D1002-relax-and-succeed-life-is-a-one-time-offero I know I make the world with my thoughts? Yes. Can I still get caught up taking those thoughts too seriously? Yes. But without not-path you can’t have a path, so that in itself is not us being outside of the truth, it just means we’re failing to recognise it as the truth. In this way the path is like a Mobius Strip. If you think you’re off the path you’re off the path. Believe you’re on and you’re on. The rest is awareness management.

There comes a time in a more advanced student’s life where they’re ready to get past managing emotions and they want to truly delve into the constructs of reality. This is deep work for me and it’s my favourite to do. This is where psychology meets spirituality. It still makes surprising sense for such ineffable subjects, but it is also grand and mysterious all at the same time. The challenges in the journey definitely get more pleasant once you’re through the door.

How far people want to take their study is up to them but they certainly don’t need me, Buddhism or Yoga. You’re always your own best teacher. At the same time, if you’re the sort that prefers to have an experienced guide along the way, that’s valid too. Which one is right for you only you can feel, but either way, the yin and yang of the path and not-path will always be where you are and you always be safe there regardless of what you think.

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.