Conscience as a Sign of Health

1288 Relax and Succeed - Photo - Someone feeling badly

If just before you started reading this you were using your thinking to criticize yourself, this your chance to stop.

Those thoughts don’t improve us even if we did screw up because it’s not the screw up that’s really the issue, it’s our thoughts about it. Those are after-the-fact thoughts about the past. If it’s in the past that can only be ego and egos are dangerous. You have to keep an eye on them.

The fact that we don’t feel good about whatever transpired is only because we already know we could have done better. That demonstrates that we are good people with good judgment because our judgment was able to detect something out of alignment with the range that we use to define our self.

If we let it, our negative reaction to exceeding those limits is what, over time, nudges us closer and closer to being able to live out our greatest potential. This is the process of getting wiser.

This is the point at which many people suggest that we need rules to be ‘good.’ But if they’re saying that they usually mean they want alignment with whatever they think everyone should do. But that’s impossible because we can’t all demand that. While rules can be useful, they aren’t needed to define ‘good.’

Everyone except psychopaths is familiar with the hounding a human conscience can give us. Many of us adults still feel badly about things we did as youngsters. But what is our conscience?

Think of it like an old fashioned thermometer. Humans are good from about +60C to -60C, (or -76F to 140F). Above or below that and we’re in enough trouble we’re likely to die. Our conscience is like a range of things that our real self –the self that creates our ego– has for our behaviour. That part of us is very wise –except for in psychopaths. They don’t have lines that are further out than ours, they don’t have any lines at all. The rest of us have healthy lines for a very logical reason.

1288 Relax and Succeed - Photo - Even huge mistakes

We as individuals are a part of a much larger flow created by our species. We’re all ultimately programmed to try to stay alive and see the next generation move on. Since we breed we obviously need others to do that, plus working in groups is safer than working alone, so our nature is to find ways to cooperate.

All of us can temporarily lose track of that connection when our thinking gets crazy, but our nature is to work to stay alive, not work to destroy what we need to stay alive; including others and their support.

Even huge mistakes are just ways of learning, growing, and maturing. Sometimes we inflict ours on others, sometimes they inflict theirs on us; sometimes we are teachers, sometimes we are students. Sometimes the universe benefits from regret, sometimes it benefits from tolerance.

Our ability to understand that flow of pain and regret in a non-personal way is the lesson we are all unwittingly teaching each other through the living our lives. And it’s also why many wise people have said, when you finally become a real guru you realize that everyone around us, has always been a guru.

peace. s

Fears

1032-relax-and-succeed-dont-place-your-mistakesI’ve got a rare situation that’s given me an equally rare state of mind to write from. This makes it an ideal time for me to write about how I’ll face this emotional challenge, because the nicest thing about living in the present moment is that you trust that you learn from experience so you feel authentically bad about unfortunate things, but then you can move on.

You feel hits to your ego but you don’t hold grudges nor do you worry about what might happen and maybe most importantly you don’t beat yourself up. You accept that everyone learns and everyone makes mistakes, you grab the lesson with humility and then move on as soon as you’re sure the lesson’s been learned. There’s no extra time wasted in ruminating on should’a could’a would’as. But today I crossed that line we all have within us; the mistake that bothers us the most because it betrays some fundamental aspect of ourselves that we place great faith in.

1032-relax-and-succeed-courage-is-the-decision-to-favour-actionI had figured out by nine years old that the human mind could not really be trusted despite people’s best intentions. This lead me to develop a series of thought-tests that I would put my own ideas and other people’s ideas through to ensure they were solid. Today I did the thing that bothers me the most: I didn’t make use of a mental tool that I knew I had built for a reason when I know full well I only build those tools when it’s important.

What a lot of my students start off doing is they start telling themselves stories about what they should have done. Then another part of the brain will calculate the damage, and then it’ll be angry that it happened at all, and then fear of what will happen, then the consideration of an alternate future where you made the opposite decision, and finally self-criticism for making the same mistake yet again despite the fact that making the same mistake actually makes a lot of psychological sense.

1032-relax-and-succeed-if-all-else-failsI will feel strongly compelled to react in all of the ways noted above. I suspect I will bounce into actually doing those things for bursts of time. But I spend so much time peaceful that I will notice when I’m tortured, so that’ll be a good cue. From there I’ll pursue strategies to take my mind off the painful useless subject and place it on better things.

This means that the idea becomes like a ball of pain on a ping pong table, where my natural reaction to the approaching pain is to swat it away. I think of those words and narratives as little balls of pain and when I run into one in my head I hit it away but shifting my attention to something more productive and peaceful.

I will wage this little battle for as long as it takes before my mind finally accepts the situation fully, and meanwhile I’ll have been able to take immediate action to mitigate any additional damage. That’s as good as you can do after a mistake, and dreaming like it was possible to never make one was something I surrendered many thousands of surrenders ago.

Bad feelings feel bad for a reason. Just by their sensation they urge you not to think them. So when you feel in pain, don’t turn inside yourself and self-discuss that pain. Recognise that as coming from your thinking and then shift it. That power is always in your hands and the more you use it the stronger you’ll be.

Have a wonderful day everyone.

peace. s

PS. Funny side-note, it turns out I hadn’t made the mistake I thought I had. Good thing I didn’t engage in a bunch of painful, useless thinking about something that was ultimately just a false belief.

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.

The Blame Game

You have to begin by appreciating the fact that you and absolutely everyone around you is in a constant, moment-by-moment fluctuation between ego and wisdom. And so we’ll never completely get rid of ego because of course it is Yang to wisdom’s Yin. So what we’re shooting for is a largely enlightened society where there are enough people living in wisdom for long 470 Relax and Succeed - Even the nicest peopleenough stretches that they can absorb and not re-transmit the negativity that tends to emit from ego.

One of the key ways we can express negativity is through frustration, anger and blame. Blame is the result of the chaining together of expectations that are then compared to what is and then a judgment is made—and this is all taking place in only your consciousness. The fact that an ego would tell itself such a story should hardly be surprising. So when someone points the finger of blame at you, remember to understand it as being impersonal.

As I noted, blame is about comparing what is with what we wanted. Arguing the logic that they had no business making their initial assumption in the first place will not go over well when people are feeling frustrated. What we should do instead is really put ourselves into their shoes. See what’s happened not from your superior position of knowing what happened behind the scenes, but what it looks like to them. I can give you a great example.

I have a client I really like and she is friendly and reasonable and even generous. But you know those tasks or projects that just end up being the Bermuda Triangle of activities? Where no single major thing goes wrong. In fact, if the disappointed person was there to witness it, they would easily understand and wouldn’t feel let down at all. And most people will give you the benefit of a doubt even if they didn’t see it themselves. But when you get those fluke instances where one person runs into several consecutive experiences like that, it makes sense that the part of their brain that’s starting to feel familiar is: incompetence. Now, on our end—precisely because 470 Relax and Succeed - Breathe deep and let gothings had gone so badly—everyone was working extra, extra hard in an effort to make up the difference. So it’s really bad math when things keep failing by fluke. Because the harder the people try, the more negativity they face. It’s no one’s fault. It’s just the natural flow of things.

So whenever the woman would express frustration in an email, one co-worker would feel she was being unreasonable because she wasn’t respecting how hard everyone was working in their efforts to try to ensure things went right. When you’re ignoring other people’s needs to address someone else’s it’s easy to feel gratitude would naturally flow from that. But if the person is continually not having their promised needs met, it makes sense that their egoic narrative would begin to loop angrily through the region that includes incompetence. I on the other hand wanted only to resolve the woman’s concerns immediately. Her frustrations seemed entirely understandable to me and I wasn’t insulted at all whenever she expressed them. I understood that from her perspective it was impossible to see how hard everyone was working to resolve things.

We can’t really live successfully if our objective is to avoid any and all discord. But we can eliminate a lot of the unnecessary discord by being more patient and understanding about the sources of people’s behaviour. If you understand that someone is reacting to their narrative rather than your reality then it’s much easier to not take their responses personally.

As much as possible try not to lay blame. It’s largely counter-productive. But if you lay it, forgive yourself. And if you’re the one blamed, take it in stride. It’s not that big a deal. Just hear it remembering that the blame is them responding to their internal monologue, not yours. Realities are separate and they can be quite different. So don’t exasperate yourself by trying to get other people to live in yours. It just can’t be done. So when people blame you, just remember that they forgot that you can’t see their reality nor live up to all of their expectations.

Now knowing all of this, I wouldn’t blame you at all for having yourself an uber-fantastic day!

peace. s 😉