To Know Oneself

1249 Relax and Succeed - To know oneselfBruce Lee (and I’m sure many others) said that we should study ourselves in action with others in order to better-know ourselves. Many people will hear this and do a cursory glance at their lives, literally looking for examples of them being polite or generous and that will be it. They’ll have self-passed themselves when really what they did was forgo an opportunity for valuable self-reflection.

To study ourselves in action, it is the action within our consciousness that counts. It’s possible to be extremely polite to someone while intentionally manipulating them into something they wouldn’t do had they not been intentionally mislead. What counts is in our internal intentions. When we listen to people, do we truly listen without expectation, or are we in a constant dialogue with ourselves, criticising them at every phrase?

How casual have we all become about our subtle mental criticisms of others? We live within our consciousness. Whether we’re constantly bitching about them, or wanting to be someone other than ourselves, both have us in equally unpleasant landscapes of thought. It’s like going on vacation to a place we’re sure to despise.

1249 Relax and Succeed - The money does not see his own backsideWe have to learn to not accept these mental headspaces. We have to learn to pay attention to that suffering more. Yes, I’m suggesting that we focus on when we’re taking a crap between our own ears. Because that’s what we’re doing when we think uncharitable thoughts about ourselves or others. Other people don’t feel our brain chemistry, we do. Seriously: if we know these thoughts are painful, then voluntarily thinking them is like choosing to open spoiled food so we can smell it better.

We all need to pay more attention to what our brain is doing because, if you’re like most of us, half the time our mind is on autopilot, flying whatever routes our childhood caregivers taught us to fly even if that makes no sense for our own destinations in life. Then when we do become conscious, our unconscious life will feel strangely robotic, as we come to realise that we have no idea why we personally are doing what we’re doing.

Whatever it is–your drinking, your job, your temper, your sadness, your lack of trust–these are all things that were taught to you. They are not the natural you, they are the squashed by your packaging version of you. It is you, but you’re distorted and out of shape. And you can see that shape in how you internally react to others.

1249 Relax and Succeed - You cannot have a positive lifeIf you watch yourself closely, you’ll soon realise that you’re likely to do the same thing one of your parents did (or in rarer cases, the exact opposite). That’s your ego following programming. To be free you have to make that programming conscious. It’s usually painful, so that helps you spot it when it shows up so that you can change direction and end that suffering.

Today, every time you catch yourself criticising either you or someone else, take a moment of meditation and prayer and follow your criticism with a compliment. If you make the latter in person and out loud, you’d be amazed at how fast you can start remembering not to think ill of others.

It’s a good saying, really; “Think ill of others.” To do so is the act of poisoning ourselves with negative thoughts. Clearly that is something we should avoid doing. Let’s take steps in that direction today. By the way, I think you’re awesome.

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.

Close Your Identity and Open Your Consciousness

1234 Relax and Succeed - I'm drowning in a sea

People tend to suffer because they believe in a fixed identity. They believe deep down they are someone–the person they imagine–and they try to tune themselves to that internal ideal. Other people will certainly disagree as to our assessments of ourselves just as we would disagree with their assessments of themselves. We often disapprove of ourselves too, because most of us are about as hard on ourselves as we are on our enemies.

Seeing one’s developing self as an enemy that must be destroyed is largely why people are in so much pain. How can any of us enjoy the experience of our life if our experience takes place in our consciousness, and our consciousness is occupied with attacking our illusory, thought-based selves? It’s like our consciousness’s internal puppet show where one hand is hero, the ideal us; while the other hand is the villain, constantly and painfully measuring the distance between our ideal and our pathetic self.

It is possible to have an ideal for a target and yet not live a life of internally disappointed measurement. Rather than destroying ourselves we must kill that idea of measurement. It’s not part of the natural world so it cannot survive without our attention.

1233 Relax and Succeed - If you're using your thoughtsOnce we ignore our own thinking long enough we start to feel how ephemeral and meaningless thoughts are relative to action. Once we have that, we develop a better sense of time, where we realise we cannot possibly change things from the past, and so thinking about painful mistakes in the present makes little sense. If the thought stings then the experience has done its job and we have learned. We don’t need to add beating ourselves up with our word-based thoughts. By feeling badly we’ve proven that’s not the direction we’re naturally inclined to go.

We must also recognize that our thoughts are not our own, they were cultivated by our society. We’re encouraged to think certain things about ourselves and discouraged about thinking other things. Our entire egocentric life is made of those silent rules. It’s why you feel self-conscious when there’s a stain in your shirt even though everyone’s spilled food on themselves in their lifetime. The problem really isn’t you, it’s that culture of measurement; of judgment.

This can really impact us when issues become particularly emotional. Because we will all self-reinforce our identities; the more time we spend with people who share a set of beliefs that we share, the more certain and extreme those beliefs will become in the absence of respected disagreement. Most of the major problems now seen around the world are linked to this idea.

1233 Relax and Succeed - Commander Locke to Morpheus

While most of the world is pretty flexible and could live happily under many different systems in many different societies, some feel more threatened and are therefore more defensive, and that leads to anger. This effect can be see from ISIS to the Westboro Baptist Church to the KKK to the do-gooder mobs that destroy the lives of people who make big or small mistakes that violate–or appear to have violated–the social ideal; like the attacks on celebrities, or those on people over their food choices, or even through well-intentioned political correctness.

Let’s take a half hour of our lunch today and review our own lives. How many different points of view do we listen to? Are we in a feedback loop, where our microphone is too close to our speaker? Are the opinions that form our world just loops of ideas that go out of our microphone to be amplified by those who already agree with our ideas? Because that just makes us shout even louder into our microphone and the whole thing just gets louder and louder until it’s a frenzy. Those get built one person at a time, they can only be taken apart by each individual becoming conscious of their previously unconscious involvement.

If all of our friends live like us, share a lot of our beliefs and perspectives, and rarely disagree with our views, it’s almost certain we live in an ego feedback loop that will generate lots of suffering for each member because we will begin to mistake each other for the world itself. Conversely, healthy people are attracted to new ideas that challenge how they see the world. It’s a sign of the confidence they have in their true self. They remain open to the idea that they are big enough to be able to flex toward any idea that makes good sense to their being, because they rightfully see themselves as worthwhile aspects of the universe.

Let get out of our bubbles. Expand our minds. Any fear is a trick. It’s only misinterpreted excitement. We should go lovingly toward what challenges us. Especially including the people we assume we disagree with, because even if we don’t ever become friends with them, we will have both have learned more about both finding and making valuable friends.

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.

Duelling Realities

What does this quote mean? That’s how this blog got started. It was born when I realised that there were useful lessons contained in discussing what quotes mean from the state of mind you’re seeking.

In the case of the one above, the part we like is where it says, there comes the peace in which all sorrows end. That’s our motivation to want to understand the quote; because we’re in pain and we want to know how to stop it. So that part defines the problem. The rest defines the solution.

When you move amidst the world of sense. This defines what state of mind you’ll need to be in for your sorrows to end. The quote is simply stating that you want to be fully alive in the present rather than having a post-now ego identity that has opinions about what’s happening. The latter is thought-based, the former is sense-based.

So if we want to avoid our sorrows we must live in a world of sense and not thought. But how do we do that? The quote kindly tells us how when it defines the opposite of the world of sense: free from attachment and aversion alike. So the quote is telling you how you use your egotistical judgmental thoughts to create a barrier between you and the grandeur of reality, and you do this by having opinions that you feel personally about.

To feel personally about something is to have an ego. You think a thing has value or it is it has none. You want something or you don’t want it. You think this is meaningful and that is not. You you you. Look at all the ego in there. But what does the quote suggest we do?

And you live in the wisdom of the Self. It says if we avoid thinking about what we want or don’t want, or like or don’t like, or accept or don’t accept, then we are free to live by our senses alone, which is to live in the wisdom of the Self. Note: Self was capitalised. It’s because your little ego-self is what has opinions and judgments about things. Your big, capable, amazing Self isn’t personal.

Your identity vanishes when you ignore the judgmental thoughts that you use to divide the world up into symbols. Your ego-reality is made of your opinions. Without the barrier of separateness created by thought, you feel connected to everything. Everywhere is home. Every person is lovable.

So an ego deep in the throes of falling in romantic love can without shame post this Rumi quote because they feel so excited by their personal approval of what’s happening. That level of complete acceptance means it feels as though this new person has brought the entire world to their feet. Yet, in a spiritual sense, the Rumi quote means exactly the same thing as the one that starts this post. Both are telling us to be judicious with our attention; our focus; the contents of our consciousness. To focus on one love is to lose the rest.

We can’t think out of training or habit, we must be alive in the world. And to do that we need to ignore all of our personal thoughts about what we want and don’t want. We can still have those thoughts. We just should ignore them immediately after thinking them. That leaves us in the world of sense, where things simply are, rather than being judged as right or wrong or good or bad. And that is how end your sorrows and find your peace. You simply trade your dividing thoughts for the connectedness of silence.

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.

MoK: Redirecting Negativity

The March of Kindness is about making the world a kinder, safer, more loving space in which to thrive as a human being. We can do this by adding goodness to the world, but we can also accomplish this goal be removing negativity and replacing it with something more constructive.

We’re all too often willing to participate in gossip when we personally agree with it or view it as just idle conversation with friends or co-workers, but it’s far from idle. What people say about each other becomes their identity to a listener. And that can have extremely serious consequences.

If someone didn’t like someone else in high school and they end up getting a job at their company, the new person can be destroyed before they’ve even started because everyone’s been cued to only watch for pattern-matches to what they were previously told. We all say the odd dumb thing, but if people are on the lookout for that then suddenly the odd silly statement can turn into a person becoming dumb rather than just the statement, when in fact the person might be perfect for their job.

We’ve all been victims of it and it’s not like it improves as we age. Who hasn’t had a bitter ex spread lies about them? And the workplace can be just as vicious as the schoolyard. The way to identify gossip isn’t by whether you agree with it, it’s whether or not it’s negative.

If someone is commenting on or judging someone in any negative way then it’s gossip. Period. Unless you’re the person’s manager or teacher your personal opinion has no relevance to anyone but you, and even in the cases of managers and professors, the reasoning should be based on their alignment with the work, not with your personal feelings. A student or worker can be someone you’d never be friends with but that shouldn’t impact how you evaluate their work.

As the saying goes, loose lips sink ships. It’s not like gossip is a minor force in the world. It literally changes lives. It ruins companies and institutions, undermines science, and it can easily destroy lives. People have committed murder, suicide, vandalism and other horrible acts all based on gossip.

Talking is thinking out loud. Taking negatively about someone else is not healthy for the person doing the talking. It’s a sign of being locked into an ego-based, judgmental and superior perspective. The world is the world. It looks different to everyone. You’re not supposed to be going around poisoning other people’s views with yours. Your view is yours. Our personal opinions were never meant to be applied to the broader world. At our healthiest we should function from a position of principle, not opinion.

Today’s act in our March of Kindness is simply to spend the day actively listening for gossip. At work, at school, even at home and out. If someone offers a negative assessment of someone else, then our job is remind the people listening that there are other views. If they identify something they don’t like about the person, identify something you respect about them.

If someone says, Mindy’s always telling people what to do, you could add: We’re all different, and I don’t share her style of doing things, but I have noticed that what she wants people to do isn’t about her or anything selfish, her comments are usually focused on more or better work getting done. At minimum her heart’s in the right place.

Or if someone says, Did you hear that Jennifer’s dating Chris? What an idiot. You could respond, Well, we all like different kinds of people. Do we really want everyone judging who we love? I’m just glad they’re both happy. The idea is to take a negative and insert a positive. Double value if you normally would have agreed and joined in!

Don’t help sink someone else’s ship. Get your oar in the water and let’s make the world better by sharing more about what’s good about the world and less about what we don’t like about it. After all, mental health is really little more than having a rationally optimistic view of the world and the people in it. So let’s make gossip the enemy rather than people.

Have a great day 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.

MoK: Tolerance as Kindness

Thank you all very much for your patience while I’ve been ill. It turns out that your patience is quite fitting, because today our March of Kindness assignment will involve determining the subtle difference between patience and tolerance.

We feel patience with someone when we perceive that they generate some degree of value in our lives that we do not want to lose. Maybe that value is that they’re the clerk at the store and we need their help to purchase something that has value to us, or maybe it’s a co-worker whose advice you value and so you offer to look after their dog while they’re away, or maybe it’s a very sick spouse that has such tremendous value that their partner can serve them for many years, despite receiving no reciprocation. It all depends on how much one person perceives the other’s value.

Because we start from a position of goodwill, we tend to use the word patience for situations we deem as reasonable. We begin to use the word tolerance once we feel we’re extending past what is reasonable or, in other words, past the point where the other person’s value has run out in proportion to the request being made. But what about those people that start with no value in our emotional bank?

When meeting most strangers very few of us will presume the worst, and many of us will presume something so positive that we’ll offer our own positivity in advance. But there are some people that we immediately assume we’ll be out of alignment with. The reasons don’t matter much; maybe we have unpleasant history between us, or maybe they’re just in a group we’ve defined as undeserving of our patience, but when people have no deposits in our patience bank then they are immediately borrowing from our tolerance account. This form of kindness is more dangerous to us, like an unsecured loan; where we’re unsure–even suspicious–about ever being paid back.

When we use tolerance we’re no longer investing in value we will receive ourselves, tolerance is an investment in the Bank of Karma. That’s when–instead of believing in an individual manifestation of a person–we believe that the fundamental oneness of the universe is expansive, or “good.” We believe on some elemental level that if we put positivity in, some positivity will result for someone, somewhere. Today we want to use tolerance as a way of sending some of that good karma out.

Today’s act in our March of Kindness will be to actually seek out people or ideas that we traditionally have no tolerance for. Maybe all we do is comment on a politician we see in the media, or maybe we’re aggressive with street people, or a we’re a contrarian on social media, or maybe some stranger’s just asking you for directions and you don’t want to be disturbed; the idea is that the kindness you show today has no value to you personally–in fact, your expression of it may exact a small price.

As I stated previously, we don’t improve the world unless we convert some darkness into light, so today’s act is particularly important. All you have to do is find one example of where you would offer negativity–a comment, a judgment, a challenge, a rebuke–and instead offer tolerance.

There’s a lot of us, so if we each just take one bit of negativity and, instead of offering it to the world, we hold it back out of a sense of kindness and tolerance, then we will absolutely have made the world a better place. That’s where we all want to live, and the March of Kindness is about helping us get there. Thank you for participating in our collective journey.

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.

Who Defines You?

108f-relax-and-succeed-you-cannot-be-lonelyI’m getting smart, sophisticated questions from those of you who have been doing these meditation exercises. I suspect by now you can figure out for yourself that I’ve been vague in my answers to each of you because the real value is that you’re asking the deep psychological and spiritual questions you are. You’re the ultimate teacher. I’m just the guide that helps you find and then hear your true self.

Let’s start this week with the simple question: why do you want to change? When your friends and family already love you, why do you want to become someone else? What if you change into someone the people who love you have more difficulty with? Why isn’t that a concern to you? Some of these relationships are extremely valuable to you.

You want to change because you feel like your identity is a potentially beautiful home to live within, but it needs a lot of repairs and renovations. You have trouble relaxing in your space because of two things: 1) You have some changes you have to make to better-suit the work you’re currently doing, or 2) You want changes because you don’t want someone to drop over mid-renovation and think that’s really how you live, even if it’s accurate.

1084-relax-and-succeed-if-you-dont-valueIf you want to renovate yourself, you’re misunderstanding. A suicide is like bulldozing the house, but even anxiousness is like constantly moving around the house making minor adjustments while you watch out the windows to make sure no one sees you naked.

The question is, who are these people showing up to judge you? And why are you worried about a door to door salesman’s view almost as much as a good friend’s? Doesn’t that seem curious? Unless it was your new boss or in-laws, why over-worry about what a stranger first thought of you?

Today’s meditation needs you to really slow down and give this some deeper thought. Choose three people you’ve met/know. Make one someone who doesn’t really know you well, another who knows you maybe only through work or school, and then there’s the really close people who already approve of you. What is the actual difference in how you feel about each of these groups? Could it be tolerance?

1084-relax-and-succeed-nothing-destroys-self-worthAsk yourself this: who is this new person that you need them to like you? Don’t stop the meditation until you have an answer that’s deeper than because it’s nice to be liked. This is about you, not people in general. Then ask who the “co-worker” is and answer the same question; who is that person to you? And finally, who are your loved ones? What is it that separates them from the other two groups, even though you might spend a lot of time with them too?

This isn’t a distraction from your day. This is us studying what your day even is. If you’re not going to do this, then pretty much everything else you’re going to do is just going to lead you back to a lesson like this. You only have one thing to do in life, and it isn’t to become perfect. It’s to accept yourself, and right now that probably seems more unattainable than perfection!

Do the exercises. Find your three people. If after some meditation your answers seem unfocused or uncertain that’s fine. The answers aren’t where the value is, it’s in sincerity of the questioning. These aren’t check-boxes. This answer isn’t for me, it’s for you. These are sacred answers. None of them on their own are useful. But collectively, as many of you are starting to sense, they somehow add up in a strange and mysterious way. The good news is, that strange way is really the path back to your true self.

These are getting deeper and more important. Collectively they’re even bigger than the sum of their parts. These are tiny amounts of your life. But they’re definitely worth it. And you’re definitely worth it. Have a great day.

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.

The Terror of Freedom

1045-relax-and-succeed-you-all-laugh-because-i-am-differentA lot of people can relate to yesterday’s post about having to perform so much for the world. Ways to dress for work, ways to act around your parents, peer pressure from friends, pretending not to be offended by enemies; it’s all a lot of work keeping everyone happy. And yet, as bad as it is, doing the opposite feels terrifying.

You know them. Maybe it’s the crazy guy who walks down your alley talking to himself. Maybe it’s the religious nut standing on the box at the corner. Maybe it’s a boorish co-worker with the offensive sense of humour, or that irritating acquaintance who’s always willing to share their views. You don’t want to be like them; crazy, zealous, rude or obnoxious.

1045-relax-and-succeed-i-like-weird-peopleYou know what? They don’t want to be like you either. Because as noted when we started and in yesterday’s entire post; everyone finds it very stressful having to serve everyone else all the time. A lot of people need some external lubrication to be able to publicly relax at all. Everyone just wishes they could do what they want, when they want. And that, deep down, is why the guy in the alley, the woman on the corner, the guy at work and that irritating lady all bug you so much. What you really don’t like is their freedom.

You have this sense that’s been programmed into you to follow rules. You want to wear fashionable clothes in school, you want an impressive job with an impressive title, you accept certain behaviours and harshly judge others. Your society drew you some basic lines, your culture added more, and then your family and friends filled in the details until you were surrounded by rules; by ways to be wrong.  But your rules are really fears.

It’s scary to sing with your full voice and yet it really helps you hit the notes if there’s more pressure on your vocal chords. It’s scary to be the first to dance but then every partner’s still potentially available. It’s scary to be the first to say I love you but it’s wonderful when they say it back. And that thrill is what makes it so exhilarating.

1045-relax-and-succeed-how-your-life-feels-is-the-shadowWhat’s so wonderful about it is that you’re trapped in the moment waiting for your response. That moment feels exalted. It glows. You are super-alive in that moment. To feel that wonderful sensation you only need to sing deeply; dance with abandon; and love unconditionally. You can actually feel what you want. You just talk yourself out of that inspired feeling all the time.

The lucky people aren’t the rich or good looking ones, the winners are the free people. The people that love you, but they do not care what you think because they know your thoughts are as ephemeral and meaningless as theirs are. They love you selfishly, because it feels good.  And those people can get along with virtually everyone without much trouble, but the one thing they won’t do is surrender their freedom just so others will like them. Don’t surrender yours either. The people who really love you won’t even ask you to.

Think for yourself. Be willing to be different and still feel good. And that will make it so much easier for your most profound relationships to find you in a crowd of noisy egos.

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.