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.

According to Who?

1034-relax-and-succeed-just-because-you-are-rightYou’re right, you’re flawed. You don’t have a bunch of the downsides you think you do, but you do have some. Or, if you’re like some of us, you either can’t comprehend a lot of social choices; or you do but they feel inauthentic, which makes us appear even more flawed. I say appear because when we say we’re flawed; according to who?

Whether it happens in your mind or someone else’s, ephemeral opinions and beliefs about you should not be seen as being the same thing as the real you. Those are spectres in your mind. They are created in your theatre of thoughts and only you see your stories. Other people see theirs. So even if you’re happy with the way you live, you can be sure others won’t be.

Just like every religious person has a different idea of their religion, and just as a soldier, a politician and a bureaucrat will have somewhat different ideas about what it means to represent their nation, every person you meet and lots you’ll never meet will each have their own opinion of you and it will have far more to do with them than you.

1034-relax-and-succeed-dont-be-surprisedThat’s what society is: a big criss-cross intersection of all of our cooperative and conflicting ideas and beliefs. That is the landscape you navigate every day as an ego. That is the mess that things like traffic laws and communications protocols and democracy all try to loosely corral.

It isn’t possible for you to manage all of those varying personalities in their varying moods going through various things in their life. They’ll hide how they really feel, they’ll lie, they’ll unintentionally mislead you or you’ll just plain misunderstand them; but the more you try to understand it all the more complex it will all become. Thoughts beget thoughts.

You don’t have to get everyone to understand you and you don’t have to understand the universe you just have to understand yourself, and how you–like everyone–has thoughts about things but those thoughts are not those actual things. You can call rain bad but without it you’d die, so clearly it’s not actually all bad, but you can paint it that way for yourself inside your own head; just like people can paint you and just like you routinely paint them.

1034-relax-and-succeed-i-am-aware-that-i-am-less-than-some-people-preferFree yourself from caring about something meaningless. If they’re your boss and their opinion has some impact on you that you can’t control, then you can’t control that anyway so you’re better to not care about the opinion and be your usual self.

It’s like the friend of mine who rhetorically argued with every caller on a call-in radio show he had playing in his car. He said I should be upset too but I told him it didn’t look either enjoyable or productive. I asked him if he agreed that on every issue as big as the one being discussed, if most people would have their own opinion. He agreed. He also agreed that every opinion from crazy to crazy would be included. So I asked him, if he knew that, why he was surprised to hear them call in? Why was he angry? Why wasn’t he just going; oh it’s that guy.

Funnily enough that made simple sense to my friend and he could actually listen to the show seeing it that way. He felt better and he listened better too. That change spawned this blog. I hope you find this helpful too. That way, the next time someone meets you and doesn’t like you, you can just say I knew there had to be a bunch of you somewhere. It’s nice to meet you. Sorry to disappoint you with who I naturally am. I’ll do my best to not let that taint my view of you. It’s authentic, it’s open and caring, and trust me, people will think it’s weird. But who cares what they think anyway, right? 😉

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.

Rocking the Boat

1025-relax-and-succeed-its-okay-if-people-dont-like-youOur ability to remember things only starts a little before most people start going to school, so our idea of how the larger world works will often come from that experience and not our home one. If we’re Korean and our family and friends are Korean then being Korean is fine, but if the kids in the school have never seen a Korean face or heard a Korean name, they can think the new kid is strange and someone to be avoided. This can cause insecurities that can last a lifetime even though there’s nothing wrong with the kid.

Eventually in school everyone does make at least a few friends. Interestingly, the kids with the fewest friends are generally outcasts who are already functioning in some way that causes society to pass some judgment on them. Nerds are cool now, but it wasn’t that long ago that being good in school and knowing about things like Dungeons and Dragons or comic books meant you’d be ostracised or even beat up.

The strange upside to being ostracised is that it’s actually much more accurate to adult life. So you can go through school as the most popular person but that still won’t save you from all of the judgments others will make about you. Some of those judgments will be true, others will be entirely false, but you’ll lose just as many friends over the lies as the truth–likely even more.

1025-relax-and-succeed-do-what-you-feel-is-rightMeanwhile, the teased kid eventually gives up and just starts being themselves as they get used to the teasing. This, it turns out, is one of the most important lessons a person can learn. That kid becomes impervious to the opinions of others. Without any airs that kid can meet their friends as themselves and that is a profoundly underrated thing.

One of the best advantages to being yourself is that it helps your real friends find you in a crowd. Often people will connect with the wrong people because they think someone’s this or that way when really they’ve just been performing to maintain their status with others. And the egos do this even though the actual person will eventually have to show up and disappoint everyone who thought they were someone else.

Genuinely enjoying the act of making someone happy is one thing, but it’s not a healthy or enlightened thing to make people happy if you’re spending that time performing actions or saying words that feel unnatural to you. Eventually you’ll get hangry or be short on sleep or you’ll have had a stressful time and you’ll show your true self and then just watch a bunch of people desert you for nothing more than a few low days.

Frankly, if you look back at your life you can probably easily find people you’ve never spoken to again and yet all they would have done is offend you with an opinion or approach that wasn’t one you’d use. Look at how remarkably conditional our affections are; we see it so often it becomes normal, so we get to the point where we actually expect people to perform for us. They’re not supposed to be themselves, they’re supposed to be who we expect them to be.

So how’s the outcast in school end up better off? It hurts them more at the time because they found out before anyone how incredibly silly people can be with their opinions, but in getting used to it they’re getting used to the adult world where people’s expectations just increase more and more and more over time. Eventually you can get to the point where an entire 20 year friendship can end over just one series of misunderstood text messages, as though those messages somehow unlock some secret identity they’ve been hiding for two decades.

Half the time people show me one of those and say, can you believe they said that? and I won’t even be able to find the offence they’re talking about without all of the history they’re loading the text with. Even the word ok gets seen as some sign of hostility. If people are going to be that finicky then the problem isn’t you, it’s their ridiculous standards. People aren’t here for you and you aren’t here for them. We’re all in this together and we either act like that or we pretend we can somehow survive without people that disagree with us.

By fifty most people have realised that their giant collection of school friends was really just a bunch of other insecure kids who were taught all kinds of unrealistic expectations. Those same expectations will cause people to desert or blame others and before they know it everyone’s left with just their true friends; the people who will accept them warts and all. And the outcast had that already in school. It was the rest of us living in a fantasy, not the kid playing D&D.

Don’t perform for others and don’t ask others to perform for you. The problems aren’t out in the world they are within you. You have resistance to other people’s ways of being just like they have resistance to your way of being. How can it make sense for two people who believe in democracy to hate each other because one’s a Democrat and one’s a Republican when they can’t even have the democracy they value so much without each other? It’s crazy, and yet people do it every day.

There’s a lot of people sitting on the gunnels of your boat and almost nothing will knock them out. A lot of people never intended to stay so they have gotten on and off and various ports of call. Others really needed some serious storms to get knocked out, but a precious few clung to your boat extra hard during the storms and those are the people who are willing to tough out the hard parts of life with you. That’s your tribe and those are the most valuable people you’ll know. So don’t see yourself as losing friends as you age, see it as chiselling away acquaintances to reveal the solid foundation of your very best friendships.

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.