Banished From The Tribe

1102-relax-and-succeed-you-not-wanting-meLike apes or wolves or ants, humans are cooperative creatures. Living and working alone are challenging things that can few can do throughout their lives, and if they do they’ll generally pay a big price. Even people who say they live without others needed others to even exist.

You can’t (currently) be born without parents (and even without those you’d need scientists). If all some guy in the bush has is a log cabin and an axe, he needed both the inventor of the axe and he would have needed to have seen someone else’s cabin to imagine one so he could build it. And even he will likely hit the local store when he needs some salt or tools. We’re all living on the backs of all of the other generations before us.

Our desire to be part of the safe and well-fed is ancient and natural. Anything else threaten death, hence the power of potential banishment and shunning that was noted in yesterday’s meditation. People naturally focus on being valuable enough and well-liked enough to maintain the security of the tribe. It’s like your brain’s primary directive, which is why you find being rejected so painful. It’s like someone saying, “We don’t think your genes needs to go any further than this.”

1102-relax-and-succeed-maslows-pyramidWe can all easily think of the times it hurt to be rejected, but what about the times we did the hurting? What about group criticisms people joined in on on social media? What about a group of schoolgirls actually cooperating to cut another person out? What about having your support for one group lead you to even verbally attack the member of another group? What about you rejecting someone because someone more established in your group stopped dating them? Or what about even how you would have handled someone leaving the company you worked for?

Socially it’s a very common, modern experience to exclude someone if they get laid off or fired. Being fired can feel to others like it’s different because it’s “deserved,” but then we all have to ask ourselves how perfect we actually are. Getting fired for a genuine mistake is like being fired for being human. Certainly some things are blatant and need action, but sometimes it’s just that a decent manager and a good employee clash. And in the case of the layoff, generally the immediate boss and the person being laid off would rather not have participated at all.

1102-relax-and-succeed-a-team-is-not-a-groupEven though it’s in an office and everyone’s dressed nice, to your brain–which evolved for that other tribal, cooperative world–these are all examples of being shunned. We all have our family group, our friend group, and our work group. These are tribes we travel between and they often overlap.

Being removed from any of these groups will be among the most painful experiences of a person’s life. If you were aware, you’d know that from your own experience. Any time it happened to you it was a very particular kind of pain and you literally need to go through Kübler-Ross’s Five Stages of Grief (denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance). It’s extremely painful. A company I once worked for laid someone off and that lead very quickly to a particularly ugly suicide and no one in the company was the same afterward.

In today’s meditation, find an example of where your personal awkwardness about how to behave lead you to passively shun someone. Own it. Don’t make excuses, just make the connection between your choice and their pain. Connect the two in a direct fashion. This won’t be a pleasant meditation, but it will increase your empathy and natural self-centeredness.

1102-relax-and-succeed-sometimes-painful-things-can-teach-usIf you do this meditation successfully–if you feel that pain and own that responsibility for your part in it–then it will be one of the fastest results you’ll ever get from a meditation. Because if you do it right, then your brain will understand that idea so well that you are very unlikely to go through the next similar experience without very naturally experiencing lower levels of ego and much greater levels of empathy, which will in turn drive you to more active compassion.

This is the kind of thing that would turn you into that one person that won’t be awkward with the former employee. You may not be able to get them back into your group, but your actions alone could change how hurt that person feels and how much they trust the world going forward. This is no small meditation. In small steps, it is these ones about our common human relations, that are the most valuable meditations you can do. For you and for them.

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.

Self Harm

1091-relax-and-succeed-the-mind-is-responsible-for-the-feelingsThis week we’ve discussed spiritual and psychological violence. You’ve worked on altering your external discussions to remove that sort of violence from what you say; you’ve worked on your internal discussions regarding how you judge others; and today you’ll work on the most damaging version: attacks on yourself.

The concepts of cutting or self-sabotage can be difficult for happy people to understand. But it is possible to use internal violence against ourselves so effectively that we also begin to believe we deserve physical pain as well. We start to use the pain to divert our attention away from the even-more-painful thinking. The point isn’t to stop the cutting, it’s to stop the thinking.

The illusion that there is something wrong with us is created through comparison. If your parents were verbally hard on you then they would have taught you to be hard on yourself within your thoughts and there will always be a comparison. If we’re not careful we can start to think the training for our thoughts is actually who we are, but just because someone judges you as something doesn’t mean that’s what you are, it just means that’s their style of judgment.

1091-relax-and-succeed-dont-let-your-struggleThe trick is, you can’t get back into a healthy mode by trying or changing or effort because it’s all an illusion. Everyone is naturally psychologically and spiritually healthy, but we can be convinced–and then we can continue to convince ourselves–that somehow we are not worthy unless we do this or that thing.

As strange as it seems to the person who’s made a habit of doing it, there’s nothing wrong with them other than they’re currently engaged in painful thinking. That’s why they still have friends and family that love them and are often confused. None of it makes sense unless you’re the person thinking the thoughts. They still see the same old lovable, potential-filled you.

When you look in mirror you don’t see you, you see a jumble of judgments about you. When you consider who you are, you don’t look at yourself very thoroughly; you’re more likely to cherry pick out all of your biggest challenges. But if you didn’t have those challenges you’d be perfect and that would be boring. You’re here to move around all that, not overcome it. Mountain climbers don’t chisel the mountain out of existence, nor do they want to stay on top. Their life’s joy is just trying a life of different routes.

1091-relax-and-succeed-i-am-made-and-remade-continuallyToday’s meditation is to compete with yourself or your partner to catch yourself internally using the words I and you, because that’s the two words you’ll often use when you talk to yourself. (e.g. If I don’t get this paper written I’ll fail this class; come on Sara, you can do it.) Keep in mind you do this all day every day so there will be lots of opportunities for you to catch yourself.

Just like you did yesterday with another person, today you do that with yourself. You listen to that criticism and then you find a way to rephrase it to yourself in more positive, encouraging terms. This can feel silly and meaningless, but that’s because you think your big problems need big solutions, but really you don’t have big problems, you just have an overabundance of  counterproductive thinking.

Don’t stop altering your external conversations; keep shifting those to be more positive as well. For every interior criticism you have about someone or something, rewrite it to be most positive. And today add interior and exterior criticisms of yourself. You’ll feel like you’re getting away with something or you’re letting yourself off easy, but in reality it’s that easy. Don’t add another layer of argument about that. Just do it.

Your reality is not made from things it’s made from ideas. The ideas that are real in your world are the ones you believe. Start believing in a stronger, more lovable version of yourself, because despite your very real concerns, that’s the real you. Believing anything else will continue to be a painful denial of that much larger spiritual reality. Bottom line, the universe doesn’t make mistakes and the universe made you. Anything else is just thinking.

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.

Everything Changes

995-relax-and-succeed-if-things-are-going-wellThis was written out longhand. In cursive script no less! It’s amazing how much that changes the writing process inside one’s head. The reason I’m handwriting is because I intentionally don’t use a smartphone but I wanted to write about the experiences I’ve been having while sitting in the emergency department of a hospital.

I’ve been on a huge time-crunch over several months due to unexpected circumstances and the stakes are very high: the care of my parents. My best friend had come into town to help me get the fantastic amount of work done that’s required for me to prepare for my parents. After close to two weeks of 5am to 1am workdays she was on her way out for a dog walk and she ended up slipping on the stairs, tumbling head over heels and she broke her arm and dislocated her shoulder! One second you’re on a dog walk and the next you’re in emergency.

Everyone in this waiting room had concerns this morning. Everyone had fears and stresses and worries and yet now those are flickers at best. Every bit of energy is focused on their arm, their stomach, their heart. Family members from all walks of life converge in the waiting room where all differences vanish. In this room no one cares where you’re from or what language you speak or what religion you are; in here we’re all just people with loved ones in pain and danger. It really brings people together.

995-relax-and-succeed-be-careful-how-you-judgeSome of us respond to the care with gratitude and some with fear. The fearful ones sound angry and are often met with harsh tones back from staff which is understandable. No one likes to be spoken to in unpleasant ways and yet at the same time I doubt we should expect the best behaviour from people rushing into this building. Certainly everyone I’ve spoken with feels like these are some of their worst days and they’re likely to be on their worst behaviour. Fear is best met with compassion. That benefits both parties.

What’s interesting is the state of everyone here. They were themselves earlier but now they are the relative of the person in trouble. Their own identity has been abandoned and random thoughts about their life has been replaced with random thoughts about what’s happening right now. Everyone is looking at their lives from a new perspective. Everything suddenly potentially means something different.

I’m lost too. This leaves a lot up in the air for me and even more for my incredible best friend. But rather than let my mind reel I kept my mind still and I observed. I watched the elderly Indian man go from very polite and patient to very argumentative all in steps that matched the news he got about his wife, who he clearly loves a great deal. You could see the shift as he added each new narrative element every time a doctor or nurse came by with the news he didn’t want. And yet the staff that encountered him later in the process would walk away with the impression that he was unpleasant person when that wasn’t accurate at all.

995-relax-and-succeed-its-amazing-how-a-personWhether it’s us getting hurt or someone we love, almost no one sees these experiences coming. Which means if you’re not having one now you’re actually experiencing that really tough luck to notice–the absence of trouble. As Richard Carlson used to say, people are mad the one day every five years that their alarm doesn’t go off, but they fail to be grateful the other 1824 days when it did ring.

Situations like this remind us of what’s really important. I’m lucky, almost everyone in here is in for something far more serious than my friend is. I felt genuine gratitude for that. And my connections with others here might have been under difficult circumstances, but they have been heartfelt and I would include them as positive interactions. Empathy feels a lot like love. I look for opportunities for it selfishly.

The people in this waiting room made this part of my stay much less stressful and one could even say they collectively helped. I think we all got helped in that room. I wish them all well with their situations and I head off to find a way to post this blog. In the meantime, ask yourself what would happen to your life if you suddenly had to go in surgery and then be grateful you don’t have to have those experiences. And when you do have painful experiences just remember, they’re not bad either, they’re preparing us for our futures as the frailer people we’re all destined to become.

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 Universal Apology

949 Relax and Succeed - Forgiveness is the best formEveryone’s done stuff they wish they hadn’t. Lots of it. Life’s tricky. We feel stressed, we get tired, hungry, we misunderstand things or we’re coming from a place of pain or fear and we just say or do the wrong thing.

Sometime’s our focus is so riveted on something else that we’re oblivious to fact that we’re causing serious damage. It’s not like we meant to–and even if we did we felt justified at the time. But there’s just some things we don’t feel good about. We cannot think of them and feel okay, and yet we will have foregone the chance to make a connection through an apology so, while we may not be suffering, we’re also not expanding our capacity for love and connection.

This post will be the universal apology. The one from all of us to all of us. Because no matter when it was, anyone who isn’t a sociopath or psychopath has wanted to give one of these to a lot of people. That doesn’t make us bad people, it just shows that we’re people and that the badness or goodness is really just another judgment. So if you’re really stuck because you can’t figure out how to apologise to someone, you can always just send them this.

 

To Whom It Did Concern,

How do you even start an apology for something as terrible as I did to you? I don’t really see myself as a bad person but if I look at what’s gone on there is no way to excuse myself. I recognise that I was not behaving in a way that makes me feel good about myself as a person.

949 Relax and Succeed - The past cannot be changedDeep down I believe everyone deserves to be treated well, but what happened to you has shown me that I am obviously capable of getting so focused on what I perceive as my personal problems that I forget I might be being a very big problem for someone else. It’s like I felt I was on a ocean and I was thrashing because I was sinking, but I forgot that the ocean itself is made of people trying to stay afloat. It was selfish and I’m sorry. I thrashed you and there’s no way for me to take it back.

I suppose the pain of that knowledge is what sears this into my memory. I’m certain I’ll hurt people in all kinds of dumb ways because I’m human, but I don’t want to hurt anyone ever again the way I hurt you. I’m not even going to promise I can do that, but I’m going to put everything I have available into succeeding because it’s important to me; because you’re pain was and is important to me.

It seems amazing to ask you for a favour after being so selfish and hurtful to you but I do actually need one. I’m gonna work on this change really hard but if I’m honest I have a feeling that it’ll only be natural to be bunny-hopping two steps forward and one back for a while. So if you could extend a bit of forgiveness on those backward steps as I work on being more loving and generous in my relations I would appreciate that. Even if you can’t; I fully respect why and I’ll still give the commitment my all.

949 Relax and Succeed - Far from what I once wasMost important in all of this for me is that you know I don’t blame you. I know life’s always a mixed bag. Maybe you have your own letter you’d write about the same thing where you see yourself as someone who owes someone an apology, but this is how I see it and this is how I feel and for those reasons it’s important to me that you give the ownership of this to me.  It was my fault.

I did it. Intentionally, accidentally, blindly; it doesn’t matter. I hurt you. I did it. Give it to me. Stop thinking about it and know that I accept the responsibility and that it is my burden to carry until I convert into a better self. Regardless of how you choose to feel after receiving it, I will always keep an open mind about our future simply because I am so confident in the value of you and I’m equally confident in my desire to work toward living up to being someone you would genuinely love and respect.

Thanks for even giving me the time to read this. I really do care. I wish you all the best. I really do. All the time. Big hug.

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 Friday Dose #103

881 FD Relax and Succeed - When was the last timeThe most challenging times for you will be when you face prolonged sections where you feel more suffering than joy. Good feelings will still be available to you and you will have positive experiences, but there is no doubt there are times when the struggle feels acutely uphill. I refer to those times as your (roughly) eight year cycles.

To stay healthy through these periods, it’s important to maintain an awareness of a longer perspective on your life. The struggle for change is often preceded by a growth. You might need some new friends, a new job, maybe you change where or how you live, you gain a new perspective–a turn into a new you. You’re the caterpillar fighting it’s way out as a butterfly.

Doesn’t it make sense that you would need to begin a new life? Not entirely new–but it really does feel like another section; another level of being a person. It’s a particular kind of maturing. We tend to mark our life by these events. So learn not to lament them while you’re in them. The dentist doesn’t always feel fun at the time but they’re worth it. Same with the awkward and unpleasant feelings that go with growth. Rabbi Dr. Twerski does a good job of explaining the concept:

If life’s enjoyable, enjoy it. If it’s a struggle, enjoy the chance to grow toward even broader horizons. No matter why, have some kind of 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.

Resistance to Change

774 Relax and Succeed - Perhaps our eyes need to be washedWhen I meet a new student I can pretty quickly tell if they’ll learn what I’m teaching them now or later. I get why the later group wants it to be later. When you already feel overwhelmed who wants someone suggesting that what you need is more responsibility? I get that it’s entirely counter-intuitive. But as with many things we eventually come to understand, the truth is hidden in the apparent paradox.

I know that feeling of profound sadness. Everyone does. No one gets out of life without a healthy dose of all of the feelings. And that sadness–it’s darkness is so heavy. It suffocates your spirit. You simply cannot imagine anyone reaching you there. It is horribly lonely and it steals your spirit to live. People that commit suicide aren’t angry, they’re tired. The suffering just seems so uniform and relentless that there seems to be no point in continuing. And so it makes sense that you might initially hate me for saying you should do more.

I know that anyone who’s feeling down does not want to be there and that you would have tried every sensible thing you could imagine to get yourself out. I have faith in you. At the same time, I know from experience that the answer is more tricky than difficult. The example I often use is learning to multiply numbers. To say it’s hard isn’t accurate, but learning it requires a leap of understanding much like this does.

774 Relax and Succeed - Believe that life is worth livingSo I’m not really asking you to work harder by taking more responsibility, I’m asking you to take it easier by assuming more responsibility. If you will accept only one idea–if you will accept only one responsibility–you will be free of almost all of the others. But before you take it you can’t see why the others would vanish so you resist the change. Even though what you’re doing is leading to sadness you will continue down that path rather than take on weight you don’t think your spirit can handle. Fair enough.

But when you’re ready all you need to do is this one thing, in an albeit pretty profound way: you need to accept the idea of suffering in your life. I know, weird isn’t it? Your suffering disappears if you accept suffering. If you’ll just own when you feel crappy–if you’ll just let that be–then you can shift your way out into better feelings. But if you take the better-feeling time and dedicate it to wishing and hoping that you never had nor never will suffer, then you suffer almost all the time.

Do you see the duality of it? By accepting suffering you give happiness something to contrast against. You can’t find the happiness when there’s no contrast. So if you consistently stay in a state of wanting-to-be-happier then you’re essentially blocking happiness. If you resist suffering then you are inviting more of it by thinking about wanting it gone. As always, appreciation feels good, wanting feels bad.

774 Relax and Succeed - While experiencing happinessThe simple fact is that everyone has been knocked down repeatedly in life. You’ll idolize some music star but ignore the single line in their interview about having “surrendered 10 years to a drug addiction.” 10 years! 3500 agonized days described just like that. Or we treat a Hollywood divorce like it’s somehow less crazily painful than anyone else’s divorce. But we skip past all those dirty details and we note all the good stuff that happened before and after. So why not do the same thing with your own life?

You can’t like being alive all the time or you wouldn’t even know what enjoyment was. So suffering is a mandatory portion of the yin and yang construction of the universe and you literally need it as much as you need happiness. And yet when it comes you send it away as though it doesn’t belong in your life. But it does, so it returns and knocks again and asks you to accept it. But you reject it and reject it and your entire life ends up invested in dealing with nothing but suffering.

Surrender. Allow. Lots of days won’t feel easy to enjoy but that doesn’t mean that they can’t be appreciated. Appreciation is separate from enjoyment. You may not enjoy your workout but you appreciate it helps you enjoy more of the rest of your life. You may not enjoy the company of your mother but without her absolutely none of your life would have ever happened.

774 Relax and Succeed - When you complain you make yourself a victimThe only line you want to draw isn’t between happiness and sadness. That effort just leads to a lot of sadness. No, the only line you want is between worthy of your time or not worth of your time. So feeding yourself is work but it keeps you alive so it’s worthy of your time. We don’t need more happiness we need less meaninglessness.

Way too much of what you do each day is truly and profoundly meaningless. Get rid of ego-based, churning actions like doing things out of obligation, or not asking for help, or even just complaining etc. etc. Forget achievements and being impressive or even liked. Just focus on the value in each moment. It’s much easier than trying to straddle your past and your future simultaneously.

Yes, you will suffer. If you’re suffering now you’re in the perfect position to spot appreciation. The person in the darkest room finds the pinhole of light first. But you can’t see it and complain it’s too small. You have to focus on it and study it, and as you grow closer it will expand to take up much more of your view until all you can see is mostly the light, leaving the darkness to recede to the point where it is only seen as one thing: the frame for all of your happiness.

May peace be with you.

Love, s

Scott McPherson is a writer, public speaker, and mindfulness facilitator who works with individuals, companies and nonprofit organizations around the world.

Other Perspectives #83

771 OP Relax and Succeed - Accept what you cannot changeOuch. This one seems downright painful. If you read me regularly then you’ll be confident that I’ll support the idea of accepting what you cannot change. And I even like the idea of people working toward change that hasn’t happened yet. But the idea that we will be able to change everything we don’t accept is simply impossible. Sooner rather than later the world will teach you that are certain fates from which there is no “escape.” But this in and of itself is not a problem. The need to change the unchangeable will lead to distress in all personal relationships, business relationships and even within ourselves. Not being attached to an outcome and acceptance of our situation is essential to our spirit. As the Dalai Lama says, “If a problem is fixable there is no need to worry. If it’s not fixable then there is no benefit in worrying whatsoever.”

peace. s

Scott McPherson is a writer, mindfulness instructor, coach and communications facilitator who works with individuals, companies and nonprofit organizations around the world.

Rejection

Let’s make one thing clear for (especially for people in their teens and twenties): it obviously hurts really badly when we feel someone has rejected us after we’ve opened up to them and loved them. That is the most meaningful connection in the world and every version of it is valuable. Simultaneously, it’s important to remember that when you’re young you only have one or maybe two experiences to judge by, so remember your views of any experience will always change over time. It won’t always hurt that much I promise.

747 Relax and Succeed - You can be the ripest juiciest peachIn fact in the best cases we make good use of those painful experiences. The pain will be what makes you more compassionate and successful when you’re trying to help someone else who is suffering. Because whether our connections are through love or compassion, what’s most valuable is the connection itself. So over time you’ll come to value even painful experiences because you’ll realize that is what connects you so strongly to other people, whether it’s the ones who were there for you when you were in pain, or the connection you feel to the people who are currently experiencing a pain you know personally.

Love is a huge feeling. Huge. The first time you feel it it makes sense that it feels like the entire world has ended when it’s over. You can see why love’s such a big deal in art and life. Whether through romance or compassion the feeling is like no other connection. So when we establish one super-strong connection it’s agony to yank it out. But over time you’ll even get used to that. I know it seems incredible but it’s true. Sometimes you’ll even volunteer for it. Sometimes that horrible feeling is better than being in the relationship.

The important thing is this: if you’re feeling rejected you don’t want to be concluding that you are being rejected. People can reject situations and choices and beliefs but they can’t reject a person. What would that even mean? All they can do is think about the other person differently and/or maybe physically place themselves elsewhere.

747 Relax and Succeed - Pain is inevitableThinking you’ve been rejected because your relationship ended is like saying that if someone leaves Paris for Rome that they’re saying Paris is worthless. But the assessment of Paris’s worth happens inside each individual’s head, and everyone thinks their own thoughts. So if there are seven billion points of view on the planet then it’s a guarantee that a huge number of them will love Paris just as a huge number—given a real chance—will love you.

Heartbreaks will hurt. But someone rejecting you does not diminish your overall value in this universe. You’ll think that it does for a while but then it’s up to you to return to the awareness that your value is inherent and that it is only your agonized thoughts that are creating your agonized suffering. There is nothing wrong with you.

You naturally glow like the sun and the only thing that can interfere with that light is some temporary clouds in your thinking. Just remember that being lost or in pain or feeling rejected is all a part of this wonderful experience called life. Both Paris and Rome will experience both sun and cloud. But by experiencing the agonizing parts of life we are primed to properly value the intense and beautiful connection that comes with the compassion and love we do receive.

Now go take this amazing world and make a beautiful day out of it. Love you. 😉

peace. s

Other Perspectives #78

746 OP Relax and Succeed - Never let anyone take away your happinessNever is a big word. Like all of us you’ll accidentally allow at least a few people to get attached to your happiness when you’re young. But that’ll hurt so you’ll learn that’s a dangerous thing to do. If you do lose track of your happiness you’ll want to make sure you’re maintaining an awareness that you gave the happiness away as opposed to someone took it. No one actually has the power to take away anyone else’s happiness so this isn’t a challenge or a warning. It’s more a reminder: do not be attached, be attracted. You’ll definitely need being sad or angry or worried so you can even recognize being happy, but don’t let other’s behaviour dictate whether or not you’re happy. They always have the freedom to leave but you always have the option of what to think about that.

peace. s

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Other Perspectives #75

731 OP75 Relax and Succeed - Don't you hate it when

Hide the pain inside? In what organ? Via which… fluid? Everyone knows it hurts terribly to be ostracized. But you cannot be profoundly happy if your happiness depends on others. So let people have their opinions. Besides, when our guard’s down you and I are equally bad for accidentally hurting others. The reason we can’t stop it from happening is because it happens inside the brain of the person who’s hurt and we don’t know what might offend them. Nor do we control their thoughts—they do. They think the judgments or memories that release the chemicals that lead to the sensation of pain, just like we’re doing the thinking when it’s us being hurt. So you can enjoy hanging around with different people other than those who attack you, but don’t try to lead a life where no one attacks you. That’s impossible and a waste of energy because rather than ruminating on their opinions, you could just be focused on something else. Everyone you meet will have an opinion about you. I want you to think about all of the people that you have had opinions about. Some of them you’ll never see again. But none of them would really care what your opinions had been. There’s just too many of them. So they live instead. You should do the same. Stop trying to figure life out. Live instead.

peace. s

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