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.