MoK: The Rarest Kindness

By this point we will all have contributed a lot of positivity to the world through our actions in the March of Kindness. Congratulations. Collectively we’ve done a lot. Now it’s time we remembered to include ourselves in that process.

Just as everyone around us benefits equally from kindness, we do too, and in this often fast-paced world too many of us are either so focused on what we’re doing, or we’re too focused on caring for others, to have the time or energy left to care for ourselves.

The greatest kindness anyone can pay to anyone is simply to be present. These are those times when the person feels seen or heard or understood or that a strong connection exists. But most of us have a much better sense of when that’s happening with other people than with ourselves.

When we sense conflict with others we feel an automatic impulse to repair it because in the end, the deepest part of us knows we need each other. This brings the other person or people into focus our awareness and our impulse is to act. Unfortunately, when we have conflict within ourselves we attempt to resolve the conflict by trying to “improve” rather than by making a stronger connection.

You know that improvement feeling. That’s those times where you talk to yourself critically and talk about what you should have done or should do. You spend a painfully large percentage of your life doing that and it’s all for naught. You don’t get better by “improving” yourself, you expand by being present with the world and acting on your nature. When you help others is a great example of that. So today it’s time to shine that same light upon ourselves.

Your act today in the March of Kindness is very simple. Immediately after reading this (or as soon as you have at least 10 full minutes to focus on it), take about five to ten deep breaths. Fill your lungs. Oxygenate your mind and body. Give it part of the fuel that will power your perception.

First, look at your life. Not in that critical, judgmental way you usually do, but look at yourself like you would view a friend or relative you love a great deal. Now imagine someone loving you the same way you love that friend. Imagine that friend just got back from a year away and they’d been in a monastery or something–you couldn’t talk.

Now imagine that they’ve just heard about what’s been going–and I mean literally do this, not brush your way through it quickly like it’s silly. Caring for yourself is not silly. Remember, this friend just heard about your life and they love you. This person that loves you comes back from the monastery all peaceful and caring. They don’t have a lot of money available and they understand you have some real responsibilities, but they know and love you. What act of kindness do they suggest?

Maybe it’s simple–they take you out for your favourite meal. Maybe it’s that they convince you to skip the gym to see a beloved childhood movie. Maybe it’s extra sleep. Maybe they take you for a walk and they discuss with you all of your good times, all of your achievements, all the times you felt proud of yourself. Wouldn’t that be different from all of that self-criticism!

Or here’s a a couple rare ones: Say no to someone when you usually wouldn’t. Or here’s the most challenging one of all. They help you with something. But you’re thinking, Scott, there’s no actual friend. This is me and me. I get it. What I mean is that you find something you need help with and you actually ask for the help you never ask for. Now there’s a rare one.

That’s it. Easy. Be a present open, aware and loving friend to you. But you have to take this seriously. Do you get it? This one’s very important. You can’t shortcut it, cheat it, downplay it or dismiss it–this friend loves you and they’re wise. Take what they suggest you do and then do it. You’re worth that. I’m absolutely certain of it. Do it. I love you.

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.

MoK: Patience as Kindness

Thank you for bearing with my late posts while I traverse a few challenging days on the family health front. Fortunately, today’s act in the March of Kindness is one that suits your willingness to wait perfectly. Patience is all too often invisible when it should be seen as the loving act of kindness that it truly is.

From letting little passive aggressive statements go by unchallenged, to taking care of something that was someone else’s duty, we all express a lot of quiet patience each day. The problem is that we often only note our behaviour when it feels beneath us, meaning you’ll notice the few times you’re impatient far more than the times you are patient.

Even knowing that everyday life requires all kinds of patience, it is nevertheless a kind and generous act, and so adding one more act of conscious patience can do nothing but good for all involved.

Today your March of Kindness assignment is simple: Keep your awareness up, and find just one opportunity today where you feel an impulse to offer a suggestion or you feel you’re going to react in an impatient way, and then divert that impulse into non-action. Let your action be stillness.

Interestingly, the time we choose to show extra patience might coincide perfectly with when a person really needed something to go well or they’d snap. We all know how good it feels when someone shows us patience when we know we didn’t act in a way that encouraged it. We might as well create more opportunities for those things to happen.

Make your own displays of patience more conscious, and find a way to add just one more act of patient kindness to today and you will have made the world better with your presence. Thank you for that. And thank you for your patience in receiving these last few posts. Enjoy your 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.

Background Noise

1098-relax-and-succeed-be-still-and-listenTo many people, there are sounds and then there are words. Words communicate specific ideas between specific people, whereas sounds are more general. Words are intentionally spoken but, other than music, a lot of daily sound is simply the sound of living. It wasn’t for anyone.

If you’re in the forest, sound might mean birds and a waterfall; in a city it can mean sirens and traffic. But to most people that is background. Unless you’re a sound person in film or possibly a composer, for most people those sounds are habitually subtracted from our consciousness. Subtracted. As in; you’ve removed some reality.

If we really want to hear someone we’ll ask the people around them to be quiet. We’ll want to focus on that one voice. Words seem very intentional. Background noises appear less so, but not to whoever or whatever made them. That’s because we handle sound much like we handle the thought-experiment from yesterday about looking versus seeing. We listen for things, we rarely just listen.

1098-relax-and-succeed-the-sound-of-rainIt is because we place such a massive emphasis on words that we’re often lost. If we have a problem and we need an answer, we turn the problem into words and we ask people to give us advice in words. But words are symbols for the world, they are not the world. And people lie all of the time for valid social reasons. So if they’re symbols, and they’re often misleading, why do we use them so much to find our way?

Making matters worse, we spend all day treating these word-symbols as though they are solid, because we see them not as descriptions of the world but rather the world itself. We believe when we then transfer the words to the insides of our heads that we’re continuing to manage the real world using our minds, when it’s really just our ego juggling a bunch of symbols.

In truth we’ve trapped ourselves in an illusion and we’re trying to get out of a symbolic world by using even more symbols. It is the symbols that create the famous Buddhist illusion. When the Buddha speaks of ego, he speaks of mistaking a superficial description for a thing itself.

When you talk to yourself that is 100% symbols. Someone can drive a car without thinking of all of the words associated with driving a car. People aren’t behind the wheel going, “alright, blinker, shoulder check, all clear, lane change, blinker off, check rearview mirror….” etc. They’re just driving. Can you imagine being like that with people?

1098-relax-and-succeed-silence-isnt-emptyIn today’s meditation your job is to flip the world over. Rather than making the words important and the rest the background, you’re going to start ignoring your ego and focusing on the world itself. You want to trade words from outside your head or inside your head for just plain listening. In fact, this practice is often so unusual today that people aren’t even sure how to do it.

Don’t cycle other’s words, or words from your past. Don’t discuss things longer than necessary. Look for a conclusion to the need for words and then take action. The idea is to try to stop using words as soon as you can, and then trade that for active listening. Again, it’s like the difference between going to a big crowd of people and looking for someone, versus noticing someone you know because your eyes and mind are open.

All you’re trying to find today is three things you couldn’t have known or learned were it not for the way you were listening. Three things you realised through sound but you learned it from sounds other than words. If that seems abstract to you–if you’re not sure what I mean–if my words are unclear; just try listening to the world. Then maybe, like seeing a friend you didn’t know was there, you will be able to hear this lesson clearly. 😉

Forget all the words. Be present instead. And have 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 organisations locally and around the world.

Psychological Violence

1090-relax-and-succeed-non-violence-is-the-weapon-of-the-strongYesterday’s was a very worthwhile meditation. The more you exercise that awareness the better you’ll get. Even a very negative person will change so subtly that they’ll never actually remember when they started being positive naturally, rather than doing it by conscious choice. Unless you change it back, that’ll be who you are to anyone who meets you going forward.

At first it can be hard to find the language to convert negative, separating ideas into positive, connecting ones. Our language emerges from our experience, so in this case you’re forcing yourself at the start. But over time your language structures will reshape to match your behaviour and you will have a new positive “personality.”

The next step in your psycho-spiritual development is to also stay aware of the internal conversations you’re having with yourself. You not only separate yourself from the outside world by speaking words that divide, you also do this within your consciousness as you use words to draw lines between labels.

1090-relax-and-succeed-nonviolence-means-avoidingWhether you can justify your judgment or not is irrelevant; the point here is choose to embrace soulful, connective feelings vs egocentric, divisive emotions. We do this by converting our internal conversations the same way we started doing yesterday with external conversations.

Once we have switched our internal conversations, that will also have an impact on our external conversations, and internally we will grow increasingly quiet until eventually we find there is very little reason to think much at all. Examples for you to catch might include:

  1. You might catch yourself saying something about your boss; “I can’t stand how he sounds so superior when he asks for things.”
  2. Or maybe it’s a reaction you have regarding a difference between your parenting style and your spouse’s; “He shouldn’t let them get away with that or they’ll start doing it all the time,”
  3. Or maybe it’s the sort of passing comments someone at school makes; “She thinks she’s so important but really she’s just a bitch.”

1090-relax-and-succeed-empathy-has-no-scriptYou not liking something, you expressing a difference over something, or you wanting to limit someone’s freedom to express themselves; those are all examples of negative, divisive statements. Those could instead be:

  1. “I suppose my irritation about how he asks for things is similar to when people get frustrated with me for being indirect.” This makes the two of you similar instead of making one the aggressor over others.
  2. “I respect when he has to do it too; because watching a decision you genuinely disagree with in relation to something as important as your kids is quite difficult and I know he doesn’t always agree with my choices.” This unifies you as experience-havers and it respects humility and the idea that other ways may be just as beneficial as yours.
  3. “To have to enter a room and establish an instant position of superiority must require someone to start off feeling extra-insecure about not being important.” This depersonalizes the behaviour while also being compassionate.

1090-relax-and-succeed-my-religion-is-very-simpleToday’s meditation is simple: Catch yourself a minimum of ten times. When you catch yourself internally saying something negative about another person, make the switch to some other story that is still honest, but is more forgiving, supportive or compassionate.

It shouldn’t be hard to find opportunities for understanding at this point in history considering almost everyone has taken a very strong position in recent elections. It’s not like you have to know the people personally to do this exercise. The only important part is to really do it.

These ones are big. These generate a lot of your so-called problems. Do this meditation earnestly and daily and you can absolutely change your life. If you’re working with a partner, compare how many times you caught yourself and then discuss your best conversions to help you feel a sense of pride, accomplishment and ownership. That will only make them easier to do in future moments, and that’s important because our entire future is made of the little steps we take within the individual moments that will become both our future and our past.

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.

Why Connects Us

1088-relax-and-succeed-you-are-a-part-of-everythingWhy are you here? Why do you exist? We’ve all wondered that occasionally. We even go so far as to wish we didn’t exist. And yet walking off something tall is pretty easy and barely anyone does it intentionally. Those that survive said they knew it was a mistake the second they let go. Why?

Someone thought they wanted to die so they walked to a bridge and they thought about all the reasons. And it made them want to jump. All those reasons. All those thoughts. Round and round and round. They’re loud and negative and awful and they hurt. People want to leave all of it behind. So they let go.

Why would someone miss and hit the water, survive, and then not just walk back up and go again but just a little to the left?

1088-relax-and-succeed-perhaps-somewhere-someplace-deepMay I suggest it’s because the act of falling suddenly brought life into perspective. This wasn’t some reset button. This was splat. This was no more. They close the casket, everyone goes home, cries some, and life goes on as it has for tens of thousands of years; without you. But that is not what anyone was really looking for.

What people are actually seeking is peace. They want the noise to stop. We all feel that way. When people are upset they’ll often sit huddled, or they’ll hug their own knees, or they’ll even go so far as to cover their ears. They’re trying to block all of that noise out.

When they let go they realise the sound wasn’t coming from the outside. They realise their so-called problems weren’t the issues, it was the noise, and the noise is self-created. They’re arguments or complaints or whines about the fact that in the end there are always only two routes.

1088-relax-and-succeed-why-struggle-to-open-a-doorI’ve said it before but it bears repeating: there are either solutions to problems, in which case someone doesn’t have a problem, they have a solution they’re working on; or they have something they can’t do anything about but, that’s not a problem either, that is just the world as it is for everyone.

If things went the way people expected there would be no point in living. Without the surprises, the challenges and the achievements it just wouldn’t feel like being alive. It would be boring. That being the case, today’s meditation asks you to find three examples from your life when you thought it was terrible. Find three non-current examples of “problems” and then find where they lead.

Continue the meditation with all three examples and find the value in each. Find the ways that you expanded from experiencing those tough times. Look for examples until you have three where you genuinely realise that the unpleasantness had a value you now wouldn’t trade away.

1088-relax-and-succeed-the-universe-is-my-homeMost people want “problems” to stop because they assume they don’t have that value, when in fact most people have just never done this exercise. They’ve made a huge assumption that something that feels unpleasant must automatically be bad, when it’s really the foundation of all of meaning.

Without the foundation of this page’s whiteness you wouldn’t be able to see the black marks I write with. Without contrast there is nothing. You wouldn’t come to read a blank blog. Why read something that didn’t even bother to exist?

Life’s value is derived from overcoming. If I will not face the white noise of a blank page I cannot hope to draw from myself the love and compassion that creates the black lines that make up these words. Yet if I can use them to connect us and share our souls, then we both can feel we have improved the universe. And nothing is more important, because if nothing is wrong we cannot hope to make it better. And making the universe better is critical because collectively, that universe is made of us.

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.

Peace Through Understanding

1083-relax-and-succeed-the-truth-is-you-cant-try-to-let-goFor the sake of your symbiotic relationship with society it is good to cultivate a personal sense of peace. This why the people we struggle with the most are the ones that are also the most valuable in the development of our spiritual and psychological resilience.

In yesterday’s meditation we identified what you had gained thanks to your spiritual enemy. You think about this person too often, they anger you too quickly, and you just feel like you would be a much happier, better person if they didn’t act this or that certain way! Breathe.

You cannot be found until you’re lost. You’re born without ego, you learn how to ego from other egos and then you try to get your way back out of your ego-suit. That’s pretty much what life is. Your ego is like this tight, restrictive piece of clothing that won’t allow you to bend or lean or fold any part of your body without your ego pinching you painfully.  Stuff like; Way to go, skip the gym again, never lose this weight, never get a date, or whatever yours says to pinch you.

1083-relax-and-succeed-let-no-man-pull-you-low-enoughAs we know, your Temari ball was built around whatever the insult it was that dug in and stuck. You heard all kinds of things your entire life, some good some bad. This is one you decided to prove wrong. Can you see what you did?

When you’re young you’re the child of your parents. You have your own personality but you don’t really have an identity that doesn’t relate to a pretty fixed set of people; your family, the kids at school. But then in your tweens you need your own identity. You have to be someone. And as I’ve discussed in this blog many times before, kids usually start with the opposite of the parent because they’re not even sure what else there is to be.

This is where you make a choice about life again. Imagine that before birth you were something more akin to a verb than a noun, and that you chose your childhood. Now imagine that this is the same moment where your soul chooses your first mask of adulthood. This is the first character you pick up to play that seems to match what your untested beliefs are.

1083-relax-and-succeed-experience-that-most-brutal-of-teachersMaybe you chose Party Girl, or Fashion Guy, or Thrift Mart Artist, or Super-Serious Athlete, Eclectic Musician, or Political Junky, or Comic Nerd or even Yoga Vegan. There’s nothing wrong with those other than your inflexibility. You’ll invest a lot in your identity and so if someone asks you to step out of it for any reason it can feel uncomfortable. You’ll argue with them. You’ll feel resistance.

After you pick the first adult identity you end up choosing a second one anyone anyway, and it’s often a ricochet off of your first identity and your disillusionment with aspects of it. The sooner you get intentional about creating peace rather than just reacting to unrest, the sooner you get back to the pleasant state of mind you enjoyed as a kid.

Over the next three days your meditation is to stay vigilant, watching your internal narratives for any references directly to, or that somehow relate to, your villain and how they make you feel. The idea is that each time you think of them, you replace that narrative with what you figured out yesterday.

1083-relax-and-succeed-if-it-comes-let-itIf your ex drives you crazy but your kids are your joy, then when you think of the ex start remembering that without them you don’t have the children. Really poke holes in the person that doesn’t accept your ex, because that’s your ego. It hurts you.

The truth is that great things came from this other human, so that person is obviously super valuable. The problem is, that’s not what you look for when you deal with them. You start listing how they’re difficult. This is about acceptance.

You can tell the angry story or you can remember they’re connected to life and beauty and love. That choice is yours and your life is made of a big long line of those choices. Those are the experiences of your lifetime. As often as possible, make them consciously.

Have a wonderful weekend everyone. All the best with your meditations. These ones are big.

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.

Unconditional Surrender

1078-relax-and-succeed-you-are-where-you-need-to-beYou want to be the best person you can be and you want to enjoy your own life more. Those are good goals and that’s why you’re here. And I have good news! You’ve already taken an important step in your journey, but it won’t be very visible to you until it’s a ways behind you.

A percentage of the people who started these daily meditations have already gone back to old habits while many others have been quite enthusiastic. It’s curious isn’t it? I assured people results if they just stuck with a series of easy tasks and still a percentage of people could not appreciate that their peace of mind would be worth that small effort. In short, they have too little to lose. They need their suffering to get worse before they’ll think that easy trade is worth it.

The people who are still doing the exercises fall into two groups. Some are not sure what’s going on with these weird exercises either, but they’re giving it a try. Some of you have a light, forgiving childlike spirit that’s already close to its home, so it takes on the challenges playfully and trusts. But for many more, their dedication comes from their pure fatigue with the idea of suffering. They just want relief and they have little pride about how to get it. They just want to surrender. And both of those sound like open people to my ears.

1078-relax-and-succeed-stay-afraid-but-do-it-anywayAround now is when a bunch of you are on the fence regarding which group you’re in. I’m not bothered or offended by your uncertainty. In fact it makes sense to me. But I can’t convince you. I can make an offer and I can do it from a genuine place of compassion, but your acceptance of it is up to you.

Only you can invite these ideas into your landscape of possibility. That can feel weird and new and awkward, which is why some people just resort to old behaviours, habits or addictions. It’s so easy to play yourself a recorded message of some excuse. And like water, the words and internal narrative become repetitive actions in your life. That’s a psychological downslope and it’s easy to flow in that direction. It’s why most people accept an unpleasant life for far longer than they later feel they should have. It’s easy.

Not much harder is just a bit of diligence, some awareness, and some trust that innocent, playful nature we all have. You don’t want to do these exercises and then continue to beat yourself up in your own thoughts like some failed adult. Throughout these meditations you should not invest psychological energy in the narration-creation of a failing you. That runs contrary to our purpose.

1078-relax-and-succeed-when-you-throw-dirtThe idea is that you just do the exercises here and then stop beating yourself up the rest of the time. You’re doing this; you don’t need to attack yourself. You’re already dealing with your issues. And I’m helping you, and I’m telling you that you’ll help me help you if you’ll just let yourself off the hook.

Even if you treat someone badly, just forgive it and give it to me and this process. Surrender. You don’t need to do anything else. You’re doing enough by doing my strange little exercises. I know the concept of over looks weird when you live in a two-dimensional world, but trust me, being able to get over a problem is worth some time being confused in the two-dimensional world.

Today, just practice surrendering. Every time you catch yourself using your internal narrative to attack yourself or your work, just stop and give that to me. Just say, “I’m taking care of this stuff with those meditations on Relax and Succeed. He said to just let things like this go, so I’m letting it go.” Then shift your energy away from creating that narrative to noticing something in that present moment. That’s it. It’s both easy and yet you already know this is a tricky one. That’s why you should practice it all weekend.

1078-relax-and-succeed-my-only-goal-in-life-right-nowLet me worry about your sins. You just do your exercises and live and we’ll look up in a quarter of a year and see if you feel like your dedication to this weird plan was worth it. We’ve already spent a few weeks poking holes in your sense of reality. You’ve done more to undermine it than you think. Stay for the duration and we’ll tear a big enough hole for you to see through.

Surrender. You’ll see. Once I get your ego out of the way you’ll take fantastic care of yourself and your life.

peace. s

PS And don’t forget to put your quiet time from yesterday into your calendar. Even if you have to move that commitment, ensure that you get your three opportunities each day. It will be worth your efforts.

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.

Sanctuary

1077-relax-and-succeed-breatheYou have imagined sanctuaries but you likely have imagined something other than what your soul needs. You believe you need to get away from your life to some deserted island before you can get some peace and rest, but you can also do that by diving deeper into your own life.

You’ve been sending your consciousness out into the world over the last several meditations. Rather than spinning within yourself like a whirling ego storm you’ve worked to remember how to be a kid and open yourself up. Rather than swirling destructively within yourself you’re sending your consciousness outward, where it is more like a breeze from which valuable dreams can be snatched.

You’ll have put a lot of energy in your life and into improving yourself. Studying, practising, repeating, doing, going, enduring, strengthening, striving, reaching and working are all other names we put around the concept of improvement. But how much energy have you invested on slowing down? How much value have you placed on being quiet inside, or still, or empty?

1077-relax-and-succeed-all-of-us-need-time-to-be-boredIf you’re a parent, look at your kids: how much of your time is invested in helping them learn how to do things versus organising their life to also very consciously include opportunities to develop peace? Tranquility? Being alone? Listening skills? Or even the endurance required for boredom? How many opportunities for that did your parents give you?

If you were fully grown up before the internet showed up then you had a childhood where a lot of your time was your own. You would have found plenty of opportunities to relax and have Calvin and Hobbes-type conversations. If you’re still in the workforce today, have kids today, or if you are a kid who was born before 1970, then you have seen the steady devaluation of free time and peace of mind. Today’s it’s a badge of honour to be busy, when that’s a sign that things are going poorly, not well.

You can’t fit too much life in and live it deeply and fully. That’s like spending fifteen minutes at ten parties a night and then saying that you see your friends a lot. They’re not checkboxes, they’re people. You can’t download their history, their state of mind, or your own awareness and the natural sense of compassion that accompanies it. The only thing that’s useful with them or with yourself is presence. And yet….

1077-relax-and-succeed-the-most-wasted-of-all-daysYou’re an expert at not being present. You think you can multi-task. You can do. You consider doing so important that doing gets its own category: The To-Do List. But is there a not-to-do list? Is free time part of your schedule? Is it a priority? No, we live in a cult of efficiency. Today your worth is calculated based on what you’ve done, not who you’ve helped; especially if that’s yourself.

Today’s assignment is for you to create some actual peace. This is one of the most serious meditations so far: divide the day into your morning, your afternoon and your evening. Within the framework of each add an opportunity for peace. Each day provide an opportunity that is at least fifteen minutes long. One quarter of one hour out of each six, and then at least six to sleep (which is like another meditation). That’s only 1/24th of the three sections you’re awake for. Surely you can put that toward your mental health.

You can watch cat videos, look through old photo albums that lead to happy feelings, you can listen to peaceful music, go for a quiet walk, laugh, sit in the library and just watch people without judgment, concentrate on the people in your life that you love, or even peruse the Relax and Succeed page since that’s what it’s there for. All you’re seeking is a quiet mind with good feelings but no words.

1077-relax-and-succeed-people-will-do-anythingYou’ll feel resistance. You’ll feel the pull of your ego. It’ll taunt you saying things like you don’t have time for this, or how’s this going to help you? or whatever. Yak yak yak. It’s always there commenting. So what? You’re ego’s an idiot. It sees all kinds of limitations that aren’t really there, it talks you out of lots of great experiences and it runs you down regularly. Your ego is no friend to you so certainly don’t let it talk you out of dedicating yourself to something that is both so easy and so beneficial.

Set them. Get serious about them. Maintain them with the dedication you apply to the important things in your life like money or your phone. Set all of that aside and remember how to be. Because you’re not really sick or broken or lost, you’re just doing instead of being. So practice being. Start now.

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.

Mental Spin Class

1076-relax-and-succeed-suffering-is-not-holding-youIt was entirely normal that a lot of you struggled with yesterday’s meditation. That doesn’t mean it wasn’t productive. The reason it was hard is the same reason that most people are seeking more personal peace with others, ourselves and the world around us. We want to surrender into each other. But there’s these damned thoughts in the way.

When you say, “I can’t stand how Darlene makes it sound like her grandkids are smarter than everyone else’s,” what you mean is: when Darlene talks about her grandchildren I have internal conversations where my ego talks to my self and in doing so it leads me to experience unpleasant brain chemistry that I feel as the emotions I don’t enjoy.

Maybe your conversations surround how you feel insecure about how you raised your kids, and now you feel that your divorced, formerly addicted single mom daughter is something to be ashamed of. Maybe Darlene’s daughter is a chess master who is also an Olympic figure skater. That can lead your inferior-feeling self to want to bring Darlene down a few notches in your thoughts.

1076-relax-and-succeed-the-quieter-you-becomeMaybe you’re fine with whoever your kids and grandkids are but you’ve always had a thing about superiority. That family down the street used to make your mother cry with her comments about your family’s modest life. People like that are jerks. Anyone who displays any kind of superiority has been well thought-out a long time ago. As an adult you can just play that angry recording.

It doesn’t matter what the reason is. What matters is that resistance to someone else’s being feels terrible. It’s unproductive. Fortunately it’s also voluntary. In fact it takes effort. But yesterday, in one of your meditative attempts to be more peaceful, you ended up possibly even more irritated. And that’s okay. It’s instructional.

What often happens is that people do something like this: There’s Darlene, at it again. No. No. Don’t go there. Don’t think about Darlene, don’t think about Darlene, don’t think about Darlene…” I think you might already be getting my point. It’s like your ego and your self are arguing in your head like those two old guys in the balcony in The Muppets. One’s bitching about Darlene and the other’s bitching that he doesn’t want to discuss Darlene. That’s a lot of talking about Darlene.

When a figure skater is spinning really quickly they are keeping their own physical energy near them, away from the outside world. Like them, when you spin thought-loops in your head you keep all of that spinning energy bundled up inside of your consciousness when it should be open to the entire world.

When a figure skater wants to stop their spin they don’t win some kind of argument; they open up and release the energy to the world around them. As the forces are released the spinning stops. Until then the vision of the skater is blurred. Likewise with your psychology. Spin it around Darlene and you’ll get dizzy and upset. Release those thoughts and turn your attention to the surrounding world and you’re free.

Since so many of you struggled yesterday, let us repeat today: choose the same or a different person. Your objective is simple: As you listen, catch your ego starting to spin and then open and release. The idea is that you want to recognise  that you’re focused on your own spinning thoughts. You want to throw your attention outward and without expectation.

1076-relax-and-succeed-i-even-overthink-my-overthinkingWherever you are, a good way to practice this would be for you to try to release yourself by noting something you’ve never noticed before about your location or the people with you. Maybe it’s that someone’s wife is taller than them, or that their eyes are blue; maybe there’s a yellow thumbtack stuck in the ceiling, or there’s a cut in the floor. It doesn’t matter. It’s the act of refocus and release that counts.

Watch for irritation, see yourself spinning, release your consciousness. You already do this in your life. It’s time you started doing it consciously. 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.