Changing Your Life

1225 Relax and Succeed - If you're not going anywhereWe’re all guilty of it. We want our lives to improve and we have these things that we know would help, but we just can’t get others to cooperate with our plans to improve our situation. Eventually though, we reach a maturity where we realise that they are thinking precisely the same thing about us.

This isn’t to say that our lives couldn’t be improved if others made the changes we’re suggesting, but the fact remains that you have a massive amount of control over yourself and you have little to no control over others, so you are far better to invest your energies in improving your life through things that you control, that can happen for sure versus things you don’t control and only might happen.

We all know that every single one of us has some habits that may be difficult for those around us. You have to have a personality, so we don’t want to remove any quality because on the other side of it will be something useful; like you’re pushy, but when leading is a crappy job the pushy person will still take it and save everyone else. But the point is to mature so that we can apply that ability when it is most useful and not the most damaging.

1225 Relax and Succeed -  To improve our livesPick your issue. It can be small, that’s fine. Maybe you tap your fingers too much, or you’re not polite, or you rush, or you won’t make decisions, or you’re a bully in meetings. Just stay conscious of that one thing for today and try to influence how often or how meaningful the impacts to others might be. And maybe if you do end up doing that thing you do, consider apologising.

Just this one bit of simple mindfulness will make a big difference to not only the other people around you, but more importantly it will also strengthen your mindfulness overall. You will also end the day feeling good about your successes in altering your behaviour. So ignore when your old self emerges and be happy when you adjust. This isn’t about where you are on some scale, it’s about taking you wherever you are and expanding your capacities.

Pick your issue, maybe leave a note or two to yourself or in your daily calendar, and then stay conscious of yourself. That awareness alone will pay additional dividends throughout your day, and who knows, someone might even notice. Enjoy!

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.

Scarred Childhoods and Adult Relationships

If we learn not to overthink we can often do it with smaller, less important stuff, but we struggle with what we call the big stuff. Of course little and big stuff just refers to stuff your life trained you to think of a little versus the stuff your life taught you to think a lot.

In reality we’re all really works of art, so let us say that God or the universe created your base stone and now your parents are walking along a gorgeous cliff of fantastic marble. They see a piece they love and so they have a big chunk cut out of it, and they load it onto a land barge.

They brace it with timbers and they slowly drag it down the mountain to where you will become you. In this metaphor the chipping of your stone is like birth and infancy. You won’t remember it, but it’ll leave marks on your stone nevertheless and your mother will sure remember dragging you down that hill.

Next you’re in Michelangelo’s studio, where the raw potential of your stone begins to be shaped into the vision your parents imagined. They’re the ones that shape the early you, and in doing so they offer you fantastic opportunities while simultaneously camouflaging other potential versions of you. These include genetic memories that create physical issues from birth are like cracks that emerged during travel from the cliffs to the studio. They will impact what the stone can become, but not how much it can be valued.

Regardless of who we are, over time the Michelangelos of life will use friction to shape us, at first knocking off big chunks defined as male or female or black or white or athletic or brainy, and later as more refined choices, like electrical engineer or watercolour painter or pediatric nurse, or eventually as you’re known for being challenging, or soft, or wise.

As we age we begin to realize that the Michelangelo’s in our lives not only carve and shape us intentionally, but they also grind into our stone unconsciously as a side effect of their personal working style. Some areas will be rubbed so long and hard that over time they score the base stone so deeply that it cannot be hidden. This of course isn’t a fault in the stone, it’s a just a byproduct of being shaped by just a few artists near the start of life. Plus those artists will usually have been trained in the same family of artists, so they’ll all tend to grind the same spots out of the same habit.

As you age so too do the Michelangelos around you. They go from using hammers and chisels to just the chisels, and eventually they reduce to scraping, before later moving onto sanding and finally polishing. Each stage will refine us, and as we grow wiser we get wiser about only giving access to better artists,. Every stone has scars, but the wisest artists know how to make the most of them.

Everyone had parents. Everyone had someone–or a lack of someone–raise them, and those forces were the strongest in your life and they left the most indelible marks. Sometimes those lead to beautiful arcs in our life, and others just disrupted areas that would have otherwise gone smoothly. But there is no point in lamenting those scars any more than we lament the base that the sculpture must sit on. Far from being problems, these are just the essential elements of having been in the studio at all. No sculpture is created without them.

When we’re in a relationship and something really bothers us, it is literally caught in our groove. And it’s not our essential stone that’s reacting to it, it’s how we were impacted by childhood. So you can work your whole life searching for the best artists and yet like a bad tattoo, they can only do so much because they have no choice but to work with the unconscious choices that the early, less experienced artists left behind.

Your job in life is not to try to orient your sculpture so that no one sees your scars, nor are you supposed to wear yourself out trying to remove or hide the marks that others have left on them. Instead you are simply supposed to realise that every sculpture has them as a natural part of their creation.

Keep in mind, you can’t blame those early artists for screwing up, because later in life you suddenly realise that you too have been an artist, and through your blind ignorance to the fact that your actions were shaping others, you too will have accidentally scored some people’s stone. And it is understanding that –that inevitable chaining causal reality– that when understood, allows us to shift from being psychologically better, to finally achieving a sense we could call peace. That way it all makes more sense.

The world isn’t broken. People don’t need fixing. People simply need to stop believing that the world’s job is to create perfect sculptures. Instead we must accept that life is a verb. It’s not a statue, it’s the sculpting. And since we all need and are sculptors, and since we all will improve throughout life, suddenly what were failures become more like beautiful attempts at loving and artful creation, much the way childhood fingerpainting may not be good even though it’s gorgeous.

Thanks to our early life, if we look carefully we’ll find we often attract people that seem to have deep scars in their marble precisely where we’ve been trained to look for them. If your Dad yelled a lot, then you stand a good chance of marrying someone familiar like that (or the exact opposite). At that point you have two choices.

You can forever lament that they ended up with the same damage one of your sculptors had, or can note that they are looking right at your scars too. A lack of acceptance can mean you’re the worst possible people for each other, but an act of acceptance can make them the best possible person for you. Because one way you’re just staring at each other’s damage but ,at the same time, if you both focused on getting good at it, who’d possibly be better at overlooking at a fault than someone who spent their life around it?

Don’t lament that art needs sculptors, nor that sculptors get better by creating art. Simply focus your energy on not scarring anyone else more than than is necessary and then ignore what scars you can. Because every time we grind unproductively into into another person’s pain, we only serve to make the scar fresher and deeper.

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.

All of Us

You know those Russian nesting dolls? The ones that all look essentially the same but are painted a little differently as you progress down in size? Those are a great metaphor for what it’s like to get along with others. Back in the days of them always being hand made, each set had its own theme and each doll was not only a slightly different size, but each was also given its own unique take on the overall theme. These layers of identical dolls are like the many aspects of people, including ourselves.

Maybe you like music, you have a really close family, you like discussing things from a philosophical perspective and you think trust is a relationship’s foundation. That would take us four dolls down, but they go forever, with many more superficial interests at the surface and many deeper needs expressed in the smaller, hidden versions of you.

People you immediately like have outside shells that look a lot like yours, so you immediately feel comfortable around them. Good friends will match a lot of your layers, giving you lots of things and perspectives in common. Those are the friends you not only do things with, but you’ll talk politics or religion with them.

Deeper dolls are reserved for lovers and lifelong, best friends. These people seem to be able to match you as far down as you can go, and even then, by the time you find some that don’t, no one cares because it seems so insignificant compared to the tons of matches that you do share. These are the people you can bring your smallest, darkest selves out with.

Likewise, people you don’t like at first have a shell that you find unappealing in some way. It’s boring or threatening or depressing. People you develop a real dislike for are ones where you can go down several layers and not find a match. Neither of you feels comfortable. But it’s important to remember that it’s not anyone’s fault or failure when we run into cases where there are no apparent matches. They’re just non-matches. A pear isn’t letting an apple down by not being an apple.

Of course, eventually everyone has a match. We have been a lot of people. We all have a lot of layers. If we go down deep enough, we eventually find some kind of touchstone–some kind of thing that relates us. We were both beaten by our mothers, or we both found out our partners were gay when we got left in a divorce, or we both secretly want to be DJ’s.

Enemies are nothing more than people who gave up on you–or who you gave up on–before you found those matches. And I’m not saying you should look for them because there’s a lot of other people you can be out having fun with. Life isn’t a test. You don’t have to take the hard way through it. But it’s helpful to remember that; if life forces you into a situation, there are ways to develop a bond.

Even if you got down to your last doll and there was no match, you then realise that you do have something in common: you’re both made of layers and you both have some small dark ones very few have seen. There’s no reason to hate that. Thinking someone has no value means you are falling for an illusion. You’re causing yourself suffering by voluntarily putting your own psyche through the act of hating, or actively thinking badly about, another person. You’ll blame them for your feelings, but that’ll be you.

People you like aren’t better than people you don’t like. They just agree with you more. Remember that when you’re agreeing–and especially when you’re disagreeing–because maintaining an awareness of that fact will truly help the whole world to get along better, and that will bring the most out of all of us.

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.

What Defines You?

1085-relax-and-succeed-the-ability-to-observe-without-evaluatingYesterday we meditated on the sources of judgment. Who is it you want to be better for? Today we’ll ask about what their definitions are made of. Where did they emerge from and why are they so different depending on the source? Why do some people hate you and others love you?

Humans named a bunch of things so that made us feel like we’re somehow above what we are, but once people get pushed near the lower two echelons of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, we’re all pretty much apes. If the lead chimp in a group is decent at sharing, then the group is stable and tight. But if the leader is greedy or selfish, the others can sense that and they will, one by one, band together, and they’ll eventually take action.

We would all like to believe we’re above that, and yet we all know most parents would easily die–or even kill–for their children. This would include stealing food from someone else if your child needed badly enough, and it would justified by your love and sense of protection. The problem is that we’re all still individuals, and so we all put the line where we’d start stealing in a different place.

1085-relax-and-succeed-opinion-is-the-mediumYour friends are essentially the people that agree with where your line is because there’s is in a similar place. They’ll call that match correct, right, moral, or even sane. If you’re either inside or outside their line you will be incorrect, wrong, immoral, dangerous and crazy. Of course these are just judgments within the confines of their own consciousness. But people will act on those thoughts, which is why they matter to a degree.

This line is circular, but more importantly it’s also irregular. It might be shaped like a D or it might have a wedge cut out of it like pie. A person could be super-nice in almost every way and yet be a terrible -ist. Misogynist, racist, even a terrorist. That’s why the neighbours of double homicide say things on the news like, “I never would have expected it. He kept such a nice lawn.” The housekeeping and home maintenance part of his circle was nice and round–the rest, not so much.

Everyone assumes everyone either is, or is supposed to be, a perfect circle, when in fact there is no such thing. With others, if you see a good chunk of curve then you extrapolate that its curves won’t change. No matter who they are, until you see those sides you’ll assume they have a nice round circle when you might have just been judging an entire human being based on his lawn.

1085-relax-and-succeed-one-of-the-greatests-tragediesSince the advent of popular psychology people’s expectations of this perfect roundness has become very firm and unforgiving. Others are disappointed if they mistook you for someone else. They guessed your circle was round and anything short of that is you failing.

When people fall in love their senses are impacted by chemicals and they naturally round off every wobbly or irregular part of their partner’s circle. But, as they know each other longer and longer, and wander further around each other’s circles, their expectations rise. Before they could round off those wobbles in their own head. Eventually they’ll start asking you to do something about them. And that’s when trouble starts.

Our circles are too big and changing them is challenging because that’s not really the way to live. You’ll actually do more to improve the roundness of yourself by accepting the shape you already are, then watch for opportunities for you to use that shape in some way that benefits you and others. Otherwise you’ll spend your entire life neurotically bouncing around the inside of your circle, trying desperately to round off every side that someone meets. This is why weddings are stressful. There’s so many other circles to try to match at once…

1085-relax-and-succeed-who-am-i-to-judge-othersEach of these judgments exists only within the reality of the person making it. You do the same with others and you all do it with yourselves too. Today your meditation is for you to find three occasions where; 1) you did change your circle and you regretted it, 2) you didn’t change it and regretted it, 3) you wanted to change it but couldn’t, and 4) and a time where you did change and you didn’t regret it.

As you might guess, the middle two are to help you understand the world better, but the main value is in the difference between why #1 felt like it did and #4 felt so different. The first is where you became someone for someone, while the other is you became more of your true self. Your job is to be your true self, that’s why that one feels so good while the other is unpleasant.

Find your examples. Four of them. Try to spend some time examining your headspace at that time. Recognise your fluctuating state, and that the judgments of others are not absolute. They are based on their own circles. Your friends accept your circles no matter how they’re shaped, and your health will be represented by how many imperfect circles you will accept. Now do your spiritual exercise or I’ll judge you. 😉

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.

Understanding Your Raison D’être

1082-relax-and-succeed-we-are-stars-wrapped-in-skinDid you find what and who haunts you yesterday? For some it was easy and for others the specifics of their central truth was difficult to clarify, but almost everyone will have mistaken their gift for a problem.

In theatresports, a form of improv comedy, there is a terrible thing the host can do to a team and it is to leave them in space, with no surfaces for them to push off of to propel themselves. You can’t just put a performer on stage and say slow-motion! or astronaut! or nighttime! because that’s akin to saying be funny.  That is too much to ask of the performer.

You’re a soul. Your identity is the performer. So your identity needs some surfaces to triangulate off of to ensure you are free to go anywhere once you have intention. When we discussed the temari yesterday, we did a meditation designed to get you to find your temari frame; otherwise known as your problem, or… the framework that you push off to get where you’re going.

1082-relax-and-succeed-people-torture-themselvesSomeone who suffers from a mental illness is missing some surfaces and so their movement is limited and they have the potential to leap completely away. And someone with too many surfaces can be spun into meaninglessness by bouncing around inside them incessantly without ever going anywhere. Regardless of how sides we have, we all need somewhere to start. Even if all we’re going to be is in opposition of it, we need something to be in opposition of.

Without comparison we don’t exist. Existence is co-dependent. We had to be someone. Even if we became enlightened and could be a profound version of nobody, the world will make us someone through comparison. That is how egos work. They compare, value and judge. A man gave up everything but love and became Gandhi, and yet he was killed because someone else thought him evil.

Today’s meditation is to meditate on the relationship between your life and your villain. You’re looking for the links. Do not stop looking until you find one that surprises you. Only then are we somewhere new in your mind. Are you like Steve and did you become someone in opposition to someone, or were you inspired by one parent to wrap while the other built your frame? Or…” These last two days are very important. Make sure you do these meditations earnestly. You’ll be the winner.

1082-relax-and-succeed-we-assume-others-show-loveHow the outside world reacts to you during your life is no good sign of whether or not you’re on the right course. If that were true there’d be no Van Gogh’s. People’s reactions come from their identities which are versions of their egos. The only really good indicator is that divine, pure intelligent part of you that is connected to everything. That’s the feeling that caused you to fall in love inexplicably–but you knew. It’s like recognising your own child the first time you see them–but you knew. Well deep deep down, you know yourself like that because deep deep down you deserve love too.

The challenges you faced when you were young are not the harsh cold edges of the bane of your existence, they are the very framework on which the vine of your brilliance can wrap itself as as it grows and expands and flowers.

The frame is the frame and everyone has one. Comparing to see whose is worse is not the point. Discussing them is not the point. Understanding them is not the point. The wrapping of our frame is the point, because once you’re done wrapping your temari, you’ll be left with something beautiful: you. And that is how  the greatest villains in our lives can secretly become our saviours.

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.

Expanding Perspectives

1071-relax-and-succeed-you-choose-your-attitudeIn yesterday’s meditation, how many of you noticed that virtually all of you would have started off only noticing one kind of reality change? Most of you either picked all internal or all external on day one. If you picked a mixture, congratulations. That’s a sign of health. Of course, you would have to do a test like this on a variety of occasions to see if that was your set-point, or just the state of mind you were visiting that day, but in general all new self-awareness is helpful.

If you chose three internal changes on day one then you feel better when you take action in the world. Overall that’s great, except you will feel worse when you can’t take action. You’re the group that doesn’t like waiting. You feel uncomfortable with the unknown. The more consistently you’re in that group the more consistently you’ll avoid not-knowing and your problems will start there.

1071-relax-and-succeed-the-day-you-decide-thatIf you chose three external changes on day one and you haven’t recently suffered from something like PTSD, then that choice is your first indication that your brain can sometimes have a tendency to see itself as against the world.  If the world seems to always be dumping unwanted changes on you, then it’s helpful for you to know that your mind was innocently wired in a way that will lead you feeling victimised. That’s useful information, but it’s not like it prevents you from accomplishing your objective.

Whether through security or insecurity, most of us want to chart our own path. We want control over the variables so we can maximise our performance. For that reason, on day one most of you thought of when you impacted the world. Day two was when when most people started thinking of the forced changes. Those are the ones you didn’t expect or want. A partner left you, you lost a job, you were forced to leave your home, you lost a support system etc.

These are the times your brain was asked to be someone new rather than deciding it wanted to be someone new. And it didn’t like it. While there are degrees of this, sudden external changes are forms of PTSD, which essentially means you have a brain wired for a situation you’re not in.

1071-relax-and-succeed-let-your-pastObviously being in your home with many common things around you and a consistent job can make the PTSD of a lost relationship easier. On the flipside, some soldier in some foreign land without their loved ones for support and few familiar mental touchstones means that the PTSD would be more dramatic and thorough.

We all prefer the enacted changes because when you make a change you’ve been slowly rewiring your brain for some time and your big day is the day you start using that wiring to do something significantly bigger in the outside world (leave your relationship, your job etc.). In short, you’re ready for your change. It’s like the IT department got everyone’s computer ready before the big switch.

The opposite of that is when you suddenly need a whole system of brain wiring that you don’t yet have. That feels unnerving and you feel off balance. It would make sense for you to be more easily frightened and unstable during that time. Do you see the comfort in that? It makes sense that you’re uncomfortable. Already that’s an improved state if discomfort. At least it seems logical.

1071-relax-and-succeed-people-are-capable-at-any-timeIn this week’s meditations, most of you would have started with internal changes. Those are ones you’re proud of. They’re the ones where you felt stronger afterwards. They also feel more like they belong to you because you chose them. That’s an important distinction. You own the ones you choose better than you own the ones that weren’t your choice. We’ll be more focused on the ones you don’t want.

The desire to know and the act of avoiding mystery will often cause more trouble in your life than resisting the original experience. For this reason, in today’s meditation your job is to find two of each. If you find more, great, it all helps. But give your partner a breakdown of at least two choices you made that didn’t go well, and two that were forced on you where you ended up leaving you better off.

Study your own life closely. We want to disconnect the idea that life is better when you know what’s going to happen. Because if we study it long enough, you’ll accept that that simply isn’t true. And that unexpected news is unexpectedly good news.

Do your meditation then relax and have a great day. You took a helpful step forward.

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.