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.