A Balance of Needs

1268 Relax and Succeed - Mindfulness is the aware.jpgMaybe it’s a few friends of yours. Maybe it’s you and you know it. Maybe it’s you and you aren’t aware of it; but we’re all somewhere on the self and other spectrum. Regardless of how various individual people define us, we can all appreciate that some people will be more selfish than others, just as we know some will give beyond their capacity to give.

Notably, either extreme appears pathetic from the middle. To be fair, the people on the extreme ends also don’t often have many good opinions about the people in the middle, and notably; they’re often viewed as the least-informed about life.

The most balanced people rarely experience their balanced nature because they have so little variation to compare it to, and so the experiences they do have tend to be filed under shocking, unpleasant or maybe bad simply because they’re so comparatively big. In that way life kind of works the way a lemon does, where it shocks you when you’re a baby, but lots of experiences with something means that today you can convert that lemony tartness into refreshing enjoyment.

1268 Relax and Succeed - There seem to be two kinds of searchersMost of you will know these varying spiritual states as political distinctions. People seen as over-generous and foolish by one side are seen as compassionate and generous by the other. Likewise, the ones viewed as selfish and careless are seen by their own side as focused and successful. Each of these opinions and every single one in between are all largely valid, which helps us realise the truly meaningless nature of opinions, because what we’re really talking about is the many ways people are.

There’s no correct place to be on this spectrum. You’re not healthier near the middle and sicker on the extremes, although those can be byproducts of being in those positions. Everyone on that spectrum suffers, just for different reasons. The two far ends of the spectrum find each other’s pure existence to be painful. In between people argue about what the priorities in life should be and how they should be accounted for. And in the very middle a bunch of people are pretty good at intellectually appreciating all the various positions taken, but they’re all a little lifeless due to a lack of extreme experiences.

This idea can be disappointing to a spiritual seeker because it indicates that a common theme is true; you are already home. The reason this idea gets confused is that we see our spirit as a thing, on its way somewhere, when it would be better to think of ourselves as a principle in motion. So it’s like we’re the principle of gravity and the body we live in is doing the falling that we call living. Yes, your nature is to pull toward the center–to fall–which also explains why the center can be confusing and disorienting to those born too close to it, making their subsequent lives feel shallow and often unlived.

1268 Relax and Succeed - It is not outer awarenessCan you accept that your nature is to move toward balance and that is the pull of life you feel each day? And can you simultaneously accept that your nature includes the idea that where you’re headed isn’t better than where you are, it’s just a different balance point with different challenges? The point isn’t to get anywhere, it’s to go; to live; to be. External outcomes ultimately don’t matter. It’s what Shakespeare meant with that “To be or not to be,” stuff.

Are there different types of prices for experiencing the various positions on this spectrum? Indeed there are. But pain is pain. It’s the part of life that allows you to contrast your joy, so there is no point in avoiding it. There are enlightened beings living all over the spectrum. The trick isn’t where you are, it’s how aware you are.

Wake up. Know yourself. And know that others are themselves too. And then work toward a less judgmental world where, more and more, you simply let them, and yourself, fully be.

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.

To Know Oneself

1249 Relax and Succeed - To know oneselfBruce Lee (and I’m sure many others) said that we should study ourselves in action with others in order to better-know ourselves. Many people will hear this and do a cursory glance at their lives, literally looking for examples of them being polite or generous and that will be it. They’ll have self-passed themselves when really what they did was forgo an opportunity for valuable self-reflection.

To study ourselves in action, it is the action within our consciousness that counts. It’s possible to be extremely polite to someone while intentionally manipulating them into something they wouldn’t do had they not been intentionally mislead. What counts is in our internal intentions. When we listen to people, do we truly listen without expectation, or are we in a constant dialogue with ourselves, criticising them at every phrase?

How casual have we all become about our subtle mental criticisms of others? We live within our consciousness. Whether we’re constantly bitching about them, or wanting to be someone other than ourselves, both have us in equally unpleasant landscapes of thought. It’s like going on vacation to a place we’re sure to despise.

1249 Relax and Succeed - The money does not see his own backsideWe have to learn to not accept these mental headspaces. We have to learn to pay attention to that suffering more. Yes, I’m suggesting that we focus on when we’re taking a crap between our own ears. Because that’s what we’re doing when we think uncharitable thoughts about ourselves or others. Other people don’t feel our brain chemistry, we do. Seriously: if we know these thoughts are painful, then voluntarily thinking them is like choosing to open spoiled food so we can smell it better.

We all need to pay more attention to what our brain is doing because, if you’re like most of us, half the time our mind is on autopilot, flying whatever routes our childhood caregivers taught us to fly even if that makes no sense for our own destinations in life. Then when we do become conscious, our unconscious life will feel strangely robotic, as we come to realise that we have no idea why we personally are doing what we’re doing.

Whatever it is–your drinking, your job, your temper, your sadness, your lack of trust–these are all things that were taught to you. They are not the natural you, they are the squashed by your packaging version of you. It is you, but you’re distorted and out of shape. And you can see that shape in how you internally react to others.

1249 Relax and Succeed - You cannot have a positive lifeIf you watch yourself closely, you’ll soon realise that you’re likely to do the same thing one of your parents did (or in rarer cases, the exact opposite). That’s your ego following programming. To be free you have to make that programming conscious. It’s usually painful, so that helps you spot it when it shows up so that you can change direction and end that suffering.

Today, every time you catch yourself criticising either you or someone else, take a moment of meditation and prayer and follow your criticism with a compliment. If you make the latter in person and out loud, you’d be amazed at how fast you can start remembering not to think ill of others.

It’s a good saying, really; “Think ill of others.” To do so is the act of poisoning ourselves with negative thoughts. Clearly that is something we should avoid doing. Let’s take steps in that direction today. By the way, I think you’re awesome.

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.

Close Your Identity and Open Your Consciousness

1234 Relax and Succeed - I'm drowning in a sea

People tend to suffer because they believe in a fixed identity. They believe deep down they are someone–the person they imagine–and they try to tune themselves to that internal ideal. Other people will certainly disagree as to our assessments of ourselves just as we would disagree with their assessments of themselves. We often disapprove of ourselves too, because most of us are about as hard on ourselves as we are on our enemies.

Seeing one’s developing self as an enemy that must be destroyed is largely why people are in so much pain. How can any of us enjoy the experience of our life if our experience takes place in our consciousness, and our consciousness is occupied with attacking our illusory, thought-based selves? It’s like our consciousness’s internal puppet show where one hand is hero, the ideal us; while the other hand is the villain, constantly and painfully measuring the distance between our ideal and our pathetic self.

It is possible to have an ideal for a target and yet not live a life of internally disappointed measurement. Rather than destroying ourselves we must kill that idea of measurement. It’s not part of the natural world so it cannot survive without our attention.

1233 Relax and Succeed - If you're using your thoughtsOnce we ignore our own thinking long enough we start to feel how ephemeral and meaningless thoughts are relative to action. Once we have that, we develop a better sense of time, where we realise we cannot possibly change things from the past, and so thinking about painful mistakes in the present makes little sense. If the thought stings then the experience has done its job and we have learned. We don’t need to add beating ourselves up with our word-based thoughts. By feeling badly we’ve proven that’s not the direction we’re naturally inclined to go.

We must also recognize that our thoughts are not our own, they were cultivated by our society. We’re encouraged to think certain things about ourselves and discouraged about thinking other things. Our entire egocentric life is made of those silent rules. It’s why you feel self-conscious when there’s a stain in your shirt even though everyone’s spilled food on themselves in their lifetime. The problem really isn’t you, it’s that culture of measurement; of judgment.

This can really impact us when issues become particularly emotional. Because we will all self-reinforce our identities; the more time we spend with people who share a set of beliefs that we share, the more certain and extreme those beliefs will become in the absence of respected disagreement. Most of the major problems now seen around the world are linked to this idea.

1233 Relax and Succeed - Commander Locke to Morpheus

While most of the world is pretty flexible and could live happily under many different systems in many different societies, some feel more threatened and are therefore more defensive, and that leads to anger. This effect can be see from ISIS to the Westboro Baptist Church to the KKK to the do-gooder mobs that destroy the lives of people who make big or small mistakes that violate–or appear to have violated–the social ideal; like the attacks on celebrities, or those on people over their food choices, or even through well-intentioned political correctness.

Let’s take a half hour of our lunch today and review our own lives. How many different points of view do we listen to? Are we in a feedback loop, where our microphone is too close to our speaker? Are the opinions that form our world just loops of ideas that go out of our microphone to be amplified by those who already agree with our ideas? Because that just makes us shout even louder into our microphone and the whole thing just gets louder and louder until it’s a frenzy. Those get built one person at a time, they can only be taken apart by each individual becoming conscious of their previously unconscious involvement.

If all of our friends live like us, share a lot of our beliefs and perspectives, and rarely disagree with our views, it’s almost certain we live in an ego feedback loop that will generate lots of suffering for each member because we will begin to mistake each other for the world itself. Conversely, healthy people are attracted to new ideas that challenge how they see the world. It’s a sign of the confidence they have in their true self. They remain open to the idea that they are big enough to be able to flex toward any idea that makes good sense to their being, because they rightfully see themselves as worthwhile aspects of the universe.

Let get out of our bubbles. Expand our minds. Any fear is a trick. It’s only misinterpreted excitement. We should go lovingly toward what challenges us. Especially including the people we assume we disagree with, because even if we don’t ever become friends with them, we will have both have learned more about both finding and making valuable friends.

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.

Too

1230 Relax and Succeed - When you judge someoneThere were other smaller signs steadily after the accident, but it wasn’t until Junior High School that I started to have mature enough experiences that the differences between me and others was becoming strange. I was confused hearing people described as too…. Too tall, too fat, too talkative, too mean, too quiet, too untrustworthy, too smart, or their stories were too big.

I knew by then words were very important to how people saw the world, but it would be years before I would realise that everyone I was watching was taking their own thoughts seriously; that they had no separation between their thoughts and their life. I could only be in alignment with them using the word too if we had a context. There are just simply times when Simon is too big to fit through a hole, or Beth is too tall for the uniform. That I understood.

When I got confused was when someone used too when they spoke of someone else, away from others (gossip). With no context I didn’t understand how someone could be too anything. To what standard was the person measured? Who set it, and why is it there? Certainly I understood politeness was a form of social dancing, where everyone more or less knew their role. And I knew that culture was taught and that it evolved as it was passed from generation to generation, but to me those were like a communication system that gave people a starting place for each new meeting. But what was too?

1230 Relax and Succeed - To other peopleOf course, eventually I figured out that the thing they were comparing everyone to was their own personal ideal. It wasn’t even how they thought the other person could be a better person. The frustrations and demands and judgment was all about the other person doing what the person judging them wanted them to do. I went through those motions sometimes, but it never occurred to me to see my perspective on it as a universal truth.

If the want being sated was based on any personal gain, then I couldn’t identify with hurting someone else to elevate myself. But if the person was in pain, here again I could re-connect with people, because that was an experience I knew from my own life. In fact, to me, anguish was defined as a period of time during which I took my thinking too seriously. But once I felt better I was fully aware that my judgment was an illusory expectation painted onto that other person–it wasn’t the actual person. (This makes forgiving much easier.) Again, no one was too anything.

Too tall is statuesque to some. Too fat is cuddly to others. People that talk a lot take pressure off shy people. Mean people are often hurt people who have high degrees of empathy once they learn to get distance from their thinking. Quiet can be contemplative. Untrustworthiness can exist as a positive or negative force. Too smart is a form of deferential respect, and exaggerations are so common they’re why every 30 year old discovers that life isn’t much like we’d been lead to believe when we were younger. It’s much more… practical than that. In the end, we’re hunter-gatherers with a good imagination. We still need purpose, and we still experience our thinking as the world.

Listen today to your own voice. Don’t just form words, have the real you monitor what your ego says. Observe your own behaviour and recognise the ephemeral connection between thought and your daily life experience. You’ll still be you, making most of the same “mistakes,” (also known as being you). But increased awareness can prevent you from developing, reinforcing or sharing your judgments about someone else’s identity, because those will only ever be true within your own consciousness. We should free others from having to live in the shadow of our expectations. There are just too many of us making the request at the same time.

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.

Agreeing to Disagree

1226 Relax and Succeed - Agree to disagreeIt’s a lost art. So many are caught up in a need to oppose and conquer. We have not improved the world by converting people to our way of seeing things, we have only manipulated their perspective to temporarily align with ours. But over time their view will develop nuances ours doesn’t have because ultimately their perspective is not ours and never will be; they are them and we are ourselves.

Science is like a language we’ve all agreed to use for planning public policy, but everything else is personal opinion. Everyone sees things from a slightly different perspective, meaning that in a healthy world we will most certainly find many people that will disagree with us. That’s no indication anything is wrong.

Sometimes other people will  be right, sometimes you will. And your idea of right or winning will change over time. There is no way to gets it all 100% right, all the way through. Not even close. So next time you’re arguing, just keep in mind that maybe you’re the one that’s missing something. That humility will bring you closer to people.

1226 Relax and Succeed - You don't have to attendTake today and search for an opportunity to feel your resistance to an idea, and then understand that your resistance is created by your unaccepting thoughts about their idea. That’s natural–those aren’t ideas that you feel are compatible with you. But that’s a much different thing than saying they aren’t compatible with the other person’s way of being.

You’ll feel it, maybe in your jaw or stomach or chest. A desire to react. A sense of resistance. A rise to do battle. Note that feeling and check in with what idea you don’t want to be in a room with. Very rarely will these ideas have much material impact on your life, but note how married to those ideas you are. Indeed your very identity emerges from them much like a detailed piece of art emerges from the dots in pointillism.

Your arguing ego is nothing more than an identity that emerges from your current set of beliefs, much like these dots make up this image. Over your lifetime the dots will move as you grow and change, and that will change who you believe you are unless you learn to see past your own thoughts.

1226 Relax and Succeed - Pointillism
This work provided courtesy of GenericZombium

Note that your thoughts exist only in your consciousness. Note that they have no existence until you enact them into behaviour. Note that you can let an idea exist, allow it to pass through you, and then let it go and you will feel fine. In fact, you’ll very likely feel much stronger than you would if you’d entered an argument and won it.

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.