Tapping Out of Awareness

Despite the fact that virtually everyone actually has an addiction, the vast majority of people will purport that they don’t have an addictive personality. In a tiny percentage of cases they’ll have actually spent some long dedicated hours earnestly studying their own behaviour. And they’ll do it systematically, to the point where they’re able to depersonalize the process to the point where they can come to the rational conclusion that they are not addicted. But rational conclusions have nothing to do with why most people would say they aren’t addicted or 514 Relax and Succeed - Meditation because some questionswouldn’t get addicted. The reason they dismiss that identity is because of their ego.

Our egos want to be liked. We want people to admire us because then we feel like they’ll keep letting us be close to them, which is our real goal. We want connection. Being liked has two sides: One is to do things that people like, and the other is to not do things that they don’t like. And since addictions are seen as weaknesses, people believe admitting such a thing would risk their connections to other people. So they immediately dismiss the idea and they point to the fact that they don’t do heroin or drink heavily, but there are all kinds of addictions that people leave completely unexamined.

Some people need to go the gym. Some need to be thin. Take those addictions to the extreme and you have those ballooned body builders that go ridiculously overboard, or an anorexic who sees herself as fat when she’s skin and bones. This the brain playing the same trick. The story it’s telling isn’t in alignment with the feedback from the actual inputs (seeing herself, others opinions etc.). People can also be addicted to eating, or sex, or smoking, or video p0ker games in casinos. Each of those things causes an appealing chemical that triggers a favourable brain response.

Our brains and nature evolved together, so while natural things impact our brain responses, we’ve also learned how to mimic that affect in the devices we create. That’s why casino owners make so much money off of the video poker games. The lights and sounds are carefully designed by brain scientists to reflect real-world events. Simply put, if you’re walking through the woods and you hear an animal rustling through the underbrush, then two things will happen. Your brain will react to something new—as in the sound—and it will process that 514 Relax and Succeed - It's your lifesound as possible food source, meaning it will have an immediate chemical attraction and that will kick in a motivation to pursue that good news until we’re eating some opossum or something. That process is what the video lottery Terminals tap into. It’s flickering lights and sounds etc. triggers our novelty then reward response.

The problem with that is; if that response is repeatedly summoned—as in say, military combat—then your brain will begin to rewire itself to constantly be ready. You’ll be on a chemical high designed to keep you awake and alert. It’s like someone giving themselves cocaine. It’s why it’s so hard for soldiers to return from war. The trauma of coming home is that they’re drug supply gets cut off and they go through an actual form of withdrawal. Well the video lottery terminal also does that rewiring to the point where you brain will begin to expect a chemical rush. Oh oh.

Oh hey—you, the non-addicted person reading this? You know what else stimulates that response that you’re around essentially all day? Your phone. You know that feeling. You haven’t had a text in a while. You wonder what might be rolling by on facebook or twitter. You wonder what the people you know are doing right now. And this entire narrative you build around wondering is created by you and for you, so that you can then use the narrative to go get your drug. Because enough of that self-talk and you’ll eventually reach for you phone and tap tap and—aaaahhhhh. There. That feels better. And almost all of you live with that tug all day long.

The problem with that is, just like with anything, if you stop you’ll go through actual withdrawal. You may have even felt it a few times already. When smartphones were still relatively new, a friend of mine’s broke and it was going to take two days to get it back. She was constantly acting weird, rubbing her arms, drinking way more coffee—she was just 514 Relax and Succeed - When you lose touchgenerally agitated and irritated. She actually said she felt sick not knowing what’s going on. Not knowing what’s going on? What are friends talking about on facebook? Lottery wins and murder? I think she’ll survive without another cat video or a texted whasup? But as trivial as almost all of the content is, it will still command you the same way that heroin beckons an addict—except way way way way more often.

The nice thing about the brain is, if you wired it one way you can wire it another. So if you want to break the ADHD addiction and learn to slow your brain down, you just have to undertake more focused activities that allow your brain to feel more relaxed and comfortable. Do things like read long articles or books, watch an entire documentary without getting up once. Don’t touch your phone on one day of the week or during certain hours. Undertake hobbies and activities that demand concentration and focus. That’s what I love about modern video games. 15 years ago they had the horrible idea to allow you to rape hookers, and today the latest version of that same game makes you do Yoga before you can advance, and that sequence requires calmness and concentration. This is how technology can make us better rather than dumber.

I’m not actually sure how you get around this. We’re talking about how your brain fundamentally works, and the simple fact is that your brain and a smartphone are not a particularly healthy match. But I very much doubt many of you will follow my lead and not have one. I’ve written before about how I don’t want my brain inadvertently reprogrammed by a 514 Relax and Succeed - If you want our life to changedevice, but most of you virtually depend on one. So I suppose the best most of you can do is to try to use it as a tool to keep you conscious.

Focus your brain on consciously recognizing the tugs of your various habits. Done right, maybe your resistance to the tug of the phone could actually propel you toward the overall rewards of heightened awareness. It’s like a mental gym that you carry around. Over time it’s entirely possible for you to be more focused on the present moment where you physically are, rather than having your consciousness on and controlled by the feed on a device delivering trivia from other times, places and people.

Concentration and focus are skills unto themselves. So if you want to know how much control you have over your thoughts, just ask yourself how uncomfortable you get when you can’t access your phone—even if it’s near you. Drive with it in the back seat and see how it feels to not be able to answer those little dings and pings. If it turns out that that’s difficult, then maybe it’s time to start regularly using your device as a signal to refocus your attention on now.

Anyhow, gotta go now. Phone’s ringing. 😉

peace. s

Smart Phone Disconnections

451 Relax and Succeed - Don't just look observePeople often ask me why I don’t have a smart phone. They know I’m comfortable with technology and I’ve always been an early adopter. I was the first person I knew to have a digital watch, a video camera, a computer, a notebook, I even had Palm Pilots etc. But to me every single device was also something that my brain met. That is, if it was a new way of approaching something, then it was also a new way for my brain to process the world. And so I would review those changes to see how I might expect my brain to adapt as a result. And I don’t want my brain de-adapting to a smart phone.

Of course people want to argue with me all the time. I had a decade of people pitching me that multi-tasking was better when I knew in fact there was never any multi-tasking going on and what you were in fact doing was constantly switching your focus which I knew was a) counter productive, and b) taxing, and yes c) occasionally necessary. But to make it lifestyle? No way. Anything you repeat changes your brain. Including switching focus. This is all now proven science.

So why was there no ADHD when I was a kid? Because our brains were programmed by fewer, more concentrated experiences rather than being dazzled by media. A lot of us read and no one really watched a lot of TV, plus there were much much much fewer channels and programs and far fewer edits per minute. We only watched a screen for an hour or less a day. If you account for all of the screen time kids put in today (including TV, computers, video games and phones), kids spend the majority of their waking hours in virtual space as opposed to physical space.

451-relax-and-succeed-tree-climbingMy generation had mostly free time to do whatever we wanted wherever we wanted with whomever we wanted. We barely saw our parents because we were out in the world. Today kids have no privacy and so they have to hide from their parents in the highly edited and constructed world of cyberspace. While one generation was usually finding some chunk of nature to swim in or build a tree-house in, kids today have their lives surreptitiously guided by salespeople and psychologists. We lead ourselves through life. We were free to explore, learn and focus. And focusing is something your brain does separately from knowing what it is focusing on.

The freedom we had was where we developed our interpersonal skills, our capacity to manage where we were in the world, our way to find our way around geographically, and our ability to solve problems without help. Even we didn’t feel as capable as our parents, and yet we pretty much all knew the fundamentals of things like gardening or how a car basically worked, or which chemicals not to mix in your kitchen.

We could use slide-rules as we were still mostly pre-calculators etc. You could have a calculator once they existed, but you couldn’t use it exclusively in class and definitely not on an exam. If you couldn’t do it long-hand then being able to do it in on a calculator didn’t help you get a passing grade. Oh yeah, and you actually had to pass grades. There was such a thing as failing. You could come in last. There were no participation badges. The world was pretty much as it really is: harsh, sometimes cruel, challenging, and because of all of that it was deeply rewarding. That’s why you don’t pick running races with two year olds. Easy victories carry no joy.

451 Relax and Succeed - Knowledge makes a manOur challenge is that babies watch us closely to learn how to be human just like animals learn to hunt or forage. What they used to watch was people interacting. If 10 people were in a waiting room there would be conversation, facial expressions and the sharing of ideas. People would meet people unlike them. People who thought differently.

These weren’t just our usual friends who generally agree with us. These were sometimes people who challenged what you viewed. And there was no way to just switch them off. You couldn’t “block” them. You had to deal with them and their ideas in the real world, because that happens even if you choose to pretend it doesn’t. But today, put ten  people in a waiting room and no one will look up from their phone, yet the phrase TLTR exists. So what’s this mean for the baby?

Babies used to watch faces to understand humans. But today babies think phones are what’s important because that’s what everyone’s looking at 90% of the time. I saw two mom’s wheel their kids into a restaurant, point their strollers at walls and then they both got on their phones and they barely interacted with each other, the babies or the waitress.

451 Relax and Succeed - In today's rush we all think too muchIt was a very sad moment for me because I knew those mom’s were inadvertently crippling their children. Because faces are what show what our brain chemistry is. Not our phones. And so those kids were learning how to understand technology rather than people. They weren’t even learning to look at people who were talking.

You call people now and they’ll never answer despite everyone having a phone with them all the time. Why are people harder to reach when we’re more connected? Because they’re getting increasingly uncomfortable with social interaction. Easy things are becoming hard. People are actually losing their ability to relate to other people in favour of relating to technology.

People today are more comfortable contorting their hands into typing tools than speaking with someone or holding their gaze for 20 seconds. If you’re honest you know you’ve done this. You’ve called someone when you knew you couldn’t reach them just because you were uncomfortable with the socialisation aspect. You’ve screened calls you should have taken. Calls that would have improved your life.

451 Relax and Succeed - The struggle you're in todayAnother major negative is the search function in your brain is separate from the knowledge itself. So when you have an experience it automatically loads into your brain. But if you never practice retrieving that information from that experience then it’s useless. It’s like having millions of dollars in banks all over the world and no way to get it to where you are. So in the case of your knowledge, instead you use Google on your phone and you have someone else drop the information into your lap. Meanwhile all of the value from your experiences is squandered.

Every time you search rather than trying to figure something out or remember it, you are actively degrading the search function in your brain. I have already detected that a 25 year old North American is far far far less capable of processing information than their grandparent is. The grandparent knows things. They kids knows how to look things up, and because the kid can use a smart phone and their grandparent has more difficultly, that leads the kid to believe they’re smarter when really they’re just more familiar with something new.

New isn’t necessarily better. If a solar flare took out the Earth’s electronic systems and brought the internet down for a long period of time, the grandparents would survive far longer than the kids. They’d figure it out.

451 Relax and Succeed - No man chooses evilTechnology is first and foremost a product. It is something someone wants to make money off of by selling it to you. That’s why you’re constantly getting new phones, new TV’s, new jeans. Marketers have convinced you to do what they want you to do rather than what’s good for you. And now they follow you everywhere. Everyone has the world’s marketers with them 24/7. They sold you the idea that you should carry them in your pocket and look at their feeds constantly. You volunteered to be brainwashed.

You can lie to yourself and pretend you haven’t seen hints of what I’m talking about. You’ve worried about how much you check your phone, you know it’s insanely stupid to look at it while driving but you are fully addicted. You are tortured if you lose you phone. You feel like you’re out of touch with the world when you’re standing right in the world.

You can’t even see here and now because you’re too addicted to being in virtual space rather than real space. If you don’t look at your phone you suffer. And you just don’t want to admit that to your brain it’s no different than being addicted to a drug. It doesn’t matter if you syringe something into your veins or whether you use your phone to trigger your own personal brain chemistry for experiences of fear and anger—you’re still dosing yourself with chemistry and getting hooked on it.

451 Relax and Succeed - Time is preciousGo ahead, use technology as a tool. I clearly do too. I know how to type. I’m better with computers than lot of young people I know because I know what’s going on behind the interface and they don’t care. Adding this knowledge to other knowledge is great. But replacing other knowledge with the ability to use technology is nothing short of crippling.

If we don’t consciously choose to do something differently soon, you’re about to see a very different, very disconcerting change happen to society. You can expect people to be increasingly detached, increasingly unsympathetic, and increasingly impatient and intolerant. They are already rapidly losing basic social skills. This is the single biggest pattern I’m seeing shifting and its impacts will be increasingly felt.

Attached is an article on testing and how the retrieval of information is harder if you haven’t been tested on it. They’re referring to actual exams in schools etc. but you can easily see that this would apply to smart phone use as well. If you use IMDB to look up every actor’s name you can’t remember, then you are using your smart phone to dumb yourself down because you’re not testing your ability to get that information from your own mind even though you know for sure it’s there.

451-relax-and-succeed-no-smartphoneI very much doubt people will react to this posting positively. At best some of you will feel guilty because you’ll recognise yourself. But how many of you will actually take steps to break that unhealthy addiction? Because if you want something good for your brain, you’re far better to sit quietly in a park than you are to sit with friends sharing other people’s ideas through your facebook posts. I’m not saying to avoid the latter. But if you’re going to avoid the former, then be prepared for that to have an effect.

Be alive in this world rather than wondering what’s going on in someone else’s. Go to a concert and enjoy the music rather than documenting it to prove you saw this or that band or were at this or that festival. Think about leaving your phone at home on Sundays. Get out in the world. Look around with your head up, like you used to. See things, smell things, taste things, hear things and touch things. Don’t just look at things, have experiences.

Smile at people. Look them in the eye. Have conversations with strangers. And do it selfishly. Because no number of points in social media game will ever add up to as much joy as one day of quiet awareness in a beautiful park.

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.

NY Times: How Tests Make Us Smarter

The Origin of Adults

Parents are funny. They’ll think that they are parenting their kid whenever they are consciously attempting to impart something. So when they teach them this or show them that, that is what they think of as parenting. And that is just nuts. It’s ridiculous and silly and entirely indefensible. That is the tiniest part of parenting there is.

448 Relax and Succeed - When you're a kidActual parenting is life. Your kids will walk like you or your spouse. They will talk like you or your spouse. If you love swimming they won’t be afraid of water unless something serious happens. Same if you like Chinese food, or curry or octopus. None of those will seem strange to your kids because you are who delivers reality to them. What they will call “normal” will be defined by your lives.

The only caveat to this is that there are two forms of imitation—direct and reciprocal. In one case your kid subconsciously copies you simply because they didn’t know they had an option—like speaking their native tongue for instance. And in other cases they act the way they do entirely consciously and in open defiance to who you are. So the kids of alcoholics are rarely moderate drinkers. They’re either like the parent and they go to booze to deal with stress, or they’re a teetotaler because they never want to deal with the damage they’ve witnessed the parent cause due to alcohol.

Now that paragraph contains the heart of my point. Because that parent doesn’t take to drink hoping to convince their kids to be alcoholics. They’re just imitating their parent. And they don’t drink in the hopes that it will lead their kid not to drink. They are just being themselves while the kids/sponges are present. So the kid sucks it all up by nature, without any perspective as to how useful or detrimental that lesson might be to his or her future.

So how does this play out? Well, if you’re in the car yelling at other drivers while your kid is in the car seat, you are parenting. They are watching your every move and they can imitate anything quickly. And you’re not teaching them the things you imagine. You’re teaching the principles. So you’re not only teaching them impatience and intolerance and disrespect, but you’re also teaching anger, and phrases of speech, as well as lessons on how long one should stay angry after getting angry, or if one should apologize after getting angry, etc. etc. etc. So the getting mad in front of your kids can still be a good lesson, if it includes an apology.

448 Relax and Succeed - There's no need to be perfectSo you can say to your kids to treat people with respect, but if you yourself routinely disrespect others—whether that’s through parking in handicapped stalls when you’re not handicapped, cheating on insurance claims or taxes, not correcting a clerk who generously gives you wrong change, or even insulting a relatives relationship choices, you are teaching your kids to judge, disrespect, and feel superior to their fellow man. And that is decidedly not good parenting.

Virtually everyone is concerned and complaining about the direction society is going, but the simple fact is we all need to cooperate to make societies and even the planet itself work. This means sometimes compromising your own desires in favour of what’s best for the entire group. But in this iGeneration that’s been taught by advertising to ravish themselves with attention, few are investing the energy required to raise a good tribe member who can successfully advance all of us through cooperation, creativity and self control. Instead we focus on selfish, self-aggrandizing behaviours that are then picked up by kids and the amplification happens throughout each generation.

It’s awesome that a kid can grow up free, and fed and healthy. And it’s nice when they can realize the best in themselves. But it’s also really nice when a kid can grow up in a friendly, cooperative, supportive, caring, compassionate and loving environment. And since that environment is made up of everyone else’s kids…. I think you get the point. So if you’re looking for the best way to set a good example for your kids, just ask yourself what you want the world they live in to look like and then act accordingly.

peace. s

Defining Maturity

My husband and I were discussing one of your blogs the other day and he noticed that we don’t have very good definitions for some terms we regularly use. I’ve read the questions you get but I never thought I would ever have one of my own. We would be interested in what you have to say about “maturity.” Thank you in advance.

signed,
Undefined

Dear Undefined,

I get a lot of the same questions framed in different words but you’re the only people to have asked this. It’s an interesting subject that I will attempt to make clearer.

349 Relax and Succeed - Be kind for everyone you meetWhen children are born there is no inside and outside world. There are just experiences. Then they get a separate physical identity, then a separate perspective on the world, and by their teen years they’re growing their own identity. These are all significant shifts in reality so its worthwhile to understand them.

The easiest one to study is the teenager. Up until now they’ve had moods and temperaments and preferences, but not really individual philosophical identities. It’s one thing to hate your parents rules, it’s something altogether different when you realize those rules are only made of thoughts that you have subliminally agreed to repeat to yourself as though they were a reality. But now the teen wants to establish their own boundaries. Undoubtedly wider boundaries. And they’ll start by pushing against the only ones they know—the ones their parents taught them.

The vast majority of teens aren’t really getting in trouble and they’re not being foolish. Teens are starting to wonder what the actual definition of foolish is. This is likely to often be a sullen, secretive, angry, tense part of any parent-child relationship because the teen is intentionally testing limits so there is likely to be disagreement for its own sake. Not to mention the fact that the child is on a hormonal roller coaster. Meanwhile the wiser parents are watch all this wondering if they’re all careening toward disaster. It’s all very dramatic. Thank goodness that the vast majority of people learn from negative experiences.

349 Relax and Succeed - To be mature is to use your own lifeEach set of tests and consequences adds up to a world view that then gets tested and re-tested as people live their lives. So when we’re a teen all we care about is ourselves. We’ll let our classmates (or a subculture) essentially choose all of our clothing we’re so desperate to fit in. But over time we come to see our friends as individuals separate from us, and then we do the same with our parents. We realize they have dreams and best friends and forgotten plans too. We realize that they are not only our parents, they are individual people. Seeing them that way creates another layer of empathy. Experience by experience we learn more and more about more and more kinds of lives and we realize that we should not have been so judgmental.

Over time we see more and more people to be just like ourselves. Their preferences and their goals might be different from ours, but we can see that their passion for those things is equal to our own. So what is maturity? Maturity is an expansion of our empathy. It is the piling up of experience. The more we see of the world the more we get to see behind the scenes as to why things happen. This makes more and more people’s behaviours understandable which in turn means we can be compassionate about more people in more situations.

We spend most of our lives trying to earn more hugs. Maturity teaches us that, thanks to compassion and understanding, giving hugs feels just as good as getting hugs.

Have an awesome day.

hugs. s

The Pleasures of Generosity

Here’s the weird thing: everyone’s mesmerized. Brainwashed. They think words are experiences. So they move into a neighbourhood called The Hamptons because it sounds so classy, and yet if we actually look at what it is, it’s repetitive, uniform, and it lacks creativity. Because there’s some pillars at the gate it’s special? Cars are made by robots. The error rates from the best to the worst aren’t very far apart anymore. But people will pay triple the amount to get a vehicle that they feel makes a statement—not about who they feel they are (which is insecure. All egos feel insecure), but about what identity they would like to project. In essence, who they wish they were.

248 Relax and Succeed - Being humble means recognizingClothing, haircuts, even which movies you see. These will all be things outside yourself that you will use to try to create an admirable identity. You’re a film buff. You’re an athlete. You’re young for your age. You’re wealthy. These thought-based statuses don’t exist in the world, they only in our imagination. That’s why one person can love something and another can hate it. They’re experiencing separate conscious realities, just like we all do.

My point is, we should stop believing all of this advertising about how we need to brand ourselves, and we should actually start looking at the world. Because people have never had more, and yet they’ve never been more stressed or depressed. People survived war better than wealth. This is ridiculous. And there’s evidence all over the place that it’s the generous people that are having the best time. They’re the ones smiling in life and then they have the huge funerals because they changed so many lives.

A friend of mine did her company Christmas charity event at her workplace. It was filled with a lot of professionals and their support staff. When it came time to collect for the charity, guess who gave more? The story upsets a lot of people; why are people making $24,000 a year giving more than someone making $250,000 a year?! But don’t get mad. The executives don’t understand how difficult $24,000 a year is. They’ve either forgotten or they never knew. So the lower paid people gave more because they had a greater sense of empathy. They knew how painful it was to be poor.248 Relax and Succeed - Harris Rosen

What is sad about that story is that the executives and professionals missed out on what makes giving so wonderful. There is no way to turn into words the beautiful glow and sense of connection we feel when we’ve been able to rescue someone with some object or gesture or commitment. Without question, the happiest most contented, durable people I know are also the most generous. Every time they do something generous they are reminded that they themselves have much more than enough.

Here’s a link to a story about a wonderful human being named Harris Rosen. Harris has had a great life and he’s done that by changing the lives of untold numbers of people. Below that I’ll link to a radio show about a Vancouver woman named Carol Newell, who managed to keep an amazing and remarkable secret from her fiance. Her story will stun you.

What these people prove is that you’re truly better off spending less time thinking about what you want and more time realizing how much you already have to give.

Stories like these two always leave you feeling better than you did before. Enjoy:

Website: The Incredible Story of Harris Rosen

You’ll probably have to adjust the slide bar. For whatever reason it starts on the second segment. The portion on Carol is in the first segment. What a remarkable secret she kept:

Radio Story: The Unbelievable Secret of Carol Newell

peace. s

Spirituality and Politics

Both of my parents served their countries during wartime and I lost relatives in the fighting. And I don’t think this was what either side had in mind when they marched into battle. With so many people working toward egoless lives, modern politics has become largely distasteful in that most of us can sense that it is almost exclusively about ego (in the forms of either power or money). Whereas we all were taught to view it as collective, respectful, group decision-making, the fact is that it has become partisan, petty and it accomplishes very little other than dividing the populace and lining the pockets of those who participate. So how do we turn that into something more in alignment with our spiritual values and understanding?

244 Relax and Succeed - The greatest warriors are thoseWhat’s that joke from the French Revolution? “I must find out where my people are going so I can lead them!” We lead by enacting our values in our everyday lives. And I don’t mean passively—that’s about as good as nothing at all. We have to represent our values in our lives. We can’t pretend we didn’t see family violence or corporate theft. We have to see others as valuable and ourselves as equal to them. We have to believe enough in ourselves as good people that we will have complete confidence when responding to our loving, empathetic nature. We have to set the tone. We have to establish the example. We have to wisely impart the value of differing perspectives and open minds.

No one side has the answer to everything. If one approach worked we would surely have a super-successful example right now. None exists because each situation must be taken in its own context. Sometimes a more aggressive, experimental, optimistic liberal-leaning perspective would find a new solution previously unsought-after. Or maybe someone more conservative would play it safer and stick to what is known and thereby avoid what was destined to become a serious problem.

Several recent studies demonstrated that conservatives are well-named. They prefer the known, and have greater fears about the unknown than do people who identify as liberals. In cave-man terms, one of these groups would have more members running off cliffs chasing pretty birds to eat, while the other would starve to death by refusing to hunt due to their fear of getting eaten by predators. Again, both groups starve or die because neither group has all the right answers. It depends on the situation.

These days any group that gets 51% of a vote completely ignores half their constituents as though they don’t matter at all. That was not how the system was intended to operate. That’s how egos would operate it. The public is looking for selfless politicians not 244 Relax and Succeed - I destroy my enemiesego-maniacal ones. We’re looking for the person who says, okay, I know what the people like me would like to do. Now tell me what the people like you would do and why? And then everyone’s needs would be considered and to whatever degree addressed, and the objective throughout would be to do the maximum amount of good to the greatest number of people. Obviously if something works for one person it won’t for another. But we all take a turn being in each others shoes, so we all win some and lose some. Since that would be inevitable in a democracy, we’re simply better to focus on the wins and accept the losses as an integral aspect of working together.

With each group competing for control we forgot what we were supposed to be doing. Politics is a service. The goal shouldn’t be to win, it should be to serve effectively. What happened to caring about each other? Why can’t we forgo judging someone in favour of complimenting them? Why do we need others to be wrong for us to be right? Why can’t two people on opposite sides still each have a valid point? As everyone’s ego struggles for confidence and trustworthiness and stability, many have accidentally built very rigid, certain, jagged judgments that keep us apart from the whole of creation.

Make it clear in your life that peace and the prosperity of all is your objective. If you see someone bullied, speak up or act. If someone looks emotionally down, offer them a compliment or smile. And refrain from talking about others (to others or to yourself) about the downfalls of opposing ideas. Instead, broaden your mind by truly trying to appreciate why a very large percentage of the society you live in actually thinks the opposite of what you do. Search through their interpretations for things you like and agree with. Learn from their perspectives. And use anything that works, from any solution, from any camp, use anything that meets the overall needs of what you’re trying to accomplish. If you’ve never taken an idea from the “opposite” side, then you can be 244 Relax and Succeed - There has to be a revolutionassured that you’re lost.

Humility is what remains once ego is deserted. Do not assume you are correct. For you will learn more from assuming you are incorrect and re-proofing your current beliefs. Always respect the source of others ideas as being valid and worthy of pursuit (surely 49% of a population is worthy of at least some attention). Operating from that cooperative place, you will gain the strength necessary to carry the degree of wisdom that is required to competently lead. Anything absolute is nothing more than ego played out on a political stage. And egos—our own or other people’s—won’t lead any of us anywhere we would want to go.

Respect other ideas. Embrace them as though they were your own. Expand yourself by including the perspectives of many kinds of people. Because that multi-facted perspective is what the world calls Wisdom.

peace. s

The Kindness of Strangers

You’re looking for big stuff. You want massive change. You want people to start caring for each other, for animals and the environment. You want governments and businesses to act more humanely, with some value placed on happiness and respect and peace. You raise your voice against things you dislike. I love your heart. I love your passion. I love your effort. But I would like to suggest that those efforts can be much more effective than they currently are.

237 Relax and Succeed - Never worry about numbersYes, support the organizations that are doing important work. But if you want a more compassionate society then you have to act like it, not talk like it. What’s the use of wanting someone else to respect or care for someone when you don’t do it yourself? Do you let people into traffic? Do you offer help to those you know are struggling? Will you slow down your own life enough for a child or a stranger?

If they’ve managed to turn their life around, every former homeless person, drug addict or convict I ever met told me that the consistent love, support, and compassion of just a few people made all of the difference in the world. And their material support was only a small part of it. What they really valued was the belief these other people had in them. They saw something good in them when the person themselves saw little or no hope. And don’t think that was always easy for either party. It was just worth it.

Where do you think street people or even the active and working poor come from? Sure, a small percentage got themselves into trouble with blind foolishness but, even in those cases, if we looked at their life we would see that they never had the appropriate mentors. They never had anyone to explain the value of education or cooperation, or how to handle their finances, legal obligations or even manage their tempers.

237 Relax and Succeed - Hey you out there in the coldIf you grew up with both of your parents drunk and fighting all of the time, then it makes sense that you wouldn’t learn the same useful skills that a lot of other people consider common sense. The fact is, we model the behaviour we see because that’s how you learn to live. If we’re fortunate enough to get a secondary influence that provides some contrast, we might be okay. But barring that, we are all trapped by the information we have available.

Most people who are down and out are there for very good reason. If you slow down enough to hear their stories you realize that most were tripped more than they fell. Is it some woman’s fault that she’s bankrupt after her divorce because her husband gambled all of their money away? For that matter, is the husband even as responsible as we might initially assume? If we say that he is, then what do we think an addiction is? The whole point of an addiction is that the person has very genuinely lost touch with their ability to choose.

We must keep in mind that, for an addict, withdrawal is often painful in a variety of ways. If it’s something like gambling, we must remember that these people are often pushing back against an entire industry that hires millions of dollars worth of psychologists and sociologists to help ensure that every piece of scientific knowledge is used in the effort to actually try to get that person to be a regular customer (read: addicted).

237 Relax and Succeed - We know what a person thinksHundreds of scientists and tons of money are all aimed at getting a certain percentage of the population to do something. If you don’t think that’s a real force in this world then maybe you should remember that 90% of your life is absolutely impacted in very serious ways by advertising. Everyone says not them, but the research proves them wrong. So you might not be in the same boat as the gambling addict, but you’re in a boat nevertheless.

Stop judging others. Stop assuming you know how they got where they are. Because I’m the one slowing down to actually know these people, and I can assure you that virtually every one of them was simply operating without enough information and instruction about how to negotiate life. Either that or they went through absolutely horrific experiences.

I have no idea what it feels like to get raped by a parent, but I can easily see that you might feel safer living on the street. So if you grow up without positive, informed, supportive people, then it makes sense that there are things you won’t know. We can say that it’s common sense that you have to eat to stay alive, but that is a much different thing than knowing how to hunt for your own food. So if we were in the jungle and no one taught you how to catch and kill a chicken, or what plants were safe to eat, you would be in the very same situation as the person you’re judging. You certainly wouldn’t have any useful common sense.

237 Relax and Succeed - Too often we underestimateSlow down, be kind. It’s actually enjoyable for you and it will actually accomplish something. Because all of your judgments are thoughts you’re thinking, and so it’s you that’s getting the emotional responses that go with those thoughts. This is a lose-lose proposition, whereas kindness and generosity are a win-win for all involved.

If you want a better world start with yourself. Make your little piece of it better by not thinking negative thoughts about yourself or anyone else. Let people into traffic. Buy someone’s coffee at a drive-through. Offer a hand or lend an ear to someone who could really use it. Because failing in our culture is painful enough. We certainly don’t need to add harsh judgment on top of it.

Open your heart. Care for others. Build a better life and a better world simply by consciously making caring, supportive and loving decisions regarding the people around you. Do that and, as Gandhi said, you will have actually been the change you want to see in the world. If you want to be spiritual, let that be the manifestation of your spirituality.

peace. s

Scott McPherson is an Edmonton-based writer, public speaker, and mindfulness facilitator who works with individuals, companies and non-profit organizations around the world.