Banished From The Tribe

1102-relax-and-succeed-you-not-wanting-meLike apes or wolves or ants, humans are cooperative creatures. Living and working alone are challenging things that can few can do throughout their lives, and if they do they’ll generally pay a big price. Even people who say they live without others needed others to even exist.

You can’t (currently) be born without parents (and even without those you’d need scientists). If all some guy in the bush has is a log cabin and an axe, he needed both the inventor of the axe and he would have needed to have seen someone else’s cabin to imagine one so he could build it. And even he will likely hit the local store when he needs some salt or tools. We’re all living on the backs of all of the other generations before us.

Our desire to be part of the safe and well-fed is ancient and natural. Anything else threaten death, hence the power of potential banishment and shunning that was noted in yesterday’s meditation. People naturally focus on being valuable enough and well-liked enough to maintain the security of the tribe. It’s like your brain’s primary directive, which is why you find being rejected so painful. It’s like someone saying, “We don’t think your genes needs to go any further than this.”

1102-relax-and-succeed-maslows-pyramidWe can all easily think of the times it hurt to be rejected, but what about the times we did the hurting? What about group criticisms people joined in on on social media? What about a group of schoolgirls actually cooperating to cut another person out? What about having your support for one group lead you to even verbally attack the member of another group? What about you rejecting someone because someone more established in your group stopped dating them? Or what about even how you would have handled someone leaving the company you worked for?

Socially it’s a very common, modern experience to exclude someone if they get laid off or fired. Being fired can feel to others like it’s different because it’s “deserved,” but then we all have to ask ourselves how perfect we actually are. Getting fired for a genuine mistake is like being fired for being human. Certainly some things are blatant and need action, but sometimes it’s just that a decent manager and a good employee clash. And in the case of the layoff, generally the immediate boss and the person being laid off would rather not have participated at all.

1102-relax-and-succeed-a-team-is-not-a-groupEven though it’s in an office and everyone’s dressed nice, to your brain–which evolved for that other tribal, cooperative world–these are all examples of being shunned. We all have our family group, our friend group, and our work group. These are tribes we travel between and they often overlap.

Being removed from any of these groups will be among the most painful experiences of a person’s life. If you were aware, you’d know that from your own experience. Any time it happened to you it was a very particular kind of pain and you literally need to go through Kübler-Ross’s Five Stages of Grief (denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance). It’s extremely painful. A company I once worked for laid someone off and that lead very quickly to a particularly ugly suicide and no one in the company was the same afterward.

In today’s meditation, find an example of where your personal awkwardness about how to behave lead you to passively shun someone. Own it. Don’t make excuses, just make the connection between your choice and their pain. Connect the two in a direct fashion. This won’t be a pleasant meditation, but it will increase your empathy and natural self-centeredness.

1102-relax-and-succeed-sometimes-painful-things-can-teach-usIf you do this meditation successfully–if you feel that pain and own that responsibility for your part in it–then it will be one of the fastest results you’ll ever get from a meditation. Because if you do it right, then your brain will understand that idea so well that you are very unlikely to go through the next similar experience without very naturally experiencing lower levels of ego and much greater levels of empathy, which will in turn drive you to more active compassion.

This is the kind of thing that would turn you into that one person that won’t be awkward with the former employee. You may not be able to get them back into your group, but your actions alone could change how hurt that person feels and how much they trust the world going forward. This is no small meditation. In small steps, it is these ones about our common human relations, that are the most valuable meditations you can do. For you and for them.

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.

Violence of the Soul

1089-relax-and-succeed-the-most-important-thing-in-communicationLast week we worked to undermine some of your ego’s sense of control by showing you that an ego is largely unconsciously shaped by the world around you. This week we’ll talk about enacting the real you instead of a thought-based fake you. Let us begin by introducing you to your soul.

Souls are the attractive force in the universe. Souls are like spiritual gravity. If it was up to soul then All that ever is or was would be united. Ego is the repellant force. Ego is the one that pushes things away. Ego creates separateness just as soul creates unity. Egos approve or disapprove, they rank right over wrong, good over bad, and me over you. Egos judge. Your soul allows. It always approves, it always accepts. Egos think and emote, souls feel and connect.

What this looks like in everyday life is this: a woman is home alone, depressed about her lonely state, feeling unfocused, and she’s attacking herself in her thoughts and she vows to never inflict herself on society until she’s fixed her broken self. She is trapped by her ego.

1089-relax-and-succeed-no-matter-what-youre-doingA few months later the same woman could then be functioning from a soulful place. Without the noisy intrusions of her ego she feels whole. Her alone-time feels rich and peaceful. Rather than attack herself, she nurtures her deepest self. And because she gives herself this peaceful time, she can sense that tomorrow she will feel like reconnecting with the outside world again, and so she finds herself motivated and inspired to make contact with others to arrange more connections.

The point this week will be to explain in detail as to why the second woman should be seen as being at peace while the first woman should been seen as terribly violent. Physical violence also fits in this expanded idea of violence, but the best way to fix physical violence is to stop metaphysical violence and so we’ll focus on that.

Our first step in doing this will be for you to become more aware of your violent behaviour. And we won’t shy away from calling it violent. I’m sure you dislike being referred to that way, so that’s good. If you don’t like the feeling then you’ll want it to go away, and since the only way to do that is to be nonviolent–voilà.

1089-relax-and-succeed-when-you-call-yourselfYou and a friend are in a book club. You meet to discuss your latest book. They say they loved it and you hated it. A violent person might say, “I can’t believe you would like that piece of crap. I think that might be the worst book I’ve ever read.” The violent person’s ego challenges the person’s credibility, then they define their taste as inferior, and then they insult something their friend just described as beloved. That’s pretty violent.

Same situation. A non-violent person might say, “I am so glad someone found a way into this book to enjoy it. I found it inaccessible, so I’m extra-interested in the discussion group tonight. I want to expand my perspectives so that next time I could draw more value from a work like this.” That is grateful, congratulatory, humble, inviting and optimistic, and yet it also conveys that they did not enjoy the book. That person is nonviolent.

Today your meditation is simple: For as many as you can be aware for, try to assess whether a conversation is violent or nonviolent, (whether you’re in it or not). Moreover, whenever it’s reasonably possible, see if you can alter the conversation to move it in a more nonviolent direction.

1089-relax-and-succeed-love-joy-love-faith-love-unityYou will have achieved success with this meditation when you either stop yourself from using violent phrasing and you switch it to a nonviolent statement, or when you manage to convert someone else’s violent discussion into a nonviolent one. Kudos if you do both.

This exercise will do wonders for your awareness and it will ask you to use the vision of your soul and not the filters of your ego. The more you practice it the simpler and clearer the world will become, and you will be profoundly nonviolent. To ensure you’ve fully grasped them, if you’re working with a partner, make sure to inform each other of what your conversions were.

Violent to nonviolent. Find one, alter it, and you will have done a lot toward your spiritual development and peace of mind. Have a great day.

peace. s

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

The World’s a Stage

The main stumbling block for most people is that they’re working toward the wrong thing. They want to attain enlightenment and be free of suffering. They want to be seen as wise and peaceful and beyond reproach. They imagine having no hassles. That’s what enlightenment is to most people: no hassles. Does that seem as lame as it actually is? Because that is a super lame definition of enlightenment. I totally understand that there’s good reasons people think that, but let’s clear up right away that it is totally wrong, and working toward that will just delay you in getting to where you’re really going.

495 Relax and Succeed - Authenticity is the daily practiceDo you think the people who know me would call me enlightened? A few would. But most would think that was ridiculous. And I don’t blame them because they, like you, don’t imagine someone like me when they imagine someone enlightened. They think the person should almost float and make no mistakes and speak in Asian rhythms. But that’s the TV version of enlightenment. The Dalai Lama often talks about his bad temper. So maybe you’re not so far from where he is after all, huh?

Real enlightenment is pure freedom. The freedom to have a view and the freedom to allow others to have theirs too. The freedom from replaying narratives about—or otherwise caring about—other people’s opinions or criticisms. The freedom to make mistakes and therefore the freedom from guilt. Enlightenment is satisfaction with yourself that you are a good person and any troubles are inadvertent and unintentional.

When you’re enlightened you may not like everyone but you do love everyone. So you allow them to be who they are, even when that person conflicts with who you are. Because the enlightened person knows that’s like two characters arguing in a stage in a play. It makes no sense for the actors to spend their night angry about the argument even after the play is over. It was the character’s argument. The character is just a set of beliefs you’re portraying. But being an individual is expressed through choices based on our beliefs, so in then end we’re all just slowly evolving patterns of choice. We’re all characters in life’s great movie.

The important part is, our beliefs were randomly dictated by the experiences we just happened to have in life. So if our choices are informed by our random experiences growing up, why take being that person so seriously? The role’s 60-90 years if you’re lucky. After that, no matter how good you were they write you out of the show. So since it’s all just for its own sake, why not just see life like Shakespeare suggested: “All the world is a stage, and all the men and women merely players.

495 Relax and Succeed - All the world's a stageDon’t take yourself or other people too seriously and you’ll find life is quite enjoyable without any effort at all. And then you’ll realize that there are enlightened people around you. Not a lot of them, but there’s people that get it. People that have quiet non-judgmental ego-free minds. But most people live in a sea of their own instructions on how to get this or avoid that. They’re always wanting. Enlightened people don’t want. They Be. And there’s nothing you could want that could ever be as good as Be-ing. Not even no-suffering.

Don’t try to be calm and holy and perfect. Be human. Fully unapologetically human. Including your mistakes, misjudgments and misses. That is part of being human. Someone saying you can’t ever do that is like telling the person they can’t be human. No way. That’s not how it works. We’re all born with our humanity. It is ours. The rest is just people’s ideas and opinions.

So instead of being holy or righteous or sanguine, be your whole and complete self instead. Because that his what the universe is waiting for. Enjoy.

peace. s

The Road Not Travelled

412 Relax and Succeed - Remember that not getting what you want

I found my dream job by accident last month. I applied, the interview went great, I was short listed, the second interview went even better and then I got a call they were going with someone else. Now I hate the old job I used to like and the days drag on forever. You say sometimes we have to accept that life is harsh and other times we have to just change our thinking. Which one is my situation?

signed,
Lost Opportunity

Dear Lost,

I am happy to report that this experience is in the change your thinking category. These are times when we must accept that life is harsh at times, just as it is graceful others. And this easily has as much of a chance to be good as it does to be bad.

You called your current job your old job. Can you see that you (the legal identity) had not even finished the process to be chosen for that job and yet you (the ego identity) already assumed you had it? Otherwise why call your present job the “old job?”

You had mentally left the old place in your thinking. You feel you have failed and are returning with your tail between your legs. But you never left so you can’t be returning. Plus you note you liked your present job so there is zero reason you can’t again. And you can do that exactly the same way you did previously: by paying attention to what you like about it, not how it compares to your fantasy job.

You didn’t ever have the new job so you didn’t lose it. And even then, its potential to make you happier than your old job is entirely in question. We can’t just assume because it’s newer that it’s better. And we can’t assume that because it looked good at the interview stage that it necessarily is a good place to work. For all you know you dodged the biggest baddest bullet of your life.

412 Relax and Succeed - Just because something isn't happening

Maybe you avoided a company going down, working for a crazy manager, or maybe getting a co-worker pregnant at a drunken Christmas Party when you never went there intending that. Seriously. These and a billion other things might have happened.

Only some of those things are enjoyable, others not so much. None of us is a prognosticator. We can’t know the future. So you have no idea if the thing you never actually lost was, in the end, something great or something terrible. So why would you think about about ‘what if’s’ in a painful way when it all could be a fairy tale?

What’s in it for you? It’s like wishing all day for a different childhood. All the wishing just ruins that child’s adulthood.

As we age and look back at our lives, a worthwhile meditation is to look at the causal effects of things. Stop to look at your blessings and then reel them in backwards in search of their origins. In most cases you will see that without something relatively ‘bad’ happening, we never would have achieved or gotten something that we value. We just never study that reality so we assume the world is all good events or bad events when every event is both.

Examples are things like people meeting their wife when their parents drag them to another city and another school. Or how we can meet our best friend working at our worst job ever. Or maybe we had our best summer working the hardest job we ever had.

The list goes on and on. Maybe our best job grew out of your worst relationship. Or the death of our sister caused us to start a charity that’s helped thousands or even millions. This is causation and the entire universe is a giant blend of these relationships so we cannot ask for all Yin and no Yang because without the other neither is possible.

412 Relax and Succeed - Today's rain is tomorrow's whisky

All this did was change your thinking. You can change it back, it’s yours. You just have to stop using your thoughts to compare your daily life to an imagined life. Comparing is an egotistical action in that the comparison requires a you to exist to be compared.

You used to focus on parts of your job and life you enjoyed, now you’re using your thinking to compare how the other job might have been better. The pain is in the thinking, not the living.

None of us can hope to guess what any life we haven’t had would be like. There is no reason whatsoever to assume it’s better than the one we have. And secondly; you used to like your job. That’s something to be grateful for that many people would value, so you can too.

Pay attention to your ‘old’ life like you used to and you’ll like it again, for the very same reasons. Right now, in the light of rejection –which is one of the most painful things humans experience– you’re just spending your day wanting instead of appreciating. Don’t blame your job for that, but don’t blame yourself either.

You may be doing the thinking, but you’re doing so innocently. So thinking the thoughts is normal after a major life event, but even if we’re thinking them we can know they are just thoughts and that the emotions were getting from them aren’t situational to our work or life, they are situational to what we’re thinking about.

Once you’re on to the next interesting thing, this will be no big deal. Use it as a spiritual lesson in how to control your thinking. Because in all seriousness, that really could have turned out to be the worst job you’ve ever had. Remember, the divorce rate is close to 50% and that’s between people who chose to be together forever.

What we imagine is good for us is wrong in all kinds of cases in life. So forget those thin, maybe thoughts and as often as you are able, get back to focusing on the day in front of you. Trust me, there’s plenty to make life worth it right there.

Create yourself a great day by focusing your thinking on things you appreciate and not on comparing. Any time you feel good that’s what you’re doing: appreciating, so it’s not like you don’t have experience doing it. Go for it.

peace. s

The Good Life

140 Relax and Succeed - Meditation is a surrenderYou want to be strong. You want to be capable. You want to choose a path and you want to walk it with determination. You want to get somewhere, accomplish something, become someone. You’re thinking about what you’ve been taught is good and right and successful; and you have been taught about the pitfalls you should worry about: being bad, being wrong, or failure itself. And you are trying to make your way though this maze of words and ideas to your destination. Your doorway. You are passing the test of goodness that will gain you some reward. Right?

Ah, no.

Sri Ramana Maharshi said it nicely: You carry heaven and hell within you. Look, even if you’re looking from deep within a religion, the Kingdom of Heaven is an eternal place. It has existed for all time, and it will last for all time. I’m good with that idea. But we have to see this “place” as a state of mind within ourselves. Because if heaven and hell are eternal, that means they are happening right now. They don’t start when you die—that’s a bit arrogant. None of us are so important that our personal death suddenly incites the existence of Nirvana.

Heaven always exists and it lives inside of you, but you can’t see it because you are trying to negotiate your way through the words, and the ideas that the words construct. You are stumbling through words like good and healthy etc. etc. etc. With the best of intentions you are surrendering every Holy Moment in the pursuit of Holy Moments. You turn your back on God to try to find God.

The basis of everything, the energy of life—the source of your Being—is the Oneness that is God. You don’t need to be religious to experience that. You just need to lower your barriers. You have all of these ideas and identities built within yourself that prevent you from meeting the universe holistically.

If God-energy comes to you in the form of a friend, you accept it. If it comes to you in the form of a powerful sunset you will stop to simply witness the God-energy being itself. If it comes to you in the form of a book or piece of music you love, you will call it inspired, and in that you mean inspired from the great beyond—from the formless awesomeness of that which is the basis of everything. To these things you are receptive, and open, and clear.

But if God-energy comes to you in the form of an enemy, or an obstacle, or a challenge, you suddenly turn your back on God; you stop your worship of all that Is and you instead shift to rejecting what the God-universe has wrought. You get picky. You get personal. Only certain forms of God will do. And yet your salvation lies not in embracing what you already love, it lies in embracing what you cannot recognize as an aspect of yourself.

140 Relax and Succeed - The spiritual journeyCan you imagine that some people see you as difficult? Can you imagine that some see you as an enemy? That some people find you troublesome, or incomplete, or ineffective? And yet, have you ever tried to be any of those things? Of course not. You were just doing what you were doing, and occasionally another boat got swamped by your wake, or even impacted by the conflict between their course and yours. But everything is God, and so the accident is too.

Without accidents and problems there would be no heroes. Without wars no war brides and no baby boom. Whether you have the war or don’t, all sorts of lives will be lost. There are no one-sided coins. Stop trying to find your way out of life through words and symbols. Stop trying to negotiate with concepts and ideas about reality. Stop trying to become something you’re not, and start enacting what you are.

You are a divining rod. Your feelings are a guidance system. They will take you where they will take you. There is no wrong place to go. There are only words that make aspects of the God-energy appear to be wrong, or unattractive, or unappealing, but even the negative words are made of the God-energy, so you can see how futile it is to battle against them.

140 Relax and Succeed - Be content with what you haveThe only reason you want to figure out the words and the path is because you want to avoid the pain. You want to find a way through the maze of life without all the pain. This is why you must be lost before you can be found. It makes sense that you would want to avoid the pain.

As you spiritually mature you come to know that what you seek is impossible—it is a denial of many forms of the God-energy. This is the acceptance that The Buddha came to. He did not dispel suffering. He accepted it. He accepted it as a constant companion and, in doing so, it lost its power to control him. Because he was not trying to avoid it, he was able to go whichever directions he felt he should go.

Maybe you think a relationship is crazy. Maybe you think having a baby now is nuts. Maybe you’re worried you can’t afford to quit your job, or go on that trip. Maybe you wish you had a different past, or were set up for a different future. All of these things are ideas that control you because their existence tells you which way to go—which is away.

If most people look closely at their lives, they will see that much of what they enjoy today came from sources that appeared unlikely to provide joy. So it is with God-energy. There’s no point in second-guessing it. It’s too huge for that. Better to just relax and go along for the ride. Because letting go is what allows you to relax into what can only be called the good life.

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.

Think For Yourself

A student I was working with told me that he wanted more confidence—he wanted to do well with girls. When I asked him what he meant by “doing well,” he told me that most of the girls he approached at the bar didn’t seem interested in him. I asked him why that was a problem and he said that he was a young man and that he was failing if that didn’t happen. It was supposed to happen.

Okay. First off nothing is supposed to happen. What you mean when you say that is that you wanted and expected it to happen. But wanting and expecting aren’t forces that shape other people’s actions, so if you’re going to want and expect then be prepared to be disappointed. Secondly, I asked my friend why he got to order every girl in the bar around? He said he didn’t want to order them around. I said he actually did.

22 Relax and Succeed - Think for yourselvesI asked him if he found every girl in the bar attractive. “Obviously not,” he said as he rolled his eyes. Do you think you should have to dance with every girl that thinks you’re attractive? More eye rolling. “No! Just because she likes me doesn’t mean I’m going to like her.”

What?

So he’s not supposed to be hassled with the girls he doesn’t find personally attractive, but every girl he approaches is supposed to find him attractive? He thought about that silently for a second.

Blink blink. He got it.

He realized that the women weren’t rejecting him, they were simply looking for what they were naturally attracted to just like he was. He suddenly realized that the beginning of a relationship is simply when both people feel that attraction. And if that relationship moves forward it’s because both people naturally have compatible thoughts about what they would like to see happen after that. So nobody’s ever really rejected. It’s just that some matches are one-way and some are two-way.

Even if the two people enjoy an easy, mutual attraction, they still must maintain their awareness. Each will unwittingly have a definition of “the relationship” and they will wrongly assume their partner shares that definition. They probably overlap a lot. But never completely.

The people in the relationship are individuals. So a partner isn’t wrong if they don’t want the same things you do whether those things are material, social, intellectual or physical. If a 22 Relax and Succeed - Ask yourself this questionsomeone’s worked very hard all week, then they aren’t failing anyone if they want to take their weekend to relax instead of doing home renovations. They are simply expressing what’s important to them as an individual. If the identity of the relationship starts to take precedence over each person’s identity as an individual, then the relationship will move to shaky ground simply because love or no love, we cannot sustain being someone we are not. And marriage does not change who we are. It simply means that someone has chosen to live alongside who we are.

Not everything is like the decision to have children or not. There are very few instances that are so absolute that a couple cannot agree to disagree. 99% of arguments could stop simply because they are entirely pointless. But we don’t listen for that. We don’t listen for opportunities to bring peace to our relationship. We look for opportunities to be right.

Let go of your need to be right. Relax into a beautiful world of differing views where you don’t need to spend any energy winning anyone over, or convincing anyone of anything. You can do it with your parents, siblings, spouse, children, friends and co-workers. You just have to change your idea that things are right when they’re the way you want them, and instead have it be that things are right when everyone feels free to express who they are without fear of a price being exacted. Even if that truth is that they don’t want to dance with you.

The next time you hear an opinion you disagree with just relax and let it be. It won’t hurt you in the slightest and it’s better for the other person too. This is particularly important in a society where we all take turns being the other person. So open your mind. Co-exist happily with those you disagree with. Do that and you will enjoy your days.

peace. s