Love in the Trenches

They were out at the lake. The husband had just yelled at his wife for how how dissatisfying he found his lunch. He barely tasted it, choosing instead to storm back down to the lake and take another shot at fixing that stubborn boat engine. The very liberated daughter had watched the whole thing and she clearly was not happy.

“Why would you let him talk to you that way? If Ray ever spoke to me that way I’d show him the door.”

The mother just smiled as she picked up her husband’s uneaten food. She sat at the counter and ate it herself while they talked. “Ray’s way to be angry is to get quiet and cold. Honey, if I left your father every time he was upset we would have been divorced hundreds of times over.”

“All the more reason! Why do you let him treat you like that again and again? You didn’t raise me to be weak like that.”

The mother took a moment before speaking. “You’re right, we didn’t teach you to be weak. But what’s your definition of strong? He was one of the few liberated husbands when we were young. He cooked for you kids, he helped with school work, and he always made sure there was a roof over your head even if he really didn’t like what he was doing for work.”

“That’s 20 years ago! If you’d made him behave back then you probably wouldn’t be dealing with this now.” The daughter was very piqued.

“He’s not a child. And how exactly do you make someone behave? Withhold affection? Make demands? Fight with him? Why would withholding, demanding and fighting do anything for a relationship?”

“Mother! You just made him a incredible quinoa salad and he insulted you! He could at least appreciate that you made it for him!”

The mother pushed her meal aside and she went to the fridge and she started to make a sandwich. “Your father doesn’t like quinoa, you know that. When he was at the peak of his career I used to complain about him not being home enough.”

“Well he wasn’t.”

The mother returned to the fridge for more ingredients. “He wasn’t successful to spite me. Why would I criticise him for something I was proud of? Aren’t you trying to get a promotion right now? Do you see that as an attack on your relationship with Ray? Of course not. You’re trying to succeed at being a good professional, like we raised you to be. It’s a sign of respect to others to do your job well. You know your father always says that.”

“He still shouldn’t talk to you that way.”

The mother stopped and looked at her daughter for a long moment before speaking. “I’m not sure what ‘shouldn’t’ means. Your Dad was in pain. I was just being compassionate. I’m not a pushover.”

“What pain?! He wasn’t in pain! He couldn’t get the stupid boat motor working and so he got angry at you, like he always does when something breaks.”

The mother went back to finishing the sandwich. “Your father prides himself on being able to fix things, it’s what made him look capable in front of his Dad. He feels like he’s letting his Dad down, or he’s not being a man, if he can’t fix something. He’s always been like that.”

“All the more reason for you to tell him it’s time to stop.”

The mother smiled. “I might do that if I could figure out a way to stop getting mad at him. Demands don’t fix relationships honey. Love does.”

“Love doesn’t yell at someone for making them quinoa.”

“That’s right, love doesn’t. He knows I made it because you and Ray were coming out. Your father just told me is that he’s feeling a long way from feeling good. That’s the problem, not whether he likes quinoa. My job isn’t to demand that he like the food you and I like it’s to love him when he feels unlovable.”

“He yelled at you!! Why would you be helping him!! It should be him crawling back up here to apologise to you!”

“Crawling?” The mother smiled at the thought. “Your father’s having his version of a tough day. He stayed too long trying to fix the boat and now he’s really hungry and he came up to eat and found something he finds totally unsatisfying. He gets angry when he’s hungry. That’s just being human.”

The daughter notices the sandwich. “You’re making that for him!”

“He’s hungry. I’m just being practical. He’s in a better mood after he’s eaten. When I’m menopausal and screaming at him for no reason, these are the things he remembers to help balance things out. You see him upset about quinoa. I see a man I care about having a bad day; a man who’s proven himself over and over for all of us.”

“Your expectations are too low.”

“I’m trying not to have any.” The mother picks up the sandwich and starts for the pier. “Sweetheart, you guys just had a baby. You’ve been exhausted and your hormones are going wild. I’ve seen you be pretty mean to Ray, but ninety percent of the time he just takes it because he loves you.” The daughter chases after her.

“That’s a baby! How can you compare that to a boat motor!?”

“Pain is pain. It doesn’t matter whether you broke a foot or a leg.” As they near the water we can see the daughter really cloud over. She is harbouring a lot of anger toward her father. The mother stops and addresses her before walking onto the pier where he and Ray are working.

“Honey. Again: your father’s problem is that he’s suffering. I’m not going to debate whether he deserves to or not. What makes a marriage isn’t weighing whose suffering is worse. I can think about me and what I want, but does he really look like he’s got much to give right now?” Just then the father hurls a wrench angrily onto the pier. The mother kisses her daughter on the cheek and walks out onto the pier and offers the sandwich. He half-heartedly thanks her, but he seems a bit embarrassed.

Later that afternoon he does get the boat going. After a nice steak dinner he suggests a boat ride. Ray suggests, “Should we head down to Half Moon Bay?”

The father walks to his wife’s side and puts his arm around her. “Diane likes the view down by the promenade. I thought we’d go down there.” The mother turns to the daughter, winks and smiles.

Later, while the father and Ray do the dishes, the mother sits down for a tea with her daughter. “Ray might go under soon and we all know it. Every business like his is struggling in this recession and he just had a baby. If that happens you can kick him while he’s down and demand that he do the impossible and undermine his confidence. But after 35 years of marriage I can tell you, you might find that you’d get where you’re going quicker if you just made him some sandwiches instead.”

peace. s

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

MoK: Humble Kindness

Today, in the first day of our final week in the March of Kindnesswe tune our awareness radar to those who might be inclined to feel “beneath” us. This isn’t to say you would act like you were above anyone; I’m talking about how they might feel. Employees can be nervous around bosses, kids often can’t recognise the respect a parent or teacher has for them, and street people know that many people will avoid even looking at them.

If you’re more senior in your company then think about what an example you set if you stop to help a lower level employee. You’re literally teaching them that continuing to care about coworkers is part of the job of being an executive. If you’re a teacher or parent, (and provided it’s rare), giving a kid a break on a general rule can actually develop a mutual respect that can be called upon later. And for street people, there’s times where the lack of human acknowledgement can be psychologically painful, so even a basic acknowledgement is extremely valuable.

Today, pay attention to your surroundings from the perspective of people fitting in. You’re looking for the chance to help someone feel included. Maybe it’s a senior who spends too much time alone and you let them in ahead of you at the grocery store. Maybe it’s a conversation you’re willing to have with a homeless person. Maybe it’s slowing down to kid-speed when you normally wouldn’t. The point is to help someone be seen through a kind interaction.

We all generally do kind things for those who we feel are important, or who are important to us personally. Well today is about doing something for people who can’t do anything for you. They might not be able to ever match your kindness to them, but that’s almost exactly what makes it especially worthwhile. If there’s no eventual gain in it for you, then the person on the receiving end really understands that the kindness was about them.

Most of us have trouble sensing our own advantages in life. It’s easy to take them for granted. But everyone who would trade places with us would recognise those advantages. That’s an indication of where they feel they’re at. The idea is to take some of that advantage and apply it to them. There’s a particularly nice feeling that goes with helping someone when you know that it’s unlikely that they’d ever be able to reciprocate.

Look at the world. Who would like to be you for a day? Take anyone who might feel that way and then spontaneously give to them. Maybe it’s a smile, a compliment, a conversation or even material assistance. But the idea is to make someone who might sometimes feel insignificant and actually help them feel like they are significant.

I’ve already had the world literally deliver my opportunity to me. Someone had to start their day by telling me they had screwed up really badly and that I would pay a price for their mistake. Whereas I may have allowed my disappointment and concern to be my reaction, instead I offered total humility.

I explained that I was not bothered by the price I would have to pay, and I told the offending person about a few times where I too had let others down. Those examples got the two of us on a more level footing and I could hear the relief in their voice. They had anticipated the person being angry, and instead they got connection. I was going to take blame that they knew really belonged to them.

They were relieved and surprised. The relief was thanks to the help, but the surprise came because they hadn’t anticipated that I would value them enough to bother to reach out to rescue them. It helped both of us start our day feeling good. I’m actually grateful to them for that opportunity. Now go find yours. It’s a particularly nice way to add someone kindness to someone else’s life.

Thank you everyone. 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 organizations locally and around the world.

MoK: Marching For Peace

Yesterday’s act of kindness was an important one. I’d like to think all of you participated in being kind to yourselves even though that often feels difficult and unnatural. It’s a shame we’ve constructed society in such a way that we find something that healthy to feel that unnatural. Similarly, it’s a shame we find making amends with others difficult to the point where, if it happens, it’s usually only half-intentional. Today is about becoming fully intentional.

As the old saying goes, except for a few cases in life, you’re better to be happy than be right. Being right implies that the other person must be wrong. This reinforces that subject-object division between you and the rest of the world with which you are otherwise naturally unified.

The separation between you is strictly made of thought–it’s made of your beliefs about what is right and wrong, and about your perceptions of what really happened. In addition, let’s face it, we all have those examples where, deep down, we actually know that we’re at minimum complicit in the confusion, if not entirely at fault.

In some cases we even feel guilty, even though we still come across as defensive about the issue. What hurts is that we are good people, and so when that happens we know our words and actions lacked respect or integrity. We feel that lack of responsibility as the pain that leads to our defensiveness.

Our job on todays assignment for The March of Kindness is for us to find one of these examples and to let it go. Even better if we can actually settle the disagreement formally, and the ultimate goal would be to apologise–even if it’s for something small. The point is, if it requires real effort and challenge then we’re overcoming something and we’re benefitting along with the person we’re apologising to or forgiving.

Find your example, examine your reactions and your behaviour and really come to a better understanding about how your personal, ego-based motivations overrode your natural integrity and personal nature. Reinforce your own goodness in this way. Maybe you say something, maybe you don’t. Maybe you write something, or send a card or email or even a text. Maybe you just stop being passive-aggressive towards them.

Even if your apology or forgiveness or act of letting go is silent, or even if it’s done with full knowledge that the other person really was in the “wrong,” make this an active and meaningful act of kindness. This isn’t just about you, it’s about the world. It’s about the other person and about creating more peace within one or both of you.

By accepting our responsibilities to create peace we also gain empowerment over our actions. By being able to forgive or apologise, we become more expansive and capable, and by letting go of our disagreements and grudges, we not only free ourselves, but we all make an important contribution to there being less discord and more harmony in the world. And after all, that is the entire point of The March of Kindness.

Thanks for your participation. Much love.

peace. s

MoK: Converting Anger

1107-relax-and-succeed-mok-sorryEveryone gets angry, it’s just some hide it better than others. But passive-aggressiveness and yelling are both disruptive to human relations. It’s important to remember that you do have the chemistry within you to create anger for a reason. It does serve a purpose. But everyone gets tired, everyone gets hangry, everyone has some easy days and some that are particularly challenging.

Today’s acts in our March of Kindness are simple and straightforward. The first thing have you have to do is identify when you last got angry towards a specific person, then contact the person immediately after you’ve identified them and offer an unequivocal apology.

The most valuable apology is in person, looking the person in the eye, offering zero excuses, just responsibility. Next most valuable is a phone call, where they can hear the sincerity (and possibly discomfort) in your voice that signals your willingness to suffer a bit for what you feel is important–namely respecting that person.

1107-relax-and-succeed-mok-never-ruin-an-apologyOther electronic forms of apology are less personal and less effective but at least they’re a step in the right direction, so if you don’t have the courage for in-person then the next best option is a clear email that outlines your understanding of the lack of respect you’ve shown, that expresses your sincere regret, and that makes a commitment to do better in the future.

Text or instant messenger apologies are the weakest but again, are still far better than no apology at all. If you do this you can increase the value somewhat by also apologising for the fact that your sense of guilt makes it difficult for you to offer the apology in a more personal form. Own your weakness, don’t add it to the insult to the other person.

And finally, apologies to friends are critical to ongoing friendships, but the world is improved when we add people to the number we’re prepared to respect, so in many ways an apology to an opponent or enemy can be the most useful type for society overall. It models good behaviour and reduces tension in both parties.

1107-relax-and-succeed-mok-the-first-to-apologizeIt’s better not to overthink these. Just define the person, choose the form and then do it. It’ll take a few moments and the only suffering you’ll do is between your own ears, within the confines of your own consciousness. The harder it is to do, the better you’ll feel once it’s over. And who knows, maybe you’ll even get one yourself.

If we want to grow as people we must be willing to function outside our own comfort zones. The fact that this feels awkward is directly related to its value to the other person. Let’s start making apologising more common, because it’s human nature to eventually get tired of apologising for the same mistake and that’s usually what leads to us actually changing.

Do it, and do it ASAP. The March of Kindness needs your kindness to be active.

And have a wonderful day everyone.

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.

Appreciating Kindness

1105-relax-and-succeed-a-persons-actionsWelcome to the last day of the month and to the end of your first two months of micro-meditations. You can take pride in your dedication because exercises like these absolutely do have an impact on how broadly you’re able to view “reality.”

It feels good to have a positive impact on the world around you. Here at Relax and Succeed I’ve encouraged people to engage in March Kindness Month, a creation based on a program in Singapore I was aware of from the 1990’s. This program was taken up by a variety of teachers around the world and the students in their classes helped add to the total amount of human compassion and kindness that was expressed over the last few years. That kind of thing generates a tangible impact in the world.

Leading up to those micro-kindness goals it’s worthwhile for us to take a good look at kindness more attentively so that we can appreciate its actual impact in the world. Our understanding of it often ends with the belief that it’s a good thing to do, but rarely do we slow our minds down to truly understand why.

1105-relax-and-succeed-spiritual-practice-is-not-just-sittingIn today’s meditation your goal is simply to tune your awareness radar to acts of kindness. You can hear about them on the radio or a podcast, you can see them in a video or program, or you can note them live and in-person at work, in public, and at home. It’s not only healthy to be tuned to these events, moreover your careful observance of these moments will demonstrate the resonating power behind simple acts of kindness.

As I’ve written about before, simply waiting a bit longer than average to hold a door for someone will often elicit the same behaviour from the person who the door was held for. Their odds of looking behind them for the rest of the day goes up. Their odds that they’ll be willing to hold a door just a bit longer than average will go up, and by these small gains the world can change.

We’ll save your action for March, but for today, in watching these examples, your assignment is to simply try to see the echo of the generous and thoughtful behaviour. Note the person’s emotional reaction, which will be demonstrated through their facial expressions and body language. Maybe they’ll even offer some words of thanks, and then echo the action with someone else. Whatever it is, big or small, recognise those gains as real things in the universe; things that never would have existed were it not for the original act.

Gandhi wasn’t kidding when he said, “Be the change you want to see in the world.” The change in the world is literally made of massive collections of these tiny acts. People are naturally generous, connected and compassionate, but without us modelling that behaviour for others, they have little chance of breaking out of their egocentric thoughts to the point where they can even recognise their ability to impact the world in this positive way.

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.

Stretching Our Spirit

Relax and Succeed - Nature is busy creating absolutely unique individualsThere are a lot of ways to be beautiful. Like many things in life though it can take time to come to appreciate certain kinds of beauty. Much like young people start off entirely selfish and grow towards ever-increasing empathy (if they’re healthy), when we’re young we also start of with relatively shallow ideas about beauty and (if we’re healthy), we expand those ideas to include more and more things and therefore people.

It’s natural for a child, tween, teen and young adult to recognise physical health as is manifested by our genes and our habits. If someone 10,000 years ago was too lazy to hunt that would be reflected by being underweight, whereas being able to eat a lot would be a sign of success in a  pre-money pre-symbolism world. And if you’re raising kids, obtaining food is the bottom of Maslow’s Pyramid. You do that before anything so it makes biological sense that we would want to be with someone who can look after themselves

To actually have a child a woman would be in competition for a mate with other women and therefore the qualities that denote physical success would be more attractive to the men who also want to see their lineage move forward in that wonderful way nature has.

977 Relax and Succeed - You are beautifulAs we actually attempt relationships we find out they’re about more than just the sexual attraction and the food. That can get a person pregnant but if sharing the food only lasts a short time then the children are in jeopardy, so having a male who feels dedicated enough to stay long enough to protect those offspring also makes sense. So then commitment to the relationship becomes important.

Again we grow and we realise that commitment only comes from certain temperaments reliably, so now we’re looking for the right personality. How nurturing is someone? How courageous? How enjoyable?

Eventually the child-rearing years are over and now the commitment does not have the bind of the children which is why a lot of divorces happen within a few years after the kids are independent. But if things prior to that have been so enjoyable and secure it can be in both parties interests to stay linked. This is based on appreciation.

977 Relax and Succeed - The more we can appreciateIt is possible to move quickly through this evolution if we can come to grasp these individual ideas as a larger concept: we get that people stay because we treat them well and we treat them well because we appreciate what they bring into our lives. That’s why when we’re young we can wonder how a woman can be attractive with stretch marks and yet when we’re older we see those as signs of life’s greatest achievement.

The problem comes in when we compare because everyone is viewing things from a different perspective. Like the old Indian stories about the four blind men studying an elephant, one can think its tail is like a rope, another can find the legs like a tree, another finds the tusk like a spear and the last finds the trunk like a snake. A younger person does not yet have the capacity to appreciate the larger meaning of a stretch mark and so they can see it as a scar rather than a symbol. So the problem isn’t the stretch mark on the older woman, it’s an illusion created by the younger person’s limited ability to appreciate due to having less experience in life.

It’s much the same with anything. Men can historically look at moneymaking  (aka food-gathering) as the main skill, but as we come home from some hunts wounded we come to realise that care and support after the hunt can be what enables us to hunt better tomorrow. In this way people grow toward each other in mutual interdependence, which is a form of appreciation–the highest form of awareness. Meanwhile in a thought-based comparative world where two people are less skilled at appreciation they will end up co-dependent, thereby making the relationship unhealthy for both the parents and any children.

977 Relax and Succeed - You will b e too much for some peopleDo not apply the perspectives of others to views of yourself. You have no idea by looking at someone where they are on that shallowness-appreciation spectrum. You were on it too so don’t lament that someone else is, but don’t apply it to yourself any more than you should use your thoughts to compare yourself today to your younger self from an earlier time. The comparison itself is what generates the pain. It is the result of a thought-calculation. There is no comparing in appreciation. There is no room in our consciousness for anyone or anything other than what we’re appreciating.

Love yourself wherever you are on this spectrum. There is no need to hurry or to cling to any point. We each move at our own pace which is fine, because if we don’t use our thoughts to generate the judgments and comparisons then we’re not anywhere on any spectrum–we simply are. And that is the very best place to be.

Go be. Go be whoever you are now. Trust me. That person is beautiful and perfect.

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.

Owning Happiness

962 Relax and Succeed - Trying to be happyLife is living. It’s a verb. An action. A motion that appears to move us through time. Possessions are inert. They are inactive. They are still. They are not life. Where it gets confusing is that adults will invest living into working, and then using their thoughts they will apply the value of the relevant work to the actual possession. So an expensive thing is worth something.

The problem is, parents live with kids and kids don’t do that addition of value until they start working. In a way this is one of the most important designations of adulthood that a person will experience. It’s why kids are often seen to be unappreciative. They don’t mean to be. They just can’t do the math yet.

How this difference in perspective leads to suffering is quite simple: a parent or parents works hard at their job(s), they contribute to their society through their taxes so that they have roads to drive on, airports and ports, food inspection, police, ambulance and fire services, public universities etc. etc., and in most countries, free hospitals and medical care as well. Part of what’s left goes towards necessities: food, shelter etc,–and then there’s the stuff we notice.

962 Relax and Succeed - I want to rememberIt’s easy to forget that we helped build a road, it’s a little easier to remember that we’ve paid our mortgage but we really remember buying that new car, or our nice new clothes or our new electronics. Those are the things that most commonly have our work-soul invested in them. These are the things that are choices. These are often given the most value via our thoughts.

Because kids don’t have any way of comprehending this relationship they live in an entirely separate reality from their parents. They can know their parents work and that they get pay that gets spent on things, but those are all abstract ideas until you’re actually at work, getting paid, and having to buy stuff. So to kids life is life and to their parents life has often been translated into their possessions.

Having a reality that is too possession-focused means that breakage, damage and devaluation become reasons to suffer. Someone broke a vase so you’re angry; someone left a mess in the kitchen and made it look less beautiful than in magazines so you’re frustrated; the car is damaged in a minor accident that could have been much worse and you’re scared about the costs.

962 Relax and Succeed - Good moms have sticky floorsIt is a reasonable stumble into ego for us to suddenly think a flurry of frustrated thoughts when something we have valued has its value reduced or lost. But that fact is why it’s so important to not immediately react whenever possible. Let the chemical storm pass, breathe and then respond from a larger context: is this something you’ll still be mad at a day from now? A week? A year?

Find the living in your life. As much as possible invest in the living; in the motion. By thinking less and being more you will find the world will help expose just what possessions will truly bring you the most value as well as how to understand that value in a larger context. More importantly, that internal quietness will also clearly expose the connections with others that truly give life its greatest value.

Have a wonderful day everyone.

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.

Inspired Living

959 Relax and Succeed - Our culture has bred consumersNarcissism, at least in the psycho-spiritual realm, is not about beauty or appearance, it’s about immobility. When we imagine someone thinking about themselves too much we imagine someone losing weight or wearing pretty things or someone staring at themselves in a mirror thinking, look at me, look at me, but the damaging part of self-centeredness isn’t the part that says look at me, it’s that by doing so it says: do not pay attention to others. What’s painful in the life of the narcissist is their lack of true connection to others.

I met a nice young woman a few years back. Smart, funny, very creative. She wanted to talk to me about feeling fulfilled. She had a tremendous amount of trouble motivating herself and she wondered how that could be improved. She had way above-average skills and the time to use them, but she was stuck in her home office endlessly wondering why more wasn’t happening. She had been immobile for a few years trying to figure it out.

959 Relax and Succeed - That horrifying momentSo what was she doing? She was spending her time thinking about how to make her own life great. That was her version of Narcissus and the reflecting pool; she sat and stared all day at her own life and wondered why she couldn’t figure out how to make it more impressive. That was the action of her life. That was its verb: wondering. Instead of doing things she wondered. She was trying to wonder her way to a better life.

Meanwhile everyone has Maslow’s Pyramid to deal with. We need food and shelter before we can do anything else. So does someone like me want to take a hard-won client and lose them by telling them something I know they really don’t want to hear? No, but I always do anyway. I do pay for it in lost clients, but that’s still an easy trade compared to my success rate. Because if people make it through the responsibility part they do fine every single time. And if they bailed they weren’t ready yet anyway and they need to go suffer some more.

In a healthy person the inspiration isn’t some magical bolt of lightning that tells someone how they’ll feel fulfilled. Inspiration is created when we feel connected to others, just as narcissism is thinking about ourselves instead of others. So she was thinking about herself, endlessly looking for some motivation that was truly hers, and I was suggesting she think of her spouse and that her motivation could be how she could make his life easier. If she loved him didn’t she want him to have a good life? Wasn’t he missing out on holidays and things for himself if he was paying her to be idle?

959 Relax and Succeed - Me weIn short, instead of wanting even more for herself she could appreciate what she was already getting from her spouse. That gratitude could then be the valuable inspiration she needed to change that situation. But she couldn’t see that because she was too busy thinking about herself and her troubles all the time even though those troubles were all brought on by her lack of action and contribution.

Once she realised that her spouse was actually struggling and sacrificing his life for hers to be idle, she suddenly found motivation. His life could be improved significantly with her help. Suddenly she was motivated to get any job that would take that pressure off him. She no longer needed the job to be fulfilling to her soul in some abstract way, what was fulfilling to her soul was that she was actually contributing to improving the life of someone she loved.

There’s plenty of spouses running hobbies as businesses with little effort toward profitability, even though their entire life is being supported by a hard-working partner. There are plenty of children idly dreaming while their hard-working parents pay their bills because to the child, just earning a living seems unspiritual and uninspiring. But that’s only because the child has turned the work into money, instead of into a mechanism for benefiting a loved one.

959 Relax and Succeed - Dreams require actionThe money isn’t what counts, it’s the respect. Respect is a kind of connection. It says, I care about what you go through every day. So sitting around idly while someone else works for you ends up as a lack of respect, which is a breaking of the bond between one person and another; a spiritual bond. We’re all in this together. They’re there for you, but you’re not there for them.

If you spend all your time thinking, I don’t know what to do, then I would suggest looking around to see what others around you are doing for you and start with that. If your life seems bogged down then someone somewhere is making up for your inactivity because we all need food and shelter as our spirits take our bodies along this journey called life. So who’s doing what and how can you help?

A spouse or child could gain great personal satisfaction by simply caring more actively about the people supporting them. The same goes for any other scenario where someone isn’t carrying their own weight, from benefits from relatives, to friends to even our societies. Everyone has empathy for those in genuine need, but if someone can recover from a spinal injury in a year or two and go on to a fulfilling life in a wheelchair, then surely an able-bodied person can do it in the same amount of time if they care enough. The question is, who are you caring about?

959 Relax and Succeed - Integrity is doing the right thingStop living for yourself and start living for others. What’s wrong with society is the same thing that’s wrong with individuals: a lack of cohesion, a lack of attraction, a lack of responsibility to one another. You don’t need inspiration you need connection. Respect and awareness is all the inspiration and motivation a healthy soul needs.

Whether you’re a street person or a wealthy idle spouse, you will be in pain if you do not connect to and contribute meaningfully to the lives of others. Love is what love does. So you are never far from salvation no matter how bad it seems. All you need to do is stop thinking so much about yourself and start to think more about others.

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.

March Kindness Month

882 Relax and Succeed - March Kindness MonthThe nature of the meditations this year meant that I couldn’t start March Kindness Month until today, but that still gives us plenty of time to practice the part of our personality that can make a real difference to us and the people we interact with. So get a friend or your classroom or your school on board and let’s use the rest of this month to make a real difference in the world.

You’ve had it happen–someone gives you a random and unexpected compliment. It sticks with you for days, or even longer. It’s so rare, and yet insults are not. Why would we choose to be angry or disappointed in others when we could feel compassionate and supportive? These are win-win or lose-lose scenarios so the choice should be obvious.

We think we need things to create happiness in our life. More respect, more money, more friends, more education–whatever. But in fact, it is the giving of respect, the contribution of money, behaving like a friend, or or offering to teach someone something are all excellent ways of feeling good. So why are we so bent on the world recognizing our pain instead of noticing and reacting to the opportunities around you?

882 Relax and Succeed - Do something good todayThis isn’t a moon and stars request. These are simple things. Holding doors for people with kids or packages or if they’re older. Offer directions to someone clearly lost. Being patient with someone learning their job, or your language. These are scary moments in people’s lives–we don’t need to compound them by adding pressure just to satisfy us.

Shift your awareness from your egocentric self and focus instead on those around you. Rather than pointing the flash-light of your consciousness at yourself and your own repetitive self-conversations, shine your light on someone else.

You think you need to change your life to enjoy it more, when in fact you would enjoy it more if you focused your energy on others. If you have enough to give then surely you have enough for yourself. You know that in a fundamental way, so the act of giving becomes one of reinforcement and resilience for the giver. The more you help others the stronger you feel.

882 Relax and Succeed - The smallest act of kindnessStop trying to elevate your ego. Enrich your soul instead. Connect with others knowing that you have the capacity to do enough to make a difference. Maybe it’s not a lot, but the act itself has value.

Give today. In random ways. Pay for the coffee behind you at the drive-thru. Hold a door for someone carrying things. Let someone else have the parking spot. Do a favour for a co-worker or friend. Look into volunteering to see if there’s something you would actually enjoy doing more than what you’re spending your time on now. It doesn’t really matter what it is you do. What matters if is if you do it.

Get out there. Make a difference. Add yourself to the section of humanity that has discovered the secret to enjoying one’s life–the simple recognition and sharing of our existing good-fortune. Go ahead and make some great days everyone. Starting now.

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.

Losing Your Cool

I acted like an asshole. It happens. I took a negative situation and instead of converting into a stronger, better connection with the other person, I lost the moment and I ended up compounding the complexity of the issue with too much thinking. I regret it, but I’m okay with it–if that makes sense.

764 Relax and Succeed - Show respect even to people who don't deserve itI have a church near my home that’s used by a few different groups and one rather ironic congregation in particular is pretty famous in the neighbourhood for disrespecting the neighbours (and really, each other too). They’ll park blocking the road, or they’ll block the alley almost every week and they’ve even been so bold as to park on a neighbour’s driveway, trapping him in his garage for two hours. This always feels decided un-Samaritan-like.

This group experienced a lot politeness from the bolder neighbours initially, although the quieter group was calling tow trucks so maybe those two forces cancelled each other out. In the end it’s never really changed. When I got home after running errands the other morning I saw the contractor down the street having to back his trailer all the way down the alley. The more convenient exit that I was coming in through was blocked enough on my side that he wouldn’t fit.

I rolled down my window and spoke to the young couple who was now blocking the other side of the lane too. I politely let them know that a neighbour would surely call the city if they left their vehicle there. The husband indicated he would move it (as many often claim they will and then don’t). And sure enough, when I walked back he hadn’t. Now the fact that I walked back already shows I was lost.

764 Relax and Succeed - It may look as if the situationWhy did I walk back? Why did I personally feel the need to police the situation? The truth: I hadn’t had enough sleep and I was grumpy. It had nothing to do with these parkers. I was out very late at a friend’s wedding and I was operating on a few hours sleep and it probably didn’t help that I hadn’t had my morning coffee. I’ll usually catch myself being a bit short and I can usually settle myself immediately by just dropping any internal conversation and/or any attachments. Today I chose not to lose the attachment. Today I let the conversation in my head roll.

So I walked back to see if the future I wanted to live in had come true. Remember, I tell you that wanting is an ego-pursuit because it is. My ego wanted that guy to respect that contractor. I used to be a contractor and so I connected him to me, and I imagined him as a decent hard-working guy who was respectful and yet he was being forced to do something difficult for no good reason. Those thoughts added to my negative brain chemistry, which made it more likely that I would convert even more neutral experiences into negative thoughts.

I got attached to them moving the vehicle; I thought I needed it to be happy. And so when I saw their truck unmoved I was actually happy to see the wife returning to get her wallet, which she’d forgotten. I still quite politely told her about the contractor’s trailer and tried to contextualise that it wasn’t a petty request; it really was a big hassle for the guy to have to back out.

764 Relax and Succeed - Choose and direct yourselfI’m not sure, maybe my tone sounded sharp or maybe I had bad body language or maybe she’d been up late at a wedding too and maybe she was just as grumpy as me. She’s entitled. Either way, her reaction to my explanation was, “It’s only for two hours on a Sunday. You must hate God.”

What?!?! My reaction to that statement was far too rapid. My immediate calculation was that she had deflected their personal responsibility onto us, and worse she had justified it by suggesting my very kind and decent neighbours were only asking because we hated God. That lack of personal responsibility and that debasement of God really struck me inside and a feeling came over me that leads to bad news every time.

It’s a little rise. That’s how I feel it. Up until that point I can recoil my thinking quite effectively. After that it races forward and I get a shot of adrenaline and it invariable pushes out words that will be sarcastic and condescending. That kind of arrogance inspires me to want to stab someone with words that will reduce their confidence in that arrogance. And so I said something I deeply regret.

764 Relax and Succeed - When you judge anotherMy terrible and intentionally hurtful reaction to “you must hate God” was a lie. I said, “no, my family was just intelligent enough that they didn’t raise me to absolve myself of being an asshole with my car by conveniently believing in an invisible man in the sky.” That statement suggests that I’m against people believing in God or that I don’t believe in what could be called a sense of God when that’s not true. I have no issue with God. But I pretended to so I could stab her with some science. She scowled and was off and I was left with the sort of ugly feeling that really motivates you not to repeat the action that lead to it.

With no positive course of mind to pursue I simply walked away, but as I did I was already well aware that I’d gotten lost in my thoughts. I immediately began to introspect. My ego wanted. It wanted that vehicle moved and it didn’t like someone turning God into a lame excuse for behaviour that defied the story of the Good Samaritan. I acted superior. My response was to really focus on how much I did not like that feeling and I used that to motivate me to learn from the experience.

By the time I’d walked the few hundred feet home I had settled. I went through what happened to look for where my thinking took over. I realised that I should have noticed the first unsettled sense when I was motivated to walk back. From there it was the attachment to the car being moved, and then my thoughts tying this one experience to all of the previous ones–which of course she’s not responsible for. And finally my ego’s distaste for people using a positive symbol to justify negative behaviour did not help. I’m bad with hypocrisy.

764 Relax and Succeed - Your best teacherI deeply regret what happened but I can’t go back in time so I’ll take it as a lesson. I’m human and I allow for mistakes. But maybe from now on, on the nights where I know I’m going to get very little sleep, I can leave myself a note for when I wake up. Something that reminds me that I might be inclined to be grumpy and to keep an eye out. I think today that would have been enough to do it because when the negative thoughts showed up I could have contextualised them relative to me rather than to her. Lesson learned.

The reason I can’t regret it too much is that this is the yin and yang of life. We need these little moments to remind us where the path is. You can’t have a path without there being not-path. The path I’m usually on feels very warm and pleasant. This did not. It reminds me why I endeavour to stay as mindful as I can each day and so I am grateful for having had the experience.

If the lady I spoke to just happens to be reading this: you have my wholehearted apology. That wasn’t a nice way to speak to you. It’s wonderful you’re enjoying your two hours of holiness. My desire for my neighbour to avoid some unnecessary frustration and the expense of a late-charge on a rental was pointless if I was going to add that negativity to your day. Again, I’m sorry I was unable to be a better person at that time. Thank you.

peace. s

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