What’s Your Hidden Agenda?

1255 Relax and Succeed - The moment I saw youOur ego is sly. It’s been with us since we were little, so its voice is so ubiquitous that it just disappears into the background. But it has an agenda, and the problem for our soul is; that isn’t our agenda, it’s our ego’s.

Our ego doesn’t like challenge, or discomfort or pain. Avoiding those experiences means that our ego makes us pay for that resistance with anxiety, insecurity and suffering. It’s really not a very good trade; living in an ego state where you need things to be your way when your soul is fine with how things already are–including you.

A good example of this is when people are super upset. Presuming the experience isn’t common, people rarely see anyone extremely upset and it can be alarming at first because everyone’s family does that differently. Some people talk about suicide or destroying things, others go dark and silent for days, other attack those present with lashing words. Regardless of what it looks like, it’s when someone is in in an egocentric state and they are experiencing serious distress.

1255 Relax and Succeed - Never in the history of calmSo how does an ego react? Our ego isn’t really interested in the world, it’s focused on its own personal impression of the world, but our ego can’t even have a personal impression of anything because it is created by other people and experiences. It’s like a recording, or a Turing Machine, or set of levers. It’s not very flexible and it only has access to knowledge but no wisdom.

When someone is extremely upset our ego wants them to calm down quickly because it’s uncomfortable for our egos to be in challenging circumstances. Instead we generate anxiety as we struggle to figure out what to say to achieve our own agenda, yet when someone’s in distress, our agenda isn’t going to be relevant whether we want it to be or not.

Our soul has no agenda, so it needs nothing from the other person. It merely observes and responds by nature. This means rather than trying to think of the right thing to say, (which is like using our hand to smooth the ripples out of water), our soul can simply be present. It rightfully understands that it is present for the other person’s experience, but it’s not having the other person’s experience. That alone should generate some helpful gratitude.

1255 Relax and Succeed - To obtain satoriOnce we’ve taken away our personal resistance to the behaviour we’re witnessing we can then have our natural wisdom take over. When we’re in that state we seem to say just the right thing, even if it immediately might not feel like it to our ego. Rather than asking the person’s ego to find the soul that creates it, instead our soul invites their ego to surrender and be at peace in the chaos. Your ego wants them to feel better, your soul is prepared to join them in feeling badly.

It isn’t hard to see that if we’re prepared to feel badly then we get to avoid the anxiety, worry and second-guessing involved with trying to figure out the right thing to say. Sometimes there is no right thing. Sometimes the person just needs time while they feel loved and then the process can unfold. But no matter where anyone is in that state, no one is wrong, no one is lost, and no one is right and no one is found. We are all simply either being an ego or being ourselves and we will balance between the two as the act of living our lives.

Take time to be present with suffering even if it’s your own. Rather than fix it just observe it. Prove to yourself, that can be more comfortable being present than being happy, and in doing so, enjoy your 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.

Switch Day

1240 Relax and Succeed - Feelings are just visitors

Don’t make the mistake of assuming the externalities of your life improve if you come to greater awareness. They often will, but that’s a byproduct and it’s missing the point. The point is that living with greater awareness about how you function means that you can be okay in any situation, not that you can turn any bad situation into a good one. This isn’t about changing the world, it’s about changing you to better suit the world.

One of the weird downsides to your own health is that the more people live in ego, the sicker you’ll appear. Egos adjust to society, but society is a construct. A healthy person moves through the world moved by their internal motivations, not by external rules. They’re not good or decent or compassionate because it’s legal or the right thing to do, they’re those things because they see innocence in everyone because they know they used to be that person too; someone often lost in thought. And so compassion feels like it’s in order.

This means you’ll defy convention, you won’t feel motivated to accept invitations you don’t want, you’ll say ‘no’ more often, you’ll spend your time with the world rather than talking about the world in unaccepting ways, and you won’t engage with people in the often hurtful gossip that egos can build whole ‘friendships’ around. But maybe the weirdest thing you do will be to make an emotional switch that others presume is impossible.

1240 Relax and Succeed - Your mind is an attention-pointing deviceA good example is an argument. Even in the heat of the moment, we can maintain our sense that we are not our thoughts. This third-person observer-view provides us an escape route, but it doesn’t mean the other person will take it with us. I have angrily said to people, I know I love you so I know something is off because I’m yelling! But I cannot get to that love right now, so I just want to stop! Their reaction is generally to look at you like you’re nuts. That is not a change they’re likely to have witnessed before.

Calming down and engaging in a normal conversation then makes that worse. Because a healthy person lives in the moment, so they don’t worry about the past because they cannot act to change it. Healthy people focus on where they can make a difference, which is why they rarely if ever complain about weather. So they let it go and just want to reconnect.

Meanwhile, the other person is still engaged in ego, talking to themselves about you instead of talking to you. To them you must still be angry too so now your positive change seems suspicious or even unhealthy. Funny isn’t it; that we can get so sick that having someone calm themselves and treat us better leads to us thinking something’s wrong?

1240 Relax and Succeed - A mood isn't weatherBottom line, the switch is the healthiest version of being responsible. It is a move from a fearful and painful emotion to a centered and loving feeling. But to be able to do it in a situation like intense anger, you need to practice it on smaller emotions. So today find one. Find just one situation where you’re in the midst of feeling strongly and negatively, and then make your own switch. Acknowledge where you are, accept that the move you’re making is challenging, and then stumble through it as best you can. Do that enough times and you can get really good at it, just like you learned to walk by falling.

Do it today. Find your example of feeling betrayed, or sad, or frustrated, or angry, or depressed, or fearful, and note that those sensations are created by your brain chemistry which in turn is incited by your thinking. Remember that the feelings aren’t you, that they are what you are doing, and then do something else more likely to generate better feelings. Use the video in yesterday’s blog post if you need to.

Prove to yourself you can make this change and then practice it. Because if everyone can do it, then calming down suddenly will look normal, rather than strange. And prolonged anger will look less healthy, and that in turn will motivate people to avoid it. In this way, individual by individual, society will shift to healthier behaviours. You absolutely can do it. But to do it you must choose to do so. Start making that choice today.

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.

Thens and Whens

The definition of Stultified is “to cause to lose enthusiasm and initiative, especially as a result of tedious or restrictive routine.” Sound familiar? You have an instinct for how life should feel and let’s face it, because egos seek security over experience, a lot of folks feel like their lives are small dashes of fun amidst a sea of monotony, responsibility and anxiousness. And who can blame them. Who wants to think that’s all there is?

But here’s the deal: think or live. The world is not terrible, you aren’t inadequate, your life does not lack potential. So why are so many people thinking those three things? Habit, supported by the fact that every other ego around you is doing it too, which makes it appear sane when it’s actually the key form of mental disruption for people.

People want answers but there aren’t any; you are an answer. Your life is an answer. And you write that answer as you live and that is a part of the perfection of how this all works. That’s once again why Kierkegaard went on about how you live forward but understand backward. So everyone can simply be, and life would be the jostle we experience together. But we can’t do that because most of you avoid jostling.

You don’t like being uncomfortable. You don’t like it if someone doesn’t like you, and you don’t like to fail. But achieving comes from trying and trying is another word for failing, so now what do you do? Success is on the other side of failure. Do you go for it anyway? Or do you live in the past or present, constantly thinking, always trying to figure out who you were supposed to be, calculating what’s wrong now, and then figuring out how bad your future is likely to be?

Seriously? No way. You have way too much potential for that. You stop the fearful thoughts by carefully considering what’s actually happening, which then leads to the eventual realisation that the only suffering you’d be open to was from your own thinking. Fortunately, you control that, so essentially you’re free of everyone except yourself. And even if you do attack yourself, it’ll be harder to take yourself seriously when you’ve truly considered how meaningless your fearful thinking is to the world.

Rather than living your life afraid that the world is too big for little you, live knowing that life is a powerful imperative within you. Standing in its way is sure to be painful. You were meant to be. As the naturalist David Attenborough said about plate-sized lichens, surviving for hundreds and thousands of years, “They simply exist, testifying to the moving fact that life even at it simplest level occurs, apparently, just for its own sake.” If you’re going to feel an urge to live anyway, why be a lichen? Why not live and enjoy a bunch of it?

I recently saw a quote: “The worst kind of sad is not being able to explain why.” Look, either you found out you have cancer or you didn’t. Someone died or they didn’t. Let’s not pretend that sadness just shows up like some kind of invisible cloud. It’s brain chemistry that’s fired by what’s in your consciousness. If something didn’t recently happen, then the reason you’re sad is why anyone would be sad: you’re taking your nows to think about depressing thens or whens. It hurts because it’s not your path. You were meant to be not think.

The pain just increases as you avoid life and think more. It is your nature, your destiny and your future to fill your lifetime. The universe simply wants some things to be and the internal arguments you replay in your head mean nothing in the face of it creating your life. Instead of talking to yourself, it’s time you climbed on board your own life and then ride it to wherever you really feel like going. Even if the route is hard.

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.

The Space To Be You

You know what you need? Nothing. That’s what you need. You need gaps, you need space. You need room to simply be. But you can’t do that because you’re either too busy being busy, or you’re busy being something other than yourself. You’re either too busy thinking other people’s thoughts or you’re too busy thinking about yourself. You’re anxious or worried or angry or depressed, and yet your nature is not. There are zero depressed babies.

The worst thing you can do to a baby is take it away from human contact. That’s why being depressed hurts so much when we’re older too. It cuts us off from the natural camaraderie that is part of a healthy human life. If you’re spending a lot of time alone and you’re hurt or angry, then keep in mind that it’s pretty normal for any human to feel that way if you’re in any way deprived of human engagement.

Temporarily wanting to be alone after taking an emotional hit is fine, but the reason that being isolated eventually always hurts is because the pain is signalling us that our time alone is over and we’re now being prodded by our healthy self to end the source of the suffering: the isolation.

The problem is, people will often mistake the pain of the isolation for the pain for the original experience. Fortunately, that’s just a small mistake our mind makes. Once we’ve trained it to watch for those things it can handle telling the two apart quite easily. But you can’t do that if you think all of your suffering comes from the outside world. The pain, okay. But the suffering you need to accept as your responsibility before you can be free of its agonies.

Let’s say you got cut off from your social group in some harsh and thorough way. Because we’re creatures that do better in the company of other creatures, it makes sense that you would find that experience painful. So go be alone for a while. But then when the aloneness doesn’t feel better–when it doesn’t feel like solitude and space and quiet–then you’ll start to suffer in that aloneness, and that’s your sign.

If you’re suffering you’ll have started to overthink and, if you’re not careful, soon you’ll mistake the emotional results of your thinking for the emotional pain of the inciting event from the past. You’ll blame the outside world for something you’re doing to yourself. You’ll develop all kinds of rationalisation stories that explain why your pain is someone else’s fault. But it won’t be. It will be you. And your freedom is hidden in that fact.

If you put yourself there you can get yourself out. If something painful’s happened, take some time and collect yourself but then rejoin life. But if you’re just wallowing in suffering every day then I’m sorry, but that’s you. You can tell yourself all the stories you like, with all of the sad events and evil characters you can think of, but it will not change the fact that you are powerful. You are free to think what you choose, and you’re free to end your suffering the moment you decide to focus of your consciousness on things that inspire you.

Being alone isn’t lonely if that’s where you feel you should be. Being with people isn’t busy or complicated if you’re quiet inside. No place or activity is right or wrong, it is simply either in or out of harmony with who you are being in any given moment. Allow yourself some sadness. But don’t regard your own thinking as though you have problems when you’re only problem is all of that thinking. After all, learning to tell our thinking from a direct experience is a key part of being healthy.

Save yourself. Whether you’re alone or in a crowd, create more space. Create more openness in each day, and more acceptance of yourself and your life. You are expansive and capable. Listen to your own guidance and then trust it.

peace. s

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

The Confrontation

She let him have it. How dare he speak to her that way? They were friends, she was hurting and he attacked her. He went right for the jugular, refusing to respect what was happening and what it all meant. Her heart was broken.

“I can’t believe you said that to me.”

“I can’t believe you asked me to believe something so ridiculous.”

“I never asked you to believe anything! I was hurt. I came to you for help and you acted like my problems are nothing!”

“What problems?”

She’s incredulous. He was right there. He did it! And now he’s claiming he doesn’t know what’s going on?! She was livid. “I just finished telling you about how my boss has been treating me and you acted like it didn’t matter!”

“Okay, first off, can we at least try to calm down enough so that we’re not yelling back and forth?” He took a breath and steadied himself. His voice was warmer when he spoke. “Look Syd, we’ve known each other a while now. If you haven’t figured out that I care then pay more attention because it should be obvious for a variety of reasons. Who rescued you when blew your rent on that crazy gift for your Mom?”

“She was worried she was going to die!”

“I remember. That’s why I gave you money I really didn’t have. Of course I thought your Mom was important. Who took her special meals up every time you couldn’t? Who sat and played her dice game with her? Don’t act like I haven’t shown I care.”

She shuffles in her place, uncomfortable. He puts his arm around her. “When that guy dumped you I’m the one that invited you over for dinner, and it was me that was sitting beside you and it was me that put the mirror on the chair across from you because it was me who told you I wanted to make sure you had dinner looking across the table at someone beautiful.”

She jags a cry. She’s emotional, and he’s mixing a bunch of sweet and awful moments together really fast. “What’s that got to do with anything?”

“That’s us Syd. That’s what we do. A girl dumps me, I come see you and you tell me I have a nice ass or that girls are dumb anyway and you help. Even if I’ve been a dick. You show you care. And I do too. So that’s who we are so you can’t take today and rewrite all of that. You can if you want, but to me you’re the same person, which is why I don’t want to hear this shit anymore.”

She’s incredulous that he’d attack her after they just calmed it down. “What shit?”

“This shit about you being weak. This shit about you going into a depression because of your boss. I know you. So it’s insane to ask me to believe that you’re too weak for this. It’s offensive to you, and you asking me to pretend you’re weak is offensive to me. I know who I know, I know who I see every day.” It’s weird. He’s complimenting her and giving her shit at the same time. She gets up, back to him, crosses her arms and paces nearby. It doesn’t seem to bother him.

His tone shifts down a bit. “And who I see is a strong woman who made it through her Mom’s cancer and her parent’s divorce, and her breakups and mine–and she survived Grady Marsh in high school and yes, she was knocked around for sure.” He leans in to stress his point. “But the weeble wobbled and it didn’t fall down Syd. You were fine then you’ll be fine now, so all of this dramatization is exactly that.”

“Don’t reduce my life to some lame plea. And so I’m just supposed to go everyday and get treated like shit? Is that it? I should just be fine with how she treats me?”

“Of course not. She’s a classic over-compensator. She feels like a fraud who doesn’t really deserve her job and so she feels uncomfortable around any capable person and she over-compensates. It’s classic. It’s hardly personal. She’ll do it like a robot to everyone who she perceives has the ability, intelligence or beauty that she doesn’t have. And don’t act like you’re helpless.”

“Oh what, I confront her and wait for her to get angry and undermine me and then just surrender my job? That’s what she’d do.”

“Maybe. Depends on how you approach it. But regardless, either fix it, leave it or stop bitching about it. She’s always been like that; you should either go in and accept that as the landscape of the job, or make a formal complaint and wait to get fired, or just leave. But stop talking like you’re weak with no options when you’re really only scared. You’re an adult.”

“This is a painful thing, why can’t you see that?”

“I can. But no one said there’d be no pain. You live around enormous numbers of people in horrible pain. My point is it won’t last so it doesn’t need us to engage with it so much.”

“I’ve put in five years there. Why should I have to leave!?

“Why not leave? Why are you assuming where you go would be worse? Maybe it would be better. Maybe you’d meet your new boyfriend who becomes your husband there. Syd, stop acting like these mental attachments matter.”

He urges her to sit back down next to him and she does. “Let me clear it up Syd: the world isn’t fair. Go to a children’s hospital and see people with real challenges. Even your own sister. She’s a single mom of a sick kid, she has to work two jobs, and your once-had-cancer mom helps but you don’t. Your life looks pretty good you know. I know it’s no princess-life but come on. We gotta remember, 25% of the people walking past us will get cancer and a bunch of the rest of them are those people’s families. Maybe that’s still us, so maybe this isn’t so bad really.”

“I don’t think you understand what being depressed is.”

He’s not angry, but he is firm. “Now you’re being disrespectful to me. Please don’t pretend you’ve got some feeling I don’t. Don’t pretend that everyone you know hasn’t suffered horribly in their life. All of us feel like just throwing in the towel sometimes. I know that hurts and so does everyone else over about ten years old, so don’t put a spotlight on your problems like they’re the only ones that count because the rest of us have some challenges too you know. When was the last time you asked about Brian?”

Her eyes widened and she hid a gasp. “I’m so sorry. I was so caught up in what’s been happening that I didn’t even think to ask. I’m so sorry.” She takes a step toward him but she can see he needs some space.

“Thanks. Mom says he’s good. We’ll wait and see how the chemo did.”

“I’m so sorry. We should go see him.”

The whole thing between them is a bit weird for her now. He seems comfortable, just stung. “Yeah. He’d like that.”

“I’m sorry.”

“Syd, just stop okay? Just stop with all of the whining. You’re not depressed, it’s just when small shit goes wrong somehow your dad taught you this habit of spinning it around in your head for forever and for what? What’s all that thinking do but dump a bunch of awful-feeling chemicals into your brain? How does that help you solve your issues with your boss, or Palestine and Israel, or climate change, or women’s rights, or any other thing you’ll get all down about? It’s just a stupid waste of time and a bad habit and you always defend it. It steals energy from our friendship that could be used more wisely.”

He turns toward her, almost intimately. “It’s why you forgot to ask about Brian. You’re always too wrapped up with thoughts about yourself that you never stop to ask what you’re missing and yet you’re famous for not noticing major things in people’s lives.”

“I am not!”

He just looks back at her. She can tell that it’s true. She has a moment where she caves in a bit. She hates the thought that among her friends she’s known as the one who hogs the pain limelight. But to her credit, that reputation doesn’t feel comfortable, so she takes a good breath, sits up straight and she turns to him. “Okay… okay… so you’re saying I’m strong and so you’re not mad at me and you’re mad at me for acting like I’m weak.”

“Yes. You I love. I know you. It’s the behaviour. It’s beneath you. It’s like watching an alcoholic hurt themselves. I won’t blame the alcoholic for drinking themselves, but I won’t buy them a bottle either.”

She sits with that for a bit. If her parents made it to Canada, through all of that hell back home, then how could the child of those strong people act like a shitty boss would be enough to knock her entire life off track. The longer she considered it the more the stronger feeling built until finally she turned to him. “Okay. Okay then tell me what your brother loves and then lets go get a lot of whatever that is.”

He turns to her. He’s crying. She touches his shoulder. “I’m so sorry I hurt you.”

“I’m not crying about that.”

“What’s wrong then?”

“Nothing. You’re just so beautiful when you love people.”

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.