MoK: Tender Mercies

Dear Readers,

May this find you well. I have a strange entry for today’s March of Kindness assignment. Today we will unexpectedly focus on kindness toward ourselves. Valuing ourselves is a form of self-respect and it is distinct from the unhealthy selfishness that causes us to feel guilty, or that requires us to distract ourselves from facing our relevant responsibilities.

For the first time in the many years that I’ve have blogged here and elsewhere, I simply cannot create the time or the very specific meditative headspace I require to write the sort of blog post I feel you all deserve. The needs of my family and friends have been tremendous over the last many weeks and there comes a time when we must face that if we have almost no time to even sleep or eat, then those things must take priority lest we risk the health of the body our consciousness resides in.

This being the case, let’s alter today’s planned March of Kindness post into this: find the area of your life where you personally are overwhelmed and surrender. If the only overwhelming thing you truly have in your life is your own anxious thoughts, then slow those down and open your awareness and then reach out to someone who is truly overwhelmed. Either way, the world is made better.

Kindness toward yourself or kindness toward another, it’s all kindness and it’s worthwhile. I’d like to thank you for your kindness in understanding my situation, and I wish you every good-fortune with your own self-kindness today.

Regards, 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.

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.

Mental Health Opportunities

969 Relax and Succeed - I used to careThe medicalisation of mental health is the product of an industry. That being the case, it’s worth it to ask what the agenda of that industry is. I won’t pretend to be able to read the minds of drug company executives but I know they have the same problem that any executive in a publicly traded company has: your job and your pay and a large part of your family’s happiness is based on how well you either cut costs or increase profits. But what’s the mean for the rest of us?

A lot of people work in jobs where they’re already overtaxed by too few staff and old or malfunctioning equipment, so we’ve cut expenses about as much as we can. That leaves profits. If only we could have 15% more diseases every year….

A disease is a findable thing. A doctor can point to something and say; this is happening because a disease is impacting you in this particular way. A disease is its own entity seeking to do its own thing that is often contrary to the needs of its host. At the same time, with no disease present we know otherwise healthy muscles can atrophy and disappear if we just choose not to use them. They will appear diseased because they will shrink and contort but if we went to the gym and changed how we used them they could again be strong and flexible. So it goes with our emotions.

969 Relax and Succeed - If there are no ups and downsYou can feel an emotion and take a pill to rid yourself of it or; you can experience that emotion, become familiar with it and then master it. Some people never learned to juggle the ball of happiness by getting lots of chances to drop it. Some people never learned to juggle the knives of misfortune because they always closed their eyes and ran rather than face some early cuts. So when it comes to negative emotions we’ve either ran or tried to shut them down, but what if you coped instead? You remember that don’t you: coping?

I’ve written for years about the value of nature. I’ve written for years about the value of friends. I’ve written for years about the value of laughter and enjoyment. Meanwhile most people go buy something, or they go to their doctors and get mood pills or they go to a friend to get weed or some other socially acceptable medication, but hardly anyone copes. And every year it gets worse.

Bad things do not create a bad life. A bad attitude about things creates a bad life. Good things do not create a good life, a good attitude about things creates a good life. So what’s a good attitude? Turn it off! Give me my pill! Shut up! Go away! Nope. A good attitude is more like, wow, today was hard. Want to go swimming or biking tonight? How about if we visit the neighbours? They’re always so funny! Or how about a great meal?

969 Relax and Succeed - A good laugh and a long sleepThere you go right there. Want to know the difference between a happy family and a miserable one? That’s it: how you respond to the world. Happy people don’t have better lives they react better. They don’t dull themselves with a pill, they don’t smoke a big bowl and then sit in front of a screen until they fall asleep and they don’t sit and bitch and commiserate. They take action. They run somewhere, accomplish something or see someone.

Take all of the time you spent wasting life, wanting it to be better. Be honest: it’s a huge amount of your day for most even mildly unhappy people. Now what would your life look like if that time was spent exercising, or learning, watching comedies and seeing friends? Would your life still be so small and dull? Would it still seem overrun and rushed? Would you still have as many problems?

There are things we can do things about and things we can’t do much about. Start looking at your life for its opportunities. Rather than a pill take a walk. Rather than escapism connect with a friend. And rather than idleness choose movement. Your life is what you make of it. If it’s currently full of complaints and struggle then you built it that way. Start looking around for the invisible choices you’ve made and find better ones. Because you shouldn’t be surprised that you’d enjoy laughing with a good friend a lot more than bitching about a bad one.

Go create a good week with good choices. They’re not hard. They’re just not a habit–yet.

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.

Other Perspectives #93

826 OP Relax and Succeed - A big part of lifeThe horns of a dilemma is a tough place to be. Sometimes there just isn’t a good choice, just a best choice–and what’s best is up to who you ask. If an individual feels secure then no one will make a better decision for them than they will. And there is no reason to self-hate ever, let alone because you were forced into some incredibly complex emotional situation. Hating yourself in a mirror is something a lot of innocent egos do because somehow they were accidentally taught that it’s possible to make it through life without having to make some very ugly decisions. There is no life like that. That’s what life is–a series of decisions. Some of them easy some of them hard. But regardless of which they are, they happen in the moment they are in and they are made by the person you are then. So just like other people’s views on that decision don’t matter much, neither do the opinions of later versions of you–because that person will have the benefit of the wisdom you gained from making the decision that later-you is commenting on. But you didn’t have that wisdom then so the criticism doesn’t even make sense. Every face you see has made decisions that involved pain and suffering and complication. Sometimes we will choose something painful. But that’s no reason to talk to yourself negatively. There would be zero happy people if everyone did that. If you want to live your life successfully you do not study and discuss or self-discuss your worst and darkest days. If you want a successful life you have to focus on your successes and build off those. And that’s nice, because it not only works better than beating yourself up, it feels better too. Now go have a great week.

Big hug. s

Scott McPherson is a writer, public speaker, and mindfulness facilitator who works with individuals, companies and nonprofit organizations around the world.00 Relax and Succeed - Other Perspectives Footer

Taking Care of You

I am not a teacher. You are a learner. I am simply here. You are passing through me. I’ll offer you everything and you can take what makes sense to you in any given moment. That’s all that can ever happen. All I can offer is what I have, and all you can take is what you have room for. The rest is up to the universe.

759 Relax and Succeed - Don't just be good to othersThe reason we’ll meet is because sometimes you’re done dropping and you’re ready to bounce. Maybe it’s a small bounce, like working through a new job or some dating challenges. Or maybe it’s a huge bounce like overcoming an addiction, ending a relationship or overcoming powerful grief. I am always just a nice straight wall for you to bounce your possible futures off of. From my perspective all situations are all the same.

Whether someone cuts off their finger or their arm, it really hurts and it’s the pain I naturally respond to. That’s what connects me to the other person. Not a detailed understanding of how they came to be that way. That should ultimately be irrelevant to both of us. What was written yesterday does not impact what gets written today other than that the writer is more experienced at choosing their words.

Once we are connected, I simply listen to what you’re saying in a very deep way. The intense way you would listen to your new baby’s breathing, or your mother’s dying words. All-in. No me. I’m not reacting as me, I’m responding to something in you that’s behind the words. We all often know when someone’s hiding something because they will unintentionally tell us so. This is like that, just a bit deeper. It’s listening to intent more than content.

759 Relax and Succeed - The future dependsIt’s true that I can be profoundly helpful, but again I am like the mathematician who proves to you that your rocketship can fly. You will build your own ship and you must fly it. I’ll just help you remember that you already know how to do both those things really well. Your life is much more about your imagination than you realize, so think big.

If you’re ready you know. You either love how things are and you’re wise enough to want to learn how to maintain that while you were happy and a good learner, or you’re tired of things the way they are and your low feelings have been energized into a focused kind of anger. Not anger at you or your history. But an intensity about squeezing the most out of each and every moment. That doesn’t have to mean they’re good moments. Some of my all-time favourites have included a lot of sadness. But such is the sweetness of life. The pie needs some crust to hold the filling in.

If you’re not ready these words mean little to you. If you like the idea but not the words, then seek out another teacher. New clothes or a new car won’t do nearly as much for you as truly attending to your own life. Respect it enough to want lots from it. It’s generous and it’s huge, so feel free to go crazy. Because even the dreams you don’t achieve will lead you to dreams you never even thought to have.

If you’re ready I’ll probably hear from you. If you’re not, that’s cool too. We’ve gotta get lost before we feel the need to figure out where we actually are and where we’re actually going. And that happens to everyone in good time. Maybe I’ll see you then. Either way, you take good care of you.

Much love, s

Scott McPherson is a writer, mindfulness instructor, coach and communications facilitator who works with individuals, companies and nonprofit organizations around the world.

Miss Understood

Maybe you’re overweight and other girls teased you. Or maybe it was that you’re uncoordinated. Or was it your hair, or shoes or the clothes your parents bought? Maybe it was what you ate, an accent, or a nose, or ears or your teeth? Maybe you were Polish or maybe you were from Ghana or Ecuador. Maybe you were even really pretty and they hated you for that. And let’s not forget the most important stuff: all of the many, many things you’ve said and done that you truly wish had never happened. Bottom line, no matter how you live, everyone 644 Relax and Succeed - Life is really simplegets hated.

That in and of itself is an unpleasant experience that reminds us that belonging to a tribe is important to our well-being and so by being an unpleasant experience, being hated reminds us that it is generally better to make friends. With connections comes peace and security and joy and love. But we mustn’t go so far as to suggest that there’s something wrong if you’re disliked or even hated. As I’ve noted before, there’s people that hate the Dalai Lama and Gandhi was shot. Hated is just part of the deal. And the more you’re you, the more connected you will be to most people, but you will also grow quite unlikeable to others.

It is challenging for egos to love healthy souls. A healthy person isn’t worried about any judgments and so they’ll do things that egos think they shouldn’t. The people living in ego will define them as bad or wrong, but the healthy person won’t be upset about being judged. They understand that the other people have been taught to expect others to perform, not to be people that are free. Egos want to be liked, they’re not trying to be their true selves. The healthy people know how easy it is to do that because they used to make the same silly, simple mistake. It’s so simple that it’s very difficult to even notice you’re making it. But you really don’t have to be liked by everyone. No one is, no one can be, and it’s way more enjoyable and helpful if you’re not. Then you can be you instead. Because you add zero creativity to the world if you’re busy performing some acceptable character when you could be busy creating things from your own unique perspective.

Be like a healthy person. They’ll be focused on what feels good, and experience has shown them that warmth, generosity and forgiveness lead to the very best feelings. So they’ll be pointed that way—not to impress anyone. It’ll be entirely selfish. They do it because it feels awesome. And they can do it wholeheartedly because they aren’t encumbered by wanting things to be different. They don’t have to endlessly adapt to different situations. Healthy 644 Relax and Succeed - How can I be substantialpeople just move through life by being consistently themselves, no matter who they are in front of.

So right now you wish people knew the whole story. You wish they could see behind the scenes or that they knew how bad you really felt about the thing they’re angry at. Maybe you were slandered or libelled or just regret something super-duper stupid you did. Maybe you didn’t even do the thing they think you did and it’s all just a misunderstanding—but however it comes about, everyone else has all of that stuff too and it still doesn’t make you or them faulty, bad, worthless or unlovable. You can drop that story. You can halt that campaign. You can stop living your life in the shadow of whatever it is. Because everyone has multiple shadows. Even the happy people. So don’t let the shadows make you think you’re not qualified for love-ability. You totally are. By birth. That’s just how it is. The universe had to literally organize trillions and trillions of atoms to build you. You’re here on purpose.

Okay? So fewer I’m not worthy stories. Less beating yourself up. And then you don’t have to run others down either because you only do that out of insecurity. Otherwise you’re generous. You’re wonderful. You’re a beautiful soul. So shine on you crazy diamond. Let us see the light inside you. It’ll blind some and they’ll complain, but the rest of us will see you as a shining star.

Love you. Big hugs.

peace. s

Are You Alive or Do You Exist?

100 Relax and Succeed - Wherever your heart isPeople are constantly pointing out the fact that I’ve had an extremely interesting life, and it’s true. I’ve been to cool places, I’ve done fun and exciting things, and I’ve known some remarkable people. But this isn’t because I’m luckier or smarter than anyone else—it’s because I don’t spend much time creating fear.

What stops you from doing the things you want to do? Why won’t you go on an adventurous trip? Because you use your thoughts to discuss all of the things that could go wrong, or you speculate about the opportunities you might miss if you’re away, whereas I wonder what adventures I might have.

Why don’t you do some bold and exciting thing, like ask out a stranger in a strange situation, or date someone when it makes no obvious sense? Because you tell yourself stories about why the relationship potentially couldn’t work, whereas I moved to Europe after only two dates to actually find out. And it didn’t work as a long term relationship, but life still worked out. I threw her a very special birthday party, went on some beautiful trips, we both made fantastic friends, and of course I dated a remarkable woman, in a remarkable city. Win win win.

100 Relax and Succeed - Nothing will be attemptedWhy haven’t you met your heroes? Well, you’ve probably never really tried to meet them. When I wanted to be a screenwriter, I just started contacting famous, successful screenwriters and I ended up meeting and even becoming friends with lots of them. But I didn’t sit around listing all of the reasons that those meetings and friendships couldn’t happen—I focused on all of the ways that it might happen and some of those worked out just fine. Who cares about the ones that didn’t? Do I plant a garden and focus all of my attention on the seeds that didn’t sprout, or the ones that did?

Life is there for the taking, but people can choose the treadmill. They can go do the same thing every day and not enjoy much of life at all. Most people live that way; with jobs they find uninspiring, time with people based on obligation rather than joy, and duties rather than pursuits.

It’s like a straight jacket. Everyone’s performing for each other, trying to be a good citizen. Conforming, prepared, safe. Everyone’s so loaded with fears of what they’ll lose that they don’t even try to get anything anymore. They just collect stuff, but they’ve given up on collecting life. They’re buying things but you’re not saying yes to experiences.

100 Relax and Succeed - The only way that we can liveWhy would you be shy if an actor pulled you up on stage at a show? What would you have to lose? Do you see the two worlds? One person gets pulled up and they tell themselves a story about what they have to lose. They’ll think about their dignity, their reputation, their appearance. But those things only exist in your head. The exciting life happens when you just dive in and say yes to the experience.

When you see an opportunity to help out, or make people laugh, or to meaningfully connect, then take it. What difference would it make if it went “bad” or if everyone laughed? How would that hurt? Why would that be something to avoid?

Stop being halted by precipices in your mind. Stop thinking you can fall off heights that only exist in your head. You’re not supposed to mannequin your way through life in a way that looks good to the rest of us. You’re supposed to take this stage and perform something that excites you. There is no audience. There is just your stage, amidst all of the other stages. No one’s really watching you, they’re too busy doing what they’re doing to have the time to really watch what you’re doing.

This is a show by you and for you. Your life is not being graded. You can’t “win” at life by avoiding “failures.” Because there are no successes or failures, there are only experiences. So by trying to avoid failures, you steal experiences from yourself. You are forgoing your life out of concern that you may not spend it wisely; or, put another way, you’re so worried you’ll misspend it that you’re going to die with all of your life-money still in the bank.

Is life going perfectly? Do you love every minute of it? Then forget doing what’s safe or smart. Start doing what’s tempting or exciting. Because I’m constantly doing things that other people say are crazy or unwise or dangerous or pointless, and yet I’m also the person who’s constantly doing fascinating things with fascinating people, and I love my own life. And I don’t love it because you think it’s impressive that I’ve done all of these interesting things. I love it because I was fascinated while I did all of those interesting things.

Go grab life. You feel its pull all the time, but you use words to talk yourself out of living it. Go quiet inside instead, and just follow the pull. Because that sensation is the feeling of your life asking you to live it.

Enjoy.

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.