The 7-5-3 Code

Yesterday I gave you some basic strategies to avoid having your irritations and frustrations evolve into anger. Today I’ll tell you the more challenging part, which is how to recover once you’re upset. Before I set the context, fair warning: you might find parts of this story difficult.

In life in general I do attempt to set myself up to do well under challenging circumstances by basically following the same code a Samurai would use for health. I will admit it’s been tough getting enough sleep in these last few years that have included caring for my parents–but I eat pretty well, I have natural exercise built into my life, and I actively care about myself and the world around me.

As this blog is a testament, I always seek and greatly value having a calm, clear, alert awareness in order to achieve a healthy emotional balance and the highest levels of performance. But I can’t do that all the time and the day I’m going to tell you about was preceded by a week of bad food, too little sleep, and a loss of awareness.

Work was extremely busy and it was a very critical time on a long project. My parents had a stomach flu and didn’t want to eat, and what they wanted to eat came right back out one end of them or the other. At 91 they don’t move fast so I was cleaning up all over the place and yes, it was super gross.

I was doing a lot of extra cleaning and wiping and fluid checking (during which I was washing up incessantly to try to avoid catching it too because that would even be worse). Since I generally cook for them and I wasn’t joining them in their dry toast, I wasn’t eating either. I was always often finishing so late that it prevented me from getting enough important work done and that made me think too much. It was a recipe for disaster.

A while ago we had to shift Dad to an adult diaper. It’s just a minor one, mostly for the 10% of the time where he quits peeing just a moment after he puts himself back into his shorts. In those cases you can say, “Dad you should change,” and after he finally hears you he’ll do it fine on his own.

But this day included the flu. I’d just sat down after cleaning up vomit in three different parts of the house when he very notably jumped up off the sofa and then shuffled faster than I’d seen him go since his last stroke. Look, this is where I’m just going to be candid. Dad’s got a liquified stomach, 91 year old legs trying to get him to a toilet 40 feet away, and along the way his only defense is a 91 year old asshole. It’s just not as snug as it was when he was younger, and it’s okay if you laugh.

Sure enough he couldn’t keep it together and whatever happened before I got the door opened I’m not sure, but to put it bluntly there was a lot of poo–including on Dad, the wall, the bathtub, everywhere. It smelled worse than anything I’d ever encountered in my life. I worked to hide my gagging from him.

This is where I felt myself start a rise. My mistake was, I wasn’t fully aware of my father’s vulnerable state or it easily would have moved me to active compassion. No, I made the experience about me, and so rather than being present with him I started thinking about how long it was going to take me to clean everything up.

Dad had his diaper back up and so I gave him a bag to put it in and I asked him to put on a new one. I got to cleaning the bathroom all while thinking about the uncompleted important work sitting on my desk. The smell was brutal, and now my stomach was starting to rumble too.

About halfway through cleaning the bathroom (I’ll save you the horrible details), I stopped thinking about me for a moment and that helped me realise that Dad can’t balance, and so he sits when he changes his pants. I looked at the mess and thought to myself, Dad went in there to change a dirty diaper…!

I leapt up, raced to his bedroom and sure enough, he’d stood up to pull off the old one. It was overfull and didn’t keep it’s contents together, so his ass is still covered in poo. And just as I came in–just after he drops the dirty diaper half on the floor and half into the bag I gave him–he does what’s logical to his Dementia-influenced mind and yes, he sat down on the bed to put on a new diaper. I tried to stop him but it was too late. It was awful. I snapped at him. “Great Dad. Now I’ve got to wash the bedding too!” It did not feel good to say.

I ordered (ordered!?) him back into the bathroom because I had to get him cleaned up before I finished cleaning the bathroom, floor and bed. I had already calmed myself down quite a bit by the time I was helping him get cleaned off. It was an extremely intimate moment for both of us. This wasn’t a baby who doesn’t understand what you’re doing for them. We’re both adults and it was the first time he’d needed that level of help in the bathroom. I could see the shame in his eyes–something I never saw before in my life. My heart immediately broke.

As I stopped thinking about me and started getting present with him and his vulnerability, my rectitude flooded back and I used courage to move past my own shame. I placed my hand warmly on my Dad’s naked back. I looked him in the eyes, and with open honesty and sincerity I said, “I’m sorry for getting upset Dad. You’re more important than my schedule. You’re my Dad and I love you. That was my fault. I’m sorry. I’m learning how to do all this Dementia stuff too. I’ll do better next time.” He liked that.

That helped me shift my own emotional tone even further, and the kindness and respect that I attempt to always to cultivate returned. As I wiped him off and he relaxed into his new reality, I looked him in the eye and we connected in a way we never have in all my life. He was saying thank you with his eyes in a very tender and loving way, and as I rubbed his back I warmly and lovingly responded, “You’re doing great Dad. You’re just sick that’s all. We’ll get through this together. I’m with you through this no matter what. You’ve been a great Dad. I love you and I’m here for you.”

He’ll forget it all happened in twenty minutes. But our experience was real. He started to offer an apology but I told him that it wasn’t necessary. He was sick and I was caring for him and I had not done my duty. My parents had been there for all of my gross kid-parts, I was not going to shy away from them when it was their turn to need the same care. He could count on me. And boy, could I see the comfort that last part gave him.

I cannot tell you how much I respect healthy, professional care workers who do these same things, with the same levels of compassion,  all for people who are entirely unknown to them. I now know how they’re able to do those very tough jobs; it’s because, just like everything else in life, if you’re willing to push past some really challenging feelings, you’ll end up experiencing important and meaningful things that too many people miss out on.

As gross and as challenging as it was, I now wouldn’t trade that day for anything. I wouldn’t trade the moment that Dad and I shared for anything. And I was happy to wash those sheets. Yes, I would be late getting work done and people were going to be upset. But my Dad was okay, and I’d been the person I most like to be; comforting. When I finally laid my head down on my pillow I went to sleep feeling like it had been a really good day.

You too can turn your worst days into your best. But it requires an awareness of the present moment and the ability to change your emotional tone by adjusting the focus of your mind. Practice both now. No matter who you are you’ll need it. And when you do, you’ll understand even more why it’s so important. Because if people behave according to their deepest feelings, loving someone in the trenches bonds a relationship together like nothing else.

peace. s

PS And if you’re wondering–yes–just as they were getting better I did actually catch the flu myself. 🙂

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: The Powerful You

Surprise!

I know; I haven’t done posts on Saturdays in a few years but I owe you one from Friday. I appreciate your patience. First my parents were very ill with a stomach flu and then as soon as I got them through the worst of it I ended up catching it too. Once nice thing about being sick is that you really appreciate your everyday health a lot more, and that sense of grace helped me create, at least in my opinion, a particularly helpful post for you today.

When we’re struggling it’s natural for us to look for help. Our brain gets a lot of its base ideas from childhood, but that’s generally when our needs are necessarily met by others. As we age we progressively learn that we are much more capable than we imagine, and then as we decline near the end of life we return to a more childlike state of neediness.

Since very few infants read my blog, nor a huge amount of seniors, I tend to focus on the tough bits; the bits in the middle where we’re trying to discover our strengths and resiliencies. This is when a conflict arises between how you have seen the world versus how you will need to see before you can move forward. We all know this moments–these epiphanies–they’re those a-ha! moments where we suddenly realise we’ve been making a big, simple mistake.

Mistake is the right word because it’s not like you were making your life difficult on purpose. The mistake is generally thinking that there’s something wrong with us versus understanding that something is wrong with our perspective. Wanting to feel better is a perspective. Importantly, it’s a perspective that presumes that we need help.

Sure, sometimes we really do need help. Little kids want to do things themselves but often can’t, and seniors are often late in realising they need help. But those realities are very different from thinking we need help. Stephen Hawking obviously needs a lot of actual help, but he never would have become who he is by assuming he couldn’t do things. That’s easy for anyone to do. Even the most powerful, wealthy and beautiful people in the world face all the same human struggles and pains you do, they’re just better at hiding them.

Importantly, thinking we need help requires us to presume a state of weakness. We are reaching up. But what if this is where our mistake is? What if we’re assuming our childlike identity when it’s not the right tool for the job? And if an old identity isn’t going to help, and our current identity is experiencing struggle, then what’s required is a new identity.

As counter-intuitive as it seems at first, the answer to our wanting feelings is not for us to get what we want. That just reinforces the weak identity as being who we actually are, when what we need is to choose who to be. Wanting something implies first that there is a separate “me” and that there’s something missing, when neither is true. That’s just the subject-object nature of the conversations you have with yourself.

The way to feel better is to stop that conversation, and the way to do that is to stop making the assumption that your feelings are a result of the world rather than the result of your own thinking. So instead of listing our wants and needs to ourselves and others, we’re better to shift to not thinking about ourselves and instead focusing on the needs of others.

Even if you’re in a down state, you still have fantastic resources. Even your painful experiences are helpful to those going through those things right now. So even at your weakest you have a great deal to give. We can see this with babies. They’re 100% needy, and yet they get loved like crazy just for being. You’re actually still like that.

So this weekend, no matter what we feel our current state is, our assignment in the March of Kindness will be to feel stronger by finding a way to be generous. The important aspect of this is that you cannot generate generous feelings in the weak part of your mind.

By focusing on others you cease to create the troublesome, needy you and instead your mind is focused on the outside world. By taking generous action, you reinforce to yourself that you also contain strong identity, and strong identities tend not to review their problems, they’re too busy reviewing the strengths they have available.

Get out there today and be generous. Share yourself with others and feel more connected, worthwhile and powerful in the process. You can do a lot of little things or one big thing, but by doing either you add much more positivity to the world, you model healthy behaviour to others, and you prove to yourself that you are a multi-dimensional being with many forms. And if you’re aware of that truth, then no matter what state you’re in you know the answer isn’t to change the world, it’s to change yourself.

peace. s

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

The Friday Dose #118: Yes You Can!

958 FD Relax and Succeed - You're awesomeLast week I gave you a hamster slowly eating a carrot. That’s quite a contrast to this one!

The Olympics are only two weeks away. I live across from a large grass schoolyard and after every Olympics or World Cup I will see a massive rise in the number of kids practising athletics outdoors in that field. That’s one of those invisible but wonderful benefits to being inspired.

I am currently at work on a film about an incredibly inspiring person and it lead me to do some hunting and sure enough, someone has done a fantastic job of inspiring us all. So sit back and prepare to be motivated, enthused and filled with all that is great about humanity.

You can too.

Have a fantastic weekend everyone.

Much love. 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 #84

776 OP Relax and Succeed - The past cannot be changedThe past is the past. It’s happened. There’s no do-overs. But the past does not entirely dictate your future and it can obviously be forgotten. And as we now know about memory–every time you recall something you’ll imbue it with the feelings you’re having at the time of the recollection. So your memories not only can be edited, they will be. Despite that quibble, it is true that you can only accept the steps that lead to where you are. The ship can’t alter its wake. But nor can it be directed by it. No matter what unfortunate things have happened to you, once you’ve lived long enough you realize that most of the things you value in life are also somehow also tied to your big supposed missteps. This leads us to question our ideas of good or bad. Because if an addiction or affliction of ours acts as training on how to get someone else through the same tough experience, then in a way our so-called failure was in fact a very special kind of training on how to live a successful life. Know you are complete because you have enough to give. And you are you because of your past. You have much to offer. You are worthy of your own acceptance. Have a wonderful day.

peace. s

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

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Other Perspectives #76

I’m all for this idea I just don’t see why it says woman instead of person. But, of course, this is the very same mistake men made. That’s why I decided to use this: to illustrate that no one means to exclude anyone when they make an affirmative statement. So it wasn’t that men historically left women consciously out of things like voting any more than this writer intended to leave men out of this statement. She’s not saying that men can’t have this experience. But when she wrote this it simply never occurred to her that it unnecessarily left men out. And this woman will certainly have a father and possibly brothers, maybe a mate and male children. So really good people can be accused of being heartless when in fact their actions are quite innocent. I recently heard a policeman say that after he left the Baltimore police force he could see that their day-to-day violence was largely unnecessary. It was an actual attack on law-abiding citizens by the government. But at the time he didn’t see himself as the government or them as citizens. He saw it as necessary or unnecessary to doing the job. We can get angry about that, or about gross male privilege or angry feminism, but that just creates more divisions. It’s better that we just focus on the positive intents of peoples messages and then we can do the rewrites ourselves. Because as in this case, it might say it’s for women but C. Joybell C. did write something that’s useful for all of us.

peace. s

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How Strong Do You Think You Are? 2

Hello Everyone.

It’s Canada Day here at home, so I’m re-blogging a popular past posting, How Strong Do You Think You Are? It’s a personal favourite of mine that’s short but very sweet. The nature of my work here means that anyone should be able to re-read a blog and still find new content because of the growth they’ve done since first reading it. So remember, your identity always comes from who you believe you are. So always believe in your own inner strength and you will find it much easier to practice being calm, patient, compassionate and powerful. Now go create a great day for yourself!

peace. s

Relax and Succeed

What others think of you is truly meaningless in your life. Don’t choose to repeat to yourself the negative, blaming, guilty, enervating thoughts you heard in school, or from a parent or anyone else. Those are merely the sounds of a person who doesn’t know how to be happy and they’re innocently blaming you. What they think is their issue. What you think is your reality.

You will manifest what you believe. Harbouring negative, judgmental thoughts about yourself or others is like poisoning yourself. And that makes no sense when you’re capable of exactly the opposite.

39 Relax and Succeed - How others see you is not importantIn 1970, Soviet weightlifter Vasily Alexeyev became the first person to lift 500lbs. Many had tried the feat before him and failed. Alexeyev himself had failed at it several times in training.

The story goes that his coach came to him one morning with a plan; the World Championships were getting too close. They…

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Growing Pains

Everyone says they want to be rich. Everyone says they don’t want to work. And yet the very rich can do anything they like, and yet what they want is the same thing everyone wants of course: to have a life of meaning. The simple fact is you can only screw around for so long before you realize that it’s your nature to be creative. It is your nature to expand 182 Relax and Succeed - I am not telling youyourself—and through that, expand the universe as well.

You’ll notice there are two types of street people. People who feel so broken that they do not create. This group essentially begs, which is actually a nice humble act. You have to be in a healthy headspace to pull that off. Think about how hard it would be for you to do. But bottom line, until they begin to fulfil their nature and grow, they will be crippled by their lack of connection to their natural sense of being. There are no flowers that grow part of the way out of the ground and then just stay that way. The growth to a bloom is a natural event that must be interrupted by very intense thinking.

The other half of the street people are much more like daily workers. They may have a trapline for bottles in some alleys, or they do daily work, but otherwise they live without encumbrances. They still maintain a purpose and a sense of accomplishment and these elements are what makes their lives more enjoyable. Street people or not, they are doing all they need to do to fulfil themselves.

So this makes it very worth it to study where our joy actually comes from. Because much like a tree-climber can see farther the higher they climb, so it is with any kind of growth. If you go to the gym and talk other people into lifting weights for you, then you will not develop yourself at all. In fact by not employing your own nature, you will actually degrade.

This also holds true in offices, or at home, or with friends. If you put no effort into finding ways to be productive or help others around you be more productive, then you are stifling your natural ability to help the universe expand. Don’t look after your home and soon your home will degrade to the point where you won’t want to live there anymore. Don’t look after your customers or co-workers, then you too will see your world shrink. Manipulate your friends to always do what you want, and you’ll never be challenged and you’ll never grow and you’ll soon be out of friends.

182 Relax and Succeed - It's your road and yours aloneEach of these challenges expands us. Through our expansion we can appreciate other people’s experiences better, and that permits a stronger connection to them. As we become more capable we also become potentially more helpful. But if we have always taken the easy way out, then we will have no strength to help either ourselves or those we care about.

You will benefit from any expansion of yourself through experience. Whether it’s the sort of strength that’s in your muscles, the strength you employ to redirect your thinking to healthier choices, the strength to admit you’re wrong, the strength to ask for help, or the strength to try things both physically and emotionally that scare you—the sense of overcoming is the sense of strength being built. The fear is like pain in the gym. It’s a signal of growth. And by enduring that aspect of life, you open up many others.

Do not live in fear. Do not look for an easy life. Do not avoid challenges. Life is a playground. Don’t stand idly by why others do your playing for you. Get in there and get dirty. Not because you should, but because you can. Because all of the people who are doing it are the ones that keep doing it and that’s for good reason: because the view is always worth the climb.

peace. s