MoK: Patience as Kindness

Thank you for bearing with my late posts while I traverse a few challenging days on the family health front. Fortunately, today’s act in the March of Kindness is one that suits your willingness to wait perfectly. Patience is all too often invisible when it should be seen as the loving act of kindness that it truly is.

From letting little passive aggressive statements go by unchallenged, to taking care of something that was someone else’s duty, we all express a lot of quiet patience each day. The problem is that we often only note our behaviour when it feels beneath us, meaning you’ll notice the few times you’re impatient far more than the times you are patient.

Even knowing that everyday life requires all kinds of patience, it is nevertheless a kind and generous act, and so adding one more act of conscious patience can do nothing but good for all involved.

Today your March of Kindness assignment is simple: Keep your awareness up, and find just one opportunity today where you feel an impulse to offer a suggestion or you feel you’re going to react in an impatient way, and then divert that impulse into non-action. Let your action be stillness.

Interestingly, the time we choose to show extra patience might coincide perfectly with when a person really needed something to go well or they’d snap. We all know how good it feels when someone shows us patience when we know we didn’t act in a way that encouraged it. We might as well create more opportunities for those things to happen.

Make your own displays of patience more conscious, and find a way to add just one more act of patient kindness to today and you will have made the world better with your presence. Thank you for that. And thank you for your patience in receiving these last few posts. 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 organisations locally and around the world.

The Big Lie

What’s the big lie? It’s that nice car where the payment is killing you but it leads your friends to think you’re not in the struggling group. And your ego is happy to have it concealed. Maybe you have nice clothes and makeup and hair, but also a back-breaking credit card bill, or exotic holidays that are added to your line of credit. All of that looks great on social media but it’s also what keeps you running on that treadmill. Still, that’s probably better than the rest, who aren’t into cars or fashion or travel but they are running because of cancer, a divorce, a disease or a lawsuit.

Since the housing crisis almost a decade ago, around the world many people are struggling with the downturn. A lot of good people worked very hard for years and now they’re exhausted, broke, they’re losing everything and they can’t even figure out where to turn in their white flag to surrender. They literally wonder where their life went. Certainly having a positive, abundant attitude will help a great deal in finding solutions, but we must look for our solutions in spiritually sound ways.

I heard a guy who wrote a book on happiness on the radio yesterday and he stated that everyone has a dream inside them and that everyone can make their living doing something worthwhile and fulfilling if they just approach finding it the right way. This has become a very popular idea and the implication is this choice would carry you safely and happy into your later years. I’ll agree that we should lead inspired lives, but that’s where I depart from most other people on what’s real. In fact, I would argue that selling that idea is part of what’s causing the suffering we’re seeing today.

1012-relax-and-succeed-tibetan-proverbYes, you could write a book that sells a million, but there was a reason that novelist was listed as one of the most over-rated jobs by Forbes. That’s just one book. There’s very few writers who string several together. You might write a great app–that happens all the time. It also doesn’t happen the vast majority of the time and that’s okay because you’ll likely find more happy people at simple jobs than at impressive or powerful ones.

As Paul McCartney said about what he’d do if he wasn’t a musician; “I’d be a gardener or a carpenter.” That’s wise. Those people do their time, don’t think about it too much and then go home with a clear head and no one texting them from work at 11pm. They sleep well and they have the energy to put into dreams that have nothing to do with money.

My Dad just shingled roofs most of your life. It’s hard work but it’s honest and it keeps you in shape. He was happy to provide for his kids. He took actual active pride in that. He didn’t feel badly for what we didn’t have, he was pleased that he gave us a stable home with no violence–which is something he didn’t have.

1012-relax-and-succeed-the-real-giftIn this world there are bad stone-cutters, there’s true craftsmen and there’s Michelangelo. Dad was a craftsmen. The first two aren’t failed attempts at the third. The first is either inexperienced or in the wrong job, the second’s day is made up of their focus, which is why they can be admired by other stonecutters. It’s only Michelangelo’s fame that makes us feel like he’s a pinnacle, but we have to remember he was forced to build a church he didn’t want to build for a Pope he didn’t like. It’s not like that fame bought him more time with his stone angels, rather it took him away from them.

Rather than look for a lofty dream or something big or profound or impressive, try making everything you do profound with your presence. I watched my Dad often at work, and unlike a lot of workers you never saw him muttering to himself about anything; how he wished the past had gone, how he hoped the future would go, or how he felt the present moment was treating him personally. He just nailed shingles.

Maybe that doesn’t seem like much, but that quiet mind and focus added up to peaceful days, a happy man and a wonderful father, and those are extremely fulfilling things that will please you far more than fame or wealth on the day you die. So don’t feel lesser if your work isn’t shiny and impressive. What matters is that you’re fully focused on the doing of it, because when my Dad shingled he wasn’t excited or inspired, he was truly Zen. He simply chopped wood and carried water and he didn’t think too much about it. And as it turns out, that is actually what real success looks like.

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.

Something’s Gotta Give

971 Relax and Succeed - c'mon inner peaceWe’ve seen it reflected in elections and unrest around the world. We can see it in the fact that the world never really has bounced back from the economic card game that collapsed in 2008. Once people had maxed out their credit trying to survive the world hit a limit. With no more money available and no ability to work harder or longer, even in the richest countries there are a lot of scared people and frightened individuals create an angry and defensive society.

Added to the financial stress is time stress. Everyone’s rushed. Everyone’s phone now gives work access to them 24 hours a day and work will use that time if it can get it. Work isn’t human. Work is a creation of mankind. It is an animal that perpetually wants to be fed more and more every month, every day, every year. No sales manager ever told his team to sell less next month. If someone’s over 40 that’s really starting to add up to no personal life.

In the days where your landline waited at home while people were at work, people used to answer their phone maybe once or twice a day for a personal phone call. No texts. No instant messages. No collection of 20 messages at 10 different social media sites. No classes, just maybe the odd kid taking piano or in judo. Rather than organised sports most kids played pick-up neighbourhood games. Just remove all of those responsibilities from your week. That is a huge percentage of your day. And how much of that would you care about on your deathbed? None. You’d care if your kid was there by your side, you wouldn’t care whether or not they could play the piano.

971 Relax and Succeed - Dream more complain lessSo what did people used to do with all of that time and peace of mind? They used to pursue hobbies or took courses to expand themselves not to make more money. They didn’t need that money because they didn’t have to buy a microwave VHS Walkman CD juicer iPod monitor DVD gym membership X-Box Blu-Ray smartphone Occulus or 70% of the restaurant food now sold. They used to spend way more time with friends and family. Most people didn’t hire anyone else to build decks or fix a toilet or do basic work on their car. If they didn’t know how to do something they found a friend or neighbour who did and you know what? They had the time to help and they did and it was often very enjoyable time.

The challenge with the technological world is that it has created the image that we’re all connected when we’ve never been further apart and it’s not just grey-haired people that can feel that. I’ve taught college kids who were stressed by 25 that they couldn’t keep up with technology. Most people have given up by 35 or they’re stressed. So what’s it all for if we just want to surrender it later?

The pain tells us that it’s information. It’s not life going badly, it’s information about how life is going. Pain is like a gauge in your car. The thermostat isn’t overheating, it’s telling you that the car is. Pain isn’t you failing, it’s the universe telling you that what you’re doing isn’t working. The problem today is that a lot of people can’t figure out how to get enough time to eat or sleep let alone find a way to find some other path that can work for their life, so the problem isn’t the humans it’s the machine.

The machine distracts us from being human. Rather than looking at a face and hearing a voice we contort our hands into machine-shapes and type a message on a keyboard that appears on a two-dimensional screen in symbols that strip out the valuable human information that would be transmitted by having in a person’s eyes right in front of you. It’s shallow when what we seek is depth.

It can seem strange then that I might suggest giving as a solution but I don’t think I mean it in the way you might imagine. I know a lot of people would be almost angered by the thought: how is giving everything not enough!? But I’m not suggesting adding more giving, I’m suggesting that you alter where your giving goes. Only by reintegrating ourselves back into our communities can our communities reintegrate back into us. We must know our neighbour before we can do them favours, and if enough of us do that then we’re not doing each other favours, we’re cooperating on a larger goal to create a safe and healthy society. That’s how drops become a drink.

971 Relax and Succeed - It's not about havingWe’ve spent too much time being sold the singular, cool, proud, branded, I gotta be me; loaded with achievements and never needing help. That is not how humanity got here and it won’t be how it goes anywhere. You’re not broken if you’re tired and worn out. We accidentally built an inhuman world and you’re hardly alone. Even the so-called winners are often alcoholics and drug addicts to cope.

Start cutting the selfish in favour of the selfishly selfless. Rich and poor alike, we don’t need another app or another website or another tool of efficiency. What we need is some restful time where we’re connected to others, but that will not happen until you stop and do a serious assessment to figure out how your time can be better invested in your future happiness.

Set aside some time right now to do that this weekend. Look at a normal week and be brutally honest about where the time goes, even if it is frivolous. And then ask yourself where it could go? And if you ask long enough… I guarantee you’ll find something that’ll feel enriching and rewarding–something you’ll get excited about. I do hope you give yourself that time.

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.

Kaizen

898 Relax and Succeed - KaizenKaizen is a modern Japanese concept that was co-opted in the 80’s and 90’s into a term to describe the way small and continuous improvements create differences between Japanese and Western company structures and the successes of, particularly, their assembly lines. But these “improvements” always only involve efficiency or things that directly impact efficiency, which means we shouldn’t take the concept into our lives without examination.

We certainly don’t want our life to feel like an assembly line so please don’t see spiritual growth as a demand. Wanting spiritual development is just as painful as any other wanting. And there is nothing in your life that exists outside of our basic framework for being so you don’t even need something from outside yourself to advance in that way. You are already complete, you simply don’t know it yet.

Our spiritual development is very much connected to our life development. If you want to know how spiritual you are simply ask yourself how contented you are? If you are content, kaizen is not continuous improvements of us, it is a continuous improvement of what we do. In a healthy mind there is no you, there is only an action (or inaction as action), and those actions add up to who you will have been.

898 Relax and Succeed - The Pursuit of excellenceDo not see yourself or the world as needing fixing or being broken or having anything wrong. I know it’s incredibly compelling to see it that way because all the egos agree that there are some terrible things going on and to ignore them places us in peril. But we have the choice of focusing our energies on the peril, or on creating solutions.

For essentially every single problem on Earth there are lot of people working on solutions. That’s impressive and it’s why the world has changed so much. Yes, we got a bunch of stuff that only half-worked, but that’s how learning goes. You try something, see if it succeeds or fails and then build off what you’ve learned. There doesn’t have to be failure or improvement in that. It can simply by an action: attempt, observe, adjust, attempt, observe, adjust. At no point are you wrong, instead you are simply in a constant state of kaizen, which means you are never actually judging yourself.

The meditations you’ve been doing over the last three months will have made a difference, but that difference will depend on how earnestly you undertake the tests to your awareness. It’s one thing to read about lifting weights, but until you move some you really can’t fully grasp the value in doing it. Same with our attention.

898 Relax and Succeed - Aging is an extraordinaryWe can read that it’s not good to focus on your weaknesses but most of you still do. You don’t see improvements as opportunities, you see previously untaken opportunities as failures. It is important to understand Kaizen not as a rigid practice about moving you up some invisible ladder. It instead is a very aware state of mind in which new, quality ideas can naturally emerge. We don’t invent good ideas out of pressure as much as we focus on our work and improvements simply occur to us. It’s intentional in a completely different way. It’s how you learned to walk.

Do not want to be better. Do not want to be different. Do not want to be like someone else. But you can improve. You can change. And you can observe and listen to others for guidance, but nevertheless you ultimately have no obligations. You could theoretically just surrender your way into a mental institution where people fed you and looked after the base of Maslow’s Pyramid for you. Why don’t you? Because you’re naturally creative, and you life is your ultimate work of art.

It is important to remember that the full value of your life’s work of art doesn’t even get considered until your funeral, so you won’t even be around to see if you won or not and none of the judges were present for much of your performance anyway. You’re here for the creation but not the competition. So don’t waste your life on meaningless doing as a way of achieving. Egos compete. Souls are complete. But it will take your life to make the journey through your abilities, so stop worrying about what others think of you and instead spend this week focusing on actions that grow you.

You’re not a herd dog keeping your own unruly flock in line, you are the herd and you’re naturally moving to where you naturally feel like being. That is your way. Now go.

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.

Which Stress is Yours?

There are two types of stress. One is brought on by a set of conditions and the other is brought on by a set of thoughts. One is obligatory, one is voluntary. The first is quite natural but the second is a construct. In fact the second version didn’t even exist until language had progressed far enough to develop abstract terms like and time and achieve and complete. As much as it might seem like it, those are not things they are ideas. And when the Buddha refers to the illusion it’s those ideas he was referring to.

688 Relax and Succeed - The world is so constructedThanks to some lottery-win kind of incredible luck (coupled with a lot of really hard work) my entire life will drastically change this week. For a large chunk of time I have been under a great deal of time stress. The demands of my life mean I simply haven’t been able to afford more than four hours sleep each day, virtually every meal has been rushed, and if those two things were happening you can easily guess that I also haven’t been getting regenerative time with friends or family either. Laughing and relaxing are worth a lot. These things all constitute what we’ll call external physical stresses and they can carry quite an accumulative impact.

What I wasn’t doing was adding psychological stress on to my physical stress. That is to say, I accepted my workload and schedule as a fait accompli. It was simply going to happen. so I didn’t carry out my long day having any kind of argument with myself about the fairness, reasonableness or danger of it. I could have, but I just took the step in front of me. Sometimes that step was to plan for 50 steps ahead, but after the plan was created I was back to the step I was on.

688 Relax and Succeed - Stop focusing on how stressed you areOf course I would stray off that path relatively regularly, especially when I was particularly tired or hungry. But my emotions—the bad ones, the ones I don’t like—would occur and I would immediately check in as to their source. Of course the chemistry I feel is the chemistry I’ve asked for with my thinking. If I’m sitting thinking worried or anxious or angry or sad thoughts about my situation then I am dumping the chemistry out for different flavours of stress. So if I’ve asked for them I shouldn’t be surprised that I got them.

The sensation—the emotions I didn’t like—was what signalled me to go quiet and accept my physical stress. Psychological Stress is always self-created and voluntary. That’s not to say it isn’t useful to experience at times, but overall it’s quiet debilitating to people and it’s generally best to avoid it.

Believe in yourself. Don’t argue with your hills. Look forward to how your greatness will conquer them. Sense your own victory as though it has already happened and then just carry out the motions. Any suffering is only thinking.

Now go have yourself a wonderful day.

peace. s

The Suffering Child

Parents are often inadvertently cruel to their children. It’s an entirely innocent mistake. They don’t even notice they’re doing it because they don’t recognize that they live in a separate reality from their kids. That’s the kind of thing I would think about. It’s the reason I’m weird. The things I spent my childhood and adolence and adulthood thinking about are not the kinds of things people usually think about—at least not until they’re doing something like studying philosophy in university. And so without that more complete perspective, very loving parents can easily end up really disrespecting their own kids.

566 Relax and Succeed - Too often we underestimate the power of a touchThe trick is that both the parent and kid will generally see the world as being out there and happening to them. It’s an outside-in approach. But in reality it’s the other way around. The outside world exists because of the choices you make in your interior world—the world of your thinking. And because the definition of an individual is someone who thinks their own thoughts, it means that everyone is living in a different matrix of belief and awareness.

How this translates to the relationship between a parent and child is that the parent uses their life reference points when discussing things with their kid. But that lacks empathy, because you’re not really talking about the same thing. Case in point: if a kid is going through their first romantic breakup it’s normal that they’re completely upended by the experience. Tortured. Agonized. Maybe in tears, maybe angry, maybe so hurt they bury themselves. But it’s real pain. The problem is that the parent then contextualizes this against their life experience.

What this all means is that the parent looks at the breakup on a 50 year scale of life events. With that kind of perspective they can realize that they have had numerous painful breakups, but that’s been mixed in with marriages, babies, illnesses, the deaths of people and pets. The experience is graded on a much finer curve with an adult. But the adult needs to remember that, whether you’ve cut off a finger or an arm, it hurts all the same. That from the kid’s perspective, the breakup could be the most painful experience they have ever had.

566 Relax and Succeed - A smart person knowsSure they will eventually have additional experiences that will make the current one seem less powerful, but for now this is all they can know and telling them about how it’ll feel better is useless to them. We don’t hear about experiences, we have them. That’s the only way we know anything. If it’s the kid’s worst experience ever then it deserves compassion. They don’t know that it won’t seem so bad when compared to the rest of their life. So their biggest loss is best compared to your biggest loss—even if that loss is much greater in relative terms. Because that’s the point: everything is relative.

Don’t be dismissive of your kids experiences. Take the time to remember what these things are like at their age. Be like a writer and actually take the time to remember what it was like to be different ages. You might be surprised at what you remember. And the more you do it, you might be surprised at how good you get at it. And that will help a great deal with being empathetic toward your children.

Bottom line, it’s important to always respect the feelings of others as genuine. But in doing so, always do your best to remember that pain is pain and diminishing that with casual offers of future comfort is to miss an opportunity to make a powerful and useful connection with another human being. And all the better if that human being is your child. Have an awesome day.

peace. s

Managing Relationships

If you know someone who is uncharacteristically irritable, distant, or in any other way unlike themselves, then it is compassion and not complaint that is in order.

34 Relax and Succeed - Love people mostPeople will hide things from us as an act of love. They won’t want to worry us or let us down, or cause us or themselves to feel unloved. This is because we get angry when they worry us, we make them feel guilty when they let us down and we withhold affection in spiteful ways. Like an angry dog owner screaming at his dog to come toward him, we literally teach people not to come to us with difficult struggles.

But if people are struggling, there will often be signs.

Rather than get angry about negative changes in behaviour, we would be better off being aware, open and compassionate. Negative behaviour will always be born in negative thinking. To change the thinking we must create a safe environment that will encourage others to share their burdens with us, thereby lightening their own load. Once they know they are loved without conditions then they can relax and begin to alter their thought patterns. But to do this we must be prepared to offer our best when dealing with people at their worst. We must not judge.

35 Relax and Succeed - See the light in othersLife is hard and everyone has periods when they are carrying very heavy loads. The next time you want to get mad at someone for letting you down, maybe stop to ask if you haven’t let them down by expecting the best of them when they do not have the necessary resources. We generally can’t tell much about what’s going on just by looking at the outside of someone. The important stuff is on the inside.

Do not encourage people to feel badly about being dishonest regarding subjects that they are sensitive about. You do the same thing. Kindness works better. Rather than forcing something out of someone, invite them into you. Plus it feels better to share so both parties win.

When in doubt, always go with love.

peace. s