MoK: Compassionate Connections

Even in times of trouble or pain, authentic compassion can connect us to others in a very meaningful way. If most of us stopped to consider it fully, we would have a greater appreciation for compassion as a positive, binding and powerful force in our lives.

When we feel good we call compassion friendship. It’s when we share in someone else’s life and life feels better that way, no matter what’s happening. When you stop to really think about why your friends are your friends, you’ll tend to think of the times when you bonded over particularly awesome, or particularly terrible circumstances.

Our relationship highs and lows are what bracket the known limits of a friendship. For some people that means they’ll be invited to every party but they wouldn’t help you move on a long weekend. For others it means you may have anointed each other as best friends at your weddings, but maybe you also had to share a kidney. None of these are right or wrong, they’re just what frames your relationship with that person.

Compassion is the force that both establishes and maintains our relationships. The more people we feel compassionate toward the more connected we feel. If we want a better world we don’t have to make friends with people we’re already friends with, we have to find ways to connect to those we feel are quite different.

Today your assignment in the March of Kindness is to simply watch for an opportunity for compassion with someone you normally wouldn’t think to share it with. Maybe they’re a stranger, or maybe you know them too well and have never even considered enhancing the bond between you. Maybe it’s boss to employee, or child to parent, or teacher to student, or maybe you just never even talk to strangers to help them feel more comfortable.

You’re not looking for something big, just look someone in the eye for long enough that they know you mean it, and connect with them. It can be in words or actions or even non-actions. It doesn’t matter if all you’re saying is something as small as thanks for stopping at the crosswalk, or something as big as sharing in the death of a loved one, it all counts.

The point is only that moment of connection. If we all did this consciously every day then everyone would feel seen, heard and appreciated much more than we all do know. And why don’t we do this otherwise? Mostly because we’re lost in egocentric thought, and that’s the very point of these exercises. To get us out of our heads and back into the world.

We’re not trying to make some huge change overnight. But during one month, we’re actually consciously improving our relationships with others, the world and ourselves. And by practicing it each day, we really do become more sensitive, aware and responsive.

Your assignment is one compassionate connection before the day’s end. If you do more, you’ll benefit more; that’s up to you. But even that one example will make you more conscious of the value of these connections, and as each of us makes these intentional choices each day, we all add our individual drops to the collective bucket of a better world.

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.

MoK: Cheering and Applause

Yesterday our focus was on our criticisms and our act of kindness was to offer a positive for any negative. Today we want to add momentum to others. We want to add even more strength to people who feel strong. In other words, we want to encourage others in areas where they are already expressing belief in themselves.

It’s one thing to be kind to the person who got cut from the team, but it’s also useful to cheer for those that made it. A lot of us are naturally responsive to people when they’re down, but we can tend to forget that even people on the way up are still facing challenges. It never hurts to add your own belief in someone to their own belief in themselves.

It might seem strange to listen to other people talking or to watch social media for signs of strength, but that is part of why these acts of kindness are also good for us. We want to live with intention. Most of us are trained at sympathy, but we’re often less aware of, or vocal about, those times when we feel the person is already taking care of themselves. Today’s about celebration.

Watch the people you know and the world around you for things worth celebrating. Don’t let your support be invisible, clearly state it. We all tend to offer more corrections than congratulations. If our awareness is scanning the world for strength that alone is a good thing. Our support of that strength just makes it all that much better.

A small percentage of people will find this exercise easy, but many more will find it almost confusing. We get very focused on fixing what’s broken, when it’s equally important to share in others ongoing success and joy.

Find examples of people recovering, of people endeavouring, and of people celebrating. Support all of them, whether they’re starting down, on their way up, or if they’ve already succeeded. This isn’t about the external event, it’s about the direction of the person overall. Adding a positive number to a negative one helps, but it’s equally valuable to add positive numbers to other positive numbers.

Find the positive. Add your support. It can be someone you know who’s decided to quit smoking or it can your national team in a sport you don’t even really know much about. How close you are to the subject is irrelevant, the idea is to add ourselves to positive things. Today, rather than your kindness being about preventing bad things it’s about loving good things.

Start right now. It’s highly likely you have some form of social media in your life. Scan it until you find something great and don’t just “like” it, actually write a message of support. Help someone feel seen. Spend some time describing that support. It’s nice to write, “you can do it,” but it’s even better to state, “I’ve always admired your courage.”

Today, your assignment in the March of Kindness is to add your positivity to some existing positivity. Do it as many times today as you can. It’ll feel good for you and for the person being supported. And if you’re watching for good things to support, you’ll be surprised at how many you can find.

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.

MoK: Setting an Example

Most of us wouldn’t mind having an ego if it was nicer to us, but for some reason we often replay internal recordings of other people’s negative views rather than their positive views. This is really quite a remarkable tilt to your psyche considering the fact that you can get ten compliments and only one criticism and you’ll constantly replay that one criticism inside your own head while you ignore all the compliments.

Most people can’t even cite the positive views that others have of them because they ignore those. But they can remember criticisms from a decade or three earlier. People’s entire adult lives can be dedicated to trying to quash an early criticism. But you’re not supposed to be perfect. That would not only be boring, but it would also stress out everyone around you.

Of course, we don’t want to act as negative weight in our relationships, but your friends are people who recognise what you add to their lives and they’ve silently agreed to endure your more challenging aspects in return for the upsides of your company. That’s a form of unconditional love. They might occasionally be frustrated by one quality or another, but if they’re hanging around it’s not because they’re contracted to, it’s because they truly think you’re worth it.

Your friends are people you trust, so why not trust them about you too? If they think you’re worth hanging around then why don’t you? It’s not egotistical to be pleased that people love you and that you add good things to their lives. Being funny is no small thing, nor is being compassionate, or accepting, or supportive. So why focus on the few times you might lose your temper, or say something you later regret? Your friends have their faults too and you don’t look at them that way. Why do it to you?

So the point is to stop reciting your own weaknesses to yourself and to focus more on your strengths. Likewise, you want treat those around you the same. Once we’re all consistently modelling that behaviour every kid will grow up in that world and they’ll think it’s normal to give compliments and to forgive people for also having qualities that a few others might find challenging.

Well today I’ve got you cornered. The one thing I can count on you is for you to be self-critical, so if I tie your March of Kindness assignment to that addiction, I can be assured you’ll actually do a lot of kind things today, and since compliments are good for people this can be a really meaningful day.

Today, keep your eye out for any criticism of yourself or another. No matter who you directed it at, your job is to counter that judgment by focusing on a quality. This means that, following every self-criticism, you either note something you’ve done that had real value; and if it’s regarding someone else, then give them a compliment, and if they’re not handy, then compliment any other person. It all goes into the karmic pool, so no kindness is wasted.

Listen to your own thoughts and words. Every single time, pay the price and do something nice. If you were mean to yourself, remind yourself of something good you’ve done or do. If you attack anyone else, even if only in the confines of your own mind, then externalise positivity where your negativity once was.

This can mean complimenting someone on their politeness, or their humour, their helpfulness or their dedication to their family–it doesn’t really matter. The idea is that we’re training ourselves to be kind rather than critical. And if you want to see the world change fast, just get everyone to actually do that.

I’ll start us off. I’d like to compliment you all on reading this, because if you are it’s because you both want to be a better person and you want a better world. That is awesome. Thank you so much for just being that kind of person, because only the people who focus on positive change will make it happen.

Go out there today and compliment yourself and others. It can become quite addictive once you see the reactions on the people around you. And if you’re going to have an addiction, that’s the one to have.

Have a wonderful day everyone. And thanks for participating in the March of Kindness.

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.

MoK: Musical Chairs

1109-relax-and-succeed-mok-we-may-not-have-it-all-togetherWorry happens in two directions. We can worry about ourselves or we can worry about others and/or the outside world. Neither one actually is an action in the world, both are thought-spins that decrease our ability to act simply due the fact that worrying takes both time and energy.

If you study the concept of worry closely enough you will see that everyone worries about the same thing: belonging. Humans are pack animals, so belonging is at our core. Not belonging is both lonely and risky, whereas belonging is to thrive.

For a child, not belonging to their school social structures creates stress. The human mind knows it’s natural state is connection to others, so when a child has their belonging threatened they will experience stress. This can happen via a parent or teacher or a fellow student inadvertently communicating that a child will not belong to the successful strata of society unless their performance improves on some front; social, intellectual or physical.

1109-relax-and-succeed-mok-if-you-want-to-go-fast-go-aloneAdults are also prone to worry because they also believe that their appearance, their level of success or their social skills may lead to them never being accepted at work, in a relationship, or with friends. Essentially everything a human being does is designed to increase their level of belonging to society’s various groups. There’s safety in numbers.

Since you’re doing this and others are too, it becomes a bizarre game of musical chairs where everyone wants to sit, and yet everyone senses there aren’t enough chairs. This leaves people permanently on guard or, in other words, worried. So rather than try to be the best chair-sitter, today will be about how you can add more places to sit.

Group cohesiveness is a group activity. It doesn’t really matter who goes first, or whose need is greatest, the fact remains that the more people feel a part of a group the healthier they will be and the more important maintaining the health of the group will be to them. In short, giving begets giving.

1109-relax-and-succeed-mok-before-you-pass-judgmentTo use the musical chair metaphor, we can remove our own worry by surrendering the idea that we need a chair for ourselves. We can remove another’s worry by informing them that if they do not get a chair themselves, that we will offer them our lap, and if that isn’t enough to allay their fears, we can extend the offer to say that they can have the entire chair.

There is no guarantee that this will create belonging–sometimes it won’t–but precisely because we are all pack animals, cooperation is still the most likely route to increased cooperation and so, over time, people all end up coming to that conclusion. It’s just a matter of when.

If people can either have our lap or the whole chair, it then becomes difficult for them to not offer their own chair or lap to us. This isn’t to say they will offer it, but over time they’ll discover they can’t always win, and so the best safety net is ultimately to work together. If an entire room of musical chairs does this it essentially means no one is ever without a place.

Your job today is to find someone who is worried; about what doesn’t matter. Your only job today is to make it clear to that person that you will not remove yourself from their life. You simply have to find a way to communicate to them that your support for them is truly unconditional, meaning you don’t expect perfection from them. They’ll always have a seat with you.

1109-relax-and-succeed-mok-those-who-have-a-strong-senseWithout the worry that perfection is required they are free to relax into themselves, and that relaxation is the type of security that soon translates to generosity. If you have no worries about your own sense of belonging you naturally start proving your strength and capability by offering others the chance to feel that way too. It’s just human nature.

Today, when you see a person struggling with belonging, reach out to them. Offer them that unconditional support. In doing so you will prove you have enough because you can give, and by giving you will begin to build the bonds that successfully tie together a happy and confident society.

Find your example and act. Because anything you do for another is truly something you’re, in a wonderful way, doing for yourself. We’re all in this together. It’s time we started making that clearer. And don’t forget to enjoy the process. After all, you’re doing something very nice by alleviating another’s worry, so feel good about that and 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 March of Kindness

1106-relax-and-succeed-the-march-of-kindnessIf you read yesterday’s blog you know that a few years ago I started doing the March of Kindness. Thanks to some teachers and schools from around the world this idea was actually practiced. It not not only put a lot of positive action into our world, it also reduced ego by focusing us on the needs of others.

March includes twenty-three weekdays. That’s twenty-three days of action, and the only action you need to undertake today is to right-click on the photo, save it, print and sign it and then post this notice in a location where you are sure to see it during each of those twenty-three days.

The world is a big place, but it changes one individual at a time. By signing and committing to these principles, you are placing yourself among the important change-makers from around the world. This isn’t just for people like the prophets, or Gandhi, or Rumi, or Martin Luther King, it’s for you as well.

Let us join together and help make the world the incredibly creative, loving and supportive place it has always had the potential to be. Don’t forget to enjoy the process. Have a wonderful day everyone.

peace. s

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

The Friday Dose #136: A Season of Compassion

1053-fd-relax-and-succeed-compassion-is-the-radicalismMy family’s not religious in any way but, since we all grew up in a countries that were predominantly Christian at the time, we celebrate Christmas where others may celebrate Diwali, Ramadan or Hanukkah etc etc etc. When these events are and what they are called and what rituals we do are simply cultural. But the spiritual part underlying every meaningful celebration is really about love.

There’s a lot of frustrated people today trying to keep up with change. The next generation wants to live like Star Trek. No more races or wars, just a Federation cooperating on managing Earth and travelling out to new worlds. It’s all very hopeful. So the route from here to there is pretty simple and Ellen does a good job of drawing our attention to what is important to do as we make that journey to a brighter future.

I’ll start the Best of Series next week everyone. I hope you all have a wonderful break if you get one, and if not you have to work–I’ll be right alongside you too, so there’s no reason we can’t make even a busy working period into something festive and worthwhile. I wish you all the very best.

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.

Rocking the Boat

1025-relax-and-succeed-its-okay-if-people-dont-like-youOur ability to remember things only starts a little before most people start going to school, so our idea of how the larger world works will often come from that experience and not our home one. If we’re Korean and our family and friends are Korean then being Korean is fine, but if the kids in the school have never seen a Korean face or heard a Korean name, they can think the new kid is strange and someone to be avoided. This can cause insecurities that can last a lifetime even though there’s nothing wrong with the kid.

Eventually in school everyone does make at least a few friends. Interestingly, the kids with the fewest friends are generally outcasts who are already functioning in some way that causes society to pass some judgment on them. Nerds are cool now, but it wasn’t that long ago that being good in school and knowing about things like Dungeons and Dragons or comic books meant you’d be ostracised or even beat up.

The strange upside to being ostracised is that it’s actually much more accurate to adult life. So you can go through school as the most popular person but that still won’t save you from all of the judgments others will make about you. Some of those judgments will be true, others will be entirely false, but you’ll lose just as many friends over the lies as the truth–likely even more.

1025-relax-and-succeed-do-what-you-feel-is-rightMeanwhile, the teased kid eventually gives up and just starts being themselves as they get used to the teasing. This, it turns out, is one of the most important lessons a person can learn. That kid becomes impervious to the opinions of others. Without any airs that kid can meet their friends as themselves and that is a profoundly underrated thing.

One of the best advantages to being yourself is that it helps your real friends find you in a crowd. Often people will connect with the wrong people because they think someone’s this or that way when really they’ve just been performing to maintain their status with others. And the egos do this even though the actual person will eventually have to show up and disappoint everyone who thought they were someone else.

Genuinely enjoying the act of making someone happy is one thing, but it’s not a healthy or enlightened thing to make people happy if you’re spending that time performing actions or saying words that feel unnatural to you. Eventually you’ll get hangry or be short on sleep or you’ll have had a stressful time and you’ll show your true self and then just watch a bunch of people desert you for nothing more than a few low days.

Frankly, if you look back at your life you can probably easily find people you’ve never spoken to again and yet all they would have done is offend you with an opinion or approach that wasn’t one you’d use. Look at how remarkably conditional our affections are; we see it so often it becomes normal, so we get to the point where we actually expect people to perform for us. They’re not supposed to be themselves, they’re supposed to be who we expect them to be.

So how’s the outcast in school end up better off? It hurts them more at the time because they found out before anyone how incredibly silly people can be with their opinions, but in getting used to it they’re getting used to the adult world where people’s expectations just increase more and more and more over time. Eventually you can get to the point where an entire 20 year friendship can end over just one series of misunderstood text messages, as though those messages somehow unlock some secret identity they’ve been hiding for two decades.

Half the time people show me one of those and say, can you believe they said that? and I won’t even be able to find the offence they’re talking about without all of the history they’re loading the text with. Even the word ok gets seen as some sign of hostility. If people are going to be that finicky then the problem isn’t you, it’s their ridiculous standards. People aren’t here for you and you aren’t here for them. We’re all in this together and we either act like that or we pretend we can somehow survive without people that disagree with us.

By fifty most people have realised that their giant collection of school friends was really just a bunch of other insecure kids who were taught all kinds of unrealistic expectations. Those same expectations will cause people to desert or blame others and before they know it everyone’s left with just their true friends; the people who will accept them warts and all. And the outcast had that already in school. It was the rest of us living in a fantasy, not the kid playing D&D.

Don’t perform for others and don’t ask others to perform for you. The problems aren’t out in the world they are within you. You have resistance to other people’s ways of being just like they have resistance to your way of being. How can it make sense for two people who believe in democracy to hate each other because one’s a Democrat and one’s a Republican when they can’t even have the democracy they value so much without each other? It’s crazy, and yet people do it every day.

There’s a lot of people sitting on the gunnels of your boat and almost nothing will knock them out. A lot of people never intended to stay so they have gotten on and off and various ports of call. Others really needed some serious storms to get knocked out, but a precious few clung to your boat extra hard during the storms and those are the people who are willing to tough out the hard parts of life with you. That’s your tribe and those are the most valuable people you’ll know. So don’t see yourself as losing friends as you age, see it as chiselling away acquaintances to reveal the solid foundation of your very best friendships.

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.