Stumbling Together

Yesterday I talked about how no one can take your spiritual or psychological journey for you. That prompted a friend to quote me and ask the question, “If you can say, ‘once you’ve understood what you’re trying to understand, you realise that no one can take this journey for you, and so no one needs your help,’ then why do you teach this stuff?”

It was worth discussing. I had wondered the same thing myself. But in doing that wondering I realised that just as some people’s nature came forth as music, or woodworking, or dance, or raising children, or cars, or gymnastics, or math, mine comes from helping others see how remarkably beautiful the universe is in this very special way.

I don’t take the journey for them. Let’s not mistake the finger pointing at the moon for the moon. I see a lot of beauty in this world. To not share it feels unnatural, as though we’ve driven past the most amazing waterfall ever and I never mentioned it to the rest of the people on my tour bus. That almost seems cruel to me. It’s like hogging all the majesty for myself. It’s too big for me. There’s room for all of us in there.

If people can’t see that beauty and they’re living a dead, repetitive life, they come across to me like people standing still, stabbing themselves in the eyes, ears, mouth and nose and then cutting their hands off. They’re literally using a kind of spiritual violence against themselves. By doing things like thinking they’re ugly or stupid or worthless, they’re cutting themselves off from the universe.

How could I walk past that and not act? That would be like a musician writing a beautiful or powerful or emotional song and then not sharing it with the rest of us. What good does it do for her to keep that music to herself?

Keep in mind that even categorising yourself as attractive, or smart or capable, you’re creating division between yourself and others. Those are all comparative terms, and as I explained to my friend; the very act of comparison means there must be at least two things to compare, and if we’re separate we’re lost.

My friend doubted I never felt lost and he was right. Of course I do. Why have feelings if you’re not going to feel them? I asked him why he felt it was necessary to avoid something like that? He claimed it was because it felt so painfully lonely, but I argued that were it not for that painful feeling, we wouldn’t place such a great value on togetherness. You can’t ride the downhills unless you peddle up the uphills.

All of our lonely suffering is like a thought bubble within the dream of something greater than us. If I fall down in life I land in the palm of the universe. Our feelings are just nature generously steering us toward the good life. Not the good life in the sense that if you’re good you’ll enjoy life, but more that if you enjoy life you’ll be what often gets called good.

What confuses us is that sometimes the world needs us to play villain, so we all take a turn. I’m sure we can all remember a lot of the truly crappy things we did to people thanks to some misunderstanding to be sorted out now or in the future, or because we ourselves were feeling low and we pulled them down because because we desire togetherness and yet we can’t figure out how to get where they are. That’s why if someone makes you angry, you instantly feel a little to a lot better once they get angry too. At least now you’re in the experience together.

We were given all of the tools we need. Our emotions weren’t the point, they were the pointer. They not there for us to rate and rank. They’re to be lived. And this is a giant improv. So no one knows your lines but you. No one knows who your character is but you. They’ll all have a guess about who you are out of habit, but that’s their reality, just like you have a view of them that is your reality. Those were never designed to be reconciled.

We’re not supposed to argue over whose reality is right, we’re just supposed to share what we see and then we let the universe unfold. Sometimes we take action, sometimes not. But that’s irrelevant because we’re not competing. Our only job is to be ourselves. And sharing that binding, central truth is what leads me to feel connected.

If it’s done right, all sharing is selfish. So to answer to my friend’s question about people’s individual journeys and my role in guiding them; I don’t help them find their way for their sake, it’s a selfish act. My connection to, empathy for, and experience with their lostness is what connects us. In that vulnerability our separate selves melt and together we become whole. That is what it is to be generous with your life. And that creates the greatest feelings I have ever known.

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.

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: 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 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.