True Action

1264 Relax and Succeed - The best place to findSome people approach the act of learning to manage their consciousness with fears that it is too difficult for them to do (it isn’t), or they may have have fears that without thoughts about religion or guilt that humans are destined to descend into chaos, but these are very weak and bleak views of ourselves and of humanity, unsupported by history and daily experience.

Certainly humans get a lot wrong, but for better or worse we managed to go from just another ape to being the dominant species on the world with 7.5 eventually to be 11 billion people. Clearly we cared enough to about people to do that, and now that we’re starting to get slightly competent with that we have switched our attention to the other living things that comprise our environment.

Despite our many mistakes, humanity also offers daily examples of compassionate, heroic responses to need, from cleaning oil-slicked seagulls, to entertaining the elderly, to inventing a simple, yet life-saving, medical technology. These aren’t the sort of stories that fill the news and sell lots of security systems or insurance, but they happen every day nevertheless.

1264 Relax and Succeed - The truth is everybody is going to hurt youThat connection to the others around us that leads to heroism is where we’re at when we’re healthiest. But we can’t be in that state if we’re slicing up the world and the people in it into labels, and then sorting them by how we value them at that time. That is one valid representation of the world, but it’s not the only one, but our judgment process delays our action and takes it out of the realm of in-the-moment callings and makes it a thought-based decision.

A hunting animal doesn’t make a decision. It skips straight from awareness to action in a constant whirling flow like a spinning Yin and Yang. A gazelle does no pro and con list as it tries to evade a cheetah. At that point it is so involved in appreciating its own life that it surrenders thought and the animal trusts the secret forces inside itself that are telling it which way to go and when. After that it’s simply chess between it and the cheetah doing the exact same instinctual in-the-moment thing.

We feel impulses. There is a consistency to them. If we’re looking for our calling we should look for what naturally matters. You might be the biggest toughest guy on the block, but if every time you see a special needs kids you go soft and react the instant you see an unmet need, then maybe despite all that tough exterior, you’re a caregiver.

1264 Relax and Succeed - You can sufferEgos will feel guilt about not being home for the kids, or about not wanting to be home for the kids. But trusting ourselves means that we do whichever one we feel is necessary for our fulfilment and we accept the consequences of that choice. Modelling being oneself is also important to children. Freedom isn’t freedom from pain or consequences, it simply allows us to make the kinds of sacrifices we find it more natural to make, despite how significant  or unwise they may appear to others.

Let’s take today and pay attention to our reactions to the world. Where are our impulses and what do they have in common? We’re not looking for the cloying needs of our egos, we’re talking about actions where we can’t recall having decisions attached to them. These are times where we’ve acted as our true selves in an actual present moment.

These moments of reality pepper our days. As uncomfortable as our calling might feel to our ego, we need to ask ourselves what those moments say about who we fundamentally are and therefore where we might find the heart of our calling. Asking that through observation is important because, after all, no one knows the answer to that better than we do.

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.

The Generous Husband

When considering the greatest acts of love imaginable this is not likely to be on your list. You might think of someone escaping a war-torn country to be with his love, or some woman defying her entire culture to share her life with the man she truly loves, or maybe you’d think of some couple who meets during a disaster and goes on to have a wonderful family. But you won’t think of this.

We think of Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia as diseases that impact much older people but by her late 40’s Karen was already showing signs that something was wrong, and soon she couldn’t even set a proper dinner table let alone run her life safely and effectively. By 50 they were making plans to get her into a home where she would be safe and well looked after.

Maybe the doctors and nurses were more prepared for it due to their experience. These brain diseases can attack various regions and often they’ll attack the ones involving our social comprehension. So people will become rude without meaning to, or they’ll say inappropriate things, or sometimes they’ll even do them. And sometimes, they’ll behave in ways that are far more complicated.

The home called. They had caught Bob’s wife in bed with another man. It was clearly sexual. A meeting was called. They trick is, the people involved were young enough that it was difficult to control their every move. More of these instances seemed inevitable. What did Bob and his daughter want to do?

What a thing to be asked. Do? What would someone do in such a situation? Both Bob and his daughter wanted some professional guidance but there is no guidance for a wife becoming extremely uninhibited and sexualised. No one else could consent on her behalf, and yet obviously no one knew if she was capable of consent if she needed it. And worst of all for Bob, his wife didn’t remember Bob or his daughter, and instead she thought she was married to the man she was sleeping with. Who imagines dealing with that at 50? Or is it worse for Bob’s daughter at half his age?

This can seem like an impossible situation unless you’re Bob and you’re in it. But Bob found a way through it. I’m sure it’s not easy, but it’s a route he can have faith in. Because Bob’s basically been told that this love and sexuality is an aspect of his wife’s disease. Even if they move her to another home, it isn’t likely to change. So Bob asked the only intelligent, loving question left. “Is she happy when she’s with him?”

I’m confident it was a very difficult answer to give him because it was overwhelmingly affirmative. Yes, she and the stranger she met in hospital appear to love each other very much and both seem happiest and healthiest when they’re together. Bob’s wife is happier and more alive if she is allowed to experience her love with another man.

Can you imagine the position Bob is in? Can you imagine that you’ve planned your retirement and just as you’re getting close to the point where you hit what you thought would be the easiest period of your lives together, instead you’re not only entirely forgotten about, but moreover you must actually approve of, and even in strange ways pay for, your spouse to have a powerful romantic and sexual relationship with someone else? Wow.

This is the height of love because what has Bob done? He’s put his wife’s needs before his own. He volunteers to suffer so that his wife may have peace and happiness. That’s as generous a love as we can have. Bob wants his wife to be happy, even if that means she’s happiest with someone else.

If Bob can do all this, then I’m sure the rest of us can do better than we’re doing. So let’s all take Bob as an example and, for the rest of this week, do your best to put the needs of your partner ahead of yourself. And while I do feel for Bob, I’m also happy that his spiritual courage has lead him to experience the greatest form of love that anyone can partake in. Because as daunting as it may be, we should all be more like Bob.

peace. s

PS You can follow the link above to hear Bob tell his own story.

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.

Egos and Salespeople

Richard and Alice didn’t even want to be there, but they had been in an accident and they needed to replace their car. They tried being stealthy but the salesman’s training took care of that. He was ready. Everything about his training taught him how to take full advantage of whatever kind of personality was in front of him.

Alice was just as shy as Richard but, for little more than sexist reasons, she pushed–and Richard accepted–the lead shy person’s position and so he’s the one that talked to Sammy. Richard immediately tried to play his cards close to his chest, but all that he and Alice talked about were safety features, so Sammy figured out that scaring them into buying it was the fastest, surest way to sell them a new van that was more expensive than the one they came in for.

Sammy talked about features, but he was sneaky about always adding in little references to how his van had this or that feature that kept them safer than other vans. Half the time Sammy was making the name of the feature up, and he had no idea what the competitors vans had for safety or features, but he knew if he said his was safest and the customers trusted him, then they’d never check. Besides, Mac was the kind of salesman that told the truth about that sort of thing and he was always in trouble with their managers for reading research instead of selling. Sammy didn’t need that hassle. He wanted to be a good employee.

In a short time Sammy had them scared into dealing with him only, and he had scared them into his van specifically, and then he scared them into a price. Of course his manager started them far higher than the monthly payment number they gave him, but that’s how Sammy’s boss contributed to the psychological assault. And that way Richard and Alice are so off balance that they never even noticed that the monthly payments added up to a lot more than the van plus the interest.

For their part, Richard and Alice are legitimately scared. They can’t deal with those other lying, thieving salesmen. Good thing Sammy warned them about them. And it has to be the D-Lux model, not for all of those expensive features, but rather because that’s how they get the best safety equipment. Besides, Sammy had got them such a great deal. (Sammy also made sure they felt in line to have several more accidents during their driving history.) So they felt they had no option except to nearly double their original monthly payment budget.

Once they’d agreed to that, Sammy handed them over to Polly. She’s the dainty, cute girl that works in the finance office. She was going to take care of the “paperwork” with Richard and Alice, and Sammy had told her about his good friends Richard and Alice, so innocent-looking little Polly also knew to tell a bunch of really frightening stories as she recommended various insurance or protection options. Totally scared of theft, accidents, death and every projectile imaginable, Richard and Alice doubled the price of the van again.

Finally they get word back from the bank but now they’re scared again! After all of this work and planning, the bank won’t approve the loan. Oh no! They can’t let the van go now! It’s the last one like it! Of course none of this is true, but with Sammy, Polly and their manager saying it, Richard and Alice panic. Yes, of course they’ll pay more!

Boom. Polly got her bonus–because had they not been willing to pay more, then the interest rate problem would have suddenly been solved by Polly’s genius instead or Richard’s wallet. So in the end, Richard and Alice got the van that will destroy their future finances and they’re even relieved to have it. They’re so grateful to Sammy for focusing on their safety and not their wallets that they’re planning on sending him business.

On a sidenote, when they picked up their van, Richard and Alice were so excited and happy that they didn’t even notice Mac, the honest salesman, being escorted out of the building with his belongings. Which was too bad for Mac, because the next day he ended up missing out on the free cake to celebrate Sammy’s win as Employee of the Month.

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: Converting Anger

1107-relax-and-succeed-mok-sorryEveryone gets angry, it’s just some hide it better than others. But passive-aggressiveness and yelling are both disruptive to human relations. It’s important to remember that you do have the chemistry within you to create anger for a reason. It does serve a purpose. But everyone gets tired, everyone gets hangry, everyone has some easy days and some that are particularly challenging.

Today’s acts in our March of Kindness are simple and straightforward. The first thing have you have to do is identify when you last got angry towards a specific person, then contact the person immediately after you’ve identified them and offer an unequivocal apology.

The most valuable apology is in person, looking the person in the eye, offering zero excuses, just responsibility. Next most valuable is a phone call, where they can hear the sincerity (and possibly discomfort) in your voice that signals your willingness to suffer a bit for what you feel is important–namely respecting that person.

1107-relax-and-succeed-mok-never-ruin-an-apologyOther electronic forms of apology are less personal and less effective but at least they’re a step in the right direction, so if you don’t have the courage for in-person then the next best option is a clear email that outlines your understanding of the lack of respect you’ve shown, that expresses your sincere regret, and that makes a commitment to do better in the future.

Text or instant messenger apologies are the weakest but again, are still far better than no apology at all. If you do this you can increase the value somewhat by also apologising for the fact that your sense of guilt makes it difficult for you to offer the apology in a more personal form. Own your weakness, don’t add it to the insult to the other person.

And finally, apologies to friends are critical to ongoing friendships, but the world is improved when we add people to the number we’re prepared to respect, so in many ways an apology to an opponent or enemy can be the most useful type for society overall. It models good behaviour and reduces tension in both parties.

1107-relax-and-succeed-mok-the-first-to-apologizeIt’s better not to overthink these. Just define the person, choose the form and then do it. It’ll take a few moments and the only suffering you’ll do is between your own ears, within the confines of your own consciousness. The harder it is to do, the better you’ll feel once it’s over. And who knows, maybe you’ll even get one yourself.

If we want to grow as people we must be willing to function outside our own comfort zones. The fact that this feels awkward is directly related to its value to the other person. Let’s start making apologising more common, because it’s human nature to eventually get tired of apologising for the same mistake and that’s usually what leads to us actually changing.

Do it, and do it ASAP. The March of Kindness needs your kindness to be active.

And 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.

What Defines You?

1085-relax-and-succeed-the-ability-to-observe-without-evaluatingYesterday we meditated on the sources of judgment. Who is it you want to be better for? Today we’ll ask about what their definitions are made of. Where did they emerge from and why are they so different depending on the source? Why do some people hate you and others love you?

Humans named a bunch of things so that made us feel like we’re somehow above what we are, but once people get pushed near the lower two echelons of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, we’re all pretty much apes. If the lead chimp in a group is decent at sharing, then the group is stable and tight. But if the leader is greedy or selfish, the others can sense that and they will, one by one, band together, and they’ll eventually take action.

We would all like to believe we’re above that, and yet we all know most parents would easily die–or even kill–for their children. This would include stealing food from someone else if your child needed badly enough, and it would justified by your love and sense of protection. The problem is that we’re all still individuals, and so we all put the line where we’d start stealing in a different place.

1085-relax-and-succeed-opinion-is-the-mediumYour friends are essentially the people that agree with where your line is because there’s is in a similar place. They’ll call that match correct, right, moral, or even sane. If you’re either inside or outside their line you will be incorrect, wrong, immoral, dangerous and crazy. Of course these are just judgments within the confines of their own consciousness. But people will act on those thoughts, which is why they matter to a degree.

This line is circular, but more importantly it’s also irregular. It might be shaped like a D or it might have a wedge cut out of it like pie. A person could be super-nice in almost every way and yet be a terrible -ist. Misogynist, racist, even a terrorist. That’s why the neighbours of double homicide say things on the news like, “I never would have expected it. He kept such a nice lawn.” The housekeeping and home maintenance part of his circle was nice and round–the rest, not so much.

Everyone assumes everyone either is, or is supposed to be, a perfect circle, when in fact there is no such thing. With others, if you see a good chunk of curve then you extrapolate that its curves won’t change. No matter who they are, until you see those sides you’ll assume they have a nice round circle when you might have just been judging an entire human being based on his lawn.

1085-relax-and-succeed-one-of-the-greatests-tragediesSince the advent of popular psychology people’s expectations of this perfect roundness has become very firm and unforgiving. Others are disappointed if they mistook you for someone else. They guessed your circle was round and anything short of that is you failing.

When people fall in love their senses are impacted by chemicals and they naturally round off every wobbly or irregular part of their partner’s circle. But, as they know each other longer and longer, and wander further around each other’s circles, their expectations rise. Before they could round off those wobbles in their own head. Eventually they’ll start asking you to do something about them. And that’s when trouble starts.

Our circles are too big and changing them is challenging because that’s not really the way to live. You’ll actually do more to improve the roundness of yourself by accepting the shape you already are, then watch for opportunities for you to use that shape in some way that benefits you and others. Otherwise you’ll spend your entire life neurotically bouncing around the inside of your circle, trying desperately to round off every side that someone meets. This is why weddings are stressful. There’s so many other circles to try to match at once…

1085-relax-and-succeed-who-am-i-to-judge-othersEach of these judgments exists only within the reality of the person making it. You do the same with others and you all do it with yourselves too. Today your meditation is for you to find three occasions where; 1) you did change your circle and you regretted it, 2) you didn’t change it and regretted it, 3) you wanted to change it but couldn’t, and 4) and a time where you did change and you didn’t regret it.

As you might guess, the middle two are to help you understand the world better, but the main value is in the difference between why #1 felt like it did and #4 felt so different. The first is where you became someone for someone, while the other is you became more of your true self. Your job is to be your true self, that’s why that one feels so good while the other is unpleasant.

Find your examples. Four of them. Try to spend some time examining your headspace at that time. Recognise your fluctuating state, and that the judgments of others are not absolute. They are based on their own circles. Your friends accept your circles no matter how they’re shaped, and your health will be represented by how many imperfect circles you will accept. Now do your spiritual exercise or I’ll judge you. 😉

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.