Know Thyself

1335 Relax and Succeed - Where do our choices come from

I’ve noted before that one of the advantages of working with younger people is that they’ll often play video games, and there will be patterns to which games they are attracted to. This can tell me (or a parent) a massive amount about how that kid sees the world and their place in it.

Do they like cooperative games, or ones where it’s every person for themselves? Do they like to destroy enemies, or co-opt them? What kind of avatar do they use? After all, that is the face they chose to show the world. That is how they want the world to see them. That might be a facetious use of a character or wishful thinking, we have to listen more to know. But the things we’re interested in say a great deal about who we are.

This applies to fashion, hairstyles, what movies or series we watch, what books we’ll read, and what sort of jobs we’ll take, as well as what people or organizations we’ll invest energy in. Despite the fact that these are completely guided by how we see the world, it is amazing how few people even begin to look for patterns in the things they consume.

Why do we like some characters in stories and not others? Why do we like some kinds of stories and not others? What do our tastes tell us about our view of the world?

And what about those closest to us? Parents, siblings, spouses, children, business partners, coaches etc. What do they like and what can that tell us about them and how can that knowledge improve our relationships?

Some people (like me) prefer to spend time with people smarter than us, and different from us, who can challenge us with ways of thinking we haven’t encountered before. Others are more intimidated by new information or change and prefer to associate with only those that already agree with their current world view.

Do we like books about weak individuals? Are our favourite movies all about little people defeating big people? Do we dislike ambiguous endings and abstract art, or do we prefer it? Do we like games where we build things, or destroy things?

1335 Relax and Succeed - The things we're interested in

Do we like board or card games that require tricking others, or by negotiating in good faith? Do we avoid playfully spiteful board games or card games (Aggravation and Spite and Malice have those names for a reason), or do we prefer games with multiple ways to win?

Maybe we like shocking hairstyles or fashion that helps us gauge how open new people are. Or maybe we’re a teacher, and we prefer the quiet studious kids to those that are more kinetic and that might become ballet dancers or athletes. Knowing that can help us make decisions about our joy and our growth.

Since knowing ourselves can add value to our lives, let’s take the rest of the week and let’s look at our own lives. Let’s study our bookshelves, music collections, wardrobe and even our relationships etc. And then let us ask ourselves what these things say about how we see the world and our place in it.

While no way to be or set of interests is right or wrong, these things do influence which decisions we’ll make, and therefore which challenges we’ll face in life. They’ll also inform where we’ll feel comfortable, or where we’ll experience more stress. These represent our ‘crosses to bear.’

The aim here isn’t to improve ourselves or others, it’s merely to know ourselves and others better because that creates more empathy and better relations.  And that knowledge can help us enormously when it comes to making decisions about our future.

For those that engage in this seriously, if you’ve never thought of yourself in these terms before, prepare for some surprising self-discoveries along the way. We’ll all likely find patterns that we didn’t even know we subconsciously had chosen.

All this being the case, let’s all take the rest of the week and get to know ourselves. After all, we’re worth it.

peace. s

2014’s Blog of the Year #3

584 Relax and Succeed - Belief creates the actual fact*

Learn about how brains wire up and how you can do small things that can have big impacts in other people’s lives. I am so happy this posting turned out to be in the year’s top three. It’s not only about a good friend, which is nice, but it’s also an example of a blog that can be turned into a verb in a way that truly makes the world a better place.  I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it. And without further ado:


2014’s Blog of the Year #3

peace. s

Your Profoundly Dramatic Life

85 Relax and Succeed - There comes a time

Our lives takes place within our minds. There’s nothing limiting about that because our mind is as large as the universe. There are no borders on ideas. There are no limits to what thoughts we can have. So why do we keep having the same ones over and over and over?

That’s how we avoid living in the Now. We’re busy thinking about times other than Now.

It’s not difficult to gain control over this. We just have to keep trying, just like we did when we learned to walk, talk, add, subtract, jump, and throw and every other thing we’ve learned. The more we do anything the better you get at it. But we have to do it.

We can’t just do yoga and post quotes on social media and get healthy. We’ve got to get conscious. We’ve got to be spiritually awake. We have to stop searching for peace and start enacting it. We can achieve this by being present —by experiencing our life much like we might get into a dramatic film or TV series by a writer we like. By thinking another character’s thoughts we can lose our ego-self.

In that special place, it is possible for us to profoundly realize that our enjoyment of a viewing experience includes feelings of fear, anger, betrayal, a sense of loss, etc, etc. In other words, we feel all kinds of feelings when we watch a movie or show and not all of those feelings could be called pleasant. But it’s not like every time we hit one of those feelings we change the channel. We stay, because some part of it likes all that emotional turmoil.

We don’t take sad moments in sad movies as there being something wrong with the movie. We accept those feelings as appropriate to their context. They are inevitably caused by us simply going where we’re going with the story, and we’re so invested in that, that we don’t care about the emotional prices. We need to get that way about our own lives –our own stories. Taken well, the emotions a life generates are largely what makes our lives feel full.

85 Relax and Succeed -Accept then act

So if these feelings make life rich, why are so many of us hiding from experiencing them in our own lives? It’s because while we’re watching the show we’re feeling the emotions by thinking about the character’s thoughts not our own. That tricks us into the necessary state of detachment.

Our identities are just as ephemeral as the ones in movies but, when it comes to our personal lives, we as humans have trouble getting the same distance between our sense of self and our emotions. The pain in our ‘real life’ feels worse than the pain we feel for a character because our ego intervenes and attaches itself to the pain. In the personal case there’s a strong sense of us, whereas in the character’s case there is the sense of another.

In a film we want to see the character succeed or fail at their specific challenge, but we don’t leave a movie theatre with the idea that the characters have a life after the movie. What anyone thinks of the reactions of the characters is irrelevant, after the film the actor gets to go back to being their other Self.

We have to get that way about our own lives. More detached. Our egos are only characters we play anyway, and they were largely written by others. We need not take them so seriously. An ego can be totally destroyed and we are still fine as the place in which the drama of that identity played out.

Other than them feeling unpleasant, there is nothing wrong with thinking thoughts that lead us to feel sad or angry or frustrated or alone. But the world is so good about lying about life’s challenges so we think we shouldn’t have those feelings if we’re living in the “right” way. We end up accidentally believing that normal life challenges represent some sort of failure, rather than a normal progression of growth.  At a movie we pay for the privilege to experience the same emotions.

Instead of the truth, modern people in the developed world tend to think that a good life is an uninterrupted one of wealth, beauty and youth, and that those things will automatically lead to a good life that is happy, balanced and rewarding. In reality life is actually just life. They all really suck sometimes, no matter where or who or when you are.

Even in the best of cases, life will naturally include all sorts of disasters that people will try to edit out of their social media. But they’ll be there. Every time.

Like we do, most of our friends unwittingly and subconsciously assemble and cultivate the image of a life. As fragile egos, we all want others to think thoughts about us that have them imagining us as being as successful, impressive, attractive, or in some way as compelling as the people’s lives that we watch. We want to feel we are respected by our tribe.

Where that helpful idea gets screwed up is when our ego wants to get its value by having others envy our lives, rather than respect them. Often even worse, if we have no chance of looking impressive, we‘ll often try to get the tribe’s commitment of support by having them feel so superior that their apparent obligation is to generally offer sympathy. 

Both of these ego manipulation strategies can wear out but, either way, what’s important is that they indicate that everyone is just trying to get the tribe to confirm their inclusion as a member. Our open approval or affection, or alternately our sympathy or assistance, ends up acting like some sort of social glue.

85a Relax and Succeed - Comparison is the thief of joy

Unfortunately, we’ve all been convinced by things like advertising and peer pressure to believe an untrue idea —that we’re not worthy. We all think people wouldn’t choose us if we were just ourselves. But this is not true.

No one needs to be anything specific other than who they naturally are. The rest is all just a mimicking monkey climbing around on a scaffold of ego.

We need to stop thinking we have to be something or someone else. We have to stop thinking health is outside of us. We have to stop thinking it’s something we have to go and get. We must trust that we’re fine and just Be.

We are better to avoid attacking our experiences with our thoughts. We must let the feelings of our life pass through us the same way the TV show does; moment by moment. Experience by experience. No matter which emotion it involves, we go through it rather than invest our egos in efforts to try to avoid it.

We should have the experience of one scene and then move on to the next one. It’s a mystery where each scene might go —that’s the beauty of it. That is what it is to live with presence.

Enjoying the series of scenes each week is the only path to what could be called a ‘good life,’ because on every channel, every show has pain as a part of it. So we can’t avoid pain, all we can do is get conscious. This removes our panic about needing to find the ‘right’ channel. Instead, we can just choose our channel and then relax and enjoy the journey, ups and downs included.

We can get rid of a great deal of the suffering our chattering mind creates but we will never dispel the world of pain. That would be, in other words, to dispel it of comfort too. And we ultimately want both things in our world for they exist in duality.

Let’s all stop over-thinking about times other than the moment we’re in. Let’s Get Now. Feel what’s there to feel and move on to the next moment. That’s what health is.

Let’s all enjoy our days like it’s a TV show we’ve chosen to watch, because in a really profound way, that’s closer to the truth than many might think.

peace and a big hug, s