Remembrance Day

1252 Relax and Succeed - Remembrance DayIn Canada November 11th is Armistice Day; more commonly known as Remembrance Day. It’s focus is on the exact time the treaties following WWI took effect, on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month. Both of my parents served in WWII, so this has always been an occasion that I was taught by example to respect, for I had family on Dunkirk Beach, and family in POW camps and family killed on the line.

I was never taught that Remembrance Day was a sad day. Somber maybe, but not sad. The point from them was always to take the lesson; war is hell for all involved. As my father described it, “It’s just farmers from one country shooting at farmers from another country and they’re all good men and all they’ll want to do is to get back to their farm.” No hatred, no greed, no desire to conquer, and no sense of revenge. In fact my Dad moved to Canada right after the war and when he started his own company he hired some Germans, which points to one of my favourite things about my Dad.

I tend to write about Remembrance Day most years precisely because it would be a more serious and focused day in our home than any birthday, Christmas or Thanksgiving. It’s my parents sacred day, and it has become mine as well. Despite being so important, and despite my having written about it before, I find this year there is an adjustment in how I feel about it.

1252 Relax and Succeed - I wear a little poppyRather than being maudlin about it, I’ve always been taught to be grateful there is no war, and to be grateful to the people who gave their lives in the effort to maintain our freedom. Additionally I was taught that enjoying my life was the price I should look toward repaying if I wanted to honour that sacrifice. If they were going to give up their life to create the opportunity for me then it would be fitting that I would create something worthwhile. I was never made to feel guilty, but somehow they instilled in me that it was fitting to honour the dead with more life.

I still feel that this year, but there’s a new layer too. I love that about life. When you’re present and quiet-minded so many connections between things occur to you. This year it’s that Remembrance Day is not only a day of profound gratitude for me, it’s also a time of deep meditation. On suffering.

When I want to really comprehend the opportunity I’ve been given I get into the nitty gritty of the moment to moment life of those guys in the trenches. Eighteen years old (if they weren’t like my Dad and lied to get in at seventeen, or even sixteen some of them). Rain. Winter. Cold. Wind, trenches filled with water, dead people and rats. And all of your gear for the next few weeks. Oh yeah, and a bunch of people are intentionally shooting and lobbing shells at you, so you’re also terrified. You also have little to no idea why you’re there.

1252 Relax and Succeed - Courage It doesn't mean you aren't scaredIf you get deep into the moments of something like that, you start to have things dawn on you, like; a good friend could die and you would have literally not have even a single moment to fully grasp it at the time. Grieving would come later, as a blur of uncertainty about what really happened because it happened so fast. Or you could lose your squad, lay in injured while shells hit the sand all around you and you’d have no choice except to lay there in agony waiting for a medic to wander by. Even simple things like; what if you have to pee super bad during a battle? And then on your break you go back to the trench and the cold and the wool and the rats and corpses and you eat some three month old sardines from a tin. These were tough people.

Today is when I suddenly realised that that is when and how I set my year for gratitude up, because I always build new experiences every year. Soldiers in different places, doing different things, experiencing different things. Yet during the following year, when I want to generate patience or compassion or connection–or especially gratitude and appreciation–I suddenly realised I always call back to that year’s memory and I compare what’s happening to me to that.

It is remarkable how fast I go from upset to feeling truly silly. It’s funny; being humiliated by the comparison brings out the best in me. We’re all like that. Humans are better than they give themselves credit for either singularly or as a group. We do like it when the group likes us, but we like it even more when they respect us because they think we’re a good example in some way. So when we see things we respect, it inspires us.

Quote For Remembrance Day Remembrance Day Quotes Amp Sayings Remembrance Day Picture QuotesMy parents have been a great example, teaching me to honour the sacrifices made while not emotionally taking over the event for myself; they taught me to value life and liberty, and that’s lead me to take my citizenship and connection to others very seriously; and they taught me to be grateful for the life that was literally protected for me by total strangers. I’ll be wiser this year seeing my meditation on the 11th in this new way. I’ll see it as a touchstone; a talisman; or a spell. When I face adversity, I will use that meditation to generate the appreciation that will drive away any thoughts I have of excessive personal suffering.

Find your own examples of these prices. Maybe second generation immigrants can consider what their parents sacrificed to give their children greater freedom. If your parents have served during wartime, or suffered disease or loss, it is a worthwhile thing to consider that deeply.

Maybe you’ve recovered from a drug addiction and can think back to your own past. Look at your children and remember that places like children’s hospitals are filled with children and parents who were never so lucky. Feel the pain of that and know that some people carry that pain daily, and that it is love that carries them through. It will make you more empathetic toward everyone, because if you do the meditation thoroughly, you’ll realise that most of these identities are invisible when you walk past these people on the street.

Consider creating a yearly meditation. It can be a different subject every year, it can be like mine and stay the same with just the details changing, but find some touchstone of true suffering. Something you believe you can truly relate to. Then use that for the rest of the year. When you’re in a long line at the store, just think back to the kinds of things people have survived before you and you’ll soon find you’ll be feeling better, because there’s really nothing better you can do with a bad experience from the past.

Respectfully, 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.

Missing in Action

1028-f-relax-and-suceed-missing-in-actionToday would normally be a Friday Dose, but it’s Remembrance Day here in Canada and I always spend that with my parents, who both served in WWII. It was with great pride that I watched my father marching today. I’m sending the blog late intentionally.

Normally I preset a holiday blog for this day, but this year I thought I could attempt a touch of poetry by using the daytime absence of the blog as a reminder of the millions of spaces in the lines of men and women coming home during war. It’s like my own figurative two minute silence.

We often forget to include absence as a state. But by quieting our babbling mind we enter a place where we can surrender everything and yet it’s one of the richest states to live in. Despite this truth, we always think of expanding ourselves through addition, and yet the Remembrance Day services today will help us grow as human beings by using silence to create more space within us.

The services today are intended to slow down our busy world and clear our heads, preparing us for the deepest forms of empathy. And we will grow closer to having the space for empathy as we all join each other in emotionally experiencing a heart-wrenching rendition of Last Post on a solo trumpet. It’s sound will mournfully lead us into a two minute silence. And despite its incredible stillness; it’s apparent non-existent activity, that silence will nevertheless be the most stirring, poignant and powerful portion of the service today.

May your day be peaceful. I hope you all had a wonderful Friday in freedom.

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 #107

905 Relax and Succeed - You are the universeI see a lot of really wonderful people who struggle with the suffering in this world. This is of course only a sign of your empathetic connection to others. If we’re witnessing pain and we succeed in avoiding the creation of any judgments, then it’s quite natural to recall our own experiences of similar pain and therefore experience a very personal sense of compassion within ourselves.

The issue is, because modern society is addicted to critical over-thinking, people are turning an empathetic connection in one moment into a narrative that rides over top of many other unrelated moments. So when you’re at lunch with co-workers you can talk about science or nature or sports or business or your hobbies, so it’s important to recognize that discussions about the problems of the world are unhelpful, energy-tapping choices.

No one stopped a war from the lunchroom at work. But you can be gracious when a co-worker makes a mistake. You can be patient with people who don’t understand something as well as you. You can let people into traffic, give a compliment or do someone an unexpected behaviour. The world’s issues are due to the actions of the entire society. None of us controls society, but we can all take ownership of ourselves and then engage with our fellow Earthlings using compassion as a common connection.

It’s a great message from a wise man. Enjoy the video.

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 Friday Dose #45

551 Relax and Succeed - Sending love wherever it is needed

This week we talked about concrete things that you can do to change your life for the better, about how to parent or teach young people, and we also talked about Remembrance Day/Veterans Day. We’ll start off this week’s Dose with a nice way to end the week: an actual list of practices that all apply to things I write about here. You can thank the folks at InfoBarrel for putting this together:

22 Habits of Unhappy People

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When I wrote about teaching and learning, my point was that telling people what to do is meaningless if that contradicts what you yourself do. But if you are leading by example, then no words at all are necessary and you will still achieve success. Even this dog, having seen a jolly jumper before, knows how it works. And it also knows that things learn from experience and example. And so the dog gives the baby an example. It really is a brilliant lesson in how we learn, and that can be profound if the idea is seriously considered. But do that after you watch the dog being brilliant:

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The reason there was a re-blog on Tuesday was because I was proudly watching my father march in my city’s Remembrance Day parade. When I was 18 I was going to beaches and playing video games with my friends. At 18 my father and uncles were in a very very important war. It’s impossible for us to understand that experience today, but we can gain insights into its poignancy via works of art. Canadian guitarist Bryan Adams is also an accomplished photographer and he’s recently completed a series of photographs of veterans. It’s a side of the soldier that too often gets forgotten. Lest we forget.

Wounded: The Legacy of War, by Bryan Adams

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Feel gratitude in your life, invest your time in realizing yourself in an authentic manner, teach by example, and always respect the struggles of others as you would like them to respect yours. Pain is pain. Which direction it comes from is irrelevant. So be kind out there. Big hugs.

peace. s

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The Friday Dose is a collection of cool, interesting and surprising things that are chosen for their potential to distract you away from any painful thought loops that may currently be disrupting your sense of perspective. Focus on these and change your mind. Enjoy.

The Point 2

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAToday is Remembrance Day in Canada and so I’ll be where I always am on this day—I’ll be proudly watching my father march in the annual Remembrance Day parade past the cenotaph.

Both of my parents served and I love them both dearly, and by extension I love all of the brave people that both fought and lost loved ones.

Today is a day for deep and profound gratitude. Let us not repeat the horrors of war. Let us all enact peace in our lives and lead the world by example.

With respect to veterans everywhere, enjoy this day and the many freedoms that it is so easy to take for granted. I wish you all the very best.

peace. s