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

.

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:

.

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

.

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

.

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

Because We Love The Children

This message is for anyone who is currently living under conflict where you perceive you have an enemy. Let me begin by saying that I cannot hope to understand the agony of your losses. The price of conflict is high and I’m profoundly sorry that you ever had to experience paying it. No matter what side of the globe you are on I want to do all I can to prevent you or your children or anyone else and their children from going through the gut-wrenching sensation of sudden and violent experience.

442 Relax and Succeed - This is myself and this is anotherThe media—the people who seek to describe the conflict—focus on defining two (or more) groups and they also create the frame for the intractable disagreement. But in daily reality these groups of people are casually described with a single word when in fact they are vastly diverse individuals that have unique opinions even within within their own social, political or religious subcultures. So the name that we throw over any group is effectively useless when trying to define who is for or against us because everyone would use the same words to define different groups based on their own subtle interpretations.

So imagine your enemy is a Canadian. Imagine you’re an American at war with the us (okay, so maybe it’s a hockey game). We can say that you are pitted against a Canadian. A Canadian against an American. But hold on—your enemy’s Mom was born in Boston and she went to school there and later in Virginia because her Dad moved around because he was a Commander in the US Navy.

So your enemy lives in Canada and has Canadian citizenship but half his DNA is American. Then add to that the fact that his Grandmother on his Dad’s side was a Navajo born in Los Angeles, so he’s one-quarter Native-American on that side too—so he’s 3/4’s US blood but you’ll hunt him because he wears a maple leaf? Do you get my point? Where’s the line in these words? Who gets to say who is what? What’s Black? What’s White? What’s Old? Young? What’s mine, what’s yours?

442 Relax and Succeed - Anything war can doThis same truth holds for countries. We can name them whatever we want—and we often change the names—but whether it’s called Bombay or Mumbai it’s still the same place to tangibly live. Likewise, the concept of nations are quite recent and many are changing today much like the names of cities and countries. Borders are generally decided by post-war bureaucrats who lack sufficient knowledge of local history and culture to make wise decisions, which is why they’re later fought over.

So why would we shoot at someone or hate someone just because they ended up on the other side of a bureaucrat’s pencil? We’ll hate someone—call them enemy—because they live just down the road but on the other side of an imaginary line??? We’re that inhuman that we can’t see ourselves in this other-named person?

I’ve travelled a lot. I haven’t met any bad people anywhere. I’ve very occasionally met misguided people, desperate people, angry people, oppressed people, fearful people and people who took labels too seriously, but I’ve never met a bad person. I’m not saying people can’t do atrocious things but if we don’t think that the horrors of war would change us for the worse then we simply lack humility.

442 Relax and Succeed - No one is born hatingAll experience changes us. I can assure you, if you were mistreated long enough you would eventually be capable of doing very ugly things. So we have to be careful or we’ll end up accidentally doing ugly things to a decent person just because of fears and definitions, not because there’s an actual issue between us and them.

If you shoot an enemy or blow him up or poison her then you incur the wrath of their entire family and all of their loved ones. So your one enemy has become six. There is only one true way to get rid of an enemy, and that is to rename them. We must be like Abraham Lincoln who said, “Have I not destroyed my enemy when I have made him into my friend?”

You have met misguided, desperate, angry, oppressed and fearful people. Some of them have labels that you have been taught things about for your entire life. Can you still see their need? Recognise their humanity? Embrace them with compassion and allow yourself to lower your labels and love them? For just like you they want their children safe and their futures bright. And one way to accomplish that would be to have more friends.

Now go be friendly. You’ll save the world and you’ll have a pretty good day yourself.

peace. literally. 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.

Bombing for Peace

Can you explain to my brother that you can’t just bomb all the terrorists to death? It drives me crazy that his idea of making peace is to kill everyone that disagrees with him.

signed,
Frustrated Sister

Dear Brother of Frustrated,

If you’re actually reading this then let me start off by thanking you for being an open-minded person. It’s always baffled me how people could argue they were smart, and yet they were so closed-minded that they effectively prevented themselves from learning. Because to learn you need to realize that you were either ignorant, or that your current information has been 313 Relax and Succeed - If we have no peaceproven wrong. But that’s not a loss because the new idea expands our understanding. So thanks for even entertaining the idea that maybe your sister’s not just emotional, but that she might also be wise as well.

First off, let me say that I get why you can see violence as a solution. I started my life feeling like that. My mom was strict and I believed in her so I listened carefully. It made me a bit strident as a kid, and when people transgressed I felt harsh punishment was in order. I remember when I was about 10 saying that if we just killed all of the prisoners in jail once and for all, the world would be just fine. That idea seems insanely funny to me today because now I know that’s a ridiculously indefensible idea. I just didn’t know enough about people when I formed that view.

Like most people, I mostly knew me. I hadn’t given a lot of thought yet to other people. My accident just caused me to study how they functioned. What software was running on their hardware was only incidental to me in the beginning. And yet now that fact is my ultimate point: what we call that person is really that software. Meaning it’s malleable. It’s changeable. We were originally programmed by others and we absolutely can and do become different people. We just have to start doing it consciously.

So what’s this got to do with why you shouldn’t bomb people? Because 99.7% of the world is overwhelmingly unconscious in their daily life. Meaning they’re going to act based on their Egos, not on their spiritual nature. So who are these egos that are getting bombed?

So let’s say you’re 100% “successful” and your $200,000 “smart bomb” hits just the right house at just the “right” time and you “only” kill three people—your target (who’s an actual member of a group with a cruel and controlling agenda), the school teacher who was walking past the 313 Relax and Succeed - Hurt people hurt peoplehouse at that moment, and her son who she was walking to class. Military spokespeople would describe this as a “successful strike” with a “high benefit ratio” because there was a “minimum of collateral damage sustained in obtaining an extremely valuable target.” But here’s what really happened:

As ugly as the actual terrorist inside that house might be, he is simultaneously a son, a dad, a friend, a neighbour, a brother, an uncle, and a mentor. He will certainly have done kind and compassionate things in his life just as the soldiers on our side have. And the same goes for the teacher and her child. And each of their friends, family and loved ones will look to the death of the little boy and they will see the pointlessness of the death. They will feel the stolen potential. The weddings that never happen, the grandchildren that will never come. And such an enormous theft makes the thieves into barbarians.

They very well may have been on your side just before that bomb hit. But now you’re the people who killed their loved one. And so your bomb sort-of splashes outward, soaking a circle of loved ones with hatred and bitterness. So each time you drop a bomb your enemy gets larger and stronger. You sister isn’t against it because it’s bombing, she’s against it because it doesn’t work. It’s illogical. If you’ll pardon me for being extremely direct, bombing for peace is like fucking for virginity. It doesn’t make sense.

I get that it’s frustrating and you just want it over. That’s a very compassionate compulsion. But it’s the same one the violent people on the other side of the argument are using. We must fight a principled battle lest we become what we are fighting against. We are not against other people. We’re against hateful ideas. If we can change the idea without killing the person, all the better. Because when we kill the person, we splash the idea.

The only way to win a battle is to change the hearts and minds of our enemies. We want to shift them away from divisive, hateful, judgmental thinking and toward where they can appreciate the similarities in our objectives and theirs. Everyone wants to live a good life and they want the world to operate well too. But we have different definitions of what defines 313 Relax and Succeed - You will bring more good fortunethose things, so rather than converting everyone to one idea with violence from either side, we instead must develop tolerance for each others ideas. Including those whose views we feel are crazy and dangerous. In fact, especially including those whose views we feel are crazy and dangerous.

You know your sister. She’s a good person or she wouldn’t have sent her question in. It’s of no benefit to her. She’s trying to help people she’s never even met. That kind of generosity can never be a bad thing. So just consider if what I said makes sense. Just think about how you would suddenly feel about China if they were actually lobbing bombs into your city and killing your friends? You would fight back, period. You wouldn’t do any deep philosophical questioning of yourself to see if maybe your side was wrong. You would just be hurt, angry and then attack. Just like them. That’s what wars are built on.

Meditate on that. I’ll bet you change your view and that you like the new one better than your old one. I know it felt a lot nicer in my own life when my reduced judgments because it also translated to fewer and fewer enemies and fewer and fewer frustrating experiences. I do hope you respect her enough to at least give it an earnest try.

Thanks again for considering another idea. I hope you have yourself a great day.

peace. s