The Art of Believing

Intuitively you know it, but it’s rare even among writers for a human being to break language down enough to realise how ephemeral it really is. It always surprises me that it can accomplish anything at all it’s such a faulty, misunderstood communication system. Half the time it’s like broken Morse Code where 25% of the dots and dashes are missing plus both parties got different versions of the codebook from their parents and culture.

Writers and scientists and a few weird researchers like me are the ones who look at communication crazy-closely. We slow it down, watch it unfold, and in doing so we can see why people say they’ll do things they never intended to do, or why a spouse doesn’t relax when their partner curtly tells them that they’re “fine.” Yeah, their tone sounds a bit pleasant, but….

These are all communications indeed, but the words used will often combine with the tone and circumstances and history to create entirely different meanings, and often that meaning will even be intentionally imprecise. The people we know well don’t really do this any better than anyone else but over time we do get to know each other’s codebooks a little, so friends have more success than strangers, but still….

None of this should surprise us. If you listen for it today you’ll realise that often times people are speaking precisely because they don’t want to communicate accurately. “We’re looking into it,” if it’s said to a boss, can just as easily mean, “We’re trying to figure out how to tell about you this without getting fired.”

Of course parents know this process all too well. Many times the year’s backpack gets tossed out the following year because the kids actually lied about cleaning all their old lunches out of them before putting them away for the summer. Imagine that. A kid lying to their parents. It’s almost as though they’re trying to hide something…. And look at that. I’ve ended three sentences now with ellipses (…) Even I’m implying things I’m not saying.

Isn’t it weird that you roll around in these lies and misdirections every day and you don’t even really acknowledge it? There’s nothing you can do about it, so it’s not like it’s worth worrying about, but you could benefit enormously by keeping in mind that it’s always happening. It is not crazy to walk away from any exchange thinking to yourself, “Okay, I think I understand what they meant.” That way, if it turns out you didn’t–no problem. You didn’t have the expectation that you had.

We all need to believe something to function but it’s important that we not mistake our interpretations of the world for the world itself. There’s no way to talk about the world itself because no one sees the world, everyone justs sees their perspective on it. It’s like we’ve all gathered around the base of Mount Everest. Everyone has a different view; everyone can see something others cannot, and they can’t see things that some others can. In that scenario it’s just crazy to want to be the person who sees through everyone’s eyes. No one has that view unless you want to call that the God-view.

Your view of things, your view of ideas, your view of other people, and your view of yourself will not align with others views. If you look at your life you’ll see a ton of it gets wasted in your efforts to reconcile these views. You invest a lot energy trying to get people to see things from your perspective when that’s rarely necessary and it never really works anyway. You’d be far better off to just let things be, including misunderstandings, and particularly including misunderstandings about you.

This is why you trusting yourself and your naturally cooperative heart is so important. All of the other information that you have could be faulty. And everyone’s using different information anyway, so what’s the point in reconciling just this or that one? You can let all of that balancing and correcting and sorting out and fixing to other egos and you can live a spiritual life instead.

Be okay with being misunderstood. Be okay with misunderstanding. Be okay with truths. Be okay with lies. Understand that these all make sense from their individual perspectives, and that you can never hope to grasp all of the complexities. You are better to let go and flow instead.

Don’t compare events to what you thought would happen based on discussions, just accept them as they are and move on to the next moment. That is what it is to truly understand communication. That is how you use your understanding of it to free yourself to live a fulfilling life. Accept but don’t believe. Live in the mystery. It really works. I really mean it.

Have a wonderful week everyone.

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.

Ego Awareness

1026-relax-and-succeed-the-goal-of-meditationMost people want to make changes but they’re too busy being who they think they are. They never stop to actually figure out who their ego is and how they might more easily identify it when it shows up. It’s important to remember; an ego must be summoned. Your natural state is peace. Your thinking-in-words state is your ego. So how do we find that little trouble-maker?

One of the easiest ways to catch your ego is to simply listen to yourself. And I don’t mean the sounds. If you had to ascribe a tone to your conversations and your responses, would it be negative or positive? Do you take what someone said and polish it up to look nicer, or do you take it and make it worse?

Get to know yourself. Most people you know would know your ego more than the real you. Without you being aware of it your ego is the angle that ideas will bounce off of you and the people who know you call that your personality.

1026-relax-and-succeed-the-darkness-that-surrounds-usDon’t think these little differences in how you talk and interact are unimportant. Keep in mind that those are direct reflections of your brain’s wiring. So as trivial as it might seem, there’s almost nothing more important than, if someone says, Nice day isn’t it? Do you say something negative or positive?

Let’s look at some possible answers to that question, but first let’s keep in mind that I live in one of the world’s northernmost cities and we have had one of our warmest years ever. Last winter was very short on low temperatures, and rather than warm weather extending from May to September, this year it’s gone from March to November. That’s five extra months of warm temperatures. But that doesn’t help someone if they have a negative perspective.

In my experiment I’ve been saying Nice day, isn’t it? for a few weeks and here’s a collection of the responses I got. Many of you are likely one of these or close to one of these.

Negative Responses to the question, Nice day isn’t it?

[No answer. Sullen expression]
Yeah, I guess it’s not bad.
It’s about time.
It won’t last.
Maybe for some people.
Yeah, but whatever it gives us now it’ll take it away worse, later.
Just wait a few weeks.
Not warm enough for me.

Anyone can have a challenging day where their patience is short and some negativity shows up. Sometimes people are dealing with very overwhelming circumstances so they’ll be more inclined to the negative but, all that said, there is no more important time to watch for the best things than when things are at their worst.

Take your little stab at negativity occasionally. We all do, because if there’s a path you’re seeking then there must be a not-path too. But you don’t want to stay on that path any longer than you have to, and the only way off that path is through raising your awareness and leading yourself out with a more optimistic perspective. The people above are experiencing one of the warmest years ever and yet they can still find ways for that to not be good enough. This is why expectations and comparisons kill happiness.

Pay more attention. See conversations as balls lobbed over a net toward you; every statement is a new ball. The question is, do you predominantly shoot those back toward the other person’s backhand, or their forehand? Do you make it easy to play, or do you make it harder? Do you take responsibility for your interpretation of reality or do try to pawn it off on others as though it’s their fault, or that somehow they were luckier than you, rather than they were more positive than you?

Positive approaches generate lots of support and assistance. Negative approaches attract anger and blame. Gee, I wonder which one leads to a better life?

Get conscious. Wake up. Don’t answer people out of habit and don’t initiate contact out of habit. Be aware. Choose your words carefully for they are the brushstrokes that form your painting of the world. If a person is always the victim of something, then that is what they are using this lifetime to become: a victim.

A person can do that their whole life if they choose to. Many more people have wasted lives than lived them. You’re the one who lives with those choices. But those can go both ways, because after anyone responds to me negatively, I still usually meet the next person with a positive attitude and it’s amazing what wonderful people are brought into your life though that simple act.

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 #121: In Other Words

973 FD Relax and Succeed - 6 duendeA lot of different perspectives created a lot of different cultures. They ate different foods, they sang different songs, they faced different weather, terrain, seas and they all had different temperaments. Languages grew out of various groups and the words those cultures needed suited the way they saw the world.

I’m not sure what you’ll each feel about each word but it’s interesting that these are often the only cultures that will have this word, and in some cases they can be the only people in the world who even have a basis to discuss certain subjects. It really shows us that even right in front of us there are big differences. Someone speaking another language will live in a different reality because while you might not be, for them the entire world in front of them could be either masculine or feminine.

I’m a big fan of Marija Tiurina’s work, and I would encourage you visit her site and see how her style has evolved from the ones presented below. Art is subjective but most of you will be very impressed by what you’ll see. As as an expression of the differences that can exist in language, here’s a few of Marija’s wonderful examples. Enjoy.

973 FDb Relax and Succeed - torschhluss
973 FDc Relax and Succeed - Cafune

973 FDd Relax and Succeed - palegg

973 FDe Relax and Succeed - schlimazl

973 FDf Relax and Succeed - gufra

973 FDg Relax and Succeed - age-otori

973 FDh Relax and Succeed - tingo

973 FDi Relax and Succeed - baku-shan

973 FDj Relax and Succeed - luftmensch

973 FDk Relax and Succeed - kyoikimama

973 FDl Relax and Succeed - tretar

973 FDm Relax and Succeed - schadenfreude

Again, her name is Marija Tiurina.

Slow your mind down, slow your life down, pay more attention to art. Breathe. And have a wonderful weekend.

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.

Conscious Communication

966 Relax and Succeed - Don't promise when you're happyThis quote offers good advice for whenever you are conscious and can prevent these things from happening. But that’s only half of it. If you don’t do these things in each and every moment that doesn’t doom you. It just helps if take how you’re feeling into account when you look at the world. The glasses you wear will colour everything.

A useful counterpoint to this quote is the idea that the rest of us should all stay aware of the fact that not everyone will be able to do this all the time. Even the wisest people will spend some time in ego. A friend recently noted that staying balanced can be likened to walking. As we step forward in life our left foot ego might stray a bit into the past, and our right foot ego might stray a bit into the future, but your aim is try to keep your head pretty much centred on the path.

Do take your feelings into account when you’re presenting something, but also take the other person’s feelings into account when you’re listening to them. People often don’t mean what they say but their words will still usually capture how they feel about something. It’s best not to take that personally because they’re reacting to how they see things, not how you see them. No one owes you pleasant emotional responses, you can only encourage them or discourage them.

966 Relax and Succeed - I don't forgive people because I'm weakHappy people will tend to underestimate the challenges that might be associated with a task. Don’t be surprised. Angry people who’ve been deserted in the past will often push others away as a test. Again, no surprise. If someone’s profoundly sad then their assessment of their situation may not recognise all of their opportunities. And why would they at that time? These are all examples of ways where our state of mind colours our perspective and they can all happen in normal, healthy people. If anything, everyone’s expectations are way too high.

Do your best to take your own feelings into account when you speak but, since there’s one of you and lots of everyone else, it helps a lot more if you can also listen to everyone else speak and take their state of mind into account too. Then their words seem less personal and about you. Rather than managing what they say you’re responding to how they said it. You stop seeing the words as just about the literal content and you start seeing the conversation as a shared experience that both you and the other person are independently having. This is where men and women often really get stuck because men are inclined to see conversation as data whereas women often see it as an emotional exchange.

If you can live with this awareness you can create a safe environment for your fellow human beings to feel their natural feelings. My best friend can be mad at her mother, she’ll call me and she can literally ask me if I’ll stand in for her mom and get some hell; or maybe she’ll ask me to join her in being angry about her Mom; or sometimes she just wants to be grumpy for a while. Whatever it is; no problem. I love her. She does the same from me. So her and I literally state it to each other if necessary: Here’s how you can help me. This emotion won’t last. Please be with me or share it with me until it passes.

966 Relax and Succeed - What is loveAs soon as someone gives you permission or the right or even better–the freedom to feel your human feelings, you feel safe. And if the feelings are negative you don’t feel as much of an urge to continue pedalling them with your thoughts. In effect the other person has already said, “if your behaviour can’t be good right now I’m okay with that for a while because I care about you. I can last through some angry language if that’s what will help you feel better.” It’s hard to stay in a dark place when someone is that openly loving.

My friend and I can never stay in a negative state for very long. We just lose all our negative energy. You can have this happen in your home too. Stop focusing on everyone living up to their word and being precise about their commitments and instead use communication to manage the energy in the room. If someone’s pinging then everyone else absorb. If someone’s in distress be fully present. There’s always a helpful response even if it’s concerned silence. The question is, in real time, will you ignore the words so that you can actually hear the meaning?

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.

peace. s

Separate Realities

It wasn’t until my massive insight while living in Budapest that I realized the rest of you were taking your thoughts seriously. That answered a lot of questions about why people did what they did. But it also presented some new questions like; is there a way to bridge those realities?

743 Relax and Succeed - Life is a single tatamiThe simple answer is: yes. you can bridge them with any genuine connection. The Greeks had a lot of words for love because it could arrive as romance or it could arrive as a friend’s wisdom (which is separate from people’s advice). Or love could come in the form of brotherly support, motherly care, a stranger’s compassion, a partner’s tolerance, a sexual connection with a lover, or the meaning in a work of art—these are all forms of love.

Whether it’s sexual and we’re literally inside each other, or whether it’s over space and time and we are connected to an artist via a work of art, we are connected. At that point we do not see difference. We perceive that they are experiencing the same thing as us. We are sharing an experience.

The universe has fractured into definitions. Our subject and object view of the world keeps creating greater and greater sub-definitions. We find more out in space and more in the sub-atomic world. We find new diseases and species. We discover past discoveries have been wrong and we split them into new categories. We file and sort and define and order and value. So when we look at people it’s easy to sort them, file them and then react to that instead of to the person we actually see in front of us.

Don’t make your spirituality something separate from your day. Don’t make the management of your psychology something you only do when you’re suffering. Become conscious instead. It feels wonderful and it allows you to steer past so many obstacles that you would otherwise collide with. But to do that you have to surrender labelling the world for being present within it.743 Relax and Succeed - Pain is psychological

We know love as a feeling. We can quiet our thoughts when we’re enthralled in love. Well we can do the same thing with peace or with silence or with the present moment. They are also things that can so fully occupy our being that we don’t have room to construct a personal identity to have personal thoughts. We are simply having an experience. There’s no one having it. It’s just an experience experienced.

As you move through your day try to genuinely connect with the people you engage with. Don’t talk to them as a role or an identity or from a role or identity. See them in that moment as though you were told they were going to surprise you somehow today. Watch for the surprise. Be awake. It will change you.

It’s hopefully for 70-100 years. Accept that this play we’re all performing in requires us all to have separate roles—separate ways of seeing the world. Life is the interaction of those views. Things aren’t going wrong when we tangle with others for better or worse. The tangling is what it is to be alive. And when you accept that and make friends with where you are and the moment you’re in, you’re life changes dramatically.

Endeavour to be conscious. It’s not hard and it’s easily worth it. You’ll have more energy, clarity, emotional control and you’ll end up happier in the end. And you are easily worth that and more.

Have an awesome day.

peace. s

The Friday Dose #75

735 Relax and Succeed - Don't hate what you don't understand

Today we’ll go around the world. Did you know English people experience more blame and shame than other cultures? We’re also not as good at saving money. The Chinese don’t use time in their language while Fins don’t use gender. And there’s Aborigines from Australia who can intuitively know which direction their facing. And all of that came from what language they spoke. You were shaped by your culture in amazing ways you cannot imagine so you can stop feeling personally guilty for the actions your culture has taught you to feel bad about. Attached is Jessica Gross’s article on language:

How Language Can Affect The Way We Think

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Next we’ll visit the Pacific Islands, where we learn that the tenets of Capitalism—that were the perceived tenets of people themselves—are actually incorrect. We are not fundamentally competitive in nature, we are cooperative, as this Salon by Linda Geddes points out:

A Friendly Species

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And finally we’ll end on the shape of the world itself. Most of us never noticed that those Mercador maps in school put North up, and they put the equator three-quarters of the way down the page. That stretched the rich northern countries that made the maps, like Europeans and their colonies, and it made those countries look much, much larger and more important while Africa and South America looked much, much smaller. Peter’s Maps prevent that from happening and many people are pushing to have them used in schools. Here’s a funny scene from a great series, The West Wing, in which two of the President’s aids learn that they really don’t know what the world actually looks like.

You are a product of your environment. That’s why if you change your environment you’ll also change yourself.

Have a fantastic weekend everyone.

peace. s

00 Relax and Succeed - Friday Dose Footer

Daily Peace

The first scenario is how almost everyone moves through their basic experiences each day in an egocentric way. The second scenario is about staying peaceful despite those experiences. The differences are easy to see, easy to do, and the results are immediate.

714 Relax and Succeed - Impatience wastes

You’re in a hurry. You walk into a bank. The line-up is long… Agh! Why is it every time I have to come here it’s lined up like this? Don’t they ever have enough staff on?

For six agonizing minutes you wait, repeating various variations of that story… Come on lady! Why didn’t you have all of that stuff organized before you got up there!? Now I’m going to be late to my sister’s and we won’t have enough time to pick up the cake. Great. And just watch that place over-charge us too. At least they use the money to pay some staff instead of this stupid bank.

Eventually you get to the teller and… Great, a face I don’t know so now they’ll have to do all of the authorization stuff to make sure it’s me. That ought to add about 10 more minutes of wasting my time. Damn these shoes pinch. Why did I wear new ones on a day I was going to be running around? What is this girl doing?? And thanks for coming to work with a cold lady. That’s just what I need. Maybe your day can afford you to lay around at night with a box of Kleenex but mine can’t.

714 Relax and Succeed - There's nothing in this worldAgain, as the girl confirms your identity and carries out the instructions according to her new manager, you recite even more complaints about what you’re seeing as your situation. But she isn’t some lazy, dumb lady who came to work sick. She’s a competent manager at her daytime job but she’s also a single Mom with three kids and she’s working this extra job because she wants to make sure her daughter can go to a really good hockey school that’s important to her. But still she’s new so it takes her a bit.

Eventually you finish your banking, you curtly thank her while clearly indicating your dissatisfaction with her work, and you storm off to now take all that brain chemistry out on your sister and some bakers.

Or…

You’re in a hurry. You walk into the bank, see the line and realize it’s the end of the month. It makes sense that it’s busy. And your mind stays quiet. Because you’re in a state of being aware or noticing, what you don’t notice is the six minutes passing.

714 Relax and Succeed - One does not becomeBut you are aware that almost everyone in the line and behind the counters is sniffling and coughing. Clearly something’s going around. There’s some hand sanitizer in the line so you use it because you’re not sick yet and you’ll do what you can not to be. You can take a good guess at why the bank’s understaffed.

Eventually your teller comes up. You’ve never seen her before so you check her name-tag and underneath her name it says “Trainee.” Not that you really had any expectations, but if you did you’d change them here. You try to think of all of the ways you could use your knowledge of this monthly event you’ve done many times. You can probably help her remember the process. “Hi Sara. I’m Scott. I deal here all the time, I haven’t seen you here before, I take it by your tag you’re new with the bank?”

“Yes, I am. I’ve only been here a week. I apologize that I won’t be as fast as these other guys.”

“That’s okay, I was a customer here when most of them were in your shoes. No problem. We’re in this together. You just tell me how I can be of the most help.”

You can see her calm down when you say that. She relaxes and thereby accesses more of her own abilities and memories and so her service is much better than it would have been if she was tense. She carries out her responsibilities and thanks you profusely for your patience and you gratefully accept her thanks and also enjoy sharing a compliment of your own because she really did pretty good for a beginner.

714 Relax and Succeed - Those who wish to singYou leave the bank in a happy mood and because you saved a couple of minutes you’re going to pass that mood on to your sister by getting her her favourite coffee on your way to pick her up.

Boom. See the difference?

One version of you—your ego—bombards you with words about things and it just judges and judges and judges always with an eye toward seeing only confirmation of what it already believes. And all comparisons will be made against perfection. Yes, you will have to use some language and judgments to be functional in society, but you don’t have to live in a state of judgment the rest of the time. You always have a choice about what aspect of which issue you choose to focus on. You either live in your thoughts or you be aware. You’re ego or you’re clear. It’s that easy.

Don’t eat your days away gnawing at your own thoughts. Let them go. Peace will flow toward you naturally. Invest your thoughts in loving, caring, compassionate and beautiful acts and the rest takes care of itself.

Now use your mind consciously and use that awareness to choose a better day for yourself.

Love you all.

peace. s