On The Benefit of the Doubt

How easy it is to assume we know why people do what they do.

We see an action or hear some words, our minds tell a story, and instantly we assume we know what’s what.

But this trips us up more than we know. Because what we’re actually seeing when we’re looking at someone isn’t coming from their intent, motive or backstory.

It’s coming from our thinking in the moment, always.

So really what we’re seeing is our own projection, our own reality, our own ideas… we’re not seeing people as they are, we’re seeing them as we are.

Which is why giving people the benefit of the doubt is so crucial. We’re never perceiving them as these solid, stable objects with clear cut motives… that’s just the story our mind is telling.

I saw this so clearly at a holiday party last night.

So many people, some I loved, some I didn’t understand, some I was annoyed by, some I was grateful to reconnect with.

But none of that was coming from them, all of it was coming from my mind and how I’m relating to it in the moment.

The person who annoyed me is someone my mind is playing a story of annoyance and injustice about and I’m buying into it hook line and sinker.

The people I loved were people I was seeing with innocence and purity. I naturally gave them the benefit of the doubt, I didn’t indulge my mind if and when it tried to assign meaning behind their actions.

The people I didn’t understand were people I tried to see with interest and curiosity. I was less interested in what my mind said about them and more interested in what I can see if I show up fresh: what’s there when I’m in this moment, not in my thinking about this moment?

The people I was grateful to reconnect were simply people who I saw beauty and goodness in. I relaxed into the moment with them and was grateful for the natural connection between us when we’re not indulging our personal thinking.

I definitely don’t always give people the benefit of the doubt. I get caught up in my stories, convinced by the grand illusion of consciousness and bought into my ideas at times.

It’s totally human, normal and nothing to beat ourselves up about!

But the beauty of life is found in being in life, not in our minds.

Giving people the benefit of the doubt, going back to the freshness of the unknown and being willing to be wrong about our assumptions, ideas and beliefs about someone is where freedom is found.

Freedom to discover something new.

Freedom to experience life fresh.

Freedom to be in the moment instead of thinking about it.

That’s something we can all benefit from.

On the Mystery of Wisdom

Wisdom: A word often used to describe the innate intelligence of all living things, including us.

Human beings generally don’t like not knowing things. We don’t do well with uncertainty, surprise or the unknown.

So often when I discuss the truth that we are made of wisdom, people want to know what wisdom will say.

How will it show up?

What will it have me do?

What solution will it come up with?

What new thinking will I have?

How will I see things differently?

What will occur to me?

And the truth is: I don’t know.

I know wisdom is within all of us; it’s the very essence of our being. It’s wisdom that’s beating our hearts, breathing our lungs and dividing our cells.

It’s wisdom that’s moving experience through us, and giving us something new and fresh in each moment.

But the form it’ll take? We have absolutely no clue.

It’s a bit like signing up for a mailing list. We know we’ll get something on the related topic: if we’re signing up for a culinary list we’ll get recipes. If we’re signing up for a yoga list we’ll get yoga practices. If we’re signing up for a music list we’ll get recently released songs.

But the form it’ll take? No clue. The recipe, the song, the practice… it’s completely unknown.

But we know we’ll get something.

If we can relax into the certainty that something will show up: a new solution, thought, perspective, idea, or action…

Then we can stop concerning ourself with the who, what, when, how of it and relax into our lives more.

We don’t have to sign up to the “wisdom” mailing list. It’s automatically set on “deliver indefinitely” when we’re born.

So we either understand that it’s inherently unknown yet reliable.

Or we think we should know it and drive ourselves crazy trying to figure out what will be sent and when.

Or we think it’s not reliable and stress ourselves out over what will be sent and when.

Both become unnecessary when we see that wisdom is 100% reliable but 98% unpredictable, as my mentor Michael Neill likes to say.

We don’t know what we’ll get, but we can relax into the fact that we’ll get something, we simply can’t not.

On Pink Fluffy Lives

Somehow, somewhere, we’ve all picked up the idea that life should always be great and we should always feel amazing.

Always happy, always loving, always peaceful, we all get along, never get sick, are loved by everyone, have lots of money, no one dies, taxes don’t exist… etc.

We all have our own personal ideas under the category of “this is how life should look”, but on some level we’ve all bought into a misunderstanding that it’s a problem when life sucks.

That it’s a problem when we feel uncomfortable physical symptoms because we shouldn’t feel that.

That it’s a problem when we’re heartbroken, sad and lonely because surely it means something is wrong with us or our lives.

That it’s a problem when we’re struggling financially, it’s a problem when people we love leave our lives, it’s a problem when we could have done better than we did, it’s a problem when we don’t perform as well as we could or should…

The only “problem” that I see is that we believe that things – normal, everyday, human, safe, temporary, totally fine things – are problems.

Life was never meant to be all sunshines, rainbows and fluffy kittens.

Now I love fluffy kittens as much as the next person and I would love if every day could be Play With Fluffy Kittens Day, but that’s not the nature of life.

The nature of life is that there’s ups and downs. Dark and light. Misery and bliss. Sickness and health. Richer and poorer. 

(I just realized this is starting to sound like wedding vows but perhaps the inherent predictability of these things is why those sayings became cliché)

My point is this: if we expect life to be something other than what it is, we’ll be disappointed, confused, and bothered by the totally normal, totally predictable, totally safe parts of life when they inevitably arise.

The human body gets ill sometimes. That’s what bodies do.

I’ll suffer tremendously (and I know this from years of personal experience) if I add a whole lot of resistance and fighting against the already unpleasant sensations of fever, sore throat, stuffy nose and sleeplessness.

If I believe “I shouldn’t be feeling this” or if I’m under the impression that it’s somehow wrong or dangerous or not okay to feel under the weather, I’m going to add a ton of suffering on the pain of a body fighting infection.

But if I know that it’s totally normal, totally safe, common and universal for people to catch colds, I can have a level of understanding, acceptance and grace while my body resets.

Our minds work the same way.

The human mind gets bogged down with insecurity, anxiety, low mood, dissatisfaction and upset from time to time. That’s what minds do.

I’ll suffer tremendously (and I know this from years of personal experience) if I add a whole lot of resistance and fighting against the already unpleasant sensations of feeling like life is hard and unfair, that I’m less than, that I have all these problems, that things or people are causing my anxiety, etc.

If I believe “I shouldn’t be feeling this” or if I’m under the impression that it’s somehow wrong or dangerous or not okay to feel that life sucks or I suck, I’m going to add a ton of suffering on the pain of a mind bogged down with distorted thinking.

But if I know that it’s totally normal, totally safe, common and universal for people to feel like everything sucks, I can have a level of understanding, acceptance and grace while my mind resets.

And allowing what is to just be, with no resistance or fighting, is what allows it to change quicker than we ever thought possible.

On The Ease of Forgiveness

Why does it sometimes feel so hard to forgive?

We all have times when forgiveness feels difficult, sometimes even impossible. Because surely better could have been done, and it wasn’t, and that’s not okay.

But seeing the truth of how the human experience works shines a whole new light on forgiveness because it illuminates a key fact: our reality is created through thought, therefore we can only do the best we can with the thinking we have in that moment.

The ‘better’ that could or should have been done is only what we now see from a higher level of consciousness.

Hindsight 20/20, they say.

From a settled mind the big picture is obvious. When our thinking is clear our actions reflect that clarity. When our thinking is cloudy, our actions reflect that confusion.

We all share a default setting of love, peace and well-being that gets reflected in behaviour naturally and effortlessly when thought isn’t distracting us.

But when we’re caught up in insecure, distressed, agitated, anxious thinking… clarity temporarily eludes us.

We see life through the filter of unclear thinking, and act on that temporary reality.

As naturally as healthy behaviour stems from healthy thinking, unhealthy behaviour stems from unhealthy thinking.

Which brings us to the truth that we’re always doing the best we can given our thinking in that moment.

Sure, if we were seeing more clearly we would likely do differently, but we truly, honestly were doing the best we could given how life looked to us in the moment.

In a state of mind of stress, anxiety and depression, the things that occur to us will be very different than what we feel inclined to do from peace, stillness and connection with others.

Seeing the truth that what we all do is directly linked to that moment’s temporary thought-created reality allows us to understand the innocence.

Yes, in theory, better could have been done. But it couldn’t have been done in that moment, from within that temporary reality, at that level of consciousness.

This is why we apologize, express remorse, try to make amends. Because we have the ability to see differently once our mind has settled… but not before it has settled.

We didn’t see it at the time so we did the best we could with what we saw at the time.

Forgiveness, for ourselves and others, doesn’t have to be impossible or even difficult if we’re willing to see the truth of this for ourselves.

Forgiveness is simply the recognition of innocence, the seeing that we’re all up against the same thing: thought masquerading as reality.

We all get caught up, tripped up, fooled, taken for a ride… welcome to the human condition. Having a deeper understanding of what’s going on behind the scenes allows us to reconnect with the truth of our innocence, and forgiveness is the natural result of that realization.

On The Paradox of Feeling Bad

No one likes feeling bad. It’s called feeling bad for a reason, it’s not particularly pleasant and can often bring with it uncomfortable sensations, emotions, and perceptions.

Yet feeling bad is an unavoidable part of life. If you’re a human being, you will feel bad from time to time, I promise you that.

No amount of money, no cultivated “perfect” circumstances, no finding the best humans alive can or will ever guard you against the fact that you will sometimes feel bad.

So given it’s inevitable, what can we do to make it less awful?

If feeling bad is painful, how can we avoid suffering?

Simple. We understand what it is so we can allow the system to work as designed.

Bad feelings, uncomfortable sensations, negative thoughts, and dark emotions are designed to move through us.

They’re designed to come up, give us an experience, and leave. That’s their nature.

Just like actual storms, thoughtstorms clear out eventually. We don’t know when (and we love to guess about the how and why) but every thought storm, and every real storm, runs its course and dies down; you won’t find any exceptions to this.

Often we don’t see what’s happening when we feel bad.

Because being in a bad mood is like wearing dark sunglasses, colouring everything we see, it will look and feel like there’s a problem with our lives and/or with ourselves.

If we don’t see this trick of the mind for what it is, we tend to keep spinning our wheels thinking about what needs to be fixed so that we can feel better.

Or we resist it. Or fight it. Or challenge it. Or tackle it. Or ruminate over it. Or make meaning about it. Or try to control it, manage it or eliminate it.

And not only does that not succeed in bringing relief or making us feel better, it’s actually the very thing keeping us feeling bad and causing us to suffer.

The paradox is that the more we try to get out of feeling bad, the more we get stuck in it.

The more we try to eliminate it, the more it hangs around.

Why is that? Simply because bad feelings are just temporary energy moving through your sensory system. And you can’t get energy to move through faster by energizing it with resistance, fight, control, meaning or management.

It just doesn’t work that way. Once we understand that we naturally do better.

As paradoxical as it seems, we can’t get out of feeling bad faster than the natural flow of thought/feeling moves.

So next time you’re feeling bad, do nothing with those feelings.

Don’t worry about them. Don’t make them mean anything about you or your life (it’s only a trick of the mind at play), don’t try to keep it at bay or man up against it or try to get rid of it.

Everything self-help, positive psychology and popular culture tells you to do about your feelings, ignore it all.

Relax. Seriously, just relax.

Humans quite naturally relax into our feelings (even the really uncomfortable ones) when we see them for what they truly are: temporary, meaningless, transient energy that flows through each and every one of us from time to time, bringing us an experience in a moment.

When you see that’s true, relaxing into your bad feelings will come naturally and you’ll start to notice just how quickly you bounce back to feeling good again.

On The Three Truths of Gratitude

This recent weekend was the Thanksgiving long weekend here in Canada and I swear each year that passes I love this holiday more and more.

This year though, I’m seeing a deeper dimension of what we all have to be grateful for.

That we are (all of us, no exceptions) the living, breathing manifestation of some universal truths.

There’s some truths that apply to all of us equally, regardless of circumstance, location, age, situation, history, ethnicity, gender, or anything else that makes us feel different.

Truth #1: Everything you experience is the energy behind life brought to life within you in any given moment. That energy changes automatically and naturally without any doing on our part.

What this means for us (and why it’s something we can all be grateful for) is we can’t be stuck in anything permanently. No matter how bad we feel, how awful our current experience is, how crazy or icky or hopeless our thinking is, it HAS to change.

It can’t not change. Change is in it’s nature. It’s in the fundamental design.

The same way the leaves can’t help but fall in autumn, your thinking, feeling and experience has to change at some point.

Truth #2: When your experience changes, the life you see out your eyeballs changes with it.

This is why we can go from hating someone to loving them (and vice versa) without them actually changing.

It’s how we can bemoan an ending one day and see beauty and hope in it the next. It’s how we can love the rain then hate the rain then be neutral about the rain all in the span of a few hours.

It’s not coming from anything outside of us.

I know it really looks like it does, but in truth it doesn’t.

When we know that what we’re seeing out in our lives is a reflection of what’s going on in our minds in that moment, we’re free to let that perception shift and change as it naturally will (see Truth #1) and have our lives as we know them shift with it.

Truth #3: Our true nature, our deepest core essence, is pure love, well-being and peace.

Have you ever noticed that people never settle down into distressed, agitated states?

They settle into peace, connection, love, a state of rest and relaxation.

They say things like “I feel like myself again” or “I’m back to feeling fine”.

They act with more kindness and compassion, they have better ideas, they’re clearer and more creative. They see the best in life, enjoy things, and have easy, fulfilling relationships.

This is the natural state of everyone. This is what we all have going for us. Underneath the temporary weather of what we’re thinking, feeling and experiencing, we’re just whole, complete and always okay.

So this year it’s these truths that I’m the most thankful for.

The ones that have nothing to do with sipping hot chocolate lakeside on a gorgeous fall day, nothing to do with big feasts of delicious food and good company, nothing to do with anything that’s temporary.

Just some eternal, fundamental truths that we can all be grateful for, today and always.

On Craziness

I’ve been so blessed to spend these last few days doing practitioner training with the gorgeous George and Linda Pransky.

While there have been so many insights and takeaways, George kept emphasizing a key point that I’m seeing deeper.

When you’re crazy, do you know you’re crazy?

If you know, it makes all the difference. It protects you, stabilizes you and points you towards what’s really going on: your state of mind has taken a temporary dip.

If you don’t know when you’re crazy, you mistake its cause, make it a bigger deal than it is, run in circles and get nowhere, feeling defeated, hopeless and bad about it.

We all have a personal crazy: it’s our Mr. Hyde, our evil twin, our favourite ride at the Bonkers Amusement Park of Distress and Suffering.

Jokes aside, It’s often what people consider their primary label or diagnosis. The thing about them that needs fixing and changing because it so does not look like the simple, harmless result of a temporary low state of mind.

Anxiety, depression, stress, fear of failure, loneliness… it can look like a solid, stable problem we have but in truth it’s just our temporary crazy. Just where our mind habitually goes when it goes south.

You are a human being, and as part of the human condition you will sometimes think, feel and act like a crazy person. I say that with love because I too am a crazy person at times. We all are.

It’s not a personal failing, it’s not a problem, it’s not a mental illness, it’s nothing to worry about.

Truly, because it’s universal in nature and harmless once you see it for what it is, it’s nothing to concern yourself with.

You’ll instantly be protected by the negative effects of crazy if you know it’s just your crazy, instead of thinking it’s something you need to deal with, work on or fix about yourself or your life.

Our personal crazy is just riding the anxiety train or taking a plunge on the depression rollercoaster or spinning on the teacups of insecurity, so it makes all the difference to know that’s all that’s happening.

Your mind has temporarily taken a dip to stormy, untrue, distorted thinking. It’s unclear, totally biased, and not at all trustworthy.

No need to try to fix it, change it, control it, manage it, adjust it or correct it.

Our inbuilt well-being and health will do all of those things naturally (and far more effectively) if you can simply leave it alone.

At some point the ride ends and you hop off, completely fine.

You may have gotten a bit wet, or a tad dizzy, or felt a surge of adrenaline, but you are completely 100% fine the whole time and the ride always, always, comes to an end.

So next time you’re feeling crazy, welcome to the club! 

No judgement, no problem, no issue. Just a gentle, simple noticing of the ride you’re on and the inevitable realization that it’s all temporary, it’s all taken care of and it’s always simpler than we make it.

With love and gratitude,

Shannon