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A Bit About Relationships

This talk is about being in relationships with others. It describes mistakes we make that end up leaving us hurt and confused. It also describes successful relationships and what we should strive for when we come together.

Often when we enjoy being with others what we’re enjoying is the presence that arises. Being with someone can take us out of our heads, out of our thinking space, and into being. One of the mistakes we make is thinking that the person we’re with was the reason for the joy, instead of the stillness that arose. We may begin to think something like “I can’t feel this way unless they are with me.” This type of thinking can lead to feelings of dependency, and even addiction toward the other person.

We need to realize that we are responsible for our own happiness, that we can only manage our side of the street. Once we look to others to make us happy, we are in trouble. Co-dependence is something that is subtle and hard to get free of. We need to learn that our needs are deeply important, especially to foster positive relationships. Once we sacrifice ourselves, ironically something we do in an effort to better the situation, we always end up hurting the relationship.

In good relationships, we foster synergy and emergence, which is when the whole ends up greater than the parts. We learn to appreciate the differences others bring, because they are what help us learn and grow and become more than we are. We foster taking the other person’s perspective in a healthy way so we can communicate properly and understand one another with empathy and compassion. We allow the joy that others bring us to be experienced fully without being dependent on it. We do our best to bring a full healthy self to relationships instead of damaged, needy, partial selves.

We are always in relation with everything. Even when we identify ourselves as separate individuals, we are still in relationship with everything else. Let’s work hard to understand and foster healthy relationships.

Reference: Stephen Covey

Song: My Baby Just Cares For Me by Nina Simone

Fearlessly Feeling Fear

A teenage boy just heard that Tommy wants to fight him in the schoolyard. He feels fear, but it’s not OK to feel fear. He’s supposed to be a man. He’s supposed to be tough. Or at least that’s what his belief system is telling him.

A woman in college was raised Christian and believes we should all love one another. But someone named Maggie just was hitting on her boyfriend. Anger starts to rise up in this woman, but it’s not OK to be angry because of her beliefs. So she feels anxious and get a second level of emotion because of the conflict of the first emotion, anger. It wasn’t OK to feel the way she felt.

Let’s take it away from a belief based idea. Let’s just say that we don’t like feeling fear, or sadness, or anger. I get scared and I don’t like the way it feels. It’s not OK to feel the way I feel. Once, for whatever reason, it’s not OK to be who I am or feel how I feel, I am in trouble.

This talk is about that second level of emotions. When we feel something and that feeling is not OK. When we feel fear and we don’t want to feel fear. The added anxiety and discomfort that we add to what we feel. This talk relates to beliefs, emotions, and surrender. All our feelings and emotions are necessary. Emotions are the language to tell us how we are relating to our situation and circumstance all the time. And yet it takes courage to feel what we feel sometimes.

Some teachings say we should try to transcend emotions. Some say we need to endlessly honor emotions. I say doing both is really important. We must investigate the self that’s feeling the feelings. It could need to adjust it’s beliefs and hence, change itself. But we also need to really feel what we are feeling.

The worst thing I see in people, and myself, is when we resist what is. When I am resisting life, I am deeply unhappy. When I accept what is, I can face anything. I can fearlessly feel fear. Whenever I choose to spend my time wanting what is not, rather than appreciating what is, I’m lost. The practice is to become aware that we are fighting this moment, and to drop that critique. We can feel fear, and not want to be anything else. We can be sad, and fully feel it without running away. When we do that we open ourselves to the joy underneath.

Informed Morality

This talk is about how non-dual experience can inform our morality. It was inspired by a magazine article that painted non-duality as morally irresponsible. Non-duality is not irresponsible. In fact, it can deeply inform our morality.

What is morality? Morality defines and distinguishes between right and wrong. Our own history and belief systems are where our morals are born. It’s important to note that our morals are not universal and can vary greatly. As much as we feel “our” morals are correct, they in fact are relative. There are endless examples of clashing morals, and this is where most wars come from.

So if we describe our relationship to morality in shades, we could say that on one side, there is a person who is fully attached to right and wrong, and all the personal beliefs that support what is right and wrong for that person. On the other side, there is someone who is experiencing a non-dual state; they drop the attachment to good and bad and do not experience duality. All different levels of attachment and morality fall in between these extremes.

If we choose to experience non-duality our morals are informed. This does not mean they are lessened, or weakened. We do not now prefer bad to good. Rather, loosening our attachment to morals can bring deep wisdom. Once we see non-duality, we become less attached, and because of this we are able to deal more easily with complex moral issues.

The world is seeming more and more complex as globalization occurs, technology increases, and more choices in general become available to us. It can often be helpful to come to that complexity with the mind of “I don’t know.” Non-duality comes from place of “I don’t know,” instead of the belief based “I know how it should be” mind set. This allows us to approach complex situations in a more authentic and capable way. “I don’t know” allows for finding out. “I already know” does not. Right and wrong attachments can often be based on beliefs that are not relevant or helpful.

People who practice meditation have the opportunity to work with their beliefs as they practice. But all people see the edges of their moral value systems when things upset them. When we get upset, it’s time to get non-dual. Take a moment to focus on your breath and become still when dealing with things, this will allow for a new morality.

Referenced: Friedrich Nietzsche

The Different Meanings of To Be

I want to clarify what I mean by “to be” because it is actually more than one thing. It is both “to be – still” and also “to be – what you are.” This may be hard to stomach because these seem to be in opposition, but they are both really important. It’s actually many many layers, and facets of things to wade through. So let’s look for more language around this issue.

“To be still” implies working with the mind through concentration and space to “still” the busy mind. You might think of this as the Buddhist way of practicing meditation. It implies a lot of things: Peace, but also difficulty in finding that peace. It has a sense of carrot and stick to it: I’m not still now, and I want to be still. So time is implied. “I’m not what I want to be.” There is a part of us that is trying to grow. This is the part that realizes that need for growth. This type of practice is important. We could call this discipline.

“To be what you are” implies a looser idea, of “I’m OK” in any situation. So if you are busy, be busy. If you are still, be still. You could think of this in a more Taoist sense, or more “zen” if you will. Up is down, right is wrong, everything is OK. This sense is much less rational, but also very important. It’s being gentle with who we are. It’s also dropping expectations about what we are supposed to be. This is the state that has no conflict, even when “conflict” is there. Meaning, in this state, you are not trying to be anything but what you are. This is the awakened state. This you might call freedom.

So the discipline allows for the second freedom, in a sense. The discipline is hard, and the freedom is soft. They are two ends of a spectrum. The Buddha talked about the middle path, and this is what he meant. You can’t leave your mind too loose, it needs some discipline. It also can’t be too rigid, or you never actually sit in the space of freedom.

A mystical Christian might say that since everything is God, each moment is the expression of God right now. We should learn to be in alignment with that, and it takes forgiveness (being what you are) and a bit of discipline (learning to be still) to align with that expression.

So the practice of meditation is working with your mind to still it. But it is also the practice of forgiving, or allowing to be whatever is. You may sit and have a busy mind. That’s OK. You may sit and fall into a lot of freedom, that’s OK too. If you feel too loose, bring some discipline. If you find you’re being too rigid, loosen up. That’s the middle path.

You Don’t Have to Fix It

As we grow and consciously evolve, we will find wisdom in many situations.  However, we should watch how attached to those opinions we become.  We often will want to tell other people how to be, and get very attached to what is “supposed” to happen.

The main point of this talk is that once you find yourself with strong opinions, use that as an anchor to wake up.  Even if you are morally correct, once you are attached to an idea, you start to become just as lost as someone doing wrong.  It is much more important to bring presence to a situation, than the right action.

New-agers often get lost here.  It’s not about getting to the right beliefs, it’s about seeing all your beliefs.  It may be right to not want war, but as we fight for that idea, we begin another war, or argument, or conflict.  That’s when the idea of being right, or fixing the situation breaks down.

We may have opinions about how other people should live, eat, and behave.  All those opinions can come from a deep caring, and our advise can often be sound.  However, when we get too attached to our idea we’ve gotten a little lost.  Learn acceptance instead of righteousness.

Referenced: Joel Goldsmith

Show Music: Building the Bass Castle Vol. I by Voltage

The Gift of Trauma

Trauma is horrible, and we shouldn’t forget that. We all have trauma to one degree or another. We all have “our stuff.”

Trauma has the potential to widen and deepen our experience of pain. Which allows us to have a higher “high.” Imagine someone who hasn’t had much stimulation in either direction, good or bad. Their circumstances are not as wide and as varied to draw from. They have a skinnier history to draw from. So something somewhat “bad” seems potentially horrible – like gas prices going up. Whereas, someone who has lived through a rape, or a major car accident, might not be as affected by social issues. They care, they just have a different historical comparison to weight the situation against.

Trauma also allows us to see that we survived. We went through that stuff and are still here. It didn’t kill us.

This is not to say that we should look for trauma, or inflict it on others. Life brings enough of it on its own.

How does pain and trauma allow for growth? Well, let’s look again at someone who is sheltered. They never get the challenges to test themselves. The Buddha is the iconic representation of this. He left his palace to learn about life and pain. He was unsatisfied with being given everything. You, your kids, and loved ones will be equally unsatisfied. Have you seen wealthy kids at the mall who have everything? Nothing surprises them, nothing thrills them. They are bored. These kids may begin looking for trauma. They won’t know that’s what they are doing, but their boredom has the potential to make them look for thrills. Those thrills, in the form of drugs, etc. can end up giving those kids their share of pain. This is a stereotype used only to make the point that pain and growth is a part of life. We can use pain to stimulate our desire to live differently.

Pleasure and pain are related. In the spectrum of self, pleasure and pain mirror one another. To leave the ego realm of pleasure and pain, it can help to go through enough pain to say “I don’t want to live this way any more.”

It is really important that we process our trauma. We need to begin to work with our pain, and process it fully. We need to feel it, rather than run from it.

Our pain is the substance that we are supposed to traverse to grow. The more of it, the more we want to wake up from it. So as we hate it, from a certain point of view it is a blessing.

We can relax a little with our children and loved ones. We can realize that pain is a part of life, and that we need to allow for some of it to grow. It is often a dis-service to over-protect a child. Pain in general is there to wake you up. It’s asking for you to be present. To drop the valuation of the situation. To open your consciousness. This is how we can begin to kill the ego, or wake up from it.

Trauma can jar us free of the ego. It can re-prioritize our lives. Sadness, fear, and anxiety that is the result of trauma can become so loud that we want to put it down. Without that pain, we might never have woken up. We can become sick of being unhappy. That is a very healthy state to be in.

So how do we want to relate to our trauma? Do we want to be fearful of it, or realize that we’ve been through it, and we’ve beaten it? It’s important that we don’t continue the cycle of abuse. It’s our responsibility to end the cycle of abuse.

Show Music: The Shanghai Restoration Project