You don’t ever let go of the thread….

The early morning is dark with misty rain pattering on the quiet pavement. I roll my little red well-worn carry-on suitcase to the car my husband has already started. The lights glow in the dark, the white clouds rising from the exhaust pipe.
My heart is very full, my mind seeing images of the Ottawa airport where I’ll eventually land, and the goodbye I said yesterday to one of my oldest, dearest friends.
Yesterday, I felt quite anxious about this trip.
Not because of the destination. I’m flying to gather with a beautiful group of people I’ve gotten to know over these past 18 months who all form the Orphan Wisdom School. We are scholars, gathering to hear the wonderings of Stephen Jenkinson, author of “Die Wise” and master storyteller, historian, question-asker. We talk about death, culture, sorrow, loss, humanity, religion, love.
No, my anxiety wasn’t because I’m about to attend our final session together, although I’m aware it’s our last. The week is yet to come, and new conversations still to happen.
My anxiety came from the goodbye I just said.
My sweet friend is literally in his final days of life, and he may be gone from this world while I travel.
As I sat by his bedside yesterday, we both knew it might be our last meeting, our last goodbye.
What a strange experience to know you will likely never see someone again. I think of immigrants long ago leaving for another country. All the human death from disease (in other words not a sudden or surprise death that’s unanticipated). Moving far away in the physical world because of slavery or war. Jobs taking people half way around the world to seek their fortune. Children growing up and leaving home.
Saying goodbye and knowing you’ll never meet again.
Not physically, not in this world.
Goodbyes are sad, tragic, frightening.
Let’s question this. Because The Work is about looking at everything, anything. Including goodbyes of such magnitude.
Especially goodbyes of such magnitude.
Is it true that goodbyes are sad, or tragic, or frightening?
Yes. So very sad. I’ll never see him again. We’ll never have our deep conversations again.
I thought this about my father during his leukemia illness so many years ago. Tragic.
I thought it frightening when my daughter left for Europe and bombs were exploding there. I thought it sad when my son moved away to college. I thought it terrifying when my former husband wanted a divorce.
Missing them. Gone. Goodbye.
But can you absolutely know it’s true that saying Goodbye is wrong, or that feeling all this is too horrible to stand, or that these experiences called sadness, fear or devastation are too great to bear?
Can you know you can’t go on, despite such a deep, formidable goodbye? Can you be sure you’ll never see them again, really (even if they’ve died)?
No.
I’ve seen my dad regularly for over 25 years, and he hasn’t been on earth in a body since 1991. I see him in my mind. I see him behind the wheel of a car as I stare at a man who looks just like my dad with his salt and pepper beard in the lane next to me.
I see my dying friend’s smiling face and hear the way he says “I’m serious!” with a smile, which means in our language “I so agree with you 100% on that point!” I see him saying how much he loved me, and everyone he loved and felt close to, when he learned he had a terminal illness five years ago. He became more expressive. He said what he thought more often.
I can’t know for sure, in absolute terms, that goodbyes are sad, tragic or frightening in and of themselves. I can see it might be my thoughts about goodbyes that produce suffering.
Goodbye seems to be a part of life. Fully and completely. We don’t only have Hello. We have Goodbye. That’s the way of it.
How do I react when I believe Goodbye is so sad, or tragic, or something to be feared?
I start to feel anxious. Pictures race through my mind of holding my friend’s thin hand, rubbing his swollen feet. Pictures of laughing so hard with him at a party a few years ago, caught on film. Pictures of our childhood neighborhood, the walk from his house to mine when the world was closer together and simpler.
When I believe Goodbye shouldn’t be happening, I feel a movement inside like drinking too much coffee. Can’t sleep. Need to get “work” done. Laundry, tasks, post office. Wondering if there’s anything else I can “do”. Hard to hold still. Wondering what it would feel like to know this might be your last day.
But who would I be without this terrible story of Goodbye?
This doesn’t mean it isn’t heart-breaking into a million pieces. It doesn’t mean I don’t cry.
I do.
I cry as I get into my car after leaving the building where my friend lies, rain still misting on the city street.
Without the thoughts it shouldn’t be so, and life shouldn’t include goodbyes and endings….
….I stop feeling frantic, conflicted.
Something very deep within stops fighting the moment. Something remembers I am not in charge, but something far greater–the movement of life and death–knows more than I do. I am not too small for this. I am a human being, I have the astonishing privilege of awareness of All This.
Turning the thought around: Goodbye’s are filled with love.Goodbyes are the awareness of love. Goodbyes are bitter and sweet and profound and life-changing. They are life-shaking, beautiful, fearless.
Believing my thoughts about goodbyes was what brought anxiety and sleeplessness, and suffering.
And it isn’t really a total and absolute “end”.
You are in my heart forever, even if you are no longer in this room, no longer in this town, no longer in this country, no longer on this planet in your human form.
The Way It Is
~by William Stafford
There’s a thread you follow. It goes among
things that change. But it doesn’t change.
People wonder about what you are pursuing.
You have to explain about the thread.
But it is hard for others to see.
While you hold it you can’t get lost.
Tragedies happen; people get hurt
or die; and you suffer and get old.
Nothing you do can stop time’s unfolding.
You don’t ever let go of the thread.
 
The thing is, we don’t even have to hold on to the thread. It’s with us no matter what, even if we forget it’s attached.
The word goodbye in English comes from Godby, Godby’e, Godbwye, God b’w’y, God bwy yee, God buy you, God be wi’ you, God be with you.
Infinity, vastness, mystery, and love be with you, carrying you always (it is).
God be with you. God is with you.
God be with you, dear sweet dying friend.
God be with you, father. God be with you, all the people of the world coming and going and living and dying.
God be with you, dear reader.
Thank you for being awhile here with me.
Thank you from the bottom of my heart.
Much love,
Grace

Eating Peace: If violence worked….wouldn’t you have changed by now?

Most humans at some point encounter the idea, often from a very young age, that violence–including verbal violence–will enforce change.

Do it! Now! Go! Scream! Or else!

We know we want change, because we’re suffering. We get impatient, lost, frustrated. Being loving and kind doesn’t seem like it will bring change.

But have you ever tried it? Especially when it comes to meeting your feelings (especially fears and other uncomfortable emotions) with compassion?

Byron Katie says in her book “I Need Your Love–Is That True?” the following quote about the moment when you think Oh Sh*t! I screwed up! This isn’t going well!

A mistake has happened. You ate the wrong thing. You overate. You judged your weight.

It’s a moment of Rejection of What Is (not loving what is):

“What are the thoughts that come at these moments? Many of these thoughts are about what you would have done if you had known better, or seen it coming, or remembered. You think that if you had done something other than what you did, you could have stayed in control of events.” ~ Byron Katie

But who would you be without the thought that what’s happened in the past, whether an hour ago, or last week, or 3 months ago, or 10 years ago…..was a mistake?

What if I could hold those binge-eating moments, or the weight gained, or eating some unacceptable food, with compassion and gentleness?

Are you sure you did something wrong, back then? Who would you be without this stressful story?

You can use your imagination to wonder the answer to this question. What if you didn’t need violent thought to bring about permanent change?

I notice that anything that’s truly become a long-term change has come out of awareness, not violence. Doing The Work and questioning my thoughts has offered slowing down, and absence of thinking I know what’s true.

What a relief.

What if you turned around the belief in violent thinking towards yourself, to make change?

Turned around: loving thinking towards myself will make change.

I find this to be very true. Much truer. Force or violence might bring about temporary change, but not permanent change, and certainly not peace.

I love with food and eating, you might let peace be your intention, above all.

See what happens.

Much love,

Grace

One profound option, when they don’t care about you

In December, I’ll be facilitating a 3 day Relationships Retreat with my husband assisting (who is wonderful with The Work). We’re inviting anyone who wishes to do The Work on an important or stressful relationship: partner, child, boss, mother, father, relative, friend, sibling. Find out more HERE.

Speaking of stressful, difficult relationships….

Someone in Year of Inquiry brought a powerful situation and thought to our group inquiry call.

Many stressful situations have appeared already in our group calls, since everyone’s taken the dive into their first Judge Your Neighbor worksheets–a moment of suffering, resentment, sadness, despair, worry.

This particular thought can be so very painful, when you believe it:

She doesn’t care about me.

Maybe it’s “he” or maybe it’s “they” in your situation.

People think this very painful thought about love relationships, family members, companies, bosses, employees, children, schools, the government.

They don’t care, and I feel horrible, lonely, left out because of it.

Like the inquirer who so beautifully explored his situation yesterday on our group call, I was a bit amazed at how often this belief has come to surface in my mind and awareness.

That person doesn’t care, because they don’t turn towards me, ask me questions, look at me. Or they say something mean. They criticize me. They dismiss me. They fire me. They ignore me.

(I’ve also had the thought someone cares too much about me, LOL, but that’s for another day).

Let’s start at the very beginning.

Remember that time, when you felt Not Cared About? Maybe it goes way back, into childhood, or maybe it happened yesterday.

She or he doesn’t care about you….is it true?

YES! She’s never responded, written, called, texted….nada. I’m getting the silent treatment. If she cared, I’d hear from her. She wouldn’t have cut me off!

Can you absolutely know it’s true?

YES.

This was the same answer as the inquirer in Year of Inquiry yesterday. Yes, Yes, Yes. It’s true, and absolutely true. I know what caring looks like, and it’s not this.

How do you react when you believe they don’t care about you?

Devastated. Lost. Self-critical.

I have images of the future, and they’re all bad. Failure, or me lying all alone in my house, no one else around. I feel abandoned, sad and frightened.

I review what I did….thinking it must have been wrong. If I had been nicer, or asked her questions earlier, maybe this lack of caring could have been prevented. I attack myself for not seeing it more clearly in the past.

And I definitely attack her. Look at what she’s like….she’s ridiculous. I make a great case in court for her being a lousy person, which explains everything, right?

But who would I be without my story of that person not caring about me?

In our telegroup when the inquirer was looking at this question, he couldn’t really find who he’d be. Too difficult.

I like the exercise of pretending we’re watching a movie of the situation we think is “proof” of lack of caring.

In my situation I’m one of the characters in the scene of course, and I’m looking at myself. There’s me, sitting all alone in my cottage in silence, with empty space in the room and no good friend who I thought cared. I have no returned call, no letter, no text, no voicemail. Just silence and quiet.

Who would that woman be (who is me), sitting alone in her cottage living room, without the belief that someone else in the world does not care (in my case, an old friend)?

The inquirer in our Year of Inquiry group looked at himself in a restaurant, watching his partner not include him in the conversation. Man eating a nice meal, looking around, noticing people, the environment.

If that man didn’t have the thought “she doesn’t care about me” who would he be?

Who would I be?

Relaxed. Feeling the room. Watching. Noticing so much going on in that scene, that environment. Couch, desk, pen, rug.

Could silence be “care”?

Except for my mind’s judgments about silence and quiet and no one being there….I might find the quiet very beautiful, very supportive, and very connected. Even magical.

Even exciting.

She does care about me.

Could this be just as true, or truer?

I suppose. She’s not hurting me, like yelling at me or taking away my stuff, or breaking something I like. She’s leaving me alone.

Actually, she’s taken me very seriously–so seriously she’s chosen to not ever respond to me or write back, or call, when I’ve reached out. She’s cared very, very much. She’s working through her own process. It doesn’t require contact with me, at the moment.

Turning the thought around again: I don’t care about me. 

Do you criticize yourself? Ruminate on what you said or did “wrong”?

I sure did, in my situation. I thought I should have been more clear with her, read her better, been sharper, or more easy-going. I told myself I shouldn’t care, too, when I really did. Which was not very caring.

Turning it around again: I don’t care about her. 

In that situation, how is this just as true?

I don’t relax, and let her be herself, moving on into a life without me actively in it. I don’t like her silent treatment. I rip her to shreds in my mind and see pictures of her deserving to suffer.

Sigh.

“There’s no release or escape from yourself until you leave him alone and focus on your own turnarounds. Changing him [her] will no longer be your life’s work. You can be your life’s work. You’re the one who believes in change.” ~ Byron Katie in I Need Your Love–Is That True?

The quickest way to peace with that person who doesn’t care?

Leave them alone. Question my own caring. Redefine skewed ideas of what “care” is. Notice. Rest.

Care.

Much love,

Grace

Plus, October 4-day retreat in northeast Seattle 10/18-10/22, five more spots for commuters. Gorgeous setting, I’ll help you find an AirBnB nearby if you’re traveling (and if you want to sleep on the couch/air mattress at the retreat house, that works, too).

His suffering about money leads to freedom…..mine

He shouldn’t be so focused on money.

Have you ever had this thought?

You’re watching, listening, noticing that other person over there and hearing them care oh so much about spending, income, salary, investing, wills, counting, saving, having.

Wow. He brings the conversation back to money, no matter where we start out or whatever the topic.

He’s so suspicious, bitter, frightened. Kind of scrooge-like. Unable to let go of imagining money issues, or people taking his money, or the need for greater and greater quantities of money.

He’s worked independently to amass a fortune. Yet, he still dickers with others to get a bargain, negotiate a good deal.

I feel a strange repulsion and fascination.

I notice the conviction that he shouldn’t care so much about making more money, having a windfall, winning the lottery, buying nice stuff. He’s got so much, he doesn’t even have to work for a living, and yet he’s working. Very hard.

Is it true he shouldn’t be so focused, or care so much, about money?

Yes. It’s ridiculous. Who wants to live like that? I don’t see him as free, or happy, at all.

But can you absolutely know it’s true he shouldn’t care so much, when he does?

Well, he appears to be a very unhappy, obsessive, uncomfortable person when it comes to money. I can’t absolutely know it’s true he shouldn’t care about it, though. I’ve witnessed this same energy in others. The reality, it appears, is people sometimes care a whole lot about money. In a really nervous, freaked-out, upset kind of way. They go to war over it. Families get broken over it. People leave each other because of it.

So I can’t say it’s absolutely true he shouldn’t be like that. He is.

How do I react when I see him over there acting so nervous, and saying outrageous things about people trying to scam him?

I feel scared. I wonder if he’s right. Maybe I should care more! I remember when I almost lost my house, and had $10.16 left in the bank, and how I could barely stand the tension of wondering what was going to happen next.

When I believe he shouldn’t care so much about money, I feel some doubt. I imagine that if I had been more like him, I might never have gotten into a position of losing so much or having almost no money.

It’s a no-win perspective, when I believe this thought about him. I have no winning view of him, I have no winning view of myself, I have no winning view of money.

Who would I be without this thought he shouldn’t care so much about money?

I’d simply be a person listening to my friend rant and rave about money, and people and money, and anxiety and money, and families and money, and marriage and money. I’d be present with him. I’d remain centered. I wouldn’t feel thrown off-balance about money, or my own approach to money which feels like an ever-evolving, expanding experience.

Without this thought about him and what he shouldn’t care about….

….I’d be back with myself, in my own business, noticing much more than moods about money in the room.

I’d be breathing, hearing, seeing, not pushing anything, including concepts, away or out. I may even be honoring the awareness of what happens when people focus on something they believe they need in order to be safe, or happy, and how hard this can be. It reminds me to relax with what is.

Turning the thought around: I shouldn’t care so much about money. Especially in the moment other people (like my friend) talk about it or bring it into the conversation. I shouldn’t care so much about them caring about it. I shouldn’t care so much about my own past regret, when it comes to money, when there’s nothing I can do about any of that. The past is over, after all.

I shouldn’t care so much about money and the future, like needing to leave my little cottage to my kids debt-free. Or having visions of working forever into my old age because I started so late in earning much of anything.

Turning the thought around again: he SHOULD care so much about money. First of all, he does. He doesn’t feel very capable of working a normal job, if he lost what he has. He doesn’t feel very caring about much in the world. His focus is survival. He’s been afraid since a very young age. Maybe money is his only true friend. It shows up, can always be traded for things that help him be a little more comfortable, and he likes playing with it.

All I can do is notice my own relationship with money, and what arises when hearing other peoples’ thoughts about it. Who used my friend’s comments to trigger worry, doubt, and regret about money?

That was me.

And my own thoughts are what I can do something about. Not his.

“As long as you think that the cause of your problem is ‘out there’–as long as you think that anyone or anything is responsible for your suffering–the situation is hopeless.” ~ Byron Katie

He thinks money is responsible for his suffering, I think his comments about money are responsible for my suffering.

Everybody suffering. Nobody sane.

I know how to get back to sanity. The Work.

Much love,

Grace

October 4-day retreat in northeast Seattle, December 3-day retreatat Breitenbush HotSprings, Eating Peace Process in November.

Eating Peace: Two physical sensations worth questioning, for your eating freedom

Have you ever noticed the deep self-criticism (or self-pride) you might feel because you’re full, or you’re hungry?

Fullness and hunger are two states of physical sensation when it comes to eating and the body.

Some of us who have pushed the boundaries super far on these conditions have felt the pain….of both extremely stuffed with food, or extremely hungry for food.

We all know we’d like to avoid either extreme. It’s natural to want to be somewhere more in the middle, and more relaxed. If it was easy to simply remain in the middle, without swinging to extremes, we would.

Something about this isn’t easy, when it gets thrown off balance.

One way you can find some insights on your own beliefs about these states of sensation, is to judge them relentlessly. See what you really believe about yourself when you’re super hungry, or super full (or about anyone else when they are).

What does fullness mean about you, as a person? (It’s often really horrible, but sometimes good, I know).

What does hunger mean about you, as a person? (Also horrible, but sometimes good, for other reasons).

When you identify your most painful thoughts about either one of these conditions, you might find some surprising beliefs come forward into awareness.

The good news, is you can then question these thoughts using The Work of Byron Katie.

Is it true, for example, that you’re “good” when you’re hungry, and “bad” when you’re full?

Really consider it. I used to “know” it wasn’t true, but I’d act completely like it was, and something believed it at a very deep level.

Who would you be without your story, your judgment, your assessment, your belief?

There’s great freedom in wondering who you’d be without your story of hunger and fullness. You might get to experience these sensations like you’re feeling them for the very first time. Like they are sacred, interesting messages, worthy of paying attention to….over the mind’s thoughts to ignore them.

Much love,

Grace

Victory goes to the one who knows how to do THIS

An old friend…well OK let’s be honest…a flame I once was obsessed with for five minutes, sent me an invite for tea.

I was curious. I wonder what he’s like now? I replied “yes”.

Then, as the scheduled time grew closer, it didn’t seem like such a good idea.

It hadn’t been all that great an 8 week relationship. The exchanges were intensely dramatic, he had disappeared into some kind of mental angst and alcoholism.

Why was I interested?

It might have been different if there was a clear request for a discussion about what the hell happened all those years ago, or the sweetness of tying up loose ends, or resolving unfinished business.

So I made excuses and cancelled.

The excuse?

The reality that I’m spending tons of time with a dying friend in spare moments right now. It’s very meaningful to me to be with this friend as he rests in bed, someone I’ve known since childhood and cared for deeply. We share such powerful conversations–always have. Eloquence, laughter, well-read.

We both love our connection.

I said to Old Brief Flame that I’m not so available right now after all.

Which is true.

And then the real reason I didn’t want to get together with Old Flame appeared in living color.

He wrote several paragraphs via email about how I should behave, think, feel and act in the presence of someone who is dying. Something about letting go and releasing the “draining” energy to the universe.

I thought….Really? You have advice? YOU?!

(I know, it’s kind of mean.)

“Don’t rescue me, or lecture me, or act so superior. You think you’re so spiritual and enlightened now that you’re a sober person? Really? You have advice for me about how to stay present with someone who’s dying? Your ego is the size of Montana!” 

I felt this surge of annoyance with Old Flame. Gross.

And then I knew, time for The Work.

I’ve done The Work on this person before! Because…Old Flames tend to bring up moments for “situations” to investigate. And now, the returning changed person, a new version of them, appears to be present. Yet I’m dismissing it based on old experience.

Definitely time for self-inquiry.

He shouldn’t give me advice. 

You can do this work with anyone whose advice you might find questionable. Parents can sometimes be great targets for this thought. Someone you’ve thought of as unable to advise. For whatever reason. They shouldn’t. You have your own path. Can’t they see it??

Let’s do The Work.

Is it true he shouldn’t give me any advice?

YES. Jeez. This guy was living on the streets in his car. (Add lots of commentary about how extreme it was and what a nut job or basket case that person was).

Can you absolutely know it’s true, he shouldn’t give me advice?

Cough.

Clear throat.

Well.

I don’t really know what he’s like now. Maybe I never did. I have no idea. Which means, the answer is “no”. I can’t absolutely know it’s true I shouldn’t be hearing this advice, in this moment, from this particular person. Plus…people who go to extremes can sometimes be brilliant. Byron Katie comes to mind.

How do you react when you believe he shouldn’t give you advice?

I get a huge surge of irritation, like a red fire energy flame lighting from me and sending towards him. It feels attacking. Defensive.

What is going on? Can’t the man say what he wants about dying people? I mean…..jeez!

Who would I be without this thought?

Aware of how many judgments I’ve landed on about this man. Aware of my own disappointment, distress, fear, frantic worry about this man. Aware of my unfinished resentment, repeating itself, about this person I cared about once, even if briefly. Aware of the grief of being with the current very dear friend, who won’t be here much longer.

Without this thought that he shouldn’t give advice to me….I’m open. I hear him. I read his words. What’s so disturbing about taking the words seriously, respecting them?

Long ago, my former husband used to resist the advice of his father. He had the very same thought. It repeated itself almost every time we went to see my former husband’s parents.

He shouldn’t give me advice!

Who would we be without this thought?

Such a stressful thought.

There that person is, giving a stream of advice by talking talking talking, writing writing writing.

What if we weren’t against that stream of expression, that we’re calling “advice”?

I’d be light, free, even feel humorous, joyful, and kind.

Turning the thought around: I shouldn’t give HIM advice.

Oh. Right. I especially shouldn’t give him advice about giving advice. I see the advantage in letting things loosen up and relax when hearing someone make suggestions. No big deal. I don’t have to “take” the advice. I can listen, openly, to what it is. It doesn’t mean it’s the correct advice. It doesn’t mean he thinks I’m wrong. It doesn’t mean anything troubling. It’s just someone caring, being who they are, sharing with me.

Thank you for sharing your suggestion. Thank you for caring. It doesn’t mean I “have” to do it to make them happy.

Turning it around again: he SHOULD give me advice. How could that be just as true, or truer?

Oh, seriously? That can’t be true….can it?

But we’re just looking here at reality. And if I’m friendly towards it, if I’m open to what reality is doing, then why wouldn’t I be open to someone sharing advice with me? Reality is someone writing to me words about how to be with dying people. That’s thoughtful! I might need it! I’m spending a lot of time with a person who is dying, after all. So it makes perfect sense I would need this kind of advice.

I might want to look carefully at the words received, and notice how helpful they are. I notice this man has also been close to death. He may know a thing or two about it, first hand. He’s danced with it himself. He’s the perfect person to give advice about being with someone dying.

I love Byron Katie’s quip about everything being the way it’s supposed to be. “How do you know you’re supposed to hear it? You heard it. How do you know you’re supposed to read that advice? You read it.”

It doesn’t mean you deserved it. Or that you should follow the advice. It just means, it’s not out of order it was offered.

Turning it around again: I shouldn’t advise myself, especially when it comes to my Old Flame.

Oh.

True.

What do I know about his journey? Not much, honestly. It was many years ago. The way we related so long ago was immediate, and intense, and unexpected. And over, quickly. I have no clear way to judge what his advice means, or whether it’s bad or good advice. It has nothing to do with me.

This would be the same with anyone who gives advice. Perhaps their words, language, writing, gesture is brilliant. Perhaps it’s the perfect thing for you to hear, in that situation.

With love, and an open heart, you hear the advice and feel joy.

And who knows what you’ll actually do, or feel, or say, or follow.

“Your enemy is the teacher who shows you what you haven’t healed yet. Any place you defend is where you’re still suffering. There’s nothing out there that can oppose you. There is just fluid motion, like the wind. You attach a story to what you perceive, and that story is your suffering. I am everything that I have ever called other people; they were me all along.” ~ Byron Katie

 

There my Old Flame friend is, writing what he writes on email, showing me what I haven’t healed yet.

 

That I feel the deepest grief, the heart-breaking agony, the joy, the depth, the fear, the pain, the rawness of being with humans I care very much about and with whom I am deeply connected….

 

….and who I lose because something changes about the relationship. They need to go into treatment to get sober. They need to move into the Great Beyond because they have cancer. They get old and I grow up (and also get old, by the way).

 

Who would I be without my story that they shouldn’t give me advice?

 

“When two great forces oppose each other, the victory will go to the one that knows how to yield.” ~ Tao Te Ching #69
 
Much love,
Grace
Next up for gathering together in inquiry: October 4-day retreat in northeast Seattle, December 3-day retreat at Breitenbush HotSprings, Eating Peace Process in November.

 

True freedom: feeling the answer to this question

A friend of mine and I were talking closely.

These are the kinds of conversations I love, and seem to have on a regular basis–not just with clients questioning thought, but with others journeying on the path of life as well.

“What if you got your arms and legs cut off, would you still be you?”

Of course!

I’d be me, maybe a little traumatized, but I’d be “me”. I might be someone who had gone through a huge transformation, never to be the same again.

But still with all my memories, my childhood, my personality, the Enneagram 5 and INFP on the Myers Briggs personality test. I’d recall the times I could walk and hold a pencil and even what those felt like probably.

“So if you got your head cut off….how ’bout that? Would you still be you?”

LOL.

Except, this is a fantastic question.

I mean….?

We usually believe that without our minds, we aren’t ourselves. If someone loses all their memories, or has brain damage, or is in a coma, they aren’t themselves anymore. Right?

But are we our minds? Our thoughts? Our memories?

Woah.

This is related to the fascinating and contemplative fourth question in The Work of Byron Katie: Who would you be without your story? Who would you be without your stressful thought? Who, or what, would you BE without all that energy focusing on danger, worry, sadness, upset?

Who would you be now in this moment, if you couldn’t reference the past or the future, or make comparisons, or judge something as Good or Bad?

It’s almost like the mind itself, which is the one pondering that question apparently, says…..I don’t know. 

What else could it say?

Who would I be without a head?

I don’t know.

Kind of hilarious, though, to consider.

I can imagine two ways I might contemplate this question. One is without life. As if my head has been cut off (original question). In that case, I certainly no longer exist as that individual life. There was a me, if anyone remembers it, but whatever “I” am is one big I-don’t-know. A mystery no one ever knows, until we die.

The other option is with life. That is, I am still functioning as a living entity, and human body that’s called “alive” but I have no believable mind. No thoughts, sight, hearing, smell or taste. Heart is still pumping. Life force or body intact. Just no “head” in the sense of the head being the center of thinking energy.

Without the head in full operation, or the brain doing what it seems to do, I notice what’s left is feeling. Touch. Sensation. Aliveness, all by itself.

An openness is left. I don’t believe it is a certain way, without question.

I notice things are OK in this moment, with this deepest sensation of feeling, sensing the pulse of life, not knowing for sure about what anything means.

Why is this so appealing?

You can only find out by trying it. Sitting still and feeling, and noticing what’s here if you didn’t have a busy, stressed-out, upset mind?

“We suffer because we overlook the fact that, at heart, we are all right.” 
Douglas E. HardingOn Having No Head

“This is true freedom: a mind that is no longer deceived by itself.” ~ Byron Katie

That one thing you’ve been so bothered by today? Take a moment to wonder who you’d be without your thoughts and beliefs about it.

Just a moment of deep breath. Being.

Much love,
Grace

 

I need more time!

First Friday Inquiry with Grace is here! We start at 7:45 am Pacific Time. Everyone and anyone is welcome to join, listen, raise your hand to share or “do” The Work. We’ll begin by filling out a Judge Your Neighbor worksheet. Use this as a time to simply do The Work. I’ll walk you through step by step. Beginners and experienced all are welcome. All you need to bring is a pen and paper, dial in with your phone or computer, and get ready to open your mind.

Click the link here to join me for First Friday (everyone joining will be muted, so don’t be shy, you can come and see what it’s like by listening in). No one is required to share out loud.

And…

Sunday at 5 pm Pacific Time the doors close for Year of Inquiry. I am so, so honored and excited for the beautiful group who have joined. While the full program earns a huge number of credits for Certification in The Work (166) through the Institute for The Work, the most important part of this program is doing The Work. Some people will do TeleSessions Only (the flexible version where you are not earning credit) and some will jump in to complete all requirements for training in the Institute as a Certified Facilitator. Two levels of participation.

I get so excited because….wondering if our stressful beliefs are true is a most stunning and beautiful experience to have.

To read about Year of Inquiry and enroll, visit HERE. If you have questions, I’ll probably be answering them all weekend, so don’t hesitate to write grace@workwithgrace.com.

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One thing we’ll be doing in Year of Inquiry Month Three is noticing our common, frequent Top Ten Stressful Hits. Have you ever noticed repetitive objections or complaints can repeat themselves regularly, over and over, in your head?

There’s not enough time. Life is hard. He doesn’t care about me. I’ve been abandoned. I need x in order to be happy. I can’t go on unless…..

The scenes, or situations, or even the people and characters involved can change….

…but here comes the same thought. Again.

Byron Katie refers to these kinds of repetitive thoughts as Underlying Beliefs (and so do other speakers, authors, researchers).

These beliefs maybe formed when you were really young. Or perhaps they began before your time, and they were passed along from generation to generation and you received these beliefs from your mom or dad without even realizing it.

You can still question them. Especially when they’re stressful.

The other day, I was writing for a book project underway. I get to write one chapter in a collection of chapters written by facilitators of The Work who have been inquiring for a long time. The deadline for the chapter was yesterday.

I had the thought just like I’ve had with so many projects and events in life: “I need more time.”

It’s possible this thought will never go away. It’s just a little voice that likes to sing. About “time”.

Time, time, time we love time! More time, more time, more! Not enough time, not enough time, not enough!

I chuckled after I heard the thought “I need more time”. Because almost immediately I had the question “Is it true?”

No.

Because I really have sat many times with this inquiry and felt the spaciousness of what it’s like without believing I need more time. For anything.

Not more time for this book writing project, not for hanging out with a close friend, not for making more money, not for running a race, not for weeding the garden, not for waking up or becoming enlightened, not for being alive.

I notice there’s always this moment, here right now. I can only finish what I finish, do what I do, live this life, be this.

There’s no more time available….that’s reality. There’s no less time either. The amount of time required is in the hands of something else, some other force, not this personal small identity of “me”.

Who would you be without this underlying belief, a human belief passed along for ages from one to the next to the next, that we must hurry, or we’re under pressure, or there’s not enough time?

What if Unfinished…..is OK?

Could the amount we have be enough? Be plenty?

Turning my ancient repetitive belief around: I have enough time. I do not need more time. Only my thinking needs more time.

Could it be the manuscript of this book chapter is “done” for now?

Of course. I tweak, edit, correct, update. Then the deadline comes, and off it goes. Good enough. What else would it be?

What are genuine examples of how you do NOT need more time in your life, for whatever you think you need more time for?

Why do you need more time, anyway?

Ahhhhh, therein lies the interesting question. Because I love this so much, I’m afraid of losing it. Because I dislike this, I need time to fix it. Because people will disapprove, time will fix the disapproval. Because people approve, time will keep it going.

Are any of these conclusions absolutely true?

“Time isn’t precious at all, because it is an illusion. What you perceive as precious is not time but the one point that is out of time: the Now. That is precious indeed. The more you are focused on time–past and future–the more you miss the Now, the most precious thing there is.” ~ Eckhart Tolle

It’s only my thinking that actually needs more time.

And one way I can give my thinking more time….is questioning it’s beliefs, with The Work.

Ahhhhhhh.

The question, O me! so sad, recurring–What good amid these, O me, O life?
Answer.
That you are here–that life exists, and identity;
That the powerful play goes on, and you will contribute a verse.
~ Walt Whitman
Much love,
Grace

P.S. I was on the radio with some local Seattle people. Listen to the show HERE.

Here’s the bottom line

Countdown to Year of Inquiry starting next week with Orientation, and the following week with live calls. We’re very close to full.

I love beginning the new year in September. It’s probably conditioning from schooling my entire childhood. It begins to feel like fall, with more orange sun, longer shadows, slightly shorter days. And my hands are clapping to think of sitting in self-inquiry with all the wonderful people showing up to share a year together.

There are 3 final spots open for the FULL program (receiving ITW credit for the equivalent of a School for The Work plus 80 more partnering credits plus a few more for a total of 166).

Two people asked about receiving credit inside ITW even if they’ve already completed two Schools for The Work. The answer is YES, you’d get credit in ITW for this Year of Inquiry program if you complete it in full, even if you’ve got two schools or more already on your certification resume.

So if you are interested in really diving in to full blown training and moving towards certification in The Work, being in your own investigation of what has stressed you in your life, and being a part of a group doing this together for a year….join us in this deep way to practice and sink into The Work as a way of living.

If you have questions about the full program, I’m happy to talk (press reply and we’ll set up a time). The fee for the FULL program earning all credits in the Institute for The Work is $3200 (or you can have the option of paying monthly). You’ll come to two retreats in Seattle (October and May) and partner with someone in the group once a month (you’ll receive a partner assignment, you don’t have to choose a partner yourself).

To join sign up here (you’ll see links at the bottom for your program choice): JOIN NOW.

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How do we know something’s stressful?

We feel it. Anger, rage, horror, terror, anxiety, shock, worry, sadness.

When feelings are really big….they can’t be missed.

But what about less obvious emotions? What if you feel just a slight irritation, or annoyance, or boredom?

Sometimes, when a feeling isn’t so crushing (and sometimes even when it is)….we humans can tend to move with speed towards the first instinctual order of business: Stop the feeling!! I want to get off!! 

Think about what it’s like when you take care of an upset baby.

We begin to try to figure out why the baby is crying, angry, fearful, distressed. If all basics are handled (hungry, thirsty, tired, diaper changed) then we often move to cheer the baby up. We shake shiny things, sing songs, make goofy noises, snap our fingers, bounce.

Not that there’s anything wrong with that….it’s often what works beautifully for babies.

As adults, however, there may be more than survival-level disturbances or needs. We are fed, clothed, watered and awake. Needs are met in the physical world.

Yet, instead of inquiring, writing, and studying more deeply what might be bothering us, we automatically want to shake shiny things. Eat, drink, smoke, nap, sneak, watch netflix, internet, clean, text, date, buy, spend, work.

Make the distress stop! 

If the stress stems from a disturbance in the mind, however, based on believing what you think as the Truth….

….no shiny thing will ever really work to end the suffering.

(I tried it with food, and it wasn’t pretty).

It may be interesting for awhile, but then, if you’re like me, you might feel haunted by ghosts from the past, or images of what terrible thing might happen in the future.

It goes unresolved until you inquire into the nature of what you fear, or of what you find most heart-breaking.

The good news?

Sitting with the pain and difficulty, and the feelings–whether big or small–winds up being the easier way.

It’s weird, I know. Am I saying the harder way is the easier way?

Yeah, I basically AM saying the “harder” way (feeling strongly, looking at the suffering directly) is easier.

The best way I know how to do this….and it involves listening to the mind and including it as a companion, not an enemy….

….is The Work.

Even if you never join Year of Inquiry or any other group program, you can do The Work. You can do it for free.

First, sit down and think of ONE thing only that’s bothering you. Maybe in the back of your mind. One person who betrayed you, or hurt you, or who you haven’t forgiven.

Remembering that person, see the situation that disturbs you most, and write it down using a Judge Your Neighbor worksheet.

Be so very honest on this worksheet. Furious, desperate, vengeful, grief-stricken.

It might be really, really uncomfortable….but you’ve got four questions. The secret sauce to transformation. The end of having to keep talking about that problem endlessly.

You can do this!

“Here’s the bottom line: suffering is optional. If you prefer to suffer, go on believing your stressful thoughts. But if you’d rather be happy, question them.” ~ Byron Katie in A Mind At Home With Itself

Much love,
Grace

P.S. Here’s the latest Peace Talk podcast on boredom stress. Enjoy and let me know what you think. Leave a review on itunes if you’re able to figure out how to leave reviews (LOL).

Eating Peace: Freedom is not rebellion or control….it’s peace

After a couple of years of eating, gaining weight, feeling horrible, feeling like my obsession with eating was growing bigger….

….I decided I just had to control myself, no matter what.

I went on a major diet. Hard core. No starvation, no overeating. Very clear, clear boundaries. Very rigid. Weighing, measuring, counting. timing the way I would eat.

My belief about myself was I could not be trusted to eat in a normal peaceful way, so I threw myself in prison with a serious food plan.

I was miserable.

I felt afraid all the time. I felt angry. I was withdrawn from connection with other people. I was thinking about food constantly, just the same way I had been thinking about food all the time when I binge-ate.

Did eating really have to mean my only two choices were being Totally In Control or Totally Out of Control?

There had to be another way.

The Rebel can sometimes be the one who helps you find that other way.

The rebel by definition is the one who rises, with arms (violence) against the ruler who is in control. Often in the story of humanity, the rebels are then overruled by the current regime. It’s all about war and who has the most power.

But we can learn from rebellion stories, and from our own inner rebels….if we listen to them.

Who would we be if we stopped attacking or running away from either one of these extremes; Dictator or Rebel?

What does the rebel have to say? Why do you feel angry?

If anger existed in this situation around food, eating, taking in fuel in the world, expressing your feelings, trusting yourself, trusting you’ll get what you need….

….what do you think anger wants to say?

The brilliant Karla McLaren (whose work I refer to in the Eating Peace Process–the immersion program I offer live once a year) writes and speaks of anger as the one in you who stands up with passion for freedom, choice, health (when it’s a clear, holy sort of anger).

Anger goes sideways a lot, I know.

How do we work with it, so it becomes our ally and friend?

First….write down what it has to say. No matter how “wrong” or immature, non-politically correct, rude, ridiculous, shameful, mean.

Write down what the voice of the Rebel has to say. Listen to it for once instead of attacking it, or going with it.

When you write down what that feeling and voice has to say, especially when it’s been so powerful in your life, you give it the respect of listening.

And then….what next?

Have I got four questions (plus finding turnarounds) for you! The Work of Byron Katie. A most amazing contemplation for your inner world that brings awareness, and awareness that comes directly from that rebellious angry childish part of you.

No need to find anything different, no need to lock yourself up or lock up your feelings or force yourself to change.

I used to be on a diet, because I actually approached the world the very same way: treat the world like a diet. Avoid certain things, weigh some things, measure some things, count some things.

Otherwise…..suffer.

That wasn’t freedom, though. Freedom to be an imperfect human without a plan. Freedom to be real, clear, and have strong feelings–without having to eat over it.

Much love,

Grace