A very sincere inquirer contacted me to renew a series of sessions doing The Work recently.
She’s done the School for The Work, she has deep appreciation for and experience in examining her mind using the four questions.
But she had a dilemma, something I’ve heard from others, not just this caring woman.
How do I do The Work on myself?
Because, she said, I “get” that the process of observing my world and feeling upset has to do with stressful thinking….
….but the stressful thoughts inside my mind are all about me, not others.
If you think this from time to time, (or all the time) you are certainly not alone.
“Most of us have been pointing our criticism and judgments at ourselves for years, and it hasn’t solved anything yet…..It is extremely difficult to judge yourself. Some of us are very invested in our identifications; our ideas about ourselves–how we should look, how we should feel, what we should or shouldn’t be doing–are so strong that we may not be able to answer the four questions and do the turnarounds honestly.” ~ Byron Katie
I always recommend finding incidents and people who you really feel hurt by, because noticing your thoughts about these situations and relaxing them, allowing them to be, even turning them around to the opposite, can be deeply empowering.
But if you use your answers to slap yourself and get meaner than ever….maybe doing The Work on what you think about the universe, your mind, your thoughts, or your feelings can be very enlightening.
Start by making a list about what you hate about yourself. Be specific, be clear.
Here’s what the inquirer I worked with today found:
- I’ll never succeed
- I can’t stop being anxious (and I should stop)
- My sleep patterns are ridiculous, I can’t sleep at the right time
- This depression goes on and on, without change
- Where is God? Not here!
- My situation is hopeless, I want to give up
- I’m a burden to all the people who love me
Ouch, ouch, ouch.
Even one of these thoughts will make you crawl under the covers, or sob, or wish you were dead.
I remember feeling this way myself.
At the end of my rope. Totally defeated.
Let’s take a look at some of these thoughts (like I did with my client).
Is it true that this situation is completely and totally hopeless? Are you sure you’re a burden to everyone who encounters you? Can you be certain that you should stop being anxious, and that your depression has lasted too long?
Yes. Double yes.
Even if you know this to be absolutely true for you….notice how you react and what happens next for you, when you believe these kinds of thoughts.
I feel soooo tired. More depressed. Desperate, isolated, fragmented. Against my mind, thinking there is something wrong with me and my brain, and that life isn’t supposed to be this way.
Angry, imploded. In the past, I might want to drink a lot, smoke, or eat even when not hungry. I’d avoid other people. Very introverted.
So who would you be without these kinds of terrible, painful thoughts?
Without the thought that your situation is hopeless, who would you be?
Listening. Taking one step. Going outside. Stopping. Looking. Waiting until you’re moved to go where you go.
I turn the thoughts around:
- I always succeed (the “I” that is eternal)
- I can stop being anxious (and I shouldn’t stop until I do)
- My sleep patterns are what they are, there is no right time or way to sleep (comparing is very stressful)
- This depression does NOT go on without change
- God is here
- My situation is not hopeless, I don’t want to give up
- I’m NOT a burden to all the people who love me, I’m a burden to myself
I can find the truth in all of these turnarounds….but here is one profound idea: YES, this is quite hopeless, but that is NOT a bad thing, it’s a good thing.
I know it’s weird.
The first time ever that I talked with Adya on a longer meditation retreat, I went up to the microphone. Not too shy to speak and ask a question. I was burning with curiosity.
I surprised myself by standing at the mic, and not being able to talk. Like the words got caught inside my throat, and stuck…and then tears welled up.
All I said at first, after some silence and trying to control my choking up was “I’ve tried everything….”
(Honestly, I now don’t believe that was even true, but it was good I believed that at the time, haha).
Adya said “Congratulations”.
Nothing I can do. Nothing possible to do to get out of this situation, not really. Wow.
It does take some pressure off. You know?
“When you realize the truth, then you know that this truth is not fooling around. This truth wants you, and it wants your life, and it’s going to devour you and eat you up for dinner. The truth is not playing games.” ~ Adyashanti
When you feel like all the thoughts that plague you are about yourself, about your mind, your feelings, your way of thinking, your mood….then go for it. Be there.
You can call the Help Line at www.thework.com and receive facilitation on your thoughts.
If I could do this inquiry, so can you, so can you.
“Waking up is like dying. Dying to the past. Dying to the known. Dying to all your thoughts, ideas and beliefs. Dying to who and what you think you are. Dying to all hope of something better. Dying to everything. Letting go of every attempt to hold on. Losing everything that can be lost and discovering what remains.” ~ Joan Tollifson (joantollifson.com)
Much love, Grace