Do you ever have the thought that you’re not even sure what you’re upset about, or worried about, or anxious about, or sad about….
….you just know you feel troubled, bad, uncomfortable?
How do you do The Work if you can’t really come up with a belief to write down or investigate?
I have two ideas you might find super helpful today, if you’ve had this experience. One involves a little data collection, one just takes you into inquiry right now.
The thing about the data collection option, is people (OK, this would be me) might say UGGGGH. I can’t wait a second longer! I hate looking, wondering, collecting. Plus the word “data” reminds me of white coats and cold surfaces.
So I’ll give you the Go-Directly-To-Inquiry suggestion first.
Sit still for a few minutes. Maybe only one. Get a pen and paper or your computer and write “I have no reason to feel bad” or “I need to know what my thoughts are right now” or “This is too hard” or “Something disturbing is happening.”
Those are the kinds of thoughts I had when I felt foggy, confused, and not able to see what specifically bothered me about being alive in that particular moment.
You can actually then take your thought through the four questions.
If you’re inspired and you don’t believe you have to know anything more than you do, you might even be able to write a Judge Your Neighbor worksheet, even if it feels repetitive and not super deep or like a pile of troubled thoughts just hanging out in the atmosphere, weighing you down.
It’s still a place to start, and maybe more powerful than you realize. You’ll probably discover a thing or two in the inquiry process.
The second suggestion….the “data” one (just pretend the word is a nice, calm, soft word for a moment)….goes like this:
Get a little baby notebook, the kind that’s pocket sized and thin. Or a notepad. Or one piece of paper, that can fold and stuff into your pocket. Carry it around with you all day long and when you feel a surge of emotion, or notice something you don’t like, write down what you’re thinking, even if it doesn’t make logical sense.
Notice especially what you Do Not Like. If you don’t like a picture or image that crosses your mind, write it down. If you don’t like someone’s appearance, or their shirt color, or the street, or the dirty dishes in the sink, write it down.
I don’t like the weather. I don’t like my hair. I don’t like the pain in my back. I don’t like her shoes. I don’t like my dirty car. I don’t like the way I told my dad’s death story to the listening group–I went on too long. I don’t like her sarcastic text last summer. I don’t like moving away from Kansas.
It’s a running tally.
And by the way, my family moved away from Kansas in 1969, so what pops into your head that you don’t like might be really, really old.
It’ll just be there.
No need to explain anything, this is a list for YOU alone.
No pressure to start inquiring immediately, just an exercise in noticing.
You might be very, very surprised at what comes to the surface, if you’re being a neutral researcher, collecting a bit of data about this working mind.
Stressful stories tend to appear, the more relaxed you become about allowing them to be seen.
When I had a really rough relationship underway (apparently) I did this data collection with the man I was supposedly dating at the time. My “thought catcher” notebook was green, and in my purse or bag at all times. If I had a thought that had anything at all to do with the man in question, I’d write it down. I’d see the picture, and note the scene.
“Moment he said ‘x’ at the horse race” or “Words he muttered about his neighbors when we were sitting in his back yard” or “the way he put his arm around me possessively during dinner at Brad’s house”.
Here’s one of the best things I noticed about this data collection notebook.
As I kept it over many weeks (months) I would review what I had written before. Some moments or situations I did The Work on, but some went flitting by, and I actually forgot about them, even though they were pretty stressful….and even though I wrote them down.
I would read, and think….WOW. That’s right! He said ‘x’ and I ignored it. He did ‘y’ after I asked him something and I didn’t ask him to elaborate at all. He asked me ‘z’ and I laughed, instead of being honest about my fear of the question.
My own desire to go unconscious and NOT think about my stressful thoughts was evident, right in the notebook.
I kept doing The Work….kept returning to the issues without being so judgmental towards myself that I’m repeating the same thing over and over.
Everything became clearer, and clearer, and clearer, until the relationship became easy, not hard. I said “no” honestly, and “yes” honestly, and it naturally unfolded the way it needed to.
The thing about tracking and continuing to look, even if you don’t always want to….
….is insight and awareness begins to blossom and flower.
I had a lot of practice in trying to cut my thoughts down as if they were weeds, or leave the yard entirely, or hate the field because it was just so scary how fast it grew.
So it took some alternate kind of energy, a non-violent sort of open, kind approach to this mind, that whatever it was doing was the best it could, and worth taking a look at.
The more I could consider taking a look at the voices or pictures in this head as it moved through the day, the easier it became. Logging, noticing, writing it down without so much judgment, without such quick judgment of the content.
If you find it difficult to do this….you are not alone.
I STILL have the thought sometimes that sounds like…..”do I HAVE TO look at this? Seriously? Can’t we just party, instead?” Meaning, eat, drink, smoke, distract.
Believe me. If that worked, I’d probably be doing it. I’d still be thinking that identifying my thoughts and questioning them was the hardest way, and eating or blacking out was the easy way.
It’s the opposite.
If you need help along the way, to keep going, then you might be seriously considering Year of Inquiry starting September 5th. I’m getting a ton of questions about it. Registration will officially close August 31st. Everyone enrolling will make a solo appointment with me right away that fits with your schedule. You’ll have two months to decide (until November 1st, 2017) if it’s right for you and if it isn’t, for any reason, you can withdraw. Full payment, and also payment plans for 12 months, are available.
All I can say is, I myself wouldn’t have done The Work without regular, committed, connected time with others in a group or at least one person to partner with regularly, without stopping, keeping steady at it just like any Olympic athlete might be training.
I know there is no competition really, this isn’t a contest or an attempt to “win”. But in this world of humanity, if you aren’t training and coaching and doing your daily practice with the fun of the huge upcoming Olympics in mind, there will definitely be no participation in the field at all.
Left to my own devices, all I was doing was floundering through a murky forest of thought and beliefs that were incredibly stressful.
Connecting with others brought such insight, sharing, lowering of fear, intimacy and awareness, I am forever grateful for each and every person willing to do The Work with me along the way.
I definitely couldn’t have done it without you.
And I’m grateful also for every person who has ever bugged me, because I couldn’t find this power of love and truth without them, either.
If you’re wanting to commit to steady ongoing practice with other beautiful inquirers, Year of Inquiry might be the perfect way. You can read about Year of Inquiry HERE and scroll down for logistical details like the schedule, fees, and the monthly topics. People in Institute for The Work receive credit worth one full School for The Work plus 80 credits of one-to-one partnering.
“These four questions will join any program you’ve got and enhance it. Any religion you have — they’ll enhance it. If you have no religion, they will bring you joy. And they’ll burn up anything that isn’t true for you. They’ll burn through to the reality that has always been waiting.” ~ Byron Katie
P.S. Let me know how your data collection goes, or if you have questions. You can do this.