I don’t get this.
A woman brand new to The Work had come to the Breitenbush retreat that just ended yesterday.
She made this remark at the end of Day #1.
I had guided everyone very slowly through the process of filling out a Judge Your Neighbor worksheet on one particularly stressful situation in their lives.
Someone who really disturbed them, recently or in the distant past. The state of their health. Worries about money. A painful divorce. A difficult child. An irritating boss.
Everyone had identified beautifully what they really thought about the troubling situation or person in their lives….
….the one they really wanted to resolve.
I facilitated several people in the morning, with the whole group together in a big circle. We had then moved into other exercises and done inquiry all day. Everyone staying with the same worksheet, the same situation they began the retreat with.
….at the end of this full day….
….she was feeling frustrated.
I don’t understand how to answer these questions. I don’t understand the structure here. I don’t understand why you pause to wait for answers. The gap, the silence is uncomfortable. I want this to go faster.
She went on…
…I’ve read the book (Loving What Is). I had never even known exactly who Byron Katie a little while ago. I’ve tried everything. I was hoping this would work. But now, I’m not so sure.
I remembered feeling that way, even after reading Loving What Is.
What?? How do I answer these questions??!!
“OK. Let’s do something different,” I said.
This wasn’t what I had planned on doing right then. A request had been made, through this beautiful confused person who was trying to understand this powerful and deep way of ending suffering through questioning thought.
I stood up and walked to the white board.
“No worksheet. Just say out loud a very painful thought you believe. You think this about life, about you, about others, about God. What hurts?”
People started to speak slowly.
I am all alone. It’s my fault. Something terrible is going to happen.
….they were coming in faster than I could write them all, filling up the board.
He abandoned me. She hated me. I don’t deserve to be happy. My body is too old. I’ll never be peaceful. God must be punishing me. She died. I am not enough. I don’t have enough. Nobody loves me. My life has been wasted. He shouldn’t have suffered. He should have stayed. There’s not enough time. The world is a dangerous place. People hurt me. I am no good. She should have gone to jail.
“Everyone stand up! And close your eyes!” I said, putting the cap on the pen.
“Pick your thought. The one that hurts. The one you secretly worry about.”
“Now, silently answer these questions….”
“Is it true? (silent moment) Are you positively sure it is true? (silent moment).
“How do you react when you think this thought?….
….Begin to walk around slowly. Walk around the room, feeling this thought. Where do your eyes want to go? Where do they want to gaze? How do you move when you have this thought running through your mind? What happens in your body?”
Everyone started moving.
We moved and milled about and felt for a long while, maybe fifteen minutes.
“Now, pause,” I said….”Move into a pose that reflects how you feel with this thought.”
People crunched down into little balls. People put their foreheads against the wall and stood as still as a cement statue. They lay down on the floor. They squeezed their eyes tightly shut.
I myself hunched over looking at the ground. I felt sullen, listless, sunken in.
“So who would you be without your thought?”
“Slowly begin to move again, without your story. How would you move without this thought? What do you want to look at now? What is it like to be in your body? How do you feel about the other people in the room, without your stressful belief?”
I took a moment to straighten up. I had my own eyes closed, but softly without tension. It took me a moment to feel it.
I opened my eyes and turned towards the room to see people with smiles, people jumping, hugging. Hugs everywhere! Tears streaming down cheeks. People looking up, into each other’s eyes. Connecting.
The one who had said “I don’t get this” was trembling and I put my arm around her.
Back in our circle of chairs, seated once again….
….the woman who wasn’t getting it shared that for the first time, she began to feel what it was like that her father committed suicide when she was only a child.
And what it would really mean to be without that story, which she had told all her life.
I was feeling what it was like to be without the thought that I need to help anyone get it, that I must explain The Work well enough, that people should have breakthroughs and be free to change their lives with this self-inquiry….
….the way it has changed mine.
I knew it didn’t matter if no one got it, ever.
But I could move in the moment, as called for. I could switch the plan. I could ditch the plan altogether. I could follow the deepest voice of love that knows what to do, even if it doesn’t.
I knew that this life of self-inquiry and waking up is so unbelievable (literally) and magnificent, so astonishing and loving, so frightening at times and yet so supportive….
….that I couldn’t stop now if I wanted to.
I invite people to do The Work with me because somehow, it’s become my job. But I’m not even sure I thought of this job, ever (actually, I’m sure I didn’t).
It just appeared as the thing to do, and people show up to join me.
It’s the greatest gift and greatest work I’ve ever had. I love that people appear to help me wake up, every day, every retreat, every class, every workshop.
Thank you so much for being here. You are part of the whole package, even if I haven’t met you in person.
Thanks for helping us all wake up.
“Let your feelings tell you when the first lie begins. Then inquire. Otherwise, you get lost in the feelings and in the stories that lead to them, and all you know is that you hurt and that your mind won’t stop racing. And if you inquire, you catch the first lie through noticing your feelings. And you can just stop the mind by putting the story you’re attached to on paper. There’s a portion of your stressful mind stopped, even though it may still be screaming in your head.” Byron Katie in Loving What Is