If you feel lame, it’s OK to have hope (+ Eating Peace new eBook)

Lately I’m doing a ton mega-work on looking at eating and compulsion (or really any addiction of any kind) issues. 

My favorite!

(Haha, not really….well, OK, maybe now that I’ve investigated stories and beliefs, it really kinda is my favorite, but in the thick of it, not so much).

One thing I’ve realized in the experience of whatever addiction actually is…..it’s never hopeless.

Never, ever.

(News flash: if you’re interested in Eating Peace, you can download the new eating peace ebooklet with a seven-day-practice guide to daily steps to inquiry and peace: HERE.)

Once I had a young man come to work with me who felt excruciatingly fearful about avoiding drugs when he felt drawn to them, but also living his life each day in a new location where he didn’t know anyone, and no family was around.

He felt utterly hopeless one morning. Like he couldn’t leave his apartment. HOPELESS.

And yet, when we took at look at what actually happened, he left. He didn’t THINK he could leave, but he did. He called for help.

Something happened, then something else. Change unfolded.

It wasn’t entirely completely absolutely hopeless, even though he THOUGHT it was for awhile. (And I remember having this same kind of thought myself).

If you think it is hopeless, you can question this belief. It’s just a belief, an idea, thrown out by the mind.

Is it true?

I could never, even in the worst nightmare of addiction, find that it was absolutely true, without any doubt at all.

I lived.

Even if my mind was churning out devastated, furious, vicious thoughts about life, it was never true.

Thoughts like: you are all alone, you are a piece of shi*t, you are unloveable, the world is a terrible place, you’re a failure.

I mean, that thing can get nasty, right?

But who are you, without the belief you your situation is hopeless?

Your addictive pattern, your income, your location, your life…who would you be without the bitter thought that it’s hopeless?

Huh.

Without the thought?

I don’t even know what to say.

But it does make me pause a moment. Whatever “me” is. And whatever “pausing” is. And whatever “hope” is.

I can wonder….who would I be?

Sometimes this Question Four: who would you be without your story….is a strange act of imagination.

When you’re in the thick of fear and dread, you have no idea of the answer. And yet the mind can STILL WONDER who you’d be?

You might come up with possibilities, ideas, you might even be able to paint a picture of what Someone (not you) would be like without that dreadful story.

That’s YOUR mind, able to imagine and come up with answers.

You’re good at the opposite, dark, haunting, violent, horror imagined stories….why not use your imagination for a little of the opposite for once?

Just saying.

Turning the thought around: it’s hopeful. It’s not hopeless.

Whatever “hope” is, is not actually required (the biggest turnaround). My thinking is hopeless….not me, not the world, not everything in my life. Hope is not a “thing” and not even important.

Oooh.

That’s true.

Can you find examples, no matter how small, of how things are rather hopeful around here? Or how whatever they are, hope isn’t needed?

Yes.

Autumn late afternoon sun beaming on fresh green wet grass. Wild bunnies racing down the road to escape the car. Traffic sounds from rush hour people driving from work. Silence in the evening air.

People I worked with today feeling different than they felt last week when we met. Two days from now, all the people coming for retreat here in Seattle–everyone coming to join with me (amazing) to question thoughts, and change our world.

I took a tour of the retreat house I’ll be teaching at two evenings from now. I was so grateful for the beauty of the place, how gorgeous it’s set up. The location is stunning, and it supports the process of inquiry. Almost no profit for this retreat, due to expenses.

But hopeful?

Why not. And right now, what’s true is quiet tapping of fingers on keyboard. No retreat in sight. Beautiful kitchen table. Friendly laptop. Pretty pink phone. Calendar open to November since that’s the next time I can make any client appointments.

This moment, glorious.

“Hope means intentionally using the idea of a future to keep you from experiencing the present. It’s a crutch, but if you feel lame, use it.” ~ Byron Katie

Hope is not required for happiness right now, I notice. Strange, but true.

And, I can open up to hope, if I feel lame, like I’m limping, like I’m not making it, like I keep dropping into my addictions, like I fall in the hole 50 times a day.

Then maybe the future looks better. But right now? Maybe it’s not as bad as you think. No, really.

Much love,

Grace

P.S. Last minute thought to join retreat? You’d be welcome. Reply to this Grace Note. Join us–4 days in The Work.

P.P.S. If you have special interest in ending eating battles of any kind–obsessing about food, body, weight, exercise–then download this guide and let me know if it’s helpful. I’d really love to know. Download it HERE. Share it with others who you think would benefit.

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).

Must be doing something right–the astonishing generosity of humans

One beautifully striking notion from Byron Katie that I’ve so loved and learned from, has been the idea that what’s happening, the words you hear or read, your encounters, the sounds, sights, voices, behaviors, events and places you find yourself in….

….are all for you.

For your awareness, reflection, learning, challenge, enlightenment.

How do you know it’s supposed to happen?

It does.

This takes us to sometimes very intense places and memories. Questions arise. But that hurt! I didn’t like it! I’m not OK now!

The Work usually begins by voyaging into these churning waters, maybe even going into a big storm that’s been very frightening to navigate for most of your life. We start by visiting what we do NOT like in the world, most of the time. Perhaps it’s even a trip to hell.

Yikes! It takes courage to begin The Work. It really does.

But one time, in the midst of a big audience with Byron Katie on the stage, I heard Katie speak to this idea of loving what is another way.

The flip side.

A woman standing with the microphone was frightened. Her voice was shivering, her hair gray, her eyes bright with many years of experience behind them. She was well along in years, her adult daughter sitting next to her, as well as other members of her extended family.

She was talking with Katie about her suspicion that people didn’t really love her, even if they said so. That she had a hard time taking in attention, care, or kindness. She brushed it off. Something about it was sort of….embarrassing, or worrisome.

What if, when you encounter something wonderful, when you hear beautiful words you love, when someone expresses appreciation, when you witness love in action, when something happens you enjoy….

….isn’t this also happening because it’s supposed to happen?

How do you know you’re supposed to hear it, read it, see it, feel it?

You do!

Could there be underlying thoughts buried within that prevent goodness, gentleness, or kindness from being noticed, or trusted, even when it looks favorable?

The elderly woman seemed to understand, more and more, that she may have been mistaken, as she and Katie spoke about love and receiving and trusting reality in every situation.

She realized if she had trouble with compliments and taking it all in, that this was not really personal, and she could question what she was believing about it, just the way difficult things happening in the world were also not personal.

And she could trust, if she questioned her thinking, that she was hearing what she needed to hear in that moment. Including “I love you” and “thank you so much” and “I’m very grateful to you” and “I’m glad you’re around.”

Some good questions to ask yourself, if you find you have some discomfort with attention, or gratitude, is to wonder….what do I think it means, that I’m hearing this? Do I believe I’m supposed to do something, or owe something? What’s uncomfortable about celebrating and receiving the love someone’s expressing? Or sharing how much I love someone or something?

Can you simply be with this joy?

When someone first sent me a donation about eight years ago, I received it in an envelope in the mail. $10. I checked my calendar. Did I miss something? This must be a mistake. I don’t think this was an outstanding bill. Then I saw an email sent separately, and it said simply “thank you for the work you do.”

A few months went by, and I received a paypal donation. $300. What is this? I looked around in my calendar again and wondered if I forgot about an invoice or something. The donor added a note “I love your writing, it makes such a difference to me.”

What I wrote wasn’t even called Grace Notes yet. Although someone shortly after that who was in one of my teleclasses said “send these examples of The Work that you write about out to the world and call them Grace Notes!”

OK. They were named. I didn’t name them myself.

Then a little time went by, and someone sent $20, a few more weeks or months, another person sent $10, then someone sent $100. Then someone sent $600! People I never met before in my life, sending little notes of appreciation and sums of money from time to time. Sometimes a long while in between, then here comes something again.

Last week I received two donations in one week, both in the old-fashioned regular mail.

One was from a woman who took the money teleclass this past year. She sent me a map of her hike with the trail highlighted in sparkly orange and fine purple pens, and a fabulous note written all around the edges and two crisp $20 bills.

“The world in front of me is only ever kind….I am enjoying your Grace Notes while on the trail.”

The other was an absolutely beautiful card with a check for $50 and such kind, thoughtful words.

You have no idea how much it means to me to receive these personal notes, this expression of appreciation (and I love how that word appreciation is used in financial terms, too). Sometimes, people have sent gorgeous sharing of their stories and appreciation without money and this is also brilliantly beautiful.

Somehow, it continues to show me where to move and how to move. Without readers, there would be nothing here, and I suppose that would be OK too.

Yet I see we share in all this together, and I am so deeply moved by your generosity, so thank you for being here. In whatever form you’re doing it. Seriously.

You are awesome.

I give you a deep bow, to your precious unique life, and the One Mind life we all seem to have that loves getting on board the peace train, together.

Much love,

Grace

P.S. Although it does cost money and involve time and energy and “work”, Year of Inquiry is a deep investment in freedom for your mind and questioning stressful thoughts of so many kinds. Last year, several people in YOI suggested they’d like to create a scholarship fund to help current YOI members travel who had only signed up for the teleclasses but couldn’t get all the way to Seattle for the fall and spring retreats because of the expense. It was so generous. It is indeed an opportunity to receive, share, get connected, and watch the world as it supports you. I love the people who join. And by the way, two men are already signed up (these programs tend to be well attended by women). Join us! (Deadline to sign up is August 31st). Read about it here.

Thinking of quitting? It’s probably not up to you. Drop the probably.

The other afternoon, a thought popped into my head. It wasn’t exactly peaceful.

“You should just quit.”

The thought was about working. Running my business, doing The Work for a living.

Right in the middle of an afternoon.

  • this will go on forever
  • I’ll never have any savings (or enough of ‘x’)
  • you haven’t amounted to much
  • so what (referring to just about anything)
  • I can’t retire like other people
I thought about canceling my noon yoga class, and the plan to work on the chapter I’m writing for an upcoming book on The Work, and definitely let’s not think about another podcast.
Who cares! 
The funny thing was, it was probably my brain trying to get me to take a break, go outside, relax. Or it was just a random suggestion. I love how the mind will recommend quitting when things seem a little bit hard, or very hard.
I notice these “So What” kinds of thoughts about work and projects come in only when I’m pushing hard, not taking any breaks, skipping meditation, not pausing to do The Work, avoiding rest.
But people, including me, frequently have this thought about quitting when they get upset with someone, feel pushed in between a rock and a hard place, and don’t know another way out. In an extreme way, “quitting” is what people are doing who feel suicidal and imagine exiting life here on planet earth.
Do you have anything you’ve thought about quitting recently?
You should.
Is it true?
No.
How do I react when I have the thought I should quit?
I have pictures of a future where I am no longer doing the thing. No longer in that relationship. No longer going to that location. No longer doing that work.
It is really amazing how powerful the urge to LEAVE is. Cut ’em off! I’m never speaking to her again! Goodbye forever! I quit!
Who would I be without the story of quitting?
Noticing I continue. I stick with the person, situation, circumstance, activity, or not. And it may have little to do with the thought of quitting.
Or nothing at all to do with it.
Turning the thought around: I don’t quit. I quit my thinking. “It” quit me.
All of these options have been true….and now that I think about it and do The Work on this idea of quitting….
….I’m not sure I’ve ever been the one that made quitting happen. I either just knew it was time to stop, or not. Perhaps fatigue and exhaustion caused quitting. Perhaps an awareness the thing wasn’t required resulted in quitting. Perhaps doing The Work caused quitting.
Perhaps there was no quitting whatsoever, even though the idea ran so loudly through my mind.
Here I am writing down the thoughts, sharing them with other people, doing The Work right in front of everyone (as a reader once said to me).
“I follow the way of it, which is always revealed in the moment. It’s God’s will, and it’s always crystal clear. When you no longer have a will of your own, there is no time and space. It all becomes a flow. You don’t decide, you flow from one happening to the next, and everything is decided for you…..This morning I had the thought to shower, and I notice that I stayed with the email. I find that fascinating. Showering was a wonderful idea. Will it move to that, or not? It’s exciting to wait and watch and allow life to move at its own pace as it continues to do what it does.” ~ Byron Katie in 1000 Names for Joy
 
I have the idea to quit. I don’t quit. I have the idea to quit. One day I do.
Is it happening because I’ve decided so?
Never.
There are so many beautiful complexities to the life, the flow, the world. They include this mind, sometimes talking it seems to no one.
The ultimate full-blown complete opposite turnaround: I should just begin. But it’s already happening.
  • this will go on forever YAY!
  • I’ll always have enough of everything I need! WOOHOO!
  • you haven’t amounted to much, which is PERFECT
  • so what (referring to just about anything) HOORAY!
  • I can’t retire like other people. SO LUCKY!
Every new moment, beginning fresh. Looking around at the unknown, the mysterious, the shape of this room, the going for a walk, returning home, writing. Activities did change today. Nothing quit. Life is still here, continuing, never-ending. Always more possibilities, always room for The Work, always life just here, being.

Much love,

Grace

The Work of Byron Katie on Personal Shame. Begin.

Feeling ashamed, embarrassed, guilty, disgusted with yourself is one of the worst feelings ever.

If you’re like me at all, I used to want to hide in a closet and never come out if I felt embarrassed about something I said or did.

I ate. Or smoked. Or went to movies to take my mind off myself doing that embarrassing thing, or acting that dumb way, or making that stupid mistake. I’d call myself an idiot.

I wanted to leave town and never show my face again.

If someone triggered me into an experience of feeling shame, I might also have thoughts like “that person is so mean, rude, controlling, nasty, immature, etc,” and judge the heck out of them.

They MADE me feel so bad!

Up until a few years ago, if I felt confronted by someone about a thing I said or did that they didn’t like, I might go overboard to fix it, make it so they didn’t think poorly of me, and then hope it was never mentioned again. It was like I couldn’t relax until I knew they liked me.

If I felt like someone had a poor image of me, I stopped answering their phone calls or efforts to get together. Too dangerous.

It’s powerful to look at what you’re thinking, and believing, when you feel ashamed.

I once had a friend say I wasn’t helping out enough around the meal clean up.

Instant shame.

My impulse was to rush to the kitchen and start frantically cleaning everything in sight. I actually DID jump up and move. It never occurred to me for a second to say my back hurt and I was stretching, so I’m opting out.

OMG! I could never say that! (It almost feels weird to write it even now, years later! Who cares about your hurt back, just suck it up and pitch in…..right?!)

What was really going on in the moment someone confronted me, or had a request, or criticized me….were thoughts almost entirely about my ego being bruised, my identity of Good Person being shattered.

  • She should think I’m awesome. At all times.
  • No one should ever be hurt by something I do or say.
  • I must be perceived as caring, thoughtful and kind.
  • People should all love me (and they don’t).
  • It’s not safe to have people dislike you–they can hurt you, cut you off, ditch you, and stab you in the back

One thing I noticed about these underlying fears were….

….they weren’t really about SHAME!

Shame was the reaction. Shame was what happened when I believed someone didn’t like me. Like a weird motivator of violence against myself so I’d fix me.

I was actually terrified out of my skull if someone moved away from me, thought critically of me, didn’t like something I said or did.

I was terrified because I thought I should be perfect and perfect meant never disturbing anyone else, ever. Maybe if they knew everything about me, they WOULD be disturbed. So I have to keep a lid on it.

Now….you can take this even farther by wondering if there’s anyone early in your life who you worried about their view of you?

My parents instantly come to mind, and today, my father.

He was very proper, upstanding, charitable, kind, not at all aggressive, thoughtful, and caring. He only showed anger once a year. He was very faithful in the church, and devoted. He was someone who in my eyes, and in the eyes of many, did the “right” thing. He never put his foot in his mouth, or bothered anyone, it seemed. He was a beloved professor to many students.

But somehow, it was clear that he also had very high standards. He disapproved of quite a few behaviors, and spoke of people he didn’t respect.

Just listening to his words, I vowed to make sure I would never be someone who he could talk about like this. I wanted him to love me all the time, and never be critical.

There’s RIGHT and there’s WRONG. I believed it.

Do you have someone who if they didn’t approve of you, you’d feel absolutely terrible? Has that actually happened?

Even if it hasn’t happened, you can hold that upstanding person in your mind, and notice the fear that enters if you think they MIGHT disapprove of you, or they are disapproving of someone else.

If you’ve done something that if THEY knew you did it, they’d reject you….you can imagine them finding out, and do The Work from this horrifying prospect: someone you care about very much KNOWS what you did, and they disapprove.

Let’s do The Work!

Is it true you need their approval? Is it true that because of the way it went in that situation, you are a bad person? Is it true you must always be perceived as generous, kind, patient, or good in some other way? Is it true you must never, ever, ever hurt anyone’s feelings, and if you do–FIX IT–or hide it forever?

Sigh.

It’s a lot of pressure.

I can’t really know it’s true. It’s hard to be good in everyone’s eyes. It’s hard to TRY to be perfect, to WORK at doing the right thing.

It’s exhausting, actually.

How I react, when I believe I need to be perceived as safe, good, and loving and “work” at it….is I don’t speak the truth, I’m very careful with most humans (especially anyone who reminds me of my dad) and I worry if someone doesn’t express praise, or approval, or doesn’t give me a nod or smile.

Holy Smokes. So stressful.

Who would you be without the belief you have to be good, right, upstanding, clear, loving, and not ever do anything that would disturb someone?

Wait. Really?

Are you sure it’s OK not to work at being the best possible person in the entire world that I could be (and this equals never bothering anyone)?

Yes.

Because it just doesn’t seem natural to have to work, and get all twisted in a pretzel to make sure you look acceptable, and accepting.

Who would you be without this stressful story that you need to be seen as upstanding, positive, healthy, nice, kind…whatever your words are that you worry about NOT being?

Who would you be without the belief you need to be approved of, by THAT person (you know the one)?

How could it be a good thing that someone hasn’t found you ideal, or perfect? How could it be of benefit that someone said “no” or “you did it wrong!”

Whew. I almost have no idea.

I’ve been operating as if this is a given for so many years, I can’t imagine feeling entirely free to be myself, naturally me, without shame or judgment.

And then….

….I feel it. Just a wee bit. Who I’d be, What I’d be, without the thought.

It’s so light. It’s exciting. Magnificent even.

Without the belief I shouldn’t impose on anyone, or be disapproved of, or be perceived as unloving….

….I am very happy suddenly. Like it’s just completely 100% OK to be whatever this is. Responding, being, connecting, disconnecting. Being a human. Not expecting myself to be more, or other than, human.

Turning the underlying thoughts around:

  • She should think I’m human, capable of foibles. At all times.
  • People should be hurt by something I do or say, when they are.
  • I must NOT be perceived as caring, thoughtful and kind.
  • People shouldn’t all love me (and they do–hee hee).
  • It’s not safe to have people like you (how interesting!)–they can hurt you, cut you off, ditch you, and stab you in the back. And, they can heal you, open you up, set you free, wake you up.

These turnarounds feel so much lighter, so much more true than the original stressful thoughts.

They are worth sitting with slowly, deliberately, and finding your own answers one by one.

“You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
For a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.”

~ Mary Oliver from the poem Wild Geese

For more sharing on shame and working with this stressful experience, listen to Peace Talk Podcast Episode 133 right HERE.

f you feel shame about something, my number one suggestion?

Pick only one moment where you believe you did it wrong, or you ARE wrong.

Write a Judge Your Neighbor worksheet on that moment. Write down all your beliefs (it’s OK to hide it somewhere, so no one can find it and read it). Write down what you think the WORST thing is that could happen if the whole world was aware of this about you.

Then begin to inquire.

“Your separation from God has ripened. 

Now fall like a golden fruit 

Into my hand. 

All your wounds from craving love

Exist because of heroic deeds.

Now trade in those medals;

That courage will help this world.”

~ Hafiz, from the Poem Trying To Wear Pants

Much love,

Grace

P.S. My hands are clapping with the inquirers signing up for Year of Inquiry. If there’s any way to explore and dissolve shame, its with steady self-inquiry using The Work in the presence of other people.

I find no other way so helpful. Read about YOI HERE and scroll all the way down for fees, how the program works, and the schedule. People in Institute for The Work receive credit worth one full School for The Work plus 80 credits of one-to-one partnering. Join us. Your courage will help this world. At least, that’s my story.

The stress of trying to get rid of your thoughts….can be deadly

Year of Inquiry is now taking registrations for 2017-2018. Read all about it HERE and scroll down for logistical details like the schedule, fees, and the monthly topics. We begin Sept 5th. It’s OK to think about it a bit. It’s a big commitment, worth pondering. I usually take registrations until August 30th. If it looks like it will fill before then, I’ll let you know.

For the first time ever, Institute for The Work candidates training to be certified in The Work can earn an entire School for The Work plus 80 credits more by completing the YOI Program.

Everyone in Year of Inquiry ends the year with two months of Summer Camp for The Mind, underway right now.

And what a great call just yesterday, where we heard about a situation some might call tragic.

Someone close to us dies, unexpectedly, from a drug overdose.

Death sometimes seems like the worst case scenario–not always, not hands-down The Worst–but often with death or thinking of death, we feel the pain of loss, the finality, the sadness, the quick in-breath.

Our minds start dancing about, running to find whose fault it is or answer the question about why it occurred. Who contributed? Could someone have stopped it? How did this happen?

Recently I’ve received a few email letters from folks who don’t feel like living, who can’t stand living with a mind that’s dark, destructive, violent, or depressive. They just want to get out of the anxiety, get away from thoughts that hurt.

I don’t blame them for a second.

Having a mind that’s yelling at you is very tough. People report feeling almost traumatized by their own mind.

One thing I know that helps, when it comes to inquiry?

Questioning this thought: I hate my mind. It has to stop. I have to shut it down.

These are the kinds of thoughts I used to have all the time that prompted binge-eating, or drinking, or smoking, or obsessing about one problem or topic without being able to put it down, ever.

I imagine it’s what someone was thinking, in part, that would want to use heroin, or a drug to the point of overdosing on it.

So let’s inquire. Because almost everyone has had these kinds of thoughts about disliking their own mental process. They may not decide they want to die, but they still have thoughts like “I’m a mess, I should be different, I hate how I am, how I think.”

Is it true your mind has to stop, you have to shut it down or change it, you need to quit having the thoughts you do?

What? Of course it’s true!

It’s why I’m doing The Work.

Right?

Pause. Wait.

Can you absolutely know it’s true you have to change your thinking, quit thinking that way, get away from your thoughts, shut them down?

Um. It’s weird, but I can’t say “yes, it’s absolutely true.”

I notice people think thoughts that are terrifying, depressing, enraged, desperate, confusing, sad. I’ve thought a lot of them. Probably billions of them.

It seems that in reality, the way of it, people think difficult thoughts.

My difficult thoughts, actually, have been what has pointed to the places I most need to look. The places I felt most traumatized, ashamed of, where my beliefs were the most stressful.

So it can’t be absolutely true that I shouldn’t, or they shouldn’t, think stressful thoughts.

How do you react when you believe you MUST change your thinking, end it, remove it, delete it, get away from it?

The way I reacted is I felt worse. I read books. I signed up for programs to help. I ate. I went to a movie. I felt horrible. I didn’t talk with anyone. I isolated myself. I withdrew from people, not wanting to be around them or connect with them. I drank. I attacked my own mind very viciously, with words. I moved on to the next program. I felt bad. My feelings were wild, intense, frightening, just like my thoughts about how much I hated my thoughts.

So who would I be without this thought that my mind is my enemy, it’s thinking the wrong way, it needs to stop, it needs to change, NOW?

Weird.

But a strange sense of excitement, even a very soft “wow” begins to arise.

You mean, this battling mind so full of dark thoughts and mean, nasty words, and brutal attacks towards itself….wasn’t my enemy?

Didn’t need to be shut down with force?

I notice, without the thought that my thoughts are terrible and need to be changed….

….this present moment suddenly becomes lighter.

Looking at the past, it also seems lighter. Like a long, unusual journey through brambles, storms, dangerous seas….but also sunny weather, lazy days, moving connections, insights.

I don’t need to seek anything that’s missing, or DO something to eliminate or make change….without the thought my mind needs to be fixed, changed, shut down, hated.

Without any thought that I must fight and kill the mind, I don’t actually have any interest in getting in gear for a war.

I might listen to what it’s saying instead.

Oh. Wow.

Turning the concepts around: I love my mind. It has to keep going. I have to open it up. I shouldn’t be different, I accept how I am, how I think.

These feel so much more gentle. Could they be just as true, or truer? What are examples?

Well, the thoughts I have, even if violent and aggravating or scary, are telling me important things about how I’m viewing the world.

They’re telling me I’m upset about a thing or two. They’re reminding me…Re-Minding me…what to look at much more closely, for understanding and awareness. They actually help my mind rejoin itself and come back together.

Sure, it doesn’t feel that great to have a mind full of trauma, pictures, worries, criticism, judgment. But it’s doing what it can do to get my attention!

I want to look and to know. It’s actually pretty amazing to go back, and to look, at events and situations that overwhelmed me and freaked me out, especially to look with inquiry and investigation at a deep level.

I’d rather not bypass, come to think of it. It never worked to eat my head off (I love that phrase, doesn’t it just say the perfect reason for eating I had at the time? Eating my head OFF). It never worked to try to shut the thinking down, or enforce change in my mind, or chant lots of affirmations.

Every time there’s a battle, I lose. Even if I’m at war with my own thoughts.

Byron Katie says from time to time: “We either believe our thoughts, or we question them. There’s no other choice.”

I keep discovering, there isn’t any other choice. Part of me would like there to be (OK, not really). Isn’t there a short cut somewhere? Can’t it just stop? You mean my choices really are A) Believe or B) Question. Can’t I do something else?

No.

I am not in charge.

Not even of this thinking.

I am not in charge of discovering self-inquiry either….I backed into it and kept following it because I noticed when I believed all those swirling wild uncomfortable troubling thoughts, I suffered and wanted to shut down the suffering with force.

When I questioned those troubling thoughts, they seemed to turn into laughter. Trust. Love. Even joy.

The inquiry offered wisdom, and making things very simple: questioning just one concept at a time.

“I don’t let go of my concepts–I meet them with understanding. Then they let go of me.” ~ Byron Katie in Loving What Is

Much love, Grace

When the student is ready…the story will appear. Or so it seems for me, today.

 

For two days, my primary focus has been sitting with Byron Katie (as she is streamed via video from Switzerland) and a beautiful group of people sharing complete silence together in between all the sessions.

This may sound a little funny….like not that exciting, or perhaps even difficult (I’ve been on very difficult silent retreats before when my mind was very active), or maybe weird that it’s all on video so how could this be “real”.

But oh my.

Am I ever glad I have done this for 3 years in a row, even though this year my venue went away last minute, I had to grab something site-unseen and I thought it wasn’t going to be so nice being in the city center (one of my thoughts) and I thought I was going to “lose” money, blah blah blah.

None of that logistical, financial or detail stuff matters at all, in comparison to the beauty of questioning stressful stories, hearing Katie answer peoples’ questions, hearing the incredible work the people in Switzerland are doing.

Here’s one thing I know.

I would not sit still like this, with 3 hours of silence in between sessions (just like the folks in Switzerland). I wouldn’t take the morning walk in silence where we all intentionally walk together in walking meditation. I wouldn’t write out my own thoughts, taking note, doing The Work with people in between sessions if they’re really upset or confused. I just wouldn’t give myself that (this is also a story, I realize).

The way I’d do it on my own is to watch it in segments, get up, walk away, pause the video, do laundry, answer emails, answer the phone, NOT write worksheets or contemplate the astonishing concepts people bring forward on my own.

People in the retreat in Switzerland have done worksheets on death, extreme violence at the hand of a parent, the meat industry, needing the love of a partner, wanting mother to be different. Their situations are so beautiful, and amazing, and such teaching for those of us who listen.

One of the participants did The Work on life today. What a big wide-open concept. She was worried, actually terrorized, that life was dangerous or something terrible could happen.

Katie asked us all, during a 3 hour silent break, to think about any times in our lives when we were not OK, and to write them down.

When was I not OK?

Part of me was thinking I know I’m OK….I’m completely OK so far.

Yet, I still had visions and pictures of the times appearing in my mind, even though I’ve done The Work on major aspects of these situations.

I had fun writing them anyway.

  • When I lost all my money and couldn’t pay the mortgage
  • When my former husband said he didn’t want to be married anymore
  • When my sister cut me off
  • When one of my best friends betrayed me by reporting me to the Department of Health for a completely false reason
  • When I tore my right hamstring off my right pelvic bone
  • When I learned I had cancer–a sarcoma tumor on my thigh
  • When I learned my dad was dying of leukemia many years ago

The thing is….I’ve found great peace by doing The Work on all these things. I’ve even found that I’d welcome them happening again (almost) because of the learning, the total OK-ness, that resulted.

I wanted to go back further, though.

I wanted to follow Katie’s invitation to write about Father-Mother-Sister-Brother from the distant past. The things that happened where original beliefs were born.

Like the first betrayal, the first awareness that I would die, the first awareness that my mom or dad would die, the first time I hurt myself physically, the first fight with a sister, the first sadness with a best friend.

I just couldn’t get into it.

Too old. Too far away. Not possible. I don’t feel upset, and I can’t even remember it anymore.

Then. Something happened.

I decided to walk during the 3 hour break. I felt a huge draw to move through the neighborhood of this darling house we were calling our Being-With-Byron-Katie-Silent-Retreat house.

I walked past a Open House for sale, only a few blocks from our retreat. I suddenly realized, I’ve been here before. I broke silence for a moment when the real estate agent approached me in the very quiet house. I said I grew up near here and pointed out the window across the water to another neighborhood about a mile away.

She whipped out her phone and looked up my high school sweetheart’s name in association with the houses on the street.

He lived two houses away. This house was one of his friends’ house. My friend Isabel lived 5 houses away. My friend Sarah lived 8 houses away.

I left the Open House and walked twenty feet to the front of my high school sweetheart’s house. I suddenly remembered walking up the hill to visit him. I remembered walking up the same hill to visit my friend Sarah in sixth grade.

I followed my same path I took many times back to the family home I grew up in, and took a photo.

Everything was coming back to me, like a huge early saga of a movie. I felt nostalgic, and sad, and full of longing, and love, and amazement that here I was, my future 56 year old self, visiting from the future….which was the NOW. None of those nostalgic or sad emotions filled me, they were in the background. They weren’t ALL of me, like so many stories have been.

I mostly felt….gratitude.

There’s the house of Mr. Glass who my dad liked so much, there’s the short-cut up from the play field, here’s the little grocery store where it was such a big deal to walk down the street and get an ice cream bar or some kind of treat, here’s the elementary school, here’s the street where I learned to drive and cars can’t even use it anymore–it’s exclusively closed for walking, there’s one of my best friend’s house where I got served pancakes by his kind mom Mrs. Miller who was also super nice when my dad died.

How lucky can one person be?

To be shown this visit, so that I remember some other times I thought I was not OK that were early. Boyfriend breaking up with me. Sarah moving to White Plains, New York. Fighting with my sister and throwing her clothes out of the window. Mom getting breast cancer. My skin color dividing me from others. Feeling fat.

I can go there.

I can do this work.

I can remember, on purpose.

Byron Katie said to us yesterday (I’m paraphrasing so I can’t put quotes around this one): I’m asking you to go to Hell. I know this is not a little thing. But there are four questions you can take with you. Don’t go, in fact, unless you take the four questions. But in Hell, with these questions….peace becomes possible.

Anything is possible.

What I love noticing is, how safe we are right now, as we go in our minds to that hellish place or that terrifying, awful place, or that sad place we remember.

I am so very safe indeed right now. I am so surrounded by abundance, and the support I need right when I need it. I’m almost shocked with the perfection of it all.

And today, because I just happen to be someone who loves the work, and who therefore arranged this retreat, and wound up renting this retreat house, which happened to be near my old neighborhood of my childhood (all of which I could never have planned)….

….I’m ready to do The Work on things that weren’t available to me before. They appear now. Memories. Situations. Hellish times or even just slightly bothersome ones. Rising up for inquiry.

And I love whatever appears to you, in your particular life, is just right for you, too. Whatever bugs you. If it’s present, you can inquire.

“Just to notice what is, is love.” ~ Byron Katie

 

Much love,

Grace

P.S. If you want to join our Being With Byron Katie Retreat for the second two days (Monday 7/10 and Tuesday 7/11) here in Seattle, there are people who have to go to work tomorrow, who won’t be at the retreat house with us–so there is room for you. Email me.

P.P.S. The photo above is right by our retreat house, down the hill, and in my old neighborhood where I grew up. Portage Bay Lilies.

The one thing harder than accepting this.

What absolutely thrilling excitement of the very best kind to sit with those who came to the webinar immersion class yesterday. Slides, concepts shared, my experience, people asking great questions.

Webinar Immersion: Ten Barriers That Can Keep The Work…From Working. It’s so much information. An entire 90 minutes of sharing what’s blocked my own work or hearing what’s made others hesitate, these ten “barriers” I’ve named. I talk about Year of Inquiry for all of you interested, at the very end. Listen to the recording HERE. And thank you, thank you, for being here.

And I had so much fun afterwards going live on Facebook. What a nut case. I actually crack myself up sometimes (OK I do that a lot–no one else is laughing, except me).

But here I am being excited about the upcoming (today!) Being With Byron Katie Retreat, plus all the people who were with me on the Ten Barriers webinar. Check out my video HERE.

I just love The Work, that’s all.

I love sharing The Work. I love seeing people get amazed at their own inquiry process. I love finding my own personal discoveries in the middle of hard times, painful experiences, loss, worry or fear.

It’s stunning, really.

I continuously get floored by the people I work with. They are so courageous and so brilliant. Wow.

I’m sure I actually need every single person who comes my way.

You all show me how to sit in The Work and find answers, and answer the questions.

When I receive payment for facilitating this work, it’s fairly remarkable. The exchange could be the other way around. I give THEM some kind of payment, or gift. Because the person sharing their inner thoughts, and then reading it and giving it up to inquiry, is brave, and clear, and so very inspiring to me.

They have no idea they’re bringing me freedom, by having us look at the story together. I get to explore and investigate this terrible, stressful, difficult situation….and THEY brought it to ME.

Sometimes the voice within says “wow, I wonder if there can be any peace in this situation they present?”

There always is peace. Every time.

Everyone shows me where.

So today, thank you ever so much for bringing your work to the free First Friday calls, for showing up with all your sharing and questions during the Ten Barriers webinar, for joining me to watch and participate in Being With Byron Katie.

There is still room if you can make it today (we’re in Seattle), to sit with us in retreat for 4 days and spend time in silence, and with Katie. Everyone there gets to watch anything you miss through Sept 30th.

And you know that relationship, that event, that situation, that issue, that problem?

You can inquire. It’s so possible to take a good look, and explore what’s true for you about what went down.

“There’s only one thing harder than accepting this, and that is not accepting it.” ~ Byron Katie

If I can help you in any way with inquiry (secretly it’s if you can help me in any way with inquiry) then please ask. I will share with honestly what it’s been like to stick with self-inquiry, even when I didn’t like it. I wasn’t sure what else to do, so no real alternative, honestly.

Question your thinking, change your world. Seriously.

Much love,

Grace

What would you really be without thinking about it?

The other day, I had one of those moments where I noticed….

….”OH. I’m here. Without thought. Just here.”

Even though seconds before I had images in my head about all kinds of things with a voice offering advice: go make those copies for Breitenbush, do laundry so you’re ready with clean clothes, I hope he’s doing OK with his cancer treatment, I hope she’s going to find peace with her mother, I need to email them, I wonder what she’s doing right now, I need to reply to him, set that up, do this.

The mind is so fast and full. Jam packed with possibilities and ideas and plans.

Scenes, memories, pictures, thoughts ticker tape through.

But as something draws your attention through your day….who are you without your thoughts about it?

Who am I without my thoughts?

Dang, what a crazy question…but what a wonderful, fascinating, exploratory question.

Don’t I need my thoughts? Wouldn’t I be some kind of weirdo without thoughts? Or dumb as a post?

As a memory steps through your mind, the image of someone’s face, or a scary picture, or the idea for a task, or your calendar, there’s a response in the body, in emotions perhaps (or sometimes, oddly, there is not response at all).

Who would you be without believing the image, picture, response was true?

Kinda cosmic, right?!?

But WOW.

It’s lighter, it’s even exciting, it’s relaxing, it’s a willingness not to take whatever you’re bumping into so seriously, including the pictures floating through your own mind about what your encounters mean about the future.

Turning the whole entire experience around: Thinking is not required. I don’t need to think, to “have” thoughts, or even “good” thoughts in order to be safe, secure, alive, successful, or happy.

Holy Moly.

Thoughts appear. Then, I notice they aren’t present, I’m simply observing. I also notice I’m sleeping sometimes–no thinking going on during sleep. I notice I also “lose my train of thought” all the time, and everything’s apparently fine.

Life goes on. Without a thought about it.

As I observed this wonderful and weird phenomena of noticing the absence of thought, the beauty of something just being here, I decided to make a Peace Talk podcast Episode 132.

(These things just appear, I have no idea what’s going on).

What’s here, without our stories?

“The tao that can be told is not the eternal Tao. The name that can be named is not the eternal Name. The unnamable is the eternally real. Naming is the origin of all particular things. Free from desire, you realize the mystery. Caught in desire, you see only the manifestations. Yet mystery and manifestations arise from the same source. This source is called darkness. Darkness within darkness. The gateway to all understanding.” ~ Tao Te Ching #1

Much love,

Grace

P.S. If you want to listen to the ten minute Peace Talk episode, head over HERE.

Remembering to welcome them all

A short one today.

As I travel, I’m so very aware that every hour, everything I see, every touch, every step, every person sharing with me, everyone who makes sound, every car going by, every doorway….

….are the most magnificent collection of life on earth.

Whether something brings a moment of joy, laughter, worry, irritation.

Magnificent.

Who would we be without our stressful stories, that some incidents and situations should be banished, and others should stick around longer?

Yes, who would we be.

The Guest House
This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.
The dark thought, the shame, the malice.
meet them at the door laughing and invite them in.
Be grateful for whatever comes.
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.
 
– Jellaludin Rumi,
translation by Coleman Barks

Much love,

Grace