Category Archives: spirituality

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.


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?


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?


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.

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