My body should be different!

I’ve just returned from five blissful days of The Work of Byron Katie with participants, and the lovely certified facilitator Todd Smith, all gathered to learn and practice questioning our stressful thoughts.

Breitenbush Hotspring Resort was our venue. We were surrounded by forest, the most glorious fresh air smelling of northwest pine and moss, three lovely vegetarian meals per day made from scratch….

….and separate mineral water pools with clothing-optional use.

Dit-dit-dit-dom. Did you say clothing-optional?(Beethoven’s Fourth Symphony opening line just played in the background).

The mineral pools are there for those who wish to soak on their own time during our program.

Some people have frightening thoughts about seeing naked bodies (which happens only right at the soaking pools–nowhere else). Some choose never to go near the pools or natural sauna for this very reason. Some happily wear bathing suits on their own bodies, but may be sitting in a pool with someone else who’s nude.

Not soaking in the waters is a perfectly fabulous way to be at Breitenbush. (I’m usually one of those people who doesn’t, as I spend my down-time writing, meditating, hiking and reading).

In our workshop sessions, we’re gathered in a special building called the River Yurt where we have three sessions per day, so in some ways, there’s a lot going on besides free time for soaking in between our workshop sessions.

But because of this lush, beautiful location that happens to also include hot springs with some people doing it in the buff….we invited people to do The Work on our bodies at this retreat, if so moved.

No one ever has to go in the pools, or go naked, or soak in the waters while spending time at Breitenbush, but the very fact that nudity is allowed on the land somewhere can make people nervous.

So yeah. We did The Work on the body.

Participants in the retreat brought up their concerns about how they looked in the world, or how they felt: too many scars, hips too big, weight too heavy, belly too large, skin too sagging or old, too out of shape, pain in the knee, too awkward in movement, skin tone wrong, cellulite too disgusting, burned skin too ugly.

People noticed how these thoughts can rule our lives when we assume them to be true, rather than inquiring.

What do you imagine people would think, if they saw your body, or body part, or shape or size or anything at all about that body you live in?

What do you think you’re unable to accomplish or enjoy or do or be, unless this body function or body part changes (like an injured leg)?

What would you have, if you had a body appearing or being that OTHER way–the better way?

I remember thinking my body was horrible when I was only 14. It’s too thick. I should be light as a feather, I should reduce my eating, I should be skinny. Skinny is better. Skinny is powerful, attractive, right, sexy, and shows I’m someone who has it together, accomplished, desirable, winning, a force of nature, strong.

Right?

Um, no.

Believing those thoughts was very stressful. I didn’t even realize where it would go at the time when I was so young. I didn’t realize my quest for a perfect and thin body would drive me literally crazy. Crazed with thinking only about this goal, and concentrating on the effort to Not Eat nearly all the time.

Let’s just say, it backfired.

My life was miserable.

I felt the need to control myself constantly. The desire to eat grew bigger, not smaller. I wanted to consume everything in sight sometimes. I felt desperately hungry….for more than just food, it seemed.

I was fighting, punching, hitting, kicking and At War with reality one hundred percent of the time when it came to the need for thinness, eating, food, perfect health and dangers looming just around the corner (like a piece of cake, or a trip to the beach).

What a nightmare.

Who would we be without our thoughts that this body, or body part, or body condition should be different than it is? Or that it needs to be maintained as it is at all costs?

(Wow. You’re allowed to question that thought? Aren’t we all supposed to be trying everything we can to be healthy, perfect, balanced, thin, pain-free, anti-aging, etc, etc?)

If I question the thought I should be thin and perfect, won’t that mean I’ll stop being motivated to be thin, and eat from one end of the country to the other without restraint?

My answer was “no”.

I never found this to be true. When I was “motivated” to be thin, I wound up eating in a frenzy at times. It was not peaceful at all. It was chaotic and painful. I got excessively full, then tried to starve myself. I felt angry and rebellious and then even more frightened. I felt completely out of control. Then swung to IN control (or trying to be).

The command to get thin and remain in control caused an equal and opposite desire to break out of prison and eat whatever the hell I wanted (which I didn’t actually want).

So who would you be without the story of your body needing to be different in order to be happy? Who would you be without the story of other people’s opinions mattering for you, when it comes to this body you live in?

What if you could relax and be still on the inside, focusing only on the inside to discover what is truly, truly wanted and needed in this very moment when it comes to nourishment, rest, movement, activity, sensations, and being in this body exactly the way it is?

I have found, as I question my thinking about body image, body pain, body function, body health….I am free to make changes without fear, or learn about new ways to be with the body, or to not eat too much or too little. I’m relaxed.

Without the nightmare story of “this body MUST be different in order for me to be happy” I’m so much lighter within.

Turning the thoughts around: I do not need this body to be different. Could this be just as true, or truer?

  • My thinking is shallow about these scars
  • These hips are supportive, my thinking is too wide (about these hips especially)
  • My weight just right, my thinking is too heavy
  • This belly is beautiful, my thinking is ugly
  • My thinking is too sagging or old, out of shape, awkward, wrong, disgusting

This body, I notice, is doing what it does.

Can I support the one I have, without attacking judgment?

I notice with my old hamstring injury when I don’t fight against the belief “it hurts”, then I take it to the body worker, I take it to yoga, I study this thing called “pain” without going to war with it. I take time to stretch and attend to this organism called a body, a hamstring, with loving care and attention.

I notice there’s a mind watching it all, conscious of this body, being with the body but not actually the body itself.

Something is here looking, observing, aware of it all.

Most important of all, I feel kind and soft and loving towards whatever’s happening in the body–relaxed and free from agonizing about it mentally, even if it “hurts” or doesn’t look right, in my opinion.

“Every story is about body-identification. Without a story, there’s no body.” ~ Byron Katie

Wheeeeeeeeee!

Much love,

Grace

P.S. Summer Camp for The Mind is coming. A blitz of live inquiry sessions for 7 weeks. Read about it here.

There are two ways to live this summer; one is loving what is, the other is to be at war with it.

Speaking of summer camp, I’m off to Breitenbush for the annual retreat there.

Time out for really digging in to The Work. No tasks, chores, laundry, admin, cooking, or doing anything else with the exception of coming to three gatherings each day with sincere people deepening self-inquiry, together.

In some ways…it’s not exactly “retreat” as we tend to call these times away.

It’s a “charge!” 

(As the brilliant Stephen Jenkinson, one of my favorite mentors and authors, likes to say about group gatherings filled with questioning out loud).

I notice both Retreat and Charge seem to come from war references, as many of our communications do.

Funny to consider when we go on “retreat” that it’s our daily regular normal life we’re retreating from. We get away from it like it’s the front line, then regroup, plan, assess, rest, reset…and head back to the life.

If we think of our time away as a “Charge!” (a turnaround) then this fits for me when it comes to The Work.

As Byron Katie says herself: ‘I call it The Work because….it’s work.’

The other day I found myself having some defeated thoughts about the moment. Another “war” term, I notice, in this word “defeated”.

I felt tired, like doing very little, yet the mind was commenting about how if I give up I’ll never cross the finish line.

“Go, Go, Go!” shouts the mind. Never stop! Give it your all! Do the thing!

What finish line? Good grief.

So today, noticing the thoughts or sounds in the mind that suggest there’s something to fight, win, push against, grasp for, beat, crush, give-it-your-all, finish.

And noticing they are not ever true, not forever, not even now.

There are five birds in my cherry tree right outside my window, eating my cherries.

Those are MY cherries. The birds shouldn’t be eating them! Fight the birds!

Is that true?

LOL.

Who would I be without the thought I “have to” make them go away. I “have to” do the thing. I “have to” keep my nose to the grindstone. I “have to” get it done.

I’d be laughing.

This really is an incredible amusing, joy-filled life with craziness and zaniness and misery and cherry-eating-birds and lists that are never quite done.

And, I notice, time for doing something that shouts, gleefully….CHARGE!!! Then other moments that say RETREAT.

Without attacking anything or needing to go to war about any of This, or seeing any of what happens day to day as a problem. Simply questioning stressful stories. And loving life.

Turning it all around: No one has to do anything, or make anything happen, or accomplish, push, grab, press, finish, or get anything done, or stop birds from eating cherries.

Could that be just as true or truer?

Well it’s certainly entertaining and exciting, for me, to notice the examples I see in the world of this being true.

I notice there are at least five species and sizes of birds out there pecking and hopping and flying and eating away. Plus a squirrel.

What entertainment!

“Who would you be without the thought you want him to get up and do something more constructive? [And you can do this on wanting yourself to be more constructive.] There are two ways to live this out; one is loving what is, and the other is to be at war with it.” ~ Byron Katie

Much love,

Grace

P.S. I made a video on facebook about doing The Work on FEAR and what I’ve found very helpful for starters when wanting to question and understand anxiety-producing, or very traumatic and fearful events. Watch HERE. Leave a comment or question and “like” the page if you haven’t already.

Enlightenment is intimacy with the one who says I’m not enlightened

I experienced an inner momentary fit, followed by a sense of sadness the other day.

I watched the response clench inside, then release like a puff of smoke rising up and away.

I was listening to a friend share some of her experiences about a topic I’m deeply interested in and have studied for many years, even academically: disordered eating. Eating angst. Eating issues. Eating weirdness. Eating too much. Eating too little. Eating as a spiritual path of healing.

As you probably know by now, the topic of healing addiction and compulsive behavior, especially around food, eating and body image is practically an obsession for me, just like eating once was. (I confess I’m still a bit obsessive perhaps, but obsession to study troubled eating is a thousand times easier than doing troubled eating).

And for me, my eating was a symptom of course of what we talk about here: Stress. Feelings. Unhappiness. Thoughts. Grace (the other kind).

Anyway, I’m talking to this friend, and she’s vulnerably sharing about her experience of feeling not-quite-right with food or weight (yet).

Then she says about an expert in the field….”Well, she’s  awake, so I’m listening closely to her and following her work….”

There was more commentary about other “awake” people too. This spiritual teacher is awake. That teacher is not.

Sigh.

The whole who-is-awake and who-is-not awake thing, again.

So what was the trouble for me about this comment?

Because I can’t deny it was trouble. Ugh.

I sat for a moment quietly, long after the conversation was over, to contemplate what felt troubling about this labeling of someone as awake or enlightened.

What’s my objection? What am I afraid of?

What am I thinking and believing here?

First of all, I thought to myself, it automatically means if someone’s awake, that someone else is NOT awake.

The friend who was speaking about awake-ness seems to assume that she herself is not awake. The world is divided into those who are and who are not. Like Sneetches.

But those Not Awake people.

Uh-oh.

I must be one of them. She thinks I am not helpful, or awake enough (or awake at all) to be of assistance, even though, as mentioned, my favorite obsession is self-inquiry and eating peace as a spiritual practice.

(I can hear Popeye’s voice muttering under his breath while making a fist ‘why I oughtta…’).

Is that all this tweak is about? She doesn’t see me as the helpful genius who knows?

Oh man.

People need to think I’m helpful. They need to consult with me on their problems. Especially when it comes to eating.

Suddenly, as I sank into The Work I saw how I’m seen is not only about this eating topic….but in other areas.

I need to be seen as ______ (kind, supportive, smart, funny, awake).

  • My sister needs to think I’m supportive about divorce.
  • My friend needs to think I’m insightful about alcohol recovery.
  • My other friend needs to think I’m on the right path, even if I don’t have the Course in Miracles memorized.
  • My mother needs to think I’m welcoming.
  • My other friend needs to think I’m good to hang out with when you have cancer. 
  • My kids need to think I’m the first one to consult if they have a predicament with a friend, or with money, OK with anything.

Crazy.

It’s like the mind has an insisting perspective that I must be seen as “x” in this or that situation (fill in the blank with something good–in this case, “awake”).

Yikes. Kind of embarrassing.

Is it really true that my friend should see me as profoundly helpful and as someone with the answers, or someone “awake”?

No.

Am I sure it’s true that she does NOT see me as helpful?

No.

How do you react when you think this thought that someone needs to see you as helpful, interesting, useful, appealing, attractive, good, enlightened, funny, supportive?

How do you react when you hear that some people are enlightened, and others are not?

I’ve lived many moments in this thought, starting very young. When I’ve believed it, and I’m around other people, I make an effort to behave the most helpful awakened way.

Like Maria in the Sound of Music.

I’m acting. I’m not simply being. I’m not in touch with what naturally arises.

I might even think that what’s arising in me, or in a human who is not “awake” is negative, selfish, boring, serious, or asleep.

I had an insane eating disorder once. Or should I say an insane thinking disorder. I compared myself to images of what was right, perfect and good and tried to be like them, instead of be like myself.

When I believe someone needs to see me as helpful, I take it personally and think I did something “wrong” if they don’t.

So who would you be without this dreadful story of trying so hard to be good, kind, helpful….or even awake? (The new achievement of “there”)?

In the presence of my friend, I’d be actually listening. I might ask her further about what she experiences that feels off. I wouldn’t think her statements or questions or comments about who is or is not awake have to do with me.

Maybe she’s right.

I’d sit with this interesting awake-ness quality so discussed, admired, longed-for, sought-after, wondered about, written about….and feel whatever-it-is present right here, right now.

I’d appreciate the moment, with her comments in it, and my thoughts spinning off for a sec, and noticing the absolute delight of connecting, sharing, being here.

Turning the story around: People do NOT need to think I’m helpful. They do NOT need to consult with me on their problems. (Especially when it comes to eating). My friend does NOT need to see me as “awake”, or relinquish categorizing others as awake or not awake. 

Yes. I can find this to be truer. Silence is glorious. The most beautiful feeling is when you find your own answers, not someone else’s answers.

The most brilliant, exciting feeling is when you become aware of how life brings you to conversations with other people, to taking in some kind of sound or words or communication….

…..and then it takes you to conversations with yourself, and then it takes you to no conversation at all, and back again.

The way of it.

Turning the thought around again: I need to think I’m helpful, I need to consult myself on my own problems (especially when it comes to other people connecting with me about theirs). I need to see myself as awake. 

This is a most amazing question to ask: Why do I say I am or am not awake, or that other person is or is not awake? How do I know? Where did I get this idea?

Turning the thought around again:  I need to think she’s helpful, I need to consult her on my problems or her problems. I need to see her as awake. 

“Everyone is enlightened except you.” ~ Byron Katie

LOL. Right!

Isn’t that the best place to be ever? Open like a sponge? Not knowing what’s true? Unconcerned with what happens next? Happy to hear the brilliance of my dear friend?

Everyone having something interesting, fascinating, unique, curious, startling, joyful or hilarious to say…including the one who is dividing the world into awake and not awake. She’s exactly the same as I am. I’m dividing myself into parts, and having objections.

I’m hearing myself–I’m her. 

“When one first seeks the truth, one separates oneself from it…..Enlightenment is intimacy with all things.” ~ Dogen

Every word, sound, facial expression, breath, moment, listening, thought, description, story.

Every moment. Ahhhh.

Much love,

Grace

I Need That Person To Connect With Me…..Really?

Here’s the working link for Peace Talk Podcast in Itunes: Episode 143 on the Hurt of Being Left, Ignored, Rejected.

The tech part of this job isn’t always smooth.

And isn’t that the way of it: sometimes smoothness occurs effortlessly….sometimes it’s bumpy….sometimes tornado-like.

And what if we could relax, even in the midst of tech problems, or “thinking”?

The other night, a sense of sadness seemed to enter the room sometime in the wee hours. I’m often deeply asleep, and like all humans, sometimes awake in the dead of night.

As I lay there, images of someone I care about so much came to mind, who I’ve lost touch with.

A few weeks ago, during spring retreat here in Seattle, I contemplated this person I love–who I’ve heard through the grapevine is suffering immensely–and did The Work.

During retreat I always find the inquiry naturally becomes heightened as we hold silence and stay steady for several days in the questions. The power of the group support is palpable.

At least it sure is for me.

So there I was doing The Work with everyone, listening, hearing my own mind say what it’s saying, answering the questions on this person I had in mind.

And I noticed this idea come in, once again, that it would be soooooo great if this relationship was connected and back and peaceful and light-hearted. So at the end of one of the retreat days, as I wondered about a Living Turnaround (a way to live my inquiry) I sent a short text“I’m thinking about you and want you to know I send love and prayers.” Heart emoji.

It felt unattached, honest, kind. In The Work I had been doing memories rose up of how funny, smart and passionate I found this person in my life for so many years.

Yes, this is good! I expect nothing! Just a little text sharing my heart!

And then a few weeks went by.

No reply. No acknowledgment. No nothing.

Again.

So then the mind starts kicking in “Why is there never a reply or response? What’d I do? Can’t this person tell me straight to my face how I hurt them, if I did? What is going ON? Is it me or something else? Really??”

Uh oh. Heh heh. Underlying hope, wish, expectation and grasping revealed.

Rats.

Concept that has appeared: I need that person’s attention, care, consideration.

What this need looks like is a responding text, an invitation, an email, a call, some kind of communication. It doesn’t look like empty space, being ignored, not interacting. It doesn’t look like nothingness.

This kind of thought is a powerfully painful thought. I notice people have it over and over again. We think jobs, people, experiences, money, lovers, family, friends, neighbors should want to stay very close and NEVER give us the silent treatment.

At least for me, it was enough to be present and awake in the night for a little while, apparently.

Let’s do The Work.

You can consider ANY person in your life, or money (one of my favorites) or a condition you believe needs to move towards you, connect with you, share with you.

You need them to connect with you. It would be so much better.

Is it true?

Yes! Isn’t that what life is all about?! Connection, love, interaction, a dance of back-and-forth.

(Wow, I do have my opinions, don’t I).

Can you absolutely know it’s true this person, thing, experience, place needs to connect with you–or is NOT connected with you already despite the fact that you don’t see them visually in your presence?

No.

I notice I don’t see everyone or everything I love all the time. I notice and hold silence frequently, and how would I know it is not supporting me? Do I really need a “thing” like that person, or something coming towards me, or someone communicating, or something arriving…when it isn’t?

It’s sort of funny, in a way, how intense and gripping the idea is that with some kind of connection with that person or thing or condition, I’ll be better off.

Can I really, really know that’s true?

Absolutely not.

How many inquirers have I done The Work with who were upset about break-ups, divorces, endings or changes where the absence of someone produced immense personal suffering?

It’s a deeply persistent and very painful story.

How do you react when you believe you need that person’s love or attention or communication with you?

I notice when I have this thought I start to think poorly of myself, disconnect with me, think of silence as a negative thing rather than something supporting me. I don’t see the joy and safety of this moment.

When I believe the thought in the middle of the night, I have tons of pictures of that person hating me, or busy Not Caring, or them hating themselves. I have images of my future where I’m on my deathbed and we never ever resolved this “problem” and never reconnected. So sad, sad, sad.

But who would you be without this thought?

Wow, I love this question.

It suddenly reminds me there is no emergency, no complete separation. I’m alive and well, lying in bed. Thinking is happening, yes, but so is simply being. I’m safe, quiet, comfortable, here.

Without the thought, I trust the shifting process of What Is. People come, people go. People are in the same room, people have passed on. Thoughts come, thoughts go. I’m awake, then I’m asleep. All parts of this experience are OK, none of it is really “better” than any other.

Without the thought that I need someone’s love, attention, communication….

….I’m very peaceful and happy I’ve known them at all. I’m resting in bed in a dark room, hearing the beautiful silent hum of night.

Turning the thought around: I do NOT need them to connect with me. I need to connect with myself (especially when I think of this person or thing). I need to connect with them.

How are these turnarounds just as true, or truer? Can I find examples?

Well, first of all, it’s the middle of the night. I actually don’t want a phone call, and I’m not on any devices to receive emails or texts. I’m very comfortable, resting, secure, breathing. All is very well indeed. Silent night, Holy night.

I’m also not disturbed by the circumstances of that person’s life–apparently I’m not required to help at the moment, or support in any way other than being here, open.

I need to connect with myself especially by NOT thinking I did something wrong, making it personal, attacking or berating myself for being someone who can’t be connected with. I need to not see myself as “needing” in this relationship, but instead to notice the brilliance of silence, feeling, and how OK I am right now.

In the midnight inquiry, I need to connect with them without demanding or assuming it’s better if they DO something and reach out. I need to connect with my images of them, and inquire. I need to notice how grateful I am for them whether they’re here or not. I feel this with my dad, who hasn’t had a body in almost 30 years.

I notice communication in a form I request (insist on–LOL) is not required.

“You get what you need, in whatever way you need it.” ~ Byron Katie

If you’d like to join in the power of shared inquiry with others, then come to Breitenbush on June 13th (Weds evening through Sunday lunch and almost full) or the next Seattle Autumn Retreat October 17-21, 2018.

Beautiful spring inquirers in Seattle, finding freedom and rest in inquiry. For more information about Autumn Retreat in Seattle Oct 17-21, 2018, click this photo.

Much love,

Grace

It’s not as if you have a choice….and there’s never too much or too little

There’s nothing so difficult as missing a person, or longing for them (especially if they’ve died or are no longer speaking to you).

The mind will think about all the ways it used to be, when it was “good” or “fun” or “loving”.

This absence is NOT loving, we think.

I’ve written about a friend who enacted a great betrayal once, according to me of course. She never spoke to me again.

This can happen with family members, parents, siblings, children, lovers.

They’re gone, and we’re hurt.

It’s fascinating, however, to study why we feel “hurt” and what exactly IS hurt, and why it occurs to us to feel upset and troubled when the body and presence of that person apparently is not in our vicinity.

Are we feeling useless? Unwanted? Betrayed? Rejected? Guilty? All of the above?

Ahhhh….what a good time for inquiry.

Who would we be without our story of their departure filled with the meaning “I am hurt” (because they’re gone)?

I talked about it in the most recent Peace Talk Episode 143, so join me there to question “they hurt me”.

I’ll also be heading to Facebook Live today to ponder with you the experience of questioning this sometimes profoundly painful story called They Left Me and I’m Hurting.

If you’d like to join me on Facebook live, come on over here at 10:15 am Pacific Time today (May 23) or watch the replay later.

Much love,

Grace

June 3rd East West Books on healing eating issues with self-inquiry 1-4 pm. Also June 10th last half-day retreat of the year Living Inquiries Group 2-6 pm (last one of the year).

No planning, just awareness….brings change

Yesterday late morning on the last day of retreat, a beautiful group of inquirers shared hugs, goodbyes, gratitudes, I-love-you’s, phone number exchanges, photos.

The joy of a circle of people gathered for several days to inquire together from morning until night is an experience strangely impossible to explain.

Part of the power of gathering, I thought to myself, is the presence of questions, rather than teachings. Each person is their own guru, their own guide, their own closest companion.

They find their own troubling situations, recalling them vividly, and then hold still long enough to examine them very closely, like looking under a microscope at what they believed to be true in that situation–because of that situation.

To make it simple, we begin our time together with one situation we’ve found difficult. Only one. We don’t need to make it more complicated, as the mind can so brilliantly do.

I see the images from the past 5 days now in my own mind’s eye: mother deeply connected to her son who died last year, sister open to her brother who said “no”, wife who doesn’t feel so harsh about her husband’s habits, man less frightened of environmental destruction or war, woman excited about new possibilities with her sister and mother, woman seeing the benefits of staying with her current partner, or not.

There are no plans. There is no agenda. There is no special format for what is next.

And yet after The Work, we sense there’s something different, something changed, from doing nothing but sitting in inquiry.

I love how this happens.

We’ve allowed ourselves to sit with our most despairing, disappointing, heart-breaking moments….

….and instead of closing off to them, pushing them down or trying to “be positive”….

….we look with the four questions.

And we’ve done it all day for several days in a row with companions doing the very same thing.

Beginning with Question One:

Is it true, what I’m thinking about my mother?

Is it true, this thought about my husband?

is it true, this belief I repeat internally about my sister?

Is it true, this sadness I have about my brother?

Question Two: Can I absolutely know for sure my thought is true about them?

Question Three: How do I react when I think my stressful thought? When I remember that rough thing that happened, or those words they said, or when I picture them being themselves and it brings me such uncertainty and worry, or I anticipate the very worst happening in the future?

How do I react? I’m nervous. I’m fearful. Maybe even panicked. I’m sad. I’m desperate. I’m frantic. I’m trying to find relief. I feel hatred, anger, sadness.

I notice I’m suffering.

Then comes Question Four: WHO or WHAT would it be like if I did NOT have this thought running through my head as I remember this person I feel close to? What if I didn’t think my story was 100% true? Who would I be without this belief?

What if I paused, relaxed, and looked at that poignant memory or relationship without starting to panic, or complain?

What if everything is in order, I am not in charge, and most importantly, me not being in charge is actually the Way of It and a good thing?

LOL.

At the very end in closing yesterday, a thought flashed through my head that I played the “wrong” version of a song for everyone during a meditative exercise. The version I played was more boisterous and not as soft and contemplative.

And then the awareness….next time perhaps I will play the version I find more slow and gentle, and this time it was important to play THIS version.

Because that’s what happened. 

I don’t even need to know why or how it happened the way it did. I don’t need to put any meaning on it. Or tell myself I should have remembered the “better” version or that I’m too disorganized.

Even if I have a commentary running like this, I know it’s not true. It’s a chatterbox running in the corner. It’s the mind, doing what it does: offering up ideas, analyzing, seeking improvement, taking command, staying busy (it thinks it needs to).

Last step, after the Four Questions: We turn our thoughts around and look at them again.

The way it went with that person was OK. Even perfect. 

Could this be just as true, or truer?

It’s certainly more fun to wonder this.

Perhaps the drinking husband, the school drop-out, the dismissive brother, the critical sister, the judgmental mother, the beautiful son no longer in his body….

….perhaps the way it went had an unimaginable benefit.

Perhaps we shouldn’t toy with it mentally to the extent we want to toy with it. Perhaps there are very good reasons for it going the way it’s gone.

Turning it around again: Could my thinking be off? Could I be the distant one, the addicted one (to my thoughts), the one who died, the one who criticized, the one who judged?

Didn’t I do all these things to others, and to myself?

“You can’t let go of a stressful thought, because you didn’t create it in the first place. A thought just appears. You’re not doing it. You can’t let go of what you have no control over. Once you’ve questioned the thought, you don’t let go of it, it lets go of you.” ~ Byron Katie

Thank you everyone who questions their stressful thinking with me. The adventure is thrilling. The gratitude is deep.

(Last I heard there were three spots left in the Breitenbush Retreat, another opportunity for immersion in The Work June 13-17 in Oregon. If you’d like to soak in inquiry and see what happens, join us).

But even if you never go to a retreat, you can do this work today.

All it takes is sitting down, with pen and paper, a quiet segment of time….and your answers to the four questions.

Much love,

Grace

 

June 3rd East West Books on healing eating issues with self-inquiry 1-4 pm. Also June 10th last half-day retreat of the year Living Inquiries Group 2-6 pm (last one of the year).

The torture of You Should. The freedom of Don’t-Know.

Do you remember (if you were here back then) when I used to write and send a Grace Note every single day, without missing even once?

I think that happened for about five years. (Some of you are saying to yourself, thank goodness for fewer emails–LOL).

Something then shifted.

I love how the flow of activity, reality, the pace, the attention, creativity, focus, results….somehow change.

Did I plan it?

No.

Did I decide the way it would go or should go?

No.

In fact, if left up to my mind, the directive was to keep it up. Keep writing as my meditation, my work shared with you.

NEVER STOP.

That mind will shout internally “You should ______!” or “I have to_____!” or “I’m going to start ______ !” or “I’m going to keep _____!”

There are common lists of what we ought to be doing or what we need to keep doing, even if it doesn’t always serve.

It seems they’re usually related to improvement of some kind, or an effort to become better, or grow, or make sure we don’t lose.

So internally, my voice said “you should be writing every day” but I noticed I wasn’t anymore. My thumb grippers had a little ache from carpel tunnel overworking. I wanted to dedicate more time to an actual book on dissolving compulsion especially around eating using self-inquiry (which appears to be underway, slowly but surely). My heart wanted to fall into more silence and meditation and holding still.

It can be very stressful to want to relax, and yet have a voice screaming in the mind that you should be doing something (in my case writing Grace Notes, daily).

People have “dictator” voices telling them to do all kinds of things that are supposedly good: do this, acquire that, stop x, quit y.

What I notice sometimes, too, is that when a voice like this gets too loud, it backfires. A rebellion strikes. Less is done, not more.

But let’s look at this stressful belief “I should change”. 

Think about something you want to accomplish or achieve. It can be as simple as weeding the garden. Losing weight (as you probably know, I went far, far down into this one and love the study of compulsion and freedom). Upgrading something around you. Contributing. Giving. Donating. Building.

There’s something so appealing about being in action, participating, “doing”.

And yet. Ugh.

The pressure of “I should_____.”

Let’s inquire and see what happens when we question the thought “I should” that involves some kind of change.

I should be writing. 

Is it true?

YES. What good is sitting alone in your room (remember the line from Cabaret)?

We need to DO.

Right?

This here isn’t good enough. I’m missing success right here. I’m missing love, sharing, clarity, peace, sustainability. All these are accessible if I write! I can’t slow down! I need to write, write, write every day, day, day.

Heh heh.

Who am I with the thought that I need to write? How do I act? What do I feel? What happens?

I stay up until midnight. I don’t take vacations. If I’m actually on a holiday, I’m writing every morning and skipping outings with other people. I’m fretting.

The actual thing that was fun becomes burdensome, and harsh, and weird.

So who am I without this thought; “I should be ______” (in my case writing)?

I am entirely free to notice what I want to actually do in any given moment. I’m free to choose. I’m not living a prison sentence.

I remember this well with food and eating. As soon as I began to limit and restrict and set up conditions for my own eating, I got jittery. I got thin, and nervous, and then freaking out by binge-eating and swinging to extremes. It all became overwhelming and chaotic and off-balance.

I was no longer myself, sitting in the center of my heart, doing then not doing. I notice we’re all awake, then asleep, and everything in between.

Who would I be without conditions on any of it?

Taking a deep, long, wonderful breath and not having any unbreakable rules. Rules unnecessary. Freedom.

I’d be present in this moment, now, without fear about what happens next or what is required for success, or what is required to hold on to.

Turning this thought around: I shouldn’t be writing. I should be NOT writing. I should be nothing. I should be thinking. I should be. Writing should be me-ing.

How could these be just as true, or truer?

Well, the carpel tunnel ache said stop. I love meditating. I love not having conditions on my own existence (right!?), I value sitting and thinking, and being. I know it’s very precious to be quiet and Not Know.

I can see how writing or creating or doing anything in this world are spontaneously born. A thought happens, an idea occurs, someone suggests or invites, an offer is presented.

We respond with a yes, no, or maybe. The next day, the response might change.

I notice I’m not the one “in charge” (it’s almost funny how not in charge I am). Many events and activities and happenings are going on right now, in this very moment.

Life.

If writing is occurring it should be expressing whatever “me” is (or not). I definitely should be nothing. One day, I will be anyhow. If I’m not writing, then I shouldn’t be (what’s the reality of it? Not writing).

There appear to be advantages for doing or being exactly as I am in any given moment. Just like sleeping sometimes happens (which looks very still) then also “doing” happens (which can look very active).

All of it interesting. That’s freedom.

“When you discover–inside yourself, behind everything you’re thinking–the marvelous don’t-know mind, you’re home free. The don’t-know mind is the mind that is totally open to anything life brings you. When you find it, you have found your way.” ~ Byron Katie

Much love,

Grace

P.S. If you’re in Seattle, two events: June 3rd East WestBooks on healing eating issues with self-inquiry 1-4 pm. Also June 10th last half-day retreat of the year Living Inquiries Group 2-6 pm.

Who would’ve thought it? Becoming best friends with your mind.

One of the wonders of doing The Work so often with others in my life is how moving it is that people are willing to share their innermost thoughts.

And NOT the “good”, kind, gentle, mature thoughts.

The thoughts where we go in The Work are the painful, embarrassing, shameful, aggressive, completely irrational or immature thoughts running through our heads.

Thoughts like these:

  • they hate me
  • I can’t succeed
  • she loves someone else more than me
  • I made a mistake
  • I’m a terrible mom/friend/partner/daughter
  • he took my stuff
  • they don’t listen to me
  • he should do what I say
  • I need to know what to do

It seems we all have these kinds of thoughts.

It’s so touching when people are willing, vulnerable, ready to speak all the thoughts they feel so terrible about thinking OUT LOUD. Or to write them all down on paper.

Last night we began an 8 week adventure into Parenting, and doing The Work on our thoughts about our kids. (We’ll be doing The Work on our own parents too, during this course, as well as many kinds of common moments of angst with our children–no matter how old they are)!

As I hung up the line knowing 14 people are in this course, all who are so very deeply interested in examining their beliefs about child-raising….

….I had a familiar moment of deep, deep gratitude.

I get to hang out with people who are entirely aware that their beliefs–unless they’re questioned–drive their words, feelings, actions, behaviors, facial expressions, inner commentary.

And they know something is occasionally (or often) “off” with their thinking. Because they feel BAD.

Funny how just the very idea of NOT being alone in our stressful thinking is so….

….encouraging.

This acceptance alone is the nectar we often need to keep moving in The Work.

“She is a friend of mind. She gather me, man. The pieces I am, she gather them and give them back to me in all the right order. It’s good, you know, when you got a woman who is a friend of your mind.” ~ Toni Morrison

Who would we be without the painful story that we’re uniquely wrong, we made a mistake, we’re unlovable, we have something missing that others don’t, or our thoughts are extra sick, mean, terrible?

We’d be gathered together, in this powerful work called self-inquiry, noticing what’s really true and what isn’t.

With a little help from some friends—other humans, who also “think”.

Which is all the more why I’m so absolutely thrilled to gather in six days for the annual Spring Retreat Seattle May 16-20 (we start Weds evening) and then again for retreat at Breitenbush from June 13-17 (with the lovely and experienced Todd Smith).

Is it time for Spring Mental Cleaning?

Come join the shared honesty, camaraderie, fascination, curiosity, clarity, awareness, truth-telling, laughter, inspiration.

Room for 1 more at the Seattle retreat in 6 days–a room at the retreat house has opened up, so if you want to, you can reserve it and stay onsite.

Room for 5 more at Breitenbush in June.

Most of all, find someone who can hear you, and do The Work with them. Trade back and forth with your facilitation. There’s nothing like having a person who can listen openly to your mind.

It gives such a deep practice of acceptance, it’s you who listens. You then become your own best friend. A friend to your own thinking.

  • they love me
  • I can succeed
  • I love someone else more than me
  • I made a correction
  • I’m a wonderful mom/friend/partner/daughter
  • he didn’t take my stuff, and it isn’t “mine”
  • they do listen to me
  • he shouldn’t do what I say
  • I don’t need to know what to do
What could be better than not thinking painful thoughts….are true?

“Together we can do so much.” ~ Helen Keller

Much love,

Grace

P.S. I just returned from facilitating–for the first time–a Strategic Planning Retreat for a small tech company. I really can’t wait to tell you all about it. Can you imagine Strategic Planning in business PLUS doing sincere inquiry around stressful status of the business? Wow. More soon.

When my mind change, my children changed. But only I can change my mind.

Speaking of parenting, last Friday’s open telecall was very precious. It struck me deeply when one of the inquirers did The Work on her six year old child.

It seems like it’s one thing to judge our neighbor, our mother, our father, our sister or brother.

But our children? 

I shouldn’t be so upset! I shouldn’t lose my temper! I should be a good role model! I created this monster so it must be my fault my kid is acting like this!

I remember long ago age 14 when I babysat frequently. I loved the family–they had two girls.

I was the oldest in a family of four siblings, used to care-taking. I pulled out the crafty things I had used with my mom, art, drawing, and playing games. It was usually super fun.

Except one night the youngest, after putting her in her crib, kept crying.

She cried. And cried. And cried.

I’d go into her dark room, pick her up out of her crib, and hold her and say “there, there”. She’d kind of stop, and then the minute I lay her down again, wail.

After what seemed like an hour, I found myself sitting outside the hallway, the bedroom door closed between me and the child, holding my ears with frustration, feeling choked up and ready to scream and cry all at once.

This must be me! I’m such a loser I can’t even stop a baby from crying! She should SHUT UP!!

Fortunately, the toddler finally DID stop, falling fast asleep.

I then went downstairs to the basement (with one ear open, always, for another cry) and turned on the television to wait until the parents came home.

I forced myself to stay awake, too nervous about falling asleep if anything happened or either of the daughters needed me or started to…..cry. 

Crying is terrible, remember?

Crying is a sign of great distress. No one should ever cry in my presence. I need to help anyone who’s crying.

No. Crying. Ever. (Clenched fists).

Who might I have been at the time, without my story? Or later with a friend when he had an outburst in a movie theater? Or with my dad when he had an exceptionally rare moment of crying in my presence? Or with my husband when he cried at the performance we attended?

I would have been so much more relaxed. So much less braced for this crying thing coming at me, like it was the worst ever.

So much kinder to myself, to the crier, to the moment as it was–a moment containing human crying. The way of it.

Turning the thought around: Crying is fine (even good). Judging is OK. Being upset with a baby for crying is normal, and I can relax. There is nothing wrong with me, or with crying. 

Could these be just as true, or truer?

Could crying be a natural part of reality? I notice it is.

Turning my thoughts around again about crying: My thinking is crying, my thoughts about crying are “sad”, my own crying is normal and good and natural. 

Could this be just as true, or truer, about “crying”–this thing I seemed to be so against from a young age?

What I see is, my children brought me great gifts of showing me emotions and feelings, circumstances and situations I felt opposed to, against. These situations revealed attitudes I noticed were alive before my kids even came into this world.

My beliefs about what was “good” and “bad”, “spoiled” or “selfless”, “kind” or “mean”.

Who would you be, if you were looking at your children AND YOURSELF, with fresh, new, loving eyes?

Join me if you’d like to spend more time in this adventure.

Judge your children, your own parents, the other parents who are doing it wrong, and yourself (often the “worst” culprit of all).

It sounds crazy, but it’s the most exciting way into the fire of parenting transformation I’ve ever known.

It changes everything for the better. Let’s do The Work!

May 8 – June 26, Parenting Telecourse. I like to call it the parenting path to enlightenment.

Sounds lofty, but it’s true: Question your beliefs, change your experience of parenting.

There are two ways to witness your child: one is in peace, one is not. Either way, the child is doing what she does….When my mind changed, my children changed. ~ Byron Katie

Much love,

Grace

This meeting is such a waste of time (+ many “meetings” for spring inquiry–LOL)

Tomorrow it’s that time again: First Friday open inquiry for everyone online (or on your phone). This time we’re meeting 7:00 am-8:30 am Pacific Time/10 am Eastern/4 pm Europe. (Next month June 1st we’ll be meeting at noon PT). By request I’m switching the times around so people from different time zones can come. Get the link and instructions for joining for free right here.

I haven’t always loved audio teleclass connections for learning or sharing time with people live. So many possibilities of something not working. Or being bored by the content. Or getting distracted by something else happening on my computer.

Remember when teleconferences first started getting offered? Dropped calls, bells and whistles, background noise, internet failure, horrible audio with weird alien spaceship sounds and peoples voices getting distorted, scratchy static. And then there’s video conferences, too.

Sometimes it seemed like a comedy of errors. (For a 3 min laugh watch this). Hilarious.

Somehow, despite the bumpy ride, I’ve grown to love it. Coming online whether audio or video is the primary way I wind up connecting with the majority of people in The Work.

But you might notice thoughts like these, and I’ve had each and every one when it comes to meetings, of many different kinds:

  • this is soooooo slow
  • I can’t relate to that person who’s talking
  • I don’t have this thought, ever
  • I’d rather be ________
  • this is too painful or vulnerable to share (or hear)
  • I hate that person’s voice
  • I’m bored

Even on a shared call in The Work itself, I found it powerful to sit with my very thoughts about what I believed was working or not working in that moment. This inquiry can be applied to any group setting. Any meeting (even in person). Any process where communicating appears to be happening.

It’s fascinating what shows up in these kinds of inquiries where we’re not really that upset, but we still have irritable thinking.

So if you’ve ever been in a meeting or sharing group of some kind and found it annoying, picture that moment and let’s do The Work!

Long ago, I was on a Board and I loved the cause. But I didn’t have a good attitude towards the meetings.

Meetings are dull. This moment is boring, a waste of time, I can’t relate, I gotta get outta here….

Is it true?

Yes! And it’s just getting worse!

Can you absolutely know it’s true?

Pretty much. Yeah. LOL.

How do you react when you think listening and being where you are is a waste of time?

I figure out how to escape. I’m outta here. My mind is a million miles away. I might start thinking about options for what to do next, the minute I hang up or leave. Everything else becomes more important than this moment. I could be doing laundry, writing, reading, outside, eating, drinking, watching TV. Come to think of it I am really thirsty and I have to go to the bathroom.

Who would you be without this thought?

Kind of weird.

That Board meeting comes to mind from long ago. Or a school classroom as a child.

Who would I be in that situation, without my thoughts of irritation, escape and boredom?

I’d speak up. I might even interrupt or share. It wouldn’t have to mean I’d jump in and attack someone for going on too long or disagreeing with them. But I wouldn’t wait, somehow. I’d feel a thousand times more solid and loving and connected to the people in the room.

I might notice during the meeting the cadence of voices, the people’s attention and their faces, the air in the room, the quietness of the space between sound. I’d see the empty white board on the wall. Or in my home while on a telecall, I’d look through the skylights at the tall gorgeous pine tree overhead where eagles land. I’d really listen to the voices I’m hearing.

I’d feel the connection we have.

Noticing the subtlety of being in this insignificant, non-memorable moment and feeling it come more to life, like in full color instead of black-and-white.

Hello world. How did we all get here?

As I questioned my thinking about being a part of teleconferences or meetings: I’d fall into more of a meditation of rest, and calm, sound and wondering. I’d know how to be with this moment for my benefit, and how important each and every participant is who is there–a unique moment on planet earth.

“Only in this moment are we in reality. You and everyone can learn to live in the moment, as the moment, to love whatever is in front of you, to love it as you….The miracle of love comes to you in the presence of the uninterpreted moment.” ~ Byron Katie

Turning the thought around: This meeting is interesting, meaningful, a great use of time.

Why not?

And it doesn’t mean I have to stay rooted to my chair, or force myself to be excited when I’m not. I can get up and say with clarity and honesty that I’m not able to stay any longer (I did this about a month ago).

Even though I left the meeting, I can still find very interesting things about that moment, and what was being shared. I can see if there’s anything I’m against, anything I heard that triggered me unconsciously (the answer was “yes” in that moment I left that meeting last month).

Turning it around again: My thoughts are boring and dull, meaningless, a waste of time….especially when it comes to this meeting, this way of thinking.

Haha! So true. I worked myself up into a tizzy and proclaimed with guilty excuses “I have to quit!” without contemplating one single way I might help make this meeting be awesome.

Long ago on the Board, I quit contributing to an amazing cause I really care about, just because I didn’t like the meetings. I didn’t talk to one single person about it on the Board. I never tried to switch it up. I thought of myself as very tiny and insignificant–it never occurred to me to share what I was thinking.

What if I had known how to do The Work and show up (or not) with loving kindness, clarity, action, a sense of responsibility in a good way, movement, life?

Hmmm. Maybe it’s time to see how that non-profit is doing I care so much about, and consider participating again.

Who would you be without your thoughts about meetings, gatherings, conferences?

Much love,

Grace

P.S. A few upcoming options if you’re drawn to share time in The Work with others. Questions? Reply back and I’ll answer.

  • Spring Retreat Seattle May 16-20 (we opened up 3 spots as the room available is expanded–yay)
  • Online Happy Parent TeleCourse: Tuesdays 4-5:30 pm PT May 8-June 26. Read more here.
  • Mother’s Day Living Turnarounds Half Day In Person Retreat 2-6 pm my house. May 13. Sign up here.
  • Breitenbush Retreat still has a few spots for June 13-17 with me and Todd Smith in the Oregon Cascades.