On Saturday a lovely group gathered for the 4 hour mini retreat to closely investigate one personal stressful relationship or situation.
One participant asked a question I’ve heard before.
A very powerful question.
“If I do The Work on difficult situations, won’t I just walk around letting everything happen, allowing everything to be as it is, never making a single change, never asserting myself, allowing myself to get hurt?”
This question comes forth in different ways.
Sometimes it dawns on people when they really enter this deep investigation about what stresses them in reality….
Now wait a minute…..
….if I love what is, and I don’t hate what is, what’s the point then of me living?
I’ll have no personal voice, I won’t stand up for myself. If I was in an abusive relationship I’d stay and get beaten verbally or physically over and over again. Not minding what is.
….I’ll sit around on my couch and never get the job I want. I’ll never move out of my parent’s house. I’ll never “try” to achieve anything.
….if I love what is I won’t protest and fight for improvement. I won’t be an activist for women’s rights, or reduced global warning, or farming organically!
No! I have to be annoyed with what is! I have to fight what is!
So….is doing The Work a way of becoming passive?
My short answer is No. Not at all.
As a generally shy and exceptionally introverted person in my childhood personality….I have become more and more open, fearless, courageous and alive with an inexplicable energy with every day that passes.
And it’s accelerated through doing The Work. Exponentially.
But in my first two full years of doing The Work, I have a confession to make.
I WAS a bit more passive while doing The Work!!!!
Vedy vedy intah-resting (you say it with a German accent like a genius mad scientist).
There was a core part of me that really hated conflict.
Please, just let’s never, ever, ever have any conflict. I don’t want to bring up frightening things with other people, I don’t want to say no, I don’t want to disagree, I don’t want to be rejected, I don’t want to be angry or hate anyone.
I just HAVE to maintain inner peace.
Big feelings are too scary.
The world is crazy and traumatic.
People are unpredictable, disappointing and terrifying.
I encountered The Work and instead of ditching people ASAP the minute they scared me, or retreating from ever speaking up as I had in the past…..
…..I wrote worksheets on everyone, on life, on money, on jobs.
I saw the rage I had within and the frustration and despair.
And I did The Work with a vengeance so I would NOT feel rage, frustration and despair.
I’m going to love those mean, nasty people if it kills me!
I had such a big motive. So big, I didn’t even realize I had it. I wanted to be a good, stable, calm person….
….I did not want to accept the feelings inside of ME.
I was at the New Year’s Cleanse, an annual event with Byron Katie where people gather in a huge hotel conference center and people one by one get up on stage and do The Work with Katie facilitating.
There’s lots of time for audience feedback, comments, questions and reflection.
A woman did The Work on her son’s addiction. All the years of pain and agony as he went in and out of treatment centers and lived on the streets and nearly died.
After hearing her incredible and courageous work on her own inner thinking about this human she loved so much (her son) and discovering she could dissolve her thoughts about his life, and return to focusing on her own life….
….I raised my hand.
I shared with Katie that I was doing The Work over and over again on this one person who drove me crazy (a man I was dating who also had an addiction problem). I wondered why The Work wasn’t working?
After some discussion, Katie said to me….
….”How do you know you’re supposed to be angry? YOU ARE!!!”
Oh. My. God. LIGHTBULB!
I had been doing The Work trying to get to a certain outcome…. called I-am-no-longer-angry.
I had insane expectations of my own inner life.
That if I was really an amazing and realized person, I would be calm, regulated, mature, no-intense-feelings, never angry, and maybe even glow a little. I’d be happy all the time. Addicts might even choose my company over their addiction (yes, it was that arrogant).
I saw in that moment.
It was not The Work that “made” me passively stay in a relationship that was very troubling, trying to be nice and to help and rescue the person all the time.
It was my own mental construct about what I thought I needed to do with my thinking. Make it different. So the person I wanted to love me could actually do it the way I wanted.
What is funny is, I couldn’t have stopped my personal investigation of reality if I wanted to at that point. I kept questioning. I kept doing The Work. But it truly became my own work, not Katie’s work or anyone else’s work.
I wanted to know the truth.
It was OK if other people didn’t do what I wanted them to do.
I finally realized it was up to me to love myself, up to me to end my own addiction to expecting other people to love me instead of me to love me.
I was the biggest blessing in the world that I encountered that human being who brought out such anger within me….
….because the passion, the intensity, the lazer-sharp clarity was revealed without trying to destroy it.
It had a message.
End The War.
I “broke up” with that person (so grateful to him) and got down to the real relationship I truly wanted all along.
The one with me. Me and all of the wild spectacular mysterious universe.
The thing about this inquiry, doing The Work, is that it will break apart anything you’re afraid of as you continue.
Even if you do “use” it to become passive or a doormat or to not speak up, that won’t last for long. Because it won’t be the real truth for you.
If you’re really answering the questions and staying present, watching what is true for you in the mind, imagining who you are without your beliefs….
….every untrue, unworkable, painful thought will be revealed in the perfect time, in the perfect way, for your undoing.
And if you think “if I do The Work I will become a passive ineffective lover of everything” you can question THAT thought and see what’s true.
For me, it’s been the opposite.
“Not knowing is true knowledge. Presuming to know is a disease. First realize that you are sick; then you can move toward health. The Master is her own physician. She has healed herself of all knowing. Thus she is truly whole.” ~ Tao Te Ching #71
Much love, Grace