The rain is pouring down, hammering on the night roof of the yurt I’m in with an intimate circle of 15 people. A yurt is a round building, and in the Pacific Northwest yurts tend to have thick canvas as the ceiling, with a window skylight in the center hole above to allow in light.The heavy rain is wildly loud.
So loud, everyone in our circle leans in or cups one ear with a hand, trying to hear the person in the middle of our circle who is finishing doing The Work.
I was so undecided about coming to this retreat. I’m running one in less than a month.
I mean, I do The Work all the time, with others in a group. Year of Inquiry is underway. I’ve devoted a huge part of my life to questioning my stressful believing.
Do I really need more days away from daily life, answering four questions?
Can’t we just have fun, play, watch good movies, read good books? Give it a rest, jeez.
But despite a bit of this chatter, I knew to go. I knew to figure out my calendar and switch some previously made appointments and drive to Canada and take a ferry to an island….and gather with others wanting to do The Work.
I’ve had three very significant deaths in my life this past year (one was a tree), I’ve had something inside that’s wanted to slow way down in business, I’ve worried about one of my sisters, I’ve felt my own mortality, I’ve lost touch with a good friend, I’ve felt a depth of grief beyond what I ever expected.
My inner world of diving deeper into the emotions and discovering the stories behind them has become more and more sharp as a focus.
I feel so excited, somehow. Thrilled even.
What is truth? What is this feeling inside? How do I share this honesty, connection, clarity, love? What is this sadness, or heart-break? How do I work with rage?
So I arrived, slightly tentative because of believing the thought I don’t have time for this, but open. Willing. Here.
Knowing I don’t have time NOT to do this.
As we close our circle for Day One, Roxann, our guide and facilitator (and Byron Katie’s daughter), suggests we pull all our back jack chairs in closer so we can hear each other speak as we check out for the night.
I feel energized and wide awake, aware, filled with images of the work I’ve witnessed all day, applied to my own stories.
Every single time someone else did The Work, I found my own memory bank where I could relate, looking through the files.
Human stories tend to repeat themselves. As Byron Katie says, “there are no new stressful thoughts.”
Everyone’s work is also my work. They speak, but as I sit with them witnessing, being there, my beliefs, feelings and stories are also getting cleaned up, seen, undone.
The stories are not personal.
A woman told one story of no biological father, and an abusive step dad. Even though my story of father is mostly a good one, I could find my abandonment and fury at someone else I loved so much, and how unfair it felt.
A strong and quiet young women felt stalked by a male roommate. I could find a time I felt pursued aggressively and so angry and frightened.
Another elegant older woman with a beautiful accent felt betrayed by her sister during a conversation. I could remember the opinions of my sisters as painful.
A man felt bullied by his drunken father. I remembered a boyfriend, long ago, who repulsed me on the phone during a conversation when he was drunk.
A beautiful young mother was betrayed by her husband. I remembered my first marriage and the shock I experienced when my husband left.
Age-old stories, but important tales to sit with personally, and question.
These are our objections to reality.
And all the inquirers gathering there did it together. All witnessing together, which always somehow creates a very sacred space and beautiful form of inquiry.
Oh what a relief, inspiration, joy, tears, the full range of feelings within to be moved by such work, and discover that what we thought was true, is not Absolutely True.
Do you have a troubling story?
It doesn’t have to be the worst story in the world (although it’s OK if it is).
Come to retreat. I’ve never heard anyone ever say they regret spending time doing The Work on the hardships they’ve endured.
Still spots in October Retreat 10/17-10/21. Two rooms still open in retreat house for out-of-town visitors. Such a powerful autumn reset for identifying our thoughts, questioning them, and entering our world with a new pair of glasses.
*Sign up for Deep Divers Group Sunday October 14th 2-6pm at Goldilocks Cottage ($50)
*November 3rd 2-5 pm at East West books sign up here ($40)
(Deep Divers Living Turnarounds group meets in 2019 in January, February, April and June. Come to one, or all).
Winter Retreat at Breitenbush Dec 6-9 for this immersion soaking in The Work of Byron Katie deeply before the new year.
“Life is simple. Everything happens for you, not to you. Everything happens at exactly the right moment, neither too soon nor too late. You don’t have to like it… it’s just easier if you do.”
What a lovely group forming for the October Retreat 10/17-10/21. Will you join us here in Seattle? Plenty of room still so of course now I think we need more people. It’s only a thought. I have no idea if it’s true or not true. All I know is, I can’t wait to do The Work with those who come. It’s always a most beautiful and profound way to free yourself from fearful or difficult stories, to gather in person with others. Two rooms left onsite for those coming from away.
Living Turnarounds Deep Divers Meetup Group starts next month: Sunday October 14th 2-6pm at Goldilocks Cottage. There are six dates (scroll down for all the dates at bottom of the page). One is at East West Books on November 3rd which is a Saturday instead of a Sunday. For the East West one only register here.
Winter Retreat at Breitenbush! Wow! This one I will be facilitating with my husband Jon on Dec 6-9 for a post-and-pre holiday transformative 3-day retreat. We begin Thursday night. Join us is the peaceful forest. We made a little short video invite about it for you:
So what’s the big deal about leaving house and home, and work and daily life and family, kids, dog, spouse, routine….
….and spending several days in a completely different location, asking and answering four questions and doing The Work?
I remember once asking an enlightened meditation teacher “Where should I go to find peace–which monastery? What do you recommend? Please just tell me!”
I was surprised (and yet maybe not so much) to hear him reply: the key is to be on a meditation retreat in your everyday life. How about relaxing and getting quiet right now?
Don’t I have to be where everything is very, very quiet and there are no distractions, needs, or tasks to handle or address?
It’s not necessary, and this is what we’re learning in the end. The center of peace is here, now, in whatever’s going on around us.
But it can be an incredible, beautiful, supportive gift to give ourselves to go someplace and move away from all busyness and chaos. It’s amazing to put your physical body in another place, and step away.
We’re clearing our schedules, having room, board, comfort, supportive natural surroundings taken care of by others, so we can be together and do almost nothing but The Work.
There’s nothing like sitting in the four questions to really “get” some kind of light on a subject or situation.
I’ll never forget the woman who came all the way from Florida. Her marriage was rocky. She had been divorced once before and felt determined not to go through that again. She noticed her mind full of critical and annoyed thoughts about her husband.
So she flew from the farthest point in the country to the opposite corner of the country.
Her first worksheet was on him, of course.
That was the story that was most up, that drew her into this important investigation. She didn’t hold back from writing down her thoughts about him: childish, mean, furious, petty, unforgiving. He was too close to his ex-wife. He didn’t work hard enough. She felt discontent.
All of it came out on her worksheet. Other people also in the group wrote that very first night….the liberation of writing exactly what you’re thinking, without editing. The people in question aren’t there–we’re looking at our stories about them.
One thing I adore about The Work is that in this first step, there’s no holding back, you can throw up on the page if you want (that sounds a little gross, but you know what I mean, right?). You can let every ugly, nasty, festering thing you’ve ever thought about that person out, on paper.
Then, this woman got to start her inquiry. She was not going to leave without getting what she came for: sorting her current thoughts about her marriage out. She raised her hand to be the first one to “go” in the circle.
I asked the questions, and she answered them honestly, with passion, with closed eyes.
She also spoke with passion, expressed herself intensely, felt the feelings involved with having the thought, showed us the way it looks to really sink into acting out this belief.
I love how we all get to do our own work, and we’re inspired by others at the same time.
“He doesn’t listen to me”, “he doesn’t cherish me”, “he’s too distracted”, “he’s the wrong partner”.
Have you ever had thoughts like these? They don’t have to be about partners, they can be about other family members, co-workers, bosses, neighbors, friends.
That person is the wrong person. He/She should be someone else, acting another different way.
Is it true?
The woman who had come to retreat across the country said “yes” immediately. But then a pause; could she absolutely know this was true, that he was the wrong partner for her?
Right now, she found her statement he should be different was not true, and impossible, and an unreal dream.
How do you react when you think the person in question is the wrong one? Wrong boyfriend? Wrong girlfriend? Wrong wife, companion, friend, husband, co-worker, neighbor?
The inquirer answering the questions replied: I want a divorce. I hate him. That’s how I react. I’m angry!
Who would you be without this thought, in that same situation, I asked?
Everyone was listening in the circle. You could hear a pin drop. Everyone was wondering how to answer this remarkable question, using imagination to try on the internal feeling of NOT believing a thought, and still being in the presence of someone who hadn’t changed.
This can only be done by sitting and wondering. You have to give it time.
It’s rare that suddenly, the moment the fourth question is asked, that we find an answer (although it can happen).
In fact, the ego, or the personal inner identity, will want to forget that question sometimes, or skip ahead to turnarounds, or just drop it altogether and go do something else. Watch TV, eat something, drink, smoke, internet, work (my personal favorite).
But on retreat, we don’t auto-pilot over to those other alternatives. We’re staying. We’re there, after all. We came to look at our minds. We came to question them. So we do.
Even if we’re squirming, or confused.
Finally, this lovely inquirer from Florida said “Without the thought that he’s the wrong husband, I’d find what he was doing endearing–kind of like when we first got together. We do like to laugh.”
By Day 3 she called her estranged husband who she had left behind in a huff. She reported to us all having one of the closest conversations with him in a long time. A truth telling, sharing conversation.
And then the turnarounds, one at a time, finding examples of the opposites: I’m not a good partner to myself, or to him. He IS a good partner for me.
We find examples, and notice how they feels. Other people help if we can’t find them, when we’re in an inquiry circle like a retreat.
We’re taking the time to give to ourselves the gift of awareness, presence.
“Our parents, our children, our spouses, and our friends will continue to press every button we have, until we realize what it is that we don’t want to know about ourselves, yet. They will point us to our freedom every time.” ~ Byron Katie
I’d love you to join me on retreat. My favorite thing is connecting with others–honest, open, silent, sharing, learning, asking, answering, wondering.
Autumn Retreat is just over one month away. I’m already excited to share in the joy of inquiry with all those who attend. It’s so powerful, so safe, and so joyful. Read about it here.
Last night I had a dream.
I was waiting for my first husband (who died this past summer from cancer). My car was parked on his street, but not near his house. I was waiting for him to walk past, and since he didn’t expect me, I didn’t want to miss him and was watching closely, gazing out into the street and the tall evergreen trees all around.
Then here he came, up the gently sloping hill. He was striding with lots of energy, a younger version of himself. His steps were big, strong and full, more so than I ever remembered him in real life.
I tapped my horn, as I sat in the driver’s seat of my parked car.
He didn’t notice. He only looked ahead, like he was on a mission.
Then, he was walking right in front of me, passing by. I rolled down my window and called out to him with a friendly tone.
Now, I was seeing the back of his head and his thick full head of hair.
I shouted and silence was coming out of me–he couldn’t hear me, and I couldn’t hear myself. He strode on up the hill towards his home, even though I was fumbling for the door to open it and almost panicking about getting out and calling to him, but there was no sound.
I woke up with a slight heart beat, and feeling pretty sad.
I also knew it was a dream of course, and sort of fascinated with the scene. Aren’t dreams incredible? So vivid!
So my mind was actually playing a made-up movie, and I was having a reaction physically in my feelings within the body.
The fascinating thing about dreams is you already know absolutely they are not true, but the body is nevertheless still reacting. This shows how the body responds, fully present to the story, fully a believer.
What’s funny is the mind doesn’t discriminate. It watches a movie, has a dream, makes up things all day (and all night apparently) and is a brilliant creative.
It doesn’t really care if you like it or not.
The mind doesn’t seem to pull from all the pictures and data and apply ONLY what’s for your own pleasure, apparently.
We all know what it’s like to see visions of dire outcomes, disturbing options, terribly frightening results.
We get scared, anxious, sad, lonely, angry or irritated about things that happened in the past. Even though the incident is over, it’s haunting us. We keep going back to it.
Then mind also goes to work on how to fix it and have alternate options, how to resolve it, how to change so it never happens again. It’s chewing on this predicament, wondering how to approach it and manage it.
In any case, it does seem like the mind is randomly flitting about from thing to thing, working on all the problems you’ve ever encountered, or gnawing on just one.
It doesn’t always seem friendly, kind, supportive or useful.
WHAT TO DO??!
You probably already know what I’m going to say.
But here’s the thing; I can say it, but can we all actually DO it?
What “it” is…..is of course questioning the thoughts we’re believing are true. Pondering them more deeply instead of following the mind to the next creation.
Doing The Work! The most powerful, useful, profound meditation on stories I’ve ever encountered.
Where we begin is pretty easy, really. We begin with the effects of our stories, pictures, dreams, images, memories: our FEELINGS.
In my dream I felt sadness. Distance, loss, inability to communicate, desperation even, grief, disappointment.
When I really sit with that dream snippet, that little movie in my mind, I notice how dreadfully sad I felt to not be able to reach my former husband. This was perhaps true in our marriage, and then when he said he didn’t want to be married anymore, then through the divorce, and sometimes in the relationship we then had as loving co-parents to our children for the past twelve years.
So I sit with the feeling, paused, and feel it without running from it–sometimes even more strongly than if I got up out of bed and went on with my day.
That first part of The Work appears to take some pause and willingness to look at something disturbing. The feelings might grow instead of diminish.
The only reason I’ve become so willing to be with uncomfortable feelings is because I know the place I can go if I look very closely, and the immense relief of wondering what it’s like without my story.
Who would I be without my belief “I can’t reach him”?
But it seems so true. He’s not here anymore physically, he’s gone. (Although, not true–he’s very much alive in my mind).
Without the belief I can’t reach him? Even from before, when he was alive, or from the more distant past when we were in each other’s company much more often….
….who would I be without the concept that I can’t reach him?
Amazing. I notice a small light of relief from that story.
A spark of awareness of not having all the answers about what “reaching” someone looks like. How do I know that reaching him is not happening? Maybe it is.
Most important, though, is that without the belief, suddenly the feelings of disappointment or failure or desperation are way reduced. It’s more like “huh”….interesting.
Turning the thought around: I can’t reach myself in this situation. He can’t reach me. I CAN reach him.
Could all these turnarounds be possible? Can I find examples of each one?
I can’t reach myself: In the moment I woke up, I’m in a dream, not here in reality in my cozy bed on planet earth in the quiet morning. I failed to notice the safety, kindness and support of this moment.
He can’t reach me: My vision of him is he’s not even caring or noticing or trying. But can I know that’s true? My own story and barriers of hurt about him prevent him from reaching me. We had wonderful conversations when he knew he was dying, especially one a few months before on the phone, where he expressed his great appreciation for me. Funny how I slide right by that one, to keep the story of abandonment alive.
I CAN reach him: why not? I can live this turnaround. I can do this work today, even if it came out of a dream I already knew wasn’t “true”. I can write him a letter. I can talk to him out loud right now, like I talk to my dad who died so many years ago. It could be just as true that I can reach him as I can’t.
I find this kind of work can’t be done unless I write this out, or sit with other people to investigate and feel and wonder.
I am very introverted in my daily life (so I say) but my best and most wonderful work that’s deep, honest, allowing is with other people. Like you.
This work just wouldn’t be the same without others. It’s strange how much connection it creates, how connection with others even appears to be required to experience a depth in this work–even when I’m such a quiet, private person much of the time.
It’s like the inside comes to the outside. We’re looking, noticing, feeling and being with the internal world, and through this vulnerability of exposure, we find strength.
Thanks for the journey today, and for all your comments and reading and connection and replies over the years or months or weeks you’ve been a part of Grace Notes.
And if it seems like time to gather in real physical form to do and share The Work, then come join me and amazing others in questioning troubling stories this autumn: October 17-21.
What a beautiful adventure to go on, like the band of unlikely characters in the Lord of The Rings. Off we go into the scary or sad realms of our inner lives, and take them through the four questions, beginning with “is it true?”
If financial resources are the only thing holding you back, please don’t hesitate to write with what you can offer and we’ll see if it’s possible.
Rooms to stay onsite are still available (a glorious king sized bed upstairs, and a queen size cozy room on the lower level). Write to ask. Plenty of room for commuters.
Participants receive 12 credits for those in ITW, or 27 CEUs for mental health practitioners through the Washington State Society for Clinical Social Work.
Learn more about the retreat (and sign up) here.
“Phenomenal. Grace’s style and skill are so gentle yet clearly leading each person and the group through the process. I have a new understanding of an experience in childhood I’ve been bitter about for my entire life. I’m not sure where it’s going, but it’s good.”
“I came to retreat from across the country because I knew I needed a few days instead of 90 minutes in a teleclass to understand this–it just wasn’t clicking and more in my head than in my body. I was right. I get it now. I can’t thank you enough.”
“I’ve never gone through an entire Judge Your Neighbor worksheet before. It was agonizing–haha. But profound. That situation has come up in my life many times, even with different people or players who reminded me of eachother. I feel like a boulder lifted off my shoulders for the first time in 30 years.”
“When I came to retreat I was so scared, you would have thought I was traveling to the moon. I never left my kids before. That person who first came no longer exists. I’m different now, and so grateful. I love The Work.”
Join me in Seattle with the small group (max 16) who gather to share in this extraordinary journey of bringing our stories to understanding, and rest. Read more and sign up here. If you have questions, just hit reply to this email.
Anything that’s ever been a huge accomplishment, a major transformation, a profound turnaround in most humans’ lives….has not come along in an instant.
Sure, for me there have been light-bulb awakening moments when I suddenly see something I didn’t before.
Yes, there have been deep life-altering conversations, or wisdom I bumped into from others, stories I heard, something inspirational I witnessed….
….but never some medicine that skyrocketed me out of myself into a whole new existence where what was previously difficult no longer existed in 1 second flat.
Never have I successfully wiped out all suffering around some issue in one fell swoop.
There has not been a finger-snap and VOILA….change.
No super pill, no wild immediate shift, no shocking moment- gasping enlightenment that eliminated all suffering or stress.
I once heard someone ask Byron Katie this question: “I want to be like you! I want to have a huge awakening and no longer have this depression and anxiety! What can I do?!”
Katie paused a moment and said: “you’ve been spared”.
When our relationships are not working well, or falling apart, when we feel depressed and shut down, when we’re angry and tired, when we’re addicted and stuck….
….then sometimes all we want is someone to slap us and wake us up out of the nightmare or tell us what to do or think or just leave ourselves behind and become someone else instead.
But do we really want it that way?
The biggest changes I’ve ever experienced that have been permanent, unwavering, and solid have been made slowly but surely. And I’ve remained here, a part of it all.
One step at a time.
One day at a time.
There’s actually a kindness and wisdom to this way.
A flower unfolds one petal at a time, and it’s not abrupt.
Katie went on to speak about reality unfolding just right for each one of us, and that self-inquiry is a practice of meditation offering us the gift of awareness….right on time.
The Tao Te Ching #15 (translated by Katie’s husband Stephen Mitchell) says this:
The ancient Masters were profound and subtle.
Their wisdom was unfathomable.
There is no way to describe it;
all we can describe is their appearance.
They were careful as someone crossing an iced-over stream.
Alert as a warrior in enemy territory.
Courteous as a guest.
Fluid as melting ice.
Shapeable as a block of wood.
Receptive as a valley.
Clear as a glass of water.
Do you have the patience to wait til your mud settles and the water is clear?
Can you remain unmoving tll the right action arises by itself?
The Master doesn’t seek fulfillment.
Not seeking, not expecting, she is present, and can welcome all things.
To practice The Work regularly, steadily, is to naturally become careful, alert, courteous, fluid, shapeable, receptive, and clear. Waiting until right action arises by itself.
Which is why in Year of Inquiry we gather for an entire year….patiently (or not) working with our thinking, feeling and being human with what we’ve encountered.
Who knows what can happen as we ask and answer the four questions for an entire year, in the company of our small group of friends all going on this amazing adventure together?
Painful beliefs dissolve, our stories become lighter, our humor returns, our capacity to be our true selves becomes easier and easier. Relationships in our lives change, sometimes massively.
One moment at a time.
We look back and say “Wow”.
This brilliant journey started with the first time I asked “is it true?”
And now look.
If you’re wanting to address stress, worry, fear, a difficult relationship, some kind of change you feel nervous about, feeling like a failure, scarcity, compulsive behavior, an unexpected disappointment, the angst of a busy mind….
….then join us in a Year of Inquiry where you’ll do The Work of Byron Katie steadily, regularly, in a group online every week, with the same supportive people, and even in retreats (optional for those who can travel). This is our 8th group.
Three spaces left.
The Work does not promise instant transformation. It’s better than that. You’re at the top of the mountain because you climbed the mountain.
The journey IS the way.
Read about it here, and sign up soon so you don’t miss a thing. We’ll be underway and into it by the end of this month, and doors will close.
Let’s bring The Work on home in our lives as a regular practice. It’s where the rubber meets the road, and what we’re seeking becomes possible.
“Happiness is not a goal, it is a by-product.” ~ Eleanor Roosevelt
The Year of Inquiry (YOI) circle begins next week in earnest with live telecalls. No one has to commit completely until November 1st.
This week, everyone’s going through Orientation, scheduling their first solo session with me, and joining our private forum watching the tech intro video. We’re writing our first Judge Your Neighbor worksheet.
We’re gathering. We don’t know each other yet. We’re about to begin our journey.
We’re taking the plunge into sharing inquiry in a committed way with other people. Scheduling it.
Not just doing it in the car in our heads.
Plus, our in-person live group (optional) retreat in Seattle is only six weeks away (Oct 17-21…it will be amazing, the highlight of my fall).
If you are seriously considering joining this fabulous one-year small group of inquirers, email me soon for a conversation: email@example.com or read about it here. Only a few spots left.
A participant in a past year shared this with the YOI group as we got underway, and I feel the same: “I’d like to say how much I’m enjoying being a part of this group. I thank you all very much for coming together and making it possible. I thank me, too, for this gift to myself.” ~ YOI Participant
Being connected to others in groups and at a deeply intimate level has offered me shifts in my life that have changed…..everything.
But being in a group can be uncomfortable! It can be really freaky scary!
It might be boring, stupid, full of annoying people, or depressing!
The first time I went to a twelve step meeting, over thirty years ago, I was so shocked that people spoke the way they were. I was quite literally stunned.
I had no idea you could say out loud what was going on inside your mind and heart.
I had no idea you could actually tell the truth.
But I caught the bug of awareness about my own mind by hearing others talk about theirs.
A few years later, I joined a therapy group.
That scared me half to death. I was silent for six months before the therapist actually said “your silence is actually very controlling”.
OMG! Really? But I don’t want anyone, ever, to see anything wrong with ME!
Oh. Right. I’m controlling the potential opinions of others.
This very resistance to people seeing what’s wrong with me, and the story I have about it, may be a terrible misunderstanding. And also, the primary way the story remains intact.
When I first encountered The Work of Byron Katie, I felt a memory stir of how I felt when I started that group therapy in my twenties.
I wanted to clam up.
Thanks! Got it! I’ll just go away and handle this BY MYSELF! See ya! I’m good! Yep, yessirree I’ve done a LOT of personal work so I’ll take it from here!
I wanted to burn my Judge Your Neighbor worksheets. I might even look over my shoulder while I wrote them just to make sure no one was coming.
Once, I was reading a worksheet out loud to a facilitator (who I could hardly believe I had hired), and I watched myself skip right over one of my sentences, one of my stressful concepts.
I couldn’t read that one. Then the facilitator would really hate me. Maybe some judgments are acceptable, but not that one.
I’ll just work on that one later, by myself in my closet with a flashlight.
The truth is, when you work with a group of people, and get to know them and show up regularly, you have no way to manipulate, direct, appease, lighten, or control what anyone does, says, thinks or feels when you tell the absolute truth.
We may see parts of you that you normally keep hidden.
You may not be able to keep that ugly stuff to yourself anymore.
“The only reason we don’t open our hearts and minds to other people is that they trigger confusion in us that we don’t feel brave enough or sane enough to deal with. To the degree that we look clearly and compassionately at ourselves, we feel confident and fearless about looking into someone else’s eyes.” ~ Pema Chodron
The thing is, you can only maneuver your life into being closed and careful for so long.
At some point, for everyone, their interest in the truth and revealing themselves becomes more important than holding things together.
I find every time I join a collection of people with the intention to learn, grow, incorporate and understand….it’s thrilling.
Our joining makes something wonderful happen.
But I’ve got a lot of practice now at self-disclosure. I know from experience that it works WAY better than puttin’ a lid on it.
I speak from careful testing.
I would have LOVED to maintain a perfect image and never have to say the yucky stuff, the fears, the anger, the sadness.
But it was killing me not to.
Even if you’re super crazy shy, you know how great it feels to have one of those wonderful, close, connected, honest conversations.
Being with others in a deeply honest way may not only be good, it may change your entire life.
Twelve step groups, support groups, one-on-one counseling, group therapy, retreats, prayer circles, study groups, people who do The Work of Byron Katie together.
We the people are somewhere you can reach us…whether on the phone, in your neighborhood, in your city.
You mean….I am going to reveal my stressful, weird, unpleasant, nasty, immature beliefs?
You mean I’m going to tell about my inadequacies, fears, and anger?
You mean I’m going to write what is inside my head? On paper (not in invisible ink)? And read what I write OUT LOUD?
Yes. You are. (You know you want to)!
You may feel sick for a little bit, but it’s awesome.
The more I’ve done The Work….the easier its gotten to reveal my innermost crushing thoughts to other humans.
In fact, the cave is no longer dark and musty and smelly–the one filled with all those resistant beliefs.
It’s rather light and treasure-filled now.
I see now that this comes from being totally and completely honest, noticing exactly where and what I wanted to hide, and uncovering it…all the way.
“Most people don’t get out of childhood, or adolescence, without being wounded for telling the truth. Someone says ‘you can’t say that’ or ‘you shouldn’t say that’ or ‘that wasn’t appropriate’ so most of us human beings have a very deep underlying conditioning that says that just to be who we are is not OK….Most human beings have an imprinting that if they’re real, if they’re honest, somebody’s not gonna like it. And they won’t be able to control their environment if they tell the truth.” ~ Adyashanti
Letting go of control, you become very honest.
That moment of speaking the truth without trying to get anything or expect anything or look a particular way–that moment of just being you–what an amazing shift.
You may notice a freedom beyond belief.
“If you aren’t afraid of dying, there is nothing you can’t achieve.” ~ Tao Te Ching #74
If you’re ready to be with a group, supporting you through inquiry with honesty and integrity, then come on down to the One Year Program and join our telesessions, starting next week.
We meet Tuesdays OR Wednesdays OR Thursdays. Come to one a week, or come to all three. You’ll be partnering with others privately, sharing on our private slack forum, learning about and diving into a different topic every month.
You will be welcome here…the real you.
If you head to this page, there will be a recorded presentation at the top about every detail of the program you can watch (60 minutes) and fast forward through any piece of it. There are slides to make it easy (it’s a webinar). If you’re ready to join, scroll down until you see the registration links.
When you sign up, I’ll get a personal email and write you back within 24 hours to welcome you and get our first solo session scheduled.
And even if you never join Year of Inquiry, find others to connect with. Have them facilitate you. You facilitate them.
Begin. Then, you’ll truly be the change you wish to see in the world.
You’ll be your own Gandhi.
P.S. If you want to come to ONLY the retreat October 17-21, you can sign up here.
Have you ever heard of the Marshmallow Experiment?
I’ve heard it referred to it so many times, but just in case you haven’t, it’s the one where researchers interested in human behavior and personality worked with children to study self-control and how we’re interpreting situations as humans.
An adult (the researcher) would give a child a marshmallow or cookie on a plate, and tell the child they could eat it now, or, if they waited a little while, they’d get two. Then the adult would leave the room and the cameras would role.
Most kids would try to distract themselves, look away, stare at the door, appear anxious or worked up about the treat on the plate…then gobble up the marshmallow. The research would measure how long kids waited, and analyze the internal struggle that appeared to be happening.
The primary scientist so interested in this work was Walter Mischel. He first conducted the Marshmallow Experiment in 1960.
I always thought the outcome showed that humans from the very early years have clear personalities or tendencies to consider before they act….or not so much. They follow their impulses, or do what the one in authority says and resist.
But the other day, I found out it was NOT that simple. In fact, the conclusion suggesting we have clear personality traits is totally FALSE.
We’ve all heard of the terms “nature vs nurture”. They describe the two biggest influences on human life very simplified:
Nature is how we’re hooked up from birth, our DNA, the influences genetically from the people who lived before us, biochemistry, brain chemistry, our inherent personality.
If there’s such a thing as personality. More on that in a second.
Nurture is how we’re cared for, attended to, loved, neglected, seen, encouraged, supported (or not) but probably far more than all these, what we observe and experience as we grow and live.
I suppose we could have the most easy-going open and humorous “personality” in the world, but if huge traumatic events occurred in our lives….we’d be affected big time.
We might start closing down and be less inclined to be excited or happy about life.
Or, we could have a quiet, shy, even anxious personality from the start, and experience a huge challenge of some kind that we wind up surviving….
….and somehow this might bring us awareness of adversity, hardship, death and destruction in a way that makes us fearless, and very strong.
There are a lot of really amazing stories about people living life one way, then making dramatic changes and coming out different than anyone ever expected.
So back to this Marshmallow Experiment and the thing I found out that made it completely different than what I had thought for all these years since I first learned about it in grad school over 20 years ago.
During the experiment, with some kids, Mischel would speak differently about the marshmallow. He’d give them a tiny tip, a small idea or suggestion, or some little encouragement about waiting instead of struggling or immediately eating the marshmallow.
“Just pretend the marshmallow is a picture, and it’s not a REAL marshmallow. It’s not really there!”
The child would then wait far, far longer before eating it.
In fact, the vast majority of children in Mischel’s studies delayed gratification when they had this little suggestion offering of using their imagination given to them. They had a totally different approach and interpretation.
I always thought that experiment was about showing how much self-control and/or fear a child had, how willing or able they were to follow orders and overcome their cravings.
But it was really about how a small reframe of a situation could have dramatic results.
The research by Mischel kept proving over time, apparently, that people are very, very flexible and highly influenced by their environment and interactions.
In fact, they might not even have this thing called a “personality” always intact. In some situations, people are honest, kind and generous or have self-control, and in others they aren’t.
The slightest comment, look, interruption or suggestion can make a huge difference on the way we see a situation, and the way we behave.
Our interpretation of what’s happening creates our response to it.
This might seem like an obvious “well, duh!”
But I was sooooo very intrigued.
Because this may point to how and why The Work works so well when we sit with our answers to the four questions, when it comes to reviewing situations we’ve experienced.
We’re immediately thinking “Hmmm, I don’t like that” or “I need to worry about this” or “I love this” or “I don’t ever want this to happen again” or “I need to make this happen again because without it happening life is worse, or not as good”.
I’ve felt it a gazillion times: I like that. I don’t like this.
The mind is assessing and logging what it likes or doesn’t like all day long, it seems.
So with The Work, we turn to the situations on our lists from any time we felt threatened, disturbed, irritated, sad, or any time we were hurt or tricked or betrayed. Any time we lost something….we’ve made a note of it internally.
With The Work, we get to revisit these scenes as they occur to us, or as things happen where we have reactions, and we question our interpretations.
It’s like with our inquiry and our situations and memories, we’re the adult researcher saying to our little internal child “what if it isn’t real?”
Because here’s the thing: Right now in this moment, it isn’t.
It doesn’t mean you’re crazy or wrong, it only means our interpretation may not be complete, or healthy, or loving. It doesn’t necessarily serve us.
The past happened, and now it’s over….but even more importantly, we’ve got a limited interpretation of the situation. We aren’t ever able to see the whole entire picture, only our quick snapshot of that experience in time. We tend to feel like victims of that experience.
With The Work, one concept at a time, we get to contemplate other possibilities. Did we miss something?
Now that we’re all grown up, we get to hold that inner child and offer it some understanding, humor, awareness.
I get to ask “Are you sure that situation was totally intolerable? Are you safe now? Are you sure you lost what you think you lost?” or “Do you really need that marshmallow in order to be happy? Are you positive it’s real?”
And when something like this is seen and grasped, then without any instructions or even trying to be positive or to NOT let something bother you….things begin to change in the way we react and respond in our daily lives.
Change just happens. All on its own. We wait much longer before immediately reacting. We feel kinder, less triggered.
Mischel wrote extensively about human behavior. He said that based on his lifetime of research about personality and how we experience life, the beliefs, expectations, and assumptions we’ve taken in from our culture, family, and friends is gigantic.
These become our filters for how we see reality.
This mind, making its interpretations so speedy quick, actually becomes a filter for everything we encounter. This mind tells us how we feel about everything.
Which really does mean, our minds are the screening device for how we see the world, how we encounter life….
….so naturally this also means when our minds or interpretations change, then how we feel changes, and how we act changes.
Our personality changes. We become different people than who we’ve been before.
Our paths unfold in new, different ways.
I see this all the time when I work with people in regular practice in The Work. They used to be tortured by the past, and now, they’re grateful.
It’s astonishing and inspiring.
Mostly, I’ve seen this kind of change long-term in myself as I’ve watched the years go by, especially once I became so interested in self-inquiry and opening up to new interpretations, ideas or thoughts about life.
I used to have tendencies to react with suspicion, nervousness, overly-nice, cautious, uncomfortable with strong emotion, forgetting to care for myself in the presence of other people (even my own children who I adored), indecision, seeing dramatic and scary futures, remembering difficulties in the past.
Now, it seems the tendencies have deeply and dramatically changed, and I’m still working on what’s left and still learning so much.
But I am a completely different person.
That woman (with The Work you can even question the interpretation of being a “woman” if you want) who was anxious, addicted, and trying to act like a good person all the time….is mostly gone. Or what was once deep dark red is now pale pink.
I’m not trying to get rid of her or make sure she doesn’t come back. She’s just not here anymore.
Sure, I have some of the same coloring or “personality” of that one who lived before. I tend to be overly-flexible sometimes or like I’m going to miss something if I say “no” or when I hear a very difficult traumatic story, my heart opens with the suffering and I might cry.
I also see both the worst and the best that could happen, and crack myself up at the drama of how quick the mind goes to the “worst”.
But the question arises almost immediately “is it true?”
I see that I simply don’t have the full and complete answer and probably never will, and that life is lighter without set and solid answers.
The most wonderful thing about doing The Work, or this deep form of self-inquiry, is that I’m not hunting for someone else’s answers, I’m finding my own flexible ones.
When I do The Work, new options naturally enter my world in the form of experts, practitioners, influencers, connections, advice and fun.
I’m not doing this all alone in a bubble based on old influences from the past….but opening up to new possibilities today, in the present moment.
Who knows what amazing change can happen, starting NOW, by questioning the stressful idea that might be present for me?
Who would I be without my story, my interpretation, my mental filter?
On a wide open road in a brilliant spacious moment.
Testing new ideas, living some of my turnarounds, changing my behaviors, trying new things.
The way movement and change has occurred for me clearly in my life is to challenge my interpretations. This doesn’t appear to come easily.
I had to get help from others, my thinking was so murky and unclear. Like a fogged up mirror in the bathroom–I couldn’t even see myself at all!
Questioning my thoughts with other people has made all the difference. I can sit down and do The Work, but there’s nothing like sharing it and connecting with other humans to see if I’ve missed something.
The result has been one of small, tiny, sometimes bigger, significant, steady change.
The other day I heard Byron Katie speak on a recording that “we can shoot for the moon” when we have inquiry as a companion. We’re not frightened of accomplishment, we’re not scared of facing something new, or telling the truth.
A lovely group is forming to share self-inquiry as a practice this upcoming year, in steady continued investigation of our stories, together.
It’s called Year of Inquiry.
A time to stick with this process of dissolving the filters and stories, instead of trying to find a different shiny new way somewhere else.
We do The Work, and un-do our previously built stories or interpretations and change the filter. Or, the filter naturally winds up changing.
Who knows what happens when we have a kind adult voice saying “Are you sure that’s real? Are you sure you’re looking at it in a way that serves you? Could you see it differently?”
This upcoming week is Orientation Week and we’ll begin our inquiry calls the following week.
People have been writing with a ton of questions about how the program calls are set up, the schedule, the expectations.
You can read about it here, but what I’ll say in a nutshell is we gather almost-weekly all year for 90 minute inquiry calls together as a group, you’ll have partners all year twice a week to connect with other human beings, we’ll look closely at a different topic every single month that typically produces lots of stress for people, and we’ll grow.
We don’t have to argue with What Is anymore. We know when something is stressful for us, we suffer. We move away from, or naturally expand, our interpretation of events to something bigger, wider, and usually more joyful.
“There has been so much happen this year that I wouldn’t had dealt with anywhere near as well. I am amazed at the peace that abides with me. Oh Grace, I am so grateful for your work in this world. Had you not been so clear, peaceful, real, and provided the safe space you did, I could not have dared do all this work. It is now part of my life.” ~ YOI participant 2017-2018
The first two months, you can test it out after you join, so you don’t have to fully commit until November 1st.
I couldn’t do this work alone–some can and that’s absolutely awesome.
But if you need the structure and guidance, I’d love to have you be in the tribe of us who’ll be living with this inquiry and watching our filters get cleaner and brighter over time.
Enroll here. If you head to this page, there will be a recorded presentation at the top about every detail of the program you can watch (60 minutes) and fast forward through any piece of it. There are slides to make it easy (it’s a webinar). If you’re ready to join, scroll down until you see the registration links.
When you sign up, I’ll get a personal email and write you back within 24 hours to welcome you and get our first solo session scheduled.
The worker-bees are buzzing and working behind the scenes to get Year of Inquiry participants on board. (And, those buzzing bees would all be me–haha)!
It’s quite the undertaking to join a whole year program primarily online. Holy smokes, what a commitment.
Fortunately, the effort it takes mostly is marking your calendar and dialing a phone or clicking a link to join live calls, and also connect with partners in The Work.
But the other day, when an acquaintance learned I’m about to start another Year of Inquiry again, he asked me why on earth I’ve done The Work for so many years, week in and week out, and with a whole group of people?
He said it sounded a bit boring (he actually made the ‘yawn’ motion with his hand over his mouth).
Hmmm. I might have to do The Work on him.
But meanwhile, I also thought about what a good question he asked me:
Why ask, and then answer, the very same four questions over and over, and find our turnarounds….about events, people, situations that have disturbed us?
What I’ve noticed as someone who has returned over and over to The Work as a regular practice, is how interesting my answers are. How educational.
And how sometimes, doing The Work is really the only thing that ever helped calm me down.
Byron Katie calls the inner life we experience “The School of You”.
But it’s not ever about only ourselves–it’s about our relationship to reality, to life, to the world, to how we see and feel this astonishing experience of being alive.
There’s so much I’ve called “boring” in my life (as if I need all those boring things to be entertaining or large), but The Work is certainly not one of them.
Every time I sit with someone else or the four questions, a contemplation and inquiry moves in a liberating way.
This work is about working with feelings, and the thoughts that tend to produce them.
One of my favorite things about The Work is that instead of my old go-to of attacking my feelings and myself for being the one who feels upset or troubled, I look at what I’m thinking and believing, and question it. I used to berate myself horribly for feeling (and acting) angry or afraid, or even depressed.
When we do The Work, there’s no judgment or attack in it….or even if there is, we pause and simply answer the questions.
We get to use our imagination wondering what it would be like without our current perspective (often a viewpoint that was set in place long ago).
When I used to feel anxious or upset or furious, I’d eat, smoke, screen time, plan, obsess, daydream, and try to think about how to fix myself or the situation ASAP.
Now, it seems I more often get to look at myself with great compassion, ask for help, share with others, connect and inquire. Usually inquiring needs to happen first.
The, transformation happens all on it’s own, gently unfolding naturally. Hooray for The Work.
Hooray for the simplicity of coming back to four questions.
What a relief.
If you’d like to read more about Year of Inquiry, and even watch an information session about what’s specifically included for the entire year, please visit this link : HERE.
We start with Orientation next week (!). We’ll get to know one another, and step into a life of self-inquiry, wondering who we’d be without our thoughts, using our own brilliance for insight, not condemnation and criticism.
Would you like to join us?
Head here to read more. Write me if you need to talk first, or you have questions.
P.S. check out my little video I made with this same post on facebook right HERE. (Scroll down a wee bit and you’ll see the post that reads “Why do The Work?”)
Life can be hard. Tough things happen, to all of us.
Surprises, confusion, shock, upset, pain, loss. Sometimes we can see how the difficulties we’ve gone through have created greater strength and awareness and lots of learning….and sometimes….
….not so much.
When we feel confused or troubled about how things are, we often wind up suffering after something’s happened, maybe for years, every time we recall it. We don’t know how to deal with our thoughts and feelings about it, or find resolve.
Maybe we get a defensive posture towards life, or certain people, or we feel nervous or anxious about the future. Maybe we’re dreadfully unhappy about some relationships, and carry an inner sense of resentment or loneliness. Maybe we feel deep disappointment about the way things have gone so we lose our enthusiasm for trying something different, or making a change.
When I felt upset about various experiences or relationships in my life, I often found others would try to pick me up and suggest I have a more positive attitude. Or be encouraging, or be good cheerleaders for me.
Positive thinking! Change your mindset! Focus on happiness!
It didn’t really work, despite good intentions.
Then, after many years of doing various therapies, self-help, trainings, retreats (all useful) I learned The Work of Byron Katie or Inquiry Based Stress Reduction (IBSR).
If you’ve tried The Work you probably already know it’s a powerful way to address a troubling mindset, and find clarity about anything that’s ever happened that hurt or disturbed you.
We all know what it’s like to have an Ah-Ha moment where a lightbulb goes on, and you see something new about a stressful experience or perspective you thought you’d ALWAYS find troubling.
Wow! I didn’t see that before! Holy Smokes!
The Work, which is four questions and finding turnarounds, is one of the greatest ways to achieve this kind of insight…and the fastest.
But you do have to DO it (LOL) and practice it regularly, like meditation.
Which is where Year of Inquiry comes in: it was first and foremost invented for people like me. People who knew it was good, like vitamins, but forgot to take them.
I found insights every time I sat down and actually completed the process from start to finish. But I got busy, put the Work second to chores and tasks, and let things build up without turning to my inner life to give it peaceful attention.
Year of Inquiry was created to have a regular group who would journey together for an entire year, looking at new shared topics every single month (including: money, relationships, family, body, turnarounds, shame, hurt, anger, career).
We laugh, we cry, we answer the questions, we watch our worlds begin to shift and change because we’re responding differently, making small changes without even planning them. We feel happier. We feel lighter.
Things that used to bother us, no longer do.
We begin to catch ourselves and watch our minds as it shouts “Something’s going wrong!” or “I shouldn’t have to experience this!” or “I’m not good enough!”
Practicing The Work unravels stressful thinking. It unravels suffering. It ends addiction, neediness, scarcity, resentment.
Who would we be without our stories? About others, and most importantly about ourselves?
What I have found, is we would be loving, peaceful, and free. We’d be the best version of ourselves possible (and that’s always true, and we’d know it).
If you want to do The Work in a dedicated, committed group of inquirers for an entire year, then join me in this gift of inquiry.
This week there are 3 information sessions (they’ll be recorded) to answer your questions about the format, expectations, curriculum and fees. Please see the facebook events on this page to connect to the correct webinar here.
All About Year of Inquiry:
*Tuesday, Aug 28 8:00 am PT
*Weds, Aug 29 Noon PT
*Thurs, Aug 30 4:00 pm PT
The first week of September is Orientation Week where you’ll watch training presentations to get on board our private secret forum in slack, and get set up for a successful year.
There are two full months to decide if Year Of Inquiry is right for you–no questions asked.
What I know is, YOI is a very inexpensive way to get and stay connected to dedicated time for self-inquiry through every season of an entire year.
Everyone in Year of Inquiry has sixty days to fully participate in the experience before making a final decision. You’ll pay in full, or choose the 12 month payment plan—but if you withdraw there’s only a fee of $100 for the first month, or another $100 for the second month of the program (everything else will be refunded) if you choose to withdraw….even if you didn’t decide to withdraw until Halloween you’d only pay $200. The first two months will also be included a solo session with Grace so we get to know each other right from the start (normal fee $125).
I have this refund policy on purpose because I want only people to continue through the year who deeply know they like the process of inquiry, not just the idea of inquiry.
After two months of seeing what it’s like, most people get the sense of what doing The Work regularly, every week, may do for their inner world and their lives. If it’s not for you now, it’s OK.
What I know is….when I came into The Work all I wanted to do was question thoughts about myself and what I had done wrong (not what I had encountered in life that bothered me).
Then I followed the simple invitation from Byron Katie and the steps of The Work to identify judgments I had about other people, the world, money, bodies, being alive, love, and what I thought of as reality.
Looking at all of these, I myself began to change. And amazingly, so did everything else in my life. Circumstances became more peaceful, less dramatic, less intense, and more vibrant and exciting.
Freedom didn’t happen in an instant. It unfolds daily, with every time I ask “is it true?”
This Work gives the mind something it loves to do: rest.
To not rely so heavily on “figuring” everything out. But instead, to wonder what it’s like without thinking.
How fun is that?
“To have a way to see beyond illusion is the greatest gift.” ~ Byron Katie
Year of Inquiry brings you to The Work for an entire year with a small group. Let’s question our thinking, and change our world.
Well, it happened.
The thing I prefer not to ever happen. Someone got very upset with me.
I said “no” to a friend (also an old flame) about getting together. I said I just couldn’t go through with it, something felt off about connecting live and in person.
He got very upset and sent me a note.
“You’re a flake, you play games, I liked you long ago and you’re punishing me for it–you can’t let go of the past. You’re completely unreliable. I have no interest in this anymore. Self-inquiry is so boring. You’re absurd.”
Everything in the note, I noticed, had truth in it.
The sadness and recognition of shame, along with sorrow, along with humiliation and seeing how I had hurt someone came crashing in like Niagara Falls.
Plus here’s the kicker: I’m the one who had said “yes” about getting together for a meal in the first place, then I cancelled and offered a new date for a reschedule (several times).
This whole maybe-get-together thing’s been going on for a few years. Yes, that long.
I kept noticing I’d imagine a meeting, think it would be fun and pleasant and perhaps a way to renew or start the friendship over (there are quite a few things I liked about this guy)….
….I’d feel ambiguous, or hesitant, then override the hesitancy, then override the hesitancy to override….
….then when the time would come to make more of a clear meeting date and time, I’d feel very anxious and make excuses that now wasn’t good, but maybe later.
I’d hear a huge “no” inside and say things to myself like “you shouldn’t be afraid, it’s OK” or “what’s the problem, is there something wrong with you?” or “This is only lunch! It might be interesting!”
So I’m sooooooo not surprised with this waffling and mixed messages and ambiguity and fake yeses and dragging on….
….that this man was as confused as I was.
I realize now how much not saying “no” in the present moment when we mean it can hurt others.
Or really, can hurt ourselves.
What was I so afraid of, when it came to saying No?
The reaction I just got.
It was probably worse, however, because I didn’t say it several years ago.
So in this inquiry today, I wanted to find out more about why I’ve refused to be clear about this relationship, and look more closely when I’ve thought “he’s so needy” or “he’ll be hurt if I say no” or “I’ll lose something if I say no”.
I’ve inquired in the past and found clarity around his neediness. My neediness. My judgment of neediness. I’ve inquired about his being hurt. My being hurt. A beautiful connection we genuinely share.
But I had not inquired fully about my own inner ambiguous feeling of sadness when I thought about saying no, saying goodbye, and what I’d lose.
This can be a very helpful exercise when you feel frightened about saying goodbye to someone, even as you see their beauty, the qualities you love, the happy times you’ve experience with that person that you refuse to admit have ended.
We believe ‘to part ways is terrible’. Friends, lovers, family.
What will you lose, if you part, say no, change it up, when it comes to a relationship?
I’ll lose: humor, laughter, wit, someone sharing creativity and spiritual contemplation, the fun banter and conversation, love. I’ll lose the respect of my current partner. I’ll lose security. I’ll lose a fantasy, a dream. I’ll lose someone who takes care of me either financially or emotionally. I’ll lose attention, kindness, generosity, adventure.
See what it is you believe you’ll have to go without, if you say “no”.
You’ll have to go without it…..is that true?
In my situation, I choose to take a look at the shared laughter and wit. I’ll lose that. I’ll lose his appreciation.
Let’s do The Work.
Is that true that I’ll lose that quality of entertaining and funny dialogue in my life?
No. I have one other close friend who has the same mega-appreciation for laughter-in-all-things and the beauty of entertainment and theater. She’s amazing. We don’t see each other often, but when we do, it’s fabulous. I laugh and laugh, and can talk about anything.
I could bring this more into my life, come to think of it–whether in the company of this lovely friend, or with other people I know.
If you’re following along with this inquiry, and you’ve identified something else you think you’d lose–like security–can you absolutely know it’s true you need it the way it is? Can you absolutely know you’d miss it, if this one person was no longer in your life as much, or they were upset with you for saying “no”?
How do you react when you think by saying “no” you’ll lose something very valuable?
I don’t say it. I’m afraid.
I grab. I hold on tight. I have pictures of what it would look like to lose this quality, this person. I don’t look for it elsewhere. I see my own company as inadequate–not as good alone as I am in the company of the other.
Who would you be without the belief you’ll lose something when you leave, say no, part ways?
I’d sigh with the deep, deep relief of being without the thought of imagining loss.
I’d notice people coming and going, doing what they need to do–including me.
Turning the thought around: I will NOT lose anything if this person is less in my life, or I say “no” to them, or I don’t meet them for lunch. I will GAIN something if I say no. Or, I will neither lose, nor gain, anything I don’t already have.
I will lose my own humor, attention, security, joy, laughter when I say “no”. Isn’t this how I’ve been acting? Like all that fun is over there, in that individual, rather than right here with me?
I suddenly remember I’ve had this belief that I’ll lose out if I say no….about money, work, my kids, my husband(s), my family members.
There’s no freedom in worrying about how someone will respond, or dragging on the “yes, maybe” when the answer at the moment is “no”.
There’s no freedom in worrying about how I myself will respond, if I follow the honest “no”.
It’s sweet in this moment to notice that I’m the one who has been anxious about my own “no”. So I haven’t said it. I’ve also been anxious about my own “yes”. So I haven’t said that, either.
What if yes or no are all OK and there’s no possible way to know what will happen next?
“You are the beloved, you’re the closest one to you. You’re the one you want, the one you need, always there for you. Someone comes into your life, or they don’t.” ~ Byron Katie
OK, not the worst thing. Fine. Little exaggeration on the disappointment.
But not fun, not favorable, not what was initially wanted (if it went perfectly).
At least, that’s the way the mind’s commentary went.
It may be kind of dumb, when you hear it. It’s so small, in a way.
When I was first doing my webinar online retreat last Tuesday, the whole beginning 3 minutes was bizarre sound, tech failure, robot voice, nothing I was communicating was heard.
People were writing saying “I can’t hear anything” and “you sound like you’re from outer-space” and “I don’t understand anything”.
I’m sure some people turned off their computers immediately.
Funny, but on the internal level of feeling, I was honestly barely bothered. It was like “oh”. I stopped the recording, refreshed my internet connection, and voila, all was “normal”. I’m not even sure what went “wrong”.
And it so happened I remembered to start the recording again, even though we were about five slides into the beginning, so as a complete course recording there’s no intro or welcome.
The most important thing about this story, is simply that it’s a moment of stress. The mind says “this sucks”. (And it also says “again” like this same thing has happened a zillion times, even though that’s not true).
Things like this happen every day.
I want it to go like x, but it goes like y.
The volume on the stress gets turned up, the more and more you believe what you’re thinking is true, and it goes from technology whackiness, to something a little more threatening.
Like perhaps the way my mind might have gone (which it’s done before)….turning it into “I can’t do tech. This never works out. I shouldn’t even try. Who am I to think I can run a business?”
A little seed grows into a gigantic mushroom in 5 seconds, internally. We see images of it getting worse.
We think someone said something really bitter or mean or critical to us. We feel cut off, or separated. Life is hard.
We fall down the stairs. Or someone we love does. The world is a dangerous place.
The air and sky is filled with forest fire smoke, and we start thinking about global warming and the end of the world. We are doomed.
The line is too long, the lobby is crowded, the freeway is filled with traffic, the clerk didn’t give us the correct change, we left our bag at school, our water bottle seems to have disappeared, we bang into the edge of the table, the keys are not where they should be.
Huff. Sad. Deflate. Rage.
It’s like there’s a small collapse on the inside (or a big one).
Something that says “NOOOOOOO!”
“This shouldn’t be happening”.
Is it true?
Yes, you can do this work with anything.
You really can ask if it’s absolutely true that what is happening, shouldn’t be. Are you sure?
One of the barriers to self-inquiry I talk about in the online retreat that apparently did mostly happen on Tuesday (and will happen for the final time today at 4 pm PT) is believing about a situation of concern: THIS IS REAL.
In other words, no inquiry or wondering or open-mindedness can occur in THIS situation. It’s REAL. It’s a THREAT. It’s BAD NEWS. It’s SERIOUS.
We’ll think if we even question this thought, then we’ll be passive and fake-ish and pollyanna. How could you not think that having a tech failure where no one can even hear you during an online course is NOT a bad thing?
How can you think getting sick is NOT a bad thing? How can you think forest fires are NOT a bad thing?
Of course they are! Jeez!
With these extremely serious experiences we humans have…how could we not be upset?
For me, inquiry is not about suppressing being upset, or being fake. It is never about flipping into some kind of weird positive or false thinking about things not being bad that really do seem bad.
Self-inquiry is actually the complete opposite.
It’s turning and facing reality as it is with a head-on look. It’s responding, responsive, responsible. I am able to respond, without freaking out and making it bigger than it is. I am able to work with reality as an equal and not thinking it shouldn’t exist the way it’s existing.
I might decide to do something pretty big, pretty bold, pretty loving because I’ve questioned “this shouldn’t be happening”.
Maybe the thing should be happening because I’m being called to wake up, pay attention, take action in a new and different way. Or let go, stop paying so much attention, and stop taking action.
I’ll know where the movement goes, with loving kindness, as I question my thinking.
But I have to actually follow the simple directions, and answer the four questions, and wonder about my answers.
Who would I be without my story that x shouldn’t be happening, whether a weird tech glitch in my online webinar retreat, or the death of someone really close (which I’ve experienced twice this year)?
Turning the thought around: it should be happening.
Could this be just as true? Are there any reasons it should happen that actually work for me? Even if they are tiny?
*I saw how many people so kindly shared with me they couldn’t hear–they truly cared
*I got to remember how I used to freak out on the inside, and noticed how something was completely untriggered, in a good way–progress in reaction
*I didn’t feel bad after the whole thing was over, I felt happy about all the volume of information gathered for the program
*A bunch of people have still signed up for Year of Inquiry anyway, where we continue the adventure pretty soon starting in September
And I can continue the list for other things that have happened, that I initially thought shouldn’t have happened.
Even aging, sickness, separation and death–the big ones.
Turning it around again: my thinking shouldn’t have happened in that situation. It got a riled up, over something unimportant, or something I have zero control over. Life went on.
My thinking about the horrors is what shouldn’t have happened. Even the death of people I love and adore, and miss today, brought many other humans together and made my heart fill with connection and breaking with the love and learning involved.
Who would we be without the belief it shouldn’t have happened?