A scary money story is all in the mind: trust, safety, joy, creativity, service is here now

Oh chuckle.
A thought popped in around money (again); it’s lack, scarcity, limits, and how I was wrong and should have planned or been more aware….
Dang, that whole thought system is very persistent, isn’t it?
I decided to sit down and inquire, in writing, even though part of my mind said “you’ve done this before already”.
The circumstance?
This new rental house, formerly owned by my first husband and father of my children who died last June, is now up for rent. My kids are keeping it, and my son has moved into the basement apartment with separate entrance and his own cool parking spot.
Excitedly, we posted the photos of the brand new paint, gorgeous blue deck, cleaned fireplaces, pretty bathroom, brand new soothing gray carpet, even some new beautiful light fixtures. The place is shining.
Signs up, learning about landlord life, and I have put a lot of time and support into helping my son and daughter take this on–my son especially really loved the idea of moving into his own basement apartment and out of his college town.
We analyzed the prices of other homes, picked something appealing in the middle to low-ish by comparison, and….
….crickets.
Well, a handful of lovely people have inquired. Two people even applied to move in.
And then they found out the basement apartment is occupied.
I felt a little dumb. Lightbulb went on.
DING!
This is a shared home situation. Everyone lives in the same 4 big walls, even if they never see one another. There’s shared laundry between two units. The big, beautiful upstairs has this one not-as-attractive point.
OH NO! 
My mind burst forth with images of recognizing this less-than-perfect issue of sharing a house, that the rent needs to be LOWER in price than you might normally think.
Internal thoughts: I did it wrong. I should have thought that through better. Now we’ve “wasted” two weeks and need to re-list. I have to change all the postings I’ve done–(can I remember all the places I posted)? It’s not as manageable for my son as expected. It’s going to be too much for him. Did we make a mistake? It’s not a good deal.
Jeez.
I sat with the inquiry, noticing when something unexpected happens with money where more is required than imagined….there’s fear.
What’s a deeper inquiry? I asked myself.
I’m believing this is dangerous, that there’s a threat. I’m believing in mistakes. I’m believing in suffering around support. I’m believing in “not enough”, or that soon there won’t be. I’m believing in lack of freedom.
Is any of that true? Seriously?
Is it better to have and keep money, get only what I expect, not ever have any surprises, or assume that if it doesn’t go as I thought it means a mistake has been made or it’s not a good deal?
REALLY? Do I want to keep believing this autopilot go-to thought when it comes to money that I can tell isn’t even true?
How do I react when I believe in danger of not having enough, later in the future (or my son or family not having enough)? How do I react when I believe it’s not a good deal anymore.
Afraid. Self-critical.
There’s the criticism zapping in again. “I” must be doing something wrong. “I” have to fix this ASAP.
When I believe the thought, it really, really matters what money is doing. It matters in that moment more than anything (I think).
It’s important enough to drop everything else (including my own peace) and focus on what to do to handle the situation well (change all the listings, lower the rent we’re asking, make a decision, worry).
So who would I be WITHOUT THIS BELIEF?
It’s immediate. But I’m also deeply committed to spending more time here in question four.
Who or what would I be? What would I notice? What is happening?
Here I am being, without my ideas about money coming and going and how it should behave, or that more is better than less. How does this feel? What is it like to sit here, without this ridiculous and stressful and worrisome belief?
If money were a romantic partner, I’d be instantly out of love with it with this recent discovery about the rent. I was criticizing it, ruminating, angry, pissy, panicking, considering myself abandoned (again), upset with me, upset with it.
Is that unconditional love?
Uh, No.
Did I ever love or appreciate the flow of money in the first place? Am I so self-concerned and all-about-me I’m willing to throw peace out the window in pursuit of “fixing” or “making” money do what I want it to do or provide what I expect it to provide?
Wow.
Talk about Control Central. Ego. Tight Fisted-ness. Insecurity.
Without the belief that money needs to be any different than it is being in this specific situation….I notice how secure I am.
I’m breathing, I’m here, I’m slightly amused, there’s no disaster.
Without the belief that money needs to be a certain way, it really doesn’t matter. I’m open. I relax.
Turning the thought around:
There is no problem here with money. There is no good deal or bad deal that ultimately matters to my life in any way. No disaster has occurred. No threat has entered my world. I’m breathing, sitting, noticing silence, watching images and pictures. There is no need for any money on any level in this precise moment now.
Turning it around on the local level, the little personal story level, the whole experience is full of learning, giving a home a big dose of TLC, offering a beautiful place to other people (what a tremendous service), aligning the price, doing this fun project with my young adult kids. This is a dance with the unfolding of an offering. I feel involved, making a difference, joyful with my kids, like a big grown up.
On the wide open impersonal level, there is just no problem here whatsoever.
Except for a thought….NOTHING HAS HAPPENED. There was insight, more data coming in.
What if this was the absolutely perfect time and way it should all unfold? Not a moment sooner or later for each piece in this process of a project coming to life?
It gives me this amazing moment to do The Work again on a persistent fear of lack, not-enoughness, and sit quietly in question four.
Who would I be without the possibility of Not Enough?
Totally trying new things, amazed at creativity and possibility that’s happened with this house renting thing. Watching things come one day at a time, not too fast or too much. No planning or hand-wringing about the future needed, or regrets in the past.
Turning the thought around again: My thinking is a problem, in this situation (not money). My own thinking is threatening me (about the future especially), my thinking was a good deal, then became not a good deal. I haven’t been loving with my thinking, especially when it comes to money doing its dance.
…Begin to notice the laws of generosity, the laws of letting money go out fearlessly and come back fearlessly. You don’t ever need more money than you have. When you understand this, you begin to realize that you already have all the security you wanted money to give you in the first place. It’s a lot easier to make money from this position. ~ Byron Katie
 
Noticing this moment and how wonderful it is, how full and incredible….and what a gift.
Nothing more required.
If you’d like to sit in inquiry on beliefs that are especially persistent stress-inducers….then retreat is an amazing place to do The Work.
I find every retreat, the time spent allows the clarity to rise up.
We’re honoring our thinking, staying present, using the mind to wonder who we’d be without our thought, finding turnarounds, imagining living them. No distractions or avoiding.
Spring Retreat has room and it’s only a month away! Book a room if you like (two king size bedrooms left) and stay onsite. Everything supported so you can do your work. 
Much love,
Grace
Other upcoming events:
  • Spring Retreat in The Work May 15-19, 2019. Meditate, Inquire, Dance, Walk, Silence, Sharing. Register here.
  • Eating Peace Process Online Brand New Version. Same principles, delivered better. Lifetime access. May 1-August 15, 2019
  • April 14th half-day retreat at my cottage
  • June 27th East West Books evening 7-9 pm.
  • June 12-16, 2019 Breitenbush Retreat with Tom Compton
  • Summer Camp for The Mind Online Inquiry
  • Divorce Is Hell 8 week course Aug 18-October 13, 2019 Sundays 11 am PT/ 7 pm UK with Nadine Ferris France
  • Year of Inquiry begins Sept 8, 2019–a whole year of monthly topics in The Work, and sharing inquiry together

 

The stress of the thought “I can’t figure this out!” and how it leaves us chasing the future.

This Sunday afternoon 2-6 pm....Mini Retreat in The Work. This is the last short gathering like this at my own home this year, and maybe forever.

I have gotten so very, very full on week days, and teaching longer retreats five times a year, it seems the natural way of it to reduce the little Sunday gatherings. (I'll be at East West Books on Thursday, June 27th for a shorter thing 7-9 pm).

One of the things I've adored about a 4 hour gathering, is that when you're familiar with The Work, there's nothing like a time set aside to sit in inquiry and sort something out in your life that feels like a problem. It's so precious to have the whole afternoon.

What's amazing to so many of us, and still is to me honestly, is that this is ultimately all we need to begin to work out a pattern, an issue, a difficulty, some kind of trouble about life.

The mind says "Really? That's it? Answer four questions? Seriously?"

Aren't you just sitting with you-yourself-and-I? Don't we need some kind of teacher, wisdom, friend or message from the heavens to help us figure out the answers to our problems?

Funny the mind will think it's not enough.

It can't be here, the answers I'm looking for. Oh no. It can't be inside the very problem I'm looking to get rid of, right?

Can't we just....do something fun like watch a movie or eat, drink, smoke, ignore What Is? If I have to sit down, with other people around especially, and look at my judgmental thoughts, it will be excruciating.

Sigh.

What's funny is it seems the mind will do anything but open to sit with itself, and the thoughts it's agonizing over, and answer four questions.

At least that's the way it seems my mind has been, heh heh.

Just for today, though, let's look at a global thought that's very stressful and even frightening.

I can't figure this out.

You know the thing you can't figure out? That one.

Hold it in your mind. See the images of you not figuring it out. Maybe there's another person who always drives you nuts. Or a habit you have of hurting yourself (like I did with eating and body image) or you don't have enough time, money, success, patience.

You can't figure it out.

Is it true?

Yes.

Are you absolutely 100% sure for all time that you can't...right now in this moment?

No. Well, maybe. I don't know. OK, no. I can't absolutely know.

How do you react when you believe you can't?

Hopeless. Screwed. Angry. Sad. Mad at myself, and the situation and confused about all the parts involved and what's going on. I'm trying so hard! And not only can I not figure it out....there's a list of other things I can't figure out either.

Arrrrggggggghhhhh.

Pause. Breathe.

So, who would you be without your story of this "problem" that you can't figure out, and the YOU that can't do it?

In this moment, wherever you are as you read these words, feel your feet and notice the space around you. I hear the voice of Byron Katie saying "are you OK?" as she does with inquirers sometimes.

You're alive. A non-verbal current of life.

I love this feeling of sinking into the body. Nothing to do, no problems to solve, nowhere to go, stillness. Something can possibly change right now, in this quiet stillness.

This sensation is often a first place to go with question four (who would you be without your thought you can't figure it out) but then really considering reality:

What if you aren't in charge, and you aren't supposed to figure it out the way you assume you should? And what if figuring it out looks like relaxing and NOT exactly figuring it out the way you thought you were going to? What if you simply respond to what happens, and dance with it, and notice you're aware? What if that is actually "figuring" it out?

Even if you're dying of a disease supposedly. I know that's dramatic. But even then. What if there was no future, no past, and only this moment here now? Could that have a quality of figuring something out to it?

Why not?

What if I am not supposed to figure out HOW, in this whole entire moment, to make enough money, clean the house, stop obsessing or thinking with drama, lose weight, talk to that friend, deal with my mother, run a marathon, fix the roof, fill the seats, help my child, sell my artwork, hire the handyman, save for retirement, get enlightened, apply for a job, get a raise, find a partner.

I mean, that's such a relief, right? How could any of that, or even the one thing you're wanting to resolve a particular way....get resolved in that exact particular way, with "figuring" going on?

Or, let the mind figure. It loves to figure.

Are you still OK, even if it's busy figuring over there (up there)?

Turning the thought around: I CAN figure it out. "I" can figure it out. "I" doesn't need to figure it out, actually. When "I" is a wide open life force, a space, a current of energy.....not the "I" who is "the one who needs to figure something out". No figuring necessary.

Turning it around again: Figuring it out can "I". I know that's a bit weird. But it's a reverse of the energy. Instead of "me" with my brain trying to hard to get somewhere, through figuring....what if it's just as true or truer that this figuring thing can get absorbed into the mysterious "I"?

I can figure it out. Nothing more required. Nothing missing.

I love the movement of figuring can include the wisdom of simply being, the "I", the unidentifiable sense of life force, the being here. Just here.

“This moment is not life waiting to happen, goals waiting to be achieved, words waiting to be spoken, connections waiting to be made, regrets waiting to evaporate, aliveness waiting to be felt, enlightenment waiting to be gained. No. Nothing is waiting. This is it. This moment is life.” ~ Jeff Foster

Much love,
Grace

When you feel ashamed and unlovable

As the beginning of April arrives….my thoughts turn to spring.

We kick off inquiry each month, always, with a First Friday 90 minute telesession for anyone and everyone to do The Work. It’s completely free: Friday, April 5th 7:45-9:15 am Pacific Time. To join, click on this link here. About 15 mins before the time we begin, you’ll see 3 options for joining: phone, webcall (with your computer) or Broadcast (listen-only). If you want to speak by doing The Work OR giving feedback/asking a question, use phone or webcall.

If you’re drawn to a deeper mental “spring cleaning”, by taking a close look at the thoughts that bring us stress, angst, anger, worry or discouragement….then you may love coming to an in-person retreat if you’re anywhere near driving distance to the Pacific Northwest.

*Last one this year at Goldilocks Cottage: 4-hour afternoon mini retreat April 14th (up to 10 people only) at my home 2-6 pm $50. (June 27th is next one at East West Books 7-9 pm).
*Spring retreat  May 15-19, 2019 (commuting OK). Self-inquiry, connection, sharing and most important of all–you getting to question your thoughts with The Work step by step.
*Breitenbush Retreat with my guest facilitator this year Tom Compton June 12-16 Weds eve through Sunday lunch. Read more here and to register CALL Breitenbush 503-854-3320.

There’s nothing like being in the presence of other people who are also committed to exposing their inner thinking, sharing it, being witnessed, and questioning it. Life. Changing.

But it’s really scary sometimes to do this kind of work in a group setting. Especially if it’s not the norm for you.

And sometimes, even if it is.

I speak for myself.

The last Grace Note was about a 3-day retreat in self-inquiry, only with a powerful dimension of attending to the emotional world and expressing feelings honestly without shame, with the thought, without the thought.

I used to do this all the time in my first therapeutic group. I was in that group for three years, every single week. We did not have “The Work of Byron Katie” as a methodology (it didn’t exist yet in the Katie format).

But in our therapy group we did have a history of psychologists, philosophers and change-agents who had studied and worked with the same unnecessary suffering we’re wanting relief from: the memories, stuckness and grief we hold in our bodies and in our mental files, the things we carry forward within.

Just like in The Work, in our life-changing group we were working with the after-effects, the anxiety, the unresolved trauma, the irritation and anger, the never-ending sadness, the lack of good communication skills with other humans.

Yes, suffering seems to happen. There’s life and death, illness, aging, loss. The way it gets endlessly triggered, or the way it affects our whole view of life….that’s what we’re dissolving.

We can’t change the past, but we can learn to live with our memories and experiences with gratitude.

(Did I just say gratitude? Seriously? But yah.)

I’m considering deeply the topic of shame lately. It appears to be  showing up everywhere: with clients I work with, with some of my own memories that have come along, with people working on eating peace and other compulsions and addictions they want to quit, with people close to me.  

Shame is sneaky because it will keep a cycle going of hiding, self-hatred, guilt and non-resolution.

Because we’re believing thoughts like “I don’t deserve to live” or “I’m a stupid person” or “I am bad” or “I’m disgusting” or “I don’t deserve love”. 

So let’s do The Work today on this very powerful belief, that is also a lie. How do you know? You feel horrible when you believe it.

“I’m unlovable.”

Think about the reason you’re unlovable. You might have a list. Sometimes people have very long lists. Your proof that you don’t deserve love and there’s no hope for you.

Is it true, you’re unlovable?

According to yourself (which isn’t the most objective judge, right?) you might say “yes”. 

Your anger, frustration and sadness might be speaking. 

Can you absolutely know that it’s true, though? 

No.

How do you react when you believe you’re unlovable? 

It can be a terrible feeling. You want to stay inside, withdraw, not get together with anyone you know, move away, or of course, do something escapist and addictive. 

Often, we want to hide. We feel sorry for ourselves but also resigned. 

So who would you be without your thought that you’re unlovable? 

Yes, even in that situation, with that person, or doing that activity (like for example your favorite addictive or compulsive activity)?

Who would you really be, if you couldn’t believe your thought–even in THAT situation?

A powerful question for anyone willing to imagine an answer.

I’d see a person who is confused, suffering, deeply troubled. Maybe even frightened. Someone feeling unsupported and tormented.

Someone believing a lie.

Let’s turn this thought around: I am lovable, to myself. I am lovable to the world. I am lovable to reality/God/Universe. I am lovable to other people. I am lovable as I overeat, or get angry, or react emotionally. I am a wave of energy, in motion, doing “human”. I’m someone feeling, sensing, being, alive. 

What is love, anyway? A feeling? An energy? 

I discover as I test and try on this turnaround that I am lovable, and sense a feeling of love within, that it’s a movement, an acceptance. There’s a sense of love surrounding any emotion, including self-criticism, apathy, or discouragement. 

I’m sitting here, alive. The next minute is unknown. I’m not “going somewhere” and I don’t need to get somewhere else. I have everything supplied, apparently, as here I sit–awake and conscious.

Nothing more required.

Why wouldn’t the belief “I am lovable” with nothing to be ashamed of be just as true, or truer, than any other thought passing along this mind? And I notice, this belief is relaxing, spacious, kind. There’s curiosity, if I’ve done something upsetting to myself or anyone else. Not condemnation. 

“Do you want to meet the love of your life? Look in the mirror.” ~ Byron Katie

If you find a stuck point inside you that automatically moves to “I did it wrong” and “I am wrong” and therefor “I am unlovable” then you might want to question it.

Your stress is how you know it’s a lie.

Much love,
Grace

Doing The Work for me this weekend…some kind of ecstasy got a hold on me.

I opened my eyes this morning, and heard the deep breath four other women sleeping in the same room with me, lined up on the floor on mattresses, dorm room style. The light was  just dawning in the sky out the window.


We’re on the third floor of a huge house. A big open space with wooden floors, a gas stove in the corner and a few chairs around the perimeter of the room.

I’ve slept deeply. So far, I’ve had two full days and two nights being with my slumber party mates, plus 8 other people who are also in this same house (or nearby in an AirBnb), in focused self-inquiry.

This is a kind of inquiry combined with an invitation (not a requirement) for each person present to express any emotions felt in question three: “What happens, how to do you react, when you believe this thought?

Wow.

This is the kind of emotional release work I used to do in group therapy for three years. Telling the honest truth about feelings. Saying thoughts out loud. Losing our shame. Showing how we live and act and see and feel when we believe our stressful thought.

Roxann is our facilitator. As Byron Katie’s daughter, she’s been in the work for 30 years.

It shows. She’s not had such a disturbing awakening as her own mother who went a bit mad with having no more identity (you can read more about Byron Katie’s shift of consciousness in 1986 in Loving What Is).

Roxann got to learn self-inquiry in all its various forms from observing her mother’s life, and from coming along with her own experience.

Kind of like all of us are doing here; you, me, anyone interested in this “quest” of living with questions. We’re continuously practicing identifying and then wondering about our experiences, and our reactions to reality. 

It’s sweet and humbling and joyful to be able to sit in retreat and not be the one leading the group. I have the thought every facilitator or leader in any position benefits from this….all the beautiful learning, receiving, awareness that happens when we hold different roles in groups. When we’re open to how Not Done we are.

At least it’s good for me.

After my eyes opened this early morning, and I heard the sound of other bodies breathing deeply, I heard in my head this song playing:

Sun’s up, mmm hmmm, looks okay. The world survives into another day. And I’m thinking about eternity. Some kind of ecstasy got a hold on me.

I didn’t try to think it. I didn’t plan on recalling it.

It just popped in.

A joyful, brilliant message of grace by musician and songwriter Bruce Cockburn.

It came out in 1979 the year I graduated high school.

That was the last year anything appeared to be ecstatic for a long, long time. I felt lost, stuck, insecure, confused, addicted to drama and self-criticism, tortured for about ten years. College drop-out, father dying of cancer, boyfriend gone, over-eating, over-drinking, over-training, over-smoking, over-anxious, over-dreading.

Over-Thinking.

Not enough feeling.

It struck me this morning, as I dressed with joy, picked up my laptop, and went downstairs to set out breakfast for the group before writing to you here….that simply feeling without reservation, feeling without terror of judgment about feeling, feeling without shame, feeling with freedom to let it rip, let it be there….

….is such a beautiful allowing of What Is.

People on this retreat are all experienced in The Work. Everyone’s done it, practiced it, walked through it maybe hundreds of times.

And here we are together, sitting in Question Three and BEING who we are with our beliefs, letting them live….and THEN (and just as important) sitting in Question Four and imagining who we are without our story. 

Feeling who we are without our story. Remembering being in that situation, being with that difficult person without our story.

How?

By slowing the whole process down and letting the images, scenes, memories, feelings, words, silence….giving it all time to be there and be shared and witnessed.

I am stunned in this process that when we humans tell our story of pain, the feelings come alive. The vibration of feeling moves through the body, the limbs, hands, heart, chest, arms, throat, face. 

When we have the opportunity to be witnessed in this story and experience, the story can move, shift and transform into a healing one, not a victim one.

Sitting in the circle, every time someone does their work, I’m gazing into the face of someone absolutely brilliant: someone who knows their own inner life, and has their own inner guidance (without even knowing it sometimes), someone who’s following the simple directions to be themselves with a story they really want to understand and contemplate.

It’s always a story that’s caused deep distress and pain.

So yeah.

I had a story. 

I know I’ve written about it before so if you’ve read Grace Notes for awhile, you may have even read about it for 2 or 3 times.

Sometimes….a story takes time to crack open all the way, all the way. The story has its own timeline, its own pace. Some stories are with us for a lifetime, but the perspective alters.

There I was, jumping into my story of being abandoned, discarded, actually thrown away by my first husband.

Yes, I have spent time in inquiry and found miraculous advantages for everything happening as it did.

This work was about what was left.

He threw me away.

A scream came out of me that later, I noticed, hurt my throat. “Come back!! Come back!! Don’t leave!! I can’t do this on my own!! Nooooooo!!!” 

The scream reached back in time to my father and his cancer, and all the goodbyes from anyone or anything I had ever encountered that brought me support, help, strength.

The scream even reached into the future when my mom will die, or a good friend, or any friend who’s ever vanished, or maybe my current adorable husband.

Right now, I’m amazed at the core belief that just doesn’t quit in the mind: 

“I can’t”.

I can’t live well, I can’t do it, I can’t make it, I can’t succeed.

Who would we be without this story?

This weekend, by being here in the presence of these lovely willing humans, I’ve gotten to do The Work alongside them and they with me on boyfriends, ex-partners, father, mother, brother, sister, abandonment, betrayal, disgust, cancer, hatred, rage, terror, fighting, withholding, body, stalking, boss, service, duty, loyalty- gone-overboard.

I’ve gotten to un-crack more remnants of victimhood. The harshness of feeling like a victim.

The voice that says “I can’t”.

I notice right now, as I gaze for a moment out a beautiful French door with glass, a balcony, and still gray water lapping on the shore through the trees down below; I notice that except for my thinking, there is nothing terrible happening right now

Absolutely nothing. 

Turning the thought around: I can.

I can go on. I can live. I can succeed. I can make it. I can survive. I can do it. I can love. 

I already have–haven’t you?

And here’s a turnaround I love so much, and we don’t always find this turnaround in every inquiry: YAHOO!!! YIPPEE!!! I can’t!!!

Because here’s what I notice; When I can’t, something else happens, someone comes in to help, I wind up somewhere unusual, I get surprised (in a good way). 

I don’t even need to believe I can….I just am. I’m being it. I’m being breathed, as Katie says. I’m just here.

I can’t, so hooray and halleluia! 

I can’t….so that thing I pictured was unnecessary, it was a lie. I can’t, because I was needed elsewhere achieving something different. I can’t become an orthopedic surgeon because I’m busy facilitating The Work and writing this note. I can’t make a million dollars because I’m busy learning how fundamentally supported I am without the cash. 

I can’t stay married the first time because I’m of far greater service to the world, and a thousand times more connected to other people (my favorite) after being “left” and getting divorced. 

Reality is always kinder than the stories we tell about it. ~ Byron Katie

You can do this work, too. 

Find a witness, one friend, a family member, someone who can listen closely to you or maybe two or three. Invite them to gather. Tell them you want to share your story, Have them listen honorably, without interruption or advice. Then, wonder what it would be like to NOT have your belief in this identity, this “I can’t” story. 

There is something so very healing and liberating about sharing what’s true in your heart–the good, the bad, and the ugly. All the explaining you want to do about how you can’t and how sad or unhappy you are about it. 

Who would you be without your story right now in this moment that you are Not Able or You Can’t and it’s bad, sad, frightening, wrong?

Maybe a smile comes to your face. Maybe you get a little charge f Can-Do. Maybe you feel a whisper of inspiration, or patience. Or if you feel like me in the moment, some kind of ecstasy takes a hold on you. 

If you want to tap into this process of doing The Work (not necessarily in the same format of spotlight focus on feelings: beginners to experienced are all welcome) then join me on spring retreat in Seattle at our beautiful retreat house May 15-19. A few rooms left for those who’d like to stay onsite (ask about the fees for rooms). Register.

I Wonder Where The Lions Are–Thinking About Eternity by Bruce Cockburn. 

Much love,
Grace

Tell others the truth, and heal.

Sign up for spring retreat. Share with others. The adventure of a lifetime. And healing.

“To me, sangha is a central support in meditation practice. Sangha is a community outside the realm of our work life and our everyday life, a place where we refrain from competition and one-upping each other. It’s also an opportunity to put the brakes on people-pleasing behaviors. Rather, we tell each other the truth of our experience.” ~ Pema Chodron

Gathering in a group is so wonderful, so meaningful, so supportive, and so…..difficult. 
Because….people. 

From time to time, it dawns on me how brave people are who are willing to do The Work with others.

It’s not easy. 

The Work asks us to expose the worst thoughts we have about situations, the things we should hide. And we better keep them hidden. Right?

We have the thing we’re thinking about with concern–it’s aggressive, painful, aggravating. Something happened, it felt so terrible. 

Ugh. What would people think?

And then, on top of our sadness or irritation….we’re also guilty and ashamed. 
The last thing we want to do sometimes is call it up, talk about it, write about it, or set our minds to inquiring.

Can’t we do something else?

(Oh, you mean like eat, drink, smoke, spend, game, internet? Sure! Won’t be fun though). 

Those Judge Your Neighbor worksheets are so frightening sometimes. What if someone read them? What if he knew I was writing this? What if she found it? 

(I’ve had many people leave their worksheets at my house in a secret file, and come back to keep working on them each week or month). 

It does take a ton of courage to express yourself honestly in the childish, hurt, cutting, bitter way we feel. We’re judging ourselves simultaneously while sharing our feelings at the very same time. 

Something screams “Don’t say that! OMG, she’s saying it.”

And yet….who would we be without the belief we shouldn’t reveal this embarrassing situation, or that awful thing we did, or the terrible words that person said to us and we’re now thinking about them? Who would we be without the belief that we have something to hide?

Turning the beliefs around: it’s wonderful to reveal our innermost thoughts and judgments, it’s NOT terrible to share what happened to us, it’s powerful to say what we did. We have nothing we need to hide. Safety is here. Acceptance. Love.

Could these be just as true or truer? 

All I know is, the greatest healing and peace, unconditional love and gratitude I have ever felt is when I’ve shared very personal, revealing, difficult things about myself, about my childhood, about my life….and been heard, witnessed and accepted. 

Reading Judge Your Neighbor worksheets out loud to at least one other has a way of admitting and owning: “I am here” and “I am human”. 

I know I feel honored and full of appreciation when someone tells me something they’ve been festering over that they haven’t spoken of before. 

And it’s extra special powerful when we get to do that in groups, with supportive, kind people who are all gathered to do The Work together. We’re meeting because we want to be free of our secrets or inner turmoil of judgment. There’s something incredible about finding out other people think the very same thoughts we do. 

Wow. We are not alone. 

We can all support each other, and ourselves, to write down our judgments–the most nasty hateful fearful thoughts we’ve ever had–and take them through this process called The Work. In doing this, we discover alternative ways to see, new possibilities.

Opposites. 

Who are we all without our stressful stories? 
Loving, sharing with each other. Getting support. Not doing it while suffering, alone. 

We’re a sangha.

I hope if you’re thinking about coming to retreat, you’ll do it in May. It’s such a wonderful time of taking off the dark blankets that have been hiding our pain, shame, embarrassment, anger, or grief. 

In spring cleaning retreat, everything’s blossoming, especially our inner spirits, as we become part of the tribe called human. 

You can do this with any circle gathered together to do The Work. Find a Meetup near you, google a retreat in the area, join a study group, get a partner on skype or the phone, take a class, work with a facilitator, have a friend facilitate you, and you facilitate them. 

It’s remarkable to live with nothing to hide.

Join me on retreat in Seattle at our beautiful retreat house. A few rooms left for those who’d like to stay onsite (ask about the fees for rooms). Register

Much love,Grace

Spring retreat: inquiry for cats like us.

I’m not sure what’s going on, but I just had a second registration for spring retreat come in for a cat. 

LOL. 

Actually, with cats, dogs, insects, birds; these creatures appear to be living, being, flying, running, jumping, playing, sleeping, hunting, snuggling, eating, moving….even if they are dying, it appears they don’t do it with the stress we humans sometimes have around these activities. 

Most living creatures besides humans don’t appear to be sufferingin the mind and thinking they need to forget, or change, or fix, or improve. 

Suffering is: remembering, thinking, worrying, regretting, projecting into the future, turning towards themselves with self-criticism and self-judgment (even self-hatred).  

Now, truth is, what do I know about a cat’s mind?

Like you probably do, I watch animals and plants and trees and notice they are all there, being themselves, in the present moment. 

They’re being “cat”. Or “tree”.  

When we observe everything around us it all seems wildly curious, mysterious, crazy, inexplicable. 

Where did All This come from? 

What’s going on?

Thinking itself is magnificent….but it also creates a lot of imagery, feelings, stories and inventions that aren’t necessarily true in this present moment. (I’m sure you’ve noticed, haha)!

Who would we be without our stressful thinking? 

We do think, that isn’t going to stop. We’re human. We have these amazing brains and creative imaginative minds. 

What is this fourth question in The Work offering anyway: Who would you be without that thought? 

One of my favorite things about the process of The Work, is narrowing our focus down to just one situation at a time. One person, one incident, one experience, on concept or thought that really disturbs us still when we remember it. 

We don’t have to force ourselves to Not Be with any thoughts. We’ll have thoughts, oh yes. Many thoughts. We love information and learning and gathering and understanding, don’t we?

And, we can wonder what it would be like without our stressfulthought, and use our imaginations to investigate and wonder.  

What I noticed after beginning to practice The Work, was that when I never questioned my thinking about anything, I was rather miserable a lot of the time, with an occasional blip of happiness and joy. 

Without believing my stories are the Truth….I’m much more like the rest of what I see around me: living creatures, chairs, tables, houses, pavement. 

I am this being, a part of the world, doing, then not doing, awake, then asleep. Not having thousands of stressful thoughts about it all. Noticing the comfort and stillness present, the speed, the slowing down, the movement of What Is. 

I’m more like a cat, or dog, or a living entity like a plant, without my stories. 

This may be more true than any of us ever realized. 

Astonishing.

“Our situation on this earth seems strange. Every one of us appears here involuntarily and uninvited, for a short stay, without knowing why. To me it is enough to wonder at the secrets.” ~ Albert Einstein

Join the practice of presence, clarity….and joy of being. Spring Retreat can help unravel stressful thinking, so we can see the beauty in what is. Register

Much love,Grace

Together we can do great things. But what if people are scary?

E

Have you ever noticed that when it comes to Other People, you’re not so sure how safe you feel in their presence?

Long ago, I entered an ongoing therapy group. I experienced anxiety regularly, and my attitude towards life was a fine line between kind-of hopeful including noticing beauty in the world and deeply discouraged about humanity and my own plight.

I binge-ate sometimes. I smoked cigarettes on and off for a decade. I drank alcohol occasionally to the point of black-out. I drank a lot of coffee. I ran for miles at dawn. My kitchen cupboards were almost entirely empty. With pride I made sure everything I owned fit in my little Datsun named Ezzy. 

These were the outside behaviors, but they reflected what was happening on the inside: disturbance, unsettled, doom. 

Like when an airplane is enroute and suddenly the pilot says, after things start to get a bit bumpy and the sky is looking less than pure blue….“please buckle up and take a seat, we’re going through some disturbance.”

Then you see lightening flash and something crashes in the back where the flight attendants sit.

(That’s never actually happened to me, but it did to my sister. Everyone turned out OK).

I felt this kind of gloom and fear about every 3 days on average. 

Just so uncomfortable and always trying to find comfort. Where was it?

I didn’t know that it was in my thinking, and the way I perceived the world. 

What’s funny is, I was worried about crashes and accidents and death and illness and burning in hell and bad things happening, like an apocalypse, and I was secondarily worried about my experiences with other humans. 

This is where the therapy group comes in. There I was, surrounded by other humans.

Strangers even, in the beginning. 

Terrifying!

It sounds like I’m joking, but that was actually my feeling. Horribly frightened of their eyes looking at me, their words, what they were thinking, what I was feeling…..yikes.
Just walking into the therapy room each week where we all met took a lot of courage for me. I had adrenaline pumping through me, and I often thought “gosh, maybe I’m getting a fever” just before it was time to leave for the group on Wednesdays nights.

But I stuck with it.

Because something about being in the midst of all those people was me facing my worst fears. Something in me knew that if I could learn to handle just being a part of the group (or, dare I say it, enjoying it) I might find some freedom and peace.

Little did I know how wise this was. 

For what happened, was when I found at first a little calm, then relaxation, then safety, then actual JOY about attending the therapy group (it took a few years)….

….my fears about the apocalypse and plane crashes and horror movie visions also shifted and became far less intense.

Who would have known that becoming comfortable with people was the doorway into becoming comfortable with life itself, and everything that happened in it?

This is why I love groups now, and honest conversations.

True Confession: I still get excited and slightly nervous about retreats, programs, talks, meetings, being on stage, leading something, interviews. 

All these things involve Other People, my old fear. 

Who would we be without our beliefs about the dangers of other people?
It’s never, ever, ever as unfriendly as I have made it out to be. It’s much, much better, consistently. Being with other people has truly opened the doorway to an unexpected, beautiful peace, intimacy, closeness and love. I’m part of a tribe of life called humanity.

And it all started with biting the bullet: Accepting that I’m full of fear and volatile emotions, and I don’t appear to behave in support of my own interests…..and that I needed some help. 

So I showed up in therapy group, willing to see what happened and willing to be there.

The pain and suffering I experienced drove me to gather with others.

It was difficult, and one of the best things I ever did. In that group, I felt challenged, terrified, full of grief, crying in front of people (gasp), enraged….and then also, full of joy, unconditional love, and understanding.

We were questioning our beliefs (before I ever heard of Byron Katie). We were finding out who we could be without our stories.

Connected. Loved. Loving.

This is why I do retreats and form groups and gather with the Year of Inquiry people each year, and the Eating Peace Process tribe. 

It’s unknown, mysterious, and healing to do The Work in the presence of others. It really takes courage to show up and be honest and share from the heart, mind and soul with Other Humans. 

If you’re like me, you start to dream of caves, books and a quiet day all alone as a Dream-Come-True and why bother letting other people hear my plight or my concerns? 

Why do I do it?

Because it’s my Living Turnaround: Other People are profoundly safe, My Thinking about other people is what is unsafe. 

When I believed speaking out loud was unsafe because those people might shun, reject, criticize, judge or hate me….I lived a fearful, careful, apologetic life.

I wasn’t honest. I hid. 

Turns out, it was much safer to be in their presence in a truly honest, open, willing way.

Not comfortable at first, at all. 

If you’d like to practice challenging your belief that Other People are not pleasant, unsafe, boring, worrisome, doubtful or judging you (etc, etc) then coming to a retreat is a brilliant way to do it. 

It’s not a weekly therapy group for several years, it’s a fairly short and simple commitment (only 4 days out of your life) and a retreat in The Work provides a place to expose your true self gently, honestly, in the company of others who can relate.

Including me.

Spring Cleaning Retreat is an inside cleaning job, but the paradox is that it couldn’t happen unless we gathered with others. That’s the key ingredient, the doorway, into a new way of seeing life. 

I’d love you to join me. 

Register.

“None of us, including me, ever do great things. But we can all do small things, with great love, and together we can do something wonderful.” ~ Mother Teresa
Much love,Grace
Other upcoming events:

  • Eating Peace Process Online Brand New Version. Same principles, delivered better. Lifetime access. May 1-August 15, 2019
  • April 14th half-day retreat at my cottage
  • June 9th half-day retreat at my cottage
  • June 12-16, 2019 Breitenbush Retreat with Tom Compton
  • East West Books Seattle Thurs June 27th 7-9 pm
  • Summer Camp for The Mind Online Inquiry
  • Divorce Is Hell 8 week course Aug 18-October 13, 2019 Sundays 11 am PT/ 7 pm UK with Nadine Ferris France
  • Year of Inquiry begins Sept 8, 2019–a whole year of monthly topics in The Work, and sharing inquiry together
https://InstantTeleseminar.com/Events/114360906

Event Page Password: eatpeace 
If you don’t have access to the web, you can listen in by dialing (425) 440-5010, and using the following conference pin: 305799# 

Trust your wound to a teacher’s surgery: The Work

An interesting turn of events appears to have slowly been budding in the past six to twelve months here in my little business world.

Like a very slow motion flower blossoming.

Time to prune the offerings and focus even more deeply on a few: eating peace process, divorce/break up, the upcoming tenth group of Year of Inquiry. 

(Not the tenth actual year of Year of Inquiry, to be clear–the very first year, I had 4 groups start–one every quarter. It was super fun. And way more work than I ever anticipated. LOL.)

I mention all this because the upcoming May retreat will likely be the last 4 day retreat for awhile (with the exception of Breitenbush summer retreats and the annual Eating Peace Retreat in January–which is a luxurious 6 whole days). 

When I began offering 4 day retreats, it was because so many people gave feedback that living in the process of self-inquiry for more than two days on a weekend was profoundly helpful. 

I could feel it myself. The group grew ever more deeply as we investigated, shared, and walked the trail of wondering who we’d be without our stories. 

I’m always so moved by what I witness at retreat. 

And, it takes some courage and time to thaw out those hard, solid stories about hard times we’ve encountered. The betrayals, the disappointments, the experiences that felt traumatic and then affected our lives from that point forward. 

If I sit and consider the hard times….I can still make an instant list.

My father dying of leukemia, an abortion, my first husband leaving the marriage, fear and anxiety overwhelming me in my 20s, abandonment, a good friend’s shocking betrayal, a sister cutting me off, having no money and almost losing my home, getting a cancerous tumor on my leg. 

All of us can make a list. 

The things that hurt. The events that continue to echo within our nervous system or our hearts, leaving us a little (or a lot) unhappy with life, leaving us not feeling well or not feeling ourselves. These situations seem to bring difficulties, compulsive behavior (like addictions), nervous tics, sadness, worry, upset. 

The way I know out of the mental chatter, fear, or shattered disappointment, is to question my perspective and find my answers. 
That thing that happened….you know the event….it changed your life for the worse….

Is it true?

Are you absolutely sure it’s true that it changed your life for the worse?

Right now in this early morning writing, I think about my divorce 12 years ago and the road to having the private practice and business I’ve been dancing in over the past decade. 

I thought so many times my life was over, it was a disaster, I couldn’t do it. I thought so many times I needed help, and needed to get somewhere else (not where I was). I needed confidence, employment, support, money, skill development, learning.

When I believe the thought that my divorce was shattering in a permanent way, and that it’s taken me a decade to get up and running….I can still feel sad. 

And, I had The Work in my pocket the whole time. 

I wrote worksheets on the doom I was facing, the hurt, the sense of abandonment, the deflation. 

The feeling was “I’m in danger” or “I can’t make it” or “there’s something wrong with me” or “life is hard”.

But who was I without my story??

Who am I right now without my story that the thing that happened (in this case, divorce) made my financial life worse? 

Because what I notice about money-earning and giving service and trading my time and efforts for dollars, is that a completely new world was born for me out of that divorce process.

When it came to business, I started signing up for everything.

Without my story that I’ve been abandoned, my attitude became: Just Do It. 

I had an idea, an invitation, a suggestion, and I’d be off. I’d go there. I’ve taken tons of courses: how to build a website, putting a podcast together, course curriculum development, marketing, business and money, organizing your social media, how to give a presentation, creating your signature talk, writing copy, how to write a blog (Grace Notes!), more marketing. 

I’ve been in masterminds for small businesses, networking groups, and gone to NYC for media and PR training and how to communicate more directly (I know, that one may be a surprise, LOL).

What I notice now today, is a sense of less rather than more, when it comes to new information and business growth. 

Once again I get to look as I write this Grace Note and reflect on my future in business and prepare to pay taxes this year (I’m still shocked that I owe taxes): Who would I be, right now, without the belief that divorce and losing almost everything financially was horrible?

Because I notice right now, each day has brought an opportunity to sit still, to share with others, to dialogue with people about the mind and stories and questioning anything that feels painful or frightening. 

Turning it around: it was the best thing that could have happened. What?!

It opened up a profoundly new world. Learning, learning, learning. 

And now today, questioning the thought “I need to learn more, grow more, add more” without saying “no” ever.  

Who would I be without the story I need to grow, add, expand, gain, build? 

Something is narrowing in and allowing other things to fall away, slowing down and becoming more still. 

Without the belief that divorce process was “bad” and doing “more” business is required for survival and money and support and freedom….
….I’m just here.

Woman writing in a comfortable chair noticing the sun rise, noticing a willingness, even a need, to relax the drive for More and to do nothing. Feeling the pace slow down around this business. 

Sharing with you how joyful I am that we’ll be gathering for inquiry in May for 4 whole days and knowing there may be a break after that from what’s become the normal schedule (although, what’s a “normal” schedule). 

Who would I be without the belief I have to work hard, make anything happen, complete the list, implement, take action, etc, etc?

I’d be remembering I can sit still right now and feel the truth that who I believe myself to be, and the events I believe happened that were “hard” and made life “worse” shaped the direction I took in profoundly beautiful ways. 

I wouldn’t be here without the divorce, the money panic, the School for The Work, the ones who listened when they asked four questions, the betrayals, the fear, the anger, the despair, the laughter.

“Trust your wound to a teacher’s surgery.
Flies collect on a wound.
They cover it, those flies of your self-protecting feelings,
your love for what you think is yours.
Let a Teacher wave away the flies and put a plaster on the wound.
Don’t turn your head.
Keep looking at the bandaged place.
That’s where
the Light enters you.
And don’t believe for a moment that you’re healing yourself.” ~ Rumi

Trusting my wounds to a teacher’s surgery means for me that I sit in silence and with others and I do The Work. The teacher is inquiry. I question my anxious beliefs, the beliefs that those things that happened were terrible. I question that “I have to” (keep the same schedule, do it the same way, do more, learn more, work more). 

If you’re drawn to join me in May, I’d love to have you so we can look at our disturbances together. 

And you know one wonderful thing I know already? The people who come and the group that’s formed and the inquiry that happens will all be brilliant–the best that could happen.

Register.

Much love, Grace

You shouldn’t be ambivalent about this. You should KNOW. (Are you sure?)

First Friday is tomorrow! Open, free meditation in The Work for anyone and everyone interested in questioning their stressful beliefs. No experience necessary. 

Friday, March 1st 7:45-9:15 am PT. Everyone dials in (no video), is guided through filling out a Judge Your Neighbor worksheet (the fabulous step one), then 2-3 people get to “do” The Work out loud. Join us HEREChoose phone or WebCall if you want to be heard. Choose Broadcast if you prefer to listen-only.

Also, if you’re in the free Eating Peace facebook support group, I’ll come at 10 am PT to do a facebook live also on Friday. Request membership by visiting here. I’m a part of it but only share about once a week. Sweet people there for simple encouragement and inquiry.

Doing The Work is sometimes like an arduous excavation, it seems.

Kind of like what’s happening in my back yard, literally.

As the digging began, it was very exciting and kind of sad at the same time (goodbye old garage rec room where many memories happened). A huge loud machine, not exactly relaxing, came rolling in.

Sometimes, the gigantic machine was inches from my actual cottage as it squeezed into the small driveway to get to the back yard.

Smash, crash, loads of garbage and destroyed material, wires, glass, roofing, door. I was absolutely fascinated. 

And then….five days into the destruction….a phone call.

“There’s something too unstable about the soil. It’s very sandy (this was once a lake bottom and a swamp). We have to do MORE foundational work before we even get started building”. 

Oh. 

Reminds me of diving deeply into self-inquiry and all the beliefs about life, the world, relationships, incidents, scary things, sad things. AGAIN.

Here comes the mind all over again. Believing something’s wrong, dangerous.

But there’s more. It’s not as easy as we thought. 

The other day in a private group, where we do inquiry together (it was the Eating Peace program)….someone brought up her feeling of being Against Ambivalence. 

Wow, what a permeating and long-lasting stressful thought.

As I considered this belief and perspective, I noticed that in anything my mind perceives as “a relationship” I’ve often experienced ambivalence.

Love interests, friendships, family, the city I live in, my neighborhood, politics, the weather, a major project I’m working on (the new version of Eating Peace curriculum which has been a year in the making), a book I think I’m writing, my body, saying yes, saying no, food and other substances

Ambivalence.

The word comes from combining two important words only about 100 years ago: ‘ambi’ and ‘value’. Ambi, meaning “two” and value meaning to have “worth”. 

As we looked at this idea of ambivalence and how it shouldn’t happen, I was struck by noticing that the nature of everything appears to have worth, and, absence of worth.

Both. And all the variations in between, like a song with hight notes and low notes.

Someone brought to an individual solo session in inquiry this past week the deeply stressful belief that the mind shouldn’t be so unstable. 

There is was again: two, multiple, variety, many, unpredictable, shared. BAD!!

I’m against it. The mind says it wants: “one, singular, same, solo, individual, non-dual, clear, final”. Decision made. Game over.

That’s better….right?

Is that true?

How do we react when we believe something shouldn’t be ambivalent, including my own relationship with x, y, or z?

I get firmer and more convicted. I seek for how to fortify my thinking or my decision. I have intolerance for the unknown. As a thoughtful inquirer said in our eating peace group call; “I KNOW”.

I know how this should be going. I know how my mind should react. I know how the future will be. I know what’s wrong. I know what’s right. I know that unless I quit being ambivalent about food or eating (or whatever it is I’m looking at), I’ll be doing it wrong.

It’s full of getting convinced and looking for the right answers and energy. 

Hmm. Not very relaxing. Not very free.

So who would we be without the belief that when something is ambivalent, including my own thought process or feelings (even life), it’s wrong and shouldn’t be that way?

WOW.

Without the belief, I almost begin to wonder if anything is NOT full of multiple values, multiple variety of ways it can go, a huge unknown of infinite possibilities and happenings. 

Without the belief that ambivalence shouldn’t be, I relax. I notice the innocence of this situation. I notice the sweetness of not knowing, and the immense joy and freedom available, no matter what this mind is doing.

In this moment, there’s a huge hole in the back yard, and sandy soil, and stillness while it all waits for the soil scientist geo-something-or-other and the architect to decide what needs to make it stable. 

I’m not in charge. I’m not the expert. I wait.

I notice I don’t say “stop the project! I can’t stand it!” (it’s not true) and I don’t say “I don’t care if it costs thousands of dollars to fix!” (because I do care, and I don’t have the dollars). 

I just pause. I watch. I go about my day.

Turning the thought around: it’s wonderful to be ambivalent, it’s natural to be ambivalent, I am supported in this ambivalence! I should be ambivalent, because I am. The mind is ambivalent–about everything! Yahoo! (Haha). 

Could this be just as true, or truer? 

Maybe there are wonderful reasons for this feeling of being torn.

Maybe there is effort, understanding, discomfort, energy required for this process.

Maybe it’s helping me surrender to what is. To cry, rage, laugh, hold still, be curious, be open. 

I notice this building project behind my house is a phenomenal effort, three years in the making (architect, plans, permits, saving money, refinancing, taking a loan, trusting the future, consulting). 

It’s requiring awareness of thought once again about money, change, creativity, creation, patience. 

Part of the building will be office and retreat space for the work I do. This requires great trust in my life’s work, today, and the future of service I imagine offering. 

I get to see how it goes, whether my mind is torn, or not. 

I get to see that I am not in control of so much of it–just a player in the dance. 
Isn’t this what I always want when it comes to being alive, here on planet earth, with all this?

If you want what visible reality can give, you’re an employee.
If you want the unseen world, you’re not living your truth.Both wishes are foolish, but you’ll be forgiven for forgetting that what you really want is love’s confusing joy.~ Jalaluddin Rumi

I like the part about love’s “confusing” joy. 

Ambivalent. Confusing. In love. Laughing. Wondering how this is all going to go….

Much love,

Grace

P.S. Spring Retreat in The Work is May 15-19, 2019. Register.

P.P.S. If you’re on the Eating Peace mailing list (not Grace Notes), you’re receiving this note because many of you are so interested in simply doing The Work of Byron Katie you might like coming to First Friday tomorrow. See the link at the top to join us!
Other upcoming events:

  • Eating Peace Process Online Brand New Version. Same principles, delivered better. Lifetime access. May 1-August 15, 2019
  • April 14th half-day retreat at my cottage
  • June 9th half-day retreat at my cottage
  • June 12-16, 2019 Breitenbush Retreat with Tom Compton
  • Summer Camp for The Mind Online Inquiry
  • Divorce Is Hell 8 week course Aug 18-October 13, 2019 Sundays 11 am PT/ 7 pm UK with Nadine Ferris France
  • Year of Inquiry begins Sept 8, 2019–a whole year of monthly topics in The Work, and sharing inquiry together

Surviving Beginner’s Mind by questioning the belief “I don’t belong here”.

Have you ever been starting something new, and the thought comes in, “Jesus, when will this be over?”

It’s literally the first fifteen minutes of an all-day workshop. 

The tech equipment isn’t working on stage. The people look suspicious. The venue is very cold. The first exercise is to turn to our ‘neighbor’ and share why we came to this workshop. 

Seriously? I don’t care why my neighbor came. Maybe I should leave.

Doubt can come careening through our experience about anythingnew. (Gosh….maybe there was nervousness about turning to the neighbor. Maybe we’re in the right place, at the right time, on the right day. With the right neighbor). 

About a month ago, I started lifting weights to address my hamstring injury from 2013.

The one where, if you’ve been reading Grace Notes for awhile, my right hamstring tore from the sits-bone (followed by surgery to re-attach it) because I decided it was a good idea to do a gymnastics move I used to perform when I was fifteen. 

It’s been mostly hurting in one way or another since then. 

I’ve done many physical therapies, checked with the surgeon who originally performed the repair, had another MRI, myofascial release therapy, massage, stretching, feldenkrais, yoga. 

And done many worksheets: “This should go away, I hate this, my leg is ruined, I’ll never run again, my life is over”. 

One day, I heard strengthening all the leg muscles would help. Not exactly a new thought. But for some strange reason I will never know, I suddenly downloaded a program for weight training, and started.

To do this program, I had to go to the gym. That’s not unusual for me. But going into the weight lifting section of the gym….that’s a different story. 

I generally stick to exercise equipment I can do while reading my books. 

Off I went, with youtube videos on my phone of how I was supposed to perform each new weight lift. 

There were some uncomfortable moments trying to figure out the name of certain machines or where that particular dumbbell is in this place (don’t look at me)!

But one day, a few weeks into my new program, I went to the gym at 5 pm in the afternoon. 

Bad idea. 

Triple the amount of people, with clanking noises and hard rock music more prevalent on the speakers. Lots of men with very big arms, spotting each other. 

They know I’m a novice. They think I don’t belong here.They’re staring at me.

I caught myself having this pattern of thought energy: I am not like them. I don’t belong. 

Is it true?

No.

How do I react when I believe I’m the one who is not like the others

Crabby. 

Nervous. Turning up my headphones. Watching them, but not too long, or too much.

Noting some of the equipment and how they’re using it. Seeing the huge size of the weights they have on their bars. Noticing another woman in the area and thinking “oh good, I’m not alone.”

Such suspicion about not belonging! 

Who would I be without the thought they think *something* of me (and it’s not good)?

Who would I be without the belief there’s any danger here? Or that I need to know something I don’t know?

I notice the delight of seeing these unique people. I listen to their voices, especially one man’s whose normal speaking voice appears to be yelling. I love hearing their banter, the cadence of their laughter, the jokes to one another. Noticing they don’t address me, bother me, or even say one thing to me. I’m completely welcome, I’m not kicked out.
In fact, one muscular man with gray hair looks at me and just as I begin to think I need to move out of his view, he asks “Did you leave a blue sweatshirt over there?”

Oh. 

Yes I did. 

How kind of him.

I turn my thoughts around: They don’t know I’m a novice, and it doesn’t matter if they DO know it. They think “oh how cool, a woman who could be my mom is here in the gym. Love it.” They think I belong here. They’re not staring at me.

These could all be just as true, or truer. 

Turning the thoughts around to myself: I don’t know I’m a novice. I think I don’t belong here. I think they don’t belong here (want them gone). I’m staring at them! The thing is, none of these thoughts are true, when I inquire. They are all founded in the assumptions that I should know something before I know it, and that being new at something is “bad” or will bring rejection from others. 

With something new, you have to start. It’s weird at the beginning. You might not like the change. 

“Sometimes the ‘fault’ that you perceive in another isn’t even there. It is a total misinterpretation, a projection by a mind conditioned to see enemies and make itself right….And what you react to in another, you strengthen in yourself.” ~ Eckhart Tolle

Has Not Belonging ever really happened in a permanent, unresolvable way? 

Not one time, ever. 

Today, how fun to notice what’s new. This moment here, now. This gorgeous morning.

How many things I’ve learned so far in this lifetime going from baby to experienced.

The brilliant and helpful people everywhere on planet earth. 

In this new moment, I open a full calendar telling me what needs to happen when, including my gym visit. I notice the hamstring injury pain has been reduced to almost nothing over the past 4 weeks. 

Perhaps a new thing you find uncomfortable, and yet you’re drawn, is beckoning you today? 

Without believing your stressful thoughts about it…you might walk towards the door, being a new baby learning how every step of the way. 

Much love,Grace

P.S. Spring Retreat is May 15-19, 2019. Register.
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