Decluttering the mind, Marie Kondo style (spring retreat)

Sign up for spring mental decluttering retreat–click here:.     http://bit.ly/WWGMayRetreat

In the past week alone, five people have asked me what spring retreat is like?
Schedule, pace, environment, group, breaks, meals, exercises…. what’s it all like anyway?

At first, I saw in my mind’s eye a bigger picture response. The 30,000 foot view from the airplane way above in the sky–where we can see the whole landscape: 

Spring “Mental” Cleaning. Unraveling our stressful thinking by questioning what we think is absolutely true. Undoing the repetitive processes we get into that build up like scummy soap film or grime in the bathroom. 

We’re cleaning up our thinking, slowly and steadily answering four questions and finding turnarounds. 

It’s giving the mind a bit of a scrub. Things become clearer. 

In the airplane all-expansive view, I thought of the new brilliant craze of decluttering brought forth by Marie Kondo and her lovely quintessential Japanese approach to junk clearing. 

We’re doing this with our minds, spending some time with situations we’ve found kind-of disturbing….or deeply traumatic.

We lay the whole thing out before us (the way Marie has everyone lay their entire wardrobe out on the bed).

There it all is, that situation we feel troubled by. We’re starting by simply looking at the whole situation. 

We write down what we most objected to, what we wanted, what should have happened instead, what we really needed and maybe still need now, our most frustrating or anguished thoughts, who we blame. 

And then, we begin to take each item–each thought or story-form or concept about that particular contact with Reality–and investigate. We’re checking to see what’s genuinely True for us.

Marie tells her customers to say “thank you” to the items they’re sending to Goodwill, or to the dump. 

It’s pretty hard for us to let some things go, or to empty the storage container….even if it’s been a bad or anxiety-producing memory.

“I have to remember this! I have to hold on to it! I have to fix it! I have to get rid of this awful thing! I don’t know how else to think!”

There’s quite a bit of psychic “stuff” and memories to wade through when it comes to some situations, right? 

Thank you, goodbye.

It seems to happen naturally when we give ourselves space and time, with other people, to consider our thoughts so deliberately and attentively.

Some people leave retreat feeling like 100 pounds of weight have lifted. No longer storing and carrying that painful story. They know what to do the next time something comes up: The Work.

So, what’s spring retreat like in Seattle, in the trenches?

Well, first of all, it’s not exactly “trenches”. LOL. 

We’re not going to war. It feels much more like we’re declaring peace. It is a retreat from daily life, but concentrating with a sharp focus on our minds. 

We gather in a circle in a rather ornate living room of a place I discovered a few years ago for retreats and weddings. It’s less than a mile from my cottage, where I used to offer spring cleaning retreat. Nowadays, the cottage is just too small. 

The retreat house, built in 1918, has an elegant and quirky feel; old push-button light switches, statues of fairies and woodland creatures throughout the gardens, a meditation space outside, Alice-in-Wonderful little benches and hammocks scattered about. 

Plus, a hot tub. With a towel warmer.

I loved it when I saw it because much of what this work is about is using our imaginations to see complete opposites, other possibilities, and the magic that can happen when we question our subjective reality. 

Why not this new way? Did that statue of an angel just move?

The support of the circle is brilliant. Somehow because we’re together and we know our thoughts affect the way we’re navigating life….together we can understand more how our thoughts have patterned themselves. 

People always seem to have the right questions, at the right times, even in the right order. It’s a bit cliche, but it really does appear that every retreat is unique; the perfect people have come together to inspire one another’s work.

I learn every time from listening to someone else’s work or insights. Inspiration comes alive. New endings to old stories.

Curious about retreat logistics? 

We start most days at 9:30 am. Saturday we begin at 8:30 am as we have a special outing to move the body your way–or sit still or walk (you’ll get to decide exactly what’s right for you. Nothing is mandatory). 

Meal breaks are on your own, and since we have our own kitchen, people use the fridge for groceries and cooking, or venture out to the town center for something good (tons of options). We usually take 90 minutes midday, and 90 minutes again for evening break. 

Every evening after dinner except Friday we have a session together. Friday is open for out-of-towners who frequently request one evening to go into Seattle for fun, or to have a night at the retreat house in silence to contemplate and digest their work so far.

Onsite during our retreat, we’ve got a beautiful laundry room, a basement sitting room, a dining room table to gather around. It’s like we all move in for the 4 days together (even though some people commute daily) with all our comfort needs cared for. Tea, cream, coffee is all provided. I set up my little chairs when we need more seats (better than back jacks for most people). 

Finally, the feel and the flow….the essence of spring cleaning retreat in The Work with me:

Everyone has a folder with all the handouts supplied that you’ll ever need for doing The Work, and for facilitating The Work. 

Many therapists, healers, coaches and holistic practitioners have come to spring cleaning retreat to learn and practice this process step by step. 

As I mentioned, you get to begin with one situation you’ve found disturbing when you consider it, or re-consider it, and ponder, and wonder, and wish it had never happened or wish it could have gone another way. Something that feels unfinished. Something troubling about life. 

You get to pick what it is you want to work on. You’ll know. 

And then, let this fascinating activity begin: stepping into the four questions one by one. Answering, noticing. 

During our time together, we pair-off a few times. No expertise, special knowledge, or know-how is needed to be a facilitator. In fact, approaching this work with the innocence of a child, like it’s a brand new moment, is encouraged.

Like all groups coming together, there’s a sense of bonding and cohesion that happens as each time goes by. If you’ve been in retreat with me before, you know I love the way of checking in called “talking stick” style. Instead of discussion, each person gets to share something they discovered, perhaps something they’re wondering about, something they’ve become aware of. 

This work is about uncovering blind spots. 

It’s like holding a yoga pose in these profound questions: Is it true, the meaning I’ve placed on that incident, or person? Who would I be without these glasses on?

No one is pushed or cajoled, there is no right or wrong way to do it. Curiosity comes up, questions come up. All of them are welcome. 

I love offering some unique exercises for practicing living turnarounds and digesting our inner work. We walk almost daily in silence for 30 minutes to one hour in the beautiful exercise called “The Morning Walk” from the School for The Work. We have a special module on saying “no”. We look at body issues for those who want to. We look at common snags in facilitating others. 

Everyone who attends spring cleaning retreat comes away with knowing how to do The Work from start to finish, and knowing how to work with others as a facilitator. 

But far more important than knowing The Work is feeling the “cleaning” and decluttering that happens, and the lightness of being that floats into the atmosphere.

Much love,Grace

P.S. For a taster of this process, I’m doing a half-day retreat at my cottage on February 24th. Some knowledge of what The Work is, or fully experienced all welcome. Join me here

How to get over something upsetting, like the idea ‘you should be over it’.

Outside my living room window the Seattle spring retreat seems in a galaxy far, far away. Three whole months. May 15-19, 2019.

By then, the the future, spring will likely have arrived. Despite volatile weather and unexpected extremes, all this snow will certainly be gone. Giant buds and blossoms will be filling the gardens at the retreat house.

Change will have unfolded in the atmosphere, things will be different. Some things will seem familiar and others the same.

Often, our minds think as if the status of the current situation (either the miserable one or the fabulous one) will never end.

The way it is now is bad. And it could get worse. 

Mental thoughts rush towards other disasters occurring, not just the one(s) we’ve experienced. 

Since we got in a fender-bender, we could get into another one….

….and this time someone could be hurt. Or maimed. Or killed.This happens in the movies and great stories constantly. Just when you think everything’s going to be OK after all….
.

…a twist. Not so fast thinking all’s-well-that-end’s-well, buster. 

Bad Things Happen, remember?!

We all do it. We take our thoughts very, very seriously. (You’ve probably noticed). 

We experience something, it gets placed in our mental file as “true” and BAM, it comes up as a re-minder when something is happening you don’t like or something is happening that makes you nervous. 

The other day, someone in the Eating Peace Process shared a fabulous thought that’s very, very stressful and often piles on top of our negative outlooks about something that’s happened. 

Not only do I dislike the way things are going for me in “x” area (I have proof, I can give you my list of examples that bad things have happened)….but I also condemn myself for being upset or stressed out by saying: 

I should be over this by now.I have my own top hit parade. I can relate. Here are the things I should be over by now:

  • I should be over that troubling relationship with the guy from 10 years ago–I should never think of him for a second, ever
  • I should be over the bizarre betrayal by one of my best friends (who vanished from my life) from 7 years ago. Especially when the majority of what came from it was good for me.
  • I should be over my preference for staying on the sidelines and not enjoying crowds or huge groups
  • I should be over my string-light fettish–getting annoyed when they burn out or stop working within 3 months of buying
  • I should get over wanting my husband to stop drinking coke every single day
  • I should get over thinking I’m never doing enough to refine or expand my career, work and service in the world 
  • I should get over being concerned about my practically non-existent retirement fund

I had the thought 1,000,000 times that I should get over my insane binge-eating behavior for years and years. It was on repeat every few days, with a vicious criticism, followed by deep sadness and despair. 

But is it really true we should be over thinking something we didn’t even try to think? Is it really *me* who’s Not Over it, and therefore me who should be? Can I stop the mind from running? Can I stop it from showing me those scary pictures? Am I the one who created a mind that even does this in the first place? Who is this “I” who should be getting over something in this moment?

Am I sure I need to listen to with great interest, or believe, what the mind is saying?

(Uh, No.)

I always notice if something really terrifies me, when I try to STOP the pictures or directives in my head….it gets a little worse. I have pictures and examples of the future looking way better, or more grim, than this present moment. 

The present moment appears to be an enemy, when I think the thoughts in my mind shouldn’t be here, when they are.

I’m in resistance. I’m tight, defensive, and making plans and lists. I really isn’t fun, or funny, or light, or free. 

So who would we be without this troubling thought “I should be over this”?

Well first of all, I immediately take a deep breath and relax a little. I feel less critical about the situation, and less worked up. 

I might even start laughing. 

The other day, someone wrote a comment on my youtube channel where I share about eating obsession, eating compulsion, emotional eating, and suggestions about stopping the insanity that may or may not work for you. 

The comment was under the video interview I got to do with Byron Katie a couple of weeks ago where I asked her questions about the topic of eating.

The commenter said word-for-word “god I hated your voice, it sounds like a dying mule”. 

OMG.

Today, I was laughing one of those deep, carefree, tear-inducing laughs with a friend on how incredibly and absurdly funny the comment was….which had honestly disturbed me for a day or so. 

I should definitely be over someone roasting my voice like that, especially a stranger on the internet. 

Right?

Because….it’s all such a story. The meaning is never what we think. 

One person’s dying-mule voice is another person’s gentle and very relaxed voice. (I remember thinking after watching part of the video again later–but before the comment–that my voice was soooo soft and I was kind of dazed with gratitude that I was even talking with Katie in such a way, so I didn’t have much to say–so this commenter could easily have been speaking to that energy).

I love finding the turnarounds. 

First of all, I should NOT be over it. Obviously. It’s occurred to me, that’s the reality. Here comes the photo album and novella about That Topic once again. 

I do however love noticing, with such delight, that the thing I wish I was over is actually in the past, and I AM over it. It’s only my THOUGHTS that aren’t over it. 

I’ve gone about my business in the world, shared laughter and crying and good times and hard times and woken up each day and lived a human life….AFTER that thing was entirely over. 

More turnarounds: I should be over my thinking. I should be under it. 

Yah. I should notice that my thoughts are the only thing all revved up. The room is quiet. The heater is whirring. The string lights are twinkling on the porch. 

Under my head and my brain, there’s a neck, and an entire body with hands typing away, and torso and legs solidly holding everything up, and feet resting easy on the floor.

Drawing the attention under, past, away from thinking is hard–sort of–but not impossible. 

And maybe not as hard as we “think”. 

Let it play. Let the show go on. Let the movie rewind and play again and rewind (don’t they have this kind of scene in haunted houses sometimes, there’s a movie playing forever on a screen)? 

There the mind is being itself, an image-producing machine. 

It doesn’t mean it’s true.

If you want to join an always-incredible group of inquiring minds and dig in to your own thought process, and question it in a way that works….oh that spring retreat.

Remember the one I mentioned so long ago at the beginning of this email?
Come and do The Work to bring peace to your awareness and the way you perceive any moment. 

We’re not changing the fact that something happened–it did. We’re looking at the meaning we put on it that holds us back now, that has us continue to suffer.

Of course it’s not possible to change the past, but I notice over and over again that when I question my stories, I’m not so sure that what happened….shouldn’t have.

I’m not guilty, or missing something, or wrong, or incompetent. I’m just human. Able to notice all that I AM over. Able to notice all the immense joy in the room, in this life, which isn’t even “my” life.

Even with a drop of ease on this present moment, how might that flavor the next one, or tomorrow, or the entire future?

If you’re looking for some spring mental cleaning, read more and sign up here. If you need to stay onsite, please ask about the five rooms available for reservation (OK to share). 

“One of the greatest addictions is the addiction to thinking. Can’t stop drinking, can’t stop smoking, can’t stop eating…can’t stop thinking. Thinking is the greatest of any addiction. It’s a drug that’s been around for a long time. Thinking has the ability to create havoc in your life, and confuse you. Your choice is not to understand more, but to practice the state of Not Thinking….We call it presence, or awareness.  ~ Eckhart Tolle

When we just seem to NOT stop thinking certain thoughts, and feeling bad about them or about the memories….the best thing I know that works for dislodging the thinking “addiction” is The Work. 

Four questions and finding the turnarounds. Nothing more complicated than that.

We turn towards the story, look at it closely head-on, and question it.

So Exciting.  

Much love, Grace

Love relationships. Oh the pain. (+Living Turnarounds Half-Day Retreat Feb 10th)

Right now, I’m mid-way through facilitating a six week live video-conference course with Nadine Ferris France (a fabulous facilitator of The Work who lives in Ireland). It’s called Divorce, Separation, Break-Up Is Hell: Is It True?

The curriculum we’re using (and updating as we go) is the very same curriculum I developed with a good friend Charlotte in 2005.

It all happened after our first School for The Work, when Charlotte and I shared our beliefs about divorces we were navigating. We laughed, we cried, we learned. We did The Work with each other. We created a course to gather others in to do it with us.

Yikes, that was an intense time.

Back then in my first year after The School which was also my first year becoming single again, I slept literally about 4 hours a night. I remember doing The Work on sleeping itself. “I need to sleep” (as I was awake at 3:30 am yet again).

Is it true? I guess not. I’m awake.

That was the break-up of the century. Literally, the break-up of a lifetime. I was devastated, panicked, confused, and unbelievably sad.

Not only did this unexpected break-up occur (it felt like it came of nowhere) but I had to get a job and move to a different home. The life changes felt insane for me at the time. They felt like riding a roller coaster gone off the tracks.

This was not in the plan.

When I look back, I can see an intricate series of thoughts about primary love relationships….and rules about them I thought were true (or were supposed to be true)….come crashing apart.

These thoughts went like this:

  • commitment means forever–for life
  • divorce or break-up means failure or immorality
  • my partner gives me security, adventure, happiness
  • it’s sad when someone leaves
  • being alone is hard
  • being together is blissful
  • being alone means you’ve got love problems
  • love means never having to say your sorry (I learned that one in sixth grade–it was in a cartoon–which should have given me a clue about whether it was true or not)
  • you should always love only one person at a time
  • your partner should love only you, no one else
  • etc, etc, etc, etc, etc, blah, blah

It’s like there’s a rule book about what’s right, and what’s wrong, in relationships.

The thing is….having the rule book is incredibly stressful.

The minute someone does something that’s NOT expected, planned, “good” or “right” in a relationship, we freak out. The minute someone even suggests doing something that’s frightening, we worry.

At least I sure did.

This month in Year of Inquiry, we’re looking at our beliefs about relationships from the past, present, future. Love gone wrong. Love hoped for. Valentine’s Day is in only ten days. Hopes, dreams, disappointments, loss, wishes.

That relationship should have gone another way.

Can you find a relationship–any relationship? (It’s OK if it’s a friendship or a professional relationship, it will still be useful to inquire).
it should have gone differently–Is it true?

Yes!

Can you absolutely know it’s true? Are you 100% sure beyond a shadow of a doubt for all time, that the relationship you have in mind should have gone another way?

No. What’s the reality? It didn’t.

How do you react when you believe that relationship should have gone another way than it did?

Wow. I’ve had this thought many times. I see pictures of the “better” alternative. I regret, I cry, I wish, I beg, I shut down.

I don’t notice how lovely my life is today, right now in this moment. I complain. I tell the story over and over again of how hard, how much it hurt, how bad it was. I tell other people the story. I treat myself like I did it wrong. I suffer.

So who would you be without this painful story that the relationship should have gone differently?

Yowser. It’s a little like a frying pan to the head—bbboooiiinnngggg!!

Without the belief we shouldn’t have broken up? Without the belief he shouldn’t have done that? Without the story it could be so much better?

Just. Wow.

It’s kind of exciting. Thrilling even.

Noticing the adventure of people coming, going, coming, disagreeing, agreeing, pushing, pulling, lying, truth-telling, leaving, returning, leaving forever, even dying. And not having a war with it.

Turning the thought around: It shouldn’t have gone differently. My thinking should have gone differently.

How is it a good thing that it went as it did? What else became possible? What else is still possible now? What became easier for you? What did you learn?

In the divorce from my first marriage, I learned a strength within I never even imagined–a sense of trust and joy about the inner world, and outer world, I didn’t even know could be real. I was astonished.

It was the rug pulled out from under me that woke me up to the safety of being here (and no, I certainly didn’t always feel safe from the inquiry….it was a process and still is).

Yes, it was magnificently hard. Yes, it hurt like the deepest heartbreak I had never ever felt before. Yes, it changed my life entirely for the better.

I started a career. I took care of my own house. I went on the most incredible adventures–literally on airplanes and boats and driving places to meet new people and hear new wisdom and learn how to deeply meditate. I worked harder than I had ever worked before. I dated many people. I made new friends.

I took workshops on qigong, self-employment, money mindset, dance, art, meditation, parenting, addiction, compulsion, grief. I read so many books. I had quiet time. I became a better, less anxious mother.

What happened with relationships taught me about love stories, and how to stop believing what doesn’t really matter.

“What really matters is not your thoughts, not your emotions, not even the outside world….The only thing that really matters is the you that’s in there. The kingdom is within you….When you can pull back behind the experience, what’s left is you. And you are the most beautiful thing that walked the face of the earth.” ~ Michael Singer
I’m not saying I feel this way every second of every hour (ha), but it is amazing to think the divorce I went through, the deep questioning of the Love Rule Book, has been a road to discovering what is wonderful and mysterious, even beautiful, about All This.

If you have a sore heart because of loss, disappointment, unhappiness, irritability, fear, worry or pain because of what happened with someone else in the world–that you believe shouldn’t have gone that way–then you’re in for a treat when you do The Work.

If you live in Seattle area, then this coming Sunday February 10th 2-6 pm is half-day retreat in The Work at Goldilocks Cottage (my place in Lake Forest Park). A wonderful time to go through the whole process from start to finish and see what happens. Only $50, a small group. Learn more and sign up here.

…”As long as you think that anyone or anything is responsible for your suffering—the situation is hopeless. It means that you are forever in the role of victim, that you’re suffering in paradise.” ~ Byron Katie

Much love,
Grace

P.S. For a deeper experience: One (and maybe two) spots have come available for a small intimate healing retreat called Sit In The Fire with Roxann Burroughs (Byron Katie’s daughter) March 22-24 in the Seattle area (outside of the city, but not by much). Hit reply to this email and let me know if you’d like to talk or want more information and I’ll send it to you. We start Friday morning and end Sunday 2 pm.

Spring retreat registrations are happening. May 15-19, 2019 Seattle. Sign up here. If you need to stay onsite, please ask about the five rooms available for reservation.

 

First Friday Free Inquiry Jam–TODAY. Come do The Work!

It’s here: First Friday online at 7:45 am Pacific Time. Ninety minutes, dial in and listen or participate. If you want to be heard or to speak any time or ask questions, please connect using WebCall or Phone. If you want to follow along and just listen-in (you can use the chat feature in writing) then use Broadcast.

If the line appears to be full, hang up and re-connect again using Broadcast.

We’ll start at the very beginning (like Maria in the Sound of Music). All you need to do is to bring your stressful experience–you know the one–and we’ll write a JYN, followed by hearing 2-3 people do The Work.

First Friday link is here.

So to keep it light, although it can seem so very serious when we’re suffering with our thoughts….let’s sing.

Maria Starting At The Very Beginning

We start at the very beginning:
What am I really really thinking–un-evolved, immature, angry, judgmental, irritated, frightened, sad, repetitive?

It’s a very good place to start:
I write all these thoughts down, without editing.

When you read, you begin with A-B-C:
When you do The Work you begin with, Who did it to me? Who did it to me?

When you sing, you begin with Do-Re-Mi:
With The Work the first question just happens to be…is it true?

Doe a deer, a female deer:
Is it true, is it really, really true?

Me, a name I call myself,
How do I react when I believe? (I run far)

Sew, a needle pulling thread,
Who would I be without that thought?

Tea, a drink with jam and bread,
And let’s turn the thoughts around!

Well, that was silly.

And oh so fun.

And doing The Work is profound and fun and laughter-inducing and sometimes very heart-breaking. Just like our minds and the ways we think.

“If I can teach you anything, it is to identify the stressful thoughts that you’re believing and to question them, to get still enough so that you can hear your own answers. Stress is the gift that alerts you to your asleepness. Feelings like anger or sadness exist only to alert you to the fact that you’re believing your own stories.” ~ Byron Katie

Much love,
Grace

Birth out of suffering: turning towards the pain, and questioning it

This morning as I opened my eyes, I thought...it's just another day, and it's sweet and fun that on the calendar in our civilization this day is my birthday. I notice, we're rather joyful about birth.

The beginning of something, the start of something new, the movement that happens after gestation and ponderings and unseen growth.

And there's nothing like being born out of suffering and into awareness or learning or insight about something....whether it's small or very big. I'm so glad I bumped into whatever suffering I encountered (and will encounter again) and that somehow it led to wanting out, to wanting freedom.

Every time I do The Work either with myself or in the presence of another inquirer, a little birth happens. Sometimes painless and natural, sometimes....not so much. But it's worth it, soooooo worth it.

So looking on my calendar, here comes some dedicated time scheduled for The Work with others.

If you're within driving distance of Seattle: Sunday, Feb 10th 2-6 pm we'll do a half-day mini retreat here in my living room. (Reserve your spot here.)

It's been awhile since friends have come together for a little retreat on a Sunday afternoon. I can't wait.

Because there's nothing like taking a few hours to sit with a situation and gather together the stressful, unedited, judgey, nasty, desperate, sad thoughts about that thing or person we're at odds with.....and slow the mind's reactivity down.

That slowness is one thing I notice happens every single time I do The Work.

Sometimes in the past, I wanted to write with such vigor and intensity about a situation, person or condition that my pen was smashing into the paper and tearing it up.

Very angry.

Very scared.

Sure that what I'm thinking is true--certainly feeling like it is. What I love about The Work, is we get to go there.

That's step #1 in this birth process out of suffering. Just like so many spiritual teachings or teachers offer us: turn towards the pain, go into the pain.

How? Start by writing a Judge Your Neighbor worksheet.

All the rage, fear, anxiety, nerves, sadness, loss, upset, troubled feelings all emanating from that incident, that encounter....we get to see them all, written on paper.

There isn't any thought to hold it in, or hold back, or start changing your mean thoughts to something kinder right now, or start saying positive affirmations, or criticize yourself because you're freaking out....

....The invitation is simply to write the thoughts you're thinking about that person or thing down.

The simplicity is almost so weird, it's like....that's it? That's all? Really?

But I've found so much wisdom coming out of the answers to the four questions on these thoughts I wrote down.

The process begins with the dumb, childish, embarrassing thoughts...the ones you prefer not to mention, the ones you don't want to admit or to share.

The process begins by confessing, sharing, admitting, opening up to your painful thoughts.

That's it. We turn towards the disruption we feel in our hearts about what's been difficult in any way in our lives, and name it.

"Our avoidance of pain keeps us locked in a cycle of suffering. The Buddha said that what we take to be solid isn't really solid. It's fluid. It's dynamic energy. And not only do we take our opponents and obstacles to be solid; we also believe ourselves to be solid or permanent. In the West, we add the belief that the self is bad. That night I spent meditating, I discovered that there is no solid, bad me. It's all just ineffable experience." ~ Pema Chodron

So today, if you're noticing you haven't sat down and started The Work yet on THAT situation (you know the one)....schedule some time to start.

If you seek a longer period of sinking into self-inquiry and investigating more thoroughly....come to a longer retreat.

And today, in honor of the beautiful poet Mary Oliver, I share with you this lovely piece that a friend in The Work sent me today. Happy Birthday to us all.

“Early Morning, My Birthday”
The snails on the pink sleds of their bodies are moving
among the morning glories.
The spider is asleep among the red thumbs
of the raspberries.
What shall I do, what shall I do?
The rain is slow
The little birds are alive in it.
Even the beetles.
The green leaves lap it up.
What shall I do, what shall I do?
The wasp sits on the porch in her paper castle.
The blue heron floats out of the clouds.
The fish leaps, all rainbow and mouth, from the dark water.
This morning the water lilies are no less lovely, I think,
than the lilies of Monet.
And I do not want anymore to be useful, to be docile, to lead
children out of the fields into the text
of civility, to teach them that they are (they are not) better
than the grass.
Mary Oliver, New and Selected Poems, Vol. 1 (1992)

*Spring Mental Cleaning Retreat May 15-19, 2019 Read more and register here. Lodging is already half reserved so if you'd like to stay in the retreat house, be sure to make your request soon (fees for the rooms are on the info page).

*Breitenbush Summer Retreat. This year my co-facilitator guest is the absolutely lovely Tom Compton. Join us at this gorgeous place in Oregon for 4 nights and 5 days. Early bird rate through April 14th but the sooner you book, the more normal lodging choices you have.

*Save the date: east coast Autumn Retreat November 6-10, 2019. This year's fall retreat on the east coast of the US. We begin Weds evening and end Sunday noon.

Much love to you on this glorious new day, Grace

Sanity, spring cleaning, and my interview on “eating” with Katie

With the fever dissolving away into the past (in my last Grace Note blog I did The Work on having the flu last week)….I felt a surge of JOY and energy and returning humor.

I think it’s called appreciation for “normal” health! Hallelulia! I can stand or sit upright for all the hours of daylight! Amazing!

I started updating my calendars, editing web pages, put my deposit on the spring retreat house rental, signed paperwork for the Breitenbush summer retreat (with Tom Compton this year), cruised through 300 unread emails, finished a homework assignment for a class I’m taking.

And, I got the beautiful and profound privilege to interview Katie on her thoughts, her radical experience and what she’s learned about eating, weight, body image and the effects of “disordered thinking” in her life and sharing The Work with others. (The interview is below, enjoy, enjoy).

I felt a huge burst of happiness about this moment today, and all the events on the horizon.

Let spring cleaning begin!

(Well, OK, we have several months until spring….but I’m already a little excited).

One of my favorite experiences in The Work is gathering with other people to share in the deepening that happens as we inquire, slow down, learn, and recognize our own truth through our own answers.

Here are the upcoming in-person events. So many have written to me asking about spring retreat and Breitenbush this year I hope the information answers your questions.

If you come, I will be thrilled to have your company on this brilliant journey of inner awareness and inner peace….that’s just the truth for me.

  • Deep Divers Half-Day Mini Retreats in Seattle at my cottage: Sunday, Feb 10th 2-6 pm, April 14th 2-6 pm, June 9th 2-6 pm. Reserve one mini retreat here
  • Spring Mental Cleaning Retreat May 15-19, 2019 Read more and register here. Lodging is already half reserved so if you’d like to stay in the retreat house, be sure to make your request soon (fees for the rooms are on the info page).
  • Breitenbush Annual Summer Retreat June 12-16, 2019. As I mentioned, this year my co-facilitator guest is the absolutely lovely Tom Compton. Join us at this gorgeous place in Oregon for 4 nights and 5 days. Early bird rate through April 14th but the sooner you book, the more normal lodging choices you have.
  • And I don’t know if you’re the type of person who ever thinks this far in advance, but just to keep in mind….Summer Camp for The Mind is July 23-Aug 16 (sliding scale for anyone to join). It’s online and open to everyone and anyone wanting daily meditation in The Work. 
Byron Katie talked with me about eating, weight, compulsion and our “thinking” disorders and finding freedom with self-inquiry

Much love and appreciation for each and every one of you, even if I don’t know you personally. Thank you for being here and may you find peace in your thinking.

Grace

Attacked by pain?

It’s been awhile, oh illness.

Awhile since I’ve done The Work on you. In fact, it may be at least a decade since I was this sick with the flu.

Ah, but the physical body sometimes calls out for attention: Ouch! This hurts! Something’s off. Sickness is here.

Something is here that isn’t usually here (germs, microbes, influenza, aches, fever heat, physical pain).

But I can so feel the difference between being stressed about it, and not being stressed about it.

The stressed voice says:

This shouldn’t be here
I have to work, (not lie down)
This is hurrrrttttiiiiing me!
I can’t do what I want
I can’t go see friends
I’m going to miss “x” (some event)
I want my mommy
I’m the one who caused this to happen

Of course, it’s not life-threatening as far as I know.

But in the middle of the night, burning and shivering with fever, my mind had images of the plague in the middle ages, and I reminded myself that people die of the flu every year.

How do you react when you’re against some kind of disease? That it shouldn’t be happening?

It’s almost hard to imagine NOT being against illness. Who wants disease? Jeez!

But I noticed, in the night as I propped myself up onto a second pillow since my congested head hurt so much, that not being against this condition is different than being in favor of it.

I can prefer being well, and also not have a war with the flu.

How do I react when I’m against it?

I feel soooo sorry for myself. I want to cry. Like a little bird voice saying “I can’t…..(list of all the things I was going to be doing that must be cancelled)….

So who would I be without the thought “this is horrible”?

Hmmm.

I can still feel the body aching with fever, still feel the sinuses throbbing, still feel the nausea….and something relaxes anyway. There’s a letting go.

This just is. The way of it. Health, Sickness. Day, Night. Rain, Sunshine. Winter, Summer.

Who knows where it came from or why it’s happening? Not me.

Can I turn it around?

This is OK (let’s not say this is wonderful, that’s going a bit far and isn’t true right now for me–LOL).

Why is this OK that it’s happening…and can I even find benefits for it in my life?

Well, I’m reminded of death, which can be very powerful. I consider this temporary time of the body in the world. I think of how my friend Carl must have felt at the end of his cancer, and how my first husband and friend Tom must have felt before he died of cancer. Bodies overriding the mind’s desire to live longer. A movement into a next life, or whatever happens beyond this one.

It’s OK because I’m resting. I have a soft bed. I have water, tea, fever medicine. I can feel the amazing pulse of fever. Noticing I’m so curious about it–how does that happen? How did something come in to the body anyway, that is now being burned out?

It’s OK because when I cancel plans or appointments with people, everyone is very understanding.

*this should be here, because it is, and it’s OK
*I have to lie down, (not work)–there’s a time and place for resting and lying down every single day–these several days have more of that in them
*This is not hurting me–I’m forgetting about the ache while I type this, and I’m sleeping sometimes
*I can do what I want–what I want is to rest
*I can go see friends–I can see them later, or in my mind, or share via email
*I’m going to miss “x” (some event)–YAY! You can’t be everywhere! Even if I wasn’t sick, I’d miss something.
*I don’t want my mommy–I was lucky enough to talk with my mom on the phone, and I’m mostly hanging out by myself–it’s quiet and peaceful here as the body goes through this thing
*I’m not the one who caused this to happen–I don’t even know how I would have done that if I tried.

“Discovering yourself to be the wide-open space in which pain appears and not the story of someone who is being attacked by pain, that is true healing–the healing of identity.” ~ Jeff Foster

The reality is I don’t favor this pain, high fever, aching throat, swollen glands, congested head and coughing….

….but without my story that it’s “making me” suffer, or that any circumstance is “making me” suffer….

….WOW.

Something’s weirdly exciting about it. I get to find out where this is going. Still alive here in the body, wondering, noticing how I have no choice.

Noticing the liberation in that. I’m not in charge. Ahhhhh.

What will happen next?

Much love,
Grace
P.S. A year ago, I attended a retreat in The Work with Roxann Burroughs, Byron Katie’s daughter. She calls it Sit In The Fire. Each person who attends has the opportunity to fully express their pain (if they choose), rather than trying to bypass or fix it or push it down.

I went because I did this kind of work in my past group therapy years ago, and I was curious. Everyone who chooses gets to sit in the question “How do you react when you believe this thought?”

When I was there, I did The Work on cancer and all the people I’ve “lost” through the disease. I sobbed my eyes out. That was the reality: grief beyond anything I could ever “think”. It was beautiful and heart-breaking and just…real.

I am hosting another retreat with Roxann in March here in the area where I live (somewhere near Seattle, but slightly remote–it will be within an hour of Seatac airport). We have room for only 2 more. We begin Friday morning 3/22 and end Sunday afternoon 3/24. All meals provided as well as lodging in the big house we’ve rented. Please hit reply if you want to attend and send me a note, and I can give you more details.

Question “waiting”, end compulsion

Live from retreat!

Well, OK, I’m not exactly “live”.

I just arrived home after my four minute drive from the retreat house I rent when I run a retreat, to my little cottage in Lake Forest Park, Washington.

I noticed an excited question pop into my mind and heart as I drove home. It’s a question that’s been in my awareness before.

What is “waiting”?

This particular retreat I’m facilitating has a focus and invitation on eating peace. We gather for 6 days and 5 nights in total (and we’re not complete yet).

We’ve just had a marvelous and full 12 hour day, and everyone sleeping at the retreat house are tucking themselves in soon, perhaps a few participants soaking in the hot tub with the bright sliver of January moon glowing above.

In session, we do a lot of meditations on eating. I say words out loud, and often questions.

Today, I said out loud a variation on question four specific to our situation.

“If you were an alien from another planet, or an angel, and just landed here on earth in a human body sharing a meal with a whole entire human group sitting around a huge, long oak dining room table….

….what or who would you be without your food or eating stories?

If you had no upsetting, agonizing, condemning stories about eating, food, what’s right, or what’s wrong…and no reference for them?

I know it’s a huge question. The mind answers “I don’t know!”

I also notice I feel the body when I answer this question. I feel the chair I’m seated in, I hear the sounds of birds, the distant hum of a seaplane, the click of fork on plate.

I notice all is very well indeed with this moment. Nothing more required. Nothing magical or fancy, to access peace.

And there is a wonder about this state of being: No Waiting.

I notice the most fascinating thing about slow, mindful eating (which we always do at Eating Peace Retreat):

Stressful thoughts arise.

They go something like this, and I know them because I’ve lived them, and I also hear them when participants share after each meal: it’s going soooooo slow, I can’t stand this, Grace (that would be their version of me) is trying to control me, she must like watching people suffer, this is torture, I can’t take it another minute, I’m so hungry I just want to eat everything as fast as possible, I’ll never be able to do this on my own in my daily life, I just can’t be trusted, eating peacefully is too hard.

We don’t think this only about food and eating.

I’ve noticed the exact same thoughts about anything I believe is slowing down when it first begins to slow down. It’s not the norm. It’s not what I’m used to. There isn’t enough time. This HAS TO get done.

I need to be in a future moment, not this one, when I’m satisfied, and happy, and not upset, and not waiting anymore.

Can’t we do something else?

This moment here is actually quite unbearable. It’s empty, painful, lonely, vacant, boring, slow, stupid. I have other more important things to do. Seriously.

You might be able to imagine having these thoughts while standing in line. Or dreaming of your new job. Or your new lover. Or wanting to become enlightened. LOL.

The process of “waiting”.

Thank goodness for The Work.

Find your moment of “torture”. The moment when you’re waiting.

You can’t stand another minute. You absolutely must hit the escape hatch. The energy is boiling inside.

Is it true “this is torture?”

YES! Oh the agony! So agitating!

Are you absolutely sure? Can you know it’s true?

Um. Well, heh heh. I do notice there’s nothing really happening here except silence, people standing in line, a sense of waiting, some kind of urgency appearing in my torso.

But an emergency? Suffering? Torture? Frustration?

Not absolutely true.

How do you react when you believe you can’t stand holding still, and the world is moving slowly (in your opinion)?

I try to force it to change.

I push forward, imagine jumping the line, I huff and scowl. I tell the people around me my story of what a pain this is.

Or I begin to feel sorry for myself. I guess I just have to put up with this pain in life. So inconvenient, nothing I can do. I’m trapped, stuck and sorry for myself. Inside, I lie on the floor and give up. Kind of.

Who would you be without this thought that you are waiting for something? That something better is going to happen? That you’re going to get somewhere? That this moment will be done soon, thank goodness?

Who would you be without your story of waiting for Some Other Thing or for This To End, right now in this moment?

Perhaps nothing would change at all about this moment. It would still be quiet, there would be a long line, or slow eating, or a room with chairs full of people in it and a “take a number” sign, or one human sitting in a chair meditating, or the doing of errands, cleaning, working, moving….

….but what I notice is there is a beautiful alertness that comes alive, in a joyful way. No future moment. No scarcity here. No waiting for the better (or worse) moment, yet paradoxically still a sweet thrill, a happy anticipation, a love of what surrounds me.

Turning the thought around: There is no need to wait. In my thinking, there’s waiting, and only in my thinking. This is paradise, not torture. I am safe in this moment here.

What do you love or find interesting or fascinating about this moment? What strikes up your curiosity? If this was a fabulous moment offered just for you, where everything in your life had led to this “now”, how could that be true?

I notice I love watching people–absolutely incredible creatures and movements. I love space, quiet, physical feeling, hearing. I notice there is abundance of things everywhere–table, chairs, dishes, window, light, brown wood, sky, trees stretching up, floor.

I notice there is movement, energy, activity, sounds, sights, smells, focus, thoughts. I notice I am OK. Better than OK, I am so curious, safe, comfortable, interested, awake.

Without the belief I have to wait….I love this moment so much.

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.
Shapable as a block of wood.
Receptive as a valley.
Clear as a glass of water. Do you have the patience to wait till your mud settles and the water is clear?
Can you remain unmoving till the right action arises by itself?
The Master doesn’t seek fulfillment.
Not seeking, not expecting,
she is present, and can welcome all things.
~ Tao Te Ching #15 Translated by Stephen Mitchell

“I am not waiting, I am just here.” ~ Mooji

Much love,
Grace

They banished me, cut me off, left me, ditched me….

I’m jumping up and down (well, not literally–but almost) with joyful anticipation of the Eating Peace Retreat starting this very dark and rainy evening in Seattle.

What better time of year than to be in a retreat? It’s cozy and warm inside, and misty, mysterious and cloudy outside. The warm inside beckons. We go inside our hearts and minds. Let it rain!

We get to gather kinda like we did down in the dark Breitenbush woods last month, only we’re in a secluded elegant spot right in the city.

It struck me last night, during the eating peace group immersion call, that feeling connected to oneself in some ways is all this whole entire healing-from-compulsion-or-any-suffering thing is all about; it’s about feeling separated, or feeling connected, and how that moves based on our perspective of What Is.

I’ll explain.

On the inquiry calls that I run, we always do The Work. I have programs that run 7 months or a year: Eating Peace Immersion and Year of Inquiry (and shorter programs too where we’re meeting on video–like the Divorce/Break-Up/Separation is Hell Telecourse that started a few days ago).

People who dial in to the calls check in, share where they’re at, and honestly speak what they notice about their thinking. We tell the truth. We say our painful beliefs out loud.

Whether our thoughts are about eating, our bodies, certain foods….or about other people, our fears, agonies, irritations, disappointments, worries….we share them.

So last night, the stressful thoughts noticed were about losing a friendship, being banished, not being included, feeling separated.

From our clan. From our group. From our family. From a love interest. From a best friend. From mom, from dad, from sibling.

We’re so distressed about this separation, we feel nauseated, numb, terrified. (And maybe we eat….or drink, smoke, spend, grab, work, distract, drug).

Maybe these kinds of thoughts about being separated from love start at a very young age: they kicked me out, they cut me off, they hate me, they don’t want me, they withdrew from me, they dismissed me, they broke up with me, she ditched me, he left me.

Can you find a moment when you believed this to be true?

I remember my best friend Sarah. We were in sixth grade.

Sarah and I both loved gymnastics because Olga Korbut had just won the Gold Medal. Sarah taught me how to do a cartwheel and stretch daily for the eventual splits. We both had crushes on the same boy named Josh. We both wore levis with the leg hems picked out so it they had shaggy edges.

We went home on the bus almost every day–on HER bus instead of mine–after school. We ate raw brownie mix dough and watched TV (both of which weren’t allowed at my house) in her spacious empty living room.

Then I walked home from her house, down north Capitol Hill on the steep sidewalk, along Lake Union where boathouses floated, through the big apartment building parking lot into the tall reeds and wetlands and secret shortcut walking trail, popped out into the Montlake playing field, then up the hill to the busy road and a block to my family’s home.

One day, Sarah seemed irritated with me when we were on the bus. Like she was tired of me, or bored with me, or wanting to do something else, with someone else.

I don’t even remember if there was a specific argument (I don’t think so) but this plunging feeling of my best friend being tired of our time together….felt devastating.

On the eating peace inquiry call, the person doing The Work had a similar story.

Headline: Girl gets ditched by best friend!

A Mean Girl experience.

I didn’t get on Sarah’s bus the next day. She didn’t call me on the phone. She didn’t really speak to me at school the following day, either.

I felt a slight panic, and pushed it down and away. I pretended it didn’t bother me.

But it did.

Several years ago, as an adult, a very dear friend of mine sent a false accusation to the government body overseeing my mental health credential here in Washington, prompting an investigation which was soon dismissed, as the complaint was untrue.

But it was a shocking experience at the time.

I wrote at least five Judge Your Neighbor worksheets on this friend and got help with facilitation. It felt so serious.

How could she betray me like that?

How could Sarah get tired of me?

What does it mean when someone doesn’t want to be in your presence anymore?

Something about the inquirer’s work last night reminded me not only of the profound rift in my adult friendship in the past decade, but also the memory of my dear friend Sarah.

Sarah and I had an encounter where we came down the hall at school in opposite directions, approaching each other when class was in session–both of us going to the bathroom with a hall pass.

We couldn’t avoid each other.

In the bathroom, she smiled, and we connected and my memory is one of us might have even said “I missed you” and the other might have said “I’m sorry”. I’m not sure much was actually said–we were eleven, after all.

Shortly after that, Sarah moved away to White Plains, New York.

Sitting in the inquirer’s childhood work last night I felt the profound awareness of how we betray ourselves, don’t speak up, don’t say “hey, where are you going?” to our partners, our friends, our family members, with a concern that’s open, wondering, curious.

Instead, some of us have curled up like those little pill bugs that tuck into a tight hard roly-poly ball. We’re crushed.

I once did The Work with a lovely woman who was brought to her knees, and to The Work, because of a very close friendship that ended–and she never knew why.

Separation.

Who would we be without this thought?

Who would we be without this dreadful story and all we think it means about our future, and about love?

One way we would be, as I heard from the inquirer last night, is aware of what did not leave.

Which is everything else in the world, almost.

Even that person didn’t fully “leave”–she was still around, and there was still a connection, and unsaid words, and possibility that might have gone a different way if I hadn’t believed so fully in separation.

Even if the person died, they’re in my heart and soul. They’re part of my DNA. They’re part of my life journey.

Without my belief in separation back then, I might have seen I didn’t help myself, I ditched myself, I dismissed my own feelings, I betrayed myself, I ignored me, I didn’t reach out for what I needed.

“Each apparent separateness is a micro-glimpse of the whole, each word spoken, each syllable broken down, each wave of a hand or crossing of the legs, each squeeze of toothpaste onto the bristles of a toothbrush. Each is different, each is necessary. Someone lives, someone dies, someone laughs, someone grieves. For now, that’s the way of it, until it’s not.” ~ Byron Katie in 1000 Names For Joy pg. 148

Who would I be without my story that I’m separate and alone, even if someone else leaves?

I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t feel like overeating. I wouldn’t want to drink. I wouldn’t want to get away from what I’m feeling….I’d be kind to myself, whoever that is (or whatever).

Turning the thought around: I am connected. Fully, entirely, deeply, profoundly connected to all of reality. Including those friends and family and partners I’ve loved so much. Including the chair I’m sitting in, and my blanket on my bed. Including new friends I meet at retreat, or gatherings of fellow travelers.

Could this be just as true, or truer?

Yes.

Find examples. Spend the whole day finding examples of what you’re connected to. If you want or need a hug, find a human to give yourself one.

Much love,
Grace

You have a goal? You want something? It starts in this moment, now.

All these incoming emails about the New Year…yikes. I’m on a lot of small business lists. 
Everyone’s asking things like “Have you set your goals?” “Do you want to achieve x finally this year?” “Are you sick of failing at the same plan once again?”


And then all the solutions for making sure failure does NOT happen this year and you DO reach your goals.


Sigh.


Fortunately for me, after a sense of feeling a little like a deflated balloon, since I don’t really enjoy goals….


….I felt The Work also bubbling within, with its beautiful and freeing questions.
‘Oh!’ (I suddenly thought). ‘I seem to believe I should have goals and plans and growth targets and new ideas and big surges of energy about what I desire and what I can “make” happen’.


Is this true?


Can I absolutely know this stance is the “best” one to take about this “new year”? A stance that feels like a warrior on the edge of the battle field yelling “CHARGE!!!”?


What a relief to notice the answer to the question “is it true?” was quite fast….”no”. 


How do you react when you make plans and pull yourself together and focus energy on your goals for the upcoming year, and all you want to accomplish?


I get hyped up and tired at the same time. Life begins to look a little bleak a moment later…all the expectations come swarming in. 


I’m completely out of this moment now, and in the future in my head.


Who would you be without this belief that NOW is the time to push forward with plans for accomplishment?


It doesn’t mean you give up joy or excitement about what’s possible. 


It feels to me like without the thought about getting somewhere else that isn’t here, I access a true joy and peace right now, right in this moment. Like really feeling the immense beauty of this precious life, today. 


I’m also paradoxically holding a sense of wonder about what 2019 will bring. Who knows? 


Instead of that being an alarming thought when I wonder what this year will bring, as the mind has had it in the past (including needing to MAKE something happen)….I can question the images, pictures, stories that have bothered, upset or deeply disturbed me about life.


When I do this, then this moment right now feels kinder. 


Turning the thought around, like trying on a different pair of shoes: I do not need to set goals for 2019, achieve something, or consider what I’ve done in the past to be a ‘failure’. 


Could these be just as true, or truer? 


Of course. 


I can work with my mind today. 


What I notice as I question anything stressful, whether it becomes meh, interesting, or even exciting….is something shifts here. And as they say, when my perception of What Is shifts right now, there will be a different future, naturally.


Without a ton of “hard work”. 


(Unless you think of this inquiry as hard work, which it can feel like sometimes I know, but it’s not the hard labor we often envision about getting somewhere else than we are). 


“If you want to create something, if you realize from the depths of your being that something wants to be created through you….the power of manifesting is to experience the fullness of the present moment. It’s what Jesus called life in its fullness. Life in its fullness is an inner state of being. The ‘I am’. Consciousness itself. To realize that. Once you realize that, no future moment can possibly be better. ” ~ Eckhart Tolle

It doesn’t mean we don’t have preferences. We do. It’s OK.


I love this question: How would you feel, if you had that experience or achievement or condition you want?


Can you feel right now what you imagine you’d have, if you had that experience, thing, goal, accomplishment–even just a tiny bit?


Right now, can we find what is OK and what is working in this moment, or the advantages of What Is…and even the advantages of What Has Been?


If it feels like too much to bite off at once, just take one thought at a time. That’s all. Nothing more.


Not always obvious, or easy for the mind. But this is The Work, and I love how Byron Katie says that’s why it’s called the “work”. 


I find, this is the solid foundation, the ground of anything we might want or think would be fun or exciting or wonderful or peaceful in the future: asking if what I’m believing that’s stressful is actually true?


In this moment, when I question what I think needs to happen for me to be truly happy, I notice both the sweetness of life happening here, and what’s possible, all at the same time. Amazing. 


Trust this moment.

It’s here for us, and anything can happen. One tiny questioned belief at a time. One little baby step at a time. Nothing huge or massive required.


Start where you are. Inquire within. 


Happy New Moment! 


Much love,GraceP.S. If you notice a goal for you is to be at peace with a primary relationship gone south, and pain, fear, disappointment or anxiety appearing with separation, break-up, or divorce….join the upcoming Sunday telecourse beginning January 6th. Divorce/Break-Up/Separation is Hell: Is It True?