Is there any joy possible in this complaint-worthy moment? (+ Breitenbush in a month!)

I am sooooo excited today to learn that the Breitenbush Winter Retreat in The Work of Byron Katie is filling up beautifully. We have plenty of folks registered.

That’s not always the case. Last year the winter retreat got switched from Breitenbush to my house in Seattle with seven people attending.

What?!

But it’s not always an easy time of year to travel, and the resort is deep in the woods of the Oregon Cascades. One has to fly to Portland, then rent a car. It will take us six hours to drive there from Seattle. There’s no cell phone service, nor internet.

Perfect.

My husband Jon will be accompanying me. We made a little introductory video we shared on facebook. Sending it to you now with our joyful invitation to you to join us in this somewhat odd time (is it true?) for retreat, December 6-9.

And, there will be dancing on Saturday night.

See our video share here.

Sometimes, I’m so happy an event with The Work is on the horizon, my hands are clapping.

I forget, there’s also a part of the mind that’s so full of moaning and groaning, wailing and lamenting that says “Do I have to? I don’t wanna! Waaaaaah!”

That voice or resistant part of mind will complain about anything, even doing The Work. Even having such an amazing job as doing The Work.

It loves to complain.

Which happens to be our third month topic in Year of Inquiry: complaining.

I love looking up words, and their etymology.

Com is Latin for bringing together, merging, intensifying, pressing together. It shows up in the beginning of so many words, to emphasize the intensity of whatever follows.

And then “plaint” meant to beat one’s chest. Grieve, moan, bewail.

It’s quite dramatic, and yet we refer to complaints often as things we shouldn’t bother bringing up. Irritants. Unimportant. Unaccepting.

“Stop complaining about the weather!” we might say. As if there’s absolutely nothing you can do about it, so stop. Pull it together and try to enjoy yourself for a change!

At least, this is what I discovered when I realized my complaints were most of all about……complainers.

Yup.

They’re so negative. Why don’t they stop?

I couldn’t see the plank (or is that “plaint”) in my own eye.

So here’s an exercise we all did in Year of Inquiry that you might find very helpful if you find yourself complaining, whether inside your own head or verbally speaking it to others:

What’s wrong with this thing you’re complaining about, for real? What don’t you like about it? What bothers you? What’s the very absolute worst that could happen if it never stops?

Traffic, lateness, time, work, money, weather, procrastination, mess, family, dirty dishes, tone of voice, inefficiency, taxes.

What’s one of your most common, persistent complaints?

The thing I love about The Work, and looking directly at this “problem” we perceive in reality, is instead of brushing it aside and trying to ignore it, we’re treating this complaint with some respect.

We’re turning towards it, to understand this predicament better.

As I looked at my old co-worker (the one I thought was the star complainer) I could see that as she spoke I became worried too. Her complaining was so discouraging.

I was upset about all the things she mentioned: her neighbor, her car, her health, the environment, her upbringing, poverty, this organization we worked for, mean people, liars, eating troubles.

It was like a big balloon within me let all the air out and I felt defeated, and unable to solve any of the terrible problems she shared. Sad, sad, sad. Bringing me down.

Bewailing! Groaning!

Underneath my belief she shouldn’t keep complaining all the time, was another more serious story to question: Reality is tough, life is hard, bad things happen, the world is harsh, people suffer terribly, you have to watch out.

Ah, but can I absolutely know that it’s true?

If I think these fearful thoughts, if I notice I keep saying the same upsetting comment to myself, if I keep feeling bothered by some life activity or a person I encounter….

….then the moment is worthy of inquiry. I want to investigate.

Is it really as bad as I think?

“I discovered that when I believed my thoughts, I suffered, but that when I didn’t believe them, I didn’t suffer, and that this is true for every human being. Freedom is as simple as that. I found that suffering is optional. I found a joy within me that has never disappeared, not for a single moment. That joy is in everyone, always.” ~ Byron Katie

That joy is in everyone, always?

Really? Hmmm.

But let’s see: the moment you’ve been complaining about, you know, that one?

There is no joy anywhere to be found in that moment, anywhere. It doesn’t exist. It’s not possible. No Joy. Ever.

Can you absolutely know that’s true?

Are you sure your perspective is the ONLY perspective in this complaint-worthy moment?

Are there other things in the environment, like a relaxed rug, a comfy chair, a quiet soft sofa? Is there oxygen dancing everywhere? Is there a pillow, a book, a happy mug of hot tea? Is there a desk ready to serve 24/7, a bright computer, a smooth cool notebook?

Are you sure every story is sad in this moment? Or is it just a thought?

Much love,
Grace

The good news about the rain and watching “nothing” happen and all plans blown away

Yesterday and the day before, it rained so hard the drops looked like streaks of light, with a flurry of churning foam swirling where it hit hard pavement.

A puddle formed so huge next to my car, I had to climb into the driver’s seat from the passenger side. At night, the inch of open window letting in fresh air to the bedroom was blasting a cool breeze the room like a fan.

Then in the morning, when everything seemed calm, dark and quiet, with what appeared to be a soft steady rain….

….moments before First Friday call was cued, ready to press “go” for all the inquirers coming to do The Work for 90 minutes together on our open online inquiry session….

….thunk.

You could literally hear a thunk coming from somewhere in the atmosphere, and all the lights went out.

Power outage.

It was dawn-ish dark. An autumn morning, the day before the time change in the US, with light barely in the sky at 7:30 am.

I lit candles and pondered what to do, knowing people were dialing in to do The Work in moments.

I could quick put on clothes, take my lap top, and try to find public internet as close by as possible? I’ve done this before. I’ve held teleclasses in hotel parking lots, hospital lobbies, my car, or outside the Starbucks. The trouble with my options was that it was raining, and rush hour. So I’d need to bundle up and find someplace covered, and reasonably quiet.

I still would likely be late to my own call, and everyone would have hung up by the time I connected. IF I even got connected.

So if it was a national emergency, believe me….I would have been driving somewhere in my slippers trying to find a connection so we could all do The Work together.

But it was not an emergency.

What a funny day, of unexpected plans and changes.

After awhile, I packed up my gym bag with a change of clothes and towel so I could go shower there, and I stopped at the Starbucks for a coffee which was full of happy people talking, waiting, standing in line (and bright lights)! At the gym they had lights, but no working internet there, either.

I answered a few emails using my phone, especially all the emails where someone wrote “am I doing something wrong?” about the call!

Then, reading at the library that the electricity probably wouldn’t be restored in my area for at least a few hours, I began to drive north to meet my son who had texted me the night before, in the middle of the stormiest part of the evening when the wind had been churned up.

He had said he was coming for a meeting to the city north of me called Everett. “I’ll let you know tomorrow where we can meet for lunch, mom!”

I hadn’t heard from him yet on this strangely quiet morning, which was now almost afternoon. I sent out a text letting him know we had no power, so I’m going ahead and hitting the road to the north and moseying up towards the city he was in.

No response.

I remembered as I drove, this was an area where a specialty dance store lives. I used to drive all the way out here to buy my daughter special tap shoes or leotards. Why not stop and see if they have some comfy dance pants or sweats I’ve been needing for awhile?

Success.

But still no text from my son.

I wound up driving to the bus station where my daughter would be arriving in another 90 minutes, to wait. I got myself a cup of tea and sat in my car, staring out the window. And thinking about what an odd day it was of non-doing or random floaty-type doing because I’m waiting and I have the time. Which is rare.

My son’s phone, it turned out, had died….(there seems to be a theme). He had no charger so he had driven all the way to our house only to find a dark cottage without electricity, so he went to the same Starbucks I had been to earlier, borrowing my charger–at which point he was able to text me.

My daughter arrived on the bus, jumped in my car, and we drove home. Still no electrical power. No hot water. No heat. No lights. No battery charging.

We all went to a movie together for the 4 o’clock matinee. That never happens.

I joked a few times that I would need to do The Work on disappointing the First Friday participants and being a flake, or not getting much done for a Friday when I always work on my business.

But it does seem like things just moved as they did and I followed along. There were moments of thinking, and noticing the idea it was “sad” to not accomplish anything today.

I also noticed “anxiousness” when remembering Sunday (that’s tomorrow!) I’m starting a free, open facebook live 7 day course on eating peace and believing I should be preparing more for it. By the way, no opt-in required, all you need to do is request membership in the private eating peace facebook group and all the daily live videos will happen there.

Also in my wanderings and waitings of the day away from home, “grief” came through from the beautiful and very bittersweet visit I was still digesting after visiting my dear friend Carl’s gravesite. I was there just 2 days ago on Dia De Los Muertos, November 1st.

And then, surprisingly at the end of that day, I watched the computer open, the lights on, and tap tapping of fingers sharing with you my day, in all its unexpected and fascinating strangeness.

So, we’ll have a new inquiry jam session: First Monday, November 5th 5:30-7:00 pm Pacific Time. A day and time that’s completely different, I know. Next month in December it will be First Friday again at 7:45 am PT.

This is a time to dial in for open inquiry doing The Work from start to finish. Simply connect here a few minutes before we start. No experience or prep necessary, just come and question a stressful thought or two, listen, share if you want. A time for undoing thinking, and being.

Who would I be without my thoughts about how a day is supposed to go? Or what should not happen? Or what should?

Wow. Jeez. I might notice I’ve been wanting to go even slower. I’ve been meditating just a bit longer when I do meditate. I’ve been interested in turning to quiet, simple, non-working space. Even fewer plans than ever.

Noticing the friendliness of this past day, reality, and how very supportive it is. Even without lights.

Let the rain kiss you. Let the rain beat upon your head with silver liquid drops. Let the rain sing you a lullaby. ~ Langston Hughes

What’s raining in your life? Maybe it can beat upon your head with silver drops, or a kiss.
It doesn’t mean you have to like it, but is there anything interesting about it? Anything remotely good? Anything helpful?
Find your turnarounds. They could be a soothing lullaby. You never know.

Much love,
Grace
P.S. I received quite a few requests for the recording of the eating peace webinar I recently offered for the first time. If you want to address any compulsion, not just eating, maybe it will help (I’d love your feedback). I was so plagued by compulsion, in many ways more than eating, it means so much to share in community the healing around compulsive behavior of any kind. You can watch it here.

I don’t want to. I quit. I won’t like it. Can I absolutely know that’s true?

The other day, I had the thought “I don’t want to do anything anymore. I quit.”

Kind of funny.

I was sharing on the eating peace webinar how the mind, even when we do The Work regularly, runs and has commentary, and sometimes grand blanket-statement commentary.

It’ll come up with the goofiest things.

As if we have an insane aunt or uncle hanging out in the corner saying things just out of the blue.

I was doing The Work recently with the dearest inquirer.

She said in the middle of her work; “life is just a series of distractions made until we reach the end and can finally die.”

It was the very same kind of thought as the one I told you about a second ago, the one that said “just quit everything” with bravado, like it’s a real idea, or even one that’s possible to follow. (Whatever “everything” is, I’m not even sure).

This kind of grand statement about all of life can show up in more subtle ways, too, about one topic, or an experience.

For example, speaking of holidays….

In my family, there are already texts running around suggesting the location, time, menu and expectations for Thanksgiving. I may have even been the one who started it with a question about who was doing what to someone in the family.

Today in the USA it’s Halloween. If we’re “fun” people, we’ll wear costumes, right? (Another thought I’ve had in the past).

Perhaps we’re even attending a party, or trick-or-treating with kids or grandkids.

The mind is so creative, it immediately can see visions of past tables of food, people having discussions, living rooms, traditions, lights, decorations, meals, activities.

It says “oh no! It’s going to be hard!” or “I won’t like it!”

The mind supplies these past experiences to imagine what’s to come in the near future.

Even as I write this, I just imagined kids coming to the door at 6 pm when it’s beginning to get dark, and I just had the thought “Oh no, I didn’t buy any treats!” Followed by the thought to turn off the porch lights and hide, as my husband and I joked last night. Or go out to a movie.

Is it true the best option is quitting?

Is it true that not going is easier than going?

Is it true you won’t have fun once you get there? Or have a great time even? Or be entertained by life, family, people, atmosphere, no expectations?

No.

I once learned from a wise therapist I saw for quite awhile that if I wanted to go to a large gathering like a party, but felt afraid, I could enter and say to the first person I saw “I don’t really feel comfortable coming to parties….I’m kind of shy.”

It would be so honest, she advised, that I wouldn’t feel like I have to pretend anything.

I tried it at the next gathering I was invited to.

She was right. I had the best conversation.

I started telling the truth at parties or larger gatherings or groups, including my own family-of-origin gatherings. Adding The Work to the process seemed to really help.

Who would I be without the belief that what I’m invited to is going to be dangerous, anxiety-provoking, boring, dumb, a waste of time, hard work, or Not Fun?

Who would I be without the belief that I need to “quit” something, especially something that hasn’t even happened yet?

Ahhhhhh.

I’d feel relaxed.

I’d notice this quiet moment. I’d notice how much fun I have both in silence, and with other people.

Turning the thought around: I don’t have to quit. I can’t actually “quit” everything. And wouldn’t want to.

Quitting will happen eventually, for everything I do now (in the form of death). Reality will take care of the quitting, starting, stopping, going, moving, thinking, ending, being.

Still turning it around: my thinking should quit. Yes, it could quit ruminating on the future. I could quit believing the thoughts about quitting are even true (I notice they aren’t).

My thinking can run, the voices in my mind can speak, and it doesn’t mean I’ll stay home. Maybe I will….and maybe I won’t! I might have a whole heck of a lot of fun if I go.

And that idea feels more fun, right in this moment. And easy, since nothing is required right now. I don’t have to “know” exactly what will happen, what to decide, or what to do.

That which comes and goes, rises and sets, is born and dies is the ego. That which always abides, never changes, and is devoid of qualities is the Self. ~ Ramana Maharshi

Much love,
Grace
P.S. At Breitenbush, we’ll be dancing on Saturday night in the great lodge–open to everyone staying at Breitenbush (not just our group). A wonderful option for movement without speaking, being as you are.

Do the same thoughts appear and re-appear for inquiry in your life? The good news about that.

  • Breitenbush is filling and it’s only $245 tuition until 10/31 (it goes up to $295 on 11/1). Thurs eve to Sunday lunch (+lodging and meals at low-season rate). 16 CEUs for mental health professionals or 12 for ITW candidates.
  • Seattle East West Books November 3rd 2-5pm $40 The simple Work of Byron Katie
  • Eating Peace Retreat Jan 9-14, 2019 Seattle. Deep immersion in The Work and eating, dependency, compulsions and body image issues.

I had the best time talking about The Work with my friend Todd Smith who is also a certified facilitator of The Work.Our conversation is the revival of the itunes Peace Talk podcast! You can also download it here.

One thing that struck me about talking with Todd was something he said that I’ve also experienced: The Work just never gets boring.

Which is somewhat SHOCKING, given some part of me that’s ALWAYS wanting to be entertained.

But what if you’ve thought The Work HAS gotten boring?

What if you’ve had the thought “this isn’t working for me!!”

Well, surprise….I’ve had those thoughts too.

Not that long ago, I shared a Grace Note about money woes and worries, and someone wrote back to me that she’s noticed I’ve written about the same thing before.

In other words, she was wondering about the experience of change or absence of it. Because here I was again looping back to the same old thoughts about money like “I need more” and “there won’t be enough” and “I have to work hard to get it” and “I’ll lose it.” Blah blah blah, right?

I loved this reflection and question from the reader.

Because it reminded me how change has occurred in my life, sometimes rather suddenly, but way, way, way more often slowly, incrementally, step-by-step, one day at a time. Todd and I were noticing this orientation to practicing The Work during our podcast conversation, as we shared our experiences doing inquiry.

The mild, tiny adjustments that have occurred in the process of self-inquiry are the ones that for me, seem to stick.

There is a term I learned from a friend once who received her master’s degree in food science. She told me about the word “titrate”.

When someone is titrating one thing into another, what this means is they’re adding one substance or chemical to another larger substance one tiny drop at a time so that it mixes in and is imperceptible, until a certain point when it one more drop tips to “perceptible” and measurable and the whole thing mixed together is neutralized.

When The Work “works” for me, it feels like the great issues of the human condition appear and reappear in my daily life over and over, and they are questioned one moment at a time, one drop at a time.

And as I look back at the road taken, I chuckle at the adventure and the stories I traveled through. They no longer appear to be horror stories, or traumatic stories, or dangerous stories. (And if they do appear frightening or disappointing, I can question them, of course).

What are the great issues and stories I’ve become most aware of over time, that seem to have repeated themselves in different formats and themes?

Here they are:

1) Thinking “my” survival and security are threatened. Physical pain or danger or injury, sickness, death, money.

2) Thinking my needs are not being met in relationship to others. I don’t have enough love, kindness, sharing, or there’s loss of attention, being cut off or dismissed, someone’s angry. (See #1).

3) Thinking other peoples’ needs aren’t being met. Worry about their pain, money, sickness, injury, lack of safety, death. Which reminds me of my own and of course I notice I’d be happier if they were happier. (Uh, See #1 again).

4) Thinking pleasure or joy or love or rest isn’t possible in certain situations. Noise, rage, natural “disasters”, violence, surprise. I’m here temporarily and there are no guarantees about survival. (Hmmm, See #1).

5) Thinking there’s something wrong with me and if I fix it I’ll feel better. Shame, guilt, self-criticism, fear, addiction. (Come to think of it, my own mind is an enemy: See #1).

It seems like as I look at everything I object to….

….it’s about “my” survival and “my” happiness and “my” security.

Not that there’s anything wrong with this “my” thing going on. LOL.

It’s quite natural after all, for me to be taking care of me and watching out for me and learning about me and navigating a course for me and being with me.

But who would we be without the beliefs that all point to something-is-threatening……me?

What is this “me” that is so threatened anyway?

Woah.

Maybe if we got there all at once with our stories of stress and suffering, the beautiful slow process of gentle titration wouldn’t happen the way it does, and we’d have a cracked open mind or go completely bonkers (not that there’s anything wrong with that).

Consider the outliers who have sudden “awakenings” like Byron Katie or Eckhart Tolle. They didn’t have a very good time to the point leading up to their breakdowns. It was so severe, they almost committed suicide. And maybe not so easy after they cracked open, either.

Who would we be without the belief “it needs to change faster” in my mind or “my approach to inquiry needs to be more dramatic” or “The Work needs to produce a clear, obvious upgrade” or “I shouldn’t need to repeatedly question the very same story”?

Are you sure it’s the exact same story? Are you sure you’re not progressing? Are you sure something’s not working, or needs to go faster?

What I notice is something happening that’s like a slow, slow dawning. Not too fast. Not too slow. Just right for this one.

Repeating itself. Sun rising, once again. Sun setting, once again. Coming and going.

Noticing how much is repeated, reborn, dying again.

The Way of It.

“How do I know when it’s time to do The Work? I don’t even have to know what to do The Work on–it appears. The story comes, and if it’s not totally comfortable, undo it–or not.” ~ Byron Katie

If you do The Work on the very same thing every single day, can you absolutely know it’s true that nothing is changing?

No.

Are you sure something needs to change?

No.

Isn’t that exciting!?

“In the pursuit of knowledge, every day something is added. In the practice of the Tao, every day something is dropped. Less and less do you need to force things, until finally you arrive at non-action. When nothing is done, nothing is left undone. True mastery can be gained by letting things go their own way. It can’t be gained by interfering.” ~ Tao Te Ching #48

Much love,
Grace
P.S. Join me live on facebook on Mondays at 2 pm Pacific Time.

Head to Work With Grace facebook page and “like” it to be alerted to the live show.

Even in that horrible situation, it was kinder than my own thoughts about it.

I’m resting flat on my bed while I write in this moment.

I’ve been getting ready for 2 days for the autumn retreat. Remembering what to put in the box, hauling things over to the beautiful property. Everything is prepared at the retreat house, the sun is shining brilliantly with a deep blue sky, and the forecast calls for more golden fall sun for several days.

We’ll be having some amazing silent walks in the Seattle area neighborhood, that’s for sure. I’ve done them in the drizzle, in the heavy rain, in crisp gray cold winter weather, and this time in the bright sun. Can’t wait.

I most can’t wait for retreat to begin because it’s for me. I’m ready for retreat just as much as those attending.

I have a few thoughts to question, and I know they’ll start unraveling themselves in the presence of other sincere inquirers.

It happened today earlier during the Year of Inquiry group call. Two incredible thoughts brought to me like thoughts handed on a platter built for awakening.

Here you go….question this, Grace.

One of the thoughts a courageous inquirer took to The Work?

I’m all on my own.

What a frightening, discouraging, painful thought. But mostly it’s so painful when you think it means no one is there for you, no one is helping you, no kindness is offered, no relief.

It’s the feeling of having to contend with reality, in whatever form.

How many times have I had this belief running in my mind?

He left me, she left me. She won’t talk to me. I don’t have enough. It hurts. I can’t handle it. No one is here. I’m the only one who cares, or tries. I ‘have to’.

From working at jobs where the boss felt difficult, to being physically injured, to cancer coming to visit, to all the money gone.

I’m on my own.

How do you react when you believe this thought?

Discouraged. Resigned.

Giving up.

Full of imagined future terrors. Picturing the next abusive moment that could potentially happen. Worry. Feeling so vulnerable. Full of self-criticism and self-attack.

So….who would you be without this thought you are on your own?

I see the moments I’ve had this thought when I think something unacceptable and horrifying happened, or something mean and violent happened, or something shocking and frightening happened.

Who am I in these moments, without the belief I am on my own, I was on my own, with no help, nothing else, no support?

Today, I was filled with the beauty of The Work and the power of love, as I listened. The inquirer questioning this thought in our group became still and felt the memory of a moment she was sure was so difficult.

Then she noticed reality: she’s in a bathtub as a child. The water is so nice, warm. It is surrounded by a bath that holds the water. Blood is being washed away. Her mother is there, having put her in the bath. There’s a room, a floor, a house with walls, a ceiling.

Can I stay with the moments I’ve been so sure were dreadful, when I thought I was all on my own, and notice?

In my cottage 12 years ago. No one else home. Children gone. Former husband gone. Family gone. Money gone. Cancer diagnosis.

Who would I be without the belief I am on my own?

Looking around the room. Noticing the couch holding me, the floor under the couch, the foundation hooked by gravity to the earth. Noticing a bookshelf, a rug, running water, a cupboard with crackers, a wall heater.

Things everywhere. Sure, perhaps no humans, but something better than other humans: a place to sit, in silence, without interruption.

And then the most marvelous sound.

The inquirer who is doing The Work today of this very thought begins to laugh.

“My thoughts are all alone. I am not alone.”

Laughter, and more laughter, and more. Rising like a bubbling burst of joy. I was laughing too.

All I know is, in this work today, and in this work about to happen for 4 days, and in The Work I’ve ever been a part of in the past….this kind of discovery is the most wonderful feeling in the entire world.

To see that life, and all its experiences, has been more kind, supportive, caring, quiet, gentle and filled with love than I ever, ever have imagined when I’ve believed my stressful thoughts.

I feel so very lucky, so full of appreciation to notice what’s actually true. Astonishing.

I thank every inquirer who does The Work with me, as I get to see the most remarkable clarity arise out of their own inquiry. Stunning.

“Reality is always kinder than the story we tell about it.” ~ Byron Katie

Yes, even that story. Even that one.

Especially that one.

Much love,
Grace
P.S. This may seem a little crazy, but I have more room than I’ve had in awhile at this retreat. If you want to come, email me or text me 206-650-1230. You can join us. Several of the participants who were going to be here are signing up for the Breitenbush retreat instead. If you want to be there, it’s only $245 before 11/1 for 3 whole days.

Is there a wrong way to practice The Work?

Someone had to cancel their attendance at autumn retreat starting Weds due to medical emergency (she’s OK but going through a procedure on Thursday).

This means….we have room in retreat for you, plus a room available for you to sleep in a king size bed with plush beautiful pillows and comforter and everything you need, an absolutely gorgeous huge bathroom with a claw foot tub, and the peace and quiet of a retreat that shines a light on your inner transformation.

But, you don’t have to stay onsite to come. I myself commute daily the mile from my cottage to this beautiful house.

Last year, someone in fall retreat was chuckling with surprise at the antique flavor, the elegance, the hot tub, the quiet garden grounds in the middle of a large city like Seattle. Our retreat house was built in 1918. There’s a grand feel to the place.

Like a haunted mansion. LOL.

Isn’t that what it’s like sometimes in our minds, with all the thoughts, stories, memories, or nightmares from our past, or imagined future?

I love this time of year to question the haunted thoughts in our minds.

So, no matter where you are….you can bus, drive, hitch-hike, fly and you still have three days to call in “well” to your job. Come join us in the brilliance of doing The Work at this magnificent place only ten miles north of downtown Seattle. Hit reply if you have questions for me, and just ask.

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I receive a whole lot of brilliant, challenging and honest questions about The Work.

I got two this past week alone.

Different people from very different parts of the world asked these two separate juicy questions:

a) Do you think the work can be the only tool one uses in mental health therapy?

b) Isn’t all this self-inquiry kind of, well, self-centered?

Such great questions.

Every situation and every person is unique, even though we humans are so similar. But I can share with you my own ponderings, and you can sort out your own answers, as always.

First, I like to think about where my question comes from? Is it from my fearing mind, or a relaxed one?

I used to agonize endlessly about decisions and if I was doing something “right” or not. One thing I recognized was the belief I had about doing it “wrong” or making a mistake and the honest need to question that it was possible to do it wrong in the first place. I like to ask, when making decisions or wondering about something:

Is the question arising out of fear and urge-to-protect, or self-compassion, love and joy? Am I afraid something will go wrong?

If you’re asking Question A (can you use only The Work to address mental health issues?) then I love going further into it like this:

What part of me is asking? Who wants to know? Is it a voice that’s suspicious, or worried about using other therapeutic tools? Or is it a wise and loving voice?

(My thought is, why wouldn’t I use other therapeutic help, if it was in front of me and inviting or interesting?)

Sitting with these questions and noticing peace in the presence of your reflections can be so sweet, so easy.

Is a decision necessary? What do you notice works for you today, right now in this present moment?

With the second question, Question B, (“isn’t inquiry too self-centered?”) there could be a few things also to ponder:

What does self-centered mean for you? Like is there something you believe you’re missing, because you’re spending time questioning your thoughts or stressful memories?

What’s the worst that could happen, if you’re self-centered? Who is this “self’ that The Work is centering around?

I’ve had the thought in the past that if I meditated all day (or did The Work all day)….I’d be a lump of unproductive clay (unproductive sh*%t) and leave nothing to the world and offer absolutely no important wisdom.

But can I be sure the thing I’m expecting as an outcome is for sure going to happen?

No.

I love rolling up my sleeves and being in action. My capacity to be active and alive out in the world seems to be far more expansive since I’ve been doing The Work. The caution I once had is massively reduced.

It feels really good.

Who would we be without our stories, including our stories about inquiring into our stories….or receiving other kinds of therapeutic help?

I’d be open to however this is going, and however it changes.

If you walk through the world without suffering about what’s happened in your life in any area, who knows what amazing actions you might take and incredible things you might offer us all.

If you can’t take the spot in retreat starting Wednesday night, today there’s room for two at half-day retreat. We begin at 2 pm and end at 6 pm. Come on over.

Much love,
Grace
P.S.
Breitenbush HotSprings Resort Retreat is Dec 6-9. $245 tuition before 11/1 (you add your lodging and all meals are included–it’s a very sweet winter deal).

but my family member(s) will drive me crazy when I see them—(time for retreat?)

Only six days until Autumn Retreat in northeast Seattle, Washington up here in the beautiful corner of the US near Canada. Woohoo! Still room for two commuters, and one person could stay onsite (one comfy and gorgeous bedroom is available).

If you want a shorter simple half-day retreat, come over to my cottage Sunday, October 14th 2-6 pm. People drive from Spokane or Portland or Vancouver BC for these little half-day intensives. A sweet way to write one worksheet and “get the job done” as Katie says. Only 2 spots left. Register before if you can.

Who knows what else can shift when we spend the time together, deliberately, meditating in self-inquiry, the four questions, and sharing what distresses us.

There’s something profound about doing this work together, in the company of others, that just isn’t the same as doing it alone.

The last 2018 opportunity for in-person gathering in The Work is at Breitenbush HotSprings Resort, and it’s an amazing deal at $245 tuition before 11/1. You’ll choose lodging and every meal will be included. Cozy, off-the-grid, focused time on your inner life during this sometimes stressful holiday time of year. Call Breitenbush to sign up.

Speaking of holidays coming.

The other day I heard someone in Year of Inquiry mention visiting her parents soon, who lived in another city. Five days in her childhood home.

Her comment about the length of five days?

That it was loooooooong. Likely stressful. Perhaps torturous.

LOL.

It’s not uncommon to anticipate hard moments when it comes to getting together with family, right?

Canadian Thanksgiving just happened last weekend, and some of my Canadian clients had a few words to say about the gatherings held with family.

The holiday season is upon us, even if you don’t celebrate much. There will be decor out there, and invitations. We pack our bags, fly on airplanes, drive many hours, take time off from work, buy gifts, prepare food.

And there those people are. The ones we’re often related to. Being themselves. Just like always.

She’s so critical. He doesn’t try to get to know me. They ignore me. She always has something negative to say. He’s repeats himself. They drink too much. They drink too little. They expect me to cook. He buys too many gifts. She’s too serious. He’s too much of a jokester. They don’t appreciate me.

The same concerns, sometimes ever since childhood, we anticipate happening again. And again. And again.

But what happens if we inquire, instead, and actually take a look at these people using The Work to explore our objections, concerns, fears, anxieties, and upsets?

Is it true they always criticize? Is it true you don’t really belong? Is it true you can’t measure up? Is it true you probably won’t have a good time?

Huh.

No. I can’t be sure without a doubt.

But even if you think you CAN be sure, and those people have been the same for decades so-why-expect-anything-to-change-NOW….

….consider who you are in this moment as you think of family (or whoever–it doesn’t have to be family, it just has to be THOSE people) and you have troubling thoughts about them?

I brace myself.

I think….hmmmm. Maybe I should just stay home. I think about just surviving, or getting through it (not actually enjoying myself). I have an energetic shield up. I’m ready for the incoming barb, or attack, or judgment. I’m defended. I’m sad. I’m worn out. I’m resentful.

So who would you be without your story of these people?

What if you were going to visit them for the very first time, and you had never met them before?

What would it be like to be fascinated with the dynamic, the people, the scene….with no expectations whatsoever?

Who would you be without the thought you know what it’ll be like (and it’s not good)?

Right in this moment while I’m imagining my own family all gathered together and the exercise of seeing them for the very first time with no story….

….I suddenly remembered a lovely inquirer who attended Breitenbush retreat last year telling me she was shocked at the elegance of Breitenbush.

I asked her what she had expected?

She replied she thought it would be two hot tubs in the Oregon forest at the end of a dirt road. She was surprised beyond expectation. Stunned in fact.

Could this also happen with family, if we look at them with no story, using our imaginations to watch, with curiosity, like we were aliens from another planet?

So this inquiry can apply to anything you anticipate in the future. Any journey or gathering. Any traveling plans.

Who would you be if you didn’t have any expectations but were getting an interesting tour of planet earth?

Wow.

I’d be excited. I’d feel full of laughter. I wouldn’t do anything I didn’t want to do, but I’d ask questions. I’d say out loud “what were you thinking when you looked at me that way just now?” or “I’ve noticed that about me, too” or “Hmmm, when you make that comment, I feel worried you don’t like me” or “I have no idea what I’ll be doing next year, do you have a suggestion?”

Ha ha!

It’s so fun to wonder what it would be like as they do their thing, and I’m not stressed about it. What an interesting exercise!

Turning the thoughts all around to every opposite, one-by-one, is the powerful last step.

I turn it around to myself: I am like that to me.

I turn it around to the other: I’m critical of her, I don’t try to get to know him, I ignore them, I always have something negative to say in my head, etc….

I turn it around to the opposite: She’s accepting. He does try to get to know me. They don’t ignore me–they’re including me right now in their own way. She does NOT always have something negative to say. He doesn’t repeat himself. They drink just right, for my own learning and awareness in their presence. They don’t expect me to cook. He buys just the right amount of gifts. She’s serious and it’s wonderful. He’s a jokester and it’s brilliant. They appreciate me.

Could our opposites be just as true, or truer?

You have to find genuine examples you already believe, that you really already know are true.

The reason so many of us do The Work is because to sit with this inquiry allows us to see without our assumptions. We find acceptance of those characters in our lives.

Maybe not just acceptance, but a freedom to be ourselves, and to be happy, no matter who’s around.

Even her. Even him.

“If you think you’re so enlightened, go spend a week with your family.” ~ Ram Dass

If you’d like to get truly transformational support on doing this work of the master, come gather with us in retreat.

Question your stories, change your holiday season.

Much love,
Grace

The Work of Byron Katie Free First Friday – ending our own suffering

First Friday Inquiry Hour is 7:45 am – 9:15 am Pacific Time.

Join me live right here. Audio only. Use phone or WebCall to connect for free and be heard (should you decide to share). If you prefer to be listen-only then connect using Broadcast.

The options for joining First Friday sometimes don’t appear until 15 minutes before the call. Come at 7:30 to take your virtual seat on the call.

Can’t wait to do The Work with you.

This past week, in the very same format as First Friday,(everyone gathering via teleconference) a profoundly stressful thought appeared from one of our group members in Year of Inquiry.

About mother.

She should have stopped the suffering.

I witnessed precisely this same thought a few weeks ago on retreat, and the same thought in a retreat last year.

I’ve sat individually with others investigating at this thought.

I’ve felt the rage of wanting Someone Else to fix it, and believing I was unable–but they were.

They should stop the suffering!

She should take us to safety. He shouldn’t have let this happen. They shouldn’t have taken such risks.

I remember believing this about my father and mother.

We’re driving in our van on a dirt road through tall yellow grasses. My mother is looking tensely at a map and speaking sharply to my father who is driving and saying “this has to be the right road, there aren’t any other roads!”

The sun is getting low.

I sense we were supposed to be somewhere by now, wherever our destination is for the night. My three sisters and I have been playing word games and looking out the window at the African landscape.

We hear gun shots.

In the distance I see a lone house begin to come into view in the orange light. Someone is standing and waving their arms back and forth above their head in the way that appears to be a universal sign for “Look here! Over here!”

We bump down the dirt road, my dad stops the van, and grown ups are talking to one another while we four kids are still in the car. My parents come back to say we’re not staying here, we still have a ways to go to get to the peanut farm.

Nothing more happened. Nothing terrible occurred.

But there was so much tension in the air, I still remember it quite vividly. The fear, the sharp words, the not knowing what was happening or where we were exactly (a country called Rhodesia).

When we get to the peanut farm, the white family greets us (we are also white) and there are whispers about the dangers, but we’re ushered into comfortable bedrooms with mosquito netting.

I look back and learn of that year we were on the road, and all the insane political events happening very close. I wonder about my parents taking us to dangerous places.

Is it true they should have stopped?

No.

The situation I describe was nothing compared to the other painful situations I’ve explored with brave inquirers looking at the violence in their childhoods.

You might answer “yes” to this question. The one I trusted, the one who was supposed to look after me should have taken me away from that danger.

Can you absolutely know it’s true?

This is never about condoning or passively accepting an awful situation, or saying it was good when it was not.

But what a profound question: Is it absolutely true–is the entire story true–is everything I think about this situation actually true?

For me, no.

For the inquirer in our group, even though the answer was initially “yes, it’s true”….

….we kept going.

How do you react when you believe the thought that someone (mother, father, anyone) should have protected you, done something, stopped the suffering?

Who would you be without this belief?

As I’ve heard others answer this question, the compassion that arises for the one who couldn’t protect is astonishing. The compassion and sadness for the whole situation. The heart-break for humanity.

To touch into the power of this kind of love for what we thought was dangerous, frightening, intolerable, someone-else’s-fault….what a gift.

I hope you’ll join me for First Friday in a few hours. Let’s do The Work.

Connect with us here.

No one is guilty of anything other than believing their thoughts. ~ Byron Katie

Much love,
Grace

You belong wherever you are.

It’s First Friday this week. Meaning, inquiry time online together, open to anyone and everyone. Listen, share, do The Work. You can remain quiet or participate however you like.

Enter your name and email in the link here (it’s the easiest way to get the instructions for how to join). Your email won’t be used for anything except giving you access the First Friday call. If you’re able to make a donation, you’ll see the contribution link on the call page (not required). See you Friday.

Speaking of getting connected…sometimes the opposite feeling is rather troubling.

Disconnected. Left out. Not belonging.

Have you ever felt like you weren’t a part of whatever’s happening? Uncared for? Ignored? Not as close to the group as others? Dismissed? Maybe even rejected?

And here’s a funny thing I’ve noticed: those of us who feel left out or on the outside of a culture, society, group or family actually spend time avoiding or getting away from what seems false about the crowds.

At least I did.

It’s almost like the craving for genuine connection becomes so acute, there’s no tolerance for scenes where people appear loud, hyper, distracted, false, needy, or driven.

Sometimes, we avoid our own family of origin. Too much of that feeling of being left out rises to the forefront.

Or we avoid those friends who have all known each other since 8th grade. Too stuck in the same patterns of conversation.

Let’s do The Work.

Can you find a group or a time in your life when you felt left out?

The other day I had a vivid memory (I shared it on my facebook live show when it popped in my head).

I was at a sister’s birthday party when I was 10 and she was turning 9. It was summer, hot, and so incredibly beautiful outside. The perfect northwest summer day.

Many of my sister’s friends were gathered round the picnic table and every place setting had a little colored cup filled with candy. Balloons bounced in the breeze.

Everything looked so magical to me.

And I was overwhelmed with a feeling of intense jealousy as my sister opened her gifts. One after another beautiful presents, smiles, claps, colors, and then….oh terrible sinking envy.

She got a black tape recorder. 

I WANTED A TAPE RECORDER!

How come she got one before I did?

The thing is, I already had the equally terrible thought that since I was jealous and envious, I was selfish and bad. I couldn’t let anyone see, especially my mom.

She did not approve. I knew it.

I felt so humiliated, left out, unnoticed. I had to gulp my tears. The rest of the party was horrible. I quietly slipped away to my room.

Only years later did I put together that six months earlier, my own birthday party in the dark of January was switched to my friend Sari’s house last minute because my mother was sick with breast cancer and having surgery.

I didn’t really know what was happening, just that it wasn’t good. I remember being worried, and no one at all in my family was at my party. I remember liking the party OK, and enjoying my friends who apparently successfully made it to Sari’s house instead of mine. But I was so anxious.

And even though I was ten, I had no words to communicate any of this. I just felt sick, and empty, and left out, and not even sure why. I felt like I didn’t belong, and everyone else got what they wanted in all of life, but not me. (I didn’t really put details together clearly at the time).

What a great early childhood moment for The Work.

I’m left out. I don’t belong. 

Is that true?

Yes.

Can you absolutely know it’s true?

No. I’m here at my sister’s party. I’m not kicked out.

How did I react when I believed that thought that I was left out?

Very sad. Distressed. Not saying one word to anyone.

Who would I be without my belief?

I’d hold my mom’s hand (or try). I’d find my dad (where was he, anyway)? I’d find a friend in the neighborhood. I’d try to find help, connection. I do know there were people around. I was not all alone.

I’d feel OK in my own skin, no matter what was happening.

Turning the thought around: I’m not left out. I do belong.

Isn’t this just as true, or truer?

Yes.

I was able to speak English, which was the prevailing language. I had the capacity to sit down at the picnic table (I was standing off away from the gathering). I could ask my sister if I could play with her tape recorder sometime (we had a ball with it later).

I’m a part of that family. I have a room in that house. I’m a kid. I’m breathing the air, watching, enjoying the warm summer day, delighted as anyone else is. I don’t have to believe it’s wrong to want something wonderful. I don’t have to believe I’m selfish.

Since that time, I’ve learned so much about counteracting isolation. I’ve entered into group situations set up for honesty and true connection. Places that felt safe.

Places where I could question “I’m selfish” or “I’m wrong” or “I’m needy”.

Twelve step meetings, support groups, therapy groups, trainings, schools, workshops, meditation retreats, places where guidance and structure is given for participants.

My favorite!

I love being touched by the sharing human beings do in groups, the loving council shared, the wisdom.

I also love simply finding connection to myself most of all. Not needing anything more, not needing to be seen by anyone but myself. Being here, joyfully in silence at this very moment, as I type away in the dark night of an autumn northwest–only about 15 miles from that August day many years ago.

If it’s time to gather in genuine sharing and inquiry, which brings such honest clarity to any group, then there are many choices coming soon in the Pacific Northwest for gathering together:

  • October 17th evening through October 21st morning, autumn retreat. One room left onsite, with a hot tub and beautiful gardens for everyone.
  • December 6-9 a winter retreat in the winter woods of Breitenbush Thursday evening through Sunday morning. Hotsprings pools, warm cozy cabins, delicious vegetarian organic meals, steam sauna, The Work mental cleansing.
If you anticipate any holiday groups with worry or dread, what an extra special time to gather now as we head into winter and the final quarter of this calendar year. You get to be with others, but mostly, with yourself.
We’re gathering openly and honestly with our own minds, our own thoughts, and learning to enjoy the company.
When your eyes are tired the world is tired also. 
When your vision has gone, no part of the world can find you. 
Time to go into the dark where the night has eyes to recognize its own. 
There you can be sure you are not beyond love.  
The dark will be your home tonight.  
The night will give you a horizon further than you can see. 
You must learn one thing. 
The world was made to be free in. 
Give up all the other worlds except the one to which you belong. 
Sometimes it takes darkness and the sweet confinement of your aloneness to learn anything or anyone that does not bring you alive is too small for you.
~ David Whyte

Much love,

Grace

P.S. Come.

I am not home–how do YOU react?

Something about fall. Crisp. Fresh. Orange.

The beginning of the end. Nature is decaying and going dark for the winter. Leaves fall, the sky looks gray, the sun shines far less (where I live).

I love going on retreat at this time of year, and taking the precious time to sink into inquiry.

I’ve experienced very deeply and sincerely that when my relationship to reality actually changes through this work, my movement in the world changes, and the outcomes I experience actually wind up changing, naturally.

  • half-day Living Turnarounds Deep Divers retreat October 14th from 2-6 pm ($50)
  • October 17th evening through October 21st morning, autumn retreat. We have one room left for anyone wanting to stay at a reduced fee onsite at the beautiful retreat house, but commuters also welcome.
  • December 6-9 a winter retreat in the woods of Breitenbush Thursday evening through Sunday morning.

The other day, I was reflecting on one of my first most terrible, dreadful “loneliness” stories.

I was going to share this story with only the Eating Peace mailing list, but I had the thought you might like to reflect on the very same story….even if you have never had a single moment of trouble with food, eating or weight.

The “I Am Lonely” story.

I am not connected, I am abandoned, I am alone, I am not safe.

I AM NOT HOME.

This story is incredibly stressful.

When I believed it was the truth, what did I do?

I isolated, I tried to hold back tears, I slept a lot or lay in my bed…and I ate.

This is a truly powerful story to question. So let’s do it today (and you’re welcome to watch my live youtube on this right here).

I am not home.

Is it true?

No.

When I think about this right now, today, I can still find the voice that wonders where home is….that isn’t so sure it’s here, now. But I really can’t know that voice is accurate.

The thought comes in “where else would home be, if not here?”

I can really see it’s not True.

But how do you react when you think it is?

Doubt enters my heart, and I feel it in my body. I believe I won’t be safe quite soon, and I’m not emotionally safe now. I can’t relax. I want to go home, like a little kid saying “where’s my mommy?”

And if you watch my story I shared on youtube, you’ll know that the way I reacted to this belief “I am not home” is that I ate.

I ate and ate and ate and stuffed and filled myself. I remember I knew how to say in French, “J’ai manger trop”.

“I ate too much!”

I said this many times to my student leader on my foreign exchange program who was probably about 24 and seemed so old and wise and capable. I remember her saying back to me “you’ve said that a lot!”

Ugh.

I’ve sat with many people in this stressful belief. Some people react by hunting for the perfect mate. Some people buy clothes and go shopping and try to enhance their environment with a feeling of “home”. Some people watch TV or movies, or join a ton of groups, or fill their time with way too many tasks.

Just watch, if you’ve held this belief that you are not ultimately at home, how stressful it can be.

I notice that I’ve felt source, reality, universe, God, were very far away somewhere and not listening to me. (I notice it makes no sense at all, really, but the images are of distance, outer space, being cut-off, feeling desperately sad).

Now….who would you be without this belief you aren’t home?

I instantly notice a sense of relief or wonder about this moment. It’s quiet, yet I can hear a lot of sounds–crows and eagles outside, a group passing by on bikes calling to each other, wind chimes on the front porch, a loud motor from the busy street in the distance.

But I suppose it would be fine if suddenly I was deaf.

And what would this moment be like without sight, without the belief you aren’t home?

I find there’s a trust present that I didn’t feel before. Something kind. I’m not assuming darkness or blackness means aloneness or separation.

Turning the thought around: what if you are connected? What if you are home?

I am connected, I am found, I am surrounded, I am safe.

Was that actually true for me at that time so long ago when I shared my story of being so far away in another country?

Yes.

I had a group leader, I had adults who had welcomed me into their home to spend time with their family for the entire summer, I sang all summer with my friends in 3-part harmony during our bike ride adventure through France, I felt joy at the beauty I witnessed of landscapes and castles and camping in barns on hay, I learned that I didn’t need my parents or family around in order to be happy.

I also learned that something in me felt terrified and reached for food for relief, escape and comfort. I lost some of my innocence of childhood and discovered I had something vital to contend with—my inner soul’s desire to connect with other humans honestly (instead of food).

It was not easy.

I am still practicing and learning the living turnaround: I am home.

But what I can see is when I do not believe that I’m not home and there’s no hope in returning home, I do not eat wildly and desperately.

I notice a need to articulate my feelings and speak them. I ask for support and put myself in environments where I will receive it. I connect with other people–including all the clients and people who appear for groups–and we do this work, together.

I feel in this body, and in my consciousness, a sense of now, here, being, open.

Gratitude may appear. Thankful for this chair. Thankful for this tree. Thankful for this mind, these thoughts, these feelings even.

This. Nothing more required.

Geese appear high over us,
pass, and the sky closes. Abandon,
as in love or sleep, holds
them to their way, clear
in the ancient faith: what we need
is here. And we pray, not
for new earth or heaven, but to be
quiet in heart, and in eye,
clear. What we need is here.
~ Wendell Berry

Much love,
Grace
P.S. A few spots left in autumn retreat and half-day living turnarounds group has room for 4 more.