Questioning every thought, step by step, brings freedom faster than a short-cut

The beauty of sitting with others connecting in inquiry for 4 days is remarkable. I love hearing each and every person’s story, and how magnificent each person is in unraveling it, so it’s not running their lives anymore.

Everyone got to open the retreat on our first evening together by filling out a Judge Your Neighbor worksheet, slowly, carefully, thoughtfully–like a meditation. Writing their unhappiness on paper, so it’s frozen there in ink and can’t sneak away or be temporarily forgotten.

We get to write: This is what hurts. These are my thoughts. This is my story.

I must confess.

When I first started doing The Work, it felt so great just to write out an angry, disappointed or frightened JYN, it was like a genuine honest cathartic experience. I could rage, scream, call the person names on paper. I remember once writing with such vengeance, the paper tore under the pen point as I made my list of what I believed that person was like in the situation I was remembering.

Then….I’d take one or two thoughts through inquiry using the four questions, and wind up leaving the paper somewhere in a notebook, or throwing it in the trash if I didn’t want someone to find it in the household.

I had many piles of worksheets that went unfinished. I never worked through all the concepts on the worksheet.

And guess what happened?

That person bugged me again, either in my own thoughts OR they actually said something new that I found disturbing all over.

In other words, it came back. It repeated itself. It wasn’t over.

So in our recent retreat, we had the luxury of working through that entire first worksheet everyone wrote for themselves on the first night–the situation we most wanted to question right then.

For the first few concepts on the worksheet, people had the looks people often begin to have when doing The Work: a lightbulb is going off. Some weight is lifted from the situation.

Then, as we worked our way through the “I wants” and “she or he should” and “I need” and “they are”, it was hilarious how participants said “ugh, groan, not this same situation!”

Can’t I move on to a new JYN??!

LOL. I’ve had the exact same experience.

I felt so good after questioning only one thought from a worksheet, why keep going?! Do we have to beat a dead horse?

(In fact there were some dead-horse-beating jokes murmuring through the lovely group of inquirers on retreat together, and laughter).

But then, moving all the way through a worksheet, taking breaks, plugging away, working with different facilitators….

….what a treat.

That’s when true, deeper transformation can happen.

I could hear it.

‘Wow thank you for keeping us on track with investigating one situation so deeply.”

“Amazing, I had called the divorce lawyer, and now after this worksheet….I’m calling off the entire plan for separation.”

“Wow, I realize this situation I’m so afraid of is just my mind imagining the worst…..but the way I’m envisioning a frightening moment is only in my mind, and it’s not true!”

“My entire worksheet is almost funny now. It IS funny! I’m laughing!”

“I came to this retreat to resolve in my primary relationship and I’ve found it honestly–it’s not the way I wanted it to go, but I understand now what I’m unable to do.”

I was filled with gratitude at what I heard and witnessed with everyone’s beautiful work.

Which was really MY beautiful work.

I’ve had the same thoughts, and I got to hear them run through me like a river. “Is it true?” I’d see a picture of something in my own life. I’d see a picture of what I imagined THEIR situation to look like.

So today, I continue feeling grateful for all the people who came to help me in my own work for four days of misty wet autumn, so that I can experience the peace of freedom from believing the mind that says “life is hard, life is painful, things can go wrong” and turn all this around to “life is easy, life is gentle, things can go right”.

Only in my thinking do things go wrong.

If you’d like to come do this brilliant freedom work–where you find your own answers, always–and question your suffering especially about anyone in your life you’ve found difficult to deal with….

….then consider coming to Breitenbush in early December.

We’ll be cozy in the magnificent old-growth woods, you’ll have quiet warm cabins to stay in, all meals will be served (organic, vegetarian, delicious) and there will be hot springs to soak in on your breaks in the crisp forest air all around.

We’ve got plenty of space still, and the early-bird fee for the winter Breitenbush retreat is only $295 for 3 days. Early bird fee ends on October 31st. We begin Thursday evening December 7 and end Sunday Dec 10th at lunch. November 1st, the fee jumps to $395. Call Breitenbush at 503-854-3320 if you want more information about lodging, travel or meals, and to sign up. They handle everything for this one.

And here’s one of my favorite things about this upcoming December retreat: my life partner Jon will be joining us, and he and I will be sharing some of the fun, hilarity, fear, and joy about inquiring on someone very close–like a husband or wife.

We can’t wait to be with everyone who shows up to do The Work with us.

Come have a quiet winter rejuvenating retreat, just in time before the holidays (which have been known to contain a stressful thought about loved ones…or two….or three).

“Judge your neighbor, write it down, ask four questions, turn it around. Who says that freedom has to be complicated?” ~ Byron Katie

What an exciting gift!

Much love,


P.S. Tonight, I’ll be serving on staff at the School for The Work in Ojai, California with Byron Katie. Can’t wait to share with you what I learn along the way. xo

2 Replies to “Questioning every thought, step by step, brings freedom faster than a short-cut”

  1. You can still do The Work, even though the recommendation is to look at others and what’s frightened you or bothered you about them (even in the distant past) as it’s a little easier. But if you can’t, then find a situation on yourself and do it on that situation–it still works amazingly well! Much love, Grace


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