Socrates, Byron Katie, and Rowing Your Boat

Row, row, row your boat with Inquiry.
Row, row, row your boat with Inquiry.

This is the first week of Year of Inquiry.

Words can’t describe how happy I am to be back to doing The Work with a small group of people who desire freedom from believing their stressful thoughts.

If you’re interested, you can plunk down a full fee for the year and call it done–you’re making time for yourself for slowing life down and questioning the mind and the way it thinks everything is true. You can also pay monthly.

All I know is….thank God (whatever you see as this mystery) for The Work and for the simplicity of the way Byron Katie formatted and came up with her process of questioning.

Self-inquiry has really been around for centuries, perhaps thousands of years.

OK, probably since humans and minds and thought have existed.

There have been questions.

Why? How? What is this for? Where are we? What do I do? Where do I go? What does this mean? Who am I? Who are you?

Socrates, the great philosopher who lived almost 2,500 years ago became known for his method of inquiry. He loved stimulating discussions in the form of questions and answers and debate.

He loved circles and seminars and people gathering together to discuss and ponder these great questions about the world, about humanity, about life and whatever is beyond life–he wanted to understand the truth, whatever this might be.

Socrates, in fact, realized along the way that he didn’t really “know” anything.

A friend of his even asked the wise Oracle of Delphi (the priestess who could answer great questions) if there was anyone wiser than Socrates.

The Oracle answered “no”.

Socrates believed the answer was a sort of paradox, because he was discovering that he really knew nothing in the end, absolutely.

He felt he was not wise at all.

And that in this knowing was actually great wisdom.

Isn’t it amazing to think that if you don’t know the answer to something about your life, or about anything, this may be the most wise position you could take?

Even if it’s difficult and agonizing at times?

Socrates began to test out the idea of wisdom by asking all the great people of Athens–including politicians, poets, artists–what they thought of the Oracle’s pronouncement that no one was wiser than he, and what they thought “wisdom” meant and who had the deepest or truest answers.

What became clear was that no one knew what the answer was.

They might think they were wise and knowledgeable, or they might not, but their opinions didn’t really matter.

In the end, no one knew.

Life was a mystery. A great contemplation. Full of pain and full of joy, full of life as well as death.

Since Socrates knew that he didn’t really “know” anything absolutely, he concluded and laughed that the Oracle must be right–because most other people felt they DID know the truth, and therefore they had blind spots and anger and suffering.

Socrates, as you may well know, was put on trial for corrupting the youth of Athens and of not believing in the Gods.

It was in his trial that he uttered the famous quote “I know that I know nothing.”

It is told that at his trial, he was asked what he thought his punishment should be, for being so influential and defying the status quo and not seeing anyone or anything as all-knowing, even himself.

Socrates said his punishment should be free dinners for life and a wage paid by the government.

I guess he had a sense of humor, too.

He was found guilty and put to death.

I love the Socrates story, although some would see it as quite tragic as many legal acts have been throughout human history when people defy the system and appear to be threatening.

But he was not willing to step down for the sake of saving his own life and speaking what the politicians and rulers wanted to hear.

He even may have been interested in death, certainly not afraid of it.

He was certainly willing to see how things unfolded, while continuously saying what was true for him–that he didn’t know what was really true.

Today, my thought is that we have greater capacity to be with the unknown.

Sort of.

What I mean by that is….it’s far more acceptable, and obvious sometimes, that we really don’t know why we are here.

We don’t know what created us precisely, we don’t know when we’re going to die, we don’t have answers for specifically why we were born.

Even if you believe in God or use the word God (which I love, personally) and have a religion, you know it’s a mysterious force.

Our lives are really very mysterious.

This process of questioning is very mysterious.

And yet, we as inquirers are willing to enter the mystery, most of us.

We’re sooooo curious.

We are willing to consider that we may not have answers to our “problems” and we might not even know how we got into this pickle we’re in, if we’re in a pickle (most of us are at some point, right)?

All of us have our dilemmas, and our thoughts about what needs to happen in order for us to be happy.

Or what we’re missing, or what we need to be worried about.

Our minds are so brilliant, they move so quickly, we don’t even catch our thoughts most of the time.

Things happen in our environments, and we decide almost instantly what these things mean.

We react.

Which is where The Work comes in as a brilliant tool.

When my reaction is stressful…..I know what to do.

Question my thinking. Ask if it is true? Ask who I would be without this thought?

And what I have found over time, is that when things happen, and I question them deeply with the four questions known as The Work of Byron Katie, I see what happened before differently.

More openly.

I see what happened with curiosity. I wonder.

I may even have appreciation and fascination, rather than horror.

And then what happens?

Wow, this is the most wonderful thing, and why I continue to inquire into the meaning I put on life and relationships and all things…..

…..because what happens after inquiry is the next time something similar occurs I have a different reaction.

I simply do not react so quickly.

I remember that I don’t know what I think I know. I’m aware that my thoughts are not absolutely true, I don’t have the complete and total “truth” and the full picture.

I react maybe with laughter. I respond with greater peace, and less anxiety.

Without even planning it.

I begin to see things as more mysterious, more full of unknowns, and I’m somehow willing to stay there without certainty, not because I’m trying to stay there, but because I REALLY AM UNCERTAIN!

Today someone shared that on Byron Katie’s facebook page there was this quote:

“The moment you project what’s going to happen, it costs you your life.” 

I can so relate.

I have many thoughts about what might happen. I think about what might happen in an hour, or later this evening. Pictures flash through my head about what might happen next week, or in ten years.

I have thoughts all the time like….

  • I have to get A done and B done before C (and C is critically important)
  • My kid needs D or else E
  • My relationship isn’t working because F
  • If I don’t change G then my life will look like H in the future
  • I need more J
  • I need less Q
  • This isn’t good
  • This is fantastic (yes I included this one because believing it can be very stressful and make you grabby, right?)
  • I know what is good, what is bad, what is right, what is wrong and I must implement it

What if instead of believing any of it is true (if you pause and ask if what you’re thinking is true, and walk through the four questions, you may find you can’t believe it) you are open to Not Knowing?

What if you trusted, somehow, that your answers may not be the complete package?

What if instead of your ideas, and being the one responsible (it’s quite a burden) you let go of having to figure it out and you let the world surprise you?

Because that’s what I find, almost every time I question my stressful thinking.

Life starts having a sweet flow, like I’m on a rowboat without oars and I’m floating down a gorgeous stream.

OK. I admit, sometimes the stream becomes a wild chaotic waterfall and it feels like it’s an emergency. Not so gorgeous, OK.

However, if I then question the emergency of going over waterfalls, and dying, and I find that even Death is not necessarily what I think is true about it….

….even these hard times I notice become soft again.

Even “death” is just a thought.

Without answers, without really knowing what it is until I get there.

All of this doesn’t mean I don’t take action, and move to another room when it’s really loud in this one, or run away if someone’s coming at me with a knife.

Maybe that’s the way of it. Running occurs.

But it does seem like less frantic running ever happens, now that I do The Work.

I am surrounded by amazing people who love to contemplate their thinking, and see what happens, and report in to each other the way things change and move.

Astonishing and inspiring events occur, in the mystery of all this, when gathered in a group of inquiring people (and when gathered in a group of non-inquiry people, for that matter).

That’s why I’m so happy to begin with everyone tonight, and many days every month, with schedule inquiry time.

I get to hear what happens in their lives, what they are learning, how things shift.

Sometimes the shifts are big, sometimes very small and subtle.

People don’t even always catch how things are changing in their lives with inquiry.

But you can see it by staying steadily in inquiry over time, especially if you’re with other people also doing inquiry.

You can see the magnificent, quiet, beautiful silence of Not Knowing that begins to enter someone’s life and allow them to relax.

Some close friends of mine call me an Energizer Bunny.

At “worst” (we could question worse/better/bad/good of course), I am a huge over-achiever, driven, compulsive, fast, kind of crazed about the process of “doing” and thinking and understanding once and for all.

Heh heh.

But at best I am in deep service to Silence and coming over and over to the conclusion that my thoughts do not have the answers and that I am clearly not calling the shots or in control.

It’s hilarious really.

This wonderful wild balance of being alive and participating in the middle of an incredible Life Force of Reality.


Being comfortable with Not Knowing is the greatest experience I could ever practice.

I get to practice every single day.

And what I see is that The Work becomes a way of life.

It becomes steadily alive in the background of everything to wonder if what I’m seeing is real, or true, and to open up to new possibilities and new thoughts.


This is the exciting place, where fresh new insights happen. Where very thrilling creative ideas come along, never before encountered.

Doing The Work with a group over a long period of time (like a whole Year, for example) allows me personally to see the change, the shift, the wonder of humanity and the way waking up happens.

It happens in a pace that’s just right for you, for me.

Sometimes it feels troubling, for sure. Sometimes it feels as expansive as if you just found out you can fly, and you didn’t know it until today.

I love remembering what Byron Katie suggests today in her awesome quote (that I’m grateful someone pointed out to me on facebook a few hours ago) that it costs me my life when I project what will happen into my day, or week, or year.

Instead, I can be with the opposite of all my thinking, and then…..

…..beyond the opposite and into Not Knowing.

Then, this is what becomes possible and true:

  • I do not have to get anything done and nothing is critically important
  • My kid does not need me, and his/her path is OK for him/her
  • My relationship is working just right, and it will change when it’s required
  • If I change, or don’t change, my life will look incredible in the future
  • I do not need more of anything
  • I need less thinking/believing my thinking
  • This is good
  • This is fantastic and it’s fine if it goes away–in fact, it will change
  • I do not know what is good, what is bad, what is right, what is wrong and I am not implementing anything alone

Doesn’t that feel a little lighter?

Isn’t all this just as possible as the stressful thinking?

Flip flop into duality and two sides and opposites of everything, that’s what mind and thought can do.

Really, it’s pretty genius.

Who made all this up?

Oh. Right.

Just like Socrates discovered thousands of years ago, and many wise people afterwards, and Byron Katie in the 1980s…..

…..I don’t know.

Is this good news for you, or bad news?

“Row, row, row your boat, gently down the stream. Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily, life is but a dream.” ~ English nursery rhyme

Doing The Work is the rowing. It helps Not Knowing become very, very good news.

Much Love,


P.S. Year of Inquiry starts today at 5 pm Pacific with the very first phone call. We’ve also got one tomorrow, then Thursday, then Friday. It’s the beginning of a wonderful year of tapping into the power of a group, and structured time for your inquiring life. Won’t you join me gently rowing down the stream?


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