Again and again returning to the space between thoughts

Next Living Turnarounds Half-Day is April 22nd 2-6 pm in Seattle at Goldilocks Cottage. Sign up ahead of time to hold your spot–we were totally full last time.

Three spaces open for commuters to Spring Cleaning Retreat in Seattle at a private gorgeous retreat house. AirBnb’s close by if you travel from out of town.

Sometimes, people say they’d like to do The Work but they’re not sure where to begin.

What should I pick?

Here’s one of the best and most simple ways: a relationship that feels troubling from any time in your life. You might love and adore the person, they might not be in your life anymore, they may even have died, or you might see them every single day.

Son, daughter, mother, father, grandpa, grandma, aunt, uncle, sister, brother, boyfriend, girlfriend, whomever you’ve dated, boss, employee, co-worker, best friend.

Life has shown you moments of turmoil or discord with others.

That’s where you can go to begin The Work–seeing someone, anyone, at any time, who in their presence you felt disturbed.

Uncomfortable relating is a huge percentage of our stress.

Compulsive off-balance behavior often comes out of some kind of disruption with a person. My own tendency was always to eat compulsively out of anger, nervousness, sadness or excitement OFTEN resulting from my thoughts and beliefs about other people and what I thought they thought of me.

Even if you’ve done The Work before on someone in your life, maybe many times….

….there’s nothing wrong with repetition, practice, and doing it again.

Each time I sit down for The Work, it’s a new potential discovery. No expectations. Just starting now, with the feeling of Not Liking something that’s been said, done, offered, communicated.

Tomorrow I’m heading for a 3 day retreat with Roxann, Byron Katie’s daughter who’s had the great privilege of doing The Work for 25 years or so.

For an entire month, I’ve been thinking about who I want to do The Work on again in a new way, from the life I’m in now….and I see several familiar faces cross the field inside my mind.

That one bipolar alcoholic boyfriend, the best friend who did the crazy inexplicable betrayal that had to involve a lawyer, the good friend who snapped at me, the sister who cut me off, my former husband divorcing me.

The ones I believe caused trouble.

Even if I know it’s in the past, that it’s over, that it’s now an image or replaying movie….I found incredible turnarounds to “live” because of what went down between me and that person. Benefits. Change. Transformation.

But I kept seeing one person’s face in my mind.

Dad.

If I still tap into the voice of the little girl within (even though I was in fact an adult when he died–barely) I feel the tragedy. I respected him so much. I was so, so sad he died of cancer “too soon”.

Maybe one of the reasons I’ve thought about my dad lately so much, or considered him for my upcoming 3-day inquiry, is that one of my best friends died of cancer last September. He knew my dad. My dad, his dad, my mom and his mom all went to the same church throughout childhood.

My friend’s death was like a replay in many ways of my father’s death. Strangely coincidental. They both had similar personalities of true kindness and a deep abiding love for intellectual learning.

Last summer, when my friend was so ill, I hugged him in a long goodbye and we said “I love you” the way that had become wonderfully comfortable. I wasn’t sure I’d be seeing him again or not. I had a week-long program way in Northern Ontario I was attending (including the topic of death and dying, incidentally).

“I won’t die until you get back” he said to me as I left. We both chuckled with the heartbreak of it. We had many long conversations about death, his death, dying, how he felt about it, about our lives growing up in the same neighborhood and everything we’d ever gone through.

In Canada, I thought about him all the time. He was getting too weak to text, or talk. I went out and walked when my program wasn’t in session.

Along a quiet highway road running near a gorgeous smooth late-summer lake, I suddenly realized I had been on this road before.

When my dad was dying.

The exact same road in a remote place in Ontario, here I was almost 30 years later.

I hadn’t recognized the location at first, where I had taken a writer’s workshop on my honeymoon road trip. I knew that workshop was near this lake, but couldn’t remember exactly where.

Then walking on the very same road, I was there. With the flooding memories of what was happening in my life back then.

Someone I loved and respected and admired was dying.

And there was nothing I could do about it.

So today, I’m writing a Judge Your Neighbor worksheet on my father’s death, including my thoughts about cancer, abandonment, temporariness, suffering….not editing or moving into what I think I “know” about this worksheet and these false thoughts already.

I can look again.

I can walk in the same place again, thirty years later, without even having planned to walk there.

Don’t we look again anyway?

Isn’t it a wonder to notice the repetitive mind and give it care and attention like a little child who repeats the same things over and over, in innocence?

I lost my dad, I lost my friend….is it true?

“You can’t have anything. You can’t have any truth. Inquiry takes all that away. The only thing that exists for me is the thought that just arose….So again and again, we return to the space between thoughts.” ~ Byron Katie

Much love,

Grace

P.S. Facebook LIVE today 10 am Pacific Time. Let’s do The Work starting with how to find and hold that one moment, that situation, and begin our work.

It’s too much. I quit.

Wow. Unexpected incoming communication.

Two people can’t make the fall retreat.

A dear friend passed away of cancer.

Surprise news that what I thought I was offering in Year of Inquiry for “credit” was not the case inside Institute for The Work.

I hear a story about a very close friend from his family member that’s sort of shocking and weird.

Violence in Las Vegas.

More hurricanes.

Someone sends a really direct, cold email asking “Why did you do that? Don’t ever do that again!”

Weird, abrupt commentary and communication. A lot of it.

I notice I feel a little taken aback. Something’s shaky. The world seems a bit wobbly, or my feelings about the future. I sense things moving away from me. I feel like sadness is behind things, surprise and hurt, and grief.

I’m now anticipating something else could be incoming. I’m bracing myself. Storms.

I have an image of someone getting beaten up or kicked and they just go into a protective ball and wait until the one doing the kicking stops. (And I suppose the one kicking is the world, reality).

Kind of dramatic. Definitely Not Friendly.

I note that none of the incoming pieces of information are unmanageable all by themselves. I even laughed when one of two of them first arrived. Chuckle…that story about my dear friend can’t be true, can it? Haw…that’s bizarre with the whole credit-offering process for my year long immersion program getting withdrawn.

Yikes…that person’s email is so over-the-top. Ouch, in-breath gasp, more shootings. Ack, so many people without shelter.

It’s just they started adding up.

The reason I could tell I was getting a little over-filled with some dramatic or sudden incoming information or cold human behavior?

I had the thought “I’m shutting everything down.”

When I have this thought, it means I’m believing something’s too much, too heavy, too chaotic, too difficult….and one of my Go-To thoughts is STOP IT ALL!

In one hour I imagined selling my little cottage, breaking up with my husband, leaving the city I live in, canceling my plans to build a cottage for my mom in my back yard, quitting my business, and ditching town for another continent.

I know I need to do The Work, when this happens. Even if I’m not believing everything I think.

This is too much. I can’t take it anymore.

Have you ever had this thought? You’re getting pushed to the limit. Not one more thing.

An inquirer the other day in our Year of Inquiry group was just feeling liberated after doing a month of The Work around his separation from his wife. Then they skyped, she told him some different news, and he had the thought “Not more of this! I can’t take it!”

Another inquirer I once worked with had done several years of The Work around her suicidal teenaged daughter. The threats were in the past, she felt alive and free again. And then her daughter said she was pregnant. “Noooo! I can’t take this! I’m pushed past my limit!”

One of my relatives had a fender bender, and hours later had her purse stolen, and a few hours after that her toilets overflowed in her house. “This is too much! Why me?!”

It’s funny how sometimes the stress piles up. It’s one thing, then another, then another. Piling up to feel like the water’s getting too deep and we’re going to drown.

Let’s do The Work.

Is it true?

Waaaah. Yeeeesssss. It’s too much at once. Nooooo moooore!

Can you absolutely know it’s true?

Sniff.

How do you react when you believe it’s too much and you can’t take it!?

I feel smaller, closed in. I have images of the collapse of life as I know it. Doom. Gloom. Scary pictures. Separation. I don’t feel helpful to other people. I pull in and do Sea Anemone Pose. (That’s the yoga pose of those little sea creatures when they squeeze into a tiny ball because something threatening is swimming overhead).

Who would you be without this thought that it’s just too much?

Noticing how life has gone on, quite fully.

Someone else sent a beautiful, friendly, kind email. Someone called and left a lovely message. Someone pinged facebook messenger with a sweet question about a mutual friend. One of my favorite broadway guys raised a ton of money for Puerto Rico.

I hear the dryer full of laundry rolling around, comfortingly. The quiet sun coming through the blinds. The soft eyes of an inquirer who came to spend 3 hours of time (a mini-retreat) with me yesterday afternoon who shared so honestly.

I consider the profound sorrow and courage of the Year of Inquiry group this week going deep, deep, deep as we entered our Family of Origin topic and people did The Work on their childhood despair, violence, fear, suicide, uncomfortable sexual moments, feeling shame.

Hmmm. Holding all this is a lot.

But not too much. I’m breathing. I’m writing. I’m here.

Turning the thought around: It’s not too much. My thinking is too much. “It” is too little. 

Could these be just as true, or truer?

I see that “it” (reality, the world, all these communications, what I’m going through) is not too much. I’m alive. I’m still upright.

My thinking is the thing filled with images, threats, future fears. It repeats the same concerns over and over again. Someone wrote me one cold email, and I consider it 12 times more. A friend gets sick and dies, and I feel the whole world is sad. I see images of terrible weather patterns increasing.

What about the turnaround that “it” (reality, all the incoming experiences) are too little?

Too little to change the inner sense of being here, feeling alive. Too little compared to the vastness of all I can be aware of, which is much more than all these things.

Your pain is the breaking of the shell that encloses 

your understanding. 

Even as the stone of the fruit must break, that its 

heart may stand in the sun, so must you know pain. 

And could you keep your heart in wonder at the 
daily miracles of your life, your pain would not seem 

less wondrous than your joy; 

And you would accept the seasons of your heart, 
even as you have always accepted the seasons that 

pass over your fields. 

And you would watch with serenity through the 

winters of your grief. 

Much of your pain is self-chosen. 

It is the bitter potion by which the physician 

within you heals your sick self. 

Therefore trust the physician, and drink his remedy 
in silence and tranquillity: 

For his hand, though heavy and hard, is guided by 
the tender hand of the Unseen, 

And the cup he brings, though it burn your lips, has 
been fashioned of the clay which the Potter has 
moistened with His own sacred tears.

Kahlil Gibran

Who would I be without my story? Doing what I can to help. Connecting with other people. Feeling peace, silence, being.

Watching how things come, and go, like waves or the tide.
Much love,
Grace

You don’t ever let go of the thread….

The early morning is dark with misty rain pattering on the quiet pavement. I roll my little red well-worn carry-on suitcase to the car my husband has already started. The lights glow in the dark, the white clouds rising from the exhaust pipe.
My heart is very full, my mind seeing images of the Ottawa airport where I’ll eventually land, and the goodbye I said yesterday to one of my oldest, dearest friends.
Yesterday, I felt quite anxious about this trip.
Not because of the destination. I’m flying to gather with a beautiful group of people I’ve gotten to know over these past 18 months who all form the Orphan Wisdom School. We are scholars, gathering to hear the wonderings of Stephen Jenkinson, author of “Die Wise” and master storyteller, historian, question-asker. We talk about death, culture, sorrow, loss, humanity, religion, love.
No, my anxiety wasn’t because I’m about to attend our final session together, although I’m aware it’s our last. The week is yet to come, and new conversations still to happen.
My anxiety came from the goodbye I just said.
My sweet friend is literally in his final days of life, and he may be gone from this world while I travel.
As I sat by his bedside yesterday, we both knew it might be our last meeting, our last goodbye.
What a strange experience to know you will likely never see someone again. I think of immigrants long ago leaving for another country. All the human death from disease (in other words not a sudden or surprise death that’s unanticipated). Moving far away in the physical world because of slavery or war. Jobs taking people half way around the world to seek their fortune. Children growing up and leaving home.
Saying goodbye and knowing you’ll never meet again.
Not physically, not in this world.
Goodbyes are sad, tragic, frightening.
Let’s question this. Because The Work is about looking at everything, anything. Including goodbyes of such magnitude.
Especially goodbyes of such magnitude.
Is it true that goodbyes are sad, or tragic, or frightening?
Yes. So very sad. I’ll never see him again. We’ll never have our deep conversations again.
I thought this about my father during his leukemia illness so many years ago. Tragic.
I thought it frightening when my daughter left for Europe and bombs were exploding there. I thought it sad when my son moved away to college. I thought it terrifying when my former husband wanted a divorce.
Missing them. Gone. Goodbye.
But can you absolutely know it’s true that saying Goodbye is wrong, or that feeling all this is too horrible to stand, or that these experiences called sadness, fear or devastation are too great to bear?
Can you know you can’t go on, despite such a deep, formidable goodbye? Can you be sure you’ll never see them again, really (even if they’ve died)?
No.
I’ve seen my dad regularly for over 25 years, and he hasn’t been on earth in a body since 1991. I see him in my mind. I see him behind the wheel of a car as I stare at a man who looks just like my dad with his salt and pepper beard in the lane next to me.
I see my dying friend’s smiling face and hear the way he says “I’m serious!” with a smile, which means in our language “I so agree with you 100% on that point!” I see him saying how much he loved me, and everyone he loved and felt close to, when he learned he had a terminal illness five years ago. He became more expressive. He said what he thought more often.
I can’t know for sure, in absolute terms, that goodbyes are sad, tragic or frightening in and of themselves. I can see it might be my thoughts about goodbyes that produce suffering.
Goodbye seems to be a part of life. Fully and completely. We don’t only have Hello. We have Goodbye. That’s the way of it.
How do I react when I believe Goodbye is so sad, or tragic, or something to be feared?
I start to feel anxious. Pictures race through my mind of holding my friend’s thin hand, rubbing his swollen feet. Pictures of laughing so hard with him at a party a few years ago, caught on film. Pictures of our childhood neighborhood, the walk from his house to mine when the world was closer together and simpler.
When I believe Goodbye shouldn’t be happening, I feel a movement inside like drinking too much coffee. Can’t sleep. Need to get “work” done. Laundry, tasks, post office. Wondering if there’s anything else I can “do”. Hard to hold still. Wondering what it would feel like to know this might be your last day.
But who would I be without this terrible story of Goodbye?
This doesn’t mean it isn’t heart-breaking into a million pieces. It doesn’t mean I don’t cry.
I do.
I cry as I get into my car after leaving the building where my friend lies, rain still misting on the city street.
Without the thoughts it shouldn’t be so, and life shouldn’t include goodbyes and endings….
….I stop feeling frantic, conflicted.
Something very deep within stops fighting the moment. Something remembers I am not in charge, but something far greater–the movement of life and death–knows more than I do. I am not too small for this. I am a human being, I have the astonishing privilege of awareness of All This.
Turning the thought around: Goodbye’s are filled with love.Goodbyes are the awareness of love. Goodbyes are bitter and sweet and profound and life-changing. They are life-shaking, beautiful, fearless.
Believing my thoughts about goodbyes was what brought anxiety and sleeplessness, and suffering.
And it isn’t really a total and absolute “end”.
You are in my heart forever, even if you are no longer in this room, no longer in this town, no longer in this country, no longer on this planet in your human form.
The Way It Is
~by William Stafford
There’s a thread you follow. It goes among
things that change. But it doesn’t change.
People wonder about what you are pursuing.
You have to explain about the thread.
But it is hard for others to see.
While you hold it you can’t get lost.
Tragedies happen; people get hurt
or die; and you suffer and get old.
Nothing you do can stop time’s unfolding.
You don’t ever let go of the thread.
 
The thing is, we don’t even have to hold on to the thread. It’s with us no matter what, even if we forget it’s attached.
The word goodbye in English comes from Godby, Godby’e, Godbwye, God b’w’y, God bwy yee, God buy you, God be wi’ you, God be with you.
Infinity, vastness, mystery, and love be with you, carrying you always (it is).
God be with you. God is with you.
God be with you, dear sweet dying friend.
God be with you, father. God be with you, all the people of the world coming and going and living and dying.
God be with you, dear reader.
Thank you for being awhile here with me.
Thank you from the bottom of my heart.
Much love,
Grace

Sickness: When there’s no hope, you’re free

Those of you who wanted to join the Masterclass: Ten Barriers To Deepening Your Work today at 8 am Pacific Time, you can sign up HERE. Then I’ll send the replay out only to those who want it. Bring your pen and paper.

And as I’m writing this, I’m thinking “Is this going to be OK for tomorrow?”

Because I have a rather severe cold, fever, pounding ears, sore throat. I can’t remember being this sick in ages.

Crazy!

I should NOT be sick.

This is an amazing thought to question. No matter what kind of illness, it often appears.

I shouldn’t have cancer, I shouldn’t experience this ailment. I shouldn’t feel so lousy. I should be able to go outside, eat dinner, run the masterclass webinar.

Sometimes, we can become absolutely terrified with the belief that we shouldn’t be feeling physically sick. Like a huge screaming NO!

Is it true I shouldn’t be sick right now?

Yes. I hate it. This is terrible. I’m trying to work, here, to keep my schedule! (Shake fist at sky).

What kind of images come to mind?

Staying in bed for days and days. Unable to go on. Sometimes, I confess, when I’ve had this thought I imagine being on my death bed. I think about how this body is declining ultimately, and will fade away and die.

I think about my daughter being sick when she was here for 24 hours this past weekend. She brought it into the house!

The mind tries to figure out how to prevent this from ever happening again in the future. I clench up against the physical pain, stare into space as I lie on the bed. Sleep during the day.

But who would I be without this thought I shouldn’t be sick, when I am?

Relaxing into what is, it seems. Letting it be here, like this. Achy, listening to the rain, noticing how more sleep will be good, watching that incredibly…I seem to be writing this Grace Note and I don’t see why not.

Turning this thought around: I should be sick.

This isn’t a slap, or a way to point out what’s wrong with me, or that I deserved it. Never those things.

But why should I be sick, when I am?

I have a human body, that’s why. This body is a host to other organisms, and it’s doing its thing to get rid of something that landed here, apparently. I don’t mind resting. I like it.

I feel very grateful and appreciative for my general good health. I can’t remember the last time I was this sick, it’s been a very long time (years).

Why else should I be sick, when I am?

I listened to music this afternoon sent to me by a friend last week while I was still traveling. It was a meditation, relaxation thing on youtube, very slow and quiet. I got to contemplate the mind, silence, while lying flat in the bed today.

I felt OK this morning, so this has come on very quickly and intensely, and a client I had scheduled for all afternoon cancelled because HE was sick….so far everything’s rolling along as expected, just with sickness accompanying the ride.

I still facilitated the Thursday evening Year of Inquiry call, and could listen, enjoy the inquiry, love everyone there. My work, like the call, is done from home so it doesn’t really matter if I’m sick or not. Until it does.

I’m not sure why else I should be sick, except when I consider this turnaround….I feel a sense of laughter, what-do-I-know, mystery, and readiness to climb into bed again. No choice. I’m not in charge or running this here. It’s a happening.

Turning it around again: My thinking should not be sick. Especially when it comes to sickness. So true. I can work myself into a tizzy about an ailment, or let go.

Another turnaround I notice is that “I” am not actually sick. Not the part of me that’s always here, the steady consciousness that’s been around from before I even knew about it.

People who know there’s no hope are free; decisions are out of their hands. It has always been that way, but some people have to die bodily to find out. No wonder they smile on their deathbeds. Dying is everything they were looking for in life: they’ve given up the delusion of being in charge. When there’s no choice, there’s no fear. They begin to realize that nothing was ever born but a dream and nothing ever dies but a dream.” ~ Byron Katie

Much love,

Grace

Terror, ugliness, unacceptable, unbearable….doing The Work on the worst that could happen

When you spend 4 days doing The Work with a group, something happens to everyone’s perspective. Instead of the daily routine of life, our view shifts into a broader awareness.

It’s like the feeling you get when watching a magnificent sunrise.

Or receiving and giving a hug. Holding someone’s hand when they’re ill or dying. Being at the birth of a baby. Suddenly being startled at a gorgeous lush tree full of blossoms.

Everyone has these kinds of moments, where you’re startled by the beauty or insight that’s just inserted itself into your present moment.

In this retreat, we looked and sat with one important question, pens in our hands, blank paper on our laps.

The question: what’s the worst thing that could ever happen in your life?

Whew.

What a question, right?

Holy smokes.

I watched as all the participants closed their eyes, wrote in their journals and notebooks.

Now….what do you think it would mean, if this terrible thing happened?

What would it mean about you, about them, about life?

For me, I’ve thought about a dreadful image when I’ve answered this question. The worst thing ever happening? My children dying. Oh jeez. Not that terrible image again. Ugh.

It’s almost weird to write about. Why go there? Why event mention this dreadful, horrible, ridiculous, not-true scenario? Is there something wrong with me? Why would I give this possibility the time of day? I must be some kind of masochistic weirdo to want to sit with this terrifying disturbance of losing my kids.

But it’s there, nevertheless. A fear. I think I couldn’t go on if this happened. I notice sometimes in the world, peoples’ kids die.

So I’m willing to take a look, since the thought scares me.

Which is what I love about The Work.

The invitation is to open up to the underworld, the terrifying, the thoughts already present, the worries, the fears, the dread.

Let’s get them HANDLED…says The Work. Even if you think four questions couldn’t possibly “handle” your greatest fears.

I invite you to see.

Write down what you think is the worst thing ever that could happen in your life. It’s often about some kind of deeply troubling loss. A relationship, an inability to function, rejection, abandonment, betrayal.

Let’s inquire.

It would be (or, lets face it…it already happened and it WAS) the WORST thing ever.

Is it true?

(First question of The Work).

We’re inquiring. In the grand scheme oft things, we’re opening up to the choice that we’re believers, or we question what we believe….there’s no other possibility.

So let’s question, since it’s an option.

Is it true this would be the worst thing ever?

Yes.

Hands down, yes.

I couldn’t live life ever again in the same way if my kids died.

But can you absolutely know it’s true that it’s the worst thing? Can you absolutely know you couldn’t go on living? Can you absolutely know you’d lose your mind in grief, or freak out, or NOT be able to handle it? Can you know you’d be engulfed in sorrow and wither away into nothing?

How do you react when you believe in this possibility? When you think this is the worst? When you scream at yourself not to think this thought, ever EVER (because it’s so scary)?

I gasp. I try to stop thinking it. I bat it away. I tell myself positive things. And I feel underlying fear. I see images of my kids dying. I think I’m the kind of person who might go through this horrible event, so I brace myself. I don’t know how to prevent it, so I feel frightened. I feel like the future is dim, not bright.

I start imagining that if I think this thought…I’ll invite it. Which just exacerbates and threatens even more, and brings on self-criticism in addition to the original fear. (What’s wrong with you? Stop thinking this!)

But who would I be without the thought my kids will die?

It’s a worthy question. To consider what it would be like to NOT THINK that dreadful thought?

This is not about pretending or denying they’ll die. It’s wondering who I’d be without the thought pounding in my brain that they will.

I’d be relaxed. I’d see what else is going on. I’d open up to other ideas. I’d notice what’s working, even though this could (or has) happened.

And what about if this terrible thing that COULD happen or already did happen…what if it’s OK that it happened? Or the best thing that could happen, instead of the worst?

I know it’s a little abrupt. I know the word “best” is a little weird. But in this world of duality, we’re interested in worst/best, good/bad, terrible/wonderful.

And we’re interested in shaking things up. Considering what good could come out of the “worst case scenario”. Is there anything you can think of that might be GOOD about that horrible thing happening?

Several years ago, I got cancer.

I had surgery, and was lying in bed at home one day later with 50 stitches in my thigh, doing The Work. I looked at my leg, and was amazed the place where the tumor was removed looked like a piece of pale cream-colored leather with a huge gash in it, stitched with a gray colored thread evenly spaced.

How could I think of this situation as the best thing that ever happened? Really? What? I couldn’t find it. There is NO turnaround for this. It’s awful, there’s no reason. Cancer truly sucks. Nothing good can come of this. All awful, all the time, 24 hours a day. It shouldn’t happen. I’ll probably die of cancer, even if it’s not THIS cancer.

Who would I be, without this story though, that it’s the worst thing ever?

Oh. You really want me to do The Work on THIS situation too? Seriously?

Yes. Because you can question anything. The Work is here to open your mind, no matter what’s going on. It doesn’t discriminate. It doesn’t care what situation you’re looking at.

Who would I be without my story, in that moment I was lying in bed with stitches in my leg from my cancer operation?

I’d notice when my estranged husband knocked on the door, with our two very young children, holding two-dozen pink roses.

We hadn’t been talking closely. He had left the marriage and we were on the way to divorce. And here he was, showing up while caring for our kids because of my surgery, bringing this gift of flowers. Caring.

Ah ha. I just found my turnaround inquiry.

Since this happened, the BEST thing that happened came next. Sweetness. A show of caring, when I thought he didn’t. (And we still got divorced, and that turned out to be a good thing too).

And so can I find a turnaround example for it being OK that my kids die?

Well….I wouldn’t have to worry about them going through global warming and suffering immensely because the earth is dying. I wouldn’t have to worry about them at all, in fact. They’d miss old age, which appears to be difficult at times (unless you do The Work of course). I’d be off the hook for leaving any inheritance. They’d enter the Great Beyond before I even did, wow. They’d get there without all this wondering and incessant seeking for Enlightenment and Truth.

This work is a little strange. I admit. Noticing your most resistant fears and thoughts about life.

But oh so worth it.

Because in the end, what I discovered I’m really worried most about it ME dying, if THEY died.

Me dying, however, may not be the troubling event I anticipate. Even if my body lived….my heart might mend in such a powerful way, I would recognize that what died was my ego, not love.

And just like my father who died so many years ago of leukemia, I’d notice he may not be here in physical form, but I think of him often, I consult with him, I feel his presence, he’s part of my DNA. So did he even die?

Who would I be without my story of WORST or BEST?

Unafraid. Free. Curious. Open.

“The Tao Te Ching says that the source of everything is called ‘darkness’. What a beautiful name (if we must have a name). Darkness is our source. In the end, it embraces everything. Its nature is love, and in our confusion we name it terror and ugliness, the unacceptable, the unbearable. All our stress results from what we imagine is in that darkness. We imagine darkness as separate from ourselves, and we project something terrible onto it. But in reality, the darkness is always benevolent.” ~ Byron Katie in 1000 Names For Joy

Spring Mental Cleaning Retreat Seattle 2017 (Next retreat is Breitenbush in Oregon June 21-25, 2017 and Fall Retreat in Seattle is Oct 19-22, 2017)

Much love,

Grace

Do endings, loss and death mean…..it’s true?

Work With Grace
Who would you be without this sad, scary story?

Have you ever known someone close to you to become ill, get injured, or find out something devastating?

Yes, everyone’s had this kind of moment in life.

“Dad’s got cancer.”

I remember hearing these words from my mom.

A panic began to rise inside, instantly.

What does this mean? Wait…what? What kind? What happened? Why? What’s going to happen?

The mind is filled with pictures, imagination, possibilities, trying to grab information desperately.

A huge NO fills the body. No, I can’t take this. No, this can’t be happening. No.

When the “worst” thing happens, it’s shocking.

When my dad was receiving treatment for leukemia, which lasted about two years, he was sometimes very sick, sometimes better. He lived just about exactly the length of time they anticipated. The doctors knew so much about the disease, and trying all kinds of ways to make it go away. To fight it.

That was a long, long time ago in my life experience. I was in my twenties, living pretty close by to the big house I grew up in.

I didn’t have inquiry, but my mind had so many questions. Constant questions. Disturbed questions. Questions I had no answer for, couldn’t answer.

Many years later, when I discovered self-inquiry and The Work by reading Loving What Is, I thought….

….well, it’s good for feeling angry and upset with your neighbor (judge your neighbor, right?)….

….but I didn’t even imagine using The Work for situations of life and death.

But then, I was in a weekend workshop with Byron Katie, never having successfully “done” The Work after reading her book, and I recognized one of my greatest, deepest, terrifying, sad, frustrations in life was…..death.

The more I thought about it, the more I realized I had a very weird and troubled relationship with loss, change, things being temporary, endings.

The biggest ending of all being “death”. The biggest “neighbor” I wanted to judge was loss, death.

I had something, and now it’s gone. I have something, and I will lose it.

My health, my boyfriend, my wife, my kid, love, my life, my daughter, my house, my necklace, my guitar, my friend, my dad.

It was mine. I had it.

Now it’s lost. It’s gone. Or will be.

Forever.

This is hard for some people to think about. Well, I speak for myself.

It’s hard to look at these places that have been so painful. But oh so powerful for The Work.

Stay with me here, and let’s do it today.

As you see those things, places, times or people you lost….

Is it true you lost them?

Yes. All gone.

Are you absolutely sure? Do you know this in the most deep, absolute way?

Are you positive the energy, love, kindness is lost? Are you sure it’s gone, just because you can’t see it or touch it? Are you sure everything about it is completely 100% gone?

Do you need it to be present physically, in order to be happy?

Wow. No. Not really.

I should still have that person, that thing, that other situation.

Is this true?

Who would I be without these thoughts?

Who would I be without BELIEVING these thoughts?

I notice no thoughts hang around 24/7 without one single other thought coming in for a visit. There are seconds, moments, of other thoughts.

The day my father died, I am quite sure I drank water. I went to the bathroom.

Probably several times. I was capable of having that thought to get up and go. It appeared. I went. People brought food. I ate a little. I breathed. I spoke to my sisters and my mom. I stayed. I was there, holding my dad’s hand as he died.

Who would you be without the belief you lost her? You lost him? You lost it?

I’m not saying something profound didn’t happen. But I love how I like to write about my dad’s death, as I feel the tears sometimes still arise, “it was unbelievable.”

That’s what we say about profound moments, eyes-wide-open moments, present moments, astonishing moments.

Unbelievable.

Turning the thought around: I did not lose my father. I will never lose him.

I lost myself. I lost awareness.

I believed I couldn’t survive loss. I believed there was nothing here, remaining, with myself. I believed I had something, it was mine, and now it’s gone.

Who would you be without your story of losing?

“It’s your body–can you absolutely know that that’s true? That’s a very old concept. ‘This is mine. I say so’….It’s not yours. Just because you believe it doesn’t make it true. When you know that you’re not that, you can sit back and watch.” ~ Byron Katie in Who Would You Be Without Your Story 

Could this be also the case for my father? My house? My childhood? My earrings?

Not mine in the first place.

And not required for living, or loving, or happiness, I notice.

Today, can I find evidence for how I gained, how I received, how I lived….instead of the opposite customary sadness?

It doesn’t mean “trying” to be positive and fakey or plastic or thrilled about death or loss.

But I have discovered, with The Work, it’s miraculous to wonder who I would be without my stories of death and loss, and to find examples of joy, acceptance, receiving, kindness, even benefits for what has happened….

….and maybe even though I apparently lost….I also found.

Maybe all my thoughts about death and loss are….

….unbelievable.

Much love,

Grace

When it burns….

grief
When your heart breaks….cry. When words return, The Work.

Yesterday, I did not hear the news until late evening that a terrible massacre had occurred.

I stood at my kitchen counter for a moment, watching a very short news brief on my laptop to understand what my daughter just told me. My heart swelled and broke and tears came.

Our in-person monthly deep dive group had already met for three hours in the afternoon for our final meeting before summer break (we begin again Oct. 23rd in Seattle for 9 months).

I had been moved and touched by peoples’ work during our group. Many of them had written on their bodies. They were feeling ugly, angry with their appearance, disgusted, frightened, aging, incapable of change.

And then, later, this terrible news.

I let it sink into me, and throughout the evening, let The Work do itself within before I began to write.

This tragedy is horrifying, disgusting, violent, wrong, confusing, frightening. Some of the very same words I wrote about it were the very same words I had heard earlier about the body.

Question Four of The Work is: Who would you be without your thought? Who would you be without the thought that what you see is incapable of change, or permanently disgusting, or love is not possible in the presence of it? Who would you be without thinking your body is horrible looking, ugly, something to look away from?

What about other ugly things? Like human violence?

People in the group yesterday noticed how difficult it was to feel, or imagine in any way whatsoever who they’d be….

….without the belief their body was imperfect, wrong, preventing them from getting something they wanted, a barrier to happiness, fat, or ugly.

Sometimes….it is not easy to find who we would be without the feeling of hatred, rage, misery, disgust, or fear about something we see in reality.

It feels like denial.

As someone in the group yesterday said, with deep grief and pain (about her body)….

….”But. This problem is REAL.”

No one has to drop any thoughts. No one has to make themselves NOT think something they ARE actually thinking is absolutely true.

But here’s what I notice about reality.

It is unconditional. As in….there are no conditions. It is what it is.

It does not really care what we think. Reality moves as it moves, it unfolds the way it unfolds. It doesn’t really wait to see if we’re OK with it or not.

I notice Reality doesn’t ask me for my vote.

I can feel enraged, bitter, despairing and hateful about what goes on in Reality, in my life, in this body, with my appearance….

….or I can question my thoughts about it compassionately.

I can fight what is, or the other choice I’ve often made (thinking it gave me some power) is I can refuse to respond, in stubborn defiance.

I can use what I see as proof that Planet Earth is screwed up, or this body is screwed up, or that my mind is screwed up….

….but whatever I’m looking at, when I see there’s something at fault, it feels like…

…War.

Who would I be, or WHAT would I be, without the fearful, war-like thinking? What would it FEEL like, without believing everything I think?

Can I look at the thing I supposedly always hate, through the eyes of the Beloved? Can I look through Reality’s eyes that are unconditional, mysterious, and pulsing with life?

Turning the thought around: What I see is not pure ugliness, hopeless, gross, to-be-avoided, unworthy, disgusting, wrong, a mistake, incapable of changing, hideous, impossible.

This is not ever saying anything I see I must accept without question, or think of as good, or think of as friendly, or feel joyful towards it, if I don’t.

“The world is full of suffering, it is also full of overcoming it.” ~ Helen Keller

With my body, if I don’t like living in it, I can move closer to it, become very intimate with it, taste, smell, be with how it moves, what it feels like to eat, notice it, care for it, get to know it instead of ignoring it. I can imagine dropping all my rules and hatred about it and start over, with fresh eyes, from scratch.

I can do this with death, too. I can do this with tragedy, and fear, depression and suffering. I can become intimate with Reality instead of trying to defy it or fight it, hate it or ignore it.

Starting here. With this body. With other people. With events I encounter. With death.

I can question the story of what I think is impossible, even as it hurts.

“What is to give light must endure burning.” ~ Viktor Frankl

Much love, Grace

P.S. there may be room to squeeze you in at Breitenbush in Oregon. Call 503-854-3320 to ask to attend the June 22-26 Retreat: Declare Peace, The Work of Byron Katie.

Two terrible, awful, horrible, no good, very bad things

question your stories about death, or craving..... .....feel the mysterious inexhaustible silence
question your stories about death, or craving…..
…..feel the mysterious inexhaustible silence

Every year at the summer Breitenbush annual retreat in late June, we have a movie night.

We watch the film Turn It Around with Byron Katie.

In the movie, quite a few courageous people get up on stage with Katie.

They share their innermost suffering and disturbing thoughts with the whole audience (and in this case, all of us who ever watch Turn It Around, too)!

That’s brave!

Last night, I showed Turn It Around in my Eating Peace retreat.

I’ve seen it about 10 times now, and it’s still moving for me.

One of my favorite pieces of work is when a young woman shares that her brother died in Afghanistan, and how enraged she’s felt about the loss, her devastated family, and death itself.

What an amazing question to ask someone as they consider death (to ask myself)….

….who would you be without the belief that death is so awful?

Without being against death, and anything leading to death?

It does seem to be the overwhelming way of it, as in 100% of the time, that we die.

So why get so disturbed?

What’s this deep, terrifying upset all about, anyway?

It’s profound to think of, at this level.

Almost the same, for me, as the process of addiction (which is what everyone is looking at so very closely in Eating Peace these three days).

Craving.

This whole over-eating, under-eating, worrying about eating thing.

What’s So Upsetting?!!

What’s going on in any moment, that we would choose to start to eat, and eat, and eat…..or drink, and drink, and drink…..or smoke, obsess about a person, shop, internet, clean, facebook….

….want, want, want?

What is so disturbing about the moment we insist we need something to…..

WHAT??

We looked at this today, in our retreat.

What does that thing, person, activity…..give you?

People noticed they thought eating, in those compulsive moments, would give them comfort, reward, compensation, soothing.

What does believing that death-is-terrible give you?

Huh.

Why would I choose to think death-is-terrible is true?

It’s like there’s some kind of idea within that if I didn’t think death was terrible, I’d twiddle away the hours I’ve got, I wouldn’t care, I’d be weird, I wouldn’t get freaked out about loss, change, and things coming and going (people or animals).

I’m afraid I wouldn’t truly love, I’d be too detached.

But is that true?

Whether it’s death I find frightening, or this empty moment, or this gruesome image from a memory….

….when I believe my story that this situation is lousy, or bad for me….

….I become fear, loss, sadness, distress, drama, excitement.

That’s who I am when I’m believing my story.

Alone, confused, not exactly trusting of the universe and reality.

So who would I be without the belief that my mind, my thoughts, my story, the images I see, my fantasies about death, my fantasies about this moment (that invent the need for some compulsive behavior) are true?

Who would I be if I didn’t believe my stories?

Including the story of death?

Including the story of uncomfortable feelings and moments and situations and addiction?

I would be feeling, seeing, being myself, which includes for me nutty pictures (some frightening) and judgments racing by and a brain full of thinking (sometimes).

Noticing that even though I see pictures of what death might be like, or other people I love dying, and even though I wonder about death a lot….

….and even though it sometimes occurs to me that a moment is annoying, missing something, more than I can handle, or boring….

….I don’t have to believe it.

In fact, I often don’t.

I don’t have to do anything.

I don’t have to get up, or fix it quick, or eat something, or figure out how to handle it.

Without believing my thoughts, they are just there, being themselves.

Me, too.

Oh, and look at that.

The universe is being Itself, too, in all its wild mysterious glory, full of lives being lived temporarily (it seems) and moments happening only for an instant (even moments full of craving) and things morphing, moving, opening, closing, changing.

Turning the thoughts around in every way: death is wonderful, craving is wonderful, life is terrible, not-craving is terrible, my thinking about death is terrible, my thinking about craving is terrible.

Could these be just as true, or truer?

“She who is centered in the Tao can go where she wishes, without danger. She perceives the universal harmony, even amid great pain, because she has found peace in her heart. Music or the smell of good cooking may make people stop and enjoy. But words that point to the Tao seem monotonous and without flavor. When you look for it, there is nothing to see. When you listen for it, there is nothing to hear. When you use it, it is inexhaustible.” ~ Tao Te Ching #35

Question your thinking, feel wonderful and open, rather than terrible and closed.

Yes. Even about Death. Even about Addiction.

The world keeps doing what it does….

….and yet, it looks so different.

Much love, Grace

Life contains tragedy and sorrow

footprintsonsand
everything comes and goes, the tragedy, the joy

Yesterday was my father’s birthday.

Only not really. It was the anniversary of the day he was born as a human in that particular lifetime he walked through.

1930.

He died many years ago. He never made it to 85 which he would be today. He did not age into elderhood. He was still teaching at the university. No grandchildren had been born (although I know they were a twinkle in his eye).

He got leukemia, or his body did, and he died two years later.

I was by his side, holding his left hand. All my sisters, and spouses or boyfriends, my dad’s dear friend, and my mother, were surrounding his bed.

Candles were burning, the sky was pitch dark. Rain was pattering on the old 1920s glass window panes of our family house.

We were all singing. The same lullabies he sang to his four daughters who he cared for so deeply, we now sang to him as he left.

As he took his very last breath and died, I felt his hand grow cold so quickly.

I was astonished to recognize this…and then realized….“of course this would happen.” 

The heat, the life, the blood, the activity within this body simmering down, down, down.

It was the first time I was with a dead body.

Several years later, I gave birth to a healthy baby boy.

During the 12 hours of birthing, and the hours and days that followed, I sometimes thought about when my father died, and the great allowing of life to unfold and do what it does….

….at its own pace, without any control of the process.

Every human present at these events had to simply be there, witnessing, stepping in when support was needed, always allowing the thing (death, birth) to happen.

I also noticed, I gave birth before I had ever even seen a birth.

My father died before I had ever seen a person die.

Strange for such profound events to be so closed, or quiet, or somehow hidden.

Don’t these things happen by the hundreds and thousands every single day?

But there are perhaps some beliefs and concepts that hang over the experience of birth and death that make them fade into the background of daily life, so that in my 20s I would have never seen them before until I was participating in them directly.

What could they be?

  • death is horrible, private, personal, an end, loss, evil, wrong
  • birth is private, personal, exposing, naked, hopeful, good
What do death and birth mean to you, that you would feel uncomfortable, sad, anxious, terrified, worried, or angry?

 

People write to me often to ask about death, or major transitions of all kinds (which include birth).

 

Yesterday I watched a movie called Griefwalker about Stephen Jenkinson, a man who has worked with hundreds who are dying….and then I got to see Stephen Jenkinson in person speak and read from his book Die Wise.

 

(Remember my Grace Note that I was buying a ticket to see myself on Thursday? Well….I got a ticket for me, and my two kids, to see Stephen on Thursday, so that’s the way it rolled. You never know how something will turn out, do you? That’s another Grace Note).

 

One of my first inquiries in 2005 was “my father died.”

 

It seemed true….

 

….and I discovered how he lived within my heart, so closely I could call on him anytime. More quickly than when he was in form, to be honest.

 

I had done The Work on my own moment of cancer diagnosis, even though it was not terminal….the fear had raced through me.

 

I have thought deeply about death, and wondered about my fear of it. I have questioned that death is frightening….or that dying is frightening….and found deeply that I can’t prove that it’s ultimately true.

 

But I learned something new from Stephen, at just the right moment in my life.

 

Not only is this passage called death coming, but it’s a wonder, and inevitable, and happening For Sure at some unknown point.

 

And I do not have to fear it.

 

Today, I have the brilliance of this one day, apparently “alive” on someplace called earth.

 

Castles fall down (I saw some of those last August).

 

A new house is built.

 

I gave birth to two children and they were born to eventually die, who knows when.

But what I can do, is question my painful thinking about my stories about birth and death, rather than dread them.

Who would you be without your beliefs about birth, about death, good, bad, evil, wonderful, wanted, unwanted?

What if both life and death are equally true and mysterious?

  • death is shared by everyone, its what we do
  • birth is shared by everyone, its what we do

At the very heart and core of our being, there exists anoverwhelming yes to existence. This yes is discovered by those who have the courage to open their hearts to the totality of life. This yes is not a return to the innocence of youth, for there is no going back, only forward. This yes is found only by embracing the reality of sorrow and going beyond it. It is the courage to love in spite of all the reasons to not love. By embracing the tragic quality of life we come upon a depth of love that can love “in spite of” this tragic quality. Even though your heart may be broken a thousand times, this unlimited love reaches across the multitude of sorrows of life and always triumphs. It triumphs by directly facingtragedy, by relenting to its fierce grace, and embracing it in spite of the reflex to protect ourselves.” ~ Adyashanti

I bolded these words. Because they aren’t the nicey-happy-sweet-kind-lovey-comforting words I sometimes have preferred when it comes to thoughts about this birth/life/death path.

But they are the truer words: overwhelming, tragedy, sorrow, broken, no going back…..

…..even though, unlimited love, always triumphs, fierce grace, embracing.

That’s why when I think of my dad, I can still feel the heart-break and overwhelming love, and wishing I could be with him again, and also unlimited love that has never died.
I remember and know that I am connected to him, and I honor him, and those who gave birth to him and all my ancestors.
I embrace them all in my heart, knowing also that I will be an ancestor, too, and so will my children.
Much Love, Grace

Who Would You Be In The Presence of Chaos?

For those of you asking about early-bird payment plan, you are correct there was no option for this on the Year of Inquiry information page. None.

I completely forgot it.

Since this option hasn’t been anywhere in sight (we’ll talk about me as a non-detail person another time) click here, scroll down to the very bottom of the page where the payment plan option are listed, and you’ll see early-bird payment plans added for YOI.

Because I didn’t even have them posted until late last night, these early bird plans are available until Friday.

*******

Your thoughts of chaos and suffering were not created by you, but you can imagine who you would be without them
Your thoughts of chaos and suffering were not created by you, but you can imagine who you would be without them

I know I’ve been constantly mentioning Year of Inquiry, but there are other very, very powerful events happening around me, too.

The serious illness of a dear friend, a long-awaited journey to the place I was born (I leave Wednesday), reuniting with two important friends with whom I lost touch, and facilitating people on incredibly deep stressful beliefs about love, longings, and death.

Sometimes, when you sit with others who are facing huge change, loss, or who are very frightened, like my friend who is very sick….

….there is nothing to do but be.

Who am I, without the story I’m telling? Without the thoughts I am thinking? Without needing to do anything?

Without the fear being all there is, whether fear of dying, or fear of the terrible pain my friend is going through right now, or fear of the temporariness of this life?

Who would you be?

Who are you, without your stressful beliefs?

I notice as I spend time with my friend today who is so very sick, and feel the sun on my face, and later hear my daughter telling me about her weekend away with two friends.

Here, there is space.

Here in this moment, a red flowered rug, two glowing computer screens, a light over a kitchen sink, a candle flame in a glass jar, an empty water glass, a pair of blue flip-flops, a scrap of ragged white paper on the floor, a young man called a “son” walking through the room with two fat library books in hands, a spider moving slowly around a web in the ceiling corner, and thoughts of my friend.

Here. Sometimes, with a breaking heart.

“This is about realization, not about changing anything. The world is as you perceive it to be. For me, clarity is a word for beauty. It’s what I am. And when I’m clear, I see only beauty. Nothing else is possible. I am mind perceiving my thoughts, and everything unfolds from that, as if it were a new solar system pouring itself out in its delight…..

….So you don’t drop your thoughts of chaos and suffering out there in the apparent world. You can’t drop them, because you didn’t make them in the first place. But when you meet your thoughts with understanding, the world changes. It has to change, because the projector of the entire world is you.” ~ Byron Katie in Loving What Is

Here, I notice even with a breaking heart, and a temporary human life, and my friend’s beautiful eyes who I looked into today as she felt terrible physical pain and enormous courage….

….I love this place, even though it is so heart-breaking sometimes.

That’s who I am without completely believing the stressful thoughts.

And actually, with them, too.

Much love,

Grace