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

 

You Grow Older, You Don’t Know Why

I was interviewed recently on how the work is helpful for women over forty by my friend and fellow-inquirer Roberta Mittman.

It was sweet!

And wow….women over forty as a topic….phew!

I have found The Work so powerful for thoughts and beliefs that have to do with being over a certain age, changes in the life trajectory, relationship challenges, health adjustments, loss, awareness.

Sometimes the beliefs that seem to match a certain age, and beyond, are strangely uncomfortable.

You might know they are superficial, or not as important as other thoughts (that’s where my mind would always go) yet they are present.

These wrinkles are ugly, I need to look young, I want to feel more energy, these hot flashes are irritating, my life is over.

There are also other thoughts many women have who enter the middle time of their lives about career, lack of success, needing a mate by now or wanting to leave the one they have.

It’s powerful to see what we’re telling ourselves is true.

And to ask…..are you sure?

Or to see if something IS indeed true for you (as in aging) why is that a bad thing? Are you sure it’s hard, or difficult, or frightening?

If you’d like to opt-in to get the links to the interviews, a collection of interesting topics for women over forty (including mine) then do it right here:  Click Here to Join Love Your Mind, Love Your Body.

Who would you be without the belief that being “Over Forty” is troubling, for whatever reason?

It leads to the great question, I find, that death is coming.

I know that sounds weird. Maybe extreme.

But when I really look deeply at being past the middle of a normal timeline of human life…..I’m on my way closer to the end than I used to be. No longer at the beginning.

Who would I be without the belief death is difficult, or troubling, or hard, or a disappointment?

Woah, really?

I find it exciting just to imagine being without these thoughts about death.

Like I can’t wait to see what happens when death comes, and I’ll be ready.

“The breeze blows that way, and that’s the way you go. You don’t ask questions anymore. You don’t evaluate why the breeze is blowing that way because you know that you don’t know why. And you know you can’t know why. There’s never been a leaf anywhere that knows why the wind blows that way on that day at that moment. That breeze changes the orientation of your life, moment to moment to moment, simply because that’s the way life’s moving. And when you’re living in your awakened self you have no argument with the way it’s moving because it is the same as you are.” ~ Adyashanti

Love, Grace

Could Your Deepest Despair Do This?

perseveranceI have heard of several people experiencing someone they love dying.
Everyone has this experience in life.
And yet, its so strange when it happens.
“This is what it feels like….oh.”
For everyone who has experienced a trauma, a difficulty, a loss….
….it isn’t exactly easy.
Sometimes, it feels devastating. Completely life-changing.
You may never be the same again.
And even in the midst of this apparently suffering, can you feel who you would be without your story of personal loss, unique to you?
Who would you be without thought?
You might sob, your whole body shaking. What I noticed when I experienced this kind of grief was something moving through and happening, and that I was living through it (not myself dying) and an awe-inspiring capacity for humans to discover peace beyond all understanding.
“What if you are not nearly as limited as you were led to believe? What if you are vast enough to hold and contain all of life’s energies, the ‘positive’ and the ‘negative’? What if you are beyond both, an ocean of consciousness, unified, boundless and free, in which even the deepest despair has a resting place?” ~ Jeff Foster
You are.
This is the turnaround. You’re here, reading this, despite such loss and hardship.

Love, Grace

Even The Horrors….Questioning Your Personal Thoughts

candleindarkness
life endlessly transforms

Not so long ago a very dear client/inquirer/friend called me because her son’s girlfriend committed suicide. Age 16.

Even though I didn’t personally know her son directly, nor the girlfriend….

….I paused with the news, drew in a deep breath, and then cried.

The awareness of a young girl deciding to end her own life filled me with the ache of suffering of humanity.

All kinds of thoughts went though my mind: it’s so unnecessary, the parents of this girl must be devastated, this was an unfinished life, these events are unbearable, the son must be so distraught, how does so much suffering happen?

I felt connected to it. I know this family. They live in my same city.

This past year, I read about a death of a 15 year old girl from my daughter’s high school, also by suicide. I didn’t know her at all, didn’t recognize her name.

It’s not terribly uncommon.

That’s the incredible thing.

Such finality in the decision, and yet decided every day by people.

Last year all mental health professionals where I live were required to take a six hour continuing education course on suicide.

I was so grateful for the training.

During that class, one topic of discussion was about interviews which have been done with people who have tried to commit suicide and by some strange intervention, did not succeed.

Many of them shared one fascinating thought, as they looked back at the event.

Right after they caused the act that would end their life….

….a huge number of them said “Oh no! Wait! Nevermind!”

They became clear.

After the decision was no longer up in the air.

The mind working so fast and realizing, after stopping the endless agonizing debate of whether to DO it or NOT DO it….

….once that war was over….

….this wasn’t really the answer.

Now of course, these people in the interviews were the ones that by some fluke DID live.

They landed on a soft pile, their stomach was pumped of all the medication, the bullet went clean through and missed vital parts, the rope broke, they were rushed to the hospital and stitched up.

Maybe those who die also have clarity beyond that moment of taking action, who knows. And maybe, since they die, that is exactly what they become clear about—death was just right for their situation. We can’t really interview them.

There is simply no answer, no way to know.

Suicide exists as one way life ends…..and everyone’s life is over in this particular body at some point.

So who would I be without the belief that it’s the wrong choice, unbearable, impossible to get over, a life that should have been different or longer?

It doesn’t mean I like it, or my heart doesn’t break into pieces….but I notice I’m present, connected, full of feeling, tender, noticing there are no answers and no reasons, and there is still life here, going on, and I can show up for the people here, now.

“In the end you know that there is no sin, no guilt, no retribution, only life in its endless transformations. With the dissolution of the personal ‘I’ personal suffering disappears. What remains is the great sadness of compassion, the horror of the unnecessary pain.” ~ Nisargadatta

It’s OK not to know what to do, or say when someone dies…even from suicide. It’s OK to remain present, to be with those who remain alive, to help them, to support, to feel every drop of feeling, to sob.

All you have to do is be there, being.

Nothing more.

Love, Grace

Standing In The Dark Light, Doing The Work

When I was seven, my family sailed from England to Montreal to move back to the United States where my parents were from.

The day after leaving port, out on the open sea, a storm rolled in. The sky was dark, dark gray, the ship tossing up and down.

I thought it was exciting.

After dinner, my sister Priscilla and I made our way to one of the big doors to the outside air. I opened the huge door with effort. Wind and spraying waves everywhere!

I saw the colored streamers from the Bon Voyage party the day before. They were making green, red, blue and yellow ribbons of color on the wild wet deck. My sister Priscilla and I had to scream at the top of our lungs to hear each other.

We were playing a game of jumping up in the air and laughing hysterically when the deck beneath our feet lurched and surprised us at its weird angles. It was like the game we played in the elevators. You jumped up as the elevator moved and felt the unexpected landing when the floor slowed to a stop.

The waves were crashing up on the decks and water running. We slipped and slid and laughed.

We got cold and it was getting darker and darker, and we heaved open the great door and went back inside to the bright lit-up interior and found our room. I remember changing, and my parents reappearing, and we climbed into our beds and fell asleep rocking intensely back and forth in the storm.

No images of disaster or getting swept away or drowning.

Years later, I asked my parents where the heck they were that night and they looked astonished. They had no idea we were out there, all alone on the deck.

What could have been a disaster was not a disaster to anyone in that moment. Everything was doing its part: the wind, the sea, the ship, my idea to go out on the deck. No one’s “fault”.

Innocence.

But the memory still brings me the scenario of storms. Disasters. Big natural events that are uncontrollable, totally destructive, all-powerful, impersonal, violent.

Terrible events, like war, accidents, injury, deaths.

These are incredible investigations in The Work. In really seeing what can be lived through.

It may be more than you know.

Right now there is a YOI (Year of Inquiry) group currently running who are in their 11th month of doing The Work together.

This month eleven topic is The Worst That Could Happen. Next month, the twelfth and last, is Death and Endings.

These are intentionally saved for these last months of our time together for two important reasons.

One, because the group is ending, the group will change (even though some people are rejoining again for another year) and it’s time to close this particular circle. We’ve gotten to know one another incredibly well.

We have a trust and bond, and can go visit the dark placestogether.

The second reason was expressed perfectly by one of the members of YOI yesterday when I was facilitating her for one of her solo sessions.

“I had no idea that doing The Work steadily like this for all these months would bring me this kind of awareness. I feel like I’ve peeled off about three layers of the onion. It just happened through staying in The Work. And now, I’m looking at very profound issues like violence, hardship, trauma. I can feel something has shifted.”

I agree.

When I found The Work, I had no idea that I would start doing it, and keep doing it, and keep returning to it over and over again.

Weird.

Considering all the books, teachers, paths, courses, retreats and methods I have learned. I did rebirthing, corrective reparenting, est, transactional analysis, gestalt therapy, encounter groups, group therapy.

I went out into the remote wilderness with Outward Bound for 3 days of silence and 3 weeks of hiking rugged sharp mountain terrain. I meditated for an hour a day minimum, I studied the Course in Miracles (it took me 20 years to do the workbook). I went to inpatient treatment for addiction and disordered eating.

But The Work fits in to any and all of these. It’s a practice, like meditating.

Some people think that they’ll do The Work, answer the four questions about their painful concepts, and get a big massive Ah-Ha and never need to question their minds again. Or maybe they think that if they DON’T have this experience, they aren’t doing it right, they aren’t getting what they could.

But those are just more thoughts. Probably stressful ones.

Maybe some of us are hard nuts to crack, as they say. Or maybe we’re slowly coming to, waking up gently…without a big huge alarm clock blowing in our ear.

That’s the way it appears many people become awakened. Like a volume button is being turned up ever so slowly, just at the right pace, not too frightening.

It helps so much when you have a group supporting you on the journey. At least, it sure has helped me. Especially on this hard, frightening, shocking stuff.

Every day I do The Work because I know what it’s like NOT to do The Work. I remember it.

Over-analysis, ruminating, obsessing, compulsive behavior, believing myself, feeling sick with fear, angry at God, depressed, full of self-hate, addictive.

When life was good….no problem. When life was upsetting…. horror. No other alternative.

Who would you be without the thought that something is impossible to recover from, that answering four questions isn’t really that big of a deal or that mind-opening, or you need a special teacher, guru, insight in order to be truly happy?

I’d stop panicking, I’d stop running in terror, I’d stop hunting the world for a better place, a better answer.

I’d stop hunting. I’d stop. I’d. I.   .

“The Work is merely four questions; it’s not even a thing. It has no motive, no strings. It’s nothing without your answers. These four questions will join any program you’ve got and enhance it. Any religion you have–they’ll enhance it. If you have no religion, they will bring you joy. And they’ll burn up anything that isn’t true for you. They’ll burn through to the reality that has always been waiting.” ~ Byron Katie

I myself began really doing The Work, that is, questioning what I believed to be true, in earnest in 2005 even though I had read the book Loving What Is. 

I did The Work because there was no place else to try, or to turn. I had done enough therapy. I wanted to understand the most horrifying losses in life, the greatest pain and fear I carried, without expectations that I would “improve” or become a better person. I didn’t care about that anymore, I wanted to know the Truth.

I keep doing it, because I suspect everything I think may not be true….in fact something in me has known all along it isn’t.

But only with practice can I feel how my mind, my thinking, is not in control. And seriously isn’t aware of the absolute Truth.

Like, ever.

It’s very good news.

“We must leave the entire collection of conditioned thought behind and let ourselves be led by the inner thread of silence into the unknown, beyond where all paths end, to that place where we go innocently or not at all–not once but continually. One must be willing to stand alone–in the unknown…One must stand in that dark light, in that groundless embrace, unwavering and true to the reality beyond all self–not just for a moment, but forever without end. For then that which is sacred, undivided, and whole is born within consciousness and begins to express itself.” ~ Adyashanti 

I hope you’ll join me for a Year of Inquiry in September. CLICK HERE to share with me your thoughts about attending, to help me get to know you. It’s called an application so I can get a sense of what you’re looking for and make sure you’re in the right place. I can’t wait to be with whatever group is formed and meet you in September.

It’s going to be an amazing year.

Much love,

Grace

 

Stop Your Nightmare With Understanding

A long time ago a beautiful inquirer began to work with me after she had been diagnosed with a rare form of cancer.

At that time, she was one of the first people I worked with on painful thoughts born out of her experience.

I had cancer before myself. Also a rare type, mine was a sarcoma of the interstitial skin on my thigh…with a really weird medical name that I’ve never been able to pronounce.

I remember that moment when I had the most fear.

In the doctor’s office, having the stitches removed, when the doctor said “I’ll just take these stitches out from the biopsy and then you can get dressed and then we’ll talk about the results.”

She’s waiting to talk to me about the results she received from my biopsy?

Adrenaline rush.

The core belief “I’m going to die” and that is really frightening.

Later, when I began to work with people who had cancer, or had previously had it, I thought they’d immediately want to talk about the fear of death, the terror of losing health, deteriorating, feeling physical pain.

But almost everyone who has ever come to talk with me after having cancer (even if they currently have it) has had the very same thoughts that all of us have when we’re healthy.

  • What will people think?
  • Will the people I encounter on this journey be kind?
  • Will my kids, employees, neighbors, friends, partner be OK with this?
  • Did I do something wrong?
  • What will it be like when I die?

The mind seems to be concerned with these questions, and concerned with forgetting about them too. Since there aren’t any clear, known answers….the problem-solving mind really doesn’t like that very much.

But when a diagnosis enters your life, you don’t forget quite as easily. It’s in your face, it has more import somehow.

You look.

It’s an incredible opportunity. You can do this inquiry today no matter what kind of health condition you’re in…since we’re all eventually dying.

So….is it true that people may think poorly of you, or avoid you in life? Is it true that you need people to be kind? Do you have to worry about the people close to you if you leave?

Is it possible you did something wrong? Do you need to know what it will be like when you die?

Apparently not.

If you answered yes to anything, notice this one, and ask yourself if it is absolutely true.

My client long ago had the thought that other people judge her poorly, maybe avoid her, say fake nice things to her. She felt very alone. So painful!

How do you react when you believe the thought that people may think thoughts about you that are frightening or unfavorable? What happens when you worry about those you love and what will happen to them if you go away, or have a problem?

And that gripping thought that you must have done something wrong, yikes!

Who would you be without these thoughts?

Sit very still and feel that question. You can still hear the chatter, but imagine who you’d be without believing it.

Without any thoughts about what will happen in the future, even in two hours, or what other people are thinking that’s mean or frightening…

…you may feel a rest and relaxation that is unlike anything you’ve ever known.

You may notice that for this instant, you are OK. You can handle what’s happening, and something else is ultimately handling it and it’s not really up to you.

“Understand your nightmare for what it is, and it will stop; then you will wake up to reality. Understand your false beliefs and they will drop; then you will know the taste of happiness.” ~ Anthony De Mello

Turning the thoughts around:

  • Whatever people think is absolutely fine
  • Every person I encounter will contribute to my enlightenment
  • My kids, friends, employees, neighbors and partner will be completely OK
  • Did I do something right?
  • What is it like as I live?

What if these were exciting, and just as true, or truer?

“God, as I use the word, is another name for what is. I always know God’s intention: It’s exactly what is in every moment.” ~ Byron Katie

If you’re struggling with inquiry in your life and allowing what is, and would like guidance in doing it…

…I am here for you.

I love facilitating people through their situations, their painful beliefs.

Every person who arrives to do inquiry is a gift on my own path.

This summer, I’m giving ample opportunity to people who would love regular call-in times, open 90 minute sessions for inquiry, at pre-set hours all summer.

I’m calling it Summer Camp because it’s a time to rest in inquiry, relax, let the process unfold as a dance for you, answering the questions, following the un-doing.

I never took the time to really inquire into my own thoughts about life and death until I began to lose things I believed were really scary to lose.

You can start inquiring when things are terrifying, or long before, it doesn’t matter.

Someone just wrote to ask if Summer Camp will be crowded.

It is limited to 20 people per live session, so the answer is “no”. You will get facilitated time, focused attention, and find awesome partners to trade facilitation sessions.

Join fellow inquirers on a journey inward and you may find yourself becoming lighter, lighter, and lighter.

Even about things like cancer or dying.

Much love, Grace

Death Has A Terrible Reputation

Last Tuesday in Year of Inquiry (YOI) we began our final twelfth month. Almost an entire year together investigating commonly painful topics.

We saved the best for last.

The investigation of our thoughts about something being OVER.

Death. Exits. Done. Asta la vista!

Although it sounds like I’m kidding around a little….the ideas, beliefs and orientation we have to endings, death, getting fired, break-ups are some of the most incredible concepts to examine and feel, ever.

When something is over whether it was fun, lousy, or complicated, there are all kinds of mixed feelings. Sometimes enormous suffering and pain come alive, almost unbearable.

It will never be like it was again. I can’t handle this. I need closure. I don’t want this to happen. 

But can you know that it’s true that it SHOULD be like it was and stay that way? Are you absolutely sure it was better before it was over, or that nothing good came after?

Are you positive you didn’t handle it well? 

My three sisters, my mother, my father’s close friend, and all my sister’s partners and my former husband are all gathered in a circle surrounding the deathbed of my father.

Outside the rain patters on the beautiful rectangle panes of 1920s window glass. It’s pitch dark as midnight, but only early evening. November in Seattle.

Ten people all alive and physically well. Ten kind souls, some of whom with potentially very long lives still to come, many of us in our 20s.

My mom was only about the age I am right now.

We are all touching my father’s body, still surprisingly solid looking, although his beard is sparse from chemotherapy.

He just took his last breath a while ago. I am holding his left hand. I felt it grow cooler and cooler. There is a deep, yet incredibly sacred silence pervading everything.

Then tears come through the body like a huge crashing wave.

We’re all riding it, engulfed in it. It feels like there is nothing but this very alive grief, shaking everything.

For the previous two months, I had been living with what feels like anxiety, visiting the hospital every day. Still in my first job after college, I dutifully came to work at the appointed hour, and one morning my boss said “Come and go as you need to. I’d be a basket case if I were in your shoes.”

I left immediately and went back to the hospital. My sisters and I rotated in and out of my father’s room for two months. Before he went home to die.

As I look back now, I realize I did not have to do anything to handle that situation.

Understanding my dad’s death is still underway, even over two decades later. I do not need closure.

When I believe that before the death/change was better, I feel sad, even bitter. When I believe I don’t want that to ever happen again, I feel terrified.

Who would you be without the thought that you don’t want it to go the way its going? Or the way it went? Or that it is all-horrible that this life is so temporary and things come and go?

Without the belief that it’s over?

“When you rest deeply in the Unknown without trying to escape, your experience becomes very vast. As the experience of the Unknown deepens, your boundaries begin to dissolve. You realize, not just intellectually but on a deep level, that you have no idea who or what you are.” ~ Adyashanti

Turning the thoughts around…..strange these ones are: It will never be like it was again, oh hooray! Everyone, including me, is handling this. I need it to remain unfinished, open. I want this to happen.

That last one, not so sure when it comes to to my father.

But this is just a simple exercise in inquiry.

“Is it true? Expect nothing. See these four questions as a gateway, a door into yourself. And continue. Move into that third question, and the fourth question. Turn it around. Expecting nothing other than the experience of what arises….Death has a terrible reputation, just like life. We think ‘when I die I don’t know what’s going to happen’. Well, in life, we think the same thoughts. Everything we believe about life, we project into death. If you loved every thought you think, welcome life, welcome death.” ~ Byron Katie

If my dad has gone on to have a compelling, fascinating, magical adventure (how could it be otherwise) then why would I ever want anything else for him?

I don’t.  

Much love, Grace