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.

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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

Every Loss Has To Be A Gain

When a beloved furry pet dies, it can feel very sad.

Several people have written me lately about their animal friends dying, and feeling grief, depression, regret.

I haven’t had a pet as an adult…but I understand the welling up of tears and all the thoughts that start to churn that may turn out to feel stressful.

  • I miss him
  • I should have done more with her
  • If only I had known that was his last day
  • her life was too short
  • I could have done better

Funny how when something is “lost” and the life of that animal, or person even, is over….we sometimes want to reach back and grab for more.

More time, more cuddles, more conversations, more intimacy.

A dear inquirer who recently lost a little cat noticed thoughts of guilt entering her mind….

….if I had known she was going to die, I would have let her eat more food and enjoy more pleasures, not been so strict.

Let’s take a look at this difficult thought that can appear with loss of someone you love, whether a pet or a person.

I could have done better. 

Is that true?

Are you sure?

Because you only knew what you knew, in that previous moment. You know a little more now, here in this moment. What if you weren’t supposed to know it back then?

The mind may argue….“but I DID kind of know. I should have paid attention, I should have followed my intuition, I knew I could do better, I could have been more clear, honest, aware, trusting, astute, kind…”

Are you really sure you could have done better? Are you 100% positive that you should have known what you didn’t know, or decided what you didn’t decide?

Many years ago, I became pregnant, and after terrible agonizing, had an abortion.

When asked later in life what I believed to be the absolute worst thing I had ever done, the thing I felt most guilt about…..it was that.

I had never known prior to that experience what post-traumatic stress syndrome might be like. I was beside myself with grief and regret. I was sick for days. It stayed with me for a decade. I was shocked by my own dreadful thoughts towards myself. I couldn’t stop thinking about it for years.

One of the first Byron Katie events I ever went to, a woman stood up and said it out loud. She regretted having an abortion.

I still felt so much shame, I couldn’t believe this woman told the same story, publicly, holding a microphone!

But as Katie asked her to question her beliefs, to do The Work, something shifted inside about this thing called “regret”.

In the dictionary, regret is defined as the sorrow about the loss of opportunity.

Ah, there’s the rub.

The image of the future or past (which is actually false and does not exist) where opportunity lives, or used to live.

Now, not only is this life lost, but this imagined and vivid alternate opportunity. The one where the person or animal I care about is alive, or happy.

Over and over again, in the distant past, I imagined the birthdate, the gender, the life of this child that never was.

Deep torture.

Who would I be without that thought, that I could have done better?

“You can’t let go of a stressful thought, because you didn’t create it in the first place. A thought just appears. You’re not doing it. You can’t let go of what you have no control over. Once you’ve questioned the thought, you don’t let go of it, IT lets go of YOU. It no longer means what you thought it meant.” ~ Byron Katie

Imagine who you would be without the belief that you could have done better. Because it’s possible that what you’re thinking NOW is imagination, too.

Without that thought?

Freedom, acceptance for this self that is beyond knowing. Peace far, far past all the stuff I think.

A great feeling of everything being exceptionally well and very strange and mysterious.

I turn the thought around: I could not have done any better. I did the best I possibly could.  

How could that be truer?

I can find how that experience drew me into such suffering that the equal and opposite breaking-free became possible. I contemplated short lives, and noticed that every length of life you could ever imagine happens here on planet earth….from a few hours to over 100 years.

I don’t have three children to take care of, I can focus on two.

“Clinging creates the bricks and mortar with which we build a conceptual self.” ~ Michael Singer 

I gave that entity a gift of very little agonizing and suffering, and a return to a place without bodies…somewhere I’ll be again one day.

My life has been filled with so much, this life has not been empty because another life “left” it.

“Every loss has to be a gain, unless the loss is being judged by a confused mind….The simple truth of it is that what happens is the best thing that can happen.” ~ Byron Katie 

What is the gain, in your life?

Much love, Grace

Not Wanting Death is A Recipe For Unhappiness

Deep in the middle of a dark, rainy day last winter, I noticed one of my neighbors limping.

We had many talks over the fence during summer lawn-mowing days. We took in each other’s mail if we were ever on vacation. I borrowed their ladder.

I had the thought at the time to joke with him because I myself was on crutches, not able to sit, and mostly lying in bed, healing.

I’ll talk with him once I’m back on my feet, I thought. 

He and his partner left their usual holiday goodies tin at our door. They made them together for everyone in the neighborhood every year. I had heard them knock, but couldn’t get up to answer. 

Then it just seemed quieter over there. Much quieter. I never saw my neighbor with the limp. I had the thought that he was gone.

Yesterday, I finally went over to their house to check in, say hello. No answer, so I left a card in their mailbox. 

It turned out, he recently died. 

His limp was cancer riddling his leg and then his whole body. 

I talked for a long time with his life partner, more than we ever have in 8 years of being neighbors. I heard about both their families, the story of the disease, the funeral. 

I can hear the mind get fired up, begin to make comments here and there in the background. 

I should have gone over there sooner. I could have had them come by for tea during the holidays. We never shared a meal. There’s nothing I can do now. I missed my chance. He’s gone. He was younger than me. Everything’s temporary.

I know its not true. But a melancholy sense of the briefness of life. 

How do I react when I believe he died and I’ll never get the chance to deepen the relationship, see him, do happy neighborly things, share more?

Sad, concerned, aware of how brief This all seems sometimes. Then I also have a voice that thinks it doesn’t matter, we weren’t very close. People die every day. 

The reactive mind sorts, categorizes, evaluates, chatters. Trying to reduce pain, manage information, protect, alert. 

So who would I be without the belief that I missed my chance to connect? Without the thought that it went less than the way it could have gone, that I should have gone over there sooner?

Here in the present, simply taking in this information. 

“Do you ever look in the mirror and wonder where the ‘younger you’ went? That is the unchanging sense of being noticing the changing world. Change can only be noticed against a background of stillness. There can be stillness without change, but there cannot be change without stillness.” ~ Fred Davis

Turning the thoughts around that my neighbor died, that it was a surprise, that it’s troubling to be unaware of when the ‘end’ will come, that I missed a chance for greater connection….

….an sense of the unknown fills the room, an alive pulsing mystery.

The wind blows a wind chime, the heater kicks on and hums, the lights glow. I look around and there are pictures, colors, shapes absolutely everywhere.

There is memory of my dear neighbors, one now without a body, one still in a body, also here in this present moment.

I shouldn’t have done anything sooner. It was perfect not to have them over for tea. We shared all that was needed to share. There’s anything and everything I can do now. I gained my chance for connection. He’s here. He was younger than me, how wonderful. 

Everything’s temporary.

Now, today, in this moment I notice the change in everything, every moment. The movement of all things. Energy and stillness. 

Today, I am here, tomorrow perhaps not. Halleluia.

“No argument in the world can make the slightest dent in what has already happened. Prayer can’t change it, begging and pleading can’t change it, punishing yourself can’t change it, your will has no power at all………nothing less than an open mind is creative enough to free you from the pain of arguing with what is. An open mind is the only way to peace. As long as you think that you know what should and shouldn’t happen, you’re trying to manipulate God. This is a recipe for unhappiness.” ~ Byron Katie

Today, I love being reminded through my dear neighbor’s passing, of even being willing to consider what is wonderful about everything being temporary, including my life.

What is wonderful about death for you, today? 

Much love, Grace

You Can Handle Death

It was a light spring day with blossoms bursting everywhere in the city parks. I had been trading phone messages with a woman who was interested in finding out more about The Work.
She was in a distant time zone.
Today, I was walking through the university arboretum with fancy-named trees and gorgeous smells and rich green grass when her number appeared on my cell phone. Even though I didn’t recognize it, I thought “that number is really familiar, I need to pick it up”.
Even though she had sounded so light in our brief exchanges so far, without ever talking LIVE….it turned out she had cancer, and not necessarily a “good” prognosis.
I had worked with many people with cancer diagnoses before…but not anyone who may only have a few months to live.
I felt very moved for a moment.
I recognized in thirty seconds my own heart feeling full, and thoughts of something that looked at this whole human condition of life and death, noticing the beauty and the destruction all at once.
Blossoms everywhere, this woman apparently near her end-of-life moment.
That evening, after setting up a session with her on skype, I remembered my first hospice patient visit at my previous job.
At that time, I had received all my training in questioning patients about sensitive topics, I had finished my graduate degree in Applied Behavioral Science.
I had a laptop, I had arrived at the patient’s home, and I was ready for the task I was supposed to complete….a very extensive Quality of Life interview. This was “academic” work.
But the two requirements for people who enrolled in this research were 1) they had to be with it mentally, so they could answer questions, and 2) they had to be in hospice.
The patient I was visiting this very first time lived in a condo. I parked in the Visitors space. I knocked on her door with a little trepidation.
The woman I met was the same age as I was.

Feelings welled up inside my stomach and my throat, but I kept them hidden. I didn’t want to start crying!

This woman who was a total stranger to me answered many questions about her pain, how she felt…many personal questions about her life.

She was so brave.

When I left, I gave her a little hug, and then went to my car. In the driver’s seat, sitting in the big parking lot, I wept.

I thought “I’m not sure I can handle this job”.

But the next day, I drove to someone else’s home to interview THEM on their quality of life.

Some people had cancer, some had heart disease, some had ALS.

By the third patient, I relaxed. I didn’t have the simple version of inquiry we all know as The Work in my life yet, but I had other self-inquiry after quite a few years of really beginning to investigate the meaning of This.

And here was my next phase. Meeting people who knew they were on their way out, with limited time….people of all ages.

It was the gift of a lifetime. I started thinking I can’t believe I have such an amazing job, to be able to realize that everyone was the same as me, not different.

That day when the woman with only a little time left contacted me, I might have had thoughts like “this will be hard” or “this is sad” or “she is frightened (and I can’t help her)” but while they tried to arise….I knew they weren’t true.

Who would you be without the thought that if you only have two months left to live, it’s *terrible*?

Without the thought that this is an example of great suffering in a harsh world?

That she can’t handle….or I can’t handle…the body’s decline and death?

Who would I be without the thought that I couldn’t help her?

I’d be there. I’d do The Work with her.

Funny, her thoughts were no different than any of mine, or any I have heard before. “I’m going to die” and “I shouldn’t die” and “this is shameful” and “I can’t stand this” and “people feel sorry for me (and I hate that).”

I turn my own thoughts around, the ones trying to get some energy or some volume, the ones I used to think all the time before meeting so many people over the years who were in hospice…

….I can handle this. Because I’m the one here, I’m the one.

I can handle the body’s decline and death, because everyone handles it.

I can help her, and I don’t have to even do anything except show up (and another turnaround, I can’t help her.…and that’s the way of it, not really a problem).

“When you’re not thinking about death, you fully accept it. You’re not worrying about it at all. Think of your foot. Did you have a foot before you thought of it? Where was it? When there’s no thought, there’s no foot. When there’s no thought of death, there’s no death.” ~ Byron Katie

I can be here, with anyone, in any situation. So can you. You don’t need to know how to do it.

Love, Grace