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”.
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.”
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.
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.
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.