In my podcast Peace Talk as I was turning on the microphone early this morning, I knew I would be sharing about suffering in the deepest way.
What a thing to talk about, right?
Not exactly fun, in general.
How do we deal or live with tragedy and loss, or depression and our own agony about what’s happening?
The Work, when you sit with this and answer the questions four questions, can bring freedom beyond what you might ever imaginebefore asking these questions.
I remember thinking….how can answering questions actually bring relief to the worst case scenarios in life?
It won’t change the scenarios! There’s still war, divorce, cancer, car accidents, bankruptcy!
But I was amazed to find the relief….
….and then not only relief, but freedom….
….by simply questioning my own thinking.
It’s not easy.
First, you feel overwhelmed with rage, desperation and grief. From that feeling within you naturally begin to act out the pain. You drink, you hate (yourself or others), you eat, you look down at the ground when you walk. You quit things. You stop trying.
You tell the story of how freaked out you are, or how panicked, or how incredibly depressed.
It may seem trite or ridiculous to ask the fourth question in the series of questions known as The Work of Byron Katie:
Who would you BE without the thought that all is lost, you can’t go on, your life is horrible, the pain is unbearable, the world is a terrible place full of darkness and suffering?
What if you just weren’t thinking in this moment, and instead observing, feeling….being.
What does this mean, to be?
It’s a great question. I’m not always sure.
However, I notice that my thoughts seem to concentrate intensely somewhere in the region of my brain, and flow out into my body and behavior at the speed of lightening.
When I consider “being” instead of only “thinking” I can contemplate my suffering in just a little different way.
I remember that some people…like the guy who lives two blocks down the street…isn’t suffering the way I am suffering right now.
Neither is the cat. Or the grass growing wildly in the yard.
Life on planet earth is not 100% full of suffering. There are living beings, even if all I can think of are animals, who are happy, easy, present, not full of brooding and repetitive beliefs about death or destruction.
There is life that comes out of war. Healing happens.
Who would I be without my own thoughts of horror?
A person sitting on a couch.
Who would I be without the thought that “I am a person” (who has just suffered some terrible loss)?
Feeling a body, hearing sounds everywhere, seeing colors and shapes, seeing pictures in my head, noticing the touch of fingers on smooth glass, breathing in, feeling the heart beat that has nothing to do with me–its just running, working, moving through some mystical unexplainable life force of energy.
Something is here, alive.
Who would you be without your thoughts of tragedy?
It’s not denial, or trying to pretend something did not happen that actually did happen….
….it’s simply noticing you are engaged in life of life’s terms, not YOUR MIND’S terms, and life comes and goes, dies and is born, morphs and changes, moves and becomes still.
And there is always something back behind all of it that is very quiet, silent, precious and beautiful.
Who would you be without your story?
“Nothing terrible has ever happened except in our thinking. Reality is always good, even in situations that seem like nightmares. The story we tell is the only nightmare that we have lived. When I say that the worst that can happen is a belief, I am being literal. The worst that can happen to you is your uninvestigated belief system.” ~ Byron Katie in Loving What Is pg. 228
Try it out.
Can you find any place in the middle of your tragic situation that is peaceful? Has there been goodness that’s come from what you’ve experienced?
From my own diagnosis of cancer in 2006, I felt something very profound about the temporary-ness of this life, and a movement to live fully.
From my own father dying young from leukemia, I found the capacity (after floundering awhile) for direct, fatherly guidance from within myself.
From learning of others dying at young ages, I’ve become aware of how precious each day, how temporary, and how astonishing I’m living long enough to have wrinkles and scars.
From knowing how brief we are here I’ve become less attached to acquiring stuff, earning money, saving money, accumulating experiences….and instead trust in sharing, inviting, connecting with no idea where this will go.
From all the suffering I experienced with my addictions I actually feel gratitude they’ve taught me what wasn’t permanent or important, calmed down my ginormous grabby ego, and shown me how to love unconditionally (especially myself).
Yesterday I went clothes shopping with my daughter.
As I was changing in the dressing room, I saw what apparently is my back, shoulder blade and spine in the mirror, and my hair falling long down the middle, and my legs in my yoga pants (I dress Miss Casual constantly) and I thought immediately “she is so cute, just look at this precious little middle aged woman on planet earth who will only be here a short time overall.”
That is who I am even with this body I seem to inhabit that appears as this, without thoughts that things should be different than they are.
P.S. Still room for one person in Turning Relationship Hell To Heaven, where we meet together and do The Work for 8 weeks. Write me if you want to join us in an adventure in inquiry firstname.lastname@example.org.