Changing the way we sit in a room with marshmallows–WOW

The Work of Byron Katie cleans the window–your interpretation of everything. Learn about doing The Work together for a year and making clean screens a part of your life, by clicking the photo.

Have you ever heard of the Marshmallow Experiment?

I’ve heard it referred to it so many times, but just in case you haven’t, it’s the one where researchers interested in human behavior and personality worked with children to study self-control and how we’re interpreting situations as humans.

An adult (the researcher) would give a child a marshmallow or cookie on a plate, and tell the child they could eat it now, or, if they waited a little while, they’d get two. Then the adult would leave the room and the cameras would role.

Most kids would try to distract themselves, look away, stare at the door, appear anxious or worked up about the treat on the plate…then gobble up the marshmallow. The research would measure how long kids waited, and analyze the internal struggle that appeared to be happening.

The primary scientist so interested in this work was Walter Mischel. He first conducted the Marshmallow Experiment in 1960.

I always thought the outcome showed that humans from the very early years have clear personalities or tendencies to consider before they act….or not so much. They follow their impulses, or do what the one in authority says and resist.

But the other day, I found out it was NOT that simple. In fact, the conclusion suggesting we have clear personality traits is totally FALSE.

We’ve all heard of the terms “nature vs nurture”. They describe the two biggest influences on human life very simplified:

Nature is how we’re hooked up from birth, our DNA, the influences genetically from the people who lived before us, biochemistry, brain chemistry, our inherent personality.

If there’s such a thing as personality. More on that in a second.

Nurture is how we’re cared for, attended to, loved, neglected, seen, encouraged, supported (or not) but probably far more than all these, what we observe and experience as we grow and live.

I suppose we could have the most easy-going open and humorous “personality” in the world, but if huge traumatic events occurred in our lives….we’d be affected big time.

We might start closing down and be less inclined to be excited or happy about life.

Or, we could have a quiet, shy, even anxious personality from the start, and experience a huge challenge of some kind that we wind up surviving….

….and somehow this might bring us awareness of adversity, hardship, death and destruction in a way that makes us fearless, and very strong.

There are a lot of really amazing stories about people living life one way, then making dramatic changes and coming out different than anyone ever expected.

So back to this Marshmallow Experiment and the thing I found out that made it completely different than what I had thought for all these years since I first learned about it in grad school over 20 years ago.

During the experiment, with some kids, Mischel would speak differently about the marshmallow. He’d give them a tiny tip, a small idea or suggestion, or some little encouragement about waiting instead of struggling or immediately eating the marshmallow.

“Just pretend the marshmallow is a picture, and it’s not a REAL marshmallow. It’s not really there!”

The child would then wait far, far longer before eating it.

In fact, the vast majority of children in Mischel’s studies delayed gratification when they had this little suggestion offering of using their imagination given to them. They had a totally different approach and interpretation.

Holy Moly.

I always thought that experiment was about showing how much self-control and/or fear a child had, how willing or able they were to follow orders and overcome their cravings.

But it was really about how a small reframe of a situation could have dramatic results.

The research by Mischel kept proving over time, apparently, that people are very, very flexible and highly influenced by their environment and interactions.

In fact, they might not even have this thing called a “personality” always intact. In some situations, people are honest, kind and generous or have self-control, and in others they aren’t.

The slightest comment, look, interruption or suggestion can make a huge difference on the way we see a situation, and the way we behave.

Our interpretation of what’s happening creates our response to it.

This might seem like an obvious “well, duh!”

But I was sooooo very intrigued.

Because this may point to how and why The Work works so well when we sit with our answers to the four questions, when it comes to reviewing situations we’ve experienced.

Something happens.

We’re immediately thinking “Hmmm, I don’t like that” or “I need to worry about this” or “I love this” or “I don’t ever want this to happen again” or “I need to make this happen again because without it happening life is worse, or not as good”.

I’ve felt it a gazillion times: I like that. I don’t like this.

The mind is assessing and logging what it likes or doesn’t like all day long, it seems.

So with The Work, we turn to the situations on our lists from any time we felt threatened, disturbed, irritated, sad, or any time we were hurt or tricked or betrayed. Any time we lost something….we’ve made a note of it internally.

With The Work, we get to revisit these scenes as they occur to us, or as things happen where we have reactions, and we question our interpretations.

It’s like with our inquiry and our situations and memories, we’re the adult researcher saying to our little internal child “what if it isn’t real?”

Because here’s the thing: Right now in this moment, it isn’t.

It doesn’t mean you’re crazy or wrong, it only means our interpretation may not be complete, or healthy, or loving. It doesn’t necessarily serve us.

The past happened, and now it’s over….but even more importantly, we’ve got a limited interpretation of the situation. We aren’t ever able to see the whole entire picture, only our quick snapshot of that experience in time. We tend to feel like victims of that experience.

With The Work, one concept at a time, we get to contemplate other possibilities. Did we miss something?

Now that we’re all grown up, we get to hold that inner child and offer it some understanding, humor, awareness.

I get to ask “Are you sure that situation was totally intolerable? Are you safe now? Are you sure you lost what you think you lost?” or “Do you really need that marshmallow in order to be happy? Are you positive it’s real?”

LOL.

And when something like this is seen and grasped, then without any instructions or even trying to be positive or to NOT let something bother you….things begin to change in the way we react and respond in our daily lives.

Change just happens. All on its own. We wait much longer before immediately reacting. We feel kinder, less triggered.

Mischel wrote extensively about human behavior. He said that based on his lifetime of research about personality and how we experience life, the beliefs, expectations, and assumptions we’ve taken in from our culture, family, and friends is gigantic.

These become our filters for how we see reality.

This mind, making its interpretations so speedy quick, actually becomes a filter for everything we encounter. This mind tells us how we feel about everything.

Which really does mean, our minds are the screening device for how we see the world, how we encounter life….

….so naturally this also means when our minds or interpretations change, then how we feel changes, and how we act changes.

Our personality changes. We become different people than who we’ve been before.

Our paths unfold in new, different ways.

I see this all the time when I work with people in regular practice in The Work. They used to be tortured by the past, and now, they’re grateful.

It’s astonishing and inspiring.

Mostly, I’ve seen this kind of change long-term in myself as I’ve watched the years go by, especially once I became so interested in self-inquiry and opening up to new interpretations, ideas or thoughts about life.

I used to have tendencies to react with suspicion, nervousness, overly-nice, cautious, uncomfortable with strong emotion, forgetting to care for myself in the presence of other people (even my own children who I adored), indecision, seeing dramatic and scary futures, remembering difficulties in the past.

Now, it seems the tendencies have deeply and dramatically changed, and I’m still working on what’s left and still learning so much.

But I am a completely different person.

That woman (with The Work you can even question the interpretation of being a “woman” if you want) who was anxious, addicted, and trying to act like a good person all the time….is mostly gone. Or what was once deep dark red is now pale pink.

I’m not trying to get rid of her or make sure she doesn’t come back. She’s just not here anymore.

Sure, I have some of the same coloring or “personality” of that one who lived before. I tend to be overly-flexible sometimes or like I’m going to miss something if I say “no” or when I hear a very difficult traumatic story, my heart opens with the suffering and I might cry.

I also see both the worst and the best that could happen, and crack myself up at the drama of how quick the mind goes to the “worst”.

But the question arises almost immediately “is it true?”

I see that I simply don’t have the full and complete answer and probably never will, and that life is lighter without set and solid answers.

The most wonderful thing about doing The Work, or this deep form of self-inquiry, is that I’m not hunting for someone else’s answers, I’m finding my own flexible ones.

When I do The Work, new options naturally enter my world in the form of experts, practitioners, influencers, connections, advice and fun.

I’m not doing this all alone in a bubble based on old influences from the past….but opening up to new possibilities today, in the present moment.

Who knows what amazing change can happen, starting NOW, by questioning the stressful idea that might be present for me?

Who would I be without my story, my interpretation, my mental filter?

On a wide open road in a brilliant spacious moment.

Testing new ideas, living some of my turnarounds, changing my behaviors, trying new things.

The way movement and change has occurred for me clearly in my life is to challenge my interpretations. This doesn’t appear to come easily.

I had to get help from others, my thinking was so murky and unclear. Like a fogged up mirror in the bathroom–I couldn’t even see myself at all!

Questioning my thoughts with other people has made all the difference. I can sit down and do The Work, but there’s nothing like sharing it and connecting with other humans to see if I’ve missed something.

The result has been one of small, tiny, sometimes bigger, significant, steady change.

The other day I heard Byron Katie speak on a recording that “we can shoot for the moon” when we have inquiry as a companion. We’re not frightened of accomplishment, we’re not scared of facing something new, or telling the truth.

A lovely group is forming to share self-inquiry as a practice this upcoming year, in steady continued investigation of our stories, together.

It’s called Year of Inquiry.

A time to stick with this process of dissolving the filters and stories, instead of trying to find a different shiny new way somewhere else.

We do The Work, and un-do our previously built stories or interpretations and change the filter. Or, the filter naturally winds up changing.

Who knows what happens when we have a kind adult voice saying “Are you sure that’s real? Are you sure you’re looking at it in a way that serves you? Could you see it differently?”

This upcoming week is Orientation Week and we’ll begin our inquiry calls the following week.

People have been writing with a ton of questions about how the program calls are set up, the schedule, the expectations.

You can read about it here, but what I’ll say in a nutshell is we gather almost-weekly all year for 90 minute inquiry calls together as a group, you’ll have partners all year twice a week to connect with other human beings, we’ll look closely at a different topic every single month that typically produces lots of stress for people, and we’ll grow.

We change.

We don’t have to argue with What Is anymore. We know when something is stressful for us, we suffer. We move away from, or naturally expand, our interpretation of events to something bigger, wider, and usually more joyful.

“There has been so much happen this year that I wouldn’t had dealt with anywhere near as well. I am amazed at the peace that abides with me. Oh Grace, I am so grateful for your work in this world. Had you not been so clear, peaceful, real, and provided the safe space you did, I could not have dared do all this work. It is now part of my life.” ~ YOI participant 2017-2018

The first two months, you can test it out after you join, so you don’t have to fully commit until November 1st.

I couldn’t do this work alone–some can and that’s absolutely awesome.

But if you need the structure and guidance, I’d love to have you be in the tribe of us who’ll be living with this inquiry and watching our filters get cleaner and brighter over time.

Enroll here. If you head to this page, there will be a recorded presentation at the top about every detail of the program you can watch (60 minutes) and fast forward through any piece of it. There are slides to make it easy (it’s a webinar). If you’re ready to join, scroll down until you see the registration links.

When you sign up, I’ll get a personal email and write you back within 24 hours to welcome you and get our first solo session scheduled.

Can’t wait to begin.

Much love,
Grace

Eating Peace: Two physical sensations worth questioning, for your eating freedom

Have you ever noticed the deep self-criticism (or self-pride) you might feel because you’re full, or you’re hungry?

Fullness and hunger are two states of physical sensation when it comes to eating and the body.

Some of us who have pushed the boundaries super far on these conditions have felt the pain….of both extremely stuffed with food, or extremely hungry for food.

We all know we’d like to avoid either extreme. It’s natural to want to be somewhere more in the middle, and more relaxed. If it was easy to simply remain in the middle, without swinging to extremes, we would.

Something about this isn’t easy, when it gets thrown off balance.

One way you can find some insights on your own beliefs about these states of sensation, is to judge them relentlessly. See what you really believe about yourself when you’re super hungry, or super full (or about anyone else when they are).

What does fullness mean about you, as a person? (It’s often really horrible, but sometimes good, I know).

What does hunger mean about you, as a person? (Also horrible, but sometimes good, for other reasons).

When you identify your most painful thoughts about either one of these conditions, you might find some surprising beliefs come forward into awareness.

The good news, is you can then question these thoughts using The Work of Byron Katie.

Is it true, for example, that you’re “good” when you’re hungry, and “bad” when you’re full?

Really consider it. I used to “know” it wasn’t true, but I’d act completely like it was, and something believed it at a very deep level.

Who would you be without your story, your judgment, your assessment, your belief?

There’s great freedom in wondering who you’d be without your story of hunger and fullness. You might get to experience these sensations like you’re feeling them for the very first time. Like they are sacred, interesting messages, worthy of paying attention to….over the mind’s thoughts to ignore them.

Much love,

Grace

Eating Peace: I HAVE TO eat. Let’s do The Work on this stressful belief!

In the moment we begin craving, we start believing “I have to eat”.

It could even be we have the thought “I have to eat” out of constant repetitive habit of doing this in the past….and then we begin to crave eating.

The craving gets bigger.

Then, it feels the only way to end this horrible craving, is to eat.

I’m against the craving! I hate the craving! I must end it, overpower it, switch the channel.

Self-inquiry at a very deep level is one way you’ll truly meet your craving, your compulsion to eat.

So let’s do it today. I share the process of inquiry here on this simple and very stressful thought “I have to eat!” (You can substitute anything here, for the word “eat”).

Turnaround Three: I have to inquire.

What else is the mind thinking, what other underlying beliefs are present in your experience of sharing the world with food and a body that eats? What are you afraid of? Or sad about?

These are other beautiful questions that appear under the thought “I have to eat”. The awareness of disturbed feelings under the surface that just want a little comfort.

Inquiry will comfort them more than food. Really! Find out for yourself.

Much love, Grace

Eating Peace: If you binge, overeat, break your vow….do these two things

What happens when you do it again?

You Binged. Overate. Stuffed yourself slowly at a big party, with junk. Maybe you had seconds when one helping would have been plenty.

You find yourself in the place, maybe for the billionth time (you think), of having hurt yourself through eating, food, or compulsive behavior.

The usual results, the aftermath of a binge, is some form of violent thinking towards the self. The mind says ?You screwed up, you did it wrong. You’re a mess”. 

You sinned, you’re guilty, you deserve to be punished.

Then, the feelings of despair, confusion, and being waaaaay too small for this overwhelming problem become even bigger.

You feel even worse.

Maybe you think “why even bother trying?”

The cycle of violence around either controlling yourself, attacking yourself, punishing yourself makes you feel so horrible.

There are two things, very simple, that you can do if you’ve found yourself coming to after a binge, even if you’ve done it many times before.

First, give yourself some kindness for how frightened, powerless, empty or nervous you’ve been. Find some gentleness in your heart for being you. Soften to who you are.

Your eating comes out of disrupted emotions, at least mine sure did. Or some kind of emotional experiences I didn’t like.

Second, wait 24 hours. Don’t make plans, build up your army against your cravings, or do anything. Just get quiet, relax and slow down. Don’t binge eat or go off the food that works for you for 24 hours. You’ll feel so much better tomorrow. Everything can be different by taking a deep breath and waiting a day.

Much love,

Grace

The Work of Byron Katie on Personal Shame. Begin.

Feeling ashamed, embarrassed, guilty, disgusted with yourself is one of the worst feelings ever.

If you’re like me at all, I used to want to hide in a closet and never come out if I felt embarrassed about something I said or did.

I ate. Or smoked. Or went to movies to take my mind off myself doing that embarrassing thing, or acting that dumb way, or making that stupid mistake. I’d call myself an idiot.

I wanted to leave town and never show my face again.

If someone triggered me into an experience of feeling shame, I might also have thoughts like “that person is so mean, rude, controlling, nasty, immature, etc,” and judge the heck out of them.

They MADE me feel so bad!

Up until a few years ago, if I felt confronted by someone about a thing I said or did that they didn’t like, I might go overboard to fix it, make it so they didn’t think poorly of me, and then hope it was never mentioned again. It was like I couldn’t relax until I knew they liked me.

If I felt like someone had a poor image of me, I stopped answering their phone calls or efforts to get together. Too dangerous.

It’s powerful to look at what you’re thinking, and believing, when you feel ashamed.

I once had a friend say I wasn’t helping out enough around the meal clean up.

Instant shame.

My impulse was to rush to the kitchen and start frantically cleaning everything in sight. I actually DID jump up and move. It never occurred to me for a second to say my back hurt and I was stretching, so I’m opting out.

OMG! I could never say that! (It almost feels weird to write it even now, years later! Who cares about your hurt back, just suck it up and pitch in…..right?!)

What was really going on in the moment someone confronted me, or had a request, or criticized me….were thoughts almost entirely about my ego being bruised, my identity of Good Person being shattered.

  • She should think I’m awesome. At all times.
  • No one should ever be hurt by something I do or say.
  • I must be perceived as caring, thoughtful and kind.
  • People should all love me (and they don’t).
  • It’s not safe to have people dislike you–they can hurt you, cut you off, ditch you, and stab you in the back

One thing I noticed about these underlying fears were….

….they weren’t really about SHAME!

Shame was the reaction. Shame was what happened when I believed someone didn’t like me. Like a weird motivator of violence against myself so I’d fix me.

I was actually terrified out of my skull if someone moved away from me, thought critically of me, didn’t like something I said or did.

I was terrified because I thought I should be perfect and perfect meant never disturbing anyone else, ever. Maybe if they knew everything about me, they WOULD be disturbed. So I have to keep a lid on it.

Now….you can take this even farther by wondering if there’s anyone early in your life who you worried about their view of you?

My parents instantly come to mind, and today, my father.

He was very proper, upstanding, charitable, kind, not at all aggressive, thoughtful, and caring. He only showed anger once a year. He was very faithful in the church, and devoted. He was someone who in my eyes, and in the eyes of many, did the “right” thing. He never put his foot in his mouth, or bothered anyone, it seemed. He was a beloved professor to many students.

But somehow, it was clear that he also had very high standards. He disapproved of quite a few behaviors, and spoke of people he didn’t respect.

Just listening to his words, I vowed to make sure I would never be someone who he could talk about like this. I wanted him to love me all the time, and never be critical.

There’s RIGHT and there’s WRONG. I believed it.

Do you have someone who if they didn’t approve of you, you’d feel absolutely terrible? Has that actually happened?

Even if it hasn’t happened, you can hold that upstanding person in your mind, and notice the fear that enters if you think they MIGHT disapprove of you, or they are disapproving of someone else.

If you’ve done something that if THEY knew you did it, they’d reject you….you can imagine them finding out, and do The Work from this horrifying prospect: someone you care about very much KNOWS what you did, and they disapprove.

Let’s do The Work!

Is it true you need their approval? Is it true that because of the way it went in that situation, you are a bad person? Is it true you must always be perceived as generous, kind, patient, or good in some other way? Is it true you must never, ever, ever hurt anyone’s feelings, and if you do–FIX IT–or hide it forever?

Sigh.

It’s a lot of pressure.

I can’t really know it’s true. It’s hard to be good in everyone’s eyes. It’s hard to TRY to be perfect, to WORK at doing the right thing.

It’s exhausting, actually.

How I react, when I believe I need to be perceived as safe, good, and loving and “work” at it….is I don’t speak the truth, I’m very careful with most humans (especially anyone who reminds me of my dad) and I worry if someone doesn’t express praise, or approval, or doesn’t give me a nod or smile.

Holy Smokes. So stressful.

Who would you be without the belief you have to be good, right, upstanding, clear, loving, and not ever do anything that would disturb someone?

Wait. Really?

Are you sure it’s OK not to work at being the best possible person in the entire world that I could be (and this equals never bothering anyone)?

Yes.

Because it just doesn’t seem natural to have to work, and get all twisted in a pretzel to make sure you look acceptable, and accepting.

Who would you be without this stressful story that you need to be seen as upstanding, positive, healthy, nice, kind…whatever your words are that you worry about NOT being?

Who would you be without the belief you need to be approved of, by THAT person (you know the one)?

How could it be a good thing that someone hasn’t found you ideal, or perfect? How could it be of benefit that someone said “no” or “you did it wrong!”

Whew. I almost have no idea.

I’ve been operating as if this is a given for so many years, I can’t imagine feeling entirely free to be myself, naturally me, without shame or judgment.

And then….

….I feel it. Just a wee bit. Who I’d be, What I’d be, without the thought.

It’s so light. It’s exciting. Magnificent even.

Without the belief I shouldn’t impose on anyone, or be disapproved of, or be perceived as unloving….

….I am very happy suddenly. Like it’s just completely 100% OK to be whatever this is. Responding, being, connecting, disconnecting. Being a human. Not expecting myself to be more, or other than, human.

Turning the underlying thoughts around:

  • She should think I’m human, capable of foibles. At all times.
  • People should be hurt by something I do or say, when they are.
  • I must NOT be perceived as caring, thoughtful and kind.
  • People shouldn’t all love me (and they do–hee hee).
  • It’s not safe to have people like you (how interesting!)–they can hurt you, cut you off, ditch you, and stab you in the back. And, they can heal you, open you up, set you free, wake you up.

These turnarounds feel so much lighter, so much more true than the original stressful thoughts.

They are worth sitting with slowly, deliberately, and finding your own answers one by one.

“You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
For a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.”

~ Mary Oliver from the poem Wild Geese

For more sharing on shame and working with this stressful experience, listen to Peace Talk Podcast Episode 133 right HERE.

f you feel shame about something, my number one suggestion?

Pick only one moment where you believe you did it wrong, or you ARE wrong.

Write a Judge Your Neighbor worksheet on that moment. Write down all your beliefs (it’s OK to hide it somewhere, so no one can find it and read it). Write down what you think the WORST thing is that could happen if the whole world was aware of this about you.

Then begin to inquire.

“Your separation from God has ripened. 

Now fall like a golden fruit 

Into my hand. 

All your wounds from craving love

Exist because of heroic deeds.

Now trade in those medals;

That courage will help this world.”

~ Hafiz, from the Poem Trying To Wear Pants

Much love,

Grace

P.S. My hands are clapping with the inquirers signing up for Year of Inquiry. If there’s any way to explore and dissolve shame, its with steady self-inquiry using The Work in the presence of other people.

I find no other way so helpful. Read about YOI HERE and scroll all the way down for fees, how the program works, and the schedule. People in Institute for The Work receive credit worth one full School for The Work plus 80 credits of one-to-one partnering. Join us. Your courage will help this world. At least, that’s my story.

Eating Peace: Everywhere You Go The Relaxation Diet….Lie Down (Watch the Weight Come Off)

Last week I was traveling and facilitating a retreat (in Oregon at Breitenbush Hotsprings Conference Center).

Yesterday I was out in the city to dance and meet friends for a birthday dinner.

We all move about, in and out of our houses. Food is out there, at home, on tables, and often easily acquired–especially for those in first world countries like me. Super abundance of food options and eating is all around.

When you’ve had an internal war with eating, your body image, or food itself….it often doesn’t feel good to be out away from home, and your safe refrigerator and pantry.

But who would you be without the belief you need to worry, you have to control the environment or the food, you must be anxious about you and food in any situation?

It doesn’t mean you don’t take good care of yourself and move towards what you need or away from what hurts when it comes to food and eating.

This is about finding truly, deeply what you need.

For me, it was always relaxation. Trust. Peace. Resting with what is. It doesn’t mean I’m passive and never speaking up for what I prefer or desire, or not acknowledging I’m hungry, or full.

When I relax fully, I’m actually free to ask for anything.

Here’s one of my favorite meditations or ideas to carry with me wherever I go. It’s called “Lie Down”.

Do it for real, on the floor or couch, or do it on the inside.

And see what happens with your fearful dilemmas about eating, not eating, foods, ingredients, body, fat, thin, weight.

It shouldn’t have happened. Seriously. I was soooo overheated.

As always, being at Breitenbush annually in the height of the bright summer days is not only the sweetest fresh air, gorgeous giant pines, flowers, babbling river, cozy cabins, and a true complete break from regular daily life….

….but also a time of such joy and gratitude as I sit with people who have never done The Work, along with quite a few who have, and hear the insights pop throughout the room.

The more time in the work, as we spend our hours together, the deeper the insights seem to move.

It occurred to me once again, that one profoundly painful ghostly underlying belief appears in almost everyone’s Judge Your Neighbor worksheet, including my own…even if we haven’t written it down.

This one belief appears in every objection we’ve ever had. Whether we almost died in a car accident, a true love left us, or someone was rude.

It shouldn’t have happened that way.

When anyone writes a JYN, we’re remembering a painful moment in the past, or imagining being in a painful moment in the future.

I’m hurting. I’m scared. I’m sad. I’m worried about the way it went, and worried it will happen again.

Actions, ideas, ways to solve the problem spring out of this deeply painful thought that I believe it shouldn’t have happened….

….whether the thought is about death, sickness or shock….

….or the annoying long-term partner who won’t stop that irritating behavior….

….it simply would be better if it hadn’t happened.

Let’s do The Work together today: Find an incident you believe shouldn’t have happened. Just one. That’s the simplicity of The Work. You don’t have to question everything you’ve ever thought shouldn’t have happened.

Just that first one that came to mind just now.

Picture that person, being like that. Or that event you’d rather not think about too often.

I picture immediately someone I knew. The way she swore really scared me. She seemed so mean, I wanted to hide under the bed because of her critical and bossy manner.

So is it true it shouldn’t have happened? Is it true she shouldn’t have acted like that, used those words, been so cruel and angry?

Yes!

It was so frightening! I can’t handle it! (Wave arms around, tell the whole story, express how awful it was–at least this was my first answer to the question “is it true?”)

Now, I’m not suggesting it’s not incredibly powerful to share what you experienced, in order to understand it or receive help and support in exploring what happened. Many people have benefitted profoundly through a therapeutic meeting one-to-one where one important facet of the meeting is to tell the story of what happened clearly, openly.

It can be especially meaningful if the person telling the story has never shared it before. Secrets don’t fester and grow when they are shared. Secrets can be revealed, and come out of the darkness when they are spoken.

But to take it to the next step….to look with open eyes, with questions, finding your own answers….this is The Work.

So is it absolutely, 100% true for all time, with no shadow of a doubt that the person in question, the incident that went down, shouldn’t have happened?

Hmmm.

I can’t know it for sure. Not in the situation I’m remembering. And do I actually have all the data? Could that even be possible? Do I know what the final outcome will be, or what it created or offered me that it went that way? Could I know that I wouldn’t mess up some weird piece of the puzzle if I took out that incident or that person entirely from my life? And can I simply notice, it was painful, and now it’s over?

I can’t know it shouldn’t have happened. It doesn’t mean I have to like that it did.

How do I react when I believe something shouldn’t have happened?

I crunch up inside against the memory. I try to think about other things. I say positive affirmations. I chant and work on myself to “get over” that person. I get super grumpy. I say “screw them!” even though I haven’t seen them in ten years (LOL). I blame that person for ruining my life, or trying to.

Sunday, on my way home from Breitenbush, it was 98 degrees Fahrenheit outside. Very unusually hot. I have no air conditioner in my car, and it never occurs to me to need it because I live in a cool climate (once a year, it wafts through my mind and then I forget about it all over again).

I was melting.

I drove by a large car sales lot about four hours from my home, and the thought entered my mind I could get off the freeway and buy a car with air conditioning RIGHT NOW. My mind was so speedy quick, I already had pictures of that plan not working because I would need to leave my car there, unload all the luggage, including boxes of retreat-facilitating materials, and put everything in my new car, and then I’d have to come back and get the old one and drive four whole hours AGAIN just to retrieve it. A whole future image, all thought up, in about 2 seconds. Bam.

Mind dishing up solutions to the problem, speedy quick. Brilliant, busy mind. When it thinks something is true, it will really try to go for EVERY possible solution.

Trouble is, it hurts if a) none of the solutions really solve the problem and b) you can only be happy if the problem is solved.

Even if a solution CAN solve the problem, you aren’t happy until you execute the solution. Which leaves “unhappy” time as required while you wait.

But who would you be without the thought “this shouldn’t be happening” or “it shouldn’t ever have happened”?

Who would you be without the belief she shouldn’t have been that way? He shouldn’t have said that? It shouldn’t have occurred? It shouldn’t be this freakin’ hot?

Sometimes, where there’s a particularly painful event, or personality you’ve had to deal with….

….you just stare at it blankly for a minute, when you consider that fourth question.

Let yourself take it slowly.

What would it be like, without that thought?

I notice first, I’m coming back into this present moment. I’m here now, listening to trucks and men’s happy shouting voices outside since a neighbor is building a new house. Noticing the overcast sky, and the cool breeze of today. Not overheated in the body.

Noticing the mind was OK all along, whether the car was a baking sauna yesterday, or not.

Without the belief it shouldn’t have happened, I feel more relaxed somehow. Not so tight and restricted and focused on solving that problem. Not obsessed with What Was.

Without the belief, I don’t feel condemning, of either that other person or of myself. I’m more in a Don’t Know place. Feeling the quiet of this moment, here, now.

Without the belief “it shouldn’t have happened” I notice the sadness of things like that happening sometimes in this world without the heaviness, with compassion for us all.

Turning this underlying belief around: it should have happened. 

This is not about finding examples of how it should have happened because you deserved it, or someone else did, with all the pain and agony that involves. This is about seeing how it should have happened, because it did.

And did anything at all come of it, that you found helpful….even the tiniest thing?

That hot melting physically uncomfortable ride should have happened, because it made me think again about finding an electric air-conditioned car, that suits my support of lowering the environmental impact of my driving. It made me take it so seriously, I believe I may be researching this soon.

That person should have acted that way, because it showed me how not to act. It showed me who to move away from and how to say “no” in a clear way. It showed me what I’ve been afraid of, that may not be so scary after all (she’s just a human being, with a lot of fearful thoughts actually). It showed me where I assumed I was unworthy, and invited me to question this form of suffering instead of believing it.

That should have happened, because I am a human being living in the same conditions of temporary life on planet earth as any other human being. It should have happened because it affected my life so deeply, it’s a part of my spiritual path and growth to make peace with it. Otherwise, I’d probably be watching TV.

How amazing to discover reasons that are honest, genuine reasons I actually believe for why it should have happened.

Can you find them, for your situation?

“Any time you argue with what was, what is, or what will be, you limit your ability to experience the vastness of who you are. There’s no way around it. It doesn’t matter what happened, or how cruel someone was, or how unfair something was. It may have been all of those things, and the pain may be very deep and real, but when we have a mental resistance, when we say something should or should not have happened, we’re arguing with what did happen or what is happening. When we argue with life, we lose every single time–and suffering wins.” ~ Adyashanti from Falling Into Grace

I see the present moment as sometimes including my thoughts about a past moment I objected to. If I say “yes” to that moment, including the thoughts of the past….it’s called The Work.

Loving what is….including my belief “it shouldn’t have happened”.

What a sweet belief, that resisted What Is, that the mind thought would help me survive, and not feel pain.

Turning the thought around again: My thinking shouldn’t have happened…instead of the event, person, condition, or incident.

Yes, that thinking was very fretful, full of boiling anxiety, resentment, rage, despair. So focused on how “it” shouldn’t have happened.

The thing, person, event, incident, situation actually ended, or moved forward, or morphed and changed, or grew into something different. It’s over. My thinking is the thing that continued and ruminated or obsessed or re-considered it over and over again.

And, I love how my thinking also moves me into noticing how the way I see it is not true, how it can answer the simple questions, how it can ponder and relax….and end the repetitive suffering.

I love how my thinking can journey into new answers, new possibilities, variety, gathering ideas, joy in the midst of sorrow, humor.

All as a result of the little question “can you absolutely know it’s true that it shouldn’t have happened?”

Turns out, it happened, but I don’t have to suffer over it.

This is true for cars without air conditioning in very hot weather, or your dear friend getting cancer, or parents being abusive, or your partner leaving you, or the kitchen drawer getting stuck every time you try to open it.

Who are you right now, without your story?

Accepting what is. Broken drawer, partner not in the room, mean parents, very ill friend, hot.

Noticing what happens next, with complete acceptance of what is.

Much love,

Grace

P.S. Two events happening soon, that support your inquiry:

1) Being With Byron Katie Joining in live event happening in Switzerland via streaming video all the way to Seattle. Four bedrooms for those who want to sleep overnight. We’ll participate right alongside the folks who are in Switzerland with Katie.

2) Sliding Scale pay what you can. Summer Camp For The Mind begins July 5 – August 18.

A very tricky stressful thought that can lead to…..eating, drinking, internetting, escaping

One of the top three stressful beliefs people shared when I asked what bothers them the most on a regular basis was “I drink or eat too much.”

I sure do know the pain of these. Not fun.

Now, this doesn’t have to be huge over-use, alcoholism, disordered eating, crazed bingeing, or very extreme behavior (like I myself experienced)….to be stressful.

Simply consuming when we said we didn’t want to, or wouldn’t, can start setting up a cycle of regret, frustration, and self-talk that says “I’m not good enough” or “I made a mistake”.

Usually, I’ve found there’s something very compelling, something I’m looking for or seeking, something I’m trying to avoid (or so the mind thinks) that becomes worth the act of consuming.

You know what the substance does.

At first, just for a moment, it offers some relief, it tastes so good, it’s pleasurable, the body relaxes. Yum. Ahhhh. Relief from tension.

Then, it wears off. The moment of pleasure moves to the next phase. Difficult digestion, bloating, restless sleep, dehydrated.

We’re so upset, we wonder “Why did I drink that again? Why did I eat that again? There must be something wrong with me!”

But instead of jumping to the conclusion that you are flawed, you can study the process and wonder to yourself “What is happening before I decide to consume this thing, that I would ditch feeling good physically and use this thing to get some pleasure, or relief?”

What’s going on in my day, in my week, in my mind, in my thinking….that says “eat, drink, smoke, TV, internet” or whatever your thing is?

What’s missing?

What am I worried about?

What’s the worst that could happen if I stop consuming this thing, substance, activity altogether in this moment?

Often people reach for their favorite relaxers when they have unscheduled time, at the end of the work day, at night, when they’re alone without obligations.

Just last night, my back was a little achy, I had a wonderful day with clients and projects and exercise midday….but I remained at the table with the laptop, working on something. My husband was waiting to take a walk. The clock passed 8:30 pm, then 9:00 pm, then at 9:25 pm I looked up and called out to him in the other room “I’m almost ready” (he is very patient).

Ten more minutes before I stood up and put on my jacket.

It appears in my evenings (this is not the first time) I’m unable again to pause, stop, relax, switch gears and end the work day.

What’s going on?

If you’re wondering about yourself, you can answer the question…what’s the worst that could happen in your mind and thoughts, if you stop?

If you stop eating, working, drinking, smoking….what is terrible about this mentally? What would you experience?

Now don’t just go and say “Nothing would be terrible about it! I’d love it! I’d finally be happy! I’d be doing something right!”

Now, now. This is the way we often think that covers up the underlying fear about what could happen if we stop.

You’re not crazy. There is actually a reason or thought process underway that repeatedly thinks if you stop enacting your compulsive behavior, consuming, watching, eating, busy-ing, there will be hell to pay.

So in my case, what’s the worst that could happen in my thinking if I stopped working?

I’d feel anxious. I’d want those tasks done. I wouldn’t be able to sit still with unfinished projects half completed. I’d think the empty space should be filled with something. I should accomplish something.

This can be a huge source of stress, and even a sense of profound powerlessness for people, the thought “I should be doing something productive.”

The mental judgment that what you should be doing ought to be productive, and sitting still isn’t productive, relaxing isn’t of benefit, doing nothing isn’t good.

Let’s inquire.

Is it true that doing nothing is bad or wrong? Is it true you should be doing something?

Yes!

Can you absolutely know you should be doing something productive?

No. It wouldn’t make sense to be producing 24/7. It’s not possible. It’s not balanced.

What happens when you think this thought?

I press on, push myself, think, make lists, check them off. If I sit still or do something different, I can’t stop thinking about doing something.

I battle with the desire to rest. In the past, I would begin to eat, and eat more. I’d watch a movie in the dark. Anything to avoid doing the things I thought I should be doing. I’d rebel! Anger would arise! I’ll do whatever I want! (Consume).

Who would you be without this thought that you should be doing something productive and acting like a good citizen?

Oh. Huh. Never thought of that before.

Let go of believing I should be accomplishing something? Is that OK?

I once had a friend who couldn’t stop cleaning, scrubbing, doing dishes, polishing even if I came over for dinner. She appeared unable to sit at the table with me and enjoy a conversation. When she stopped, she stepped out onto the balcony for a cigarette. The only way to pause.

Who would we be without the belief we should be Doing?

Wow.

Part of my mind moves to imagining I’d get depressed. You mean nothing is required, and there’s nothing to do? But. Don’t I matter? Isn’t this all about making a difference? I feel so good when I complete a major project, or do something cool. Isn’t that what all the great successful people are doing? Constantly accomplishing things?

Without the thought I should be accomplishing, I might fizzle into nothing and die!

Haha! (It’s true! We will all fizzle and die, at least this body will.)

Who would you really, really be without worrying about what your mind has to say if you unplug, rest, relax, stop?

I’d notice we get tired, go to sleep, shut down AND we “do” every single day. I’d be moved to work when I wanted to work, without forcing, being rigid. I’d be more caring for this body. I would have no urgency.

Turning this thought around: I should NOT be accomplishing something. I should be accomplishing nothing. 

Yes. My greatest desire is to be with everything, open to all that is in this world, and to experience the joy of being here for this temporary time. One thing I always wanted was being comfortable doing nothing.

Not contending with anything, not fighting anything (including this mind), not believing things will be better, later, once I finish the task…but to enjoy the laundry, the writing, each client, sweeping the floor, taking out the garbage, sitting on my couch, walking, sleeping…without expectation. Noticing.

Loving What Is.

Including empty unscheduled time, rest, slowing down, the space of stillness. No need to consume something or reach for pleasure, but allowing the quiet to be here now, even in the midst of a mind screaming that you need to do something.

Do you have to believe everything you think?

Ahhhh.

Life is a series of natural and spontaneous changes. Don’t resist them – that only creates sorrow. Let reality be reality. Let things flow naturally forward in whatever way they like. ~ Lao Tsu

Much love,

Grace

You do not have to be good…FB live today on doing TW on yourself

Today I’ll do another Facebook live! I know, I know, I thought I’d be doing these on Thursdays, but there is no schedule, apparently.

But at least I’ve given a little warning. I’ll hit the GO button at 1:00 pm Pacific Time Tuesday May 23rd. Join me!

If you haven’t been to my facebook page before, it’s Work With Grace: Byron Katie Coach and it’s the coolest thing to be able to be there and connect with you LIVE. I get to see your questions and comments on the spot.

Here’s the topic: Doing The Work of Byron Katie on fearing you are not attractive enough, kind enough, good enough.

So many people shared that this was one of their top ten thoughts when I asked, I was surprised…and then not really. I’ve been there myself.

It’s incredibly stressful, and incredibly common, to think thoughts like “I’m ugly” or “I’m an idiot” or “I’m not x enough (good enough, awake enough, patient enough)”.

Often, we’re advised NOT to do The Work on ourselves. There are very good reasons for this.

Think about it.

You are using your own mind, the same one that came up with the thought “I’m ugly” (not exactly kind) to then honestly and neutrally question this belief.

Maybe you have a belief that if you do The Work on this mean thought, you’ll improve, or turn out a little less ugly.

It’s very hard to drill down deep enough to even wonder….where did I get this idea? How could I know this is true? Why would I repeat this thought ad nauseum for most of my life?

The idea is….if I could just fix myself, I’d be happy. I’d have more fun, be a better person, help others, stop freaking out.

It’s really hard to give up the conviction that indeed, you are ugly or maladjusted, or something’s gone wrong with you.

We’ll think if we didn’t have this thought, we would either A) not be protected, safe, careful, or B) be made fun of by the entire kingdom, or C) be too bold.

But who would you be without this dreadful story “I am ugly, I did it wrong, I should be ashamed, I’m not good enough, I’m an idiot….”?

Who would you actually be? What would you be?

Can you feel it?

Maybe it’s inexplicable. Something in here observes, watches, without malice or judgment. Something in here realizes, I have no idea what I actually am. I can’t even see myself clearly–certainly not physically! How would I ever be able to see ugliness or idiocy or not-good-enough-ness? It’s practically impossible to be sure.

(Unless I’m playing God, ahem).

Turning it around: I am beautiful, I am bright, I am energy, I am good enough, I am good, I am loving, I am I-Don’t-Know (in a good way), I am.

I am.

Is this not just as true, or truer?

What if this way you are is just….the way you are? And there’s no need or urgency for improvement.

Wow. Now that’s a wild, exciting, natural, thrilling thought. It’s a wonderful, thrilling feeling. Being this. Not even knowing what it is. Letting it be, without a need to change one drop.

It’s called Unconditional Love. Could this be what we are already, without a thought that we need to improve? How about even WITH the thought we need to improve!

“You do not have to be good.

You do not have to walk on your knees
For a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves….”

~ Mary Oliver from Wild Geese

If you’ve had a little troubling doing The Work regularly I rewrote a simple guide for those of us having trouble with our self-inquiry. Maybe you haven’t felt much relief or joy through inquiry, perhaps you feel burdened by the weight of your beliefs which may have begun centuries before you were born. Maybe you constantly revert to criticism of yourself in an effort to improve life.

If so, you can find this eguide here. Please share it with others, if you think they’d benefit. I’d appreciate your feedback on what’s helpful and where you have questions, too.

Much love,

Grace

Eating Peace: Shame and Guilt….First, don’t fight or be against them

Guilt and shame are so debilitating, depressing, paralyzing.

Especially when it comes to weight, body image, eating, not eating.

When we get upset, troubled, frightened….it’s not so crazy to reach for food. It’s one of the pleasures of life.

But it doesn’t work as a painkiller–except temporarily.

And then after an over-eating session or a binge….ugh. The guilt, shame and horror at what you’ve done….AGAIN….is so horrible.

What if guilt and/or shame have messages that are important to explore?

Here are some questions you can answer, and ways you can work with shame, so that you can see something different besides paralysis, isolation, punishment, disgust or depression.

What’s going on when it comes to GUILT and SHAME?

Let’s find out. I share here some exercises to help you with shame and guilt.