Terror, ugliness, unacceptable, unbearable….doing The Work on the worst that could happen

When you spend 4 days doing The Work with a group, something happens to everyone’s perspective. Instead of the daily routine of life, our view shifts into a broader awareness.

It’s like the feeling you get when watching a magnificent sunrise.

Or receiving and giving a hug. Holding someone’s hand when they’re ill or dying. Being at the birth of a baby. Suddenly being startled at a gorgeous lush tree full of blossoms.

Everyone has these kinds of moments, where you’re startled by the beauty or insight that’s just inserted itself into your present moment.

In this retreat, we looked and sat with one important question, pens in our hands, blank paper on our laps.

The question: what’s the worst thing that could ever happen in your life?


What a question, right?

Holy smokes.

I watched as all the participants closed their eyes, wrote in their journals and notebooks.

Now….what do you think it would mean, if this terrible thing happened?

What would it mean about you, about them, about life?

For me, I’ve thought about a dreadful image when I’ve answered this question. The worst thing ever happening? My children dying. Oh jeez. Not that terrible image again. Ugh.

It’s almost weird to write about. Why go there? Why event mention this dreadful, horrible, ridiculous, not-true scenario? Is there something wrong with me? Why would I give this possibility the time of day? I must be some kind of masochistic weirdo to want to sit with this terrifying disturbance of losing my kids.

But it’s there, nevertheless. A fear. I think I couldn’t go on if this happened. I notice sometimes in the world, peoples’ kids die.

So I’m willing to take a look, since the thought scares me.

Which is what I love about The Work.

The invitation is to open up to the underworld, the terrifying, the thoughts already present, the worries, the fears, the dread.

Let’s get them HANDLED…says The Work. Even if you think four questions couldn’t possibly “handle” your greatest fears.

I invite you to see.

Write down what you think is the worst thing ever that could happen in your life. It’s often about some kind of deeply troubling loss. A relationship, an inability to function, rejection, abandonment, betrayal.

Let’s inquire.

It would be (or, lets face it…it already happened and it WAS) the WORST thing ever.

Is it true?

(First question of The Work).

We’re inquiring. In the grand scheme oft things, we’re opening up to the choice that we’re believers, or we question what we believe….there’s no other possibility.

So let’s question, since it’s an option.

Is it true this would be the worst thing ever?


Hands down, yes.

I couldn’t live life ever again in the same way if my kids died.

But can you absolutely know it’s true that it’s the worst thing? Can you absolutely know you couldn’t go on living? Can you absolutely know you’d lose your mind in grief, or freak out, or NOT be able to handle it? Can you know you’d be engulfed in sorrow and wither away into nothing?

How do you react when you believe in this possibility? When you think this is the worst? When you scream at yourself not to think this thought, ever EVER (because it’s so scary)?

I gasp. I try to stop thinking it. I bat it away. I tell myself positive things. And I feel underlying fear. I see images of my kids dying. I think I’m the kind of person who might go through this horrible event, so I brace myself. I don’t know how to prevent it, so I feel frightened. I feel like the future is dim, not bright.

I start imagining that if I think this thought…I’ll invite it. Which just exacerbates and threatens even more, and brings on self-criticism in addition to the original fear. (What’s wrong with you? Stop thinking this!)

But who would I be without the thought my kids will die?

It’s a worthy question. To consider what it would be like to NOT THINK that dreadful thought?

This is not about pretending or denying they’ll die. It’s wondering who I’d be without the thought pounding in my brain that they will.

I’d be relaxed. I’d see what else is going on. I’d open up to other ideas. I’d notice what’s working, even though this could (or has) happened.

And what about if this terrible thing that COULD happen or already did happen…what if it’s OK that it happened? Or the best thing that could happen, instead of the worst?

I know it’s a little abrupt. I know the word “best” is a little weird. But in this world of duality, we’re interested in worst/best, good/bad, terrible/wonderful.

And we’re interested in shaking things up. Considering what good could come out of the “worst case scenario”. Is there anything you can think of that might be GOOD about that horrible thing happening?

Several years ago, I got cancer.

I had surgery, and was lying in bed at home one day later with 50 stitches in my thigh, doing The Work. I looked at my leg, and was amazed the place where the tumor was removed looked like a piece of pale cream-colored leather with a huge gash in it, stitched with a gray colored thread evenly spaced.

How could I think of this situation as the best thing that ever happened? Really? What? I couldn’t find it. There is NO turnaround for this. It’s awful, there’s no reason. Cancer truly sucks. Nothing good can come of this. All awful, all the time, 24 hours a day. It shouldn’t happen. I’ll probably die of cancer, even if it’s not THIS cancer.

Who would I be, without this story though, that it’s the worst thing ever?

Oh. You really want me to do The Work on THIS situation too? Seriously?

Yes. Because you can question anything. The Work is here to open your mind, no matter what’s going on. It doesn’t discriminate. It doesn’t care what situation you’re looking at.

Who would I be without my story, in that moment I was lying in bed with stitches in my leg from my cancer operation?

I’d notice when my estranged husband knocked on the door, with our two very young children, holding two-dozen pink roses.

We hadn’t been talking closely. He had left the marriage and we were on the way to divorce. And here he was, showing up while caring for our kids because of my surgery, bringing this gift of flowers. Caring.

Ah ha. I just found my turnaround inquiry.

Since this happened, the BEST thing that happened came next. Sweetness. A show of caring, when I thought he didn’t. (And we still got divorced, and that turned out to be a good thing too).

And so can I find a turnaround example for it being OK that my kids die?

Well….I wouldn’t have to worry about them going through global warming and suffering immensely because the earth is dying. I wouldn’t have to worry about them at all, in fact. They’d miss old age, which appears to be difficult at times (unless you do The Work of course). I’d be off the hook for leaving any inheritance. They’d enter the Great Beyond before I even did, wow. They’d get there without all this wondering and incessant seeking for Enlightenment and Truth.

This work is a little strange. I admit. Noticing your most resistant fears and thoughts about life.

But oh so worth it.

Because in the end, what I discovered I’m really worried most about it ME dying, if THEY died.

Me dying, however, may not be the troubling event I anticipate. Even if my body lived….my heart might mend in such a powerful way, I would recognize that what died was my ego, not love.

And just like my father who died so many years ago of leukemia, I’d notice he may not be here in physical form, but I think of him often, I consult with him, I feel his presence, he’s part of my DNA. So did he even die?

Who would I be without my story of WORST or BEST?

Unafraid. Free. Curious. Open.

“The Tao Te Ching says that the source of everything is called ‘darkness’. What a beautiful name (if we must have a name). Darkness is our source. In the end, it embraces everything. Its nature is love, and in our confusion we name it terror and ugliness, the unacceptable, the unbearable. All our stress results from what we imagine is in that darkness. We imagine darkness as separate from ourselves, and we project something terrible onto it. But in reality, the darkness is always benevolent.” ~ Byron Katie in 1000 Names For Joy

Spring Mental Cleaning Retreat Seattle 2017 (Next retreat is Breitenbush in Oregon June 21-25, 2017 and Fall Retreat in Seattle is Oct 19-22, 2017)

Much love,


It ain’t over, til it’s over.

The Work of Byron Katie is known as a powerful stress-reducing method of changing one’s mindset. It can alter your entire perspective of a very painful situation.

I find, my internal world is completely different when I think about Before The Work and After The Work.

But what about severe physical harm? Or car accidents? Or huge traumatic moments, like war-time fear, near-death escape, or violence?

They are so frightening!

Sometimes, just seeing a movie with this kind of experience in it can be traumatizing. I remember this, in fact, from when I was about ten. I saw a horror movie in black-and-white on TV about turtle sucking snake-like creatures that vacuumed only the bone matter out of human bodies.


I was up at night for several nights in a row, and I didn’t even want the girl whose house I spent the night at, where we watched this movie, to be my friend anymore.

The Exorcist scared me so badly, I couldn’t fall asleep all night then either, with my best friend Kathy snoozing in the guest bed next to me. I kept seeing a hand creep up the side of the wall, not connected to a body. (How did I get into the theater showing that movie, by the way, at age 12)?

I basically never watch horror movies now. Why on earth would I put myself through that kind of physical imaginative fear? The regular imagination is bad enough! Jeez!

The thing to remember first, when it comes to a truly traumatic experience, is that it is over, and now…..you are safe. Whether the event was real or a movie.

You are safe. Right now. Safe.

Because sometimes, the thoughts begin to scream at you NOT to look at that moment. Danger Danger Danger! A part of you doesn’t want to feel the adrenaline again, the sadness, the devastation. Even in a perfectly safe moment, your heart starts beating and you’re sweating, as you remember and “view” the movie in your mind.

It’s OK if you don’t want to do The Work on a truly frightening moment in your life. Nothing is required here.

And, it can be amazingly liberating if you do.

Just the other day, someone in Year of Inquiry did The Work her reaction to her grandson’s tantrum. He was so freaked out and wild, he scratched her eye. She remembered a previous violent situation even more frightening, with an adult, not a child.

If you notice you’re safe here, now, it might be easier to go take a look at that extremely difficult situation. The one you’d rather not see.

The violent one.

It’s a summer Saturday morning and the sun is streaming through huge tall windows and making bright lights and shadows on the gorgeous wooden dance floor. I’m full of energy, bouncy happy, surrounded by many wonderful, laughing people ages 5 to 80.  One of my favorite songs comes on.

The set list is made intentionally to inspire, and it’s amazingly eclectic and fun. World music, Bollywood music, pop music, 1970s joyful funk, hip hop, salsa, the latest pop song in northern Africa, music from Turkey, Mongolia, Iceland, Mexico.

I am so thrilled, I run across the dance floor and leap into one of my favorite gymnastics moves, from age 15. Roundoff handspring. I do cartwheels all the time. And walk on my hands regularly.

As I land with legs straight only off kilter to the right, I feel a huge awful pull or rip in my sits bone, my pelvis. My whole body freezes up.

I don’t know it, but I just tore my hamstring right off the bone at the top of my leg. I’m still standing. I take a step. It’s very painful. But I can walk. I think “it’s not broken, I can walk”. I think maybe it will go away. Maybe I’ll walk it off. I numbly slow down, perplexed at the pain, continuing to stay upright the rest of the dance.

At the end, when we sit down in a circle, I’m wobbly and it burns horribly. I can’t sit in the circle. I feel shaky. I say to my husband as we walk across the parking lot that I really need to go home. It hurts horribly as I sit in the car. I put the seat all the way back.

Now, looking back, I had amazingly little fear. I didn’t even know what was wrong. The stress began to arise when a friend gasped after I had an MRI that showed the tear. She already knew before I did that I would need a surgery that was…..very uncomfortable. And my hamstring would probably never be the same again. Ever.

What kinds of thoughts appear with a situation like this? Perhaps you lose a limb, or someone else dies, or you saw the injury.

I find it helpful to notice that in the moment of injury or initial pain, there is almost no thought. It’s only right afterwards. The assessment. The awareness comes in, and THEN….here comes the suffering.

The moment of suffering is what The Work is for. That thought. THAT moment. It doesn’t mean you’ll question physical pain (although you can) but more what you think it actually means to have this pain.

My hamstring will never be the same again. I’ll have physical pain or limited movement for the rest of my life. I will never bike long distances, run long distances, hike, do gymnastics ever, ever again.

It’s all down hill from here. My life as I knew it, is over.

Let’s do The Work on this thought.

Is it true?


Is it absolutely true, and terribly stressful?


My life already was all down hill from here. That doesn’t have to be a bad thing. I am 56 right now. I was 52 when I tore my hamstring. I have no idea if I still had an intact hamstring I’d be happier. In fact, I’m pretty sure it doesn’t affect my ultimate happiness at all.

I notice I don’t have the stamina I used to have, things are changing in most fascinating ways in the body. I’m not upset. I find it amazing. I feel like I could die any day and I would have had an incredible life, and a pretty long one. I’m looking forward to what’s next. If there’s nothing next, I’ll have no mind so nothing to worry about anyway. Ha ha!

Who would I be without the belief my life is over as I knew it? (And that’s a BAD thing)?

Excited! Full of wonder. Actually interested to see where this whole hamstring thing is going. Where this whole life-leading-to-death is going.

I notice the hamstring incident has given me some amazing experiences to explore, and awareness to wake up to:

a) After surgery, I had to lie flat for 9 days without being able to turn over onto my stomach. It was stunning to investigate the thought that I needed to. (Stephen Hawking, I get it now!)

b) I finally started yoga

c) I went to several brilliant body practitioners and learned so much about being in this body

d) I’m quieter in my movement and manner. Slower bike rides. Shorter walks. I love dancing again, but not so wildly perhaps.

e) I’ve gotten a lovely reminder of death, dying, temporariness here, exploring my thoughts about a limited amount of remaining years

f) I’m more comfortable than ever doing The Work with other people on death, suicidal thinking, injury, illness, cancer, sickness, pain, The End.

Every day, these days, I am aware this could be the last one. I have strong glimpses and experience, for minutes (if not hours) that there will be a last day for everyone, including me.

“There is pain, and then there is Pain and Suffering. So we’ll work with the suffering, and watch, through your life, how body follows mind. What an amazing trip…..How do you react when you believe the thought ‘I want the pain to stop’ and it doesn’t? What happens to the pain when you want it to stop, and it doesn’t? Who would you be without the story ‘I feel pain’? What is the worst that could happen if the pain becomes worse? You can’t stand it anymore, can you absolutely know that’s true?” ~ Byron Katie


Turning it around: my life is over as I knew it, and it’s all up hill from here.

So far, this is true. And come to think of it, it always has been.

Or maybe, there’s no hill at all. And nothing happening from the past. Those thoughts, I notice, are only about past and future. They have nothing to do with the present moment.

Oh. Right.

“It ain’t over, til it’s over.” ~ Yogi Berra

Much love,


Sick body or sick thinking?

Oh dear.

I have a sore throat coming on. Swallowing hurts.

Doing The Work on physical illness or pain can be powerful, especially when it’s not necessarily scary (you know it’s very temporary)….

….you just don’t like it.

Some people exclaim when they feel sick “I HATE this!”

You shouldn’t be sick.

Is it true?

(Is this thing on?)

(Like you’re a stand-up comedian wondering why the audience is absolutely stone silent after your question “is it true you shouldn’t be sick”?

Tap the microphone. Is this thing on?)

Of course it’s true! What are you talking about? You think I like this? Who wants to be sick, I mean….is that even a question that can be asked on this topic?

But can you absolutely know you shouldn’t be sick, when you are?

Um. No. Reality shows me, I’m getting a bad sore throat, and seem to have the urge to sleep and lie horizontal.

How do you react when you believe you shouldn’t be sick, or have the condition you have, or feel the physical symptoms you feel?

Not only do I feel physical pain, but I also feel depressed. I see pictures of all the things I won’t be getting done. I press on even though it hurts. I keep my eyes open. I work another few minutes on taxes, or emails. I take extra medicine. I don’t rest.

Some people have visions of themselves dying, or going to hospitals, or suffering horribly when they believe they shouldn’t be sick. They scare themselves.

But who would you really really be without the belief you shouldn’t be sick, when something is here and it’s called “sickness”?

I’d sleep. I’d still feel relaxed and happy, even with a sore throat. (True). I’d feel content. Trusting that oh, this is the way it’s going today. Got it.

Nothing so terrible about having this physical symptom come along. Nothing immoral, nothing I did incorrectly or wrong. All very well indeed, even if I never woke up after I went to sleep with aching ears and throat. (I know that’s a little dramatic, but heck, let’s go all the way with this feared thing).

Slowness has always been in my life. It’s called going to bed at night. Physical pain has come and gone.

Eventually, I’ll be expiring altogether. This body will shut down and tucker out. There might be pain involved. I have no idea when it will occur. Even if I had an illness that wasn’t going away, I can question my thinking.

Thoughts aren’t exactly reliable.

Turning the thought around: I should be sick.

Now….remember. This isn’t a reason to load yourself with guilt or mean words or what you deserve. Why, even with great compassion, are you aware you should be sick, when you are?

Can I find examples for this severe cold?

I just slept for 9 hours without moving. I’ll go to bed this afternoon and rest, and read a book I’ve been meaning to continue for weeks. I’m looking forward to inquiry soon with everyone who comes to Tuesday call in Year of Inquiry (so amazing we can all be in our PJs at home if we want). I feel very slow, and all ideas of moving through tasks feel completely unnecessary and relaxed.

Turning it around again: my thinking shouldn’t be sick.

So true. It gets feverish, sore, unstable, needs to go to sleep, off-balance….especially when it comes to the body and disease. So serious. So intense.

Now, a true sense of being, with nothing required, appears in consciousness. This is it. No need for concern. No need for extras. No need to Get Stuff Done.

I’m reminded of this as the most beautiful part of life. Letting go. I trust I needed the reminder today.

“If you’re experiencing pain or discomfort or confusion around [anything, anyone] just investigate your thinking. Ask four questions, turn it around, have a happy life.” ~ Byron Katie

Yes, even with a disease or physical ailment.

Why not?

I notice, it’s possible to feel the beauty of this moment in a quiet, gentle way. Rain pattering down outside, birds singing, heater whirring, early morning white cherry blossoms through the window.

Thank you, world!

Much love,


Did you make a mistake?

Yes, it’s true. I made a mistake. I omitted the actual TIME of First Friday Inquiry Jam from the last-call announcement.

Fortunately, many people had already seen the Grace Note the previous day which DID have all the details….but not everyone.

Have you ever made a simply mistake, or omitted something critical, or written the wrong date in your calendar, or gotten someone’s email or phone number mixed up?

It’s shocking how often it happens.

Just this past weekend someone in my neighborhood sent out a last-minute email saying “tickets are still available! Hurry!” about a big fund-raising event. No date, no time of the event (it was that very night). Just like me.

So many little errors, mistakes, missed details.

And sometimes, people can get really upset about these kinds of things, have you noticed?

“What a dunce!” you might say to yourself.

“This screws up everything!” you mutter.

“How could I have possibly missed that editing error?!!” you yell.

Or, you do it to others who have made the very same kinds of little non-life-threatening “mistakes”.

But what if you questioned this belief about ANY mistake that ever was made, by you, or anyone?

This is super fun….let’s take the ride, I think you’ll enjoy it.

Is it true it was a “mistake”? (Think about one, big or small, that you’ve really thought of as wrong, that would be waaaaaay better if you had corrected or caught–or just a wee tiny bit better).

Are you absolutely certain it was a mistake?

I can’t be sure, myself. It seems like it’d be better if people knew what time to dial-in or connect last Friday….but I be absolutely 100% hands-down certain?


How do you react when you think a mistake has been made?

Shouting at the culprit! Whether it’s me, or someone else!

What if it’s your kid, dropping and breaking something? What about a co-worker getting the meeting time wrong? Or how about the hotel mixing up your reservation, or the airline losing your bag?

Do you have a hissy fit and want to blame or attack?

Yikes! It’s rough having this approach.

What if you couldn’t have the thought at all that it WAS a mistake, an error, an omission?

Kind of funny…..but without the thought, I’m not anywhere near as upset. The blaming thoughts relax. There’s no one to blame. There’s just ideal version of the outcome, and THIS version of the outcome….and I notice I have no real idea which one is which.

Turning the thought around is even MORE fun:

There was no mistake, error, omission, wrong-doing.


But what’s the evidence for nothing really go wrong? How could it be OK that it went the way it did? Are you sure without this supposed mistake that it would have gone better?

I notice, for my situation, the First Friday call was still quite wonderful. Usually only 2-3 people get to inquire anyway, in 75 minutes. Many people love simply listening in, and there were over 18 people there.

What’s the reality of it? I received about 5 emails from people asking for the time….so they were wonderfully helpful, and I now know clearly to check in the future! Also, people will probably remember 7:45 am PT next month on the First Friday (which I intend to keep consist for a long time into the future). And I now know, too, there’s loads of interest in this monthly live call. I can be of service this way.

Wow, there are so many good reasons why it was PERFECT that the time was omitted.

And what a different, and exciting, way to look at the whole picture: that instead of a mistake was made, an adjustment or a gift or a wonderful focus of attention was made.

Or perhaps, in your situation, brilliant things came out of the “mistake” like awareness that the item was not necessary for happiness (in the case of losing or breaking something). Maybe an incredibly creative solution or idea came out of the “mistake”. Maybe it was the only way for two people to truly connect (to discuss the mistake) or because something got accidentally scheduled for the wrong date, everyone got a wonderful laugh together.

Who knows?

Another turnaround: a mistake made ME!

YES! That omission made me pay closer attention, allowed me to have several nice email conversations, reminded me I need to be very simple and share every detail with those who want them.

And I guess, weirdly enough, my omission created my own awareness of this thought that it’s possible to make a dumb mistake….and to take a look all over again and the genius of the universe for unfolding the way it does.

Maybe I have no idea of what fantastic things might come from any mistakes I’ve made…..but how marvelous to have the attitude that “mistakes” are actually corrections, and I’m not the one in charge. Thank goodness I’m not, because things have their way of going alternatively to my perceptions, and with inquiry, it’s usually better than I could have ever imagined.

“There’s no mistake in the universe. It’s not possible to have the concept ‘mistake’ unless you’re comparing what is with what isn’t. Without the story in your mind, it’s all perfect. No mistake…..Everyone is doing his job. No one is more valuable than another. The things in the world that we think are so terrible, are actually great teachers. There’s no mistake, and there’s nothing lacking.” ~ Byron Katie in 1000 Names For Joy

Today, see if you can sit with the thing you thought was a mistake, no matter how terrible you think it actually was, no matter how frightening, dreadful, worrisome, dangerous, sad.

Because, this inquiry is for THOSE dreadful things that happen, too.

Can you find just a small example (start with one) of the viewpoint that it may not have been for nothing, it may not be so bad, it may not mean what you think it meant, that it had nothing to offer?

Was learning involved? Did you notice what was not required for happiness (it can be stunning to become aware that even someone living, for example, or staying married to you, is not required for your happiness).

Because just a wee bit of attention towards this turnaround way of seeing it….

….could change your future, your life, your world.


And if it seems a little daunting, because you’re thinking of something very difficult for you….just start with the first question.

That was the worst thing ever, a terrible mistake….is it true?

Much love,


I have created a world where enemies are possible

Still some space in the May retreat for commuters only. We’re almost full, but if you’re considering, there’s still room. 26 CEUs for mental health professionals through Washington State Society for Clinical Social Work. May 11-14.

Breitenbush is starting to fill and this is one where the choice housing sells out fast (little gorgeous private cabins). Read about it HERE. Only one more month for early bird rate. (27 CEUs). June 21-25.

Being With Byron Katie July 8-11 on north Capitol Hill heart-of-Seattle private little home. 4 bedrooms, big kitchen, and simple large living room with excellent seating. Bedrooms available for those who wish to stay overnight (very low price compared to alternatives). Total silence for 4 days onsite, with two 3-hour sessions of streaming Byron Katie live to us from Switzerland. Only $185, probably the most inexpensive way possible to spend time with Byron Katie. 24 CEs for Certification Candidates in Institute for The Work. “The highlight of my entire year” ~ Summer 2016 participant.


Do you see yourself as the victim of a circumstance or situation or an interaction with someone?

Even the teensiest tiniest bit?

Because I’ve found, when I feel this way even just a wee smidgeon, the mind will take off so fast on how that person, or reality and life itself, Done Me Wrong.

Seriously, did you hear what she said? Oh, and that’s nothing. One time a man I know hurt me by….And then there was the time I broke my leg, hurt my back, got yelled at….Oh and also she betrayed me, it was terrible.

The mind kicks in with a story (or now that you’re asking, 100 stories) and goes from zero to 260 miles per hour in 4 seconds flat on how terrible, awful, horrible it was and I’m still getting over it today. It sets records with stories of being a victim and that person doing you wrong.

At least, that’s how my mind has run.

It’s not easy. And it can be incredibly frightening.

You see how you were hurt. Maybe over and over again, like some kind of weird recording loop getting stuck and playing repeatedly. A haunted house.

We’ll say to ourselves DO NOT THINK ABOUT THAT…MOVE ON!!

But no.

It’s right here in my consciousness, in my psyche. I’m thinking about it when awake at night.

I’ve received a few emails and had some individual sessions lately with beautiful inquirers who were really, really afraid and have experienced some pretty intense trauma in the past.

Can you do The Work on these dreadful situations? But they’re so frightening! How could asking four questions handle that heart-wrenching experience?

The astonishing thing is….I’ve found The Work CAN handle these experiences.

I mean, what else really is the problem except my thinking about it?

Because the event, the person, the situation, the circumstance….

….is actually over right now, in this present moment.

If you have trouble even thinking about going back to the difficulty, the pain, the terror, the trauma….here’s one thought you can question right now:

“I can’t handle this!”

People come with this thought in the eating peace program about a moment of compulsion all the time, but really it arises for many in all kinds of situations.

I can’t handle this feeling, this memory, this awareness, this incident, this image, this experience. I seriously Can’t Handle It. Don’t make me!

So before we even start questioning the thoughts about who did it and what happened and what you believe about what happened, if you notice great fear rising up about even doing The Work on something….let’s do The Work on this first thought, OK?

You can’t handle it.

Is it true?

Yes. This ruins my whole day. I just want to be over it, and never think about it again. I’m making myself sick about this. I HATE this memory. I want it to turn OFF. PLEASE. I’m getting tortured here. I really can’t handle it!!!!!!!!!

(Lots of exclamation points).

But can you absolutely know this is true that you can’t handle it?

Look around.

Where are you?

Are you being held up by the ground, the floor, a chair, a bed perhaps? Are you breathing, even if you think you can’t breathe?

I can’t know it’s absolutely true. I notice I’m handling it, even if it barely feels like it. Even if I’m scared to death.

How do you react when you believe you can’t handle it?

Totally freaking out.

Body full of resistance and tightness. Resentful. Defensive. Anxious.

So who would you be without the belief you can’t handle this?

Here you are in this situation: human remembering a painful event. Full of feelings. Flooded. Paralyzed (you think). But entirely without the thought you can’t handle it.

I know it isn’t comfortable.

This isn’t the blissful experience of being without thought.

Notice what’s actually true, though. Even if you have a nervous breakdown (or you could call it a huge crack and shift of consciousness). What I notice is you CAN handle it.

You already ARE handling it. You HAVE handled it.

Here’s a way that’s worked for me, to be with this wondering of who you are without your belief you can’t handle it: imagine your left elbow or your pinkie finger, or your skin.

These parts of you as a living entity handled it. You weren’t running, or needing to control, or being the manager of your pinkie finger and whether or not it could handle it. Maybe you aren’t running your mind either, as it dives off the diving board into fear. It’s just being itself, trying to protect and make sense of something.

The same mind can answer questions….it LOVES questions. It loves getting simpler, and finding answers.

You CAN handle your feelings.

What if they are here to help out? What if they’re suggesting you have some brilliantly powerful work to do?

Turning it around:

It can’t handle me.

How could this be as true, or truer?

“We perceive something as an enemy, when all we need to do is be present with it. It’s just love arising in form that we haven’t understood yet. And questioning the mind allows beliefs to simply arise. The quiet mind realizes that no belief is true, it is immovable in that, so there’s no belief it can attach to. It’s comfortable with them all….Projection would have us see reality as a ‘them’ and a ‘me’, but reality is much kinder….If there’s anything I’m afraid of losing, I have created a world where enemies are possible, and in such a world there’s no way to understand that whatever I lose I am better off without.” ~ Byron Katie in 1000 Names For Joy pg. 230

That thing I perceive as so traumatic? It can’t handle whatever this “me” is. This me is vast and expansive. This me is mind and thought, life force, presence, awareness. This me is consciousness, being human. Undefinable really. Mysterious.

The thoughts are puffs of smoke like those little exploding mushrooms in nature. Poof.

If I looked into a basket of my thoughts about that terrible trauma, I’d see air. Nothing. It’s all flashing images of a magnificent creative mind, re-member-ing. Attempting to tie things together, that aren’t actually together.

It’s OK that this mind tries to make sense. The mind itself is also not the enemy. It is a friend, bringing an offering, for inquiry.

It can’t handle you.

That’s truer.

Much love,

Death: if you don’t have a belief about it, you could just as well be filing your nails

I jolt up in bed in the middle of the night, heart racing and adrenaline pumping through my whole body.

I can’t feel my entire right arm.

It feels like it’s dead, no sensation, like a hunk of meat or someone else’s arm.

A minute after sitting up, looking into the dark room gathering my bearings, I feel pins and needles coming all through the arm. I cup my left hand and tap up and down the right arm, realizing it fell so asleep it was completely numb as if with anesthesia. A minute later I start to open and close the right hand fingers. They can move again.

My heart slows down. I lie back down in the dark room, listening to the sound of my sweetheart breathing deeply next to me in the soft bed.

All is entirely well. It was here, then over so quickly.

But I still think about it in the morning when I awaken again at the “normal” time (this time without any adrenaline).

What was so alarming for the body? It was almost like there was no thought, only pure panic.

Yet, there was a thought. There WAS a belief.

There had to be, to have such a feeling of terror for a split second.

The mind is exceptionally quick. It takes in the situation and responds instantly, almost simultaneously, the minute it’s conscious of what’s actually happening…..when it believes the thing happening is a THREAT.


I had to chuckle.

Because it reminded me of doing The Work on death and dying.

I know it’s kind of dramatic–from numb arm to death–but that’s what the brain seemed to conclude. Survival mechanism kicked in. Red blinking lights and loud sirens! WAKE UP!

Now, I didn’t keep thinking of that fearful moment (it wasn’t frightening within seconds) and replaying the experience. It wasn’t pleasant, but the required function of yelling at the body to move, so it stayed alive, kicked in on auto-pilot. It’s what the body-mind does.

In my daily work….once it was the light of day….that arm situation offered some brilliant awareness of scary thoughts about being on the edge, thinking of dying, being aware of one more day today, and the miracle it’s even here.

Aware that I may not have another day tomorrow, and today could be the last.

There will be a last day, for everyone, including me.

Death is….frightening, mysterious and unknown, definite, sad, disturbing.

Shall we do The Work? On such a profound topic as death?

Ahhhh, yes. In many ways, every piece of work is about death, but for now, let’s inquire.

Is it true that death is frightening, disturbing?

I have absolutely no idea.

Most people don’t.

Not true.

How do I react when I believe death is frightening, disturbing…or sad?

I whimper. I associate heart-racing nighttime panic with fear of death, even though now that I’m inquiring about death, I have no idea what to even be afraid of.

With the thought of death as disturbing, I’m sad, wondering how long I’ll be here on planet earth? Wondering if I’ll die first or she will or he will, or what my deathbed will look like? Will I know before it happens, or will it be a surprise? (LOL).

Mind picks at it, wanting answers and throwing out ideas, but nothing is known, or certain. Except in the present moment, a feeling of disturbance and mystery and sadness, or worry.

So who would I be without the thought that death is disturbing, frightening, worrisome, sad, a concern?

Even in that moment when I wake up with my heart beating out of my chest for some weird reason because my arm died….

….without the belief death is frightening or something to be upset about….

….I find a sense of humor come forth.

I notice the velvetty beauty of a dark midnight awakeness, and silence, and the little sounds in the house, and the mechanism that wakes someone up physically to readjust an arm.

I notice not being so afraid of the pulse of energy in the body, and everything settles quickly down again, and I return to sleep.

Something alive and well, waking the sleeping mind up, if the need arises.

Without the thought of death being disturbing, then “close calls” can happen, or near misses, or little visitations about death, or illness, injury, sudden change, disease….and even these are not so distressing (or maybe waaaaay less disturbing, even curious) when death isn’t something to be concerned about.

Without death as a worry, I might notice the question “am I dying?” and the answer “nope, not today” while still being wisely aware that one day it WILL be the day. Always getting closer.

Turning the thought around: Death is NOT frightening, sad, disturbing. Death is beautiful, safe, joyful.

Could this be just as true?

Well of course it could.

“The Work is wonderful, because it leaves you with the real thing, beyond all answers. It leaves you with no concepts of who you should be. There are no models, no ideals; the goal isn’t to be wise or spiritual. You just notice what is…..If someone comes toward you with a gun and says he’s going to kill you and you’re scared, go ahead and run. That’s no less spiritual than any other reaction. But if you don’t have a belief about it, you’re free. You can run or stay–it doesn’t matter, because whatever you do, you’re at peace. Oh, you might think, he thinks he’s going to kill me. You could just as well be filing your nails. That’s freedom.” ~ Byron Katie in 1000 Names For Joy

This Thursday at 1 pm PT I’ll be over on Facebook WorkWithGrace page live talking about fear, of just about anything. Your questions are welcome so reply to this email and let me know what you’d like to ask about fear. No question to large, or too small, for this work.

Much love,


With the body…don’t look for a better thought. Use your imagination.

View your situation, without the thought I should look or be different, when it comes to the body.

This week in Year of Inquiry, we started our Month #7 together on a very profound topic: the body.

The body brings so much stress and painful thinking, it seems.

It gets sick, gets hurt, gets old. We have thoughts and beliefs about what it can give us (a partner, love, pleasure, attraction). We have beliefs about what could be taken away, or what we might lose.

In many ways, the body gives us every single kind of stressful possibility we could ever believe in about the universe and about life (and death). The body can be threatened, harmed, or gone.

There seems to be a really clear list of pros and cons about the body, right?

Pro: vitality, energy, youth, beauty, athleticism, skill, strength, health, zest

Con: slow, lethargic, old, ugly, bumbling, ungraceful, weak, sick, decay

I’m in favor of the Pro List! I hate the Con List!

The thing is, when you believe these without a single question about whether they’re true….you can live an entire life on planet earth trying to manipulate, push, press on, get, grab and demand the Pro List.

Anti-aging programs, special fitness regimes, the right fashion, face-lifts, surgery, gym workouts, control, willpower, diets, money spent, fear, exhaustion, fighting.

I need to have the “Pro” list of things at all times, or at least die trying.

How do you react, though, when you believe you must do everything you possibly can to remain….healthy and alive and attractive?


Very anxious.

Upset when looking in the mirror and seeing wrinkles, or flab, or cellulite, or pimples, or the “wrong” hair, race, age, gender.

Horribly frightened when getting a diagnosis of cancer, or another disease, or when I have an accident and lose an arm, or break an ankle.

These things happen constantly in the world, in life, and yet we freak out like they aren’t supposed to happen, like we’re SHOCKED.

I’ll never forget the moment when I came back to the doctor to get my biopsy stitches removed. Only four. It was a small weird looking bump on my thigh. I hardly thought about it for the week I had to wait for results.

But the doctor came in and removed the stitches and said “looks like it’s healing well. How about we talk about this after you get dressed again? I’ll come back in just a few minutes.”


We have to “talk” about this?

A massive shot of adrenaline coursed through my system. Could this be cancer or something? What’s going on? Brain kicked into gear, pulling on pants very fast, opening the door to say “OK, I’m ready!” Heart racing as I hear the doctor’s steps return down the hall and the sound of the clunk of her grabbing my chart out of the wall-holder again.

The bump we biopsied was actually a cancerous tumor. A sarcoma. You’ll need to get the whole thing removed. 

Now, this wasn’t that big of a deal in so many ways. I had surgery during only 2 hours, in a day clinic not a hospital, and had 50 stitches this time. But it was the kind of cancer, they reported, that rarely if ever moves through the rest of the body. In other words, the whole thing got chopped out, and it was over. I told people I had a fight with a pirate.

Except…..in the mind, of course.

In the mind, I went through the surgery about 148 times, give or take a few. Scenes would flash in my head: smoke rising from the devices they use to stop the bleeding, feeling the stings of many numbing injections with huge needles into the thigh, hearing the voices of the surgeon and nurses, looking up at the dotted ceiling, my mom coming in to help me walk out at the end with a completely numb leg.

Flash, flash, flash. Like lightbulbs going off repeating the events, over and over.

How did I react with the belief I need the PRO List in order to be happy, when this is not on the Pro List….this is on the Con List?

Angry. Frightened. Wondering how much more time I have. Wondering what age I’ll die at. Wondering if I’ll get cancer again, only worse. Thinking I should eat more broccoli.

Some people report when they get “bad” news of any kind in this body department, they prefer to hide. Not only do I need to survive, but I need to do it looking good, so if I can’t look good or calm or easy-going or peaceful, I’ll stay home!

So who would you actually be, without the belief you need it to be any kind of way in this body, in order to be happy?

Wait. What the….? You mean….?


What if you really did not need it to be any other way that it is, in order to be happy?

What if….and this is really getting into wild uncharted territory….what if what was happening, was actually offering something incredible for my development, or my awareness?

What if what was happening was….interesting, good, had a benefit, or an advantage?

I’ve had the privilege of doing The Work with people from time to time on cancer or other terminal or difficult diseases.

They are incredible people. They can sit with their bodies, as they are, and open themselves up to wondering who they’d be without their stressful thoughts, their war, against cancer.

What if no war was necessary?

I noticed I still had the tumor cut out. Bye bye.

But there’s this strange feeling of excitement about watching this body and this life handle it. Not collapse, or remain terrified every moment of the day. Even with 148 reviews of the operation. Those reviews faded away, and vanished, with The Work.

As the Year of Inquiry group started this month of work on The Body, people had such magnificent worksheets to begin their investigations: Men don’t like women who are fat, They are threatening me because of race, The crick in my neck ALWAYS hurts.


Turning the thought around: Having the body be like the PRO list is not required for happiness, or peace.

How could this be just as true, or truer?

Well, I’ve had many happy moments since my tumor got cut off. LOL. And my skin is getting more wrinkling every day, and I injured myself badly several years ago, my back aches sometimes, and my right toe is going hammerhead….but I can find how wonderful this all is. I barely think about any of this.

I don’t have to stay here on planet earth forever. This is temporary. I’ll move along at some point, like everyone else.

I’ve slowed down. I don’t feel the need to go running for miles everyday like I once did. I have time for meditation.

These challenges gave me the invitation to surrender, to shift something at a profoundly deep level.

As one inquirer recently shared with me, who has stage 4 cancer, there is nothing in this world or lifetime that would be more perfect for her for teaching her to open her hands in gratitude, and letting go of control, than having cancer.

Amazing. Amazing.

“Use your imagination to give yourself a glimpse of who or what you would be without this thought. Don’t look for a better thought to substitute for the painful one. Just live for awhile in the space that opens up when you view your situation without the old thought. What would that be like?” ~ Byron Katie in I Need You Love–Is That True?

Much love,


I was hurt….or healed?

Is it true you will ALWAYS be hurt by that situation in the past? What if you could tell a healing story instead?

This month in Year of Inquiry, we’re looking at Hurt, Anger and Fear. One aspect of YOI this year that’s new, are some of the topics. Plus we always have a 90 minute Introduction ABOUT the topic, before we go into the topic, and best practices for The Work on it. With slides.

Someone said today as we’re in our second week….It’s big, this one.

She said she felt a lot of anxiety and like her nervous system is a little overstimulated.

Looking at the times we’ve been hurt in our lives seems overwhelming, sad, infuriating.

Well, it certainly produces anger, and fear. Feelings of Never Again.

Hurt brings out the urgency to relax and get away from the wild feelings of anxiety or tension.

It’s truly profound to take one situation, only one (not too many, not more than one, not EVERY situation we’ve ever known where we felt hurt)….

….and then sit comfortably and quietly and write down our thoughts that were born out of that situation, using the Judge Your Neighbor worksheet.

I notice, if I keep holding every situation in my mind producing “hurt” I’m going to feel pretty full of despair, sadness, hopelessness, fear, or overwhelm. I see flashing pictures of people I’ve felt hurt by, difficult situations.

But a very core, underlying belief appears for inquiry in all this. It’s so simple, I almost didn’t see it.

I was hurt.

Is that true?

Yes. It crushed me. It broke my heart. I was physically changed. My life was never the same again. It was terrible. So hurt.

Picture only ONE of those situations where you felt hurt.

Are you absolutely sure it’s true you were?

Are you positive, without any doubt whatsoever, you were hurt by this outside force–a person, incident, experience–and it was awful?

It’s OK to say “yes” if you think so.

But as I investigate this thought…..can I absolutely know I was hurt for all time, forever? Can I know I was damaged? Can I know whatever broke should NOT have broken? Can I really know absolutely that nothing important came from it?


How do you react when you think “I was hurt”.

I avoid any situation that could appear to be like it again. I’m careful in relationships. I don’t share. I keep to myself. I give up. I remember the pain. I run away.

I feel like someone who was hurt.

So who would you be without this belief “I was hurt”?

My mind almost goes….Wha??

What do you mean? But I WAS! I was hurt! I can tell you the whole story of how hurt I was and the scenes and proof and incidents and terrible moments! You would agree! Other people DO agree, who have heard my stories. I won’t be silenced!

OK, this isn’t about saying you’re crazy, or being in denial, or pretending what happened didn’t actually happen when it’s vivid in your mind’s eye. It’s not about keeping quiet, either.

It’s simply noticing what it’s like in the spaces between the thought “I was hurt” and without the conclusions you make about being hurt that never end.

It’s being without the belief that “I was hurt and it for sure means (terrible, negative, awful, horrible, vile, horrifying).”


Without the belief I was ever hurt….I’m at peace right now.

I feel completely content, relaxed and comfortable in this moment. All is extremely well, and I notice the only thing alarming–if they appear–are my negative thoughts about being hurt.

Turning the thought around: I was not hurt.

What are my examples?

Well, I’m sitting here writing about it.

You find examples you know are real for you, no matter how small. I’m physically intact. I grew up. I survived. That person never yelled at me (the situation I’m thinking of, she just disappeared).

Turning the thought around again, can you find any examples of how you hurt the other person, or you attacked…..either someone else, or yourself?

I hurt myself by repeatedly remembering it and speaking the story to lots of people and holding it as a story of endless pain and agony and fear. I hurt myself by believing it was not-get-over-able. I hurt the other person in my mind, wishing for her failure and suffering, believing she was incapable of love and honesty, thinking of her as so powerful as to ruin my life.

Long ago when I was doing The Work on this very thought, the person facilitating me said she saw another turnaround.

Oh? I thought I got all three, and found examples for them all.

Well, she said, you could turn it all the way around to the complete opposite “I was healed” in that situation. What do you think?

I was back to No Words. What?? Healed?


That wasn’t a healing situation, it was a suffering, painful, difficult….

….Oh. Right.

(I was already back into proving my original thought, even though I just did The Work. Already back into bolstering up how awful and hurtful it had all been, how painful, how much I had suffered, how it was all that other person’s fault, or God’s fault).



You sure do ask a lot here. Isn’t it enough that I’m doing The Work at all?

And yet….I began to find it.

I was healed, in that situation with that person, because I lived my life onward with greater awareness. I began to stand up straighter, move forward despite my thinking. I felt the presence of life, of the earth, of this temporary organism called me and how difficult situations are temporary–they aren’t happening endlessly 24/7. I unhooked myself from depending on the physical body, or relationships, or the place I’m standing, or money, or anything in reality to be a certain way in order to feel peace.

I was offered the experience of accepting loss, and seeing beyond it.

“Don’t anticipate and don’t regret, and there will be no pain. It is memory and imagination that causes suffering….When the mind takes over, remembers and anticipates, it exaggerates, it distorts, it overlooks…..Question, observe, investigate, learn all you can about confusion, how it operates, what it does to you and others. By being clear about confusion you become clear of confusion.” ~ Nisargadatta

When you’re discouraged, or you think your situation is too big and too overwhelming to question….

….narrow it down. Inquire into only one difficult moment. Write the Judge Your Neighbor worksheet. Then start with one concept, only one.

Who would you be without that one thought, in that one situation?

Wait for the answers.

Having a time when you were hurt does not mean forever, does not mean revisiting, remembering, anticipating, distorting.

Could it be also true something here is OK now, that healing also happened?


Much love,


Danger, danger…but are you sure your thoughts are true?

Who would you be, in that serious situation, without the belief you’re in danger? Could you be supported?

Today is the anniversary of my father’s death.

It was a very long time ago, and I’m so used to living without him being physically present in my life, there is no dreadful pain about his absence.

But it wasn’t always this way.

When he first got diagnosed with incurable, terminal cancer, a wave went driving through me of deep fear, anguish, and grief.

It was terrible, horrible news.

I was filled with dread.

In Year of Inquiry we’re really diving deep in our third month together into some great and profound questions, related to fear.

I remembered vividly, when I heard someone else’s work on the fear they had for their own child’s safety….

….the fear I felt when I learned my father was going to die.

Worrying about someone else is so stressful.

But here’s what I absolutely love about inquiry. It can open up your mind to seeing clearly, and seeing beyond the fear.

What is safety? Why do I feel so unsafe, in this situation? What am I expecting of myself, or of others, or of life….when I think it’s threatening? 

And hey, wait a minute!

Where did I get this idea anyway, that something’s OFF and unsafe or dangerous?

Is it this situation, or Reality, that is off? Or my thinking?

We know intellectually that Byron Katie and other thought leaders and spiritual teachers are offering perspective on this whole “mind” and “thinking” thing, right?

Katie suggests our thinking is the cause of suffering, not the actual conditions of reality. She invites us to look, over and over, as a practice.

“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.” ~ Byron Katie

Holy Smokes….let’s test it out.

Let’s look at this very common and VERY troubling belief: I am not safe.

Notice you can only think you should be experiencing something different, this “safe” thing, if you believe you aren’t and it’s bad, bad, bad.

I am not safe (TERRIBLE)!

Is it true?

To really dig into this inquiry as you read, find a situation in which you felt unsafe. Emotionally, physically, spiritually–whatever your circumstance.

Is it true, you’re in danger?


I remember the circumstances, many of them, when I felt unsafe.

The doctor is telling me the tumor on my leg is cancer. I’m in full-stop traffic miles away, with my 5 year old standing in the rain in the dark by himself, waiting. I’m reading an alarming text. I’m reading an email that says someone’s coming over NOW and they are desperate. I’m hearing a phone message where someone implies I’m a liar, and another phone message where someone says I’m not being a good friend.

I learn someone very close to me (like my dad) are very sick or going to die. I’m suddenly at the scene of a car accident right after it happened. I can’t reach the man I have a crush on, he’s not ever calling me back. I open the trunk of my car and see it’s empty–all my luggage has been stolen.

Not safe! Surely!

You are not safe.

Is it absolutely true for all time, beyond all doubt?

I pause, wondering about this moment, holding still.

Astonishingly, I notice I can’t know it’s absolutely true I am not safe. Even though I just injured myself, even though someone I love just received a diagnosis, even though my stuff is apparently gone (stolen) and I feel energy coursing through me. I can’t absolutely know I am not safe.


How do you react when you believe “this is a threat, I am not safe, this is dangerous”?

I clench up tight. I stop breathing deeply. I want to quit everything, why bother trying in this dangerous world? I see pictures of how things will go (badly) and terrible scenes I imagine for the future, and sad memories from the past. I attack myself, or I attack the attackers in my mind.

I condemn nervousness or anxiety as bad and wrong, and I act tough. I avoid any place or any person who threatens me. THEY are the one making me feel this terrible feeling of danger, after all.

I treat myself like I’m meek and tiny, and unable to handle these feelings or this threat. I run.

So who would you be without this thought, this story of the lack of safety? What if you didn’t know this person, this situation, was dangerous?

Some people think, with this question….my God, I’d be crazy! I’d be walking right into something without fear, and not even know it.


And this isn’t about being passive, or being stupid and defying gravity or something.

You can still follow traffic rules, make lists of pros and cons for spending money, notice you drop everything and leave your house when you learn your kid has a broken wrist at school.

But you’re taking action without terror. You’ve moved, without personally believing it MUST go a certain way, or else.

You do the most efficient, kind, loving thing. That’s who you are, without panic. Someone who cares. Someone who moves to help, if you’re able.

I once remember Katie facilitating someone through their thought “I’m afraid of the cancer in my body!”

She asked the person; “Do you think the cancer is more likely to go away…if you hate it and fear it, or you don’t mind it’s there?”


Without the belief that I’m threatened…..WOW. I’m wondering where this is going? I’m open. I’m stepping forward, even if it’s in the dark. I’m feeling about, I’m curious, even excited.

Even about the Big Fears, like death and loss and change.

Turning the thought around: I am not threatened in this situation, I am not in danger, I am safe.

Could this be just as true, or truer?

What part of you is OK?

I notice, I’m alive, I’m unhurt physically, I thought I was threatened but actually I only read words, or heard words. Bodies are temporary, and some last longer than others. Things are temporary, too.

Without the belief that I’m unsafe, as I hear troubling news from someone else, I might just sit, stay connected to the person, notice I have only kindness to offer and speaking isn’t necessary.

Turning it around even further: I am supported, all is well, everything is not only OK but brilliant, loving, wonderful.

I know that sounds a bit over the top, considering some of the human situations we find ourselves in. I’m not saying I’d be happy in some very grave, shocking news.

And yet….who knows what is possible?

I notice I would live, even if my child died. I notice I lived, even though my father did die. I notice I’m sitting in a very quiet room, with a heater humming hot air into the space, and a beautiful orange lamp shining, with a cup of peppermint tea and some apple slices sitting within reach. It is extremely safe.

It is as if, right now in this very moment, nothing terrible HAS ever happened, unless I remember or think about it.

It is true that I am only threatened if I THINK.

What I notice, too, is when I was in very apparently dangerous situations, I did not actually “think”.

Thinking happened afterwards. I took in what was happening, I moved, I ducked, I ran, I waited, I showed up, I left.

Who was I without my story?

Life in action. Human, being itself.

Human learning something different. Human discovering what it’s like to not believe it’s thoughts.

Human living with no requirements, conditions, demands (except in thought)….or true lack of safety, ever.

Human spinning through space on a small planet called earth, here for a few seconds by comparison to Reality.

Here, noticing what is sweet and lovely, and bitter and difficult, and noticing I’m not running this joint.

Thank God.

“The Master acts without doing anything and reaches without saying anything. Things arise and she lets them come; things disappear and she lets them go. She has but doesn’t possess, acts but doesn’t expect. When her work is done, she forgets it. That is why it lasts forever.” ~ Tao Te Ching #2 (Translated by Stephen Mitchell)

Much love,


P.S. If you notice anxiety, fear, nerves, emptiness, boredom, anger when it comes to eating, food and body….I’m offering a MasterClass on Wednesday, November 23rd 1:00-2:30 pm. Eating Peace: How To Question Your Thoughts That Drive Off-Balance Eating. Register here.

Back to basics: the first step leading to freedom….do it well

hc-cozywinternotebookjynbigsizephotoIf you’re a member of the Institute for The Work (for people who have attended The School for The Work who go on to regular practice and training) I’m teaching a fabulous five week course called “Basics” starting Monday, Nov. 14th at 4:00 pm. (Two spots left by the way….come join us if you’re in ITW!)

Now, the reason I’m mentioning this here in Grace Notes is because ANYONE can create this “BASIC” approach to doing your own self-inquiry work.

And you WANT to give attention to the simple, basic details of this work….because this is your freedom we’re talking about. Your thoughts and your answers. Your transformation.

This can be especially helpful if you notice you’ve done The Work on the same person about 100 times.

(Not that I’d know anything about this).

So, how do you get back to basics?

The key is slowing waaaaay down when you feel the explosion or sudden hit of emotional stress….and taking out that pen and paper so you can identify what you’re believing and thinking in writing.

The key is to spend deliberately quiet thoughtful time answering the questions on the Judge Your Neighbor worksheet.

Try it right now if you like.

First of all, here’s a Judge Your Neighbor worksheet. Open it up, so you can see the questions clearly if you don’t have them memorized.

Now, think of an uncomfortable situation. Something that happened with another person where you felt unappreciated, hurt, attacked, misunderstood.

Again, this is the first and deeply important step in doing The Work is what we’re calling the basics: IDENTIFYING what you’re thinking that hurts in the first place.

If you have a situation where you’ve gotten bugged, you’re going to pause and answer these questions, maybe more slowly than you ever have before….rather than full speed ahead in REACTING mode like we always did before we heard of The Work.

I notice reaction all the time, by the way. Something happens or something is said or a tiny transgression appears in my day, a little disappointment….and I feel scared, or sad, or nervous, or worried.

Most of us have this going on….we receive or encounter something, we have contact with another person, and if it’s scary or sad or upsetting, we’ll have feelings buzzing or crashing around inside.

I know sometimes these feelings are like a tornado, sometimes thunder and lightening, sometimes an irritating mosquito. It doesn’t matter the level, though, or the height of the emotion….

….the thing is noticing it, and then thinking “Ah ha! I will write down what I’m thinking right now! This could be interesting!”

(Or, this could save my life).

Doing this first step in The Work is an incredible practice, a habit to get into when encountering something uncomfortable, or devastating. You have something, besides being dragged around by your feelings, to explore with your mind.

Sometimes, what I notice about big strong feelings is, there’s a panic to “do” something, to take action, as soon as possible. Fix it, resolve it, get to safety, figure this problem out.

DO something about the feeling itself.

All that can go on, and the actual behavior you notice yourself doing when you practice The Work is….walking over to the place where you keep paper, or opening up your phone app if you like doing The Work on your device, and holding still a moment so you can “catch” your speeding thoughts on paper.

In this Basics course, I love that we spend primary time on getting the stressful thoughts down….not so much on actually “doing” The Work although we do that too (which is answering the four questions) but concentrating on giving ourselves the freedom and clarity of writing down what the heck we’re thinking that brings on so much stress inside.

So if you’re up for this today, follow along:

The first question is “Who angers, confuses or disappoints you, and why?”

Sometimes, you may be tempted to go off a little on “why” this person angered, confused or disappointed you. Proving what a jerk they were. So go ahead and write a little if you’re moved. But then, bring yourself back to answering the question. You simply want to write, not so you start analyzing yourself or the other person. Not so you can find the “right” answer in your mind. Not so you justify your feelings.

No, if you do that, you could go down a rabbit hole for awhile.

Instead, sit with this question about why you’re so disturbed in this situation: right in that very moment you learned “x” or the person said “y” what were you feeling? Why did you feel it? Because that person ______.

Keep it simple.

What I like to do is write it down and then ask myself….does that really capture it? Is that why I’m upset? Or is there a clearer more striking reason? What’s going on here?

I don’t try to NOT be upset. (I notice it’s too late). I’m not trying to be anything.

I’m simply taking dictation from my thinking, without editing, without judging myself as a bad person, just letting things rip if they are, allowing it all to come alive on paper.

Then, you get to answer the other questions on the Judge Your Neighbor worksheet.

How do you want that person to change? You can have a hissy fit, a tantrum, and feel like you’re 4 years old screaming your head off.

And let me tell you, it’s way better to do this on paper than directly to the person, which doesn’t always turn out well for anyone, right?

You don’t wind up feeling ashamed, saying things that aren’t really true in the end. You don’t attack and speak violently. You love and support yourself more….and the other person usually, too, by taking this space and time to write down what you’re thinking when you feel emotional pain.

Question three: What advice do you give this other human being, so they improve, or become easier to deal with, or care about you or themselves more….or so the situation becomes fun, relaxed, good (in your opinion)? The answer to this question always starts with “they should/he should/she should” or “they shouldn’t/she shouldn’t/he shouldn’t”.

Yes, we’ve all heard that “shoulding” on people is a drag (or on yourself) but let’s get it out, on the piece of paper, anyway.

This work is about writing down what comes to the stressed out, nervous, upset part of your mind and acknowledging it by writing it down. NOT by quickly trying to push these thoughts away, or to be non-judgmental, or to make yourself be gracious or kind or magnanimous.

No sirree, you get to catch these dark thoughts, the ones full of malice and hurt and pain, right here on the paper. We don’t even care about bringing in philosophies of how you “should” think or act in this type of situation. Instead, you’re writing down what you actually DO think that’s so stressful.

The fourth question on the JYN is “What do you need for this other person to do in order to be happy in this situation?”

It’s one of the best questions for sitting and answering much more slowly than we usually allow ourselves. What do you really, truly, honestly need this other person to do, say, think, feel, act like…..that would change your response to “happy” from “enraged” or “devastated”?

That’s a major question. Sometimes people say to me….what I need them to do is virtually impossible. It could never, ever happen and they will never, ever act that other “better” way.

I say, write it down anyway.

These are YOUR thoughts you’re living with and dealing with. To inquire into them will bring YOU peace of mind, no matter what that other person does in the end.

On the Judge Your Neighbor worksheet, you get to then write down two more items: first, call that person every name and quality you see in them. Cuss if you feel like it. She is_____. He is _____. Include all the ways you would describe them, all the words you use. This is your statement of what you see in this other, through your eyes.

It doesn’t mean you’re an awful person, if you write down terrible, mean, ugly, vicious things. This is only a part of the mind at work. It’s the scared, pessimistic, desperate part of your mind, the one that’s interested in YOU and self-preservation. The one that doubts you are supported.

That’s the part we’re working with, in all this inquiry work.

You can keep the trusting, joyful, easy-going parts of yourself. You can keep the faithful parts, your expansive mind, your loving impulses for connection and sharing.

Finally, on the Judge Your Neighbor worksheet the very last question six is one I love pondering: “What is it you never, ever want to experience again?”

Don’t you love how the mind will say this big grand statements like whatever answer you come up with to this last question? I don’t EVER, EVER want this to EVER happen again! NEVER!

Like you’re shaking your fist at the universe!

It’s so good to know what some fearful part of you decided in that situation. Because then….you can un-ravel it! You can inquire!

If you don’t question this, that fretting and suspicious part of the mind will focus very intently on avoiding anything that looks like that dreaded situation. You’ll be using tons of energy (at least I sure did) trying to get away from this sort of situation in the future.

Getting these answers very clear, spending time on your own precious thoughts, and the details, the exact way you personally answer the questions….

….is like finding a handful of gold nuggets in a river bed.

Or perhaps even a handful of diamonds. In a cave. Two miles underground.

Each crazy, stressful, ridiculous, immature thought can be taken all on its own through the four questions.

It’s simpler when you do this on paper, one at a time.

I know, I know….everyone wants to do The Work while driving. Me too. Can’t we just do this in our heads while going out to buy milk at the store?

When I do that, I miss significantly important pieces of this work, every single time. (You think?)

If you have a deep, painful issue….Step One is fill out the Judge Your Neighbor worksheet very slowly, thoroughly, with simple sentences and DO NOT JUDGE your own thoughts. You don’t have to show them to anyone.

But these thoughts are your ticket to freedom. At least, they have been for me.

From thework.com website: “The Work is a simple yet powerful process of inquiry that teaches you to identify and questionthe thoughts that cause all the suffering in the world. It’s a way to understand what’s hurting you, and to address the cause of your problems with clarity.”

If you’ve had trouble resolving a situation, bring it back to the basics.

Answer the questions, get your pain on paper.

Now, you can do something truly transformational with it: The Work.

Much love,