Only six days until Autumn Retreat in northeast Seattle, Washington up here in the beautiful corner of the US near Canada. Woohoo! Still room for two commuters, and one person could stay onsite (one comfy and gorgeous bedroom is available).
If you want a shorter simple half-day retreat, come over to my cottage Sunday, October 14th 2-6 pm. People drive from Spokane or Portland or Vancouver BC for these little half-day intensives. A sweet way to write one worksheet and “get the job done” as Katie says. Only 2 spots left. Register before if you can.
Who knows what else can shift when we spend the time together, deliberately, meditating in self-inquiry, the four questions, and sharing what distresses us.
There’s something profound about doing this work together, in the company of others, that just isn’t the same as doing it alone.
The last 2018 opportunity for in-person gathering in The Work is at Breitenbush HotSprings Resort, and it’s an amazing deal at $245 tuition before 11/1. You’ll choose lodging and every meal will be included. Cozy, off-the-grid, focused time on your inner life during this sometimes stressful holiday time of year. Call Breitenbush to sign up.
Speaking of holidays coming.
The other day I heard someone in Year of Inquiry mention visiting her parents soon, who lived in another city. Five days in her childhood home.
Her comment about the length of five days?
That it was loooooooong. Likely stressful. Perhaps torturous.
It’s not uncommon to anticipate hard moments when it comes to getting together with family, right?
Canadian Thanksgiving just happened last weekend, and some of my Canadian clients had a few words to say about the gatherings held with family.
The holiday season is upon us, even if you don’t celebrate much. There will be decor out there, and invitations. We pack our bags, fly on airplanes, drive many hours, take time off from work, buy gifts, prepare food.
And there those people are. The ones we’re often related to. Being themselves. Just like always.
She’s so critical. He doesn’t try to get to know me. They ignore me. She always has something negative to say. He’s repeats himself. They drink too much. They drink too little. They expect me to cook. He buys too many gifts. She’s too serious. He’s too much of a jokester. They don’t appreciate me.
The same concerns, sometimes ever since childhood, we anticipate happening again. And again. And again.
But what happens if we inquire, instead, and actually take a look at these people using The Work to explore our objections, concerns, fears, anxieties, and upsets?
Is it true they always criticize? Is it true you don’t really belong? Is it true you can’t measure up? Is it true you probably won’t have a good time?
No. I can’t be sure without a doubt.
But even if you think you CAN be sure, and those people have been the same for decades so-why-expect-anything-to-change-NOW….
….consider who you are in this moment as you think of family (or whoever–it doesn’t have to be family, it just has to be THOSE people) and you have troubling thoughts about them?
I brace myself.
I think….hmmmm. Maybe I should just stay home. I think about just surviving, or getting through it (not actually enjoying myself). I have an energetic shield up. I’m ready for the incoming barb, or attack, or judgment. I’m defended. I’m sad. I’m worn out. I’m resentful.
So who would you be without your story of these people?
What if you were going to visit them for the very first time, and you had never met them before?
What would it be like to be fascinated with the dynamic, the people, the scene….with no expectations whatsoever?
Who would you be without the thought you know what it’ll be like (and it’s not good)?
Right in this moment while I’m imagining my own family all gathered together and the exercise of seeing them for the very first time with no story….
….I suddenly remembered a lovely inquirer who attended Breitenbush retreat last year telling me she was shocked at the elegance of Breitenbush.
I asked her what she had expected?
She replied she thought it would be two hot tubs in the Oregon forest at the end of a dirt road. She was surprised beyond expectation. Stunned in fact.
Could this also happen with family, if we look at them with no story, using our imaginations to watch, with curiosity, like we were aliens from another planet?
So this inquiry can apply to anything you anticipate in the future. Any journey or gathering. Any traveling plans.
Who would you be if you didn’t have any expectations but were getting an interesting tour of planet earth?
I’d be excited. I’d feel full of laughter. I wouldn’t do anything I didn’t want to do, but I’d ask questions. I’d say out loud “what were you thinking when you looked at me that way just now?” or “I’ve noticed that about me, too” or “Hmmm, when you make that comment, I feel worried you don’t like me” or “I have no idea what I’ll be doing next year, do you have a suggestion?”
It’s so fun to wonder what it would be like as they do their thing, and I’m not stressed about it. What an interesting exercise!
Turning the thoughts all around to every opposite, one-by-one, is the powerful last step.
I turn it around to myself: I am like that to me.
I turn it around to the other: I’m critical of her, I don’t try to get to know him, I ignore them, I always have something negative to say in my head, etc….
I turn it around to the opposite: She’s accepting. He does try to get to know me. They don’t ignore me–they’re including me right now in their own way. She does NOT always have something negative to say. He doesn’t repeat himself. They drink just right, for my own learning and awareness in their presence. They don’t expect me to cook. He buys just the right amount of gifts. She’s serious and it’s wonderful. He’s a jokester and it’s brilliant. They appreciate me.
Could our opposites be just as true, or truer?
You have to find genuine examples you already believe, that you really already know are true.
The reason so many of us do The Work is because to sit with this inquiry allows us to see without our assumptions. We find acceptance of those characters in our lives.
Maybe not just acceptance, but a freedom to be ourselves, and to be happy, no matter who’s around.
Even her. Even him.
“If you think you’re so enlightened, go spend a week with your family.” ~ Ram Dass
If you’d like to get truly transformational support on doing this work of the master, come gather with us in retreat.
Question your stories, change your holiday season.
First Friday Inquiry Hour is 7:45 am – 9:15 am Pacific Time.
Join me live right here. Audio only. Use phone or WebCall to connect for free and be heard (should you decide to share). If you prefer to be listen-only then connect using Broadcast.
The options for joining First Friday sometimes don’t appear until 15 minutes before the call. Come at 7:30 to take your virtual seat on the call.
Can’t wait to do The Work with you.
This past week, in the very same format as First Friday,(everyone gathering via teleconference) a profoundly stressful thought appeared from one of our group members in Year of Inquiry.
She should have stopped the suffering.
I witnessed precisely this same thought a few weeks ago on retreat, and the same thought in a retreat last year.
I’ve sat individually with others investigating at this thought.
I’ve felt the rage of wanting Someone Else to fix it, and believing I was unable–but they were.
They should stop the suffering!
She should take us to safety. He shouldn’t have let this happen. They shouldn’t have taken such risks.
I remember believing this about my father and mother.
We’re driving in our van on a dirt road through tall yellow grasses. My mother is looking tensely at a map and speaking sharply to my father who is driving and saying “this has to be the right road, there aren’t any other roads!”
The sun is getting low.
I sense we were supposed to be somewhere by now, wherever our destination is for the night. My three sisters and I have been playing word games and looking out the window at the African landscape.
We hear gun shots.
In the distance I see a lone house begin to come into view in the orange light. Someone is standing and waving their arms back and forth above their head in the way that appears to be a universal sign for “Look here! Over here!”
We bump down the dirt road, my dad stops the van, and grown ups are talking to one another while we four kids are still in the car. My parents come back to say we’re not staying here, we still have a ways to go to get to the peanut farm.
Nothing more happened. Nothing terrible occurred.
But there was so much tension in the air, I still remember it quite vividly. The fear, the sharp words, the not knowing what was happening or where we were exactly (a country called Rhodesia).
When we get to the peanut farm, the white family greets us (we are also white) and there are whispers about the dangers, but we’re ushered into comfortable bedrooms with mosquito netting.
I look back and learn of that year we were on the road, and all the insane political events happening very close. I wonder about my parents taking us to dangerous places.
Is it true they should have stopped?
The situation I describe was nothing compared to the other painful situations I’ve explored with brave inquirers looking at the violence in their childhoods.
You might answer “yes” to this question. The one I trusted, the one who was supposed to look after me should have taken me away from that danger.
Can you absolutely know it’s true?
This is never about condoning or passively accepting an awful situation, or saying it was good when it was not.
But what a profound question: Is it absolutely true–is the entire story true–is everything I think about this situation actually true?
For me, no.
For the inquirer in our group, even though the answer was initially “yes, it’s true”….
….we kept going.
How do you react when you believe the thought that someone (mother, father, anyone) should have protected you, done something, stopped the suffering?
Who would you be without this belief?
As I’ve heard others answer this question, the compassion that arises for the one who couldn’t protect is astonishing. The compassion and sadness for the whole situation. The heart-break for humanity.
To touch into the power of this kind of love for what we thought was dangerous, frightening, intolerable, someone-else’s-fault….what a gift.
I hope you’ll join me for First Friday in a few hours. Let’s do The Work.
It’s First Friday this week. Meaning, inquiry time online together, open to anyone and everyone. Listen, share, do The Work. You can remain quiet or participate however you like.
Enter your name and email in the link here (it’s the easiest way to get the instructions for how to join). Your email won’t be used for anything except giving you access the First Friday call. If you’re able to make a donation, you’ll see the contribution link on the call page (not required). See you Friday.
Speaking of getting connected…sometimes the opposite feeling is rather troubling.
Disconnected. Left out. Not belonging.
Have you ever felt like you weren’t a part of whatever’s happening? Uncared for? Ignored? Not as close to the group as others? Dismissed? Maybe even rejected?
And here’s a funny thing I’ve noticed: those of us who feel left out or on the outside of a culture, society, group or family actually spend time avoiding or getting away from what seems false about the crowds.
At least I did.
It’s almost like the craving for genuine connection becomes so acute, there’s no tolerance for scenes where people appear loud, hyper, distracted, false, needy, or driven.
Sometimes, we avoid our own family of origin. Too much of that feeling of being left out rises to the forefront.
Or we avoid those friends who have all known each other since 8th grade. Too stuck in the same patterns of conversation.
Let’s do The Work.
Can you find a group or a time in your life when you felt left out?
The other day I had a vivid memory (I shared it on my facebook live show when it popped in my head).
I was at a sister’s birthday party when I was 10 and she was turning 9. It was summer, hot, and so incredibly beautiful outside. The perfect northwest summer day.
Many of my sister’s friends were gathered round the picnic table and every place setting had a little colored cup filled with candy. Balloons bounced in the breeze.
Everything looked so magical to me.
And I was overwhelmed with a feeling of intense jealousy as my sister opened her gifts. One after another beautiful presents, smiles, claps, colors, and then….oh terrible sinking envy.
She got a black tape recorder.
I WANTED A TAPE RECORDER!
How come she got one before I did?
The thing is, I already had the equally terrible thought that since I was jealous and envious, I was selfish and bad. I couldn’t let anyone see, especially my mom.
She did not approve. I knew it.
I felt so humiliated, left out, unnoticed. I had to gulp my tears. The rest of the party was horrible. I quietly slipped away to my room.
Only years later did I put together that six months earlier, my own birthday party in the dark of January was switched to my friend Sari’s house last minute because my mother was sick with breast cancer and having surgery.
I didn’t really know what was happening, just that it wasn’t good. I remember being worried, and no one at all in my family was at my party. I remember liking the party OK, and enjoying my friends who apparently successfully made it to Sari’s house instead of mine. But I was so anxious.
And even though I was ten, I had no words to communicate any of this. I just felt sick, and empty, and left out, and not even sure why. I felt like I didn’t belong, and everyone else got what they wanted in all of life, but not me. (I didn’t really put details together clearly at the time).
What a great early childhood moment for The Work.
I’m left out. I don’t belong.
Is that true?
Can you absolutely know it’s true?
No. I’m here at my sister’s party. I’m not kicked out.
How did I react when I believed that thought that I was left out?
Very sad. Distressed. Not saying one word to anyone.
Who would I be without my belief?
I’d hold my mom’s hand (or try). I’d find my dad (where was he, anyway)? I’d find a friend in the neighborhood. I’d try to find help, connection. I do know there were people around. I was not all alone.
I’d feel OK in my own skin, no matter what was happening.
Turning the thought around: I’m not left out. I do belong.
Isn’t this just as true, or truer?
I was able to speak English, which was the prevailing language. I had the capacity to sit down at the picnic table (I was standing off away from the gathering). I could ask my sister if I could play with her tape recorder sometime (we had a ball with it later).
I’m a part of that family. I have a room in that house. I’m a kid. I’m breathing the air, watching, enjoying the warm summer day, delighted as anyone else is. I don’t have to believe it’s wrong to want something wonderful. I don’t have to believe I’m selfish.
Since that time, I’ve learned so much about counteracting isolation. I’ve entered into group situations set up for honesty and true connection. Places that felt safe.
Places where I could question “I’m selfish” or “I’m wrong” or “I’m needy”.
Twelve step meetings, support groups, therapy groups, trainings, schools, workshops, meditation retreats, places where guidance and structure is given for participants.
I love being touched by the sharing human beings do in groups, the loving council shared, the wisdom.
I also love simply finding connection to myself most of all. Not needing anything more, not needing to be seen by anyone but myself. Being here, joyfully in silence at this very moment, as I type away in the dark night of an autumn northwest–only about 15 miles from that August day many years ago.
If it’s time to gather in genuine sharing and inquiry, which brings such honest clarity to any group, then there are many choices coming soon in the Pacific Northwest for gathering together:
October 17th evening through October 21st morning, autumn retreat. One room left onsite, with a hot tub and beautiful gardens for everyone.
December 6-9 a winter retreat in the winter woods of Breitenbush Thursday evening through Sunday morning. Hotsprings pools, warm cozy cabins, delicious vegetarian organic meals, steam sauna, The Work mental cleansing.
If you anticipate any holiday groups with worry or dread, what an extra special time to gather now as we head into winter and the final quarter of this calendar year. You get to be with others, but mostly, with yourself.
We’re gathering openly and honestly with our own minds, our own thoughts, and learning to enjoy the company.
When your eyes are tired the world is tired also.
When your vision has gone, no part of the world can find you.
Time to go into the dark where the night has eyes to recognize its own.
There you can be sure you are not beyond love.
The dark will be your home tonight.
The night will give you a horizon further than you can see.
You must learn one thing.
The world was made to be free in.
Give up all the other worlds except the one to which you belong.
Sometimes it takes darkness and the sweet confinement of your aloneness to learn anything or anyone that does not bring you alive is too small for you.
What a lovely group forming for the October Retreat 10/17-10/21. Will you join us here in Seattle? Plenty of room still so of course now I think we need more people. It’s only a thought. I have no idea if it’s true or not true. All I know is, I can’t wait to do The Work with those who come. It’s always a most beautiful and profound way to free yourself from fearful or difficult stories, to gather in person with others. Two rooms left onsite for those coming from away.
Living Turnarounds Deep Divers Meetup Group starts next month: Sunday October 14th 2-6pm at Goldilocks Cottage. There are six dates (scroll down for all the dates at bottom of the page). One is at East West Books on November 3rd which is a Saturday instead of a Sunday. For the East West one only register here.
Winter Retreat at Breitenbush! Wow! This one I will be facilitating with my husband Jon on Dec 6-9 for a post-and-pre holiday transformative 3-day retreat. We begin Thursday night. Join us is the peaceful forest. We made a little short video invite about it for you:
So what’s the big deal about leaving house and home, and work and daily life and family, kids, dog, spouse, routine….
….and spending several days in a completely different location, asking and answering four questions and doing The Work?
I remember once asking an enlightened meditation teacher “Where should I go to find peace–which monastery? What do you recommend? Please just tell me!”
I was surprised (and yet maybe not so much) to hear him reply: the key is to be on a meditation retreat in your everyday life. How about relaxing and getting quiet right now?
Don’t I have to be where everything is very, very quiet and there are no distractions, needs, or tasks to handle or address?
It’s not necessary, and this is what we’re learning in the end. The center of peace is here, now, in whatever’s going on around us.
But it can be an incredible, beautiful, supportive gift to give ourselves to go someplace and move away from all busyness and chaos. It’s amazing to put your physical body in another place, and step away.
We’re clearing our schedules, having room, board, comfort, supportive natural surroundings taken care of by others, so we can be together and do almost nothing but The Work.
There’s nothing like sitting in the four questions to really “get” some kind of light on a subject or situation.
I’ll never forget the woman who came all the way from Florida. Her marriage was rocky. She had been divorced once before and felt determined not to go through that again. She noticed her mind full of critical and annoyed thoughts about her husband.
So she flew from the farthest point in the country to the opposite corner of the country.
Her first worksheet was on him, of course.
That was the story that was most up, that drew her into this important investigation. She didn’t hold back from writing down her thoughts about him: childish, mean, furious, petty, unforgiving. He was too close to his ex-wife. He didn’t work hard enough. She felt discontent.
All of it came out on her worksheet. Other people also in the group wrote that very first night….the liberation of writing exactly what you’re thinking, without editing. The people in question aren’t there–we’re looking at our stories about them.
One thing I adore about The Work is that in this first step, there’s no holding back, you can throw up on the page if you want (that sounds a little gross, but you know what I mean, right?). You can let every ugly, nasty, festering thing you’ve ever thought about that person out, on paper.
Then, this woman got to start her inquiry. She was not going to leave without getting what she came for: sorting her current thoughts about her marriage out. She raised her hand to be the first one to “go” in the circle.
I asked the questions, and she answered them honestly, with passion, with closed eyes.
She also spoke with passion, expressed herself intensely, felt the feelings involved with having the thought, showed us the way it looks to really sink into acting out this belief.
I love how we all get to do our own work, and we’re inspired by others at the same time.
“He doesn’t listen to me”, “he doesn’t cherish me”, “he’s too distracted”, “he’s the wrong partner”.
Have you ever had thoughts like these? They don’t have to be about partners, they can be about other family members, co-workers, bosses, neighbors, friends.
That person is the wrong person. He/She should be someone else, acting another different way.
Is it true?
The woman who had come to retreat across the country said “yes” immediately. But then a pause; could she absolutely know this was true, that he was the wrong partner for her?
Right now, she found her statement he should be different was not true, and impossible, and an unreal dream.
How do you react when you think the person in question is the wrong one? Wrong boyfriend? Wrong girlfriend? Wrong wife, companion, friend, husband, co-worker, neighbor?
The inquirer answering the questions replied: I want a divorce. I hate him. That’s how I react. I’m angry!
Who would you be without this thought, in that same situation, I asked?
Everyone was listening in the circle. You could hear a pin drop. Everyone was wondering how to answer this remarkable question, using imagination to try on the internal feeling of NOT believing a thought, and still being in the presence of someone who hadn’t changed.
This can only be done by sitting and wondering. You have to give it time.
It’s rare that suddenly, the moment the fourth question is asked, that we find an answer (although it can happen).
In fact, the ego, or the personal inner identity, will want to forget that question sometimes, or skip ahead to turnarounds, or just drop it altogether and go do something else. Watch TV, eat something, drink, smoke, internet, work (my personal favorite).
But on retreat, we don’t auto-pilot over to those other alternatives. We’re staying. We’re there, after all. We came to look at our minds. We came to question them. So we do.
Even if we’re squirming, or confused.
Finally, this lovely inquirer from Florida said “Without the thought that he’s the wrong husband, I’d find what he was doing endearing–kind of like when we first got together. We do like to laugh.”
By Day 3 she called her estranged husband who she had left behind in a huff. She reported to us all having one of the closest conversations with him in a long time. A truth telling, sharing conversation.
And then the turnarounds, one at a time, finding examples of the opposites: I’m not a good partner to myself, or to him. He IS a good partner for me.
We find examples, and notice how they feels. Other people help if we can’t find them, when we’re in an inquiry circle like a retreat.
We’re taking the time to give to ourselves the gift of awareness, presence.
“Our parents, our children, our spouses, and our friends will continue to press every button we have, until we realize what it is that we don’t want to know about ourselves, yet. They will point us to our freedom every time.” ~ Byron Katie
I’d love you to join me on retreat. My favorite thing is connecting with others–honest, open, silent, sharing, learning, asking, answering, wondering.
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.
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.
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?”
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 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.
Year of Inquiry brings you to The Work for an entire year with a small group. Let’s question our thinking, and change our world.
Well, it happened.
The thing I prefer not to ever happen. Someone got very upset with me.
I said “no” to a friend (also an old flame) about getting together. I said I just couldn’t go through with it, something felt off about connecting live and in person.
He got very upset and sent me a note.
“You’re a flake, you play games, I liked you long ago and you’re punishing me for it–you can’t let go of the past. You’re completely unreliable. I have no interest in this anymore. Self-inquiry is so boring. You’re absurd.”
Everything in the note, I noticed, had truth in it.
The sadness and recognition of shame, along with sorrow, along with humiliation and seeing how I had hurt someone came crashing in like Niagara Falls.
Plus here’s the kicker: I’m the one who had said “yes” about getting together for a meal in the first place, then I cancelled and offered a new date for a reschedule (several times).
This whole maybe-get-together thing’s been going on for a few years. Yes, that long.
I kept noticing I’d imagine a meeting, think it would be fun and pleasant and perhaps a way to renew or start the friendship over (there are quite a few things I liked about this guy)….
….I’d feel ambiguous, or hesitant, then override the hesitancy, then override the hesitancy to override….
….then when the time would come to make more of a clear meeting date and time, I’d feel very anxious and make excuses that now wasn’t good, but maybe later.
I’d hear a huge “no” inside and say things to myself like “you shouldn’t be afraid, it’s OK” or “what’s the problem, is there something wrong with you?” or “This is only lunch! It might be interesting!”
So I’m sooooooo not surprised with this waffling and mixed messages and ambiguity and fake yeses and dragging on….
….that this man was as confused as I was.
I realize now how much not saying “no” in the present moment when we mean it can hurt others.
Or really, can hurt ourselves.
What was I so afraid of, when it came to saying No?
The reaction I just got.
It was probably worse, however, because I didn’t say it several years ago.
So in this inquiry today, I wanted to find out more about why I’ve refused to be clear about this relationship, and look more closely when I’ve thought “he’s so needy” or “he’ll be hurt if I say no” or “I’ll lose something if I say no”.
I’ve inquired in the past and found clarity around his neediness. My neediness. My judgment of neediness. I’ve inquired about his being hurt. My being hurt. A beautiful connection we genuinely share.
But I had not inquired fully about my own inner ambiguous feeling of sadness when I thought about saying no, saying goodbye, and what I’d lose.
This can be a very helpful exercise when you feel frightened about saying goodbye to someone, even as you see their beauty, the qualities you love, the happy times you’ve experience with that person that you refuse to admit have ended.
We believe ‘to part ways is terrible’. Friends, lovers, family.
What will you lose, if you part, say no, change it up, when it comes to a relationship?
I’ll lose: humor, laughter, wit, someone sharing creativity and spiritual contemplation, the fun banter and conversation, love. I’ll lose the respect of my current partner. I’ll lose security. I’ll lose a fantasy, a dream. I’ll lose someone who takes care of me either financially or emotionally. I’ll lose attention, kindness, generosity, adventure.
See what it is you believe you’ll have to go without, if you say “no”.
You’ll have to go without it…..is that true?
In my situation, I choose to take a look at the shared laughter and wit. I’ll lose that. I’ll lose his appreciation.
Let’s do The Work.
Is that true that I’ll lose that quality of entertaining and funny dialogue in my life?
No. I have one other close friend who has the same mega-appreciation for laughter-in-all-things and the beauty of entertainment and theater. She’s amazing. We don’t see each other often, but when we do, it’s fabulous. I laugh and laugh, and can talk about anything.
I could bring this more into my life, come to think of it–whether in the company of this lovely friend, or with other people I know.
If you’re following along with this inquiry, and you’ve identified something else you think you’d lose–like security–can you absolutely know it’s true you need it the way it is? Can you absolutely know you’d miss it, if this one person was no longer in your life as much, or they were upset with you for saying “no”?
How do you react when you think by saying “no” you’ll lose something very valuable?
I don’t say it. I’m afraid.
I grab. I hold on tight. I have pictures of what it would look like to lose this quality, this person. I don’t look for it elsewhere. I see my own company as inadequate–not as good alone as I am in the company of the other.
Who would you be without the belief you’ll lose something when you leave, say no, part ways?
I’d sigh with the deep, deep relief of being without the thought of imagining loss.
I’d notice people coming and going, doing what they need to do–including me.
Turning the thought around: I will NOT lose anything if this person is less in my life, or I say “no” to them, or I don’t meet them for lunch. I will GAIN something if I say no. Or, I will neither lose, nor gain, anything I don’t already have.
I will lose my own humor, attention, security, joy, laughter when I say “no”. Isn’t this how I’ve been acting? Like all that fun is over there, in that individual, rather than right here with me?
I suddenly remember I’ve had this belief that I’ll lose out if I say no….about money, work, my kids, my husband(s), my family members.
There’s no freedom in worrying about how someone will respond, or dragging on the “yes, maybe” when the answer at the moment is “no”.
There’s no freedom in worrying about how I myself will respond, if I follow the honest “no”.
It’s sweet in this moment to notice that I’m the one who has been anxious about my own “no”. So I haven’t said it. I’ve also been anxious about my own “yes”. So I haven’t said that, either.
What if yes or no are all OK and there’s no possible way to know what will happen next?
“You are the beloved, you’re the closest one to you. You’re the one you want, the one you need, always there for you. Someone comes into your life, or they don’t.” ~ Byron Katie
Before inquiry today, four upcoming events (the first one completely free):
1) First Friday! Open Inquiry Jam. This month of August we meet Friday, August 3rd at 4:30 pm Pacific Time Here’s the link: Join First Friday call.
2) Yesterday, I opened up a letter from Breitenbush Hotsprings. It was hard to imagine all the information it contained about winter, as I sat in 90 degree weather in Seattle.
Winter Retreat is December 6-9, 2018 at Breitenbush Hotsprings! (Woot!) I’ll be accompanied again by my skilled husband and partner in offering The Work. We’ll be in the cozy, magical atmosphere in deep Oregon cascades and hot mineral springs of Breitenbush doing The Work right in the middle of holiday season. A gift indeed (and helpful for visits with Family of Origin–FOO). For more information and to get a running start on planning, visit this link here.
3)Year of Inquiry. So exciting to start again in September. A monthly topic, inquiry live on Tuesday AM and Thursday PM every week (except the last week of the month), a private active forum for sharing online, a powerful way way to stay connected and engaged with supportive peers, and your own brilliant self, in The Work.
This year in YOI, we’ll have a group focusing on facilitating The Work, a track for those wanting to refine their facilitation and partnering skills. (No extra fee for anyone in YOI who wants training in facilitation). Those wanting to do this will facilitate in some of our group live inquiry sessions.
Year of Inquiry is almost half the price of The 9 Day School for The Work and YES, we meet for the entire year,including two months of Summer Camp in July and August 2019. YOI begins in September.
4) Fall Retreat. I’m surprised to say people are already enrolled in October 17-21, 2018 Seattle retreat. Anyone in the FULL YOI program automatically has a spot in this retreat (as well as spring 2019). But there’s room set aside for those to attend who are not in YOI. CEUs for mental health practitioners.
The daily inquiry in Summer Camp has been profound.
Truly. I was honestly kinda thinking before we began, shouldn’t I give myself a break in the summer from The Work and do this whole summer camp thing another time?
I wouldn’t miss this for the world.
It’s the most exciting summer vacation I could ever imagine: the thrill and peace of questioning beliefs that feel bad and aren’t really true.
Have you ever had dread about an upcoming conversation, event, presentation, meeting…where you’re sharing or doing or leading something and Other People have eyes and/or ears on you?
You’re in the spotlight! You’re on! (Heart begins to pound).
The other day, an inquirer in Summer Camp brought up a common stressful situation, and something about it was so beautifully and honestly offered…everyone enjoyed listening and doing their own work on this thought.
“My imperfections will be judged by others”.
What was the situation where this thought appeared in the inquirer’s mind?
Why, right there in Summer Camp on the group calls!
They’ll hear my crazy thoughts, my judgments, my quirks, my childishness, my nervousness (etc, etc). They’ll “see” me and my faults. My imperfections will be blatantly obvious!
Then, someone else the following day did The Work on dreading a conversation with a manager at work. “He’ll correct me”.
It was a similar anticipation. In that situation, I’ll be analyzed, evaluated, graded. That person will judge me. It won’t be good!
I’ve had this thought so many times in my life. In school, in front of my parents or siblings, at work, on stage, in friendships, in relationships, at parties, in discussions, in social scenes, leading retreats.
Is it true they’ll judge me?
Isn’t that what we all do? It seems, we judge.
But what meaning are we placing on this judgment that appears to be happening? What’s going on?
Because it feels really bad. It feels frightening.
Can I absolutely know my story about judgment is true?
Can I know it will be bad, or already was bad in the past?
Can I know those times when I was judged were horrible times never to be visited again?
Is it really true that I need their approval, or thumbs-up, or high grade, or to be seen as brilliant or perfect or adequate or favorable?
How do you react when you believe they’ll judge you because of your imperfections, and it’s Not Good?
Scared. Pictures of the past, all the way back to grade school, or scenes from family moments when dad or mom disapproved. Pictures of the future, being alone, alone, alone.
I’m reminded of how afraid I’ve been sometimes of being alone, and how other people have shared with me that they have this same fear.
How do I react?
I’m super quiet. I never raise my hand. I don’t speak up when someone says something I don’t agree with, OR, I speak up with defense. I start feeling the separation between me and them. I’m not connected.
So who would you be without this thought that they’ll judge me….for anything? Without the thought that their judgments would be terrible, if they DO judge me? Without the belief I need anything from them at all?
I’d feel all the dread run down the drain and out of my body. I’d remember that nothing is required for happiness MORE than what’s happening right now, in this moment.
I’d know happiness is not based on what people say, think, do, behave like, or feel. About me.
The beautiful inquirer who did this work in Summer Camp with everyone found her heart-beat was normal, her nervousness dissolved, and the whole kit-and-kaboodle of this thought “they’ll judge me for my imperfections” was gone.
We all spent time finding turnarounds.
TurnAround: They will NOT judge me for my imperfections, I’ll judge myself for my imperfections, I’ll judge THEM for their imperfections, (and sometimes I’ll judge them for MY imperfections–LOL).
The story will not be true…about imperfections and judgment. The story has NOT been true so far.
I have survived, I have felt joy, love, connection despite judgment running in minds (my own, others). I’ve felt the full range of being human, and others having judgments, and lived.
I might even actually be able to find the turnaround (I can) that YAHOOOOOOO! My imperfections have been, are right now, and will be judged by others!!
Because I’m a regular normal mediocre human who’s part of the pack, here at this time temporarily on planet earth, and I’ve been moved this way then that way because of the music of judgment. Including discovering The Work.
Who would I be without my story that judging is bad, or results in permanent separation, or death, or whatever else we’re most terrified of?
“Behold your world! The judgments you believe just created it……No one outside me can hurt me. That’s not a possibility. It’s only when I believe a stressful thought that I get hurt. I’m the one who’s hurting me by believing what I think.” ~ Byron Katie
It’s been 3 weeks now since I witnessed the final decline and death of my beloved first husband and father to my children.
I’ve seen many images course through my mind. It’s been like a slide show. They are never in linear or time-bound order.
Something is shown to me and remembered from our first meeting. A Labor Day September golden afternoon barbecue party….then our bright unexpectedly sunny wedding day 11/11….or then it will skip to a few years ago when I picked him up from his first PET scan, right before his cancer diagnosis.
I see his peaceful face after he died, the strangeness as his eyes never fluttered open.
Tears well up, mixed churning feelings, sadness, laughter, wondering.
One surprise of this movement in grief has been memories of the divorce process. In the past, it exploded a huge amount of separation, confusion, feeling abandoned.
All my former worksheets were on how he shouldn’t have left me, I was abandoned, I missed out, he was wrong, this shouldn’t be happening, it’s very sad.
I found all these concepts to be false.
And suddenly, I noticed something interesting as I watched the slide show of the completion of our marriage:
I never did The Work on the simple belief “we got divorced”.
We got divorced.
Is that true?
Woah. Yes. Right?
But where’s my proof?
Only in my memory. Only in the mind. Only in my stories of what “divorced” means.
Can I absolutely know it’s true we got divorced?
No. (And you might answer yes, if you have the very same thought–it’s OK). I realize my heart feels love and appreciation for that man that’s never stopped.
What is divorce, anyway?
Yes the relationship changed. Yes we moved into our own houses. Yes I saw less of him. But I have always been connected, even when I didn’t want to be.
How do you react when you believe you got divorced?
Sad, failed, hurt, upset, pining.
Who would you be without the thought “we got divorced”?
I’d feel like all the tons of minutes, hours, days when I have NOT had that thought….and I’ve been living my life with the person or people right in front of me, busy with other things.
I wouldn’t feel like I failed. I wouldn’t feel disappointed or full of “what-if” ideas. I would trust what’s happened and what is.
I would notice all the incredible good that’s come out of the Great Zen Stick, called “divorce” for me, that changed my entire life and woke me up when it comes to relationship.
Turning the thought around: We did not get divorced. I divorced myself. I divorced him. (He didn’t divorce me).
I can find examples of every single one. We remained friends, and always shared holidays and the same neighborhood. In the past, I took the whole thing very personally, even though it wasn’t. And how many times did I criticize and separate from him in my mind during our lives together before he ever even spoke of divorce?
Most important of all is that right in the moment I myself am thinking “we got divorced! (sob)” is the moment it’s happening–and only in my mind. Otherwise, what’s around me is connection; to the floor, the room, the air, the people in my presence.
The divorce happened 11 years ago. I dredged it up as I re-membered my default position from the past–which is that it was all very sad.
Can I turn it around with joy, instead of disappointment? YAHOO! We got divorced! Hooray! Congratulations! Amazing! Wonderful! Success!
I can find it.
Because of that thing called “divorce”, I did my own inquiry work in great earnestness, I discovered a career, I became far less dependent, I grew up when it came to relationships–not taking everything so dang personally.
I didn’t just have a husband die of cancer on me.
I notice the joy my children are still able to tap into, even if other moments they are so sad about their dad. I’ve been reminded of the temporariness of my own life and to continue to drop what’s not so important.
Especially my stressful thinking about relationships from the past or into the future, including divorce.
“Inquiry ends suffering by cutting it off at the root. No stressful thought can withstand sincere questioning.” ~ Byron Katie
Are you sad or troubled by a divorce experience? It could be about a relationship, a job, a place….anywhere you believe a division or diversion occurred, where something ended and you didn’t plan or expect it.
That happened and it’s all sad and terrible.
Is it true?
Who would you be without your story right now?
P.S. Eating Peace 101 begins this upcoming Thursday, July 26th 8-9:30 am PT. In this telecourse, we’ll use The Work of Byron Katie to explore our reasons for eating, and investigate these reasons. For more information about the class, please visit here. We meet every OTHER week until October 4th.
P.P.S. If you had any tech glitches in the new intro course The Work for Dingalings (seven days, one lesson per day) I thank all those who emailed to let me know so I could fix them. Sign up for the course here.
I’m so touched by the online mini-retreat just shared by many this morning. It was magical and heart-breaking.
To get the link of the recording and listen-in, visit this Summer Camp information page HERE. Scroll down to the Opening Day recording link.
I was so moved by the beautiful, genuine inquiry and sharing people brought–from the people who spoke, but also from those who commented in the chat and shared their thoughts and questions.
Those who listen are also a significant part of this inquiry. The energy is alive and somehow palpable, like when a whole hall of people sit in meditative silence together.
Words are not required.
The inquiries brought to the call today were such beautiful examples of human awareness of change, loss, agony, feeling left or criticized….and working with these hurt feelings, opening up to understanding our pain and suffering.
Oddly, we’re not trying to get to any special place, or find that one missing answer, or figure out exactly what to do about this predicament….we’re bringing clear awareness to the story we’re telling ourselves. We’re not looking for advice.
We’re looking at the pain through the mind, the one that “thinks”, that sees pictures and images of loss or fear or anger or disappointment and never-ending unhappiness.
Strange, but it’s as if the inquiries brought to the Opening Day First Friday mini-retreat were perfectly placed, in just the right order, for opening up the story of separation.
I could relate to each and every story. I’ve done The Work on all three. All so painful. All incredibly powerful moments to question.
First, someone shared about a moment with someone close where the relationship was uncertainly defined. Are we friends or more than friends? Where is this going? I wanted something more. This is disappointing. I feel so hurt.
Next, a longer-term partnership (marriage) potentially moving into divorce. One person is moving out into another place to live. We feel crushed. He’s constantly criticizing me. He focuses on my flaws. I need him to say loving, kind things to me and notice what’s wonderful about me.
Finally, a family member has died tragically from cancer. So many people suffering, missing him. I want him to live. He shouldn’t die.
What is this suffering we’re experiencing in these situations? Does it mean, if I don’t suffer, that I won’t care about this person, or recall them? I won’t be close, or love? I won’t cry?
For me, this never turned out to be true.
In fact, as I’ve done The Work and even do The Work today with all these beautiful inquirers on the call, I find that without my thought that I should be with this person, or they should be alive….
….I stop resisting my thoughts of them. I talk to them, even out loud.
I might even listen to them when I ask “Why are you leaving? Why did you go? Do you know how much I love you?”
I hear their answers, with inquiry, even in my own head. I feel it all. I’m not holding back anymore.
NOT suffering does not mean my heart isn’t breaking and swelling into a million pieces. NOT suffering doesn’t mean being numb, or disconnected, or never thinking of them. NOT suffering doesn’t mean pretending things are OK when they actually aren’t, or trying to be a different person with a different reaction.
For me, what I find NOT Suffering actually looks like is being more connected with these people I adore than ever. At least that’s what I keep finding with The Work.
Instead of repeating the exact same painful thoughts about what’s happening with that person over and over again, I’m sitting with the difficult thought and looking at it from every possible angle.
I’m realizing, by doing this Q and A with my story, that I actually can’t confirm or deny that love is not present in this relationship, in this situation.
Most recently, in fact, when my former husband died, I felt the most strong, big, wide love for him I’ve felt in a long time.
I’ve reflected (and still am reflecting) on some of the unfinished wonderings not taken to the deepest inquiry yet about our parting, and separation, and divorce, and continued connection and friendship and co-parenting and deep support for one another through all these 31 years since we met.
These moments of having the heart pierced with grief and love (they are both there) can only happen with people who are significant and important to us.
“Your story is your identity, and you’d do almost anything to prove that it’s true. Inquiry into self is the only thing that has the power to penetrate such ancient concepts….When I learned to meet my thinking as a friend, I noticed that I could meet every human as a friend. The end of the war with myself and my thinking is the end of the war with you.” ~ Byron Katie in Loving What Is pg. 294
Someone asked today on the call how long registration is open for Summer Camp and I responded…Oh wow, I don’t know. LOL.
You can really join any time, and my thought is, you’ll probably enjoy more time, attention, practice and care for yourself and your thinking if you come on board sooner than later. Plus you’ll get to participate in our Pop-Up private summer camp forum for a greater amount of time. I’d suggest joining this weekend sometime.
But does longer mean better? Do you really have to attend all seven weeks to get the best results? Does more minutes in inquiry add up to more clarity in the mind? Is it better to spend more time in a marriage? Is it better to be partnered than not? Is more life better than less life? Is it better to live until age 95 than 35?
I can’t absolutely know that it’s true.
Maybe one profoundly powerful inquiry can open us to unknown worlds we never thought possible. Maybe asking ourselves “is that really true?” just once about a thought that something shouldn’t happen….can end our suffering and angst about life.
What I notice is that life is passionately, profoundly on the move in the form of people coming, and then going. When there is this experience called loss, or disappointment, or sadness, or rage about people coming or going, perhaps it is not as terrible as I am thinking and believing is it.
I notice I am filled with a startling sense of feeling when these incidents happen. I’m brought to my knees in the present moment. Tears flow. Heart breaks open. Is it not the ordinary. It brings me to The Work.
Have you ever felt nervous when you’re going to a social gathering because you don’t know many of the people who will be there?
A dinner, a big party, a birthday, a memorial service, a shared meal of any kind, a book club discussion, a dance, a workshop or retreat, a training program.
Fluttery nerves descend just thinking about it. What if you don’t enjoy yourself? What if HE is there? What if SHE is there? You could make a fool of yourself possibly. They might not be your people. Maybe you shouldn’t go after all?
Several days ago I boarded a plane to fly to Yosemite to attend the memorial service of my cousin’s husband. While I’m a Bell and part of the family, I knew there would be many people I’d never met. Extended family of the beautiful man who passed away, and many friends of the couple.
I was excited and always had an immediate “yes” within from the moment I heard about what was planned. I wanted to honor these kind, generous people and my cousin.
If you’ve ever had anticipatory nervousness about an event though, it can be sweet to sit down and look more closely at the thoughts and beliefs running in the background, and inquire.
What are you really nervous about? What images do you see that would lead you to believe you won’t enjoy it?
They’re looking at me and judging me
I’ll get stuck talking to someone annoying or scary
They won’t like me
The conversation or activity will be something I don’t understand
I’ll do or say something that will cause them to dislike me; say no, leave, talk too much, talk too little, stay too long, ask stupid questions, ask nothing at all
I notice most of these thoughts have to do with feeling separate from others and most importantly, not being OK with that.
In other words, it’s natural to feel separate from others from time to time–a group wants to stay up late talking, but we’re tired so we go to bed. Without a thought about this being a problem….there isn’t one.
Let’s do The Work.
Is it true that people could judge you, or talk “too much”, or not like you, or do things you don’t really get, or even things that freak you out?
Can you absolutely know it’s true?
Well…er…yes. People judge. That’s what we do.
But is it true that it’s stressful and would cause separation?
Oh. Wow. No.
How do you react when you believe your contact with other human beings could result in unpleasant feelings, or separation (at any upcoming event)?
I don’t go! Or I get nervous beforehand. Or if one little thing seems “off” when I arrive, I might say “I knew I shouldn’t have come!”
I don’t have an open mind. I don’t approach the event like it’s a new adventure, with joyful excitement. I’m not so curious. Perhaps I feel protective. My guard is up.
But who would you be without the thought that something unpleasant might happen, or other people could cause you upset, or you might get “stuck” in a conversation, or that people won’t like you and you won’t like people?
I’d have so much fun coming and going, into and out of, the company of others.
I’d feel curious about the adventure of connecting with people, or equally curious about connecting with myself. I’d enjoy crowds, or special occasions, or total silence with only me. It wouldn’t really matter if I was with bunches of people, or alone.
I’d be loving my thoughts, wherever I was–with anyone.
When I need to leave, I do. When I love to stay, I do. When I’m all alone, it’s good. When I’m with others, it’s equally as good.
This is a never-ending development, and thrilling process.
I once was so introverted, my preference was to be entirely alone. Except not really–because I didn’t even like my own company a lot of the time. I suppose my preference was to not be wherever I was. LOL. It was misery.
Then, as I grew more comfortable with others, I grew more comfortable with myself. As I learned to take care of my own needs completely (I’m not saying I’m perfect at this) then my sense of trust for myself grew and I knew I couldn’t get “stuck” talking to anyone. I could come and go as truly needed, without fear of others’ opinions.
The strange thing is, when I feel really free to come and go without caring what anyone thinks or does or says or feels….I love going to gatherings with other people more and more. (And also, now that I think about it, loving silence more).
What do I really love more?
Wow. What I love more are my thoughts about what’s happening in my environment, with or without other people.
I see it could be just as true or truer that:
They’re looking at me and loving me
I’ll get free talking to someone annoying or scary
They will like me
The conversation or activity will be something I don’t understand! Yippee! Learning!
I won’t do or say anything that could cause them to dislike me
“Who would you be in people’s presence without, for example, the story that anyone should care about you, ever? You would be love itself. When you believe the myth that people should care, you’re too needy to care about people or about yourself. The experience of love can’t come from anyone else: it can come only from inside you.” ~ Byron Katie in 1000 Names For Joy pg. 71
If you’d like to question your thoughts about other people of any kind (or ANY stressful thinking at all), join me in Summer Camp for The Mind. Summer Camp is a program of daily inquiry sessions, live, from July 6th – August 17th. We come together online to do this work by identifying and then questioning what’s true.
I used to want to do The Work alone only, or with just one partner….but to gather with others has been one of the greatest gifts.
And even if you don’t do anything formal with others, you could find one partner to facilitate you, or trade with, in looking closely at beliefs about people, about life, about reality.