Feel summer on the inside, with inquiry (+ Summer Camp for The Mind starts July 6th)

It’s that time of year where I live where the days are long, there’s a looseness in some daily activities, the schedule is changed, some travel takes place, we’re outside.

During this season where I live, and all the time I grew up, kids went to Summer Camp. No regular school.

Summer holidays are often a time of travel, rest, cleaning-out, home projects, classes, art, learning fun things, lazy days swimming in the lake, gardening, a change-of-pace, a summer job.

Right now when I write, I’m sitting by an open window smelling fresh air after a morning summer rain, and the sun has been up for hours already.

My favorite thing of all about summer is feeling the sweetness of summer on the inside: rest, relaxation, calm, enough time, growth, quiet, an inner change-of-pace.

This inner quiet couldn’t happen without self-inquiry as a practice.

How so, you might ask?

Well for me, to question a troubling worry, or an angry or frightened thought about life, has to come before I open up to peace, in general. Inquiry offers insight in the most soft, sweet, kind way I’ve ever experienced.

When I was filled with anxiety, or anger (even rage) or sharp opinions I knew were RIGHT, I sought peace and had a lot of advice given to me over the years. I read tons of books (many of which were brilliant and helpful). I took classes and programs. I went on retreats and had loads of psychotherapy.

I tried to think “positive”.

I set up my daily life schedule to be productive and NOT upset and I focused on the advice and support I heard.

(Not that there’s anything wrong with that–people have some amazing and good ideas about how to live, right?)

But when I used my own mind to inquire, wonder, consider, contemplate and meditate….hunting for no one’s answers but my own….that’s when my inner world started to truly shift.

To be honest, I didn’t like finding my own answers that much at first.

Can’t someone just tell me how to live well, what works and what doesn’t, how to be successful, how I should think….

….so that I have some peace for crying out loud?

I know. I’ll just copy someone. Like Byron Katie. Or Jesus. Or the Buddha. Or Gandhi. Or Adya. (And many, many more people who I encountered).

But.

It just never worked at a deeper, permanent level. Not ever.

Yes, I love the wisdom I gather from sacred texts, silence and the wise words of others. But the powerful, juicy, vital and deepest insights come from this mind actually identifying and questioning beliefs when it becomes confused or upset, and then continuing to connect, watch and be open to the world and reality.

Which is how summer got paired with The Work to form this fun program called Summer Camp for The Mind.

You stay where you are physically (your body doesn’t need to go anywhere) and you dial-in to share with others in The Work.

There’s no homework, no lessons or classes or requirements….which is like camp, right?

Summer Camp is simply people gathered together to bring some dilemma or problem to inquiry. Live. There’s a meeting every day, from Monday through Friday. And every single meeting is optional. Every day has it’s own special meeting time.

If you’ve been trying to keep a daily practice of The Work, or do it just a little more often since it can bring such interesting personal insights….then this may be a perfect way to try inquiry more regularly.

Here’s how Summer Camp for The Mind works:

  • Everyone joins live or watches the replay of Opening Day (July 6th).
  • Everyone gets the same dial-in number for all calls for the summer.
  • Everyone marks their calendar for the daily time-slots when we meet on the days you can attend.
  • You bring your one-liner (a stressful concept) or your Judge Your Neighbor worksheet on anything that’s bothered you if you want. 
  • You can listen-only and simply be there with us all in inquiry, if you want.
  • No one has to speak out loud, but there’s time for feedback, questions and sharing after every single inquiry
And guess what?

It’s sliding scale pay-what-you-can to join (recommended $150 – $500 for the program). You could calculate about $30 per session you’ll plan to attend if you wanted to cover all costs for the program.

There are many costs to run summer camp, and time and study put into it….and having said that, this is summer camp. It’s loose. Time for me to give, personally, and do my own work, honestly.

It’s also a time for people who have been curious but unable or too shy to come to any other more substantive program during the year to hop in and see if it works for you.

You can decide what works in your schedule and budget and what doesn’t. It’s a time when people can join who need the financial support of pay-what-you-can if you’ve been reading Grace Notes and want to go deeper.

You don’t have to be smart, or know The Work, or “get” the full process of inquiry, or know what you’re doing.

You can be a complete beginner.

We always have so much fun. A great group gathers. People from all over the world connect, and we just “go” and see where the inquiry takes us. Sometimes people find facilitation partners they adore and continue with in inquiry beyond Summer Camp.

Everyone joining Summer Camp can bring whatever ails them. People have so many kinds of problems and concerns that can be addressed with this powerful inquiry work: relationships, money, career, friendships, family of origin (FOO), love, decision-making, parenting, addictive patterns, worries, betrayals, fear, job changes, divorce, marriage, dating, moving homes, physical pain, sickness, loss.

Everything is welcome at Summer Camp. 

Wondering what the actual schedule is? All calls are 90 minutes and listed here in Pacific Time first.

Summer Camp runs July 6th – August 17th, 2018. The very first day, Friday July 6th, will be 2 hours long and open to absolutely anyone for free. 

 

For Opening Day of Summer Camp, click HERE to join on July 6th.

Then, for the rest of the Summer Camp, we’ll meet like this:

  • Mondays Noon-1:30 pm PT/ 3-4:30 ET/ 9:00-10:30 pm Europe
  • Tuesdays 8-9:30 am PT/ 11-12:30 ET/ 5-6:30 pm Europe
  • Wednesdays 2-3:30 pm PT/ 5-6:30 pm ET/ 10-11:30 pm London
  • Thursdays 4-5:30 pm PT/ 7-8:30 pm ET/ 7-8:30 am Australia on Fridays
  • Fridays 7:45-9:15 am PT/ 10:45-12:15 ET/ 4:45-6:15 Europe

You pick the days that work best for your time zone. You might come to Summer Camp once a week, or every single day. You get to choose! There are no requirements.

I can’t wait to begin and see where the summer takes us.

Read more details about Summer Camp, or go ahead and sign up, right HERE.

“It was the best thing I’ve done for many a summer, or maybe any summer for the past several decades. All I can say is….it started to change everything for me. Every relationship in my immediate family. All the people I thought were a disaster (and I include myself). Summer Camp I thought was going to be a way to try The Work, and it turned out to show me a way to living with The Work as a practice (as you know I joined Year of Inquiry). I just wanted to tell you, it all started with Summer Camp for The Mind”. ~ Participant Summer 2017

Much love,

Grace

P.S. Summer Camp for The Mind has always been seven weeks of jamming with inquiry without recording one single session. That’s changing this year. We record unless you request it NOT to be recorded (which is A-OK). This way, people can listen and listen, even if they can’t attend live.

P.P.S. For those seeking ITW credit (Institute for The Work) for Summer Camp you need to attend at least 10 classes to receive ten credits (attendance will be taken for you).

There are two ways to live this summer; one is loving what is, the other is to be at war with it.

Speaking of summer camp, I’m off to Breitenbush for the annual retreat there.

Time out for really digging in to The Work. No tasks, chores, laundry, admin, cooking, or doing anything else with the exception of coming to three gatherings each day with sincere people deepening self-inquiry, together.

In some ways…it’s not exactly “retreat” as we tend to call these times away.

It’s a “charge!” 

(As the brilliant Stephen Jenkinson, one of my favorite mentors and authors, likes to say about group gatherings filled with questioning out loud).

I notice both Retreat and Charge seem to come from war references, as many of our communications do.

Funny to consider when we go on “retreat” that it’s our daily regular normal life we’re retreating from. We get away from it like it’s the front line, then regroup, plan, assess, rest, reset…and head back to the life.

If we think of our time away as a “Charge!” (a turnaround) then this fits for me when it comes to The Work.

As Byron Katie says herself: ‘I call it The Work because….it’s work.’

The other day I found myself having some defeated thoughts about the moment. Another “war” term, I notice, in this word “defeated”.

I felt tired, like doing very little, yet the mind was commenting about how if I give up I’ll never cross the finish line.

“Go, Go, Go!” shouts the mind. Never stop! Give it your all! Do the thing!

What finish line? Good grief.

So today, noticing the thoughts or sounds in the mind that suggest there’s something to fight, win, push against, grasp for, beat, crush, give-it-your-all, finish.

And noticing they are not ever true, not forever, not even now.

There are five birds in my cherry tree right outside my window, eating my cherries.

Those are MY cherries. The birds shouldn’t be eating them! Fight the birds!

Is that true?

LOL.

Who would I be without the thought I “have to” make them go away. I “have to” do the thing. I “have to” keep my nose to the grindstone. I “have to” get it done.

I’d be laughing.

This really is an incredible amusing, joy-filled life with craziness and zaniness and misery and cherry-eating-birds and lists that are never quite done.

And, I notice, time for doing something that shouts, gleefully….CHARGE!!! Then other moments that say RETREAT.

Without attacking anything or needing to go to war about any of This, or seeing any of what happens day to day as a problem. Simply questioning stressful stories. And loving life.

Turning it all around: No one has to do anything, or make anything happen, or accomplish, push, grab, press, finish, or get anything done, or stop birds from eating cherries.

Could that be just as true or truer?

Well it’s certainly entertaining and exciting, for me, to notice the examples I see in the world of this being true.

I notice there are at least five species and sizes of birds out there pecking and hopping and flying and eating away. Plus a squirrel.

What entertainment!

“Who would you be without the thought you want him to get up and do something more constructive? [And you can do this on wanting yourself to be more constructive.] There are two ways to live this out; one is loving what is, and the other is to be at war with it.” ~ Byron Katie

Much love,

Grace

P.S. I made a video on facebook about doing The Work on FEAR and what I’ve found very helpful for starters when wanting to question and understand anxiety-producing, or very traumatic and fearful events. Watch HERE. Leave a comment or question and “like” the page if you haven’t already.

No planning, just awareness….brings change

Yesterday late morning on the last day of retreat, a beautiful group of inquirers shared hugs, goodbyes, gratitudes, I-love-you’s, phone number exchanges, photos.

The joy of a circle of people gathered for several days to inquire together from morning until night is an experience strangely impossible to explain.

Part of the power of gathering, I thought to myself, is the presence of questions, rather than teachings. Each person is their own guru, their own guide, their own closest companion.

They find their own troubling situations, recalling them vividly, and then hold still long enough to examine them very closely, like looking under a microscope at what they believed to be true in that situation–because of that situation.

To make it simple, we begin our time together with one situation we’ve found difficult. Only one. We don’t need to make it more complicated, as the mind can so brilliantly do.

I see the images from the past 5 days now in my own mind’s eye: mother deeply connected to her son who died last year, sister open to her brother who said “no”, wife who doesn’t feel so harsh about her husband’s habits, man less frightened of environmental destruction or war, woman excited about new possibilities with her sister and mother, woman seeing the benefits of staying with her current partner, or not.

There are no plans. There is no agenda. There is no special format for what is next.

And yet after The Work, we sense there’s something different, something changed, from doing nothing but sitting in inquiry.

I love how this happens.

We’ve allowed ourselves to sit with our most despairing, disappointing, heart-breaking moments….

….and instead of closing off to them, pushing them down or trying to “be positive”….

….we look with the four questions.

And we’ve done it all day for several days in a row with companions doing the very same thing.

Beginning with Question One:

Is it true, what I’m thinking about my mother?

Is it true, this thought about my husband?

is it true, this belief I repeat internally about my sister?

Is it true, this sadness I have about my brother?

Question Two: Can I absolutely know for sure my thought is true about them?

Question Three: How do I react when I think my stressful thought? When I remember that rough thing that happened, or those words they said, or when I picture them being themselves and it brings me such uncertainty and worry, or I anticipate the very worst happening in the future?

How do I react? I’m nervous. I’m fearful. Maybe even panicked. I’m sad. I’m desperate. I’m frantic. I’m trying to find relief. I feel hatred, anger, sadness.

I notice I’m suffering.

Then comes Question Four: WHO or WHAT would it be like if I did NOT have this thought running through my head as I remember this person I feel close to? What if I didn’t think my story was 100% true? Who would I be without this belief?

What if I paused, relaxed, and looked at that poignant memory or relationship without starting to panic, or complain?

What if everything is in order, I am not in charge, and most importantly, me not being in charge is actually the Way of It and a good thing?

LOL.

At the very end in closing yesterday, a thought flashed through my head that I played the “wrong” version of a song for everyone during a meditative exercise. The version I played was more boisterous and not as soft and contemplative.

And then the awareness….next time perhaps I will play the version I find more slow and gentle, and this time it was important to play THIS version.

Because that’s what happened. 

I don’t even need to know why or how it happened the way it did. I don’t need to put any meaning on it. Or tell myself I should have remembered the “better” version or that I’m too disorganized.

Even if I have a commentary running like this, I know it’s not true. It’s a chatterbox running in the corner. It’s the mind, doing what it does: offering up ideas, analyzing, seeking improvement, taking command, staying busy (it thinks it needs to).

Last step, after the Four Questions: We turn our thoughts around and look at them again.

The way it went with that person was OK. Even perfect. 

Could this be just as true, or truer?

It’s certainly more fun to wonder this.

Perhaps the drinking husband, the school drop-out, the dismissive brother, the critical sister, the judgmental mother, the beautiful son no longer in his body….

….perhaps the way it went had an unimaginable benefit.

Perhaps we shouldn’t toy with it mentally to the extent we want to toy with it. Perhaps there are very good reasons for it going the way it’s gone.

Turning it around again: Could my thinking be off? Could I be the distant one, the addicted one (to my thoughts), the one who died, the one who criticized, the one who judged?

Didn’t I do all these things to others, and to myself?

“You can’t let go of a stressful thought, because you didn’t create it in the first place. A thought just appears. You’re not doing it. You can’t let go of what you have no control over. Once you’ve questioned the thought, you don’t let go of it, it lets go of you.” ~ Byron Katie

Thank you everyone who questions their stressful thinking with me. The adventure is thrilling. The gratitude is deep.

(Last I heard there were three spots left in the Breitenbush Retreat, another opportunity for immersion in The Work June 13-17 in Oregon. If you’d like to soak in inquiry and see what happens, join us).

But even if you never go to a retreat, you can do this work today.

All it takes is sitting down, with pen and paper, a quiet segment of time….and your answers to the four questions.

Much love,

Grace

 

June 3rd East West Books on healing eating issues with self-inquiry 1-4 pm. Also June 10th last half-day retreat of the year Living Inquiries Group 2-6 pm (last one of the year).

The torture of You Should. The freedom of Don’t-Know.

Do you remember (if you were here back then) when I used to write and send a Grace Note every single day, without missing even once?

I think that happened for about five years. (Some of you are saying to yourself, thank goodness for fewer emails–LOL).

Something then shifted.

I love how the flow of activity, reality, the pace, the attention, creativity, focus, results….somehow change.

Did I plan it?

No.

Did I decide the way it would go or should go?

No.

In fact, if left up to my mind, the directive was to keep it up. Keep writing as my meditation, my work shared with you.

NEVER STOP.

That mind will shout internally “You should ______!” or “I have to_____!” or “I’m going to start ______ !” or “I’m going to keep _____!”

There are common lists of what we ought to be doing or what we need to keep doing, even if it doesn’t always serve.

It seems they’re usually related to improvement of some kind, or an effort to become better, or grow, or make sure we don’t lose.

So internally, my voice said “you should be writing every day” but I noticed I wasn’t anymore. My thumb grippers had a little ache from carpel tunnel overworking. I wanted to dedicate more time to an actual book on dissolving compulsion especially around eating using self-inquiry (which appears to be underway, slowly but surely). My heart wanted to fall into more silence and meditation and holding still.

It can be very stressful to want to relax, and yet have a voice screaming in the mind that you should be doing something (in my case writing Grace Notes, daily).

People have “dictator” voices telling them to do all kinds of things that are supposedly good: do this, acquire that, stop x, quit y.

What I notice sometimes, too, is that when a voice like this gets too loud, it backfires. A rebellion strikes. Less is done, not more.

But let’s look at this stressful belief “I should change”. 

Think about something you want to accomplish or achieve. It can be as simple as weeding the garden. Losing weight (as you probably know, I went far, far down into this one and love the study of compulsion and freedom). Upgrading something around you. Contributing. Giving. Donating. Building.

There’s something so appealing about being in action, participating, “doing”.

And yet. Ugh.

The pressure of “I should_____.”

Let’s inquire and see what happens when we question the thought “I should” that involves some kind of change.

I should be writing. 

Is it true?

YES. What good is sitting alone in your room (remember the line from Cabaret)?

We need to DO.

Right?

This here isn’t good enough. I’m missing success right here. I’m missing love, sharing, clarity, peace, sustainability. All these are accessible if I write! I can’t slow down! I need to write, write, write every day, day, day.

Heh heh.

Who am I with the thought that I need to write? How do I act? What do I feel? What happens?

I stay up until midnight. I don’t take vacations. If I’m actually on a holiday, I’m writing every morning and skipping outings with other people. I’m fretting.

The actual thing that was fun becomes burdensome, and harsh, and weird.

So who am I without this thought; “I should be ______” (in my case writing)?

I am entirely free to notice what I want to actually do in any given moment. I’m free to choose. I’m not living a prison sentence.

I remember this well with food and eating. As soon as I began to limit and restrict and set up conditions for my own eating, I got jittery. I got thin, and nervous, and then freaking out by binge-eating and swinging to extremes. It all became overwhelming and chaotic and off-balance.

I was no longer myself, sitting in the center of my heart, doing then not doing. I notice we’re all awake, then asleep, and everything in between.

Who would I be without conditions on any of it?

Taking a deep, long, wonderful breath and not having any unbreakable rules. Rules unnecessary. Freedom.

I’d be present in this moment, now, without fear about what happens next or what is required for success, or what is required to hold on to.

Turning this thought around: I shouldn’t be writing. I should be NOT writing. I should be nothing. I should be thinking. I should be. Writing should be me-ing.

How could these be just as true, or truer?

Well, the carpel tunnel ache said stop. I love meditating. I love not having conditions on my own existence (right!?), I value sitting and thinking, and being. I know it’s very precious to be quiet and Not Know.

I can see how writing or creating or doing anything in this world are spontaneously born. A thought happens, an idea occurs, someone suggests or invites, an offer is presented.

We respond with a yes, no, or maybe. The next day, the response might change.

I notice I’m not the one “in charge” (it’s almost funny how not in charge I am). Many events and activities and happenings are going on right now, in this very moment.

Life.

If writing is occurring it should be expressing whatever “me” is (or not). I definitely should be nothing. One day, I will be anyhow. If I’m not writing, then I shouldn’t be (what’s the reality of it? Not writing).

There appear to be advantages for doing or being exactly as I am in any given moment. Just like sleeping sometimes happens (which looks very still) then also “doing” happens (which can look very active).

All of it interesting. That’s freedom.

“When you discover–inside yourself, behind everything you’re thinking–the marvelous don’t-know mind, you’re home free. The don’t-know mind is the mind that is totally open to anything life brings you. When you find it, you have found your way.” ~ Byron Katie

Much love,

Grace

P.S. If you’re in Seattle, two events: June 3rd East WestBooks on healing eating issues with self-inquiry 1-4 pm. Also June 10th last half-day retreat of the year Living Inquiries Group 2-6 pm.

Who would’ve thought it? Becoming best friends with your mind.

One of the wonders of doing The Work so often with others in my life is how moving it is that people are willing to share their innermost thoughts.

And NOT the “good”, kind, gentle, mature thoughts.

The thoughts where we go in The Work are the painful, embarrassing, shameful, aggressive, completely irrational or immature thoughts running through our heads.

Thoughts like these:

  • they hate me
  • I can’t succeed
  • she loves someone else more than me
  • I made a mistake
  • I’m a terrible mom/friend/partner/daughter
  • he took my stuff
  • they don’t listen to me
  • he should do what I say
  • I need to know what to do

It seems we all have these kinds of thoughts.

It’s so touching when people are willing, vulnerable, ready to speak all the thoughts they feel so terrible about thinking OUT LOUD. Or to write them all down on paper.

Last night we began an 8 week adventure into Parenting, and doing The Work on our thoughts about our kids. (We’ll be doing The Work on our own parents too, during this course, as well as many kinds of common moments of angst with our children–no matter how old they are)!

As I hung up the line knowing 14 people are in this course, all who are so very deeply interested in examining their beliefs about child-raising….

….I had a familiar moment of deep, deep gratitude.

I get to hang out with people who are entirely aware that their beliefs–unless they’re questioned–drive their words, feelings, actions, behaviors, facial expressions, inner commentary.

And they know something is occasionally (or often) “off” with their thinking. Because they feel BAD.

Funny how just the very idea of NOT being alone in our stressful thinking is so….

….encouraging.

This acceptance alone is the nectar we often need to keep moving in The Work.

“She is a friend of mind. She gather me, man. The pieces I am, she gather them and give them back to me in all the right order. It’s good, you know, when you got a woman who is a friend of your mind.” ~ Toni Morrison

Who would we be without the painful story that we’re uniquely wrong, we made a mistake, we’re unlovable, we have something missing that others don’t, or our thoughts are extra sick, mean, terrible?

We’d be gathered together, in this powerful work called self-inquiry, noticing what’s really true and what isn’t.

With a little help from some friends—other humans, who also “think”.

Which is all the more why I’m so absolutely thrilled to gather in six days for the annual Spring Retreat Seattle May 16-20 (we start Weds evening) and then again for retreat at Breitenbush from June 13-17 (with the lovely and experienced Todd Smith).

Is it time for Spring Mental Cleaning?

Come join the shared honesty, camaraderie, fascination, curiosity, clarity, awareness, truth-telling, laughter, inspiration.

Room for 1 more at the Seattle retreat in 6 days–a room at the retreat house has opened up, so if you want to, you can reserve it and stay onsite.

Room for 5 more at Breitenbush in June.

Most of all, find someone who can hear you, and do The Work with them. Trade back and forth with your facilitation. There’s nothing like having a person who can listen openly to your mind.

It gives such a deep practice of acceptance, it’s you who listens. You then become your own best friend. A friend to your own thinking.

  • they love me
  • I can succeed
  • I love someone else more than me
  • I made a correction
  • I’m a wonderful mom/friend/partner/daughter
  • he didn’t take my stuff, and it isn’t “mine”
  • they do listen to me
  • he shouldn’t do what I say
  • I don’t need to know what to do
What could be better than not thinking painful thoughts….are true?

“Together we can do so much.” ~ Helen Keller

Much love,

Grace

P.S. I just returned from facilitating–for the first time–a Strategic Planning Retreat for a small tech company. I really can’t wait to tell you all about it. Can you imagine Strategic Planning in business PLUS doing sincere inquiry around stressful status of the business? Wow. More soon.

This meeting is such a waste of time (+ many “meetings” for spring inquiry–LOL)

Tomorrow it’s that time again: First Friday open inquiry for everyone online (or on your phone). This time we’re meeting 7:00 am-8:30 am Pacific Time/10 am Eastern/4 pm Europe. (Next month June 1st we’ll be meeting at noon PT). By request I’m switching the times around so people from different time zones can come. Get the link and instructions for joining for free right here.

I haven’t always loved audio teleclass connections for learning or sharing time with people live. So many possibilities of something not working. Or being bored by the content. Or getting distracted by something else happening on my computer.

Remember when teleconferences first started getting offered? Dropped calls, bells and whistles, background noise, internet failure, horrible audio with weird alien spaceship sounds and peoples voices getting distorted, scratchy static. And then there’s video conferences, too.

Sometimes it seemed like a comedy of errors. (For a 3 min laugh watch this). Hilarious.

Somehow, despite the bumpy ride, I’ve grown to love it. Coming online whether audio or video is the primary way I wind up connecting with the majority of people in The Work.

But you might notice thoughts like these, and I’ve had each and every one when it comes to meetings, of many different kinds:

  • this is soooooo slow
  • I can’t relate to that person who’s talking
  • I don’t have this thought, ever
  • I’d rather be ________
  • this is too painful or vulnerable to share (or hear)
  • I hate that person’s voice
  • I’m bored

Even on a shared call in The Work itself, I found it powerful to sit with my very thoughts about what I believed was working or not working in that moment. This inquiry can be applied to any group setting. Any meeting (even in person). Any process where communicating appears to be happening.

It’s fascinating what shows up in these kinds of inquiries where we’re not really that upset, but we still have irritable thinking.

So if you’ve ever been in a meeting or sharing group of some kind and found it annoying, picture that moment and let’s do The Work!

Long ago, I was on a Board and I loved the cause. But I didn’t have a good attitude towards the meetings.

Meetings are dull. This moment is boring, a waste of time, I can’t relate, I gotta get outta here….

Is it true?

Yes! And it’s just getting worse!

Can you absolutely know it’s true?

Pretty much. Yeah. LOL.

How do you react when you think listening and being where you are is a waste of time?

I figure out how to escape. I’m outta here. My mind is a million miles away. I might start thinking about options for what to do next, the minute I hang up or leave. Everything else becomes more important than this moment. I could be doing laundry, writing, reading, outside, eating, drinking, watching TV. Come to think of it I am really thirsty and I have to go to the bathroom.

Who would you be without this thought?

Kind of weird.

That Board meeting comes to mind from long ago. Or a school classroom as a child.

Who would I be in that situation, without my thoughts of irritation, escape and boredom?

I’d speak up. I might even interrupt or share. It wouldn’t have to mean I’d jump in and attack someone for going on too long or disagreeing with them. But I wouldn’t wait, somehow. I’d feel a thousand times more solid and loving and connected to the people in the room.

I might notice during the meeting the cadence of voices, the people’s attention and their faces, the air in the room, the quietness of the space between sound. I’d see the empty white board on the wall. Or in my home while on a telecall, I’d look through the skylights at the tall gorgeous pine tree overhead where eagles land. I’d really listen to the voices I’m hearing.

I’d feel the connection we have.

Noticing the subtlety of being in this insignificant, non-memorable moment and feeling it come more to life, like in full color instead of black-and-white.

Hello world. How did we all get here?

As I questioned my thinking about being a part of teleconferences or meetings: I’d fall into more of a meditation of rest, and calm, sound and wondering. I’d know how to be with this moment for my benefit, and how important each and every participant is who is there–a unique moment on planet earth.

“Only in this moment are we in reality. You and everyone can learn to live in the moment, as the moment, to love whatever is in front of you, to love it as you….The miracle of love comes to you in the presence of the uninterpreted moment.” ~ Byron Katie

Turning the thought around: This meeting is interesting, meaningful, a great use of time.

Why not?

And it doesn’t mean I have to stay rooted to my chair, or force myself to be excited when I’m not. I can get up and say with clarity and honesty that I’m not able to stay any longer (I did this about a month ago).

Even though I left the meeting, I can still find very interesting things about that moment, and what was being shared. I can see if there’s anything I’m against, anything I heard that triggered me unconsciously (the answer was “yes” in that moment I left that meeting last month).

Turning it around again: My thoughts are boring and dull, meaningless, a waste of time….especially when it comes to this meeting, this way of thinking.

Haha! So true. I worked myself up into a tizzy and proclaimed with guilty excuses “I have to quit!” without contemplating one single way I might help make this meeting be awesome.

Long ago on the Board, I quit contributing to an amazing cause I really care about, just because I didn’t like the meetings. I didn’t talk to one single person about it on the Board. I never tried to switch it up. I thought of myself as very tiny and insignificant–it never occurred to me to share what I was thinking.

What if I had known how to do The Work and show up (or not) with loving kindness, clarity, action, a sense of responsibility in a good way, movement, life?

Hmmm. Maybe it’s time to see how that non-profit is doing I care so much about, and consider participating again.

Who would you be without your thoughts about meetings, gatherings, conferences?

Much love,

Grace

P.S. A few upcoming options if you’re drawn to share time in The Work with others. Questions? Reply back and I’ll answer.

  • Spring Retreat Seattle May 16-20 (we opened up 3 spots as the room available is expanded–yay)
  • Online Happy Parent TeleCourse: Tuesdays 4-5:30 pm PT May 8-June 26. Read more here.
  • Mother’s Day Living Turnarounds Half Day In Person Retreat 2-6 pm my house. May 13. Sign up here.
  • Breitenbush Retreat still has a few spots for June 13-17 with me and Todd Smith in the Oregon Cascades.

The embarrassing thing someone wrote about Breitenbush and me

Someone the other day who lives in Seattle asked me….what’s Breiten-bosch? 

I forget that even if you live here in the Pacific northwest, you may have no idea what Breitenbush is, or where.

And, you may even have heard a few things you aren’t so sure about. Like Clothing-Optional mineral soaking pools.

OMG, I’ll talk about that in a minute. (Yikes)!

Breitenbush HotSprings Resort and Conference Center is a place located deep in the heart of the Oregon Cascades where underground thermal springs have surfaced and provided heated pools for decades.

Last year, someone said “I can’t believe how beautiful this place is, I thought it would be two hot tubs at the end of a dusty road, with some tree-huggers living in a tent.”

LOL.

Far from it.

Breitenbush is a place with a grand lodge, perfectly kept grounds including gardens of flowers and edibles, pathways and trails, a hard-working staff, and an entire catalogue of retreats, workshops and health-related programs for anyone who is a guest.

You can get a massage, take a yoga class, visit the meditation quiet-zone sanctuary, hike into the old growth emerald forest, and enjoy a cozy cabin with comfortable beds, built in cabinets, beautiful hot radiators, a desk and lamp and electricity, and a short trip to the men’s or women’s bathhouse to enjoy naturally heated showers.

And yes, it’s true. There are all-gender clothing-optional soaking pools in their own private areas for those who wish to take in the hot healing waters.

But no one has to go naked, or even go in the hot pools at all. Swimsuits are worn by many. Old-timers and their families tend not to.

You get to choose what’s comfortable for you on your time off during our workshop when the natural sauna or hot pools beckon. Not everyone comes for the waters.

If you’re not really a hot-tub person (I’m not) then we might find you down by the rushing river sitting in Adirondack chairs in the sun, or journaling on dark green moss in the forest.

And oh the meals. So delicious.

Mostly organic, all vegetarian and such a wonderful variety: salads, soups, hot dishes, rice, fruits. Anyone with special diets are accommodated (you tell them when you sign up). You’ll need to bring your own caffeine (lots of french presses and bottles of cream are in the community kitchen station). But you need not be ashamed if you do.

Why we really come to Breitenbush in June, is for the mental health that happens along with the physical health.

We’re there to do the powerful process of self-inquiry known as The Work. It renews mind, feeling, body and spirit.

Now, remember when I said “YIKES!” when mentioning clothing-optional soaking pools?

Once upon a time, there was a scary story for me about those clothing-optional pools.

Six years ago, someone composed a letter that got sent to a few administrative powers-that-be claiming that counseling-in-the-nude was happening at Breitenbush.

Who was the “counselor” doing this? Me.

Oh my.

This caused fear-and-terror, then a little sadness, and eventually a giggle.

Just in case your imagination runs wild at the idea of mental health counseling happening in the nude, please know that the pools are for your private, personal time at Breitenbush. They always have been.

The Work of Byron Katie isn’t really “counseling”…although this isn’t the issue. No counseling or non-counseling, no “work” or program is done at the pools.

The Work is a profound way to identify and then question for yourself what you believe, particularly about stressful experiences in your life. It’s open-ended, contemplative, and allows wondering to occur, beyond fear and stress.

Just like it was for me when I did The Work on someone accusing me wrongly of counseling people in the nude! 

Our work at Breitenbush doesn’t happen in the hot springs, unless it’s percolating within you quietly after our group sessions are over.

Our workshop retreat has its own beautiful space down near the rushing river…a truly lovely structure in-the-round that holds a large circle of people extremely well. We have our own private bathroom inside our round building and we gather in chairs or back jacks (you get to choose) with a comfortable carpeted floor, a white board, and a big projector for our movie night.

Our sessions are mornings 10 am to lunch, a 2.5 hour lunch break (time for a hike, massage, or a soak), 2 hours before dinner, and we only meet until 9 pm latest so in the summer dusk you can relax, soak again, share time with others, or head to an early bed.

But oh that accusation about naked counseling. Ugh.

It really did mention my name specifically.

And even as I remember it, I can still find the thought arising “that person shouldn’t have written that letter.”

Falsely accused! Ridiculous paranoid and jealous person! She was wrong!

Is it true?

So easy for me to see it’s not true, now. But I remember what it felt like when I believed it.

How did I react when I believed the letter-writer shouldn’t have accused me of doing mental health counseling naked in the hot springs pools at Breitenbush?

Defensive. Frightened. Freaking out with the need to make sure everyone knew how WRONG this letter was. That it was some kind of bizarre misunderstanding. That the person who wrote it was a weirdo.

But who would I be, who am I now, without the belief that this person (I since found out who it was, but didn’t know at the time)….falsely accused me?

I notice how clear and safe it was to be “accused” because it was all revealed very smoothly, caused no harm to anyone at all, and showed me who wasn’t supposed to be my friend or colleague.

It also showed me how deeply uncomfortable some people are with nudity, and how OK that is. It showed me how when I joke around, I can be misinterpreted.

Without the belief she shouldn’t have written the letter, I notice how words were read on a piece of paper, a few required steps were taken to respond, and it was over. I learned sooooo much.

And I still find the turnarounds for how it’s truer that she should have written that letter:

I learned how my credentials and my master’s degree were of greater importance than I knew. I could offer CEUs to other mental health professionals (26 for every retreat). I was completely up-to-date on all requirements for my degree and service. I met a fabulous lawyer who was so good to give me really incredible advice.

I felt more confident than ever, after that whole ordeal (which maybe couldn’t be called an ordeal anymore) was over. I felt the power of standing up for myself confidently, without shame. Steady on.

That experience was better than any personal coaching I could have received for feeling confident about my business.

And now, the Breitenbush retreat will happen for the 8th time. This time I’ll be accompanied by the absolutely lovely Todd Smith, who is so kind and grounded in his own work. I love his experience he shares with the world, and his knowledge and love for self-inquiry.

If you sign up soon, the tuition is still at the “early bird” rate, and I’ve heard while cabins are going quick they’re holding a few for our group.

If you fly from afar, don’t worry about having to bring a lot of gear. They supply sheets, blankets, pillows, pillow cases, towels and wash cloth. Bring shampoo and soap and your toothpaste. The little store has any necessities you might forget. The weather is a bit unpredictable (isn’t this the case everywhere now) so a jacket plus summer shorts or sundress. We were really hot one year. We were really cold another.

And one thing: you’ll be off the grid, outside of cell phone service (!) and no wi-fi. This is a time to unplug from the outside world, and plug into your inner life. Many people like to bring their journals, but we’ll have all the materials you need for The Work.

Who would you be without your stressful stories?

For me, without my story of false-accusation, I’m filled with gratitude. I’m clear as a bell. I’m open. I’m understanding. I’m trusting reality. I know who shows up are the right people and I can’t wait to spend time with you, opening our minds and hearts to the friendliness of life.

Without my story of someone freaking out about naked counseling being done at Breitenbush….

….I have a special deep appreciation for all the lessons, all the support this place called Breitenbush has given me.

Even when letters or words get written than don’t seem so friendly on the first read-through.

Learn even more about Breitenbush (and get their phone number) right HERE. Join the inner peace movement.

Much love,

Grace

P.S. If you have a fearful thought about what someone did, said about you, or wrote about you….you can question it! It might not be as bad as you *think*! It may be giving you some awareness you didn’t realize you had.

Content to stay in the lowest, least creative position….with cancer

This past weekend, I got to attend retreat with a small group (18 total) in a remote cabin on the crazy, wild, wind-hail-swept Washington state coast. It was called “Sit in The Fire” with Roxann, Byron Katie’s daughter.

I loved sitting with Roxann and all the brilliant group. The sweetness of being NOT in the role of “facilitator” was profound.

I was asked many times what I was doing there or why I signed up as a participant. Seven other people present were already either in my current YOI (Year of Inquiry) program or in last year’s YOI program.

But here’s the deal: I am the most normal, regular, boring, average “thinking” person. I have thoughts that are irritated, nosey, judgmental, hilarious, painful. I have thoughts that have brought me to my knees with suffering. I’ve been scared with adrenaline pumping through my veins, and sad and pissed because someone betrayed me, or totally freaked out because I had no money and no job.

I know it’s kind of weird to say, but it means very little that I show up as facilitator in other contexts and environments and groups.

I’m about as shocked as you are that I’m debt-free, thriving in business, normal with eating and the same weight for many years, and so happy (whatever that is–LOL).

None of those things mean I’m not considering the deep inquiries of life that we all face: death, change, the unknown tomorrow, love, wondering, sharing, feeling, peace (or not peace).

In this past 3-day retreat, I got to sit with my ever-deepening inquiry on cancer: The death of my father from cancer, the death of my friends from cancer, the way cancer has touched me, my sisters, my mother, and other close friends.

I found the belief “cancer took my loved one too soon”.

Cancer was the demon, the dreaded invader. The one who ruined everything, threatens regularly, and will surely do it again.

In this particular retreat, the format allowed for people to do The Work one at a time….focusing deeply with all the group silently supporting, listening, watching, and being there to witness whomever was sharing in the middle.

How do you react when you believe cancer took your loved ones too soon, and kicked you personally, too?

I got to be that normal human being who has experienced and believed the thought of cancer bunches of times…and share the reaction to this thought.

It looked like sobbing.

It looked like collapsing into my own lap and hanging my arms down from my chair, and wailing with tears until the grief was emptied out of me like a river.

I’m not even sure what it looked like, to be honest.

I simply WAS grief, helplessness, childlike rage, missing my dad, the loneliness of missing, remembering, agonizing, shaking my fist at a God who would release cancer on my family and into the world. I was the tiny speck in the universe who didn’t matter. I was a victim, without apology.

I felt it until I was empty. (I love how Roxann asked “are you empty?”)

I remembered all the transactional analysis gestalt therapy I did before I knew of The Work. Beating pillows with a tennis racket, punching bags of anger, shrieking and crying, breaking plates, tearing up phone books to release rage, telling my story without shame.

I remembered how amazing Big Feelings are, and how Byron Katie shares that they must have their life.

Feelings are incredible, really. We even have salt water (tears) come flowing out of our eyes. It’s rinsing out the pain somehow, shaking out the body, energy moving.

And then, the magnificent question.

Roxann asked me, softly.

Who (or what) would you be without this cancer story?

As I sat, feeling it, I felt the curiosity, the quizzical weirdness, the surprise, the openness of that question.

Who, what, where would I be?

What if my father died not too soon, but right on time? And my friend? And my other friend? What if my own cancer, and my sisters and mother’s, was just right?

Not “terriblehorriblenogoodverybad”?

Wow.

And to be witnessed in such a wondering. Who knows what can happen, to hold still in the presence of others and silence, exploring who I’d be without a huge story like “cancer”?

There we were, humans gathered in a circle as we have done for thousands of years. Noticing and being together.

It was so loving to be witnessed and facilitated, to facilitate myself internally within, to answer these questions about reality. To see reality clearly.

The Work is like saying “let’s take a look, shall we?” and exploring together, as people who each have incredibly unique perspectives and yet, here on the playing field as the Same.

No Final Answer. No “right” answer.

To even ask who we’d be…..results in peace.

Turning the thought around: Cancer has always come right on time. 

I’ll only be here so long, anyway. Everyone has a limited amount of life, and this situation is temporary. Cancer helps people slow down, say “I love you”, relax, enjoy the present. Cancer causes immediate retirement (like with my dad) and lots of time together with others (I saw my dad daily in my 20s when he was ill, and my friend Carl every other day almost for the entire summer–it’s possible we may have never been closer).

What does it take, to get us connected to true love, to life, to honesty, to being human?

For me, it looks like cancer. And it looks like joining things as a participant who does The Work right in front of everyone.

I’m still finding the examples.

It looks like finding everyone who does The Work in my presence the most amazing, brilliant person, full of such enormous wisdom.

And by the way, I’m so glad and grateful you are with me on this journey of exploring thoughts, painful ideas, having questions, being human. Thank you.

Much love,

Grace

P.S. Living Turnarounds Half-Day on April 22nd 2-6 pm in Seattle has 3 spaces left.

One spot open for commuters to Spring Cleaning Retreat in Seattle at a private gorgeous retreat house in Lake Forest Park neighborhood. AirBnb’s close by if you travel from out of town.

I can’t take it anymore with this body (my Stephen Hawking turnaround)

“I can’t take it anymore!”

I said this internally in my own head, not out loud, as I looked at the ceiling over my bed, unable to even turn over because of pain.

I had torn my right hamstring right off my sits bone by doing a gymnastics move I hadn’t done in 25 years. I wanted to reverse time, go back and fix it. I wanted it to not have happened at all.

Now after surgery I had a full leg brace to make sure I didn’t move, and my right leg was sort of withered looking.

I had a huge scar from left to right the full width of my upper right thigh in the back under my butt cheek where they drilled the hamstring back into the bone and held it fast with two titanium pins.

This was the ninth day of lying on my back in bed. Every time I got up to go to the bathroom, it hurt horribly as I dragged myself there. I couldn’t put any weight on the right leg. I couldn’t sit on the seat (I had a huge thick cushion put on the toilet seat and still couldn’t).

At that moment of looking at the ceiling….again….

….I tried to turn over onto my stomach.

It hurt so much, but I was determined. I could get out of the bed, so surely I could turn over and lie on my stomach for once?

Ouch.

I tried and kept trying, and then finally flopped over like a block of wood getting turned over by a tiny ant. Or a fish lurching over on a boat deck.

Then on my stomach, I stared at the place the floor and the wall met. I had a great view of the carpet.

OK, here I am on my stomach at last. Now what.

I stared at the floor for about 30 minutes, and lay there feeling the relief of being off my back, and on to my stomach, and then eventually realized I needed to turn over on my back again if I wanted to anything besides stare at the wall.

Slow pushing, careful turning. Flop.

And then the thoughts broke through.

I can’t take this anymore. I’m trapped. I’ll never be the same. This is horrible. My life is over.

I did The Work.

I got to trade facilitation with a beautiful certified facilitator, so I could stay close to this process without jumping out and into Doomsville.

Is it true, you can’t take it anymore?

Yes. Cry.

Are you absolutely sure? Can you know it’s not possible for you to “take this” anymore?

(Note the victim role, I am a very small potato and the world and reality are massively huge and all-powerful and I’ve lost).

No, it’s not true.

How do you react when you think you can’t take it anymore, and something very tough is happening?

Pictures of dying, declining, failing, never running again, never biking again, never getting up again. I see nothing good here. My sense of being this small ant in the universe is dreadful, sad, furious, self-piteous.

So who would I be without this story of oppression of the body, this injury being “bad”….and the thought that I can’t take it anymore?

Oh my.

I paused when doing this work for a long time to answer this question…imagining being unable to think this thought that I can’t take it.

I noticed how much reading I was doing (hands straight up overhead with long arms holding the book directly over my face), watching interesting videos, still teaching telecourses and working with clients. Still running the Year of Inquiry.

I noticed I didn’t think about my injury or even remember I was in bed when doing any of these things.

Without the thought….

….I’d be free, relaxed, navigating the next thing, the next thing. Watching life unfold around me, without the thought. Watching how things change, and how I’m not in charge.

I’d be aware of how truly having this thought was what was stressful, nothing else really.

Turning the thought around: I CAN take this anymore. I can’t take my THOUGHTS about this anymore.

This suddenly made me smile.

I began to wonder about this idea of “taking it”. Gross. It sounded so passive and violent. And yet, to consider the turnaround that I could take it, then it could mean something different–like I was capable of taking, and even transforming it.

Or, it wasn’t even “me” that would be transforming “it”, but instead something was taking this and working with it.

Plus I notice taking and giving are a paired type of energy, so there was something giving, and something taking, and energies flowing. I’m watching it all. I’m participating.

And then, as I did this work, I saw Stephen Hawking in my head.

He can’t turn over, and I don’t see him complaining.

In fact, he’s doing some kind of amazing life journey living an incredibly unexpected life with ALS and offering his unique genius in the world in the form of physics and philosophy and explaining it all to humanity.

I immediately found videos with his electronic mechanical voice (since he couldn’t even talk) and listened, mesmerized and overjoyed by his explanations of the universe and space.

He could take it. He could carry on. He could have a brilliant life full of passion without moving much at all.

“The greatest enemy of knowledge is not ignorance; it is the illusion of knowledge.” ~ Stephen Hawking

My own illusion of failure, pain, decline, the need for a “working” body, death, injury was a grand illusion.

YAHOO!

I can’t take it–not really. That could be a fun turnaround of joyful laughter, not depressing fear and self-pity. It’s not possible to “take” it. It was only my invention in that moment of suffering.

It wasn’t even true.

Thank you Dr. Hawking for your contribution to the world and to my turnaround. You were an inspiration to someone far away who you never met in real life.

By questioning my thoughts, I wound up with appreciation for my injured body.

Because of that incident, I quit my part time job completely to go full time with facilitating The Work, I learned how to do yoga instead of gymnastics, I learned more about astrophysics from someone who didn’t need to have a “working” body in order to be happy.

And that person was me.

Much love,

Grace

Come to Breitenbush to inquire this early summer (+ interview with me and Todd)

Several years ago, I had the delightful privilege to meet Todd Smith, a Certified Facilitator of The Work. His story is moving and profound for how The Work transformed his thoughts about partnership, the death of his mother in a plane crash, and his relationship with career and money.

To watch my interview with Todd, click here.

I was so excited about the interview, by the way, I spoke 100 miles an hour without any introduction at the beginning, plus I have no idea what the caption is doing at the bottom of my screen that’s half cut off. But I bet you’ll love hearing about The Work and Todd’s experience of it.

Super inspiring.

I’m so happy he’ll be joining me at Breitenbush this year, for the 8th annual immersion in The Work for four days June 13-17. Call Breitenbush at 503-854-3320 for all the information and to register. (You can also read about it on my website here).

And speaking of inspiration….I have a little secret to confess.

People like Todd who have transformative internal journeys about the hardest situations in life like conflict, anxiety, scarcity and death….

….are my heros.

Even though I do The Work and have felt change I never thought possible for this anxious mind, I am a huge secret admirer of everyone who is willing to question, even just one of their thoughts, with sincerity.

I had such low trust in myself and my ability to relax, I could barely even “do” The Work after I read Loving What Is. It took me diving in to attending the School for The Work to “get” the true value of it.

The learning I receive continues to this day.

I have the incredible joy of facilitating people and witnessing being with people who see their problems in a new way.

They’re been worried, upset, angry, or sad and don’t know what to do. Sometimes for years and years.

And *ping*!

They catch some amazing insight as they answer the four questions.

I honestly feel when people show up to do The Work and I happen to be facilitating, I’m the luckiest person ever.

Because there are many difficult experiences. There are dreadful experiences. Tough things happen in life to humanity.

It’s really quite miraculous that people can identify these painful experiences, write about them on paper, and take them through inquiry….

….and come out more aware, freer, more peaceful.

“I discovered that when I believed my thoughts, I suffered, but that when I didn’t believe them, I didn’t suffer, and that this is true for every human being. Freedom is as simple as that. I found that suffering is optional. I found a joy within me that has never disappeared, not for a single moment. That joy is in everyone, always.” ~ Byron Katie

The truth is, this work would not be interesting, magnetic or compelling if we were following someone else’s ideas or instructions.

It’s not about having any guru, and that includes Byron Katie (and I’m sure she’d agree).

It’s about answering the questions in the most deep, contemplative, honest way you can. No wrong way. No right way. Only your own genuine answers.

Amazingly, these answers bring light-bulbs, ah-ha’s, and new ideas. It doesn’t have to be big and like a gigantic firework going off.

Only a little shift can make a huge difference. The course is changed. There’s a new path.

Who would you be without your thought about that tough thing that happened?

Just a wee bit accepting. Or just a lot mind-altered.

Both are better than the suffering that was happening without The Work.

Much love,
Grace

P.S. it looks like the half-day mini retreat this Sunday is full. The next one is April 22nd or email to get on the wait list.