You Have To Relax To Be Successful

A very interesting pattern and experience of being human is constantly imagining a “better” place or situation in the future. Bigger living quarters, more possessions for the family, a new car, more livestock, more money, bigger business deals, more friends, a life partner, more vacations, more time, better relationships, more happiness, more peace, more power.

Growth! Success! Expansion!!

The tricky thing about visioning the future the way we all do is when it makes us compare that vision to our present situation.

Even ever so subtly, in a tiny whisper, there is the voice that says things like this:

  • getting there could take awhile….I sure wish I could get there faster
  • if I don’t succeed and grow, life could be boring…or I might be a FAILURE
  • if things stay the same in my life, then why even live? what’s the point?
  • I could never, ever be like that person over THERE (who is rich, successful, enlightened, peaceful….whatever your particular desire)
  • I need more time
  • I need to be exceptional, not mediocre (this can start it’s own thread of how to get more training, education, coaching or counseling)

And then, to make matters a little more complicated, we also have a little comparison slide show going of how much work it could be to achieve that vision.

We’ll have to change our schedules, stop buying things, save money, wake up earlier, talk with more people, go on dates, fill our calendars with appointments, work more hours, work at jobs we don’t like, make deals with unpredictable people, meditate or discipline ourselves in spiritual practice more, get another degree, take tests, change jobs, move to a different home.


I’ll never forget when I was incredibly drawn, almost panicked, about investigating my thoughts on Success. I was terrified of not having enough money, and afraid of not being “successful” or having fun in my life, or reaching enlightenment (which according to me was obviously later, not now).

I identified the belief “I HAVE TO push to be successful”. As in, I have to have energy, keep myself moving, going, thinking, acting, practicing. I have to strive, drive, buckle down, stick to the plan, NO PAIN NO GAIN!!

My belief was that if I didn’t “try” or “push” then NOTHING WOULD HAPPEN. And that would be terrible, because my current situation was just not good enough.

What an incredible thing to question….and to find out that it is NOT TRUE that I have to push, plan, set goals, drive myself, or achieve. I mean, really?

I discovered that if I relaxed, stopped, breathed, thought about what would be fun, pleasant, interesting, felt what I was drawn toward….then that was the path of least resistance.

This does not mean that I never set my alarm, write in all my appointments in my calendar, imagine new and wonderful ideas, call someone, or pack my suitcase if I’m going away. It’s just that it doesn’t HAVE to happen. Ever.

Many of us have never ever tried to stop (without depression, defeat, or despair) and feel satisfied right now, feel joy or peace here, do nothing yet and see what it’s like. I was terrified that I would have no purpose and no point, and be non-achieving lump of uselessness and lie down on the floor.

“If a country is governed wisely, its inhabitants will be content. They enjoy the labor of their hands and don’t waste time inventing labor-saving machines. Since they dearly love their homes, they aren’t interested in travel. There may be a few wagon and boats, but these don’t go anywhere. There may be an arsenal of weapons, but nobody ever uses them. People enjoy their food, take pleasure in being with their families, spend weekends working in their gardens, delight in the doings of the neighborhood. And even though the next coutnry is so close that people can hear its roosters crowing and its dogs barking, they are content to die of old age without ever having gone to see it.” ~Tao Te Ching #80

Today I might have little thoughts floating around that shout MOVE IT. Mostly…I just can’t seem to believe them anymore. I am finding, strangely, that the less I do, the more I slow down and inquiry, the more I “succeed”.

In the next two weeks we’ll be starting teleclasses on Money, Food, Relationships and Sexuality. What great topics for slowing down, examining, looking….not building an arsenal of plans for success. How exciting to do less of being The Dictator on these topics…and understand more. Join us!

Byron Katie says, if you’re in a hurry, do The Work. I agree.

Life Is One Continuous Series of Mistakes

Making a mistake, say several spiritual teachers including Byron Katie, is not possible.

What a foreign concept to so many of us. Not possible to make a mistake? How could that be?! I myself have made mistakes over and over again! Other people have made mistakes throughout history! We’re one big pool of mistakes, falling short of perfection, peace, or love!

No Mistake is deeply meaningful to me as an idea when it allows us to look at what has happened without deep guilt, regret, anguish, shame or embarrassment.

What has been done is over now. There is no going back to “un-do” actions, words, behavior, events, choices.

Something happened….there is the “scene” like in a movie, and people behaved as they did, including us. We experience stress, fear, or grief as a response IF we are believing that bad things can happen and people can get hurt.

It feels so foreign to contemplate the idea that no one can truly get hurt at the core level.

What about war, Hitler, Nagasaki and Hiroshima, divorce, people hitting each other, car accidents, tripping, failing a test, forgetting ones lines on stage, telling a lie or a secret, getting angry or terrified, not understanding the homework?

We want things to turn out nicely. We really want peace, kindness, love, detachment, freedom. Lots of things in the world don’t look to us like these, they look instead like war, meanness, hate, attachment and imprisonment.

Recently it turns out that something I said made someone very upset.

The way I automatically tend to think about this kind of incident and exchange is with acute sadness, wishing I hadn’t said it, calling myself thoughtless, scared that it was my fault.

This thinking is so full of blame and attack that it brings this dark cloud into the body and mind… guilt, shame, nausea, fear, sleeplessness.

The idea of No Mistake is not to relinquish responsibility. It is to stop the repetitive drum of thinking we were Wrong, they were Wrong, it was Wrong, or that we wish we could rewind history and do it Right.

That desire to change the past is hopeless. It is full of despair.

The only thing that really works is looking at what beliefs were present in that moment where a mistake was apparently made.

So for me, some of what was happening when I said something that turned out to be upsetting was “they don’t care about me, they are ignoring me, I need communication, I want to be funny, they are dismissing or disregarding me, it doesn’t matter what I say…”

Without turning the attack on to the self, I can sit with the scene I see in my mind and replay it with an intent to bring peace to it, and not get stuck in the groove of That Was A Mistake.

The paradox of it all is that when I sit with the situation in my mind that caused pain, I discover complete and full responsibility in a way that has nothing to do with shame or self-criticism.

I discover I am 100% responsible. There is no one else here, just me and my thinking. I was believing a big story.

I discover that I was believing a thousand assumptions that were all stressful, including that it was possible that I could be ignored or mistreated.

I was being a regular human being with a little mind that is worried, protective, and punchy, and thinks it knows the truth.

Suzuki Roshi once said the life of a Zen master is one continuous mistake.

As it turns out, I am the one who has ignored others and myself, mistreated myself. I am the one who has hurt myself by thinking I needed something from someone. I am the one being limited, thinking things can go wrong.

One continuous mistake, one continuous perfect series of events, for awareness and expansion. One long life of seeing only part of the whole, since that’s all I can see in that moment.

“Everything happens FOR me, not TO me.” ~ Byron Katie

Be gentle with yourself. Allow this exploration to be pleasurable, not grueling. Not that life will always be pleasurable. It won’t. Unpleasant things will arise, and when they do, it’s an especially rich opportunity for stillness and attention….Sometimes we think that spirituality is about being calm and blissful, and losing our temper is something else. But actually, life gets MOST interesting and MOST juicy at precisely those moments when things seem to be getting the most difficult….they are doorways to truth. They are sacred moments.” ~ Joan Tollifson

Love, Grace

No Such Thing As Independence

Dear Inquirers,

The word “independence” by definition in the dictionary says it means: not controlled or influenced by others, not subject to another’s authority, not influenced by the thoughts of others, not influenced by the action of others, not dependent upon something else for existence or operation, not relying on others for aid or support.  


How could I possibly be not influenced by other people, or by actions or ideas I’ve heard. How could I possibly not rely on anything for support or aid?

I mean, really. There is not one thing that I do, think, or have that was built without influence from others.

My perception of the world is influenced deeply by all those people around me who are existing, doing their thing, talking, behaving, breathing, living.

My very existence in this body is dependent on some force of life running itself that I have no idea how it works, or why, or what really keeps it going. The heart beats, the brain thinks, the breath goes in and out.

We get so interested in independence….and it doesn’t really exist!

Something sounds really wonderful about it, though. If I were entirely independent, beyond all influence and control, what would I have?

The imagined state of total independence and why it sounds GOOD:

  • I do whatever I want
  • I don’t need anyone or anything
  • I don’t have to work
  • I’m thriving, I have everything I want
  • I can say or think whatever occurs to me
  • I feel free
  • I come, I go as I wish
  • I’m OK with everything, I don’t mind what happens

The interesting thing is, with doing The Work and questioning only what is being thought….this state of “independence” becomes more and more true.

And what’s funny is, with this so-called independence, there is more and more surrender to the condition of absolutely dependence on Reality, God, Source, What Is.

More and more dependence on going with the flow, not fighting against anything, giving up having it MY way. More and more being able to ask in any moment “Am I sure it needs to go the way I think it should go? Or can I be fine with how it is, can I find the humor?”

Less and less holding anyone or anything else responsible for influencing me, controlling me, causing me pain.

The whole thing is a big paradox; independent sounds good, dependent sounds bad….but really it’s all about what we’re independent from or dependent on.

Life shows us what we’re still trying to get independent from. Something happens, someone bugs us, and POW, we get all mad or scared.

The fabulous news is that we get to choose. It doesn’t seem like it sometimes, it seems like we’re just riding the PAIN TRAIN of reacting against or for something.

But we do get to choose peace….we have this much independence (and maybe that’s the only independence).

If peace is really what you want, then you will choose peace. If peace mattered to you more than anything else and if you truly knew yourself to be spirit rather than a little me, you would remain nonreactive and absolutely alert when confronted with challenging people or situations. You would immediately accept the situation and thus become one with it rather than separate yourself from it. ~Eckhart Tolle

The incredible thing is, when you become “one” with the situation or the person you are resisting, when you see the beauty in them, or you stop fighting the situation (like cancer, no money, someone dying) then oddly enough, there is Independence.

And there is nothing you can do about it.

Stop Believing In Abandonment

Hello Dear Inquirers,

When I first found The Work of Byron Katie one thought I had was…how could this be so simple and actually “work”?

What I meant by wanting it to WORK was I wanted to feel happy, resolved, peaceful. I wanted to stop thinking the same thing over and over and over again about a person who bugged me or a really difficult experience. I wanted to stop hating myself for making mistakes.

One concept that came up when I wrote down all my painful beliefs about someone was “he abandoned me”.

Yesterday I sat with a wonderful client who felt discouraged about primary relationships in her life. When she thought about partners she had, all the way back to her first boyfriend, she had the same kind of thought “he rejected me” or “he abandoned me”.

She said she would rather be burned, get into an accident, go through gigantic physical suffering, than experience the pain of breaking up with someone again.

I have a woman who I really don’t know extremely well who I worked with on a project in the past. She told me a few years ago “you are not being collaborative, you are not friendly”. She took notes, literally, on my lack of collaboration to present to the person in charge, and also pointed out that I was NOT a detail person.

You would have thought she had said to me “DIE, you scummy piece of junk! You horrendous disgusting excuse for a human! I hate everything about you! The world is worse with you in it!”

A little dramatic.

And all about ME. How dare she criticize me or have a problem with ME? I am such a well-intentioned, nice person! Jeez!

That little phrase “how dare you…how dare she….how dare they…”

If that comes into my head, I know I’m getting on the Blame Train and building my Case Against Them. I’m on the Train To Nowhere But Hell!

And in that moment that I get on that train, I’m actually abandoning everything. I’m abandoning myself, I’m getting super defensive, I’m abandoning them, I’m abandoning the whole truth of the situation.

I notice that it REALLY HURTS.

So eventually, with this repetitive thought that other people have abandoned me in my life, a wonderful facilitator finally suggested to me that a turnaround of this idea is “I AM SET FREE”.

Right in that moment that I believe someone “abandons” me by criticizing me, or “breaking up” with me…..

Maybe in that moment I am being set free, I am totally strong enough to live life without them, I am getting unhitched from being hooked on them like a trailer behind a car.

In that moment that I used to call “abandoned” I am being presented with great possibilities for the future, I am entering the world of emptiness, joy, space!

“How do you know when you don’t need people? When they’re not in your life. How do you know when you do need them? When they ARE in your life. You can’t control the comings and goings of people you care for. What you CAN do is have a good life whether they come or go.” ~Byron Katie

So, the dear woman who told me I wasn’t friendly enough and I wasn’t a detail person was there because I needed to hear that. She wasn’t abandoning me, she was giving me some truly excellent feedback. No big deal.

And the people who I apparently don’t ever see or talk with anymore, who are not in my life as they once were….wow. They offered just the right dose of detachment so I could come back to myself and love my own company.

Those abandoning-people gave me the most incredible gift. To stop believing in Abandonment.

Love, Grace

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Grace Notes

Grace Notes Are My Drug Of Choice
“Grace, I cannot let too many of these posts get into my soul and not send a thank you — although I want to shower you with blessings and thanks for every one I gobble up. Your sharing and insights are my soul food, my Being Candy, my It’s-Okay-It’s-Good-For-You drug of choice”. —-SD in Minnesota

Going Crazy Is Enlightenment

As a counselor I have worked with some pretty extreme mental suffering in others. People who are what we all might consider a little crazy. They even consider themselves crazy.

Feeling so full of suffering that you feel crazy is tough, to put it mildly. Sometimes, people don’t make it out alive.

Nuts, bonkers, losing it, mad, whack-job, not all here, looney, round-the-bend!

And yet, I have noticed that in those moments of the most extreme pain within myself I felt pushed to an edge that demanded something.

Eckhart Tolle tells his story of sitting on a park bench, for several years, living in mental torture…and then one day the thought “I can’t live with myself”. Then another thought that there were two “minds” here. One that couldn’t be lived with, and the other that was noticing this.

Bang! There was a shift in his consciousness, and he never suffered as he previously had again. There was an observer there, he just hadn’t grasped the presence of this observer for long enough before.

Byron Katie has a similar story. Something happened after ten years of spiraling downward into the most terrible depression. And then a change, a huge change, but all within her own perception.

There is something amazing about this extreme edge. When we feel the most suffering, then we can’t ignore it, it is alive within us, the thoughts are SCREAMING!

I see this now as an incredibly good thing. An advantage. The natural way of it.

My uncle died of self-torture, and so did a dear friend of mine who I hadn’t spoken with for 15 years. They were both found in similar situations, their body shut down from alcohol poisoning. Their suffering went right to the limit, and then beyond…apparently.

I experienced this torture and very extreme behavior: starving myself, binge-eating huge quantities of food and then vomiting, running long distances, smoking cigarettes, drinking huge amounts of coffee, drinking alcohol to the point of blacking out, feeling suicidal, having anxiety and terror, fear of people hating me, thinking life is not worth living, that the earth is a terrible place, and that I can never be happy.

What if your strongest emotional experiences are what happens in Reality when you’re believing fearful, violence, abusive, painful and UNTRUE thoughts?

Maybe you’re about to experience a break-through! What if someone in this extreme mental suffering has the power to shift away from that forever, in a great and powerful way?

Joseph Campbell said “It is by going down into the abyss that we recover the treasures of life. Where you stumble, there lies your treasure.”  

Write out a Judge Your Neighbor worksheet and let it rip, being petty, babyish, abusive, judgmental, name-calling. Letting your pain spill itself out.

Let it be extreme. The more truly extreme, the better. This is that voice, that terrified part of the mind on paper.

Those who are not afraid to let this voice write itself down on paper can see the story, right there. In this extreme place, breaking out, breaking through, cracking open can happen.

“Express yourself completely, then keep quiet. Be like the forces of nature; when it blows, there is only wind; when it rains, there is only rain; when the clouds pass, the sun shines through.” –The Tao Te Ching #23

Doing The Work is meditation, it is quiet, silent. You watch as the Observer. Who knows what will happen, the shift might be like an earthquake…or a calm evening. Reality will bring you exactly what you need.

With love, Grace

So Sad I Can’t Be Near That Person!

In the teleclass Turning Relationship Hell To Heaven this morning a participant brought us this concept for inquiry: “I can’t be near them”. She was thinking about her parents who were far away.

But everyone in the class could find where they had the same thought. Someone close to them had died, someone was physically far away,  a child had left home, a relationship had ended or never really blossomed.

This concept is only stressful of course if we believe we should be near them, or we want desperately to be near them, or that we are unhappy when we are NOT near them.

We have to be SURE that it is better if we are near them, or that there’s something sad about not being near them. We would be callous or uncaring….or weird, if we just didn’t mind one way or the other whether they were near or not. If we didn’t have stress, discomfort, unhappiness about how far away they are…..jeez! What kind of person would be that way!?!

J. Krishnamurti, an Indian writer and speaker who had many people who loved to listen to him during his life (he lived 1895-1986) once said “Do you want to know what my secret is? You see, I don’t mind what happens”. 

When I began to do The Work, I had so many things that I minded. To put it mildly. Not only were there people I wanted to be near (my father had died fairly young and I had thought of it as tragic) but I also wanted a LOT of changes!

I had a list, if God wouldn’t mind listening for a moment or two….which it seemed He wasn’t interested in (I wanted to be near him and thought I wasn’t). I love Katie’s little saying “Who needs God when we have your opinion?” Good point! Perhaps there was a chance that I was wrong?

Then I began to realize the relief in being wrong about my painful thoughts. If the universe was friendly instead of dangerous, then what an amazing feeling I found inside of myself. I wasn’t always sure…I still am not always sure. But even Not being SURE that it’s dangerous is a huge leap away from “I am positive that this place is dangerous”.

Seng-Ts’an was a great Chinese Buddhist teacher during the third patriarch who wrote these words as a part of a great poem:

The Great Way isn’t difficult for those who are unattached to their preferences. Let go of longing and aversion, and everything will be perfectly clear…..if you want to realize the truth, don’t be for or against. 

This doesn’t mean to delete all your preferences. It is natural to have them. I like blue most of the time more than red. We want things, we prefer things, we have joyful desires. We notice we enjoy being near certain people in our lives, so we want to be near them more. This is the way of it.

The Work helps us loosen the attachment to these preferences, this idea that seems true.

What if everything you think about being near that person isn’t true? What if Now is also OK? What if you can still be happy anyway, all by yourself?

From this vantage point, you can see the Great Way.

Lots of love, Grace

When They Think You’re Wrong

A few years ago I was working with a woman on a project who, it turned out, had some judgments about me, and about what the project outcome was supposed to look like. She was not happy.

One day I said to her “is there something the matter? I would like to hear what you are thinking” and then there was a stream of concepts pouring forth. “You are not being collaborative, you don’t seem to care, you are talking behind my back to other people about me, you are a liar”.

I was so stunned, and my face I am sure turned bright red. I had no idea she felt this way. I had suspected she was not a happy person about several things in her life. My thought had been “she complains a lot”. I had actually even done The Work on my thoughts about this….and wound up feeling a lot of compassion for her….from a distance. I had believed I need to stay away from her, she was too critical, too full of complaints.

Now, here was a human being, giving me what I needed right in that moment. Right in that instant I felt fear, sadness, fret, surprise.

  • I should have known how unhappy she was
  • I should have seen that she would complain about me
  • She is mean!
  • She is judgmental, critical, a perfectionist
  • She wants to be too close to me
  • She is nosy, she asks too many questions
  • She talks too much!
  • I am too introverted
  • I am too unfriendly

Investigating my thinking about this, I could see how the minute she “criticized” me, I was off into a vortex of fear. All coming down to “she doesn’t like me” and “I’ve done something wrong”.

And these thoughts themselves assume that if someone doesn’t like me it’s terrible, or that it’s possible for me to do something wrong.

The part of the mind that argues for safety, control, protection, and being careful….that part that is worried says OF COURSE YOU CAN DO SOMETHING WRONG, YOU DING-BAT! Watch out, you could make another mistake any minute now. Be careful! Just being yourself is not good enough! Being yourself might be bad! You should be more friendly, kind, talkative, open, truthful…

What if everything you’ve ever thought about someone else or about yourself that feels bad in any way is a belief that can be un-done, questioned, investigated, un-thought?

What if it’s possible to be peaceful, happy, loving, excited, joyful….in any moment, including the one where someone is yelling at you and clearly, thinks you’re making a mistake, doing it wrong, or doesn’t like you?

“Defense is the FIRST act of war. If you tell me that I’m mean, rejecting, hard, unkind, or unfair, I say “thank you sweetheart, I can find all these things in my life, I have been everything you say, and more. Tell me everything you see, and together we can help me understand. Through you, I come to know myself. Without you, how can I know the places in me that are unkind and invisible? You bring me to myself. So, sweetheart, look into my eyes and tell me again. I want you to give me everything.”~Byron Katie

I wrote down everything that woman said to me that I could remember. I looked at her words, and any place I wanted to defend or explain myself. I saw how she was right. I was distant, dismissive, I stayed away from her, something in me was bored with her, irritable, not collaborative, withdrawn. Something in ME judged HER as wrong!

She was right. I felt flooded with gratitude for her. I started talking more. I showed up more. I participated more. I said what I really thought. The whole atmosphere softened. I think about her face and I can see how hard she tries, how worried she is sometimes, how brave she was to speak up and tell the truth.

“All people are allowed to be happy at all times, forever. This is happiness: to know you are always allowed to be happy no matter who you are, what you do, and no matter what happens to you.”~Bruce di Marsico

With love,


Eating-Tweeting Santa’s Success

Santa just sent me a Tweet.

It went a lot better this year.

Because he and I did a couple one-on-one tele-sessions.

Then, on his chimney deliveries he didn’t eat EVERY
cookie…and it wasn’t that hard. He didn’t feel as deprived.

He also said he didn’t feel as guilty about turning down food,
even when a couple of “totally cute” little kids were really
disappointed (stuck out the bottom lip). He felt some guilt, but not as bad.

And for Christmas dinner? He’s proud as a peacock about not
eating everything in sight without knowing why. What a relief!

He and Mrs. Claus are still planning to go to my upcoming
weekend intensive in Seattle on Jan. 13. And Santa registered
early…didn’t procrastinate ’till all the spaces were filled.

And yes, Mrs. Claus is a little scared, but Santa reassured her
I’ve been through EVERYTHING to do with:

-overeating and under eating
-over exercising and refusing to exercise
-bingeing and cringing
-compulsive, impulsive eating
-un-eating (a nice way of saying “throwing up)
-self-torture (I’ve done it all except chains and “the rack”)
-every crazy self-discipline trick and strategy
-every therapy and group…including 12 steps

And Santa told her I’m not very scary-that this whole
“thing” about working with your thinking and beliefs is NOT
about criticism or yelling at yourself.

If that worked, we’d ALL be the perfect weight… and rich!

Santa told Mrs. Claus I even understand tough “guys” like Santa
(who thought this might be too touchy-feely).

Also, if he and Mrs. Claus do go on their post-Christmas Caribbean
vacation (a much-needed break), they still plan on joining the tele-group,
…on Skype. They never go anywhere without their Blackberries.

The tele-group starts on Jan. 17, a few days after the Seattle intensive
and is open to everyone…those who attend the intensive and to those who
don’t. It’s OK either way because we all learn from each other
and we begin from wherever we are.

Santa mentioned that in the past, he’s gone through some nasty
“backsliding”…so he definitely wants to follow up. He knows how
real life can be tricky sometimes…when you’re suddenly in an
old eating pattern–stuffed to the gills–and didn’t even notice how it happened.

So if you’re struggling with weight loss, anorexia, bulimia,
(or trying to gain weight), frustration, self-hatred, faking
it and ready to give up…you’re in the right place.

I’ve been there…done that! I lived for years in absolute terror
and desperation about how I was going to survive or ever find
any peace of mind.

So ’till we meet, be nice to yourself. Be gentle with yourself.
Be patient with yourself and respect all the efforts you’ve
made along the way-no matter how tempted you are to
pile on the punishment.

Because no matter what you’ve been told, love and kindness
are FAR MORE POWERFUL than any harsh, pull-yourself-up-by-
your bootstraps techniques.

For deep change in anything…gentleness wins hands down!

Blessing on your holidays and wishing you harmony
between you and your loved ones.


P.S. The elves who were previously signed up, decided they’re too
exhausted to make it to either program…maybe in a month or two.

So if you were uncomfortable about elves being part of the program,
you now have no excuses. It’s just us humans!

Thank you again for your class. I’m so thankful for you to have reached out to help those of us who were looking for relief from this life-long battle! I honestly thought it was going to be a never-ending stuggle (but that’s cuz I was beliving my thoughts!)—Anne, Los Angeles