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The Mind Needs To Be Heard Before It’s Willing To Shift

Last updated on January 6, 2021

sound mixing board
No musician likes the amp to be turned off. And neither does the mind.

You May Think You’re Doing The Work

But if you’re not giving your mind a chance to be genuinely heard, you’re just doing lip service to The Work.

A lot of times what happens is I get so focused on shifting my mind, and turning things around, that I minimize the first step of The Work which is to listen.

The mind is in victim mode whenever it is stressed. It is closed and full of negativity. Introducing a turnaround in that state is as counterproductive as trying to whip the mind into shape.

It rebels. And it will hate you for trying to change it with The Work. The mind will hate The Work if you use it as a weapon against it.

This Is Not War

The mind is not bad. It’s just having a bad day. It is not broken. It is crying for help. It just needs to be listened to. And questioned. And treated with respect.

When given that space, the mind is fully capable of unraveling its own story. There’s nothing you need to do other than be present for it.

But if you give any indication that you want to use force to change the mind, it will shut you out.

So How Do You Listen To The Mind?

The first phase is to let it rant on paper. If the mind is really frustrated, don’t be in a hurry to start doing the four questions and turnarounds of The Work. Just let it rant onto paper until it is empty. This is true listening.

And don’t be afraid of what it will say. Allow it all to come out. You have inquiry that you can use later to consider all sides of the story. So for now, just let the mind write like a maniac to get every frustration down of paper. Often I just write free-form on a blank paper, or I fill in a Judge-Your-Neighbor Worksheet.

Then, when I’m empty–when my mind feels fully heard–then I invite the mind to look over what it has written. This is when the mind’s curiosity gets involved. The same mind that was just ranting can now be engaged in exploration, like a scientist pouring over the data.

When approached in this way, the mind is usually excited to see all these thoughts. It’s curious to see what is true and what is not. So I invite the mind to pick one thought that interests it and start doing inquiry with the four questions and turnarounds.

This Feels Like Respect

And the mind feels it. There’s no forcing the mind to turn things around. There’s no cajoling or manipulating. It’s just listening to the mind and inviting it to explore things openly. That’s all the mind wanted to do in the first place. And with this attitude, it’s happy to come along.

Lastly, what is most important throughout this whole process of doing The Work is to hold both sides equally as you explore. If you hold even a slight intention to prove that the turnarounds are truer than the original thought, then the mind will feel that bias. It knows you’re just trying to prove it is wrong. And it stops trusting you and this thing you call “The Work” which you are using against it.

In order to keep the mind’s respect for this process, you have to go into it with the idea that there may be truth on both sides. Then you can gather evidence objectively. And then the mind will respect the process and go along with any discoveries.

Otherwise, if there’s any hint of bias. The mind will reject the whole thing.

Have a great week,

“Through The Work we finally have permission to let those judgments speak out, or even scream out, on paper. We find that even the most vile thoughts can be met with unconditional love.” Byron Katie, Loving What Is

About the author

Todd Smith has been doing The Work of Byron Katie on an almost daily basis since 2007. He is just as excited about this simple process of self-inquiry today as he was when he first came across it. He also enjoys writing about The Work, and training others in the subtleties of this meditative process. Join Todd for The Work 101 online course, private sessions, virtual retreats, and his ongoing Inquiry Circle group.

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