A Formula for Stress
If the stars wanted to get stressed, they would decide exactly how they wanted to turn out, and then they would try really hard to accomplish their goal, their vision. They would be elated when they were moving in the right direction, and depressed when they were not.
Stars in this state of mind would not be free. They would be riding a roller coaster of emotions, kicked around by every change of circumstance. In short, they would be human.
Part of what makes us human, and thus prone to suffering, is our attachment to accomplishing things. That is why we try so hard, why we wrestle for control with God.
But Should We Not Plan?
In my opinion, there is nothing wrong with planning. Our nature as humans is to plan, so to fight that nature would also be to fight with God.
Thus, we find ourselves in a difficult position: planning is stressful, and not planning goes against our very nature. Wherein lies the balance?
I Recently Made a List
I wrote down some of the things I was trying to accomplish in my life, both big and small.
1. Get enlightened
2. Maintain good health
3. Live to 100
4. Be more happy
5. Feel more free
6. Gain weight
7. Become a good pickleball player
8. Become really good at yoga
9. Have a quiet life
10. Learn French
11. Improve Spanish
12. Learn other languages
13. Continue developing my Inquiry Circle platform for doing The Work
14. Build courses for how to do The Work on different subjects
15. Spend long hours doing The Work every day
16. Spend long hours meditating every day
17. Spend long hours doing yoga every day
18. Read more
19. Study more subjects
20. Take photos more
These are just a few of the things on my to do list, but you can quickly see how stressful even these decent goals can be. In the end, stress is my clue. When something is stressful, it’s my signal to do The Work.
The funny thing about this kind of stress is that it’s almost hidden. Because I want to accomplish these things so much, my mind ignores the stress of my attachment. It’s as if I get drugged by the idea of someday accomplishing these things, and don’t notice the pain of holding onto each goal.
But Pain It Is
It often manifests as pressure, pushing, driving, not resting. Yet to give up these lofty goals and plans could also be deflating. So again the question comes, where is the balance?
For me, The Work is always a way to find a balance between opposites. The imbalance for me lies in the direction of wanting too much, so I will question my wants. For example, “I want to learn French, is it true?” and when I question this, I’ll find that it is also true that I don’t want that.
This forms a balance in my mind, as The Work usually does for me, a coexistence of opposites. I’ll find the reasons why not learning French could be just as good, or better than learning it. And this leaves me in a sweet spot of not having to learn French, not straining to learn it, but not denying any natural desire to learn it either.
Then My Plan Fades and God’s Plan Emerges
After doing The Work on what I want to accomplish, I am left in a more neutral space. I’m neither antagonistic to accomplishing my goals nor attached to them. This is the space of freedom that The Work so often puts me in.
I’m neither driven nor driven away. It puts me a little more off to the side. And I become a little more open to whatever happens. Maybe I will learn French to fluency or even mastery. Or maybe it will just be something to entertain me for a while. Maybe I will become really good at pickleball, or maybe I’ll just continue to enjoy it as an easy-going way to exercise and be social.
Maybe I’ll move into doing yoga for long hours again as I once did, or maybe I won’t. Maybe I’ll just do a little yoga. Maybe I’ll have long hours for meditation or for doing The Work, and maybe I won’t. Maybe I’ll live to be 100 and maybe I won’t.
There is a freedom in this “maybe.” That’s where I step back, aware of my inclinations and interests, but also open to where life, or God, may move me. This feels like surrender, and it lightens the burden of trying to accomplish. I don’t have to plan so much, though I still plan. It feels like peace.
The only thing The Work removes is my attachment. And without that, I am free to move with God’s plan, contributing my part, but also ever curious about how the next step will unfold.
Could Your Next Step Be The Work 101?
If you would like to explore The Work of Byron Katie more deeply and experience more of this kind of coexistence of opposites in your own life, join us for 9 weeks (Oct 14 – Nov 15) for The Work 101.
In this course, you will not just learn about The Work, but you will do it. And you will have the support of our online community at each step of your experience.
Read more and sign up for The Work 101 here.
Have a great week
“Things seem to arise, and the Master lets them go because they’re already gone. This apparent letting-go is not some saintly act of surrender. It’s just that nothing ever belonged to her in the first place. How could she not let go of what doesn’t exist except as the story of a past or a future?” Byron Katie, A Thousand Names for Joy