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The Ninth Annual Address Book Challenge

Last updated on June 7, 2021

contacts app icon
There’s a wealth of insight sitting inside your contacts app.

We’ve Been Doing This Challenge for Nine Years

Join us this year and discover the hidden treasures in your contacts list. The purpose of the “Address Book Challenge” is to identify people and situations where your thoughts could benefit from a little self-inquiry.

Life has a way of burying things. So let’s do a little archeology. When you search through your address book, you will uncover old relationships and old situations, some of which were stressful for you.

At the time you may not have had the tools to deal with them, or the time, or the interest. But today, you’ve got the most advanced technology available for “excavating,” “carbon dating,” “DNA testing,” etc., so it’s a good time for a dig. 

Here’s the Main Tool in Your Tool Kit

When it comes to excavating the inner world of thoughts, feelings, and relationships, my favorite tool is The Work of Byron Katie. This amazingly versatile and simple form of self-inquiry allows me to shine the light on any old situation, no matter how many scary skeletons and shards of broken pottery I left behind there.

There is something so safe, so powerful about this manner of self-inquiry that it gives me the confidence to face what I was unable to face before.

But Not All Address Book Work Is Scary

I use this approach to find little hidden stresses that I can now work on and resolve. The more I do my work, the lighter my overall feeling is. That’s why I make The Work of Byron Katie my almost daily meditation practice. 

So you do not need to do big, deep work. Simply scanning your address book can give you little situations worth exploring too. 

Here’s How to Do It

Open your contacts list and start scanning anywhere (from the beginning, the middle, or the end). Pay attention to your emotions as you read through the names. Take your time, pausing on each name, and allowing the old images of that person and your interactions with them to emerge.

As you pay attention to your emotions, you will find that there is a very sensitive meter inside of you. As soon as you come across any person where you feel guilt, anger, fear, yearning, or any other stressful emotion, that little meter inside of you is letting you know there’s something worth exploring.

So that’s where I stop. When I do this exercise, I usually don’t have to go far before I find something. I stop scanning and prepare to go in deeper on that person.

Identifying the Stressful Thoughts

As I hold the person in my awareness, it doesn’t matter if they are dead or alive, I start to see images of my past interactions with them. I may notice a little instinctive turning away or a flash of emotion. Even though I want to run, I use the opportunity to look a little closer, knowing that I have The Work in my tool belt to support me.

Usually, there is one specific image that draws my attention, and that image leads me into a cavernous space where I re-witness a specific situation. Maybe that person rejected me. Maybe I rejected that person. Maybe they were unfair to me. Maybe they did something to make me angry.

Whatever it is, there is a situation that will start to emerge. Pay attention and begin to identify the stressful thoughts. You may either start writing a Judge-Your-Neighbor Worksheet on the person or start writing a list of one-liners to question.

Here’s An Example from My Contacts List

I opened up my contacts list randomly just now and the first name that popped up was Lisa, the photographer who first got me started as a wedding photographer back in 2002. It was my mom who connected us so that I could learn how to photograph my sister’s wedding (I then went on to be a professional photographer for 7 years after that). 

As I sit with this person in my mind and watch the images roll through, in the background I see always my mom wanting me to be like her (Lisa was a very successful New York wedding photographer). 

So my worksheet ironically is about my mom, not Lisa:

1. I feel not good enough for my mom because she wants me to be a New York wedding photographer. 

2. I want Mom to back off.
I want her to stop subtlely comparing me to Lisa.
I want her to stop pushing me to have a big career.
I want her to accept me as I am.

3. Mom should see that I did very well with weddings for four years.
She should see that I don’t want to be a New York photographer.
She should see that her pushing and comparing pushes me in the opposite direction.

4. I need Mom to be satisfied with whatever I am.
I need her to love me unconditionally.

5. Mom is pushy, ambitious, in my business.

6. I don’t ever want Mom to urge me to be “better” than I am again.
I don’t ever want Mom to try to direct my life again.

So cool! I was not expecting to find this worksheet just now, but look at that! From an old and dusty corner of my address book comes a vibrant worksheet about my mom. Good thing I didn’t delete Lisa’s name from my contacts list years ago. Her name just gave me a new inroad for working through my old issues with Mom.

Now I’m excited. I look forward to working through this worksheet and seeing what I discover when I do.

Your Turn: Give It a Try

I bet you could open almost any contact in your address book and find a worksheet or list of one-liners. What makes it exciting is that you now have The Work to hold you as you go back and explore. 

This is not the same as wallowing in the mud of past problems (which are better off left buried). When you uncover old stresses and you immediately bring them to The Work, you literally are cleaning them up as you go. So there is no mess left to wallow in. 

Of course, you still have to do your work. And sometimes, you may want support being held as you do your work. So reach out to others to facilitate you if you need it. 

I Love This Exercise at the Start of the New Year

This time of year is a time of looking back, and it’s a time of reaching out to old contacts. So why not reach in and enlighten yourself at the same time?

If you want to dive a little more deeply into The Work, join me for The Work 101.

Have a great week,

“I encourage you to write about someone—parent, lover, enemy—whom you haven’t yet totally forgiven. This is the most powerful place to begin. Even if you’ve forgiven that person 99 percent, you aren’t free until your forgiveness is complete. The 1 percent you haven’t forgiven them is the very place where you’re stuck in all your other relationships (including the relationship with yourself).” 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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