How Neutral Can You Be?

quiet reflection

The neutral foreground and sides of this image allow the mind to be drawn into the subtle parts of it.

If you Want to Find the Truth, Neutrality Is a Help

Over the years of living, I’ve learned that some things work for me and some things don’t. I’ve developed preferences and opinions.

But when I do The Work, I suspend my opinions and preferences as much as I can during the process of inquiry—just to keep an open mind.

And the same is true when facilitating others.

If I Have an Opinion, I Hold It

It can be very tempting sometimes to share what I think with a client who is doing The Work. But if I do that, I cheat them out of their own process of self-discovery.

This only teaches dependence. It moves away from neutral facilitation into the field of advice-giving and ego-stroking—which is not helpful when it comes to finding freedom.

Finding freedom is something each of us has to do for ourselves.

Are you willing to step out of the way for those who really want to know the truth (especially if that person is you)?

Have a great weekend,
Todd

“When someone is facilitating The Work, giving the four questions, he’s receiving at another level what I originally received inside me. If he’s really facilitating from a neutral position, without any motive, then he’s in the place where I am on the other side. It just gains in its freedom. It’s in or out: unlimited.” Byron Katie, Question Your Thinking, Change the World

Slow and Steady Wins the Race but Fast and Furious Saves the Day

waterfall

The same waterfall has both fast and slow streams.

I’m a Big Lover of Slow-Cook Inquiry

For me, slow is fast. I love to go deep and to marinate in each question and turnaround of The Work. I typically take a couple of weeks to work through a Judge-Your-Neighbor Worksheet questioning every statement that I wrote.

And the reason for this is that when I slow down, I often see much more than I do when I’m zooming through my work.

The Work is meditation, and meditation requires slowing down.

But That’s Not Absolutely True Either

I was reminded of this the other day by someone in my online Inquiry Circle group. She got triggered at work strongly enough that she needed to do The Work on the situation right away. But she didn’t have time to do a slow, meditative approach.

Instead, she wrote down her stressful thoughts quickly and worked them quickly. And she was able to get back to work without the emotional baggage in a very short time.

I Remember Doing This Some Years Ago

It’s been a while for me because I’ve mainly been practicing the slow approach.

I remember I was meeting with a client who had stressed me the day before. I knew I was not feeling very open minded towards her and I needed to do The Work before we met.

But I only had five minutes. I wrote a rapid Judge-Your-Neighbor Worksheet in about three minutes and then simply turned around each statement that I wrote in the remaining two minutes. There was no time even for the four questions, or turnaround examples. But as I turned everything around, I found where I was off, and I found several powerful living turnarounds I could try out during our session.

This Was An Emergency Approach

But because my mind is used to doing The Work, and am comfortable with the process, I felt my story shifting immediately. My heart opened towards my client in a matter of a few minutes, and I felt connected to her throughout our session together.

In fact, that was a turning point in my relationship with that client. She quickly became one of my favorite people to work with.

I experienced the power of inquiry—even when doing what I called “the fastest worksheet in the world.” And I never did go back to working that worksheet thoroughly. It was done.

This Does Not Diminish the Value of Slow-Cook Inquiry

In fact, the effectiveness of my fast approach may have come from my generally more meditative practice of The Work. But I love seeing the value of both ways here.

The moment I think there is only one way to do it, I’ve limited myself. It only takes a second to see things differently. So why not intersperse some fast worksheets along with all the slow, meditative ones?

Have a great week,
Todd

“Again and again, I have seen The Work quickly and radically transform the way people think about their problems. And as the thinking changes, the problems disappear.” Loving What Is

What Supports you Best to do The Work?

triathlon

You don’t have to join a triathlon to get exercise but you’ll probably need some form of practice to feel healthy.

The Work Is a Practice

It’s just like exercise. You can’t exercise once really really well and then never exercise again.

Well, you can but you may not feel so good after a while. This is because exercise is a balancing factor for sitting and eating. If you only sit and eat all the time without exercising, the system becomes imbalanced. Exercise provides the needed balance.

But real balance is an ongoing thing. Because sitting and eating are ongoing things. So if balance is to be maintained, then exercise as an ongoing practice makes sense.

The Same Is True with The Work

When I don’t do The Work, my unquestioned beliefs about how life should be different than it is start to build up. By doing The Work of Byron Katie, I question what I think, and I tend to find balance again.

Just doing The Work once is wonderful. It can be life-changing.

But once not enough for me because life keeps coming at me. New stressful thoughts show up all the time. If I don’t have a practice of doing The Work regularly, my stressful thinking can start to gain the upper hand.

Here’s What Works for Me

I like to spend about 30 minutes five days a week doing my work. If I have time, I love an hour but that’s not always possible. I find that doing it with others is helpful. That’s why I created my Inquiry Circle ongoing practice group. There is something about working in a group (just like exercising with others) that really supports me to keep a regular practice.

I also love the flexibility of Inquiry Circle which allows me to step away for a week, or a month, or more. And it allows me to do The Work as infrequently as once a month, or once a week, or to do it every day. And I love that it supports both spoken and written work formats.

It’s always a balance for me. I find that if I’m too rigid or too ambitious about how I do The Work, I drop out. For me, slow and steady works best.

What supports you best to do The Work? I’d love to hear how you have integrated the practice of The Work into your life.

Have a great weekend,
Todd

“The Work is a practice. I suggest that people have it for breakfast every morning, and have a good day. Even if you’re graced with the deepest experience of enlightenment, you still need to practice awareness, because there are ancient thoughts that will keep arising in you, and if you don’t question them, they’ll take you over, however enlightened you are.” Byron Katie, A Mind at Home with Itself

Are you Following your Turnarounds Blindly?

lighthouse

A lighthouse beacon is just a pointer. It is no substitute for navigation skills.

The Work Is Self-Inquiry

That means that nothing outside of me is directing me as I look for my truth.

Even the four questions and turnarounds are just pointers, pointing me back to myself, pointing me to look where I hadn’t thought of looking. The four questions and turnarounds are a huge help in self-inquiry.

But the moment I rely on them without thinking—without checking in with myself at each step—that is the moment when I am no longer doing self-inquiry.

Instead of seeing the turnaround as assistance in the process of self-inquiry, I am elevating the turnaround to the status of “teacher” or even “dictator.” Instead of checking with myself to see if what I’m finding is true for me, I’m back to the old way of “trying to do it right” and following “others” blindly, which is a million miles away from true self-inquiry.

We All Have a Built-in Self-Correction Mechanism

If a turnaround points me towards something that seems off to me, or that makes me feel more stressed, my self-correction mechanism kicks in and I notice that it doesn’t feel right. This is when I stop and look more closely.

This feeling could be due to three different reasons:

1) The turnaround is off – sometimes they just are. In this case, my self-correction mechanism caught it. Hooray!

2) My understanding of the turnaround is off – I may just be interpreting the turnaround in a way that doesn’t feel right. Is there a different interpretation that fits both the turnaround and my experience?

3) I’m up against an entrenched belief I have about life – I will feel resistance if a turnaround stretches me out of my comfort zone. I usually have to sit with turnarounds before I can stretch enough to meet them completely. It is a process.

The Bottom Line Is Honesty

Do I honestly see the turnaround? Or am I faking it? Or am I rejecting the turnaround out of hand? All of these are possibilities. But the only way forward in self-inquiry is to keep landing on my honest experience.

If a turnaround stretches me and I honestly can find something bigger than what I had originally seen, then wonderful. But if my honest truth is that I don’t resonate with a turnaround, that’s fine too. I’d rather be honest about it, and maybe spend some more time considering it from different angles.

My only job is to stay true to myself as I do my work. When I do that, I can navigate anywhere, using turnarounds as clues while I find my own way.

For me, self-inquiry means there is a little question mark after everything—even after every turnaround. The question, “Is it true?” is sitting there after everything, inviting me to get in touch with my experience.

In self-inquiry, everything is up to me.

Have a great week,
Todd

“But when you allow each thought to be met with “Is it true?” life will show itself to you. Eventually, you find yourself ending every thought with a question mark, not with a period. You’re able to rest in the never-ending enlightenment of the don’t-know mind.” Byron Katie, A Mind at Home with Itself

How Can you Tell if You’re Having an Emotion/Feeling Stressed?

duck flapping its wings

You could say that this duck is just stretching it’s wings. But maybe it is feeling threatened by my presence and this is a stress reaction.

Stress Is Not Always Obvious

Anger, sadness, fear, love. These emotions are usually pretty obvious to detect. But many times emotions can go undetected. You may be stressed but unaware of it.

Identifying when you feel stressed is the first step of doing The Work of Byron Katie. By identifying first the emotion and then the thoughts connected to that emotion and then questioning those thoughts, it is possible to move from feeling stressed to peace.

Here are a few signs that stress may be happening.

The Body Will Let You Know

Emotions are physical sensations in the body. If you pay attention to an emotion, you may notice different physical sensations such as heat, butterflies, tightness, etc. Every emotion has some physical manifestation. And it may show up differently in different people.

The ego has lots of ways of ignoring these sensations, or trying to make them go away. This tendency to pretend that “I’m fine” keeps the ego safe from having to look more closely at what is going on.

But if you’re really interested in knowing the truth, emotions are your friends. They are the alarm clocks that let you know that you’re buying into a story. They let you know it’s time to investigate.

Here Are Some More Clues in the Body

I learned some years ago that my anger doesn’t always show up as anger. I sometimes do not notice anger at all in my stomach, but feel hot on my skin instead, sometimes even red in the face. When I’ve looked closer, I’ve often found I was actually angry, or embarrassed, about something.

Similarly, if I start to sweat under my arm pits, or on my palms and soles, it’s a pretty reliable clue that I’m feeling stressed. Many a good worksheet has come out of listening to this clue.

Behavior Is Another Clue

Little obsessive movements like touching my thumbs together, or touching my teeth with my tongue let me know that I’m feeling stressed.

Addictions also provide the same clue. If I’m reaching for something sweet more than usual, it’s usually a sign that there is something else (stressful) going on for me.

Also, any time I notice a desire to “get out of here,” it’s a great sign that I’m feeling stressed about something. In fact, “fight, flight or freeze” reactions all let me know I’m experiencing stress.

How I treat people is yet another clue. I may not notice any sensation in my body, but if I’m treating someone badly, it can clue me in to what’s going on internally for me. So far, I’ve noticed that hurtful, controlling behavior by me towards others has been 100% stress driven.

All of These Are Clues

But my clues are not necessarily going to be your clues. My only suggestion is to start noticing the clues that show themselves to you.

Maybe you just feel flat. It might not seem like an emotion, but it is a clue that something is going on. When you look, you may find thoughts associated with it. And when you question those thoughts, you may find that even flatness starts to shift.

That’s all I ever do when doing The Work: I notice the reactions I am having (emotional or otherwise), I identify the thoughts associated with them, and I question those thoughts. More often than not, when I do, the emotion or stress reaction evaporates as I begin to see the missing truth.

Have a great weekend,
Todd

“I have never experienced a stressful feeling that wasn’t caused by attaching to an untrue thought. Behind every uncomfortable feeling, there’s a thought that isn’t true for us. “The wind shouldn’t be blowing.” “My husband should agree with me.” We think the thought that argues with reality, then we have a stressful feeling, and then we act on that feeling, creating more stress for ourselves. Rather than understand the original cause—a thought—we try to change our stressful feelings by looking outside ourselves. We try to change someone else, or we reach for sex, food, alcohol, drugs, or money in order to find temporary comfort and the illusion of control.” Byron Katie, Loving What Is

Who Would You Be Without a Destination?

beautiful romm with roses

What rosy destination has your mind locked onto?

Most of the Time I’m Trying to Get Somewhere

As I write this, I’m flying from Los Angeles to Vermont. The captain comes on every hour to tell us how much longer it will be before we land. It’s as if life is on hold until we reach our destination.

Next week, my partner and I will be flying again as we move from Vermont to British Columbia. Again, it’s a destination. My mind thinks, “I can’t relax until the moving process is complete.”

Meanwhile I can think of a dozen things that I’d like to improve on my website and in The Work 101 and Inquiry Circle. Each one is a destination.

Even finishing writing this newsletter article is a destination of sorts. Somewhere deep inside, my mind believes that my life will be better once I can check it off my list.

And let’s not even talk about the destination of finding peace, enlightenment, etc. All of this unfinished business is a cause for stress.

But Destination Is Just a Concept

Right now I think Vermont is my destination as I’m flying through the air, but that’s a totally relative idea. From another point of view it’s truer that British Columbia is my destination. Where do you draw the line? Is Vermont the destination, or just another point along the way? And for that matter, is British Columbia really a destination, or just another point along the way?

When I stop and think about it, no matter where I look, I can’t actually find a true destination. There’s always something more beyond it.

Even enlightenment, if there is such a thing, is described by the wise as ever evolving. If that is so, where do you draw the line between unenlightened and enlightened? Even enlightenment may end up looking like just another beginning when seen from further down the road.

So I Can Take it Either Way

Either it’s impossible to reach enlightenment because there is no endpoint (so why bother). Or I’m already enlightened as I move from one state of enlightenment to the next, to the next, to the next (so it’s no big deal). It seems to be just a matter of degree.

Either way, enlightenment as a final “destination” makes less and less sense. Why would I trade the goodness of where I currently am for the stress of attaching to a destination?

This Applies to Everything

There is a joy in writing this newsletter. Do I really need to reach the “destination” of completing it in order to be happy? It doesn’t mean I’m not taking action. It doesn’t mean I don’t have a goal. But I’m aware that even that goal is just a concept made up and defined by me. It’s not actually real or important.

When I hold any goal loosely, I can be happy while moving towards or even away from it. In that space, I’m much more open to unexpected “destinations” along the way. Like the guy next to me just now spilling some coffee on my computer. (No, I’m not making this up. The timing was impeccable.)

As it turns out, only one USB port was damaged but with an open mind even the death of my computer would have been okay. My destination simply shifts now to calling Apple to see if it is covered by insurance.

If you ever get caught in the obsession of wanting to complete things, I encourage you to write down your destination based thinking and question it. “I need to get there, is it true?” Who would you be without such a solid, imposing concept of destination in your mind?

Have a great week,
Todd

“People think that enlightenment must be some kind of mystical, transcendent experience. But it’s not. It’s as close to you as your own most troubling thought. When you believe a thought that argues with reality, you’re confused. When you question that thought and see that it’s not true, you’re enlightened to it, you’re liberated from it. You’re as free as the Buddha in that moment. And then the next stressful thought comes along, and you either believe it or question it. It’s your next opportunity to get enlightened. Life is as simple as that.” Byron Katie, A Mind at Home with Itself

You Shouldn’t Worry So Much… Is That True?

bins of apples

If you grow apples, it’s somewhat natural to worry about whether they will sell or not.

But Here’s How Worry Becomes a Vicious Cycle

When you think you shouldn’t worry—and you are worrying—it escalates. Then the mind starts worrying about the fact that you’re worrying.

It then adds on guilt and shame to make it worse: “I shouldn’t be worrying. I worry too much. I should just stop it.”

But that makes it even worse. It’s like telling someone caught in addiction to just stop it—not very helpful.

There Are Two Layers of Stress to be Unpacked about Worry

The first layer is the worry about worrying. And the second is the original worry itself, which is rooted in a sense of danger. The Work of Byron Katie can help bring clarity on both levels.

The worry (or shame) about worrying is contained in thoughts like, “I shouldn’t worry so much.” One client noticed that she originally picked up this thought from her parents, who had told her that she worried too much as a child.

When she questioned this thought, it was radical to consider the turnaround, “I should worry so much.” It went against a very strong belief system that worry was bad. But she found examples of how worry is not such a terrible trait.

It Is Just the Natural Tendency to Problem Solve

Even though it may get out of balance, this natural tendency is not bad. It is coming from a good place to try to avoid problems.

And even when it does get out of balance, worrying is totally understandable, especially if you are sensitive by nature and have experienced perceived or real dangers in the past.

What I love about this turnaround is that it starts to take the shame out of worrying so much. The more examples my client found of why she should worry, the more she relaxed.

That’s what turnarounds are about: balance. This turnaround was medicine for her because it balanced her belief that she worried too much. It doesn’t mean that we should all start worrying more now. It was a turnaround for her, and it brought her more acceptance for what is (her worrying).

But It Was Still Only One Side of the Story

The other side that she discovered is that worry indicates danger. So instead of being a bad thing, worry is just the alarm clock indicating that there is some perceived or real danger. It’s a call to check it out.

If it’s a real danger, then it’s a call to do something about it. This is where problem solving is very helpful. But if it is not a real danger, and worry persists, it’s a call for self-inquiry, doing The Work.

Either way leads to peace: either I solve the problem and move out of the danger, or I realize through inquiry that the problem is not really a problem and I don’t need to worry about it. Or sometimes, if the problem is real but it is not something I can control, then inquiry can help to find acceptance.

Making Peace with Danger

There will always be danger in life. That’s where worry comes from. Worry is the great indicator light letting me know that I think I’m in danger.

When the indicator light goes off, it’s a chance to look and see what is really going on. Is the danger real? If so, what can I do? If not, no problem. And is the danger something I can control? If so, what can I do? If not, how can I make peace with it?

Read more about how The Work of Byron Katie can help sort through what is real and what is not.

Have a great weekend,
Todd

“Thinking and worrying will solve all my problems”—has that been your experience?” Byron Katie, Loving What Is

Do you Find it Challenging to Facilitate Other People?

open road at sunrise

Facilitating someone is nothing more than offering them the road to drive on.

Facilitation Is Just Peripheral Support

The person you are facilitating to do The Work is in the driver’s seat. That’s the first thing to get clear about.

If there is any tendency to want to fix or help the other person, it will get in the way of allowing them to drive this road of self-inquiry. It would be analogous to being a “back seat driver,” which is usually more annoying than helpful.

So you might think, “I’ll just say nothing.” That’s one way to not be a back seat driver. And that could be a good first step. But facilitation is more than that.

Facilitation Is Not Completely Passive Either

If the person doing The Work with you is getting lost in their stressful story and is digging themselves in deeper, a facilitator points out where they stopped answering the question and went off.

It’s like a driver who is drifting out of the lane. Sitting quietly as a passenger and not saying anything as the car prepares to go off the road is not right either. There is a fine line between not being a back seat driver and not letting the driver take the car off the road.

The Work Is a Clear Straight Road

Most drivers want to stay on the road because it allows for speedy progress. But sometimes the mind will cause a driver to think the ditch is safer. A facilitator is there to keep encouraging them to try the road.

This is not about control. The person doing The Work is in full control. But the facilitator is there as a reminder that the power of The Work lies in answering the questions, not in discussion, defense, elaboration, etc.

Facilitation Will Be Different for Each Client

If someone is very experienced in doing The Work, they may need nothing from me at all. I just ask the four questions and turnarounds and listen as they do their work. They already know how to drive the road.

But if someone is going into justification, or gets snagged on something while doing The Work, then I may need to say something more to bring them back to the questions and turnarounds.

The key for me is to adjust according to what is needed. This is different each time. And I’m willing to “do it wrong” by testing both extremes: stepping in too much or too little.

This Skill Grows with Practice

I find my balance between over facilitating and under facilitating through trial and error working with different people.

And as always, I let my stress be my guide. If I notice any stress while facilitating, I write down my stressful thoughts and question them. This has helped me to become both more comfortable while facilitating and better able to serve as a facilitator.

Have a great weekend,
Todd

“Wherever you come from, I’ll come from that same position in order to meet you.” Byron Katie, Question Your Thinking, Change The World

Are the Turnarounds for Line 6 Taking it Too Far?

oil tanker

Am I really willing or looking forward to another oil spill?

The Work Is an Opportunity to Stretch the Mind

The Work doesn’t care how flexible you are when it encourages you to stretch. It just asks.

So sometimes you may come to a place where you think, “No way! This is too much!” And you stop doing The Work. Literally, the mind will blame The Work for “pushing” things too far.

This can happen in the turnarounds to Line 6 statements on the Judge-Your-Neighbor Worksheet. Line 6 statements are always in the format, “I don’t ever want…” with the most common turnarounds being “I am willing…” and “I look forward to…”

This Is about as Big a Stretch as you’ll Find in The Work

The Work asks you to consider if you could look forward to the very thing you don’t ever want to happen.

Is The Work some kind of sadist tool? You might think so at first glance, but in reality, The Work is not asking you to do anything crazy. It is only concerned with your internal experience. Are you experiencing openness or shut down?

You Might Think it’s Dangerous to be Willing

But if you think a turnaround is dangerous, it just means that you’re misunderstanding the purpose of the turnaround.

The turnaround does not say, “Go out and create an oil spill to prove that you are open to the worst that can happen.” No. It just asks you to consider, “Is it as dramatically terrible as you think it is if an oil spill does happen?”

If I’m really attached to my belief, I’ll say yes. But if my mind has been softened with some inquiry and I have become less fixated on my fearful belief, I may start to see that the worst thing that could happen could actually be the best thing that could happen. Or at least is not something to be so overly afraid of. My dramatic thinking becomes more realistic.

This softens my heart and reduces my fear, but it doesn’t mean I’m going to go out and do something stupid to provoke the worst that could happen.

We’re Only Working with the Mind Here

And in doing The Work, we’re only looking for balance. If I’m contracted inside with fear because “I don’t ever want” something to happen, then I’m paralyzed and stressed.

This is an imbalance of the mind. I’m living in fear now because something terrible might happen in the future. The turnaround aims to balance this by introducing an opposite: “I look forward to…”

It takes an extreme opposite to balance an extreme opposite. “I look forward to…” is extreme because “I don’t ever want…” is extreme. The two cancel each other out and that’s where peace can be found.

The Turnaround Is Medicine

If you get bitten by a rattlesnake, you need the antivenom to balance it. But if you take the antivenom when you don’t have a snake bite, you’ll get sick. Always, when doing The Work, the original stressful thought (the snake bite) is balanced by the turnaround (the antivenom).

It may seem strange, even dangerous, to consider “I look forward to…” but if you go through this mental exercise, you may find that it is precisely the medicine you were needing to get out of the fear attack.

Ironically, once you’re out of the fear, your ability to prevent bad things from happening goes way up.

Have a great week,
Todd

“You just contemplate these. You test them. It doesn’t mean that the turnaround is true, but you stay focused on that phone call until you can see how the turnaround is true, even if it doesn’t seem true at first. You meditate. You test. You stay focused on it. This is really important, if freedom from suffering is your goal.” Byron Katie, A Mind at Home with Itself

Are you Comfortable Doing Things you’re Not Good at?

carved wood rose

Try carving a rose out of wood. When it doesn’t go the way you hoped, is it stressful?

Not Being Good at Something Can Be Stressful

Where is that stress coming from?

The carving itself is not stressful. It’s purely mechanical. The stress comes from what I’m thinking. The thought, “I should be good at this,” makes it stressful.

Whenever I’ve questioned this thought, it has opened me up again.

For Example, I Used to be Stressed about Business

Starting in 2002, I wanted to be good at running a business i.e., able to make a living. But I had zero experience in business. I didn’t study it in school, I didn’t have any mentors or role models. I didn’t know the first thing about it. I even had an aversion to money.

But over the years I’ve stumbled around in business, and I’ve questioned my stressful thoughts as I went. The result is that I stopped expecting myself to be great at it. That’s when things opened up. That’s when it became fun. I was open enough to learn, and humble enough to simply serve.

When I stopped thinking I should be good at business, I got better at it, but more importantly, I stopped worrying about it. I started feeling free even as I continued (and continue to this day) to stumble around.

Managing Groups of People Is Another Weak Point

I’m basically a loner.

While I like people, I tend to stay to myself. And when dealing with people, I do best one-on-one. When I get in a group, I become much more insecure and likely to make blunders. I hate getting caught between two opposing factions.

But guess what my job gives me? A group. I call it Inquiry Circle. It’s an online group of people who get together every day to do The Work.

Am I good at managing the group? In some ways, yes. It is very orderly. But I also get my weak spots exposed continuously. I show up as harsh sometimes. I show up as manipulative sometimes. I am certainly not a perfect “leader” of the group.

But what I love about this group of open minded people is that none of us is expecting each other to be perfect. We are just here to do The Work. So, in the name of truth and freedom, I admit my mistakes, I question my related thoughts, and I make amends.

It’s Actually Exciting

I’m not good at what I’m not good at, but I’m not pretending that I am. That’s where the freedom is for me.

I’m not pretending to be an enlightened guru that doesn’t make mistakes. I’m just another first grader open to helping other first graders with their homework. That is freedom!

Thank you to The Work for allowing me to be free without having to be perfect. It gives me the courage to dive into anything whether I’m good at it or not.

Have a great weekend,
Todd

“The job you do out there in the apparent world is secondary. It’s only a place for you to judge, inquire, and know yourself.” Byron Katie, Question Your Thinking, Change the World

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