If I had eaten all of these churros and chocolate dipping sauce, I would probably have indigestion. Indigestion happens when I overwhelm my digestive capacity.
There is such a thing as mental or emotional indigestion. And it’s not much different than stomach indigestion. Any experience that cannot be processed by the system bogs it down. It can be food or it can be any experience.
For example, let’s say someone you love dies. Unless your system is able to process the experience completely, it can tie up your internal resources for years or decades. Even if you’re “over it,” there may still be a thread of sadness or depression or anger.
This is an undigested experience in the heart and mind. And as long as it’s sitting there in the system, there is less appetite for more experiences. The system overall is weakened.
It’s Not Just Negative Experiences
Positive experiences can overwhelm the mind and emotions too. I remember I had a year or more of very positive experiences in my twenties. I was going to bed very early, doing yoga and lots of meditation. I felt a kind of spiritual high a lot of the time.
That became an overwhelming experience for me in a positive sense. And I’ve spent many years yearning for that again. A positive experience can tie up my energy just as easily as any negative experience.
In both cases, positive or negative, we’re dealing with mental/emotional overload, which can lead to either aversion or attachment and tie up the mind for a long time.
Experiences Make Impressions
Non-charged experiences make very slight impressions. For example, I know I had lunch the other day but I don’t remember exactly what I ate. It didn’t leave much of an impression on my mind because I didn’t judge it as “very good” or “very bad.” It just was.
But I can remember in vivid color where I was when I got the call that my mom died. I judged that experience as “very important” and “not good” and it became immediately very charged.
Charged experiences occupy the mind fully and can keep it going around and around in circles for years unless you do something to improve your mental digestion. When digestion is weak, it is easily overwhelmed. When it is strong, it can handle almost anything.
How to Process Undigested Experiences
The Work of Byron Katie is a way to strengthen your mental/emotional digestion by dealing with the unprocessed stuff. You start with any stressful experience that’s running in your mind. The fact that it has a charge means that it is overwhelming the “digestive system” and is bogging down the energy.
The Work starts there by identifying the emotional charge and finding the thought associated with the charge. When the thought is questioned, and space is given to experience the effect of the thought, the mind often becomes willing to look at other interpretations of the experience. You can literally rewrite history—a more truthful history, and a more peaceful history—by questioning your thoughts in this way.
In this meditative practice, the energy caught up in a stressful thought is freed. As the mind starts to see things differently, the emotion relaxes, and the experience fades the same way my experience of lunch faded away. There is no undue importance given to it anymore, and the mind can let it go. It is neither “very good” nor “very bad,” it just is.
Trapped Energy Becomes Available Again
All the energy used to contain the undigested experience and to circle around it again and again, can now go back into the pool of energy available to process new experiences coming in.
In my experience, the mind becomes stronger and stronger with the ongoing practice of The Work. The more stories that that I question, the more energy I free up. And the less likely I am to get bogged down by new experiences.
The Work is literally a way of strengthening my “digestive system.”
The Work 101, my eight-week online course in The Work of Byron Katie, is a great way to go deeper with The Work.
Have a great week,
“People who do The Work find that when they question their stressful thoughts, the whole world changes for the better. They discover that everything happens for them, not to them. They begin to realize that they are 100 percent responsible for their own happiness. This is very good news, because we can’t change the world right now, but we can certainly change how we experience the world.” Byron Katie, A Mind At Home With Itself