How I Like to Slowly Begin a New Habit

raindrops on a lake

A gentle rain that begins slowly often lasts longer.

I Like to Begin a New Habit Slowly

At this time of year, it’s natural to become enthusiastic about starting new things. With a whole new year ahead, the mind gets excited about what it could do. But unfortunately, most of us bite off more than we can chew and end up dropping new plans within a few weeks.

Here’s how I like to begin new things (at any time of year).

Phase 1: Contemplating the Idea

Before I jump in with a new routine, I like to sit with the idea I’m considering for a while. I may take several weeks, or months, or even years considering adding something to my routine.

The reason I like to take my time is that my time is limited. That’s just reality.

There are only so many hours in a day and, when I do too much, I end up feeling stressed instead of excited. So, as I consider whether to add something to my routine, I’m considering it along with my other priorities.

Is it a higher priority than something I’m already doing?
How much time will it take?
Is there a niche in my day that would work for this?

As I sit in these questions, I consider all the options, and mentally experiment with it. Over time, it becomes clear what the priorities are and whether it is doable or not.

Some great ideas wait a long time before I add them to my routine. But I’d rather wait than overburden myself. And some great ideas get left behind. As I get in touch with my true priorities, these things sort themselves out.

Phase 2: Getting on the To Do List

Once I’ve decided that this new practice is something I really want to do, and that I really can fit it into my routine without overburdening myself, I start adding it to my to do list every day.

I have a flexible to do list. Every day of the week has a template of basic things I want to do that day. Each morning, I copy my template for the day to my active to do list and I prioritize it. I also add any special or unexpected jobs for that day. The most important things go to the top of the list, and less important things stay at the bottom.

I know that I will probably not get everything done on my to do list every day, and I’ve become very comfortable with that. Regardless of whether I finish everything that day, at the end of the day I cross out any of the recurring items at the bottom of the list that I never got to by the end of the day. Even though I didn’t do them, I am reminded that they are something I’m working towards doing.

Phase 3: Checking in for Just a Minute Daily

As I start seeing my new routine showing up on my to do list every day, I start looking for ways to actually do it. The first way, is simply to open up the project for a minute. I may do very little in that time, but at least I opened it up, even for just one minute. And I can check it off for the day.

I find, as I keep opening it every day, I want to spend a little more time doing it. So it starts to catch, and soon I’m spending 5 or 10 minutes, or more, every day on it. It’s amazing how much I can do with just 10 min a day.

Meanwhile, I’m still juggling my to do list and working through items in order of priority. In fact, after every item that I complete on my to do list, I revisit my list and rearrange things as priorities continue to shift during the day.

Phase 4: Booking Time in my Calendar

Time in my calendar is reserved for my highest priorities that I’m committed to giving regular time to. If I notice that I’m opening and working on one of my new practices every day consistently and it really has become a high priority for me, then I block out some time in my calendar for it. My very highest priorities tend to go at the beginning of the day.

This feels very nice to me. I can now count on time for this practice each day. And all of the other items on my to do list will have to fit around it.

Of course, if my priorities change again, I can always remove it from my calendar time and put it back on my regular to do list. The key for me, is continuing to listen to my ever-changing priorities. As they change, I adjust with them.

Guilt-Free Practice

I love this way of doing things for many reasons:

1. I am never pushing myself to do something.
2. I respect my priorities as they continue to change.
3. I remain realistic as I experiment with new practices.
4. It is not stressful.

My way may not be your way. This is just how my mind works, and I share it only for you to see it as an option. Your mind will find its own best way. if you have an idea you want to share with me, send me an email.

Here’s wishing you a happy 2019!

“The Work wakes us up to reality. When we take it on as a practice, it leaves us as flawless, innocent, a figment of pure imagination. Practicing inquiry takes us to the Buddha-mind, where everything, without exception, is realized as good. It leads to total freedom. Why would you want to experience a problem and pretend it isn’t there—to skip over it and find just some tiny place inside you that’s free? Don’t you want to find freedom with every breath? Nothing exists but the concept in the moment. Let’s meet that now with understanding.” Byron Katie, A Mind at Home with Itself

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Seventh Annual Address Book Challenge

address book

Every year I challenge myself to make peace with someone.

Take a Look at Your Address Book

In it you will find the names of so many people in your life, as well as people who are no longer in your life. There are names of people that you’d like to spend more time with, and names of those who you’d rather forget.

This exercise is about using your address book to clean up your internal world.

The purpose is not to re-engage in dysfunctional relationships of the past but rather to free yourself of any stickiness left in you from those relationships.

Here’s How to Do It

Open up your address book and scan through the names. Pay close attention to your emotions as you scan. Your emotions are a very sensitive meter for old stickiness.

As you read through different names, you’ll feel that meter bouncing up and down inside of you. Looking at one name, you may feel joy and love, and be flooded with pleasant memories. Looking at another name, you may feel complete neutrality.

Looking at yet another, you may feel a little hint of anxiety, anger, sadness, or disgust as the images of your past interactions with this person show up in your mind.

Here’s the Challenge

When you come across a name in your address book that causes a stressful emotion to show up, slow down and look at the memories associated with that person. Look at the images of past interactions if they arise.

Follow the thread of stressful emotions to a situation where they began—some specific incident with this person. If there are many situations, pick any one that is clearer to you.

This is an opportunity to write a Judge-Your-Neighbor Worksheet on the person from that old forgotten situation.

Healing is Needed Here

It’s as if you have been slowly bleeding from that wound all this time. It’s hardly noticeable, but this can be where your energy continues to get drained today. Here is a chance to go back and stop the bleeding.

My invitation is to write a Judge-Your-Neighbor Worksheet on one person from your address book and to take your time to work through it slowly.

I like to write a worksheet one day, and then question one statement per day until I’ve questioned enough statements from my worksheet that I now feel peaceful instead of stressed when I think of this person or the incident.

This Is About Cleaning Up Your Heart

This is not necessarily about making amends, rekindling old friendships, etc., though that can sometimes happen. What it is really about is getting clean inside. It is about forgiveness and letting go and making peace. That’s all.

It’s your heart that you live with every day. Only you can create peace and order there.

If you want to do this exercise in a classroom setting, join us for The Work 101 starting January 13. (By the way, the Canadian dollar is low this week, so take advantage of the favorable exchange rate.)

Have a great week,

“I encourage you to write about someone whom you haven’t yet totally forgiven, someone you still resent. 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 that person is the very place where you’re stuck in all your other relationships (including your relationship with yourself).” Byron Katie, Loving What Is

The Gift of Receiving

the gift of receiving

Christmas is a time of giving, but it’s also a time of receiving.

Receiving Is Underrated

If you listen to the wisdom of others, you’ll often hear about the value of giving. How it brings joy to give, whether it be giving a gift to another person, giving money, giving time (volunteering), giving love, support, knowledge, even wisdom.

Giving is a huge turnaround for most of us because we are so often concerned about what we want to get. To give opens up the path of service. This helps to take us out of our selfishness which causes so much suffering.

But Even Turnarounds Have Turnarounds

It just depends how subtle you want to get. In addition to the huge value in giving, there is also a huge value in receiving.

Imagine you are giving someone something out of pure generosity on your part. But imagine that the other person can’t receive it. They deflect it in some way, or keep score in order to “pay you back,” or simply refuse your gift.

How does it feel when someone doesn’t receive your generosity? For me, it often feels like rejection, and brings sadness. It also makes me stay more distant from this person.

Now Imagine the Person Receives your Gift

How does it feel by comparison?

For me I feel my heart expand. I love them. I feel happy. I feel closer, more connected, and glad that I gave it. It’s like I received a huge gift in return.

This is the gift of receiving. It is a true gift. And one that can touch the giver deeply.

Many of us Resist Receiving

We have our reasons not to receive a gift fully:

It’s selfish to receive.
I don’t deserve it.
They’ll think I’m not generous.
I have to reciprocate.
I can’t afford to give back in equal measure.
It makes me dependent on them.
It means I can’t take care of myself.

And so we push it away in one way or another. As a result, we miss the gift that came to us unasked, and we deprive the giver of the gift of receiving.

But You Can’t Just Stop It

It’s not that easy. Not giving is an old habit. And not receiving is an equally old habit. Even understanding this doesn’t help much. There are powerful motives that keep us from giving and receiving.

Receiving is death to the ego. It is total humility. It is the end of “I am an independent person who can take care of myself.” To fully receive, a lot of stressful beliefs have to fall away.

And equally true, in order to give, other stressful beliefs have to fall away. Thoughts like, “I don’t want give” or “I give too much,” or “I need them to like it.”

That’s why I love using stressful situations related to giving and receiving as a starting place for doing The Work of Byron Katie.

Doing The Work on It

The Work is a way to slow down and look at all sides of things. This process gives me a way to re-experience anything from a broader perspective. And it shifts the way I see things not just intellectually, but emotionally.

All it takes to do The Work on this topic is to find a specific situation where someone gave you something and you deflected it somehow (this can be subtle, maybe it was just the thought that they expect something in return, or maybe it was a compliment you brushed away).

Find a specific moment when you could not fully receive and write a Judge-Your-Neighbor Worksheet on the person who was giving to you, then question each statement you write. If you do this work, you may find that the resistance you had to receiving falls away. And what remains is humility, love, and connection.

And the same goes for any situation where you gave something and someone didn’t receive it. That’s a Judge-Your-Neighbor Worksheet on the person who didn’t receive. Can you find a way to be peaceful on that side of the situation too?

Giving and receiving can be a wonderful place to do The Work whether you’re the giver or the receiver. In a way every interaction is about giving and receiving.

Join us in January for The Work 101, my eight-week online course in The Work of Byron Katie.

Merry Christmas,

“When a friend gives me a gift, the gift is in the receiving. In that, it’s over, and then I notice that I give the object away or keep it for a while.” Byron Katie, A Thousand Names for Joy

Balance in Life

leaf balanced on a fern

A leaf balances lightly on a fern for a while until the wind blows and it balances somewhere else. Is there ever a place where it is not balanced?

Balance in Life

My first motivation in writing this was to remind myself that The Work is not everything. You can’t pay the electric bill by doing The Work (not true actually). The Work is not a substitute for eating good food, meditating, sleeping, or exercising.

In other words, my theory was that life is a balance. And that’s important for me to see because I tend to be all or nothing. I’ve always looked for one thing to do which would take care of everything else. For me, that one thing has been spiritual practice.

And in theory, I still think it’s right. True spirituality is enough. It is the end of problems. But the problem comes when I’m not fully there yet.

When I’m Not Fully There…

…I still care about my health. When I’m not fully there, I still care about what people think about me. When I’m not fully there, I’m not fully free.

So it’s a mix.

I spend some time in meditation, some time doing The Work, some time exercising, some time cooking food, some time with family and friends, some time sleeping, and some time playing. It seems slow, but to go any faster would be to leave myself, to be out of integrity, to be ahead of my own evolution.

Slow and Steady Wins the Race

I see the goal. I am in love with the idea of spiritual freedom, and have been my whole life. And I love the practices that promote spiritual growth.

But one practice that seemed counterintuitive to me at first is the practice of letting go even of spiritual practices and spiritual goals. But that too is now a part of my practice.

Give Me a Cave in the Woods

That’s my fantasy.

A place to meditate and focus on what’s dear to me: my meditation practice.

But I don’t go there because there are other things dear to me as well, most importantly the approval of others, but also the comforts of home and health. So until it’s clear to me that a cave is where I’m going, I try to keep the balance of life here.

That is a choice I make to favor balance over fantasy until I’m clear that the fantasy is what I want. And the little sadness that comes shows me what to work on… my attachment to the fantasy.

The Middle Path Is Renunciation for Me

My mind goes to extremes. I want total enlightenment, total freedom, to be above the cares of being in the world. But that too is a care. And it is my path now to renounce even that care, or at least to question it. The Work helps me, as always, to come back to balance in life by showing me how to question everything.

Join us for The Work 101, my eight-week online course in The Work of Byron Katie.

Have a great week,

“I used to tell my children, “Make friends with mediocrity.” You can find perfect enlightenment in just doing the dishes. There’s nothing more spiritual than that. Someone can spend three years meditating in a cave, and your practice of just doing the dishes every day is equal to that. Can you love the balance, the harmony, of sweeping the floor? That harmony is the ultimate success, whether you’re a pauper or a king. You can achieve it from wherever you are. There are no trumpets blaring; there’s only peace.” Byron Katie, A Mind at Home with Itself

Mental/Emotional Indigestion and How to Overcome It


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.

Mental/Emotional Indigestion

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

Turnaround Examples that Reinforce the Original Belief

fake turnaround example for a filthy sink

If I’m questioning the thought, “This sink is disgusting,” a turnaround would be “This sink is beautiful.” But I miss the heart of this turnaround if my example is, “Yeah, it’s beautiful for someone with no standards.”

Moving from Negative to Positive

Turnarounds are about moving away from negativity, closed-mindedness, blame, and suffering, and moving towards positivity, open mindedness, self-responsibility and peace.

The principle of The Work of Byron Katie is simple: if it hurts in this direction, try moving in the opposite direction.

But the Mind Is Attached

It doesn’t always want to look in the opposite direction. It’s afraid it will lose control, be wrong, be humiliated, etc. Until the mind gets first-hand experience of how much peace can be experienced from looking at the turnarounds, it may resist—by either saying no to The Work completely, or by doing The Work in a tricky way.

One trick of the mind is to find examples for the turnaround that reinforce the original belief. These “examples” are not really examples of how the turnaround could be true, but are examples of how the original statement is true.

This is how the mind goes through the motions of doing The Work, but is not really doing The Work.

Here’s an Example

Original statement: he insulted me.
Turnaround: I insulted him.
Fake turnaround example: Because he deserved it.

This example reinforces the original belief that he insulted me. I’m not giving up anything here. I still hold fast to the belief that he insulted me and I’m using the turnaround to justify why it’s okay for me to insult him (because he insulted me first).

This is still 100% war. No peace comes from this example because I’m not really putting my weapons down. Peace only comes when I find my part and surrender. When I see that I also insulted him, I naturally start to drop my attack and start to see us more as equal human beings. That’s when my heart relaxes.

Here’s another Example

Original statement: I want him to shut up.
Turnaround: I don’t want him to shut up.
Fake turnaround example: I don’t want him to shut up because I want everyone to see what a jerk he is.

Again, I’m not giving up anything here. I’m right and he’s wrong. I still want him to shut up, but now I’m trying to shame him into it. My heart is still closed.

To find examples that open my heart, I have to look for how it really is okay that he doesn’t shut up, how it’s good for me, or for him, or how it’s not the end of the world if he doesn’t shut up. As I start finding the good of it, my heart naturally softens.

You Can Always Tell if You’re Getting Closer

If your turnaround examples touch your heart or bring sweet humility and acceptance, then they are moving you out of suffering. If they bring more stress, arrogance, and anger, then they are not really taking you out of suffering but are reinforcing the same belief system.

All I have to do is pay attention to the emotions inside as I find my turnaround examples. Are they bringing me peace or reinforcing my experience of stress? If I pay attention to this, I can navigate from darkness towards light in any situation.

Join us for The Work 101, my eight-week online course in The Work of Byron Katie.

Have a great week,

“Humility is what happens when you’re caught and exposed to yourself, and you realize that you’re no one and you’ve been trying to be someone. You just die and die into the truth of that. You die into what you have done and who you have been, and it’s a very sweet thing; there’s no guilt or shame in it. You become totally vulnerable, like a little child. Defense and justification keep falling away, and you die into the brilliance of what is real.” Byron Katie, A Thousand Names for Joy

The Work Is Not an Intellectual Exercise

mechanical cogs

Intellectual means mechanical, detached from emotion.

Intellectual Is Dry

Have you ever had what I like to call “intellectual food”? You see this kind of stuff at health food stores. For example, health food store cookies taste like sawdust to me. Who wants to eat that crap? A lot of “healthy” food is actually just intellectual. I don’t buy it.

Or think of atonal music. I heard a guitar performance like this when I was in college. It was awful. No emotion at all. Just making noise in my opinion. Purely intellectual.

Sometimes People Think The Work Is Intellectual

The Work, of course, is as you see it. If you bring only your intellect to The Work, you’ll experience a very dry, intellectual process. But if you bring your raw emotion to it, you’ll be touched to the core by The Work.

At first The Work looks like just some intellectual jugglery. But it is not. The Work is an experience.

Here’s What It Looks Like

You start with a stressful emotion. This is the anchor point. This is what roots The Work in the heart, in direct experience. You’re dealing with something real when you bring a stressful emotion to The Work. It is deeply connected to you.

Then you identify the thought associated with the emotion. This moves up to the intellect, but remains connected to the emotion. A bridge between mind and heart is found.

Then you question the thought associated with the emotion. Because the emotion and the thought are intimately connected, when you move one, you move the other.

That’s How The Work Works

When doing The Work, you play with the thought. You transform your thinking, and because the thought is connected to the emotion, the emotion gets transformed too. That’s what keeps it real.

This is very different from doing a crossword puzzle or a Sudoku game, which use the intellect but are not connected to an emotion. These are just intellectual play.

The Work moves the emotions with each twist and turn of the intellect. That’s what makes it feel powerful to do The Work. That’s how it changes lives.

The Work Is an Experience

The Work is a way to re-experience any stressful situation first hand. When I do The Work, I am literally walking through a stressful situation and re-experiencing it anew. This changes my whole understanding of it. This gives me a whole new experience of it.

I am getting clear about what actually happened, as opposed to holding my previously limited story about it. As I see that there is more to it than what I thought, my emotions shift from stress towards peace.

But you Have to Walk Through It

It’s easy to say, “Yeah, I get it. I was confused there” without really re-experiencing it. Even though I “get it” intellectually, the images that my mind plays when I think of the stressful situation have not changed. And my emotions are generated from those images.

When I walk through the four questions of The Work and find turnarounds and examples, the images I had of that situation actually change. I don’t see it the same way now. I see it much more clearly. And my new images are not stressful.

So now, when I remember the scene, I am not stressed by it. This new experience doesn’t come from intellectually “getting it.” It comes from walking through it meditatively and re-experiencing the same scene with a new perspective.

This Is Why The Work Is Not Intellectual

Sure it uses the intellect. But what it is really doing is transforming direct experience, which is never dry or “intellectual.” I invite you to step out of the safety of your intellect and dive into the experience of doing The Work.

Walk yourself through this process on the experiential level. That’s when it can really touch you. And do yourself a favor, leave those health food store cookies on the shelf.

Here are some tips for how to do The Work with the heart.

Have a great week,

“To simply turn thoughts around keeps the process intellectual and is of little value. The invitation is to go beyond the intellect. The questions are like probes that dive into the mind, bringing deeper knowledge to the surface. Ask the questions first, and then wait. Once the answers have arisen, the superficial mind and the deeper mind meet, and the turnarounds feel like true discoveries.” Byron Katie, A Mind at Home with Itself

Radical Honesty vs. Complaining

radical honesty is like putting your clothes on the line

Radical honesty just means hanging out your clothes to dry.

The Purpose of Honesty Is Freedom

I like to favor being honest because it liberates me. As I become more willing to share what is really going on with me at any moment, I find there is less and less that I have to be afraid of or ashamed of. Making friends with the truth is freeing.

Being honest is humbling. It doesn’t matter if I’m being honest with myself or with others, it is exposing my uncensored self to the light that both humbles and frees me.

This Can Take Many Forms

For example, asking for what I want is a way of being radically honest. I say “radically” only because it sometimes feels so different from the usual way of hiding. It takes courage to do this when I believe that others will judge me for it.

Similarly, saying no is another form of this kind of honesty. Exposing my true opinion even if others may disapprove. Honesty is the opposite of hiding. That’s why it feels so freeing to engage in honesty.

But There’s a Fine Line Between Radical Honesty and Negativity

For some reason, people assume that if you’re being negative, or saying what others don’t want to hear, you’re being radically honest. But that’s not necessarily true.

Being negative, complaining, being hurtful or manipulative sometimes masquerades as radical honesty. But the difference is easy to see when I look inside myself.

Being honest feels like peace, a relief. I am revealing my vulnerable side to the light of day. Being negative feels stressful because I still want the world to change and I want to hide myself.

This Comes up in Feedback

When I give feedback to someone, if I am truly being honest, I am sharing my heart with them. But if I’m using feedback to complain, I don’t feel the connection heart to heart. I’m simply reacting, and calling it honesty.

Of course it is honest to share, even if I am reacting. But I can be much more honest in giving feedback if I can find the vulnerable part inside of me that is trying to hide. If I share that part, I join the the other person. I’m no longer attacking them with feedback (in the guise of being honest).

I’m now an equal, sharing my raw heart with another person. There is no violence in that. Only humility, love, and peace.

How to Transform Complaining into Heartfelt Honesty

One of my favorite things to do when I notice that I want to give someone feedback, is to write down my feedback and question it using the four questions and turnarounds of The Work of Byron Katie.

When I do this, I find my humility. I see my negativity. I own my own reactions and hidden motives. And the charge goes away as I do this.

I love to do this before I ever share my feedback so that when I do it comes from a true place of humility, which is the only place I can join another human being.

But even if I give feedback without questioning it first, it is also rich to question it after the fact. Questioning always leads me to a balance of radical honesty and humility, which is the end of even the faintest hint of violence.

Join us in January for The Work 101, my eight-week online course in The Work of Byron Katie. Or attend one of the many events offered by other facilitators of The Work.

Have a great week,

“When you’re honest about your yeses and noes, it’s easy to live a kind life. People come and go in my life when I tell the truth, and they would come and go if I didn’t tell the truth. I have nothing to gain one way, and everything to gain the other way. I don’t leave myself guessing or guilty.” Byron Katie, A Mind at Home with Itself

He or She Is Toxic, Is It True?

dead leaves in water

If I think this water is toxic, I am repulsed and run away.

I Love the Propaganda of the Mind

When the mind is triggered, it doesn’t think in calm, rational thoughts. It uses dramatic, inflammatory words and pictures to drive home the idea that this is life or death, and to provoke immediate action.

This is good for survival. All animals have it. It has kept us alive for millennia. But it is often misused by the mind. And questioning it can help bring the mind back to a more rational place.

Have You Ever Thought “He or She is Toxic”?

This is such a great word. It immediately connotes images of radioactive waste or bio-hazard signs. And the gut reaction is to get the hell out of there.

Now look what happens when the mind uses this word, toxic, to label a friend, family member, or coworker. Maybe you read about toxic relationships somewhere, or someone suggests that someone close to you is toxic. Immediately, the instinct kicks in, “I’ve gotta get out of here.” Or, “I’ve got to destroy them.”

In that state of mind, the person whom you’re close to is no longer a person. They’ve been labeled. They are now toxic waste to be gotten rid of as soon as possible.

The trouble is that if you look closely enough, everyone is “toxic” in some way or another. And if you keep seeing things this way you can end up being very alone and afraid. You may even start seeing yourself as “toxic” and try to run away from yourself.

It’s Time to Question What You Think

You can literally question, “She is toxic,” or “He is toxic,” even “I am toxic.” I use the four questions and turnarounds of The Work of Byron Katie.

I did this recently with a client. She found that when she believed that her boyfriend was toxic, she immediately pulled away from him. She wanted out of the relationship. She was frozen in fear. And angry at him. She had no patience for him at all. And she had a feeling like a dark energy was contaminating her interior.

When she imagined what it would be like to be in the same situation with him but without the thought that he is being toxic, she was much more neutral. She saw that he was having a hard time. Yes, he was being irrational, but it wasn’t actually dangerous or contagious.

She Saw He Was Not Actually Being Toxic

Toxic was just one way of labeling it (a convenient way of labeling it that fit with other motives running). It was the mind’s spin. The same experience could be seen in a different way: that he was caught in a trap in his mind and couldn’t set himself free.

It’s like he was a fly caught in a spider web of his own thinking. Every buzz of the fly, every complaint, was labeled as him being toxic. But in reality every buzz was just a symptom of his own struggle.

Seeing it this way led to a feeling of compassion instead of fear and disgust.

And It Left Her Open to Be Supportive

It reminded her of how doctors and nurses work around all kinds of dangerous, even contagious, diseases and rarely get sick. They are there to serve, to care for the patient, not to run away in an act of self-preservation.

This turn from self-protection to service changes the whole dynamic. Even if she is unable to untangle the fly from the web, she is available for the fly who is caught.

In this mode, there is no dark energy inside of her. There is only light, her own light that she shares generously. The darkness was only the darkness of her own closed and fearful heart. As soon as it opened again, there was nothing but sunshine inside.

If you want to dive deeply into doing The Work of Byron Katie with me, I invite you to join us in January for The Work 101, my eight-week online course in The Work of Byron Katie.

Have a great week,

“How do I help people who think that the rope is a snake? I can’t. They have to realize it for themselves. They could take my word for it, because they want it to be true. But until they see it for themselves, they would always in their hearts believe that the rope is a poisonous snake and that they are in mortal danger. Well, thoughts are like that, and inquiry is about the snakes in the mind—the thoughts that keep us from love and from the awareness of being loved. I can see that every loveless, stressful thought in the mind is a rope. Inquiry is meant to help you discover for yourself that all the snakes in your mind are really and truly just ropes.” Byron Katie, I Need Your Love, Is It True?

A Conversation with Grace Bell

cherry leaves

Podcast Recording

Grace Bell and I share the same enthusiasm for The Work. Grace is a certified facilitator, and has been writing a blog about The Work for as long, or longer, than I have. And she has a podcast.

Grace and I got to know each other when we offered a retreat together at Breitenbush Hot Springs last June. When she suggested that we record a podcast episode together, I was happy to join her. I thought you might enjoy it too.

Listen to the recording here, or subscribe to her podcast on iTunes.

And check out what Grace offers on her website, including an online course called, Eating Peace, using The Work as a way to question the thoughts around eating disorders—an issue that she has recovered from herself with the help of The Work.

Have a great week,

“Every belief is about being careful; it’s about keeping the body alive. I’m not careful. I don’t live that way. I look forward to whatever comes.” Byron Katie, Question Your Thinking, Change The World

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