The Power of Unplugging

the stars and moon in the trees

Unwinding happens naturally when there are no demands on me.

There Is Nothing like Leaving it all Behind

About an hour before arriving at Breitenbush Hot Springs I lost cell service. And with it I left all my cares behind for a few days. It’s amazing how much time you have when you’re not checking emails, doing jobs, or planning new things.

I literally had nothing to do for five days other than show up three times a day for the course that Grace Bell and I were hosting. I slept a little later the first few nights. I went to bed early every night. I walked in the woods. I breathed in the fresh evergreen air.

There was no career, no family, no future, no past. Just the very basics of life.

I Found it Rejuvenating to Do Nothing

Not doing anything is a turnaround for me who is always doing something. Not planning anything is a turnaround for me who is always planning something. Not being productive is a turnaround for me who is always trying to be productive.

And when turnarounds meet stress they balance each other out. It’s always that simple. If I’m hungry, eating is my turnaround. If I’m tired, sleeping in my turnaround. If I’m busy, rest is my turnaround.

And it is also true that if I’m lethargic, then activity is my turnaround. If I’m bored, creativity is my turnaround. If I’m weak, movement is my turnaround.

Turnarounds Bring Balance

That’s all The Work of Byron Katie is about: balance. There are no absolutes. There is only balance in an ever shifting, ever changing life. The Work is my tool to find balance in any situation by bringing in the turnaround.

It seems obvious. And it really is that simple. But the obvious hides in plain sight. I literally can’t see the obvious when I’m driven. When I believe that I must get somewhere, I miss the fact that I have what I want even here.

The Work Is a Way Back to Nature

Not the nature of pine trees and stars. But the natural experience of peace. It is the movement away from what I think I want and need that brings me peace. It is the letting go that frees me.

That is what question 4 of The Work always invites: “Who would you be without that thought?” It’s an invitation into the cool, refreshing woods of myself. Who would I be without the thought that I need to get somewhere? I’d be in peace right here.

This means that you don’t have to go to the woods to find peace. The trees can be a quiet help, but peace is available even in the midst of a busy project, or busy family. It lies only a turnaround away. As soon as I question, “I want…” and “I need…” and balance them with “I don’t wan’t…” and “I don’t need…,” the mind naturally comes back home to rest, even if it’s busily engaged in activity.

The mind can literally can be unplugged even while still plugged in.

Join us next week for my free Open Sessions and let’s do The Work together.

Have a great weekend,

“I understand how painful the unquestioned mind is. I also understand that love is the power. Mind originates in love and ultimately returns to its source. Love is mind’s homing device, and until mind returns, it has no rest.” Byron Katie, A Mind at Home with Itself

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What Are You Critical Of? This Is a Great Place to Start The Work

spray painted fruit stand sign

My mind can go to “These signs are really unprofessional.” This could be the start of an enlightening piece of work for me.

It’s the Mind’s Job to Criticize

That’s what the intellect does. It notices the differences. It compares. It comes to conclusions based on observation and logic.

This is as it should be. The intellect judges some things as good and others as bad. And to a large degree it keeps us out of trouble. But criticism also tells us a lot about ourselves. It tells us about the parts of ourselves that we are often still asleep to.

If you want to know yourself better, pay attention to your criticism.

Write it Down

Take out a blank piece of paper and write down all of your criticisms about somebody or something. Don’t worry about sticking to one situation, let your mind go wide and get down all of the picky things that they do wrong in your opinion. Include the character flaws too.

She is impetuous.
She is too hard on her children.
She doesn’t spend time with us.
She spreads herself too thin.
She’s is controlling.
She is a fanatic about her food.
She should not be eating fat free.
She is always stressed out.
She is a drama queen.

When you have a list, you can start questioning the statements directly, or you can dig deeper into your critical statements to reveal additional judgments and beliefs.

One way to dig deeper is to isolate specific instances. For example, when I was talking on the phone with her and she became harsh with her child and gave him a time out. Or when she decided not to come be with us after we went out of our way to make it easy for her.

The specific instances are representative of the larger, more general character flaws. When I write down my stressful thoughts about the particular instance, I often become even clearer about what I mean.

I Usually Use a Judge-Your-Neighbor Worksheet for This

For example, I can write a worksheet on her when she said that she could only come “for a few hours” when we rented a place near her hoping she would spend the week with us.

Before I write my worksheet, I like to first identify the statement of fact. What did she actually do?

Statement of fact: She is not coming for the whole week.

Then I write my interpretations of the statement of fact. (I sometimes use the prompt, “And it means that…”)

She doesn’t want to be with us.
She doesn’t like us.
She is afraid we will spoil her children.
She doesn’t trust us.
She is influenced by her husband.

I Pick One Statement to Write in Line 1 of the Worksheet

I usually find that my interpretations are closer to what is actually causing my stress. I scan them, and choose one: “She is afraid we will spoil her children.” That’s a real criticism. And it bothers me. So I write it down on line 1 of my Judge-Your-Neighbor Worksheet, and continue writing lines 2-6 of the worksheet..

1. I am angry with her because she is afraid we will spoil her children.

2. I want her to smarten up!
I want her to trust us.
I want her to allow her children to be with us.

3. She should notice how much she is trying to control her children.
She should see that this is not healthy for her children.
She should understand that we are not a bad influence on them.
She should consider that children need other adult influences.
She should loosen the rules on vacation.
She admit that she is taking her job as a parent too seriously.
She should change her mind.
She should let them come for the whole week.

4. I need her to put herself in my shoes.
I need her to see that it hurts to be denied access to her children.
I need her to notice that she is punishing us too.
I need her to be vulnerable with us.
I need her to explain what’s going on for her.
I need her to see that we are trustworthy.
I need her to apologize for excluding us.

5. She is untrusting, controlling, distant, fearful, confused.

6. I don’t ever want her to deny us access to her children again.
I don’t ever want her to not join us again.

I Then Question the Statements I Wrote

I use the four questions and turnarounds to question as many statements as I like on this worksheet. For example, I can start with “She is afraid we will spoil her children.” Is that true? Can I absolutely know it’s true? How do I react, what happens, when I believe she’s afraid we will spoil her children? Who would I be without that thought?

Each question is a meditation. Each question brings up answers from within me. I often see things that I never saw before when I question my critical thoughts in this way.

And I see even more when I turn the thought around (and find examples of why each turnaround could be as true):

For example, “She is not afraid that we will spoil her children.” Maybe she just wants her children to herself – after all, her children don’t live with her except in the summer.

The Work Turns Criticism into Self-Reflection

When I’m critical, and I do The Work, I start to see my own mind. I get to see that I’ve got some assumptions going on too. This work brings sweet humility as I see my part in things. It also brings forgiveness and a much more open mind for what may be going on for others.

Join me any time for a private session if you want to do The Work with me.

Have a great week,

“I criticize what she eats—and I’m the one who could take a look at that in my own life.” Byron Katie, I Need Your Love, Is That True?

The Work of Byron Katie and Chronic Pain

winter landscape

Chronic pain can leave you feeling alone, depleted, hopeless, depressed, or angry.

Chronic Pain can be a Constant Companion

For many people, pain is a part of daily life. It could be back pain, joint pain, stomach pain, intestinal pain, tinnitus, headache, or pain in any part of the body. What makes it chronic is that it doesn’t go away. Many people have been living with pain for years.

The first thing to do with pain is to work with doctors and health practitioners to alleviate the physical pain if possible. Chiropractic is very helpful with back pain and headaches. And there are many well trained doctors and health practitioners offering modalities to help with chronic pain. Doing some research is often well worth the effort.

But there is also a lot of psychology that goes along with pain. The mind can make pain worse. It can put you through the gamut of emotions, which only intensifies the pain. So in addition to getting good medical attention, addressing the mind is a valuable part of managing pain.

There Are Many Modalities to Work with the Mind

Meditation can be a big help. I have been using Transcendental Meditation since I was young, and find it to be a very effective way of calming the mind, opening the heart and letting go of stress.

Self-inquiry inquiry is the other tool that I use to free my mind and open my heart.

Specifically, I use The Work of Byron Katie, a simple way to identify the thoughts that are causing me stress and to question them and turn them around. This powerful practice of self-inquiry has unraveled countless stories and beliefs that were causing me stress.

Here Are Some Ways to Use The Work with Pain

All you have to do is listen to what your mind is saying about the chronic pain. The stressful thoughts are sitting there, ready to be written down and questioned using the four questions and turnarounds of The Work. So the first thing I do is sit down with a piece of paper, close my eyes, and start listening. Whenever I hear a stressful thought, I write it down.

You can question anything about the pain: from the statements of fact to the interpretations of those facts. Here is an example from when I used to have chronic back pain.

Fact: My back hurts.

Interpretations: It will never go away. It’s constant. It’s only going to get worse. I no longer can enjoy life. I have to be very careful. It’s not fair. I can’t handle it. It is unbearable. It zaps all of my energy. I want it to go away. I don’t ever want it to come back. I’m getting old. I wish I was young again.

As you can see, there are two sources of pain here: the physical body, and the mind’s interpretations. In my experience, the interpretations are even more debilitating than the physical pain. And now I have both!

Questioning My Thoughts about Pain

In addition to consulting practitioners to help with the physical body, I then question the thoughts I wrote down about the pain. I sometimes question the actual fact, “My back hurts.” And more often, I question all of my interpretations (my story) about the chronic pain. This is what is causing my emotional pain.

To help identify these interpretations, I often use the prompt, “And it means that…,” For example, “My back hurts, and it means that 1) I’m not perfect anymore, 2) I don’t have money for treatment, 3) my life is over.” Then I question each thought I wrote down.

If you want support in doing this work, sign up for a private session with me, or join The Work 101 online course starting on Sunday, June 10.

Registration for The Work 101 closes on Friday.

Have a great weekend,

“All suffering is mental. It has nothing to do with the body or with a person’s circumstances. You can be in great pain without any suffering at all.” Byron Katie, A Thousand Names for Joy

I’m Now Using Canadian Dollars

Vaseux Lake

Vaseux Lake, British Columbia, just a few minutes from where I live.

We Moved to Canada at the End of March

My partner is Canadian and I’m American. We have been splitting our time between Canada and the US for the past few years. Now we have moved to Canada.

Over the past couple of months we have been trying to simplify everything. I am closing my US corporation (Todd Smith, LLC). I will now be working as a sole-proprietor in Canada. I can’t tell you how much simpler, and less expensive, that is.

We also sold our house in Vermont, so we no longer have to pay two mortgages. Again, much simpler. In fact, we’re excited that we were able to put solar panels on our roof here in Canada and have ordered a new electric car (Nissan Leaf) that will soon run from our own solar power.

It’s Nice to Be in One Place

It’s simpler, easier, and less expensive.

Continuing in that mode of simplification, I will now be charging for all of my services in Canadian dollars. I have changed all of the prices listed on my website to equivalents, or near equivalents, in Canadian Dollars.

Some prices have been increased. One has decreased. Many remain the same.

Here Is a List of the New Prices in Canadian Dollars (CAD)

You will also find the approximate exchange rate in US dollars (USD), Euros (EUR), and Australian dollars (AUD).

Private Sessions (price increase of about 16%)

30-Minute Sessions: $75 CAD (approx. $58 USD, €50 EUR, $77 AUD)
One-Hour Sessions: $150 CAD (approx. $116 USD, €99 EUR, $153 AUD)
90-Minute Sessions: $225 CAD (approx. $173 USD, €149 EUR, $230 AUD)
Two-Hour Sessions: $300 CAD (approx. $231 USD, €198 EUR, $306 AUD)

Courses and Workshops (no price increase)

The Work 101: $175 CAD (approx. $135 USD, €116 EUR, $179 AUD)

Inquiry Circle Prep Course: $100 CAD (approx. $75 USD, €65 EUR, $102 AUD)

Personal Retreats (price decrease of 22%)

Personal Retreats: $600/day CAD (approx. $463 USD, €397 EUR, $612 AUD per day)

Ongoing Practice Group (no price increase)

Inquiry Circle: $65 CAD (approx. $50 USD, €43 EUR, $66 AUD)

Products (no price increase)

Finding the Door to Inquiry (eBook): $60 CAD (approx. $46 USD, €40 EUR, $61 AUD)

The Price for The Work 101 Will Go Up After June

If you considering taking part in The Work 101, just a heads up that the price will be increasing significantly after the summer course (June 10 – July 29).

Thank you for doing The Work with me,

“What I love about The Work is that we come to see that both states—what we call bliss and what we call ordinary—are equal. One state isn’t higher than the other. There’s nothing to strive for anymore, nothing to leave behind. That’s the beauty of inquiry—it doesn’t matter where we are, it’s all good.” Byron Katie, Question Your Thinking, Change the World

Emotional Trauma

haystacks along the Oregon coast

Emotional trauma is like a big black shadow blocking the view of an otherwise beautiful scene.

We All Have Traumas

A breakup, a death, an insult, an exclusion, a rape, an abuse of any kind, a loss, a failure, an injury; each of these can result in a trauma. It’s interesting though, I say “these can result in a trauma.” It’s also possible for the same events to not result in a trauma, depending on how you process them.

In other words, there are two parts to the word “trauma”: the actual traumatic event, and what the mind does with that event. If the mind escalates it and holds onto it, the trauma becomes bigger and deeper. If the mind balances it and lets it go, it does not continue to retraumatize and cause pain.

It’s the retraumatization that is the biggest cause of stress. The mind plays the event over and over trying to change the past, and feeling totally powerless. Eventually, the mind usually finds some escape: maybe to addiction, or maybe by focusing on other areas of life trying to bury the old emotional trauma and move on.

But It’s Never Really Gone

Like that shadow blocking the view, the mind is now limited. It can’t go to certain places because it could get retriggered. It’s not free. And whenever a retriggering happens, it’s a downward spiral until something pulls it out again.

This is why we’re all scared of emotional trauma. We try like crazy to prevent new traumas, and we try to avoid retriggering old traumas.

The problem is that there is no way deal with traumas. They simply have their way with us. And that is the most disempowering feeling in the world.

But It Doesn’t Have to Be that Way

In my experience, there is a way to deal with emotional traumas that gets to the root of them. I have experienced small and big traumas dissolve once I’ve used the four questions and turnarounds of The Work of Byron Katie.

In my experience, the root of any emotional trauma is the collection of stressful thoughts I am believing about the event that happened. My interpretation of the event is what makes it traumatic for me. And my belief that it shouldn’t have happened, and that it was a terrible thing.

When I start to question these thoughts around any traumatic situation, I often find that my attitude softens, and if I persevere in my inquiry, many times I find that the trauma evaporates completely in my mind. Once I see in this new way, it is no longer possible for me to go back to believing that I was a victim again.

This Is the Power of The Work

But The Work is a very personal process. It depends on how willing you are to look at the stressful thoughts that plague you, and it depends on your willingness to sit, not knowing if any answers will come, when you do the inquiry.

When self-inquiry is done in this way, wisdom from within often comes up to meet the questions. Perspectives change. Emotional traumas disappear. And laughter often takes its place.

It can help to sit with someone experienced in doing The Work to hold the mind when it wants to run away, but it can also be done alone in written form for those who are patient and willing.

The Mind Will Often Avoid This Work

It is sometimes easier to live with a blacked out area of life than to gather the courage it takes to shine the light on the shadow. The solution is simple: light is always the antidote to darkness.

Awareness is always the antidote to confusion and suffering. When The Work is used gently and with care and patience, it can be like shining a floodlight into the darkness.

But It’s Important Not to Push

I’d much rather let myself be pulled to do The Work instead of pushing myself to do it. So I respect my resistance to doing The Work. In fact, resistance is often where I start.

I sometimes begin by making a list of fears and other stressful thoughts related to the idea of doing The Work on an old emotional trauma:

I won’t be able to handle it.
It is too powerful.
I will end up making it worse.
I have to resolve it completely this time.
I have to do it alone.
It’s too shameful to work with someone else.

When I question my stressful thoughts about doing The Work on the emotional trauma, I often find myself drawn to explore it a little deeper.

Step by step, I follow my confidence when it leads me to go in deeper. And I follow my resistance and fear when they show me I need to back off and do The Work on the resistance thoughts instead.

There Is No Push that Way

I may even take a break for months, or years, before feeling drawn to work on a trauma again. I am in control, listening, responding to my experience and getting support when needed to do my work.

I always hold that “I don’t have to do this work.” This gives me the greatest freedom. Life will go along just fine if I don’t do this work. It is a luxury to question traumatic thoughts using The Work, not a necessity.

When I see it this way, I put no pressure on myself at all. And ironically, that’s when I feel most drawn to do The Work.

Gain confidence in doing The Work by taking The Work 101 course with me. The more you develop the muscle of self-inquiry, the better it can serve you.

Have a great week,

“At some point, you may want to go to the deepest pain inside you and clear it up. Do The Work until you see your part in it.” Byron Katie, Loving What Is

Vulnerability Is One of the Keys in Doing The Work


If you dip your toe in the water or go completely under water, you will get wet either way.

How Far Are you Willing to Venture In?

The Work of Byron Katie will meet you wherever you are. You don’t have to go deep. Just a dipping a toe into The Work will take you a step closer to yourself. It is a perfectly self-regulating process.

Pushing yourself faster than you are willing to go is not helpful, just as trying to swim in the deep end too quickly can be dangerous. But continuing to venture deeper as confidence and skills increase is also wonderful.

How else can you see the beautiful coral reefs and fish? One toe in the water is great, but when you’re ready, a deep dive is too.

My Suggestion Is to Keep Inching Deeper

For me this means bringing the stuff that’s really bothering you to The Work. There are small issues which are great to work, and there are big issues that are also great to work. I tend to alternate between small and big depending on how I’m feeling. (Of course, there is no such thing as small or big—every issue is small and every issue is big!)

But I do notice that there are certain subjects that I consistently avoid doing The Work on. These are the areas where I’m not so sure I’ll be able to do a neat, clean piece of inquiry wrapped up with a bow.

These are the areas where I’m totally confused, embarrassed, and ashamed.

I Have to Gauge my Readiness to Expose This Stuff

If I’m just not ready, that’s okay. It will wait patiently, though probably it will eventually explode again and again until I decide to work it. But those explosive moments are also perfect starting points for doing The Work.

In any case, if I decide to work these scary, uncontrollable areas that I try to keep sealed up in Pandora’s box, I have to understand that all hell may actually break loose. I have to be willing for it to happen. Otherwise, I’m just being mean to myself to push myself there.

Confidence in The Work comes when I start with my small issues and find some peace with them. As I trust the process more and more, and as my ability to not beat myself up or go into defense while doing The Work improves, I can take on my deepest fears, my biggest angers, my saddest stories.

And When I Do, I Step Out of the World of Control

I am in pure darkness, feeling my way along using the four questions and turnarounds as my guide out of darkness and pain. Each step of The Work allows me to choose between more pain and less pain like a game of warmer/colder allowing me to feel my way home.

As your experience in doing The Work increases, I encourage you to go there. The more you bring to The Work, the more you get out of it. So bring your worst side when you’re ready. That’s the side that needs the most loving attention. And that’s the side that will be most grateful when it’s done.

It takes courage to show up as you really are. But it’s the only way I know to transform the shame into clarity.

If you want support being held as you do this work, that’s what private sessions are for.

Have a great week,

“We’re so secretive about what makes us feel ashamed that we even try to keep it from ourselves, clinging to our pretense of self-respect while our thoughts run on about how terrible we are and how unforgivable the things we’ve done. Secrets cry out for inquiry. You can’t be free if you’re hiding. And in the end, the things we’re ashamed of turn out to be the greatest gifts we have to give.” Byron Katie, I Need Your Love, Is It True?

Robot Demonstrates “Who I would be without my Story”


Robots are a little scary, but they are also a great reference for “no story.” Watch the last 90 seconds of this video to see how a robot reacts when someone pushes it around.

I’m Not Suggesting You Become a Complete Robot

But it’s fascinating to consider.

In the video, the robot handler takes away the box that the robot is picking up. He also pushes the robot back, and even knocks it face down onto the floor.

Of course, he was trying to show off the ability of the robot to deal with adversity: “See how it re-balances? See how it adjusts? See how it picks itself up?”

If the Handler Had Done that to Me, He Would Have Had a Fight

I would have been angry the moment he moved the box away that I was trying to pick up. I would have felt insulted when he poked me in the chest with the hockey stick. I would have been furious when he knocked me on my face.

In other words, the difference between the robot and me is that I take it personally. Then I react in all the common ways of either attacking him, blaming myself, running away, etc.

But the robot has nothing to protect. There is no sense of “I” in the robot, so it is not insulted. It does not defend itself. It does not take it personally.

It does not do anything other than try to get back on its feet. That’s who I would be too without my story.

Have a great weekend,

“To live without a stressful story, to be a lover of what is, even in pain—that’s heaven. To be in pain and believe that you shouldn’t be in pain—that’s hell.” Byron Katie, A Thousand Names for Joy

Why Bother about Differences between Wants, Shoulds, and Needs?

wine grapes

What’s the difference between a pinot grigio and a pinot noir? They’re both wine, right?

Be a Connoisseur of Stressful Thoughts

A connoisseur is one who enjoys something with discrimination and appreciation of the subtleties. You can be a connoisseur of anything: wine, art, jewelry, detective novels, tea, cinema, ice cream, honey, etc.

Why not be a connoisseur of stressful thoughts?

This may sound strange at first. But if you’re familiar with The Work of Byron Katie, you know that stressful thoughts are the entry points into freedom and peace.

A Stressful Thought Is a Doorway

When you identify a stressful thought and question it using the four questions and turnarounds of The Work, you open the door. And inside is often an amazing world that is both stranger than fiction and yet truer than truth.

Through the doorway of stressful thoughts, the mind can find what it’s really looking for: itself.

So Why Not Become a Connoisseur of these Doorways?

Of course, this is an art. Just as being a connoisseur of coffees is an art. The connoisseur never thinks, “All coffees are the same.” A connoisseur is fascinated with the subtle distinctions between one brew and another.

Each coffee offers something different to the connoisseur of coffee. And each stressful thought offers something different to the connoisseur of The Work.

Here Are Some Subtle Flavors to Look For

When writing a Judge-Your-Neighbor Worksheet, there is a separate line for writing your “wants” and your “shoulds” and your “needs” in the same situation. At first, this may seem repetitive. But to the connoisseur, this the place to pause and savor the different aromas.

Wants – Line 2 of the Judge-Your-Neighbor Worksheet is where you list your wants. These stressful thoughts have the flavor of being driven by pure emotion. They have a strong body with a sharp nose.

Shoulds – Line 3 is a place to write advice for the person who offended you. This a very subtle flavor, easy to miss. These rarefied stressful thoughts are collected from a dew-kissed image of the offender seen nowhere else in the world but the mind of the victim. These projections of mixed understanding, when harvested with care, can provide deep insight and direction when turned around.

Needs – Line 4 is about looking for what you need to be happy again. These nectarine stressful thoughts hold the key to forgiveness and to unlocking the heart again. The mind believes that the other person holds the key. When you write these thoughts and question them, the spell is broken and the way to happiness opens.

Sure You Can Write the Same Thing on Each Line

Just as you can eat ice cream without noticing anything other than it is cold and sweet.

But if you have a connoisseur’s mind, you may enjoy reveling in the subtle distinctions between the wants, shoulds, and needs. I find that when I do pay attention these subtleties, my work is more satisfying to me, and I’m less likely to have to redo the work I’ve done before.

If you want to become a connoisseur of The Work, you are cordially invited to join us for a six-week online “stress-tasting” course called The Work 101.

Have a great weekend,

“If you catch yourself thinking, ‘I want_____,’ write it down… Otherwise… prompt yourself by focusing on exactly how you would improve the situation or person. What would make it perfect for you? Write in the form “I want_____.” Play God and create your perfection…

“Thoughts in the form of “So-and-so should or shouldn’t” [are next]. If you are unaware of any “shoulds,” think about what would restore to the situation your sense of justice and order. Write down all the “shoulds” that would make it “right.”

“‘I need’ [is] where you can bring the situation back in line with your sense of comfort and security. Write down your requirements for a happy life. Write down the adjustments that would make things be the way they are supposed to be…” Byron Katie, Loving What Is

Taming the All or Nothing Mind


Even a wild horse can be tamed.

I am an All or Nothing Person

When I do something, I give it my all. If I can’t give it my all, I tend to stop it completely. This is all or nothing thinking. And it sometimes makes my life more stressful than it has to be.

For example, when we were moving and selling the stuff in our house in Jan, Feb, Mar, I was in “all” mode. I worked non-stop from the moment I woke up until the moment I went to bed. And I exhausted myself. I pushed harder than I really needed to push.

And when it was done, I crashed. I didn’t want to ever do anything again. I’m still coming out of that. It was a burn-out. When I’m in this mode, I resist finding the happy medium. Either I’m working without respite, or I’m never working again.

The Problem Is that Neither Is Satisfactory

I’ve been doing this my whole life.

Either I want to be “super successful” or I want to live in a cave. Either I want to have a perfect relationship, or I don’t want any relationships. Either I am enlightened, or I am 100% cynical. Either I fully identify with a group, or I want nothing to do with it.

There’s no in-between. No balance.

The Work Helps Me Find Balance

All or nothing thinking is often stressful for me. And I end up doing The Work on it from time to time. What I find is two opposing desires in all or nothing thinking:

I want to be successful.
I want to be rested.

I want to belong.
I want to be independent.

I want to be liked.
I want to be honest.

These Opposites Are at War in Me

So I sometimes question both sides. I question, “I want to be successful, is it true?” and I see if I can find a balance to that desire. And I question, “I want to be rested, is it true?” and I see if I can find a balance to that desire.

Each desire, one by one, can be questioned and balanced—just to take the urgency and the charge off of it. I may still pursue my desires, but after doing The Work on them, I often find that they become more gentle desires instead of burning desires.

And I often find, with a looser hold on my opposing desires, that there is often a way to fulfill both sides. That’s when the happy medium starts to open for me. I find ways to be successful enough and restful enough, belonging enough and independent enough, liked enough and honest enough.

Enough, for me is that balance point. It is a letting go of “getting all the way there.” It is the opposite of passion. Yet it is not dispassion either. It is somewhere in the middle.

Have a great week,

“Each thought had a question as its mate. This brought things back to their natural balance. Within that balance I was free.” Byron Katie, A Mind at Home with Itself

What’s Really Bothering You?

old sunflower

You never know what’s really going on until you ask.

Being Heard Is Important for Two Reasons

It’s important for the heart. And it’s a start to inquiry.

Most of my life I grew up believing that it’s bad to have anything going wrong in my life. It shouldn’t be talked about. It should be hidden. I should deal with it silently on my own.

That’s why I found it so freeing when I discovered The Work and found permission to share what’s really going on for me when it’s not pleasant. I learned that admitting my stressful thoughts was not the end of my reputation, but rather the beginning of self-acceptance.

I Especially Like to Do This With Another Person

There’s something about being heard by another if I can be truly honest with them that opens and frees me. I’m not even talking about doing The Work. This is what friends do for each other.

But there’s one drawback to sharing with a friend. If they are not completely impartial, they may end up taking “my side,” the side of my stressful thoughts, and reinforcing the stressful story. This is not actually helpful.

What is helpful is when a friend listens without trying to influence, advise, or reinforce the story. When that happens, something magical takes place: I start to see my story for what it is, a story. I start to see what’s really going on. I get to see my mind objectively as clearly as looking in a mirror.

I Can Also Do It Alone

It can be powerful writing my thoughts with the only motive being to see what they are. Or to write to an objective-minded friend (or some wise person I don’t know personally) even if I don’t plan to send the letter.

The effect is the same. I get to see what’s really going on in me. I start to see my thoughts more objectively.

This Is Not About Problem Solving

If either I or my friend wants to problem solve, there will be a bias. The stressful thoughts are not free to come out uncensored because the mind knows if it shares what’s really going on it’s going to have to change.

That’s why I like to write with no objective in my mind other than to see what’s really going on. I may never even work this stuff. And when I’m writing, or speaking, I don’t think about questioning anything. I just let myself be heard.

This Is Part One of The Work

I may stop there. And I don’t push myself to “turn it around.” But often I get excited when I start to see what’s really going on. I often do want to question what I’m thinking.

That’s when I start looking at what I wrote, or shared, and seeing if I can find some Judge-Your-Neighbor Worksheets there, or some one-liners to question.

When I don’t push myself, I find that I get pulled into inquiry naturally.

Or not.

Have a great weekend,

“You can’t force this process; you can only inquire and find out what’s true.” Byron Katie, I Need Your Love, Is It True?