Three Ways To Make Peace With Your Ex-Husband

Try this the next time you pick up the kids.

Tell your ex-husband that you hate him. Tell him that you’re going to do everything in your power to make sure he sees nothing of the kids. Start screaming and kicking, and come down hard with your fist on his car.

Not only will this make him mad, it will get you upset as well. This approach will keep you feeling angry for hours, if not days. Your creative energy gets zapped. And where did all the enthusiasm for spending time with your kids go?

This Is What Happens When You Don’t Make Peace

Your life becomes a living hell. You can’t sleep at night. You can’t work at work. All you think about is the injustice of the situation. And it gets you down.

So how can you make peace with your ex? A powerful tool to help is called The Work of Byron Katie. It’s a process of writing down your stressful thoughts and then questioning them.

When you do The Work on you ex-husband, you stop feeling like a victim, and start seeing how much influence you actually have on the situation, and on your own happiness.

But It’s Him That’s The Problem, Not Me!

The Work is not about condoning bad behavior. Your ex may well be the perpetrator.

The Work is about your happiness. So ask yourself: how is your battle-readiness affecting you? How is your defensiveness affecting your happiness? It’s your life we’re talking about. How do you want to live?

When you use The Work to question stressful thoughts about your ex-husband, you will find how you make you unhappy. The Work is about learning how you can free yourself from the stress. And when you do, it will be much easier to deal with him.

Three Ways To Make Peace With Your Ex

The Work is a series of questions (learn how to do The Work here) that you can apply to any stressful thoughts or beliefs.

Here are three ways to use The Work to find peace within yourself about your ex. If you do The Work on these, you may find your freedom creeping back inside.

Here are three main areas worth questioning.

1. My ex-husband needs to change.
2. My ex-husband hurt me.
3. My ex-husband is a bad influence on the kids.

Let’s look at each one of these area one by one.

1. My Ex-Husband Needs To Change

This is a powerful belief. And it doesn’t have to be tackled all at once. The most effective way to bring this concept to The Work is to make a list of all ways you think he should change. Then take each item on the list to The Work to question it.

Here’s a sample list. You should create your own, though you’re welcome to use anything you see here that resonates with you. Remember, the more specific your complaints the better.

He shouldn’t call me so much.
He should have the kids ready when I pick them up.
He should respect my time.
He shouldn’t argue with me.
He should send child support on time.

When you have your list, and it can go on for a while, take each item one by one and do The Work on it. A facilitator can help you quite a lot. As you look at each item and question it, you’ll start to see things differently. And you may notice a growing freedom as you start to see things differently.

As these concepts start to loosen, you may want to look at the second area worth questioning with The Work.

2. My Ex-Husband Hurt Me

The second way to use The Work to make peace with your ex is to question all the ways that you believe he hurt you.

Again, make a list. Fill in the blank like this. "My ex-husband hurt me by…" Your list might look like this.

He left me for another woman.
He thought his work was more important.
He treated me with contempt (specifically how and when)
He destroyed our marriage (specifically how)
He won’t talk to me without being cold.

This list can go on. You may gain momentum as you write. Just get it out on paper. And then take each concept to The Work. As you work this list you will find your part in things, but more importantly you will find how you can free yourself from your pain.

But don’t stop there. If you want to get freer still, it’s time to question one more concept.

3. My Ex-Husband Is A Bad Influence On The Kids

This concept has many branches, just like the other two. And when you question each part of it, you’ll come to peace with the role your ex-husband plays for your children.

This time, list all the ways you think he is a bad influence (especially the ones that make you mad).

He doesn’t make them do their homework.
He curses in front of them.
He talks bad about me in front of them.
He lets them watch too much TV.
He has never aimed very high in life.

Again, your list may be much longer, though one concept is enough to start. When you’ve got your list, take each item to inquiry, by doing The Work on it. You’ll find growing compassion for your ex, and more peace within yourself.

But Don’t Try To Do It All In One Day

This is a project.  It may take some time work through all the concepts you have written.  Keep the list, but don’t get overwhelmed by it.  Just work one concept at a time and use The Work as a way to find the truth.


If you want peace within yourself, a powerful way to get it is to use The Work to question all the stressful thoughts about your ex-husband. Three big concepts worth bringing to The Work are "My ex-husband needs to change," "My ex-husband hurt me," and "My ex-husband is a bad influence on the kids."

If you are caught in these beliefs, they will keep you angry. And they will keep you gathering the evidence, which makes you even angrier. When you list all the supporting evidence for these beliefs and question them with The Work, your anger has no choice but to subside.

And when the anger subsides, you don’t have to try the kicking and the screaming, or the fist upon the car. No, you can pick up the kids you love and move along. You’ve got a life again.


Todd Smith is a facilitator of The Work of Byron Katie. To learn more about The Work go to

About This Article

If you like this article, feel free to share it with your own list, post it on your site, on your blog, or add it to your autoresponder. Twitter it, Facebook it, translate it.

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©2010-2011 Todd Smith, LLC. All rights reserved.

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Are Arguments Ruining Your Relationship?

Underwater, in the shadow of a fallen and submerged tree lurks a four pound largemouth bass. This fish is hungry, and is stalking its territory for something good to eat.

Suddenly a fishing lure wobbles past this hungry fish. In a flash, the fish responds and grabs the bait. But what a surprise! Instead of tasty nourishment, the fish is now fighting for its life.

Like A Fish, We Take The Bait Every Time We Argue

Our partner makes a critical remark, and bang, like a fish, we swallow the lure, hook and all. And we feel the sharp pain immediately.

And Then What Happens?

We withdraw, don’t we? We pull back, and put some distance in between ourselves and the one we love. The cold treatment crops up immediately, and it can last for days, or weeks, or months, or even years.

Do you ever wonder how some relationships drift apart? It can start with a simple hurt, and the distance grows from there.

But It Gets Worse Than That

The cold treatment, though viciously intended and uncomfortable to bear, is only part of it. When you think you’ve been hurt in an argument, you start looking for ways to attack. Your lover is no longer your lover, he or she becomes your enemy.

You watch everything your partner does, hoping to see when he or she trips up. And then you jump in like a tiger for the kill. Compassion is not even a second thought. You want to catch your spouse red-handed. You want vengeance.

This is the kind of vengeance that used to set up family feuds for generations. One family would kill someone, and then the other would avenge the killing. Back and forth the killing would continue for centuries. Hate building on hate.

So How Do We Stop The Hate?

To stop the hate, we have to slow things down. We can’t depend on instincts. When instincts rule, we grab the bait every time, just like the fish. A fish has no choice when instincts rule.

But we are not fish. We are not bound by instinct alone. We are way more intelligent than that. If we were a fish under water, with our full human intelligence intact, we might swim on over to the lure and check it out.

“Is it really food?” we might think. “I remember when Bob got picked up by a lure once. Could this be one of those? Let’s take a look. Is there a hook inside this juicy morsel? Or is this just plastic? It looks a lot like other lures I have seen.”

When You Slow Things Down, You See The Truth

And when you see the truth, you avoid the pain. When you slow things down, you see that you have a choice in how you want to interpret what your spouse is saying.

Is he being critical? Or is he actually trying to be helpful? Maybe he’s being critical just because he’s feeling stressed about something else. Or maybe he’s trying to tell you something, and knows no other way to do it.

These more generous thoughts don’t arise when you’re working from the level of instinct. You just grab onto what he says and start thrashing, fighting for your life.

But How Do You Slow Things Down?

This seems like an impossible task. There’s no time in an argument to slow it down. In the blink of an eye, you are engaged in full scale warfare. How can you possibly slow it down and avoid the pain?

The answer is, you can’t always slow things down in the moment. But you can take what happened and examine it closely afterwards. And when it happens next time, you’ll be much more aware of what is happening. You will see choices (other than swallowing the bait) even in the split second before the argument begins.

So How Do You Examine Things After An Argument?

My favorite way to do it, is a process called The Work of Byron Katie. The process starts out by filling in a Judge-Your-Neighbor worksheet. After the argument, you sit down by yourself and write down all the judgments, all the injustices, that you were feeling when you were in the thick of the argument.

Then you take that written snapshot of your stressed-out mind and bring it to a facilitation session. Your facilitator of The Work will help you question the validity of everything you put on paper. The things you took for granted in that situation can be questioned. And you may find that your partner wasn’t as vicious as you thought.

The Work is not about changing your partner or your spouse. The Work is about taking responsibility for your own happiness. In this simple, introspective process you may discover that your peace is not your partner’s responsibility, it’s yours. And you can remain peaceful even when your partner is apparently attacking you.

But Isn’t Arguing Healthy?

Some people say that arguing makes a healthy relationship. It’s true, speaking your mind is healthy. And disagreeing is healthy too. It represents integrity. And all strong relationships are built on integrity.

But if a certain threshold is crossed, and the argument hurts our pride, then the disagreement becomes a wedge to drive us apart. It’s not the verbal disagreement that’s at fault. It’s the way we are interpreting the disagreement that hurts.

By doing The Work on all the beliefs we have running that color our interpretation, we can remove the painful side, and be left with just clean disagreement. Growth and learning stem from disagreement. The Work allows you to welcome disagreement without getting hurt by it.

I Used To Get Hurt By My Partner’s Direct Speech

He’s very direct in what he says. He tells me when he thinks I’m being obsessive. He calls me on the rug when he thinks I’m working too hard. He’s always in my business, it seems. And that sometimes gets me infuriated.

This infuriation was much worse before I started doing The Work on my partner. I wrote, and I still write, Judge-Your-Neighbor worksheets on him whenever I notice that he’s made me mad again.

And I take these worksheets and examine them with a facilitator. The result has been remarkable for me. The trapped feeling I used to have, the anger that I harbored, have diminished by about 80-90%. And I’m still working it.

Recently, I’ve noticed that critical statements from my partner don’t get my back up at all. I can see myself almost grabbing the bait. The luring “fighting words” float past my face, and I almost snatch them up. But because I’ve worked similar situations, I see clearly how I hurt myself every time I do. And I let those words float by instead. The freedom in this is indescribable.

So Why Let Things Escalate?

If you find that arguments with your spouse are stressful, take some time to see what they are teaching you. Download a Judge-Your-Neighbor worksheet here. And find a facilitator of The Work to help you question your assumptions from heat of your argument.

Instead of swallowing the bait like a largemouth bass, you can just watch as the lure floats by. And as you do this, you may find yourself drawn closer to your partner. You may start to see that he or she is on your side after all. And if it turns out that he or she is not on your side, you may find understanding for why they’d be that way.

Watch For Your Next Argument

Don’t let it slip by unexamined. You stand to gain a lot from it. Just after the argument, fill in a Judge-Your-Neighbor worksheet,” and find a facilitator to work it with you as soon as you can. With a little work, you’ll find that it’s not necessary to swallow the barbed hook every time you argue.


Todd Smith is a facilitator of The Work of Byron Katie. To get started with The Work, a facilitator can help you get the most out of this simple process. You can schedule an appointment with Todd here.

About This Article

If you like this article, feel free to share it with your own list, post it on your site, on your blog, or add it to your autoresponder. Twitter it, Facebook it, translate it.

As long as you leave it intact and do not alter it in anyway. All links must remain in the article. No textual amendments permitted. Only exception is Twitter.

©2010-2011 Todd Smith, LLC. All rights reserved.

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How To Avoid Feeling Self-Conscious In Yoga Class

Great Scott! That hurts. The alarm sounded throughout my body as my attention went directly to my inner thighs. I thought my tendons were going to snap as I tried to lower my chest towards my right knee.

If I’d had a sense of humor in that moment I’d have tried to pluck the tendon like a guitar string. I’m sure my yoga teacher would have loved to hear the sweet sound of my pain.

But My Physical Pain Was Only Half Of It

I knew I was a yogi. I’d been doing yoga asanas since I was just a child. Never mind that I had let my practice slip during the past year. I knew I was good. Heck, I even used to demonstrate publicly how different positions were supposed to look.

So imagine my embarrassment when unexpectedly my wide leg spread reached only just a few feet wide.

I Could Barely Even Lean Towards My Knee

I knew beginners that could do it better. In fact, I looked around the room and saw that I had the tightest legs of anyone. And I just wanted to become invisible and slip out quietly before the class was done.

I wanted to practice on my own and come back next year to show them all. I couldn’t have them thinking I was just like them.

I knew it would kill me if I had to bear the encouragement they’d likely all be giving me. You know, the way they clap for people who come in last. Heck no, I had a reputation to uphold.

But I wasn’t going to walk out with my tail between my legs. No, that would be worse. So I had to stick it out. And worse yet, I’d paid for a month of yoga. I couldn’t back out now.

My Pride Had Put Me In A Bind

That’s what made me bring this concept to The Work. I’d hit the wall, and couldn’t see a way out.

But no way out is “good” for me. These days, when I’m faced with stressful situations, I actually get kind of get excited. What will I learn from this one when I take it to The Work?

It Was Easy To Identify The Stressful Thoughts To Question With The Work

“My thighs are unacceptably tight for yoga. I need my inner thighs to cooperate with me.” These were the stressful thoughts that came to mind.

I took each one and had a closer look, and I found that they were just not true. “Unacceptably tight for yoga,” are you kidding? Why would I need yoga if I naturally had super flexibility?

How cool is it, that I just found out what I need to work on in my practice? This tightness may even draw the teacher’s attention to help me. And my “humanness” will make it possible to have rapport with my classmates. Little did I know, they weren’t even paying attention to my plight.

“My Thighs Should Cooperate With Me?”

Let’s turn that one around. “I should cooperate with my inner thighs.” Yes, that makes more sense. When I think my thighs should be more flexible than they are, I push them too hard and could easily injure myself.

In fact, I feel much more relaxed inside when I cooperate with where they are. And ironically, they’re much more responsive to my efforts.

Gradually I Accepted My Reality

My thighs are what they are. They should be tight because I haven’t done much yoga recently, and I’ve never really stretched this area that much. The Work helped me become a beginner once again, a student, not an example. And as a student I was open to the learning I could get.

I learned humility and gained flexibility that month. And I continue to practice this posture every day. It’s been five months, and I can now almost touch my chest to my knee. But that didn’t come from forcing it. It came from cooperating and accepting.

But Couldn’t You Have Gotten Through This Without The Work?

Of course. Life is set up perfectly. Eventually, I would have figured out to avoid the emotional and physical pain and be gentle with myself.

But The Work is a way to speed it up. I get to see things quickly when I work a stressful concept. I see how it hurts me when I believe it. And I see how freeing it would be without it. Then I see if the opposite might actually be more true for me.

This is a short cut out of pain. Within an hour’s time of doing The Work of Byron Katie, I’d overcome my embarrassment and had gained patience and understanding of my tight thighs. When I came back to class the next day, it was with a lighter spirit.

And this is what kept me coming back with enthusiasm day after day, month after month.

Stress Can Come From Anywhere

A tight thigh from yoga is sometimes all it takes to set off the stress reaction inside of me. Taking the time to question my stressful thoughts helps me see around the stress and get back to my life.

The Work makes it simple for me to find the stress and question it.

Looking back, I’m grateful now that the tendons of my inner thighs called my attention. And I’m grateful that I didn’t try to force them. Now I’ve learned to cooperate with them and let them show me what they need.

Next Step

Find something that’s not earth-shatteringly important, but which is stressful for you. Find something that’s more a part of mundane life, and do the work on it today. You’ll be surprised how little things can hold you up, and how easily they can be turned around.


Todd Smith is a facilitator of The Work of Byron Katie. To get started with The Work, a facilitator can help you get the most out of this simple process. You can schedule an appointment with Todd here.


Julie Burguiere

Julie Burguiere

Tuscon, Arizona

I Hadn’t Done The Work Much, So It Was Tough To Commit To It

One day I was questioning the work and asking for advice. Someone had told me “I’ve had victories with The Work so I can trust it.” I realized I was attracted to the work but that I hadn’t had victories. The next thing I did was to reach out to Todd. Having Todd to support me through a lovely, ongoing, slow unfolding allowed me to find those victories.

Schedule an appointment with Todd here.

About This Article

If you like this article, feel free to share it with your own list, post it on your site, on your blog, or add it to your autoresponder. Twitter it, Facebook it, translate it.

As long as you leave it intact and do not alter it in anyway. All links must remain in the article. No textual amendments permitted. Only exception is Twitter.

©2010-2011 Todd Smith, LLC. All rights reserved.

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Has Your Vacation Become A Source Of Stress?

My mom used to make an amazing cheesecake. With no effort at all, I can see her home-grown, juicy, red strawberries covering the top of the cake. I can almost taste the rich creamy flavor of this timeless recipe. And the thought of the crunchy, ground walnuts in the bottom crust is enough to send me to the moon.

But sometimes my enthusiasm for this cheesecake can lead to strong discomfort. Discomfort in my stomach, that makes me fear the cheesecake as much as I love it. I have learned to treat cheesecake, as delicious as it is, with lots of respect because it can cause me pain.

Vacations Are Like Cheesecakes

They drip with fantastic imagery of pristine beaches and adventures in unknown cities. The allure of vacation time is enough to make your mouth water months before it arrives.

But vacations, like cheesecake, need to be handled with respect. As mouthwatering as they are, they can cause discomfort too.

First of All, Vacations Cost Money

And if you’re taking your whole family, they can cost a load of money. As vacation time comes closer, the reality of the cost of it gets bigger in your mind. You start to think, "We barely get by each month as it is. How will we afford the vacation?"

And then there’s time lost at work. Not all vacations are paid vacations, and this sets you back financially even more. What will you tell the kids when you have to cut out some part of the vacation they were looking for?

This stress starts out rather small, but as vacation time approaches, it can make you miserable. And on the vacation itself you may find yourself resenting every dollar spent. Needless to say this is no vacation.

Another Common Pitfall Is Unrealistic Expectations

You’ve been planning this vacation for a year. And you’ve sunk all your hopes of relaxation into it. You’ve been picturing the fun time you’ll be having months before you get there. But this can sometimes lead to disappointment.

In the end, the vacation is just a week. There are unfriendly people even in the paradise you visit. You don’t have as much time to sleep as you first imagined. And the food is sometimes not as good as you had hoped.

These disappointments can add up, and get you feeling stressed while you’re on your cherished vacation. In no time you can find yourself feeling very frustrated.

Family Relations Can Make Things Worse

At home, everyone has their separate lives. Your interactions are more limited. But on vacation, you’re with your family members 24/7. And that means you have to face the little issues, or the big issues, that you have with them day in and day out.

Things can start to grate on you and, instead of feeling relaxed on vacation, you start accumulating stress. And then you start feeling sorry for yourself, or bursting out in anger unexpectedly.

Finally, Physical Exhaustion Causes Stress

When you fly from New York to Hawaii, there’s going to be some jet lag. Then on top of that, when you’ve booked every moment of the week with adventures, getting up most days at dawn, you can get exhausted in no time.

In fact, the last week before you go on a vacation is always chaotic. You’ve got so many things to wrap up before you leave. So you’re tired even before you travel.

Put all this together, and you may start to feel like your vacation is not fun at all. Instead of having a good time, you’re like a walking time bomb for your family.

It’s no fun to be stressed out on vacation. How can all this stress be handled?

It Depends On The Stress Of Course…

While some stress is purely physical, like getting tired, some of it can be loosened when you look at what you’re believing when you’re stressed. When you question your stressful thoughts, you may find that your problems are not so bad after all.

The method I use to help my clients question stressful thoughts is called The Work of Byron Katie, or The Work for short. It is a simple set of questions that you can ask of any stressful concept you believe. The result is an opening of your mind to other possibilities that you may not be considering.

Here’s How To Apply The Work To Vacation Stresses

First, see if you can identify the stressful concepts you’re believing when you’re stressed out about vacation. Here are some sample stressful thoughts that might come up.

We can’t afford a vacation.
There is not enough time to sleep.
My wife’s complaining is annoying.

Each of these can be taken one by one and questioned with The Work. In the process, you may find unexpected things.

You may find very concrete ways that you actually can afford a vacation. You may find that you have more choice about your sleep schedule than you thought you had. And you may find compassion for your wife when you discover that, like her, you complain a lot as well.

The Work turns what you take for granted upside down. And if you do The Work on stressful thoughts, you’ll find that your stress quickly gets replaced by empowerment and freedom.

But I Don’t Want To "Work" On My Vacation

That’s understandable. The Work’s not mandatory. The Work is just a way to quickly cut through stressful thinking. If your vacation stress becomes debilitating, this is a simple tool you can use to regain balance. When stressful thoughts are questioned, they leave your mind free and your heart open to enjoy.

In fact, if you do The Work regularly at home, you’ll find that you’ll bring less stress to your vacation. When you get in the habit of doing The Work, you may start to see through situations more clearly. Things that used to get you down don’t phase you like they did.

Here Are Three Things You Can Do To Make Sure Vacation Stresses Don’t Get You Down

1. Keep a notebook where you can jot down stressful thoughts when they come up.
2. Print out a few copies of the One-Belief-At-A-Time worksheet and Judge-Your-Neighbor worksheet to take with you.
3. Do The Work with your whole family when someone gets stressed.

Vacations were meant to be delicious, like my mom’s cheesecake. But like all good things, they must be consumed with care. When you use The Work to question your stressful thoughts about vacation, you’ll be free to savor every moment of the experience.


Get a jump start on your stressful thoughts long before vacation time by doing The Work with a facilitator. You can schedule an appointment to do The Work with me here.

About This Article

If you like this article, feel free to share it with your own list, post it on your site, on your blog, or add it to your autoresponder. Twitter it, Facebook it, translate it.

As long as you leave it intact and do not alter it in anyway. All links must remain in the article. No textual amendments permitted. Only exception is Twitter.

©2010-2011 Todd Smith, LLC. All rights reserved.

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How Does The Work Fit In With Meditation?

This is the second part of an excerpt from a book that I am writing called, Written Meditation: A Guide To Doing The Work of Byron Katie On Your Own. It should be available sometime next fall.

How Does The Work Fit In With Meditation?

Imagine you’re trying to take some photos at a party. The party is in someone’s home and the only lens you have for your camera is a 400 mm telephoto lens.

There is a group of people laughing and having a good time by the piano, so you take a peek through the viewfinder to see if you can get a shot or two. What do you see?

At first you see a hand. Just a hand holding a drink. So you decide to move the lens. A nose comes into focus. You move again, and this time someone’s belt is all that you can see. How frustrating! There’s no way to get a good picture of these people because you’re way too far zoomed in.

Do You Ever Get Too Far Zoomed-In In Life?

If you’re like me, you’ve honed your ability to focus on little bits of life. For example, you may go deeply into some project at work. You can go deep inside a spreadsheet, or into a specific goal that you’ve set for yourself. Life has taught you to focus deeply to get the things you want.

But There’s An Inherent Problem When You Do This

When you focus too deeply in one area, at the expense of everything else, life loses its balance. The project at work may be going great, but your home life may be falling apart. Or you may be taking care of your child’s needs, but forgetting about your own.

It’s easy to get thrown off balance when you’re looking through a telephoto lens. Someone bumps your lens and suddenly you have no clue where you are. Life takes your job away, and you are left floundering.

The solution to this problem is to zoom back out from time to time. That way you can keep perspective. That way you’re prepared when things change. If you’re familiar with the big picture, you always know where you are, and it’s easy to find another place to zoom in when you are ready.

This Process of Zooming Back Out Is Called Meditation

When you meditate, you expand the mind. You go from the fully zoomed-in, telephoto view of life, back out to a wide angle view that shows the big picture once again. It helps you gain perspective. It helps you see that the things which looked so big and overwhelming in the telephoto view of life are really not so overbearing after all.

Some people call this broad perspective enlightenment. Some people just call it sanity. However you want to name it doesn’t matter. But if you want to rise above the stresses and the bumps of life, you must have some access to a bigger perspective.

There Are Many Ways To Meditate

Some are more effective than others. Some require great effort, some are easy. Some require that you sit with your eyes closed, some give you an expanded view of life with your eyes wide open. Some ask you not to move, some use action alone. Some use the heart. Some use the intellect. Some use the body.

There are hundreds or thousands of types of meditation, each with its own merits. Some will resonate with your personality, and some won’t. But the effective ones all do basically the same thing. They will expand your mind beyond the limited perspective that you now have.

The Work Of Byron Katie Is One Of My Favorite Forms Of Meditation

The Work accomplishes exactly what you would hope from any good meditation practice. It expands your mind. It helps you zoom out from the places where you’ve gotten stuck, the places where you’ve gotten stressed. And in doing so, it helps you gain a perspective that’s more sane, more enlightened maybe, than where you started out.

The Work starts with stress. That’s it’s specialty. Before you do The Work, you must first identify some stressful thought. This is because a stressful thought is a sign that you have gotten zoomed in way too tightly on something. You’ve gotten fixated on it, and you’ve lost perspective.

For Example Consider The Thought, “He Should Respect Me”

It’s so focused on the other person and what they should be doing. And it’s stressful. It’s stressful because it has completely lost sight of the big picture.

When I believe the thought, “He should respect me,” I can’t see the whole situation anymore. I can’t see the sequence of events leading up to his loss of respect for me. I am blind to my part in things. I have drilled down to an irrational thought and gotten fixated on it. I just want to be right: he should respect me.

The Questions Of The Work Reverse This Process

They pull the zoom lens back towards a wide angle point of view. When you ask the question, “Is it true that he should respect me?” it pulls you back a notch. And if you’re willing, it can pull you way back to a perspective where the thought actually seems ridiculous.

“Of course he should not respect me,” you think. “He doesn’t respect anyone with my political point of view. And why would he respect me anyway, when I don’t respect him very much.”

This Is The Simple Power Of The Work

It is a way to zoom back out when you get stuck. It is a way to look at the same situation from a bigger point of view. The result is peace of mind.

And if peace of mind is a priority for you, I invite you to practice The Work regularly. For example, I do it almost every day. Not because I think I should. But simply because it helps me keep perspective. It keeps me out of feeling sorry for myself.

When I was a wedding photographer, I constantly zoomed in and out when I photographed a reception. I needed both the telephoto view and the wide angle point of view to tell a balanced story. Likewise, I use The Work to keep a balanced perspective on my life.

But How Does It Compare To Traditional Forms Of Meditation?

If you’re like some people, your initial reaction may be to simply dismiss The Work as just another modern fluke that was invented in California in 1986.

But is it really new? The main Sanskrit document on yoga and meditation, the Yoga Sutra of Patanjali, written thousands of years ago in India describes the same process that Byron Katie calls The Work.

The sutra, or verse, goes like this, “In the case of negativity, think the opposite thought.” Like any sutra, it just gives a kernel of truth. It doesn’t describe the process in detail. But when you unravel the idea contained in this sutra, you can see how The Work is a perfect expression of it.

The idea of contemplating the opposite thought, or finding a turnaround, when you are bogged down in stressful thinking, has been considered a valid form of meditation for thousands of years in the yogic tradition of India.

And This Approach Works Just As Well Today

The Work is a way for the mind to shake it’s fixation with some small stressful area of life where it has become stuck. The questions of The Work invite the mind to consider a broader perspective, to zoom out as it were. And to consider points of view that expand the mind’s small focus.

When you use The Work to question your stressful thoughts and beliefs about any situation, you get a chance to experience the peace that comes from seeing a more balanced point of view.

It’s very frustrating to photograph people standing around a piano with a 400 mm lens. All you see is hands and noses. And it’s even more frustrating to live life without a form of meditation. Without meditation, life can become just a string of stressful situations.


About This Article

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©2010-2011 Todd Smith, LLC. All rights reserved.

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You’re Still Not Quite Clear What A Turnaround Is, Are You?

This is an excerpt from a book that I am writing called, Written Meditation: A Guide To Doing The Work of Byron Katie On Your Own. It should be available sometime next fall.

You’re Still Not Quite Clear What A Turnaround Is, Are You?

To understand this concept better, let’s transport ourselves to the great city of Los Angeles.

Have you ever driven in Los Angeles? The city is nothing but a huge spiderweb of freeways that requires both experience and alertness to navigate. I lived there for a year, and after about six months I was pretty confident about my ability to get to Hollywood without looking at a map.

From Canoga Park, you simply take Topanga Canyon Boulevard to the 101. And the 101 takes you, with a few twists and turns, right into Hollywood. No problem, right?

I had done it so many times that my car could almost drive there by itself. And this left me free to plug in my iPod and listen to some great audio learning along the way. In fact, the audio was so good one day that I was at least ten minutes past my turn before I realized my mistake.

Unfortunately, the only way to get back to Hollywood was to turn around.

Sometimes We Make Wrong Turns With Our Thinking Too

When our thinking goes off in a painful direction, the only way to come back to peace of mind is to turn it around. If you’re stubborn like me, a turnaround may be the last thing that you want to do. But continuing in the painful direction can only yield more pain.

The Work is about noticing what hurts and what doesn’t. Some thoughts hurt. Some thoughts scare us. Some thoughts lead us straight into depression every time.

Doing The Work is a way to start paying attention to the effect that different thoughts have on our emotions. And when we see that we’re heading down the road in a direction that doesn’t work for us, a direction that causes us pain, The Work invites us to turn around.

Turnarounds Are A Very Powerful Part Of The Work

The Work helps us get free of painful concepts like, “My mom shouldn’t have died.” And it accomplishes this in large part by means of the turnarounds.

If it makes me sad to think that my mom shouldn’t have died in a plane crash, then why do I keep thinking it over and over? Why do I do that to myself? It’s insanity to keep pushing in a direction that is hopeless. Mom died and there is nothing I can do about it. But does that stop me from going there? No. I keep right on trucking down this painful road.

The turnarounds of The Work show us options that we can’t see when we’re moving fast in a painful direction. They open our minds to new directions that are not so painful.

Let’s Look At An Example

A turnaround for the concept, “My mom shouldn’t have died,” would be “I shouldn’t have died.” This is an opposite of sorts, a turn around. At first, it looks like a strange way to think about my mom’s death. But actually it wakes me up a little bit if I consider it. It gets my mind out of it’s obsession with mom’s death, and shows me something about which I have more control.

When I try on the turnaround, “I shouldn’t have died,” I start noticing that ever since my mom died, I have let myself die in many ways. I sometimes make myself and others miserable in the process. Living this way, there’s not only a dead mom, but there’s a semi-dead son as well. That’s just nuts.

This turnaround, “I shouldn’t have died,” gets me to notice all the ways that I have let myself die as a result of my mom’s death. Where have I become a drag on my own life? Where have I shed responsibilities and given up dreams because of this obsession with the thought, “My mom shouldn’t have died?” This turnaround, “I shouldn’t have died,” puts the focus back on my own life, and gets me out of the gutter of hopeless thinking about my mom’s death.

But That’s Not The Only Turnaround

In fact, there are usually two or three turnarounds for each stressful thought that you bring to The Work. Another turnaround is “My mom should have died.” This may sound like sacrilege at first, but let’s face it, believing that she shouldn’t have died is an endless road of pain. The only way out is to turn around.

If I’m willing to consider this turnaround, I can start making a list of advantages for why she should have died when she did. The purpose of this is not to belittle my love for my mom. The sole purpose is to make peace with reality.

So my mom should have died. How could that be true? First of all, her death helped me grow up. She was such a shining light, and I loved to bask in her sunshine. Now that she’s gone, it’s up to me to make the sunshine in my life. Secondly, her generosity in life allowed me to collect life insurance upon her death. That gift has given me a huge freedom in life.

And The List Can Go On And On

This is exactly what is meant by the idea that The Work is meditation. It is hard work to find these reasons why the turnaround is true. It is meditation. You have to open your mind and look fearlessly for proof of the very opposite of what you believe. You are looking for concrete reasons and examples why something that seems terrible is actually a good thing for you.

And as you look, a more balanced picture of the tragedy comes into view. Little by little the emotions start moving again in a direction that gets you excited to be alive. You have turned around and are driving back to sanity.

So If Turnarounds Are So Important, Why Not Jump Straight To Them?

You might think that it would be quicker and more efficient to jump straight to the turnarounds when doing The Work, instead of going through the four questions first. Do you remember what the four questions are?

1. Is it true?
2. Can you absolutely know it’s true?
3. How do you react, what happens, when you believe that thought?
4. Who would you be without that thought?

Why not skip these questions and go straight for the turnarounds? To understand why these questions are essential, let’s go back to our analogy of driving in Los Angeles.

Imagine That I Was Not Alone In The Car This Time

Instead of listening to my iPod, I was having a conversation with a friend who was sitting in the front seat. Suddenly, he stops speaking and says, “Turn around!” but doesn’t give any explanation. Maybe he noticed that I took a wrong turn, but he doesn’t tell me that. Do you think I’m going to turn around for no reason, just because he says so?

Of course not. I’m not going to turn around because I’ve got a plan. As far as I know I’m on my way to Hollywood, and traffic is moving well. What’s the problem? There’s no reason to turn around.

Doing Turnarounds Without A Good Reason Is Harsh

I don’t like to be told to turn around for no reason. I’m not taking commands here. This is my life. So I’d better see a darned good reason to stop going in the direction I’m going before I’ll turn around.

When you’re doing The Work, if you just go from “My mom shouldn’t have died” to “My mom should have died,” it can be quite a shock. Actually, we did just that in the description above. We jumped straight into the turnarounds. You might have even felt the shock of it.

You might have been thinking, “This is a crazy idea to think, ‘My mom should have died.’” You might have even thought, “This is cruel.” But what was missing in the explanation above was the four questions of The Work. The turnarounds were introduced for the purpose of explanation only. In real life jumping directly to turnarounds would rarely be helpful.

First You Have To Give Some Valid Reason To Turn Around

The purpose of asking the four questions of The Work before getting to the turnarounds is simple. The four questions open your mind to the possibility that there might actually be some valid reasons for turning around.

You have to first loosen the mind’s grip on the existing belief. The mind believes that it is going in the right direction. You have to question that belief before the mind will be willing to turn around.

One way to question what the mind believes is to ask, “Is it true?” and “Can you absolutely know it’s true?” These questions (questions one and two of The Work) make the mind stop and think.

“My mom shouldn’t have died, is that really true?” After all she did die. This makes you go, “Hm, this crusade might actually be pointless. Maybe I should turn around.”

Then, With Questions Three and Four Of The Work, You Do A Comparison

Question three is “How do you react, what happens, when you believe that thought?” and question four is “Who would you be without that thought?” These questions make you look at your life both with and without the thought, and see if the the thought is making your life better or worse.

With the thought, “My mom shouldn’t have died,” I scan my life and find that basically I’m miserable. If I imagine my life without that thought, I see myself much happier. When you see the comparison, your get a clear picture of how the thought is affecting your life, and how much better you would be without it. This provides a very clear reason to consider looking for a turnaround.

This Is The Value Of The Four Questions Of The Work

They make it easy for the mind to turn around. So, don’t jump directly to the turnarounds. Don’t try to force the turnarounds on the mind. The mind will reject them if you do, just as I rejected my friend’s command to turn around on the freeway.

The four questions of The Work make the turning around a stress free move. There is no fight for the steering wheel. The four questions give the mind a chance to find good reasons before making a U-turn. When given a chance to see things clearly, the mind is happy to turn around and go back to a more peaceful way of life.

So Now You Know What A Turnaround Is

It’s just a way to help your mind do a 180 degree turn when it gets stuck. When the mind goes down the road that leads to nothing but more and more pain, the turnarounds help get it pointed back in a more healthy, happy direction once again.

But don’t make the mistake of skipping the four questions of The Work before finding the turnarounds. These questions help the mind to gently consider some possible reasons why a turnaround might be a really good idea.

When you ask the four questions first, the mind will turn around from the pain much more willingly. Just like me on the Los Angeles freeway. I didn’t want to turn around. But when I saw clearly that I was going in the wrong direction, I willingly turned around and headed back to Hollywood.

Now Let’s Look At The Work From A Different Point Of View

The title of this book is Written Meditation. But is The Work really a meditation?

Most meditations have you sit quietly with your eyes closed. How can we call The Work a meditation when it is written on paper with eyes open, or spoken to another person? And does The Work have any basis in more ancient spiritual traditions? Let’s find out in the next section.

Coming next week…


About This Article

If you like this article, feel free to share it with your own list, post it on your site, on your blog, or add it to your autoresponder. Twitter it, Facebook it, translate it.

As long as you leave it intact and do not alter it in anyway. All links must remain in the article. No textual amendments permitted. Only exception is Twitter.

©2010-2011 Todd Smith, LLC. All rights reserved.

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Are Your Teenagers Driving You Crazy?

When I was young my little sister, Ann, threw some fantastic tantrums. When she was two or three years old she’d get down on the floor and bang her hands and feet crying, “Mommy, Daddy, Mommy, Daddy.”

We knew she was angry, and we didn’t belittle her, but we all thought it was kind of cute. In fact, when I think of her at that age getting all red in the face with anger, I still want to run over and give her a squeeze.

So Why Does It Stop Being Cute When They Get To Be Teenagers?

Ask any parent and they’ll roll their eyes. Teenagers can be monsters. They don’t just settle for a little tantrum, they go for blood.

Not only do your teenagers show you disrespect, they make it personal. They know your weak spots, and they deliberately use them to bring you down.

This Makes You Feel Frustrated And Humiliated

Frustrated because you can’t control them. The more you try to correct their behavior, the more rebellious they become. And it makes you frustrated because you can’t talk to them. They’re simply not open for discussion. They see you as the enemy. That’s final, and there’s nothing you can do about it.

And it makes you feel humiliated because they land some pretty decent punches. Punches that can make you lose your confidence and your authority.

This unsettled state of affairs can make you miserable. It can make you pull your hair. And it can keep you up at night.

So How Can You Make Peace With Your Teenage Children?

One tool that can help is called The Work of Byron Katie, or The Work for short. It’s a simple process of writing down your stressful thoughts and questioning them.

When you write down exactly what is bugging you about your children and question these stressful thoughts, you start to see a different point of view. You start to see that your happiness depends on you, not them.

But My Children Are Downright Mean

This may well be true. Some teenage children can be really mean. And The Work is not a way to change them.

The Work is a way to find peace even in the most stressful situations. You’re children may keep attacking you with full force for years, but can you be happy? This is the only question that concerns us here.

This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t discipline your kids. It doesn’t mean you shouldn’t stand up for yourself. These are your decisions as a parent and a human being. But in all this can you be happy? The Work is a way to find happiness, even in the worst of times.

How Does The Work Accomplish This?

The Work helps you find peace of mind in a war zone by looking a little closer at the situation. When you do The Work, you may just find that it’s not the situation but what you’re believing about the situation that’s causing all your stress.

For example, you may believe that your kids should show respect. And when they don’t you get furious.

The Work is a way to question a belief like, “They should show respect.” The Work asks, “Can you absolutely know it’s true that they should show respect?”

This Question Makes You Pause And Think About It For Second

And when you do, you may find a lot of reasons why, in reality, they shouldn’t show respect. The Work is personal, your answers will be different than mine. But here are a few examples.

They shouldn’t show respect because they are trying to exert their own independence.

They shouldn’t show respect because they don’t yet know how to stand up for themselves without using anger.

They shouldn’t show respect because I confuse them with inconsistent rules.

They shouldn’t show respect because I don’t respect them either.

And the list can go on.

The Purpose Of This Is Not To Make Them Right

The purpose is simply to understand better where they’re coming from. The Work nurtures compassion. And it calms the sense of frustration that you have.

The purpose of The Work is for you to find your own peace, even when you’re on the battlefield. Anything that your kids say or do that makes you feel stressed is an opportunity to do The Work. When you look at it this way, you can become very grateful for the challenge.

So there’s another reason why they shouldn’t show respect. They shouldn’t show respect because they challenge me to keep my peace.

If you’re open to it, The Work can help you find your peace every time your children make you mad. And if you keep doing The Work on these stressful situations, you may find that your children’s antics become less capable of making you upset.

This Is Freedom

This is a gift your children are offering you. They give you a chance to practice. If you can learn how to be happy in this situation, you’ll be miles ahead when others start to push your buttons outside of home as well.

So Here’s What To Do

First, read the article, “What Exactly Is The Work.” Then, download a Judge-Your-Neighbor Worksheet here.

Write your frustrations about your children on the Judge-Your-Neighbor Worksheet and do The Work on each stressful concept that you write.

Who knows? As you practice The Work, you may even start to find that your teenage children’s tantrums seem kind of cute. And while you’d probably never want to show it, secretly you might want to run over and give them a big squeeze when they’re attacking you.


Sometimes stressful thoughts about your teenagers can be too overwhelming to do The Work on your own. If you find this is the case for you, I am available for facilitation sessions by phone. You can schedule an appointment here.

About This Article

If you like this article, feel free to share it with your own list, post it on your site, on your blog, or add it to your autoresponder. Twitter it, Facebook it, translate it.

As long as you leave it intact and do not alter it in anyway. All links must remain in the article. No textual amendments permitted. Only exception is Twitter.

©2010-2011 Todd Smith, LLC. All rights reserved.

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Are You Powerless To Stop Yourself Once An Argument With Your Spouse Begins?

General Patterson stormed into the control room. It was a catastrophe bigger than anything the world had ever seen, and it had happened on his watch. He had been suspecting things for quite some time, but now it was too late. The crazy man at the control panel had pushed the button.

Now, he watched in horror as 157 Polaris nuclear missiles made their way from the United States to what used to be the USSR. This couldn’t be happening. The Cold War was long over, yet in thirty minutes there would be nothing left of Moscow.

General Patterson was helpless because he knew there was no way to abort this deadly mission.

Do You Ever Feel That There’s No Way To Abort An Argument Once It Starts?

Maybe it’s pride. Maybe it’s a sense of justice. Maybe it’s that we just don’t want to lose. But once an argument begins, we often don’t stop until at least a few things have been destroyed.

For example, I remember one time my partner accused me of never taking out the garbage. For me, those were fighting words. I protested loudly, and claimed that I did my fair share. My pride was wounded, and I hurled another insult back at him.

I could see the fight escalating right before my eyes. I didn’t want to fight, but I felt powerless to stop it now. I looked desperately for some kind of abort button, but there was nothing to be found.

Until I Thought To Do The Work

I was in the thick of it. The fur was flying left and right. So I didn’t have the luxury of pulling out a piece of paper and sitting down to do The Work more formally.

No, I had only microseconds between the constant blasts. And in one of those microseconds I asked myself, “Is it really true that I always do my fair share?” I never made it through the rest of the questions of The Work because that one question stopped me in my tracks.

Suddenly my mind was open. I saw how frequently I shirked my housework responsibilities. I was always too busy doing other things. In fact, I only took the garbage out once in a blue moon. I saw it in a flash, and suddenly my anger and my urge to fight diminished.

I had learned something very valuable that day.

I Learned That I Can Do The Work On The Fly

Of course, it’s always best to sit down and write out The Work on paper, or do it with a facilitator, but in a pinch you can save yourself a lot of grief by doing The Work on the fly. If you’re in an argument and you question the very words of your defense, you may find that there is nothing left to argue about.

But Won’t This Make Me A Wuss?

You may be thinking that this will prevent you from standing up for yourself. But that’s not what happens when you do The Work, even in short form like this.

When you do The Work, you simply consider the possibility that you might be wrong, and that the other person might be right. You start to look at things objectively, not just from your one-sided point of view.

The Work is not out to prove that you are wrong. It doesn’t make you cower like a wuss. The Work is for those who want to know the truth. And wrong or right has no importance here.

Looking for the truth is a much stronger way to live, than flushed with anger and hurling insults left and right.

But Be Careful Not To Make This Mistake

In your enthusiasm to do The Work, and to find the truth, it can be tempting to use The Work as yet another weapon. It can be tempting to tell the other person that he or she should do The Work.

If you think someone needs to do The Work, you need to do The Work. It’s as simple as that. So don’t use The Work to insult someone else. Just use it for yourself to find your own truth.

To Summarize

Doing The Work mentally while you’re in a fight can sometimes stop an argument right in its tracks. While you’re in mid-argument, you can ask yourself if your angry claims are true. And if you really want to know the truth, you may find that the anger leaves you when you investigate.

General Patterson investigated things in his moment of crisis too. When he phoned the White House he learned that there was a secret way to stop the missiles from destroying half a continent.

In fact, someone had prepared for a crisis just like this. In a few seconds the White House redirected all the missiles so that they were zooming out to space. Now the people of Moscow would see only a small solar flare when those missiles hit the sun.

And the man who pushed the button? Well, he began a new career as an military prison inmate.

Next Step

If the military can find a way to abort a missile launch, it’s quite possible that you can abort an argument, long before it causes any real damage to your spouse. Doing The Work on the fly is a simple way to take the wind out of any vicious argument, even after the first missiles have been fired.

Have a great week,

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Are Bad Clients Making You Lose Passion For Your Work?

The sweet smell of wood smoke filled the air as we sat downstairs in the kitchen by the fire. I loved to hear my grandmother’s stories about my dad when he was young. Her eyes sparkled, and she smiled as she recalled him sitting on the stairs with a baseball bat across his knees.

To this day my dad is a gentle man. He rarely raises his voice. And he can be somewhat shy. But at age 7, when my grandmother found him on the stairs, he had had quite enough that day.

Taunted by his older sister’s persistent teasing, he had locked her in her room. And he was guarding the door fiercely with his bat.

Have You Ever Thought You Could Handle Some Clients Better If You Had A Bat?

Some clients have a knack for making your life a living hell. The same ones that are so demanding are the very ones that don’t pay on time. And your worst clients are so disorganized that they have you do nothing but putting out their fires.

These clients waste your time. These clients don’t pay. These clients cause an unending stream of frustration in your life. They zap your energy. They dampen your enthusiasm and your love for what you do.

But Do You Turn Them Out?

If you’re like me, you don’t. Crazy as it seems, you keep these painful clients. Instead of being clear, instead of being direct with them, you string them along. And you divide yourself in half.

Part of you is nice, cooperative and very much amenable. The other part of you complains, both inwardly and with your friends. Internally, you resist this client like the plague. Internally, your heart sinks when they come back with something more for you to do. Yet outwardly you pretend to get along.

This Division Is Tearing You Apart

Notice the effect of this division on your life. How does it affect your health? How does it affect your work? How does it affect your happiness at home?

When I get into this mode I have trouble sleeping. I’m tense inside. And I’ve got a short fuse with my partner too. And most of all, I don’t want to go to work. I procrastinate on projects, and I live in fear of deadlines that I don’t really care about.

So why can’t I stand up for myself, and put this client out of my misery?

Because It’s Hard To Stand Up For Yourself When You’re Angry

When you’re angry, you instinctively know that you’re weak. When you’re angry, you’re focused on the other person, and all the injustices that they have done. What you’re not focused on is you.

When you’re angry you can’t see that you’re a player on the field. It’s all about them, them, them. And this leaves you feeling helpless. And if you try to stand up for yourself it comes out as an explosion.

This is a very weak way to stand up for yourself.

When you stand up for yourself out of anger, it is nearly impossible for the other party to hear your sensibility over all the rage. There is zero possibility for understanding. And the incident almost always results in ill feelings, and bitter separation.

So How Can You Stand Up For Yourself Without Anger?

To stand up for yourself without anger requires clarity of mind. It requires that you are not confused about yourself, about what you want, or about your client. To get this kind of clarity requires that you question your thoughts and beliefs about the situation.

It Requires Some Meditation

You can start by writing down exactly what makes you mad about your client. You may write, “They don’t pay me on time.”

When you question this thought, you may find that your client actually does pays you on time more often than you give them credit for. And you may find that you don’t always deliver what you promise to them on time.

This starts to undermine the anger. You start to see that, in some ways, you are just like them. And the seeds of compassion begin to sprout.

Several Months Ago I Had A Problem Client

This client is a friend. And as a friend, I got confused about how to conduct business together. His needs were seemingly endless, and the more I did, the more he wanted me to do.

This would have been a good situation for business, except that he soon ran out of money, and couldn’t pay me for my services on time. I was frustrated until I began to question what I believed about the situation.

I Questioned Thoughts Like These

I questioned my belief that, “He needs me.” And I questioned the thought that, “He wants to take advantage of me.” When I questioned these thoughts here’s what I found.

I found that, in reality, he doesn’t need me to make his business work. In fact, I quit working for him, and now more than six months later, he is doing as well as ever.

I also saw that he was not trying to take advantage of me. He was just trying to make the impossible happen in his business, and was willing to take any help that he could get. By continuing to work without pay I was simply consenting to be a volunteer.

When I Saw This, I Could No Longer See Him As The Monster

When I questioned my thoughts about him, I couldn’t stay angry at him.

And when I decided to stop working for him, I let him know in a very fair manner. And we continue to be friends today. In fact, recently I’ve done some work for him again. But this time I made sure that I get paid in advance, and everything is working fine.

This is the result of me questioning my stressful thoughts about the situation. When I did, I found the clarity of mind to come up with a solution that works for both of us.

So How Do You Question Your Thoughts?

The method that I use for questioning my stressful thoughts is called The Work of Byron Katie, or The Work for short. It is a simple process that can be done alone or with a facilitator. And this process helps cut through the false beliefs that keep you stressing out. There is a complete description of how to do The Work on my website.


Bad clients are the ones that make you dread the drive to work. They are the ones that keep you from sleeping at night. And to get them off your back you have to stand up for yourself.

However, standing up for yourself out of anger can cause more problems than it solves. When you question the stressful thoughts that are making you angry you’ll see the same situation with more clarity. And when you do, you may find ways to stand up for yourself that don’t leave you feeling like a jerk.

Next Step

To learn more about The Work, and how to do use it to question your stressful thoughts, read the article, “What Exactly Is The Work?

When you do The Work on your problem clients, you may find that the only problem is what you’re believing about them. When you question those beliefs you may come to find that you actually enjoy standing up for yourself, and they may even like it too.

And best of all, you will no longer need a baseball bat to get your point across.


Todd Smith is a facilitator of The Work of Byron Katie. He has been practicing The Work on an almost daily basis for over four years, and has been facilitating The Work for others for as long. To learn more about The Work visit

About This Article

If you like this article, feel free to share it with your own list, post it on your site, on your blog, or add it to your auto-responder. Twitter it, Facebook it, translate it.

As long as you leave it intact and do not alter it in anyway. All links must remain in the article. No textual amendments permitted. Only exception is Twitter.

©2010-2011 Todd Smith, LLC. All rights reserved.

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What Exactly Is The Work Of Byron Katie?

There’s an old story that’s been around for millennia in the world of spiritual literature, especially in ancient India.  I’m retelling it now as if it happened to me here in Arizona though, in fact, this is just a story.

The bright, Arizona sunshine warmed my bones as I climbed the trail up to Cathedral Rock. It was beautiful out here, the blue sky contrasting deeply with the red rocks of Sedona. Suddenly a jolt of primal fear shot through my body. Every hair was standing on end. I jumped back, and ran back down the trail.

A rattlesnake had been sunning itself on the path, and I had come just inches from stepping on this deadly animal. My heart was pounding as I made my retreat. But something made me stop, and I went back to have a second look.

When I returned, the rattlesnake had not moved an inch. As I cautiously approached it for a second time, I could make out the fibers of an old decaying rope.

I Had Scared Myself For Nothing

It doesn’t take much to get the mind worked up. A little rope lying on the path is all it takes, and the mind can weave a terrifying story out of it.

It’s amazing really. A little thing is all it takes. One disapproving comment, for example, is sometimes all it takes for the mind to create a story that our lover doesn’t love us. One word of discouragement, and the mind then finds a million doubts to bog us down.

Maybe some person is a little late to pay us, and the mind invents a story of how they are cheating us out of house and home. One little cue from our environment, and the mind blows it up into a full fledged crisis.

So How Can We Stop Scaring Ourselves With Our Stories?

The secret lies in going back to take a second look. When you go back and take a second look, you start seeing evidence that blows big holes in the story that your mind created.

Taking a second look is what The Work of Byron Katie is all about. It is a systematic way to take a second look.

How Does The Work Accomplish This?

The Work is a way to first identity, and then question the thoughts that cause you stress. It is simply a set of questions that you can ask regarding any stressful thought.

Let’s look at this process in depth.

The First Step Of The Work Is To Identify A Stressful Thought

To do this, it is helpful to fill out a Judge-Your-Neighbor Worksheet about some specific situation that got you stressed. This gets your stressful thoughts on paper.

You can download a PDF version of the Judge-Your-Neighbor Worksheet on my website. Once you have identified a stressful thought (or several of them), you ask these four questions about the stressful thought, and look for something called “turnarounds.”

Here Are The Four Questions And Turnarounds

  1. Is it true?
  2. Can you absolutely know it’s true?
  3. How do you react when you believe that thought?
  4. Who would you be without that thought.

Turnarounds: Could the opposite be as true?

Let’s look at each of these elements one by one.

1. Is It True?

This is the most important question of them all. This is the first time you’re going back to take a second look. And Byron Katie invites you to keep your answer to a simple “yes” or “no.”

“Is it true that I almost stepped on a rattlesnake?” This question asks you to go back and look. In fact, all the other questions of The Work are just elaborations of this one question, “Is it true?”

If the answer to this question is “no,” then skip to question 3.

Question 2: Can You Absolutely Know It’s True?

Again the answer is just a simple “yes” or “no.” This keeps you from going into your story once again.

It’s tempting to say, “I don’t know. It was so scary. I could see the snake’s eyes, and it looked like it was shedding its skin.” This is the mind’s story. This is what’s got you scared.

To break through the story requires a second look. The question, “Can you absolutely know it’s true?” makes you really question the validity of your story.

This brings us to the third question.

3. How Do You React When You Believe That Thought?

This is an opportunity to take a look at how the stressful concept is affecting your life. It is a time to report your reactions, not explain them. If I was doing The Work on the snake, I would be reporting that I was scared, that I ran away, that my hair stood up on end.

In this question, report your emotions. Report the physical sensations that you feel. Report the way you treat other people when you believe the thought.

The purpose of this question is to show you what happens to your life when you believe a stressful thought. The next question shows you what happens when you don’t.

4. Who Would You Be Without That Thought?

This shows the opposite point of view from question 3 above. And it’s important to understand that the question is not asking you to drop the thought. It’s just asking how would your life be different if that thought for some reason wasn’t there.

When you expand your mind a bit to consider this question, you may find that you have more peace, more balance, more love, more humor. Without the thought that there was a snake at my feet, I would have calmly stepped over it and continued hiking down the path.

These are the four questions of The Work. The last part of The Work is what Byron Katie calls the “turnarounds.”

What Are Turnarounds?

Turnarounds are a way of asking, “Could the opposite be true?” A turnaround is a statement that is the exact opposite of the original stressful concept. For example, if the original concept was, “It’s a diamondback rattlesnake,” one turnaround would be “It’s not a diamondback rattlesnake.”

For each turnaround, it’s important to give at least three genuine examples of how the turnaround is as true, if not truer, than the original concept. Here are three examples for the turnaround, “It’s not a diamondback rattlesnake.”

  1. There are frayed rope fibers on the “snake”
  2. There is a braided pattern that I’ve never seen on any snake.
  3. The snake didn’t move even when I almost stepped on it.

These examples, and you can find more if you need them, help the mind see the point of view that it had missed before. They help the mind see the reality of the situation.

If you don’t find three genuine examples, it’s like trying to convince yourself of something. The mind is already convinced otherwise. You have to find some concrete evidence to prove that it’s a rope and not a snake.

But What If I Chance Upon A Snake That’s Real?

You might be wondering if this work could be a dangerous practice. Could you end up convincing yourself to pick up a deadly snake by believing that it was just a rope instead?

The answer is no. The Work is a process of going back to take a second look. It’s not a trick of mind. It simply asks you to reexamine the thing you think is so scary to find out if it’s real.

If you go back and find that there really is a snake, then by taking a second look, you will see it even more clearly than you did before. And you’ll be that much more confident to keep your distance.

But most of the things we’re scared of in life are just figments of our imagination.

So How Does It Work In Real Life?

One of my clients had some very scary thoughts to deal with. She lost her husband and her teenage daughter. Though it had been a couple of years since their deaths when she came to me, she was still overcome by grief at times.

She chose to work the thought, “I was abandoned,” and I simply went down the list of questions. I asked her, “Is it true, that you were abandoned?” She answered, “Yes.” And then I asked her, “Can you absolutely know it’s true?” She thought about it, then said, “No.”

Then I Continued, “How Do You React When You Believe That Thought?”

She explained how she withdrew from life. How she felt sorry for herself. How she felt like a powerless victim.

And I asked, “Who would you be without that thought?” She inhaled deeply as she considered, and reported how she would be more normal, more peaceful, more carefree.

Then We Went To The Turnarounds

She found three examples of how “she was not abandoned.” She mentioned the outpouring of support from every side. How her family had gone out of its way to include her. How letters and good wishes had come from people she didn’t even know.

By doing The Work, she noticed how she had brushed these things aside before. By taking a second look and seeing them again, she started to take them in.

She reports after our work together, in her testimonial, that she is feeling much more free. That the grief is lifting now because she did The Work.


The mind loves to take things seriously. The mind takes one little thing from the environment and blows it up into a full fledged crisis.

The Work of Byron Katie is a systematic way to go back and take a second look at the thoughts that make you stressed. The first step of The Work is to identify a stressful thought, using the Judge-Your-Neighbor Worksheet, or the One-Belief-At-A-Time Worksheet.

Then you simply ask four questions, and turn the thought around, finding at least three examples of each turnaround.

Next Step

There’s no better way to understand The Work than to try it for yourself. It can be done in written form by yourself, or with a facilitator.

To get started, download a Judge-Your-Neighbor Worksheet or One-Belief-At-A-Time Worksheet. Fill it in, and follow the instructions on the form. You’ll see first hand how The Work cuts through the illusions that are causing so much stress.

And when you see what’s really going on, you may even find yourself laughing. Just as I found myself laughing when I saw that the deadly rattlesnake was nothing but a rope.


Note: If you get stuck while you’re trying to do a worksheet, you can schedule an appointment to do The Work with me, and I’ll help you get a feeling for the process.

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©2010-2011 Todd Smith, LLC. All rights reserved.

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