If you want to cross to the other side, you have to pick a portal and walk through.
The Work takes me from one world view into another world view. It is a process of moving beyond what I think I know.
But transcending is difficult to do without a portal.
A portal is a doorway to another world. There are many portals. In doing The Work, any stressful situation, with its corresponding stressful thought, is a portal. If used properly, it can open up a completely different experience.
The first step in finding a portal is to look for a situation where a stressful emotion came up. This is the indication that a portal is available.
Many times people want to roll all kinds of different stressful situations and thoughts into one conglomerate. This is a common approach when writing a Judge-Your-Neighbor Worksheet. The mind pulls from many different situations and throws everything but the kitchen sink into the worksheet.
The result is a muddled kind of worksheet. It contains a little of this and a little of that.
A muddled worksheet contains lots of potential portals, but doesn’t make it easy to pass through any of them. If you try to pass through many portals at once, it’s like trying to pass through a sieve, which is effectively a wall.
The way to pass through a sieve is to become very small and to pick just one hole to pass through—that one hole is a portal.
Even before writing a Judge-Your-Neighbor Worksheet or making a list of one-liners to question, the first step is to land on one thing. Otherwise, the mind will get blocked trying to pass through all the portals of the sieve simultaneously.
This means landing on one stressful thought (if there are many) and landing on one exemplary stressful situation if the stressful thought spans a lot of time.
It doesn’t matter if you start with a stressful thought and find the situation, or start with a stressful situation and find the stressful thought. But either way, these are the two components of a portal: a specific moment in time, and a specific stressful thought about what’s happening in that moment.
1. Starting with a stressful situation
In this way of landing, life has brought me a specific stressful situation without me doing anything. These kind of situations show up all the time. I recognize them by the stressful emotions that arise in these moments. That’s when I start paying attention.
I ask myself, “What’s going on here? What is stressing me?” And I start looking for the micro-moment when I felt the stress. Often, it is not just one moment, but rather there are several.
For example, if I see someone I’m trying to avoid, the stressful moment could be when I first see them. Or it could be later when I get trapped by them in conversation. But maybe there are several different moments within that conversation where I felt especially stressed. Each of those moments could be a different portal.
I usually scan all of these potential portals, sometimes I even write them all down. And then I choose just one—usually the one with the strongest charge. Once I’ve landed on one moment (say the moment when they said something especially annoying), then I can move to identifying my main stressful thought about them in that moment.
The thought I identify is going to be directly related to what they were saying in that moment. I’m starting to move into the portal now. Then I continue into the portal by writing my whole Judge-Your-Neighbor Worksheet on this main thing that’s bothering me in that moment.
2. Starting with a stressful thought
I also use this second approach for landing on a portal. In this case, I start with a more general stressful thought about someone or something. I may not have a specific moment in mind yet. Maybe it’s something they do all the time. Or maybe it is a more abstract conclusion arising from observing them over time.
I can question the thought in general, but it is often hard to get very far without finding a portal. In fact, if I do make a breakthrough while working with a general thought, I usually notice that I have unconsciously been touching on specifics while I was working—I’ve been slipping through one or more specific portals.
I can do this unconsciously, but I prefer to do it consciously. And the way I do it is to look at my general stressful thought before I start questioning it and see if I can find a specific instance when it was active. Maybe it’s a general belief about someone—I scan through my mind looking for a specific instance when they did the thing that proves my theory.
When I find an instance, I use the same approach as in method one above to see if I can narrow it down even tighter. Sometimes I can. Sometimes I can’t. But I get as specific as I can. Either way, I end up with a moment to hold me while I work my general theory. I’ve found a portal to slip through.
Or just a peck of pickled peppers (just kidding)?
I invite you to experiment with this approach of landing on just one thing—one thought within just one moment—and allowing The Work to take you through to the other side once you’ve entered the portal.
Get hands-on practice writing worksheets like this (with clear instructions) in The Work 101 course.