Category Archives for Avoidance

The Mind Tries to Avoid Coming Out of Denial

peacock coming out of denial

If this peacock does The Work, it’s probably going to find that it really is quite cocky. It’s not just that the other peacocks are off. He’s as prideful as the lot of them.

The Work Doesn’t Lie

So if you want to stay safe, don’t do The Work of Byron Katie. But if staying safe isn’t working for you, I invite you to question what you believe. Just be prepared.

This work is not for the faint of heart. It is as gentle as gentle can be. That’s why I love The Work. I don’t know of a gentler way to see the hard truths about myself. But in the end, I’m still looking square at myself in the mirror. And mirrors don’t lie.

The Mind Will Try to Avoid This

And it has many tactics to keep the truth at bay: it may simply deny it, it may go into a renewed attack on the other person, it may tell a distracting story, it may stop doing The Work and go get something to eat, check Facebook, etc.

When faced with the truth, the mind can get very uncomfortable. It may cause the body to shake, or nausea to happen.

Another big way that the mind tries to avoid the truth is to attack itself. It cleverly steps out of itself, becomes a traitor to itself, and joins the “other side” in attacking itself (all to stay “safe.”)

This Happened with a Client Recently

While questioning what she wrote on her Judge-Your-Neighbor Worksheet, she saw how demanding she was. She saw it in the situation she was looking at, and as a trend throughout her life. It was a clear view in the mirror.

It shook her. She felt nauseated. And immediately the mind began to wriggle its way out of this uncomfortable feeling. She began to attack herself. It’s funny how the mind often chooses self-attack over standing in the truth.

She spoke out her self-attack and defensive thoughts:

I’ve humiliated myself.
I’m so stupid.
I’m making problems.
I’ve been so arrogant.
Everyone hates me.
I made too big of a mess to be cleaned up.
Nobody cares.
They just want to see me gone.
It hurts.
I can’t bear this.
I wasted so much time.
I hurt everybody.
I can’t admit to that.
I’ll get obliterated.

These thoughts could all be questioned. They are the distractions the mind puts up when it doesn’t want to fully sit in the truth, in this case, “I am demanding.” Just knowing that these are the mind’s distractions helps a lot. Questioning them can also help.

The Mind Is Coming Out of Denial

I remember when I fully believed I was a nice guy. Now I know it’s not true. But coming out of denial was scary at first. And my mind did everything to avoid it. But when I could see and fully own the fact that I can be mean, I was free.

Free because I no longer had to pretend.

I didn’t have to keep up appearances of being a nice guy, and covering up when I wasn’t so nice. I didn’t have to cover up by blaming others when I was really at fault. That is the value of standing in the truth. It sets you free.

But you have to really stand in it. A quick peek at the truth is helpful, but there’s no substitute for fully coming out of denial and owning it. That’s what The Work points to over and over in the gentlest of ways.

There’s No Way Around It

The truth must be owned if freedom is to be gained. It takes courage. But it also takes awareness of how the mind tries to dodge the truth.

When you’re aware of what the mind is doing, you can be gentle with it, yet not be fooled by it. Maybe you question the self-attack thoughts. Or maybe you see through them the way you can see through the manipulations and tantrums of a child, and gently guide it back.

If peace is what you want, coming out of denial is medicine.

Join us for my eight-week online course, The Work 101, starting in January. We’ll be uncovering a lot of beautiful, scary, freeing truths as we do The Work together.

Have a great week,
Todd

“The Buddha says that even one glimpse of the truth is worthy of our deepest respect. The basic realization that other people can’t possibly be your problem, that it’s your thoughts about them that are the problem— this realization is huge. This one insight will shake your whole world, from top to bottom. And then, when you question your specific thoughts about mother, father, sister, brother, husband, wife, boss, colleague, child, you watch your identity unravel. Losing the “you” that you thought you were isn’t a scary thing. It’s thrilling. It’s fascinating. Who are you really, behind all the façades?” Byron Katie, A Mind at Home with Itself

No and Yes Are Equal, Unless I Want You to Like Me

black and white clouds

Black and white are equally important in a photograph.

The Word No Is Almost Taboo

Or at least it has been in my life.

Taboo because I believe that people don’t like me when I say no.

Taboo because I don’t hear others saying no too often either.

My conclusion has been since growing up that no is a kind of bad word. And so I’ve avoided using it as best I could.

But it leaves me with only a partial vocabulary. In my attempt to have the world like me (by not saying no), I handicap myself.

It’s like driving a car with only an accelerator and no brake. No wonder I don’t want to go more than five miles per hour. No wonder I panic if there’s a slope.

It Takes Courage to Say No

But only if I want someone’s approval.

Wanting someone to like me is the nemesis of saying no. So, if I want to strengthen my ability to say no, I have to question my desire to be liked.

This works best for me one situation at a time. It’s hard to question, “I want other people to like me” in a general way. It quickly becomes philosophy. But it becomes very real and concrete when I’m dealing with a concrete situation.

Here’s An Example

I remember when I was young, my mom wanted me to be a doctor. And I wanted to live in an ashram meditating instead. I wanted my mom to approve of me, which made it very difficult to say a clear no to her ideas for me. My solution was to stay more distant from her.

To some degree, not being able to say no to her cost me having my mother in my life. I remember when I moved to the ashram, I didn’t tell her until a few weeks after I moved. I was trying to stand up for myself, but the best I could do was a cowardly version of it.

If I Was Doing The Work on it Today, I’d Have Some Options

I might start by writing a Judge-Your-Neighbor Worksheet on her:

1. I am afraid of Mom because she won’t approve of me going to the ashram.

2. I want her to approve of my decision.
I want her to let me live my own life.
I want her to forget about medical school.
I want her to stop judging me based on career.

3. She should see that I’m a seeker.
She should let me follow my own path.
She should stop trying to make a duplicate of herself.

4. I need her to respect me.
I need her to let me explore freely.
I need her to love me unconditionally.

5. She is materialistic, selfish, closed-minded, controlling.

6. I don’t ever want her to disapprove of my decisions again.

I can see, just writing this now, that it still has some charge for me after all these years. I’m going to put this in my queue of worksheets to work.

The Point Is that It was my Desire for Approval that Stopped my No

I’d be willing to bet that if I had questioned these thoughts in my twenties, I would have been much closer to having a fearless conversation with her about what I wanted to do.

In fact, I bet I could have even listened to her side with an open mind, without feeling obligated to please her. That could have been a very different relationship.

But luckily with The Work, it’s never too late. I can still do this work now.

The Other Piece of it for me Was Not Wanting to Admit Confusion

I wasn’t 100% clear about my life in my twenties. I felt a lot of confusion in both my career plans and in my personal life. My mom would have probably been a great person to talk with about it, but I couldn’t because I believed that she was expecting perfection from me.

I had assumed since fourth grade that she expected perfect grades from me. And my goal was always to please her by being as close to perfect as I could be.

And I assumed that personal life was the same. I had to be perfect. No confusion allowed. And that left me isolated from her. Separate. Miserable in what I later called my “terrible twenties.”

Again, there is another great Judge-Your-Neighbor Worksheets here:

1. I am distant with Mom because she expects me to be perfect.

2. I want her to stop expecting perfection from me.
I want her to be approachable to talk to.
I want her to drop her motives to change me.
I want her to be a safe space for me to explore things with.
I want her to not judge me for being confused.

3. She should see that her desire to influence me keeps me away.
She should tell me that we are all just finding our way in the dark.
She should share stories of how she was confused too.
She should destigmatize confusion for me.
She should be an example of vulnerability for me.

4. I need her to listen without judgment to me.
I need her to accept me as I am.
I need her to love me.

5. She is judgmental, harsh, motive driven, unforgiving.

6. I don’t ever want her to expect me to be perfect when I’m confused again.

So, once again, more thoughts between me and honest conversation with my mom.

The Only Things Stopping me Were my Beliefs.

And now I see that these beliefs can be questioned. I want to do this work even now, after my mother is dead, because the same beliefs that stopped me then from being honest and saying no in the face of her potential disapproval, continue to stop me today with others.

This is how doing The Work on one situation, one relationship, can open up possibilities for the whole of life.

This is why I love The Work.

Through Inquiry, No Becomes Equal to Yes

When I question the stressful thoughts that keep me from saying no, saying no begins to be easier. It becomes a good thing, not something to hide in taboo.

Have a great week,
Todd

“Honest communication begins with you communicating with yourself. It means responding with what is true for you, regardless of how someone may react to your answer. First you have to discover what is really true for you. A dishonest yes is a no to yourself.” Byron Katie, I Need Your Love, Is That True?

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Does your Mind Trick you into Thinking, “I’ve Seen this Before”?

Japanese maple

As a photographer, if I thought, “Yeah, yeah, red leaves. I’ve seen this before,” I’d never experience the beauty nor take the photograph.

The Mind Is Expert at Getting Out of Work

And one of its favorite excuses is “I’ve seen this before.”

This is a clever way of discrediting any insights that may be coming up when doing The Work. Another phrase for the same excuse is, “Boring!” or “This is repetitive.”

But these are nothing but lame excuses.

The Work Is Not About Being Ingeniously Creative

When doing The Work, you don’t have to come up with clever new ways of spinning things. You don’t have to come up with examples that are brand new—never been seen before—to do powerful work.

Just like you don’t have to come up with brand new rattlesnake antivenom every time you get bitten by a rattlesnake. You just use the same boring old rattlesnake antivenom and it does its job.

Turnarounds Are like Antivenom

It’s not my creative prowess that makes them work. Its the simple fact that they are the precise medicine needed to balance my original statement. All I need to do to make it work is let the antivenom come in contact with the venom.

As the original stressful thought and the turnaround soak into each other they cancel each other out, just like venom and antivenom.

Good Things Happen When You Let Things Soak In

When you give a turnaround time, you may find old examples for the turnaround coming up. Stuff you’ve seen before. You may find new examples too. But before you discredit the old ones, let them soak in.

Just because you’ve seen a turnaround example before, doesn’t mean that the stuck part inside of you has seen it—especially in this new situation. In fact, that stuck part must not have seen it yet, otherwise it wouldn’t be so stuck.

And my having seen it before in other situations is totally irrelevant. It’s like saying to a dying snake bite victim, “Antivenom you say? Oh yeah, good idea, but I’ve used that before. I guess there’s not much we’re going to be able to do for you.”

I Invite You to Be a Boring Doctor

Willing to use the same medicine again and again for as long as it is needed.

Or if you want to be more romantic, be an artist or a poet when you do your work. Keep painting the same old flowers but find new beauty in them each time you paint them.

Didn’t Monet paint the same old haystacks hundreds of times? I wouldn’t call any of his works boring. In fact, what makes them amazing is the depth that he was able to access by doing the same thing over and over again.

I’ve been doing The Work work over 10 years, and there still are surprises, but there are also lots of things I’ve seen before. Only now I see them even more clearly and more deeply, and they are becoming second nature to me.

But I still let them soak in when my turnarounds call for them. That’s how I keep deepening the balance that is growing in me.

To me, that is exciting. Not boring.

Have a great weekend,
Todd

“The four questions and turnaround of The Work will take you as deep as you want to go.” Byron Katie, A Thousand Names for Joy

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Getting to the Heart of Addiction: “I Can’t Handle Feeling It”

cookies

If you’re addicted to sweets, the feeling of wanting them can be intensely stressful.

Pretty Much Everyone Has Addictions

Because everyone has senses. And senses like to be gratified. But senses are just senses. Suffering begins with a conflict between “I want” and “I shouldn’t.”

The mind easily gets confused between resisting and indulging. And it often ends up flipping from one extreme to another with nothing in the middle: binge and purge.

I Was Working with a Client on Addiction the Other Day

For her, the issue is food. But it could just as easily be any addiction: drinking, drugs, work, sex, pornography, smoking, etc.

The situation she chose to work was when she “messed up” for the day, i.e., made her first food mistake of the day. In her case, it was getting something from a vending machine after work. For an alcoholic, it would be taking the first drink.

And her stressful thought was, “I might as well give in.” Which is exactly what she did, binging when she got home.

We Started Questioning that Thought

And as we did, we discovered that the underlying belief was, “I can’t handle feeling it”—the feeling of that pressure to give in. She would do anything to get rid of that feeling.

Of course, one of the ways to do that is to give in and “get it over with.” The other way is to try to be extra restrictive in the future. These two opposite approaches set up the cycle of binging and purging, or binging and restricting, that addicts commonly experience.

Questions 3 and 4 of The Work Were Interesting

Question 3 is “How do you react, what happens, when you believe the thought?” And the thought was, “I can’t handle the feeling.” When that thought is there in the first moment when the craving begins, it quickly escalates to a major internal conflict. The feeling is desperation and powerlessness as the mind views powerful images from the past of trying to resist and failing, or future images of where it will lead. And quickly it moves to the binge.

Question 4 of The Work is “Who would you be without the thought?” Again, the thought was “I can’t handle the feeling.” If that thought is not present, then there are no images coming up from the past or the future. The mind is much more present. And it is not so hopeless because it’s not so sure what’s actually going to happen.

Without the idea of not being able to “handle the feeling,” it becomes less about preventing a binge and more about just noticing the feeling and being open to whatever happens. Maybe it will lead to a binge. And maybe it won’t. It’s almost none of my business.

The experience is more like surrender. There is not so much agitation and desperation in the mind to control everything. And as a result, there is less fighting and more internal balance. And more options open up.

This Is the Opposite of Trying to Control an Addiction

And it doesn’t mean there isn’t great value in getting support when dealing with addictions.

This is simply recognizing the exaggerating tendency of the mind. All that was happening in the moment when my client got the snack out of the vending machine was a desire to eat—something that is a natural part of being human.

But the mind became hooked on the story of the past and became convinced of where it was going to lead. And suddenly it became a life or death situation. And complete powerlessness was the result.

Without the added story, the mind was simply present with the desire, which may fade or build—who knows? But in either case, in a more surrendered and present state of mind, the same feeling was literally much more easy to “handle.”

Have a great weekend,
Todd

“It’s okay if I do smoke, I noticed, and it’s okay if I don’t, and I notice that I haven’t smoked since that one wonderful taxi ride. But here’s addiction: A concept arises that says that I should or I shouldn’t smoke, I believe it, and I move from the reality of the present. Without inquiry, we believe thoughts that aren’t true for us, and these thoughts are the reasons that we smoke or drink. Who would you be without your ‘should’ or ‘shouldn’t’?” Byron Katie, Loving What Is

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Is The Work “Telling” Me to Stay in a Bad Situation?

poison ivy

No matter how enlightened I am, poison ivy will still cause a rash on my skin.

Openness vs. Common Sense

A friend of mine called me recently with a question. She had worked with some rough, disrespectful clients last year. She had kept her sanity by writing a lot of Judge-Your-Neighbor Worksheets on them and questioning all the judgments she wrote.

Through her inquiry, she found the ways that she was causing her own suffering. And she found ways of staying peaceful while dealing with those difficult clients.

But This Year It Came Up Again

She was invited to work with the same clients again (they seemed to have liked her). And the stress began again for her just thinking about that invitation. She could see months of dealing with their same, disrespectful ways.

She called me because she was confused because she finds that, when she does The Work, she can get along with anyone. She can find ways to make anything work. So she was afraid of doing The Work on these clients because she thought she might have to work with them.

But The Work Doesn’t Work That Way

The Work is a way to make peace with any difficulty that life gives me. But it does not mean that I must go seeking out difficulty. No.

Common sense says, if I have a choice to do something that I prefer, why would I not do it? Why choose that which I don’t prefer? Unless of course challenging myself in that way is my preference. Then that’s perfectly valid too!

In other words, I am completely free. Doing The Work simply frees up even more options for me. After doing The Work, taking a job with a difficult client is equal to not taking the job. Both are doable. It means that there is nowhere that I can’t go, and that is freedom.

But It Doesn’t Mean I Should Disregard My Preferences

Just because my friend could find how to get along with her difficult clients, doesn’t mean she has to work with them again. In fact, she already proved that she doesn’t have to. She worked through it beautifully last year.

Now, if she wants to go in for version 2.0 and use these clients as an opportunity to do even more work, that’s her choice. But if version 1.0 is good enough for her, there is no rule saying she has to become super-pro at dealing with this kind of client.

Maybe she doesn’t care that much about that. Maybe she’d rather focus on other areas. That’s her choice.

The Work Just Makes It Possible to Handle Anything

And sometimes a simple no is how to handle a situation. That may be all the mastery I need in that department.

The Work is prevention. It helps me become extremely flexible and open in my mind. That’s when fear evaporates. There is nothing I need to run away from because I know I can handle anything.

But I still choose what I prefer. In fact, I choose what I like to do more often when I do The Work. Because, when I’m not running away from anything, it’s easy to simply follow my heart.

Have a great week,
Todd

“When we stop opposing reality, action becomes simple, fluid, kind, and fearless.” Byron Katie, Loving What Is

Get two new articles about The Work of Byron Katie every week, plus my checklist for the Judge-Your-Neighbor-Worksheet. Subscribe to the newsletter here.

If you like this article, feel free to forward the link to friends, family or colleagues. Or share the link on Facebook or other social media. If you have thoughts you’d like to share about it, please leave your comments below.

How I Confuse Freedom and Control

Olympic Peninsula, Washington

I tend to choose desolation and isolation—places where I think I can be in control.

I Have a Craving for Freedom

And it confuses me sometimes.

Because that craving usually leads me to renounce the world more and more. It leads me away from taking on more responsibility. It leads me away from people.

It reminds me of my grandmother who liked to live alone on a farm where she said she could spell Freedom with a capital “F.”

My craving for freedom makes me want to get rid of anything that interferes with my ability to control my life. It makes me want to get rid of anything that interferes with me attaining my precious freedom.

My Mom Called it Selfish, And She Was Right

That craving for freedom is a craving to put myself first. To live life the way I want to live it.

I call it freedom. But it’s really just the opposite. It is isolating myself and running away. I give up big worldly desires, I justify myself as being spiritual, and I narrow my life to a small domain that I can manage.

That’s what I call freedom. It sounds funny when I look at it now. But that’s what I crave. I crave to live in a cave (don’t ask me what I’d do about food—my fantasy would not even have me eat).

So in the Name of Freedom, I Make my World Smaller

In the name of freedom, I put myself in a prison of sorts. Where outward direction, responsibility, other people, and worldly concerns are not allowed. And I make my freedom dependent on getting to that place of perfect isolation.

But it doesn’t work.

Because no matter how much I pare things down, I can never control it all. My fantasy, as enticing as it may be, does not match reality.

So I suffer as I vainly search for freedom where it can’t be had. I can’t control my way to freedom. I wish I could.

Seeing This Reminds Me of Why I Love The Work

Because The Work is all about “I’m willing to…” and “I look forward to…” not being in control, not having life cater to my lofty goals of perfectly controlled freedom.

The Work is about considering the possibility that the way life actually is may actually be better than the way that I wish it were.

Just considering that possibility, opens something in my chest. It relaxes something in my stomach. It frees my breath. Just considering that possibility ironically feels as much like freedom as the freedom I imagined I would have if I were in control.

Freedom Is Not Dependent on Control

I don’t need to run away. And I don’t need to be super strong to defeat the world and keep it at bay. Freedom is not dependent on being in control at all. If it were, it would be very difficult to attain. And difficult to maintain for very long.

But what I love about The Work is that I can taste freedom without changing a thing about my life. It happens the moment that I start to see that my life is fine the way it is.

Have a great weekend,
Todd

“How do we respond to a world that seems out of control? The world seems that way because it is out of control—the sun rises whether we want it to or not, the toaster breaks, someone cuts you off on your way to work. We’ve never had control. We have the illusion of control when things go the way we think they should. And when they don’t, we say we’ve lost control, and we long for some sort of enlightened state beyond all this, where we imagine we’ll have control again. But what we really want is peace. We think that by having control or becoming “enlightened” (and no one knows what that means) we’ll find peace.” Byron Katie, A Thousand Names for Joy

Fear Doesn’t Always Feel Like Fear

sky scrapers

Pressure to be great can be another form of fear.

I Thought I Was Through with Fear

I remember a few years ago when the baseline fear I used to feel stopped being there. That little feeling of anxiety in my stomach went away due to a lot of work I was doing on my motives.

I was questioning thoughts like, “I need to make more money,” “I want to be successful,” “I need to be happy,” “I need to be healthy.”

The turnarounds, “I don’t need to make more money,” “I don’t want to be successful,” “I don’t need to be happy,” and “I don’t need to be healthy,” were bringing me a lot of peace.

So I thought fear was done.

But There Was More

It didn’t show up as the feeling I recognize as fear this time. Instead, it feels like a pressure to perform. That’s what’s up for me these days. I feel it as a pressure in my neck and back. And a strain in my eyes and head.

I wouldn’t think of this as fear because it’s not in my stomach.

But I realized last weekend that it was the same thing showing up in a different form. The pressure I feel is a pressure to do a good job (at whatever I’m doing).

It May Not Sound Like Fear, But Look at This

The pressure I feel is not so much of a pressure to do a good job. It’s a pressure to do a prefect job. Which means that it’s really just a fear of doing something wrong, even just a little wrong. And ultimately, this is a fear of disapproval. That’s what I fear more than anything. And that’s what makes me strain and push myself. I’m trying to avoid disapproval. That’s the biggest stress in my life. I think it always has been.

For me, it goes back to when I was in school. I got the feeling from my mom that anything less than 100% was not quite good enough. I know she wasn’t really that strict on me, but I wanted her approval more than anything.

Again, it wasn’t really her approval that I wanted, because when I got her approval, it was never really all that satisfying. Instead, it was the fear of her disapproval that motivated me. I rarely saw disapproval from her. But that fear is what kept me running. That’s why doing a great job on one thing was never enough. There was always the next job waiting to be done. Which was yet another risk for disapproval to be managed.

And in my twenties, when I started to find my own way in the world, I believed that my mom did not approve of some of my choices. And that depressed me, even when I was doing what I wanted to do.

I Realize Now that Some of that Is Still Unworked for Me

Because I still fear disapproval. That’s why I try to be nice to everyone. That’s why I try to do a perfect job at everything. That’s why no matter what I do, it’s never enough. That’s why I work so hard. That’s why I’m afraid to do anything that I really want to do.

So while it doesn’t show up as fear in my stomach, the pressure I feel in my neck and back and head is my clue. It’s time to start looking at my motives again. And it’s time to start seeing who I am trying to please. It’s time to start writing some Judge-Your-Neighbor Worksheets on the various people whose disapproval I’m still trying to avoid. It’s time to do The Work on this.

Have a great weekend,
Todd

“How do you react when you think you need people’s love? Do you become a slave for their approval? Do you live an inauthentic life because you can’t bear the thought that they might disapprove of you? Do you try to figure out how they would like you to be, and then try to become that, like a chameleon?” Byron Katie, Question Your Thinking, Change The World

Get two new articles about The Work of Byron Katie every week, plus my checklist for the Judge-Your-Neighbor-Worksheet. Subscribe to the newsletter here.

If you like this article, feel free to forward the link to friends, family or colleagues. Or share the link on Facebook or other social media. If you have thoughts you’d like to share about it, please leave your comments below.

Attachment to Heaven Is the Only Hell

beach

If summer by the beach is your idea of heaven, then winter could be hell for you.

It All Depends on How Attached You Are

We all prefer certain things over other things. That’s natural. But if a preference becomes attachment, then the seed of suffering is formed.

Attachment means that you no longer just have a preference, now you have to have it that way in order to be happy. It becomes dependence.

Preference means, “This is great. I love this so much.” Attachment means, “I need to have this all the time.”

That’s Where the Argument with Reality Begins

Because reality does not keep things the same for long. Reality is always cycling between between opposites. It is always changing. And if you want it to stay in your favorite position, you’ll be almost constantly fighting reality, and almost constantly losing.

And this, by most definitions, is hell.

When you’re attached, the only time you’re happy is when the conditions line up so that you get what you want. If you’re attached to summer, then you’re only really happy for a few months out of the year. And even during the summer months, you may not be fully happy because you know it won’t be long before summer fades away.

Attachment Creates Misery with Anything

If you’re attached to having money, then you will be miserable when you have less money. And you may be miserable even when you have lots of money for fear of losing it.

If you’re attached to romantic love, then you will be miserable when you don’t have it, or when it doesn’t last. You’ll call the “honeymoon” period of your life the best part of your life. And live in hope, that doesn’t fully cover sadness, for true love to come again.

If you’re attached to good health, then you will be miserable when health problems arise. Or you will live in fear of getting a health problem.

sine wave

You live for the peaks of life and try to avoid the valleys. And there is no peace.

All Suffering Comes from Attachment

In reality, money goes up and down, health goes up and down, love goes up and down. Everything goes up and down. If you want it to stay up all the time, it will wreck your emotions, drain your energy, and make you suffer.

But the good news is that all you have to do to find peace is to let go of your attachments. Just loosen the grip on what you want a little bit and life gets easier.

This Is Why I Love The Work of Byron Katie

It is a way to explore my attachments and to see if they represent my real truth or not. The Work uses suffering as the starting point because suffering indicates that I’m attached to something. I’m attached, I am fighting with reality, so I feel stress and strain.

The Work says, “Pay attention when you feel stressed. What are your stressful thoughts in that moment? Write them down and question them.” When you write your stressful thoughts, you’ll find that they are full of attachments: I want…, He should…, I need…, etc.

Then, when you question each of these stressful thoughts with The Work—when you find that “I don’t want…” is as true as “I want…,” and “He shouldn’t…” is as true as “He should…,” and “I don’t need… is as true as “I need…”—then the attachment loosens.

And the Mind Stops Fighting the Cycles of Nature

Through inquiry, the mind finds all the ways that winter is as good as summer. And all the ways that less money is as good as more money. And how no romantic love is as good as romantic love. And how health problems are as good as perfect health. It takes an open mind, and it is work, but it is a powerful inquiry.

If you can find genuine examples of how not getting what you want is as good as getting what you want, then you can be peaceful and happy no matter what life is giving you.

You can live in heaven even when the world around you looks like hell. This is freedom.

Have a great weekend,
Todd

“You do have the power, though, to question your thought, turn it around, and find three genuine reasons why the death of your child is equal to her not dying, or even better in the long run, both for her and for you. This takes a radically open mind, and nothing less than an open mind is creative enough to free you from the pain of arguing with what is. An open mind is the only way to peace. As long as you think that you know what should and shouldn’t happen, you’re trying to manipulate God. This is a recipe for unhappiness.” Byron Katie, A Thousand Names for Joy

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Loving What Is, Saint Francis Style

The Basilica of Saint Francis of Assisi

The Basilica of Saint Francis of Assisi

I Was in Assisi, Italy, Before I Went to the Desert

And I loved it.

My spirit felt very free and open there. Maybe it was the energy of the place. Maybe it was the week-long private retreat I was doing with a client in an old monastery there. Maybe it was the memory of St. Francis that is so alive in this ancient town.

Whatever the reason, all I wanted to do was to simply be. To bask in the openness I was feeling.

And While I Was there, My Curiosity about St. Francis Was Sparked

So I read a bit about his life (on Wikipedia of course). 🙂

Here’s what struck me: “In his ‘Canticle of the Creatures,’ he mentioned the ‘Brother Sun’ and ‘Sister Moon,’ the wind and water, and ‘Sister Death.’ He referred to his chronic illnesses as his ‘sisters’.”

I’d heard of “Brother Sun” and “Sister Moon.” But I’d never heard of “Sister Death” or “Sister Fill-in-the-Blank Chronic Illness.”

And It Resonated Deeply with Me

I’ve used The Work of Byron Katie to question my stressful thoughts about chronic illnesses and bodily conditions. I’ve written worksheets on fatigue and back pain and slow digestion and even on emotions like depression.

And what I inevitably find when I question my stressful thoughts about my internal “neighbors,” is that they are neither good nor bad. They are like brothers or sisters. They are just there from time to time. And the more I allow them, the less I suffer.

For me, the only suffering comes from labeling them as bad and wailing against them. Or trying to eliminate them forever. That is pain. That is a powerless feeling.

And that Is the Opposite of how St. Francis Seems to See Them

In saying “Sister Chronic Illness,” St. Francis shows me the maturity of his non-attachment, his patience, his unconditional love. He describes with this simple term what Byron Katie calls “loving what is.”

It is a wonderful reference. And yet, I still have to do my work. And find it myself in each instance. “Brother Slow Digestion” or “Sister Back Pain.” These feel genuine to me because I’ve worked them and found my truth.

I invite you to question your thoughts about any body issue or external issue in your life. And see if you can find a genuine reference for what St. Francis means when he says “brother” or “sister.”

If you can make peace with what you call bad, your heart can soar free like mine did in Assisi.

Have a great weekend,
Todd

“The truth is that until we love cancer, we can’t love God. It doesn’t matter what symbols we use—poverty, loneliness, loss—it’s the concepts of good and bad that we attach to them that make us suffer.” Byron Katie, A Thousand Names for Joy

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Survival is Overrated

saw blade

“This saw blade could cut you.” How do you react? Jump away.

We Are Wired for Survival, It Seems

It appears that survival is our first instinct. We reactively move away from anything that might cause pain. The survival instinct is to always ask, “Is it safe here? Or is it dangerous?”

But that safety instinct assumes that there is something that needs to be protected. An identity. If you’re identified with the body, you have to keep it safe. If you’re identified with an idea, you have to keep it safe.

But does protecting an identity bring you peace or stress? That’s the real question. And is it really necessary?

Survival Is Overrated

When I do The Work, I find that many of the identities I question do not survive. And I am more peaceful without them. I love how The Work kills me.

For example, I used to think I was a nice guy. Boy was that a strain to live up to. When I questioned it, I could stop pretending. I stopped caring whether others thought I was nice or not. I could just be myself instead.

Same with being professional. Survival of my identity as an organized, professional person depended on me doing everything perfectly. No room for error. And lots of stress.

When I noticed the stress and questioned my thoughts, I was free to deliver at 70%, or less. And I could relax. It was very freeing that my professional identity didn’t survive my inquiry.

And It’s True for the Physical Body Too

If I’m obsessed with survival of my body, I’m not free. If I’m obsessed enough, I don’t even leave my house. I live in fear of accidents and disease. But, if I don’t care so much, I’m free to take chances and explore. I’m much more alive.

I used to think I had to be pain-free, fatigue-free, tension-free, etc., before I could start living. But by questioning these beliefs, I am much less attached to the state of my body.

Through inquiry, I find myself not caring so much about how long I will live, or the state of my health, or the state of my finances, or any other state. I’d rather be peaceful instead.

The Work Helps me Find Peace in Two Ways

First, the four questions and turnarounds of The Work invite me to go back and look at any scary situation, where I thought my safety was in danger, and really look. By looking again, through inquiry, I often see that the danger was not real. Once I see that, I can relax again. This helps me see through false danger.

The second way that The Work brings peace for me is when dealing with real dangers. By inviting me to question my attachments. By questioning what I want and what I think I need, I often find that even if there is real danger lurking, it is not scary to me because I’m not afraid of losing anything.

Recently our neighbor’s house was demolished and insurance wouldn’t cover it because the river bank collapsed. Our river bank is slipping too, and we’re living on the edge. But it’s not so scary because I’m not so attached. So what if we lose money? We’ll find a way through it. It’s not a big deal. Even real danger is not scary if I’m not attached.

Thanks to John Sciutto for inviting me to think about this topic today.

Have a great week,
Todd

“These questions will gently bring you back to the reality of the life you’re living very well in this moment, without her, even while you’re thinking that you can’t go on without her, that you need her to come back to you. They help you put to rest the childlike thought that your survival is at stake.” Byron Katie, I Need Your Love, Is That True?

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If you like this article, feel free to forward the link to friends, family or colleagues. Or share the link on Facebook or other social media. If you have thoughts you’d like to share about it, please leave your comments below.

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