Category Archives for Contentment

It’s So Freeing Not to Believe that I Have to Be Competent

I’m a reasonably competent photographer, but when I was a professional photographer for seven years, there was always a nagging anxiety that I have to be competent.

“I Have to Be Competent” Is a Stressful Thought

It has many facets. First of all it is assuming that “I’m not competent,” and that “I should be competent.” And it may also include thoughts like, “I don’t know how to be more competent,” or “I can’t be more competent.”

This can be a depressing, or anxiety-producing, mix of thoughts. It’s an internal war with two opposing sides: I should be more competent and I’m not more competent. In other words, I’m arguing with myself, which uses a huge amount of energy.

This internal distraction quickly becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy as energy gets sucked out of productivity into worry, nervousness, and self-attack.

But All of These Thoughts Can Be Questioned

I love to question the literal thoughts that are running through my mind, especially when they’re stressful. For this I use a simple method of self-inquiry called The Work of Byron Katie (The Work).

I would literally question:

I have to be competent.
I’m not competent.
I should be competent.
I don’t know how to be more competent.
I can’t be more competent.

When I do this work, I often find that what I thought was true, is not true. And what I thought should happen is actually not necessary at all.

I’ve done a lot of questioning of stressful thoughts around being competent over the years using The Work. And it has left me in a different space from where I was when I was a wedding photographer and a nature photographer, and even in my beginning years of being a facilitator of The Work of Byron Katie professionally.

I used to put so much pressure on myself. Now I don’t. Because I don’t believe those thoughts anymore. Or rarely do.

I Had a Dream the Other Night

I was sitting face to face with the Byron Katie, the founder of The Work, whom I look up to and admire for her clarity, honesty, and humility. She’s also my teacher, which means that I sometimes put her in a position of authority in my mind.

In the dream, she was looking directly at me and said something like, “I sense a lot of non-clarity in you.” And later she said, “You’re incompetent.” 

Coming from my teacher and someone I respect, this should have been devastating for me. If I were the “me” before I had questioned my thinking about being competent, I would have become defensive, pushing her away, reactive, etc. But I didn’t.

It Surprised Me

Instead, I said something like, “I’m totally incompetent and unclear inside in so many ways. I just don’t believe anymore that I have to be competent.” It felt so peaceful to simply be incompetent, exposed in whatever way I was exposed to her without a need to cover up.

Without the thought, “I have to be competent,” there was no shame. No disconnection.

I Love My Job Without this Belief

In this space, I’m always learning, always open to becoming more competent in the areas where I’m not competent. But there’s no fear in it, and no shame in it, and no pressure in it.

I don’t make any claims this way. And I don’t have expectations that I can’t live up to. I literally don’t have to be competent. It is the most freeing way to run a business, or to learn a sport, or to work through any new challenge that life gives me.

When I don’t expect myself to be competent, I can just be myself.

Learn How to Do This Work Yourself

No one can do The Work for you. It’s up to you to learn how to question your thoughts, and to do so. All it takes is an open mind to try it out. 

I also find that The Work of Byron Katie is a practice. That’s partly what I mean when I think of The Work as meditation. I have done The Work nearly every day as part of my routine since 2007. And with practice it continues to deepen.

If you want to start a practice of The Work, or just want to learn deeply how do The Work, I invite you to participate in my online course, The Work 101. The next one starts Feb 24.

Have a great week,
Todd

“Q: What do you mean by ‘Don’t be spiritual—be honest instead.’

“A: What I mean is that it’s very painful to pretend yourself beyond your own evolution, to live a lie, any lie. When you act like a teacher, it’s usually because you’re afraid to be the student. I don’t pretend to be fearless. I either am or I’m not. It’s no secret to me.” Byron Katie, Loving What Is

The Work is Not About Changing Your Personality

horse

If you’re a horse, you’re probably always going to want to run. Why would you try to change that?

People Think The Work Is About Changing Yourself

But it’s not.

The Work is about finding ways to love what is. “What is” includes what is around you as well as what is closest to you: your body, your personality, even your thoughts.

The Work is not about changing anything. It is the opposite of trying to change yourself. It is a way to come home to the way you happen to be today and to find the good in it.

The Work is about peace, not change.

“I Should Be Different” Is Stressful

“I should be different” is no different than “He or she should be different.” Both are arguments with reality. That is what makes them stressful.

If you think you will do The Work and a be a better person, your motive to change yourself will end up causing you more stress. You will judge yourself and your work, and you will put pressure on yourself. My suggestion: don’t do it. It’s a trap. It’s the old way we’ve all be doing forever. It doesn’t lead to peace.

It is self-help in disguise.

If You Want to Be Miserable, Do Some Self-Help

When I say self-help, I mean “Get fit,” “Make more money,” “Be successful,” “Lose weight,” “Make friends and influence people,” “Be nicer,” “Be bolder,” “Be less secretive,” etc. There are thousands of books written to feed these addictions to improve ourselves. And while they can be very useful, they are not interested in unconditional peace.

With self-help, and all kinds of problem solving techniques, peace only comes when you are successful. With The Work, peace is available without any success at all. That is freedom.

Spiritual Teachers Have Been Talking About It Forever

The pathless path. The kingdom within. The goal that is present in every step.

This is what The Work points towards. And as you use The Work, you may find that peace does not depend on anything at all, not even on The Work. It is always available for the taking.

You can even be peaceful when you have more stressful thoughts left to question. Loving what is literally means loving what is.

But Wanting Change Is Not Incompatible with Peace

The more you love what is, the more open-minded you become. You start to love even your self-help thoughts, the ones that push you to strive for improvement. Peace can be had even when trying to lose weight, or make money, or be successful.

Those self-help thoughts are also part of what is. And while I often question thoughts like, “I want be successful,” many times I don’t. I trust my stress to tell me what needs to be questioned and what does not.

That way I am always a work in progress, interested in something “better,” but not caring if I ever get there because I’m perfectly okay as I am. That’s all there ever is to peace.

Join us for The Work 101 starting Sep 2, 2018.

Have a great week,
Todd

“If I think that I should have a different chair, just to use that metaphor, I am insane! I’m wanting two things at once, and confusion is the only suffering. “I want another chair” is a lie. What I want is this chair, obviously, because it’s the one I have. So I’m no longer confused. How do I know I want this chair? I’m sitting in it.” Byron Katie, Question Your Thinking, Change the World

Are you Comfortable Doing Things you’re Not Good at?

carved wood rose

Try carving a rose out of wood. When it doesn’t go the way you hoped, is it stressful?

Not Being Good at Something Can Be Stressful

Where is that stress coming from?

The carving itself is not stressful. It’s purely mechanical. The stress comes from what I’m thinking. The thought, “I should be good at this,” makes it stressful.

Whenever I’ve questioned this thought, it has opened me up again.

For Example, I Used to be Stressed about Business

Starting in 2002, I wanted to be good at running a business i.e., able to make a living. But I had zero experience in business. I didn’t study it in school, I didn’t have any mentors or role models. I didn’t know the first thing about it. I even had an aversion to money.

But over the years I’ve stumbled around in business, and I’ve questioned my stressful thoughts as I went. The result is that I stopped expecting myself to be great at it. That’s when things opened up. That’s when it became fun. I was open enough to learn, and humble enough to simply serve.

When I stopped thinking I should be good at business, I got better at it, but more importantly, I stopped worrying about it. I started feeling free even as I continued (and continue to this day) to stumble around.

Managing Groups of People Is Another Weak Point

I’m basically a loner.

While I like people, I tend to stay to myself. And when dealing with people, I do best one-on-one. When I get in a group, I become much more insecure and likely to make blunders. I hate getting caught between two opposing factions.

But guess what my job gives me? A group. I call it Inquiry Circle. It’s an online group of people who get together every day to do The Work.

Am I good at managing the group? In some ways, yes. It is very orderly. But I also get my weak spots exposed continuously. I show up as harsh sometimes. I show up as manipulative sometimes. I am certainly not a perfect “leader” of the group.

But what I love about this group of open minded people is that none of us is expecting each other to be perfect. We are just here to do The Work. So, in the name of truth and freedom, I admit my mistakes, I question my related thoughts, and I make amends.

It’s Actually Exciting

I’m not good at what I’m not good at, but I’m not pretending that I am. That’s where the freedom is for me.

I’m not pretending to be an enlightened guru that doesn’t make mistakes. I’m just another first grader open to helping other first graders with their homework. That is freedom!

Thank you to The Work for allowing me to be free without having to be perfect. It gives me the courage to dive into anything whether I’m good at it or not.

Have a great weekend,
Todd

“The job you do out there in the apparent world is secondary. It’s only a place for you to judge, inquire, and know yourself.” Byron Katie, Question Your Thinking, Change the World

The Trap of “I Need to Do an Amazing Job”

stone carver at work

Devotion to one’s craft is wonderful but obsessing over results is debilitating.

This Is a Trap That’s Easy to Fall Into

I’ve spent much of my life trying to do an amazing job at everything I do. And in many respects, I’ve succeeded. But it’s never been enough. And it’s always been a extra burden of stress for me.

When I was young, I didn’t want to just pass my classes in school, I wanted to do them perfectly. This meant that studying didn’t just take an average amount of time, it meant that it had to take all of the available time.

In business, I did the same. As a photographer, I obsessed over the details, and went above and beyond the extra mile for my clients. And again, it took all of my time.

I Was Always Motivated by Wanting to Look Good

I wanted to look good to my clients, I wanted to look good to my family, I wanted people to be amazed. And basking in their amazement, I hoped I would finally be somebody.

But not only did it not work (which was depressing), it took all my time and all my energy. And a part of me rebelled. A part of me always wanted to get out of my job, or out of my school assignments—to just take time for me.

So I did that too. I lived in an ashram for a decade. And it was good. But even there I tried to be the perfect student of enlightenment. And again the pressure. Again the frustration. The same trap.

It Was Not Until I Did The Work on it that I Found Some Peace

I have questioned many variations of “I need to do an amazing job” in different situations, and what I’ve found is that it is not true. I don’t need to do an amazing job at all. I just need to do an average job. That’s good enough to make a living, to learn new things, to grow spiritually, to keep a balanced life.

In fact, this article is a great example of this for me right now. For some reason, the thoughts are not crystal clear as I’m writing. They’re still just forming. And I notice the impulse to scrap it and start over and keep researching and refining my thoughts before posting this.

But as a result of what I’ve found through inquiry, I am practicing a different approach. And I really love it. The approach of “good enough.” Everything is a work in progress for me now. I don’t need to wow anyone. Things start tiny and sloppy and grow from there. That’s good enough for me.

It’s less and less about pleasing others, and more and more about me just honestly doing what I can at each step and moving on. It’s less about glorious end goals, and more and more about just doing the simple job at hand.

Here Are Some Ideas of How to Do The Work on This

If you have similar perfectionistic tendencies. Here are some ways you can do The Work.

1. Ask yourself, “Who am I trying to please?” in the situation where you are trying to do it perfectly. Then write a Judge-Your-Neighbor Worksheet on them. For me, it was my mom who used to both expect high grades and praise me when I got them. But she shows up now in other people in different situations.

2. Ask yourself, “Who am I afraid will disapprove?” Again, this leads to a Judge-Your-Neighbor Worksheet, or some one-liners about that person.

3. Ask yourself, “What am I trying to accomplish?” Write it down, and then question, “I want to accomplish…” I love questioning my motives, and finding more effective and more peaceful action without them.

4. And finally, question, “I need to do an amazing job.” It can be so freeing to question this one.

Have a great week,
Todd

“The irony is that the struggle to win love and approval makes it very difficult to experience them. Chronic approval seekers don’t realize that they are loved and supported not because of but despite their efforts. And the more strenuously they seek, the less likely they are to notice.” Byron Katie, I Need Your Love Is That True?

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What if Life Were Just a Hobby?

model airplane

This man is getting his model airplane ready to fly.

Hobbies Are Not Serious

That’s what makes them fun!

Even when you take your hobby seriously, as I’m sure these model airplane hobbyists do, there is always a certain lightness to the way you hold a hobby. After all, it’s just for fun.

Compare this to the way many of us take life—like it’s life or death! We see it as very serious. Survival is at risk. It’s not play.

But Why Does Life Have to Be So Serious?

It doesn’t.

It all depends on how identified you become with it. Even a hobby can be serious—in some cases stressful—if there is no separation between me and it.

In fact, it is that little bit of separation that makes anything fun. It allows me to take risks, to not worry about doing it wrong, to experiment. When I’m not 100% identified with something, there is a safety factor built in. And when I feel safe, I can play.

The Work Helps Me Step Back a Little

When things start getting serious, for example when I start getting angry, or sad, or stressed, then I bring out The Work.

The Work is my way of helping me look at the big picture again. Whatever seems serious, I ask “Is it true?” and I start to gain a little bit of separation, a little bit of perspective. And that’s what makes me relax again.

I love question 4 of The Work, “Who would you be without the thought?” for the same reason. It gives me perspective. It pulls me out of my deep identification. Suddenly, it’s not serious. My ups and downs are just a part of the exciting drama of life unfolding. When I’m not identified with what is happening, I feel safe, and can let things go the way they go.

There Is a Time for Improving and a Time for Letting Go

Most of life is spent improving things, growing, evolving, perfecting, striving to accomplish. That really is a huge part of life. It is even a part of any hobby. There’s nothing wrong with it at all.

But there’s an equally important part of life, the part of letting go. This balances the perfecting side of life. And it allows me to take it easy when my efforts fail. It keeps me safe.

When a model airplane crashes, it is a disappointment, but it is not crushing because the perspective is that it is just a hobby. This built-in perspective makes it easy to let go.

What if You Thought of Life as Just a Hobby?

It could be very interesting to strive for perfection even while free of any need to achieve it. That’s the feeling of a hobby—doing it just for fun.

The Work opens this perspective by questioning any part of life that still feels serious. The more I do it, the less attached I am. And the less attached I am, the more chances I take. And the more chances I take the more fun I have.

Here’s to healthy separation as a balance to full engagement!

Have a great weekend,
Todd

“As the mind realizes itself, it stops identifying with its own thoughts. This leaves a lot of open space. A mature mind can entertain any idea; it is never threatened by opposition or conflict, because it knows that it can’t be hindered. When it has no position to defend or identity to protect, it can go anywhere.” Byron Katie, A Thousand Names for Joy

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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Happiness Is Not the Goal of The Work

rainbow

Do you need rainbows in order to be happy?

This May Sound Sacrilegious

But for me The Work is not about happiness.

Believe me, I am a happiness junkie. Happiness is my number one addiction. I’m always looking for ways to be more happy.

What Am I Addicted To?

I’m addicted to a feeling.

A feeling that I get in my heart and stomach and all over my body that feels like a high. I love it when I’m in that zone, and a part of me is always searching for how to have that high all the time.

I take care of my health for that reason. I meditate for that reason. I seek success in many fields for that reason. And sometimes I do The Work for that reason.

But The Work Cuts Through My Addiction

Because The Work invites me to question everything I want, including happiness.

What I find as a result of doing The Work is that I’m fine without my high. I’m fine when my health is not perfect. I’m fine when I’m tired or heavy. I’m fine when I’m not successful. I’m fine when I don’t meditate. I’m fine when I’m not enlightened.

I can’t bring any situation to The Work without it turning out to be fine.

This Recalibrates Me

This makes me smile when I look at my idea of a permanent high, of a permanent state of happiness. Why would I need that high feeling in my body when not being high is just as fine?

In other words, The Work delivers an experience of freedom for me—not happiness. If happiness could be compared to golden light, then freedom, for me, would be pure transparency.

And what I love about transparency is that it can coexist with any color. It can coexist with golden light or with pure darkness. It doesn’t matter what color is there.

There Is a Freedom in Not Needing Even Happiness

And that’s what The Work keeps pointing me towards. Happiness is wonderful. Health is wonderful. Success is wonderful. But needing any of these is not.

And being fine with or without them is peace.

That’s what The Work is all about for me. It’s not about getting to a state of happiness. But rather, it’s about getting out of a state of craving happiness—which is actually the opposite of happiness.

Then Life Is Simple

It just is. And with all of life’s ups and downs, I’m still totally fine.

Have a great weekend,
Todd

“I have an Israeli friend who is paralyzed from his neck to his toes. He used to see himself as a victim, and he had all the proof—the mind is good at that. He was certain that life was unfair. But after doing The Work for a while, he came to realize that reality is just the way it should be. He doesn’t have a problem now. He’s a happy man in a paralyzed body. And he didn’t do anything to change his mind. He simply questioned his thinking, and mind changed.” Byron Katie, A Thousand Names for Joy

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.

Wanting Without Wanting

rose dessert

Wanting what is in front of me is wonderful. But wanting when I don’t have it can be painful.

Wants Are Tricky

Wanting something is neither good nor bad. It all depends on the situation.

If I want to be married and I am married, that is a great combination. In this situation, wanting to be married is peaceful. But if I want to be married and I’m not married, then that want could be painful.

What The Work of Byron Katie helps me do is adjust to my changing situations. And it starts by noticing any pain. Any emotional pain that shows up tells me where I’m resisting change or wanting something that I don’t have.

The pain comes from being attached to what I want when I can’t get it. My happiness has become conditional on getting what I want.

When I Notice a Painful Want Like That, I Do The Work

I write down the want that is running inside of me. And I question it—not as a means of going into denial but rather as a means of really noticing how that want is working for me. Is it bringing me peace or stress, happiness or pain?

The Work is nothing more than noticing.

When I notice that holding onto my want is causing me stress and pain, I am much more willing to hold it loosely, or to let it go completely.

Which Brings Up an Interesting Contradiction

When I question what I want, the intensity and desperation often goes away. But that doesn’t always mean that my want goes away. I’ve watched it happen many times after doing The Work on a particular want.

The craving goes away. I don’t care so much if I get what I want or not. But yet I still find myself moving towards the same desired goal. I am desiring without desiring. It’s a total contradiction, but the feeling is peace, empowerment, and easiness. It’s as if the want is no longer my want, but has a life of its own.

This balance of opposites is my favorite place to be. It allows me to act and pursue practical goals in the world without feeling desperate about achieving them. I am acting, even wanting, without attachment. In fact, my action tends to be much more effective in this space of not caring.

The Less I Want, the More Present I Become

I notice that my wants bring me into the future, or into the past. When I question my wants, I often find that where I am right now is what I want.

I may still even be pursuing some goal. But I’m pursuing that goal in the present, one step at a time. And I’m as happy to not reach the goal as I am to reach it. When I’m in that space, it feels like freedom.

What are your painful wants? I encourage you to write them down and question one today.

Have a great week,
Todd

“I am a lover of what is, and I don’t want anything else. I only know I want to be here with you now. I am here with you—that’s how I know that I want to be. It wasn’t planned; it’s simply unfolding.” 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.

Looking for Happiness Is an Obstacle to Happiness

sunset

If I can just get here, then I’ll be happy.

Replace the Word, “Here,” with Anything

If I can just get ahead financially, then I’ll be happy.
If I can just have a more balanced schedule, then I’ll be happy.
If I can just get enlightened, then I’ll be happy.

The variations of this basic thought are infinite. “If I can just have X, then I’ll be happy.” But ironically, this is the whole story of unhappiness.

When I Desperately Want Anything, I Suffer

Even if I want happiness.

Wanting to be happy literally creates the opposite of happiness. Yet, how much energy, money, time, and effort do I spend looking for happiness? Yearning for it? Celebrating it when it comes? And crying when it goes?

That is not peace. That is not true happiness. True happiness is happy with what is. No matter what the finances are. No matter what the schedule looks like. No matter how unenlightened I feel. No matter how unhappy I may be. Can I be happy with that?

True Happiness Has a Different Definition

True happiness is not necessarily the experience of getting what I want. True happiness is not dependent on anything going my way.

True happiness is more like contentment, or peace. Happy with whatever comes, even if it is failure, or sickness, or overwhelm, or poverty.

Can I be happy even living an imbalanced, imperfect life? That is the question worth contemplating. If I can, I can be happy, or content, or peaceful, even when I’m “unhappy.”

What If It Doesn’t Get Any Better Than This?

What if sitting here typing this little email to you is life, the whole of it? Here I am with all of my life-long habits of straining, and perfectionism, and feeling a little pressure for time, and that tension in my neck right now.

What if this were good enough? What if I were happy with this, instead of pining away for an enlightenment that never comes?

As I write, I feel happier just thinking this way. Maybe accepting is the better word. And that brings peace. And that somehow opens up my heart. It’s enough.

Have a great week,
Todd

“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

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

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.

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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