Category Archives for Fear

He or She Is Toxic, Is It True?

dead leaves in water

If I think this water is toxic, I am repulsed and run away.

I Love the Propaganda of the Mind

When the mind is triggered, it doesn’t think in calm, rational thoughts. It uses dramatic, inflammatory words and pictures to drive home the idea that this is life or death, and to provoke immediate action.

This is good for survival. All animals have it. It has kept us alive for millennia. But it is often misused by the mind. And questioning it can help bring the mind back to a more rational place.

Have You Ever Thought “He or She is Toxic”?

This is such a great word. It immediately connotes images of radioactive waste or bio-hazard signs. And the gut reaction is to get the hell out of there.

Now look what happens when the mind uses this word, toxic, to label a friend, family member, or coworker. Maybe you read about toxic relationships somewhere, or someone suggests that someone close to you is toxic. Immediately, the instinct kicks in, “I’ve gotta get out of here.” Or, “I’ve got to destroy them.”

In that state of mind, the person whom you’re close to is no longer a person. They’ve been labeled. They are now toxic waste to be gotten rid of as soon as possible.

The trouble is that if you look closely enough, everyone is “toxic” in some way or another. And if you keep seeing things this way you can end up being very alone and afraid. You may even start seeing yourself as “toxic” and try to run away from yourself.

It’s Time to Question What You Think

You can literally question, “She is toxic,” or “He is toxic,” even “I am toxic.” I use the four questions and turnarounds of The Work of Byron Katie.

I did this recently with a client. She found that when she believed that her boyfriend was toxic, she immediately pulled away from him. She wanted out of the relationship. She was frozen in fear. And angry at him. She had no patience for him at all. And she had a feeling like a dark energy was contaminating her interior.

When she imagined what it would be like to be in the same situation with him but without the thought that he is being toxic, she was much more neutral. She saw that he was having a hard time. Yes, he was being irrational, but it wasn’t actually dangerous or contagious.

She Saw He Was Not Actually Being Toxic

Toxic was just one way of labeling it (a convenient way of labeling it that fit with other motives running). It was the mind’s spin. The same experience could be seen in a different way: that he was caught in a trap in his mind and couldn’t set himself free.

It’s like he was a fly caught in a spider web of his own thinking. Every buzz of the fly, every complaint, was labeled as him being toxic. But in reality every buzz was just a symptom of his own struggle.

Seeing it this way led to a feeling of compassion instead of fear and disgust.

And It Left Her Open to Be Supportive

It reminded her of how doctors and nurses work around all kinds of dangerous, even contagious, diseases and rarely get sick. They are there to serve, to care for the patient, not to run away in an act of self-preservation.

This turn from self-protection to service changes the whole dynamic. Even if she is unable to untangle the fly from the web, she is available for the fly who is caught.

In this mode, there is no dark energy inside of her. There is only light, her own light that she shares generously. The darkness was only the darkness of her own closed and fearful heart. As soon as it opened again, there was nothing but sunshine inside.

If you want to dive deeply into doing The Work of Byron Katie with me, I invite you to join us in January for The Work 101, my eight-week online course in The Work of Byron Katie.

Have a great week,
Todd

“How do I help people who think that the rope is a snake? I can’t. They have to realize it for themselves. They could take my word for it, because they want it to be true. But until they see it for themselves, they would always in their hearts believe that the rope is a poisonous snake and that they are in mortal danger. Well, thoughts are like that, and inquiry is about the snakes in the mind—the thoughts that keep us from love and from the awareness of being loved. I can see that every loveless, stressful thought in the mind is a rope. Inquiry is meant to help you discover for yourself that all the snakes in your mind are really and truly just ropes.” Byron Katie, I Need Your Love, Is It True?

Sitting with Byron Katie’s Teacher

lake in rain

Who was Byron Katie’s teacher?

I Was Working with a Client Recently

He was doing The Work on anxiety, which has been a constant companion in his life.

He was questioning some one-liners such as: “I wish this anxiety wasn’t coming up. I wish I didn’t have this in the first place. This is getting in the way of what I really need to be doing.”

These Thoughts Cause Stress

When he is believing these thoughts, his anxiety increases. And so does his frustration, hopelessness, and depression. Without these thoughts, it would be much less stressful for him when anxiety shows up.

It was fascinating to see that the resistance to anxiety was the biggest cause of making it worse. Without the resistance, he would be listening for what the anxiety is actually trying to tell him. He would be alert, tuned-in, hanging on every nuance.

He Started to See the Anxiety as his Teacher

The anxiety has always let him know when he was resisting some truth, was attached to some goal, or was trying to prove something. Anxiety let him know when he was trying to protect some version of himself that he was pretending to be.

The only purpose of anxiety has been to let him know. And he’s been vigilant about checking it out: listening, and questioning what he was believing.

As he’s done his work over the years, his anxiety has gone down a lot. But now he sees the parts of his anxiety that remain not as his enemy to be destroyed, but as his friend, as his continuing, ever-patient teacher.

In Fact, Anxiety Is Just the Teacher’s Bell

The real teacher is simply the truth. If he listens to each truth that presents itself, anxiety is not needed, just as no bell is needed when the student is listening.

The turnarounds were so sweet from this perspective. “I’m glad anxiety is coming up. This is not getting in the way of what I really need to be doing.” It’s so helpful that the teacher has a bell and uses it.

He immediately saw that even when anxiety comes up at inconvenient times for him, by facing it and listening to the truth behind it, he is doing what he really needs to be doing. Other priorities become less important from this perspective. When he listens to the internal teacher, and questions his stressful thought, he can then go back to his other priorities with his heart engaged again.

It Reminded us of Spiritual Teachers

One way people learn from spiritual masters is to devote themselves to them. If the master calls in the middle of the night, or in the middle of something important, the disciple drops everything and runs to them, hanging on every word.

This is an external expression of what can also be done internally. When anxiety calls, the “disciple” devotes herself to attend to it, hanging on every word of wisdom that it brings.

This is how I understand Byron Katie’s path. She didn’t have an external teacher. Instead, each stressful experience was her internal teacher’s bell calling her to look closely and question what she was believing.

This idea was fun to play with: maybe my client’s anxiety was the same teacher—Byron Katie’s teacher, the original teacher of all spiritual teachers throughout time. Suddenly, the call from anxiety seemed very significant indeed.

The dates for the next Work 101 course have been announced: Jan 13 – Mar 17, 2019. I’d love to have you join us for eight weeks diving deeply into The Work.

Have a great week,
Todd

“When you follow the voice inside, you lose your sense of self. In my world, I can’t do anything wrong. There’s no plan. I am just an internal yes. That voice is clear to you, it’s clear to all of us, but it’s overlaid by the thoughts we believe. I used to call it the voice of the heart. I didn’t have a teacher to tell me, “This is spiritual and this isn’t,” so I just kept following the voice and losing everything. People would say, “You’re crazy,” and I would just say, “Oh,” and keep on following the voice. It’s a wonderful experiment, and what happens is that you expand into that awareness and lose yourself in a deeper and deeper way. And then other people, who are just you again, say things like “You’re so loving,” and there’s no one to thank, and you receive it fully. It’s the space that opened as you.” Byron Katie, A Mind at Home with Itself

You Shouldn’t Worry So Much… Is That True?

bins of apples

If you grow apples, it’s somewhat natural to worry about whether they will sell or not.

But Here’s How Worry Becomes a Vicious Cycle

When you think you shouldn’t worry—and you are worrying—it escalates. Then the mind starts worrying about the fact that you’re worrying.

It then adds on guilt and shame to make it worse: “I shouldn’t be worrying. I worry too much. I should just stop it.”

But that makes it even worse. It’s like telling someone caught in addiction to just stop it—not very helpful.

There Are Two Layers of Stress to be Unpacked about Worry

The first layer is the worry about worrying. And the second is the original worry itself, which is rooted in a sense of danger. The Work of Byron Katie can help bring clarity on both levels.

The worry (or shame) about worrying is contained in thoughts like, “I shouldn’t worry so much.” One client noticed that she originally picked up this thought from her parents, who had told her that she worried too much as a child.

When she questioned this thought, it was radical to consider the turnaround, “I should worry so much.” It went against a very strong belief system that worry was bad. But she found examples of how worry is not such a terrible trait.

It Is Just the Natural Tendency to Problem Solve

Even though it may get out of balance, this natural tendency is not bad. It is coming from a good place to try to avoid problems.

And even when it does get out of balance, worrying is totally understandable, especially if you are sensitive by nature and have experienced perceived or real dangers in the past.

What I love about this turnaround is that it starts to take the shame out of worrying so much. The more examples my client found of why she should worry, the more she relaxed.

That’s what turnarounds are about: balance. This turnaround was medicine for her because it balanced her belief that she worried too much. It doesn’t mean that we should all start worrying more now. It was a turnaround for her, and it brought her more acceptance for what is (her worrying).

But It Was Still Only One Side of the Story

The other side that she discovered is that worry indicates danger. So instead of being a bad thing, worry is just the alarm clock indicating that there is some perceived or real danger. It’s a call to check it out.

If it’s a real danger, then it’s a call to do something about it. This is where problem solving is very helpful. But if it is not a real danger, and worry persists, it’s a call for self-inquiry, doing The Work.

Either way leads to peace: either I solve the problem and move out of the danger, or I realize through inquiry that the problem is not really a problem and I don’t need to worry about it. Or sometimes, if the problem is real but it is not something I can control, then inquiry can help to find acceptance.

Making Peace with Danger

There will always be danger in life. That’s where worry comes from. Worry is the great indicator light letting me know that I think I’m in danger.

When the indicator light goes off, it’s a chance to look and see what is really going on. Is the danger real? If so, what can I do? If not, no problem. And is the danger something I can control? If so, what can I do? If not, how can I make peace with it?

Read more about how The Work of Byron Katie can help sort through what is real and what is not.

Have a great weekend,
Todd

“Thinking and worrying will solve all my problems”—has that been your experience?” Byron Katie, Loving What Is

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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Practicing Public Imperfection

junk pile

Everyone’s got a junk pile. Some of us are just better at hiding it than others.

Hiding Is Where the Problem Begins

In my attempt to be something other than what I really am, I have to manipulate. I have to hide some things, and promote other things. I can’t just be.

The appeal of manipulation is to hypnotize others into believing I’m something other than what I am—in the hopes that, when they believe it, maybe I’ll believe it too. It’s a complicated way of trying to fool myself into believing that I’m something other than what I am.

Luckily self-inquiry cuts through all this pretending like a knife.

Last Week I Was Inspired to Make Some Changes

In fact, I had been wanting to make these changes to Inquiry Circle for a long time. But my other routine work kept my days filled and I never had a chance to get it done.

I also knew that once I got into the job, it was going to take longer than I thought. That’s why I kept putting it off. But last week I took the plunge. The result was that other things had to get pushed aside.

A year ago, I would have stressed out about all the other responsibilities I was dropping, but this time I was consciously practicing public imperfection.

In Early September I Did a Worksheet on Something Similar

At that time, I had two deaths in my family and was stressing over not having time to do my work responsibilities AND travel AND be with my family. I wrote my worksheet on the new participants of The Work 101 (the course was starting at that time and I hadn’t set everything up).

I believed that they were dependent on me. I believed that they needed me to start on time and would be disappointed if I didn’t. I believed that they would even lose interest if I started a week late. I even quoted the old saying to myself, “You only have one chance to make a first impression.” And I stressed myself out trying to be perfect for them.

When I worked the worksheet, I discovered that no one is dependent on me. In fact, I was dependent on them, mainly for their approval. My game was to make them believe that they were my one and only—that they were my top priority, even when they weren’t. In fact, I’ve used that as a lifelong strategy to get people to like me.

After doing The Work, I could see how understanding they would have been if I had delayed the course by a week. And I saw that the best “first impression” might actually be to let them know they weren’t my “one and only”—my top priority—and to allow myself to be less than perfect in their eyes. To show up real instead of perfect makes sense to me now.

So This Became my Living Turnaround

Last week, when my priorities shifted, I allowed them to shift. And I allowed myself to not do everything perfectly for a week. I didn’t write my newsletter. I got behind in The Work 101. I didn’t check my email for several days. I let everything slide except what was my true priority last week: to renovate Inquiry Circle.

And strangely, I didn’t feel much stress. It felt like I was being irresponsible, but in a really good kind of way. I was being true to myself, and not pretending to have it all together with everything else. I was not manipulating anyone by trying to be “perfect” to get their approval.

There was a lot of freedom in letting things slide. Instead of trying to manipulate you into thinking I’m perfectly organized and always get my newsletter out on time, I loved letting you down. It felt like the end of trying to be that person that I’m not.

And same with email, and same with The Work 101. It was actually fun to be honestly saying no to the things that “make me look good” and yes to what I really wanted to do. Pure selfishness for all to see. Pure disregard for others. And it was a real turnaround for me.

My Living Turnaround Was Literally to “Show up Late”

And so I did.

And now I don’t have to pretend to be the one who always shows up on time—another false identity blown away by inquiry and by living the turnarounds that I found in inquiry.

That’s why I love The Work.

And now my priorities have shifted back to writing my newsletter. But the difference is I know I don’t have to do it. I’m free. I do it when I can, and I love to do it, but I don’t sweat it when I can’t, or when I don’t want to do it.

That is the end of manipulation. The end of dependence. And the beginning of just being me.

Have a great weekend,
Todd

“When you say or do anything to please, get, keep, influence, or control anyone or anything, fear is the cause and pain is the result. Manipulation is separation, and separation is painful. Another person can love you totally in that moment, and you’d have no way of realizing it. If you act from fear, there’s no way you can receive love, because you’re trapped in a thought about what you have to do for love. Every stressful thought separates you from people. But once you question your thoughts, you discover that you don’t have to do anything for love. It was all an innocent misunderstanding. When you want to impress people and win their approval, you’re like a child who says, “Look at me! Look at me!” It all comes down to a needy child. When you can love that child and embrace it yourself, the seeking is over.” Byron Katie, I Need Your Love, Is That True?

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Real Estate Is Stressful, Is That True?

house

I’ve always tried to avoid real estate because something about it stressed me.

To Me Real Estate Is Scary

And most of my life I have been able to avoid dealing directly with real estate until a couple of years ago when my partner and I bought a house. (No, that’s not our house in the picture above.)

I remember being stressed by the purchase of our house at the time, but I didn’t do The Work on it. So, no surprise, my stress showed up again this month as we are now considering selling our house.

This time my partner facilitated me. We were driving in the car last weekend and I was talking about how real estate is stressful for me. He stopped me by asking, “Is it true?”

I Hesitated Before Diving Into Inquiry

But I couldn’t resist the invitation. I wasn’t even sure that this was the “right” stressful thought to question. But I went ahead anyway. Yes, it was true. Yes, it was absolutely true that real estate was stressful for me.

How do I react? I feel tension in my stomach and chest. I avoid it. I show no enthusiasm when my partner shows me real estate listings. I see an image of BIG money. I see loss—big loss. I compare the amount of money involved in real estate with the amount of money I make each month. I think, “I have to be VERY careful.” I get tense. I see images of foreclosures. I see myself humiliated. I want to pare down to a shack if necessary to avoid any risk.

My partner asked, “When did you first have the thought that real estate is scary?” I thought about it, and found that it was when my parents divorced and it took a year to sell the house.

Then I Realized Something Interesting

I’m actually not just scared of real estate, I’m scared of having a home. I felt like my home was destroyed when I was 16 when my parents divorced. Not just the physical house, but the sense of home. And since that time I’ve chosen over and over again not to have any kind of real home.

My mom used to ask me, “Why do you live like an orphan?” It’s as if I wanted to avoid a home so that I could avoid having it taken away again.

But Without the Thought that Real Estate Is Scary…

I would be exploring real estate options with my partner in a very non-stressed way. It would not be a big deal. I would simply be problem solving with him, like I do in any other area of life. But without the charge. In fact, it would be enjoyable.

It Turns Out Real Estate Is Not Really Scary

What was scary was my thinking about it. My fear of loss. And my emotional connection of it with divorce.

But when I looked at real estate directly, I saw that even in the worst case scenario, if we lost money on the house, it would not be the end of the world. How many times did we “lose” money by paying rent all those years? What’s the difference?

And even if we lost everything, does that take away our ability to earn more money? No, of course not. Both my partner and I have lost money in the past, and have earned more money again.

That’s just how money works: it comes, it goes, it comes again, it goes again. What is there to fear in that?

This Eased My Mind

Now, I’m less concerned about making a profit. I’m less concerned about doing it perfectly. And I’m relaxed in a way about real estate that I never was before. I thought real estate was bigger than me. But now I see that I’m bigger than it.

The cool thing is my partner loves real estate, so now I’m more open to join him in his enthusiasm.

And I look forward to doing more work on that divorce stuff too.

Have a great week,
Todd

“People who live through it will tell you that their experience of loss was kinder than their beliefs about how it would be. Inquiry allows you to take the fear out of loss before anything happens…” Byron Katie, I Need Your Love, Is That True?

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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There’s a Want Behind Every Fear

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Which want are you attached to getting?

Life Will Show you your Attachments

The way life does this is by occasionally threatening the very thing you want. When it does, you’ll feel fear—fear of losing what you want.

This just shows you what you’re attached to.

This Came up Recently in a Private Session

My client was feeling fear around Trump. He was trying to avoid the news in order to not hear about the changes that are coming. But the news found him anyway.

For him, it was all negative—his worst fears coming to pass. It was as bad, or worse, than what he thought on election day.

And the decisions Trump is making could very negatively affect his business.

So How Do you Do The Work on This?

You could do The Work on Trump and what he’s doing. Any worksheet on him would probably get you there.

But I suggested that you can’t have fear without a want.

When my client considered it, he found that the want behind the fear for him was to be successful in his new business.
Trump’s Threat to his New Business Is what Made it Personal

That’s why he was so bothered by the news. Trump’s policies may affect his whole sector of business. And my client could easily imagine his start-up business failing as a result.

So we Questioned, “I Want to Be Successful in the New Business”

Question 3: “How do you react, what happens, when you believe that you want to be successful in the new business?” Scared of Trump. Afraid, it will never have a chance. Frustrated that starting a new business is hard enough, let alone when challenged in this way.

Question 4: “Who would you be without the thought, ‘I want to be successful in the new business?'” It took some time for my client to open up enough to even consider the question but when he did he reported that he’d be totally free.

That’s the Power of a Want

When I want something, then anything that threatens what I want becomes the enemy, the one to fear. And when I’m not so attached, even genuine threats don’t scare me. That is true freedom.

My client turned it around to, “I want to play at being successful in the new business.” This lightened everything. It gave perspective. The new business venture became more of a game than an identity.

And then Trump’s threat became a challenge only. And, in the worst case, if it really did destroy his business, it need not destroy him too.

It all comes down to how attached I am to what I want.

Have a great week,
Todd

“It’s good that you think you’re going to lose your job. This is exciting. Do The Work, live The Work, notice, and know that if you lose your job, there is something better waiting for you. But when you’re stuck in a belief, you’re blind. There has to be something better, because there is only goodness in the universe. “My life would be much better if I don’t lose my job”—can you absolutely know that that’s true? There’s nothing more exciting than living on the edge and being aware of it.” Byron Katie, Question Your Thinking, Change the World

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You Don’t Have to Go the the Sahara to Find Freedom Through It

Sahara retreat

These retreat participants came to the Sahara to find freedom by questioning their attachments to comfort and other things. You can also do the same whether you go or not.

I’m Going to Be in the Sahara Desert in October

I’m looking forward to hosting a week-long retreat in the desert with my friend, and certified facilitator, Margot Diskin. I know that some of you will be joining us to question the stressful thoughts that going into the desert may bring up for you, as well as any other stressful thoughts you may bring.

But even if you don’t join us in the desert, you can still get much of the benefit of this retreat by questioning your resistance thoughts about it.

Here’s How to Do It

Take out a blank piece of paper and write “Reasons why I can’t, or don’t want to, go to the Sahara with Todd and Margot,” at the top of the page.

Then fill up the page with all the thoughts that you can come up with—the thoughts that have that stress of resistance in them. If you can, get really honest with yourself and put it all on paper.

Then go down your list and question each resistance thought with the four questions and the turnarounds of The Work.

I’m Going to Do this Exercise Right Now

Here are my reasons why I can’t, or don’t want to, go to the Sahara with Margot and the group in October:

  • I have fair skin. I’m afraid of sunburn.
  • I’m a vegetarian. I might not get enough to eat when the Bedouins cook for us.
  • I don’t like heat. Maybe it will be too hot.
  • Maybe the group will be too small and I’ll lose money on the trip.

These are some honest reasons why I am still resisting the trip a little on the inside.

Let Me Do The Work on Them

So the first one is: “I don’t want to get sunburned.” Is that true? Yes. Can I absolutely know it’s true? Yes.

How do I react when I think, “I don’t want to get sunburned,” and I’m planning a week in the desert? I see images of family vacations at the beach when I was kid. I exaggerate the pain of those sunburns, I see the permanent sun damage on my nose. I fear skin cancer. I imagine it will be even worse in the desert. I don’t want to go. My whole body feels tight and my emotions are closed.

Who would I be without that thought? Carefree. Trusting. Excited about the adventure. My heart is open. I can’t wait to go.

Turnaround: “I am willing to get sunburned.” Chances are my sunburn would be less than when I was a kid. For one, I’ll have clothes on, not just a bathing suit. Also, I’ll be wearing a shesh (traditional head wrap). I can use that to keep my face in shadow. And who says I can’t bring sunscreen? And even if worse came to worse, if I did get sunburned, it would not be the end of the world for me. I would probably not die of skin cancer very quickly. Also, I can handle a little pain on my skin. I’ve had sunburn many times in my life and lived through it just fine. Sunburn would be an opportunity for me to not obsess so much about my body. That’s a challenge I’m willing to take on.

Turnaround: “I look forward to getting sunburned.” It could remind me of my youth. There are some sweet memories of being sunburned and happy as a kid. And most importantly, I look forward to getting sunburned, if I do, because it’s going to make me dive deep into questioning my fears of getting skin cancer, and my attachment to my health. This is precisely what I am coming to the desert to do.

That’s a Start

I now have my work cut out for me. I’m going to go down my list and keep working each concept. And maybe I’ll find more stressful thoughts to question as I go.

Even without actually going to the Sahara Desert, I am already benefiting from the “experience” of it. It is bringing to my awareness my own stressful thoughts and attachments so I can question them.

I invite you to do the same. This retreat is not just for those who can come. It is for everyone. It is an opportunity to do some work, whether you decide to come or not.

For example, let’s say you have a timing conflict or a money shortage. Even though you won’t be coming in reality, pretend you decided to come and use it as an opportunity to question everything: your attachment to other commitments, your lack of money, all of it. This opportunity to question things, even when you’re not coming, is a sweet gift from the Sahara.

If you are interested in coming, the early bird rate ends on Aug 31, just a month away. If you have any questions, or if you’re interested in going, let me know. Here’s the link for more info about the Sahara retreat.

Have a great week,
Todd

“I once went for twenty-seven days without food. There was no reason for it—I just knew not to eat. And during all those days I couldn’t find a trace of hunger. Hunger was just another myth. My family and friends were fearful for my life, but I wasn’t concerned; I felt healthy and strong; the whole time, I was doing a lot of vigorous walking in the desert. And at no moment did I experience anything but myths about hunger and bellyaches and weight loss. I couldn’t find one legitimate need that didn’t come face-to-face with the fear of death. And then, after twenty-seven days, for no reason, I ate.” Byron Katie, A Thousand Names for Joy

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