Radical honesty just means hanging out your clothes to dry.
I like to favor being honest because it liberates me. As I become more willing to share what is really going on with me at any moment, I find there is less and less that I have to be afraid of or ashamed of. Making friends with the truth is freeing.
Being honest is humbling. It doesn’t matter if I’m being honest with myself or with others, it is exposing my uncensored self to the light that both humbles and frees me.
For example, asking for what I want is a way of being radically honest. I say “radically” only because it sometimes feels so different from the usual way of hiding. It takes courage to do this when I believe that others will judge me for it.
Similarly, saying no is another form of this kind of honesty. Exposing my true opinion even if others may disapprove. Honesty is the opposite of hiding. That’s why it feels so freeing to engage in honesty.
For some reason, people assume that if you’re being negative, or saying what others don’t want to hear, you’re being radically honest. But that’s not necessarily true.
Being negative, complaining, being hurtful or manipulative sometimes masquerades as radical honesty. But the difference is easy to see when I look inside myself.
Being honest feels like peace, a relief. I am revealing my vulnerable side to the light of day. Being negative feels stressful because I still want the world to change and I want to hide myself.
When I give feedback to someone, if I am truly being honest, I am sharing my heart with them. But if I’m using feedback to complain, I don’t feel the connection heart to heart. I’m simply reacting, and calling it honesty.
Of course it is honest to share, even if I am reacting. But I can be much more honest in giving feedback if I can find the vulnerable part inside of me that is trying to hide. If I share that part, I join the the other person. I’m no longer attacking them with feedback (in the guise of being honest).
I’m now an equal, sharing my raw heart with another person. There is no violence in that. Only humility, love, and peace.
One of my favorite things to do when I notice that I want to give someone feedback, is to write down my feedback and question it using the four questions and turnarounds of The Work of Byron Katie.
When I do this, I find my humility. I see my negativity. I own my own reactions and hidden motives. And the charge goes away as I do this.
I love to do this before I ever share my feedback so that when I do it comes from a true place of humility, which is the only place I can join another human being.
But even if I give feedback without questioning it first, it is also rich to question it after the fact. Questioning always leads me to a balance of radical honesty and humility, which is the end of even the faintest hint of violence.
Have a great week,
“When you’re honest about your yeses and noes, it’s easy to live a kind life. People come and go in my life when I tell the truth, and they would come and go if I didn’t tell the truth. I have nothing to gain one way, and everything to gain the other way. I don’t leave myself guessing or guilty.” Byron Katie, A Mind at Home with Itself
If I think this water is toxic, I am repulsed and run away.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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,
“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?
There’s a part of me that still doesn’t want to be an adult.
I don’t know if it was just fatigue coming out after our move, or something else, but I just didn’t care about anything. It was a heavy, depressing kind of feeling. I wanted to quit everything and go live in a cave somewhere.
Luckily, stressful thoughts are allowed in my world. So I went to my Inquiry Circle group and posted my stressful thoughts in raw form. No Judge-Your-Neighbor Worksheet. No thought of where it would lead me. Just reporting what I was feeling:
I am sad because I can’t do what I want.
I don’t want to be a responsible adult anymore.
I want to take as much time off as I need without limit.
I want to be free to do nothing.
I want to feel buoyant and happy again.
That day I didn’t even question these thoughts. I just wrote them down. I just needed to get them out. The next day, I started questioning them beginning with, “I can’t do what I want (take an unlimited break).”
As i did my work, I found some cool things like how it doesn’t have to be all or nothing—just working a little less can make a big difference. How I can always just “call in” sick (novel concept for me who never does that)—I could always take another week off if necessary. I also started to see again that I do love my job, and that it’s all about balance.
I worked the first thought in my personal work space on the Inquiry Circle forum in written form. I love written work because it allows me to slow down and really look at what I’m saying.
But I questioned the next thought with my spoken work partner this week from Inquiry Circle. This is such a nice balance to the written work because I’m not being as careful as when I’m writing The Work. There was a lot of laughter, and I loved the human connection.
In this inquiry, I questioned, “I don’t want to be a responsible adult anymore.” I felt a part of me was finally being heard as I did this work. My answers to questions 1 and 2 (is it true?) were a resounding YES!
I was passionate as I described my frustration and how the thought affected my body, my emotions, my ability to work, everything. I laughed with my spoken work partner as I described my fantasy of living in a cave, getting away from all responsibility (but somehow having someone come bring food for me every day). That’s a true fantasy of mine, but it became hilarious as I exposed it to the daylight.
When I exhausted my report on how I react when I think I don’t want to be a responsible adult anymore, I tried on the question, “Who would I be without that thought?”
It was hard to try on at first. The thought was taking up a good 60% of me at the time. I had to literally imagine myself stepping out of that 60% but, when I did, I found that my life was simple. Just one little task to do at a time. All doable. And I was in control of how much I wanted to actually do or not.
The turnaround was, “I want to be a responsible adult,” the very opposite of my original stressful thought. What I found as I tried on this turnaround is that being a responsible adult is how I give to others. And giving to others feels good to me. That is the magnet that draws me away from my cave fantasy and into the world of working in service. Being a responsible adult is actually a way for me to open my heart.
It was so sweet to find it. Not intellectually, but in my heart instead.
That is the value for me of doing The Work on what’s really up for me, because then it’s really connected to my heart. When I take myself through this meditation, my heart itself transforms. This is not an intellectual exercise. I felt a thousand pounds lighter after just 40 minutes of doing The Work.
If you want to join in our Inquiry Circle group, the first step is to complete The Work 101 online course.
Have a great week,
“When you first encounter them, these questions may seem merely intellectual. The only way to really understand how they function is to use them yourself. Byron Katie, A Mind at Home with Itself
And it’s probably never going to stop.
It requires judgment even to tell the difference between hot and cold. This is just natural role of the mind to observe and evaluate.
But there’s a difference between judgment and negativity. Negativity starts when the judgment becomes personal, “I hate cold. This shouldn’t be happening to me.”
It’s the “happening to me” that makes it personal. Seen from this point of view, I quickly become a victim of what is happening. And that’s when the suffering begins. That’s when it feels negative.
For me, it’s often my attempt to compensate for something I didn’t do. When I don’t take responsibility for my actions, then all I can manage to do is to complain, to be negative.
If someone invites me to do something and I don’t want to do it, and I say yes when I really mean no, I have not been true to myself. But instead of owning my mistake and asking myself what I can do about it, I end up complaining and nit picking instead.
In other words, being negative can end up being a feeble attempt at saying no—in a passive, complaining way. And at no point am I actually taking responsibility for myself or looking at options to change my situation. I’m still just a victim being kicked along.
Noticing the thought, “Why am I always negative?” is a good starting point. It is the wake up call letting me know something is off. It’s time to take a closer look.
My favorite way of taking a closer look is The Work of Byron Katie. This simple process of self-inquiry helps me notice what I’m doing.
To do The Work when I’m feeling negative, all I need to do is pick one of the negative, complaining thoughts in my mind and write it down. What exactly am I complaining about? Or, if there are several things, I can write them all down.
Maybe the thought is, “It’s too cold.” Or maybe you feel like a victim of your partner, “He didn’t listen to my no (about moving here).” Identifying the stressful thoughts that lead to being negative is a big part of doing The Work. Once you have them on paper, pick one to start questioning.
By taking your time and meditating as you consider the questions of The Work, you may start to find some surprising answers. You may find that you actually do like the cold, but were using it as a weapon against your partner for not listening. You may even find that he was listening to you, but you never made your point clearly, or emphatically enough.
The more you drop into the questions and turnarounds of The Work, and find examples of the opposite of what you believe, the more freeing it becomes, and the more empowered you start to feel.
When I’m a victim, I give my power over to someone or something else. That leaves me with no options other than being negative. But when I do The Work, I start to naturally find that I am the one who makes me suffer or not. It’s all up to me.
And when I step back into my own power, the whole situations shifts.
But this is a meditation. You have to actually do The Work, not just understand it in principle. You have to allow yourself to complain in an uncensored way on paper. And then you have to go through the four questions and turnarounds slowly and gently so that your whole heart moves with your inquiry.
Otherwise, it’s just philosophy, which is not so helpful when it comes to shifting awareness in every day life.
The next time you think, “Why am I always negative?” notice what’s going on. And try doing The Work on the complaints that are freshest in your mind.
It could be the beginning of a homecoming.
If you want to see The Work in action, join us for the free Open Sessions every week.
Have a great weekend,
“When something hurts in your relationship and it’s not obvious why, you can do the same thing. Sit down and put your thoughts on paper. Concentrate on your complaints about your partner. Don’t be kind. If anything, exaggerate the faults you find. Using the Worksheet here as your guide, write down how you’ve been wronged, what they should and shouldn’t do, what you want and need from them, what you refuse to put up with any longer. And when you have it down on paper, question what you believe. Ask the four questions and turn it around.” Byron Katie, I Need Your Love, Is It True?