Category Archives for What Is The Work?

When Am I Going to Deal with My Emotions?

If I’m holding on to the past, wishing it were different, I’m still hurting inside no matter how much I try to convince myself that I’m beyond it. The only option is to deal with my emotions.

It Takes Courage to Deal with My Emotions

That’s why I’d often rather forget about it.

I think, “My life is okay. I’ll just focus on day-to-day living.” I distract myself with other more pressing things. I keep busy. I keep my head above water. But something still feels like it’s trying to pull me down.

The effort of treading water is constant and it can eventually become exhausting. Or it can lead me to addiction, anger, or negative behavior.

Though time does heal, it is often not enough.

What Is Missing Is a Gentle, Direct Way to Deal with My Emotions

When my mind is stressed, it’s not gentle. So every time I touch the old subject, I hurt myself with it. No wonder I try to avoid it! No wonder I don’t want to deal with it!

There is nothing worse than stepping into quicksand. It is actually intelligent to avoid it. But unfortunately, avoiding it doesn’t make it go away. And I have to spend my life avoiding certain areas of my thinking. In fact, as more stresses accumulate, my navigable area of thinking becomes smaller and smaller.

There needs to be a way to safely deal with my emotions.

Here’s What I Use

Since 2007, I’ve been using The Work of Byron Katie (The Work), a way to question stressful thoughts and turn them around. This meditative practice involves writing down my stressful thoughts. Just this act alone is therapeutic for me. Instead of a swirling pool of negativity in my mind, I’ve identified some concrete thoughts that I’m believing at the center of the negativity.

When I write them down I have a handle on them. There’s some distance on them, and that helps a lot.

The next part of The Work is to question what I wrote down. This is not about trying to change my mind. This is about truly questioning myself. I want to open to what’s really true for me inside. Is my thought really true for me or not? And how do I react when I believe it’s true? And who would I be if I happened not to believe this thought?

These questions make me go ‘Hmmm…” The questions support me to look a little more closely at the quicksand. And when I do, I often find that there’s solid ground in there. This allows me to step into the quicksand and explore less fearfully.

Which brings me to the final phase of doing The Work: finding the turnarounds, and examples of how the turnarounds could be true.

This Is Radical Work

It turns my world inside out and upside down. What I thought was scary is often found to be completely benign. But it’s a process. Little by little, thought by thought, I question what I believe and a new understanding often emerges. 

But even when I know how to do this work, I sometimes put it off. To not deal with my emotions seems easier. And so the tool sits unused. And I continue feeling the heaviness of not having dealt with something.

Deciding to Deal with my Emotions

For me, I have to have a few things in place before I can actually start to deal with my emotions in this way:

1. A working knowledge and trust of The Work
2. A dissatisfaction with my current state of emotions
3. A willingness to put in the time to do The Work.

Recently, I started doing The Work on my parents’ divorce from when I was 15. This was one of the biggest trauma’s of my life, and while I’ve done a lot of The Work, I haven’t done a lot of work on the divorce.

I can tell you after just a few days of questioning my thoughts about the divorce, I’m feeling so much lighter. The process of letting go takes time. But I’m actually now grieving this loss after three decades.

The Work Makes Grieving Easier for Me

I did The Work every day for two months after my mom died, and in that time I worked through my grief effectively. I found my peace. 

And now I’m opening this cold case of the divorce. For me the divorce was the death of my family. And I never gave myself the same amount of time doing The Work on the divorce as I did on my mom’s death.

Now the time has come. And it feels so healing. I will continue to work on this until I deal with my emotions completely. I love having a tool that is so effective for me.

If you want to learn how to do The Work, and start using it on a regular basis to deal with your emotions, I invite you to participate in my online course, The Work 101.

Have a great week,

“The thing you’re terrified of losing—you’ve already lost it. You may not have noticed that yet, and it may take you a while to grieve, and then you may realize that there was never anything to lose.” Byron Katie, Question Your Thinking, Change The World

How to Make Peace with Anything

How to make peace with anything that is not a beautiful as the Oregon Coast.

It’s easy to be peaceful in some settings, but can you be peaceful even when you’re being challenged?

How to Make Peace with Anything

Have you ever wanted to make peace with someone, or something, in your life but found it difficult to do?

This is especially hard when the other side is not budging. I’m often much more willing to give a little if the other side is also willing to compromise in order to make peace. But what happens when someone, or when life itself, offers no compromise?

Is Peace Still Possible?

Making peace with anything is the simplest thing in the world. It requires only one action: letting go. But letting go may be nearly impossible in a stressed state of mind. This can be a bit of a catch-22.

Letting go is easy for those who are well practiced at letting go, but for most of us it is easier said than done. “Just let go!” is great advice, but how do you do that?

Here’s How I Do It

There is no magic formula for making peace. No one can do it for you. In fact, in my experience, peace is not something I can really control: it comes in its own time. But it is possible to create favorable conditions for peace to arise in any situation.

One of my favorite ways to do this is called The Work of Byron Katie (The Work). The Work is a simple form of self-inquiry that helps me to identify a stressful thought, write it down, question it, turn it around, and find examples of how the opposite could be just as true.

This simple, meditative process opens my mind to experience the very opposite of what I believe. This process of expanding the mind often leaves me in a much more peaceful space, without changing anything else. Often after doing The Work, the same situation that stressed me no longer causes me stress at all. 

This is very freeing because it means that I don’t have to fix the situation to be at peace with it. Yet ironically, I often find much more energy and creativity available for problem solving when I’m no longer arguing with reality.

How to Do The Work

The Work is something you can do in written form, or with a partner in spoken form. The process itself provides no answers, but the questions invite the mind to settle deeply into itself. I find that this allows hidden experiences and wisdom that were already in me to surface.

I’ve been using The Work personally as an almost daily meditation practice since 2007, and professionally since 2010. I have witnessed over and over and over again the power of this simple set of questions. It somehow gets my mind, and the minds of my clients, to look at things very differently in a very short amount of time.

How to Make Peace with Anything

Some things are harder to let go of than others but, in theory, it is possible to make peace with anything. I continue to test this theory every day as I do The Work on the things that stress me. 

I encourage you to challenge yourself too. Can you make peace with anything? I’m willing to bet that, if you’re willing to question your thinking, that peace will have a hard time staying away from you.

If you want to begin this practice in earnest, I’d love to have you join us for The Work 101, my online course for learning and going deeply into The Work. The price goes up on Feb 8, so sign up now if you’re interested.

Have a great week,

“If you are tired of suffering, I invite you to The Work.” Byron Katie, A Mind at Home with Itself

Mental/Emotional Indigestion and How to Overcome It


If I had eaten all of these churros and chocolate dipping sauce, I would probably have indigestion. Indigestion happens when I overwhelm my digestive capacity.

Mental/Emotional Indigestion

There is such a thing as mental or emotional indigestion. And it’s not much different than stomach indigestion. Any experience that cannot be processed by the system bogs it down. It can be food or it can be any experience.

For example, let’s say someone you love dies. Unless your system is able to process the experience completely, it can tie up your internal resources for years or decades. Even if you’re “over it,” there may still be a thread of sadness or depression or anger.

This is an undigested experience in the heart and mind. And as long as it’s sitting there in the system, there is less appetite for more experiences. The system overall is weakened.

It’s Not Just Negative Experiences

Positive experiences can overwhelm the mind and emotions too. I remember I had a year or more of very positive experiences in my twenties. I was going to bed very early, doing yoga and lots of meditation. I felt a kind of spiritual high a lot of the time.

That became an overwhelming experience for me in a positive sense. And I’ve spent many years yearning for that again. A positive experience can tie up my energy just as easily as any negative experience.

In both cases, positive or negative, we’re dealing with mental/emotional overload, which can lead to either aversion or attachment and tie up the mind for a long time.

Experiences Make Impressions

Non-charged experiences make very slight impressions. For example, I know I had lunch the other day but I don’t remember exactly what I ate. It didn’t leave much of an impression on my mind because I didn’t judge it as “very good” or “very bad.” It just was.

But I can remember in vivid color where I was when I got the call that my mom died. I judged that experience as “very important” and “not good” and it became immediately very charged.

Charged experiences occupy the mind fully and can keep it going around and around in circles for years unless you do something to improve your mental digestion. When digestion is weak, it is easily overwhelmed. When it is strong, it can handle almost anything.

How to Process Undigested Experiences

The Work of Byron Katie is a way to strengthen your mental/emotional digestion by dealing with the unprocessed stuff. You start with any stressful experience that’s running in your mind. The fact that it has a charge means that it is overwhelming the “digestive system” and is bogging down the energy.

The Work starts there by identifying the emotional charge and finding the thought associated with the charge. When the thought is questioned, and space is given to experience the effect of the thought, the mind often becomes willing to look at other interpretations of the experience. You can literally rewrite history—a more truthful history, and a more peaceful history—by questioning your thoughts in this way.

In this meditative practice, the energy caught up in a stressful thought is freed. As the mind starts to see things differently, the emotion relaxes, and the experience fades the same way my experience of lunch faded away. There is no undue importance given to it anymore, and the mind can let it go. It is neither “very good” nor “very bad,” it just is.

Trapped Energy Becomes Available Again

All the energy used to contain the undigested experience and to circle around it again and again, can now go back into the pool of energy available to process new experiences coming in.

In my experience, the mind becomes stronger and stronger with the ongoing practice of The Work. The more stories that that I question, the more energy I free up. And the less likely I am to get bogged down by new experiences.

The Work is literally a way of strengthening my “digestive system.”

The Work 101, my eight-week online course in The Work of Byron Katie, is a great way to go deeper with The Work.

Have a great week,

“People who do The Work find that when they question their stressful thoughts, the whole world changes for the better. They discover that everything happens for them, not to them. They begin to realize that they are 100 percent responsible for their own happiness. This is very good news, because we can’t change the world right now, but we can certainly change how we experience the world.” Byron Katie, A Mind At Home With Itself

The Work Is Not an Intellectual Exercise

mechanical cogs

Intellectual means mechanical, detached from emotion.

Intellectual Is Dry

Have you ever had what I like to call “intellectual food”? You see this kind of stuff at health food stores. For example, health food store cookies taste like sawdust to me. Who wants to eat that crap? A lot of “healthy” food is actually just intellectual. I don’t buy it.

Or think of atonal music. I heard a guitar performance like this when I was in college. It was awful. No emotion at all. Just making noise in my opinion. Purely intellectual.

Sometimes People Think The Work Is Intellectual

The Work, of course, is as you see it. If you bring only your intellect to The Work, you’ll experience a very dry, intellectual process. But if you bring your raw emotion to it, you’ll be touched to the core by The Work.

At first The Work looks like just some intellectual jugglery. But it is not. The Work is an experience.

Here’s What It Looks Like

You start with a stressful emotion. This is the anchor point. This is what roots The Work in the heart, in direct experience. You’re dealing with something real when you bring a stressful emotion to The Work. It is deeply connected to you.

Then you identify the thought associated with the emotion. This moves up to the intellect, but remains connected to the emotion. A bridge between mind and heart is found.

Then you question the thought associated with the emotion. Because the emotion and the thought are intimately connected, when you move one, you move the other.

That’s How The Work Works

When doing The Work, you play with the thought. You transform your thinking, and because the thought is connected to the emotion, the emotion gets transformed too. That’s what keeps it real.

This is very different from doing a crossword puzzle or a Sudoku game, which use the intellect but are not connected to an emotion. These are just intellectual play.

The Work moves the emotions with each twist and turn of the intellect. That’s what makes it feel powerful to do The Work. That’s how it changes lives.

The Work Is an Experience

The Work is a way to re-experience any stressful situation first hand. When I do The Work, I am literally walking through a stressful situation and re-experiencing it anew. This changes my whole understanding of it. This gives me a whole new experience of it.

I am getting clear about what actually happened, as opposed to holding my previously limited story about it. As I see that there is more to it than what I thought, my emotions shift from stress towards peace.

But you Have to Walk Through It

It’s easy to say, “Yeah, I get it. I was confused there” without really re-experiencing it. Even though I “get it” intellectually, the images that my mind plays when I think of the stressful situation have not changed. And my emotions are generated from those images.

When I walk through the four questions of The Work and find turnarounds and examples, the images I had of that situation actually change. I don’t see it the same way now. I see it much more clearly. And my new images are not stressful.

So now, when I remember the scene, I am not stressed by it. This new experience doesn’t come from intellectually “getting it.” It comes from walking through it meditatively and re-experiencing the same scene with a new perspective.

This Is Why The Work Is Not Intellectual

Sure it uses the intellect. But what it is really doing is transforming direct experience, which is never dry or “intellectual.” I invite you to step out of the safety of your intellect and dive into the experience of doing The Work.

Walk yourself through this process on the experiential level. That’s when it can really touch you. And do yourself a favor, leave those health food store cookies on the shelf.

Here are some tips for how to do The Work with the heart.

Have a great week,

“To simply turn thoughts around keeps the process intellectual and is of little value. The invitation is to go beyond the intellect. The questions are like probes that dive into the mind, bringing deeper knowledge to the surface. Ask the questions first, and then wait. Once the answers have arisen, the superficial mind and the deeper mind meet, and the turnarounds feel like true discoveries.” Byron Katie, A Mind at Home with Itself

A Conversation with Grace Bell

cherry leaves

Podcast Recording

Grace Bell and I share the same enthusiasm for The Work. Grace is a certified facilitator, and has been writing a blog about The Work for as long, or longer, than I have. And she has a podcast.

Grace and I got to know each other when we offered a retreat together at Breitenbush Hot Springs last June. When she suggested that we record a podcast episode together, I was happy to join her. I thought you might enjoy it too.

Listen to the recording here, or subscribe to her podcast on iTunes.

And check out what Grace offers on her website, including an online course called, Eating Peace, using The Work as a way to question the thoughts around eating disorders—an issue that she has recovered from herself with the help of The Work.

Have a great week,

“Every belief is about being careful; it’s about keeping the body alive. I’m not careful. I don’t live that way. I look forward to whatever comes.” Byron Katie, Question Your Thinking, Change The World

The Work is Nothing but a Game of “Warmer/Colder”

sun on water

The closer you move to the sun, the warmer it is. The farther you move away from the sun, the colder it is.

Did You Ever Play “Warmer/Colder”?

It’s a game we used to play as kids, and sometimes even as adults. One person doesn’t know where she is being directed. The other person tries to direct her to an object without giving any clues except “warmer” or “colder.”

It’s a way of feeling your way to the object. If she moves closer, the other person says “warmer!” If she moves away from it, the other person says “colder!” And pretty soon she zooms in on it.

The Work Is Nothing Other than This Simple Children’s Game

That’s why children can do The Work. You don’t have to be a psychologist or spiritually wise person to do it. All you have to do is pay attention to “warmer” and “colder.”

But in The Work, instead of “warmer/colder,” it’s “peaceful/stressful.” If you feel more stress you’re getting colder. If you feel more peace, you’re getting warmer.

It’s that simple.

There’s no need to understand why it’s stressful or why it’s peaceful. Analysis is not needed in The Work. Just simple observation and reporting. “Does the thought bring you peace or stress?” That’s all I really need to know.

Moving out of Stress is as Simple

Again, there’s no need to understand the stressful thought at all. It’s enough to see that it hurts when I believe it. And it doesn’t hurt when I don’t believe it.

All I need to move towards peace is to start moving in the opposite direction. The opposite of colder is warmer. And the opposite of stress is peace.

So by considering the opposite of my stressful thought, and finding examples of how that opposite is true, I am literally starting to move from colder to warmer, from stress to peace.

I Love Byron Katie’s Example of the Hand in the Fire

When you’re unaware that your hand is in the fire, you rail against the pain, blame God, etc. But when you see that your hand is in the fire, it takes no time to remove it.

That’s what The Work of Byron Katie does. It brings awareness. When I’m aware that my thinking is causing me pain, I tend to move away from it. And as soon as I do, I feel the coolness of peace again.

After that, it becomes almost impossible to put myself back into that pain. Why would I do that to myself? I only put myself in pain when I’m not fully aware of what I’m doing.

The Work is a great way to feel your way to peace. It is a great way to wake yourself up.

Have a great weekend,

“If you put your hand into a fire, does anyone have to tell you to move it? Do you have to decide? No: When your hand starts to burn, it moves. You don’t have to direct it; the hand moves itself. In the same way, once you understand, through inquiry, that an untrue thought causes suffering, you move away from it. Before the thought, you weren’t suffering; with the thought, you’re suffering; when you recognize that the thought isn’t true, again there is no suffering. That is how The Work functions. “How do I react when I think that thought?” Hand in the fire. “Who would I be without it?” Out of the flames. We look at the thought, we feel our hand in the fire, and we naturally move back to the original position; we don’t have to be told. And the next time the thought arises, the mind automatically moves from the fire. The Work invites us into the awareness of internal cause and effect. When we recognize this, all our suffering begins to unravel on its own.” Byron Katie, Loving What Is

The Work Is 100% Not Needed

mountain road

As wonderful as a highway is, it is not actually a necessity.

Loving The Work vs. Being Dependent on It

I love The Work, and it comes through in my enthusiasm.

If you read some of my articles about The Work, you might think that you have to do The Work in order to be free. But I don’t actually believe that.

I’ve done The Work on The Work, and I’ve done The Work on Byron Katie, and I’m clear that I don’t actually need them at all. And ironically, when there’s no need for The Work, that’s when I able to slip into second gear with The Work. That’s when I’m free to get into it with full enthusiasm.

Because It’s Not Something Other Than Me

The Work always brings me back to me.

The four questions are nothing but questions. The turnarounds are nothing but opposites. There is nothing to The Work at all. The secret sauce is what I find when I look to me.

So if The Work disappeared overnight, and there were no more questions, and no more turnarounds, would there be any problem? No. There are a million ways back home to me.

I’ve Often Noticed How We All “Do The Work”

The Work is just about noticing what hurts and what doesn’t hurt. We all do that anyway.

I think it’s a part of human nature. When we notice something hurts, we question our assumptions, our positions, everything. We often shift our points of view and consider “turnarounds” out of pure instinct.

The Work is nothing new. It is a part of human nature to inquire. Even if the formal practice were forgotten, the natural tendency to inquire would continue, as it has since ancient times.

What I Love About The Work Is that It Speeds up the Process

The same natural tendency to question everything, especially when faced with any kind of suffering, is formalized in The Work.

Byron Katie has boiled it down to four questions and turnarounds. She has made it so simple, so accessible. And in creating a formal practice of inquiry, she has literally created a highway through the mountains.

Personally, I Love the Highway

It’s here, so I use it.

I love zipping through the mountains on the smooth surface of the road. I love seeing how fast I cut through my suffering with The Work.

But I’m also clear that if the highway disappeared, I’d have just as much fun getting out of the car and trekking through the woods, eating the berries, and getting my exercise.

With or without The Work, I am on the same path of coming home to me.

This Adds Another Layer of Freedom to the Practice

With this perspective, I do The Work because why wouldn’t I? There’s no “have to” in it. There’s no “should” in it. There is no element of desperation in it.

And there’s no fanaticism about it—no judging of myself or others over who’s doing The Work or not.

It just becomes an option. Shall I go for a drive or a hike today? I often drive. And I often walk.

Have a great week,

“The Work is merely four questions; it’s not even a thing. It has no motive, no strings. It’s nothing without your answers.” Byron Katie, Loving What Is

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Venting Is Powerful But It’s No Substitute for Inquiry

abandoned building

If there’s smoke in the house, by all means open a window.

Venting Is Powerful

When a stressful event occurs, the emotions that arise can be overwhelming. If left on their own, the stressful emotions and thoughts can build on themselves in a vicious cycle. One way to break the cycle is by venting.

Venting can be done responsibly by getting the emotion out without doing more harm. And one of the most powerful ways to vent responsibly is to simply write free-form all of the angry, stressful, sad thoughts onto a blank piece of paper. And then throw it out.

I believe there have been something like 200 scientific papers written on the effectiveness venting in this way. I’ve even heard of people getting rid of back pain by simply writing like this.

And there are many ways to vent besides writing: admitting publicly, crying, even just feeling the pain and allowing it to release. Venting is a way to release and move on.

It Allows You to Breathe Again

But venting only goes so far. In my experience, it does not deal with the root cause of the suffering. And if situations conspire again, the mind can easily get caught in the same vicious cycle again.

If there is smoke in the house, opening a window allows me to breathe again. But unless I put out the fire, the smoke will keep coming—even if the window is open.

When I question my stressful thinking by doing The Work of Byron Katie, I can often put out the fire completely. And then it’s done.

The Work Combines Venting and Inquiry

The first part of The Work is identifying stressful thoughts. This includes writing down all of the stressful, emotionally charged thoughts onto paper. This alone is powerful as a kind of venting. I can’t tell how many times I’ve written a Judge-Your-Neighbor Worksheet and felt better just for writing it.

But venting is just the first part of The Work. The real power lies in questioning each statement that I write. When I investigate with the four questions and turnarounds, I often find that what I thought was fire was not fire at all. I had fooled myself into a panic.

When I see the truth, it all falls away. That is the power of inquiry.

That’s Why I Love The Work

It feels like the ultimate in self-love. I allow my stuck parts to speak up, vent themselves, and be heard. And then I question everything to see if I can find the truth.

The more I question my stressful stories, the more they tend to unravel. And when they have unraveled, there is no need to suffer from them again.

For me, venting cleans up the immediate mess, but inquiry prevents future messes from happening.

Venting Is Still the First Step for Me

It is a life saver compared to bottling it up and pretending everything is fine, or wallowing in the pain. But I don’t stop with venting. I like to remove the very need for venting by questioning the thoughts that give rise to all of the emotions I need to vent.

Have a great week,

“…I’ll ask the child to close her eyes, talk to the monster face-to-face, and let the monster tell her what he’s doing under the bed and what he really wants from her. I’ll ask her just to let the monster talk, and to listen and tell me what the monster said. I’ve done this with a dozen children afraid of monsters or ghosts. They always report something kind, such as, “He says he’s lonely” or “He just wants to play” or “He wants to be with me.” At this point, I can ask them, “Sweetheart, ‘There’s a monster under your bed’—is that true?” And they usually look at me with a kind of knowing amusement that I would believe such a ridiculous thing. There’s a lot of laughter. This is the end of the child’s nightmare.” Byron Katie, Loving What Is

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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,

“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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There Is No “I” Without a “You”

blue poppy

This is a blue poppy. I am not a blue poppy. I am the one who is photographing this blue poppy.

“I” Is an Elusive Concept

I usually assume that I know who I am. I am a person. I am a man. I have a particular kind of body, and a particular kind of mind. And when I see myself that way, I see myself as a unique individual in the world. I “know” who I am.

But when I look closer, when I question who I am, it starts to fall apart.

Who I Am Depends on Who I’m With

And I’m not just talking about my tendency to be a chameleon at times. I’m talking about how naturally I become something different each time I interact with something.

At one moment, I am a cook, when I’m cooking dinner. At another time, I am a listener, full of understanding. At yet another time I am a harsh critic, when I face someone I don’t like. When I’m riding my bike, I am a kid. When I’m budgeting my money, I am a grownup. When I’m with my father, I am a son. When I’m with my nephew, I am an uncle.

Who I am depends on who, or what, I’m with. That outside thing is actually what defines me in that moment. It is the client that makes me a facilitator. It is the reader that makes me a writer. It is the dirty sink that makes me a bathroom cleaner.

It is natural to have so many changing identities. But the problem comes when I fight these changes.

I Do this by Favoring Some Identities Over Others

I prefer to think of myself as a nice guy, rather than as a mean person. I like to see myself as competent, rather than naïve, or even stupid. I like to think of myself as successful, and I’ll do anything to hold onto that image of myself.

In fact, I spend a lot of time trying to hold onto ideas of who I am, trying to pretend that I am something that I’m not.

It Takes a Lot of Effort

It’s hard to be someone that I’m not. Either because I’m trying to be someone new, or because I’m holding on to who I was.

Life keeps changing. One moment I’m writing an article. The next moment I’m taking out the garbage. If I judge one role as better than the other, I may resist switching roles. And that’s how I make my life harder than it is. That’s when I feel stress.

The Work Brings me Back Home

The moment I feel stress, I know I’ve stepped out of sync with reality. The Work simply brings me back to my truth, to reality, to the truth that I was trying to hide from myself. And it does so by inviting me to look at my thoughts about you.

How I see you tells me who I really am. There is no hiding it. This look in the mirror will quickly set me straight.

When I find that I am just like those whom I judge, the pretense stops—and humility begins. My definition of who I am expands to include everything: the good, and the bad, and everything in between.

There is nothing that I am not. This is the end of denial. This is the end of pretending. And this is the end of struggle and stress trying to prove myself.

Have a great weekend,

“If you don’t separate reality into categories by naming it and believing that your names are real, how can you reject anything or believe that one thing is of less value than another? The mind’s job is to prove that what it thinks is true, and it does that by judging and comparing this to that. What good is a this to the mind if it can’t prove it with a that? Without proof, how can a this or a that exist?” Byron Katie, A Thousand Names for Joy

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