saxophone

For you, this might look like a close up of a saxophone but, for me, it’s a mirror. I see my fingers holding my camera there.

What Stops People From Doing The Work?

If there is one thing that seems to stop people from doing The Work more anything else, it is this: trying to solve big problems.

Because big problems are big! And important. And daunting.

Big problems make me think, “My whole life is at stake.” This kind of thought adds pressure when I want to do The Work. And it makes me put it off.

Fortunately, The Work Is Much Simpler Than That

The Work is not about figuring things out. It’s not about “getting to the bottom of things.” The Work is not about learning more about myself so that I can control myself. It is not about fixing my life.

It is not even about dealing with issues.

The Work is just a way of exploring. Exploring the possibility that there are no issues, even when I think there are.

The Problem with Trying to Solve Big Issues

If you’re trying to solve big issues by doing The Work, you’ll probably feel the need to look for big situations to bring to The Work. And you set the stage for intimidation and disappointment. You’ll be looking to go deep, to find the mother of all situations. And you’ll be easily dissatisfied. Or you may not even start The Work because of this.

It’s like trying to find a mirror big enough, perfect enough, to reflect your whole life in it! Very difficult indeed. That’s the problem with problem solving.

But When I Just Do The Work on What Came Up Today, It’s Easy

That’s how I like to do The Work. I let life show me what to work on next. I don’t have a plan. I don’t have a strategy. I just wait for the next tripwire that I happen to stumble over. And I do my work on that.

It’s that easy.

I don’t need a mirror the size of a city to see my life. I can see it perfectly well reflected in the tiny, and big, events of daily living.

My Partner and I Laughed About It Last Night

There was a mosquito in the house that was zooming around. My partner said that the mosquito was not sure what it wanted to do.

We both laughed because my partner was feeling exactly that way in that moment. He had been trying to read a book that he didn’t like. And he was getting up and down trying to decide whether to keep reading or find something else to do.

The mosquito was literally his mirror in that moment! His off the cuff judgment about the mosquito described his own mind perfectly in that particular situation.

That’s How The Work Works

The Work takes any situation, invites me to write my thoughts about it, and unfailingly shows me who I am in that moment. That’s why I trust it.

No need to unearth the past. Yet, if some big past situation comes up for me, great; I’m open to work it when it comes up of its own accord. But there’s no need to find the perfect thought to question. There’s no pressure.

I know that I can see myself just as well in a tiny mirror as I can in a big mirror. And small mirrors have the distinct advantages of being both easier to hold and easier to find.

Have a great weekend,
Todd

“If you don’t know what to write about, wait. Life will give you a topic. Maybe a friend didn’t call you back when she said she would, and you’re disappointed. Maybe when you were five years old, your mother punished you for something you didn’t do. Maybe you’re upset or frightened when you read the newspaper or think about the suffering in the world.” Byron Katie, Loving What Is

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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?

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How I Confuse Freedom and Control

Olympic Peninsula, Washington

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

I Have a Craving for Freedom

And it confuses me sometimes.

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

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

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

My Mom Called it Selfish, And She Was Right

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

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

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

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

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

But it doesn’t work.

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

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

Seeing This Reminds Me of Why I Love The Work

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

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

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

Freedom Is Not Dependent on Control

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

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

Have a great weekend,
Todd

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

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Wanting Without Wanting

rose dessert

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

Wants Are Tricky

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Work is nothing more than noticing.

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

Which Brings Up an Interesting Contradiction

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

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

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

The Less I Want, the More Present I Become

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

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

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

Have a great week,
Todd

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

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Keeping It Real vs. Doing It Right

peach trees

You can grow things in neat, tidy rows, but it’s not always the best practice.

Is There a Right Way to Write Your Thoughts?

One of the most valuable tools in doing The Work of Byron Katie is the Judge-Your-Neighbor Worksheet. This six-line worksheet is used to help identify the stressful thoughts that come up in a stressful situation.

I love the Judge-Your-Neighbor Worksheet because it allows me to go deeply into one situation and identify many different stressful thoughts from that moment. Then I can take several days or weeks to question the stressful thoughts that I wrote on the worksheet.

I Like to Go Deep in Writing a Worksheet

I like to focus in on one stressful moment, and pick just one offense that occurred in that moment. I use this as the focal point of my worksheet. It’s like using a laser to zero in on what’s really bothering me.

I love going one inch wide and one mile deep with my worksheets.

But Sometimes My Mind Has Other Plans

Sometimes, writing a very focused worksheet is not what my mind wants to do. Because sometimes my mind just wants to rant without restriction.

Sometimes I can’t write clear advice in Line 3 of the Judge-Your-Neighbor Worksheet. Sometimes, all I can do is yell.

That’s when I throw all guidelines for writing a worksheet out the window.

That’s When I Stop Trying to Hold the Format

And that’s when I just let what is in me surface, no matter how loud, unfocused, or childish it may be.

I often say, “Raw mind trumps all.” And this is what I mean.

Following all the guidelines for writing a “perfect,” “focused,” “deep” Judge-Your-Neighbor Worksheet is pointless when my mind just wants to rant. So I let it rant.

This IS the Purpose of Writing a Worksheet

The purpose of writing a worksheet is not to produce a publishable piece of music or prose. The purpose of a worksheet is to get those stressful thoughts on paper so that they can be worked.

Who cares what format they come out in? Who cares whether they fit neatly in Line 3, or Line 4 of my Judge-Your-Neighbor Worksheet? Who cares if I’m in the moment or out of the moment? Who cares if I’m doing it right?

Getting my stressful thoughts out in whatever form they come out IS doing it right. And any attempt to fit my thoughts into a format that does not suit them does not feel right at all to me.

Raw Mind Trumps All

Uncensored. Raw. Those are the thoughts I want to get on paper. Those are the thoughts I want to work.

And it doesn’t mean that I don’t follow the guidelines for writing a focused Judge-Your-Neighbor Worksheet. Most of the time I do. I love those guidelines.

But I always hold the trump card: all rules for writing a Judge-Your-Neighbor Worksheet can be disposed of at any moment if my real mind shows up and doesn’t fit the format.

This is self-inquiry. And that means that my “self” is the one I’m following here when I do my work.

Have a great weekend,
Todd

“Write down your thoughts without trying to censor them. Sit with your pen and paper and just wait. The words will come. The story will come. And if you really want to know the truth, if you’re not afraid to see your story on paper, the ego will write like a maniac. It doesn’t care; it’s totally uninhibited. This is the day the ego has been waiting for. Give it its life on paper. It has been waiting for you to stop, just once, and really listen to it. It will tell you everything, like a child. Then, when the mind is expressed on paper, you can inquire. I invite you to be judgmental, harsh, childish, and petty. Write with the spontaneity of a child who is sad, angry, confused, or frightened. Don’t try to be wise, spiritual, or kind. This is the time to be totally honest and uncensored about how you feel. Allow your feelings to express themselves, without any fear of consequences or any threat of punishment.” Byron Katie, Loving What Is

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balsamroot flowers

When photographing flowers, I can stand back and view them all, or focus on one flower. Or I can narrow my focus to just the center of one flower. It depends how close I want to get.

Focus Is a Factor When Writing a Worksheet

As you know, there are many ways to fill in a Judge-Your-Neighbor Worksheet. And each way serves a different purpose.

Sometimes, I write a worksheet about a person in general that I haven’t forgiven. Going global like this gives me a perspective that narrowing down to a specific situation does not. I find this very helpful.

Other times, I write a very angry Judge-Your-Neighbor Worksheet, where I rant and rave and swear. It is so helpful to write a worksheet like this, rather than a controlled hyper-focused worksheet.

But sometimes, I do rely on the skills of my craft, just like when I’m photographing a flower. Often I find it very helpful to write a very focused Judge-Your-Neighbor Worksheet that goes deeply into one particular stressful moment and revolves around one particular offense.

In these worksheets, my focus is so sharp that I’m literally going one inch wide and one mile deep. I see things by focusing in this way that I don’t see when I write general worksheets, or purely ranting worksheets.

Writing a Focused Worksheet Is a Skill

And it’s a skill well worth developing. You can take great photos without ever learning photography. But you’ll have many more options, and you’ll be able to take consistently better photos if you master the skills of photography.

The same is true for The Work. There are some skills worth learning. One of these is the skill of writing a very focused Judge-Your-Neighbor Worksheet.

What Exactly Am I Focusing On?

The process of writing a focused Judge-Your-Neighbor Worksheet is a process of narrowing down. The starting point is a stressful emotion. That’s the alarm clock saying, “Hey! It’s time to do The Work!”

If I listen to the emotion, it will lead me to something that is bothering me. Someone or something upset me. Something triggered my emotional reaction. What was that? Who was that? Where and when was that?

It takes some time to start narrowing it down from the emotion to the specific moment and situation that triggered me. It’s a process of listening, meditating, noticing.

Once I Find What Triggered Me, I Can Look Deeper

The trigger moment is a specific situation. I remember where I was, where I was standing, what was going on. I remember who was there, what they said, and how I felt. This already is very focused.

But within the trigger moment, lies an offense.

My Friend Patrie Grace Explained This Beautifully Recently

Patrie is a very experienced certified facilitator of The Work. She gives the following example.

“I am with my daughter, grandchildren and son in law. I have just made dinner for all of us. We are in their eating area on Sunday evening. My daughter asks him to do the dishes as she leaves for an EMT shift. He says (getting up from the table, loudly and grumbling to my mind), ‘Why do I have to do everything around here?’

“His voice saying ‘Why do I have to do everything around here?’ is my trigger.

“‘He doesn’t appreciate me,’ is the offense.

“Line 1 of my Judge-Your-Neighbor Worksheet is: ‘I am angry with Timmy because he doesn’t appreciate me.'”

The Offense Is What Really Bothers Me

As I narrow down from my emotion, to a specific situation, to the offender, to the offense, I get clearer and clearer about what was upsetting me. When I write a Judge-Your-Neighbor Worksheet on what was really bothering me, then what I write is very relevant to me.

And doing The Work on these very relevant statements tends to touch me deeply. That’s the value of really focusing in on one offense when writing a worksheet.

Have a great week,
Todd

“Whenever we experience a stressful feeling—anything from mild discomfort to intense sorrow, rage, or despair—we can be certain that there is a specific thought causing our reaction, whether or not we are conscious of it.” Byron Katie, Loving What Is

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Who’s Business Are You In?

Essex Ferry

“The ferry shouldn’t be 5 minutes late on a regular basis.” Who’s business am I in?

Being In Someone Else’s Business Is Stressful

If I think the ferry should depart on time, and it doesn’t, I feel mildly frustrated, anxious, agitated, unhappy. The world is not working the way I think it should.

That’s what it feels like to be in in someone else’s business.

Where’s The Line Between My Business and Their Business?

This often takes some consideration to sort out.

I’m not in the business of operating the ferry service. When I think it should be done my way, and I’m not in charge, then I’m trying to exercise power that I don’t have. That’s why it can feel frustrating. I’m in their business.

But just because I don’t run the ferry service, doesn’t mean I don’t have any power at all. I can be completely within my own business while offering my feedback to the ferry company. It feels fine inside when I do.

It’s even my business if I gather support from others who think the way I do and give that feedback to the company too. There’s nothing stopping me from being really convincing. All of this is my business.

But the moment I think they have to listen to me, that’s when I step across the line into their business. That’s when the stress starts. That’s when I stop respecting them.

Why Is Being in Someone’s Business so Stressful?

Being in someone else’s business is stressful because at a basic level I am disrespecting the other person. I’m looking down on them. I’m thinking I know better. And I’m trying to control them. I am almost willing to use force to change them (because they are not willing/capable of changing).

Whenever I treat someone poorly, even just in my mind, I feel stress.

This lack of respect feels like a hollowness inside. I can feel it from my stomach up through my heart. That’s what it feels like to disrespect someone. It feels awful.

I Caught Myself Doing This Recently

The ferry schedule doesn’t really bother me. I actually like that it leaves 5 minutes late! So that’s a bit of a hypothetical example for me. But here’s a real one.

Over the past few months of running The Work 101 course, I’ve become increasingly bothered by participants who don’t participate fully. I see the value of showing up day after day for six weeks: a momentum gets created that allows for a deeper experience of the course. When they would get behind, I felt frustrated.

So I Did a Worksheet on It

I wrote out all of my stressful thoughts about it, and when I worked through them, I quickly discovered that I was not in my business. I was in the participants’ business.

My business is to do my best to design a course that is user-friendly, clear, doable, etc. But it’s each participant’s business how much they participate: fully, partially, or not at all.

For me to try to control what participants do is actually disrespectful, even if I have “their best interest in mind.” When I’m disrespectful in this way, I feel that same uncomfortable feeling in my stomach and heart that I described above with the ferry.

The Work Is About My Peace

Once I noticed that I was creating stress for myself by being in the participants’ business, I immediately wanted to stop it. That’s the beauty of self-inquiry. Once I notice that my hand is in the fire, it takes no further thought to remove it from the flames.

And that’s what I did. I changed my internal policy. I was basically demanding that participants keep up with the course in order to stay in the course. But now I’m taking a less rigid stance. If someone gets behind, I gently remind them, but I don’t push them.

They still have to complete all the assignments to get a certificate of completion. That’s my business to set the requirements. But whether they meet the requirements or not is totally their business. It’s their money, their time, their life, their course. This feels so much freer for me, and respectful to them.

Respect feels like giving room for the other person to meet me half way—or not. I love that feeling inside!

Have a great week,
Todd

“To think that I know what’s best for anyone else is to be out of my business. Even in the name of love, it is pure arrogance, and the result is tension, anxiety, and fear. Do I know what’s right for myself? That is my only business. Let me work with that before I try to solve your problems for you.” Byron Katie, Loving What Is

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Should I Work Old Stuff or New Stuff?

temple tree

You will reach the same DNA whether you study an ancient tree or a young sapling.

Here’s a Common Question

People often wonder if they should look for old situations to work, or whether they should choose more recent situations when doing The Work.

And my first thought is, “It doesn’t matter.”

My second thought is, “I prefer recent situations because I can remember them more easily.”

And my third thought is, “What is the motive behind this question?”

I Think The Motive Is to Do More Effective Work

There’s an idea that if I can work the first occurrence—maybe when I was a child—then I will be done with it once an for all.

But my experience is that this is not the key to doing effective work. What is more important for me is picking whatever is alive for me at the time.

Maybe something triggers a memory from my childhood. Suddenly, I’m drawn to do my work on a time when I was helping my grandfather clean the ditches. I was probably 8 or 9. And I remember how he complimented me on sticking with the job until it was done.

Since It Came Up for Me, I Work It

I can feel the emotion. I can feel the pride. And I know how often I referred to this moment of praise from my grandfather. I see the good of it. As well as the stress of it… becoming a workaholic so that I never let him down.

I worked this piece some time ago, and it was so helpful. I felt that I gained a lot of perspective from that worksheet on my grandfather. I no longer see my “sticking with the job” as a requirement for his love.

But That’s Not the End of the Story

I still do get caught up in workaholic tendencies, as I have my whole life. It was not just that one instance that held the key.

Instead, my life shows me instances every day where I can work this issue. For example, when my inbox is not empty at the end of the day. That is a powerful stressful moment for me to work, as powerful as anything with my grandfather.

And that’s how I do my work.

I Chip Away at It

I never know what stressful story will appear next for me to work. Maybe it will be from decades ago. Maybe it will be a situation that arose today. I don’t worry about it. I let my emotions lead the way.

My motive is not to find the one moment that holds it all. My motive is simply to follow life’s lead and work the next thing life puts on my plate.

And the simple inquiry, “I need to get to the bottom of all this, is it true?” holds me as I do The Work.

When I’m clear, I do The Work because it’s something I enjoy, not because I need to do a perfect job of cleaning up every corner of my life. That’s not necessary, nor is it even possible. It’s much more peaceful for me to do The Work simply as a hobby rather than as a compulsion.

The bottom line is: The Work is like yoga for me. There is no endpoint. I do it because I like how I feel when I do.

Have a great week,
Todd

“Do The Work for the love of freedom, for the love of truth. If you’re inquiring with other motives, such as healing the body or solving a problem, your answers may be arising from old motives that never worked, and you’ll miss the wonder and grace of inquiry.” Byron Katie, Loving What Is

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Pain Is Optional, Is That True?

prickly plant

If I have to pick up a cactus, and I don’t know about gloves, pain may not be optional for me.

It’s Always About My Own Experience

In the last newsletter I sent out entitled, “The Work Is Preventive Medicine,” I mentioned that I am more and more aware that pain is a choice.

This caused confusion for someone who wrote me saying, “I often don’t experience that I am able to ‘just let go’ of my stressful thoughts, so if I am not able, how can it be an ‘active’ choice?”

I’m so glad that she wrote this because it brings up something very important.

There Is No Shortcut to Doing The Work

My experience upon my friend’s death was that I didn’t grieve. I saw that the pain was optional, and I sidestepped it spontaneously. Yay for me! But just because I saw it that way in this situation doesn’t mean that it’s always my experience that pain is optional.

Just ask me if I think pain is optional when I’m straining to do a good job with something! I haven’t worked that issue thoroughly enough yet.

Theoretical understanding means nothing to me. I’ve heard a million enlightened theories. I’ve had my own. But ultimately, I can only go with my experience. If I see that pain is optional in a particular situation, great, lucky me. But if I don’t see that the pain is optional, then it’s my job to experience the pain, to notice the thoughts behind it, and to do The Work on them.

Why Was It So Easy for Me This Time?

I attribute my lack of grief at last week’s funeral to the deep work that I did after my mom died in 2010. I spent two months working through so many nuances of my stressful thoughts about her death. It was during that work that I noticed a choice to go into the pain, or not. And that insight was a big part of ending my grief at that time.

In other words, it was through the process of doing my work—the slow, old-fashioned way—that I found this option and became stronger at exercising it. So when this new death occurred, I was ready. The muscle was there. And it was strong enough to hold me.

That’s what I mean by The Work is preventive medicine. The work I did in the past supports me today.

But there’s a big difference between discovering an insight through inquiry and reading about someone else’s experience, or trying to borrow an insight, even if it’s my own.

In my Experience, Borrowing Insights Doesn’t Work that Well

Other people’s insights are nice references. So are my own past insights. But they are not a substitute for my present experience.

Either I’m triggered now, or I’m not.

If I am, I need to do The Work, and no insight can help me. If I’m not triggered, then I don’t need to do The Work.

It’s that simple.

The Work Is Not Just Turnarounds

The work is not positive thinking. It is not even insights. The Work is self-exploration.

And it starts with deep listening to what are the stressful thoughts coming up in me. I need to be listened to before I can even consider a turnaround.

As Byron Katie sometimes puts it, stressful thoughts are like crying babies. They need to be held and listened to.

That’s What The Work Does

There is no substitute for that. I can’t just say to my self, “Let go of that thought!” or “Turn that around!” It won’t work. Just like it won’t help to tell a baby to stop crying.

The way The Work works is to take it slowly. It starts by really listening to what the crying thoughts are saying. And gently inviting the mind to explore the truth, or non-truth, of the thought in question.

This passes the power back to the mind. It says to the mind, “I trust you. You be the judge about what’s really true here. You be the judge about whether this thought brings peace or stress.” This can be so empowering when the mind is crying.

When the mind is crying, the four questions of The Work are there to hold it. Only after going through the four questions, does The Work invite the mind to explore the turnarounds and to look for examples of the turnarounds.

This Process Is Feels Like Kindness

This process is listening. It is empowering. It is gentle. It is objective. It is the opposite of “just letting go” which, of course, is not usually possible.

And, if I cannot let go of my stressful thoughts in a particular situation, then my pain is definitely NOT a choice for me. In this case, my pain is there for a reason. It is my faithful alarm clock, letting me know that I need to do some work.

Have a great weekend,
Todd

“That’s the purpose of stress. It’s a friend. It’s an alarm clock, built in to let you know that it’s time to do The Work.” Byron Katie, Loving What Is

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The Work Is Preventive Medicine

dusk

The onset of darkness doesn’t bring sadness or fear when I shift to indoor lighting.

Last Week I Attended a Funeral

The funeral of my dear friend, teacher, and ayurvedic doctor, Vaidya Ram Kant Mishra. I miss him and love him, but I do not feel grief.

Losing a friend cannot be compared to losing a parent, or spouse, or child. It took me a couple of months to work through the grief when my mom died. But there’s another reason why I did not feel sadness when faced with this great loss.

The reason is that I have been doing The Work for a long time. And it is becoming instinctual not to go down that road of creating pain for myself.

The Work shows me again and again how much it hurts when I want things to be different than they are. Noticing this again and again through my work, I am not so tempted to dive into pain. I am more and more aware that it is a choice.

Pain Looks Like This

He shouldn’t have died.
He died too soon.
I need him to be my doctor.
I didn’t learn everything from him.
I want to spend time with him again.

I never formally questioned these thoughts, but I didn’t need to. By doing The Work over the years, my mind has come to recognize that these kind of thoughts bring me pain every time. They remind me of so many other thoughts like them that I have questioned. And so my mind is not interested in holding onto them.

This Is What I Mean by The Work Being Preventive Medicine

Every time I do The Work I see more clearly that I always have options. I see that, no matter how bad anything is, I am the only one who can make me suffer. This is not a general theory. This is a practical experience that I get when dealing with the particulars of any situation that I bring to The Work.

The more work I do, the more clearly I see it. And it’s cumulative.

This cumulative experience is what held me when my friend and teacher died. And that’s why I didn’t go into grief. I simply saw other options besides pain.

Even Guilt Couldn’t Make me Suffer

Because I’ve worked those guilt thoughts before as well. Thoughts like, “If I don’t hurt, it means I don’t love him.” And I know it’s not true. I can feel the love in my heart. I can feel the love from him, same as always. I feel as connected to him now without a body, as I did when he had a body.

There is just no reason to close my heart.

What is left inside of me is an openness. And that openness is what I brought to the funeral. A heart full of gratitude, and a clear mind that I have everything I need. Then I could say goodbye with love. And I could share my love with everyone else who was there.

Vaidya Ram Kant Mishra

Vaidya Ram Kant Mishra

And of Course There Are No Absolutes

I have no grief, is that true?

On coming back home I got a cold and spent the last two days sleeping on the sofa. Who knows, maybe that was grief coming out. We all grieve in different ways. If so, I look forward to working through any grief that shows up.

And So I Pass It On

I share with you the legacy of an amazing healer. If you haven’t already, I invite you to subscribe to the newsletter that Vaidya Mishra’s team still sends out at chandika.com. They have so much knowledge about heath there. I call this knowledge of ayurveda, “turnarounds for the body”—yet another way to create balance of body and mind. I hope you enjoy learning from Vaidya Mishra as much I do.

Have a great week,
Todd

“I have a friend who, after doing inquiry sincerely for a number of years, came to understand that the world is a reflection of mind. She was married to a man who was the love of her life, and one day, while they were sitting on their couch, he had a heart attack and died in her arms. After the first shock and the tears, she began looking for grief, and there was none. For weeks she kept looking for grief, because her friends told her that grief was a necessary part of the healing process. And all she felt was a completeness: that there was nothing of him that she’d had while he was physically with her that she didn’t have now.” 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.

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