Stressful Thoughts vs. Stressful Situations


Stressful situations show me which stressful thoughts are still in me.

The Work Is About Questioning Stressful Thoughts

When I first started The Work, I would just find a stressful thought and then question it. Then find another stressful thought and question it.

I still do The Work that way today. But my approach has also shifted a bit.

Now I Look for Stressful Situations First

Because I know that whenever I find a stressful situation, I will find all of my stressful thoughts within it.

The difference in this approach is subtle, but powerful, for me.

When I pick a stressful thought without reference to a situation, it can be more challenging to work. It is often less grounded, more general, more abstract, more intellectual.

When I pick a situation first, and then choose stressful thoughts to work from within that situation, it feels very grounded. I know exactly what I’m talking about. It feels more tangible as I work it. And the concrete details of the situation often give rise to unexpected findings as I do my work.

But Sometimes I Find an Unconnected Stressful Thought

Thoughts just pop in sometimes, and I still work them. But even these random stressful thoughts usually come from some specific trigger.

If I look back and ask myself, “When did this thought pop into my mind?” I often find that I was thinking about a specific situation that happened in the past, or that will happen in the future.

So I simply go into that remembered or imagined situation and write my stressful thoughts from there.

Babies Aren’t Born without a Mother

And stressful thoughts aren’t born without a stressful situation. If you want to get full access to the babies, it’s worth getting to know the mother.

Have a great week,

“The first step in The Work is to write down your judgments about any stressful situation in your life, past, present, or future—about a person you dislike or worry about, a situation with someone who angers or frightens or saddens you, or someone you’re ambivalent or confused about.” Byron Katie, Loving What Is

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cars on the road

Each moment on the road is a completely different situation.

What Is the Moment?

The stressful moment is the time right after the offense occurred. That’s when it hits you. And that’s when the stress begins. So, whenever possible before writing a worksheet, I like to identify what they did to hurt me (the offense) and the specific moment when they did it.

Identifying one moment may take some meditation. It is usually easier to find a specific moment with certain “slap” kinds of situations, but most situations have a moment, or a time zone, right after the offense occurred.

For me, part of writing a Judge-Your-Neighbor Worksheet is finding the offense and the moment right after it, and holding these as I write.

Let’s Say Someone Literally Slapped Me

The offense is “they slapped me.” So line 1 of the Judge-Your-Neighbor Worksheet is “I am shocked by them because they slapped me.”

The stressful moment is the moment right after they slapped me when my mind started taking it in. This is the moment I like to hold as I fill in lines 2-6 of a worksheet. I stand in that moment and look back at the offense that just happened. And I let my emotions speak from there.

Line 2: I want them to see what they did.
I want them to own it.
Line 3: They should see that it was done out of reaction.
They should consider what they were defending so strongly.
They should admit what they find to me.
Line 4: I need them to give me some space.
I need them to want to make it right.
I need them to apologize to me.
I need them to say they were wrong.
Line 5: They are out of control, violent.
Line 6: I don’t ever want them to slap me again.

Now Compare that to One Moment Earlier

Let’s say I was not writing from the moment right after the slap, but was writing from the moment before the slap. My thoughts would be quite different.

In fact, Line 1 would be different too: I am angry with them because they are not listening to me.

Line 2: I want them to listen to me.
Line 3: They should set aside their emotions.
They should not take it so personally.
They should give me space to talk.
Line 4: I need them respect me.
I need them to have an honest conversation with me.
Line 5: They are not listening, agitated, reactive.
Line 6: I don’t ever want them to not listen to me again.

Notice there is no mention of a slap here because the slap hasn’t happened yet.

These Are Each Valuable Worksheets

One focuses on the moment building up to the slap. And working through it allows me to find options when someone is not listening.

The other worksheet focuses on the moment after the slap. This is a very different moment, and a very different worksheet. Questioning the stressful thoughts in this moment allows me to find peace after a slap.

Each One Is a Different Surgery

Both are valuable.

I personally like to choose just one moment at a time and go deep with it.

Have a great weekend,

“Did you stay in the situation described in statement 1?” Byron Katie, A Mind at Home with Itself

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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,

“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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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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beach waterfall

You could be in paradise and still do The Work.

You Might Think The Work Is About Being Happy

But it’s not.

It’s about being peaceful.

And even that is not true.

If anything, The Work is about not being anything.

It’s about being free instead.

How Much Freedom Do You Want?

Some people use The Work just to take the edge off of the pain. And they stop as soon as the pain decreases. With this approach, The Work is like an aspirin that sits in the medicine cabinet and is only brought out when there is a headache.

Others use The Work as an ongoing meditation. A way to step closer to themselves. With this approach, pain is often still the starting point for inquiry, but they keep going even after the pain has subsided because they are interested in deeper balance.

This is like getting some sleep to cure a headache, but then continuing to get extra sleep going forward to prevent further headaches.

This Is Why I Like the Slow, Steady Approach

I’m not looking for quick fixes when I do The Work. I prefer the slow approach of questioning all of the thoughts that originally caused of my suffering. For me, it doesn’t matter if the pain goes away after working Line 1 of a Judge-Your-Neighbor Worksheet. I could quit at that point. I’m no longer in pain. But I don’t.

I tend to work almost all of the statements on my worksheet, even if they don’t stress me anymore. The reason is that the seeds of pain are still lying there in the other thoughts I wrote down.

Even if the thoughts I wrote are no longer active for me, they are still there, sitting unquestioned, waiting for the next opportunity to sprout. When I question them, it makes it that much harder for me to fall for them again.

I Actually Make the Most Progress After The Pain Has Lifted

Instead of stopping a worksheet once the pain has subsided, that’s exactly when I start setting my teeth into the worksheet. Now, there is no resistance as I do my work. And there is no distracting motive to “feel better.” Now, I’m just doing The Work for the sake of truth.

This is the sweetest, most unbiased place for me to do The Work. And I would miss it if I stopped working my worksheet once the pain had stopped.

The Same Is True for New Worksheets

The more I do The Work, the less crises there seem to be in my life. I tend to have a more even keel as I believe my thoughts less. That means that extreme suffering is less and less the motive for doing The Work. And I don’t have to wait for it to start.

Instead, I tend to write a new worksheet, or write a new one-liner to question, just because I’m in the habit of doing The Work. This means that my worksheets are sometimes very minor. Ironically, when I work these kind of worksheets, I tend to have even more insights than I do with the painful worksheets. They are such low pressure worksheets that my mind is much freer to explore as I work.

Sometimes I Work Situations that Are Not Painful at All

Instead of pain, I may notice just some attachment to something that I don’t want to lose. It’s not pain, but it’s the slightest rub of discomfort that prompts me to do The Work.

I don’t need to wait until I lose it, I can set myself free of that attachment even while I still have it. It’s just a matter of questioning what I think I want.

Have a great week,

“When you attach to any identity, you suffer. Only the unidentified mind is free.” Byron Katie, A Mind at Home with Itself

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

stone carver at work

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

This Is a Trap That’s Easy to Fall Into

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

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

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

I Was Always Motivated by Wanting to Look Good

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Have a great week,

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

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Peaceful Coexistence with Addictions

balancing rock

Every addiction has a balance point.

Active Addiction Is an Internal War

One one side you have the attraction of the senses towards the object. And on the other hand you have the internal resistance to indulging. That’s the essence of the battle.

Sometimes the senses dominate, leading to indulgence. Sometimes resistance dominates, leading to abstinence. And round and round it goes: temptation, resistance, weakening of resistance, indulgence, remorse, resolve to resist more strongly next time, temptation, extra resistance, weakening of resistance, indulgence, extra remorse, extra resolve to resist more strongly, etc.

The cycle of addiction is a vicious cycle with ever increasing intensity of resistance and sensory experience. It is exhausting, and wears down the mind, the self-esteem, and even the senses.

Where Is the Balance Point in this War?

Many of us focus on trying to get rid of the addiction, often even doing The Work with this purpose in mind. But this doesn’t usually get too far. Because it is biased. And The Work doesn’t work so well when you’re doing it with a bias.

It’s like taking sides in a war—selling weapons to the side of resistance to addiction while trying to destroy the side of indulgence.

But true peace doesn’t come from victory of one side over the other. If resistance to addiction wins, there may be temporary, external peace. But true peace comes only when resistance and indulgence come into balance with each other.

This Can Mean Doing The Work on the Motives for doing The Work

If the motive for doing The Work is to get rid of addiction, then this motive needs to be questioned. You can literally question, “I need The Work to help me with my addiction.”

This is radical work.

It means literally stepping out into no man’s land. Who would I be without the thought, “I need The Work to help me with my addiction”? I would not be trying to get rid of the addiction. I would see it as the teacher that it is. I would not be pushing addiction away. I would not be using The Work as a weapon against addiction. I would be open to it, unafraid of it, meeting it, listening to it.

As Soon as I Push, I Engage the War

Pushing against the senses is war. And pushing towards the senses is war. For me the balance point lies in neither pushing towards sensory gratification nor pushing against sensory gratification.

At first, this seems like permission to indulge, but it is a really subtle balance point. Neither pursuing pleasure, not fighting against it—that is the neutral place. And in the beginning, the mind cannot land there. It is constantly slipping off to one side or the other. But with practice, in my experience, it can be held.

It feels like the balance between surrender (that the senses are more powerful than me—so resistance is futile) and awareness (that sensory pleasure is not really what I’m interested in). That’s where I can float between not stepping onto the slippery slope of temptation yet not trying to destroy temptation either.

It is a peaceful coexistence (non-interest and non-resistance living side by side). Then I am free. There is nothing I need to avoid. And nothing I want to pursue. I am in a state of balance that is no longer a fragile balance, but rather a balance that can roll with anything that comes—even full indulgence if it comes again, or full resistance if it comes again.

Here Are Some of the Ways I Have Done The Work on This

I like to question thoughts on both sides of addiction:

On the indulgence side
I want to indulge.
I deserve to have fun.
I want to feel good.
It feels so good.
I’m not really addicted.
It’s too hard to resist.
The cravings are too strong.

On the resistance side
I need to stop this.
It’s out of control.
It’s shameful to be addicted.
I shouldn’t be addicted.
Addiction is bad.
I’m a bad person.
I need to be stronger.
I need to resist more strongly.

It Takes a Gentle Approach to Question Both Sides

The mind can start to spin if you go too fast.

I like to take each stressful thought when it comes up naturally in my life. Instead of making a list as I did above, I just wait for the next stressful thought about addiction to arise, and question it. That keeps it real. And ensures that I’m only balancing the part that needs to be balanced in any given moment.

The list above is just a reference for the kinds of thoughts that can come up on both sides of balance. In my experience, it’s okay to question even resistance thoughts. That was the missing piece for me to find my balance point.

Have a great weekend,

“But here’s addiction: A concept arises that says that I should or I shouldn’t smoke, I believe it, and I move from the reality of the present. Without inquiry, we believe thoughts that aren’t true for us, and these thoughts are the reasons that we smoke or drink. Who would you be without your ‘should’ or ‘shouldn’t’?” Byron Katie, Loving What Is

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Dropping into Question One

two flowers

I miss smelling both flowers if I don’t land on one.

The Ego Loves Noncommitment

It loves to hover. The ego loves generalizations, theory and intellectual analysis. But what the ego doesn’t like is direct testing. Because when you test something, the ego’s theories can be debunked. When you test something, the ego is no longer in control.

For that reason, the ego has many strategies for not dropping into question one of The Work. One of those strategies is trying to answer the question with the intellect.

Question 1 Is “Is it true?”

You could take any statement and analyze it forever and you would never get to a 100% yes or no for this question. You could hire teams of researchers and spend millions of dollars trying to come to a conclusive answer to this simple question. Even in the world of scientific research, there is no such thing as 100% certainty.

All this means just one thing: the intellect is useless when it comes to finding absolute truth. So the question is asking the impossible. “Is it true?” It’s a real hummer of a question.

And it goes nowhere until you stop trying to use the intellect to answer it, and ask the heart instead.

The Heart Doesn’t Care about Reason

The heart doesn’t need proof. And the heart, when asked, can find a decisive opinion about anything. It is only the intellect that discounts, overrides, judges, or suppresses the honest opinions of the heart.

And the ego loves this, because it postpones getting caught in another lie. It’s business as usual for the ego. As long as the intellect is ruling, the answers of the heart get censored in this way.

The Work, on the Other Hand, Is Only Interested in the Heart

If you want to stay on the surface—stay safe—when doing The Work, keep the analysis going. You’ll be able to talk up and down both sides of the issue and land nowhere. In fact, you’ll probably come up with things like, “It’s kind of true?” or “I’m not sure,” or “I can see both sides.”

That’s not it.

When you do that, the ego wins. You have successfully avoided answering question 1.

Here’s Another Favorite Way of Doing This

Say “yes” to question 1 while already planning to say “no” to question 2, “Can you absolutely know it’s true?”

My ego loves this one. It’s so subtle. I can look like I’m being decisive (after all I’m giving a clear yes to question 1 and a clear no to question 2). But really I’m using this trick to not really land.

I sail through questions 1 and 2 untouched, with full ego intact. Why bother even asking these questions if I’m not really going to answer them?

Dropping in Means Dropping in

It’s not convenient. I can’t crank out The Work fast when I truly drop into questions 1 and 2. These questions stop me dead in my tracks if I really take them seriously. Answers don’t come quickly. I get stumped easily if I really try to answer them.

And that’s what The Work is about. The Work is meditation. It is not the answering from the “I know” mind that sets me free. Otherwise, I’d already be free. It’s the dropping in beneath all reason, touching the unknown knowing of the heart that transforms my mind.

Question 1 and question 2 are simply opportunities to drop in deeply. That is the power of these questions. Letting the heart speak for once no matter what it looks like.

It Might Take an Hour to Listen to the Heart

It might take all day. Or just a minute. But everything else can wait. This is the skill that does not get practiced much for me. This is the muscle that needs strengthening. If I could drop into my heart and speak from there at all times, I would never need The Work.

Question 1 is simply a chance to ask myself without agenda as I look at the situation I am working.

Have a great week,

“Now, the answer to the first two questions has one syllable only: it’s either yes or no. So watch how your mind is going to say, “Well, not really, but, well, yeah, she really did.” That’s not it. You need to get still until a clear answer of yes or no appears.” Byron Katie, A Mind at Home with Itself

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United Nations building

The world is a big place with lots of room for improvement.

Do You Feel Called to Change the World?

One person just emailed me, “Our world is suffering. People are suffering. There are those of us who are called to be alchemists of these intense collective energies as the world is becoming something new. There is a birthing going on. Women feel it in their beings and gather in circles to share and co-create new states of being to help mitigate the intense electromagnetic energies that are present. Can you please tell me how to work with The Work and at the same time be true to my calling as an alchemist? Do you have clients who are doing this kind of work and find balance and benefit with The Work too?”

What I Hear in This Is a Perceived Conflict

A conflict that if you do The Work, then you will lose interest in changing the world. After all, the turnarounds always point back to the self.

It’s easy for the mind to interpret this as: “I should just stop serving the greater good.” But is that true? Is it true that The Work points me away from service to the world?

The Work Only Points Me Away from Suffering

If I believe that the world is suffering, I suffer. When I see that I’m causing my own suffering, the need to change the world goes away.

But just because the need to change the world is gone, doesn’t mean that I have to stop doing things to change the world. It’s totally ironic.

The only thing that changes as I do my work is that my neediness drops away. I don’t need the world to be a certain way in order to be happy. That is freedom.

The same actions that I would have done before for the world can be done now simply out of service, out of kindness, out of love. There’s no desperation for results. There’s no anger when anyone gets in the way. There’s no anxiety that things are out of place. There is only humble, quiet service with a full heart.

And That’s Where True Alchemy Begins

Alchemy can’t happen when I’m angry. It can’t happen when I feel desperate for the world to change. Or when I feel overwhelmed with fear and sadness about the world. When I’m believing my stressful thoughts, I become paralyzed.

When I question my stressful thoughts, I become free to act boldly for change.

In this way, The Work is a direct help for activism in the world. It takes care of my internal world, and when there is peace inside me, I have the much needed space for alchemy. In fact, there is no greater service to the world in my opinion than a truly open heart. Miracles happen in that space.

It’s funny that not caring about the world ends up allowing me to better serve the world.

The Work and Service Can Be Done Together

I don’t have to be free first before I can be of service. I can do both The Work and service as I grow. The two feed off of each other beautifully. When I get stressed by my service, it shows me what to work on next. And when I do my work, it allows my service to become more peaceful and more effective.

Together, service and inquiry are like two legs carrying me forward on my own path of growing peace—which happens to be the same path for growing peace in the world.

What’s Your Experience?

Do you have an experience to share about this? I’d love to hear it, and I’ll pass it on to the person who asked this question.

Have a great weekend,

“When you believe that such apparent horrors shouldn’t happen, even though they do happen, you suffer. So you’re adding one more person’s suffering to the world’s suffering, and for what purpose? Does your suffering help anyone who is being harmed? No. Does it motivate you to act for the common good? If you pay close attention, you’ll see that this too isn’t so. By questioning the belief that these things shouldn’t happen, you can end your own suffering about the suffering of others. And once you do, you’ll be able to notice that this makes you a kinder human being, someone who is motivated by love rather than outrage or sadness. The end of suffering in the world begins with the end of suffering in you.” Byron Katie, A Mind at Home with Itself

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crop dusting

The idea of dominating nature is so last century!

Stressful Thoughts Are Hard to Identify, Is That True?

Many people find that identifying stressful thoughts to question is challenging for them. When I hear this, I immediately check to see if they are holding a motive in doing The Work.

Identifying stressful thoughts is not complicated—if it’s stressful and it’s a thought that’s all I need to know.

But when there’s a motive running, the mind makes it complicated: “Is this the right thought for me to question? This is a silly thought. I don’t believe it anyway. I need to find the core thought and question that.” With complicated thinking, I miss the opportunity to question the simple stressful thought that arose on its own.

This Is Why Questioning Motives Is Valuable

Motives when doing The Work interfere with the innocence of inquiry. When I’m innocent, I’m questioning whatever stressful thought comes up. I’m not trying to control the process. I’m letting my experience of stress show me the thoughts I need to work. It’s just a matter of listening.

If I feel stress, I look for the thought, and write it down. It’s really that simple.

If it’s not simple for me, I need to do The Work on my motives before I continue doing The Work. Motives can be questioned just like any thought. For example:

I want to get rid of this thought.
I want to feel better.
I want to solve this problem.
I don’t want to write a worksheet on someone else.
I need to get back on my feet.
I need to have a breakthrough.
I want to find an insight.
I need it to work quickly.
I want The Work to help me.
I need to shift my perspective.
I need to change my behavior.
I need to get enlightened.

These kind of motives interfere with the innocent practice of The Work. By questioning them, I become more unbiased in my inquiry, and I stop putting so much pressure on myself to break through. The exploring mind works so much better when it’s not working under pressure.

Domination Over Nature Is Old Fashioned

In the old days, humans thought that mastering nature was the way to power. Knowledge of the laws of nature was used to gain control of nature and to manipulate it to do our bidding.

But the problem was that the limited mind of humans couldn’t think of all the repercussions, and there were always side effects. Now we take drugs to treat the side effects of other drugs. It’s a downward spiral.

This is the problem with manipulation. It is very short sighted. And that’s why the trend today is back towards allowing nature to create balance: joining nature, or stepping out of the way of nature, instead of trying to control it.

The Mind Is Nature

Just like any other part of nature, the mind can’t be controlled or manipulated very well. And when you’re doing The Work—inquiring into the truth—any motive to manipulate or control the outcome will stop the process cold.

You can’t look for the truth and try to control the outcome at the same time. It’s a conflict of interest. So I invite you to question your need to control the outcome, and come to The Work with the idea that truth itself is worth pursuing.

No matter how inconvenient the truth may be, no matter how scary, it always leads to the same place: freedom. That’s why I trust The Work as my way of getting at my truth. And I wait for the next stressful thought to find me, instead of trying to control which thought I question.

Have a great week,

“Are you inquiring with a motive? Are you asking the questions to assure yourself that the answer you already have is valid, even though it’s painful? Do you want to be right, or to prove something, more than you want the truth? It’s the truth that set me free—for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health. Acceptance, peace, letting go, and less attachment to a world of suffering are all effects of doing The Work. They’re not goals. 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, Ch. 13.

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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