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,
Todd

“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

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Are You Using Training Wheel Words?

biker

This biker probably stopped using training wheels when she was a kid.

Training Wheels Are Great

Every kid loves them because they allow you to start biking earlier. Even before you can balance on a bicycle, you can pedal around on a bike with training wheels.

But eventually, the training wheels have to come off because they eventually become an hindrance to riding. And once you learn to balance on your own, they are not needed anyway.

The Same is True with Speech

There are many training wheels in speech. Especially when trying to master the subtle art of communication, which requires a balance between being kind to the other person and being true to yourself.

For example, one set of training wheels comes up when giving feedback. People tend to take feedback personally, so they may be hesitant to give direct feedback because they don’t want to hurt the other person.

You can use training wheel phrases like, “What works for me…” and “What doesn’t work for me…” This is a wonderful start to giving feedback. It makes it clear that the feedback is not personal, allowing you to speak the truth without hurting the other person’s feelings.

But Training Wheels Can Only Take you So Far

After a while, “What doesn’t work for me…” can become cliché. And speech can get locked into just this one way of giving feedback. The naturalness of communication is lost when this happens.

The purpose of the training wheel phrase is to make it clear that the feedback I’m giving is not personal. I’m clear, and I stay out of the other person’s business. This allows me to communicate what needs to be communicated without worrying if they are taking it personally. It frees me to speak more directly.

But the phrase, “What doesn’t work for me…” is only a facsimile. It accomplishes in speech what really has to happen inside. No phrase alone can free me. It requires some deeper work to truly be free.

And Deeper Work Can Look like This

Instead of worrying about which turn of phrase I use, I start to notice my stressful thoughts when wanting to give feedback:

They are not going to like it.
They are going to take it personally.
I need them to receive my feedback well.
It’s mean to say that.
I should be gentle with them.
I need them to change.
They can’t handle the truth.
They won’t like me.
They’re not open to it.
They’ll hold it against me.

These are some of the underlying beliefs that can stop me from sharing helpful feedback. If I question some of these beliefs, when dealing with a particular situation, by using the four questions and turnarounds of The Work, I can end up freeing myself on the inside.

Then it doesn’t matter if I use the phrase, “It doesn’t work for me…” or not. I will be maintaining the clarity (not to be in their business) and the kindness (non-judgmental attitude) even if I phrase the feedback in ways that are less politically correct.

That Is True Freedom

Then I can say, “You should…,” or “I want you to…,” or “I don’t like…,” or “Please, do this.” You can use any phrase you like. When you’re clear on the inside that how they take it is their business, and that your intention is not to hurt them, and that you don’t think less of them in any way, then you are free to talk naturally.

The training wheels are no longer necessary.

Have a great week,
Todd

“You’ll discover that asking is much easier when it’s free of hidden agendas. And when he realizes that whatever he answers is fine with you, an amazing intimacy can open for you both.” Byron Katie, I Need Your Love, Is That True?

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Have You Picked a Portal?

tree tunnel

If you want to cross to the other side, you have to pick a portal and walk through.

The Work Is About Transcending

The Work takes me from one world view into another world view. It is a process of moving beyond what I think I know.

But transcending is difficult to do without a portal.

A portal is a doorway to another world. There are many portals. In doing The Work, any stressful situation, with its corresponding stressful thought, is a portal. If used properly, it can open up a completely different experience.

We’re Experimenting with This This Week in The Work 101

The first step in finding a portal is to look for a situation where a stressful emotion came up. This is the indication that a portal is available.

Many times people want to roll all kinds of different stressful situations and thoughts into one conglomerate. This is a common approach when writing a Judge-Your-Neighbor Worksheet. The mind pulls from many different situations and throws everything but the kitchen sink into the worksheet.

The result is a muddled kind of worksheet. It contains a little of this and a little of that.

This Is Not a Portal

A muddled worksheet contains lots of potential portals, but doesn’t make it easy to pass through any of them. If you try to pass through many portals at once, it’s like trying to pass through a sieve, which is effectively a wall.

The way to pass through a sieve is to become very small and to pick just one hole to pass through—that one hole is a portal.

Choosing a Portal Is the Very First Step of Doing The Work

Even before writing a Judge-Your-Neighbor Worksheet or making a list of one-liners to question, the first step is to land on one thing. Otherwise, the mind will get blocked trying to pass through all the portals of the sieve simultaneously.

This means landing on one stressful thought (if there are many) and landing on one exemplary stressful situation if the stressful thought spans a lot of time.

It doesn’t matter if you start with a stressful thought and find the situation, or start with a stressful situation and find the stressful thought. But either way, these are the two components of a portal: a specific moment in time, and a specific stressful thought about what’s happening in that moment.

Two Ways of Landing on a Portal

1. Starting with a stressful situation

In this way of landing, life has brought me a specific stressful situation without me doing anything. These kind of situations show up all the time. I recognize them by the stressful emotions that arise in these moments. That’s when I start paying attention.

I ask myself, “What’s going on here? What is stressing me?” And I start looking for the micro-moment when I felt the stress. Often, it is not just one moment, but rather there are several.

For example, if I see someone I’m trying to avoid, the stressful moment could be when I first see them. Or it could be later when I get trapped by them in conversation. But maybe there are several different moments within that conversation where I felt especially stressed. Each of those moments could be a different portal.

I usually scan all of these potential portals, sometimes I even write them all down. And then I choose just one—usually the one with the strongest charge. Once I’ve landed on one moment (say the moment when they said something especially annoying), then I can move to identifying my main stressful thought about them in that moment.

The thought I identify is going to be directly related to what they were saying in that moment. I’m starting to move into the portal now. Then I continue into the portal by writing my whole Judge-Your-Neighbor Worksheet on this main thing that’s bothering me in that moment.

2. Starting with a stressful thought

I also use this second approach for landing on a portal. In this case, I start with a more general stressful thought about someone or something. I may not have a specific moment in mind yet. Maybe it’s something they do all the time. Or maybe it is a more abstract conclusion arising from observing them over time.

I can question the thought in general, but it is often hard to get very far without finding a portal. In fact, if I do make a breakthrough while working with a general thought, I usually notice that I have unconsciously been touching on specifics while I was working—I’ve been slipping through one or more specific portals.

I can do this unconsciously, but I prefer to do it consciously. And the way I do it is to look at my general stressful thought before I start questioning it and see if I can find a specific instance when it was active. Maybe it’s a general belief about someone—I scan through my mind looking for a specific instance when they did the thing that proves my theory.

When I find an instance, I use the same approach as in method one above to see if I can narrow it down even tighter. Sometimes I can. Sometimes I can’t. But I get as specific as I can. Either way, I end up with a moment to hold me while I work my general theory. I’ve found a portal to slip through.

Have You Picked a Portal?

Or just a peck of pickled peppers (just kidding)?

I invite you to experiment with this approach of landing on just one thing—one thought within just one moment—and allowing The Work to take you through to the other side once you’ve entered the portal.

Have a great week,
Todd

“When we go inside and truly meet those thoughts with understanding, the thoughts change. They’re seen through. And then, if they ever arise again, we just experience clarity—a clarity that includes everyone.” Byron Katie, A Thousand Names for Joy

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Have You Asked Yourself?

grapes

Composing a photograph is a constant process of asking yourself.

I Do This Really Well When I’m Alone

I love to ask myself things and then see what I discover when I do. Photography is a great example of this. Should I move to the left? Yes. No, a little too far. Is there a better angle on this? It is a process of asking myself.

I do the same thing when writing, like I am right now. Should I take this angle? Sure, let’s try it out. Oops, that’s not working. It’s a constant adjustment that happens naturally when I’m in conversation with myself.

But the Problem Comes When I Involve Others

Suddenly the wisdom I have access to gets pushed aside. Instead of asking myself, I ask other people. I try to please them instead. And I wonder why I end up not pleased and often angry.

In the worst version of this, I end up blaming them for their opinion, thinking that they are “forcing” me to do it their way.

The Work Brings Me Back Home

Whenever I notice myself getting stressed out by this kind of thinking, I pull out a Judge-Your-Neighbor Worksheet and start writing. Line 1 is usually something like, “I am angry with them because they are overriding me.” Then I go through the four questions and turnarounds of The Work to see if I can find another version of my story.

I’ve done a lot of worksheets like this over the years, and each time I do, I get clearer and clearer that I am my own responsibility. And that I have full permission from myself to not try and please other people.

This takes presence and courage and practice. But it is a muscle that grows stronger with use. And over time it gives me a sense of confidence that I used to feel only when I was alone.

Here’s a Good Example of it Recently

I bought a new watch band for my watch. It was $65—more than I wanted to pay. But it was a metal band, which I preferred over the leather bands that were priced at $15.

When I got home, I realized that the new metal band was not a perfect fit on my arm. It needed another link removed. But there were no more links that could be removed. So a debate began inside me about whether to return it or keep it.

In the past, I would have asked my partner or others for their opinions. But I decided to ask myself instead. It took a few days of waiting for my reply. But eventually it came. I landed on keeping the metal watch band.

It’s not that I see this band as “perfect.” It’s that I see it as “good enough.” It is my preference given the options—including the option of looking in other stores.

It’s a Feeling of Strength When I Do That

And sometimes I’m able to take it even further.

Sometimes I’m able to actually ask for the opinions of others and not feel obligated to do what they suggest. When I’m clear, even when I hear their suggestion, I can still ask myself for my opinion and wait for my reply.

Sometimes this takes a while. And, if others are involved, I may need to ask for some extra time, but it’s worth it. There is nothing more satisfying than receiving my own reply.

This feels like responsibility, independence, and the end of abusing others by trying to make them responsible for my decisions.

Have a great week,
Todd

“Ask yourself for your own truth. Please treat each question as a deep meditation. Ask the question, then gently wait for the heart’s answer to surface.” Byron Katie, I Need Your Love, Is That True?

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Letting Go of Perfection Once Again

two tracks in a grassy field

Nothing causes me more stress than being presented with two diverging paths.

Two Is My Least Favorite Number

And so is three, four, five, etc. In fact, the only number I’m really comfortable with is one. It’s probably just my brain. I don’t multitask well.

But when I look more deeply at it, the reason why I don’t multitask well is that I am a perfectionist. I want to do a really good job at everything I do. I’d rather not do something than do it poorly.

And underlying my perfectionism is my desire for approval, starting originally with my mom when I was a young boy in school. My mom, rightly, expected me to do well in school. But I—wanting her approval so dearly—made it my mission never to disappoint her.

As a result, I did very well in school, but I planted the seeds of stress for myself. Especially when diverging paths have presented themselves and there is not enough time to go in both directions fully.

One of those Seeds Planted in Youth Sprouted Last Weekend

It was a tough week in my family. First my step-dad died. And then the day of his funeral, on the other side of my family, my step-mom’s mother died. My partner and I have been doing a lot of traveling as a result.

But here’s where the two diverging paths presented themselves for me. The conflict for me was between family and work. On the one side, I wanted to just be with my family during this time of mourning. And on the other side, I had an unusually large workload implementing changes to Inquiry Circle and The Work 101.

Either one, family or work, could have filled my week completely. But when both presented themselves at the same time, I experienced stress. Because I didn’t want to compromise with either.

In the End, I Found Ways to Make it Work

But I see now that I have some ongoing work to do now that the crisis has passed. Here are some ways I can do The Work on this situation.

1. Identify stressful one-liners (individual stressful thoughts to question).

Here are a few that come to mind.

I don’t want to compromise.
I want to spend the week exclusively with my family.
I want to spend the week exclusively with my work.
There’s not enough time to do both.
It’s more work if I delay The Work 101.
I will look bad if I delay The Work 101.
I will look bad if I leave Inquiry Circle in a state of transition.
I will look bad if I don’t show up fully for my family.

These one-liners can be questioned directly, and they also lead to the second way to do The Work on this situation.

2. Write some Judge-Your-Neighbor Worksheets

The last three statements on my list above point towards some possible Judge-Your-Neighbor Worksheets. For example, I could write a worksheet on The Work 101 course participants as a group. My Judge-Your-Neighbor Worksheet line 1 would be, “I feel bound by them because they expect the course to start on time.” And I could go on to fill in the rest of the worksheet based on what I wrote in line 1.

Likewise, I could write a Judge-Your-Neighbor Worksheet on Inquiry Circle participants. In this case, I have one particular person in mind. My line 1 statement is, “I am anxious with him because he expects me to be organized.” And I can go on to fill in the rest of the worksheet from there.

Finally, I can write some worksheets on my family, or family members, in different situations. For example, I can choose the moment when my step-brother said that he had hoped to hang out with me during the week. My line 1 is, “I am sorrowful with him because he hoped to hang out with me.” And I can continue writing the rest of the worksheet on him in that moment.

That’s the Cool Thing About Last Week

There are a lot of good angles for doing The Work that came out of this situation. It reminds me that every stressful situation is really just an opportunity for self-inquiry. Because, if it came up in this situation, you can bet it has come up before, and that it will come up again.

The Work is about getting stronger, and clearer—finding new ways of being in all the different situations that life presents.

I can guarantee that I will be presented with diverging paths many times again in my life. By working my stressful thoughts about this situation, I am laying the groundwork for a less stressful experience the next time it happens.

Have a great weekend,
Todd

“The job you do out there in the apparent world is secondary. It’s only a place for you to judge, inquire, and know yourself. Your true job is to appreciate what is; your primary profession is to be clear.” Byron Katie, Question Your Thinking, Change The World

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cookies

If you’re addicted to sweets, the feeling of wanting them can be intensely stressful.

Pretty Much Everyone Has Addictions

Because everyone has senses. And senses like to be gratified. But senses are just senses. Suffering begins with a conflict between “I want” and “I shouldn’t.”

The mind easily gets confused between resisting and indulging. And it often ends up flipping from one extreme to another with nothing in the middle: binge and purge.

I Was Working with a Client on Addiction the Other Day

For her, the issue is food. But it could just as easily be any addiction: drinking, drugs, work, sex, pornography, smoking, etc.

The situation she chose to work was when she “messed up” for the day, i.e., made her first food mistake of the day. In her case, it was getting something from a vending machine after work. For an alcoholic, it would be taking the first drink.

And her stressful thought was, “I might as well give in.” Which is exactly what she did, binging when she got home.

We Started Questioning that Thought

And as we did, we discovered that the underlying belief was, “I can’t handle feeling it”—the feeling of that pressure to give in. She would do anything to get rid of that feeling.

Of course, one of the ways to do that is to give in and “get it over with.” The other way is to try to be extra restrictive in the future. These two opposite approaches set up the cycle of binging and purging, or binging and restricting, that addicts commonly experience.

Questions 3 and 4 of The Work Were Interesting

Question 3 is “How do you react, what happens, when you believe the thought?” And the thought was, “I can’t handle the feeling.” When that thought is there in the first moment when the craving begins, it quickly escalates to a major internal conflict. The feeling is desperation and powerlessness as the mind views powerful images from the past of trying to resist and failing, or future images of where it will lead. And quickly it moves to the binge.

Question 4 of The Work is “Who would you be without the thought?” Again, the thought was “I can’t handle the feeling.” If that thought is not present, then there are no images coming up from the past or the future. The mind is much more present. And it is not so hopeless because it’s not so sure what’s actually going to happen.

Without the idea of not being able to “handle the feeling,” it becomes less about preventing a binge and more about just noticing the feeling and being open to whatever happens. Maybe it will lead to a binge. And maybe it won’t. It’s almost none of my business.

The experience is more like surrender. There is not so much agitation and desperation in the mind to control everything. And as a result, there is less fighting and more internal balance. And more options open up.

This Is the Opposite of Trying to Control an Addiction

And it doesn’t mean there isn’t great value in getting support when dealing with addictions.

This is simply recognizing the exaggerating tendency of the mind. All that was happening in the moment when my client got the snack out of the vending machine was a desire to eat—something that is a natural part of being human.

But the mind became hooked on the story of the past and became convinced of where it was going to lead. And suddenly it became a life or death situation. And complete powerlessness was the result.

Without the added story, the mind was simply present with the desire, which may fade or build—who knows? But in either case, in a more surrendered and present state of mind, the same feeling was literally much more easy to “handle.”

Have a great weekend,
Todd

“It’s okay if I do smoke, I noticed, and it’s okay if I don’t, and I notice that I haven’t smoked since that one wonderful taxi ride. 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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Matt and me

My step-dad and I a few years ago.

My Step-Dad Died on Saturday

He was not only family, but a dear friend as well. And I will miss him a lot.

We flew across the country to be with him the last day that he lived. He couldn’t speak or open his eyes, and I don’t know how much he could hear or understand. But to simply hold his hand and touch the top of his head or his shoulder was all the communication that was necessary.

Love is love, no matter how it is expressed.

He Had Been in Pain for a While

Emotional pain after he lost my mom and his son in a plane crash in 2010. And physical pain when back surgery did not go well some years back.

And there was just the discomfort of getting old. His eyesight was very poor (legally blind the last few years) and he needed support in many ways as his body was failing.

He didn’t complain much but I know it wasn’t easy for him.

And His Last Day Didn’t Look Easy Either

Who knows what it’s like to be in the state he was in having suffered a stroke a few days earlier. But when he passed, I could see the goodness in it. The peace of it. The end of pain for him.

And I was reminded of a turnaround that Byron Katie found for herself that she sometimes shares. She says something like, “What I love about pain is that it’s always on the way out.”

I Didn’t Used to Get that Turnaround

After all it was her turnaround, not mine. Other people’s turnarounds are not always helpful. But I’ve kept it in the background over the years and I’ve occasionally reconsidered it.

Recently, it’s been landing for me in my own words, “Pain doesn’t go on forever.” It’s the same idea for me as “pain is always on the way out,” but it’s coming from my own experience with my own words now.

Now it is becoming my own turnaround, no longer Byron Katie’s words.

This Turnaround Makes me more Patient with Discomfort

Whether it’s physical pain, emotional pain, or any kind of discomfort, I am seeing more and more that it is temporary. It comes for a while, but it doesn’t stay forever.

Just seeing it that way makes me feel like I can handle pain and discomfort much better.

Have a great week,
Todd

“All suffering is mental. It has nothing to do with the body or with a person’s circumstances. You can be in great pain without any suffering at all. How do you know you’re supposed to be in pain? Because that’s what’s happening. To live without a stressful story, to be a lover of what is, even in pain—that’s heaven. To be in pain and believe that you shouldn’t be in pain—that’s hell.” Byron Katie, A Thousand Names for Joy

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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,
Todd

“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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How to Question General Beliefs

whirlpool galaxy

If you want to learn about all of the stars, pick one to study deeply.

Humans Love to Make Generalizations

This is what we call understanding.

We collect several points of data, and generalize from there to come up with a theory of how things are. Once we have come to our conclusion, we pretty much take it for granted until something seriously challenges that theory.

This is how my beliefs are formed and maintained. And I often become blind to new data because it’s easier to just stick with the theory I have. After all, I already understand.

Theories, or Beliefs, Are Fine until they Stop Working

In my personal life, beliefs stop working when they cause me stress. Stress, or emotional pain, is the sign that my belief is not working for me. I’m missing something, and I need to look again at what I’m believing.

This looking again is done in The Work of Byron Katie by identifying a stressful thought and questioning it. This process of questioning a belief, and finding evidence for the turnarounds (opposites), is the process of deconstructing that belief.

It Is the Same Process of Making a Generalization, But in Reverse

In generalizing, or coming up with a belief, I start with a few specific experiences and construct a theory based on those data points.

In The Work, which is the deconstruction of a belief, I go back to each point of data upholding my general theory and question it. If the original data points are not true, the whole theory falls.

That’s why The Work deals with specifics so much. If you want to question a general theory, question a specific instance of it. Specifics are what hold up general theories.

It Doesn’t Matter How You’re Working It

You could be using the Judge-Your-Neighbor Worksheet or the One-Belief-at-a-Time Worksheet to identify the thoughts you want to question.

The principle is the same: If you try to work it in general, it may be difficult. But if you can find a specific situation as a reference point for your work, chances are you’ll be pulling the rug out from under your general theory with little effort.

So How Do You Do This?

There are two main ways to get specific:

  1. Let life show you.
  2. Look for a specific instance.

In the first approach, life will inevitably bring you a situation that is stressful. You don’t have to plan for it at all. No need to sleuth it out. No need to strategize. Just show up, and let life find the specific situations for you to work. Life is an endless supply of specific situations.

I’ve come to really trust this approach. It keeps me always working within specific situations. And I find that without any planning or extra work my biggest theories come falling down.

The Second Approach Is Different

In this approach, I start with a larger Issue, a theory, and work backwards to find specifics.

Maybe I want to work on money. That’s a broad topic. Maybe I know I have money issues. Maybe I have a general belief that money is bad. I can work the general belief that money is bad, but I often find that doing this is too vague.

I don’t even know what I mean by “money is bad.” It’s too general to get very far with it.

Instead, I look for a specific instance when I had the thought that money is bad. For example, I can remember working for a big hotel one summer as a groundskeeper making $7/hour where guests were paying $500-2000/night to stay there.

And I Can Get More Specific

I can remember my boss telling me that someone sued the hotel because they tripped on a slight bump in the sidewalk. I can still feel my nearly three-decade-old rage against the person who sued rather than take responsibility for looking where they walked.

That’s a great Judge-Your-Neighbor Worksheet for me about “money” in a really specific situation. That incident, that image, has been a reference point for me for all of my life. It upholds my general theory that money is bad. And when I work it, chances are my theory will start to weaken.

That is how I zoom in to study just one reference point. And I can continue finding other specific situations related to money and question the stressful thoughts contained in them as well. If I work more data points like this, the whole story that “money is bad” may have nothing left to hold it up.

That is the value of using specifics to gain leverage in working any general theory.

Have a great weekend,
Todd

“Often beneath the judgments we’ve written lie other thoughts. These may be thoughts that we’ve believed for years and that we use as our fundamental judgments of life. In most cases, we haven’t ever questioned them. I call these thoughts “underlying beliefs.” These beliefs are broader or more general versions of our stories. Some underlying beliefs may expand a judgment of an individual to include an entire group of people. Some are judgments about life that may not sound like judgments at all. But if you notice that you feel stress when you become aware of these beliefs, they may be worth investigating.” Byron Katie, Loving What Is

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Another Ancient Text Describes The Work

temple tree

The mind hasn’t changed much over the millennia.

I Love Reading Ancient Spiritual Texts

Just like I love reading modern spiritual texts. Because the message is pretty much always the same: come back to yourself.

I just love hearing all the thousands of ways it can be said. And all the thousands of ways it can be done.

The Other Night I Read This One

It’s from Vasishtha’s Yoga, an ancient Indian treatise on enlightenment. There are many times when I’m reading a book like this that I’m reminded of The Work of Byron Katie, but this quote was a particularly clear description of The Work for me:

“When the thought, ‘This is pleasure’ is confronted by the thought ‘This is not’, they both perish. I remain in that peace that survives this.”

This Is the Balance that Turnarounds Bring

If I was doing The Work on the thought, “This is pleasure,” the turnaround to the opposite would be, “This is not pleasure.” Neither one is completely true. But each describes one side of it.

If I was believing only one side, the turnaround gives me a chance to find truth in the other side.

Together they balance each other so completely as to cancel each other out. And what remains is peace.

This Is What I Do Every Day When I Do The Work

I start with one thought. And I question it and find turnarounds and examples.

And each time I do, I get another taste of this balance. The idea that I was taking for granted becomes mute. And it ceases to have power over me.

I love the way turnarounds balance out my beliefs, and open up my heart.

Have a great weekend,
Todd

“Inquiry is more than a technique: It brings to life, from deep within us, an innate aspect of our being. When practiced for a while, inquiry takes on its own life within you. It appears whenever thoughts appear, as their balance and mate. This internal partnership leaves you clear and free to live as a kind, fluid, fearless, amused listener, a student of yourself, and a friend who can be trusted not to resent, criticize, or hold a grudge. Eventually, realization is experienced automatically, as a way of life. Peace and joy naturally, inevitably, and irreversibly make their way into every corner of your mind, into every relationship and experience. The process is so subtle that you may not even have any conscious awareness of it. You may only know that you used to hurt and now you don’t.” Byron Katie, Loving What Is

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