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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aspens by the river in autumn

Looking forward to fall.

I’m Happy to Announce Two Pieces of News

The first news is that scholarships are now available for private sessions. Until now, I did not offer scholarships for private sessions.

The logic I have used up until now is that I offer many other inexpensive and free ways to do The Work. So even if someone can’t afford to do a private session with me, they can take advantage of Open Sessions, The Work 101, Inquiry Circle, etc.

But I realize that there is a unique value in private sessions. Some people don’t do well in groups. Some people just prefer one-on-one privacy. Some people prefer a less structured way of working than in a classroom situation. And some people just like the support of working with an experienced facilitator privately.

So Why Exclude Anyone Based on Income?

As of now, I’m opening up this service to everyone. The cost of private sessions will remain at $100/hour. And those who would like to apply for scholarships can contact me personally.

Of course, scheduling will still be a limiting factor, as my calendar is quite full. But now money does not have to be a reason not to work with me. Also, payment plans are available on request.

You can sign up for private sessions here.

The Second Announcement Is The Work 101 Course in September

Earlier this summer, I announced that the next Work 101 course would not be until January. Since then, my schedule has changed and I am now offering the course starting the day after Labor Day, Sep 5.

The course is seven weeks in total, including the orientation week. The inclusive dates are Sep 5 – Oct 20, 2017.

The Work 101 Is Designed to Solidify Your Work

It has two purposes:

  1. To develop all of the skills needed to do The Work with confidence.
  2. To culture a habit of doing The Work on an almost daily basis.

If you are new to The Work, come learn The Work. If you are experienced with The Work, join me in going deeply into it.

The Work 101 is the prerequisite for joining Inquiry Circle, my ongoing practice group for doing The Work. Even if you have done The School for The Work, or are a Certified Facilitator of The Work, this is an opportunity to dive deeply with me into The Work of Byron Katie.

And it’s an opportunity to start a steady, ongoing practice of The Work.

Learn more about The Work 101 here. It is an online course that works in any time zone. I hope to see you in September.

Have a great week,
Todd

“Money is not my business; my thinking is my business. I don’t have any other business.” Byron Katie, Question Your Thinking, Change The World

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snow scene

If I’m turning around “It is cold” to “It is not cold,” I can find examples outside of the situation (it’s not cold in the tropics right now), or I can find examples within the situation (it’s not cold inside my jacket). Examples from within the situation tend to be more powerful for me.

Finding Turnaround Examples Is an Art

When you look for turnaround examples, you’re looking for evidence to support the turnaround. Without evidence, the turnaround is just words. It has no weight. Examples are what ground a turnaround to earth.

But Not All Turnaround Examples Are Created Equal

First of all, a turnaround example has to be genuine for the person doing The Work (me). I can’t fake turnaround examples because I can never fully buy my own fake. This includes using spiritual ideas, or even Byron Katie’s examples, if they are not fully rooted in my own experience.

Secondly, turnaround examples have to be on point. If the turnaround examples wander into a completely different topic, they may not have much power as examples for this turnaround.

Finally, turnaround examples tend to be most powerful for me when they are found within the original stressful situation.

Here’s An Example

This is from a participant in The Work 101. With his permission, I share it with you. It is a really clear example of the difference between looking for examples outside of the situation and looking for examples within the situation.

His situation: his son texted saying that he had lost the family’s PS4 (PlayStation 4) in a “deal.” He wanted him to call the other person’s father to get it back.

He wrote a whole worksheet on this situation. Here, we just zoom in on one statement from Line 5: “He is self-centered.”

Here Is the Turnaround to the Opposite

“He is self-centered” becomes “He is not self-centered.” And here are the examples he found for this turnaround:

  1. He is very sensitive to what is going on around him and to any sense of conflict between others or himself and others.
  2. He tries to be fair.
  3. He likes to help other people out.

These are all genuine examples of the turnaround, “He is not self-centered,” and they help provide some balance. But all of these examples are from outside of the situation, and are somewhat general.

Here’s what he came up with when he looked for examples within the situation:

  1. He was and is very concerned about getting the PS4 back and the negative impact not having it has on us (actually more concerned than we are about this).
  2. He appears to have tried hard to get it returned.
  3. He was and is sorry about the impact on us.

These examples are much more specific and are more connected to this particular situation. Notice how these examples really paint a clear picture of how he is not self-centered even in that situation.

In fact, you could even get closer to the situation. For example, how is he not self-centered in the moment when he sent the text? (He was selflessly exposing his mistake.) Or how was he not self-centered in the moment when he took the PS4? (Maybe he thought he wouldn’t lose it.)

Just looking looking for examples within the situation can be a powerful exercise.

Here’s the Turnaround to the Self

The original statement, “He is self-centered” becomes “I am self-centered” when turned around to the self. Here are the examples he found:

  1. I often “cannot see the forest for the trees” as I am caught up in my story (perceptions, feelings, problems, etc.).
  2. When stressed or being criticized I often feel like everyone is against me.
  3. I am often very preoccupied and missing out on what is going on with other people.

These are all genuine examples of the turnaround, “I am self-centered,” and they provide balance too. But again, all of these examples are from outside of the situation, and are somewhat general.

Here’s what he came up with when he looked for examples within the situation:

  1. I was very concerned about having to deal with this issue and quite put off by having to do so.
  2. I was not sensitive to his distress.
  3. I tried to ignore and not deal with the situation any more than I had to.

These examples are much more specific and are grounded in the original situation. Because of this, they tend to balance the perspective even more powerfully than the first three examples.

Try It Out Yourself

Try looking for examples outside of the situation and within the situation as you do your work. Which ones land most powerfully for you?

I usually start by looking for examples within the situation. If I can’t find any examples within the situation, I move out from the situation and look there. Sometimes, I find some very powerful examples outside of the situation. So it can be worth exploring both.

Have a great weekend,
Todd

“Be willing to go inside with each turnaround you discover, and experience where or how it’s as true as or truer than the original statement. How does it apply to you in your life? Own it. If that seems difficult for you, add the word “sometimes” to the turnaround. Can you own that it’s true sometimes, even if only in the moment that you are thinking that it’s true about the other?” Byron Katie, Loving What Is

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There’s a Want Behind Every Stress

strawberries

If I want a strawberry but can’t have it, I feel stress.

Here’s a Simple Way to Do The Work

Find a stressful situation and ask yourself, “What am I wanting?” Then write down your wants and question them using the four questions and turnarounds of The Work.

If I feel stress, I’m wanting something to be different than the way it is. All I have to do is identify that want and question it in order to I come back to peace.

It Really Is that Simple

Even if I fill in a full Judge-Your-Neighbor Worksheet, it’s just a more detailed version of writing down my wants.

For example, Line 2: “I want them to _____.” Line 3: “They should/n’t _____.” Line 4: “I need them to ______.”

“I need” and “They should” are basically variations on “I want.”

So Look for the Want (or Need)

Sometimes my wants are about someone else. That’s when I use a Judge-Your-Neighbor Worksheet to write them down.

And sometimes my wants don’t involve a person at all, or don’t fit the worksheet. That’s when I write my wants as one-liners or underlying beliefs.

One way or the other, I write my wants down and question them.

Test It Out and Let Me Know what you Find

A life without wants is a peaceful life.

Have a great week,
Todd

“Without a motive, the pain disappears.” Byron Katie. Question Your Thinking, Change The World.

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How to Do The Work on Busy Life Stress

leaves

If I want to look at every leaf, I can end up overwhelming myself.

Life Is Full of Great Things

There’s no end of things to learn, things to experience, places to visit, people to know. Just being curious and open to life exposes me to an infinite number of different directions I can take. And many times I want to take them all.

That’s when it becomes stressful. I want to take each direction to its endpoint, and there are just too many directions. So I freeze, unable to start in even one direction. Or I feel frustrated as I try to do the impossible and split my time into smaller and smaller pieces in order to do it all.

How Can I Use The Work to Regain Balance?

The first place to start is to notice my emotion. That’s always the starting point for The Work. For me, the feeling is frustration that I don’t have enough time to do it all. And more importantly to me, not enough time to do it all well.

So that’s the general emotion. Frustration. How do I get from the emotion to some statements I can question using The Work?

The first step for me is to narrow it down to a specific situation. If I can land somewhere concrete, it can really help me do The Work.

Here Are Some Concrete Examples

As I look over my experience recently, I can find several moments when I felt a little frustrated over not having enough time to do it all: wanting to learn several different languages; wanting more time for yoga, meditation, reading, and sleep; and at work wanting to have more time for administration, web development, writing, private sessions, course development, etc.

These are still pretty broad results from my initial brainstorming. Let me pick just one of these areas to zoom into: the learning languages example will do. It’s not a huge deal for me, but it is stressful. And it can be a great platform for exploring this issue for me.

The Next Stage Is Narrowing It Down

I started learning Norwegian last December and kept with it for 20-30 min/day through May. I was starting to gain some momentum. But I also wanted to learn French. So I stopped studying Norwegian and started with French for the past two months.

How do I find one specific moment as a landing place for doing The Work? I often use these questions to help me narrow it down:

  • When did I most recently get stressed by this? (When I saw a Norwegian friend last week with whom I had talked about practicing Norwegian.)
  • When was the first time it came up? (Last December when I changed my original plan of studying French and went to Norwegian instead.)
  • Was there a particularly strong moment that stands out? (The moment I stopped studying Norwegian in May. Also, the moment I originally changed my mind from studying French to Norwegian back in December—I remember “giving my word” that I would study French during the Sahara trip last October.)

Now, It’s Getting Pretty Granular

And interestingly, some relationship issues are coming into focus in addition to my general beliefs that there is not enough time.

I could question, “I don’t have enough time to study both languages, is it true?” Or, “I want to study both languages, is it true?” But I could also zoom in further into one of these stressful moments.

Zooming in makes it even more specific. For example, let me look at the moment last week when I saw the friend with whom I had talked about practicing Norwegian. That is a Judge-Your-Neighbor Worksheet:

  1. I feel ashamed with her because she is disappointed with me.
  2. I want her to be understanding of me.
    I want her to like me.
  3. She should see that there is not enough time to do everything.
    She should remind me that’s not all or nothing.
    She should say, “Let’s meet anyway.”
  4. I need her to not hold me to what I said (that I’d practice with her).
    I need her to say, “This doesn’t have to be an ongoing thing.”
    I need her to say, “I understand when priorities change.”
    I need her to say, “Let’s do it when you study Norwegian again.”
  5. She is judging me, disappointed, feeling let down.
  6. I don’t ever want to not be able to keep a promise again.

As you can see, a big part of this issue is about me keeping my word and not wanting to disappoint anyone. That’s what charges it for me.

I actually gave my word to two different people: to one that I would study French, and to the other that I would study Norwegian. No wonder it’s stressful. It’s not just the lack of time, it’s the possibility of disappointing others that is fueling my stress.

That’s why I like the Judge-Your-Neighbor Worksheet so much. It often comes down to relationship stuff. When I deal with that, the more global issue of not having enough time to do it all, tends to weaken and fade.

And, of course, I can still work my more general stressful thoughts about time. But when I deal with specific situations and the relationships within them, I often get to see things that I would miss if I only worked the one-liners that first came to mind.

Have a great weekend,
Todd

“I strongly suggest that if you are new to inquiry, you not write about yourself at first. If you start by judging yourself, your answers come with a motive and with solutions that haven’t worked. Judging someone else, then inquiring and turning it around, is the direct path to understanding. You can judge yourself later, when you have been doing inquiry long enough to trust the power of truth.” Byron Katie, Loving What Is

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