Japanese maple

As a photographer, if I thought, “Yeah, yeah, red leaves. I’ve seen this before,” I’d never experience the beauty nor take the photograph.

The Mind Is Expert at Getting Out of Work

And one of its favorite excuses is “I’ve seen this before.”

This is a clever way of discrediting any insights that may be coming up when doing The Work. Another phrase for the same excuse is, “Boring!” or “This is repetitive.”

But these are nothing but lame excuses.

The Work Is Not About Being Ingeniously Creative

When doing The Work, you don’t have to come up with clever new ways of spinning things. You don’t have to come up with examples that are brand new—never been seen before—to do powerful work.

Just like you don’t have to come up with brand new rattlesnake antivenom every time you get bitten by a rattlesnake. You just use the same boring old rattlesnake antivenom and it does its job.

Turnarounds Are like Antivenom

It’s not my creative prowess that makes them work. Its the simple fact that they are the precise medicine needed to balance my original statement. All I need to do to make it work is let the antivenom come in contact with the venom.

As the original stressful thought and the turnaround soak into each other they cancel each other out, just like venom and antivenom.

Good Things Happen When You Let Things Soak In

When you give a turnaround time, you may find old examples for the turnaround coming up. Stuff you’ve seen before. You may find new examples too. But before you discredit the old ones, let them soak in.

Just because you’ve seen a turnaround example before, doesn’t mean that the stuck part inside of you has seen it—especially in this new situation. In fact, that stuck part must not have seen it yet, otherwise it wouldn’t be so stuck.

And my having seen it before in other situations is totally irrelevant. It’s like saying to a dying snake bite victim, “Antivenom you say? Oh yeah, good idea, but I’ve used that before. I guess there’s not much we’re going to be able to do for you.”

I Invite You to Be a Boring Doctor

Willing to use the same medicine again and again for as long as it is needed.

Or if you want to be more romantic, be an artist or a poet when you do your work. Keep painting the same old flowers but find new beauty in them each time you paint them.

Didn’t Monet paint the same old haystacks hundreds of times? I wouldn’t call any of his works boring. In fact, what makes them amazing is the depth that he was able to access by doing the same thing over and over again.

I’ve been doing The Work work over 10 years, and there still are surprises, but there are also lots of things I’ve seen before. Only now I see them even more clearly and more deeply, and they are becoming second nature to me.

But I still let them soak in when my turnarounds call for them. That’s how I keep deepening the balance that is growing in me.

To me, that is exciting. Not boring.

Have a great weekend,
Todd

“The four questions and turnaround of The Work will take you as deep as you want to go.” Byron Katie, A Thousand Names for Joy

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The World of One-Liners

grapes

Stressful thoughts come in bunches, just like grapes.

One Thought Is Enough to Get Started

When I first started doing The Work in 2007, I didn’t use the Judge-Your-Neighbor Worksheet. For three years, all I did was pick one thought to work each time I sat to do The Work. I simply scanned my experience and identified a thought that was bothering me.

This is called working a “one-liner”—a single thought to question.

In 2010, when I was at Turnaround House, I discovered the power of the Judge-Your-Neighbor Worksheet. Instead of identifying one thought to question, I could identify many related thoughts on one worksheet.

I learned how to go deeply into one stressful moment and identify each part of my stressful story to write on each line of the Judge-Your-Neighbor Worksheet. This really deepened my work.

Today I mainly use the Judge-Your-Neighbor Worksheet. I find it to be a very powerful way of identifying my stressful thoughts to work.

But I Do Not Exclusively Use the Judge-Your-Neighbor Worksheet

I find that some thoughts do not fit into a Judge-Your-Neighbor Worksheet. And for those, I still use the one-liner approach.

For example, sometimes I simply need to question a motive that is causing me stress. I used this a couple of years ago when I questioned the thought, “I want to make a living as a facilitator.” This thought was not about a neighbor, so the Judge-Your-Neighbor Worksheet wasn’t appropriate. So I questioned it as a simple one-liner.

However, there were related worksheets that I wrote. For example, I wrote a worksheet on Katie in a specific situation when she invited me to “not make a living as a facilitator.” My worksheet on her covered things that my one-liner did not. Also, I wrote a Judge-Your-Neighbor Worksheet on my mom who wanted me to be “successful.”

So I Find That’s It’s a Little of Both

Sometimes I write Judge-Your-Neighbor Worksheets and find additional one-liners to question. Other times I start by questioning one-liners and find Judge-Your-Neighbor Worksheets that I can write.

With both approaches, I can cover any topic.

And I Also Write Clusters of One-Liners

Most commonly, these come out as lists of one-liners. I might write a list of my fears for doing something. Or a list of reasons why I can’t do something. Or a list of complaints about a situation that I’m in.

And when I want to go even deeper, I use the following prompts to find even more one-liners to add to my list.

1. And it means that…
2. What are all the reasons why I think it’s true? (list of proof)
3. What am I wanting here?

For example, if I wrote a one-liner, “I’m not a good facilitator,” I can question this one-liner directly. But I can also use the prompts above to come up with additional stressful thoughts to question.

I can use the prompt, “And it means that…”

I’m not a good facilitator and it means that:

I won’t have many clients.
People will talk about me.
I have to hide my head in shame.

Or I can use the prompt, “What are all the reasons why I think it’s true? (list of proof):

I’m not a good facilitator because:

I don’t interrupt people quickly enough when they step out of The Work.
Not everyone I work with is satisfied.
I don’t always follow the script.

Or I can use the prompt, “What am I wanting here?”

I want to be a good facilitator.
I want others to praise me.
I want Katie to approve of me.
I want to help people.

As You Can See, I’ve Gathered a Cluster of One-Liners

So even when I’m not using the Judge-Your-Neighbor Worksheet, I can find a group of related stressful thoughts to question. When I question all of them, I am giving thorough treatment to all of the different facets of my story.

You can find more prompts and ways of finding additional related one-liners in chapter 5 of Loving What Is.

Have a great week,
Todd

“A powerful way of prompting yourself is to add “and it means that _____” to your original statement. Your suffering may be caused by a thought that interprets what happened, rather than the thought you wrote down. This additional phrase prompts you to reveal your interpretation of the fact.” Byron Katie, Loving What Is

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Fixing Myself vs. Self-Inquiry

light on ripples

My inner world is a mix of light and dark, clarity and confusion.

The Part of Me That Is Clear Wants to Fix the Part of Me That Is Confused

In this paradigm, things are broken or fixed, black or white, capable or not. This is the world of the strong helping the weak, and the weak depending on the strong. It is the paradigm of codependence.

And I’m not talking about external codependence. I’m talking about the strong, clear parts of me trying to fix the weak, confused parts of me. It’s total codependence on the inside. And of course, this carries over onto codependence on external teachers, friends, and professionals as well.

But That Is Not the Paradigm of Self-Inquiry

Self-inquiry does not care about fixing. “Fixing” assumes that the parts that need fixing are not strong enough to take care of themselves. Fixing assumes that some kind of intervention is needed because the weak parts need help—they can’t do it on their own.

Self-inquiry is just the opposite.

Self-inquiry assumes that each part of me is wise, even the stuck parts, even the confused parts. Self-inquiry does not impose any kind of intervention on the weak parts of me; it invites the confused parts to speak, with no motive to change them.

Self-inquiry assumes that there is some intelligence behind the stuckness. And it wants to hear it. And it also assumes that the solution to any problem lies within the problem itself. So it invites the stuck part to first of all be heard, and secondly to unravel the problem itself.

This Is the End of Codependence

Through The Work of Byron Katie, which is a form of self-inquiry, my weak parts are literally being given the space and the tools to become strong. That’s why it feels so empowering.

It is not fixing, or snipping, or deleting, or suppressing. The Work says, “Hey, I hear you shouting down there. Sounds like you’re in pain. What’s going on?”

It is listening. That is a huge part of it right there. But it’s more than listening, it is handing down the tools to the stuck part so that it can unstick itself, and allowing as much time as it needs in order to do so, even if it never gets there.

But if You’re a Fixer, You Can Miss Self-Inquiry

Being a fixer means trying to be in control, trying to dominate, or use some kind of force to override the problem. This gives a superficial solution at best. And results are temporary. It also leads to self-attack when the stuck parts don’t cooperate.

It’s easy to end up “trying to fix” just out of sheer force of habit—even when doing The Work. But it’s easy to spot. First, you’ll notice a resistance. Then a resentment if you are trying to force wisdom on yourself. This is not self-inquiry. This is pure “fixing” in the guise of doing The Work. If there’s even the slightest desire to fix myself while doing The Work, it hampers the process.

The reason for this is that the stuck part that is crying inside senses the bully “wise” part that wants to fix it. And it closes down even further. Whereas, if there is no desire to fix the stuck part when doing The Work, the stuck part feels safe to stand up and tell it’s story, and even to explore how the very opposite of what it thinks could be as true.

So Treat Your Stuck Parts Like Grownups

Stuck parts have feelings. Stuck parts have wisdom. If you’re really open to self-inquiry, with no motive to fix or delete, and no sense of superiority looking down on those stuck parts, those confused parts could become your greatest teachers. And they can literally blossom in the light of self-inquiry.

That is what The Work is all about: giving the stuck parts their day. The weak become strong. And as they say, the stone that was discarded could become the cornerstone.

To me, this is what self-respect looks like. That’s why I love self-inquiry.

Have a great weekend,
Todd

“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

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Turning Around Today’s Newsletter

tugboat

A tug boat helps turn this ship around.

Today Let’s Turn Things Around

Instead of sharing with you my insights about The Work and life in general today, I invite you to share your recent insights with me.

Have a great week,
Todd

“I am always the student. I love to be in that position, bowing, listening, at the feet of all that I see. This doesn’t require an open mind: it is the open mind. It never has to take responsibility for knowing or for not knowing. It receives everything without defense, without judgment, since judgment would cost it everything it is. The moment you think you’re someone or think you have something to teach, the inner world freezes and becomes the realm of illusion. That’s what it costs when you identify yourself as the person who knows. It’s a concoction of mind. You shrink down into the teacher: limited, separate, stuck.” Byron Katie, A Mind at Home with Itself

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Practicing Public Imperfection

junk pile

Everyone’s got a junk pile. Some of us are just better at hiding it than others.

Hiding Is Where the Problem Begins

In my attempt to be something other than what I really am, I have to manipulate. I have to hide some things, and promote other things. I can’t just be.

The appeal of manipulation is to hypnotize others into believing I’m something other than what I am—in the hopes that, when they believe it, maybe I’ll believe it too. It’s a complicated way of trying to fool myself into believing that I’m something other than what I am.

Luckily self-inquiry cuts through all this pretending like a knife.

Last Week I Was Inspired to Make Some Changes

In fact, I had been wanting to make these changes to Inquiry Circle for a long time. But my other routine work kept my days filled and I never had a chance to get it done.

I also knew that once I got into the job, it was going to take longer than I thought. That’s why I kept putting it off. But last week I took the plunge. The result was that other things had to get pushed aside.

A year ago, I would have stressed out about all the other responsibilities I was dropping, but this time I was consciously practicing public imperfection.

In Early September I Did a Worksheet on Something Similar

At that time, I had two deaths in my family and was stressing over not having time to do my work responsibilities AND travel AND be with my family. I wrote my worksheet on the new participants of The Work 101 (the course was starting at that time and I hadn’t set everything up).

I believed that they were dependent on me. I believed that they needed me to start on time and would be disappointed if I didn’t. I believed that they would even lose interest if I started a week late. I even quoted the old saying to myself, “You only have one chance to make a first impression.” And I stressed myself out trying to be perfect for them.

When I worked the worksheet, I discovered that no one is dependent on me. In fact, I was dependent on them, mainly for their approval. My game was to make them believe that they were my one and only—that they were my top priority, even when they weren’t. In fact, I’ve used that as a lifelong strategy to get people to like me.

After doing The Work, I could see how understanding they would have been if I had delayed the course by a week. And I saw that the best “first impression” might actually be to let them know they weren’t my “one and only”—my top priority—and to allow myself to be less than perfect in their eyes. To show up real instead of perfect makes sense to me now.

So This Became my Living Turnaround

Last week, when my priorities shifted, I allowed them to shift. And I allowed myself to not do everything perfectly for a week. I didn’t write my newsletter. I got behind in The Work 101. I didn’t check my email for several days. I let everything slide except what was my true priority last week: to renovate Inquiry Circle.

And strangely, I didn’t feel much stress. It felt like I was being irresponsible, but in a really good kind of way. I was being true to myself, and not pretending to have it all together with everything else. I was not manipulating anyone by trying to be “perfect” to get their approval.

There was a lot of freedom in letting things slide. Instead of trying to manipulate you into thinking I’m perfectly organized and always get my newsletter out on time, I loved letting you down. It felt like the end of trying to be that person that I’m not.

And same with email, and same with The Work 101. It was actually fun to be honestly saying no to the things that “make me look good” and yes to what I really wanted to do. Pure selfishness for all to see. Pure disregard for others. And it was a real turnaround for me.

My Living Turnaround Was Literally to “Show up Late”

And so I did.

And now I don’t have to pretend to be the one who always shows up on time—another false identity blown away by inquiry and by living the turnarounds that I found in inquiry.

That’s why I love The Work.

And now my priorities have shifted back to writing my newsletter. But the difference is I know I don’t have to do it. I’m free. I do it when I can, and I love to do it, but I don’t sweat it when I can’t, or when I don’t want to do it.

That is the end of manipulation. The end of dependence. And the beginning of just being me.

Have a great weekend,
Todd

“When you say or do anything to please, get, keep, influence, or control anyone or anything, fear is the cause and pain is the result. Manipulation is separation, and separation is painful. Another person can love you totally in that moment, and you’d have no way of realizing it. If you act from fear, there’s no way you can receive love, because you’re trapped in a thought about what you have to do for love. Every stressful thought separates you from people. But once you question your thoughts, you discover that you don’t have to do anything for love. It was all an innocent misunderstanding. When you want to impress people and win their approval, you’re like a child who says, “Look at me! Look at me!” It all comes down to a needy child. When you can love that child and embrace it yourself, the seeking is over.” Byron Katie, I Need Your Love, Is That True?

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fence in a snowy woods

“Good fences make good neighbors,” says the famous poem by Robert Frost.

Staying on my Side of the Fence is Good

Byron Katie often invites us to ask ourselves, “Whose business are you in?” Just noticing that I’m in someone else’s business can be very helpful in bringing me back to my own business.

But it’s easy to take this principle of not being in the other person’s business too far. Especially when doing The Work.

The Work Is a Way to Come Back Home

By definition, when I’m doing The Work, I’m moving from being in someone else’s business, which is stressful, to being in my own business, which is peaceful. That’s what the whole process of doing The Work is about.

But sometimes, you have to go back into the person’s business while doing The Work in order to get out of their business and into your own.

Here’s an analogy.

Let’s Say I Hopped the Fence in the Photo Above

And let’s say that not only did I trespass but while I was there I actually built a little fort on the other person’s land.

In order to come fully back to my business, it’s not enough for me to just come back to my side of the fence. To really be free, I need to go back across the fence to his side and take down my fort.

I literally have to trespass again in order to completely remove the effect of my previous trespassing.

The Same Is True When Doing The Work

Let’s say I am judging someone for judging me.

The stressful thought that I’m working is, “He thinks that I’m a failure.” When I think that thought, I am literally trespassing over into his business. By doing The Work on this thought, my intention is to come back to my own business.

The turnarounds point me back:

Turnaround to the self: I think that I’m a failure.
Turnaround to the other: I think that he’s a failure.
Turnaround to the opposite: He doesn’t think that I’m a failure.

All of these turnarounds are an invitation for me to come back to my business. But I might end up resisting the turnaround, “He doesn’t think that I’m a failure.” I might say, “I can’t know that—that’s his business!” I discredit the turnaround before even considering it.

In Doing So, I Would Miss a Piece of Freedom

The problem is that I left my “fort” still intact on the other side of the fence. What was the “fort” that I left on his side? The “fort” is my belief that he thinks I’m a failure. I constructed that “fort” when I was over in his business in the first place, before I ever did The Work.

If I don’t cross back over into his business to dismantle that “fort,” it will keep on standing for a very long time. And a piece of me will always remain in the trespassing position.

Dismantling the “fort” means going back into his business and coming up with alternative ideas of how he may actually have not been thinking that I was a failure. I may not have any concrete evidence of this, but even circumstantial evidence—even just possibilities—are enough to help me start dismantling my idea that “he thinks that I am a failure.”

I may be simply left with “I don’t know.” But that is enough. The fort has been dismantled.

My Turnaround Examples Neutralize my Original Stressful Belief

I was in his business when I originally thought, “He thinks that I am a failure.” And I am in his business when I find examples for the turnaround, “He doesn’t think that I am a failure.” In both cases, I’ve crossed the fence.

But now the two equally possible ideas neutralize each other, and I’m free to return with an open heart to my side of the fence.

The second crossing was necessary in order for me to dismantle what I had previously constructed. Sometimes it literally takes a thorn to remove a thorn.

Have a great week,
Todd

“My love is my business; your love is yours. You tell the story that I’m this, or I’m that, and you fall in love with your story. What do I have to do with it? I’m here for your projection. I don’t have a choice in that. I am your story, no more and no less. You’ve never met me. No one has ever met anyone.” Byron Katie, A Mind at Home with Itself

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What if Life Were Just a Hobby?

model airplane

This man is getting his model airplane ready to fly.

Hobbies Are Not Serious

That’s what makes them fun!

Even when you take your hobby seriously, as I’m sure these model airplane hobbyists do, there is always a certain lightness to the way you hold a hobby. After all, it’s just for fun.

Compare this to the way many of us take life—like it’s life or death! We see it as very serious. Survival is at risk. It’s not play.

But Why Does Life Have to Be So Serious?

It doesn’t.

It all depends on how identified you become with it. Even a hobby can be serious—in some cases stressful—if there is no separation between me and it.

In fact, it is that little bit of separation that makes anything fun. It allows me to take risks, to not worry about doing it wrong, to experiment. When I’m not 100% identified with something, there is a safety factor built in. And when I feel safe, I can play.

The Work Helps Me Step Back a Little

When things start getting serious, for example when I start getting angry, or sad, or stressed, then I bring out The Work.

The Work is my way of helping me look at the big picture again. Whatever seems serious, I ask “Is it true?” and I start to gain a little bit of separation, a little bit of perspective. And that’s what makes me relax again.

I love question 4 of The Work, “Who would you be without the thought?” for the same reason. It gives me perspective. It pulls me out of my deep identification. Suddenly, it’s not serious. My ups and downs are just a part of the exciting drama of life unfolding. When I’m not identified with what is happening, I feel safe, and can let things go the way they go.

There Is a Time for Improving and a Time for Letting Go

Most of life is spent improving things, growing, evolving, perfecting, striving to accomplish. That really is a huge part of life. It is even a part of any hobby. There’s nothing wrong with it at all.

But there’s an equally important part of life, the part of letting go. This balances the perfecting side of life. And it allows me to take it easy when my efforts fail. It keeps me safe.

When a model airplane crashes, it is a disappointment, but it is not crushing because the perspective is that it is just a hobby. This built-in perspective makes it easy to let go.

What if You Thought of Life as Just a Hobby?

It could be very interesting to strive for perfection even while free of any need to achieve it. That’s the feeling of a hobby—doing it just for fun.

The Work opens this perspective by questioning any part of life that still feels serious. The more I do it, the less attached I am. And the less attached I am, the more chances I take. And the more chances I take the more fun I have.

Here’s to healthy separation as a balance to full engagement!

Have a great weekend,
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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