Robot Demonstrates “Who I would be without my Story”

robot

Robots are a little scary, but they are also a great reference for “no story.” Watch the last 90 seconds of this video to see how a robot reacts when someone pushes it around.

I’m Not Suggesting You Become a Complete Robot

But it’s fascinating to consider.

In the video, the robot handler takes away the box that the robot is picking up. He also pushes the robot back, and even knocks it face down onto the floor.

Of course, he was trying to show off the ability of the robot to deal with adversity: “See how it re-balances? See how it adjusts? See how it picks itself up?”

If the Handler Had Done that to Me, He Would Have Had a Fight

I would have been angry the moment he moved the box away that I was trying to pick up. I would have felt insulted when he poked me in the chest with the hockey stick. I would have been furious when he knocked me on my face.

In other words, the difference between the robot and me is that I take it personally. Then I react in all the common ways of either attacking him, blaming myself, running away, etc.

But the robot has nothing to protect. There is no sense of “I” in the robot, so it is not insulted. It does not defend itself. It does not take it personally.

It does not do anything other than try to get back on its feet. That’s who I would be too without my story.

Have a great weekend,
Todd

“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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Why Bother about Differences between Wants, Shoulds, and Needs?

wine grapes

What’s the difference between a pinot grigio and a pinot noir? They’re both wine, right?

Be a Connoisseur of Stressful Thoughts

A connoisseur is one who enjoys something with discrimination and appreciation of the subtleties. You can be a connoisseur of anything: wine, art, jewelry, detective novels, tea, cinema, ice cream, honey, etc.

Why not be a connoisseur of stressful thoughts?

This may sound strange at first. But if you’re familiar with The Work of Byron Katie, you know that stressful thoughts are the entry points into freedom and peace.

A Stressful Thought Is a Doorway

When you identify a stressful thought and question it using the four questions and turnarounds of The Work, you open the door. And inside is often an amazing world that is both stranger than fiction and yet truer than truth.

Through the doorway of stressful thoughts, the mind can find what it’s really looking for: itself.

So Why Not Become a Connoisseur of these Doorways?

Of course, this is an art. Just as being a connoisseur of coffees is an art. The connoisseur never thinks, “All coffees are the same.” A connoisseur is fascinated with the subtle distinctions between one brew and another.

Each coffee offers something different to the connoisseur of coffee. And each stressful thought offers something different to the connoisseur of The Work.

Here Are Some Subtle Flavors to Look For

When writing a Judge-Your-Neighbor Worksheet, there is a separate line for writing your “wants” and your “shoulds” and your “needs” in the same situation. At first, this may seem repetitive. But to the connoisseur, this the place to pause and savor the different aromas.

Wants – Line 2 of the Judge-Your-Neighbor Worksheet is where you list your wants. These stressful thoughts have the flavor of being driven by pure emotion. They have a strong body with a sharp nose.

Shoulds – Line 3 is a place to write advice for the person who offended you. This a very subtle flavor, easy to miss. These rarefied stressful thoughts are collected from a dew-kissed image of the offender seen nowhere else in the world but the mind of the victim. These projections of mixed understanding, when harvested with care, can provide deep insight and direction when turned around.

Needs – Line 4 is about looking for what you need to be happy again. These nectarine stressful thoughts hold the key to forgiveness and to unlocking the heart again. The mind believes that the other person holds the key. When you write these thoughts and question them, the spell is broken and the way to happiness opens.

Sure You Can Write the Same Thing on Each Line

Just as you can eat ice cream without noticing anything other than it is cold and sweet.

But if you have a connoisseur’s mind, you may enjoy reveling in the subtle distinctions between the wants, shoulds, and needs. I find that when I do pay attention these subtleties, my work is more satisfying to me, and I’m less likely to have to redo the work I’ve done before.

If you want to become a connoisseur of The Work, you are cordially invited to join us for a six-week online “stress-tasting” course called The Work 101.

Have a great weekend,
Todd

“If you catch yourself thinking, ‘I want_____,’ write it down… Otherwise… prompt yourself by focusing on exactly how you would improve the situation or person. What would make it perfect for you? Write in the form “I want_____.” Play God and create your perfection…

“Thoughts in the form of “So-and-so should or shouldn’t” [are next]. If you are unaware of any “shoulds,” think about what would restore to the situation your sense of justice and order. Write down all the “shoulds” that would make it “right.”

“‘I need’ [is] where you can bring the situation back in line with your sense of comfort and security. Write down your requirements for a happy life. Write down the adjustments that would make things be the way they are supposed to be…” Byron Katie, Loving What Is

Taming the All or Nothing Mind

horse

Even a wild horse can be tamed.

I am an All or Nothing Person

When I do something, I give it my all. If I can’t give it my all, I tend to stop it completely. This is all or nothing thinking. And it sometimes makes my life more stressful than it has to be.

For example, when we were moving and selling the stuff in our house in Jan, Feb, Mar, I was in “all” mode. I worked non-stop from the moment I woke up until the moment I went to bed. And I exhausted myself. I pushed harder than I really needed to push.

And when it was done, I crashed. I didn’t want to ever do anything again. I’m still coming out of that. It was a burn-out. When I’m in this mode, I resist finding the happy medium. Either I’m working without respite, or I’m never working again.

The Problem Is that Neither Is Satisfactory

I’ve been doing this my whole life.

Either I want to be “super successful” or I want to live in a cave. Either I want to have a perfect relationship, or I don’t want any relationships. Either I am enlightened, or I am 100% cynical. Either I fully identify with a group, or I want nothing to do with it.

There’s no in-between. No balance.

The Work Helps Me Find Balance

All or nothing thinking is often stressful for me. And I end up doing The Work on it from time to time. What I find is two opposing desires in all or nothing thinking:

I want to be successful.
I want to be rested.

I want to belong.
I want to be independent.

I want to be liked.
I want to be honest.

These Opposites Are at War in Me

So I sometimes question both sides. I question, “I want to be successful, is it true?” and I see if I can find a balance to that desire. And I question, “I want to be rested, is it true?” and I see if I can find a balance to that desire.

Each desire, one by one, can be questioned and balanced—just to take the urgency and the charge off of it. I may still pursue my desires, but after doing The Work on them, I often find that they become more gentle desires instead of burning desires.

And I often find, with a looser hold on my opposing desires, that there is often a way to fulfill both sides. That’s when the happy medium starts to open for me. I find ways to be successful enough and restful enough, belonging enough and independent enough, liked enough and honest enough.

Enough, for me is that balance point. It is a letting go of “getting all the way there.” It is the opposite of passion. Yet it is not dispassion either. It is somewhere in the middle.

Have a great week,
Todd

“Each thought had a question as its mate. This brought things back to their natural balance. Within that balance I was free.” Byron Katie, A Mind at Home with Itself

What’s Really Bothering You?

old sunflower

You never know what’s really going on until you ask.

Being Heard Is Important for Two Reasons

It’s important for the heart. And it’s a start to inquiry.

Most of my life I grew up believing that it’s bad to have anything going wrong in my life. It shouldn’t be talked about. It should be hidden. I should deal with it silently on my own.

That’s why I found it so freeing when I discovered The Work and found permission to share what’s really going on for me when it’s not pleasant. I learned that admitting my stressful thoughts was not the end of my reputation, but rather the beginning of self-acceptance.

I Especially Like to Do This With Another Person

There’s something about being heard by another if I can be truly honest with them that opens and frees me. I’m not even talking about doing The Work. This is what friends do for each other.

But there’s one drawback to sharing with a friend. If they are not completely impartial, they may end up taking “my side,” the side of my stressful thoughts, and reinforcing the stressful story. This is not actually helpful.

What is helpful is when a friend listens without trying to influence, advise, or reinforce the story. When that happens, something magical takes place: I start to see my story for what it is, a story. I start to see what’s really going on. I get to see my mind objectively as clearly as looking in a mirror.

I Can Also Do It Alone

It can be powerful writing my thoughts with the only motive being to see what they are. Or to write to an objective-minded friend (or some wise person I don’t know personally) even if I don’t plan to send the letter.

The effect is the same. I get to see what’s really going on in me. I start to see my thoughts more objectively.

This Is Not About Problem Solving

If either I or my friend wants to problem solve, there will be a bias. The stressful thoughts are not free to come out uncensored because the mind knows if it shares what’s really going on it’s going to have to change.

That’s why I like to write with no objective in my mind other than to see what’s really going on. I may never even work this stuff. And when I’m writing, or speaking, I don’t think about questioning anything. I just let myself be heard.

This Is Part One of The Work

I may stop there. And I don’t push myself to “turn it around.” But often I get excited when I start to see what’s really going on. I often do want to question what I’m thinking.

That’s when I start looking at what I wrote, or shared, and seeing if I can find some Judge-Your-Neighbor Worksheets there, or some one-liners to question.

When I don’t push myself, I find that I get pulled into inquiry naturally.

Or not.

Have a great weekend,
Todd

“You can’t force this process; you can only inquire and find out what’s true.” Byron Katie, I Need Your Love, Is It True?

Getting it Intellectually vs. Getting it Emotionally

peacock

If you had never seen a peacock, I could describe it to you and eventually you might say, “I get it. It’s a really pretty blue and green bird.” But until you actually see a peacock, it’s just an intellectual understanding.

The Work Is Experiential

Sometimes people think The Work of Byron Katie is just an intellectual thing. Yes, The Work does use the intellect to point the mind towards a new experience. But all the intellect can do is point.

True shifts happen only when experience dawns.

That is what is meant by the term “The Work is meditation.” With the help of the intellect, the mind steps beyond the intellect into a completely new experience. When that happens, everything changes.
Many Times I’ve Gotten It Intellectually Long Before Getting it Emotionally

The intellect is great. It can look ahead. It can see things like, “Oh this is just a story I’m believing. I get it.” But then it wonders, “Why can’t I let go of it?” This points to where the real holding on is taking place—on the emotional level.

Just understanding isn’t enough to touch the emotional level. The intellect is capable of thinking about things abstractly, so it can “understand” without actually feeling anything.

To actually change things, you have to get your hands dirty. You have to actually get under the sink and work with the pipes if you have a leak in your bathroom. Understanding the principles of plumbing alone gets you nowhere.

The Work Is Experience Not Understanding

Meditation is experiential.

People sometimes get confused because The Work looks intellectual. But it’s not. Every question is experiential. “What is stressing you? Is the thought you’re thinking really true for you? How do you react in that situation when you believe it? Who would you be in that situation without that thought? How could the opposite be as true or truer for you in that situation?”

Every single one of these questions is asking you for your experience. When you walk through these questions in an experiential way, it is a meditation. Just answering these questions can open new realms of experience.

When I do The Work, I literally start to experience the same situation in a new way. That’s when I get it on the emotional level. That’s when forgiveness, acceptance, and peace start to happen, which is so different than just understanding it intellectually.

Just a Heads Up

I’m planning a new course called “The Work as Meditation.” The Work 101 will be the prerequisite.

Have a great week,
Todd

“The Work is meditation. It’s about getting quiet enough to experience the answers that rise to meet the questions.” Byron Katie, A Mind at Home with Itself

I Don’t Want to Be a Responsible Adult Anymore, and Other Stories

sculpture of kids playing

There’s a part of me that still doesn’t want to be an adult.

Last Week I Was Feeling Down

I don’t know if it was just fatigue coming out after our move, or something else, but I just didn’t care about anything. It was a heavy, depressing kind of feeling. I wanted to quit everything and go live in a cave somewhere.

Luckily, stressful thoughts are allowed in my world. So I went to my Inquiry Circle group and posted my stressful thoughts in raw form. No Judge-Your-Neighbor Worksheet. No thought of where it would lead me. Just reporting what I was feeling:

I am sad because I can’t do what I want.
I don’t want to be a responsible adult anymore.
I want to take as much time off as I need without limit.
I want to be free to do nothing.
I want to feel buoyant and happy again.

That day I didn’t even question these thoughts. I just wrote them down. I just needed to get them out. The next day, I started questioning them beginning with, “I can’t do what I want (take an unlimited break).”

As i did my work, I found some cool things like how it doesn’t have to be all or nothing—just working a little less can make a big difference. How I can always just “call in” sick (novel concept for me who never does that)—I could always take another week off if necessary. I also started to see again that I do love my job, and that it’s all about balance.

Then I Questioned the Next Thought

I worked the first thought in my personal work space on the Inquiry Circle forum in written form. I love written work because it allows me to slow down and really look at what I’m saying.

But I questioned the next thought with my spoken work partner this week from Inquiry Circle. This is such a nice balance to the written work because I’m not being as careful as when I’m writing The Work. There was a lot of laughter, and I loved the human connection.

In this inquiry, I questioned, “I don’t want to be a responsible adult anymore.” I felt a part of me was finally being heard as I did this work. My answers to questions 1 and 2 (is it true?) were a resounding YES!

I Got to Report All the Ways I React

I was passionate as I described my frustration and how the thought affected my body, my emotions, my ability to work, everything. I laughed with my spoken work partner as I described my fantasy of living in a cave, getting away from all responsibility (but somehow having someone come bring food for me every day). That’s a true fantasy of mine, but it became hilarious as I exposed it to the daylight.

When I exhausted my report on how I react when I think I don’t want to be a responsible adult anymore, I tried on the question, “Who would I be without that thought?”

It was hard to try on at first. The thought was taking up a good 60% of me at the time. I had to literally imagine myself stepping out of that 60% but, when I did, I found that my life was simple. Just one little task to do at a time. All doable. And I was in control of how much I wanted to actually do or not.

But The Coolest Insight Came from a Turnaround

The turnaround was, “I want to be a responsible adult,” the very opposite of my original stressful thought. What I found as I tried on this turnaround is that being a responsible adult is how I give to others. And giving to others feels good to me. That is the magnet that draws me away from my cave fantasy and into the world of working in service. Being a responsible adult is actually a way for me to open my heart.

It was so sweet to find it. Not intellectually, but in my heart instead.

That is the value for me of doing The Work on what’s really up for me, because then it’s really connected to my heart. When I take myself through this meditation, my heart itself transforms. This is not an intellectual exercise. I felt a thousand pounds lighter after just 40 minutes of doing The Work.

If you want to join in our Inquiry Circle group, the first step is to complete The Work 101 online course.

Have a great week,
Todd

“When you first encounter them, these questions may seem merely intellectual. The only way to really understand how they function is to use them yourself. Byron Katie, A Mind at Home with Itself

How Neutral Can You Be?

quiet reflection

The neutral foreground and sides of this image allow the mind to be drawn into the subtle parts of it.

If you Want to Find the Truth, Neutrality Is a Help

Over the years of living, I’ve learned that some things work for me and some things don’t. I’ve developed preferences and opinions.

But when I do The Work, I suspend my opinions and preferences as much as I can during the process of inquiry—just to keep an open mind.

And the same is true when facilitating others.

If I Have an Opinion, I Hold It

It can be very tempting sometimes to share what I think with a client who is doing The Work. But if I do that, I cheat them out of their own process of self-discovery.

This only teaches dependence. It moves away from neutral facilitation into the field of advice-giving and ego-stroking—which is not helpful when it comes to finding freedom.

Finding freedom is something each of us has to do for ourselves.

Are you willing to step out of the way for those who really want to know the truth (especially if that person is you)?

Have a great weekend,
Todd

“When someone is facilitating The Work, giving the four questions, he’s receiving at another level what I originally received inside me. If he’s really facilitating from a neutral position, without any motive, then he’s in the place where I am on the other side. It just gains in its freedom. It’s in or out: unlimited.” Byron Katie, Question Your Thinking, Change the World

Slow and Steady Wins the Race but Fast and Furious Saves the Day

waterfall

The same waterfall has both fast and slow streams.

I’m a Big Lover of Slow-Cook Inquiry

For me, slow is fast. I love to go deep and to marinate in each question and turnaround of The Work. I typically take a couple of weeks to work through a Judge-Your-Neighbor Worksheet questioning every statement that I wrote.

And the reason for this is that when I slow down, I often see much more than I do when I’m zooming through my work.

The Work is meditation, and meditation requires slowing down.

But That’s Not Absolutely True Either

I was reminded of this the other day by someone in my online Inquiry Circle group. She got triggered at work strongly enough that she needed to do The Work on the situation right away. But she didn’t have time to do a slow, meditative approach.

Instead, she wrote down her stressful thoughts quickly and worked them quickly. And she was able to get back to work without the emotional baggage in a very short time.

I Remember Doing This Some Years Ago

It’s been a while for me because I’ve mainly been practicing the slow approach.

I remember I was meeting with a client who had stressed me the day before. I knew I was not feeling very open minded towards her and I needed to do The Work before we met.

But I only had five minutes. I wrote a rapid Judge-Your-Neighbor Worksheet in about three minutes and then simply turned around each statement that I wrote in the remaining two minutes. There was no time even for the four questions, or turnaround examples. But as I turned everything around, I found where I was off, and I found several powerful living turnarounds I could try out during our session.

This Was An Emergency Approach

But because my mind is used to doing The Work, and am comfortable with the process, I felt my story shifting immediately. My heart opened towards my client in a matter of a few minutes, and I felt connected to her throughout our session together.

In fact, that was a turning point in my relationship with that client. She quickly became one of my favorite people to work with.

I experienced the power of inquiry—even when doing what I called “the fastest worksheet in the world.” And I never did go back to working that worksheet thoroughly. It was done.

This Does Not Diminish the Value of Slow-Cook Inquiry

In fact, the effectiveness of my fast approach may have come from my generally more meditative practice of The Work. But I love seeing the value of both ways here.

The moment I think there is only one way to do it, I’ve limited myself. It only takes a second to see things differently. So why not intersperse some fast worksheets along with all the slow, meditative ones?

Have a great week,
Todd

“Again and again, I have seen The Work quickly and radically transform the way people think about their problems. And as the thinking changes, the problems disappear.” Loving What Is

What Supports you Best to do The Work?

triathlon

You don’t have to join a triathlon to get exercise but you’ll probably need some form of practice to feel healthy.

The Work Is a Practice

It’s just like exercise. You can’t exercise once really really well and then never exercise again.

Well, you can but you may not feel so good after a while. This is because exercise is a balancing factor for sitting and eating. If you only sit and eat all the time without exercising, the system becomes imbalanced. Exercise provides the needed balance.

But real balance is an ongoing thing. Because sitting and eating are ongoing things. So if balance is to be maintained, then exercise as an ongoing practice makes sense.

The Same Is True with The Work

When I don’t do The Work, my unquestioned beliefs about how life should be different than it is start to build up. By doing The Work of Byron Katie, I question what I think, and I tend to find balance again.

Just doing The Work once is wonderful. It can be life-changing.

But once not enough for me because life keeps coming at me. New stressful thoughts show up all the time. If I don’t have a practice of doing The Work regularly, my stressful thinking can start to gain the upper hand.

Here’s What Works for Me

I like to spend about 30 minutes five days a week doing my work. If I have time, I love an hour but that’s not always possible. I find that doing it with others is helpful. That’s why I created my Inquiry Circle ongoing practice group. There is something about working in a group (just like exercising with others) that really supports me to keep a regular practice.

I also love the flexibility of Inquiry Circle which allows me to step away for a week, or a month, or more. And it allows me to do The Work as infrequently as once a month, or once a week, or to do it every day. And I love that it supports both spoken and written work formats.

It’s always a balance for me. I find that if I’m too rigid or too ambitious about how I do The Work, I drop out. For me, slow and steady works best.

What supports you best to do The Work? I’d love to hear how you have integrated the practice of The Work into your life.

Have a great weekend,
Todd

“The Work is a practice. I suggest that people have it for breakfast every morning, and have a good day. Even if you’re graced with the deepest experience of enlightenment, you still need to practice awareness, because there are ancient thoughts that will keep arising in you, and if you don’t question them, they’ll take you over, however enlightened you are.” Byron Katie, A Mind at Home with Itself

Are you Following your Turnarounds Blindly?

lighthouse

A lighthouse beacon is just a pointer. It is no substitute for navigation skills.

The Work Is Self-Inquiry

That means that nothing outside of me is directing me as I look for my truth.

Even the four questions and turnarounds are just pointers, pointing me back to myself, pointing me to look where I hadn’t thought of looking. The four questions and turnarounds are a huge help in self-inquiry.

But the moment I rely on them without thinking—without checking in with myself at each step—that is the moment when I am no longer doing self-inquiry.

Instead of seeing the turnaround as assistance in the process of self-inquiry, I am elevating the turnaround to the status of “teacher” or even “dictator.” Instead of checking with myself to see if what I’m finding is true for me, I’m back to the old way of “trying to do it right” and following “others” blindly, which is a million miles away from true self-inquiry.

We All Have a Built-in Self-Correction Mechanism

If a turnaround points me towards something that seems off to me, or that makes me feel more stressed, my self-correction mechanism kicks in and I notice that it doesn’t feel right. This is when I stop and look more closely.

This feeling could be due to three different reasons:

1) The turnaround is off – sometimes they just are. In this case, my self-correction mechanism caught it. Hooray!

2) My understanding of the turnaround is off – I may just be interpreting the turnaround in a way that doesn’t feel right. Is there a different interpretation that fits both the turnaround and my experience?

3) I’m up against an entrenched belief I have about life – I will feel resistance if a turnaround stretches me out of my comfort zone. I usually have to sit with turnarounds before I can stretch enough to meet them completely. It is a process.

The Bottom Line Is Honesty

Do I honestly see the turnaround? Or am I faking it? Or am I rejecting the turnaround out of hand? All of these are possibilities. But the only way forward in self-inquiry is to keep landing on my honest experience.

If a turnaround stretches me and I honestly can find something bigger than what I had originally seen, then wonderful. But if my honest truth is that I don’t resonate with a turnaround, that’s fine too. I’d rather be honest about it, and maybe spend some more time considering it from different angles.

My only job is to stay true to myself as I do my work. When I do that, I can navigate anywhere, using turnarounds as clues while I find my own way.

For me, self-inquiry means there is a little question mark after everything—even after every turnaround. The question, “Is it true?” is sitting there after everything, inviting me to get in touch with my experience.

In self-inquiry, everything is up to me.

Have a great week,
Todd

“But when you allow each thought to be met with “Is it true?” life will show itself to you. Eventually, you find yourself ending every thought with a question mark, not with a period. You’re able to rest in the never-ending enlightenment of the don’t-know mind.” Byron Katie, A Mind at Home with Itself

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