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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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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