Many people think if they talk about food, diet or weight loss one more time they'll pull their own hair out of their head.
Isn't there another way than directly talking about how to eat, when to eat, where to eat, or what to eat?
In fact, I would go so far as suggesting that the food, the body, or our behaviors are the least necessary things to discuss, or think about, or try to change.
And, it's not wrong we've been talking about them or thinking about them or trying to change them.
It's what thought does when we hold the belief that eating can be done a "right" way or a "wrong" way, and that the body can present as "ugly" or "beautiful".
It's what thought focuses on when there's perceived poor health, or hatred of the body's appearance, or the thought we won't be seen as successful if our bodies are just mediocre, or fat, or jiggly.
What have you noticed when you worry about your eating?
If you're like I was, you'll try hard to fix your eating and you feel "good" when the eating goes well, and "bad" when it goes badly.
Whether it's going "good" or "bad" there's danger of failure. I needed to stay vigilant. Stay not trusting myself. Stay focused on types of foods, and giving my eating a grade from A+ to F.
The mood swings were huge.
What have you noticed happens when you're trying to lose weight, when you hate those few (or many) extra pounds? Or when you absolutely, critically MUST remain in the thin, hyper well-conditioned status you've achieved through discipline? Peace one moment and you were thinking about something peacefully, then thinking about eating as wrong, and suddenly
Who are we, without our stories of doing it wrong when it comes to eating?
What if it wasn't even possible to do it "wrong" when it comes to eating?
What if it wasn't possible to do it wrong when it came to ANY BEHAVIOR?!
WHAT??!! (You might yell).
After all those years of starving, then binge-eating, then vomiting and breaking blood vessels in my face, then feeling shame, then starving, then weighing myself, then eating again?
Are you saying that was not WRONG??!
Yes. I'm actually saying that.
Because I engaged in crazy behaviors and did those cyclical eating patterns over and over again, I see now that all those intense moments with eating were actually about how I was looking at food, eating and body image and the world really....NOT about what was actually being eaten or how it was being eaten or what kind of body was appearing.
It was my thinking that caused all my suffering. My suffering was coming from the inside, not from the food. Not from the weight.
Not from the appearance of the body.
It wasn't even "my" thinking. I simply adopted and believed ideas I heard or that appeared in the head, and clutched down tightly around fear that rose when I thought food and eating and body image really, really, really mattered and had to be "right" in order for happiness to prevail.
Now, here's the thing.
When I bumped into The Work of Byron Katie, although I had suffered so much around this whole deal with eating....I didn't focus on it at all.
I started questioning thoughts about my father's early death many years before. Then I questioned the "horrible" thing I had done (I had an abortion). I questioned thoughts about my dictatorial grandfather, and being forced to move at age 8 with my family away from our home.
And then....as I turned towards my dreadful thoughts about bodies and how mine was supposed to be at all times (basically as perfect and healthy as possible, which I believed required effort)....I questioned if I really needed this, or any of the other things I imagined should change in order for my life to be happy?
Wow. I couldn't know I needed any of the traumatic experiences I had been through, or the disappointments, or the irritations should be removed from my history.
Maybe, just maybe, every single thing in my life could happen exactly as it had happened, and the one thing I could do was shift my thinking about it.
Did I really need the love, approval or appreciation I imagined would come alive if I ate "right", looked "right" and had smooth, muscular and thin thighs?
Did I really think that love would come from doing right behaviors, or having good things happen?
Suddenly, an ecstasy came over me that felt like I was literally going to lift off the ground. This happened at my first School for The Work. It was like something exploded in my heart.
All that desperate grabbing for the perfect body, the perfect way of eating, the perfect manners, the perfect mood, the perfect demeanor, the perfect mind....stopped being so grabby.
It just stopped assuming what I was thinking was true. It was OK that I was thinking. It didn't mean it was true!
"Most people think that they are what their thoughts tell them they are. One day I noticed I wasn't breathing--I was being breathed. Then I also noticed to my amazement, that I wasn't thinking--that I was actually being thought and that thinking isn't personal....Thoughts just appear. They come out of nothing and go back to nothing, like clouds moving across the empty sky. They come to pass, not to stay. There is no harm in them until we attach to them as if they were true." ~ Byron Katie in Loving What Is
So these days, I notice stressful thoughts still come and go and come and go.
Sure, I believe them. I know, because I start feeling "bad".
It feels like there's an option to Not Believe, though, because of The Work: four questions and finding turnarounds. There is no fight with thinking itself. It blows like a breeze or a hurricane. It's so fun, so exciting, to not have the stressful thoughts (or even the good-feeling thoughts) be The Truth.
I love that eating was one of my worst nightmares. It was the most seductive patterns I focused on, and got what people might call dangerous and destructive.
Maybe it was trying to call the true me back to life, though.
Maybe it was really the opposite of broken: my crazy eating behaviors were an attempt to live, to feel powerful, to feel free, to cope, to uncover balance and peace. Maybe it was showing me where NOT to go, and to return to a home within that never was gone--I just *thought* it was.
One thing I love about calling this journey home "eating" peace is because eating is a form of taking in and becoming one with. We literally take in a substance in reality called food, and chew it up and swallow it and allow it to become one with the body we inhabit.
If we don't have lots of stressful thinking about it, we're totally fine.
If we don't have lots of stressful thinking about all the things we perceive are dangerous and upsetting and difficult "out there" that we take in with our thoughts....we can also see we're totally fine.
Every moment. Absolutely fine.
When we dive deeply into the truth, consuming and being consumed is the Way of It. Coming and going and coming and going is what food does, and also what bodies do, and what thoughts do, and what feelings do, and what people do and what events do and what behaviors do.
"Behind every uncomfortable feeling, there's a thought that isn't true for us." ~ Byron Katie
How incredible it is to touch the place within that all of us are already connected to, that knows who we are is not our stories, theories or suffering. Who we are is not what happened to us or what someone did to us. Who we are is not what we don't have or haven't achieved.
Who we are is freedom, love, peace.
Who we are is without "eating" wars. Who we are is without thinking-about-eating wars.
Eating peace is not even really about eating. It's about life and being.
It's about being with our thoughts and memories, whatever they are, and relaxing with the way it is, or was.
When we question and find that space underneath our repetitive thoughts, we are enough. Already perfect. Right here, right now.
Reality becomes clear. Trust-worthy. Reality becomes something friendly, not empty or full of hunger or dangerous or disappointing.
We're no longer denying What Is....and instead seeing how much we actually love what is.
If you'd like to share a week with me practicing inquiry and exposing the thinking that creates so much angst and upset when it comes to have a body and apparently needing to give it food, join me in France for the Eating Peace Retreat from June 19-26, 2022 near Lyons.
Read more and place your deposit to hold your spot HERE. This retreat is organized by the wonderful Margot Diskin, Certified Facilitator of The Work in France.
Much love, Grace P.S. If you'd like to taste inquiry regularly with other eating peacies, read HERE about the ongoing Eating Peace Inquiry Circle online (EPIC) community of inquirers. No experience necessary. Join month-to-month. We'll be taking a break from June 19-July 24, but you can join right now for a few months, or join us in August 2022.
If you're not even sure what I mean by "doing The Work in a group" you may love joining First Friday, a completely complimentary zoom video session offered every month for 90 minutes (sometimes people donate, but you get to choose--the session is posted on youtube so others can benefit by listening).
Save this email or flag it somehow, because I don't know if you'll get this link again (lol) before Friday.
We begin 7:45am PDT/ 10:45am EDT and everyone who attends gets to join the Summer Campers in Summer Camp For The Mind for one day only, or shall we say the Campers get to join First Friday Friends.
Kinda like all-family open house at in-person summer camp. When your brothers, sisters, parents and grandparents all get to come to camp for a picnic in the middle of the summer session.
So, how can we work in a group?
Isn't The Work a very individual experience of self-inquiry?
The interesting discovery I keep having over time, over and over again, is how often I've gotten something, clicked into a new way of seeing a situation I'm in, or grasped the safety of "my" condition by just listening to other people do The Work.
How fascinating that Byron Katie has an event every year where hundreds of people come to watch others sit in a chair opposite Katie on a stage and walk through their Judge Your Neighbor worksheet with her.
It's like sitting in a room during someone's private counseling session, except not really.
Because the focus in this process is inquiry.
Everyone discovering, listening, feeling into their hearts what life is like without thinking stressfully and fearfully and aggressively about it.
You don't have to do it alone.
The exciting focus of The Work (asking four questions and finding turnarounds) is noticing the way we see something, becoming very clear about the feel of how we're looking at a predicament, the flavor of the seeing.
I remember a time when I was struggling with binge-eating, obsessive thoughts about food, health, physical fitness, cravings, chaotic eating....and really, my thinking was also struggling equally with people and life.
I was challenged by relating to the world.
I recognized I couldn't know what would happen next year, and not even next week.
OK, not even in one hour.
It seemed like life was full of difficult emotions I thought I was sometimes drowning in; fear, darkness, worry, control.
So I went in search of peace, which seemed to not exist in many moments.
Along the search, I met so many amazing people. I got to hear their stories, and suggestions, and listen to them making discoveries.
Bumping into The Work was one of the greatest reliefs; I'll never forget hearing of a man whose sister had been killed during a morning jog on their family vacation to Hawaii when he had been a very young man.
Here he was, at my first School, questioning his despair that these types of events happen in the world....and finding peace around the loss of his sister.
When he answered the question wondering who he was without his story of her death and what it meant about his life...I was touched and assisted.
Could I find the same peace? About my father's death? About my anxiety around body image and weight and consumption and cravings? About success and failure with jobs, career, money, or motherhood?
Today in Eating Peace Inquiry Circle, I read this passage from A Mind At Home With Itself; "This Work is about noticing what was really happening, not what you thought onto what was happening. It's not a plan for what to do next. Right now we're just looking at who you would be in that situation without the thought, without this condition that you put on [the world]. It's sometimes hard for us to answer this question. The ego wants to be right...." ~ Byron Katie
One of the things I love most about The Work is the invitation to simply be, or wonder what you'd be, without your theories and stories and decisions.
It does take a village.
It certainly did for me.
If you have any inkling for taking the journey with a group of merry (and sometimes not so merry at all) inquirers, one way you can do it in a more structured way which provides you with a partner every month, and a topic everyone is looking into, and three calls a week is to join Year of Inquiry.
Ten months of meeting others and rocking each other's worlds by listening, being with, hearing other peoples' thoughts and finding our own answers.
No one can do it for you, as they say, and you can't do it alone.
Year of Inquiry starts Tuesday, September 7th.
We have three different meeting times each week to allow folks from every timezone to find something that works for them.
Not enough time to listen to all those podcasts I'd like to hear, not enough time to read the books I've already purchased, not enough time to finish a book that's half written for many years that I think I'm writing (kind of).
Not even enough time, apparently, to sit and meditate for 15 minutes this past week.
I used to meditate an hour a day, like I was taking my medicine with no question. Get quiet. Do it.
Funny how time feels scarce. Limited.
I need more of it.
So, what ARE we doing with time?
I noticed the way I spent my morning was rising, putting on a sweater and turning up the heat, moving to kitchen to make a green smoothie and boiling water for hot cacao (I'm experimenting with absence of tea or coffee--it's rather lovely at the moment).
Now, up in my little treehouse office, I write after checking my calendar for the day and also noticing about six things I'd like to do all at once.
In only fifteen minutes,Year of Inquiry group meets--so the constant presence of a circle of inquiry has certainly entered my life no matter how much time I think I need or want or don't have. It's my job.
(Seriously, what a gift).
I start the zoom meeting so it's ready while people arrive, and turn back to this inquiry--so curious.
Oh, right. I need more of it.
I'll never finish this before the group, now in 4 minutes.
I need, I need, I need.
The song of the self with a small "s".
It's not a bad thing. It just is.
There's a voice, calling out its needs. Thinking with sadness or disappointment or dread or anxiety that more is required.
I had this thought when my dad was dying almost 30 years ago.
I need more time with him.
I've had this thought when preparing for some retreat events: I need more time to share them, announce them, promote them.
One fantastic way to move further along this line of inquiry, is to genuinely hear what you're telling yourself you need more time for?
I need more time for: Money-making, connections with people, learning something, accomplishing a task, being alive, enlightenment.
Once you identify what you need more time for, you've got better focus on the self-inquiry that comes next:
I need more time, so that I can have more ______ .
I need more _______ (from above) so that I can _______.
I usually notice I need more time, so I can have more of something else, and I need more of that something so that I can feel a certain way.
I believe I'll feel better, with more time to acquire, do, achieve, get, accomplish, practice that thing.
The story is born, blossoms, with a thousand facets into the future. All from a moment where a thought came through about "more" and "time".
What a great inquiry:
Let's do The Work.
Today I asked myself when I began this Grace Note (3 days ago now, LOL) why I need more time?
Because I could find that thought inside every day, I bet.
Today, I had the privilege of doing The Work with a brilliant inquirer who felt he had not succeeded in life: rejected by his girlfriend (they are breaking up), ineffective in other areas, not quite "getting" there to the promised land of peace or worthiness.
Not arriving at the place we are believing in when we say "more".
Oh the pain of noticing what it's like to believe we need more than we already have. We need more days to live, more hours with another, more success. More, more, more.
Sometimes people think if they give up this striving for more of something, they'll flop to the floor and do nothing for the rest of their lives.
If I didn't want to do all that stuff, if I didn't need more time to do it, then I'd become totally resigned with doing nothing, going nowhere, apathetic, caring for nothing, sparked by nothing, surrounded by chaos.
Who would we be without the belief we need MORE daylight, and the sun just set?
Without the belief we need more loving contact, and we're sitting at the deathbed of our beloved?
Without the belief we need more money than we actually have?
Without the belief we need more unconditional love or a spiritual pay-day that catapults us into some kind of place beyond this world (as some people like to think of as enlightenment)?
What if nothing more was needed right now, in this moment? Even if you feel some anxiety, a sense of turmoil? Even with a sense of impending loss or future disappointment?
I keep noticing with this inquiry, the only frightening thing is a story--a thought about the future, or a memory from the past.
I'm believing thoughts about scarcity, about loss, about inadequacy and suffering.
If I don't do this thing I apparently need more time for, I'll suffer. If I don't acquire this thing I need more time to acquire, I'll suffer.
I'm fail to notice I'm suffering in the middle of the moment of thinking I need more of something or I'll suffer, later.
Turning the thought around: I don't need more time. Not one more second. I don't need more time with that person, I don't need more time to practice, I don't need more time because I don't need to finish right now, I don't need more time to wake up.
Who is this "I" anyway?
Nothing but a thought.
"Before thought began in that first moment, there was the pure unknown: love. That's one of the many revelations that people discover when they sit deeply in the fourth question ('Who or what would you be without the thought?'). They begin to recognize the real world, the world of being love, the fearless, the nameless, the beautiful, the world where nothing is separate and creativity is allowed to flow without interruption, and the new is witnessed and appreciated at every moment, and your'e always alone with yourself, and you're everyone and everything, free to take full responsibility as the creator of the entire world--your world, the world of your imagination." ~ Byron Katie in A Mind At Home With Itself
If you think you don't have enough time for self-inquiry or doing The Work, I'd question that. LOL.
But seriously, sitting and asking myself these truthful, deep questions about what is running through the mind has been totally life-changing.
It's brought me....just about....everything I've ever dreamed I wanted more time for.
Certainly it's brought me peace around what I believed was worth fretting about, and finding a heart-broken joy about being alive, and gratitude.
If you'd like to get a taste of this practice of questioning your stressful thinking and changing the way to experience life and the world, or anything that's troubled you....
....consider coming to online spring retreat.
It's coming in exactly one month March 25-28, 2021.
Sign up for Thursday only, Thurs+Friday, or the whole retreat Thurs-Sunday (Saturday's a bonus day for everyone enrolled).
We gather for 3.5 days of 3.5 hour sessions (Pacific Time 9am-12:30pm) to dive into one issue, relationship, money, job, memory, concern, situation bothering you.
It's all sliding scale, you choose (suggested fee a minimum of $60 per session).
Thursday 3/25, Friday 3/26 and Sunday 3/27 we meet 9:00am-12:30pm Pacific Time, and Saturday we meet 8:00am-9:30am PT followed by dancing--online--for those who'd love to attend.
Speaking of the need, and the joy, of deep cleaning....
We all know what that's like when you do it for reals.
Like, with actual cleaning.
Way under the bookcase there's are dust bunnies in literal clumps. Along the back of the couch spiders have been congregating all winter in the crack where floor meets wall.
The file cabinet needs to be unstuffed and papers shredded. Books and old clothes need to go to Goodwill.
Maybe you're not sure exactly what that gunk is in the back of the fridge, which also has an unrecognizable rotten thing in tin foil we forgot about a few weeks ago.
OK, a few months ago.
I like the way, for a good thorough cleaning of something we're tackling, we open up the thing entirely.
We literally pick up the piece of furniture and move it to the center of the room.
We empty all the contents.
Sometimes the whole place looks worse before it gets better.
Bottles and tins and bags are strewn all over the dining room table in stacks while you get the fridge drawers pulled out and scrub them in the sink with hot soapy water.
It's a project.
Sometimes along the way, you might think "Good lord, why did I start this? It's taking way longer than I imagined."
"This is exhausting. How'd it get sooooo dirty?"
"I wonder how much this would cost to pay someone to come and do this instead?"
Cleaning is not exactly....easy.
But neither is letting everything get dirtier, and dirtier, and more sticky, and more dusty and black and thick and gross.
And if you've ever really done a good clean-out of anything, it is amazingly satisfying.
A strange kind of joy comes when you neatly place the thinned-out clothes in the drawers again, or have room in your closet for everything you own.
It's tending to life, tending to the hearth, the home.
That's how I think of doing The Work with the unkempt mind--the unquestioned mind.
The mind that gets a bit bleak, dirty, thick with dust.
It gets ugly in there. A few spiders, if you know what I mean.
Nothing like a beautiful piece of inquiry to find freedom from repetitive thinking, or repetitive behavior or worry.
The mind is so brilliant, it carries around memories and impact from far earlier times and shows them to you like a slide show over and over until you're willing to look, and feel fully what you've been hiding, or simply ignoring, under the couch.
Sure, no one escapes pain.
We have immense loss: people we love die, viruses descend, jobs end, houses burn, money goes, it seems our dreams don't manifest, we ourselves grow older.
All those things happen. But then there is suffering about them, through reminding yourself of them and feeling bad all over again.
Suffering because we get stuck in a mindset, a way of thinking--and we don't know how to stop of get out of it.
Heck, we don't even know we're doing it!
At least this is what I've seen so many times with my own work.
For example, I used to believe--without really even knowing consciously I believed it to the core--that I was abandoned, could be abandoned and probably will be abandoned in the future by people I care about.
I had a strategy I then decided that it's better to Not Be Attached, so that I don't get hurt by potential abandonment.
Abandonment being a fact and all.
I didn't even know I had this running so strongly until my first husband left after 16 years of marriage, and I was fully and completely reminded of my father's death many years earlier.
I had the solid belief about life: people leave, people die, people are unreliable....and it's very very sad, dangerous, intolerable and I'm all alone when it happens.
I didn't know how things had piled up and gotten thick and dusty and heavy.
I didn't know the demands I had on my first husband to remain in place, or else....
I was dependent, without even realizing it.
Dependent on his presence, on his staying whether he liked it or not, on things going "well" (i.e. my way) so I could be safe and happy.
The four questions changed this kind of painful thinking for me.
At a deep spring cleaning level.
It's like opening up the cupboard, emptying out everything so you can take a look, and beginning the scrubbing.
It might look worse before it looks better.
But it's oh so worth it.
The freedom of a clear, organized closet--a clear, organized mind.
I hope you'll join me in the spring cleanse in The Work of Byron Katie, an annual event that will now for the second year be again online.
In four days you can do a whole lot of cleaning--probably the entire house.
The phone was on silence as usual, but I happened to see the screen glow. At that moment I was staring out the bleak dark January window fourteen years ago, not unlike the one I looked out today.
I leaned slowly to the phone and saw from caller ID the name of my estranged husband.
My heart jumped a little.
He had filed for divorce almost 2 years before, we lived in separate houses, but I had not responded month after month after month to the paperwork.
I couldn't bring myself to do it and sign the document consenting to divorce.
It seemed so tragic. I had loved this man so much. I had always pictured him until "death do us part". He was almost five years older and I sometimes imagined he'd die first....and me by his side.
(Weird little future flash: he did die first, and I was by his side a few hours before and a few hours after. Even though we were divorced and we were both remarried. So you never know what anything means for the future, do you? He will always be one of the most important people in my life.)
I answered the incoming call.
He wanted to go out to dinner.
Something I could hear in his voice, someone I knew so well.
He said he had a coupon for a restaurant downtown, and thought of me.
Was I being asked out on a.....date?
I didn't show much emotion.
This is what I had wanted desperately, but now it seemed almost like too much water had flowed under the bridge. He had another relationship that tanked. He had been dating. He had moved from one rental house to another. He was feeling some regret.
I had just started....barely....to feel like I could enjoy my own company for five minutes without remembering "my husband left me" or "I'm separated". I had signed up for qigong classes, female empowerment classes, dancing.
Most importantly, I had friends to do The Work with.
I had found out that if I questioned my thinking, my panicked mood shifted from terror to calm by having someone ask me the four questions, and finding turnarounds.
Nothing else changed, only my perceptions and what I was believing.
The School for The Work almost 2 years before had planted self-inquiry into my heart and mind, and when rage, betrayal, panic, sadness and grief came along...it was only a matter of time before I sat down with paper, or texted someone, to do The Work with me.
I was calmer. Just a little. I was sleeping through the night finally.
I said "yes".
I also said I'd meet him there at the appointed hour. Not agree to have him pick me up and go there together.
On the Saturday night of the famous dinner out (in my world), something I had wished for so desperately, I got dressed up.
I cared. I felt hopeful. I put on mascara.
I thought all the inner angst and grief and heartbreak might be able to be talked through, shared.
I never felt very good at talking. (I'm still probably better at writing than talking).
But as we shared a meal in a booth in a dark rainy wintery evening in Seattle, and no in-depth conversation unfolded or even started, I grew more aware that what I wanted was not in this man, or in the dreams of an intact relationship.
I had questioned the thought 1000 times "I need him to come back to me" or "he abandoned me" or "this shouldn't be happening".
And right before me, these beliefs suddenly felt untrue.
At a certain moment, right in the middle of the food and the meal, with this man I had spent 16 years with across from me, with whom I had two children that would have been thrilled to have us remain together, something felt....done.
Unable to move into a deeper level.
Maybe I could have questioned that thought. It didn't occur to me at the time.
He talked, and talked, and talked about his job. His boss, his co-workers, company policies, the latest business deals I hadn't heard about for a long time.
Not one word did he speak of more authentic, deep reflection about this honest moment.
I wanted to cry "What happened to us??!!"
I wanted to talk about where we stood right then.
Something deeper. All that inner Byron Katie work, all the self-reflection and growth and adventure. All the sleepless nights.
I wanted him to say "How are you in there? Are you OK?"
I noticed I myself said nothing, though.
And I noticed I could wonder....do I really want him to ask me deeply how I am? Do I really want to put so much weight on this relationship "working" (code word for staying together)?
I didn't want to grab for something that wasn't present anymore. I didn't want to try, to be so afraid, to feel so desperate, so feel so full of angst and sadness.
What I wanted was not over there, across the table from me.
When we left, I went to sit in the driver's seat of my little car. I held still a moment, my car keys on my lap.
I could find the turnaround.
Maybe this was just plain going the way it was going, without my vote.
And maybe, just maybe, that was OK. Or at least going to be OK, later.
I sensed that I had no idea what my future was, or where I was going, or what would happen with love or romance in my life.....and what did happen wasn't what I would have ever wanted or ever imagined in my life.
But I got it. Stop fighting. Stop reaching.
Rest. Accept what is.
That week, I signed the divorce papers that had been gathering dust, and the proceedings moved forward.
I'd like to say that I never looked back again at how we might have reconciled, and all that seemed so unspoken. I'd like to say I felt very razor clear.
There were stressful thoughts, and stressful dramas in my own mind, and stressful imaginings, and dreadful heartbreak.
I could question my thinking, though.
And, something was nudged that day out of the stuckness and waiting and withholding and wondering and putting all my attention on HIM, HIM, HIM.
I saw more clearly how I looked at what I thought was necessary for happiness through a straw. All roads pointing to this dear man, and marriage, and a fantasy.
What if instead of being a horrible personal tragedy, this story was not as terrible as I had believed?
What I see now is how I discovered, and still continue discovering to this day, how much that man offered me in my life.
He helped me break down my demands and expectations about love, life, mating, support, security, romance, future, intimacy, speaking truth, honesty, grabbing, wanting and fear.
I believed that the worst that could happen when it came to my marriage, was that it would end in divorce.
What happened when I believed that thought?
Nightmares. My whole world collapsed (I thought) even though I had more quiet time, I had my own place, I added enrichment to my life, I started playing music again, I discovered a career, I found out I liked to work (!)
Who was I without this story: "this relationship must stay together!"?
Without demanding it be any way at all, it simply moved towards divorce.
Turned around: the best thing that could happen was my marriage ended.
How could this be just as true, or truer?
There is a list.
But most of all, I am grateful beyond measure to that human being, that man, for his unknowing assistance in helping me become a better version of myself.
I became someone who was "forced" to find her way to earn a living. Someone who met a new husband who is very different. Someone who can survive the worst that could happen.
Not just survive, but thrive.
Astonishing, even to this mind.
Grateful for the one who broke my heart, so it could grow bigger, wider, gentler, freer.
If you have a relationship where you still feel a sting (or tornado) of pain about What Happened....
....come to retreat starting this Thursday. We meet 4 days in a row, and then skip a week and reunite on Sunday, February 14th. Yup. Valentine's Day.
The hours are 8-11am Pacific Time/ 4-7pm UK for all five sessions.
Who are we without our stories about breaking up, romance, wanting, hunting for 'the one', fighting, loneliness?
We are celebrating Valentine's Day with the one we cherish, support, feel gratitude towards and love the most: ourselves. Life.
Married, partnered, conflicted, divorced, broken-up, separated, single. All are welcome to this "Relationship" Retreat.
From Grace Notes: Question the assumptions you're defending (+ join YOI right now)
I look forward to next First Friday on January 1st, New Year's Day, 2021 7:45-9:15am Pacific Time. Mark your calendar now for the experience of questioning one painful situation in your life from 2020.
When we question one difficult experience, and begin to understand it with loving kindness, who knows what can happen with anything else we've thought of as painful?
To make sure you get the zoom link, watch in upcoming Grace Notes or save this email and join me here.
Speaking of questioning just ONE difficult experience....
....When I first encountered The Work, I came to it, I thought, because of one excruciatingly painful experience I felt was looming over me.
The experience had produced the most desperate shame, nausea, and an inner anxiety--panic really--about loss and death and ending all hope for the future.
I was investigating the experience of having an abortion.
It was unbelievably haunting at the time.
(If you want to read much more about abortion specifically, I've written a bit about it over the years--you can search on Grace Notes blog site for any key word and find Grace Notes from the past about any topic here).
I kept seeing all the steps of how that life condition had unfolded, how strange that it went the way it did with that decision. I felt guilty and horrified, but most of all full of despair.
All kinds of beliefs were present around that situation in my life.
Wanting to please someone else (the father) more than doing what felt right within. Terrified of the future and that I couldn't do it alone. Feeling damned if I did and damned if I didn't. Believing living in a body was the only way for a happy and full life for any human being. Thinking of myself as a murderer. Believing I was doomed.
I began to learn, with The Work of Byron Katie and that early inquiry....that the way I was thinking might have gaps of untruth in it. (Or, be entirely based on nothing that could be proven).
How can you know if what you're thinking is not really true, or not allowing a full picture or clarity to enter your situation?
Well, one simple way you know you're believing something false, for you, is you feel bad; frustrated, uncomfortable, angry, terrified, nervous, anxious, sad, annoyed, desperate.
I like knowing that if I feel troubled, I'm believing something that's not actually true for me...no matter how repeatedly I might be thinking it to myself.
When I was reviewing that "terrible" situation in my life that led to abortion over and over, I'd panic.
Until I did The Work and understood, just a wee tiny bit, that the situation might not be as tragic as I was thinking.
It doesn't mean I don't think it was a deeply painful, or that I condone it. But I'm at peace with that experience where I still feel the grief, but knowing I learned something very important about unconditional love for all of life, including myself, by studying the pain there.
Some kind of crack into peace occurs with every situation I take through the self-inquiry process.
The mental energy settles down. There is an awareness of presence, of being here now. There is a feeling of rest and unclenching that flows instead of getting stuck.
A situation may not become resolved entirely, but the perspective I've been holding isn't trapped forever in a repetitive noise of the same tune endlessly playing (like when an annoying or sad song gets stuck in your head).
Bottom line: when I do The Work, something shifts in the mind and the interpretation I'm holding about whatever it is I've found so troubling.
Which brings me to a weird point I wanted to share, kind of a question really.
Why is there so much resistance sometimes to actually DOING The Work?
I mean, if it's so freeing, why would I not do it when I feel upset?
People report this resistance, and I get the same thing going on inside of me. It goes something like this:
1) Difficult news, conversation, incident or happening occurs
2) Brain/Thinking starts making meaning out of it--and leans towards danger, protection, worst case scenarios, fear
3) It's personal, "I" need to think of a plan--a way out, a way to peace, a way to get free, a way to find safety
4) Mind gets busy with the plan, rather than questioning the original story. "I'm too busy figuring out how to stay safe to do The Work right now".
5) We return mentally to the scene of the crime over and over and rehash and try to make it go "right" rather than "wrong", retroactively. It's all about survival.
6) Nothing about our perspective actually changes.
I find without questioning my beliefs when I feel down or depressed, I keep repeating the same stories, feelings, behaviors. It looks like compulsion, addiction, analysis, rumination, bad dreams, avoiding, playing the same thoughts on repeat.
Don't be discouraged, though.
Even simply pausing for a moment without saying something "should" or "shouldn't" have happened in the past, present or future....can bring a sliver of peace.
Noticing that without a thought--and even with a thought--we are here, present, aware, alive whether we "get" what's going on or not.
Another new moment is here.
Being here without waiting. Taking a deep breath. Exhaling entirely.
Feeling the silence around and inside everything.
If you are interested in stepping into The Work regularly by pausing, then taking your stressful thinking through four questions and finding turnarounds, there's an unusual window coming up for people to join Year of Inquiry (several have requested it, so why not).
We meet Tuesdays at 9am PT, Wednesdays at Noon PT, Thursdays and 5pm PT and Saturdays at 8:30am PT. We also meet monthly on Fridays to discuss The Work instead of doing The Work--always amazing conversations.
You can begin with our small-but-mighty group on January 5th. To do this, you must join by January 4th to get on board and oriented.
Doing The Work is not a one-and-done type of deal.
It seems we need to get the hang of practicing, having the four questions and turnarounds sink into our experience.
At least, that's what has worked best and most and steadily for me. Following the practice step-by-step, like meditating daily if possible. No "should" or "have to" just pondering and letting the mind wake up one thought at a time.
If I could heal the pain of an unexpected pregnancy and abortion, I found I could heal the way I related to all decisions. I could heal the way I spoke to others. I could heal my heart. I could heal the way I ate. I could heal the self-condemnation and depression and worry.
What a huge relief.
If you'd like a loving community of fascinating people practicing the end of stress and the openness to freedom through The Work, join me in our Year of Inquiry program.
While the program is set up to offer people an entire year of practice and support--which brings rich friendships and clarity into our lives--you can join month-to-month when you start at one of these openings during the year.
Each month, we study a new quite general topic (and you can also work with absolutely anything stressful for you, this is your program).
January is "money" month.
Read more and sign up here. If you'd like more details about YOI schedule long-term and the monthly topics, read about the schedule here.
If you need financial assistance please click the button once you get to the page to learn about YOI and you can apply for help.
"Year of Inquiry has worked. The times are great and I like that it's all the calls plus a week off a month. No burnout. Nice to be able to listen to recordings. Grace is organized with the technology and it works. I do like our Slack forum for keeping connected. YOI has been a positive experience for me." ~ Participant
And if this is biting off more than feels right to chew, come for the fun on New Year's Day (no charge).
Can't wait to get started in 2021 with a new year, a new week, a new day, a happy new moment with new possibilities every now, and now, and now.
"If you want to enter a state of grace, question the assumption you're defending right now." ~ Byron Katie
P.S. Next retreat is on Relationships: Feb 4-7 and then Feb 14th 8am-11am daily for these five days. More info on this Valentine's Renew, Reset, Retreat coming soon.
There's nothing for me so fun and wondrous as hanging out with a group of people committed to self-inquiry...
...all people willing to deal with their pain about life, whatever it's been.
Or willing to be willing. Just a drop.
Open to considering the ordeals we've endured, and question our relationship to them.
I got to be in this kind of atmosphere through retreat this past week for six days straight. I also get to be in this kind of powerful energy inside Year of Inquiry and Eating Peace and First Friday (which, by the way, is in 2 days--find out more here) and only every single person I work with.
In so many ways, it seems like awareness comes easiest when the mind comes alive with questions rather than answers, when feeling stressed:
Is it true? What do I want? What am I against? What's missing? What do I wish never happened?
The people who came to retreat last week were all so wise brilliant, each and every person.
As people shared, I could see the images of their stories in my own mind.
Isn't that amazing how that happens?
The mind shows a picture immediately by hearing words spoken and ideas expressed, even though we weren't even there.
I could see in each moment everyone's small squares on the screen, their backgrounds or their rooms and environments, their sweet faces up close or far away on a chair, or perhaps only their names printed on the screen with video turned off.
What I loved about it all is noticing that being in person, face to face, is not required for this mind to have insights.
Yes, it is beautiful to be near people. It is precious to be in someone's physical presence. It is amazing to have touch, energy, smell, up-closeness.
And, it is not required for inquiry, for healing, for compassion, for unconditional love.
One of my favorite things about The Work is that you can do it by yourself, and of course on zoom.
You can do it in writing, you can contemplate all by yourself in silence.
There's constantly a part of us watching closely, considering, taking in the world and wondering about it and about past and future images.
During retreat I noticed a thought arise in myself that's familiar and old and stressful.
Tom, my amazing co-facilitator, was facilitating someone in a wonderful, fascinating, different way.
And then, "he is doing this inquiry with that person better than me".
Will that voice never end?
And yet...noticing if I'm not against it, what could it teach?
What does it have as a gift, to offer?
Have you had this belief that someone or Those People have it better, do it better, live it better, feel better...anything "better" than you?
(I've heard people say they think this about Byron Katie and other thought-leaders and speakers and teachers).
Some of the folks who came to the retreat last week believed this strongly about others. People at their workplaces, their neighbors, those people of other races, those people with those other bodies that look different than mine, those people with that money, success, influence.
They have it better. I wish I had what they have. I'd be happier if I had that.
I know this is kind of strange to say given all the disruption and clarity coming out about race, but in high-school when I was surrounded by mostly black kids, I thought it was too bad I was white.
Believe me, I understand the privilege situation now. This was a microcosm in the midst of the greater society that wasn't accepting and highly damaging for so many. But in my little 15-year old world, it was so much better to NOT be white.
In Eating Peace program we look at the body.
There are those other people with bodies that mean....attraction, power, appeal, safety. Those thin people. Oh didn't I wish I had their bodies.
Then...things would be good. I'd be happy.
Just to pause at only one situation, one thought, one idea.
That's better over there.
A wonderful thing to do with this is where my mind went when I had the thought arise during retreat.
Why am I thinking this? How so? How do I know what I'm observing is better?
My answers: it appears more useful, more successful in creating a shift, more powerful, deeper, more of service for someone.
Is it true? Can I really know that what I'm seeing is "better" over there than what's apparently over here?
Can I be sure what I'm observing is Not Me? Am I interested in comparing?
It's OK if your answer is "YES!!!"
I'm just SURE if I had five million dollars like that other person, my life would be better....YES.
Can you absolutely know it's true?
Are you entirely sure? Really?
What happens when you think that Other Person's experience, appearance, condition, movement, behavior, status, situation is better than yours?
Agony. Despair at the lack of fairness. Disappointed.
I have a "goal" to be that Other Way. Some day. I'll strive for it. I'll find the missing piece. I'll get there. I'll never stop.
Isn't this what it's like while I diet my way to the perfect body, suffering the entire time, using willpower, resistance, force, deprivation, gripping?
I have visions of those amazing people doing it the "right" way. Not me. I may pull away from those fancy people, those thin people, those clear people.
So who would you be without the belief "they are doing it better than me"?
Staying in the situation you've chosen to go more deeply into. Stay very close to that.
Without the belief "he's doing it better" I realize I have zero evidence to support that. I know it's once again, just a personal thought.
I open to the joy and receiving I experience as I look at that Other Person and see such loving movement, such skill, such exquisiteness.
I see the elements and qualities I absolutely adore in Tom, for example: steadiness, a sense of love pressing in, more yang. Aware I also have this kind of intensity--it appears when needed apparently.
In high-school: the aliveness, the joy, the dancing (which is so me), the wild....a full range of colors all magnificent.
In those people with those athletic bodies; the power, the intensity, the joy of climbing a mountain to the top. It doesn't mean I have to climb the same mountain (never, will I ever).
In that one who apparently has millions: without the belief they have it better I'm noticing, laughing, delighting in what appears to be over there. Happy to see abundance!
Noticing I was believing I'm not inside that experience, when it's right here IN my experience.
Such appreciation for What Is. The diversity, the spirit, the glory, the clarity, the wealth.
"I" don't need it to be "mine". It never actually is.
Turning the thought around: I am the best right here, this one who is me in this moment. Nothing more. Nothing less.
They are not "better" in any disappointing or stressful way. They are themselves, and this is itself (I could even question that), and we are both on a fabulous, enticing path of expansion.
What I am here, is just right for now. This is it.
Nothing more, or different, or special required.
Who is the one observing anyway?
Seeing without assessing. Open mind.
Noticing there are no boundaries, no "final answers", life is constantly in motion, a new segment beginning and ending and beginning again.
Life bountifully bubbling like a geyser at Yellowstone National Park.
Who would we be without our stories that say "that is better" or "this is worse" or "that is worse" or "this is better"?
A great rest and relaxation. Nothing more required. Joyful with what's taken in. Learning from what I see.
Noticing the draw towards what happens that is displayed before me; that it's just right, just close enough, coming and going in just the right amount. Passion, depth, music, solidness, connection, love, freedom.
"When you are trained, like a great athlete, to immediately relax through your edges when they get hit, then it's all over. You realize that you will always be fine. Nothing can ever bother you except your edges, and now you know what to do with them. You end up loving your edges because they point your way to freedom. All you have to do is constantly relax and lean into them. Then one day, when you least expect it, you fall through into the infinite. That is what it means to go beyond." ~ Michael Singer
P.S. Join me for First Friday in 2 days on the actual Second Friday (haha). We gather and do The Work from start to finish. Everyone and anyone welcome, no fee. Get the link on zoom here . 12/9 7:45am-9:15am PT.
P.P.S. Next retreat is on Relationships: Feb 4-7 and then Feb 14th 8am-11am daily for these five days. More info on this Valentine's Renew, Reset, Retreat coming soon.
From Grace Notes: How to stop worrying about someone else's worrying
In only one week from today, what I already know will be an amazing time will begin. Six days in a row of being with others together online (zoom) to delve deeply into The Work and self-inquiry.
(Scroll to the end to get the daily schedule and info).
I'm co-facilitating this one with my colleague and friend Tom Compton. He's brilliant and well-seasoned in The Work: for over 30 years he's been doing this process and sitting in the four questions, along with working with other people.
We have absolutely loved co-facilitating retreats together.
We're so looking forward to doing it again.
Here's me interviewing Tom about his experience with The Work, in case you'd like to get to know him a little better:
One thing we'll be asking everyone attending retreat (I'm asking myself right now):
What's been scaring you, making you nervous, irritating you, or bringing despair?
What do you notice bothers or disturbs your psyche, your mood, your inner natural experience of peace?
Recently, I had an awareness of something that seemed important.
How do I know it was important--at least important for inquiry?
It disturbed me.
Someone who I adore and have known their entire life shared how angry they've been with the world and a situation they've encountered.
Have you ever had someone close to you share something deeply disturbing, and you clench up yourself?
"Yikes, that sounds terrible," we might say.
I noticed I saw visions of them being depressed. A picture of them with head in hands, lonely and sad, scheming on suicidal thoughts.
They did NOT tell me they were suicidal specifically.
But oh look what the mind did.
We join with the person who is crying "this is so awful, really it is so so so awful."
Nothing wrong with that. Except.
When I begin to believe they are not safe, they are not loved, they are not capable, they are suffering terribly.
Something about sitting with someone who is doing The Work, incidentally, I entirely trust the process.
I don't "worry".
I know they're OK, they are working on it, they are underway with the power of love at their side.
But this was someone who doesn't exactly do The Work and there they were, sharing about the depth of their misery.
That person is miserable.
What do you think this means, that they're miserable? I noticed for me, that was where the fear rose up. It means they don't want to live. It means they've lost their happiness.
Is it true, they shouldn't be so miserable?
I don't know.
What happens when you believe it's true?
Trying to problem-solve, figure out how to handle the situation, make it better, give suggestions, offer advice, offer to jump in and take care.
There can be a whole list of what would "make it better" that they need to "get".
Not that there's anything wrong with reaching out or being there to help. But this is noticing I was doing it with FEAR in the background.
So who would I be without the belief this person is fundamentally miserable?
This can sound cold to even consider. Like you don't care about them and their perspective.
But I sat for a moment, imagining this person I love dearly seeming to be so stuck and unhappy and angry..
...without the belief "they are miserable--and this must be fixed by me, as soon as possible. I must help! This is dangerous!"
Without this belief, I stay present.
I'm not afraid to be with someone who is suffering. I might say "if you ever want to try doing The Work, I'm available and here for you". I check in on them.
I remember suddenly the way I felt when I started hospice work on a really beautiful research project run through the University of Washington almost 20 years ago. My very first patient I saw as a research assistant, I felt trepidation entering her apartment. She was dying of breast cancer. I asked her many questions about pain, depression, emotions and fears. All of them pre-written for this project.
Once I was finished speaking with her and back in my little car in the rainy parking lot, I sobbed.
But then, it got easier and easier. By the fifth person, I was able to sit with them and know nothing was required except to be there and ask the questions they had already agreed to be asked. I enjoyed my job so much, I was shocked. It felt so genuine, so real.
Back to my loved one.
I noticed this person said "I don't want any advice. I just want you to hear me".
So good to know. Reality tells you what's needed.
No Advice. No problem-solving.
Turning the thought around: If someone tells a terrible story, it does NOT mean they'll be miserable forever, or suicidal, or broken.
It means they're whole, intact, aware, moving towards joy.
Could it be just as true?
Why not? Don't I notice the power of healing, of freedom and joy over and over again?
Yes I do.
Turning the thought around again: If someone tells me their miserable story, my thinking is miserable...not them.
Wow. Yes, I joined in.
I added some anxiety to the pot even.
I believed, just like them.
This person gave me the opportunity to hold and question a thought that misery must be stopped....that it doesn't stop itself.
I imagined God, reality, support, love, source, mystery, magic and miracles were not possible in this situation, were not already underway.
Who needs God, when we have my opinion?
Byron Katie used to say this with a smile from time to time sitting with people who made extra good cases for their misery and suffering and terrible predicaments.
I loved it when I first heard it.
I love noticing that tendency within me that says "No thanks, reality...I'll take care of this myself! You obviously don't know how to manage things around here!"
That mind that doesn't believe love and rest and abundance and ease is possible in certain situations. That mind that doesn't remember everything passes, and nothing is All Bad. That mind that is not in charge of other people's healing.
Or my own, for that matter.
I can't give you anything you don't already have. Self-inquiry allows you access to the wisdom that already exists within you. It gives you the opportunity to realize the truth for yourself. Truth doesn't come or go; it's always here, always available to the open mind. If I can teach you anything, it is to identify the stressful thoughts that you're believing and to question them, to get still enough so that you can hear your own answers. Stress is the gift that alerts you to your asleepness. Feelings like anger or sadness exist only to alert you to the fact that you're believing your own stories. The Work gives you a portal into wisdom, a way to tap into the answers that wake you up to your true nature, until you realize how all suffering is caused and how it can be ended. It returns you to before the beginning of things. Who would you be without your identity?
Winter Retreat meets Dec 1-6, 2020 with two sessions a day (Pacific Time) and 4 hours in between for partner pairing and digesting and silence.
9am-11:30am Pacific Time daily and 3:30-6:00pm Pacific Time daily. Every session recorded for those who need to miss and listen later because of timezone.
Still room for a few more. Read more and sign up here.
From Grace Notes: Do you do The Work with a motive?
There was a time when I became aware, about two years into doing The Work, that sometimes the mind can hold up a belief very solidly in the background of a situation we're investigating, and not let go.
I didn't even know I had the belief. That's the funny part.
I was dating in my forties.
I was also rather shocked to be dating as I had felt so married-for-life in my first marriage of 15 years.
I loved partnership and had mostly been with a partner for the majority of my life since age 16. It seemed easy and natural.
(And before that, I always had one close best friend).
So there I was, meeting men and dating.
There was one man I found incredibly funny and smart, but also quite troubled.
We'd go on a walk or have a meal and talk in depth, and all kinds of weird emotional conflict would appear.
I'd feel nervous, angry, or incredibly disgusted.
Fairly new in my experience of self-inquiry and The Work at that time, I'd write a worksheet on the moment of disruption and get all my thoughts on paper: "he shouldn't have said that", "I need him to be different", "there's something wrong with him", "he's too depressed", "he's an addict".
I would take them through the four questions and find turnarounds and feel amazed with what I learned about myself.
And yet...the conflict persisted.
And so did the on-and-off dating, anxiety, and anger.
When suddenly one day, while sitting quietly in The Work, I heard the voice in my head ask this powerful question.
Why are you trying so, so hard to make this relationship work....when it just plain isn't?
Why are you trying so hard to like red when you prefer blue?
And the hidden "agenda" appeared before my eyes.
This. Relationship. Must. Work.
Dreams of a future living with this person in bliss, enjoying the support of the money he had accumulated and his good taste, feeling that old natural feeling within me of having one best friend in my life, imagining easy conversations and someone to whom you could say "hey, did you see that?
Some part of my mind didn't like noticing this dynamic did NOT really work.
I scared him, he scared me.
Everyone confused and upset. Uneasy.
Ideas about what "success" or "love" looks like.
Is it true it had to work?
Is it true the images I had of "it working" were real? Or was it all imagination? (Um, I would say it was imagination, LOL).
What happened when I believed that relationship MUST work and turn into the relationship I dreamed of?
Well one thing that happened, is I did The Work itself on every tiny thing I did not like, in an effort to land on peace, enforce peace, arrive at peace.
Even my dreams of "peace" were false and guessed at. I said peace didn't look like the present moment, it looked like a vision I had in the future.
I ignored my preferences, for "peace". I turned everything around to myself "for peace". I went places and ate food I didn't like and said "yes" to invitations "for peace" or "for hope".
I turned all my stressful thoughts around and then made an effort to keep myself directed narrowly to this goal of making the relationship work: "I shouldn't have said that", "I need me to be different", "there's something wrong with me", "I'm too depressed", "I'm an addict--especially about him".
But who would I be without the belief "I'm going someplace BETTER in the future (this future relationship working the way I want and imagine)?
Who would I be without the belief "This Must Work"?
On that day I suddenly dropped below my hopes and motives to enforce happiness in the future, my attitude of "fighting" for happiness....
....and I noticed reality.
Reality didn't look like my plan. Reality didn't look like celebration and loving connection and beauty and two married people smiling at each other in that moment.
What was the reality?
And then...the questioning opened up and I became aware of a turnaround: This IS Working.
This is it. This is where this is going.
Not in the future somewhere, where heaven awaits.
Heaven could be right here, despite the discord in relating and the difficult thinking and the tortured emotions and apparent confusion.
The sun still shines behind the sky, the world still moves, the breath still flows in and out of this body, the life force still pulses with joy--no matter what I'm ever doing, no matter what is happening, no matter what is being "thought" in any moment.
I could be cleaning dog poop off my shoe, and this is what is, in that moment.
Not the future cleaned up shoe.
Can I notice This. Is. Working.
The relationship may not involve future active connection (turns out it did not) but what a joy to flow with life instead of push against it.
I understood then what Byron Katie and others might be talking about when they spoke of doing The Work with a motive or agenda, how it can block the freedom and peace you have access to right in the middle of any condition, relationship or situation.
Could heaven be possible even with this?
Who am I to say "this is not heaven"?
It didn't matter that I had been doing that when doing The Work with a motive of eventually getting to peace. Insight came when it came, at just the right time.
I explored, I stayed, and then I saw, and I broke up with him.
The joy of not knowing what will ever happen, the freedom from being dependent on things going a certain way in order for me to be happy....dissolving.
Who are you without the belief "this is not it"?
Turned Around: This is it. This is life, being lived. This is heaven. This is waking up.
Peace is possible now.
When this realization landed inside me, I knew to break up with this man and that I didn't have to make myself Not Think of him.
I didn't know my future and it was totally safe, totally OK. I felt gratitude, clarity, tears, empowerment. Life moved in its own direction.
I couldn't have gotten there, experiencing that moment as peaceful and exciting, without The Work.
"Eventually, through practice, you no longer impose your thinking onto reality, and you can experience everything as it really is, as pure grace."
If you've got beliefs about what is required for peace, for awakening, for love, for eliminating stuckness...you may want to come do The Work on retreat.
We meet for 2.5 hours in Pacific Time morning, then 2.5 hours later, with a nice 4 hour break in the middle of each day for partnering in The Work with someone else in the retreat, movement, your own time, rest.
Every session is recorded for those who will need to sleep during one or more sessions because of your time zone.
The immersion of sitting in The Work with others for six whole days and 30+ hours is, quite honestly, incredible.
And there are two of us to hold you in inquiry, both with our own joy of The Work as facilitators of this profound process.
Tuition is a sliding scale: $375-$895. You choose what works for you based on your resources.
No traveling--it's all online. You're in your own space and something supportive about doing it right where you are.
We've done online retreat before and it's worked brilliantly.
We hope you'll join us and bring the action and aliveness of loving what is into your present moment, without the burden of hoping endlessly for something else.
"I don't know what it is, but these two together are offering some kind of magic. Two experienced facilitators working with the group at the same time was a wonder to behold--each bringing a different flavor to the pot. All I can say is, it worked. It really, really worked." Online Participant 2020
"This was better than I ever imagined. From the ease of technology and emails, to the support behind the scenes to the way the overall flow of the program was managed, and that's not even the content itself of inquiry facilitated beautifully between these two...it's the best online virtual program I have taken.~ Online Participant 2020
P.S. Not long after that time of realization about relationship and trusting reality on the topic of love, I met a wonderful man who happened to become a husband and live-in partner. Apparently life would have it this way, until it isn't.
We've had these thoughts about our compulsions, our thinking, our stories.
I have to be against this.
Otherwise....I won't work hard to push against it, fix it, eliminate it, cut it out, stop it.
Is that true?
Who are we without this story of being against thinking itself?
"People who know that there's no hope are free. The decision's out of their hands. It has always been that way, but some people have to die bodily to find out. No wonder they smile on their deathbeds. Dying is everything they were looking for in life. Their delusion of being in charge is over. When there's no choice, there's no fear. And in that, there is peace. They realize that they're home and that they've never left." ~ Byron Katie
No hope of not thinking what you've thought.
And it's OK.
If you're interested in sitting in 4 days of inquiring (3 hour sessions each day) with me on the things you suffer about, sliding scale online autumn zoom retreat is coming soon. Read more here.
It shouldn't go away (plus summer camp for the mind 2020 news)
I don't know how many years Summer Camp has been going now. Maybe five?
I love that there are regular inquirers I get to be with only in the summer--they join every year.
It's like hugs, high-fives, hellos happen....like at a summer event you might attend only in the summer, only once a year....and plenty of new folks too.
Actually joining Summer Camp, however, as in the technical process of signing up, has been not so easy as hugs, high-fives and a simple hello.
Because last week I "accidentally" deleted my entire website.
(Did you hear a huge gong sound, followed by deadly silence)?
It's not as bad as that sounds. If that even sounds bad to those of you who have websites. I mean...LOL.
I had actually transferred slowly over six months everything on my website (workwithgrace.com) to a brand new site, new layout. Someone in my neighborhood took "professional" photos.
You can see the new site here as a little preview. Some of you have already visited there, and it will have the name of my usual site workwithgrace.com very soon. Same name, new site.
But about that deleting part.
It was a bit abrupt and unexpected and I didn't realize I'd have no website for a whole week (so far). When you have a business and the main place people find you is your website, this can be a thing.
In other words, there are a few stressful thoughts about it.
There are lots of tech problems in life.
You know what a tech problem is like I am sure.
The thing doesn't start. The pages didn't save. You lost your entire essay. You lost all the photos. The computer turned out to have a "corrupted" something-or-other and it's now dead. There is no sound even though there's video. Your emails no longer work.
(Oh that's right, my emails were also deleted--something I also did not know when I pushed that button. Working again now).
So I noticed when "workwithgrace" became non-existent on the web the first day, I just sighed.
Here we go calling the tech support people and listening to that same music over and over on hold.
And also the images, thoughts, imaginings of the mind flashing possibilities of options for where this is going, what I'll have to do, what would happen if I just didn't have a website anymore?
The mind thinks of so many options.
It shouted "But no one can find you! No one can sign up for summer camp! This is too hard! This really is a problem! This is your livelihood--get cracking! Fix it! I can't take it! You need to worry about this!"
Later on that day my husband called from his office "someone's trying to reach you and says your emails keep bouncing back!"
I know, I know, I'm thinking. JEEZ!
This is one way to get your Inbox down to zero.
Will I remember who or what I was supposed to be responding to that I was saving in the Very Important Inbox?
What about people trying to schedule appointments?
Oy veys. (Here's my scheduling link for that, by the way).
So....the thing is deleted.
Let's do The Work.
You can even follow along on this as if it was a relationship where something just happened and BAM.
Were they angry? Upset? What does this mean for the future? Did I cause this deletion of a conversation? Or was it a tech thing?
Same commentary, I notice, whether a person appears to vanish from communication, or a website:
This is wrong. It shouldn't be happening. I need this to be up and running--and I know what "up and running" looks like. It's a conversation. All systems go. THIS does not look like that or feel like that.
I need a response!
They're gone! It's gone!
I've been abandoned!
Goodness. Such a fear of separation. A terror of lack of connection and all I think it means.
The basic underlying thoughts careening in to the mind about this situation, where something or someone has disappeared can be terrifying.
I need it another way. I need it to be connected. I need the site to be running--to work.
I need it to appear as I saw it before, to be familiar. I need that person to show up, stay present, talk, listen. I need a sign of positive affirmation.
I need them to be here. I need, I need, I need. I won't survive without them. I won't survive without my website or my business running.
Lordy! It's always boiling down to the same complaint.
But is it true?
I need it to be other than it is right now. I need pictures, sound, movement, contact, conversation, a smile, friendliness, back-and-forth, blog posts, internet pages with written detail, someone on the other end.
Is that true? Really?
Because apparently, it's not happening.
So apparently, I don't need that.
I'm still alive, breathing, conscious, relaxed, sheltered, here, awake, noticing.
Except for a few thoughts, all is simply "underway". Life unfolding as it does. Going this way and that.
How do you react when you need something to be "working" (whatever that might be for you in a moment, whether the computer, or that relationship, or even your trust in God or your journey to enlightenment)?
How the mind reacts is it creates assumptions about what's going on, what this means.
Assumptions that show I'm potentially not safe, I've been abandoned, the world isn't safe, life isn't safe, technology isn't safe, people aren't safe, people aren't reliable. There's someplace else safer.
Wow, so little faith in the self....whatever that is....just being here, observing, being alive.
Whoever or whatever I am is Not OK. This isn't good enough. This is dangerous.
How do you treat reality the moment when you believe it should be different, and have the deleted website or person in it?
How do you treat God, Life, This Moment when what is, is frustrating, or dreadful?
I notice I treat it badly. Clenched fists. Tightness. Fear.
I also notice, it never minds how I treat it. (Notice it never "minds"....)
So who would you be without this story of abandonment, danger, frustration and fighting the deletion of something in your day (or week....or OK, your year or your decade)?
One thing I love noticing in answering this question is the silence that is always here like a comfy blanket, so precious and supportive....waiting.
Noise happening in the mind, then this pause of wondering "Who would you be without the belief I need the website back, I need that person back, I need my old life back, I need a text back, I need need need...."?
Without the story of danger and lack, I notice I look up the numbers for live support and see when they open on Monday.
I take one step, then another. I get email running with the help of three different calls and a few support chats.
I even giggle about not having a website at all--I imagine it as a possibility.
I think "Wow, who said a website is necessary to keep a business running? I bet it isn't!"
I have such fun imagining changing everything up instead of hesitating.
In any moment, anything could happen. So exciting.
Nothing is forever in these relationships in life. People come and go. Computers come and go. Websites come and go. Days come and go. Eating and food comes and goes (had to throw that one in there, most of you know of my history with eating issues).
Every day, there is this moment, then something happens.
Mind assesses the situation and labels it. Often it labels things "good" or "bad".
And how fun to have the turnarounds so we can try on the labels or examples that are the opposite of what we originally jumped to.
Turning it around: It's awesome the way it is, it's advantageous, it's safe, it's connected. I do not need it to be different.
Guess what just happened 10 minutes ago?
My battery ran out of charge and this whole Grace Note shut down along with everything on my computer, so a charger was found and plugged in and rebooting happened.
Not everything was saved but I notice it doesn't matter, I simply picked up the conversation here where we left off.
Hilarious! Making friends with SHUT DOWN.
Making friends with left turns, full stops, unexpected-ness, waiting....silence.
I notice that turning a thought around doesn't necessarily mean I throw the computer in the garbage. It doesn't mean I throw the person who is no longer speaking to me in the dumpster. It doesn't mean I throw out the memories or the communication with the person who died.
Turning it all around: This is wonderful the way it is. There are advantages. It shows me what is not necessary that I imagined was.
I do NOT need it another way. Only my mind needs it another way (loves to compare). Only mind needs it to be different and to argue with the way it is.
This doesn't mean to be resigned and unhappily "accept" it as it is. I notice that's not acceptance.
I notice something moves me to make a shift, walk somewhere else, get up and fetch a glass of water if I'm thirsty, stop texting the person who isn't texting back, call the tech support people.
Movement happens. I hit the ball back when playing a game. I find someone else or somewhere else to play.
Things expand and change right before my eyes.
There is support, freedom, peace, loving kindness, joy, love, communication, sharing, silence, connection always available.
People and websites shut down. This is the way of it.
Could it be good news, not bad?
Now this moment, good.
Things shut down. Good.
Things open up. Good.
Noticing nothing is permanent, static or forever.
A fun ride, a heart-breaking ride, a fascinating ride, a joyful ride.
If you'd like to get on the inquiry train for Summer Camp, read about it here. Love to have you in the wonderful group of exploration and sharing.
Year of Inquiry people join us for the camp after their months of small-group inquiry, so there are lots of people who practice The Work who are eager to feel, learn, notice, pause, reflect, watch, act.
In any case....it's life.
Wondering who we are without our assumptions, interpretations and conclusions about it. Feeling the joy and safety of life doing what it does, without our objections.
I lost everything (eyesight, health, joie de vivre....
I never stop being inspired by everyone's work. I mean everyone.
A few weeks ago a participant in Year of Inquiry shared that she had been kinda tired of it all and taking a break.
From The Work.
I'm laughing with her, not at her.
Because this is NOT an unfamiliar thought that's entered my mind. And many others' minds as well.
I've heard it a ton, in my own head and from others' sharing it with me. Just because we're doing The Work doesn't mean we don't complain about it, or say things like "I won't do it...give me netflix! I haven't written a worksheet in weeks!"
I get surprised, in fact, that people continue to come over and over to show up, answer the same four questions, and wonder about their minds. :)
But they do. And shockingly, so do I.
I hear the voice say things like "Ugh. Whatever. Isn't there an easier way than these repetitive four questions? I mean, Jeezus. Really?"
Or the voice sounds like two people having a conversation:
Voice-In-The-Mind A: "You know, remember that thing called The Work? Four questions? If you did The Work on that disturbance, you might discover something."
Voice-In-The-Mind B: "Aw, give it a rest. Can't I just watch a stand-up comedy routine on my computer in peace?!"
The thing is....there might be waiting to do The Work, or having a hissy fit while getting out the pen and paper....
....There might be trying other options or listening to podcasts....
....but in the end the simplest, shortest, least costly way to understanding when I'm confused or upset and not sure what else to do, is The Work.
Yesterday, the first day of Spring Retreat occurred online.
From brand new beginners to The Work, to very experienced facilitators and people who have been to multiple schools and events with Byron Katie.
All sixteen of us assembled together on zoom, our painful worksheets and situations in mind.
It's truly astonishing what people are willing to turn towards, sit with, share, and question. How real, vulnerable and honest people can be. Knowing there is no right way or wrong way, just noticing what the mind is doing as it receives questions, and answers them.
It's totally inspiring.
What I love noticing is that despite complaining, even about doing The Work....despite trying to avoid the conflicts, fears and agonies we imagine....despite over-eating or trying to escape through other mechanisms or fantasies...despite feeling furious or enraged at Those People who betrayed us or who have had power over us....
....people show up, willing to share what they're believing that hurts, and willing to question their stories.
I am inspired and re-inspired every time.
I actually think "Wow, how fascinating this person is! So smart! So open! So raw! So honest!"
So if you've had the belief cross your mind that The Work is too simple, or too boring, or too weird, or too much work, or too repetitive, or too hard....sometimes just getting with one other person or a small group of kind listeners can make a huge difference.
It certainly does for me.
P.S. Another online retreat is coming: June 2-June 7. This one has a different schedule than the one underway and one of my fav co-facilitators is joining me: Tom Compton.
For more information about online retreat with Tom C and Grace B visit here.
Marlyna does The Work on physical ailments and "itis" conditions disturbing her
P.S. We will do The Work on body, relationships, money, God/Universe, and even have a mindful meal together to open to the way we make contact with food (Grace's favorite) for Spring Mental Cleanse Retreat May 13-17, 2020. Join us in Seattle. Read more HERE.
P.P.S. These open sessions for Peace Talk public broadcast filled almost instantly through June, but more will open later in the summer. When new slots open I'll be sure to let you all know.Much love,
And yet this moment here, always, is OK. If the mind is not overly involved or desperate for something else right now, all is well. Slowness can even happen in this present moment.
As you can see, I just needed to do The Work right on the spot as I began writing today.
Mind says "Writing? No time. Expanding? No more room. Reducing? Not possible. Too much of this, not enough of that. Never just right. Watch the clock!!"
That's the mind's motto.
I'm reminded of it since the eating peace group has just begun especially.
With eating, or other substances or processes we love like TV, shopping, traveling, drinking, distracting, relationship-hunting, improving, smoking, fantasizing....
....the never-ending impulses of the mind create excitement, fear, worry, dread, self-pity, anger, criticism, depression, avoidance, grief.
Wow, it's a circus in here!
Thank goodness for The Work.
Because then, I can start with the predicament on top, the one disturbing me now--just starting with one, not over-thinking which "problem" to work on--simply beginning with one.
Recently I had a meeting with an important mentor of mine I only see maybe once a year, sometimes longer in between.
We talked about my business and this service of doing work in the world, sharing, offering, working with this inner life.
And there I was telling her an old favorite sad story.
It's almost embarrassing to speak of, since it reveals insecurity, worry, doubt, mistrust of life, disappointment, discouragement. I watch embarrassment as it means I'll be revealing my inadequacy which means I'll make it obvious how imperfect I am which means I'm unworthy which means.....something bad.
It's like a core belief is revealed: if you have doubt, fear, anxiety, insecurity....it means you are bad, doing it wrong.
But back to the story (I stalled for a minute so I didn't have to reveal it yet, did you see that)?
This wise mentor suggested to me when we met "you have a pattern of believing in ruin, it seems."
Ruined? RUINED? I believe in RUIN?
Do I think about being ruined?
That word. Ruined.
I can hear it and find the drama in the mind.
Ruined financially. Ruined in divorce. Ruined physically from an accident or damage to the body. Day ruined. Bank account ruined. Relationship ruined. Life ruined.
Wow. That's rough.
Of course I had to look up the word "ruin" and the etymology and formulation of the word: Rough, collapse, decay, disrepair, falling into neglect, a building no longer standing.
Rue, to make sorry, to grieve, to affect with deep sorrow, mourn, lament. Rue, a strong-smelling plant.
And suddenly, through my own inner sense of feeling--the key to the thinking--I saw ruin as a feeling within.
Grief. Sorrow. Regret.
To hold our regrets inside can be so difficult when the mind works over them, again and again.
So good to have self-inquiry.
Find a place where you believe you were ruined, or someone else was, or you notice the fear of ruination in the future.
For example (ahem): I was financially ruined (in my divorce).
Is it true?
Yes, I had no money. Yes, everything in the material world I knew appeared to be gone.
But the story that went with it (I am not safe, this will last forever, I'll never get ahead, I'll never love again)....
....that was not true.
I'm breathing. I made it. Here we are.
What happens when you believe in ruin? When you regret?
Very painful. Images of the past--when you're sure it was better. Here come those pictures and images. Here comes the grief.
Here comes the thinking "I should get over this and stop having PTSD about money, I should be someone different. I should stop wishing."
Who would I be without this story?
Noticing the quiet moment here, on a laptop, grey day, new year, tearful with memories, appreciating those in the past I once knew. Noticing everything comes and goes.
Noticing the odd "accident" just a few moments before of googling something in Ireland and landing on my former father-in-law's obituary page and seeing he died this exact same date five years ago.
Without the belief in ruin, I simply watch the parade of pictures in my mind, and see the astonishing benefit of this day today, and that grief is OK and even normal.
I can remember if my mind says to me "ruined!" I might wonder what I feel sorrow for today, and the bitter taste of strong-smelling grief.
Turning the thought around: I am not ruined, I was not ruined. (This is 100% true--here I am as I said--life went on apparently). The grief didn't destroy me, the sorrow didn't make me always bitter. I sometimes find life incredibly funny, and laughter bubbles up.
I also notice "I am" can never be ruined. It's been here the whole time, unfazed.
It says, 'Yah yah, you were born, you grew up, you got married, divorced, succeeded with money, failed with money, failed, succeeded, yadda yadda yadda....did you notice how beautiful this room is, and how strange and mysterious the sky out the window? Oh and by the way, I've got a new joke...."
Turning the thought around again: My thinking is ruined.
And that's some fantastic news.
It's outdated, crumbling, in decay and decline. It focuses on the past and projects what happened into the future. It collapses every night for some rest, and often during the day as well. It chatters away and then forgets about whatever it said.
Except for the thinking, all is well indeed.
Turned Around: Everything is being born in this moment.
"Where there is ruin, there is hope for treasure." ~ Rumi
Every "ruined" situation I encountered brought something precious and invaluable: No money showed me the generosity of others, the amazing support and surprise of people. Relationship gone showed me new potential and new possibilities. Body damaged brought me trust and rest and slowing down, and poetry. Losing someone brought me to service, to connection without fear.
Would I take it away, any of it?
I'm not in charge of that. Except I can see the benefits, and notice when I think "I'm ruined" about anything, I might need to cry.
"Where you stumble, there lies your treasure" ~ Joseph Campbell.
Stuck in a lie in a relationship? (+ relationship class starts Sunday)
This weekend on Sunday, we begin the 8 session live zoom course Divorce/Breaking Up/Separation Is Hell–Is It True?
The pain of feeling separate from another human being who appears to move away from you can be so strong.
Sometimes, even though they aren’t “divorcing” people sign up for this course to look at fears, future anticipation of a changed relationship, upset about change and transition in primary relationship.
In fact, there’s always a minimum of one or two people who are still in a committed partnership, with no talk of divorce even happening….but there’s trouble.
I notice a tendency in my own mind to believe there are three options with just about anything I’m opposing in my life, relationships or otherwise.
I see the situation. I don’t like it.
Mind quickly moves to one of three options:
Choice A) Get away from it. Run. Disappear into the woodwork. Back out of the room slowly. “Ghost” the person or situation (vanish without a trace). AWOL. No show. MIA.
Choice B) Attack the situation or person, whether in your head or right out loud. Aggression. Fighting energy. Feeling furious. Give them a piece of your mind. Rage. Say bitter, upsetting things. Threaten whomever it is you’re opposed to. This can happen internally, without them even being in your environment.
Choice C) Collapse. Feel hopeless, depressed. Rake yourself through the coals. Feel bad about you. Lonely, piteous, sad. List the reasons you’re a piece of sh&* and you screwed this up. Give up. Feel stuck.
Sometimes they call it Flight, Fight or Freeze.
But any one of these has to do with arguing with the present situation.
Relationship, or otherwise.
This course called Divorce/Breaking-Up/Separation Is Hell is really about our own minds and how we divorce ourselves, break-up with ourselves, separate from ourselves.
This is certainly what I did when I got divorced fifteen years ago. I felt panicked, enraged, betrayed, abandoned and lonely.
I felt like my first husband leaving meant I was worthy of being left….and the inner dialogue was horrible.
(Thank God Almighty for The Work–that’s what my grandma would say. Thank Reality Almighty, Thank Peace Almighty, Thank Silence Almighty….use whatever word you like most).
Now, I’m very happily remarried to an adorable and loving man (who’s also great at The Work and self-inquiry) and I still have this range of thoughts on a very subtle level sometimes.
Like, for example.
We received a call saying “we need to come into your house to upgrade an electrical panel by adding 100 amp something-or-other. We’ll be there at 7:30am.”
No problem. (We have a building project underway in our back yard).
The electrical panel is in my husband’s office.
He lightly suggests to me “maybe we should move the couch so they can quickly and smoothly get to the panel”.
Then I enter the office.
Boxes, files, piles of books and CDs, clothes and towels on the aforementioned couch. Papers, envelopes, more boxes, storage tubs, folders, boxes for his classroom, a full can of garbage.
My instant reaction to the sight: AGAINST WHAT IS!!!
There were some words, and my little snappish commands, and a quick clean-up session.
But here’s why I’m mentioning it. In the past, because of seeing clutter, my mind has actually gone to the thought in zero to sixty seconds…..“I can’t live with this!”
Pan to me sitting in a tiny cabin near a beach all alone, with zen type clutter-free counters and almost no stuff except laptop and a bookshelf of books. Pure minimalism. Husband or any other human is nowhere n sight. Ahhhhhhhhh.
The mind shows pictures of how great it will be in the future if you make a change.
Either one is fantasy.
What’s amazing is watching the mind do this, jump to one of the three “survivor” choices, without question.
When I do The Work, I get to see differently, and find new creative ways to work with what is. I get to communicate with the partner (if it’s a partner) or share and speak if its someone else.
With self-inquiry, we get to see what other options are possible besides believing “this relationship is a threat, it’s no good, I have to get away”.
It never means you don’t leave a situation or relationship that doesn’t work, or say goodbye and move on (that can be incredibly exciting).
But it’s nice to feel solid instead of pining for the past, or anticipating a disastrous future.
In our course, we get to do exercises with situations that repeat themselves, our fears, sadness, loss. All the exercises can apply really to any relationship where conflict arises.
AND, it’s incredibly sweet and bonding to be with all folks who are facing primary relationship troubles: should I stay or should I go? What brings up my anger? What am I afraid of here? How do I work with these patterns that feel so hard?
We’ve got room for a few more. We meet this Sunday, then no class on January 19th (I’m teaching Eating Peace Retreat next weekend) then seven more sessions on Sundays until March 8th. All are recorded so you can come and go as you need to if you can’t attend them all.
Join me and Nadine.
Today, I share a wonderful second interview with a certified facilitator Helena Montelius who experienced a profound piece of news from a former lover….and her story and inner work around this is amazing.
She learned from her former boyfriend that he had AIDS, and now, she did as well. She knew she was sick, and her practitioners had never tested for AIDS as they didn’t think of it–it hadn’t crossed their minds as an option.
Hear about her own “separation hell” to separation heaven in her own heart and mind. It’s incredibly inspiring on so may levels.