Tag Archives: byron katie

The Work Tools

Something happened recently that disappointed me. However, part of me insisted that it wasn’t a big deal, that I was overreacting and that I should get over it and move on. And I did. I mentally high-fived the new easy-going me.

In a conversation this evening, the same issue resurfaces. I receive new information that triggers me all over again.

I end the chat as quickly as I can. I’m just home after a very busy day and I’m starving but I’m too upset to eat.  So I fly up to my room and mutate into a wailing, thumping, tantrumming child.

I’m surprised to see that I’m angry. Anger is an uncomfortable emotion for me. I tell myself that I need to calm down.

I put my phone on silent, sit on my meditation cushion and tap on how I’m feeling (click here for more on EFT – Emotional Freedom Technique).

The anger pours out, as does the hurt. I allow the ego to have its say. What it says and how it speaks sounds so petty and silly that I start laughing. Then the tears return. As does the rage.

Even as I write this, it sounds overdramatic. I don’t want to worry family and friends over something so “trivial”.

That stern, no-nonsense part of me wants to assure you that it really isn’t a big thing. But what message would I be sending my sobbing inner child if I silenced her like that? And so I continue.

google.com

google.com

The tapping uncovers deeper feelings of not being important or special enough. Of being a “psycho”.

I should pretend that I’m fine because if I reveal my real feelings, if I ask for what want, I will surely and immediately become unloved and abandoned. And if that happens, I’ll feel so bad that everything else will be ruined.

With these imaginations, I’ve catapulted myself from a meditation cushion on a fine Friday evening to a near future of doom and failure. I may need another tool…

So I turn to Byron Katie’s transformative process The Work. The first step of The Work is to come up with a statement which is making me feel bad.

The statement I go for is: I’m overreacting. 

I then ask four questions.

The first question is: Is it true? Is it true that I’m overreacting?

Yes, I answer resolutely. Because nothing anyone does should make me feel bad. Only I can make myself bad. So I am overreacting. I should be zen at all times.

The second question is: Can you absolutely know that it’s true?

Again I respond with a Yes because “I should know better than to react this way”. However, I also know that a No to this question would move The Work along nicely.

Once I give myself permission to say that No, maybe I’m not overreacting, the reasons for why I’m feeling this way become clear. No wonder you’re upset, I comfort my poor inner child. There, there.

Then for question number three: How do you react, what happens when you believe that thought?

When I believe that I’m overreacting, I reject myself. I tell myself that I shouldn’t feel the way I’m feeling. I don’t have a right to speak up. My needs aren’t as important as the needs of others. And if I act like they are, those other people will become angry and leave.

The fourth question is: Who would you be without the thought?

If I didn’t have the thought I’m overreacting, if I couldn’t have it, I wouldn’t doubt myself so much. I’d be clearer about my needs. I’d know what I want and what I deserve. I wouldn’t beat up on myself and I wouldn’t feel bad for feeling bad. I’d love myself.

This year, I promised myself something powerful, something life-changing:

I will not abandon myself any more.

This evening, in spite of the pain, I refuse to turn my back on myself. I give myself some much-needed, much-appreciated love.

Regarding the situation, I don’t know yet what the next step is. But maybe acknowledging how I’m feeling, getting to the root of these emotions, seeing that I’m as deserving as anyone else, and loving myself throughout is enough.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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What Happens to This Moment?

It is a beautiful day. My companion and I stroll through the woods, picking shamrocks and blackberries. We touch the thick trunks of towering trees, admire the hawthorn, and sniff purple lupine and yellow furze.

We stand for several minutes, gazing out at a stunning view of the Mourne mountains, the sun on the water, and the unexpected sight of a large round moon in the cornflower sky.

I break the silence and ask, “How present are you?”

He pauses then says: “There are a few ways I can be right now. I could be all about the other person – you. I could be totally present within myself. Or I could be present to myself and to another human being simultaneously. Thank you for reminding me of that.”

Later, we discuss the topic further. My friend recalls a Byron Katie quote:

“The end of suffering is to not project a future even one nanosecond away from now, whether you’re experiencing a terrorist attack or just doing the dishes.”

He adds: “We’re always thinking: ‘What’s next? What’s next?’ And when we’re doing that, what happens to this moment?”

“We’re not there for it,” I respond.

I realise that, even while speaking about presence, I’m catapulting myself out of the present by planning and daydreaming, hoping and worrying, fantasising and catastrophising. I’m stepping ten minutes into the future, leaping into next week and somersaulting over decades.

When I’m doing that, what happens to this moment?

I take a breath deep into my centre, look into his eyes and smile.

Image: Author's Own

Image: Author’s Own

Happiness on Tour

I’m delighted to be part of the Happiness on Tour project. Check out my very first YouTube video where I give five tips to feel happier instantly.

Freewheelin’

I went for a cycle this morning. The sun was shining but the wind was strong. As I struggled against the wind, I thought: It’s amazing how something invisible can exert so much force, how something I can’t see can hinder me from going where I want to go.

Then it struck me. Our thoughts are a lot like the wind. They’re intangible and we can’t physically look at them. But they can stop us in our tracks as we attempt to battle against them.

Last night, as I flicked through a friend’s Coaching manual from Executive Coaching SolutionsI came across a section on Common Cognitive Distortions (CCDs), otherwise known as ‘thinking traps’. This is the type of distorted thinking that causes us to feel negative emotions.

Examples of CCDs include All or Nothing thinking, Disqualifying the Positive, Jumping to Conclusions (suddenly we become really talented mind readers and fortune tellers), Approval Seeking, Comparison, and Woe is Me thoughts.

I know I’ve engaged all of the above on many the occasion. The trick here is to be aware of the style of thinking you’re employing and to question it. Question the validity of your statements, check the facts, and see if you can turn it around into something more useful, more positive. I’m a big fan of Byron Katie’s work. Read more about how to question your thoughts and turn them around here.

Now, back to the bike. As the wind blew, I had to stand up and pedal harder. The sun blinded me as it reflected up off the wet ground. Then, I spotted a man walking his horse. When they heard me approach, the horse bucked. I waited for it to settle before moving on.

Today’s cycle threw up a few obstacles. At least with the things I could physically see, I was able to manoeuvre them. I squinted and averted my eyes from the glare of the sun. I stopped until the man had his horse under control before passing with caution. But there was nothing I could do about the wind. Well, I could get off the bike and walk but I was determined to keep riding.

Moments later, I turned a corner. I got in front of the wind and freewheeled down a hill. I felt exhilarated. By the time I got to a flat surface, the wind had died down and I cycled the rest of the way home with ease.

Your thoughts are much like the wind as you balance precariously atop the saddle on your exciting journey through life. Sometimes your thoughts will come thick and fast and you’ll have to decide whether to ride on or get off the bike. Other times, your thoughts will die down and you’ll flow through your days with ease. But you’re human and so thoughts will always come. It’s up to you whether you make them work for or against you. It’s your choice. Labour against the wind or ride with it!

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favim.com

Message in a Bottled Dream

Last week, I had a dream that I was climbing a cliff of purple amethyst. I had to think carefully about where to place my hands and feet. Suddenly, I became aware of how precarious my position was, how high up I was, how far I had to fall, how vulnerable I was. I was terrified. People below shouted words of praise and encouragement. I thought: It doesn’t matter what anybody else says or does. The belief has to come from within.

Something about this dream seemed relevant so I revisited it to search for its meaning. I read the words I’d scrawled, drunk with sleep, in my journal. The first message was obvious: Belief must come from within. The second message was slightly more obscure. In the dream, I’d felt fine while climbing the cliff until a thought had changed everything. The thought was: I am unsafe. I am in danger. And so I became frightened. I was paralysed with fear. A simple thought can totally transform our reality. Therefore, a different thought or even a detachment from the thought can alter our reality in a more positive way.

Recently, I was chatting to a lady who felt depressed. She said: “What’s weighing me down is the thought that I am like this, that I am depressed.” It wasn’t the depression that was making her feel bad, it was the thought of being depressed that she couldn’t escape. As Byron Katie would say, “Who would you be without the thought?” A whole lot lighter! In my dream, who would I be without the thought that I might fall? I would be confident and secure and present in my task of climbing.

As I shut my journal, I realised that the dream didn’t really possess two separate meanings. Both messages pointed in the same direction: Everything comes from within us. Our thinking is what makes our reality. The thought doesn’t have us; we have the thought. We choose every single thought. So, we can replace thoughts that fill us with fear, anger or sadness with thoughts of peace, love and happiness. We can empower ourselves and enrich our own lives. We can choose to live in the present and enjoy each and every moment.

The Work

Today, I attended a Byron Katie workshop. Byron Katie’s work involves asking yourself four simple questions whenever you’re feeling bad. They are as follows:

  1. Is it true?
  2. Can you absolutely know that it’s true?
  3. How do you react, what happens, when you believe that thought?
  4. Who would you be without the thought?

You then turn the thought around. I’ll give you the example I used when filling out the “Judge-Your-Neighbor” worksheet. We were instructed to go back to a time when we felt hurt. I remembered being dumped by a boyfriend. Katie asked us to go back to the centre of the most painful moment of that episode. I was lying on my bed, roaring crying. I felt shocked, upset, disappointed and rejected. I was also angry because I felt that he had disrespected me.

Here are a couple of the questions from the worksheet: In this situation, what advice would you offer to that person? You should be honest and true to yourself. What do you think of this person in this situation? I think ______ is asleep, unfair, dishonest, cowardly and immature. 

I asked myself the four questions, which I understood and which rang true for me. But it was the turnaround that really blew me away. Turn the thought around: should be honest and true to myself. Yes, without a doubt. ______ is honest and true to himself. He is awake, fair, honest, brave and mature. Of course he is. He was awake enough to know that he didn’t want to be with me any longer. He was honest with himself and with me. He was brave enough to end it. He was mature enough to do the right thing. was asleep, unfair, dishonest, cowardly and immature. Right again! I was willing to stay in a relationship that wasn’t working. I was being dishonest with myself and with him. I was wailing like an abandoned infant. Wow!

There were a number of other Aha moments as the day progressed. I’ll mention a few of them. One man stated: “_____ should be more open-minded.” Katie asked, “Can someone be more open-minded than they are in that moment?” The answer is no. This really got me thinking. Imagine if we stopped trying to control how others behaved? If we stopped judging them, criticising them, feeling superior to them, feeling hurt by them? The other person is not hurting us. It is our thought, our reaction that hurts us. And we have the power to change that thought. What a liberating realisation!

Byron Katie spoke about relationships. She suggested: “Your partner is your teacher. He / she is working on you as he / she is always showing you what you need to learn. This makes it much easier for you as it cuts your work in half.” I had never thought of it that way before. So, it’d be in my interest to find myself a “teacher”… Must put in a request…

Finally, one woman told us that she hates her belly because it’s too fat. Byron Katie picked up a little flower and said (in the type of voice a flower might have): “I’m so beautiful!” She then pointed the flower in the direction of a vase filled with different flowers. She / the flower said: “There must be something wrong with me… I’m not yellow. I don’t have as many leaves as that flower, I’m not as open as that other one, and I think I’m too short.” We laughed at how ridiculous it sounded. She then turned to the woman and asked, “Your belly is too fat for what?” The woman answered, “To be sexy and attractive.” Katie said: “So, you see your body as collateral. You think – I’m not going to get much with this body.” Again, we laughed. The woman admitted that sometimes her boyfriend tells her that he doesn’t like her belly. Byron Katie said: “You be your boyfriend and tell me that you don’t like my belly. I’ll be somebody who loves my belly. I’ll be you.” When the woman told Katie that she had a problem with her belly, Katie responded: “Oh my God, I hope you get over that! That must be awful for you. Whose problem is that? It’s certainly not mine.” She added: “If your mind cannot compare, is it possible to see yourself as anything other than perfect?” She concluded: “Your ego doesn’t want you to become enlightened. Your attachment to the thought that you are fat is not allowing you to wake up.” Sit with that one for a moment…

Who would you be without the thoughts that are terrorising you? Relaxed? At peace? Happy? Present? Become aware of the thoughts that are making you feel bad. Develop an inquiring mind. Question your beliefs. And turn them around. As Byron Katie says: “Change your thoughts. Change the world.”

Which of these poppies is not perfect?

Image: incrediblesnaps.com/60-beautiful-flower-pictures

No More Excuses

It’s all well and good having brilliant flashes of insight into our behaviour. It’s marvellous to come to some understanding as to why we might be miserable. We can have many an Aha moment as we read tonnes of self-help books and watch endless YouTube clips of Wayne Dyer and Deepak Chopra. But what’s the point if we never actually change? We moan:

“I’m exhausted because I push myself too hard. I’m constantly striving for perfection. Because I think I’m only worthy of love and acceptance when I’m perfect.”

What a wonderful realisation! But what can we do with it? We might take a little rest (if even) and resolve to love ourselves unconditionally, before falling right back into our old self-destructive patterns. Working too hard, exercising and dieting to excess, and denying ourselves any morsel of pleasure in life… until the next time we binge or act lazy or reconnect with a bad habit; until we fall ill or get depressed and can no longer do all those things that make us feel we deserve a space on this planet. And yet again, we punish ourselves and cry, and wonder what’s the point of life… And if we don’t break down completely or (worst case scenario) decide to take our own lives, we pick ourselves up, wipe away our tears, root out those Mooji clips and dusty Thich Nhat Hanh books and start all over again…

I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with this. At least we’re trying. I know I do the exact same thing, time and time again. I thought my life would never be the same after watching an inspiring movie, after being introduced to Byron Katie’s work, after reading Awareness, Mutant Message Down Under, Veronika Decides to Die, The Power of NowAnd I really believed it. Every single time. Until my next spell at rock bottom, when I was left wondering where it all went wrong.

Maya Angelou wrote, “When you know better, you do better.” So, if we know what’s to be expected from that sort of conduct, why not save time, energy and heartache and just change, once and for all?

All the motivational books and videos and quotations do help. But they can only bring us forward a certain amount. It’s not called “self-help” for nothing. Ultimately, it’s you, and only you, who can help yourself. People can give you advice, tips and recommendations, but if you’re not ready to take them on board or if you’re unwilling to change, then it’s not going to do much good, is it?

“You can’t teach anybody anything, only make them realise the answers are already inside them.” Galileo

It’s much easier telling others how to live their lives, and to spot where they’re going wrong. We can talk all we want about needing to transform our thinking, but when it comes to actually making a change, most of us chicken out. Because it’s unfamiliar and scary. It takes courage, determination and persistence to change.

I’m not going to finish this off with a persuasive video clip or a book list that’s guaranteed to change your life.

Just change. Do it.

Images: http://blamethecrane.tumblr.com/; http://stylishwebdesigner.com/50-stunning-photographs-to-refresh-your-mind/