Applying The Work of Byron Katie to the COVID-19 Contagion

As a peaceful warrior, I feel it is empowering to embrace my feelings of vulnerability and resistance – to ask the hard questions – and work through them – to find the gem of truth in the lump of coal.

Why?  Because there isn’t a moment to waste!  I wish to learn from every experience.  For me, examining my thoughts allows me to consider reality, in this case, the reality of our global situation instead of resisting the thought that it shouldn’t be happening.

Why is the thought, COVID-19 shouldn’t be happening, untrue?  Because it is happening.  That is reality.

Master teacher Byron Katie has been showing us how to challenge our beliefs for decades.  I found her work a couple of years ago and was amazed at the correlations between her process and the one I had devised to heal myself.  As a result, I advocate that we Question Everything, and use a meditative process that I call contemplative writing.  It has led me to a thoughtful consideration of what I believe to be true.

It’s true, all war belongs on paper…

The answers I receive are the result of Inspiration.  They come from the most honorable, compassionate part of me that I can access at this point in time.  I call this part, my Constant Traveler.

I believe we all have a Constant Traveler within.

Katie’s four questions blend perfectly with my own work.  They have opened up another level of inquiry for me.  I highly recommend them!  They are elegant, simple, and effective.  They spell Freedom.

Let’s begin with a common thought regarding this current pandemic:

What is the thought?  COVID-19 will make me sick.

      1. Is it true?  It has the potential to make me sick, most certainly, but I can’t know for sure that it will.
      2. Is it absolutely true?  Beyond a shadow of a doubt, I cannot know that it will make me sick.
      3. Who am I when I believe that thought, COVID-19 will make me sick? I am deeply afraid:  I feel an adrenaline rush.  It feels like the alarm bells ringing all over my body.  I feel restless…I cannot settle down – I feel I must search for reassurance or confirmation that my feelings are right.  I feel the urge to reach out…to keep talking about my fear.
      4. Who would I be without the thought, COVID-19 will make me sick?
        I would be okay.
        I would be content.
        I would sleep better – with more rest I could survey the situation with clear eyes and act with intention.
        I would be happy at home.
        I would be grateful for my blessings.
        I would be free to be helpful in whatever way I can imagine.
        I would be able to take clear, appropriate instructions and safeguard myself, my family, and my community.
        I would be able to create an oasis of peace, a peaceful retreat at home.

Let’s consider this TURN AROUND for the thought – COVID-19 will make me sick.  A turn around allows us to observe the issue from another perspective, in this case, its opposite:

COVID-19 won’t make me sickThis is also a possibility. It is always possible that I won’t be sick. However, it is always my responsibility to act in the service of others and keep my distance so I don’t make them sick.

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Can I think of any reason to let this thought (COVID-19 will make me sick) go? Yes. It is making me suffer and ruining my precious day.

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In order for me to be happy in this situation, what do I need to happen?

COVID-19 should go away.

As Katie says, thoughts are always of the past or the future. 

Let’s question this idea – one thought at a time. Do our conclusions come from our reality? What we are experiencing now? Look around you. Feel your environment. The floor is supporting you. The walls are sheltering you. Feel your sit bones making contact with your sofa or chair…feel your feet making solid contact with the floor. You are warm. You are fed. Breathe…be here now.  See your door. Remember it swings both ways. You can believe that it opens onto a world that is in chaos, or you can imagine your door as a portal that allows you access to safety and Sanctuary.

You can close the door. This is reality. Most of us are performing a vital service by staying home. If you have been designated as essential, or have to go out to get groceries, medication, or to take a walk, create a Sanctuary in your mind so that when you come home and close the door you are closing the door to crisis – crisis thoughts, words, and actions. Take that with you when you go.

ANOTHER TURN AROUND:

Disclaimer:  Turning this thought around is simply an exercise in speculation.  Remember that Katie teaches not all turnarounds work – just try them on for size and if they don’t fit, that’s fine.

COVID-19 shouldn’t go away.

This idea sucks.  However, in this exercise, we may discover our power as a global community.  What are some beneficial possibilities that can emerge from this chaos? What can we discover about ourselves?  Our community?  Our nation?  Our world?

How can we survive and thrive?  How can we become better on the other side of this – after we kick its ass? 

We can examine and develop:

Our personal resiliencewhen the going gets tough, the tough get going; we can use this time to reinforce our ability to survive and thrive.

Our resourcefulness – find ways to connect, to network, to work from home, to pay our bills.

Our values – to discover what truly is valuable to you – Family, lifestyle, health, creativity, service, friendship, etc.

Our gratitude – express our appreciation for the workers who are on the front lines (medical and emergency staff, retail clerks, truckers, strong leaders); health & and wellbeing, family support, financial resources.

Our ability to be of service – how can we do it? Volunteer in some manner? Spread the love on the internet? Remember staying home is a vital act of community service.

More effective communication – person to person as well as nation to nation. We can learn to listen more, and really hear what the other person is saying. Hold the thought that the world will come together and overcome ideological divisions as we care and share and create a global protocol that will benefit humanity from this moment on.

Our power to embrace change – life is change. It could mean a new world. It could mean a new job. We have no way of knowing what is in store so why not focus on the beneficial changes? Go with the flow…

Feed the “net” our positive vibes – there is so much misery floating around on social media – we can change what our newsfeed shares right now.  Your loving presence is needed more than ever!

Our understanding of human nature – realize that, as Katie teaches, if we believed that thought, we would act in that way too…everyone has a reason for believing what they believe. It is wise to question those thoughts by doing The Work on them.A deep understanding of human nature will reveal that the only person we have the power to change is ourselves.

The necessity of creating a personal Contingency Plan – an emergency fund – asap – financial advisors have recommended that we have enough money set aside to be able to weather a three month period of transition. Even if we cannot put that much aside, always pay yourself first. If we cannot create an emergency fund, research the government and community resources that will be available to you in the event of an emergency so you can weather the storm.

Begin, revitalize, or work directly with your creativityCreativity is our birthright as human beings. We are worthy of this wonder simply by being born. It has the ability to help us weather the storms of life. Write, draw, sing, paint, cook, dance, garden, carve…create something colored beautiful to decorate your world. Keep in mind that Katie teaches that, all war belongs on paper. Writing is the most cathartic and revealing exercise you can do.

Protect your health – it is a vital resource.  Boost your immunity by eating well, drinking water, exercising (Qigong, yoga, walking, cycling, and playing with your dog are wonderful ideas – check with your local health authority to ensure you are okay to leave your home during this time). Use this time to sharpen your focus on health and wellbeing.

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Physical distancing is easy to say but difficult to do.  Many people are feeling acute stress as this wears on.  Our medical and emergency personnel, our retail and restaurant staff and truckers are getting tired…

Please join me in sending them our love…

I invite your thoughts on this subject.

Take care, my friends.

 

My Version of Ground Hog Day?

I was asked today…If you had one day to live for the rest of your life, what would it look like?  It became an interesting exercise…

Creativity. Connection. Community.

These are my prime motivators. I have no problem attending to the details of life, but I am primarily a big picture person. I apply these three essential elements in my life every day.

As a person who has given herself over to the directives of the most honorable and compassionate self that I can possibly imagine at this point in time, the part I call my Constant Traveler, every day is fresh and new, so my version will always be my version, regardless of how many people are watching. It will always be unique.

It is interesting to consider how many of us are actively trying to retreat to our version of Ground Hog Day right now, as we resist the tsunami of change that is happening in our world.

Disclaimer: As an artist, my focus on creativity allows for my own redesign of this day. What “same” means to me would be the key component of my contemplation. “Same day” for me means exploring my personal Field of Dreams, what I call the Wellspring of Inspiration. It lies beyond any glitch in the Matrix. From this perspective, each day is always full of surprises. There is always Something Colored Beautiful to explore.

On a metaphysical level, the whole world is a construct of my imagination aka illusion. Check it out – on a quantum level, we are primarily composed of space. My world is composed of concepts – even the self that is writing this was constructed of nothing, of space…the space where everything and no-thing become moot.

In the big scheme of things, when it comes time to exit this life, I will give myself over to that expansiveness. I don’t take it any more seriously than I do this Ground Hog Day exercise in speculation…it is an exercise in creativity. Serious play.

I am curious to see where it leads me…

I am a peaceful warrior. Each day that I wake up on this side of the grass, I choose my response to life. If I were to live my version of the movie Ground Hog Day, it may look like this:

Creativity:

I would wake up in the morning, happy to be here. I begin my early morning practices in a state of receptivity, anticipating and accepting everyday miracles. These are the Something Colored Beautiful moments that are hidden in everyday life.

Yes, there is always stuff to deal with. There are challenges and readjustments and disappointments…my compassion flows to those who are suffering and deeply scared today…

I focus on my heart, my influence, my good vibes…in this creative space. Quora has become one of my creative spaces. Even if I were to answer this same question over and over again…considering my perspective, I would always find something new to share.

Connection:

This includes connections made in my brain through reading and understanding; connection with my Constant Traveler and the artful Wellspring of Inspiration inside me; and connection to other people. I would always be learning. I would always be sharing. What I learned and shared on this day would strengthen and enrich this connection.

But best of all…because I enter into what I consider sacred space every day…I would always be in contact with Inspiration…perhaps my Ground Hog Day would become my version of Nirvana???

To discover what lies beyond the Matrix because I would be immersed in it by the force of the Universe, not able to draw myself, my attention, out of it through ego identification?

What a delightful thought!!

Community:

I have been preparing for this event for over a decade. I live by the 5P’s of Effective Action – Proper planning prevents poor performance. As an ambivert, I have learned how to fill my inner directive to engage in the world, as well as how to retreat and recharge. I have been actively connecting with folks, writing and sharing songs and books, joining with others in groups like Toastmasters, and offering my contemplative and meditative thoughts to others in every way I can imagine.

Inspire. Invite. Incite others to action…I do this every day, so my Ground Hog Day wouldn’t be any different. Sometimes we don’t need to open out…sometimes we need to open in…to expand our inner resources and resilience and connection to the collective through what we share energetically…to enrich our inner space, because, in ways that you may not be able to recognize, when mine is beautiful and full it spills over into yours…

My same will include compassion and sharing that which I choose to live each day…and there is nothing wrong with more of that same!

And as my day draws to a close, and I have completed my qigong and breathing exercises and released this day…died to it, essentially…regardless of whether today becomes yesterday…I am living my best life. Too cool!!

Sending you lots of love, my friends…

Many Doors, One Sanctuary: 10 Doors to Active Wellbeing: Doorway # 2

When my kids were quite young (6 and 2) their father and I decided to take them for a short camping trip.  We choose a campground that was on the outskirts of Moncton, NB, involving only a couple of hours of traveling – not too far away for this first expedition.  We bought a tent, gathered our camping gear, packed the two of them, toys and car seats and blankets and food all, into our red Bronco II and headed for the campground.

Our afternoon was full of fun and games.  The children enjoyed the playground and splashed in the pool.  Supper went well, everyone was hungry and everything, even canned Irish Stew, tasted better outdoors.

When it was time for bed we took the children into the tent, wrapped them in their special blankies, and began our evening sleepytime ritual.  Our plan was to get the kids to sleep and sit around the fire for a couple of hours.

That is when my son announced, Okay, let’s go home now.

No, Mike, we are going to sleep here.  But where’s my bed?  

You have your blankets and your pillow, try to go to sleep.  But I need my night light.

Okay, let’s read a story (I get out the flashlight to read the book).  But Mommy, I can’t go to sleep here.

Nobody slept that night.  We were waiting – tent, and camping gear and kids and toys and car seats and blankets and food all, in our red Bronco II, in the parking lot of MacDonalds as the morning staff arrived to open the doors for breakfast at 6am.

Creating Sanctuary…

What is my point?  Well, by now, I think our patience with physical distancing is wearing thin.  Having time off work is old news.  Watching tv and surfing the net is getting boring.  We are well-rested and (at least for some of us) our house is cleaner than it has ever been.  Pets are so well attended to that even they are wondering when we are going to leave.

As this crisis creeps closer to home, we are beginning to become restless.  We need to get outside but are afraid of what waits for us there.  We must get groceries.  Some of us must have medications.  Kids are beginning to whine and fight for recreation.

Even those of us who identify as introverts are becoming a tad bug-eyed…

We want to go back to the way things used to be.

Here is how I see the difference:

It is different when we choose to stay inside.  It is different when we consider our home a retreat from the world, not a fortress against the world.

We feel like we are a boat without a rudder, floating along on an unknown sea, and we are reaching the point where the growing wave in front of the bow begins to break.

When will I be able to go back to work?  How will I pay my bills if this goes on much longer?  Holy crap, what if my company goes under?  Or my investments go down the toilet?  Should I take the kids outside to play?  My mom is in a nursing home alone.  This virus has no cure…

When the going gets tough, the tough get going…

This pandemic is a serious threat.  If we don’t practice physical distancing and adhere to the protocols as outlined by the Center for Disease Control and the World Health Organization, more will die.  This is not a possibility, it is a probability.  It is wise to be deeply concerned and to act like we are contagious and don’t want to spread this virus to anyone else.

Creating a home Sanctuary means providing an oasis of wellbeing for us and our families.  This is a dedicated practice for a peaceful warrior.  We become relentless in our pursuit of peace.  We practice with the 5P’s in mind:  Fearless faith, focus, and fortitude.

It involves active engagement, nurturing the body, mind, spirit.  It involves opening doorway #2 that leads to enhancing our immune systems and mitigating stress through conscious, healthy consumption.  Open the door and discover the good things of life.

I invite you to consider these suggestions as you endeavor to fill your mind and spirit and body with good things:

2. Active Consumption

Media:  Perhaps it is time to limit our consumption of the news?  Remember the saying, If it bleeds, it leads…applies to media.  To back away from social media?  To stop reading about and joining in the discomfort of others?  To stop sharing complaints?  To actively use the wonders of our online connections to others to share what you know will give them a boost?  

Food:  Be strategic.  Shop for groceries once per week to lessen your chances of spreading this contagion.  Make a comprehensive list.  Pick foods that are high in nutrition and give you value for your money.

This is the perfect time to stretch your groceries out by eating less.  Practice the Japanese way of eating called Hara Hachi Bu.  This means eating until you are no longer hungry, not eating until you are full.  There is a world of difference.  In North America, we have been conditioned to eat until we can no longer eat another bite and believe this is beneficial.  All of the longest-lived societies in the world practice some form of calorie restriction.  This is part of the eating practices in what has been described as the SAD diet (Standard American Diet), which applies to all of North America.

Conversation:  This is the perfect time to Facetime with friends.  To meet on Zoom or Skype.  To share your support and encouragement with someone who is sheltering at home alone.  We need each other more than ever.  It always feels good to realize you are needed and you are loved.  This is the perfect time to give to others what you would love to have for yourself.

Reading:  Ebooks are a superb way to enlighten your mind and pass the time in an active, constructive manner.  Check out Audible.  Check out Youtube – many books and magazines are available for free online.

Next post will include thoughts on #3 Active Thought!  🙂

Stay well and keep spreadin’ the love, my friends!

 

Message in a Bottle

She waited for hours for him to show up.  Moments passed by like a string of eternities as she waited for him to have the decency to call her, at the very least.

That was it.  She was done!  No more waiting for him to “bless her” with his presence.  She was tired of his BS anyway, tired his bare feet in his sneakers and how he slurped coffee.  And he cracked his knuckles … what was up with that?

Just last week he agreed when she mentioned that she was not in as good a shape as she used to be.

“You know it is good for your health to keep fit,” he said.  She knew she should hit the gym more often but it was none of his darn business if she did or not.   She didn’t tell HIM when to work out or what to eat.

“Why do I always get the losers?” she thought.  Men who don’t know how to treat a lady like a lady … are there any good men out there?

More hours went by.  It was almost 1:00 AM when he finally called her.  She was in bed with the phone on her pillow.

“WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN?’ she began, her voice rising.  “I have been waiting here all night for you to call me!”

“Remember what you said last night?” he began with a calmness that stopped her mid-rant.

No.  She didn’t remember too much about last night.  Too much wine and too much song …

“You probably forgot,” he said, “You told me you were going to come over to my place and pick me up.  You were going to treat me to a pizza, I think.  I know, it’s a little late now,” he laughed.

“No worries.  These things happen, honey.  Just called to wish you sweet dreams.”

Living In The Gap: Embracing Emotional Maturity

How does a person go from confusion to clarity? From restlessness and distraction to serenity? From conflict to peace? From noise to silence? From angst to joy? From entitlement to gratitude? From selfishness to service?

This transformation is the result of embracing learning and change.

I think that explaining the changes that happen when a person reaches emotional maturity is not as effective giving the person a means to obtain it.

 

Emotional maturity, for me, is what I term as living in The Gap (a state of inner space, not the store!). Viktor Frankl called it the space between stimulus and response.

The Gap is that split second between when something happens and our reaction to it.

 

  • Our senses to register it as having happened (stimulus)
  • They send signals to our brain
  • We sift through our mental database for a similar experience and choose the best possible reference. We remember what we did before, or what we have been taught, or what we saw someone else do in a similar situation (even someone on TV).
  • We to apply to this situation (response)

When we act from memory, when we remember a similar experience and act from it, we call this reacting.

Athletes work on their reaction time, repeating the same action until it becomes what we call Second Nature. Doctors and pilots and musicians and parents and factory workers and dancers, like Tom Cruise in the movie, Cocktail, practice their moves until they become so smooth, so easy, it is like they always knew how to do this thing.

But they didn’t. Even with natural ability, they still had to learn the moves. And it took years, even decades, to master this skill.

Living in The Gap gives us access to First Nature. This is who we are before we become domesticated, shaped, molded, and folded into a predictable version that is acceptable to mainstream society.

The original Big Sky country, First Nature is a space where the wildest, most courageous, curious, creative, and passionate hearts roam free. It is a space of calm, and quiet. Time becomes null in this void. It is Sanctuary.

It is where the most honorable and compassionate part of us, the part I call our Constant Traveler, awaits.

We must come to our Constant Traveler’s space. I learned that attempting to draw her “out here,” into the world, breaks the connection.

I spent decades catching only flashes of her…being with her just long enough to know it was possible but never being able to stay for more than an hour or two. I spent years yearning for the delight of this place that I knew existed but in which I couldn’t live…until Viktor Frankl taught me through his book, Man’s Search For Meaning, about the space between stimulus and response.

I began to extend the time in between when something happened and my reaction to it. It was hard. It hurt. I had to bite my tongue, as my Irish grandmother would have described it, and wrestle with my feelings over what I believed to be an injustice.

But I wanted it more than anything. I had to desire peace more than I desired defense.

I studied the work of psychologists Carl Rogers and William Glasser, and teachers like Jiddu Krishnamurti, Wayne Dyer, and Alan Watts, as well as other great thinkers and teachers. Gradually The Gap began to expand.

The Gap is the space where I learned how to shut my mouth and listen.

Emotionally mature people value The Gap above all else. They use time wisely. They take the time they need to consider an appropriate response and do not let the drama of a situation drag them from this sanctuary.

Essentially, it is where the subject learns to be the observer by positioning you, as A Course In Miracles describes it, above the battleground.

This is how life has changed for me. I am no nobody’s guru, but I do enjoy living in The Gap.

Try it on and see if it fits you.

Who’s Driving The Bus?

To be or not to be?   Why do we spend so much time searching for the reason for our existence?

We ask and the ego answers.

I consider the ego as psychologist Carl Jung described it – a mask, or persona, that we present to society. Things can get confusing when we take this persona too seriously.  We need our ego to negotiate the world, but things get tricky when we give it too much power.

The ego is always searching for a reason to exist. It needs constant confirmation that it is the most important part of a human being. If we accepted that we are living our ultimate purpose now – that we have come to life simply to live it and that life takes on the meaning we give it – we wouldn’t need our ego nearly as much.

Our fragile ego, defined and defended by our wounds and confusion, needs drama in order to survive. It is in our mask’s best interest to scream and defend itself.

This Art of War has been perfected by humans from the time that time began. Everyone we know has been trained in its tactics and strategies. Our lineage has taught us well.

Like with any other part of our human selves, offer your ego compassion. What a horrible way to live…always filled with dread, in the most basic, reptilian way. Your contempt makes it fight harder.

You see, it is perpetually terrified of one thing…its death. Keeping us freaked out about protecting it – for any reason other than the simple one – keeps us in fear mode – the only home the ego knows. It lives in fear.

I consider my identity in an artistic manner…it is mold-able and fluid, like clay. I invented myself, so I can reinvent myself. If I allow my mask to solidify that is when things get tricky. The key is to remain open and accepting of change, to go with the flow, and not take things too seriously.

Accepting that the ego is part of us, a poor driver that we allow to sit at the back of the bus, puts an end to war. It positions us above the battleground where we can understand the actual function of this part of us and not give it any more importance than is absolutely necessary.

Keep in mind that we have the choice of who drives the bus.

Always Arriving

In a recent interview, modern thought leader and author Brendon Burchard described a meeting with Oprah.  Before anything else was discussed, she asked, What is the intention of this meeting?  

As Brendon explains it, Oprah is always seeking clarity – clarity of purpose and of time expenditures.  Well aware that there are only 24 hrs (or 1440 minutes) available in each day, she demonstrates that she values her precious time by seeking clarity in every interaction.

As Brendon teaches, every high performer knows that if they take care of the pennies, the dollars will look after themselves.  By clarifying their Whys, they can clearly map their Hows.

Why then do so many of us get bogged down?  Why is the “devil in the details” more apt for some of us than it is for these high performers?  Why does attention to detail bog us down instead of freeing us to do our best work?

Perhaps we are asking the wrong questions?  Or perhaps we are afraid to ask any questions at all?

Question Everything – this can be an open-minded, freeing way to live, or it can also be the means to close us off from the very things we are seeking.  The nature of your questions matter more than you may be aware…

Why am I so dumb?
Why can’t I stop eating junk?
Why can’t I be like my brother?
Why are people so hateful to one another?
Why does everything have to happen to me?
Why can’t I overcome this?
Is there anyone out there who loves me?
What if I never feel like I’m enough???

Is this line of questioning coming from a place of abundant curiosity, or lack of hope?  Haven’t you already decided before you asked the question?

And what happens when we are so afraid to speak up or so afraid of not being able to handle the answers, that we never ask the questions?

Truly, there is a devil in the details here, and it is fear.  Question the source of the questions.

Another reason we are afraid to seek clarity is that in order to do so we must admit that we don’t know what it is.  If we are afraid to ask questions because we may look dumb or incompetent, we become that which we fear.  We cannot feel competent and confident in our ability because we have chosen to pretend that we are something we are not….something limited.

How can you discover that which has the potential to fill you if you pretend that you are already full? 

You have chosen from meager offerings (the limited options you see before you – the ones you have already lived) and out of fear of being exposed as a poser you have fortified your position with mute defense.

You can’t unfold a flower with your hands…

Inspiration is the result of surrender to the natural flow of events. Fear of being discovered as not knowing blocks knowing.

Open yourself to what is possible.  You always have that choice.  Learn from the examples of the highest performers among us.  No matter what their age, level of success or intelligence or station in life, they seek clarity in all things.

An elegant mind does not accept detours, because it is always arriving.  It does not attempt to make the road shorter, but travels in such a manner that every action leaves the land more fertile and the landscape more beautiful.

Seeking clarity is a lifetime pursuit because each situation is always new.  You and I have never lived this day…in this way…before.

With this in mind, we are always arriving.