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.

 

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.

Question Everything

I am an artist. I believe in Inspiration.

If Inspiration is all there is, then we are Inspiration.
If Inspiration knows all, we have access to it all.
If Inspiration is everywhere, it is always here now.

When I create art…when I meditate (or pray) I am either checking in or checking out. Am I connecting with Inspiration or retreating from a painful reality?

I believe that creativity and Inspiration are our inheritance as human beings. We are worthy of this wonder simply by being born. We were born complete, not flawed. Complete is complete. It is done.

However, our belief in ourselves has been undermined by the people we depended on for survival, who told us we were flawed. Their parents told them before their parents told them. We, in our innocence, agreed to these terms of survival.

We can choose again.

Can a person who agrees to condemn their true nature do anything but oppose it? Can a best life be lived according to what you oppose?

Words heal and wound. Words conceal and expose. Conviction is no indicator of their efficacy. This applies to the reverent and righteous, the scornful and derisive alike. Utterance does not make it so.

Question Everything. Most especially, the source of the questions.

Precipice Dancing

Some smooth leather badass…
A feral little angel.
Never ever black or white.
She’s an old school rebel.

A touch of class, a taste of trash…
always walkin’ that line.
An old school rebel
pushes it every time.

Givin’ it what she’s got, livin’ for the fantasy
When you livin’ large it’s always now or never…

Bring the Badass to life…

What does being badass mean to you?

Are you willing to embrace that side of yourself?  Are you afraid to even acknowledge that side of yourself?

Bringing the old school rebellious badass part of us to life is what I call Precipice Dancing.  It is dancing as close to the edge as humanly possible without succumbing to gravity.  We are fearless – working at getting closer and closer to the edge…fearing it less and less…to the point that if we do succumb, we will have given it all we’ve got in the process…

In his book, Relentless, Tim S. Grover writes about embracing your dark side.  Like Carl Jung taught, and so many philosophical schools teach, we have a dark side as well as a light side to our personality.

Play nice.  Be a good boy.  Nice girls don’t do that.  Wait your turn.  You’re so dramatic.  Don’t be so foolish…

Does it ever seem to you that we praise and appreciate the loser who quietly backs down more than we do the winner who celebrates his or her victory?  I believe this is where quiet pride and fierce celebration gets confused with the humble brag and in-your-face-sucker triumph.  Many times, it is we who cannot parse the data – we look at a winner and envy them with our contempt.  We look at a loser and commiserate with our contempt.  What is the common element?

Competition is a natural part of our personal development, otherwise, we will never grow into our potential.  Those dedicated to continuous improvement and personal growth know this.  There are two ways to learn anything – through wisdom or through pain.  Sometimes we have an obvious choice.   Sometimes we don’t see the choice.

We make the choice to step into the ring.  However, in life, the wise ones compete only with themselves.  I understand that it is not a competition with him or her or them…or with you.  It is with me.  How much do I want the end result?

Elegance in victory, as well as in defeat, is commendable.  However, when growth is the ultimate result of competition, there are no losers.  When you are determined to find the gem inside the lump of coal, you win.  Every time.

Everything is sacred ground or nothing is sacred ground.  You decide.

Precipice Dancing is badass.  Self-coaching is badass.  Success is badass.

Competition is badass.  In this competition, I choose what it means.

Rock Your Wise.  Make choosing badass.

How close to the edge can you dance?

The tender side of anarchy,
she’s never gonna settle.
Turn the tides of history,
just like an old school rebel.

Givin’ it what she’s got, livin’ for the fantasy
When you livin’ large it’s always now or never…

Not the queen of someone’s dreams.
No instrument of pleasure.
She’s a woman born to terrorize,
she’s an old school rebel.

Givin’ it what she’s got, livin’ for the fantasy
When you livin’ large it’s always now or never…

 

 

 

The End of Days

My dream for the end of days?  To savor
every hallowed hall-framed whisper,
every sacred snip of silence,
bolstered strong by self-reliance.
Tested every grand adventure,
pacified my sour temper,
respected well those zigs and zags,
those margin calls that tagged…me in…
my exit card a wide and wicked grin.
I pledge to kiss my ass goodbye…in style,
every glint of dream that sparks my eye
well manifest and realized.
Optimized by full potential,
satisfied, complete surrender.
Maxed it out and lived it grand.
Eaten up.  Made my stand.
Mastered by my artist’s hand.
Every tick well stepped in time,
every song well bathed in rhyme.
Each brilliant flash, each kindly word,
honored, blessed, well played and heard.
Every space explored and prized
every love tried on for size
having walked through every door
having kicked through many more!
Made my Constant Traveler proud,
heard my rebel yell resound!
Creative juices unrestrained
always ventured, always gained,
I’ll abandon my remains.
Rapt enjoyment having tried,
having answered every Why,

As I drank the wellspring dry.

Practically Uncivilized – Chats With My Constant Traveller

I met a wild woman yesterday.  A woman with fire in her eyes and an unquestionably wicked grin.  The kind who offers a firm hand, a quick peruse, and a thorough greeting.

She doesn’t give a crap if her towels are not lined up on the shelf in her bathroom, or if her bloomers match her brassiere.  In fact, she may have decided that today is the day that she doesn’t wear either.  She’s as comfortable chillin’ in her jammies as she is commanding the stage in her power suit.  As confident soft-loving her partner as she is litigating in a courtroom…or flexing her muscles on a world stage.

This woman has run the gauntlet and survived.  It is an activity that she has long since given up, but she is not inclined to brag.  Instead, she models her disdain for such barbarous convention by not engaging in its proliferation.

Her strength may be intimidating.  Or it may invigorate.  She has learned to work the rule book for the very purpose of knowing when to throw it away.  Don’t ask her a question unless you are comfortable with her answering you.

Either way, she doesn’t give an F… what you or I think.

This wild woman may not know me, but I know her clan.  We are kith because she resides in the most tender, meaty parts of every woman alive.

The parts that are feral.  Fierce.  Practically uncivilized.

Flashes of Brilliance

My flashes of brilliance have been tattoed on my memory.  Great-white pulses that sliced through the chatter and stunned me to silence, their shock waves so intense that I had no choice but to pay attention.

Yep, flashes can be a tad disruptive.  Back then, it was the only way my Constant Traveller could get my attention – even as I stumbled along in awkward silence, dazzled and confused, she made me yearn for more.

I think of it like a beach ball being held under water.  The effervescent creativity that is innate in a balanced human being who is confident in her abilities bursts through in moments when we are caught unaware.  I caught glimpses of my own when I let down my guard.

Those were the days…when I viewed my deficiencies as more important than my abilities by the attention that others paid to them.  What I valued, what I found delight in and would engage in as a young person for hours and hours, was metered out under the rules of limited acceptability:

I could be a lover of literature, but only of another’s work;
I could be a lover of music, but only of another’s compositions;
I could think grand thoughts, but only in the tradition of the Masters.
I could dream as long as my wildest, most disruptive dreams remained in Dreamland.
In those days, real life meant giving up my extraordinary dreams.

In those days, I lived my wholehearted agreement.  It took me more than a few decades to learn how to elegantly disagree.

In Big Magic, author Elizabeth Gilbert speaks of the point in our society when being a genius became more valid than having genius inside of you.  That was a very sad day for humankind.

A test developed by Dr. George Land for NASA to determine the creative ability of their scientists and engineers, and administered to 1600 4 to 5-year-olds – revealed that a shocking 98% tested in the genius category for imagination.  However, by the time these same children were tested as 10-yr-olds, only 30% now fell into the genius category.  Tested as 15-yr-olds, the percentage plummeted to 12%.

Dr. Land also tested a lot of adults.  By the time we are adults…only 2% have retained our creative genius. 

I believe that may be the most tragic statement ever written.

 

What the F…?

What this research has revealed is that parents, family, and society as a whole have not provided the tools with which to nurture extraordinary.  In fact, we have been taught to consider the divergent, the outlier, the creative, the wild… as, at our most benign, an eccentric, and at our most potent…a threat...to relationships, family structure, and civilized society.

What could a culture founded on obedience and conformity teach but conformity?  How can a society based on ordinary values demonstrate the value of extraordinary?

Those who hold special as sacred may be the most seriously mystified, as they unwittingly empower the aspects of human development that limits genius from expressing itself.  They, in their zeal, know not what they do.

Deep waters…

A couple of years ago, I had a dream where I was floating in a prone position, traveling feet-first on an ocean.  I was full-body immersed in its dark evening surf.  Looking back I could see the lights of the colorful tropical island from which I came grow smaller and smaller.  The water surrounding me was calm, dark, and deep.  As a general rule, deep water scares the crap out of me, but this time I was cool with it.  Looking forward, between my toes, I could see a shadow-land coming into view.  It was dark, but I could tell that this land was vast, with towering mountains that rose in ebony contrast against an ever lightening sky.

I was content to let those waters take me.

Growing up, I felt like I was forced to fit into a society that didn’t fit me, or my dreams.  In those days, I agreed to speak the words of my dead ancestors – some words of love and kindness, certainly, but what I remember most were the words of ignorance and fear, especially when it came to those who weren’t like us.  I accepted other people’s visions, walked their paths, and dreamed other people’s dreams.  I believed my dreams were not as worthy as those who were revered by my clan.

I walked for decades in dead man’s shoes, not even dead women’s shoes.  I was so insulated and ignorant that I was not even aware of the pain of those who walked beside me.  So concerned with keeping in step with the clan, or running to catch up when they threatened to leave me behind, that I couldn’t see the suffering at my fingertips.

The voyage has been eye-opening, for sure. I have come a long way from believing that walking to the beat of a different drummer is an insult.  It is the Nobel Prize for Dreamers!

Our 2% Wild Ones

It takes an extraordinary dreamer, one who dares to dream, who is willing to push away from the shore and venture into unknown waters – confident and content to be carried by the current to an unknown shore – one who is willing to take on the role of a castaway.  A wild heart who understands that, at some point, the willful castaway inevitably becomes the resourceful explorer who brings the fruits of her explorations back to the clan.  One who is willing to draw the map for others to follow and isn’t afraid to dance with delight when they offer their unique revisions and expansions…

She offers herself to others through full-body immersion in her Mother’s Nature, blending the elemental taste of the ashes of her former self with the firestorm of her effervescent personal genius.

We, as women, have a lot to overcome.  It is time for fierce and feral wild ones to bare their teeth, not in aggression, but in a wicked grin that equals any man’s.  A wicked grin that teaches our daughters and sons to value their dreams, as well.

Through our instruction, this precious resource…our genius 98%...our future…can learn to value the wonders of their nature and safely deliver those sacred gifts into adult life.

I am certain that I met a few 2% wild ones yesterday.  Let’s show them what it means to be practically uncivilized.

 

To You? Or Through You? – Chats With My Constant Traveller

Dream job.  Dream house.  Dream vacation.  Dream life.  How to do I bring these dreams to life?  Wouldn’t it be cool if, instead of anticipating the “dream” we lived it every day?  There are folks who do.

I’m unstoppable because I’ve decided I am. – Tony Robbins

This morning, around 5am, I began an interesting chat with my Constant Traveller.  She asked, Does creativity come to you, or through you? 

I have learned, through experience, that it is much easier to speak about what I know than to live from that knowing.  It is humbling to admit that there are times when my actions speak so loudly that others cannot hear what I am saying.

Every one of us is an example for someone.  That we may not seek it, or even welcome it, or care, doesn’t matter.  Regardless of our interest in this pursuit, we will experience its results.  Like it or not, we live in a world of cause and effect.

Creativity, as I define it, is being open to possibilities.  Elegant.  Simple.  Engaging.

Creativity comes to you…

Creativity comes to us when we seek it.  We enjoy the work of elegant, interesting authors and poets, attend book signings, discuss their work in book clubs.  We contemplate and study the theories and ideas and conclusions of elegant and interesting minds.  We appreciate the skills of elegant, interesting actors and directors as we watch their films.   We enjoy the masterpieces of elegant, interesting composers, singers, and musicians.  We attend art galleries and exhibits, or search online for elegant, interesting visual art – painting, sculpture, architecture, fashion, and other objets d’art.

Every day, we are presented with the effects of other people’s creativity.  For many of us, that is enough.  We are content to talk about the work of others, read the work of others, listen to, sing, or play the songs of others…experiencing an aspect of their creative genius by our vicarious expression of it.

There is nothing wrong with vicarious expression.  Every person alive stands on the shoulders of giants.  Every student needs a teacher.  Celebrating their genius can serve to make us masters in domains of which we may never have dreamed prior to their example.

However, my Constant Traveller invited me to explore further.  I have learned that I ignore her voice at the peril of my best life.

Creativity comes through you…

Consider how a child learns to run.  They progress from struggling to sit to learning to crawl (or booty-scoot, depending on the kid), to pulling themselves into a standing position, to taking their first few steps, to learning how to run.  At some point, generally around 12-15 months, our bottle-sucking, blanket dragger becomes a little speed demon.

How many parents remember that first wicked grin of mastery?  That chortle of delight when our child realized he was speedy?  Our happiness-tinged fear for her safety when she demonstrated that the rules of the game were now changed?

Folks, guess what?  At one time, perhaps way back in the day, that wicked grinner, that delighted chortler, that game changer…was you.

It still is, but somewhere along the way, we have forgotten how to run.

Am I elegant and interesting?

Creativity comes to us all in the form of other people’s creative genius.  When we choose to appreciate their story and express their composition, are we, essentially, smiling at the memory of our own wicked grin?  Laughing with delight along with those who dream up the reason to laugh?  Cheering for the one who expresses his Andre Degrasse brilliance?

No matter how fast a baby can run there are very few adults, no matter how disappointed and disenchanted, who could not run faster than a little kid…if they choose to do so.  Somewhere along the way did we leave the wicked grinning, delighted, laughing little speed demon behind?

Feeling that quickening when we act from a WOW! moment of inspiration brings on the wicked grin.  Contributing to the flow of a truly funny conversation inevitably brings the chortle of delight.  Allowing our personal creative expression to come through us on the pin-point of now demonstrates that we are still that game changer.

Creativity is being open to possibilities in elegant, effervescent expression.  It is when we dip our toes into our personal wellspring of possibilities that we begin to imagine the best version of ourselves.

Your best life can only be expressed through your creativity.  You owe it to yourself to bring those gifts to life – welcoming them to you and sharing them through you.

What if your dream job, your dream house, your dream vacation…your dream life, is being experienced right now by those who dared to dream?

Who do you think you are?  In the realm of possibilities, there is always room for one more…

Friend, when was the last time you ran?

Normal day, let me be aware of the treasure you are.  Let me learn from you, love you, savor you, bless you before you depart.  Let me not pass you by in quest of some rare and perfect tomorrow. – Mary Jean Irion