A Belief-Questioning Round-Up (My Byron Katie Detox, Part Thirty-One)

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Byron Katie isn’t the only one out there screaming about questioning one’s established beliefs. Lots of people are–people of all kinds. Most aren’t quite as awe-inspiring as Katie, but they’re pretty cool anyway. Here, a small list of people I find myself thinking about long after reading their stories.

  • Gary Taubes argued convincingly against the health and effectiveness of the low-fat diet and quickly became a polarizing figure. (See Good Calories, Bad Calories: Challenging the Conventional Wisdom on Diet, Weight Control, and Disease.)
  • Timothy Ferris rethought work efficiency and built a huge, loyal following and a global brand. (Read The Four-Hour Work Week.)
  • Josh Waitzkin came up with a unique learning strategy—and won both the U.S. Junior Chess championship and the world champion title in Taiji Push Hands, a martial art. (See The Art of Learning: A Journey In the Pursuit of Excellence.)
  • Social media marketers Seth Godin and Jeff Jarvis were among the first to realize the potential of online social media-, gift- and content-based marketing. (Read anything by Godin and What Would Google Do?: Reverse-Engineering the Fastest-Growing Company in the History of the World by Jarvis.)
  • Robert Kiyosaki redefined wealth as the ability to live off the interest of your assets (Rich Dad Poor Dad: What the Rich Teach Their Kids About Money That the Poor and Middle Class Do Not!).
  • Chris Anderson predicted the future of purchasing patterns (The Long Tail: Why the Future of Business Is Selling Less of More).
  • Tony Hsieh created a company devoted primarily to its front-line employees (Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion, and Purpose).

Then, of course, there’s Todd Beamer.

When United Airlines Flight 93 was hijacked on September 11, 2001, this all-American hometown boy from Flint, Michigan helped deflect a terrorist attack. The Wikipedia article on his life tells the story:

“United Flight 93 was scheduled to depart at 8:00am, but the Boeing 757 did not depart until 42 minutes later due to runway traffic delays. Six minutes later, American Airlines Flight 11 crashed into the World Trade Center’s North Tower. 15 minutes later, at 9:03 am, as United Flight 175 crashed into the South Tower, United 93 was climbing to cruising altitude, heading west over New Jersey and into Pennsylvania. At 9:25 am, Flight 93 was above eastern Ohio, and its pilot radioed Cleveland controllers to inquire about an alert that had been flashed on his cockpit computer screen to “beware of cockpit intrusion.” Three minutes later, Cleveland controllers could hear screams over the cockpit’s open microphone. Moments later, the hijackers, led by the Lebanese Ziad Samir Jarrah, took over the plane’s controls, disengaged the autopilot, and told passengers, “Keep remaining sitting. We have a bomb on board.” Beamer and the other passengers were herded into the back of the plane. The curtain between first class and economy class had been drawn, at which point Beamer saw the pilot and co-pilot lying dead on the floor just outside the curtain, their throats having been cut, as a flight attendant informed him. Within six minutes, the plane changed course and was heading for Washington, D.C.. Several of the passengers made phone calls to loved ones, who informed them about the two planes that had crashed into the World Trade Center in New York City and the third into the Pentagon in Arlington County, Virginia. Beamer tried to place a credit card call through a phone located on the back of a plane seat, but was routed to a customer-service representative, who passed him on to GTE airphone supervisor Lisa Jefferson. With FBI agents listening in on their call, Beamer informed Jefferson that hijackers had taken over United 93, that one passenger had been killed, and mentioned the dead pilots. He also stated that two of the hijackers had knives, and that one appeared to have a bomb strapped around his waist. When the hijackers veered the plane sharply south, Beamer briefly panicked, exclaiming, “We’re going down! We’re going down!”

At this point, Beamer and several other passengers and crew members decided to ignore the threats of the hijackers and face near-certain death by storming the cockpit and steering the plane into the ground. “The plane was twenty minutes of flying time away from its suspected target.”

Beamer, a baseball player and Sunday school teacher, was survived by his wife and two sons, aged three and one at the time.

What inspires me most about Beamer, and about all of the people in this list, is realizing that at some point, they all had to make a decision. A window opened–whether for minutes, as it did for Beamer, or for months, as it likely did for some of the others–during which they had to define who they were, no matter the consequences. And each of them was able to get it right.

Would I?

By a general standard, I’m not a fearful person. Not shy. No huge paranoias or looming existential concerns. And yet, the opinions of others–or, more accurately, the possible opinions of others–give me pause on a nearly daily basis. Talking to other moms about various parenting decisions, for instance. Talking about a controversial book I like, or the fact that I’m a libertarian. Just earlier today I found myself seriously considering what my neighbors would think if I plant a bunch of new trees in our yard. Twenty trees, but still. They’re just trees.

What the heck?

I don’t know what it’s like to be Gary Taubes or anyone a tenth as influential as he. But if he can face the ire of entire organizations devoted to vegetarianism, grain production and nutrition information dissemination, plus a lot of reputable scientists and in-person hecklers, I think I can plant any damn number of trees I want.

I can make my yard into a damned forest.

I can question my beliefs–even the ones that people swear are healthy and important.

And I can swear once in a while, too, damn it.

Stay tuned for Part Thirty-Two of My Byron Katie Detox: One Year of Questioning Everything I Believe.

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A Complete Revised Worksheet for The Work of Byron Katie (My Byron Katie Detox, Part Thirty)

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In a past installment of this serial, I shared my own worksheet for the Work, a longer version of Byron Katie’s. Recently, I decided to add another section. Over and over again, I come to the Work with only an undesirable feeling–no thought, nothing to blame. My need to excavate the feeling further before doing the Work led to my adding a new subset under Step One. I share the entire revised worksheet here.

As I noted previously, this information is not Byron Katie or Byron Katie Foundation approved.

A Complete Revised Worksheet for The Work of Byron Katie

There are three main steps to The Work of Byron Katie. First, find the thought that is causing you pain. Then question the thought as directed. Then turn the thought around–find evidence for it’s opposite and discover what it’s trying to teach you about yourself.

Step One: Find the Painful Thought

Painful thoughts are thoughts that judge a person or a situation unfavorably, causing negative emotion.

First, identify who or what you judge to be your problem.

Is your problem (apparently) an undesirable situation or event, the undesirable behavior of another person, or an undesirable, unexplained feeling? Move to the relevant section below. (Note that if the thought appears to be about yourself, it can and should be reworded to be about a situation instead. For example, “I am lazy” can be “I have a problem with laziness” and “I feel depressed” can be “I am experiencing depression frequently.”)

Thoughts Concerning a Situation or Event

1. What situation or event angers, confuses, saddens, or disappoints you and why?
I feel (emotion) because (situation).

2. How do you want the situation or event to change? What would you prefer instead?
I want (action/change).

3. What is it about this situation or event that you don’t ever want to experience again?
I don’t ever want to experience (emotion and/or action).

4. What does this situation or event say about you? What is the hidden meaning behind it?
This situation shows that I am (descriptor). This situation means that (hidden fear).

5. What difference would it make if you got what you wanted in this situation or event?
If I got what I wanted, I would feel (emotion). If I got what I wanted, I would experience (result).

6. What is the worst thing that could result from this situation or event?
Due to this situation, I could experience (result).

7. If your emotion about this situation or event was a small child, what would it be screaming out?
My (emotion) would be screaming out (unrestrained illogical conclusions).

Choose the thoughts from your list above that deeply resonate and do steps two and three with each.

Thoughts Concerning Another Person

1. Who angers, confuses, saddens, or disappoints you and why?
I feel (emotion) with (person) because (reason).

2. In this situation, how do you want them to change? What do you want them to do?
I want (person) to (action).

3. In this situation, what advice would you offer to them?
(Person) should/shouldn’t (action).

4. In order for you to be happy in this situation, what do you need them to think, say, feel, or do?
I need (person) to (action).

6. What is it about this person’s actions that you don’t ever want to experience again?
I don’t ever want to experience (emotion and/or action).

7. What does this person’s behavior say about you? What is the hidden meaning behind it?
This situation shows that I am (descriptor). This situation means that (hidden fear).

8. What difference would it make if the person acted the way you wanted them to?
If (person) acted as I prefer, I would feel (emotion). If (person) acted as I prefer, I would experience (result).

9. What is the worst thing that could result from this person’s behavior?
(Person) could cause (result).

10. If your emotion about this person was a small child, what would it be screaming out?
My (emotion) would be screaming out (unrestrained illogical judgments and descriptors).

Choose the thoughts from your list above that deeply resonate and do steps two and three with each.

Unexplained Feelings

1. What undesirable feeling are you experiencing?
I am experiencing (emotion).

2. What emotion would you like to feel instead?
I would like to feel (emotion).

3. Why don’t you like the feeling? What aspect of the feeling is undesirable to you?
This feeling is undesirable because (reason).

4. What difference would it make in your life if you never had this feeling again?
If I never had this feeling again, I would experience (result).

5. What is the cause of this emotion?
I feel (emotion) because (cause).

6. What life change could get rid of this emotion?
If (event), I would not feel (emotion).

7. What should you do differently in order to avoid this emotion?
I should always (behavior). I should never (behavior).

8. What do you lack inside yourself right now that might lead to this emotion?
I lack (personal or physical quality).

9. What does having this feeling say about you? What is the hidden meaning behind it?
This situation shows that I am (descriptor). This situation means that (hidden fear).

10. What is the worst thing that could result from your having this feeling?
With an ongoing experience of this emotion, (result).

11. If your emotion were a small child, what would it be screaming out right now?
My (emotion) would be screaming out (unrestrained illogical statements).

12. What are the benefits (seeming or actual) you receive when experiencing this emotion, either from others or from yourself?
When I feel (emotion), I receive the benefit of (benefit).

Choose the thoughts from your list above that deeply resonate and do steps two and three with each.

Step Two: Question the Thought

Slowly, carefully answer the following questions about your painful thought, whatever kind of thought it is.

1: Is it true?

2: Can you absolutely know that it’s true?

3a: How do you react—what happens—when you believe the thought?

3b. Can you find one stress-free reason to keep the thought?

4a: Who would you be without the thought?

4b. Can you find a reason to drop the thought?

Step Three: Turn the Thought Around

Finally, find evidence for the opposite of your statement and discover what your negative beliefs can teach you about yourself.

1. Turn the thought around to the opposite. For example, “Melody is rude” becomes “Melody is not rude.”

2. Turn the thought around to yourself. For example, “I am rude.”

3. Turn the thought around to your thinking. For example, “I am rude in my thinking.”

4. If the thought is about another person, turn it around by switching the names. For example, “Melody is rude to me” becomes “I am rude to Melody.”

5. If the thought is about another person, turn it completely to the self. For example, “I am rude to myself.”

6. If the thought is about another person, turn it completely to the other person. For example, “Melody is rude to herself.”

7. If the thought is about another person’s negative quality, turn it around by finding similar qualities you see in yourself. For example, “I am selfish when I . . .” or “I am impatient when I . . .”

8. If the thought begins with “I don’t ever want to,” turn it around by replacing that phrase with both “I am willing to” and “I look forward to.”

9. For each turnaround that resonates, find three pieces of evidence for the truth of the thought. For example, “Melody is always nice to my children,” “Melody is always nice to her children,” and “Melody was nice to our waitress.”

10. Finally, ask yourself how the experience or situation might be the universe’s way of bringing about your your highest good. If you do nothing else on this worksheet, ask this question.

Bonus Step: Ask yourself again: Is it true?

Stay tuned for Part Thirteen of My Byron Katie Detox: One Year of Questioning Everything I Believe.

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We Have Power. Just Not All of It. (My Byron Katie Detox, Part Twenty-Nine)

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A Byron Katie Worksheet

Month Completed: April

The Statement: We have power.

The Questions:

Is it true? I’m getting a yes. I know that we often feel unable to change our bad habits, our bad feelings, our unhappy life situations. But when I close my eyes and question the belief, all I can think is, “Yes. I can feel it. My inner body, the energy inside myself that I feel when I’m meditating, is part of the rest of the world’s energy. I may be in this body right now, but the essence of me is power.”

Can I absolutely know it is true? No.

How do I feel when I think the thought? When I feel that I have power, I also feel that what I do, say and think is important. I remember that my thoughts create my reality, and even affect others around me and beyond.

How would I feel if I were unable to think the thought? If I thought I was powerless, I’d probably feel that life is meaningless, that nothing I did mattered.

The Turnaround: We don’t have power. This statement is also true. We don’t have power over God or other people. Also, though we do create our realities, the vast majority of that creation happens subconsciously. With years of spiritual practice, we can change our beliefs and brains somewhat, but most of us will never get around to doing the Work on them all. Which is why Katie tells us to focus on the thoughts that cause stress. The others just aren’t the priority.

So again, is it true? Yes and but. People have power, and yet, we can’t always access it. That is the truth, and it reminds me to have compassion for those among us that feel stuck in a pattern they don’t like.

Stay tuned for Part Thirty of My Byron Katie Detox: One Year of Questioning Everything I Believe.

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The Spirit Has Goals That the Mind Knows Not Of (My Byron Katie Detox, Part Twenty-Seven)

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Author Rachel Bersche is a woman after my own heart. She’s a doer. A planner. A fixer. A solver. Someone who doesn’t wait around for results.

Someone who takes charge.

(Someone, also, who writes memoirs about her one-year self-improvement goals, but that’s sort of beside the point.)

All this to say that MWF Seeking BFF: My Yearlong Search for a New Best Friend is my kind of book. The premise is as follows.

After a move to a distant city to be with her boyfriend, Bersche realizes something: she really needs some new friends. So, she hatches a plan uniquely designed for the Generation Y’ers among us: She’d go on fifty-two friend dates—one each week for a year. She’d meet the women online, of course, as well as in the traditional ways—an improv class, book clubs, parties. Her motive wouldn’t be a secret; she’d blog about her experiences and tell many of the women what she was up to. After all, as she argues in her book, if people can admit to looking for a partner, why can’t they admit they want a new best friend?

Cute stuff, right? So practical. So original. And pretty challenging, too. But she did it. She accomplished her goal. And these days, it’s the Rachels of the world I most want to emulate–not the visualizers, manifestors and conference attendees.

Mostly, I just want to work hard.

The law of attraction is a useful concept. The problem is that it’s a bit . . . limited. When Jane died, I didn’t see it coming; it just happened. Life happens. Sometimes we don’t get what we think we want; instead, we get other circumstances that better serve us.

That’s right: we get what we need.

The spirit has goals that the mind knows not of. And I’ve decided I’m okay with that. Hard work is it’s own religion. So is neuropathway rewiring, whether Byron Katie-style or otherwise.

Often, changing our perspective on our circumstances, rather than changing the circumstances themselves, is enough.

Stay tuned for Part Twenty-Eight of My Byron Katie Detox: One Year of Questioning Everything I Believe.

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Neuroscientist is the New Doctor (My Byron Katie Detox, Part Twenty-Six)

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In recent years, the field of neuroscience has benefited from greater interest and better technology than ever before; “I’m a neuroscientist” is kind of the new “I’m a doctor.” Once a little-understood region of the human anatomy, the brain has become the ultimate research tool, providing clues to some of life’s biggest questions. Brain activity scans have been used to help scientists learn how the human mind responds to stimuli of every kind, leading to new ideas about how pleasure works, how addiction works, how people learn and make decisions–even why they believe in God.

One of the main insights from recent years: The brain is not an unchanging entity, the pattern of which is encoded once and for all by genetics. Instead, it is a highly malleable organ, reorganizing itself moment by moment. As each of our thoughts occur, our brains either create a new neural pathway (arrange multiple axons in a way that allows them to send neurotransmitter chemicals back and forth between two remote areas of the brain), or strengthen pathways that already exist (build up myelin around the axons). The pathways that don’t get used eventually die. Even more significant: Neural pathways continuously send out chemical requests for more of their kinds of thoughts to travel their way–and the stronger they get, the more requests they’re able to send.

All this to say, we can change our thought patterns, the physical ones.

We can change our brains.

Since learning meditation and other spiritual techniques, my appreciation of the mind has only grown. However, there’s another type of human power I mentioned that’s equally important.

There’s the old-fashioned kind.

Stay tuned for Part Twenty-Seven of My Byron Katie Detox: One Year of Questioning Everything I Believe.

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People Aren’t Bad. We’re Just . . . Well, Team Players. (My Byron Katie Detox, Part Twenty-Five)

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I I first read the story of the Yale University torture study shortly after my New Age conversion, around the time that I first learned about the law of attraction. And though I’ve heard it several times since, I just can’t resist a retelling here. It’s just so darn . . . poignant. You know?

Beginning in the year 1961, Yale University conducted a set of frightening psychological experiments on a mix of average people. In each iteration of this study, three roles were played: the subject, the button pusher, and the director. The idea was simple: the button pusher would attempt to teach the subject, who was sitting in a different room, a set of word pairs. Then the button pusher would test the subject’s learning ability. When the subject responded incorrectly, the director (wearing a white lab coat) would tell the button pusher (the actual subject of the experiment) to deliver electric shocks of increasing intensity to the subject by—you guessed it—pressing a button.

Of course, the setup was a bit of a sham. No actual electrical current was delivered, but the subject made a convincing show of suffering, anyway.

The results of the study and subsequent studies shocked the researchers and the public alike: 65 percent of the button pushers complied with the researcher’s demands and pushed the torture button until the highest level of pain (an excruciating 450 volts) was delivered repeatedly—despite the fierce cries and protests of the subjects.

When the results of this study were announced to the public, they apparently caused quite a media frenzy. Respected analysts and psychologists made pessimistic observations about the evil inherent in human nature and in society. What the journalists apparently did not reveal, however, was this: the button pushers were in absolute anguish a great deal of the time.

They paced. They protested. They cried—even grown men cried. They begged not to be required to go on.

They didn’t want to do it at all.

People aren’t bad. We’re just . . . well, team players. We’re built to thrive best in healthy hierarchies. The real problem comes when the hierarchies malfunction–which of course they often do. Then, it’s time for some independent thought. It’s time to remember that we have power, even in seemingly hopeless situations.

It’s time to stop pushing the button.

Stay tuned for Part Twenty-Six of My Byron Katie Detox: One Year of Questioning Everything I Believe.

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It May Seem Silly. But at Least It’s Popular. (My Byron Katie Detox, Part Twenty-Four)

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When I think about it now, it seems pretty sudden. On my thirtieth birthday, I was recently separated from my first husband, living in the spare bedroom of an ant-infested, cat-run house on the wrong side of El Paso. I was only a month in to my writing career, working at a small ad agency for less money than I’d made as a part-time waitress. I had no friends, no car, no television and no family within several hundred miles. Yet somehow, four years later, four days after my thirty-fourth birthday, I was lying in a hospital in one of the wealthiest suburbs of Seattle, giving birth to a surprisingly good-looking and perfectly healthy baby boy, Xavier. My home, which I lived in with my new husband, David, was down the street from the Microsoft world headquarters in a neighborhood that boasts the best schools, the best parks. I had a small group of friends, and my writing career was everything I wanted it to be. I was running my own business, and I was succeeding.

Four years. That’s how long it took for everything to shift.

Xavier was born a year to the day after Jane was born, and in the years following his birth, the circumstances of my life continued to improve. Newly indoctrinated with New Age philosophy, I began to credit not just luck and hard work with the turnaround. Surely, the power of the mind was at work here, too.

Wasn’t it?

The law of attraction isn’t a particularly intelligent-sounding theory; to many, it sounds pretty silly. In spiritual circles debates over the exact mind-over-matter equation abound, but I won’t get into any of that here. I’ll just note that almost every modern non-Judeo-Christian spiritual teacher discusses the idea, whether or not they use the now-unfashionable term. We laugh about the book The Secret and it’s materialistic promises. But Matt Kahn, Eckhart Tolle and even Byron Katie mention similar ideas. They don’t make it their focus, but all of them and many others, including whole Eastern religions, believe in the mind’s ability to radically, even wholly, affect one’s life circumstances.

But even if you don’t love the idea (I get it, believe me), it’s hard to deny that people have power. We have the power to change our circumstances directly. The power to change our beliefs about those circumstances. And sometimes–maybe more than sometimes–we get a law of attraction-type superpower, and we get to change our circumstances by changing our beliefs alone, no special action required.

That’s a lot of power.

So why do we so often forget it’s there?

Stay tuned for Part Twenty-Five of My Byron Katie Detox: One Year of Questioning Everything I Believe.

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A Little Skepticism Is In Order (My Byron Katie Detox, Part Twenty-Three)

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It might surprise you to learn that the relaxation of my goal this month wasn’t entirely due to laziness (though, admittedly, that was a factor). There was something else at work here, too–something even more unfortunate: I got tripped up by a bit of skepticism.

Here’s how it happened. While doing some research for this series, I came across a negative review of the Work. Intrigued by this perspective, I started seeking out similar information, and what I found was predictably disturbing.

Interestingly, Katie’s detractors seem to be relatively few in number; Googling combinations of the terms Byron Katie, The Work, fraud, guru, fake, and scandal brings up a few relevant pages and a whole lot of irrelevant ones. Even more significant, the same two naysayers are quoted on most of the relevant articles, and only one of these people claims firsthand experience with Byron Katie. That said, there are a few probable arguments made against Katie as a trustworthy guru and reliable source of information, as well as several good arguments against the validity and effectiveness of the Work. In the interests of objectivity and knowledge, I address them here.

The ad hominem arguments are as follows:

1. Byron Katie shows anger, annoyance and other negative emotions at times, even though she says she never suffers and she implies that she feels constantly at peace with what is.
2. Byron Katie says she doesn’t read self-help books, but she has, in fact, done so, and the Work seems to be a repackaging of CBT and some of the other techniques in books she has read.
3. The School for the Work, the conferences Katie leads to teach her process, uses cult-like methods to encourage loyalty and to heighten participants’ emotional response.

And here are the main arguments against the method itself:

1. The Work causes confusion in the practitioner who is taught to question her thoughts till nothing seems true anymore.
2. The Work employs several logical fallacies, including begging the question, false dichotomy and generalization.
3. The Work encourages a lack of compassion for people’s pain.
4. The Work encourages false blaming; if all of life is a mirror, the sufferer is at fault for everything he experiences.
5. The Work claims to be a one-size-fits-all approach, a cure for all pain, and discourages other important and effective therapeutic methods.
6. The Work is a form of self-deceit.

Pretty good list, isn’t it? You’d think I really did my homework. Actually, most of these arguments are found in a single online article (see end notes). A few are mentioned other places as well, and still others, notably the last few, are my own.

The ad hominem arguments are, strangely, the most convincing to me, even though logically they shouldn’t be. Though I understand that the imperfections of a guru in no way refute the truth of her ideas, when we don’t trust the messenger, the message itself is often compromised in our minds. The first personal attack I’ll address, and the one that seems most damaging, is that Katie isn’t perfect.

Ah, perfection. We love to pretend it exists. We want so badly for Eckhart Tolle to exert divine love while flossing his teeth and the Dalai Lama to bless the snot in his handkerchief. And these special teachers know this. Some go to pains to remind us they’re only human, too, telling stories about their difficult moments. Others, though, aren’t quite so forthcoming.

As a writer, I understand the temptation to withhold damaging information; they’re just trying to help people, right? When Katie says she never suffers and Tolle claims continuous awareness of the present moment, they think they’re doing us a favor. They’re communicating to us that their day-to-day experience is largely joyful and easy, and that ours can be, too.

They’re offering us hope.

It’s unfortunate, really, the damage done later when some minor mistake that reveals their humanity is exaggerated a hundredfold in the light of such high expectations.

There should be a class for new gurus.

All this to say, there are a few reports out there that Byron Katie acts differently in person than she does on camera or on the stage. Since I’ve never met her or even attended one of her conferences, I’m not in a position to judge the veracity of these reports, and even if I did, my experience with her would likely be a public, not private, one, which wouldn’t count for much. My position on Katie’s sincerity, reliability and character is, therefore, simple: it’s not for me to judge or concern myself with. My best guess is that she does have a few flaws and that she does behave at least a bit differently at times with those she knows well. She probably gets impatient, bored, angry and sad, but I believe her when she says she doesn’t suffer. It’s possible to lose sight of the bigger picture for minutes or hours at a time, and then to snap back to your usual happy frame of mind. It’s possible to be flawed, but not let the flaw drag on, to express a negative feeling without hanging onto it tightly.

It’s possible to feel and express pain without suffering.

Our second personal attack on Byron Katie is that she purposely and knowingly appropriated her self-help method from other self-help books, then passed it off as an original method. Again, there’s no proof of this, certainly no firsthand knowledge on my part, so I can only offer an opinion. But I just can’t believe that she lied about the inception of the Work. Such an elaborate story. So detailed. So personal.

That said, unconscious imitation is a common human experience; one could argue that it’s all we ever do. If Katie read books about CBT and the like before discovering the Work, that knowledge may have partly influenced her revelation.

I believe in divine inspiration. But divine inspiration is limited; it’s part and parcel of the medium. For this reason, different clairvoyants will often hear and learn very different things from the other side. Medium Esther Hicks, while in a trance channeling the spirit collective called Abraham, was once asked by a conference attendee if Abraham is able to speak Spanish and thus serve another community that needs their message.

“We can,” Abraham replied. “Just not through Esther.”

“Through someone else, then?” the man asked, and Abraham said, “We choose you. We choose you.”

Maybe we’re all channels, in our limited way. If so, it’s okay that we don’t have the whole picture. We pass along what we know, what we’ve learned. We imitate.

The third argument against Katie seems to be the most popular, but for me it’s the least convincing. I read three long testimonials about Katie’s School for The Work saying the the techniques use to heighten the experience are similar to those used in cults. Only one of these articles was written by someone who claims firsthand experience with the School; the other two quote her directly for their evidence. What’s more, in no way do I find this author’s interpretation of events convincing. What it comes down to is that the women felt manipulated and forced into certain activities like fasting, which others felt to be voluntary.

“Cult” is a popular word these days. Any decentralized group might be slandered as such, even non-religious ones. Individuals can and do get carried away with their loyalty, but in determining whether or not an organization uses manipulative practices to encourage loyalty, common sense will prevail.

Now I turn to the arguments against the process of inquiry itself. In a later section of this book, I will address the logical fallacies. The rest I deal with here.

The five remaining arguments have something significant in common: they apply only after a certain (some would say unhealthy) commitment level is reached. If a practitioner were to question each and every belief, all day long, confusion could certainly result. (Katie herself had this experience after her revelation that our beliefs are what causes pain. She had to re-enter the world of apparent truth–what we call reality–in order to start functioning again.) Similarly, a person who takes the Work to the extreme may become self-blaming and lose compassion. They may even attempt to deceive themselves about their own beliefs, pretending to let go of them in order to find freedom. Finally, Byron Katie followers may refuse other helpful therapeutic methods in the hopes that the Work will give them everything they need.

When we hear Katie’s words, we don’t hear moderation. This is one of the things I don’t love about her delivery. A parent grieving a lost child, a war victim recalling torture–no one, in her eyes, is too justified in their story to not benefit from letting it go.

And sometimes, she’s right. We do hold on to sadness too long. We do let it stand between ourselves and joy. But grief is a process. A beautiful one. An important one. It’s something we need to experience.

Conclusion: It’s so much simpler, isn’t it, to attach yourself to a spiritual practice (on a political ideal, or a parenting philosophy) wholly. It is so tempting to believe you’ve found the Answer, rather than to complicate things with annoying nuance. However, the illusion never lasts. Eventually, we find exceptions–times when our current favorite practices aren’t the most helpful or effective. Byron Katie fandom aside, I don’t plan to question my beliefs to the point of confusion, lack of compassion, self-blame or self-denial, and I’ll never (God willing) give up all other spiritual and therapeutic practices in favor of it.

I would be remiss not to remind you that Byron Katie agrees with me here. Though most of the time she seems to present her ideas as irreproachable, she occasionally reminds us that the Work is not about self-deception. If a turnaround doesn’t feel true to you, she says, move on. Find a different one that does. And never bring ulterior motives to the Work–that’s a technique that’s destined to fail.

Stay tuned for Part Twenty-Four of My Byron Katie Detox: One Year of Questioning Everything I Believe.

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My Stress Levels. Where Are They? I Think I Dropped Them Somewhere. (My Byron Katie Detox, Part Twenty-Two)

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And now we come to the crux of the matter: my detox report for January. Over three months have passed since my last update, and if memory serves (which admittedly it often doesn’t) my negativity demon has rarely been this . . . possessive. I mean, she’s there. But she’s sort of chilled out. She’s hanging around, but not really part of the conversation. At the risk of sounding like a commercial, I’m attributing the change to the Work. Even though I do have other choices.

I could consider the role of maturity, of time, or of working less. I could say, Hey, I must be experiencing a natural lull in the course of things. But that doesn’t feel true for me.

Time and maturity? The change wouldn’t be this abrupt, would it? And work? I’ve been going easy on (small-w) work since the baby was born, so that doesn’t seem like a likely candidate. Moreover, since my last entry, an unexpected change: I stopped meditating entirely. After a few weeks of practice with excellent results, the whole thing just dropped off a cliff.

So this increased inner peace definitely isn’t due to more spiritual practice.

The only other explanation I can think of is that aforementioned natural lull. Only time will tell if that’s a major factor.

The kids are still little handfuls and earfuls, and yet, their most difficult behaviors seem to bother me less. And anytime there’s a conflict (real or imagined) with a grown-up person, the Work short-circuits the drama. Lately, my biggest problem is that I’m a bit . . . bored. Things are too easy. Too simple. In November, I did the Work on the thought “Motherhood is difficult,” as I said I would, and what do you know? It helped. Ever since then–for almost three months straight–being a mom has felt pretty easy. After all, most of the day it really is. In doing the Work on the subject I realized that while the mornings are a bit challenging, afternoons are quiet and in the evenings my husband is home to help. And so, the ego switched it up a bit, so that now my pestering thought is that “motherhood is boring.” Typical.

Two more hard truths: I haven’t been in the state of meditation at all—not in the way I described in my last update. Plus, I’ve had my usual share of depression this winter. None of the thoughts that I pull out of my head regarding sadness seem to hit close enough to the bone. Depression is the only negative emotion I’ve experienced so far that doesn’t seem to respond to the Work.

And yet, I’ve been calm. Not overeating. Not overreacting. Patient with my kids and appreciative of my husband. I spend a lot of time looking at my kids—just looking. No mantra. No prescription. And . . . only a minimal amount of Work.

Yes, that’s what I said: a minimal amount of Work. Most days I’ve been skimping on even this basic, important practice. In the month of November, I wrote down forty-one stressful thoughts and in January, thirty-nine, though I didn’t do the full process on them all. In December, however, I wrote down zero–yup, zero. Whatever Work I did last month was brief, and not on paper. Instead, when a stressful thought came, I looked at it for a moment–just recognized it. Then I told myself to write it down later. Interestingly, though the whole month I failed to do so even once, some of the thoughts I’d noticed still evaporated. Not all of them, but some. And I think that’s pretty cool.

They couldn’t even stand a single true glance.

So, a bit of a break from my goal. But not really a break. The Work is becoming part of me, as Katie said it would. Recently, when I have written down my stressful thoughts, I’ve often abbreviated the process. I’ve been skipping the middle questions, focusing more on the first question and the turnarounds, then adding some CBT-type workups at the end.

I admit, somewhat guiltily, that I really, really prefer this shorter process.

Here are a few examples of my Work for November and January.

Thought: I am bored with my life as a mom.

True? Yes.

Byron Katie- and CBT-type turnarounds: I don’t feel bored as a mom. Not as bored, nearly, as I would at a regular writing or proofreading job. I have so many choices of things to do during my day. I get to take my kids out wherever I want to go. And at night I can read or do some writing. Being a mom challenges me in a way I’ve never been challenged before. And I have fun, too; I get to spend a lot of time with the people I like best, including my mom friends. Overall, it’s the best job I’ve ever had.

Thought: Writing is hard. Editing is even harder.

True? No.

Byron Katie- and CBT-type turnarounds: Writing flows well, once I choose a topic and a message to go with it, and get that tricky first sentence on the page. Editing is hard on the computer, but when I do it by hand, it is a challenge, but it’s fun.

Thought: I can’t think of work I can do right now with kids that I love and that matters.

True? No.

Byron Katie- and CBT-type turnarounds: I can write books. I can focus only on my kids. I can meditate. I can volunteer.

And here, my worksheet concerning my spiritual belief that God is reality. This was an interesting one for me.

A Byron Katie Worksheet

Month Completed: January

The Statement: God is reality.

The Questions:

Is it true? No.

Can I absolutely know it is true? No.

How do I feel when I think the thought? Great. I feel more able to accept any situation that arises than I would otherwise when I remind myself that what is–reality–is always good because it is part of God and God is always good. That’s the crux of the belief, the aspect of it that keeps me coming back. It has great practical value in my life.

How would I feel if I were unable to think the thought? I don’t know how I would feel. It might feel good to have no definition for God at all, but if I believed that God is a force separate from myself and my life, possibly one that I had to worship or to please, it might limit my growth or even cause despair.

The Turnarounds: God is not reality. God is not definable. Reality isn’t even real. Even Byron Katie doesn’t belief her own statement on the subject. She knows that everything we see is an illusion.

So again, is it true? No. God isn’t reality. Certainly not our reality–nothing we experience on this tiny, insignificant planet. Maybe God is the ultimate reality, something beyond what we can see or experience, but if that’s the case, there would be no concept of God, with it’s spiritual implications, at all. Spirituality is only useful here on earth, where it feels like something other, something to do or to define. While in a spiritual state in which we could understand this truth, there would be no need to name the All; it’d just be what it is. No spiritualization required. No need to identify it using that term.

All this said, however, I’m keeping my belief that God is reality. After all, I’m a limited being, a human. The so-called “reality” of my senses is the only reality I’m able to perceive at this time, and it does me good to think of it as a positive force irather than as a neutral or negative one. It helps me remember that everything in my life–absolutely everything–is a gift, created for me specifically by some great, loving power. Besides, even if the illusion is just an illusion, it’s still part of reality, too.

Right?

Maybe God isn’t reality, but our illusion-reality is a small taste of God. I don’t need the whole pie, anyway.

I just need one piece.

Stay tuned for Part Twenty-Three of My Byron Katie Detox: One Year of Questioning Everything I Believe.

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The Tree Falling in the Woods Really Doesn’t Make a Sound, and Actually, It Doesn’t Even Fall (My Byron Katie Detox, Part Twenty-One)

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Recently, I read two great books on the subject of reality, partly as research for this series. Having read a bit about quantum physics before, I suspected I’d find some interesting parallels in modern scientific thinking and Byron Katie’s ideas, and I was right. Lots of differences, of course. But some similarities, too.

In The Fabric of the Cosmos: Space, Time, and the Texture of Reality, Brian Greene puts all of modern physics in layman’s terms. It’s a great book, and I highly recommend it, but what it basically comes down to is this: we don’t know what the hell this is.

Are we living in a dream? An illusion? A hollogram? A parallel universe, one of many? Forget the old questioning of what is up and what is down. We don’t even know what light and matter are. Whatever it is, it’s not Newtonian—not definite. The whole idea of physics—well, it isn’t all that physical, actually.

It’s something . . . else.

Don’t worry, you guys. I’m not going to do the whole quantum physics dance with you. We spiritual people have been to that party before. I’ll simply note that whereas classical physicists see stuff–real matter–quantum physicists see nothing but potentialities.

“Things become definite only when a suitable observation forces them to relinquish quantum possibilities and settle on a specific outcome,” Greene writes. Later, “If superstring theory is proven correct, we will be forced to accept that the reality we have known is but a delicate chiffon draped over a thick and richly textured cosmic fabric.”

Beautiful ideas. And another book takes them further. It’s called Biocentrism: How Life and Consciousness are the Keys to Understanding the True Nature of the Universe, and it may be my favorite scientific work ever. In it, Robert Lanza (and co-author Bob Berman) come to the same conclusion as Greene, then take it one step further, saying that absolute consciousness must exist in order for modern physics to make any sort of sense. A quote: “Our understanding of the universe as a whole has reached a dead end. The ‘meaning’ of quantum physics has been debated since it was first discovered in the 30’s, but we are no closer to understanding it now than we were then . . . This book proposes a new perspective: that our current theories of the physical world don’t work, and can never be made to work, until they account for life and consciousness.” By “account for,” the author means “acknowledge the primary importance of.”

Basically, according to biocentrism, without life and consciousness, nothing truly exists in the way we think of existence.

Holy crap. It’s Byron Katie all over.

There’s more to the story–so very much more. Please do yourself a favor and get the book. Suffice it for now, though, to say that it seems to many physicists that “subatomic particles actually do interact with consciousness at some level.”

God is reality. Consciousness is an inherent part of matter. Hmmm. Pretty similar indeed.

Interestingly, Lanza addresses the whole “reality isn’t real” question, too, bringing us full circle on our wild metaphysical ride. Nothing we perceive, he says, is truly separate from ourselves and our consciousness. Everything we see, hear and touch is just a pattern created by charged particles until our brain interprets it as a sound or a visual thing.

Briefly put: that proverbial tree falling in the woods really wouldn’t make a sound if no one was there to hear it. It would only create some vibrations. And actually, it wouldn’t even fall. Just more vibrations.

Just vibrations; nothing else. Crazy, right?

Ah, this book. Ah, Byron Katie. I love that two opposite things can be true at the same time. Matter has consciousness, but matter isn’t matter. Reality is God, if and inasmuch as it is real.

If I were to speculate on the relationship between these two statements, I suppose I’d resolve the confusion thusly: Reality as we know it isn’t reality at all. Reality is something beyond all this, an unseen vibration or symphony of vibrations.

This is God.

For now, though, our bodies and brains interpret the vibrations in various ways–in colors and shapes and even ideas and situations. This, too, is God, but only a small part, the little we can perceive of It in our so very limited state.

Our reality isn’t real–but it’s part of the picture.

I’m going to stop there. For now.

Stay tuned for Part Twenty-Two of My Byron Katie Detox: One Year of Questioning Everything I Believe.

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God Is . . . Reality? That Sucks. (My Byron Katie Detox, Part Twenty)

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And so, as we’ve seen, there’s a lot to this whole Byron Katie thing. Much more than at first meets the eye. But then again, isn’t that always the case? Everyone has complexities under there somewhere. Not just complexities; complexes. Mental constructs. Cities and cities of them.

Everyone has them. Even people who know that’s all they are–just constructs. Just mental cities, and some shoddy and poorly-planned, at that.

In my (very unauthorized) Byron Katie Metaphysics, I covered a lot of ground. Some of it I’ll get back to later. For now, I’ll focus on that essential, beautiful belief that I came to since losing Jane, namely, that God is all there is.

God is everything we see. We are all One. God is every molecule, every atom, the All. These were ideas that in the years following Jane’s death had become familiar to me. But Byron Katie has a better way of putting it. Listen to this–really hear it. She says, “God is reality.” Same idea, different words? Maybe. Why, then, do they hit me with such greater force?

Why does it feel like, Yikes. This–all this ugly stupid stuff around me? This is God?

Well, maybe.

Here, a few direct quotes that offer Katie’s perspective on reality.

“For me, the word God means ‘reality.’ Reality is God, because it rules.” —The Work of Byron Katie: An Introduction, Byron Katie

“You sometimes say, ‘God is everything, God is good.’ Isn’t that just one more belief? A: God, as I use that word, is another name for what is. I always know God’s intention: It’s exactly what is in every moment. I don’t have to question it anymore. I’m no longer meddling in God’s business. It’s simple. And from that basis, it’s clear that everything is perfect. The last truth—I call it the last judgment—is ‘God is everything, God is good.’ People who really understand this don’t need inquiry . . . Ultimately, of course, even this isn’t true.” —Loving What Is: Four Questions That Can Change Your Life, Byron Katie and Stephen Mitchell

“Katie: Life is so simple: We walk; we sit; we lie horizontal. That’s about it. Everything else is a story about what’s going on while we’re doing it. Stan: It’s almost like the stories make my being real. [The audience applauds.] And without the story, I wouldn’t be real. Katie: And you’ve never been real. You know that. Stan: Yes. I’ve been at the forefront of the story. [He gives a low whistle.] Holy shit! [The audience laughs loudly.] Wow! My hairs are standing up. Is that significant? [More laughter.] Oh my God, that’s really true. Without my stories, there’s really nothing here.” —Who Would You Be Without Your Story?: Dialogues with Byron Katie, Byron Katie

“There is nothing that is true if you believe it; and nothing is true, believe it or not.” —Byron Katie

“The only time we suffer is when we believe a thought that argues with what is. When the mind is perfectly clear, what is is what we want. If you want reality to be different than it is, you might as well try to teach a cat to bark. You can try and try, and in the end the cat will look up at you and say, “Meow.” Wanting reality to be different than it is is hopeless. —Loving What Is: Four Questions That Can Change Your Life, Byron Katie and Stephen Mitchell

Pretty straightforward, right? God is reality. Only, wait: nothing is true or real. If anything is real, though, God definitely is. And if God is anything, God is reality.

Like I said: yikes.

Let’s just admit it: Katie’s thoughts on reality don’t make much sense. Still, she seems to be on to something. If God is anything, God is everything. There is a certain poetic truth there.

But what is everything? Is everything really everything? That’s the question I had when I first starting reading Byron Katie. Before that time, I understood that the trees were part of God. The people were. The mountains. Even beautiful buildings and other art. But Katie seems to imply that God is in situations, too–in anything that happens to us that we may deem either “bad” or “good.” (See the last quote.) In other words, that judgmental glance, that disappointment, that unfair comment, that anger. The crying baby, the sick child, the back pain. The friend that let me down, the husband that was mean. God isn’t just all that is–all the animals, vegetables and minerals. God is all reality–even the ideas.

Which is sometimes pretty cool to think about, and sometimes kinda sucks.

Stay tuned for Part Twenty-One of My Byron Katie Detox: One Year of Questioning Everything I Believe.

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A Byron Katie Metaphysics (My Byron Katie Detox, Part Nineteen)

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Okay. Let’s take a minute here. Things are about to get complicated. You’ve heard this God-is-all-there-is theory before, but have you ever really unpacked it? Well, Byron Katie has. And in a way I hadn’t heard–really heard–until following her on her unique trip of the mind.

Before discussing this idea, though, let’s do something else. Let’s break down her entire philosophy of life–all the basics. I told you before that I wrote a few sections for this book concerning Katie’s actual teaching and concerning how to do The Work. This is a fun one of those. I call it A Byron Katie Metaphysics.

If this were a college class, here’s how it would start: the professor would watch the clock, waiting to begin. As soon as the second hand reached the twelve of the appointed minute, he’d say, “Byron Katie isn’t a spiritual person.”

Laughter. “Huh?” one student might say.

Another: “Okay. Then who is?”

“According to her, no one,” the professor would reply. “There’s no need to be; spiritual ideas are just a layer, an interpretation. Reality isn’t spiritual. Reality just is. What do you think? Does that make sense?”

“Are you saying that God is like reality? But God isn’t like reality. God is an unknowable, non-physical concept.”

“Are you sure? Byron Katie believes that God and reality aren’t only similar, but they’re exactly the same thing.”

“Wow.”

“Yeah. Kinda changes everything, doesn’t it?”

The discussion would continue for forty minutes or so, and just before the end of class, the professor would hand out a piece of paper.

“Here are our topics for the semester.”

The students would then begin to read.

Byron Katie’s Philosophy of Non-Belief in Three Parts:

Part One: There Is No Knowledge

  • God may or may not exist. Truth may or may not exist. 
  • If God does exist, He is unknowable. If truth does exist, it is unknowable.
  • Reality exists. However, it is experienced subjectively and thereby distorted.
  • In sum, there is no true or objective knowledge, either of things seen or unseen. There is only subjective knowledge.

Part Two: There Is Only Reality, and Reality Is Perfect

  • If there is a God, God is just another name for reality. If there is a truth, truth is everything that is.
  • Reality is perfect. Everything that is, is exactly as it should be. Always.
  • For this reason, whenever you argue with reality, you suffer. In fact, all suffering results from believing a thought that argues with what is.
  • It is possible to be completely free from suffering.
  • The process of ridding ourselves of our suffering is self-inquiry.

Part Three: Experiences Are Not Reality

  • Reality and experiences are different. Reality is objective. Experiences are subjective.
  • Our experiences are a mirror of ourselves, of what we are believing about who we are and what the world is like.
  • Therefore, when you judge another person, you are actually finding that same quality in yourself.
  • By changing your beliefs, you change our experiences.

Part Four: Twelve More Surprising Beliefs

  • The universe is friendly. Reality is much, much kinder than the stories we tell ourselves about it.
  • Love is what we are made of. We can’t help but love, and we don’t need to try. If we want to feel it, we just have to uncover it.
  • There are no legitimate “shoulds” in the world. Not one. Everything should be exactly as it is, because it is. Even things like death, anger and abuse.
  • All thoughts are a gift, even the really awful ones. By listening to them, even loving them, we give them room to teach us, then leave us alone.
  • Intuition is more reliable than planning. Listen to your inner guide, not your mind. The right decision will come when you need it.
  • There is no such thing as a victim. You can only suffer if you believe a painful thought or tell yourself a painful story—not a moment sooner. Therefore, the only person who can hurt you is yourself.
  • “Letting go is an outdated concept.” It is impossible to drop a thought on purpose; it’s just not the way the mind works. Instead, the beliefs we don’t want let go of us after we question them honestly.
  • There is no reason to defend yourself. “Defense is the first act of war,” Katie famously says. Avoid starting wars.
  • There’s no such thing as enlightenment. And even if there is, simple kindness is a more noble goal, anyway.
  • The thoughts we think are not observations of facts. They are only suggestions. No need to take them seriously.
  • Negative thoughts about an incident are often far more injurious to us than the incident itself ever was.
  • Since God is reality, if you want to love God, just love what is.

Class dismissed.

Don’t you wish your real college courses had been this thought-provoking?

Stay tuned for Part Twenty of My Byron Katie Detox: One Year of Questioning Everything I Believe.

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Spiritual Practice Success Story: “I Overcame My Eating Disorder”

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top mysticism books 16

Contributor: Anonymous

Several years ago, I decided to keep an eating journal, partly as an attempt to lose weight I didn’t need to lose. I recorded the times I binged and the days I starved, and one day, I had a moment of truth.

Holy crap, I realized. I have an eating disorder.

It was the first time I knew for sure that it was true.

Not long after that, I joined a recovery group for food addicts in an honest, committed way and started on the path to recovery. Then, a few years later, something happened that I can only describe as a miracle: The day before my birthday, right in the midst of yet another evening binge, I decided to do something very special for myself: I decided to give up overeating—and not just overeating, but dieting, fasting, counting calories, counting carbs—even using artificial sweeteners.

I decided to finally be sane.

As it turned out, it was the best birthday gift I’d ever received. Since that day, I have not binged or overeaten to the point of discomfort even once—and as a result, today I am thinner than I was before.  Every pair of pants that I own fits me every day, but better than that: I like the way I look—I really, really like it. I like my soft curves. I like my flat stomach (which is flatter now that there is less food in it). I love even my flaws.

It’s weird how these things happen, isn’t it? One day you think you’re fine, and the next you realize you have a problem. And then, because you finally admitted it, you allow your moment of grace to occur–the miracle that finally heals you.

And you know what’s so cool about recovery? It’s actually pretty fun. And even when it’s not that much fun, it’s still so much fun, because as long as I’m on the path, I have hope.

And so, to those of you out there who still suffer—and “suffer,” I know, is no exaggeration—here is my advice for you: pray. Meditate. Seek the help of your God. Do whatever you have to do to get in touch with the Source—even if at first, all you can do is ask to lose weight.

After that, follow your intuition. If you feel that reading inspiring books may help, read some inspiring books. If you feel that starting a program will help, start a program, by all means. If your heart is telling you to see a physician or counselor, please do so right away.

Take the steps you need to take—and as you do so, know that as long as you’re engaged with the process, moving down the path, there is hope for you, too.

Meditation 101: Practices, Postures, and Pretty Much Everything In Between

Guest Contributor: Jamal Bara at FitnessGoat.com.

“I am incapable of meditating,” admitted a friend of mine just the other day. “It ends up being just me silently agonizing over my to-do list.”

I totally get it; meditation is difficult. It’s definitely not a practice you’ll excel at right away. Just like you can’t pick up a golf club for the first time and expect to make it to the Masters Tournament next year and get that green jacket.

Okay, maybe that’s exaggerating, but you get the picture. The art of meditation can take years to learn, and you may never achieve perfect bliss, but it’s all about the practice.

And just like golf may not be your sport, certain styles of meditation may not be your cup of tea either. It takes some experimenting to find what works for you.

What is Meditation?

Meditation is a deliberate practice and one that requires your most quiet, mindful state. The word is tossed around a lot, but you may not exactly know meditation’s actual meaning or function. If asked, I would initial picture Yoda summoning the Force. Perhaps this is a form of meditation, but we’ll leave that for the galaxy.

Though mediation varies and splinters off into different styles of practices, it begins with one specific application—calming your mind. It also (hopefully) ends with a similar goal—restoring balance. The in-between is where you can customize your practice.

As with most new endeavors, it’s helpful to be educated on the subject before you jump in. That’s why we’re here! In this comprehensive guide, you’ll learn about the types of meditation, the benefits of meditation, meditation postures, and even some apps that will help you get in the zone. Then we’ll answer some common questions about meditation and silence any skeptics out there.

So what are some meditation techniques and tips to help you begin this transcendental journey? Stay tuned!

Types of Meditation

Vipassana meditation (observation of reality)

Vipassana is one of the most ancient forms of meditation. It originated in the Theravada vehicle of Buddhism (the school of thought used by southeastern Asian countries) and is said to use certain concepts from the Buddha himself—the refinement of mindfulness and searching within.

Broadly speaking, there are two types of meditation—concentration and insight. Concentration style meditation have you clear your mind or focus on only one thing. Vipassana is virtually the opposite, inviting you to unearth things about yourself.

Unlike these practices which discourage the movement of the mind, Vipassana meditation allows its students to explore and gaze at their thoughts from afar. You would then train your mind to reflect on your life experiences and view them objectively. Peeling them away layer by layer, you would ultimately be able to walk logically through your thought processes.

How to begin:

The simplest way to begin Vipassana meditation is to observe your breathing. Imagine your thoughts coming and going with the breath. Do not allow the thoughts to linger or be developed further beyond that one breath. This practice helps to relieve anxiety because anxiety is sometimes a result of thoughts being fleshed out to an irrational point.

Downsides:

This practice takes a lot of control. The mind’s natural tendency is to wander and see thoughts to fruition, but Vipassana asks you to allow thoughts to come and go like waves. Detached observation is often difficult for beginners.

Float tank (sensory deprivation)

Floating is a form of sensory deprivation. Its popularity is definitely arising because it can accommodate many abilities. Floating is done in a small tank filled with roughly 10-12 inches of water. The water contains around 800 pounds of Epsom salt, making it more buoyant than the Dead Sea.

In a float center, eliminating stimulus is the primary endeavor. The water is the same temperature as your body, so you don’t experience being too hot or cold. The room is completely dark, and the sound is nonexistent. Floats are usually done in 60-90 minute increments.

Remember the friend I told you about who said she was incapable of meditating? For her birthday, I surprised her with a 90-minute float. Honestly, I thought she would balk. Thankfully, I was wrong! She described the experience like floating in space, not being able to differentiate between water and air.

The benefits are medicinal in many ways. The calm sensory environment aids concentration, but the zero-gravity effect can help with back pain and stimulate sleep that’s equal to 4 hours of REM cycle sleep.

How to begin:

Obviously, you’ll need to find a facility that specializes in floating. The first visit is the most difficult because your body will take to allow the salts and sensory deprivation to relax your mind. Once you fall into a dreamlike state, though, then you’ll be able to implement your own specific practice.

Downsides:

Floating is expensive. Cost is usually not an object of meditation, so this alone could prevent you from experiencing floatation. Even if you could afford a float or two, meditation is recommended to be practiced often, so consistency would be difficult. Another downside (for Stranger Things fans only): unless you are Eleven, you’re not promised a visit to the Upsidedown dimension.

Guided meditation (instruction & response)

Guided meditation is probably the best practice if you’re a beginner. Most times you’ll have a narrator lead you through a practice. Whether the practice is about breathing or self-esteem, the scripts are designed to give your mind specific tasks that will reign in excessive thought.

When our brains create thought, we are also creating neural pathways. The more reinforcement we give to those pathways, the more likely we are to live into those thoughts. Our brains are programmed to absorb information and react to certain environments based on previous experience. How amazing that we hold the key to reformatting our minds to think more positively.

How to begin:

Getting started with guided meditation is simple. First, it’s important to choose an objective for your meditations. Since there is a vocally programmed aspect, you’ll want to feel that your script is beneficial. Are you wanting to quell anxiety or increase positivity?

Stay tuned for the segment later in the blog where we cover meditation apps that might assist you with guided meditations!

Downsides:

Guided meditation requires some outside resources like a program or application on your phone. Other options may include group meditation, but you might feel that this will prevent you from complete relaxation.

Check out this guided meditation to help with over-thinking.

Chakra meditation (personal inventory)

Chakra is an Indian form of thought which breaks down the body into a column of energy centers, each signifying a different color and trait. The 7 chakras correspond to our physical, emotional, and spiritual processes and, according to ancient Hindu healers, can become blocked.

Meditation and yoga are two of the most common ways to realign and unblock your chakras. Before I introduce you to a Chakra balancing meditation, let’s learn about each energy segment, starting from the bottom.

Red — The Root

The lowest chakra is at the base of the spine or the pelvic floor and is associated with concepts which ground you—basic instincts like shelter, self-preservation, and safety. Blockages in this chakra result in colon issues, lower back pain, and fear/anxiety

Orange — The Sacral

The next chakra is located between your navel and pelvic bone and is associated with your sexual nature—passion, joy, and complete wellness. Blockages in the sacral chakra include aversion to change, sexual dysfunction, or addiction.

Yellow —The Solar Plexus

The yellow chakra is located in your belly just below the ribcage and connects you to self-control and power. Blockages in the solar plexus result in moods of self-deprecation, poor time management, and digestive issues.

Green — The Heart

As it indicates, this chakra is located in your chest and is centered in love. The chakra, at its best, promotes goodwill and absolution. Blockages in the heart promote anger management issues, inability to cope with grief, and grudges.

Blue — The Throat

This blue chakra symbolizes communication and your ability to express yourself clearly without inhibition or fear of your own honesty. Blockages could result in trouble speaking your truth, shoulder/neck tension, and attention issues.

Indigo — The Third Eye

Located between your eyes, this chakra represents your brain and your vision. The purple energy dictates your ability to perceive and fine tunes your intuition. Blockages create poor judgment, erratic decision-making, and headaches.

Violet — The Crown

The crown chakra, like its location, is the highest energy and is related to spiritual connection. In its purest form, the violet chakra is fully conscious and aware of the universe. Disconnected, the crown chakra could make you feel isolated. Meditation is said to be most helpful for this energy source. During these times of mindfulness, your 7 chakras are at total, clear alignment.

How to begin:

The best way to begin Chakra-style mediation is to be familiar with the 7 chakras. Study the energies. What color holds your insufficiencies? What colors are your strengths? Once you underwent the colors and their connection to your mind and body, listen to a guided Chakra meditation for help navigating the blockages (see below).

Downsides:

As information-rich and enlightening as Chakras are, they are also abstract. Studying Chakras may be something you want to tackle down the road in your meditation journey. No sense in overloading your mind when you’re trying to silence it!

Forest bathing (gentle wandering)

What do you think of when you hear forest bathing? When I first heard it, I thought, You mean just being in the woods? Well, I go trail running, so this is nothing new to me. Who’s profiting from this glorified hiking class?

Then I took some time to research. Developed in the 1980’s, this Japanese form of healing helps converge nature and mindfulness in its students. It incorporates a slow walk through quiet woods, breathing exercises, and observation. You’re invited to use all your senses to connect with nature—seeing the green, hearing the birds, feeling the textures around you. (Another common misconception debunked: it’s not a bath, so you don’t need swim trunks).

Think about the objective of a hike or a trail run. The goals are finishing or having a defined destination. These add an element of rushed urgency to something that we assume is peaceful—not to mention, high elevation hikes or runs take a lot of conditioning. I don’t know about you, but I don’t feel very peaceful when I’m out of breath.

How to begin:

Forest bathing can be as simple or as complex as you’d like. There are some programs and retreats you can attend which educate and guide you through the process. Another option is just to walk trails on your own and connect with your senses.

Downsides:

Some city dwellers may not have easy access to a forest. That’s okay. Find any green space or park. It may not offer the quietness you need, but the main thing is surrounding yourself with green.

Benefits of Meditation

Lowers anxiety

Mindfulness is scientifically proven to lower anxiety. By teaching the mind to detach from worry, you automatically lower stress and reduce the physical toll that anxiety takes (i.e. insomnia, muscle aches, easy startle reflex).

Meditation teaches chronic worriers to quiet an active mind. Training yourself to halt the broken record of your mind’s worst case scenarios is not easy. It’s definitely not relaxing at first. But keep trying. The results outweigh the effort.

Increases awareness

One of the main components of meditation is the self-awareness. Practices may be different, but a common thread is the attention it brings. Whether you’re tracking your breathing, guiding your thoughts, or listening to birds in the forest, you’re making an effort at awareness.

Meditation, in all its forms, calls for slow movement—unhurried, gentle thoughts as well as heedful physical movements. This world revolves around quickness and convenience these days, so it’s no wonder that the simple act of slowing down can improve your grasp on the nuances of life.

Mindfulness creates control

Our minds are hardwired to absorb tons of sensory information and interpret it. Not many moments go by when your mind isn’t working, worrying, planning, or wandering—except for when you’re meditating, that is. You already know that control is difficult. Raise your hand if you’ve ever tried dieting. I see you.

The willpower involving food choices is tough, but at least these actions and reactions are slower (i.e. grocery shopping, ordering at a restaurant) Thoughts appear and vanish instantly, so controlling this traffic successfully creates a master of control.

Being present in our bodies helps us appreciate its function

Meditation asks you to dive deep. Listening to your breathing and the rhythm of your heart can only be a rote part of the process for so long. But when you really begin to investigate your vessel through mediation, you may find yourself grateful and amazed.

Gratitude can be a wonderful focal point during concentration meditations. The Chakra mediation we covered earlier is the perfect application for this type of appreciation. The presence of mind you’ll have while exploring your Chakras will help you learn a lot about your physical and spiritual qualities.

Meditation Postures

Sitting

Quarter Lotus (Burmese)

The quarter lotus is a fancier name for sitting with your legs crossed (or as my preschool teacher would say—criss cross applesauce). For added comfort, I would recommend sitting on a folded towel to elevate your hips. This will relieve pressure on your knees and ankles.

Full Lotus

Full lotus position is probably the 2nd most common association with meditation behind chanting ooommmmmm. It’s the pose we all envision. Instead of crossing feet under the knee, you pull your feet up to rest on your thigh.

Since the full lotus is intermediate to advanced, I only recommend you try this one if you already have pretty loose hips or your only plan on short meditations. If you have knee injuries, definitely avoid this pose.

Seated in Chair

This may not be the most picturesque pose, but it works for some people. If you think sitting down with your legs crossed will cause pain or discomfort, definitely choose the chair method. The point of mediation is to not fixate on distractions, so if your legs fall asleep due to poor circulation, that won’t exactly propel you toward deep relaxation.

For chair pose, sit up and don’t let your back rest against the chair. Your chest should be lifted and your feet planted firmly on the floor.

Lying down

There’s some controversy around horizontal mediation positions because it could tempt you to fall asleep. Although sleep is positive (definitely means you’re chill), it’s not exactly the goal of meditation. If you have the self-control to remain conscious, try these yoga-inspired poses.

Corpse Pose (Savasana)

This is my favorite yoga pose. Of course, you’re probably saying, because it’s lying on your back doing nothing. Well, you’re partly right, but in my defense, it’s not as easy as it looks. Sure, you can be stretched out on your back, but what is your mind doing? You’re either asleep or worrying if the chicken will be thawed by dinner time.

Corpse pose could be the most difficult to master. It’s not about the position as much as your consciousness while in savasana. You’re lying horizontal, palms facing up. You’re breathing with intention, eyes closed.

Supta Baddha Konasana (Bolstered Hip Opener)

This one’s a mouthful, but here’s what’s up. Also a horizontal position, this pose is often done in restorative yoga practices. You’ll be on your back with your legs in a butterfly position (soles of your feet together, heels pulled toward your groin) with a bolster pillow under your shoulders. I’ve taken part in a restorative yoga session before, and I really liked this pose.

This position opens your hips and aligns your spine. Pop quiz: which Chakra would you be using in this meditative position? (Hint: orange)

Mindful Movement

Is movement a position? Not necessarily, but because meditation has evolved, so must posture. Think about forest bathing. Though it’s perfectly okay to sit and bask in nature, the specific forest bathing technique requires slow wandering. I think this is just another way you can be present in your body and be aware of subtleties of movement.

Meditation Apps

Using apps on your phone may seem like it’s defeating the purpose of detaching and focusing, but I’m liking this option. I need the incentive to stay on task and build a habit. Whether that’s a monthly payment or simply seeing the app button on my home screen, I think we could all use a boost.

For sake of brevity (there are hundreds of apps out there), I’m gonna categorize them based on some specific factors. Here you go:

10% happier (for the skeptics)

This app was created to combat the skeptics who think meditation is sitting cross-legged on a mountain ledge at dawn chanting in Sanskrit. Phew! Good thing I’m here to change your mind! You could be missing out on some real ambient chill.

10% Happier addresses the science behind the ooommmm. There’s a lot of commentary, explanation, and basic practices to get you started.

Price: Free with limited features, $11.99 per month

Buddhify (for the indecisive)

To me, this program is the most aesthetically pleasing and is seemingly user friendly. The app opens with a color wheel inviting you to select your mood. Instead of stressing yourself out scrolling through options, just let your mood select the style. There are also a ton of guided meditations if you need some help navigating your thoughts.

Price: $2.99–$4.99

Smiling mind (for the budget conscious)

This app is free! Are you sold yet? If not, check out these specs: the app chooses meditations based on your personality/career and tracks your progress. It was developed by psychologists and other healthcare professionals, so it’s free and trustworthy. Can’t beat that.

Price: Freeeeeeee

Headspace (for the best of everything)

This is the most compressive app of all. Forbes named this app one of its top choices, and for good reason. Tons of categorized meditations are available for your ever-shifting days and moods. There’s even an SOS feature for, particularly rough days. You can even have accountability check-ins with other app users!

Price: Free with limited features; $12.99 per month

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Are meditation and prayer the same thing?

A: This is a tricky question. A lot of people get confused or hesitant about starting any meditation practices because it seems associated with religion. Although its roots are in Asian culture and religion, no one is forcing you to submit or pray to a higher Being if you don’t choose to.

What meditation can offer is a vehicle or shell for your prayer. The seated posture, the inward-looking, and the quiet focus all lend themselves to great prayer environments no matter your faith. Faith-based guided meditations are a great way to incorporate both relaxation and religious practices into one sitting.

The largest difference I notice between prayer and meditation is where control is delegated. In non-prayer meditation, you are usually coached into being your mind’s own master—you and you alone are governing your sensory perceptions. Oftentimes in prayer, there is a submissive nature which relinquishes power to a higher Being.

Q: When is the best time of day to meditate?

A: Depending on the goal of your meditation, any time of day could work. If you need to channel energy and positivity, morning is a great choice. If you’re attempting to diffuse anxiety or a tough situation during the day, maybe a few minutes on your lunch hour. If relaxation is what you’re after, try meditating before bedtime as a sort of sleep prep.

Q: How long should I meditate?

A: Don’t set yourself up for failure. Don’t jump in and attempt to quiet your mind for a whole hour. That’ll probably be the last time you meditate. Try 10 minutes at first to see how your body and mind react. Once you’ve mastered this timeframe, you can move up slowly.

I consider an average meditation to be around 30 minutes. With life as busy as it is, it’s hard to fit any more time in—especially since you’ll need to incorporate exercise and vigorous activity in at some point as well. Damn you, self-care!

Longer meditations of an hour or more are usually for the pros or for mediation-specific retreats.

Q: Should I close my eyes?

A: This is an excellent question and one that boils down to preference and how you react to stimuli. Though closing your eyes is most common and seems to promote focus, it can easily allow the mind to wander or drift off (to a rabbit hole of thought or to sleep!)

If you chose to practice with your eyes closed, you must find something to focus on—a consistent sound, your breathing, or the wind against your cheek.

With open eyes, it seems obvious that you might get distracted. Squirrel! But it might be simpler than you imagine. The key is to fixate on a focal point. Don’t place yourself in a visually busy spot. Find a consistent landscape, like a forest edge or a sunset. If you’re inside, focus on the collection of four-leaf clovers in a jar. Bottom line: understand how your mind works and what would allow you to focus.

I hope this guide has given you some insight into this therapeutic practice. For the skeptics, I hope you’re convinced that meditation is more than Yoda and lots of ooommmm. For seasoned meditators, I hope this has given you more tools and more angles to mix up your practice.

For the slackers like me, I hope this has reignited your energy toward bettering your mind. I don’t know about you, but after this post, I’m going to tend to my blue Chakra and stare at some trees.

Happy meditating!

For more articles like this, see FitnessGoat.com.

Jamal Bara

Sources

1- What exactly is Vipassana Meditation?

2- Your 7 Chakras, Explained

3- Shinrin Yoku Forest Bathing

4- What is Self Awareness?

5- Gratitude Meditation

6- Deepen Your Meditation: Eyes Closed vs Eyes Open

Spiritual Practice Success Story: "I’m Becoming My Highest Self"

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Contributor: Anonymous

A few years back, I read a little-known book by Neale Donald Walsch called Questions and Answers on Conversations With God. In it, a reader asks if the author knows any way to speed up one’s process of reaching enlightenment—you know, kind of like a shortcut. Not surprisingly, Walsch says that he does. He advises the reader to write down in great detail what her highest and grandest vision of herself would look like—then to begin to act as if that was who she was right now.

I thought this was great advice, and since I’d never actually made a list like this before, recently I decided to give it a go. Then, I decided, I’d assess which of the changes I could take on, and which I would have to save for later.

Here is what I wrote.

I am a woman who:

•Smiles when she looks in the mirror. Smiles all the time, actually.

•Does not criticize herself or others over superficialities.

•Does not believe she is superior to others, and does not accept such thoughts when they come.

•Does not have any negative thoughts at all; is relentlessly optimistic.

•Takes full responsibility for her choices.

•Is honest with others whenever possible, and always with herself.

•Wears only comfortable clothes (that also look nice).

•Does not spend a great deal of money, time or attention on her physical appearance, but lets her natural beauty show.

•Spends time every morning in prayer and meditation.

•Prays constantly or, put better (as Neale Donald Walsch would say that we are all actually praying at every single moment with every single thought that we have), is fully aware of praying constantly, and does so purposefully and consciously.

•Frequently practices the activities that she’s passionate about, especially writing.

•Takes her time. Enjoys the small moments of her day. Does not rush. Pays attention to people. Does not crowd her schedule.

After completing the list, I looked it over, and realized something: I was already most of the way there. I also realized that everything on the list–every last thing–was achievable, not just for me, but for anyone.

Sometimes, spiritual-minded people like us start to get mired in self-doubt. We hear about a new spiritual practice, a new technique, and we think, If only I could do that, I’d get enlightened. Today, I ask you to consider not where you’re going, but where you’ve been. How far have you already come on your spiritual journey? I encourage you do make a list like mine, then appreciate how close to your highest self you already are.

Are you a good mother? A good partner? A good friend? Do you practice kindness, give to charity?

My guess is that you do.

And so, maybe–just maybe–we’re further along than we think. Maybe enlightenment isn’t the mystery it’s made out to be.

Maybe we’re on our way to true inner peace.

How thrilling this is, when you think about it.

Thank you, Mr. Walsch, for the inspiration.

Right Then–Then Exactly–I Was Done (My Byron Katie Detox, Part Eighteen)

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Image from the law of attraction book list featuring all major law of attraction authors at lawofattractionproject.com

My daughter Jane, born November 25, 2011.

Sometimes, it’s the little things that change the course of your life. A chance comment. An accidental meeting. A TV show called “I Survived . . . Beyond and Back” on Lifetime. Other times, it’s the really big things that do it.

A year and a half into our relationship, David and I decided to start trying to have a baby. A few months later, I was pregnant.

The pregnancy was uneventful. I had some bad nausea and some problems sleeping, and I was more irritable than usual. But nothing really went wrong.

Then I gave birth.

Jane was beautiful. She was long, and fat, and had flawless skin and a perfect pug nose and very full lips and long, thick hair and fingernails well past the tips of her fingers. She looked healthy and perfect. But she wasn’t.

She wasn’t breathing.

Near total brain damage was the diagnosis. Cause unknown then and forever after. She lived four and a third days, though, each of them newly intense. And on one of them, along with everything else that was happening, the moment came.

I lost my Christian faith. Just not officially.

It happened like this: With me in Baby Jane’s room was a good friend. She’d been sitting with me for several hours. Earlier that day I’d felt a nudge–an inner urging we spiritual people place so much trust in–telling me to ask this woman about spirituality. Maybe I could tell she had something figured out. Or maybe it really was God who gave me the idea. Who knows? Either way, there she was, and when the moment felt right, I said, “Are you a spiritual person?”

“I am,” she said.

“A Christian?” I asked. Part of me expected her to say yes. That inner nudge–it was God using this tragic experience to bring me back to him, wasn’t it? It must be. Why else would I get it?

But then she surprised me. “No,” she replied. “I believe in angels and God, but not in any particular religion.”

I paused. Took this in. This is my message? I thought. That I can get away with being spiritual but not religious?

Hold on. Wait a second. How awesome is this?

Yeah. It’s the best thing ever.

It sounds strange and of course it’s only partly true, but it was right then–then exactly–I was done. I mean, I was mostly cooked, had been for quite a while. But there in Jane’s room, when my friend said she wasn’t a Christian–well, that was it.

Char-broiled.

Several months later, I watched the documentary on NDEs, and after that the whole thing was official.

I was now a non-Christian for good.

The change was indeed good for me. And it came at a great time. My newfound spirituality helped me through the most difficult experience of my life. The best part of the change: In allowing myself to redefine my faith, I gained the freedom to explore.

In the months following Jane’s death, following my friend’s suggestions, I read many incredible books on spirituality–classics I hadn’t even heard of till then. All the Conversations With God. Some law of attraction stuff and a book by Gary Zukav. I ate them up, went deep, took extensive notes. I experimented with new ideas. Reincarnation? Sure. Sounds strange, but it makes a certain sense. Channeling? Energy healing? Okay. Why not? If it’s out there, it’s available, right?

It was all so absorbing, so meaningful, so . . . important-feeling. If you’re a spiritual person, you’ll know what I mean. The woo-woo part of me, it seemed, had never really gone away. It had just been in remission.

Now, a restart. I thought about my early experiences with the Divine, my previous beliefs, and redefined them according to my new ideas.

Spirituality was real, and spirituality was good. People are, too. They are holy. Life is a game–a game with no rules. You just try shit, and see what works.

And it was during this time of searching that I adopted my next abiding spiritual principle, namely: God isn’t what I thought he was.

God is all there is.

Stay tuned for Part Nineteen of My Byron Katie Detox: One Year of Questioning Everything I Believe.

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Surviving Death and Other Fairly Surprising Occurences (My Byron Katie Detox, Part Seventeen)

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So, I get that tons of people will disagree with me on this. And I’m fine with it. Personal preferences, and all that. But when there’s a TV show that addresses the One Question—or at least one of the One Questions—namely, what happens when we die . . . well, that show should be pretty well-known. Like, more well-known than “Survivor.”

Well, as it turns out, there is such a show, and ironically, the name is similar. It’s “I Survived . . . Beyond and Back.” It recounts the experiences of near death experience (NDE) survivors, albeit in much less detail than one might prefer.

And it’s not really that popular. Go figure.

In any case. For me, discovering the show was a solid three-star experience. In other words, a pleasure less than a day at the beach and greater than a great meal. (Also a full star less than a single smile from a baby, but that’s not a fair comparison.) It was before I had kids, when I could take half a day off from adulthood pretty much whenever I wanted, so that is what I was doing. I turned on the TV, and got hooked by the premise. And from there it only got better.

The show is made in that classic TV documentary style, complete with dramatic reenactments and black-backdropped narratives by the real-life participants. Three stories mixed in together: First, a teenage SCUBA diver who gets decompression sickness after his suit malfunctions. Then a bedridden patient who dies due to a hospital error and finally, a bus driver who has a heart attack during her rounds. All three enchanting, and horrific, and consequential. But it was the second one that really got me.

The SCUBA diver–he looked like a nice guy. Could’ve been religious. When he dies he has a positive experience. Then the bus driver–a woman. She sees her ex-husband and is overcome by how pure he looks. She floats toward some bright lights, but is told it isn’t her time. She’s disappointed; she doesn’t want to come back.

Then there is Barbara, the bedridden patient.

She’s just had spinal surgery, which has gone well. Then she’s put on a respirator, which doesn’t. It malfunctions, and internal swelling stops her blood flow and her heart, and before the error can be corrected, she is gone.

Barbara moves over her body. At first, she feels at peace. Then suddenly, she becomes confused.

“But the next thing I knew,” she says, “I was in total darkness.”

Darkness.

That can’t be good.

Cut to commercial. The perfect time. Two happy TV endings, one hook.

Holy crap, I thought. I have got to finish this. No snack. No phone. Just wait.

At the time, see, I was still in limbo–that am-I-still-a-Christian phase I described earlier. I had David, and I loved my life, and I’d found a way to bring meaning to it. I no longer truly believed the salvation story. And yet, I hadn’t yet made a clear pronouncement regarding my new faith.

Can I call myself a non-Christian? Yikes. That sounds . . . scary. Maybe this show can help me overcome this fear.

Yeah. I took TV a little too seriously. (Still do.)

The show came back from commercial, as these shows do. And the ending was appropriately predictable. The darkness again. Then, slowly, Barbara’s actress representative reappears, and she is happy–even radiant.

In the narrative overlay, Barbara says that for a moment, she wondered what was happening. Then she realized what it all meant. It was dark because her face . . . was buried in the bosom of her grandmother.

Yes, you heard that right.

It was a bosom.

I’m not one for tears. Really wish I were. Maybe I could’ve had a nice cathartic reaction. Instead, I muted the next commercial and just sat there in the quiet, contemplating the ramifications a bit.

Of course she didn’t go to Hell. What was I thinking? They’d never show that on Lifetime. But she didn’t mention Jesus. None of them seemed religious. Maybe it’s okay to just . . . let . . . go.

Then again, I already had. I just hadn’t totally admitted it yet.

Stay tuned for Part Eighteen of My Byron Katie Detox: One Year of Questioning Everything I Believe.

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"What I Learned from Jane" is free today

“And I have no other explanation for how it feels to have given birth to a person and then spent a few days with them before letting them go other than that:

“It feels like being a mother probably feels every day.

“It felt like being a mother.”

What I Learned from Jane is the true story of how a child born with severe brain damage changed her mother’s life.

It is one of my first books, and still receives great reviews. Here’s a recent one from Amazon:

“The day I got this book I literally sat in my car after getting off work at 1am and read up to 42% complete. Wow, what really strikes me is how much like Glennon Doyle you write about the beauty and tragedy that makes up life, and how important perspective is in the quality of a person’s life. This quick read was hard to put down and invoked feelings of gratitude, humility and a desire to be as authentic and intentional about life both in the peaks as well as the valley’s of life. Very touching!!”

You can get your copy for 99 cents on Amazon.com today, or for free on Smashwords or NoiseTrade.

The Only Rule Is There Aren’t Any Rules (My Byron Katie Detox, Part Sixteen)

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A Byron Katie Worksheet

Month Completed: October

The Statement: Life is a game. There are no rules.

The Questions:

Is it true? Yes.

Can I absolutely know it is true? No.

How do I feel when I think the thought? I feel at ease. I feel less pressure to be perfect, to perform, than I do when I don’t reflect on this idea.

How would I feel if I were unable to think the thought? I would take life much too seriously. I would be too hard on myself.

The Turnarounds: Life isn’t a game. Life is serious. Life is consequential. There is only one set of rules in life and they cannot be chosen or changed; they’re set in stone. This is the belief that many people hold, and their belief isn’t any more or less valid than my own.

So again, is it true? Yes. It’s true for me. The only rule is that there aren’t any rules, as the kids say. But no, it is not true for everyone. Life is not a game for everyone.

I love the belief that life is a game, even though there’s no objective evidence that it’s true. As much as I’d like to hold my ideas as lightly as Byron Katie does, I’m definitely not there yet. I’m not even sure I’m headed that direction.

The belief that life is a game doesn’t cause me any suffering that I know of. Still, I’d love to get a glimpse of Katie’s clear-headedness, her total detachment from certainty.

Maybe someday.

Here are some other thoughts I did The Work on this month and last:

1. M. embarrassed me.
2. M. made me question and doubt my parenting style instead of showing sympathy and support.
3. M. acted badly because she wanted an excuse for not wanting to be told what to do.
4. M. is a lower-level human being who blames, criticizes and condescends rather than being honest with herself.
5. M. is condescending, insecure, judgmental, authoritarian, terrible with children, uncaring, unenlightened, a victim of her religion, easily annoyed, lazy, unhappy, mean, dishonest with herself, entitled, controlling and superior.
6. My husband isn’t helping me with the kids enough.
7. I’m sick of holding the baby.
8. My life is boring.
9. I hate mornings.
10. I am working too hard. I’m going to burn out.
11. My life is not relaxing enough.
12. I don’t have enough time to write.
13. I’m not getting enough done.
14. I have to get all my books done in case I get a long case of writers’ block or die.
15. If I could just catch up on my writing, I’d be happy.
16. If I don’t take enough long walks, I’ll get depressed.
17. My face is too round.
18. N. screwed me over by not showing up to work.
19. Dave should not have gotten rid of the vacuum.
20. I can’t remain in a meditative state.

I also did a mental excavation as follows using the method previously described. This time I examined the thoughts behind the thought “I have depression.”

1. If I didn’t have depression, I wouldn’t take care of myself with long walks, close friendship and much more.
2. Without depression, I wouldn’t know who I am.
3. If I didn’t have depression, I would have to face other scary feelings that I’ve been suppressing like anger, grief, fear and even joy.
4. No one wants to be friends with a happy-go-lucky Pollyanna type. If I didn’t have depression, I would be a more emotional person and embarrass myself.
5. Depression makes me a better writer.
6. If I didn’t have depression, I wouldn’t do spiritual practice.
7. Depression gives me an excuse for being weak and imperfect.
8. If I didn’t have depression, I wouldn’t feel compelled to do my writing.
9. Depression gives me a challenge and a purpose.
10. Depression helps me stay in control of my feelings.

In September, I worked through fifty-three stressful thoughts and limiting subconscious beliefs. In October, I worked through twenty-six. So I suppose it shouldn’t surprise me too much that as I come to the end of this month, I feel the best I’ve felt in over a year.

I’d even say I’m in the state of meditation.

In the previous books in this series, I discuss this phrase at length. Briefly, it’s the feeling you get when you’re listening for your inner guidance moment by moment, when you’re accepting what is and when you’re pretty much at peace. Lately, there have been times when I’ve tried to come up with a stressful thought to work on but can’t, which I consider an interesting marker of progress. And this despite several major parenting challenges. Triggered by whining, I screamed at my four-year-old (twice, I think). The baby cried inconsolably for several days. My exuberant two-year-old found a million creative ways to wake a sleeping baby. And yet–yeah. State of meditation, here I am.

It’s astonishing, really, how consistent my results have been with the Work. And yet, I still have quite a way to go. As you may or may not have noticed, several of the thoughts on this month’s list aren’t new; there are about five or so that I’ve dealt with several times each month since starting this process. I’m not surprised by this, nor particularly discouraged; some thoughts are more stubborn than others. Often this is because I’ve practiced those thoughts more. Other times it’s due to who they’re about. In my experience, the closer you are to someone, the harder it is to let go of a negative judgment against them. You’ve spent more time on the thoughts, gathered more evidence for their veracity. Plus, you just have so much more invested. If your friend or acquaintance is miserable and mean, it doesn’t affect you so much. But when your kids or your partner does something you think is unfair, it feels like your happiness is on the line.

“I can’t be happy if they aren’t treating me well,” we think. But is that the truth? Of course not. If Byron Katie’s husband didn’t help her as much as she preferred, or if her baby cried to be held all day long, she’d just sit back and enjoy it.

I am looking forward to being able to say the same for myself.

As I said: Maybe someday.

Meanwhile, I’ve decided to choose several thoughts to pay special attention to this year and to report on regularly. They are: “I’m not getting enough done,” “Motherhood is difficult,” and “I have depression.” I would absolutely love to make a huge dent in any of these this year and for me, doing so would really prove the value of the Work.

If the Work works on my biggest thought monsters, it definitely does work.

Stay tuned for Part Seventeen of My Byron Katie Detox: One Year of Questioning Everything I Believe.

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