March 12, 2012

"Think I Do" Meme for The Work of Byron Katie Facilitators

November 22, 2011

Cultivating Gratitude Through Understanding Stressful Beliefs

Earlier today, an unpleasant memory came up for me around the Thanksgiving holiday. Years ago, I had taken my mother out to dinner at an upscale restaurant. She was elderly, disabled, very overweight, and, seeing as she was widowed and living on Social Security, not particularly well dressed. I remember the looks the fancy suburban clientele gave her, and their stage-whispered remarks among themselves, and the deep anger and resentment I felt towards them; what gave those people the right to look down on someone less fortunate?

As this memory came to mind today, I also remembered and even viscerally felt the reaction I'd experienced at the time. It was upsetting me, so I decided to take a closer look. I asked myself, "What would I have to be believing if I were to be as nasty and snobbish as I perceived these people to be?" And what I came up with was this: the only reason anyone would resent the presence of someone like my mother is fear. How terrified those women must have been to encounter, in their glitzy sanctuary, the kind of person they would never want to become. What a scary reminder that circumstances can change and they might have seen their future and frightened themselves with it.

For the first time in close to 15 years, I felt compassion for them. And gratitude for my own hard-won clarity. Yes, it was hard-won. The work of self-inquiry is simple, but it is not easy. However, living with the burden of resentment has always been worse, so I invite you to this practice in order that you may experience the joy and peace of the season.

©2011 by Carol L. Skolnick. All rights reserved.

November 2, 2011

Occupy This Facilitator Until Dec. 31, 2011

The tides are changing here in my queendom by the sea. Old systems have been outed as no longer serving, new ones are taking their place amid some inner protesting. Fears of not fitting in or of displeasing others are giving way to the need to live and work with integrity. Call it a midlife crisis; I prefer to call it Occupy least 99%.

It has been more than a year, perhaps two, since I last facilitated a workshop, held a teleclass, or trained a trainer. I haven't been diligent about blog posts or newsletters, to say the least. That's because my work as a facilitator of The Work of Byron Katie has largely taken a back seat to some much-needed and long-ignored self-care (exercise and nutrition) and to my creative endeavors: painting, writing and performance. And because, even though I was a promotions manager and copywriter for many years...having done PR for celebrities, created print and web advertising for megacorporations, and composed entire catalogs full of merch...I've never really enjoyed marketing my own stuff.

While I still offer The Work, it has been quite awhile since I've worked hard to build awareness about my services, or to create more curriculum around what is essentially always the same process, wherever it's applied. Truth be told, I've run out of unique things to say about The Work; most of my insights, tips and tricks are right here in this blog, and needn't be endlessly recycled.

I don't see a problem with this turn of events; it's just the way things are. The problem, if there was one, was trying to fit myself into a little box of being a "this" when who I am was always more varied and variable than a "this." There came a point when saying, "This is my life's work" was no longer true; I was playing small and not developing my gifts. In doing so, I was doing a disservice to myself, and perhaps to the world.

So yes, I still facilitate The Work by request, and I still feel without a doubt that it's one of the most elegant processes available to sift through confusion and stuckness to find one's own truth. It certainly has been for me, and continues to be on an as-needed basis. I love staying in The Work by working with others, and, as they say in the 12-step programs, sharing my experience, strength and hope. I am grateful forever for this wonderful way of ours, this way of opening the heavy dungeon doors that, truly speaking, are never locked.

So there is more, much more, to come. I'm excited to let you in on it just as soon as it becomes clearer to me!

Meanwhile, I have had a special rate running for all of 2011, and the year's not over yet. I called it the "Prosperity Special" since I refused to feed the recent recession by calling it that. I have previously made this offer available only to my newsletter subscribers and on the Clear Life Solutions Facebook page, but, as I said, the tides are changing!

So from now until the end of December, you can still experience 12 hour-long sessions of laser-sharp inquiry and unlimited email support for $900, prepaid. (It's okay if the sessions extend into the new year but must be completed by February 2012.) That's a savings of $300 off the price quoted on my website.

Please contact me if you'd like a 20-minute consultation to see if it's appropriate for us to work together.

And why do this with me? Because I'm told that having me as a facilitator is helpful, eye-opening, unorthodox, and a lot of fun. And because it's the lowest rate I've ever offered to the public, and this particular package won't be offered again.

So let's occupy ourselves, 100%.

For more information about who I am and what I've been doing for the past 10 years, please visit

August 23, 2011

What If Setbacks Aren't Setbacks?

One time a few years back, a friend and I were exploring my belief, "Setbacks are failures." She was facilitating my inquiry on the thought, when at one point she interjected, "Setbacks aren't failures. Setbacks are setbacks!"

In The Work of Byron Katie, we call that "taking the client out of inquiry." She said that to get me off of the "yeah, but I'm a failure and I have proof" trip I was on at the time. I appreciated her input; I was stuck and needed that little swat upside the head.

Later, when I'd gained some perspective on my issues, it occurred to me that setbacks might not be setbacks either.

I looked up the definition of the word "setback." The main meaning is the one we all think of: something that thwarts, frustrates, hinders, impedes, or—worse case scenario—reverses or defeats.

I was also amused to learn that set-back is a term used in surveying. It means the interval by which a chain or tape exceeds the length of an area being measured.

So when "surveying" the field of my thoughts, I may discover that this hindrance or defeat I am experiencing isn't as big as I originally thought.

This is not to say we don't experience less-than-optimal situations and respond to them emotionally; it would be ridiculous at best simply to stand back and smile in such instances, and we've all been through them...whether a job is lost, the computer crashes and the project data is gone, a major client goes elsewhere, the car is totaled, we get sick, there's a death in the family, the house loses its value when we need to sell, or the dream of "soulmates forever" turns into a rude awakening when a partner leaves. From the individual's perspective, these are all "acts of God" every bit as much as an earthquake or a tsunami, and we may not feel up to, or happy about, the task of rebuilding our lives after such an event.

When we're not getting what we wanted, planned for, or expected as our due, we call it a setback, meaning we're off course, we have to start over, all our good work was for nothing, the good times are over, and it's going to be hard if not impossible to get some semblance of control and satisfaction back.

What if we had no reference for "setbacks"?

Here's my Work:

"Setbacks are setbacks."

Is that true? Yes.

Can I absolutely know that it's true? No. (Where the "no" came from: specific examples from my life where I made lemonade from lemons, gained renewed energy from my experiences put towards beneficial new directions, or was spared from what I thought I wanted. I could also draw from inspiring stories I have heard about others whose losses or tragedies resulted in better outcomes than they could have imagined.)

How do I react when I believe the thought, "Setbacks are setbacks"? (Short version)
I'm tired, low-energy; I retire to the fainting couch. I doubt myself and my abilities. I whine. I procrastinate. I make excuses. I "yeahbut." I don't ask for help. I bat away helpful suggestions. I don't feel or accept support—"It's hopeless, can't you see?" I isolate. I feel shame. I ruminate about the event that I call a setback, have 20-20 hindsight, I beat myself. I resent others, and reality. I pity myself; I seek pity. I see myself as unlucky. I don't want to try anymore. I fear more loss. I waste time on the internet, or shopping, or napping, or dithering. I go to the comfort foods. I imagine worse-case scenarios for the future, and the resulting fear keeps me from trying anything new or getting back up on the horse. I get overwhelmed.

Who would I be without the thought, "Setbacks are setbacks"?
I would take stock of what's still working and be appreciative. I'd inventory my resources and use them. I'd reach out to people for help, collaboration, feedback. I'd look forward to fresh starts. I'd do research. I'd take better care of myself—exercise, take a vacation, take a bubble bath—the better to regroup. I'd chunk down my tasks and do one at a time. I'd keep in mind that that there is much support and love in my life. I'd stop living in the past. I'd trust that I'm where I'm supposed to be, and notice that I'm fine in the moment. I'd be creative and pro-active. I wouldn't get mired in drama. I'd be more available to others, more of a giver as well as receiver. I'd share my gifts and acknowledge them to myself.

Turn the thought around:

"Setbacks are not setbacks." Examples: 1/ Taken at face value, losing boyfriend X was simply: "Man leaves relationship"...not everything I thought about what it meant for my future ("I'm old and he was my last chance at finding love." 2. Stock market "crashes" can be seen as stock market "corrections," indicating that it's time to rethink one's investments. 3. A death in the family need not be seen as the end of happiness, security, etc. but a natural occurence about which it's normal to grieve.

"Setbacks are opportunities" Examples: 1. Losing my job at X Corporation lead me to going into business for myself, earning up to six figures for a few years. Losing that business lead me to doing what I do now, work that I love. 2. In the wake of the 9-11 terror attack there was an opportunity for many New Yorkers like myself to take stock of our lives, count our blessings, start afresh, be available to those in need, be grateful for our lives as they were. 3. The decline in my health afforded me time at home to do things I haven't made time for in years, including writing, painting and reading books.

"My thoughts are setbacks." Stressful beliefs keep me from seeing what's available, what's possible and what's good.

©2011 by Carol L. Skolnick. All rights reserved.

June 24, 2011

Another Way to Look at Addictions

It's "Addictions Week" at Clear Life Solutions. Which doesn't surprise me; in the course of any few days, often I detect themes running through my clients' work as well as my own.

In the course of her work this morning, a client brilliantly observed that her mechanism of avoidance of situations that might trigger an uncomfortable claustrophobic or fight-or-flight response was an addiction...since avoidance is something that ultimately isn't good for her, but that she does repeatedly, in order not to experience pain.

Another client yesterday dealt with reasons for drinking more alcohol than she wants to at parties. For her, it has to do with not wanting to feel bored or inadequate in social situations...not with the desire for another taste sensation or a high.

Still another client is addicted to unsatisfying relationships; unable or unwilling to give herself the love, approval and appreciation she feels she desperately needs, she compulsively seeks it from others who don't, won't and can't ever provide her with enough of what she wants.

I recently re-read the "big book" of Alcoholics Anonymous in order to better understand tendencies—my own and those of the people with whom I work—towards addictive and compulsive behaviors. Interestingly none of the stories shared in the book are about loving alcohol; many even claimed to dislike the taste of it. Rather, the desire behind their addictions wasn't for the substance or behavior itself, but to avoid pain.

I have come to see that all addictions, in my experience, are about avoiding pain, and in the end, they don't work even in the moment because there is always a desire for more. If "apply chocolate/sex/alcohol/shopping/marijuana/video games/cigarettes liberally until self-realization occurs" worked, we'd all do that for a short time and then we'd be all better.

Clearly addictions are not the best medicine for us. That's why we call them addictions; not cures.

The only lasting "cure" I know is to investigate root cause; what thoughts make us hurt ourselves over and again? And how much longer do we want to let that take over? Once we meet addiction with understanding, what we are left with is a set of uncomfortable sensations that are never what we say they are. And then we are free to deal with them sanely.

©2011 by Carol L. Skolnick. All rights reserved.

April 13, 2011

Watch Your Cartoons

A man I’ll call Brad was my nemesis while we worked on a creative project together. He seemed to embody most of my old, stressful “men” stories; a physically imposing, self-important, bossy blowhard used to getting his way. I’d done some inquiry on Brad, but I hadn’t seen a meaningful shift in my feelings about him or in the way I acted around him. I’d slapped a label on him that, while it didn’t accurately list all of his ingredients, was very sticky and difficult to remove.

Truth be told, I didn’t want to let Brad off the hook! But in not doing so, I was keeping myself on the hook. This was especially painful because I really like Brad. He’s a talented, funny, and ultimately very caring person. Still, as I traveled to our meeting place, sometimes I would anticipate conflict and irritate myself in advance, in his name.

One day while doing my inquiry, I realized I was not interacting with Brad, but with a cartoon character of Brad; someone who was always infuriating, never open to others’ ideas. I also saw that if someone else were doing and saying the same things Brad did—someone whose portrait I painted with loving brushstrokes and delicate features instead of outsized characteristics—I might find it amusing, attractive or endearing. (You know how some people are allowed to talk to you through the bathroom door, but when others do, it’s gross? Or how, when your friends walk down the streets singing with their children, it’s funny and sweet, but when you were 10 years old and your parents did it, you wanted to run away and hide?)

I discovered that when I reduced Brad to a cartoon character, I became one as well. Mine looked rather like the little boy in the “Calvin and Hobbes” comic strip, who turns dark and smoldering when he doesn’t get his way, and acts out revenge fantasies on snowmen he builds that resemble his father.

So if Brad is not who I say he is, who is he? Perhaps, rather than a testosterone-soaked bully, he’s a strong person with strong opinions. That isn’t a problem unless I say it is. And I did say so because I saw myself as weak and ineffectual around him…which, as anyone who knows me even a little bit can tell you, is an insane assessment. When I understood this, I was free to see and treat Brad as masterful and proactive—qualities I admire—as opposed to “pushy and full of himself.” He ceased to be a thorn in my side and became a friend and collaborator.

When doing your inquiry—particularly question 3 of The Work, “How do you react when you believe this thought?”—notice how, as you attach to your stressful thoughts, you draw this person with bold strokes and outsized features to prove your point. Are your kids little hurricanes leaving your belongings broken and in disarray, seemingly taking over the entire house? Is your wife, as she’s hunkered over her laptop doing research, really an ice princess, cold and uncaring, who holds the reins of the relationship and never really loved you? What if, while dealing with your parents’ estate, you did not see your brother as the conniving monster who filched your allowance when you were children? Might you be able to communicate with him adult-to-adult today?

Conversely, watch how you, too become a cartoon character when you believe your thoughts about the cartoons. You are the woman whose kids will be the death of you; who does that woman appear to be in that moment? Powerless and harried, or enraged and shouting threats? You are the man whose wife isn’t interested in you. Do you sigh loudly in her presence, rustle the newspaper, slump your shoulders, soothe yourself with whatever’s in the fridge? You’re the trampled baby sister. Are you an ineffectual, broken-down victim, or a snarky little brat? Do you lash out like a wild beast at your cartoon compatriots, or run away like a 90-pound weakling?

When you’re doing The Work on the one you complain about the most…the one who can be counted on to disappoint you…the one who, no matter how prepared you think you are, never fails to trip you up…you can ask yourself, “What if this person isn’t who I say they are?” How would you treat them differently, show up differently with and for them, if you were dealing with a real person and not an exaggerated drawing of the sum total of your criticisms? Watch those crazy characters you’ve created; sit down with a worksheet and enjoy the show.

©2011 by Carol L. Skolnick. All rights reserved.

March 23, 2011

Need a Relation-shift? Do Inquiry With Your Partner

Many couples have discovered the clarity and healing that can occur when doing inquiry together on relationship issues. Inquiry with a partner consists of writing down your stressful thoughts about each other, and facilitating each other on your judgments. It's a powerful practice...and it can feel unsafe to be in the vulnerable position either of sharing these resentments or hearing them. It's tempting to interrupt, defend and justify. Hurt feels may occur, or it may feel as if you've both vented but not gotten anywhere.

Doing partner work with a facilitator can support you in the process until you and your partner are ready to work with each other on your own. Friends of mine, a married couple, who recently completed several months of once-weekly sessions of The Work of Byron Katie with me as their facilitator, experienced this and have kindly allowed me to share their realizations with you.

During our 1-1/2 hour weekly (and later biweekly) meetings, S. and R. shared with each other their stressful beliefs about each other and about their relationship. I facilitated inquiry with each of them in turn; each witnessed the other's process in silence. When there was the impulse to justify or defend, I was there to redirect the energy towards inquiry. There was time at the end of each sessions for sharing, clarification and feedback.

At the end of our last session, they summed up their experience.

R: I've had so many "shoulds" about S. that are not there anymore. Little things about her—for instance, her not being organized—that used to bother me a lot now bug me a whole lot less, because I know I have options and possibilities other than staying irritated. And it does seem that S. has become more organized.

S: Since he doesn't get angry as often, I don't feel so bogged down and I am more productive.

R: Before we did this work together, I didn't realize how destructive I was in the relationship, how I was the instigator in almost all cases when she was very upset with me. Since discovering this, we have fewer arguments and when we do have differences, we're able to work things out a lot faster.

S: R. no longer throws up a road block to what I want, and so I have become totally present to what needs to be done. For instance, he's supposed to clean the cat's litter box. If too much time passes and he doesn't do it, and I want it done, I do it myself. In the past I would have said, "Let him do it, that's his job."

Also, during this work, I've brought out a lot of painful issues with the intent to heal them. I was afraid that by being so honest I was hurting R. But in the process I have seen the good in him, his big heart, how supportive and generous he has always been. He has a lot of qualities that I love and always have, but when I was angry, those were on the back burner. Before we did this work, I never told R. to his face what I love about him.

R: I wasn't hurt; I was glad she was able to get her resentments out instead of sitting on them.

S: Another thing that has come out of these sessions is that I stand up for what I want.

R: Doing The Work together, we had a breakthrough about redoing our guest room. We realized that when I behave in a certain way, her reactivity makes things even worse.

S. When he gets controlling, I feel cornered and I fight him. He did The Work on me, shared it with me, and I saw how I make it worse. Now instead of acting out, I can just tell him, "R., calm down!" That's what we agreed I would do.

R: In short, we have a much better relationship. We're much more peaceful, less stressed...

S: We have more harmony in our lives. Before, I felt I had to fight for everything, that he would always tell me no. Now I don't fight, and he says yes! And if he says no, we can talk about it and work things out. There is space for that now. We are healthy plants growing in good soil.

Over the weeks, I noticed how both R. and S. would increasingly catch themselves in the middle of a "yeahbut," get themselves back on track without my prompting, and take the opportunity to do their own work on the underlying beliefs I wrote down for them during their sessions. Now R. and S. are more motivated to inquire into their resentments as needed, either on their own or together as a couple, facilitating each other or hearing each other's work.

If you are experiencing challenges in your relationship and are each willing to question your beliefs, couples sessions are a great way to open communication, find and question the source of your difficulties, deepen intimacy, and solve your problems together.

If you would like to explore the possibilities of doing "relation-shift" work, I invite you and your partner to contact me at carol (at) to arrange for your complimentary needs assessment.

©2011 by Carol L. Skolnick. All rights reserved.

February 17, 2011

The Economy Is Bad; Is That True?

My client called me the other night with a remarkable Judge-Your-Neighbor Worksheet on the economy. I, too, like to do The Work on institutions—things (society, my body, my job, the weather, war, New York) as opposed to sentient beings (my upstairs neighbor, the governor of California, my father, the cat). We react to all outside sources that aren't doing what we want in the same way we react to people who aren't doing what we want. The outcome of doing this inner work is also the same: we get a printout of our current thinking, and a roadmap to alternate routes.

An economic recession lasts as long as it does; my stressful thinking about recession may last forever if I don't meet it with understanding. My thinking—not the unemployment statistics or the California state budget deficit—is what kicks me out of paradise. Jobs come and go; our thinking goes right after them. Markets fluctuate; our minds fluctuate right along with them. We watch our stocks rise; our happiness rises with them, temporarily. We watch them go down, and down we go. The experts say the future is bleak, and we believe them. Yesterday, an article in the New York Times said there will be employment growth this spring. Now I have a bad economy, but I have hope. And none of it means anything; it's all in my head.

No one can accurately predict what's going to happen in any given economy, in part because we simply don't have all the information, and in larger part because we are not in control of all of the factors. You can follow your broker's advice, or your brother's...take a second job...cut back on luxuries, or on what you used to consider necessities...sell your house now...sell your house later...file for bankruptcy...raise your fees...lower your fees...and there are no guarantees.

But what you can do, with an excellent return, is question your stressful beliefs about what is happening in the economy, in your working life, and in your life in general. "Reality is always kinder than the story we tell about it," says Byron Katie. My client discovered this when he examined thoughts about losing his job and being unable to pay rent, when in fact he has a job and had just closed some deals.

What is the worst that could happen if you lost everything? If you question your fears, you may come to see that the worst that could happen is already happening, in your mind...and, as you may have noticed, body follows mind. If I think, "What's the use?" I won't market my services. If I live in the future of lack, I'm already lacking and failing to notice I have everything I need in this moment.

Not long after the dot-com bust 10 years ago, I watched the financial expert Suze Orman help a woman who had lost nearly everything to strategize about her future. Because of bad advice, the woman had cashed in her pension when she lost her job, instead of rolling it over into an IRA. Now she had no job, and her net worth went from five digits to just $900. Orman told her, "Don't look at what you had; look at what you have. $900 is a lot of money; what can you do with it now?" I don't know about the woman on TV, but I know that advice was for me: don't look at what you had; look at what you have. When I'm in my "stuff," I forget about what's available here, now.

What is the best that could happen if you lost everything? You could get a fresh start, as a couple of friends of mine did when they walked away from their mortgages. You could find a whole new career and discover skills you didn't know you had; that's exciting. (It's happened to me several times in my 53 years, and I seem to be okay.) You get to bust your old paradigms and test new, more fun ones that might work better than the "tried and true" which turned out to be not so true. You get to see what you are really made of, put your creativity and smarts to the test. You even get to let people help you! As you continue to inquire, your mind opens and you see that there are infinite possibilities in what I like to call "a parallel universe of peace."

The root word of recession is "recess." Remember how we loved recess at school? What would keep us from loving it now?

The economy is bad...who would you be in this economy without that thought?

©2011 by Carol L. Skolnick. All rights reserved.

February 10, 2011

The Nightmare Ends

My client J. gave me permission to share this with you. She writes:

"Here's a dream I had in December which I attribute directly to The Work and being free to love and be kind. It is a friendly universe.

"I'm in my kitchen...there are several people around both in the kitchen and the living room. A car drives up and three local guys get out. I go towards the door to meet them, open the door, and one guy sticks what I assume is a knife into my abdomen. I say, 'Are you going to rob me?' and he says yes.

"I am so happy. I tell him I am delighted that he is going to rob me and I look around for money in the kitchen. I find some and give it to him happily. Then I say I have more in my purse in the living room and we go in there. [My husband] is sitting there with others, watching us.

"I find my purse, get my wallet and go to where I keep big bills. I pull out all the $50s I have and hand them to him He puts down the knife at that point—it turns out to be tweezers—and I put them in my pocket. He has a tear running down his cheek and he asks me why I'm doing this. I tell him it's because I love him...and I sincerely do love him. He says he loves me too, turns and leaves.

"At the kitchen window are three other young locals asking me if I have a dog. I say, 'Yes and she'll bark but she won't bite, so don't worry.' They all leave.

"I go somewhere and see D. who says, 'You'd better rest after that horrible ordeal.' I say that it wasn't a horrible ordeal and I certainly don't need to rest."

Thank you, J. for doing your work, living your truth and sharing your heart with us.

©2011 by Carol L. Skolnick. All rights reserved.