November 5, 2005

How to Inquire Yourself into...Success?

A few years ago, I was talking about my business with my friend and mentor, "Infoguru Marketing" creator Robert Middleton, who works with independent professionals (check out his generous, and complimentary, informational offerings at Robert suggested that I start packaging my services to offer more value to my clients as well as to earn more money. "What if your absolute minimum price to any client were $500?" he which point I literally fell off my chair.

At the time I only offered group workshops and individual sessions of The Work of Byron Katie, the self-inquiry process I facilitate. The workshops are attractively priced in order to allow many people to attend and get a taste of what I offer. A number of attendees go on to hire me privately after experiencing group facilitation with me. However, I had come to the (insane) conclusion that no one should work with me for more than three sessions, since the work I was doing was designed to foster skills that clients would ultimately use on their own.

$500 is not a huge amount of money; many life and business coaches get that much per month from each client they work with, often for years. "But I'm not a coach, or a therapist," I reasoned, "I am an educator. And as such, I am not doing my job if someone still needs me after three sessions."

Translation: "I'm not worthy."

Over the past couple of years I've worked with clients who are dissatisfied with their careers. They aren't making the amount of money they'd like to, they aren't attracting the kinds of clients they'd like to work with, they don't feel fulfilled. What is stopping them? They provide excuses, as I did. Nine times out of ten, when we scratch an excuse (I call excuses "yeahbuts" and "whatifs"), we uncover an underlying belief about unworthiness.

Feelings of unworthiness affect our emotional well-being as well as our business, even for those of us who are incredibly successful. I remember watching a Barbara Walters interview with Barbra Streisand years ago, when Streisand was about to embark on a concert tour where tickets cost upwards of $1000. On a TV show broadcast to millions of people all over the world, Streisand admitted to feeling devastated by her mother's cutting question: "Who would spend $1000 to see you?"

Hundreds of Barbra's fans would, and did, pay that much, and gladly; clearly she's worthy. Why, then, would this question throw a wealthy megastar into publicly confessed self-doubt? Because if they say it, and it hurts, they're right -- but only according to us. "No one can hurt me," Byron Katie says. "That's my job. I do that."

Because I believed I wasn't worthy, my business had to follow the dictates of my mind. I couldn't see clients beyond three sessions because that would have meant, in my convoluted thinking, that I had failed them. What if a client wanted and needed six sessions, or 12, or twice a week for three years? Obviously, they would have had to take their business elsewhere. So, subconsciously, I was banishing my clients and giving my business away to people who had no such self-limiting beliefs.

When I examined my beliefs about my business, I discovered that in attaching to my feelings of unworthiness, I was entirely in my clients' business, deciding for them what they needed and predetermining how much they thought my services were worth. I could never really empower them because I wasn't considering their individual needs. At the same time, I was ignoring my own need to earn a decent living in the name of "shouldn'ts" and "shoulds," "yeahbuts" and "whatifs."

Unquestioned, feelings of unworthiness can run our careers and our lives. Met with understanding through self-inquiry, our fears, doubts and resistances reveal wonderful information about the real world, and its real possibilities for us and our work.

How do you limit yourself with beliefs about your worthiness? Here is an example of self-inquiry on one such belief.

Belief: No one will pay me a minimum of $500.

Is that true? Honestly, I don't know; I haven't tried it in this business yet!

Can you know your clients would be better off if they paid you less? No.

Can you know they'd be better off if they had fewer sessions with you? No. Some people need years of therapy to deal with their issues, for example...and some need just a few visits. Some people take three weeks to heal from surgery, some take three months. One person can learn how to fix a car over a weekend, another requires a six-month course in auto mechanics.

Can you absolutely know that it's true that no one will pay you a minimum of $500? No. As a freelance copywriter I never touched a job for less than $500, no matter how small the assignment, and most of my assignments were in the four figure range. People will pay me handsomely for that, why not for this?

How do you treat your clients when you believe they won't pay you a minimum of $500? I want to impress them with how quick and efficient my services are, how immediately life-changing. I don't gauge their needs and concerns individually; I lump them together as generic "people." I'm entirely in their business, deciding how many sessions they "should" have and what they can afford. I judge them (and myself) if they don't "get it" in three sessions. I don't share my gifts with them; I don't honor their individual processes. I live in fear of their rejection; if I say, "I charge $500," and they say no, it means I charge too much, they can do better elsewhere, they don't value my product, they are stupid, they are cheapskates, etc.

How do you treat yourself? As a spiritual martyr who has to live on a certain amount of money and never aspire to more because this work is my "calling" rather than my business. As a result, I play very small.

What's the worst thing that could happen if you no longer believed this thought? I'd have no clients.
Can you know that? No. Could the opposite be true? Definitely.

Does this thought bring you peace or stress? Stress.

Who would you be without this thought? Clearer about the value I offer my clients. Creative about other services I can provide to them to support them. More available to people, a listener. I would be a sharer of information, not a people-pleaser. I would not feel the need to apologize for my fees. I would trust (and therefore empower) my clients to make their own decisions and take care of their own needs. I would be more connected to my clients and to the people I meet each day who ask me about my business.

I would be worthy.

Turn-arounds: Someone will pay me a minimum of $500. It is truer; some have; knowing better than I what is best for them, they have insisted on more sessions in spite of my "policy" against it. Other clients who have worked with me for only a few sessions have sent me referrals, and so have indirectly paid me more than my "minimum."

Everyone will pay me a minimum of $500. Yes; if this is my minimum price, everyone who works with me will pay it!

I will not pay myself a minimum of $500. Truer. Id I think I don't deserve it, I'll never charge anyone this amount.

My thinking will not pay me a minimum of $500. Yes; even if I actually earn it, until I know this is perfect for my path and that of my clients, I can't accept this money as my due. Case in point: Barbra Streisand, earning $1000 per concert ticket, but believing that her mother's question, "Who would pay $1000 to see you?" (and really, it was only a question) meant she was unworthy.

© 2005 by Carol L. Skolnick. All rights reserved.

July 10, 2005

Are We Evolving, Devolving, or Simply Revolving?

"Don't push yourself beyond your evolution." --Byron Katie

"The evolution of human consciousness" is the soup du jour for pundits of all stripes. New-agers, clergy, educators, business leaders, and even politicians have been addressing this topic for some time now. Most notably, The Dalai Lama tells us we are becoming more conscious, even as he instructs us in ways we must become "higher," through compassionate action and nonviolence. If we are to believe His Holiness when he spoke on the Great Lawn of New York's Central Park in the fall of 2003, war is an outdated concept: in order to be compassionate we must care for the earth, and when we hurt another we hurt ourselves. 65,000 people cheered him on when he claimed that we as a people are evolving and becoming more compassionate. But are we?

Even in this time of war and economic uncertainty, the popular author and modern mystic Eckhart Tolle opines that the entire planet is waking up...and that our current craziness is merely a symptom as the intensity of resistance personally and collectively gets triggered.

Then there are those who have something to sell to the highly-evolved or evolution wannabes. They certainly would have us believe in an evolution revolution. (I won't name names, but folks who exploit "indigo" children and write books about "cultural creatives" come to mind.)

Where's the proof of this evolution?

We can argue that in the United States, we have championed civil rights in the last century, yet we have failed to abolish discrimination in our own backyard, not to mention slavery elsewhere in the world. People the world over have become more aware of dwindling natural resources but we continue to deplete and destroy them in the name of progress. In response to terrorism many of the worlds' citizens are committing hate crimes while waving our nations' flags. We wage war while paying lip service to eventual peace and equality...while companies in which our leaders have large interest clean up the collateral damage and rake in the profits.

Of course, these are cheap and easy targets to shoot at from the safety of my little soap box. It is also very easy to make feel-good statements about the evolution of the human spirit. What is more difficult than taking potshots or spouting affirmations is to look within and see where each of us, personally, is evolving...or not.

If I point fingers outward and speak self-righteously about the unconsciousness of world leaders and mob mentality, how does this help? In the end, I am left with stressful thoughts about a world that's a mess. This isn't evolved behavior. If I speak from a mountaintop, and I don't live there, whom do I serve?

Looking inward, I must ask myself where I hate, where I treat people unequally, where I take what doesn't belong to me, where I lie, where I promote wars great and small, against others and against myself. To do this as a gentle noticing, without self-flagellating, is key. We don't need to wage any more war, within or without.

In short, whether or not humanity is evolving is none of my business. Am I evolving? Only when I see the truth of my own evolution (or lack thereof) can I begin to make a difference by acting be the peace I want to see in the world, as Gandhi live the reversals in which St. Francis instructed us so long ago..."Where there is hatred, let me sow love."

Evolution is seeing that what we thought needed changing "out there" was just a case of mistaken identity.

©2004 by Carol L. Skolnick. All rights reserved.

July 6, 2005

Article about teaching processes in business settings posted at Noumenon website

I'm honored to announce that my article entitled "You Don't Need Another Process, You Need Results" has been posted at the website of Dr. Kriben Pillay, an expert in organizational processes. Dr. Pillay has been instrumental in moving Byron Katie's work in South Africa and has sponsored two of her tours there. He is the author of the book Radical Work and publishes the Noumenon Journal.

The article URL is

This piece previously appeared in the latest issue of PEACEtalks: the Newsletter for Self-inquiry in Business.

July 5, 2005

Transforming Shirkers to Workers: A Self-inquiry Approach

On the rare occasions that Dave fulfills his responsibilities in a timely manner, it's even more rare that he'll let you, his manager, know about it. He seems reluctant to take on new assignments, and he does not like rules. Clearly, Dave marches to a different drummer. It would be easy to label him a shirker and try to transfer him, demote him or fire him altogether.

You've known Dave for some time and he wasn't always this way. But things have changed at the office; downsizing, reorgs, and increased demands from senior management mean you're all expected to do more with less. As a manager or supervisor with direct reports, you're obligated to speak to Dave about the problem, particularly if it's performance assessment time. Rather than have a confrontational meeting where you present him with a list of no-no's, it might serve both of you to question your beliefs about Dave first.

Download the "Judge-Your-Neighbor Worksheet" from my website. Per the instructions, put your thoughts about Dave on paper. "I am disappointed in Dave because..." "Dave should/shouldn't..." "I need Dave to..." "Dave is..." Don't be kind, be critical, judgmental, even petty; inwardly this is what you are doing anyway, and no one will see this.

Your thoughts might look like this:

"Dave does not know the meaning of responsibility."
"Dave is not a team player."
"I want Dave to realize times are tough and we all have to do things we don't want to."
"I want Dave to stop reading e-mail at his desk."
"I need Dave to do his share."
"Dave should grow the hell up."
"Dave should not expect the team to cover for him."
"Dave should not leave at 5 on the dot every night."
"Dave should floss after lunch." (Why not? Even if this has nothing directly to do with his job, that's what you noticed, so write it down.)
"Dave is lazy, dishonest, and will never get anywhere in business."
"I don't ever want to deal with another shiftless employee."

Some who are new to this form of self-inquiry will feel relief at this point. Others will feel overwhelmed and exhausted. That's fine; go easy on yourself. Let the worksheet sit for a day if you need to. Then look at it again and perform self-facilitation of The Work. Choose the statements around which you experience the most stress or those which have the most "charge" for you, and ask yourself the four questions:

1. Is it true?
2. Can I absolutely know that it's true?
3. How do I react when I think this thought?
4. Who would I be without this thought?

If it really drives you crazy that Dave leaves at 5 PM when there's a deadline, start with that. Dave should not leave at 5. Is it true? What is the reality of it,? He does leave at 5. That's what's true...and this does not mean that you won't ask him to stay later. But for right now, can you absolutely know that it's true that he ought not leave at 5 PM when there's work to be done? Can you know you'd be happier and that he'd be better off if he did what you wanted? It might be that if you insisted he stay till 6, he'd spend that entire time on the phone or the internet anyway, unless you stood over him. Do you want to stand over him until 6 PM?

How do you react when you think the thought, "Dave should not leave at 5," and you believe it? What goes through your mind at the sight of his empty cubicle at 5:15? Where do your thoughts travel? How do you treat him when he arrives in the morning? When you hand him an assignment? How do you speak about Dave to other team members as a result of thinking this thought? And have you even asked him to stay later?

Where is your proof that it's better to stay past 5? What are your beliefs about that? Are people who work longer hours more committed, more productive? Does his early leave-taking mean that Dave hates his job and has no respect for you? Make a list.

Who would you be without t thought, "Dave should not leave at 5?" You might be someone less apprehensive about giving a performance review...someone more willing to ask your employees for what you want...a manager who includes your direct reports in your vision for the company or the department. You might be the team player you wanted Dave to be.

Turn the thought around: "Dave should leave at 5." He should because he does...for now. If you can question your thoughts before confronting Dave and meet as a collaborator towards common goals instead of as a disapointment and a burden, there's no telling how he'll respond to that courtesy. He might even return the favor.

(For more about The Work in your profession, visit Clear Life Solutions and subscribe to the Transformational Inquiry newsletter to receive your free report on inquiry in the workplace.)

©2004 by Carol L. Skolnick. All rights reserved.

The Work of B.K. Diet—Made You Look!

Have you noticed how America's self-help gurus are turning to the world of diet and health? Dr. Phil seems to be dedicating his entireshow this year to weight loss, not to mention his publishing schedule. "Life Makeovers" coach Cheryl Richardson has teamed up with her health and fitness expert husband to pen a new book about why people don't lose weight. There's even—I kid you not—a Mars-Venus diet, peddled by John Gray. (What's next? Fat Women Who Should Run With the Wolves? The Four Agreements Diet? The Power of Be Thin Now? The Prayer of Flabez?)

So I thought I'd beat Byron Katie to the punch and introduce The Work Diet.

There are always new diets on the market because of two factors: 1) many people are unhappy with their bodies, and 2) as a species, we don't like to diet and have trouble sticking to eating plans, so we're looking for the one that's tailor-made for us (in other words, easy and with immediate, tangible results).

Notice the words, "are unhappy," "don't like," and "have trouble." These are thoughts that have nothing to do with the body or even dieting. If we were clear, we could be happy and beautiful at 800 pounds, and at the same time, no diet would pose a problem.

But none of us are living on the mountaintop just now, so let's get real. Let's say you weigh 20 lbs. more than the weight charts call "normal." You can't button the top button of your jeans. Your blood pressure is through the roof, and your doctor says it's because you're too fat. In addition, your partner wants to break up with you because s/he's no longer attracted to you.

You are too fat, is it true?

Well, yes, we think, and here's all the proof: the numbers, the pants, the blood pressure, the disgusted partner.

It's time for The Work Diet, but don't run to the health food store just yet; all that's needed for now is a writing implement, a piece of paper and four questions.

With the education of the inquiry, we begin to see exactly what we've been "eating" all our lives—and what's been eating us—when we think the thought "too fat." For one thing, digits on a scale or a tapemeasure become a basis for self-hatred and an arbiter of attractiveness; we believe a number is bad without ever having "asked us." What of physical symptoms? High blood pressure turns us into a bad person who made ourself now we're sick and we're wounding ourselves too. And our partner? A disgusted spouse means we really must be disgusting. (That sure motivates me to lose weight, how about you? NOT.)

Then there's the regimen: if you follow it you're "good," if you "cheat" you're "bad." Innocent foods become either "legal" or "the devil." If you lose weight, then diets work, you had willpower, you did well, you're golden...and if you stayed the same or gained a pound or two, diets never work for you, you have a bad metabolism, you are out of control, you don't deserve to live. You may notice that these thoughts have nothing to do with food. Without a story, food is what is and you ate what you ate.

What are your can'ts, won'ts, nevers, shouldn'ts and shoulds about matters of weight loss and weight gain, body size and eating? Discovering and investigating underlying beliefs about food, diets, and the body might reveal that foods, dieting, and our bodies were never the problem. How do we know? Because of the way we change when our thoughts change. With the thought, "I'm too fat," stress and the behavior that comes of it: racing to lower that number on the scale, or racing to the fridge in a fit of "what's the use." Without the thought, peace...and that does not mean that you will not eat properly, exercise, and take care of yourself.

We can weigh 20 extra pounds in heaven or in hell; we can also get "buff" right here in the paradise of reality or down in the depths of the purgatory of thoughts that don't serve.

Here's to thinner thinking!

©2004 by Carol L. Skolnick. All rights reserved.

June 23, 2005

Is it Genetic? Or: The Meme Generation

What are we truly made of? One school of thought is that biology is destiny, that genetics are the roadmap of who we are as living things. What you look like, how athletic you are, whether or not you'll die of cancer...all of this information is said to be buried in our genetic equivalent of the akashic records. Bald by 30? Blame it on the chrome-dome who took a dip in your gene pool. Are you temperamental by nature? That could be a prehistoric defense mechanism which arose out of the need to survive a cave-war...and, after a gazillion-year-old process of replication, mutation and natural selection, you are now a hothead.

Then there's the meme theme. Memes are ideas, messages, judgments, concepts, opinions and the like that some say are embedded like burrs in our psyches. Yogis call them samskaras, impressions in the subtle body that can be exorcised through spiritual practices. Scientologists call them "engrams." Like genes, memes also replicate and mutate over time as they are shared, interpreted, re-interpreted, in a game of telephone. Examples of memes are "There's something wrong with me," "Women are the weaker sex," and "My children shouldn't lie."

Some memes are passed down to us through parents, teachers, and society; we are affected by them from a very young age. Through the media and interactions with fellow human beings, we are exposed to countless new memes each day. Attachment to certain memes (for it is we who attach to them, when we believe them to be the truth) can result in a lot of stress anf suffering. Memes are nothing more than uninvestigated beliefs.

So, is it true that genetics are the true makeup of who we are, that we are nothing more than this human body and brain? This too is a meme. While genetics may determine our eye color, whether we can grow to be six feet tall or whether we are predisposed to sickle cell anemia, there is no proof of being limited or victimized by one's stature, gender, race, brain chemistry or physical health. The power of questioning our beliefs can lead to the perfect body/mind as well as the perfect invasive procedures required.

©2004 by Carol L. Skolnick. All rights reserved.

February 8, 2005

About the Path of Self-Inquiry

Welcome to Soul Surgery!

I intend this blog to reflect my thoughts and experiences of self-inquiry. My writings are meant to serve those who use or are interested in exploring a wonderful life-shifting process called The Work of Byron Katie. I facilitate this process, which I call Transformational Inquiry. If you are interested in practical tools for using The Work in your life, welcome. If you want to laugh, we laugh here. If you are interested in nonduality but find yourself caught in the limitations of the "advaita shuffle," this is the place for you, and Transformational Inquiry may be your path to an "open mind, clear life."

This poem was channeled through me, perhaps courtesy of the Sufi poet and mystic Rumi, just before New Year's eve, after days steeped in self-inquiry.

I look forward to fully understanding, one day, the lesson it (not I) so clearly teaches. I look forward to your comments and sharings about self-inquiry also.

To learn more about my professional services involving The Work, please visit my website.

Love, Carol

Exploratory Surgery 12/30/04
Carol L. Skolnick

It is a lengthy operation.
Might last a lifetime...or a minute.
Best not to numb the area.
You don't want to miss
The exquisite pain
Of the deepest cuts
Where you discover what the seasoned surgeon knows:
All malignancies are benign.

An oyster's prize is nothing more
Than an irritation made beautiful.

So too is your grain of sand, your shard,
your shrapnel.
When cradled in the heart, it gets coated in kindness
And grows lovely and lovable.

Let it rest there, and when the time is right,
You, soul surgeon,
Will find what you were looking for
In your open heart
And extract from your suffering
A pearl beyond price.

©2005 by Carol L. Skolnick. All rights reserved.

"Confusion is the only suffering." —Byron Katie