December 27, 2006

If I Loved

If I didn't have a care in the world
(And truth be told, I don't have one),
How freely I would love you...if I loved.

I would love you even as
You say what I don't want you to say,
Do what I think I don't want you to do.
Like a mother observing her child in tantrum,
I would know that this is merely movement,
That who you are
Is always unmoving,
And I would not move from my love...if I loved.

If I didn't have a preference in heaven or on earth
(And behind the mirage of this and that, I don't),
I would always, always choose you...if I loved.

I'd be clear that you are always my favorite,
However darkly cloaked you appear.
I would see only radiance,
I would see you as the mystic's vision of the Divine,
As a mirror of my soul,
Not separate from love...if I loved.

If I didn't have an agenda for my life
(And of course, we all have the same one),
I would want nothing from you—no thing...if I loved.

What can you give me
That I don't already have?
And yet you are the one
Who gives it all.
If you didn't exist, I would have to invent you,
As perhaps I have,
For in a world of "me's" and "you's"
I will always seek until I find myself.
That is why True Lovers say
"Beloved...I am you."
And I would say it too, to you...if I loved.

©2006 by Carol L. Skolnick. All rights reserved.

December 19, 2006

Book Review: The Tao Te Byron Katie

A Thousand Names for Joy: Living in Harmony with The Way Things Are
by Byron Katie with Stephen Mitchell
February 2007; Harmony Books

Eureka! Once and for all, Byron Katie has proven that enlightenment is not waiting on an oxygen-deprived mountaintop in Tibet, nor hiding in some mysterious, inaccessible cave of the heart known only to Yogis and Kabbalists. It's available right here while we're doing the dishes.

The sales copy for A Thousand Names for Joy calls it "a portrait of the awakened mind in action." I'd describe it as "The Tao for Dummies," a truely useful manual for "the rest of us" who want to live a peaceful, happy life. You may have heard that the conversations in this book are Katie's responses to verses from the Tao te Ching, an ancient text on the art of living by the Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu. (Katie's co-author and husband, Stephen Mitchell, wrote one of the most highly esteemed translations of this text in 1986, coincidentally the same year of Katie's now famous "moment of clarity.") This volume is much more than that. Like so many spiritual classics, the Tao wisely tells us what we should be striving for, but not how to get it. Katie, through the alchemy of self-inquiry, always tells us how.

At the same time, this truly is a portrait of an awakened mind. We get to see life through Katie's eyes as a seemingly ordinary person who, like us, endures many of the kinds of experiences we may wish we didn't have to. We witness her as a woman whose purse is stolen, whose husband ate the snack she'd bought for herself and was so looking forward to having when she got home, who watches as the birth of a granddaughter becomes a medical emergency, who gets a diagnosis of cancer, who takes care of her dying mother, who is threatened at gunpoint, who looks into the eyes of a dead friend, having arrived "too late"...who endures a painful, degenerative disease of the cornea which leaves her largely blind and vulnerable to falling (though she's since had fairly successful eye surgery). Katie describes these realities with no more drama and no less joy and gratitude than in other scenarios where she plays with her grandchild, prepares a salad, speaks onstage before an appreciative audience of 350, or receives her husband's caresses.

But this is not "the lives of the saints." Katie also provides examples of "people like us" who have come to know, through a simple process of self-inquiry called The Work, what Katie knows...for instance, a man who, although he loved his wife, was able to celebrate her decision to leave him for another man because he had questioned his anger and fear about his marriage. He stayed in his wife's life as a best friend to whom she could tell everything. (She eventually returned to him; who wouldn't want to live with someone that clear?) In this way, Katie makes the ancient teachings of the Tao come alive for us in the contemporary world.

A Thousand Names for Joy
is also teeming with what could be seen, on the surface, as esoteric teachings. For instance, Katie makes statements like "the darkness is always benevolent"...which appears to go against everything we've been taught. But Katie never leaves us in the dark. She has tested out everything she teaches in her own life and shows us, through The Work, how we can know the benevolence of darkness for ourselves.

Katie asks, "Could it be that whatever seems bad to you is just something you haven't seen clearly enough yet?" Could it be that what we call "taking action" is really inaction, the same, not ours to control, just a natural flow, "the way of it" as Katie says...and therefore we can never do it wrong because "we" never did it in the first place? Self-inquiry is the way to answer these questions, and while A Thousand Names for Joy is rich with the knowledge of the nature of thought—a knowledge that leads to the infinite, self-realized mind—Katie never claims to give her readers "the Tao." The Tao of self-realization, Katie-style, demands the practice of inquiry. "Realization," she tells us, "has no value until it's lived."

In this book we have both the what and the way; A Thousand Names for Joy is not merely inspirational, it is practical, and always brings us back to the questions which provide our own answers. As Eckhart Tolle said of Katie's first book, Loving What Is, "You have the key. Now use it."

Order your copy of A Thousand Names for Joy.

©2006 by Carol L. Skolnick; all rights reserved.

December 15, 2006

What I Do/Don't Want You To Know About Me

As a writer, I like to think that my life is an open book; I tell people there's not much I haven't revealed in articles and essays that have been published to wide readership.

However, when I really sit with this question—is there anything I haven't told and don't want to tell?—I see that I can come up with a few missing pieces...oh, okay, a few dozen!

My friend Mona Grayson recently tagged me in a game of "Blog Tag" that's making the rounds. Now that I'm "It," I'm challenged to write five things about myself that others might not know about me...and in turn, to tag five other bloggers, inviting them to do the same in their weblogs.

This is a wonderful opportunity to stretch. An inquiry exercise I love is to admit to something you don't want others to know about you and then to turn it around ("I do want you to know..."). Confession is good for the soul, especially if you let yourself off the hook for being human.

So...deep breath...what I don't want you to know about me is:

1. I didn't lose my virginity until I was well into my 24th year. I'm not sure why this is still so sticky for me; some might consider it rather sweet, because I was holding out for love. The truth is, I was terrified of being used, abandoned and I held out until I became tired of holding out and found someone who I considered "safe." (He was; in spite of my not loving him, we stayed together for four years.)

2. I lie. I say I'll call or visit people with whom I really don't want to be that close, then I just conveniently "forget" or "something comes up." I fudge with the truth when I feel that telling the truth will make you like me less. I exaggerate or don't tell the whole truth...for example, on my website I say that I have worked with hundreds of people. I have, in workshop and volunteer capacities, but someone reading this might think I've had hundreds of private paying clients, when in truth, as of this writing I've only had a couple dozen at most since 2002!

3. Bad vision is not the main reason I don't drive; it's my convenient excuse and it's a good one because I don't have good depth perception and perhaps shouldn't be behind the wheel, ideally. But the main reason I don't drive is that in spite of spending a lot of money on driving lessons, I failed eight road tests before the age of 23, had a couple of minor but scary accidents more recently and am easily demoralized by well as frightened by machinery and traffic. I actually have nightmares about driving a car and being out of control. (Not that I've ever died or hurt anyone or totalled a car even in dreams. Hmm.)

Now I will turn these around. What I do want you to know about me is...

1. I didn't lose my virginity until I was well into my 24th year. I was a sensitive young woman and this was a way for me to be kind and gentle to myself.

2. I lie. I want you to know this because I'm not a very good liar...and if I'm setting myself up as perfect, it's going to be hard for clients to relate to me. I like to let people know that I'm just like them, not some enlightened master. I am still doing my work and very likely always will. I believe that this levels the playing field and therefore brings us closer.

3. I am scared to take driving lessons again. I don't want fail again and I don't really want the responsibility of driving either. I want you to know this because I am tired of making excuses about it; and I'm working on my fear.

I feel better now!

Here are two more things about me that you might not know:

I am a wickedly good mimic. My favorite impressions are of Julie Andrews, Mae West, Dr. Ruth Westheimer and...Byron Katie! I can do a little smidgen of Barbra Streisand, Dolly Parton, Ethel Merman, Dionne Warwicke, Shirley Temple and Diana Ross well as Lionel Barrymore and my seventh grade math teacher. While this can be seen as poking fun at people, I can only do impressions of people I love.

I have a left-right learning disability that makes travelling with me an adventure that is not for the squeamish. "Turn left, right, right, I meant right!" (Swerve!) (Another good excuse for not driving!)

Now that you've learned a bit more about me, you might enjoy visiting the blogs of these five friends and colleagues:

Annie Newman: The often hilarious as well as thoughtful "Annie's Day" blog features, by her own account, "Life, as played by a middle-aged woman with a vivid imagination."

Jody, whose guru-busting blog Guruphiliac will disillusion you in betweem guffaws.

Dawud Miracle, who blogs about marketing, customer service and the integration of life and work on his website. (He's my miraculous web designer and that's his real name.)

Jamie Reynolds is just following the Simple Directions.

Lisa Biskup: "Thoughts appear—and I put them here."

You may also like to subscribe to my newsletter, Transformational Inquiry, in which I tell on myself quite often, while tying my experience to the process of The Work of Byron Katie.

©2006 by Carol L. Skolnick; all rights reserved.

December 8, 2006

Should I Quit My Day Job?

by Carol L. Skolnick

"Do what you love, the money will follow" is a theme that comes up a lot in "right livelihood" circles. We almost never hear "Do what you must do AND do what you love." Instead, we demand that money come primarily or exclusively from what we love. This—like other beliefs characteristic of the "manifestation" mindset—can be a set-up for disappointment. "I must only work at what I love" is a symptom of a closed, unexamined mind. It doesn't allow us to be content doing what we do...and it doesn't allow reality to guide us to the perfect work.

The day job I'd had since 1993 didn't "quit" me until 2006, although my freelance copywriting business had virtually died by 2001. For six years, I still called myself a copywriter (who did this other "coachy-kinda-thing" on the side), even though I wasn't writing much copy...nor was my heart into re-building my business.

Trying to stay in the creative services business was a struggle. I was invested in being a free agent and didn't want to go back to a 9-to-5 office job. However, I wasn't getting juicy, lucrative assignments from places like National Geographic and Doubleday Book Clubs anymore. I loved facilitating The Work more than anything but with a mortgage to pay, a medical condition and no spouse-with-a-job, it didn't feel like the right time to reinvent myself.

Finally I took a temporary position at a large company in crisis. Ironically, the temp job was my ticket out of copywriting, but not for the obvious reasons.

The company that hired me was experiencing their umpteenth reorganization in ten years. Nearly everyone there (except the new crop of powerful, well-paid top executives) seemed depressed. When I arrived (the result of a firing), longtime employees were being demoted as new people and pricey consultants came in over them. The "old-timers" were resentful and dared not speak up because they were getting older and wanted to keep their pensions (which had already declined in value due to a new investment plan). Department heads reduced to middle managers were trying to assert themselves and, in the process, alienating their direct reports. With so many new chiefs, lower-level workers were downsized and the remaining ones had to absorb the workload with no pay increases. Some of the temporary staff were invited to come on board full time at low salaries. Not surprisingly, none of us bit.

Stressful, demanding and low-paying, this job was not one I would have taken or stayed in if I didn't know how to question what I believe. However, it bought me some time to figure out what I wanted to do...and it afforded me an unexpected bonus.

I had been facilitating The Work after hours and on weekends for several years, often with clients who had work-related issues. The office became my inquiry lab; as an employee, I was in the perfect position to collect data as both scientist and test subject. How do I react in stressful work situations? How do I treat the people I work with and for? How do I treat myself when I think the work is boring, that my boss should be different, that the employees have victim mentality, that upper management doesn't care? What am I avoiding, assuming, projecting? Who would I be without my story?

As I applied The Work to my "insane" work life, I became better at handling the demands of the job and the reality of the workplace. In addition, I became better equipped to work with others experiencing stressful employment situations. This was facilitator's training at its best.

Not surprisingly, soon after I started the job, reality shifted. I received requests to go to Latin America to give workshops...and because I was "only a temp," I could take time off to do it. I got phone calls and emails saying, "I just read Byron Katie's book and I heard about your workshops. How much would you charge to work with me privately?" Clients and others who knew of my work began referring their friends and colleagues...which was the very same way that my freelance copywriting business began, years earlier.

If I love The Work and I don't make a living from it, it doesn't mean I don't get to do The Work. It might mean that I flip burgers at the fast food emporium with the consciousness of one who does The Work. It might mean that I become a wonderful burger-flipper because I have learned to love flipping burgers...even though I don't eat beef. They promote me to supervisor and I use The Work to manage disgruntled or untalented burger-flippers...and to manage myself managing them. With a clear mind, my creativity naturally emerges. I design a more efficient process for flipping burgers and get promoted to the front office of Burger Flippers International. I write a bestseller about my days as a burger flipper, it gets optioned for a blockbuster film, I consult on the screenplay and my day job quits me. What if I'd believed flipping burgers was beneath me and that I should only do what I loved?

This doesn't mean you have to stay at a job you don't love. If it doesn't in any way serve you to stay, why would you? (And you may want to inquire into that unless you are stress-lessly certain the job has no value for you.). It also doesn't mean you'll get to live your dream of being a full-time sportscaster right away (or ever)...but what you might learn hawking popcorn in the stadium stands could bring you riches you'd never receive all alone in the announcer's booth.

Deepening Transformational Inquiry: How it Would Look

1. Imagine applying your "do what you love" skills to the work you are doing now. Examples:

*How would a relationship coach working as an HR administrator help employees who are experiencing fear and resentment about a takeover?

*How would a television actor working as a waiter handle a cranky customer?

*How would a Reiki master working as an executive assistant approach a stack of correspondence and a deadline crunch?

*How would a shaman run an ad agency? (Here's one who does!)

*How would an ad agency executive driving a taxi face traffic with a carful of anxious passengers in a hurry?

2. Inquire: "I'd be much happier/much better off if my day job were also my passion." Can you absolutely know that it's true?

©2006 by Carol L. Skolnick; all rights reserved.

Carol's new eBook, Transformational Inquiry: Working on Your Work, will be released early in 2007. Preorder your copy here.

December 7, 2006

The Rocky, Horrific Picture Show

by Carol L. Skolnick

One of the subquestions of The Work of Byron Katie is, "What pictures,
if any, come to mind when you think that thought?" Sometimes when I ask
that question, I get a funny reaction from my clients. "Pictures?!?!!"

Actually it's a really good question. We all know about running "tapes"
in our minds (although soon that term is going to be as extinct as the
dinosaur. There are audiophiles alive today who have never even laid
eyes on a cassette tape or a reel-to-reel.) Many of us also run films (or
insert your favorite and more up-to-date visual media here).

Think about it. Your partner says or does something that irks you. If
you don't inquire into your thoughts about what he or she said or did,
doesn't your mind revisit past irksome episodes? That's how we come to
form core beliefs like "She never misses an opportunity to criticize me"
or "Men always leave the seat up."

What about self-judgments? You hear the internal tape-loop of thoughts
like "I'm not good enough." When that happens, do you flash on specific
incidents of feeling that way? Last one picked for the school
volleyball team? Stammering repeatedly during your big presentation? Beloved
leaves you for someone else?

Sitting with the images of your past that come to mind when you attach
to a belief is a most effective way to deepen Transformational Inquiry.
Let the movie of your life be your guide to other subquestions, such as
"How have you lived your life because you've believed that thought?"
"Is this where addictions kick in and you reach for food, alcohol, credit
cards, the TV remote?" "Where does your mind travel when you think that
thought?" "Does this thought bring peace or stress into your life?"

"Work of the eyes is done,
now go and do heart work on
all the images imprisoned within you."

—Rainer Maria Rilke

Deepening Transformational Inquiry: The Horror Show of the Future

Let's look at a stressful thought about someone in your life who upsets
you. "Always" and "never" thoughts are great ones for this exercise.

If you have children, you might relate to this one: "My son/daughter
never listens."

If you've ever had this thought about your child, probably you can
concoct an image very quickly of your offspring preoccupied with a game or
with internet chat when you've told them three times to come to the
dinner table or to go to bed.

Now put this thought into the future; what pictures do you see when you
think of your child years from now and you hold the belief "He/she
doesn't listen"? What do you fear will happen to your child?

Child rolling eyes as you lecture them about how they need to pay
High school dropout?
Unresponsive spouse whose wife/husband/partner leaves him/her in short
Clueless parent?
Total failure?

What do you assume will happen to you if you didn't believe this
thought? Watch the images:

Screaming yourself hoarse for years until the kid grows up and leaves
Called into school for conferences with disapproving teachers.
Old and alone and begging your child for assistance...and your pleas
fall on deaf ears?
The "coulda/shoulda/woulda" scenarios of what an ineffective parent
you've been all these years and how you might have done it differently?

Are you enjoying these movies?

If not, what do you get for holding this belief? Can you see a reason
to drop it?

Turn the thought around: "My son/daughter always listens."

In what ways is that turnaround as true or truer? What pictures come to
mind when you see, perhaps for the first time, the listening, attentive
child in your life?

©2006 Carol L. Skolnick. All rights reserved.

December 5, 2006

The 20-minute Test

by Carol L. Skolnick

Why do we believe what we think? Often it's reflexive; we've just always felt this way. We don't question it. However, there are times when we believe something that might be worth looking into...such as those things which we procrastinate about or want to avoid. Why haven't we taken care of that? The stock response: "Because I don't feel like it."

If "I don't feel like it" feels stressful, there's a clue that it's not true. You do feel like it because you think you ought to be doing it.

Lately I've been applying something called "the 20-minute test" to The Work. The test was created by a life coach named Bruce Elkin, author of Simplicity and Success: Creating the Life You Long For [Trafford, 2003].

I have a gym membership and sometimes when I say "I don't want to go to the gym," I am lying. I do want to go; I joined the gym because I understood it was good for me. I truly enjoy doing things that are good for me and besides, it has a swimming pool and I love to swim. Staying at home in the moment to rest, work or catch up on my phone messages sometimes seems better and more important than sweating for two hours plus a half-hour of travel time round-trip.

In truth, it's fine not to go to the gym as long as it's fine with me. When it's really fine with me, I feel great. If not, I know I'm attaching to an untrue belief. In this instance, is definitely worth taking 20 minutes to "ask me" if I can save myself from 24 hours of self-flagellation for not going...even if it means deducting 20 minutes deducted from my time at the gym or from my time working on the Great American eBook.

"I don't feel like vacuuming the rug now." "I don't feel like sending out my e-zine." "I don't feel like making love." While it's true that I don't have to do any of these things ever again in my life, it has served me to ask myself if it's true that I don't I feel like doing them now. What are the underlying beliefs? I find that if I take just 20 minutes to find out, the answers are often very juicy. After inquiry, it could mean I get to have a clean floor, an e-zine (I took the 20-minute test today!), or a happy partner. If not, at least I'm very clear about my decision.

Here's a good one, one of my favorites: "I have nothing to write about." I've used that one, not only when I have a writing deadline, but also when I think I don't want to write out The Work. My reasoning: "Nothing's bothering me."

Is this one of yours? It may be true that nothing is bothering you right now and if so, bravo. You can always go back to the place in your life where something was bothersome. If there's any residue left there, don't you want to clean it up?

In fact, it's actually easier and very desirable to do The Work when there is no extreme stress in the moment. (I'll cover this in more detail in a future newsletter.) The great thing about self-awareness is that it compounds, like interest. If you can do 20 minutes of inquiry now, you may find you have a reserve of sanity for a "rainy day."

What a great deal: 20 minutes of your time here and there in exchange for a happier life and a clearer head.

Deepening Transformational Inquiry: Take the 20-minute Test

I like to put off doing things because "the weather's lousy." The other day I did not bring my water bottles to the store to refill then because it was cold out. Today it is a sunny day. What great excuse will I come up with this time?

"I don't feel like taking the bottles to the store." Is that true? Yeah!

Absolutely? Well, no. I'm running out of purified water, I'd rather not drink or cook with tap water, the empties are lined up by the door and it looks messy. So I really do want to go to the store. I just wish my triceps didn't hurt from working out yesterday, that I didn't promise myself I'd set up the new TV today, that my client had kept her original appointment, that there were more hours in the day, blah blah blah.... Okay, there goes the mind, which I steer gently back to inquiry. How do I live my life when I believe the thought that I don't want to go to the store...and I want water?

The bottom line is, I don't have to go to the store—and I'm going to. I do feel like it, because I want a neat kitchen and a well-stocked supply of water more than I want to avoid what I'm avoiding.

©2006 by Carol L. Skolnick; all rights reserved.

November 30, 2006

The Work of Byron Katie and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy: A Comparison

by Jane Bunker, Ph.D. with Carol L. Skolnick, M.A.

As a growing number of therapists, counselors and coaches incorporate the self-inquiry process called The Work of Byron Katie into their practices, the question often arises, "How does The Work compare to Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)?" There are notable similarities in that The Work, like CBT, is a cognitive restructuring technique. However, unlike CBT, The Work does not seek to replace one thought with another, less stressful thought; it is an experiential modality in which stressful thoughts are identified, expressed and questioned, resulting in an awareness of projective identification.

Here are some fundamental differences between the two approaches.

1. CBT: Achieve specific result
The Work: Discover what's true for the client

If there is a goal in The Work, it is to discover what is true for the client. The underlying assumption of The Work is that all suffering comes from arguing with reality. The secondary assumption is that reality is good. With CBT, the goal is to achieve a specific, client and therapist devised end result (i.e., to be happier, to have a better marriage, to like one's job more, etc.). CBT assumes that reality can be manipulated in order to achieve a particular, more desirable outcome....the secondary assumption here being that reality is flawed.

2. CBT: Necessitates a therapist
The Work: Does not need therapist or facilitator

CBT necessitates a therapist; The Work, which is self-directed, does not require a therapist or even a facilitator. Even if facilitated by a therapist or performed in a group setting, the simple structure of The Work's four basic self-inquiry questions and its reversal technique, the "turnaround," entrusts the process to the client. Administered cleanly, there will be no imposition of therapist's opinion or values in the course of a session.

3. CBT: Replace painful thoughts with "better" ones
The Work: Does not attempt to replace thoughts; painful thoughts dissolve

Both CBT and The Work are clear about the powerful role that thoughts play in human suffering. CBT, however, attempts to get the client to drop these thoughts and replace them with new, more productive, positive ones. In The Work, one part of the mind examines the other. There is no room for the normally defensive, proof-seeking part of the mind to hold on to the identity-defining thoughts that have been contributing to the client's suffering. With the resulting clarity that comes of mind meeting mind, the stressful thoughts serve no further purpose and dissolve on their own.

Also, by directing the client's pain outward on paper, The Work provides an initial vehicle for releasing rather than adding stress, the latter being a phenomenon which may occur in CBT when judgments are aimed at the self.

4. Both CBT and The Work address question 1 of The Work: Is it true? -- to expose the lie of the mind. However, The Work goes significantly further with question 2: Can you absolutely know that it's true? -- by attempting to eliminate even a 1% probability for the "I-know mind" to attach to and thus short-circuit the rest of the process. With questions 3 and 4: How do you react when you believe this thought? Who would you be without this thought? -- The Work offers the opportunity to hold thought up to the light, examine it openly, see the damage it has evoked and what life might be like without it. The subsequent turnaround -- a reversal technique in which the client considers ways in which the opposite of the belief might be just as true or truer -- offers a perfectly timed glimpse of one's own innocent, but complete, responsibilty for one's own happiness, while providing an expanded awareness of what "truth" encompasses. As in advaita vedanta, the Indian school of nondual philosophy, there is a gradual recognition that all experience is projected, and when the "projector" is adjusted, the projection changes.

5. Embedded in the turnaround is the concept of nonduality. All that was directed at the other appears to be true of the self as well. All that was apparently not absolutely true of the other might not be absolutely true of the self either. With The Work's loving, incisive probing, thoughts are eventually relieved of their charge. The safety and comfort of truth discovered replaces the client's need for attachment to identity-defining thoughts, and those thoughts are released in their obsolescence.

©2005 by Jane Bunker, Ph.D. and Carol L. Skolnick, M.A.

Jane Bunker is an artist and a retired psychologist from Santa Fe, New Mexico and Boise, Idaho, whose practice incorporated CBT and other modalities. Carol L. Skolnick is a Santa Cruz, California-based writer, educator, and facilitator of The Work of Byron Katie. Both Jane and Carol are graduates of Byron Katie's School for The Work and have served on the staff of the school.

November 21, 2006

Free Hugs

This song, by the (not so) Sick Puppies—and this now-famous "Free Hugs" video—just say it all.

November 13, 2006

Mothers, Lovers and Sunsets

"Mommy, did you love sunsets?" I asked aloud. As I asked her that question, I wept as I saw that I had never really known my mother.

I have chased after sunsets wherever I am in the world; from the Thansa Valley in Maharastra, India to Cali, Colombia...from Santa Fe to Santa Cruz...from Cancun, Mexico to the bridge connecting Maine to New Hampshire. Some of my favorite sunsets have been those rosy, striated beauties I'd been privileged to witness as often as I liked at a riverside park near my former home in New York City's Greenwich Village, where the light descended on New Jersey across the Hudson every evening. In the year before I left the east coast and moved to California, I'd been depriving myself of our waterfront. My "ex" and I regularly did the "sunset thing" together and I thought that meant it would be painful to do it alone. What did I get for holding this belief that sunsets are romantic and best viewed with a partner? No sunsets. So a year after he and I parted, I headed down to the water to catch a late summer view. It was spectacular.

Midway through the viewing, my late mother came up for me. Maybe it's because I was contemplating leaving New York, where I was raised and where I've lived for most of my life; maybe, in midlife, I was feeling closer to my own mortality. Whatever the reason, I'd been talking to her lately, although she had been dead for seven years. When she was alive, I spoke to her only when necessary; we'd had a difficult relationship from the time I was five years old and our conversations usually culminated in arguments.

Why the sudden need for communication? I was very confused when she was alive. I had a picture of my mother as cruel, undercutting, a bad parent, unloving, withholding and insane. I didn't have the tools of self-inquiry then. In recent years, I have made amends to her, in my mind and on paper, many times. I have no idea if she hears me. It doesn't matter; I do.

"Mommy, did you love sunsets?" I asked aloud. It was not a premeditated act; it did not arise out of loneliness. She was just there. As I asked her that question, I wept as I saw that I had never really known my mother. I don't even know if she loved one of the things I love most; she never shared that with me and it never came to me to ask. The "I know" mind was convinced of who she was and I rarely acknowledged the other side of her, the part that was brilliant, creative, humorous, the part that sounded like criticism but that may have been her way of expressing concern...the part that housed and fed and clothed me and did the very best she could to raise me while she lived in an apparent mental hell.

The mind's job is to be right. It will spend a lifetime proving itself to be the authority on things like nagging mothers, deadbeat dads, lying partners, intractable kids, officious shop clerks, murderous dictators. It misses out on sunsets, on intimacy, on real life.

Do I love sunsets enough to view them without a story of how I should have done it all summer, how I should be watching it with a partner, how my mother and I should have shared sunsets instead of shouting matches? Yes. I wouldn't want to miss the beauty of life as it is showing up, right now.

Deepening Transformational Inquiry: Mothers and Others

©2006 by Carol L. Skolnick. All rights reserved.

Order your copy of my new eBook, Transformational Inquiry: Working on Mothers and Others. First in a series, it is filled with information and exercises to help you work with your stickiest stressful beliefs about "the first love affair." For more information, visit the Clear Life Store.

Metanoia, Unlimited

Metanoia is a metaphysical term coined from two Latin words that translate roughly to "above the mind." A metanoia is a fundamental shift in thinking, like the one my mentor Byron Katie had when she realized no stressful thought that she believed was true. At one time Katie made a lot of money buying and selling real estate. Today she is swiftly becoming a household name because she gives her main product away for free (yours for the taking at, and yet I understand she does quite well. For those of us with the traditional "buy low, sell high" mindset, it doesn't make sense. And yet, look what that mindset did for us in the early part of this new millennium.

In business as in life—even when our old paradigms are no longer working—we often have a fear of radical shifts, because it would mean...well, whatever horror stories our minds can concoct: we'd go down the drain, lose everything...our money, our credibility, our position, our best people, our structure.

We don't usually stop and question these beliefs. We don't normally ask ourselves if the opposite could be consider that if we changed, everything could get better.

Every entrepreneur and business leader wants to be a visionary, an innovator, and a person of integrity...and every business has its share of nay-sayers, including the would-be change-manager. It's natural to doubt. We cling to what is familiar, even if it does not make us happy.

Many businesses prosper doing business as usual, and that's fine; what we might want to question is this: is it true that we'd be less profitable, less successful, if we made the changes we'd like to? Some of our greatest business leaders today are metanoiacs. Anita Roddick, founder of The Body Shop, created a huge international company that prospers despite (or because of) her dedication to human rights, animal rights and environmental issues. Paul Hawken, founder of Smith & Hawken and Datafusion, is known around the world as one of the leading proponents of ecological corporate reform. The world-class Gillette Company has spent tens of millions of dollars to develop alternatives to animal testing and it sells razors and shaving cream like crazy. Southwest Airlines proved that "leadership at every level" is a workable paradigm.

The next time you find yourself hesitant to shake things up a bit, before you change your mind, I invite you to sit with your discomfort. Whether it's something seemingly small, like instituting a company-wide policy to use only recycled paper products...or something huge, like a re-org...put the "yeahbuts" and "whatifs" on paper and question them. "It's too expensive." "It will upset the shareholders." "It's too much work." "We will fail." Can you absolutely know that it's true?

Deepening Transformational Inquiry: Business Above the Mind

1. Consider this: "To risk nothing, in the long run, could be more dangerous than to risk everything."

2. Transformational Inquiry with The Work of Byron Katie can bring about metanoia, both in the way we look at our business (and life) issues and in the ways we work at and run our enterprises. With the deepening of our understanding of our greatest fears and toughest challenges in the world of work, we equip ourselves for whatever comes our way, from management shake-ups to exponential growth.

3. Learn the basics of self-inquiry. Visit to find out about Transformational Inquiry with The Work...four simple questions followed by a "turnaround," or reversal. Subscribe to our newsletter and receive your free report on inquiry in the workplace. Try it with one of the "shoulds" in your work life and notice how clarity happens when we're not married to being right.

©2006 by Carol L. Skolnick. All rights reserved.

November 7, 2006

The Power of Willingness, Part II: "Yeahbuts" and "Whatifs"

"There is a crack, a crack in everything. That's how the light gets
in." --Leonard Cohen

Resistance is a funny thing. Ultimately it exists to defend what does
not exist. It knows its days are numbered, and the reason it knows this
is because behind every resistance is the possibility of willingness.

People who are committed to knowing their own truth share in common a
willingness to be consider other angles...and
most especially to question their "yeahbuts" and "whatifs," the two
bodyguards of the mind whose job it is to keep the identified self from

When we are invested in wanting to be right, there is nothing to be
done. Thankfully, most of us have a breaking point, where we are willing
to seek relief at any cost. Some of my clients come to inquiry with a
huge arsenal of "yeahbuts" and "whatifs," and yet they come away from
sessions and workshops at least partially disarmed. Why? Because
willingness--even a tiny bit of it--is more powerful than any defense. Where
there is willingness there is potential for transformation

Lacey was a client of mine, a young woman who was in love with an
unavailable man. He claimed to love her, but he was married and had a family
and would not leave them. She, too, was married and was scared to
forfeit her financial security. For several sessions, I listened to Lacey's
litany of "yeahbuts" and "whatifs." "Yeah, but with my limited skills
set, I can't enough to support myself." "Yeah, but no one will ever
love me like he [Mr. Unavailable] does." "What if I make a mistake and my
husband won't take me back?" Lacey continually veered away from
answering the inquiry questions, yet she kept coming to sessions for months.
That told me that she had a tiny bit of willingness. People who know
they are right don't even attempt to question their reality. They don't
hire facilitators.

When Lacey and I worked together, I would ask her to notice each time
she used a "yeahbut" and a "whatif" to avoid seeing the truth. "You can
be right later," I assured her. "For now, let's see if what you are
saying and believing is really true."

Eventually, Lacey began to question her beliefs while putting the
"whatifs" and "yeahbuts" on hold. We didn't banish them; that never works.
We just asked them to hang back for a bit while we did our work. Lacey
came to see that she could not absolutely know that she needed the
unavailable man in her life, or that she needed her husband's financial
support, or that she'd never find another great love. She was willing to
consider being wrong, or at least to stop needing to know everything in
all certainty. Ultimately she gave up on the lover and separated from
her husband for awhile. She got a good job and gave herself a chance to
get to know the true love of her life: herself.

The mind really wants to know the truth, even as it fights for the
survival of its sacred beliefs. When we're out of integrity, we feel it,
and the pain is excruciating. So try this: the next time you encounter
great resistance, don't try to banish the "yeahbuts" and "whatifs," but
instead invite them to wait in the wings; you can pick them up again
later if you like. Treat your yeahbuts and whatifs with gentle
understanding; they're lovingly doing their job, trying to protect you from
dissolution. Then, allow Willingness have its life...and see what happens.
You may discover that what you thought needed defending is the very thing
that has held you back from what you really want: true strength,
authenticity and happiness.

Deepening Transformational Inquiry: "I know I should, but...."

Is there something you believe you "should" be doing? For example:

"I should clean out the garage."
"I should get started early on my taxes."
"I should work out at least three times a week."

One way to work with "shoulds' is to question them directly: e.g. "You
should work out three times a week; is that true? What is the reality
of it, do you? Can you absolutely know you'd be better off if you worked
out three times a week?"

Another way is to look at your reasons (or excuses) for not doing what
you "should" be doing. These are the "yeahbuts" and "whatifs."

"Every time I clean out the garage, my husband yells at me for throwing
out something he needed."
"With the holidays coming I don't have time to start on my taxes. I
should have started them earlier."
"If I go to the gym that often, I look better but I get so tired; then
how am I going to clean out the garage and do my taxes?"

We dislike our "shoulds" because they make us feel like we're doing it
wrong. We love our "yeahbuts" because they lead us to believe we are
right in not addressing the "shoulds."

The trouble is, whether we are "shoulding" ourselves to death or
"yeahbutting" ourselves into complacency, it generally doesn't feel very
good. That's because when we attach to shoulds and yeahbuts, we are not
living in the present moment. "Shoulds" are stories of a nonexistent
future. "Yeahbuts" are horror stories based on past assumptions. "Whatifs"
are horror stories, period.

The yeahbuts and whatifs underlying our "shoulds" are like the legs of
a table. The tabletop cannot remain stable unless it has four good
legs. While inquiring into the validity of a "should" belief, notice any
wobbly legs holding up the table and make a mental note or written
sidebar about them to question later.

©2006 Carol L. Skolnick. All rights reserved.

November 4, 2006

Celebrating the "Hellidays"

How do you celebrate the winter holidays? For many of us it's a time to get together with loved, drink, and make merry...give and receive presents with joy...take a vacation to a special getaway...meditate on the spiritual significance of the season...entertain loved ones in our homes.

And, typically, it's a time to entertain other not-so-well-loved ones...thoughts like:

"I can't afford Christmas (Chanukah, Kwanzaa, a winter vacation) this year."

"The holidays are so depressing."

"My brother gives chintzy gifts to my kids."

"If s/he really loved me s/he'd know that what I wanted was a (insert ideal gift that you didn't receive here)."

"Thanksgiving is cultural propaganda."

"I should have more 'Christmas spirit.'"

"There's too much rich food (too much alcohol), I'm going to gain weight (fall off the wagon)."

"I have no one to kiss on New Year's Eve and it means that...."

"Oh, God, not another business luncheon."

"I'll never get all my shopping (cooking, housecleaning, holiday cards) done."

"I have to make and stick to my New Year's resolutions."

Sound familiar?

When we attach to thoughts like these, the holidays become the "hellidays." The end of the year is a great time for self-inquiry, as holiday thoughts rise to the surface like whipped cream in the eggnog.

Lost your job and your huge family expects to exchange gifts with you? Inquire: what's the worst that can happen if you cut back this year? Think your yearly bonus wasn't enough? Is it not enough in reality? You should not be depressed, is that true? How do you treat yourself when you attach to that belief...and how does this help to alleviate your depression? Don't want to take your mother to church this year? Judge your mother, write it down, ask four questions, turn it around. The holidays are too commercial? Try this turnaround: "My thinking is too commercial." Can you find three ways that this is equally true, or even truer?

The gift of self-inquiry costs nothing, knows no season, and you can give it to yourself, whenever you like and wherever you are. The result? Peace on earth.

©2006 by Carol L. Skolnick. All rights reserved.

October 4, 2006

Where Does Hate Come From?

This year, 2006, the Jewish High Holy Days coincided, as they often do,
with the Muslim Ramadan and Hindu Navaratri/Dasera. This "coincidence"
in a time of cross-cultural misunderstanding (someone once said that
coincidence is God's way of remaining anonymous) was not lost on the news
media this year and was so very apparent in my own life, when both a
dear Hindu friend and a beloved Muslim business associate wrote to wish
me a happy Rosh Hashonah.

When did we humans start to resent each other...and why?

Robert Sternberg, a Yale psychologist known for his work on wisdom,
love and creativity, began a study of hate in 1999. He was motivated by
his own family history, as the son of an Austrian Jewish survivor of
Hitler's Final Solution, and by reading a book about the Rwandan genocide.
He wondered why human beings are getting smarter (on the average, our
IQs worldwide are rising as much as 3 points per decade), but not
kinder. If we are so intelligent, why do we promote intolerance and wreak war
and terrorism?

Sternberg came up with a triangular theory of hatred. One side of the
triangle is passion: impulsive rage excited by fear. Another side is
what Sternberg calls "negation of intimacy," which is basically a feeling
of repulsion or disgust. The third side is "cold hate," a cognitive
commitment to hatred, such as the learned, conditioned prejudices that
many societies have regarding homosexuals. He calls a combination of these
three kinds of hatred "burning hate," which expresses as a need for
annihilation. And all hatred, Sternberg proposes, arises from a story;
there can be no hatred without a tale of woe to tell about how the hated
one "done us dirty."

We human beings tend to love our hate stories. We don't want to lose
them. On an individual level, this could result in revenge killings, in
spite of the consequences. When an entire nation wants to be right,
other nations may perish. Entire worlds can disappear...and have.

On a less grand scale, the hate story can lead to a lifetime of stress.
A "bad mommy" story may result in a lifelong hatred of women. A bad job
can mean anticipating every work situation will be undesirable. When
women laughingly say "All men are pigs," there's bound to be a painful
paradigm behind that sentiment.

Hate stories, Sternberg points out, are always factually wrong. All men
are not pigs. Jews do not have all the money. All Muslims are not
terrorists. All Christians do not vote for conservative political
candidates. True wisdom, acknowledging all perspectives, all stories, would help
all stakeholders reach saner conclusions. But it appears to be much
easier to follow the conventional "wisdom" than to question one's beliefs.
It doesn't even occur to most of us to do so.

Until all governments, all nations, all people are committed to knowing
the truth, it is likely that wars and hate crimes will continue. But if
I think the world needs self-inquiry, I'm confused. Am I willing to do
what I want them to do? It's a lot to ask of others who have endured
suffering, loss and injustice. It can seem insensitive and unkind. Can
you imagine asking a Palestinian, "You need your ancestral land, is it
true?" Or an Israeli, "Can you absolutely know that it's true that your
child should not have died in a suicide bombing?"

So, for now, "Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me."
If I wish for hatred to cease, I must unceasingly look to my own hateful
impulses, however seemingly insignificant, and meet them with

Deepening Transformational Inquiry: Where Does My Hate Come From?

Driving home from Yom Kippur services the other night, my male friend
expressed dismay at the egalitarian service we'd attended together. He
noted how overwhelmingly female the attendance was and indicated this
was because there was a lot of male-bashing going on there. I was amazed
that I hadn't noticed.

"It was so blatant," he said.

"You mean because of the gender-neutral or feminine translations of the

"No, for years it's been sexist in the opposite direction, so I don't
have a problem with that. There are just these when the
two men couldn't figure out why the door wouldn't open and a woman
noticed there was a U-lock on the other side, and she said, 'It takes a
woman to unlock a door.'"

Then I remembered. There was laughter (I guess from the women). I
didn't think it was funny, so I didn't laugh. I also didn't think it was
significant because of my cultural insensitivity around how men might hear
and experience women's "little" jabs.

I love and appreciate so many men in my life. I like to think that I've
"done my work" about men and that I am not sexist. I mean, I stopped
sending around those male-bashing jokes in the email years ago, realizing
that it felt violent to perpetuate that kind of "humor." However, my
friend's remark helped me to see that I am far from a done deal in the
Mars-Venus department.

I sat down to write a brief list of beliefs about men...the kind that
might fit into Sternberg's "negation of intimacy" category.

*Men are insensitive.
*Men are too sensitive. :-)
*Men are clueless about women.
*Men always have to be right.
*Men are enigmatic.

Then I sat with each one and asked myself, "What is my earliest memory
of holding this belief?" "From whom did I learn these beliefs?" In this
way I was able to question the validity of my beliefs from the place
where they first occurred to me: as a small child learning from my
mother, as a little girl interacting with other little girls, as a teenager
among other teenagers awkwardly moving towards a new kind of intimacy,
successfully or not.

What "hate paradigms" are you still holding onto? Even if it's only 1%?
When did you first feel this way? Does the feeling bring peace or
stress into your life? How would you live your life differently if you never
again saw people in terms of racial, cultural, political, religious,
class or gender traits?

©2006 by Carol L. Skolnick. All rights reserved.

The Power of Willingness

We already know about the power of resistance; we're experts at that. Resistance is the mind's way of protecting itself from ever appearing wrong or unsure. When we are challenged to move from our comfort zone -- and the worst depression or the fiercest rage can be comfortable if that's all we've ever known -- the mind offers resistance in the form of "yeahbuts" and "whatifs," in saying "no" instead of "yes" and in proclaiming "I know" instead of "maybe I don't absolutely know."

Transformational Inquiry with The Work of Byron Katie is a way of opening the mind through answering questions and exploring alternate perspectives. It is not the questions in and of themselves that are so powerful -- they are really quite simple. The power of inquiry lies in your willingness to answer to these questions with penetrating honesty. The effectiveness of Transformational Inquiry depends on a willingness to know the truth, as opposed to an insistance on being right. The results can be quite amazing...and I know this from my personal experience of using inquiry in my own life and work.

For the better part of 43 years, my middle name was "No." Because of this stubbornness on my part, I suffered to the point where it was difficult to get out of bed and face each day. I was an unhappy and very willful child. In my teen years I suffered from massive depression, turning to food and sleep to dull the pain. I had been in therapy for all of my adult life, and for several years I needed medication in order to function at all. I had my own home, I had relationships, and at one time I had a very successful home-based business...but each day, for many years, I was plagued by feelings of hopelessness. In my thirties, I was diagnosed with biochemical depression, and a respected psychiatrist told me that I would need therapy and drugs for the rest of my life. Something in me rebelled at hearing that...something that I now see as a willingness to be okay.

When I finally learned about The Work of Byron Katie, I knew it held the key to my freedom...and still I was resistant. Being right had served me very well for many years. It was a protection, and an excuse: if I knew I couldn't do better, then I didn't have to keep trying so hard, and it wasn't my fault. Resistance saved me from having to face my fears, and as a wise person once said, fear is an acronym for False Evidence Appearing as Real.

With willingness, I might have had to see that I'd always had at least a small part in my own failures and disapointments. With willingness, I had no one else to blame, not even God, my ultimate whipping boy and scapegoat. However, with willingness, I would also have had to consider that everything that had happened in my life was for a reason, there to teach me something, to nourish me, to put me on the path to self-realization. That was the carrot I lusted after, because deep down I knew that God didn't love me less than the rest of creation. Beneath the clutter of my sad stories, I knew I could be okay...more than okay.

The process of The Work's four basic questions -- "Is it true?" "Can you absolutely know that it's true?" "How do you react when you believe that thought?" "Who would you be without this thought?" -- is a way of getting very honest with onesself. When the questions are held in the mind the answers come from the heart, and the answers can be astounding. One of my cherished life-long beliefs was that I was a failure. I had a long, long list of proof for that one: I wasn't married, I wasn't a mother, I didn't have a million dollars in the bank, I didn't go to an Ivy League college, I hadn't written and published a bestseller.

Now, I could think of many, many examples of successful people who aren't married, or parents, or millionaires, or Ivy League grads, or bestselling authors...but, you see, I was SUPPOSED to have done all of these things by my 30th birthday. This is called, "being at war with reality."

At first, when I approached the questions, I would answer them out of the mind's habitual thinking, very quickly: yes, it's true, yes I can absolutely know that I'm right, and I react with depression, duh, how else should I react?...and I have no idea who or what I would be without this thought because I have always thought it and believed it because it's TRUE!

What I noticed was that it felt terrible to approach self-inquiry out of a place of resistance. And that noticing the feelings was the beginning of willingness. How much longer did I want to feel like the living dead? Not one second longer.

So I would ask myself the questions again...or, when I felt too afraid or resistant to do it alone, I would ask someone else to ask me.

"I'm a failure, is it true? It sure feels that way right now."

"I'm a failure, can I absolutely know that it's true?" And I'd wait, and I'd let the heart answer. "No. No, I cannot absolutely know that it's true. I have succeeded in many ways, great and small. I am successfully sitting here and answering these questions now."

"How do I react when I think that I am a failure?" And I'd revisit the way I'd lived my I'd batted away praise, spurned affection, missed opportunities out of fear, lived in the past and the future but never in the I'd let my health I'd shamed much joy I denied myself as a result of believing this incredible lie.

"Who would I be without this thought?" I realized that with a little willingness, I could visualize myself without the "failure facade"...and I saw a woman who just keeps moving...who celebrates her successes of all sizes...who doesn't say "I can't" or "I'll never"...who has no regrets...and who feels comfortable in her own skin. I could see a lover, a listener, an available partner, a friend, one with open ears and open arms and an open mind. I could see someone with an immense and contagious sense of humor. With practice, I came to see that, without my tales of woe, I already was that resilient, loving and courageous woman. You can't even concieve of it if you're not it. The person I was without the belief in failure was - is - a more peaceful person. And peace is our true nature.

When I feel resistance now, it might stick around for a few days at most. In my life, willingness has become the conjoined twin of resistance, always on the other side of it, closer than close, sharing its life's blood. While once it was the weaker twin, having flexed its muscles, it is now the stronger one, and it will have its way.

Many clients show initial resistance to the process of self-inquiry, and what they -- what all of us have in common -- is this powerful willingness that ultimately brings us home. It is willingness that allows us to stop stop needing to know stop trying to manipulate the world to conform to our idea of perfection. Willingness is what turns nervous wrecks, hotheads and sadsacks into lovers of reality. Willingness is what turns enemies into friends, tragedies into comedies, crises into opportunities, fear into courage. Willingness is the "yes" on the other side of "no." Willingness brings you your own answers to the questions the heart has been asking forever. It is within you, waiting to take birth. I invite you to give it its life.

Click here to hear Carol repeat this message at

©2006 by Carol L. Skolnick. All rights reserved.

September 29, 2006

Some Q&As about The Work of Byron Katie

Here are some answers to a few frequently-asked questions about Transformational Inquiry with The Work of Byron Katie.

Q: Isn't The Work a form of psychotherapy? It seems similar to Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT).

A: Therapy by definition involves the diagnosis and treatment of mental disorders by trained, licensed personnel. The Work is not about changing, treating or curing anything and it does not replace psychotherapy, nor is there an assumption that clients are "ill" or not. That said, The Work provides a clean and simple way to approach "thinking disorders," or attachments to self-limiting beliefs that are not true or useful to the client. A facilitator asks questions, and the client answers them if she is willing. As a facilitator, I guide clients through the process of questioning what they believe. As an educator and workshop leader, I design and introduce exercises and disseminate information. I don't diagnose or treat anyone or anything because I am not a therapist.

The Work is a cognitive process because we are working with cognition (thinking). Unlike CBT, there is no concept of pathology and therefore there is nothing to treat or cure. However, inquiring into one's stressful beliefs is a useful component of the therapeutic process...which is why many mental health professionals incorporate The Work into their work with patients. Inquiry is quite compatible with most talk therapies and its results are consistent with cutting-edge research on the brain, the mind and its mechanisms. The Work has been used in Mind-Body Medicine programs at Stanford University Medical Center and Kaiser-Permanente in California in conjunction with mindfulness meditation to help patients suffering from anxiety, depression, stress, infertility and chronic pain. In addition, the student health center at the University of Washington offers The Work of Byron Katie to students as a stress-reduction technique. The Work has also been offered as part of training for psychotherapists at the California Institute of Integral Studies in San Francisco, one of the country's leading institutions offering degrees in transpersonal psychology. Renowned ADD and brain scientist Dr. Daniel Amen, founder of Amen Clinics, recommends The Work and offers Katie's books at his website,

Q: What makes someone qualified to facilitate The Work? Do you have a certification?

A: Facilitators who have been certified (2007) by the Institute for The Work are the only facilitators recognized by Byron Katie International to provide the pure experience of this inquiry process. Certified Facilitators have fulfilled 100 days of requirements (over 400 hours), have been approved personally by Katie, and are bound by a code of Facilitator Ethics. Certified Facilitators must also keep their certification current each year. I was a member of the first group of 17 facilitators worldwide to receive the ITW Certified Facilitator credential in the spring of 2007.

Since The Work itself is is easily learned and available to anyone at no cost, there are people teaching and using The Work who have never attended the School for The Work and are not Certified Facilitators. They may be fine facilitators, but there is no oversight. So,"know your facilitator."

Q: Isn't The Work a very emotional experience? What if someone "loses it" during a session?

A: In my workshops and in private sessions, people often experience sadness, grief, anger, ecstasy, laughter, tears, irritation, anger, boredom, etc. It's natural to feel and express emotions in the process of self-inquiry, just as we experience them in our daily lives when our issues bubble up. In life, when we "lose it," we either "find it" or we call 9-1-1. In The Work, it's the same.

Q: So then, is The Work a form of coaching?

A: The Work is not coaching in and of itself, and it is an invaluable tool for coaches. I love to teach coaches how to use inquiry with their clients because it can make their jobs a lot easier. I have been a coaching client myself, and my coach, Melanie Keveles, frequently includes The Work in our sessions.

Here's a distinction: in coaching, there is a desired outcome for the client, because the client has come to the coach with an intention or a goal. In The Work, the only intention is for the client to meet stressful thoughts with understanding through self-inquiry. By showing up, the client has expressed a desire to know the truth; the facilitator asks questions to assist that process. If I have an agenda for my client to "get" something, it may interfere with his own process of self-discovery and in fact limit it.

Through self-inquiry, the mind calls its own bluff. When the coaching client's self-limiting beliefs are examined in the light of the questions, the beliefs often dissolve, enabling the coach to better help the client solidify their intentions and formulate action plans.

Q: Will The Work interfere with other transformative healing work that I am doing, or with religious practices...for example, 12-step programs, meditation, worship, other self-help modalities?

A: Some of my friends and clients involved in The Work have included devout Muslims, Hindus, Christians and Jews, Buddhist teachers, a Catholic priest, numerous interfaith ministers and the former head monk of a Hare Krishna temple...not to mention atheists and agnostics, activists and pacifists, Republicans and Democrats, self-help teachers and healers of all stripes. Many of the people I have met at Katie's schools practice The Work concurrently with Sedona Method, The Journey, A Course in Miracles, and various forms of yoga and meditation. Friends in recovery tell me that The Work dovetails beautifully with the 12 steps; it is, after all, the epitome of a "fearless moral inventory."

Some fear that they will have to give up whatever else they're doing if they question their beliefs. Can you absolutely know that this is true? Jews have been questioning their own scriptures since the origins of Judaism! The aforementioned Hare Krishna friend never questioned his belief in Krishna; if a belief is not stressful, there is no need to question it. Rather, when he discovered The Work he saw it as a message and a gift from Krishna.

You needn't ever let go of your religion, your practices, your sacred beliefs; I haven't. The suggestion is to continue to do everything that serves you and brings you joy...and question what doesn't. If you love meditation, ritual, prayer, going to meetings, and you love The Work too, good!

September 5, 2006

What's the Payoff?

The more I examine the life of the mind, the more I recognize the pure innocence of what we refer to—sometimes disparagingly—as the ego. The ego is that which gives us an identity as an "I." We wake up in the morning and the ego's job is to create a world and establish its place in it. "I am still tired." "I have to go to work." "It's going to be a busy day for me." "I wonder if the kids are still asleep." "I'm still upset about our argument last night." "He was wrong (and therefore "I" was right)."

The I-identified mind (which is a story about who we are, rather than the truth of who we are) is like an organism separate from the body. Like any organism, it seeks homeostatis: a stability of its "normal" condition, equilibrium. "I" needs to know that "it" is okay.

In its innocence, the ego which identifies as an "I" may attach to a belief that results neither in equilibrium nor in peace. To the unquestioned mind, habitual thought patterns may at first seem safer than any alternative. Since the ego needs to be right in order to exist, it may fight for this false homeostasis at all costs. When this happens, a belief, no matter how upsetting, becomes hard to shake. In spite of the problematical nature of the thought, we may experience that it serves us...or that it used to.

That is why, in Transformational Inquiry, we don't try to drop or replace a thought. Only an ego thinks and believes, and as long as we believe we're an "I," there is no bypassing thought. "I have no thoughts" is still a thought! So instead of denying our thoughts, we engage with the ego-identified mind so as to unravel thought at its source.

When the process of inquiry becomes alive in us—which can happen very quickly—sometimes it is difficult to see why we would have ever held a stressful thought to begin with. When I am facilitating The Work of Byron Katie, I ask a two-pronged question: "What do you get for holding this belief? What is the payoff?" In general it's very easy to answer the first part of the question: "I get anxiety, I get to feel separate, I get to be superior, I get to experience war in my relationship." These are the "negative payoffs." The mind is not always so open to the "positive payoffs," or perceived benefits, of attachment to a belief.

When this happens to me while self-facilitating, I find it useful to ask myself a few more questions around my attachment. It has been my experience that stressful thoughts are usually fear-based: clinging to them provides a thinly protective membrane from which I may not be quite ready to emerge but which keeps me from experiencing reality directly.

As we question our beliefs we may recognize that there is no benefit to holding the belief and if so, that's wonderful. However, if the belief still feels sticky, I want to go deeper: any resistance to answering the question "What is the payoff?" is simply the ego-organism asserting its need for homeostasis! The cost of holding the belief is I get to stay in an artificial equilibrium, a facade of safety.

Byron Katie has said that there are only two kinds of fear; the fear of losing what you think you have, or the fear of not getting what you think you want. If there is stuckness regarding the question "What is the payoff," and I suspect the inability to answer is fear-based, I will move towards this question: "What is the worst thing that could happen if I no longer believed this thought? What is the fear that keeps me clinging to it?"

Deepening Transformational Inquiry: "It's not safe to disagree."

Have you ever been afraid to disagree with someone in your life? If so, please take the trip with me back to the place in your past (it might be five decades or even five minutes ago) where you held this belief.

Let's say I work for someone with a short fuse or who likes things to go her way (who doesn't?) and I think the thought, "It's not safe to disagree with her." (Not a stretch; I could go back to at least 10 working relationships where I felt this way, beginning 30 years ago with a job I held at the Hewlett-Woodmere Public Library the summer before I left for college.)

After I question the validity of the thought (Is it true?) and see how I live out of the belief (I avoid her, I kow-tow to her publicly, and secretly or not so secretly, I resent her for having this perceived power over my financial life, career success and "homeostasis" in the office), I ask myself whose business I'm in when I believe this thought (hers, because I'm presuming she'll erupt if I disagree).

Next, I ask myself, "What do I get for holding this belief? What's the payoff?"

The more obvious answers are: I get fear, separation, a reason to hate going to work in the morning. Or, the payoff may not be so obvious, other than "I get an excuse to eat chocolate in an attempt to soothe my jangled nerves." So I move to "What's the worst thing that could happen if I no longer believed this thought?" Well, I would not keep my opinions in check, and then she might fire me." (There's an old saying: "Tell your boss the truth, and the truth shall set you free.")

Why would I fear being fired? What do I have to lose? Her approval, my family and friends' approval, my paycheck, my standing in the community?

There are a whole lot of assumptions operating here: the assumption that someone will be angry with me and that this is not okay; the assumption that disagreement always results in banishment; the assumption that if I disagree, I will be cut off, shunned, alone, without support. I may look at how old this belief is: when did it first occur to me? Early childhood? Who was I trying to appease then? (Mom, Dad, the neighborhood bully, my older cousin, my first grade teacher, the family friend who was molesting me.)

Now I can see that there are perceived payoffs for thinking this thought: if I don't disagree, I get to stay in a no-conflict zone...for the moment. And of course, there is plenty of internal conflict, so this isn't really working for me. What else do I get? Support, which I think I could lose (a paycheck, health insurance). Approval, which I believe I need (friends who see me as responsible and mature; a family that gets upset when I'm not making money and now feels relieved; a boss who sees me as cooperative, reliable and easy to get along with and who may give me a raise and promotion). If nothing else, I think holding the belief lets me keep an identity that gives me a reason to get out of bed in the morning. ("I" have a job, "I" have a purpose.)

With further inquiry I may come to see that my "benefits plan" comes at too great of a cost. This is fabulous information; it frees me up to live in the present moment, a.k.a. the real world as opposed to the anticipated, unquestioned and therefore scary world of the ego's creation.

At the same time, I can sit with that ego-driven polarity of mind as if with a frightened child or a well-meaning if overprotective parent who just needs some reassurance that all is well. It is not the enemy; quite the contrary. It has simply been trying to protect me. With the clarity that comes from inquiry, I don't have to disown it; instead I can hold it by the hand, listen to all of its concerns, thank it and love it for its innocent good intentions.

What are your payoffs? And are they worth the cost?

©2006 by Carol L. Skolnick. All rights reserved.

August 23, 2006

Questioning Overwhelm

A few years ago in Psychology Today magazine, there was an article accompanied by a marvelously evocative illustration of a man sitting at a desk completely covered with yellow sticky notes. If the mere thought of this makes you want to head for the hills or reach for your favorite addictive substance, you're not alone. Whatever your job, be it parent, student, small business owner or captain of industry, you have likely experienced overwhelm at one time or another in your life and work. Some of us, as we watch the email on the desktop or the dust bunnies under the bed pile up, live with overwhelm every day.

The good news is that overwhelm is not a reality but rather a sequence of thoughts that may or may not correspond to the truth. See if any of these thoughts are familiar to you...

"I'll never get it all done."
"There's too much pressure."
"There's not enough time."
"I don't have enough energy for this."
"I can't say no to that invitation, I have an obligation to attend."
"No one has time to help me."
"I must be really incompetent."
"I can't take this anymore."

To-do lists, setting priorities, memory boosting exercises, color-coded files, pop-up computer reminders...we can master all of the practical self-management techniques in the world, but if we don't examine the root of the feeling of overwhelm, we can be totally organized and on top of everything and still feel like the living dead. It is not the tasks at hand that exhaust and confuse us, but our thoughts about them.

When you are absolutely sure that you are overwhelmed, it may serve you to find a belief behind your stress, write it down and hold that thought up against the four questions of The Work of Byron Katie:

1. Is it true?
"I'll never get it done." "Never" is a strong word. Is this judgment accurate? Can you know what will happen in the future?

2. Can you absolutely know that it's true?
"Absolutely not" is how you feel in the moment, perhaps. And can you think of a time in your life or career when you were under the gun and were sure you could not come through...and you did?

3. How do you react when you believe that thought?
When I believe "I'll never get it done," it can become a self-fulfilling prophesy. The thought itself is so overwhelming that it overwhelms everything. I get very little done, even the easy stuff, because I'm obsessing on the "impossible." When I do this, everything continues to pile up and I'm left with a huge mess and a hugely messy brain filled with other energy-zapping beliefs such as "I'm a failure," or unrealistic pronouncements such as "This shouldn't be so difficult," or resentments like "Other people don't have to do as much as I do." I tell you truly, none of these thoughts has ever contributed to my productivity! To paraphrase Descartes: "I think I can't, therefore I can't."

4. Who would you be without this thought?
I would do what's in front of me...return the first phone call, wash the first dish, open the letter on the the top of the pile, dust one piece of furniture at a time, write the article one word at a time. Once I get started on those "impossible" tasks, often I'm surprised to discover that they seem to get themselves done. There's a momentum that operates in spite of my learned opinion that the job at hand is overwhelming.

Turn the thought around.
"I'll never get it done" reverses to "I'll always get it done." Could this be as true or truer? It has been just as true in my experience.

If you've taken the trip with me so far, I invite you to keep going. Find three genuine examples from your own life of how you've moved through apparent overwhelm, in spite of adverse circumstances and crippling beliefs.

Do this inner Work, as Byron Katie says, not with an agenda to "fix" the situation, but for the love of truth. If you think you don't have time to do The Work when you already have so much to do, question that! What consumes more of your time and energy: examining your beliefs, or letting them run your life?

Deepening Transformational Inquiry: The One On Top

1. "Deal with the one on top."

Not enough time to do it all? You could be right, so address the one project or concern that gives you the most anxiety...even if it's not the one that is due first. It could be that your thoughts about "the one on top" are preventing you from efficiently handling everything else. Once you make a dent in that particular "must do," you may find yourself freer to deal with other responsibilities.

2. "Clean up your mess."
A messy mind equals a messy life. Look around you. Are your environment, your relationships and your body in good working order? "I don't have time to go through my files/go to the gym/go to the dentist/get the copy machine fixed/have that long-overdue holiday lunch with the department/plan a much-needed weekend getaway with my wife." It could be that you don't have time NOT to do those things..or you don't have the luxury to ignore that which is screaming for your attention and taking away valuable mental energy.

3. "XYZ"--eXamine Your Zingers.

What are the self-defeating thoughts that keep you from fulfilling your intentions? Write them down and question yourself about them honestly.

Perhaps your issue is, "I can't concentrate." Let's concentrate on that issue. Is it true that you can't concentrate? Can you find ways that you do successfully concentrate? (Helping your child with her homework, reading and answering your e-mail, preparing a special meal.) Can you find a time in your life when it was easy to concentrate, prior to this belief? What was it like? How did you deal with distractions? What were you doing at the time to take care of yourself? How do you treat yourself, your family, friends, employees or clients when you think the thought "I can't concentrate" and you believe it? Notice how resistance begets more resistance.

How would you function right now if you did not believe this thought, "I can't concentrate?" What would you do first? How would you approach the "to do"list differently than you have up until now? How would that feel to you?

©2006 by Carol L. Skolnick. All rights reserved.

August 3, 2006

Barometric Pressure

If you've ever heard a weather report, you know that a barometer is a device used to measure atmospheric pressure, which determines if it's going to be a "nice" day or not. The word "barometer" is also used for anything that indicates fluctuations of all sorts. A poll is a barometer of public opinion, for example, while test scores are a barometer of knowledge.

Our friends, families, partners, clients, supervisors, employees, colleagues and every other sentient being in the galaxy are our "belief barometers." They show us exactly how we treat people and how we, ourselves expect to be treated. In the course of a day, we interact with others (if only in our minds) and the interaction results in a feeling. In the case of an uncomfortable feeling, the feeling is a signal (and sometimes a warning siren) that something is off-kilter in our thinking.

When the belief-barometric pressure is high, it's time to examine our thoughts. For example, you may experience a certain business associate as intractable. Good! This means your belief-barometer is in working order.

What is the erroneous belief you are attaching to? It may be, "She should not bat away every suggestion I make."

There are at least three ways to apply inquiry to this belief statement.

1. She should not bat away suggestions.
2. She bats away every suggestion I make.
3. People should listen to me.

If we're looking at "She should not bat away suggestions," the first question to ask "Is it true that she should not bat away suggestions?" What is the reality of it? She is batting them away, according to you, whether or not you believe she ought to be doing it. What can you do now? If you think she should accept your suggestions gratefully and with grace, you are at war with her and with the truth of what is happening now. Consider what this war affects the way you conduct business. How do you treat her, your clients, your vendors, your direct reports or your boss when you think they should not have opinions of their own? How do you approach them in meetings or on conference calls? Do you expect that they will resist? And what is your protective response when you have that expectation? What armor do you wear?

Another way in: "She bats away every suggestion I make." Is that really true? Every single suggestion? Can you find an instance where she listened to you? Conversely, can you remember a time that you did not follow her suggestion? How about the suggestion that she would like a different suggestion than the one you provided? We think it's easy for others to follow our suggestions, and yet, when this standard is reversed...not so easy!

"People should listen to me." As Byron Katie might ask, "On what planet!?" Dogs bark, cats meow and sometimes people appear not to listen. How do you treat your clients, your assistant, your spouse, your kids when you hold this belief? Does it feel a little arrogant...a bit uncomfortable, even when you are the victor?

People who don't listen are a most excellent barometer. If we're annoyed, they let us know that it's time to check the pressure gauge inside of us. When it's foul weather inside, we can do The Work of looking at the relationship honestly. And once the inner elements are in tune, we can continue to communicate and interact with other people from a clear perspective. At least one of us will be listening...the one who truly needs to.

Deepening Transformational Inquiry: Watching Your Belief Barometer

1. We've seen how other people are barometers of our own beliefs. This week, take note when you feel reactive towards others. What is the "underlying belief" beneath the feeling of discomfort, annoyance, or anger? "I want..." "I need..." "they should..." "they shouldn't..." "they are..." "they aren't..." "I refuse to..."

2. "If I think they need to change, I need to change." Think of someone you work with or live with who could use your advice. Write an "if...then my life would be much better" statement about this person. Example:

"If so-and-so did thus and such, then..." what would you have? Make a list and question each statement thoroughly. For example, "If Sheila took my advice, she would triple her business this year, and then I would have a satisfied client, more contracts, etc." Can you absolutely know that Sheila would triple her business? Is it true that, even if her business tripled, she'd be happier with you, and you with her? Can you absolutely know that increasing her revenues would bring you more clients?

3. "It only takes one for closure." Examine your toughest work or life relationship with an open mind. Ask yourself what your part is in any misfires or misunderstandings (It might be a whole lot, or less than 1%; can you find it?) You may even want to tell them what you found out about you and ask how you can make it right between you. Does it feel more expansive inside of you to let them -- and you -- off the hook?

©2006 by Carol L. Skolnick. All rights reserved.

July 25, 2006

Goldilocks, the Two Bears and the Master of Nonduality

Once upon a time there were three bears...

A Papa bear...
A Mama bear...
And a bear with Beginner's Mind.

The three bears apparently sat down to have breakfast one morning. Papa Bear declared, "My chair is too hard."

Mama Bear sat in her seat and complained, "My chair is too soft."

And the open-minded little Baby Bear who attached to no such concepts as "too hard" or "too soft," happily pronounced his little chair to be "just right."

The bears shifted their attention (for that is what mind does) to the bowls of cooked cereal that lay before them.

Papa Bear declared, "My porridge is too hot!"

Mama Bear tried hers. "My porridge is too cold!"

Baby Bear, whose understanding was prior to the world of opposites which is the world of suffering, had no such polarity of mind. "My porridge is just right," he said, totally loving what is.

Stunned by that koan, the ursine elders stopped eating and their attention moved to taking a walk. Imprisoned in the "I-Know" mind, they hoped that when they returned, things would be more to their liking. And Little Bear ambled along behind them, in flow, completely in the Now.

While they were gone, life happened, as it is wont to do. Goldilocks, who was making her way through the dense forest of her beliefs, had the stressful thought that she was tired and hungry, and attaching to that thought, she compromised her integrity by breaking and entering the bears' home. Her belief in "fatigue" led her to the bears' chairs. She found Papa Bear's chair to be too hard, and Mama Bear's chair to be too soft. Mind's job is to be right, and Goldilocks did not know how to question what she believed. Had she done so, she might have realized she was not tired at all, since a truly tired person would have gratefully sunken into any chair. Alas, she who knows, knows not. So the unknowning Goldilocks, who "knew" that Baby Bear's chair was the one for her, sat in it and broke it.

Suddenly forgetting all about her fatigue, her thoughts turned to food. Rather than welcoming and feeling the sensation of hunger or investigating the thought prior to the feeling, she un-mindfully tucked into Papa Bear's porridge. As she did so, she felt her mouth on fire and, like Papa Bear before her, christened the cereal "too hot." The whole world might agree, and yet she did not ask herself if it were true; thus, she suffered.

Goldilocks moved to Mama Bear's porridge, which she found to be too cold. So many conditions! Was she hungry or not? No matter, for Goldilocks was at war with reality, convinced that there was something better than This Now. Holding that belief, she polished off Little Bear's "just right" porridge and called it wisdom.

Sated (for the moment, because the feeling of fullness would soon pass and the wheel of samsara would spin once more), Goldilocks remembered that she believed she was tired and she moved to the bears' bedroom. She found Papa Bear's bed to be too hard (was she tired or not?), and Mama Bear's bed to be too soft (too soft to support her body? Too soft to be a bed? Too soft in this moment? Nothing exists that is not Shiva, except for this bed???). The last stop was Baby Bear's little bed, and the I-Know mind, needing proof and running out of alternatives, deemed it "just right." Soon Goldilocks, already asleep, was asleep in a different way, dreaming a different kind of dream but no less of a dream than the waking one.

Soon afterwards, the Bear Family returned to their ransacked home. Papa Bear growled, "Someone's been sitting in my chair." Could he absolutely know this was true? It wasn't the way he remembered having left it, and mind is an unreliable narrator. On borrowed interest, Mama Bear said, "Someone's been sitting in my chair!" This brought her the strange satisfaction of agreement, which only serves to validate the ego...until the first argument, that is. Then the story changes to "My husband doesn't understand me," "I want a divorce," and "Who keeps the house?"

Baby Bear, noticing his broken chair, exclaimed, "Somebody's been sitting in my chair (true enough, for he had sat in it himself just prior to leaving their home), and it's broken!" (Which it was, in the sense of relative reality where things are said to be broken or whole.)

Then Papa Bear looked into his bowl of porridge. "Somebody has been eating my porridge," he roared. ("Who is it who has been eating what?" He neglected to ask himself, in all innocence. We all would ask these questions if only we knew how.) An adherent of Bear Lore, Mama Bear repeated his mantra, "Somebody has been eating my porridge!" Baby Bear, seeing that his bowl was empty, had no proof that his portion of porridge had in fact been eaten all up or that it had ever existed in the first place. However, out of kindness, he spoke as if he too believed in the illusion, because true Love joins with its mirror image. Between "porridge" and "not porridge," Baby Bear's life flowed peacefully. It was not for him to push others beyond their evolution.

Not so with his parents. They proceeded to the bedroom, still wanting to be right. Papa Bear, noticing his quilt was askew, accused someone of having slept in his bed, though in fact no one had; Goldilocks had only tested it out and found it lacking. Mama Bear, too, was taken in by the world of appearance and exclaimed, "Someone's been sleeping in MY bed!"

The little Baby Bear, fully awake, said, "Someone's been sleeping in my bed (the sleep of the one who lives in the dream) and here she is!" The wise little bear had no problem with there being someone in his bed; he was simply making an observation. What is, is. And in fact there she was, the Someone in that bed, in that moment...but only in that moment for in the next moment she took off like a shot, frightened out of her wits because she believed her thoughts about bears. ("Bears are dangerous;" meanwhile she was the intruder, the thief, the destroyer of chairs.)

Goldilocks told the story of her "narrow escape" far and wide, and that story has been told over and again ever since as if it really happened as she perceived it. In that way she created her reality as a victim, in danger, who emerged victorious as a hero. And the bears? We could say they carried on with their lives, but since no one observed them and came back to tell us, that would be just another fairy tale.

©2006 by Carol L. Skolnick. All rights reserved. (Is that true?)

July 1, 2006

Relationship Troubles? "You're Just Not That Into You!"

(Note: This book review is over a year old and was never published. I put it here to encourage you to read Byron Katie's unsung second book. Very different stylistically from Loving What Is,it is nonetheless extremely powerful. I found myself on every page and could hardly talk to anyone for a couple of weeks, so aware was I of dishonesty and manipulation in my actions and communications, romantic and otherwise. —CS)

I Need Your Love—Is That True?
How to Stop Seeking Love, Approval, and Appreciation
and Start Finding Them Instead

by Byron Katie
written with Michael Katz
Harmony Books, April 2005 , 288 pages, $24.00

While reading Byron Katie's new book, I was reminded of a Hindu teaching story about a monk who yearned for a vision of the Divine Mother. For many years he prayed, worshiped and performed so many austerities that he became self-realized and forgot about his quest. It was only then that the deity finally revealed herself to the monk, who regarded this miracle with the same peaceful equanimity in which he had been living for some time. Already merged in her supreme love, he no longer needed to see the Goddess' form. Why, then, did she wait so long to appear? She didn't; she was always there. Until the monk came to know his own divine nature, he was unable to see her.

Similarly, in the provocatively titled I Need Your Love—Is That True?—a book of revelations cleverly disguised as a relationship guide—Byron Katie writes: "Without the stressful thoughts that separate us from one another, there is only one mind, and it's everywhere. Bodies can't be connected....There's no point in trying, because you're already connected. You can only connect with yourself and find that out."

Not too many relationship experts will ask you to question the very existence of your partner; it's not the kind of strategy that sells self-help books. But in a sense, that's exactly what Byron Katie, author of the best-seller Loving What Is, proposes in her latest offering. And why not? If the endless proliferation of psycho-spiritual guides is any indication, no one else has succeeded in providing us with a proven formula for having a happy life and finding the perfect partner. Furthermore, Katie is famous for saying that she doesn't have the answers at all, just the questions. Therein lies the difference: self-realization—emphasis on "self"—is a much easier way of relating to others than manipulation, people-pleasing or isolation.

In fact, we don't relate to people, Byron Katie tells us, but to our thoughts about them...and it is our thoughts with which we manipulate ourselves when we try to impress, attract, seduce and control. With Katie's simple process of self-inquiry, called The Work, we question what we believe about others in order to get what we have always wanted...from ourselves.

"My mother didn't love me." "My girlfriend shouldn't leave me." "My husband wants too much sex." Thoughts like these depress us and keep us jumping through hoops to please others; we end up making war, not love when we don't get the desired results. Ironically, Katie points out, the struggle to win people over (or to bend them to our will) makes it nearly impossible to experience the love and support we most want, not just in romance but all relationships—familial, convivial and professional.

Katie's first book, Loving What Is (Harmony Books 2002) is an eye-opening guide to self-knowledge through The Work, a sequence of four simple life-changing questions followed by a thought-reversal technique called a "turnaround." (The Work is so simple, in fact, that our complexity-loving minds find it easy to dismiss.) I Need Your Love–Is That True? stands on the shoulders of Loving What Is by applying Katie's self-inquiry technique to the stress-inducing beliefs we hold dear about the people to whom we are closest. Through real-life examples of people doing inquiry on their objections about their loved ones, Katie shows us how we live when we dwell in a world of unfulfilled needs, wants and shoulds...while pointing us towards a way out of that hell.

For the willing, using Katie's process can rock your world...but even just reading her pronouncements can stop the mind dead in its "I know" tracks. Katie has a way of sneaking in the Great Truths of the Ages when speaking of the most mundane things, such as whether or not husbands and children should pick up their socks. If you read I Need Your Love with an open mind—whether or not you do The Work or play with the easy and enjoyable exercises sprinkled throughout the book—you may find yourself questioning everything you've ever said, every move you've ever made to secure love, approval and appreciation from lovers and other strangers.

That's one of those Great Truths that are so easy to miss when we're focused on the socks on the floor (or on money, sex, or your favorite "need-want-should"): our loved ones are strangers. They have to be, because they are our projection in the moment, and the projection changes based on whether or not we are pleased with it. On every page of I Need Your Love, Katie demonstrates how questioning our most stressful projections (we get to keep the peaceful ones) results in knowing our partners (and ourselves) as we never have nor could before. (Think of the Goddess vision.)

If this sounds like spiritual woo-woo, the proof is in the process and its founder. I Need Your Love—Is That True? is based on Katie's own experience—and that of hundreds of thousands of people who use The Work—of meeting thoughts with understanding. Katie's life story, briefly recounted in the book's introduction, is compelling: marriage and family life, successful business, all's well...followed by many years of crippling bed-ridden depression, addictions, agoraphobia, rage, paranoia, hitting bottom and then a depth-charge when Katie realized she no longer had to attach to every dictate and opinion of the mind...that finding one's own truth is the end of suffering. Katie's "moment of clarity" as she calls it sounds a lot like the Buddha's awakening, but it happened in a Mojave desert backwater to a woman with no religion, teacher or interest in the midst of a familiar-sounding American life story. And, as Katie experienced, your teacher is the one you're living with. That s/he doesn't give you love, approval and appreciation is part of the divine teaching. "People go to India to find a guru," Katie says, "but you don't have to....Your partner will give you everything you need for your own freedom."

"What could anyone call me that I couldn't find at some time in my life? If you say one single thing that I have the urge to defend, that thing is the very pearl waiting inside me to be discovered."

Katie's Work is a surgery and in I Need Your Love—Is That True? she dispenses with the anesthesia and wastes no time in asking us, "Do you believe everything you think?" As anyone who has ever lain awake at night knows, we don't even think our own thoughts; they're rather like the CNN ticker, always going, ever-changing, about the lover, the wife's lover, the boss, George W. Bush, Uncle Bill. Believing our thoughts may give us the illusion of being right, but at what price? And while the mind loves to be right, it also loves to be understood. This is why Katie's written inquiry method (visit online for a complete overview)—in which you privately sound off on your partner, on paper, in order to learn about yourself—can change your life if you let it, but it is not for the squeamish. It is for those who are ready to know the truth.

What is the worst that could happen if you follow Katie's lead? "Won't I become complacent?" you may ask, or "What if my partner leaves?" One of the remarkable things about I Need Your Love is the way Katie addresses every possible objection to merciless mental investigation, honest communication and living authentically in relationship. In one of the more radical passages, she says:

I can close my eyes and see my husband in the arms of a woman loving him, and I want that if it's what he wants, and I also see my life without him and how full that would be. I always have an abundance of love in my life. Everyone does. There is never a shortage and never too much.

Sometimes Katie asks us to do what seems unimaginable...for example, to picture how life might actually be better if our children died. "Be a traitor to misery," she says. "There's nothing macabre about this. The point is to break the grip of a fearful belief." We make pronouncements all the time about how we cannot go we can't take anymore...and when we believe this, it becomes our reality. "Is that true?" Katie asks, inviting us to get very literal and realistic. "Are you still breathing?"

As for criticism, Katie says, it's a gift...and if it hurts, they're right. "What could anyone call me that I couldn't find at some time in my life?" she asks. "If you say one single thing that I have the urge to defend, that thing is the very pearl waiting inside me to be discovered."

However, Katie never condones staying in an unhappy or abusive union; she simply suggests ending it as a sane person. "Whether you stay in or leave a relationship, there are always two ways to do it," Katie writes. "One way is in peace, with love; the other is at war, with anger and blame." Which do you prefer?

Simply put, I Need Your Love—Is That True? is for people who don't follow The Rules, don't live on Mars or Venus and who prefer being themselves to using sales techniques for winning friends and influencing people. Katie's Work takes the drama and mystery out of living happily on a planet populated with apparent others; it results in a kinder, gentler way to exist, sans neediness and insecurity, deception-free. In the end, as the fabled monk discovered, mature and authentic relating is all about you, and that doesn't mean that your God or Goddess won't come. "When you have that sweet relationship with yourself," Katie tells us, "your partner is an added pleasure. It's over-the-top grace."

©2005 by Carol L. Skolnick; all rights reserved.