March 26, 2007

Puppetji Debunks The Secret

I've just had "socksang" with Puppetji, a wise and funny sock puppet swami. If you really want to know the truth, in addition to doing The Work, I recommend sitting with this bad boy/great well as my Aunt B (see below).

©2007 by Carol L. Skolnick. All rights reserved.

March 22, 2007

You're Not a Success...Is That True?

There's a new blog game in town and I've been tagged again (by Mona). I really like this one, the "simply successful secrets" meme.

What makes you successful on a daily basis?

As Mona noted, when we speak of success, it doesn't necessarily have to mean financial success...although that is what came to my mind first, along with all the yeahbuts ("Well, I can pay the bills because I sold a home last year, but that doesn't make me a financial success!") I had a huge list of things I could be doing daily, think I ought to be doing and don't do (such as exercising, organizing my expense receipts, writing and working on an entire Judge-Your-Neighbor worksheet)...but that wasn't the assignment and also we could be here all day discussing that!

In addition, I thought of a lot of success-oriented things that I don't do every day and don't need to (such as post blog entries). It was harder to come up with five "everyday" items until I sat with this question for awhile.

1. I stay in touch with friends and loved ones.
I live and work alone, so whether it is writing an email, making a phone call, seeing people socially or in the street, I reach out to at least one "significant other" each day. (I consider my clients my friends and loved ones too, so they count!) A day without communication feels incomplete to I never have one.

2. I get out of bed. If you have ever been depressed, you know this is no small thing. For years it was a very big deal to emerge from under the covers. I'd wake up and think to myself, "Oh, God," and because I was so burdened with my thoughts, I didn't get out of the bed until I absolutely had to. On the rare occasions that the "Oh, God" thing happens these days, I still get out of bed because I realize I'm believing what I think...and it's time to do The Work. So I'm very successful, each day, at jump-starting my life soon after I open my eyes.

3. I breathe. Those of you who are asthmatic know this is no small thing either! And I am grateful for each inhalation and exhalation. I like to take a few minutes each day to focus quietly on this miracle that, until I had my first asthma attack, I took for granted.

4. I take at least one hot shower each day. It wakes me up, it's soothing, my body unstiffens and even if none of the above were true, I just enjoy being very clean. I shower even when I'm sick and barely able to stand; sponge baths don't cut it.

5. I read something uplifting before I go to sleep. It might be a chapter of a memoir, a passage from a "spiritual" book, a poem, a lovely email from a might even be something I've written myself.

Byron Katie says,
"We do only three things: we stand, we sit, we lie horizontal. When you're successful, you'll still be sitting somewhere....What is success? You want the three-thousand-dollar chair, not the ninety-nine-dollar one? Well, sitting is sitting....Without a story, I'm successful wherever I am. I know how to stand, sit, and lie down."

Me too.

If you are reading this and you have your own blog, consider yourself "tagged." If you don't have your own blog and you're a registered user of Blogger, I invite you to use the comment section to post your own five "daily success secrets."

©2007 by Carol L. Skolnick. All rights reserved.

My Guru, Aunt B.

One of my Hin-Jew or Jew-Bu brethren (the quote has been attributed both to Ram Dass and Jack Kornfeld) once said "If you think you're enlightened, go spend a week with your family." I've never thought I was enlightened, but I have believed I had a pretty good handle on myself after years of working with inquiry. I'd like to attribute my (hopefully temporary) insanity to perimenopause, but I can't in all honesty not see my very conscious and deliberate part in the folie a deux I was living last week. Or, more accurately, the folie a une and that une would be moi.

My kind, innocent, loving, fun-loving and (for me) hard to live with 80-year-old Aunt B. came to stay for a week and I projected both "mother" and "child" all over her almost from the moment she set foot in my crackerbox-sized apartment. (Note to self: no more week-long visitors until I get a larger living space.) As she proceeded to take up "too much" space, make "too much" noise at night when I wanted to sleep, break things, almost break things, ask for things (I heard her requests as demands), comment on the way I do things (I heard her comments as criticism...and how dare she, after all I'd done to make great plans, stock up on good food, clean my house, spend big bucks and do without in order to ensure her comfort and pleasure—and, um, her approval and appreciation of me), I developed a list of shoulds and shouldn'ts that I never thought I'd believe the likes of again...and I hate confessing all this here.

I further confess, dear readers, that I did not do any writing of The Work while Aunt B. was with me...not simply because it was difficult to get a moment of privacy (I could have gotten up earlier, stayed up later, taken a "walk," gone into the bathroom), but because I was right! (That old-time religion.) Of course she shouldn't drive 75 miles an hour on the corkscrew-like Highway 17...or at all, if I had any say about it, since we had a parking lot fender bender the day after she arrived, she doesn't signal for turns, she doesn't look when she's backing up and she can't see well enough to park properly. (Not having a driver's license myself, I have never been a backseat driver...until last week.)

Of course she shouldn't tell me how to cook in my own home—sheesh! Naturally she should not break my $60 glass lotus tchotchke. Of course she ought not to blast the TV and keep the lights on at 1 a.m. to read when she's dozing off and not even watching the tube or reading the magazine (and snoring too!). When I tell her not to wear shoes in my place, not to wash dishes if she can't tolerate using the hot water and not to close the bathroom doors when she's showering because I'm very allergic and not doing these simple things that I ask breeds deadly allergens...she should comply, damn it. Oh, and when she chats with a very kind and helpful state park docent whose nephew is a dancer in the New York City ballet, where Aunt B. has a ticket subscription...she soooo totally should not say, "So let me ask you the obvious he gay?"

How do I react when I believe these thoughts? I am nasty as hell; you could say verbally abusive. (At one point I told her—yelled it, actually—that she was the world's worst house guest, which really hurt her feelings.) I try to micromanage her life. I'm resentful, touchy, scared to death...and when I get scared, it comes out as mean and grouchy. I see her as inconsiderate, self-involved, high-maintenance, childish, not too bright. (Great turnarounds for me, especially regarding her.) I pretend I'm being generous but I deny her what she wants, things that would have been so easy to give her if I hadn't been resenting her the whole time. I eat too much, drink too much coffee, drink too much alcohol. (For me, one drink is too much alcohol; any amount affects my body and moods adversely. But Aunt B. loves her daily drink and I was "keeping her company." Yeah, right.)

Here's the truth: she said things like, "How long are you going cook that egg?!! I don't boil them, I heat the water first and then take it off the stove," etc. Is that criticism? Only if you are touchy like me and take everything personally.

Here's more truth: I don't really know if she broke the glass lotus; I only know that before she arrived, all the petals were intact; after she arrived, one was off, and her perfume bottle was next to it. It could have fallen off; it can easily be glued back, but boy did I give her a lecture about needing her to be more mindful in such a small space as this. Meanwhile, I could be more mindful and put things away that I don't want broken.

About the driving thing...Aunt B. shouldn't drive? Well, I knew that if I invited her, she'd want to rent a car, because it's not easy getting in, around and out of Santa Cruz without one. And I'd been in a fender-bender with her two years ago. Why did I say yes to this? (For one thing, I like being driven around, it's a rare occurance in my life these days.) Who is the one who is not mindful? (Rhetorical question.) Aunt B. should not drive, turned around: I should not drive...when she's driving. And, as my friend Anil sagely pointed out this morning when I was working with that statement, I should not drive Aunt B. crazy. Guilty as charged. (Although she never got crazy, despite my best efforts. She's amazing.)

When my clients are hard on themselves, I ask them if they were doing the best they could with what they had going on at the time; they can almost always answer in the affirmative. I am having a hard time at the moment seeing this for myself. Aunt B., however, took me into her arms on Sunday night when I was losing it, crying and mentally beating myself, after I'd been a total horror show all day and pretty much every day prior to that. She told me that in a few days she would remember only the good things about our visit: the giant redwoods, the two movies we caught in town, the show in San Francisco, the fabulous lunch at Chez Pannisse, our morning coffee (I make really good coffee), my extraordinarily comfortable bed...and that, no matter what, she loved me.

The following morning I made a little practice of observing Aunt B. without my story. If she were not who I say she is, would it annoy me that she is doing or saying this now? If I trusted that all is well and we were not in charge of this thing called life, would I be so terrified and tense in the car with her? If she were, say, Byron Katie, would I care if we were running late? Wouldn't I think it was cute that she was talking to me while one or the other of us was going to the bathroom...or that she wanted her coffee served exactly in this certain "high-maintenance" way...or that she asked "embarrassing" or "outrageous" questions?

I don't know what-all happened to me last week, how I could be so very insane, observe it all happening and not be able to stop myself. What I know for sure is that Aunt B. is a great teacher. As I watched her pull out of the garage on her way back to San Francisco airport, she bumped into the curb as she made the turn. My body tensed up just as it had while we were in the car together, speeding and tailgating and making sudden stops on curvy mountain roads. And then I realized whose business I was in mentally...that I was believing I knew best how and when anyone should die...that the entire week had been about the suffering that comes when we believe there are such things as a you, a me, a future.

It's a beginning.

©2007 by Carol L. Skolnick. All rights reserved.

March 12, 2007

Balancing Your "Secret" LOA Portfolio

Molly Gordon's article is the smartest explanation I've seen of how Law of Attraction works and why hypey abundance vehicles and teachers don't quite cut it in the long run. The key is what money managers have always known: balance and leverage.

Molly writes:
"In physics and metaphysics, no fulcrum = no leverage. If you can’t repay a loan, you won’t profit from borrowing money. Push on a stick without a fulcrum, and, at best, you sink the stick in the mud.

"If you rely on the Law of Attraction to produce results without grounding your vision in current reality, no amount of positive thinking or visualization will be sufficient to get what you want."

So how do we ground ourselves in current reality? By noticing how we avoid responsibility for our own success or failure and by questioning the thoughts that contribute to avoidance. No amount of positive thinking has ever made my bookkeeping mess disappear, but inquiring into my stressful thoughts about it allows me to organize the pile of papers...if not exactly joyously (I'm convinced my left brain is the size of a pea), then at least with no resentment. (For me, the joy comes later; I feel so accomplished when my desk is in order!). When we clean up our minds, we are freer to clean up our lives, our businesses, our bodies. We leverage our strengths and we have more of a chance of getting what we want. That old saying, "God helps those that help themselves" turned out to be true; self-effort brings about awareness of the grace that is always freely given.

As Byron Katie says, "Just when you think your life can't get any better, it does. It has to; it's a law." For me that is the true Law of Attraction; "loving what is." I notice that when I live in happiness and gratitude, I am more proactive in doing the needful and my happiness and gratitude increase. When I am aware that I have everything I need and more in the moment, oftentimes more comes, unbidden.

This is not an attitude that can be or needs to be cultivated with vigilance; it's so much easier than that. Awareness borne out of the love of truth deepens as we practice self-inquiry. There is no need, as certain teachers of abundance suggest, to "fake it till you make it" or "act as if" because we already are what we seek, we already have what we believe we lack. After that, everything is a gift, even that which we think we don't want.

I love the legend Molly recounts in her article about the Tibetan saint Milarepa and his acceptance of the demons of greed, anger and fear. It is as Rumi said in his poem, "The Guesthouse" (as translated by Coleman Barks in The Essential Rumi):

The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.

Be grateful for whatever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

There is another story I like to tell, about a monk who longed for a vision of the Divine Mother. He used spiritual LOA techniques—many years of severe yogic austerities. Instead of getting the vision he desired, he got enlightened instead and realized that everything he had ever wanted—plus things he didn't even know to ask for, riches greater than his mind could fathom—lived within him and always had.

Soon afterwards, the Goddess, who was very pleased with the monk, appeared to him in a dazzling vision. The monk was awestruck and grateful, his heart filled with divine love. Then he became momentarily puzzled.

"Oh Mother," the monk asked, "Why have you appeared to me now when I no longer need you?"

She answered, "My beloved son, I have appeared to you now because you no longer need me."

©2007 by Carol L. Skolnick. All rights reserved.

March 9, 2007

The Work on "I Will Never Become Enlightened"

I will never become enlightened.

Is it true?
I don't know. I don't even really know what enlightenment means.

Can I absolutely know that it's true that I will never become enlightened?

No; I gather one doesn't get to choose how, when and if it happens. So it could happen, if enlightenment even exists.

How do I react when I believe this thought?
I become saddened and discouraged whenever I am reactive and "unenlightened" (like today). I read accounts of "awakening" and I feel that I am so far from anything like illuminated that it is hopeless; I can't even imagine living out of this mindset. I compare myself unfavorably with those who appear to be awake to their "true nature," whatever that is. I am jealous and not a little mistrustful of those who teach about this state of oneness and illumination; if it is so natural, why can't I have it or be it right now?

I live in longing for something that to me, right now, is unreal. I don't love my "unenlightened" life or self.

When I have short-lived glimpses of what seems to be awakened awareness, I mourn for those moments afterwards. Or I become cynical; I tell myself that wasn't "it," and that maybe there is no such thing.

When I think this thought and I believe it, I'm no fun to be around. I'm in God's business. I experience increased stress, physical fatigue and am more aware of physical limitations than I normally am. I feel lonely and lost.

I hold this belief because it gives me an escape clause. I don't have to be dedicated to understanding myself. I get an excuse to play harder (which is not playing at all), to get lost in the world of emotions, to backtrack to what is comfortable.

But I also get such a deep sense of sadness and separation.

Who would I be without this thought?
I would inquire into my stressful beliefs and love the deepening and quickening that results. I would not worry about the future. I would love my "enlightened" moments and be gentle with myself the rest of the time.

I would revel in the beautiful descriptions I read of awakened awareness. And I would realize that I love those accounts because they reflect what is already true for me, what I already know and where I occasionally live.


I will always become enlightened.
This thought could be just as true. Byron Katie says, "You don't wake up forever; it's now. Now. Now." There is no future. Enlightenment occurs each time suffering is met with sanity, each time a stressful belief is revealed to be a lie.

I will never become unenlightened.
That feels truer than my original statement. As the old story goes, that snake is really a rope when we look closely. And once the truth is glimpsed, even if momentarily forgotten, the rope can never again be believed to be a snake.

I feel a bit closer now to being enlightened about what enlightenment is...even though my work's not done.

©2007 by Carol L. Skolnick. All rights reserved.

March 8, 2007

He's Free! And We Are Being Served

John Inman, a.k.a. Mr. Humphries on the 1970s BBC comedy show "Are You Being Served?" passed away today. He was 71 years old. I have long adored this talented actor and his hilarious portrayal of a campy, sweet natured department store menswear clerk.

Inman's cheerful, breezy rendition of the simple line, "I'm free!" became a catchphrase among "Are You Being Served?" fans.

I'd like this to be my own catchphrase, one day. And to serve as this lovely man continues to do. Rest in peace, Mr. Humphries. As his elderly boss "Young" Mr. Grace might say, "You've done very well!"

©2007 by Carol L. Skolnick. All rights reserved.

March 6, 2007

Pride...or Protection?

(Note: if you are an independent professional and do not receive Robert Middleton's newsletter, More Clients, my story is that you should! Check out his website, Action Plan Marketing and sign up!)

This week, in a newsletter entitled "Too Proud to Market?" InfoGuru Marketing founder Robert Middleton wrote about members of a folk-rock band who are reluctant to take time during their restaurant and club gigs to promote their availability for events and parties. They are not as busy as they could be and would like to play at more private events, which pay twice as much as what they usually earn; however they don't want to come across as crassly commercial or as needing more work.

Robert noted that many independent professionals (I daresay the rest of us, too) grapple with this same issue. One excuse for not marketing is to think, "If I'm great, people will finally discover me." Robert pointed out that this could be a case of fragile self-image disguised as pride. In other words, if I say, "If I'm great, people will finally discover me," it could be a way to avoid the thought, "Since I haven't been discovered, it must mean I'm not so great." Or, "If I have to promote myself, how great could I be?" This mindset has never gotten anyone any new business (or a spouse, or other things that require being known).

It's true that if I'm not what I say I am, people will quickly discover that. Ultimately if I have a resistance to letting people know, "here I am and I'm available," it's less about pride and more being found out. Perish forbid you might think about me what I suspect may be true about me!

Even in the face of great feedback and results, we may doubt ourselves and fear that the world is going to confirm our doubts. If so, we may believe it is preferable to play it small and stay safely unknown.

How many highly successful people do you know who do not market themselves? If they didn't, we might not know about them. We may even assume they're not available to provide their services to us. ("This band is so good, they're probably booked up and most likely we can't afford them anyway. Let's find out who the wedding planner recommends.")

I have realized that when I don't go for things I say I want (like more clients, or a driver's license, or to get buff by summer), it's because I fear failure. Fear, as Byron Katie tells us, has only two causes: the belief that I will lose what I (think I) have, or that I will not get what I (think I) want.

So there are two self-defeating beliefs going on when I don't "go for it"; an assumption of failure...and a life put on hold, not fully lived with awareness, presence and joy because the mind has gone off into a story of the future where it scares itself. Not only do I not see that everything is perfectly okay right now; I don't see how perfectly okay everything always will be because I am invested in controlling how people see me, controlling the outcome of my efforts, controlling a future that doesn't exist.

In the wonderful new CD set Making Your Thoughts Work for You, recorded at a day-long event with Katie and Wayne Dyer in 2006, Dr. Dyer--who is coming from the mindset of "the power of intention"--says that when he spoke to Katie just prior to her corneal transplant surgery, she said she knew everything would be fine. He took that to mean that she can see now because she intended this to be so. Later in the recording, Katie elaborates that since she was already fine while in pain and not seeing that everything would be fine whether or not the controversial new procedure she had was a "success." Someone who is afraid of failure and attached to outcome might have delayed having the operation or avoided it altogether, waiting for something "safe" or "proven" to come along, putting one's life on hold. (As far as I know, they have not invented a toothpaste that is guaranteed to prevent cavities or the eventual loss of teeth. Should we stop brushing?)

So if I say I want something and then I don't go after it, it's a lie and it's going to feel stressful, because by holding myself back from what I know to do, I live in the realm of fear and desire. I'm already living without having what I say I want; what's the worst that could happen? Wasted effort? Can I know that? Who knows what's on the other side of "my" apparent path of action.

If it's disapproval or misconception that I fear, can I know that this would happen? Could it be that being upfront with others about what I want is simply clear communication? Might they appreciate the information, the forthrightness, the opportunity I present?

If I were so great everyone would know it; if I have to ask for what I want, it means I'm not worthy. Is that true?

Deepening Transformational Inquiry: "And It Means That"

If the aforementioned band members used The Work of Byron Katie to question their beliefs about marketing their band, they could play with making this list:

"People will think we need more work, and it means that _______ ." I invite everyone to try an applicable version of this exercise, which comes from Byron Katie's sourcebook for The Work, Loving What Is.

One thing we might write is "...and that means they will think we're not that good."

Is it true: Well, here's proof: "The great ones always get discovered." And they are always busy and never have to announce their availability. Really?

One person could discover how great you are...and maybe they have good reasons for not telling everyone else: it doesn't enter their mind to do it, or they think everyone knows this already, or they want to make sure you don't get too popular so that they can continue to have easy access to you. (If you've ever been to a really wonderful restaurant that is never very crowded, or you have found the world's best hairdresser and you're still able to get appointments with her, you know what
I'm talking about!)

"People will think we need more work, and it means that they won't want us (because we're not in demand.)" They won't want you if you're not in demand; is that true? Here I am, a customer in a restaurant, having a meal and really digging your music. In fact, I'm going to come back to this restaurant based on several factors: the food is good, the ambiance is lovely AND you're a featured player here. In fact, I'm only going to come back when I know your band is performing. And I happen to be part of a team at my company that is planning our upcoming holiday party. I have been asking around for recommendations for a band. I have resumes and sample CDs, but I don't have anything from you, so it may not come to me to hire you. If I find out you're available (i.e. not in demand), I'm delighted!

"People will think we need more work, and it means we can't charge what we're worth." Is it true? Have you even asked us what we think? How do you treat us, the potential clients, when you believe that thought? Are you already discounting your rates mentally before telling us what they are, and resenting us for not paying you top dollar? Are you embarrassed to tell us what your time is worth? And if you can't ask for what you're worth, do you even want this gig?

©2007 by Carol L. Skolnick. All rights reserved.

March 3, 2007

False Evidence Appearing Real

If you've ever attended a 12-step meeting, a satsang or a New Thought church service, you've likely heard that handy definition of fear: False Evidence Appearing Real. When I first heard that phrase, it was reassuring. For years I carried it around like a talisman to protect myself from feeling crippled by fear. Unfortunately, this didn't work!

Simply to say that fear isn't real is equal to saying that fear is real; it's another mental construct with no substance, no personal experience behind it. I didn't know the truth of this saying in my heart. The self-inquiry process of The Work—which I call Transformational Inquiry—allowed me to tap into the truth of this acronym.

The most frightening thing that can happen is a thought that frightens you; fear is the mind's habitual response to long-held beliefs. How do we know what's real and true? By questioning the thoughts that frighten us. If your child comes to you in the night in fear because there might be a monster in the closet, you don't say, "Your fear isn't real; go back to bed!" You take the child by the hand and look in the closet; nothing less than the truth will convince her. Similarly, in The Work, we take the mind by the hand, switch on a light and see what's really in the closet: clothes casting shadows, cobwebs in corners. If there's really a monster perhaps we can coax it out and tame it.

Today, when I feel afraid, I don't "hold my head erect and whistle a happy tune" ("For when I fool the people I fear I fool myself as well"—do you think Rodgers and Hammerstein recognized the irony of this?) I don't repeat self-soothing words to myself. Instead, I inquire to know what is real and what isn't.

Please join me on March 29 for an experiential hour of Transformational Inquiry with The Work of Byron Katie, an easy-to-learn, self-directed process of targeted questions and gentle reversals. Created by my dear, dear friend Byron Katie—formerly a homemaker and business woman from California who for many years experienced crippling rage and depression—The Work clears out the fears that no longer serve, enabling you to experience your core of courage, mental clarity, wisdom and joy.

There is no charge for this teleclass; long-distance charges may apply.

March 29, 2007
Fear Isn't Real: Discover Your Core of Courage with
The Work of Byron Katie

5:30 pm—6:30 pm PDT

For more information and registration, visit

Please note: this event is no longer affiliated with Professional Dreamer Week.

©2007 by Carol L. Skolnick; all rights reserved.

March 2, 2007

"We are the spoiled grandchildren of Ramana Maharshi." —Pamela Wilson

Dear Friends,

Ramana is beloved to many of us who came to The Work of Byron Katie from the practice of satsang. I hope you will enjoy this beautiful video of our spiritual grandfather from Shiva Bhakti Productions.


©2007 by Carol L. Skolnick; all rights reserved.