April 29, 2007

A Mind Like a Sticky Trap

Unlike the overpriced aeries of many other cliff-dwelling New Yorkers of my acquaintance, my small one-bedroom apartment in a non-luxury building had been blissfully free of bugs and other wildlife for most of the sixteen-or-so year I lived here. However, in 2004 when the housing market reached new heights, a lot of my neighbors were renovating what they had instead of buying up. Ripping out walls and such tends to stir things up in the bowels of a building...and soon I found myself with a very messy mouse for a roommate.

For awhile I thought I was going crazy because I heard things, but I had no evidence. Then I found my proof: sickening mounds of it, in and around my oven and under the toaster. Immediately I did a Lady MacBeth on the kitchen, cleaning everything with bleach, feeling nauseated and out of control of my life. How was I going to get rid of this beast I had never even seen, that I didn't especially want to see? I called my super; he said, "Not my job." I called the management company; they said, oh, yes, terrible, we can't wait for the exterminator, we'll talk to the super. Weeks later, no action had been taken. And while my cat, Amanda, was amused by and interested in our uninvited guest, she was no mouser. Meanwhile, every morning I would lie awake at night listening to this critter squeak and chew and scamper in the walls, and every morning I would clean up his messes.

I got my first glimpse of the little guy (first mistake: thinking of him as a "little guy" instead of a pest) late one night as he zoomed across the kitchen floor to get away from me. My cat used to hack up hairballs larger than this critter; he was minute. I had been obsessing over the tiniest thing...something as wee and innocent and yet all-consuming as...well, an obsessive thought. And my thoughts had been:

*There should not be a mouse in my apartment. (But of course there should be. There is!)
*Amanda should eat him. (Not my business.)
*I should not have to deal with this. (Well, no one else wants to...)
*Mice should not use my stove as a toilet. (Just as dogs should not bark, thieves should not steal, murderers should not murder, and terrorists should not terrorize, this is hopeless.)
*I don't want to dispatch the mouse. (And yet I don't want to share my living quarters with him so what's the use of thinking this way?)

Finally I went out and bought some sticky-traps, which I baited with the thing the mouse loved most: toast. And I dreaded checking the traps each day because I discovered I didn't want the mouse to die or suffer; I just wanted him to leave.

Some of my animal-loving friends got mad at me because of the traps. They wanted me to get the kind of cruelty-free contraption where you are left with a live mouse…which you then have to dispose of…meaning I could trap the little fellow and set it free, releasing it to find yet another apartment in which to spread its excrement.

Second mistake: naming my vermin. I began referring to the mouse as "Mickey." Sometimes I even thought of him fondly, he who besmirched my kitchen and tracked germs into my home. Truth be told, I was getting attached to him. Had he not been so destructive, if he had been tame and lived in a terrarium that someone else would clean, I might even have called it "love." I mean, I've had human relationships similar to this, such as messy boyfriends with apartments of their own; it's doable.

On a metaphysical note, the situation made me think of how we name and objectify everything, which is the beginning of separation from the totality of what is and, therefore, the origin of suffering. Not to mention what a waste of time and energy it is to expect anything or anyone will change just because that's what we want.

But I did have some responsibility to others in my building, who would not have appreciated being the beneficiaries of Mickey's long and healthy life (and probably offspring). Eventually I purchased one of those cruelty-free traps...although the mice I trapped tended to have heart attacks and die when I opened the lid, so I’m not sure about the cruelty-free part.

What if I had learned to co-exist with the Mickster? What if I had just treated him like a beloved husband with poor bathroom aim who always leaves his smelly socks on the bedroom floor...or a cherished child who won't wipe her feet before coming in the house, and insists on dribbling Cheerios all over the living room? Could it be that in my zeal to have my way, in my insistence on ownership of my apartment, that I missed out on The Perfect Love?

Yes, and…I notice I don't love undomesticated mice yet.

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

April 26, 2007

How Many Lives Have You Saved Today?

A friend sent me a great note today in response to my post on the Virginia Tech shootings.

"I would hope," Vilasini writes, "that if I could save others I would act on it.... Saving [lives] can be sending money to the poor, eating vegetables, giving loans to the poor, teaching others and the list could go on and on. We do count, and we all have been life-changers whether we are aware of it or not. I support your work and your role in saving lives."

The last line of this note surprised me. How does someone like me save lives? I've always seen myself as fear-based. The last time I stood up to an angry mob to defend someone, I was in the seventh grade, 37 years ago. The angry mob (four or five 12-year-old girls) followed me home from school that day and a couple of them threw me to the ground, punched and slapped me around and, if I remember correctly, bloodied my nose and bruised my ego. So I've never done anything like that again, much less taken a bullet for anyone.

I don't deny that my actions have, on occasion, helped others. I acknowledge that words I have written and other expressions of caring have made a difference to people who were confused or in trouble; they've told me so. I also make a practice of donating my time and my resources to worthy organizations, as well as to individual people in need. Have I saved lives by sponsoring a child in Colombia for a year, by serving dinner to homeless families, by sitting with a man and asking him questions about the beliefs that nearly drove him to suicide, by giving away 10% of my very small income? It is possible.

Does facilitating The Work save lives? What I can tell you is that it has saved mine. Being facilitated by Katie years ago woke me up to a way to save my own life, and every day above ground is informed by and dedicated in gratitude to that work. Every time I give the inquiry to a client, I get facilitated as well; your work is my work. I have signed up for the hotline on days that I thought I wanted to die, whether of a bad cold or a broken heart; so many of you have healed me as you've healed yourselves.

How many lives have you saved today? Find at least three ways in which you can experience yourself as a hero, and please let me know.

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

April 25, 2007

Virginia Tech Shootings in a Friendly Universe

Today I found myself ruminating over information I read regarding the sale of guns and ammunition to the Virginia Tech student gunman Seung-Hui Cho. It's been speculated that, because Cho killed and injured so many people in such a short span of time, he must have used a high-capacity magazine with as many as 33 rounds in each clip. A federal assault weapons ban used to limit magazine capacity to 10 rounds of ammunition; the ban expired in 2004.

What does a clean-cut college boy, albeit one with no criminal record, need with high firepower weapons? Why aren't questions like this asked at point of sale?

When a tragedy occurs, we human beings like to figure out why something happened and what could have been done to prevent it. Why? (See, I just did it again myself.) It could be that we think the event should not have happened...that believing this will motivate us to elect officials who will put preventive measures in place...that if we understand the "why" then we can control the future.

Oddly enough, the shootings also seem to have sparked a surge in legal gun sales across the United States, as people become increasingly concerned about defending themselves. Somewhere we have gotten the notion that fighting violence with violence can result in peace. If you don't believe it, look at how you treat your children or spouse when they don't do what you tell them to do.

We cannot reverse what happened on April 16, 2007. We can't bring 32 victims back to life. We can't go back in time and help a man with a mind so confused that he believed his only way out of his pain was to kill. We cannot, in spite of our best efforts, keep murderers and other criminals from buying guns (most obtain theirs on the street). What we can do is to understand where our own suffering comes from. When we do, we can be compassionate to the families of the victims; we can help to quell the fears of our children (and our own fears); we can open our minds to clear and creative solutions and be available to do peaceful service in the world.

Deepening Transformational Inquiry: "It Shouldn't Have Happened"

Find and, using the four questions and turnaround (and three genuine examples) of The Work, inquire into a "should" or "shouldn't" thought that troubles you about the Virginia Tech shootings or another tragedy.

I was particularly struck by the story of the Romanian professor Liviu Librescu, who had survived the Nazi Holocaust as well as the totalitarian Ceausescu regime, only to be gunned down at the age of 76 in his own classroom.

Stressful Belief: He died violently.

Is it true? Yes, he was shot to death when he barred the door to his classroom with his body in an attempt to protect his students.

Can I absolutely know it's true he died violently?
No; I only know he was shot to death; I cannot know his state of mind as he died.

How do I react when I believe this thought?
I judge and mentally attack God and the gunman for taking a good man before his time. (Underlying belief: it is possible to die at the wrong time.) I imagine the pain I might feel in his situation and project that onto him, onto his wife and children, and also onto the students who witnessed his death. I feel horror and see images of the professor riddled with bullets, his body jerking, blood everywhere, the screams in the classroom.

When I believe he died violently, I feel my body go numb and get cold; my mind travels to all the senseless violence in the world and in my own neighborhood where there are drug-related killings, drive-by shootings, hunting accidents and violent incidents against women, not to mention police brutality perpetrated by young police armed with deadly weapons that I assume they just can't wait to use.

When I attach to this belief, I am angry with the NRA and people who enjoy owning assault rifles in spite of all the risks. I see everyone who has a gun (this includes members of my own family) as stupid rednecks whose selfishness in insisting upon their Constitutional right to bear arms often results in tragic death (rarely their own, unfortunately).

I can find no peaceful reason to hold onto this belief (self-righteousness is never peaceful). When I am thinking it and experiencing the effects, I am out of my business mentally and into the business of the professor, his students, his family, gun owners, gun sellers, the world.

Who would I be without this thought?
I can imagine Professor Librescu being like Gandhi or Martin Luther King, doing what he knew to do. I can relax and let him rest in peace. I can rest in peace myself. I feel my shoulders going back into their sockets as I type this, I am breathing normally, I am calm and present. Out of this presence, I can write to my representatives to suggest, in the wake of this tragedy, that they give more of their effort and attention to gun control laws. I can find ways to work with young people in my neighborhood, perhaps set up a "drop in" center where they (and I) can learn, literally, to "drop in" and clear their minds, as opposed to acting out of stories that don't serve. (Please send me your ideas for establishing such a center; I would love to help make this happen anywhere in the world.)

Turned around: He died peacefully.
It could be just as true. Three ways:
1. According to his students, Professor Librescu never made an attempt to leave the classroom, so he may have had no internal violence in the form of fear, as he put himself in the path of the gunman and urged his students to exit via the windows.
2. At the moment of death he might not have felt emotional or physical suffering or pain. We don't really know if death is experienced as violent.
3. He did not die violently at the hands of the Nazis even though his family was captured by them. He was not murdered by the Ceausescu regime even though he was a refusenik. He died in a place he purportedly loved, where he was productive and enjoyed personal freedom.

I died violently.
Truer. In the moment I heard the news I was there, in his place, imagining the worst.

If the universe is friendly, why is it a good thing that Professor Librescu was killed by the gunman?
1. It's good for me because his actions have shown me what heroism, love and compassion look like in the face of death.
2. It's good for him because he went to his death willingly, preferring to spare his students' lives rather than his own.
3. It's good for his students because he lives on in their memories and gratitude. As one young woman put it, "He's a part of my life now and forever. I'm changed."
4. It could be that this man's death, and the deaths of the other 31 people from around the world who were killed, brings us closer together, as a human race, in love.

Yesterday I saw a photograph of Palestinians planting olive branches in memory of those slain, as Israel soldiers carrying weapons stood by. What's wrong with this picture, I asked myself? And the answer came: nothing. This is what I needed to see, my own peaceful and violent feelings about other people as embodied and mirrored back by the world. Recognizing this is not meant to diminish the losses of young lives, the grief of the victim's families or that of the family of Mr. Cho; it also does not mean I condone what happened. However, I am very clear that a disturbed and armed young man, like everything else that upsets me, had to come to my attention in order to show me where I create an unfriendly universe.

For more assistance with deepening inquiry, read the source book for The Work: Loving What Is: Four Questions That Can Change Your Life by Byron Katie and Stephen Mitchell.

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

Ask a Facilitator

Do you have questions about The Work of Byron Katie? Whether you are a facilitator yourself, have been using inquiry for awhile or are just learning, you may have specific questions about...well, about the specific questions! I would love to help you out if I can, so please address your questions to me at carol (at) clearlifesolutions.com. If I have a good answer I'll publish it in the Transformational Inquiry newsletter (subscribe here).

Hi Carol,

I have a question I hope you can shed some light on. In
Loving What Is on page 59 (paperback edition), there is an example from Marisa: "I look forward to feeling my happiness depends on somebody loving me." I guess this is the turnaround to number 6. In the context of her example, what does this mean, since Katie has already pointed out that individuals are responsible for their own happiness?

Thanks, Carol.


Dear J.,

Yes, that is a #6 turnaround ("I am willing to..." "I look forward to...") and correct, we are responsible for our own happiness, but only if we want to be happy! You could wait a long time for someone else to do it for you...your entire life, maybe.

In this example from Loving What Is, Marisa was coming to the end of her inquiry on her husband's affair. She had approached the stage very upset and believing she had been irreparably wronged. This is a great example of how to do The Work on a situation that everyone would agree is very difficult.

The "I look forward" part is about embracing all that is, and that includes any and all mechanisms of the mind that we continue to find disturbing after doing The Work. This turnaround for statement 6 on the Judge-Your-Neighbor Worksheet opens us to life and thought as they unfold. "I look forward to feeling my happiness depends on somebody loving me" because it could happen, I could experience that feeling again. If I do, and it hurts, it means I have work to do. I look forward to seeing what's left for me to bring back to inquiry. Every stressful thought arises so that I can question the mind and come to know my truth.

For more about The Turnaround to Number 6, see pages 102-103 of Loving What Is.


Dear Carol,

I attended The School for The Work and I have a facilitation question. When I'm sharing The Work of Byron Katie, some people get hung up on Question 4 ("Who would you be without this thought?") in the following way: if they have a thought that contains practical information, they do not want to go to "life without the thought" because they fear that doing so will open them up to harmful inaction (e.g. if I did not have the thought "I have cancer," then I would not seek medical attention).

Do you know of a simple, effective way to keep The Work on track in this kind of situation?

Many thanks,

Dear H.,

Your example is what I like to call a "yeahbut," a way of staying in the story. It comes from the fear that if we didn't believe the thought, we wouldn't take care of ourselves, we'd be a doormat, we'd be delusional and living in la-la land.

Oftentimes if I sense resistance before we hit question 4, I'll ask, at the end of question 3, "What is the worst thing that could happen if you no longer believed this thought?" or "What do you fear would happen if you didn't live out of this belief?" Then I ask the client to turn the fear around to see if it could be as true or truer. ("If I didn't believe this thought, I wouldn't go to the doctor. If I didn't believe this thought, I would go to the doctor." Or, "If I did believe this thought, I wouldn't go to the doctor." Ultimately it's not about the thought, it's what we think it means; for instance, "If I have cancer, it means I'm going to die.")

In this way, by the time question 4 rolls around, the fear has been addressed which leaves them free to imagine living out of present-moment reality, rather than belief.

If it persists, I ask the question, "What would a clear mind do in the same situation?" (Some day I'll print up bumper stickers and tee shirts with "WWACMD"!) Some clients find it easier to answer question 4 from this perspective.

If the client doesn't want to be without the thought, it's okay for them to keep it; we simply proceed to the turnaround. Realizations come when they come...in questions 1-4, in the turnaround, or six months later in the shower.


Dear Carol,

Thanks SO much for your wonderful blog. I have enjoyed all your articles.

I am dealing with god-awful morning sickness "plus" due to pregnancy-I can't eat, can't keep anything down, feel sick on an empty stomach also. I can barely cope with working or taking care of my son. I had the same problem with my last pregnancy. How do I work this? I have tried various ways, but nothing seems to help. It is true that I feel miserable and while I want the pregnancy I do not love nausea and vomiting and cannot convince myself that I do.

Thanks for any pointers!


Hi M-t-B,

You can't force yourself to love your pregnancy-induced nausea. Doing The Work with this motive will leave you feeling unsatisfied and disconnected. I wouldn't go there.

For the love of truth, you could work on "Pregnancy shouldn't be nauseating" and see where it takes you. (Readers, try this with any physical symptoms: "I shouldn't have a headache," "I need to breathe freely." "My legs should not be paralyzed.") Instead of fighting with the sensations of nausea, try sitting with them in meditation as you hold the question, "Is it true?" It could be lovely, as you embrace your sweet self as you would a colicky little baby.

Who would you be in the presence of nausea and vomiting if you couldn't believe it shouldn't be there? How would you take care of yourself...of your son...without this thought?

You can also use inquiry to loosen some of that mortar holding the brick of that central belief in place. "I can't take good care of my son" (and it means that....). "I can't work when I'm sick." "I need to eat now."

What do you fear would happen if you didn't believe you shouldn't be nauseated?


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

April 5, 2007

Resistance Is Utile

Estragon: I can't go on like this.
Vladimir: That's what you think.

—Samuel Beckett,
Waiting for Godot

In A Thousand Names for Joy, Byron Katie says, "When you know how to question your thoughts, there's no resistance. You look forward to your worst nightmare, because it turns out to be nothing but an illusion, and the four questions of The Work provide you with the technology to go inside and realize that."

You may be thinking, "I know how to do The Work; why, then, do I still resist what is? Am I doing this wrong?"

Not at all. You are merely witnessing a function of the mind. If you're doing The Work regularly, you have no resistance to the idea of inquiry; you're just reluctant to be wrong or to not know, sometimes. Some of us who have been examining our thoughts for many years still find areas where we don't want to surrender our righteous rightness.

"Yeahbuts" serve a very important function. For example, they let us know when...

1. We're not ready to know the truth; which is perfectly okay. You can't make yourself believe what you don't believe, or disbelieve what you do believe. "Children should not oppose their parents," for example; if you've got a kid with oppositional disorder, this one's hard to reverse, even if you know that "resistance is futile." (If you've noticed, so is resisting their behavior!)

2. We're not hitting the underlying beliefs that are keeping the central belief in place. So it's time to go more deeply into the thought and see what lies beneath. "I want my husband to stop cheating on me." It feels true, absolutely...because "Marriage is sacred." Or because "it means that...I'm losing him; I'll be alone; I'm not attractive enough."

3. We're defending something that doesn't exist. That's cosmic, but that's what's happening...and it's good news. Mind knows its days are numbers and it's not going without a fight. The introduction of the book A Course In Miracles famously says, "Nothing real can be threatened; nothing unreal exists." Ultimately the ego itself doesn't exist; we can know this when we question what we believe and the story of "I" changes. (Example: "I need" becomes "I don't need." Or, "I'm too fat" becomes "I'm not too fat." So what happened to that "I?" Poof!)

Resistance is one of those "compassionate alarm clocks" that lets us know we're in the nightmare of beliefs that are not true for us. Katie says, "If you feel any resistance to a thought, your Work is not done. When you can honestly look forward to experiences that have been uncomfortable, there is no longer anything to fear in life; you see everything as a gift that can bring you self-realization."

That's why "I (Heart) My Resistance." It brings me home, every time.

Deepening Transformational Inquiry: Name That Fear

Find a tough one, a thought that you believe to be true, absolutely. As you hold it against the four questions, notice if there is a fear to lose the belief. Name it: what's the worst thing that could happen if you no longer believed this thought?

Then, investigate that belief.

Example: if I still believe my body is too fat, after using the four questions and turnarounds (and three ways), I can ask myself, "What do I fear would happen if I no longer believed this thought?" You will come up with underlying beliefs that are holding your central belief firmly in place. Write them down and question them.

Fear named: I will always be heavy.
Fear named: I will die young.

Further deepening:

"I will die young, and it means that...I will not have lived a full life, I won't be there for my children, my wife will be devastated."

Thoughts to investigate:

I haven't lived a full life.
My children need me.
My wife will be devastated without me.

For more assistance with deepening inquiry, read the sourcebook for The Work: Loving What Is: Four Questions That Can Change Your Life by Byron Katie with Stephen Mitchell.

"No story: no resistance.
The story is what we resist, not the experience."

—Byron Katie

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

April 3, 2007

A Passover Story, Investigated

I'm at home and by myself for Passover this year, sneezing, coughing and with a raging headache. Sometimes when I'm alone on holidays, I try to put together some sort of celebration. In advance, I'd bought and prepared many of my favorite holiday foods. While I can't eat much of them, last night I found a "virtual seder" recording on the internet, listened to that while flat on my back, had a little dinner and later vegged out in front of the TV.

The strange thing is, I didn't feel that I wanted or needed to be anywhere else last night (or tonight). My own company is good and I live in freedom as long as I say so. "Let my people go." Can I let myself go, free myself from the prison of believing I shouldn't be sick, should be with family, that my friends back home should have called me? Can I get free from thinking that holidays should never be spent alone, that they are more important and meaningful than other days?

Why is this night different from all other nights? On all other nights when I'm alone I don't always notice or have a problem with it.

I'm not big on revisionist holidays (the language of feminist Haggadahs and siddurs, for example, never felt natural to me), but I do like to see where the "originals" push my buttons and discover my part in it. Here's what I sat with last night:

"God released ten terrible plagues."

Is it true? I can't know.

How do I react when I believe this thought? It appears that God plays favorites among us humans and beasts and that He is wrathful and unkind. When I believe this I feel separate from God. I resent this Universe. I treat God as the enemy, as something to be feared.

I'm disconnected from friends and family who are celebrating; how can they celebrate a story in which many of God's children die? How did I celebrate this blindly for so many years? I feel ashamed to be a Jew when I believe this thought.

Whose business am I in mentally when I believe that God sent terrible plagues? What an interesting question. Am I in God's business? It seems I am in "history's" business, believing or not believing the tale of yore. I'm in the Egyptians' business: can I know they suffered? Can I know my own people suffered before the plagues came? I can only know my own suffering.

Why would I hold a such a stressful belief as this? If I did, it would be because I feared for my own survival. It would be because I see the world as "dog eat dog," and that the only salvation is God's intervention. I remember how futile and hopeless life seemed when I felt that God was a punisher and task-master.

Here's where I do relate to the Passover story: I believe that survival means survival of the physical body. If I no longer believed the thought "God released ten terrible plagues, " I would not fear plagues. I would see physical death as no worse (or better) than physical life. I would not have a reference for violence and wrath. I would see the ten plagues as things...locusts, frogs, boils, cattle disease...no different from flu, messy living room, unfinished tax papers, headache, war in Iraq, traffic noise outside. They are all what I say they are. In and of themselves they have no "charge" on them. This doesn't mean I condone war, don't treat my cold symptoms or that I have to live in a mess once I'm feeling better.

Without this thought, there is enough strength to dust some furniture, do some writing, do The Work, raise a glass of wine in honor of my heritage (a small one, not the prescribed four glasses), celebrate life, stop giving energy to death. I am God's sister; I re-order creation. I stop sending down plagues.

Turned around: "God did not release ten terrible plagues." It could be just as true:

1. Perhaps it's just allegory and I'm not seeing deeper, more peaceful symbolism.

2. It could be that plagues are not terrible, they are simply "what is." What if plagues—like the one inexplicably killing off Northern California's oak trees—are making room for something else, something that's for our highest good? Would we be here now if the dinosaurs had lived?

3. God created the Earth, where plagues appear sometimes. They arrive when they do, they abate when they do. But we want answers in order to make it all okay. It's like this: there's an AIDS virus and we tell the story that someone must have done something to go against God in order to get this disease. When a disease gets eradicated, "we" did that; or God did it because He loves us!

"I released ten terrible plagues." Yes, it was me who said they were terrible and I don't even know what murrain is!

Here are ten terrible plagues, or unquestioned beliefs, as released and lived out by me:

1. Anger
2. Jealousy
3. Greed
4. Anxiety
5. Resentment
6. Regret
7. Self-hatred
8. Impatience
9. Depression
10. Slaying, in my mind, anyone who criticizes or disagrees with me. The "first born," a thought which would create a "me" and "you" in my mind, that would keep me from loving you as my own self.

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

April 2, 2007

On No Sorrow

I've been avoiding this post for days, not wishing to fetishize the death of my friend, nor to question it away...nor to draw attention to myself as a great tribute-writer or some sort of paragon of "how to accept death with equanimity." Today the words will have their way.

Here's my sweet Betty, who passed away, her partner wrote, "with grace and beauty," out of pain and happy, on Friday night, March 30. This was the second bout of cancer in her body that I am aware of; after successful treatments for lesions in the brain last month, more lesions were found in her spine and she opted not to continue treatments. Hospice was called in and in her last days, Betty was surrounded by loved ones and, I like to think, other angels such as she.

Betty and I were not close in the way I used to think closeness meant: we had no weekly or even monthly phone calls or emails, we never visited each other at our homes or took trips together. We lived on opposite sides of the country for most of our acquaintance and hers was not the name that first came to mind in my times of need; yet I would gladly have flown to her bedside if called upon (and I understand she wanted no visitors). Instead I sent Reiki, love notes and photos.

She told a friend she would love a call from me; I didn't call in time. I'm not sad about it; I realized any desire to speak to her was not for her but for me. Our last words were exchanged many months before her diagnosis and I am sure they were loving words, as ours always were to each other. Now I can talk to her whenever I want to...and I do.

Betty and I bonded not simply over The Work but over our mutual passion for writing. She was a talented essayist and wanted to write about The Work for publication, as I had done. She sent me her gems for editing and critique; she struck me as so generous and ego-less with the things she loved.

At a School for The Work, some of the staff staged a skit based on The Sound of Music, called "The Sound of Questions." (Guess who played the Mother Superior?!) As "Sister Willingnessa," Betty gave an adorable performance as an innocent nun who sees the light of her own truth while inquiring into the Ten Commandments with "Sister Katie."

"But I don't covet anyone's wife!"
"Go in, sister..."
"Oh...oh now I see...my mother was a wife and (crying) I wanted my mother to love meeeeeee!"

It was just a few seconds' worth of dialog but she was so sweet and engaging, I will never forget it.

A friend who was at her bedside wrote, "Betty is teaching me to live through her dying." What I can say is that Betty taught me how to live through her living. Knowing her, she didn't miss out on one precious second of her last days of life. As someone who is "alive," I cannot say the same for myself yet. When I got the news of Betty's diagnosis, I had her in the grave immediately; for a little while, believing my thoughts about illness and death, I was under the ground while she, so clearly, was living a full life. While she was still in treatment, she wrote me that a core of peace always remained untouched by drugs and hospital visits and the mental fogginess that occurs with brain cancer. And, she said, it took hard work to stay focused on recovery. I love that she knew when to stop, that she never gave herself anything less than the best that was available.

The day prior to Betty's passing, I felt weak and experienced lower body aches from an impending flu. I kept thinking how she'd be so graceful and present with that pain and it has helped me to be with the discomfort without war. (WWBD: "What Would Betty Do?") That night, as a friend and I were talking about her on the telephone, we simultaneously experienced Betty in us, as us. Here as my very self she remains, so abundantly present that I cannot grieve her death or miss her.

Rest well, sweet Sister Willingnessa. I love you so much.

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

April 1, 2007

Goodbye, Cruel Work

Dear Friends,

This will be the last post on this blog. I've realized I have absolutely nothing to say that can be of any value to anyone. In fact, I am retiring from my position as facilitator of The Work; I've been of no help and realized I ought to get a real job.

Besides, I finally had to admit The Work doesn't work. I've stopped doing it. Since there's nobody and nothing anyway, why even bother?

Thank you for your loyal readership...and if you want to keep deluding yourself with this nonsense, go ahead and knock yourself out, but I really hope you eventually wake up and smell the coffee, as I have.

Love and good luck,

P.S. April Fool!

Did this silly post give you something to write a worksheet about?

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