September 27, 2007

The Work Is Child's Play

Here's some video of the Children's Workshop for Kids, Teens, and Parents that was held last weekend in Ventura, California; kids getting clarity and having fun doing it. Fun is actually an enormous part of the experience of this investigation. It's a kick to see the correlation between thought and feeling, and to discover "that snake is a rope." And children, not having lived long enough to gather as much evidence as we can, don't put out as many "yeah buts."

I especially love hearing the mom at the end, who says that an eight year old was the best facilitator she ever had. (Perhaps I should take down my shingle!)(NOT!)

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

Vintage Katie Video with Kate Wolf Music

I just love this interview with Byron Katie from October, 1998, where she beautifully and lovingly recounts her "moment of clarity" and explains The Work. The interview is interspersed with video clips of the singer/songwriter Kate Wolf, performing her original songs including "Give Yourself to Love."

"Just hear the heart, hear what you know," Katie says in this video. "People don't want to hear what they know; they think it's going to cost them something. But if they hear what they know and they honor it, it will give them everything they ever thought they ever desired, only the desire stops, and just when you don't need anything, it floods in. People call it a letting go, but for me it's just following the heart, the thing that I know."

I found "it" letting go of me as I experienced this tender hour of hearing the heart.

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

Loving the Questions

When Byron Katie suggests we not do inquiry with a motive to resolve a problem, or to feel better, she may be saying the same thing as the poet Rainer Maria Rilke did regarding writing:

“Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and to try to love the questions themselves like locked rooms and like books that are written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.” —Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet, 35

No session of The Work goes to waste, in my experience. Epiphanies happen in amazing places, and in their own time: during your 100th worksheet on your wife, six months later in the bathtub, while you're sitting with the next belief after you felt unresolved working with the first one.

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

September 26, 2007

All In the Family

Note: Names and some details have been changed to protect the innocent!

When my friend Eleanor came to The Work, she was just about ready to run away from home. In the past year, she has written dozens of Judge-Your-Neighbor worksheets on her husband and kids, most especially on her 12-year-old daughter, Ginger, whom she has found particularly challenging ever since Ginger was a colicky baby.

Not long ago, Eleanor wrote:

"Hey, Carol, thanks so much for yesterday. Things feel much clearer. And the funniest stuff has been happening since we worked on my one-liner 'Ginger's rudeness disrupts our family.'

"Last night, Ginger was going downstairs for a snack, and she voluntarily picked up her little sister's evening snack dishes which were on the linen chest in the hall, took them downstairs, and put them in the dishwasher. This morning, while I was making breakfast for the girls, Ginger got out stuff to put on her oatmeal, and also got the stuff that Margaret likes on her cereal, without being asked. She was incredibly sweet last night, she hung out with me for awhile late in the evening, and she was very sweet this morning as well.

"So I don't know exactly what happened yesterday--are you sure you didn't call her up and do The Work with her while I wasn't paying attention?"

Yes, I'm sure, and I wasn't surprised to hear this. When we do The Work with a modicum of willingness, we can discover that we don't need our children to change in order for us to be happy. When we realize this, things often change in the family. The children seem to pick up on our energy.

Amy came to The Work at the end of her rope. Her adopted daughter Bianca, age seven, has a diagnosis of detachment disorder. One of Bianca's "symptoms" is that she usually refuses to do anything Amy asks her to do, whether it's brushing her teeth, eating her lunch, doing her homework, or going to bed. Often Bianca reacts by hitting Amy or destroying things in the house, showing no remorse. Amy and Bianca have had a battle of the wills from the time Bianca was a toddler. Nothing they had tried previously, from therapy to forging agreements, from screaming fights to medication, seemed to make much difference.

One day, Amy worked with me on her beliefs about Bianca's homework. Amy believed that if she didn't sit with Bianca and "make" her do her homework, it would never get done. Even with this belief, Bianca was not completing her work, often furiously scribbling in her notebook in the early morning on the way to school. Amy began forbidding Bianca to do her homework in the car, resulting in more battles, sometimes physical.

Seeing Amy's frustration and anger about the homework situation, Bianca's teacher had told Amy to back off and let the homework be a matter between the teacher and Bianca, but Amy would not let go. She felt strongly that it was her job as a mother to make sure Bianca's homework was done. We worked on that thought, and Amy left the session feeling she had gotten nowhere; she needed to be right about this one! Something terrible would happen if Bianca didn't do her schoolwork; she'd fail at school, have early sex, take drugs, drop out, live on the street. (I am not making this up; Amy really believed this.)

Later that day, Amy sent me an email:

"Good news...amazingly, effortlessly I gave up getting involved in Bianca's homework today. I didn't do The Work on it at all after our session, but something from talking with you this morning slid into place. One big thing I realized is that I have been holding back doing fun things with Bianca--such as reading aloud to her--until her homework was done. I saw that I didn't want to punish myself, so I decided to go ahead and offer to read, and see what Bianca said. She could have said she had to do her homework, but she didn't say that, so I read aloud to her, and enjoyed myself. She enjoyed the reading too. She will have to deal with the teacher on Friday if her work isn't done!"

How did The Work help this situation? Without realizing it, Amy became aware that night of Question 3, "How do you react when you believe that thought?" She realized that in being rigid and controlling with Bianca, she was being rigid and controlling with herself. There was no way for Amy to have a happy family life if she couldn't allow herself to be happy until all conditions were met. When I last heard from Amy, sometimes Bianca was doing her homework, sometimes not. Amy was still stressing about it, but less. It's a beginning.

What if your issue with your child has nothing to do with behavior? Corinne wrote to me as ask if she should use The Work with her young daughter, who was experiencing night terrors about death. If the child were interested in inquiry, she could certainly benefit from The Work, I told Corinne, and she might benefit most from having a mother who works with her own fears. I suggested Corinne work with the belief she was voicing, "My daughter is suffering," with her own thoughts about death, and with her beliefs about her daughter: "Allison is fearful and withdrawn, and it means that..."

Corinne wrote back to say that she understood she could not expect her daughter to overcome her fears if she as a mother wasn't willing to face her own. She discovered she was holding beliefs that were at least as terrifying as her daughter's fear of death, such as "I am the cause of Allison's suffering," and "I am responsible for my children's happiness." About death: "If I died, no one would love and care for my children as I do."

Children--like our neighbors, spouses, bosses, parents, siblings, friends, perceived enemies, cats, dogs, and elected officials--are here to support us, to point us toward the way to freedom. Whose business are you in mentally when you believe the thought, "My child should...?"

If we can look to ourselves for our happiness, it doesn't mean the kids aren't going to behave, or thrive, or grow up to be good citizens. It's like that old saw about the oxygen mask on the airplane: in case of emergency, affix your own mask before attempting to assist another. We can be of no use to our children if we are suffocating in the name of love.

Byron Katie has said,

"You live as the example of how lovely it is to serve yourself, to create for yourself the world you want to live in, by cleaning up what you want cleaned up. If you love it, [your children] begin to love it also. They become attracted to you and how you live, and all the while you can lovingly ask for what you want, and that is their help. You can ask over and over and over, from a place of love and gratitude for your own life lived well. And they will help you or not. And that is what is happening anyway. It's just, how are you going to live out what you are doing? In peace and joy, or in resentment? If doing what you do brings unhappiness and resentment, why would they want to do it? Notice what you are teaching--is it joy or grievance?"

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

If you were a subscriber to Transformational Inquiry, today you would have received an en excerpt from an exclusive and unpublished interview I conducted with Byron Katie in 2003 about The Work and parenting issues. Transformational Inquiry is my ezine, and subscriber benefits include a free report, subcriber-only discounts on my products and facilitation, and news of my teleclasses and in-person events. It arrives monthly (or bi-monthly, or weekly, or sporadically, truth be told), at no cost. To subscribe, visit my website, or go directly to

September 24, 2007

Why The Work Isn't Coaching (Yet, Coaches Love The Work

Every now and again I buy the story that my former creative marketing consultant self—who still lives in my head—likes to tell, and I start wondering if I could reach more people more effectively if I were a business or life coach.

However, every time I check out these options, I change my mind quickly. For my comfort level, there is too much emphasis in coach training programs on "effecting change," which is something I'm not interested in. Not that change isn't good; I just don't see myself as wanting or needing that for my clients, since I've largely stopped desiring change (even while I certainly welcome change) for myself. The Work has this way of making one realize that nothing ever has to change, no one ever has to change, I don't even have to change in order to be perfectly okay...although change for the good may indeed occur in an atmosphere of clarity.

This shift in consciousness doesn't allow me to write the kind of promotional copy that typically attracts business clients, so hoards of corporations aren't approaching me (yet). However, I can't think of a better skill to have in business than self-inquiry. (See my eBook, Transformational Inquiry, Working on Your Work, on this page.) Communication, mediation, stress reduction, Emotional Intelligence, crisis management...the applications of The Work to the world of work are numerous, and the modality is a natural for the executive coach with visionary clients.

Today I was looking at a website that shall remain nameless, a coaching institute in Southern California that I'd heard good things about. Their site is filled with terminology like "developing long term change strategies," "measuring coaching effectiveness," "assessment," "vision," and "executing and sustaining change." I lost interest in this school very quickly.

How is the effectiveness of coaching measured? I think it translates to this: you want something, I coach you, and if you get it, then my coaching was effective.

I try hard not to make promises about The Work based on what I think people want to hear. That's not the modus operandi of some practitioners, who promise the moon, with bonus stars and planets included if you act now. It always gives me pause to see this, because it's just too tempting for people to do The Work with the motive of "getting the goods." This, to me, misses the point of inquiry entirely.

Some business and life coaches latch onto The Work in this way: "Let's do The Work on the beliefs that are holding you back so that you can find direction, fulfill your vision, get what you want."

That's one way to use The Work, and here's what happens: if we don't appear to be getting what we think we want, we say, "The Work doesn't work." That's based on a belief: "It's working if I get what I want." We've been conditioned to live lives of wish-fulfillment, so no wonder the corporate structure is built on this. Try selling a business on the idea that "everything is unfolding as it should." It takes an enlightened captain of industry to recognize that sometimes, if we don't get what we think we want, we are spared...or that there are no mistakes...even while the success stories of Post-It notes (3M was looking to create a super-glue) and Ivory soap (it wasn't supposed to float), both product "failures," are legendary.

Say I am using The Work as a way of addressing body issues: I want to lose weight, or get buff. I work on my stressful beliefs about dieting or exercise, and I notice I'm going to the gym and eating better. Great; how long is this going to last if I have not touched upon underlying beliefs about the body and health? What happens if I don't get to the gym one week, should I do a worksheet and force myself? If I gain back a pound, does it mean I didn't do my work, or that The Work doesn't work? It feels almost violent to use The Work this way.

The Work ceases to work when we do it with a motive (other than out of the love of truth), because motivation is a stressor, loaded with shoulds, wants, and needs—the stuff of uncomfortable beliefs. It ceases to work when we don't answer the questions, because we're so attached to outcome. It doesn't work when we use the turnarounds as affirmations. ("I can't be a billionaire." "I can be a billionaire! Woohoo, I'm a money magnet!")

We may want to have a spouse, a slender body, or a fat bank account. We may want to bring our company to the next level. There is nothing wrong with these things; they are wonderful. How are we doing in the meantime? If I love what I am, what I have, what is, I am so much more available to my coach's coaching than when I am coming from a place of criticism, frustration, dissatisfaction, or greed.

So I love that coaches add The Work to their toolkits for clients to know themselves better. (That's what my coach does.) And in the world of work, it could be that we can be more present and efficient, more approachable as supervisors, more creative as leaders, when we come from a place of clarity rather than a stressful place of the desire to effect change.

To learn more about The Work at Work, join my mailing list at With your complimentary subscription to the Transformational Inquiry ezine, you'll receive The Nine Proficiencies of The Work at Work as my gift.

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

September 21, 2007

Days of Awe: At-One-Ment

"There does not exist any vow, oath, pledge, promise, or intention. But there does exist pardon, forgiveness, and atonement." —from Kolaynu Santa Cruz's Rosh Hashanah service

I attended The School for The Work right after 9/11; an amazing time to spend 10 days immersed in The Work, not that any time there isn't equally amazing. It's just that this was one heck of a story to undo. We spent exactly one evening on it together, in session. The rest of the week we focused on the usual suspects: mother, father, boss, partner, children, money, health, and in my case, cat.

Yom Kippur also happened during that week. I spoke about it in the work room with my classmates, remarking that what we were doing at the school was remarkably like teshuva (turning), tefilah (sincere asking), and tzedakah (right action).

I'd asked to sing something in the room that I would have chanted for my deceased parents in the synagogue, had I been at home. These words are part of the Mourner's Kaddish, the prayer for the dead:

Oseh shalom bimromov, hu yaaseh shalom, aleynu v'al kol yisroel, ve'imroo omein.

The translation is: The One who makes peace in high holy places, may this One bring peace upon us, and upon all Israel (literal translation of Israel: one who struggles—that would be most of us); and let us say Amen.

I realized then that the essence of the High Holy Days, and of our practice of inquiry, was about peace; peace within, peace without, peace with Creation.

In the concluding Yom Kippur service, the congregation admits to all the sins that we have ever committed, knowing that forgiveness is at hand in the recognition. Is there any one of us who has never done these things, if only to ourselves?

"We have trespassed, we have been faithless, we have robbed, we have spoken basely, we have committed iniquity, we have wrought unrighteousness, we have been presumptuous, we have done violence, we have forged lies, we have counseled evil, we have spoken falsely, we have scoffed, we have revolted, we have blasphemed, we have been rebellious, we have acted perversely, we have transgressed, we have persecuted, we have been stiff-necked, we have done wickedly, we have corrupted ourselves, we have committed abomination, we have gone astray, and we have led astray."

Only in our awareness that we have been confused and mistaken can we come to clarity. Only in seeing that we are what we thought our enemies were can we make peace with them. Only in realizing the truth about our loved ones can we honor them in life or death; they turned out to be us. At-one-ment.

After I sang at the School that day—a day during which I had believed myself to be bagging the holiest of holy days in the Jewish calendar—Katie said to me, "You're doing Yom Kippur big-time!"

I have endeavored to do Yom Kippur big-time ever since.

Let all who struggle be peaceful at last, in this high holy place. Today, I am blessed to know how to find peace within: Is it true? Can I absolutely know that it's true? How do I react when I believe that thought? Who would I be without this thought? Turn the thought around.

God is good.

Happy new you.


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

September 17, 2007

Days of Awe: Whose Business Are You In, Mentally?

During my research for these High Holy Days blog posts, I discovered that there is one sin that Yom Kippur cannot atone: sin committed against another, including hurting someone's feelings. It is said that the wrong-doer must gain forgiveness from the victim before this kind of atonement can occur.

If that's true, wouldn't it then mean that we're never in a state of grace unless everyone else agrees? I don't think so!

This might simply be the universe's way of reminding us that, ultimately, we're the one hearing our own prayers. If the universe is friendly—if God is good, and God is everything—we are perfect as we are. If nothing terrible has ever happened, we are already forgiven; if we don't realize this, then we need our own forgiveness.

One of my favorite subquestions to Question Three of The Work is, "Whose business are you in, mentally, when you believe this thought?" Byron Katie has said she could find only three kinds of business in the world: my business, your (their) business, and God's (Reality's) business. When we are mentally in the business of another, Katie says, we abandon ourselves. This only creates more "sin," or separation from our true nature.

Whose business is it what others think of me? Their business. This may also be God's business, since there is nothing I can do about it; people are going to think what they think, no matter how good my intentions. "It's not your job to like me," Katie says, "it's mine."

Whose business is it what I think of myself? My business. Herein lies the only possibility for healing, and this is why the Days of Awe focus on taking stock and casting off what no longer serves. No one else can make me feel okay about myself, no matter what they say. If I believe I'm a beeyotch, I am, but only according to me. If you call me a bitch and it hurts, you're right...but only according to me.

If I think I need your forgiveness, love, approval, appreciation, or acknowledgment in order to be okay, I'm very confused, and that is not the point of Yom Kippur. However, staying in my own business mentally—viewing my transgressions as something between me and my higher self—doesn't mean that I don't make amends for any wrongdoing I may have done. I like myself when I'm my best self with you.

If I have said or done something to you that I'm later sorry for, and you tell me you didn't even notice, it doesn't mean there is no need to make amends. I need to do it to remain in my integrity.

You may feel so wronged by me that you will not acknowledge or accept my apology. The one I perceive to have wronged may be dead, or I'm unable to reach them...or I may feel it might do more harm than good to make contact. I make amends anyway, in private if need be, in a letter I will never mail, as part of my cleansing practice during the Days of Awe.

Forgiveness is already here, in the moment of my recognition of my true nature, and my sincere wish to do better. I do it for my sake, really; you are me.

May all be inscribed in your Book of Life for a beautiful year/beautiful mind.


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

September 14, 2007

Days of Awe: Authenticity

Rabbi Susya said, a short while before his death, "In the world to come, I shall not be asked, 'Why were you not Moses?' I shall be asked, 'Why were you not Susya?'" —Martin Buber

Many of the prayers of the Jewish High Holy Days speak to the nullification of the ego-self, so that we can align more deeply with, and be a channel for, the expression of "divine will," or our true nature: who we are without our story, in essence.

What stories of "you"—the stories that typically begin with the words, "I need," "I want," "I shouldn't," "they should," "I'll never," "I don't ever want to"—keep you from your true nature? We can know this is happening because each type of statement above creates a separation from, and an argument with, what is, and this separation causes us to suffer. "What is" is also who we are, as we are: entirely good enough, in the parallel universe of peace. If not, then God is punishing us, therefore we must have done something wrong, therefore we are flawed, therefore God's perfect creation isn't perfect. Believing this is the source of our insanity.

These beautiful holidays exhort us to be our true self: not Moses, not Jesus, not Buddha, not Elvis, not Mother Teresa, not Martin Buber, not Byron Katie. That which we admire in them, we are already. If I can just be authentic, there is no more seeking.

So why am I pretending I am not Carol, the authentic Carol as opposed to the Carol of my beliefs? Is this one that I think I am even remotely real?

When I ask this question, and sincerely answer, I can't find the story of Carol to be true. How and why am I not true to myself? That's part of the answer to question three of The Work, "How do you react when you believe that thought? What happens?" What happens is, Carol forgets who she is and gets into all sorts of trouble...which, fortunately, isn't trouble at all. Have you noticed this as well?

In these days of awe, we look back on what is not: we transgressed in the story of the past, which is over. We seek forgiveness for an imaginary being, not for the one we are in the moment we seek forgiveness. It is already healed; we just don't realize it yet. In each moment, there is an opportunity to know who we are. That is the forgiveness.

The present moment is nothing if not forgiving, because there is nothing prior to it, nothing coming down the pike. Forgiveness is already here, because, as Katie says, "Forgiveness is realizing that what you thought happened, didn't."

The good news is, we can't be anything other than who we really are. God, reality, knows this; the universe needs no beseeching. All is forgiven in the moment of recognition.

May all be inscribed in your Book of Life for a beautiful year/beautiful mind.


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

September 13, 2007

Days of Awe: Who Decrees Severity? That Was Me

Here is more about why I love to celebrate and contemplate the Jewish New Year.

The Rosh Hashanah prayer Unetanneh Tokef concludes:

"Repentence, prayer and right action avert the severe decree."

Sounds like The Work to me.

In Biblical Hebrew, teshuva, repentance, literally means to turn around, to think differently. This return to the source is possible when we unravel the contents of the "I know" mind and come to see what lies beneath. The turnaround, a reversal of our original belief, allows the bigger picture of "what is," the infinite mind, to emerge; we are all things, and nothing is simply as it appears.

The Amidah portion of the Rosh Hashanah service also seems to speak of turnarounds:

N'varech et ayn hachayim v'cho neetbarech.
"As we bless the source of life, so we are blessed."

Prayer, tefillah in Hebrew, is an outpouring of the soul to the source. When done with sincerity, that outpouring is heard, and answered. We could say that, lovingly and sincerely asked, "Is it true?" is the language of the heart, as is the answer we hear when we really want to know the truth.

Tzedakah, literally "righteousness," is a word used for charitable giving as well as right action. The most charitable thing I know to do is to recognize my errors and make things right, to the best of my ability. When I question thoughts I have that seem unkind to others, to me, to the earth, to God—and I turn these thoughts around—I get my prescription for curing the sickness with which I have lived. I get instructions for making amends. I express my sorrow, forgive myself for being confused, ask (tefillah) what I can do for healing, and write my own prescription.

Let nothing in the world of our personal relationships, relationship to our own selves, and relationship to the earth, stand in the way of our loving relationship with What Is.

May all be inscribed in your Book of Life for a beautiful year/beautiful mind.


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

Days of Awe: Fresh Starts

It is the second day of Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish new year. Rosh Hashanah is at once a celebration of the birth of the world, and a time of self-examination and repentance. These days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, the day of atonement (at-one-ment), called the Days of Awe, are my favorite holidays. I grew up believing this holy time of judgment and penitance to be very solemn, but in recent years I see them as a cause for celebration, because I am reminded of the true, forgiving nature of God, of reality. I love the timing of the high holy days; September, back-to-school time. I've always loved fresh starts.

This year I am not celebrating in the most traditional way. I did go to (very feminist, egalitarian, progressive, Santa Cruz-style) services last night, and heard the sound of the shofar (ram's horn), a call to wake up. I can always use the reminder.

Today I went down to the San Lorenzo River, steps from my front door, to perform my personal version of tashlich, the custom of casting bread upon the waters, symbolic of throwing off the year's accumulated sins. For me, sin is about separation: how have I separated myself from others, from the earth, from my body, from Creation, by believing anything is less than good? Where did I drop the ball, and why? With ducks and seagulls as my witnesses, I asked myself and the universe for the clarity to make things right, and for a clean slate. The birds happily fished the stale bread bits out of the river, and having no concept of such things, took on no sins of mine.

Afterwards, I went swimming, cognizant that this was also my mikvah, or ritual bath. As the water cleansed and supported me, I was reminded of the words of a beautiful song:

Return again, return again,
Return to the home of your soul.
Return to who you are, return to what you are,
Return to where you are born and reborn again.

"We always begin now." —Byron Katie.

May all be inscribed in your Book of Life for a beautiful year/beautiful mind.


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

September 11, 2007

A Question for You on 9-11

It's that day again...a day that has become a "holiday" of sorts. Yet we would never send anyone a greeting card that says, "Happy 9-11" any more than we would send one that says "Happy Cancer," "Happy Divorce," or "Happy Child's Suicide."

Why not? If, as I keep saying, reality is kind, why wouldn't I just celebrate? Because to say, as Byron Katie does, that the worst that could happen is the best that could happen, is not my 24/7 experience. I still have to question what I believe.

When I do that, I can see that nothing that I have experienced has been entirely terrible. Others recount similar experiences; they're not all "Workies" either. They're living their lives, and reporting what's true for them.

My friend Kathy tells me that, when recently asked what she'd been up to lately, she answered, "I had breast cancer; it was great!" Probably shocked the unsuspecting questioner to the moon and back. Who wants cancer? Maybe someone whose perfect path to enlightenment means double mastectomy, and the way it moved her to re-examine a life's worth of resentments. Cancer got her out of hell, gave her back a beautiful life.

I experience—in ways I cannot convey without sounding like a spiritual space-case—that my father's death from cancer could have been as good a thing for him, for me, for my mother, and for the planet, as it was a bad thing. That could sound very cold, uncaring, and selfish to someone who has never gotten this radical with the workings of hte mind.

What I can tell you is that this kind of thing is my personal work, that it has been healthy and healing for me, and it makes me a lot more pleasant to be around than when I believed I was especially unlucky, unloved, and damned to hell. If you get to a point where you can't deal with the mental pain anymore, I invite you to your personal work over your losses, traumas, and tragedies, if it serves.

Many of you have survived, and thrived, after a child's death, or the loss of home and livelihood, or incest, rape, torture, ritual abuse, war, devastating diagnoses, disfiguring and painful accidents. People go on to create amazing good in the world after such things; Anne Frank comes to mind, Nelson Mandela, Christopher Reeve, those women who forgive, visit, and befriend their children's murderers in prison, so many others. How can they do this when some of us can't get out of bed when the computer crashes or the marriage ends?

I have a friend in his 40s who can rarely get out of bed because of an increasingly painful, crippling physical disorder that may soon kill him. He has also, over the course of 20 years, lost his family, his income, the love of his life, nearly everything. He has dreams, happy ones, not nightmares. He remains creative, and as active as he can be when not hooked up to machines. He falls in love. He can always make me laugh. The guy doesn't even need inquiry, he just gets it in a way that I don't yet.

So I ask you, Soul Surgery readers—and in doing so, I do not mean to diminish, in any way, any suffering experienced by anyone, including myself, directly or not, due to the events of this day six years ago—if the universe is friendly, how could such a thing happen?

Can you find three genuine ways that this event—or insert your own worst nightmare here—has been for your highest good?

It's just a question. What are you afraid of losing, or not receiving, if you answer it honestly? (An honest answer could also be, "I can't find a single way that this has been for my highest good, or anyone's.")

P.S. Yes, I'm doing this along with you. Re-connecting with the kindness of reality is the only way for me to stay in the peace movement that has been vital to my existence these past six-and-a-half years...and to understand that unless I say otherwise, no one has died in vain.

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

September 6, 2007

Nessun Dorma, Luciano

"No one sleeps." And yet, my Pavarotti apparently does, except in my fond memories of him.

I was privileged to see him perform live twice in New York City, many years ago; once, on a blanket with my friend Marc, way in the back of a huge crowd gathered in the Sheep Meadow for a free concert in Central Park (with the Harlem Boy's Choir!), once in a box seat at the Met. I don't remember which opera it was, and his performance was perhaps not stellar, technically; he was ill and had to sit for most of it. Still, I projected perfection.

I'm reminded of a quote of Byron Katie's, from a long out-of-print book called What To Do When Nothing Works: "Babies, Pavarotti, mothers, fathers, vortexes, flowers, and Corvettes are all there as symbols for me to know myself."

I love knowing myself through my beautiful projection of Pavarotti. Addio, Luciano...and no goodbyes, you are always with me.

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

September 5, 2007

Reality Is Good...Is That True?

A reader recently asked me:

"The assumption that reality is good seems odd. Just because reality is not always changeable and must be accepted sometimes just the way it is, that doesn't mean it's 'good'.

"I must be misunderstanding that assumption, because it seems so utterly strange to me."

It's a strange one for most of us, who have lived our entire lives believing our thoughts. And yes, it's an assumption if not lived out and deeply understood from an experiential level.

Here's another really strange assumption, from where I sit: reality must be accepted sometimes just the way it is." That can't possibly be true, because we don't always accept it. That's reality. We accept, or we do not.

However, any belief that argues with reality is going to feel uncomfortable. On a small, personal scale, we can start with the body. My unquestioned thought: "My hip shouldn't hurt." Reality: it does. That is what is happening now. If I believe what I think--which is, that my body should be different than it is, in this moment--I now have pain and suffering combined. I may want to question what I believe. Is it true that it shouldn't hurt? Can I know that this hip pain is not for my highest good? (That's going to seem weird, until you sit with the question.) How do I live my life when I believe my hip shouldn't hurt, and it does? What is my attitude when taking care of the issue? Do I come from a place of loving and caring for my body, or resenting it?

If I turn that statement around--"My hip should hurt"--and find genuine examples of why this could be as true or truer, I discover that reality is a lot kinder than my story about it. Reality--hip discomfort--turned out to be good. This doesn't mean I won't need a hip replacement, or that I can't pop an ibuprofen. It's just what's true in the moment: this "bum" hip is okay by me. Why might this throbbing socket be a good thing? Perhaps it is letting me know of an underlying condition that needs my attention: my spine needs straightening by the chiropractor, or my shoes are wrong and I need orthotics.

It could be that there are lessons I need to learn about the benefits of living with limited physical ability, so that I won't waste time feeling sorry for the "disabled" people I work with, who are perfectly fine until one of us says they are not.

Maybe I need to cultivate gratitude for this body which I have taken for granted. I was flat on my back for a better part of a year...and it was a good year. I facilitated a lot of people by phone, made wonderful "Work" friends on's hotline, and got back into the very beneficial practice of swimming regularly again, once I was able to.

If my hip didn't hurt this week, and I had gone out dancing the other night, I might have been flattened by a car on the way, so this prevented me from leaving the house on a day that wasn't my time to die.

I could go on. I could also do the same exercise with war in the world, war in my family, a partner who cheats on me. There is always available to us what I call a parallel universe of peace. When I am willing to not always be right and righteous, it can always be found, and fully experienced.

Here's what Byron Katie says about the inherent goodness of reality, excerpted from her book Loving What Is:

"I am a lover of what is, not because I'm a spiritual person, but because it hurts when I argue with reality. We can know that reality is good just as it is, because when we argue with it, we experience tension and frustration. We don't feel natural or balanced. When we stop opposing reality, action becomes simple, fluid, kind, and fearless."

Katie also suggests not to believe what she says, but to test it, since it is easy to do if you use inquiry as an exercise for getting at the truth. "Reality is good" is up for questioning. You can't believe what you have not realized for yourself.

I can say that reality is good because I've discovered this to be true, again and again. I may not be cognizant of reality's inherent goodness in the moment, if I'm witnessing or experiencing something that feels unfair, painful, or cruel. However, since I began to apply the four questions and turnaround of this simple process of The Work in my life--as long as there has been willingness to know what's real--I have not yet found anything in the world that isn't medicine.

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

"But Once...Is Not Enough!"

There's a post over at my web guru Dawud Miracle's site (a great blog for people doing their own internet marketing) about why email newsletters may be becoming passe. A few of us begged to differ, for a number of reasons worth checking out.

Here's why I have a newsletter, and why you might like to subscribe to it in addition to reading this blog.

* While I do archive articles from the newsletter here, there are also extras in Transformational Inquiry, my ezine, that only subscribers get to see...such as a slightly controversial piece this week, in which I point out the flaws in a coach/competitor's product...that is, if I had a competitor. :)

* If you are reading this because you love The Work, and you are interested in workshops or teleclasses with me, special discounts on facilitation sessions, "Katie-isms" overheard by myself and friends, and other such Worky thangs, the newsletter is the place to gather all those goodies, and stay on top of the event schedule.

* Subscriptions help me get to know my readership...who you are, where you're from, what you are reading in the newsletter, why you unsubscribe when you do. I realize this is more of a benefit for me than for you, but it's a good one! And really, it does help me to better serve my readership, and your feedback is always more than welcome.

(Headline courtesy of silly old movie, "Once Is Not Enough," based on eponymous silly best seller by Jacqueline Susann. I attended this film as a youngster with Annie Berrol, now Newman. Our misbehavior was a lot more entertaining than the film...except perhaps to the usher and fellow movie-goers.)

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

September 2, 2007

Judge Your Competitors!

If you believe the thought, "There is competition," then you will have thoughts about those with whom you believe you are competing. This could be someone in the same or similar business as yours...the sports team playing opposite yours...other single men besides you desiring the attention of the same woman...the other students in your class...other contestants vying for the same prize...people whom you think are better looking than you are.

Here's a piece on some of my "competitors."

Belief: They are selling something worthless.

Is that true? No. Many people buy what they sell, so it must be worth something to them.

How do I react when I believe that thought?

Inner eye-rolling occurs as I harshly judge what they're offering. I deem their product inferior, ineffective, derivative, lame. I see them as used car salesman, misleading people just to make a buck, all flash and no substance. I undercut their prices and self-righteously see their fees as too expensive. (I undercut my own prices when I do this, so that strategy's not so good!) I try to find and broadcast ways that my credentials trump those of the competition. (This could be seen as smart marketing, except it doesn't feel right to me. Honestly I can't think of a single credential I have that makes me better qualified than anyone else. If you are happy with someone's work and you benefit from the transaction, they're qualified.)

I feel separate from my competitors (I hate calling them that). I look down on them. I don't respect them. I don't attempt to form mutually beneficial partnerships with them. I don't steer business their way even when it makes good sense to as a service to my clients or to people I'm unable to work with; it might mean people would see more value in my competitors' products and services than in mine.

The first time this thought occured to me, I was a young woman, working for a respected and growing publishing company as the promotions manager. The new public relations director (she was my age, and we resembled and were frequently miskaten for each other) was getting a lot of attention and kudos from the higher-ups for ideas that were similar to ones I had previously presented myself. It felt like having a twin sister who was just like me, except our parents preferred her! I was very jealous of and intimidated by her status as the new department golden girl, and I stopped putting forth my best efforts, seeing our superiors as fools for falling for her "schtick." I got out of the department and into another one as soon as I could, so that I could be the star again.

"They're selling something worthless." What a stressful thought! When I think it, I'm looking for a superiority payoff, but it only keeps me in the uncomfortable position of opponent.

Who would I be without this thought? I would realize that there is room for me, for them, and for everyone, and that all of us are offering something of value to someone.

I'd be more curious about their products and services, in a way that could turn out to be very educational for me, in terms of understanding where people spend their money and time, and why.

I'd be more of an innovator, without having to see my offerings as better than anyone else's.

I'd admire and respect my "competitors" as colleagues, and I would be in community with them, trust them, encourage them.

I would be out of their business, literally, and in my own...more interested in developing my company out of my vision, my expertise, my creativity, my integrity, as opposed to comparing myself to others. I would charge what feels right to me, whether it's more or less money than my colleagues charge.

Turned around: "They're selling something worthwhile." This could be just as true if not truer. They are providing something that some people want, and charging what the market will bear. I am often blown away by the brilliance they exhibit in packaging their services the way they do, creating more value through all sorts of incentives and extras. It's not my way, and it's a perfectly good way.

Another turnaround: "I'm selling something worthless." I've had that thought; selling an image is worthless. Selling a promise is less than worthless! Workshops featuring new ways of applying The Work are just fine, as long as they really serve my clients and are not merely capitalizing on trends that are meaningless to me. Doing my work with all my heart is the only thing of value here. Realizing this helps me to craft marketing messages with integrity, communicate cleanly, and create new products and services that I love and feel good about putting forth in the world.

"I'm selling myself something worthless." That would be the ideas, which I've bought for a long time, that "the competition" isn't good enough, that they are luring unsuspecting innocent people with worthless or overpriced stuff, that their bonuses are bogus, and so on. These beliefs, unquestioned, serve me not at all.

Deepening Transformational Inquiry: Judge the Competition

Fill out and work with a Judge-Your-Neighbor Worksheet on the person or people you feel threaten your status, your love life, your livelihood, your "place" in the world. It would be a great gift to our readers if you would like to post your realizations here in the comments.

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

Who Shall Live and Who Shall Die?

A bunny appeared a few yards from a picnic in the park I attended with vegan friends (I love how they don't judge me for being a carnivore, and they prepare such good food!). One of the women there does great work: she rescues poultry as well as abandoned and abused goats and other animals, and supports them through the sale of healthy, cruelty free eggs. Those creatures eat better than many of us.

Cheryl looked at the black-and-white bunny and said, "That's not a wild rabbit; someone abandoned it." Immediately, three or four people went off in hot pursuit of the bunny, which didn't seem to be suffering; it had been enjoying the grass and sunshine and perhaps, from afar, the admiring glances of two little girls. Naturally, Bun-Bun ran away from the well-meaning rescuers, nowhere to be found.

Several among us surmised that the rabbit was going to be eaten by a coyote. That hadn't occurred to me, as prior to that I didn't even know we had coyotes in Santa Cruz, but I got concerned for Mr. Whiskers right along with the rest...rabbits not being one of the species I eat myself.

Finally one woman, who had not joined in the chase, said, "If the coyote gets the rabbit, it's meant to be. Coyotes need to eat too." This was no consolation to those of use who saw the rabbit as a poor, defenseless, domesticated creature who could not take care of itself.

When we got ready to pack up, the same woman put out some leftover raw veggies for the bunny. Fattening it up for the coyotes, perhaps.

So I got to questioning: why is it okay and natural for the coyotes to get the wild rabbits, but not the domesticated one? What were my stressful thoughts? Where they true?

*The bunny was abandoned.
*It won't make it in the wild.
*Coyotes are violent predators. (Hmm. Nice turnaround for me.)
*People shouldn't abandon animals.
*The rabbit will not live a full life.

For all we know, the rabbit is doing better than those of us who may be losing sleep over it...the little beastie not knowing that it's a tragedy for a bunny to be let loose in a beautiful park.

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