October 30, 2007

Love Your Work, Today...Cheap!

NOTE: OFFER HAS EXPIRED! but at $19.95, I'm told this eBook is still more than worth the price of admission. Thanks to all you early birds who ordered before Nov. 1. —CLS

Just a quick reminder (because I nearly forgot myself!) that there's just one more day left to receive my best-selling eBook (meaning it sells the best, out of the three I have available now :-) ) for the original "seriously under-priced" price of $14.95.*

Transformational Inquiry: Working on Your Work is transforming my friends' experiences of work and career from the East Bay to Estonia.

"My boss should..." "My clients don't..." "I have no skills." "I should be doing something else." What keeps you from "Loving What's Biz?" With The Work, you can create lasting and radical change in the workplace by addressing the beliefs underlying the way you relate to your colleagues, your supervisors, your clients, your direct reports, and to yourself. 95 pages.

"Transformational Inquiry: Working on Your Work went beyond my expectations and thoroughly covered the topic with amazing clarity and insight. I found all the help I needed there. Your material is a great addition to Byron Katie's."
—Sandra Khoury, Certified Substance Abuse/Co-occurring
Disorders Counselor
Middlefield, CT

*"My only complaint about Transformational Inquiry: Working on Your Work is that it is seriously under-priced. This little gem is a delight to read as well as a practical guide to healing your heart and regaining sanity at work. It is rare for an eBook to be as lucid, complete, and practical as this one. It will repay your thoughtful, open-hearted attention a thousand fold."
—Molly Gordon, Shaboom Inc.

The price of Working on Your Work increases to $19.95 on November 1, so don't wait to let this practical PDF guide enhance your experience of The Work as it applies to your professional life. Order before Nov. 1 and receive the as-yet unpublished report, "The Top 10 Erroneous Business Beliefs" as my early holiday gift to you.

To get your copy, click here:

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

October 27, 2007

Best Reason Someone Unsubscribed from My Newsletter

In my inbox:

"This lead has unsubscribed by following the link at the bottom of one
of your AWeber messages, and decided to provide comments.

Name: xxx
Email: xxxxx
Signup Date: 08/30/07 09:44 PM Eastern

Carol's sanity is in question."

I couldn't agree more. I question it daily.

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

October 25, 2007

Is The Work Nondual?

I used to say that The Work is a process leading to the state of nonduality as sought by students of Dzogchen Buddhism or Advaita Vedanta.

We could also say that Byron Katie is not a nondualist because she uses terms like "joy" and "happiness" to describe her existance, rather than the more advaitin terminology of "nothing" and "emptiness," thus making "nothing" into "something." ("No thing" is the optimal experience of advaita, by the way).

The trouble with the idea of nondualism is that it has to be demonstrated through language and concepts, which of course create more duality and separation.

However on a practical note, a book title like "No Identity and No Attachment to What Is Not," or "A Thousand Names for Nothing" probably wouldn't sell many copies to folks like you and me who still believe we are not awake. :0)

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

October 23, 2007

Are Preferences a Problem?

A client once asked me, "How can we do The Work and realize that 'God is everything,' that this is equal to that...and still have a preference. This is a tricky area."

I don't experience it as tricky. What's tricky is mistaking a problem for a preference.

There's that now-famous Byron Katie-quote about ordering filet of sole in a restaurant, and the waiter brings braised ox tongue. Katie says it's not a problem: "What is is what I want. It doesn't mean I have to eat it." This confuses a lot of people.

Personalities have preferences. Ask Katie what she wants for lunch today: chicken or fish? I'm sure she'd have no problem saying she prefers to have fish, with hot tea not iced. I've witnessed this. And if the kitchen has run out of fish, perfect; obviously we're not to have fish today. It doesn't mean I won't order it next time.

I seem to prefer The Work to other inquiry processes. No problem. When I have to put down the other processes and their teachers so that I can justify my preference, that's a problem (and in the past, it has been). If I want to convert them to my religion, it's not a preference, it's a control issue.

If we want someone or something to be different and we say it in the name of preference - that's a lie. If I prefer not to be with a partner like mine, and yet I'm living with him, hating him, there's something off about this. If I prefer not to live where I do, complaining every second that I live there rather than doing something about it or admitting that I want to live there, it's not simply about preference, it's about being at war with reality. If my preference is to work with people, and I continue to work in isolation, I'm lying to myself. Obviously, in this moment, I prefer to work alone, because I don't see anyone else in this room.

So it's not that preferences are a problem; we make it into a problem when we stressfully refuse or refute anything that is not our preference. As in the case of braised ox tongue, it doesn't mean we have to eat it. It doesn't mean we have to sleep with someone we're not attracted to, it doesn't mean we have to order the Rotten Eggs Ripple ice cream because in God's perfect universe, it's just as good as the Double Dutch Cocoa.

My general preference is to swim outside rather than indoors. So even though it's late October and chilly, I'm still swimming outside. Usually, I prefer to swim in a heated pool. The pool at my condo complex is solar heated, which, at this time of year, means not warm at all.

I almost got out of the pool the other day, because my story was it was too cold. I noticed I preferred to keep swimming. After my body adjusted to the water temperature, I had a moment of recognition: I felt terrific. The water felt a lot like it does when I'm swimming in the ocean back home in New York. I never expected the ocean to be warm in the North Atlantic; it never is. If I did not have expectations for this body of water in Northern California to be different, couldn't I simply enjoy paddling around and deriving the benefits of swimming? As I discovered, yes, absolutely! So my preference was to swim: no problem. And when I was finished, my preference was to get out of the pool.

If I'm submerged in the cold water, wanting it to be different, I'm either insane or a masochist. I always have a choice not to swim, or to go elsewhere. And here's what I noticed: that I prefer not to take the time it takes to go to the gym to swim. I prefer to keep up a quasi-regular schedule of swimming outdoors than not to swim outside at all. In the middle of winter, when I'm craving the sensation of freedom I get when I'm in the water, this preference not to swim in an indoor heated pool could very well change.

Does this mean that once we have questioned our stressful thoughts that we would no longer particularly enjoy chocolate...that we would be omnisexual...that we wouldn't make taking care of our own children a priority over other peoples' kids...or we'd be unable to vote because all the candidates running for office are perfect?

Katie says,

"I'm a lover of what is, and what is is what I always have....And it appears that I always have a preference for the thing that is happening now. I prefer the sun in the morning, and I prefer the moon at night And I prefer to be with the person in front of me now....Whatever I'm doing: That's my preference. How do I know? I'm doing it! Do I prefer vanilla over chocolate? I do, until I don't."

--Byron Katie, Loving What Is

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

Desiderata Unfolds (As It Should)

Have you seen the Desiderata Project at my new friend Bob's website, Every, Every Minute?

Bob asked a number of "personal development' bloggers to comment on a verse from the famous poem which begins with these words:

Go placidly amid the noise and haste,
and remember what peace there may be in silence.

Nearly every sensitive kid I knew had a parchment paper poster of this up on their bedroom wall when I was a teenager. Max Ehrmann's writings spoke to me then, as now, even though I didn't begin to understand most of it. (Glimpses are good.)

Check out my contribution to the project, "A Perfect Universe: The Tao of Desiderata," invoking The Work, The Tao te Ching, Katie's "Tao," and Professor Einstein, as related to this verse of Erhmann's great poem:

"And whether or not it is clear to you,
no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should"

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

October 18, 2007

Oh, No, Your Majesty!

Another one of my icons has passed away. Deborah Kerr starred in of some of my favorite movies, including Tea and Sympathy ("Years from now, when you talk about this—and you will—be kind."), An Affair to Remember, From Here to Eternity (oh, that kiss on the beach!), the 1967 Casino Royale, and my very favorite musical, The King and I, of which I am reminded at every School for The Work, because (as Katie sometimes likes to sing to us), it's all about "Getting to know you, getting to know all about you."

As Anna Leonowens, Deborah Kerr portrayed the very best kind of teacher in that film: dedicated, engaging, elegant, smart, a bit edgy...and really sexy without giving away the store. I wanted to be "Mrs. Anna" (and Miss Jean Brodie) when I grew up. (I think in some small way, I have achieved this, although I could never have kept up that plunging neckline, nor that polka with Yul Brynner.)

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

October 17, 2007

Ask a Facilitator: Self-incrimination Using The Work at Work?

A fellow facilitator of The Work writes:

"Hi Carol,

I've been given the opportunity to introduce The Work to a department of our local council. One of the considerations they have is that it might be dificult to do it 'for real' because of the possibility of staff 'incriminating' themselves with their bosses and colleagues.

"I have introduced The Work to groups locally before but never had to consider anything like the above scenario, because the people the clients were doing The Work on were not physically present at the introduction.

"As I'm typing this, I'm thinking, 'Steer clear of work-related issues at the workshop and just use examples from participants' lives.' However, any tips would be appreciated."


Dear T.,

The issue of self-incrimination is so pervasive for so many people, I would address precisely that fear with your group!

You could have participants work on hypothetical scenarios like, "What's the worst that could happen if you told your boss/colleague/employee the truth?" Provide the group with a list of "universal work beliefs" like "My staff doesn't respect me," "I could lose my job," "My boss/colleague/assistant should listen to me," "There's not enough time," or "I need to earn more money." I'd give them a list of basic universal beliefs as well (thoughts like, "The world is a terrible place," or "Parents should love their children"), so that they will see the crossover applications of The Work to "real life." And they may feel safer to work publicly with those thoughts, as you suggest.

However, this need not even be public work. Invite participants to write down their answers, and then see what happens. I always like to model my own work as an ice-breaker. If no one volunteers to share, have them facilitate you on your beliefs. Afterwards, see if anyone wishes to share what they've written. When people see how candid I am (I might direct my thought at them: for instance, "I want you to like me."), and that there has been no terrible consequence for doing so, you open a door for others to do the same.

Who knows? They may relish the opportunity to work on someone present, or to be worked on by someone else. I've seen it happen many times; it is healing. If it's worrisome, you might ask group members to respect the 12-step suggestion, "What happens here stays here."

When we as facilitators have a concern like this for our groups, it's great to work on our own beliefs. "It's not going to go well." "The Work isn't safe to use in business." "I can do it wrong."

Warm regards,

P.S. The price of my very popular eBook, Transformational Inquiry: Working on Your Work goes up in two weeks, on November 1. Order it before the deadline for just $14.95 and I will send you a heretofore unpublished report, "The Top 10 Erroneous Business Beliefs: Are They Holding You Back?" as an early holiday gift.

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

October 13, 2007

Byron Katie Takes Fun Out of Arguments, Says Teenager

You really must read this funny little article, written by young Santa Cruzan Kyle Abbott, on the Abbott Family Blog, which is all about playing music, being Taoist, and living the weird Santa Cruz life. Kyle manages to good-naturedly indict both Byron Katie and his mom, Leslie (a really nice lady!) in one funny breath.

"In the beginning of this year, Mama has discovered this Dr. Phil-ina who looks like a slim Paula Deen from the Eating Channel. Anyway, this gal Byron Katie has a life-changing way of taking the fun out of arguments. How? Well, when you feel negative feelings towards somebody, you take those feelings and turn them around. Let’s role play here: So, think, 'That guy is stupid!' Well, when you Byronize it, it sounds like this, 'That guy is not stupid! I think he is but it turns out it is a reflection of my feelings towards myself which I am projecting onto this Starbucks clerk who gave me a Double Cha-Mocha Ascretymbia instead of my regular Grimbles Coffeeprimonade.' Sure, it puts a more Taoist Perspective on life, but it’s hard to have a good argument with Byron-Vision turned on."

For more digs and laughs, see Byron Pusher (http://www.abbottfamilyblog.com/2007/07/12/kp-byron-pusher)

He's right; arguing is no fun anymore because I can't make anyone wrong, not even a barrista...darn it.

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

October 12, 2007

I'm a Featured "Fun Shui" Friend!

My friend Stephanie McWilliams, host and Feng Shui designer of the new HGTV show, "Fun Shui" is a longtime friend of The Work, and has designated me a "Featured Friend" at her blog.

To read my first article there, "Inquire Your Way to Internal Feng Shui," visit evolvingarts.blogspot.com/featured-friends.html

Steph's main website is EvolvingArts.com.

Fun Shui airs on Friday evenings, 9:30 pm.

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

From Depression to Decompression

Here's a story, purportedly mine, that is only a couple of weeks old, yet it already feels like it happened to someone else.

One night, I did The Work with a friend on the thought, "I am getting depressed again." In spite of all the inquiry I have done and continue to do, and even though I no longer see myself as "a depressive," depressing thoughts return sometimes. Every now and then I get mired in them, temporarily.

I called my friend because I didn't even know what I needed to work on at first. I'd been afraid and bitchy for days. Sitting with my thoughts alone was excruciating. Sitting with others, the people I work with and mentor, I was concerned that if I were to be self-relevatory, I'd be taking away from their time, their needs.

Perhaps I had been overly honest while participating in a recent conference call; with the exception of writing, I'm not yet entirely comfortable with public vulnerability. Perhaps it was because, with the seasonal changes in temperature and light, I was experiencing a rerun of my old Seasonal Affective Disorder story. Maybe it was because I hadn't gone swimming outdoors in a few days; I get off track when I don't eat well, rest, and exercise in addition to working with my thoughts. Also I haven't slept well in over a year. When sleep doesn't happen, other things tend to go out the window.

Blah, blah, blah, and on the thoughts go.

While believing the thought "I am getting depressed again," I started back-tracking in many ways: punishing myself for being human, blaming the old brain chemistry story for my recent outbursts, feeling yet again that I ought to throw in the towel, take down my blog and website, get a "real" job, stop pretending that I am in any way qualified to do what I do. I was either forgetting to do simple self-care things, like brushing my teeth or eating breakfast, or putting them off until uncomfortably late in the day.

I revealed all this in the course of inquiry. And then came the turnaround: "I am not getting depressed again." It could be as true, I reckoned; I was not too depressed to reach out to my beloved friend, to stop being available for my clients, to recognize I was "off" and in need of inquiry.

Was there another turnaround, my friend wanted to know? My mind went to the opposite of "depressed." "I am getting elated again," I told her, and immediately burst into gales of laughter! In that moment, simply being a woman sitting in a couch taking on the telephone to her friend, there was absolutely nothing depressing. Even as I questioned my fear of returning to a painful story of the past, it ceased to be as powerful or compelling as it had been. Just naming the feelings, and the thoughts preceding them, began to take the edge off.

It's not a mere flick of the mental switch, mind you; without the deep education of the four questions and turnaround, to move from "I am getting depressed again" to "I am getting elated again" would be nothing more than an affirmation, largely meaningless.

In The Work, we don't exchange one thought with another, more uplifting one. The Work is a reductive process, what a therapist friend of mine calls "cognitive de-structuring" as opposed to, say, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, which is a re-structuring of thought patterns. When we inquire, we gradually work our way to the opposites, after calling the mind's bluff about what it habitually has held dear. Otherwise, there is no proof that anything else could be equally true or truer, and the mind needs concrete examples in order to shift its loyalties.

To move from depression to elation wasn't a goal in doing this inquiry, and I didn't even know it was possible. All I knew was that I was caught in a story that was excruciating and therefore may not have been entirely accurate, I recognized a certain stubbornness in clinging to my belief, and at the same time, the curiosity and wilingness to see if there was anything else available to me. I was tired of beating myself.

In retrospect, I am not surprised that I became elated after questioning my thoughts. Depression is compressed, heavy, dense, low. When we question our depressive thinking, we are left with less gravity, nothing to cling to, nowhere to go but up.

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

October 9, 2007

The Worst/Best Thing That Could Happen

Charles Dickens said, "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us..." (From A Tale of Two Cities.)

Byron Katie tells us, "The worst that could happen is the best that could happen, but only always." (It's that "the universe is friendly" deal.)

If this reasoning makes you feel a little schizophrenic, you're not alone. We don't call it The Work for nothing.

Here's my recent encounter with that thing I call hellacious grace:

Thursday night, Sept. 27: I perform a routine software upgrade on my already troublesome new laptop. The machine makes an eerie noise, the screen goes black, and it shuts down. Naturally, it is fifteen minutes past the time my computer's manufacturer's customer care reps shut down for the night.

I try all the rebooting tricks I know. Look up user forums on my spare (very spare, and dying) older computer. Try calling my friend Loren, who knows everything about computers and most other things; he does not return my call.

I am up all night obsessing.

Friday: After a long time on hold, I manage to get ahold of telephone service representatives at Lemon Computers, Inc. Not one, but several of them, since the first one sends me to a "specialist" who knows no more than the first rep, and then, finally, to "customer care," a.k.a. "Where we send the irate customers who won't be appeased by us underpaid kids."

The news is not good. I have to send the computer in for repairs, which could take a few weeks, or get to the nearest Lemon store, a half hour away, and me with no car or public transportation option to get there. My data, I'm told, is likely lost. Lemon's warranty does not cover data loss or retrieval, even if the computer's malfunction is caused by a faulty product or the company's negligence. I look into nearby data retrieval companies; if they can even do the job, they will charge me almost as much as the computer itself cost. Most months, I don't earn what a computer costs.

I reach several friends, who commiserate or give redundant advice. One asks if I want to do The Work; sounds great, but my story is, I don't have time, I have more important things on my plate here (and besides, I'm right, damn it).

Friday evening: Loren finally calls back, and says he supposes he could take me to the store in Los Gatos the next day, but suggests we try a few other things first.

I am overwhelmed, and at a loss. I hadn't gotten to figuring out a system for backing up my files, because I was spending most of my computer time trying to coax out or exterminate the software and hardware bugs it shipped with. I don't have my precious manuscripts, my workshop notes, my online address book, or my client data, and I have a full schedule ahead. How will I be present with my work, for my clients?

I go to the movies, see a weepy chick flick, eat pizza (my first meal since lunch the previous day), and try to forget.

Friday late night through Saturday morning: I toss and turn. Finally it comes to me that I could be doing The Work as long as I'm not sleeping or tinkering with my Lemon laptop. Investigating the belief, "I am dependent on my computer," provides me with some enlightenment. I don't take care of my business or myself when I believe this thought. Obviously I can't sleep. I hate the people at Lemon. I hate the very machine I feel dependent on. Without this thought I would not presume disaster; I would do what's in front of me; non-computer tasks. I'd do all the research I've been doing but without all the drama. I turn the thought around. Wow. Truly speaking, I'm not dependent on anything; I'm still breathing. I can reconstruct whatever information I can. Creative oeuvre? I must not need it anymore. If the universe is friendly, what wonderful thing will take its place?

I don't feel better, but I do have some perspective; enough to get a couple of hours of sleep.

Saturday morning: I am, if not joyous, amazingly and entirely surrendered to what is. Que sera sera. I am going to live my life in the meantime. I go to my improv class; it is entirely enjoyable. Loren is there; he comes home with me to examine the "patient." After awhile, I ask if we could please just go to the Lemon store; he hesitantly, but kindly, agrees.

It's a perfect day in the South Bay. There's no traffic on the way to Los Gatos, taking us only 20 minutes. The Lemon store is hopping with young people needing their mp3 players fixed. The technicians can't see me until 3:30. Perfect; obviously it's now lunchtime. I treat Loren to delicious Vietnamese food, we window shop for housewares and clothing in funky-chic boutiques, and I purchase a half pound of some of my favorite childhood treats—mocha coffee beans, red Swedish fish, "likkerish" whips, and Sourpatch fruits—from the penny candy store.

We return to the computer shop. The tech, God bless him, gets me up and running in minutes. I get my data backed up on the spot, and my future backup solutions are mapped out for me. I tell the tech genius about a wireless problem I've been having, unsolved several attempts earlier by the phone "specialists." My Genius diagnoses the problem in a flash, and takes my computer to the back where it will be sent to the "depot" and returned, all fixed and cleaned up, straight to my door in a week's time at most.

Without my computer taking up most of my time, I clean my apartment, swim, use the phone, watch Netflix. The mended laptop arrives in just five days. My business survives, as does my life's work, without my even needing any of it

Is there an example from your life of "The worst that could happen is the best that could happen?" Send me your comments; I'll compile some of your stories for a future post.

P.S. Upon reading this, my friend, Rev. Tami Coyne wrote, only half joking: "Wonderful article. There's something about computer problems that make major existential crises--like the inevitablitity of death--seem irrelevant."

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

October 5, 2007

Molly Gordon Was RIght

Yup. Molly Gordon was correct. I've been getting a lot of eBook offers in my in-box lately, and it seems that my popular and well-reviewed eBook, Tranformational Inquiry: Working on Your Work is indeed seriously underpriced for the marketplace, where eBooks of this magnitude are going for upwards of $50.00.

So on November 1, I'm going to raise the price of Working on Your Work to $19.95 (still seriously underpriced, I'm told, and that's fine with me).

That still leaves you a couple of weeks to order it for $14.95. And when you do, you'll receive the as-yet unpublished report, "The Top 10 Erroneous Business Beliefs: Are They Holding You Back?" as my early holiday gift to you.

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

October 2, 2007

More Depth Than I Thought

Here's one of those forwards we all get a gazillion times apiece, created by Aude Oliva, PhD. of M.I.T.'s Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences.

Look at the pictures of "Mr. Angry" and "Ms. Calm" close up. Then stand back a few feet and look at them again. They will appear to have traded places. (I discovered this also works when you look at the images from a side angle.) The email asks, "Does this prove that things (or people) aren't always as they seem?"

I was ready to simply delete this email yet again, but something prompted me to research the picture, if only to assign proper attribution. When I did, I found Dr. Oliva's website of cool hybrid images, including the hilarious "Marilyn Einstein," at http://cvcl.mit.edu/hybridimage.htm.

According to Dr. Oliva: "Hybrid images change interpretation as a function of viewing distance. Hybrids combine the low-spatial frequencies of one picture with the high spatial frequencies of another picture producing an image with an interpretation that changes with viewing distance."

You knew I was going to find something analogous to The Work here, didn't you? Here goes: everything we think we know is an interpretation of what is real. Inquiry is a way of stepping back from what we appear to see, or know. Questioning what we believe and turning our thoughts around provide us with a different perspective, in which both the original perception and the new one could be equally valid. Let's say I think I'm Ms. Calm. I look at the gentleman on my left and I perceive him to be one angry dude. Is it true that he's always angry? Yes, I have proof, look at that face. Can I absolutely know that it's true? I've just stepped back from the "I know" mind. No, in fact, I can't absolutely know this; he doesn't appear to be angry any longer. How do I treat him when I see him as angry? I feel separate from him. I can't meet him where he is.

Turn it around: "He is angry" becomes "He is not angry." Turned around to the self, I can see where I am angry sometimes, especially when I am judging "Mr. Angry." I turned out to be just like him, and with some perspective, I am able to see that he is not so different from me.

Cool, huh?

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