December 25, 2008

Love, Approval and Appreciation

What won't we do for Validation?

December 10, 2008

Why Self Improvement Sucks

My friend Lisa Holliday Lee recently wrote on her Facebook status bar, "I have stopped improving myself. I invite you to join me."

Now that's a bandwagon upon which I won't hesitate to jump.

I'm all for self-help (as long as it doesn't become what my friend Sharla Jacobs calls "shelf help"--a library full of self-help books unread or un-acted upon). Self-help gets a bad rap, bringing to mind those guys on the late-night infomercials who want to sell you an expensive set of revolutionary DVDs that will make you a wealthy, healthy babe-magnet (and they'll include a set of steak knives made by descendants of Samurai sword-makers if you act now). Self-help is simply a self-directed way to remedy something that isn't working in one's life, whether it's a behavior or a mindset. We could call The Work of Byron Katie a form of self-help. Alcoholics Anonymous is another.

The concept of self improvement over self-help rankles with good reason: it puts forth that something's broken that needs fixing. "Face it," says the concept of self improvement, "you're no darn good!" This feeds upon latent anxieties we may have about ourselves and has us be "doers" rather than "un-doers." Instead of cultivating awareness of what is, "We look before and after, and pine for what is not." (From Shelley's To a Skylark.)

A self-help approach to belief in lack would take us within to discover where that comes from and to question whether or not it is true. A self-improvement approach to a belief in lack would be to assume it's true that you're missing something and to strategize about getting more of whatever it is you think is lacking. Then, if you don't get whatever it is that's supposed to fill in the lack, you're a loser. If you do get whatever it is and you aren't happy, it means you must be doing something wrong, so there's more need for improvement.

What if there really is a genuine lack or need for improvement? I like to think that noticing that something feels uncomfortable is simply being in integrity. Out of that realization, there is a shift and action may occur; when it does, it's not so much of a "doing"; it comes naturally. You want to feel better, so you start eating vegetables and taking long walks, as opposed to brutalizing yourself to lose weight and exercise now, or else.

Self improvement, on the other hand, would indicate that there's something I ought to be doing that could make me better. Therefore my efforts to change are fraught with--well, efforting, for one thing. And perhaps depression and self-hatred. That sucks!

This is not to say we become sappy affirmation-spouters like Al Franken's adorable character Stuart Smalley. At heart, I think what we all really seek is balance and alignment with what we know to be good and right for us, as opposed to self improvement. Anything that falls short of that inner knowing feels off...including the thought, "I need to improve myself."

©2008 by Carol L. Skolnick; all rights reserved.

November 23, 2008

Giving Thanks from a Truly Grateful Place

Happy Thanksgiving to my friends in the U.S. I'm traveling this week and wanted to leave you with this message: Thanksgiving is a joyous holiday for many and not so great for others. I am grateful that I received an invitation to spend the holiday with my family and had good health and enough frequent flyer miles to get there. I'm excited to see my cousins, my aunt, and some friends. And I'm truly grateful, after searching the thrift shops here to no avail, that I found a sorely needed new winter coat at a Ross store for under $75!

During more prosperous years, there were holiday times when I felt depressed, lonely and conflicted. Sometimes I was among friends or family but longing for something else. At other times I was grateful to be by myself, or volunteering at the Vet's Hall. It's never about the money, or the company, or the good food or lack thereof; its always about what's happening in the mind.

In light of the current economy it may feel difficult to experience peace and gratitude if you have to make due with less. Add to that stress about spending too much for the holidays, being back in the old family dynamics, the fear of gaining weight...and suddenly "Happy Thanksgiving" feels like a lie.

If you are feeling sad, pressured or disappointed this holiday season, I invite you to question your thoughts. Is it true you must visit your mother-in-law? That you don't have enough money for a proper celebration? That holiday foods are fattening and unhealthy?

*Listen to this golden oldie on that very subject from a holiday teleclass I held a couple of years ago.

I Have to Eat That Food

*Write your most stressful holiday thoughts in the form of a belief statement or "one-liner"—for example, "I don't have enough money." Take yourself through written inquiry—the four questions and turnaround of The Work—using the One-Belief-at-a-Time Worksheet, available for free download at

*Notice if your thoughts are going to a place of deprivation and lack, and make a list of things you can do for yourself that point to the bounty of the season and of your life. If you're not traveling, can you take time on Thanksgiving Day for nice bubble bath or workout? Do you have any non-perishable food that you can spare to a holiday food drive? If you're going to be alone, can you make new connections while volunteering at a soup kitchen? Can you find reasons why it's the best thing that you "have" to visit or host family?

*Gear up for the holidays with a few sessions with a Certified Facilitator of The Work. Or call the Hotline at no charge. We're here to help!

©2008 by Carol L. Skolnick; all rights reserved.30

November 22, 2008

The Gift of Inquiry for the Holidays

Got the "yikes my family's coming, everything's so expensive, it's all too commercial, I hate the lack of sunlight, the kids are fighting over the X-Box, there are pine needles all over the living room" holiday season blues?

The Work on the Web is an interactive and amazingly intuitive program that actually facilitates you in inquiry, online, at your convenience.

For a limited time, the price has been lowered from $39 for three months to just $27. When you register using code 119-1132, you'll receive an additional two weeks at no charge. (And, full disclosure, when you use this code I get a small commission from Coaching Interactive as well!)

I use this program myself and find it helpful during those times when I'm feeling like I need "someone" to do The Work with but it's too early or late to make a phone call!

Give the gift of The Work on the Web today, or buy it for yourself!

November 17, 2008

No One Can Take Their Life

My heart is full and my eyes well over remembering my beautiful friend John, his heart of gold and his angelic face, his ongoing quest for truth and his service to so many.

John, only 30 years old, was hit by a train in the wee hours on November 7. We could say it was a suicide and who really knows? It seems likely and the facts are: man in the dark, train, impact, death.

And if it was a suicide? Even in his apparent overwhelm and self-doubt, I always trusted him to know what was best for him, and I trust him still. I do this without condoning a violent end to any life; rather, I trust him, knowing that what he was experiencing in his mind had to be very, very violent for him to want to end it in this way...for him to be unable to turn to another way.

I feel what I would call a loss today, and yet what a gift to my world he continues to be.

One morning last week, I was feeling some regret that I hadn't stayed in closer touch with John more recently, as if that would have made a difference. So I did The Work on the thought, "John took his life," and I saw how I think life is ours to give and take, and that life means individual if the death of his body means he died. John is the Life, as are all of us; his was a dear, dear expression of the Life. I can't stop seeing him in my mind's eye and loving him. He didn't take that.

My turnarounds were "John did not take his life" and also "John took his life;" choosing perhaps the life that seemed preferable to him at the time of his death; death of the body-mind. Who says so-called life is better and higher than so-called death? Why do I see his death as a tragedy? Should he have stayed here for anyone else's sake?

"I took John's life," believing in his death as well as imagining him taking his life in different ways (I didn't yet know how he died at the time I did inquiry). I killed him dozens of times between yesterday and today.

"I took my life." If I think he's dead, a part of me dies.

One turnaround I didn't see, given to me by a friend: "John gave his life." Oh yes, the John I knew/know lived that way, bestowing his gifts so freely. I remember him when he came to Santa Cruz with our friend Rachel as part of their inquiry project; I joined them that day doing The Work with people about prejudice. Rachel and I paired up while John went off on his own, asking people if they wanted to explore; he even "accosted" one of our local characters, a silent clown known as the Pink Umbrella Man. Seemingly everyone was included in John's giving. As people share about him on the public forum dedicated to his life, he makes even more friends.

I want to share a beautiful Katie-quote about death from a long out-of-print book, A Cry in the Desert:

"We look at the survivors of the death of a beloved and we say,'Oh, it's bad.' Not true!...'I didn't do enough. I didn't tell him what I should have before he died. Who is going to take care of me? What am I going to do; he's not here?'....What they call death, I call a Celebration of Life....Death of a close one is a new opportunity to give me what they gave me and to appreciate creatively as I do it."
—Byron Katie

©2008 by Carol L. Skolnick; all rights reserved.

November 5, 2008

What Kept Me Up Last Night

Along with much of the country, I stayed up late watching (and in my case, celebrating) the Presidential election results. I was excited about this election in a way I have not been excited by politics in decades. And yet, there was a sadness about California's Proposition 8 and other similar measures that passed around the country.

Proposition 8 is about banning gay marriage. The final count isn't in, but so far it seems that the Ayes have it.

I'm privileged to live in a very liberal town, one where homosexuality is seen as a flavor of being human. Most people here would not wish to revoke the rights of gay people any more than they would seek to revoke the rights of people with brown eyes. Several close friends of mine here (and elsewhere in the world) are in committed same-sex relationships. Just recently I attended my first gay wedding celebration, a union between two women. It was exactly like any other wedding ceremony, legally conducted according to the then-laws of the state of California, complete with a minister and a marriage license, a ceremony of love and commitment in the presence of God and loved ones, a festive meal and a wedding cake, toasts to future happiness...and much joy all around.

For religious reasons, personal discomfort with homosexuality or whatever else people believe, many want to rend asunder what my two friends have built together. They say that marriage—and the legal protections granted to married couples—can only be between a man and a woman.

So, in spite of my great joy in witnessing a historic moment of a black man from humble beginnings elected President of the United States, I woke up in the middle of the night and felt sorrow.

Today I did The Work on "Proposition 8 should not have passed." I react with severe judgment against the people who voted Yes; I imagine I know who they are, that they are bigots, fearful religious zealots, ignorant slobs who are severely lacking as human beings. I feel I have something to teach them. I want them to change their minds.

I'm upset for my friends who just married and for others who have been making wedding plans. I'm sad for gay youth who may not grow up able to have a marriage and family of their own.

I feel somehow responsible. I should have been more supportive, more pro-active.

I throw away my joy about my friends' marriage; my joy at Barack Obama's triumphant journey to the White House. I project a hopeless future where everyone in the world is not—and will never be—treated with equality.

Who would I be without this thought? Still open and not in a hurry. Available to my friends. Available to work for change. That could be as simple as asking questions, getting to know who the people who voted Yes really are. Not tarring them all with the same brush; no tar at all. And, seeing as I can be a change agent and yet not control people, I would be in my own business about how I should vote...going peacefully on my peace narch.

I would see that this has been an incredible beginning. The entire nation knows about gay marriage now; ironically, this is what parents of young children did not want taught in the schools and yet, unless one lives in a home with no television or newspapers, just about everyone on earth now knows that love, fidelity and the desire for marriage is not exclusively a heterosexual impulse. There is also increased awareness of how the civil rights, the human rights, of gay people are curtailed under our present laws; I am so grateful to have that awareness myself.

Turned around: Proposition 8 should have passed. It should have passed because it did. If the Universe is friendly, why is this a good thing? Perhaps this will light a fire under those who didn't vote on the proposition at all, who felt it wasn't important or that it wasn't about them or their families. Perhaps any backlash against this proposition—which at last count passed by only 400,000 votes—will unify more gay men and Lesbians in California and elsewhere to work harder to realize the right to marry under the law. Perhaps young people of all persuasions will be inspired now to learn more about the issue and move towards peaceful solutions in their lifetimes.

Another turnaround: I should not have passed Proposition 8. While I voted against it, I should notice where the idea of gay marriage makes me uncomfortable. At one time I saw it as silly and unnecessary (a view I have sometimes had of "straight" marriage as well). At this recent wedding between a feminine woman and her "butch" partner, I felt weird about the ceremony referring to them as the bride and groom, thinking they should identify as two brides; in effect I voted internally against them having the marriage they choose to have. Until I am able to see them as good and perfect the way they are, how can I expect anyone else to do it?

©2008 by Carol L. Skolnick; all rights reserved.

November 2, 2008

Nasty Campaign Ads Hurt My Candidate!

Do ugly campaign ads hurt the candidates at which they are aimed? Perhaps not this one! In fact, I'll bet Kay Hagen's supporters in North Carolina are really thankful to Elizabeth Dole for it.

There shouldn't be negative campaign ads, is that true? Where does your mind travel when you believe this thought? And then, do you go to the polls in peace or with stress?

©2008 by Carol L. Skolnick; all rights reserved.

October 22, 2008

Is This Guy Enlightened or What?

I just read this wonderful interview at the BoingBoing website with "Dr. Housing Bubble," a SoCal real estate blogger who, while he predicts the economy going even lower, suggests we not panic; what a concept!

Here's the best part:

"Ultimately what most fear right now is instability and I can understand that. Keep yourself healthy (both mentally and physically), spend time with those you care about, and remember that we will come out of this but it is important to figure out how we want our future to look. If we make moves out of fear, our future will reflect action taken in fear. If we make logical decisions and follow courses of action based on clear thinking, we will have a better chance of improving our current situation. It really is up to us and that should make anyone feel empowered."

October 21, 2008

Redefining Success

Do you worry about money, even when you have enough?

Are your personal values reflected in your business and financial values?

Do your relationships and regard for customers, clients, staff, colleagues, competitors and shareholders differ vastly from those with your friends and family?

Do you measure your success in terms of quantifiable attributes, be they wealth, fame, position, or material goods?

Are you aggressively competitive?

In my article, The Success Mess, I discussed the stress inherent in the quest for "success," as well as how to be present to the successes we all of us already enjoy.

Did you know that the first dictionary definition of success doesn't have anything to do with wealth or position? It's "the favorable or prosperous termination of attempts or endeavors." So first of all, it's an end, it's over, you're done. (And, by the way, "prosperous" can mean wealthy, but it can also mean favorable, lucky, or auspicious.

So here's where we get into trouble: when we fail to feel complete and replete with our success. We always want more, more, more...and we're not okay with change (as in, recession and stock market corrections). Success is about termination (we did good!), but we want auspiciousness to last...and to increase. "Now" isn't good enough. What about tomorrow? What about ten years from now? What about retirement? What about legacy?

So think about your definition of success and see if it feels peaceful to you...especially if you are materially successful. Why do you pursue more? Are you afraid of the future? Do you feel lack in other areas of your life?

Consider this quote:

"Corporate success is no longer compromised by humility, surrender, and forgiveness. In today's business arena, success is now contingent on them." --Peter Amato

Why would that be? I posit that the drive to succeed, according to our definition of success, is a misguided search for wholeness. We think that financial security or abundance (meaning, having more than we need, since we always have exactly enough in the moment)--or owning nice things, expensive clothes, a big house, fancy cars, or being a stud with a hot sex partner, or being the most beautiful woman in town, or being revered or famous--will complete us. If we look outside ourselves for completion, we can never be complete.

If success is a favorable termination, can money ever be the end? We spend it, it's taxed, it gets stolen, the stock market does its thing, banks fail, emergencies arise that require more money.

Has power over others ever completed you?

Have you cleaned up your relationships yet, owned your part in conflicts and misunderstandings, made amends? Can any amount of "success" fill the emptiness left by separation from others?

Have you forgiven people for their mistakes? Have you forgiven yourself?

Here's how to redefine success: do The Work. Inquire into the thoughts that cause resentment and fear towards parent, sibling, child, partner, friend, pet, government, religion, sex, health, looks, career, public image and of course, money.

The success we are looking for is the end of suffering. It's what we want money, power, other people and things to give to us, and those "successes" can only be temporary and may not always be within our reach. Peace, however, is always available...and that's the favorable termination, the last story.

©2008 by Carol L. Skolnick; all rights reserved.

October 20, 2008

Quell Your Economic Fears with Inquiry

"I don’t ever need more money than I have, and I invite you to realize the same truth in your life. When you understand this, you begin to realize that you already have all the security you wanted money to give you in the first place. It’s a lot easier to make money from this position." —Byron Katie

This quote comes from the current Byron Katie newsletter, available here. To subscribe to this infrequent but very juicy newsletter at no cost, visit

October 13, 2008

The Ultimate Turnaround

"And when you stop and think about it,
You won't believe it's true...
That all the love you've been giving,
Has all been meant for you."

—Justin Hayward, from "Question", Moody Blues, 1970

How to Deal with the Current Crisis

No...I'm not going to suggest you to do The Work...yet. We have some triage to do first.

First, I suggest you honor your feelings; hurt, anger, disappointment, fear...let them have their life. I don't mean attaching to gloom, doom, and blame; I mean simply being honest with where you are right now. Spiritual bypass, especially the kind born out of fearing or disdaining "negativity," never works for long. You can't have a clear head if you try to stuff your genuine feelings down. When the emotions subside, either through expression or, with the more tenacious ones, The Work, you'll be better equipped to figure out a sane response so that you can take care of your own needs and those of your family, and be of service in the world as well.

Second, a little perspective is good. The American economy changes; it always has. In my lifetime of 50 years, I've seen several downturns, and things always bounce back...perhaps never to the dizzying heights of the late 1980s when we were all getting 16% returns on our CDs—that was an anomaly—but certainly to more-or-less normal. We can't know how long the downturn is going to last, or what's going to happen next, but we can know this: "This, too, shall pass."

Another perspective: if the U.S. economy fails, everyone fails. Do you think the rest of the world, so heavily attached to and invested in the U.S. economy, is going to let that happen? I mean, how much do we owe China now?

Third: Don't forget to laugh; laughter is healing. See below.

Finally, please try to stop scaring yourself. All kinds of things could happen, that's true...and that doesn't mean they will happen. Even if they do—the economy totally collapses, our money becomes worthless, there are no jobs, etc.—well, that puts us all in the same boat, those on Welfare and those with billions. Worthless money won't buy happiness now, or guarantees of safety in the future. We'll have to find another way. That may be what stock market "corrections" are for.

©2008 by Carol L. Skolnick; all rights reserved.

October 6, 2008

Desiring the McDreamy

It's gorgeous, important, enticing, sexy, powerful, soul-satisfying, everything you ever wanted...and it's not yours.

I call it "The McDreamy."

Fans of the TV show Grey's Anatomy know what I'm talking about. For the rest, Patrick Dempsey's character on the show, the heartbreaker Dr. Derek Shepherd, a.k.a. Dr. McDreamy, has come to mean, in the popular lexicon, a devilishly handsome man that women want and can't have. In this case, the McDreamy is a married man who still loves the wife from whom he is separated. As wonderful as he is, he's also self-absorbed and unavailable.

I'm expanding the meaning of McDreamy to encompass whatever we desire that continually eludes us, and we just don't get it--or don't want to get it. It could be the perfect partner (if only s/he weren't already married)...or it might be the perfect house (that we can't afford or that someone else bought first), the perfect car (limited edition, when they're gone, they're gone), the dream job (only one person gets to be the Yankees announcer, and so far, it's not you), the book deal (editors and agents love it but in this economy, they won't take a chance on an unknown like you). It could be that you want the youthful beauty, health and flexibility of a 25-year-old, and you're 50. (Okay, now you've met one of my McDreamies!)

The difference between a McDreamy and something you could actually work towards getting is this: you simply can't have it. Even the most fervent practitioner of The Secret can't get it. It's not yours, and it's not going to happen in this lifetime, ever. You could have something else that is just as good, or even better for you, but won't do at all, and so you get to be miserable and unfulfilled.

What's your McDreamy? Name it: "I'll never be happy without ______." Is that true? Hold your desire up against the Four Questions and Turnaround of The Work. Let your answers arise from the heart.

How do you react when you believe this thought? Look over your life; describe your past as you've strived for the unattainable.

Who would you be without this thought? Describe a happy life without the McDreamy. What does it look like? How would you treat yourself and others differently?

Turn the thought around: "I'll always be happy without _____ ." Is that as true or truer? Give specific examples.

Now, find three reasons why you are better off without that McDreamy.

The McDreamy: do you even want it anymore?

"Reality unfolds without desire, bringing with it more beauty, more luxury, more exquisite surprises than the imagination could ever devise. The mind, as it lives through its desires, demands that the body follow after it. How else can it mirror back original cause? Anger, sadness, or frustration lets us know that we're at war with the way of it. Even when we get what we wanted, we want it to last, and it doesn't, it can't. And because life is projected and mind is so full of confusion, there is no peace. But when you allow life to flow like water, you become that water. And you watch life lived to the ultimate, always giving you more than you need."
--Byron Katie, from A Thousand Names for Joy: Living in Harmony with the Way Things Are

©2008 by Carol L. Skolnick; all rights reserved.

September 19, 2008

Does This Ego Make Me Look Fat?

I went to a "meeting" last night—to protect the innocent, I won't say which one or where, but suffice it to say it was for people who have issues with food, eating, and the effects of food excesses on the body. It's no secret to readers of this blog that I've had more than my share of those issues since an early age, when I was urged, as a little one, to "Eat everything on your plate so you'll grow up to be big and strong"...only to discover, when I was 10, that—according to the same adults who once found my large appetite to be so cute—I was eating too much, and would surely grow up to be big and weak.

To sum up what I heard at the meeting: some people get obsessed with food and eating to the point of unhappiness and ill health, and this is called "food addiction." A way to control the addictive urge to eat "red light" foods, and to overeat in general, is to consume only specific foods, to weigh and measure them with precision, and never to stray from this, not even on your birthday when everyone else is enjoying your birthday cake. If you want dominion over the addiction, you intend to follow this plan for the rest of your life, one day at a time.

In this particular group, which has stricter guidelines than similar groups, food choices are in the control of a sponsor who tells the sponsee exactly what to eat. This is done because "We [group members] admit we are powerless over food." There is also a huge emphasis in this program about weight loss; it seems that success on the plan is measured not simply in "abstinent" days, but in the amount of weight lost and kept off. (I wonder how this works for slender people with food issues.)

Actually, I'm on a regimen myself at the moment that is...well, regimented. There's a list of foods I can choose from (it's quite extensive but not all-encompassing), which may be prepared only in specific combinations...certain foods that are verboten (grains, sugar, red meat, shellfish, nuts, table salt, coffee, black tea)...and all are to be eaten in weighed-and-measured amounts, on the small side but perfectly adequate for complete adult nutrition. The food is also prepared with a minimum of fat, no heavy sauces, excessive condiments or spices, so that the natural flavors and textures of the food can be fully experienced. It is also recommended to eat without drinking or talking during the meal, and to chew each bite to liquid (at least 22 times) before swallowing.

Following this plan—which I will do for awhile and see how it goes (so far, so good; I feel great; joint pain is remarkably reduced, and my ADD seems to have disappeared)—certainly makes life easier, unless I think I need regular ingestion of vegetable tempura or lobster risotto in order to be happy. No choices about amounts, and fewer choices about what I'm going to eat, means less headroom taken up by thoughts of food. I've come to see that I spend a good portion of my day thinking about (or obsessing over), shopping for, preparing and eating meals...time I could be using to write articles, work on my business, watch movies, or do The Work.

But am I powerless over food? I don't see how that is possible. I'm not addicted to food; I'm addicted to my thoughts about food. Thoughts like, "I need more food." I inquired into that concept the other day and discovered that this has never been true for me; it can never be true, and yet I have believed it all my life and used it as a justification for eating more than I actually want to.

As I've watched my addictive tendencies around food and eating, I've discovered that my core addiction is to the future. Wanting more of something—be it food, sex, dope, money, attention, time on the internet—is not a present-tense story; it's about wanting comfort, security, and pleasure. Wanting more means forgetting what's happening in the moment; I'm already concerned with the next moment, and with the point where what's in front of me is gone, so I miss what's in front of me. As a result, I eat too fast and don't experience taste and fullness; I load my fork for the next mouthful, not giving the current mouthful my full attention. In following this program, I've come to see that the next mouthful is not my business; when I'm eating mindfully, I don't miss the fulfillment of this one that I'm chewing now. As a result, I don't need as much food as I previously thought, and I'm appreciating and being intimate with the food I have.

As for weight loss, it's been happening, and yet this is not where it's at for me at the moment. I welcome a lighter body as a bonus, because there is less encumbrance, less physical pain, easier breathing, more energy...and I see that I have been unkind to this body to have ever seen it as unworthy, unattractive, or less than perfect. Body-condemnation is an ego-trip of the worst kind; a false sense of self in which there is no recognition of one's true nature. Love has no problem living in a fat body, a skeletal body, an old body, a body that's ill or misshapen or missing parts. The only time a fat body is a problem is when I project that it is hateful and I identify as a hateful object.

Byron Katie once told me, "There's nothing you can do to lose [or gain] weight." That goes against scientific evidence to the contrary, but this is not about science; it's about eating in a way that feels closer to Source. When we touch Source, there are many things that we used to think we needed that we see we no longer need. This doesn't mean that we don't exercise, lose or gain weight, sleep, feed the body healthy foods in healthy amounts. It's like the story about a monk who for many years meditated and meditated, prayed and prayed for a vision of the Divine Mother, until one day he realized he was That and didn't need the vision. That was the day the Goddess came to bless him.

©2008 by Carol L. Skolnick; all rights reserved.

September 6, 2008

Sarah Palin Says...

Governer Palin said, during her Republican National Convention speech:

"The American Presidency is not supposed to be a journey of personal discovery."

Oh, I beg to differ.

If it isn't a journey of personal discovery, the American Presidency and everything else is a dead-end job.

If I don't grow from my experience, I can't serve.

September 5, 2008

A Katie-ism and Your Response Is...?

Byron Katie has said, "I haven't met an angry person in 22 years."

How is that possible? Why would she say that?

Discuss in the comments.

August 28, 2008

A Response to Byron Katie on Oprah's Soul Series

A friend writes,

"Hi Carol,

I am not in agreement [with your writeup] after seeing Katie on Oprah....I did not find Katie presenting and doing The Work but a facsimile thereof. Where was the talk of our innocence, what we are willing to do for love? Instead I found her speaking like an intellectual instead of the warm loving woman who speaks from her heart and soul.

No, for me, I was sadly disappointed. And very grateful to Oprah's vulnerability and her open and willing ability to pull the conversation for the listener to a level of comprehension and understanding as a newcomer to The Work.

My suggestions would be to have Katie do some literal listening and answer the questions. To stay out of the mind and come from the heart and express from herenthusiasm...that is when she is a powerhouse and at her best."


I hear you, C. I like it also when Katie is not "presenting," and this was more of an interview than a facilitation. She had a limited amount of time to present the essence of what The Work is and where she is coming from. I've been in that position myself, and for me it is never as powerful as The Work alone, and it's what is indicated in the situation.

My thought is that not everyone can hear the talk of innocence and what we'll do for love. That is for us to find out for ourselves.

She also had Oprah as a host, and Oprah interrupts her guests, that's her job. Oprah was also being somewhat combative. I thought Katie did great in the face of this. I thought Oprah did great too; and there was a noticeable change in her after she answered the questions from the heart. Apparently Oprah was pleased and the response to the show was good; Katie said yesterday that more filming was happening.

I'm sure Katie would be open to hearing your suggestions for her, why not write and tell her? Meanwhile, I am going to take them to heart for myself. I want to be a literal listener and to answer the questions...and, when presenting and facilitating The Work, to stay out of the mind and come from the heart, and express myself from my enthusiasm. That is when I am a powerhouse and at my best. So thanks for this.


August 27, 2008

The Success Mess

Questioning the beliefs that hold me back has been key to all of the successes in my life, and not just in my business. Increased clientele and cash flow is just one aspect of success, and I've discovered that it's not the most important one. In the end, money alone can't guarantee happiness. Happiness to me is waking up in the morning excited about whatever lies ahead, knowing I'm in my integrity and progressing at exactly the right pace.

There was a time when I was earning six figures and felt like a failure. I would think thoughts like, "I'm not doing enough," "I should be further along than I am," "The future isn't secure," and "Advertising is dishonest." (Most inconvenient, that last one, as I was a direct-response copywriter.)

There are many coaching and self-help techniques that rely on positive visualization, affirmations, and "gremlin-slaying." There is a lot of emphasis on "just say no to negativity," and no attempt to understand where the negativity came from. I used these techniques for years without much movement; my material successes seemed to come and go, no thanks to how I attempted to dictate a life that fit my definition of successful. I also couldn't drop my self-limiting beliefs by trying to substitute them with "positive" ones.

With The Work of Byron Katie--a transformative process of inquiry that I have facilitated professionally since 2002--we don't worry about dissolving self-limiting beliefs; instead we identify and meet these beliefs with understanding. We enter the process, not to change anything (although change may indeed occur, and often swiftly), but to discover what's true for us.

As it turns out, self-limiting beliefs are lies. Stressful thoughts "quit" us when the mind calls its own bluff.

What we may not realize is how some "positive" beliefs are also stressful. Seeing yourself surrounded by riches is just "woman or man surrounded by riches." It's what we think having money and possessions and fame means, not the money, possessions and fame themselves, that turn us on...until they don't.

"I see myself driving an expensive car, living in a dessigner home, turning down speaking engagements, the author of six bestselling books, helping millions of people, traveling the world, always staying at the Ritz-Carlton club floor, with more money in the bank than I know what to do with, and beating Bill Gates at philanthropy." Sounds great, I'm not knocking it...and, can you know that this is what success looks like? Can you know that your life, as it is now, is not what success looks like?

Let's say you have openings in your schedule, and bills to pay. You do not have a car and driver. You haven't been written up in Forbes. You like the big house next door to yours better than your rented room. "I'm not a success now." Is that true? "I will be successful when I have those things." Can you really know that?

In visualizing yourself in the so-called successful life, are you living and working fully in the life you have now? Do you love your life or is it just a piece of driftwood to take you to the next "better" and "more successful" life?

I invite you to make a list of ten ways that you are a success, a huge success. If it's difficult to identify any successes, start with the simplest things: "I got out of bed today." "I didn't skip breakfast." "I was suicidal and didn't kill myself after all." "I took a walk in the sunshine." Keep going: "I raised my wonderful son all by myself." "I lost 10 pounds and kept it off." "I kept my last job for a whole six months." And keep going. "I helped children learn how to read in an after-school program." "My picture was in the paper." "I didn't beat myself up today." "I met my deadline for the project." "After three years, I took myself to the dentist and committed to treatment until my teeth are all fixed." "I was scared to be alone but I left my marriage." "I was scared to commit, but I worked through my fears and got married." "It was really hard to do it, but I stayed in my integrity and said no." "I said yes to something everyone said was too risky." "I built my business from the ground up." "I rebuilt my business after it failed." "I stopped beating a dead horse and got out of my old line of work." "I got a new client this week" "My one and only client all month was very happy with my work and will give me a good recommendation."

When we apply the simple process of inquiry to thoughts around success, breakthrough results occur naturally. A questioned mind is always more creative, more efficient, more appreciative of what is; there is no limit to the success it enjoys.

©2008 by Carol L. Skolnick; all rights reserved.

Cool Publication News

I've got two articles relating the power of The Work in my life, appearing in September 2008 publications. The first article called "Days of Awe"—is an inquiry-based approach to the Jewish High Holy days and was adapted from some of my blog post here on the subject. It was published in the September issue of Science of Mind magazine, and it's even featured on the cover. (You can find Science of Mind at larger magazine retailers and at "spiritual" bookstores; the article is not online, at least not yet.)

The other article, which is my brief account of my self-care as someone once diagnosed with depressive who uses The Work, will be in the Fall 2008 issue of Anchor, a magazine about living with depression that is published by Magpie Media in Canada. (I haven't seen it yet.)

August 26, 2008

August 24, 2008

I'm Back from My Trip

Carol at left, friend Annie at right, sitting in our luxurious hotel room at the Ritz-Carlton San Francisco, wondering how on earth we're going to manage in real life without fawning service and foie gras.

Annie treated me to a marvelous outing in San Francisco and Napa in celebration of her upcoming 50th birthday. (We don't look a day over 35 in this photo, do we?) We stayed in schmancy digs, and ate at 5-star restaurants. I treated myself to a hoo-hah massage at a very posh spa in Yountville, just before having one of the most memorable dinners of my life at The French Laundry. I am now officially spoiled.

Vacations are better than real life, is that true? (Actually I'm glad to be home, and Annie is too!)

(Oh, of course that's not me. Everyone knows I never wear blue.)

August 20, 2008

Byron Katie and Oprah: A Dream Team!

It's a dream come true for me, to see Byron Katie and Oprah Winfrey together on Oprah's "Soul Series," and to witness Oprah being an authentic "Everywoman," moving from resistance to willingness to epiphany once the mind's self-protective mechanisms were revealed to her through inquiry. (In these videos, Oprah reminds me so much of myself when I first came to The Work...oh, okay, the way I still am sometimes.)

Oprah's openness to doing The Work with Katie, with millions worldwide experiencing her process, shows the rest of the world how it's done in a way that, I believe, will be taken to heart, and received as one of Oprah's many excellent "Love That!" offerings to the world.

I can't wait to see Katie on the Oprah TV show soon. (Hint, hint, Harpo Productions!)

©2008 by Carol L. Skolnick; all rights reserved.

August 19, 2008

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August 13, 2008

The Work at Work: Motivation vs. Inspiration

The dictionary definition of motivation is to induce, incite, or impel.

The definition of inspiration is a stimulus, an animating action or influence.

In this video clip, business consultant and leadership theorist Dr. Lance Secretan discusses the diffierences between motivation and inspiration. Byron Katie says that motivation is fear-based and therefore stressful. Here, Secretan says that motivation is a form of bribery an act of selfishness and greed: "Do what I want and I'll give you what you want."

Inspiration, on the other hand, comes from the Latin word spirare, which means to breathe, or to give life. The same root word is found in the English words respiration and spirit. Inspiring leaders generously share their knowledge and enthusiasm. They lead by example, acting in alignment with their core values.

Says Secretan, "Love is what powers inspiration." Can you find where that's true? Think about how you move in the world when you align your actions with what you love and hold as your truth. Are you more productive, efficient and available when you are inspired, or when you are "motivated"?

If love powers inspiration, what, then, powers motivation?

I know that when I am motivated, it's because I desire to attain something (for example, if I write one hour a day for six months, I might have the raw material for a book by the end of the six months). There's nothing wrong with that. In fact, the desire can be stoked by inspiration (such as, my friend followed a simple diet and exercise regimen; she feels better and looks great. Hm, I'd like to have tighter stomach muscles; if she can do it, maybe I can too.)

But there's another kind of motivator; the fear of losing something or of not having something. It's not inspiring; it's more like, "Attain that goal...or else!" ("Get your cholesterol down or you'll have a heart attack!" Force yourself to attend networking events and speak to at least five people; you'll never grow your business sitting at home!")

Desire and fear are the byproducts of unexamined thinking. It's fine to want things, and it may be prudent to "fear" fire or cross-currents (though I prefer to think of it as respecting them). But if I'm acting out of fear and calling it "motivation," I may wish to investigate my thoughts.

©2008 by Carol L. Skolnick; all rights reserved.

Special Discount for "The Work on The Web"

The Work on the Web is the new online coaching application with all the information, materials, tools, video support and examples you need to do The Work successfully on your own. I played with it in the testing stage and have used it again just before the public launch; I think it's a good tool for beginners, especially if you find it difficult to concentrate on a worksheet when doing The Work on your own. It will also appeal to those who enjoy multimedia/interactive features. What I find most useful is cutting down on paper clutter; The Work on The Web allows you to store and easily refer back to your worksheets in progress. You can read more about it here.

The introductory price for The Work on The Web is $27 (eventually it will go up to $40) for three months. For a limited time, when you sign up using coupon code 119-1132, you'll receive two more weeks for free.

To register
and receive your two additional weeks for free, be sure to include the exclusive offer coupon code: 119-1132

August 7, 2008

So Nice, I'm Offering It Twice

In the spring, I had an "early-bird" special for my upcoming eBook, Transformational Inquiry: Asking Depression. The offer included a bonus eBook, Three Realizations That Changed My Life.

The gift eBook is now ready, and the reviews are in. "Fun to read." "Gorgeous, gorgeous, gorgeous." "Some great thoughts tucked in there." "Beautifully edited, and your photos are wonderful." "Absolutely delightful!" "Thank you so much for these realizations. I love them!" "This is a great book to savor a few pages of realizations at a time. Yum!"

And that's just the praise for the "appetizer."

So I am moved to offer another pre-publication special: if you pre-order Asking Depression by September 30, 2008 for $22.95 (that's a savings of $2.00), I will send you the PDF of Three Realizations to enjoy in the meantime...a collection of "Aha!" moments that changed the lives of some of my dear friends...among them life coaches, writers, musicians, artists, office workers, educators, students and teachers of spirituality, and fellow facilitators of The Work of Byron Katie.

This bonus eBook is not for sale separately.

For more information, and to pre-order Transformational Inquiry: Asking Depression plus the bonus eBook, visit
and reserve your copy before September 30, 2008.

©2008 by Carol L. Skolnick; all rights reserved.

August 1, 2008

Focus on Facilitation: Pimp My Client's Ride?

Some interesting, creative, and not necessarily helpful new subquestions have been floating around the "Workosphere."

The latest one is "How does this thought make you feel safe?"

I have also heard:

*"What are you assuming when you think this thought?"

*"What are you avoiding when you think this thought?"

*"What do you stand to lose when you think this thought?" (Variation of an old one, "What does it cost you to hold this belief?")

*And one that strikes me as very complicated: "What are you not noticing when you believe this thought?"

It is natural that, as a facilitator, you will put your own fingerprint on the way ou ask the four questions and subquestions. We all have different styles of facilitating and communicating. For example, rather than ask, "What is the payoff for holding this belief?" (a subquestion of Question 3, "How do you react when you believe this thought?"), I will often ask, "How does it serve you to hold this belief?" I noticed over the years that some clients bristle at the word "payoff." This variation is in the same spirit of the original, but with slightly more gentle language.

Subquestions are just that: subtextual questions under the heading of the "basic four." They are meant to be used judiciously; the purpose is not to mire the client in questions, but to help your client go more deeply towards their own answers when they are feeling stuck or confused.

Of course, it's fine to use subquestions, and older versions of them are re-worded and new ones that make sense are adapted all the time. What you will notice about those newer subquestions is that they are very closely aligned with the basic four questions.

Personally, I'm fine with "What do you assume?" or "What do you avoid?" Assumptions and avoidance are reactions to beliefs, so these are fair questions for a facilitator to ask, when indicated.

"How does this thought make you feel safe?" is an assumption, and therefore can be a manipulation on the part of the facilitator. When you ask this made-up subquestion, you are telling the client that the belief makes the client feel safe; the client hasn't necessarily told you that. I wouldn't use this one.

"What are you not noticing when you believe this thought?" I find this one a little too creative for my comfort level; if I'm not noticing, how would I know what I don't notice? Question four, "Who would you be without this thought?" is more straightforward, and (in my opinion) does a better job of opening the mind to all possibilities. "When I let go of what I am, I become what I might be." —Lao Tzu

Developing Self-awareness in Facilitating with Subquestions

What do you notice about yourself when you pepper your client with creative subquestions (or even with lots of standard subquestions)?

*Are you trying to manipulate your clients' answers to be what you think they should answer?

*Do you want your clients and colleagues to see you as clever, skilled, insightful and sensitive?

*Do you think you have a better way? (There's nothing wrong with that, if indeed you do have a way that works better for you or for your clients, and if there is no stress in your belief. Just notice whether there is a hint of rebelliousness or superiority in your stance. If there's "rub" in your belief that you know best, inquire into it.)

The foot word of "facilitate" is facile, which means "easy to do." To facilitate is to make something easier, or to assist in another's progress. Therefore, the facilitator's job is to make it simple for the client to go within and find their answers. Does straying from the suggested procedures of inquiry, or adding new procedures, truly assist your client...or does it obstruct the process, create confusing tangents, take the focus away from the client and his or her needs?

©2008 by Carol L. Skolnick; all rights reserved.

July 23, 2008

Hey, It Could Be Worse!

Just spotted at "News of The Weird"...

"While Iran's leaders saber-rattle and quote the Quran, the country's multitudes of young adults are embracing New Age self-help, as exemplified by the best-selling books and sold-out seminars of motivational guru Alireza Azmandian, according to a June Wall Street Journal dispatch from Tehran. Though young adults in Turkey and Egypt have stepped up their religious fervor, that is not so in Iran. Said a 25-year-old aerospace engineer: 'Religion doesn't offer me answers anymore,' but '(Azmandian's) seminar changed my life.' The Oprah Winfrey-touted book 'The Secret' is in its 10th printing in Farsi; yoga and meditation are big; and advertising abounds on the virtues of feng shui and financial management." [Wall Street Journal, 6-30-08]

I guess I prefer The Secret to saber-rattling, although I'm not quite sure why... :)

©2008 by Carol L. Skolnick; all rights reserved.

July 18, 2008

Focus On Facilitation: Using "Is the Universe Friendly?" with a Hard-to-Find Story

Einstein purportedly said that there was only one important question to ask: "Is the universe friendly?" I've noticed that the more I do The Work, the more open I am to the possibility that I do live in a friendly universe, even though "bad" things happen. If an issue feels unresolved after inquiry, there is usually an underlying belief that I haven't found or that hasn't yet been examined.

If an issue is particularly sticky for your client, even after turning it around, this exercise can help the client uncover and work with underlying beliefs that haven't come out in the course of inquiry.

Let's say my client is doing The Work on the thought "There's nothing good about my job." I as the facilitator don't dispute this as the client holds his belief up against the four-questions of inquiry, and sees how believing it affects his life and work.

The client turns the thought around: "There's plenty that's good about my job," and provides examples (he gets a paycheck, he gets benefits, he likes to have lunch with some of his co-workers). He examines the turnaround, "There's nothing good about my thinking (about my job)," and he finds where that could be as true or truer He says he can't find any more turnarounds.

I suggest the turnaround, "There's nothing bad about my job." The client still thinks there is something bad about it and doesn't want to go there.

"Okay," I say, "Tell me about that. What specifically is bad about your job?" He makes a list of his "proof," including:

He doesn't have enough to do.
Data entry is boring.'
Our data entry system is cumbersome and outdated.
The commute to and from the office is grueling.
There is no room for advancement.

Next, we get to see if any of these "proofs" truly means there is something bad about the job.

We start at the top: "I don't have enough to do."

I ask the client, "If the universe is friendly, why is this a good thing?"

He discovers three examples:

1. It gives him time and space to find ways to improve upon the task he has been assigned; in doing so, he actually becomes a more efficient employee, more valuable to the company.
2. It gives him time to job-hunt; so many other people who would like to change jobs are so overworked they can't find a way to keep their position while they researching other possibilities.
3. Sometimes he has time during the workday to do The Work on the things he doesn't like about his job! (Not that we're suggesting using work time as Work time; but this was his reality!)

There are stories behind every story. When the client looked for proof that his story was true, he excavated those deeper stories. Investigated, some of what the client thought was terrible about his job could be seen as positive aspects. Some of those "benefits" made the job more tolerable in the meantime, while others showed him a clear path to his next career move.

In a friendly universe—the parallel universe of peace—a boring, dead end job can be a bonus, a teacher, the perfect bend in the path. We need only look more closely in order to find the gifts.

©2008 by Carol L. Skolnick; all rights reserved.

July 15, 2008

Be Your Own "Spin" Doctor

"down and down I go,
round and round I go,
like a leaf that's caught in a tide...
In a spin, loving the spin I'm in..."
—from the song "That Old Black Magic"

What does it mean to "spin" when you facilitate The Work or answer the questions? Spinning is moving away from inquiring into the original statement in favor of something tangential.

Spinning During Facilitation

A facilitator's spinning looks like this:

Client: "My mother doesn't respect my choices in life."
Facilitator: Your mother doesn't respect your choices in life; is that true?
Client: No.
Facilitator: How do you react when you believe that thought, what happens?
Client: I feel depressed, and I get angry with my mother. I blame her for all the unhappiness in my life. I don't want to see her or share my life with her...
Facilitator: You don't want to share your life with her; is that true?

Believe it or not, this happens; I've even experienced facilitators spinning me several times before getting back to the original statement, at which point I'm dizzy!

Why do facilitators spin? Usually it's well-meaning; they hear something come up in the course of inquiry that seems "juicier" to them than the original statement. Or, they think that going off on the tangent will be more helpful to the client.

How to stop spinning your client:
make a note of the client's underlying beliefs as they answer question 3, "How do you react when you believe this thought?" You can facilitate the client on these later, or assign them as "homework: for the client to work on alone. (In the example above, "I don't want to share my life with my mother" is an underlying belief. "My mother is to blame for my unhappiness" is another.)

Spinning Around Instead of Turning Around

Spinning a turnaround means veering away from the original statement, often in order to make it into a positive. When we spin a turnaround, we are in effect turning around the turnaround, which then loses its power to open the mind.

Here's what spinning looks like in a turnaround:

Original statement: "My mother doesn't respect my choices."

Possible turnarounds:

To the opposite: "My mother does respect my choices."
To the other: "I don't respect my mother's choices."
To the self: "I don't respect my choices."

Spins: "I do respect my mother's choices." "I respect my choices." The spirit of the original statement has been lost.

Why do facilitators spin turnarounds?
Sometimes they want the client to feel better. This is facilitation with a motive, and it's good to notice.

Why do clients spin turnarounds? They, too, would like to feel better. They may also feel pressure to come up with lots of turnarounds, believing that "more is better." Also, both clients and facilitators who are new to inquiry may misunderstand the purpose of turnarounds, which are neither self-flagellations nor affirmations. They are simply awareness-expanders.

How to stop spinning the turnarounds: remember that you don't get extra points for extra turnarounds; use the ones the make sense to you. Also, repeat the original statement to yourself; that way you'll be less likely to veer far off course. Sit with each turnaround, let it enlighten you, and come up with three genuine examples of how that turnaround could be as true or truer.

The Work's efficacy lies in its simplicity.
You'll find you have more than enough with simple turnarounds, without having to get creative and clever with them.

©2008 by Carol L. Skolnick; all rights reserved.

July 14, 2008

Resilience: Wildfires in a Friendly Universe

As you are probably aware, California is burning. This is not unusual for the Golden State, although the fires began a couple of months before the "official wildfire season." Because of extreme dryness, this year's fires have been particularly virulent.

My city, Santa Cruz, has not gone down in flames, but surrounding areas have had major damage: Big Sur, Big Basin, the Summit fires, Carmel Valley. Even downtown near the water, our morning air has that distinctive smell of a lumberyard combined with a fireplace. Many homes have been lost or damaged; no human deaths, but many animals have perished. The sky is as hazy as any smog day in Los Angeles, and it's been difficult for those with respiratory problems to breathe.

My thanks to Kathy Loh, a coach who lives in the Santa Cruz mountains near me, for posting this to the Co-active Network. The source is the Humboldt Redwoods State Park literature:

"Coast redwoods do not have a single taproot. Instead, they form a shallow network of relatively small roots that extend radially, up to a hundred feet from the base. The ends of the roots are fibrous, allowing them maximum surface area to obtain moisture and nutrients. If a flood buries the roots too deeply in silt, they have the ability to grow and explore their way upward toward more oxygenated soil. In addition to root collar burl sprouting, coast redwood also reproduces from seed. Flowering occurs in December and January with cones maturing over the spring and summer. In the autumn, the cones open on the trees and, on the average, 50 to 100 tiny seeds sprinkle out. Seedlings survive best in exposed mineral soil that often occurs as a result of fire, flood and uprooted trees."

Some of our coastal redwoods are older than Jesus. I love visiting these trees. They've seen and survived through a lot. They are not only resilient, they continue to grow because of "disasters."

As do we.

©2008 by Carol L. Skolnick; all rights reserved.

July 8, 2008

"No More Secrets" in Seattle, July 26-27

NO MORE SECRETS: Freedom from Shame, Self-hatred and Fear of Criticism

Saturday, July 26, 10:00 am—6:00 pm
Arlington, WA
Sunday, July 27, 10:00 am—6:00 pm
Bothell, WA

Facilitated by Carol L. Skolnick and Celeste Gabriele, Certified Facilitators of The Work of Byron Katie

Cost: Either day: $85 in advance; $95 to register on-site.

What keeps you from being honest in your life?
What don't you want people to know about you, and what does it cost you to dodge criticism, lie to yourself, and feel ashamed of who you are? Join Celeste and Carol for a day of getting real with ourselves and others.

Do you really want to know the truth? Through group, individual and dyad exercises and one-on-one facilitation of The Work of Byron Katie, you will uncover the beauty and innocence of your own being that you have kept secret, especially from yourself.

Space is limited, RSVP required: To register, call Celeste Gabriele at 206-696-0070

About Your Facilitators: Carol and Celeste were among the first professional facilitators of The Work of Byron Katie to be certified by the new Institute for The Work in 2007, and are mentors in the ITW certification program. Since 2001 and 1999 respectively, they have used this radically effective process of inquiry with hundreds of clients all over the world.

June 24, 2008

Ask a Facilitator: "My Client Should Have Paid Me!"

Q: I just had a massage client stiff me; after the massage, he said he had to go get his wallet from his car down the road, then he just took off. Can I absolutely know he "should" have paid me? Obviously, yes! How can I do The Work on this situation?

A: It's true that he stiffed you. Can you absolutely know that he should have paid you, when in fact he didn't? Yes or no are acceptable answers.

If you say "yes," you would still answer question 3, "How do you react when you believe this thought?" and continue with the inquiry. This isn't about changing reality, but about meeting it with understanding... self-understanding. How do you treat yourself when you believe this thought? Are you beating yourself for not getting his contact information before working on him, or for not asking for payment upfront? Does the self-beating lead to any self-destructive habits, like overeating, or over-spending? How do you treat other clients when you think that he should have paid you, and he didn't? Are you mistrustful of them? And how do you treat the client who stiffed you in your mind? Are the thoughts violent? Do you want revenge?

Just notice how believing the thought "he should have paid me" disturbs your peace. That's because it completely opposes the truth.

Who would you be without this thought? How would you run your business from this moment forward? How would you treat yourself differently if you didn't hold this belief?

Turn the thought around: "He shouldn't have paid me." He shouldn't have because that's the reality of it. How might this incident actually be for your highest good?

You might find that you actually answer "no" to question 2, "Can you absolutely know it's true he should have paid you?" Here's why: "He didn't pay me" is what's true, it's what is. That doesn't mean you will be a doormat, but it could mean that you are saner, less reactive, about what happened, and this might be helpful when it comes to dealing with clients in the future.

A story: years ago when I was a copywriter, I did a direct marketing mailing for a company that neglected to pay me for my work. I was new to freelancing, I didn't have The Work then, and this situation just about tore me apart. My fee, which I had already discounted a lot, was $700 for the project. After a lot of phone calls and letters, the company paid me less than half of that amount. Soon afterwards, they shut down their office and left no forwarding address or phone. The amount they owed me was too small to make it worthwhile to hire an attorney, of course; so I had no choice but to cut my losses and move on.

I'd spent months trying to get that money, and I was furious! My anger, worry, and the injustice of it all consumed most of my waking moments, as I recall. This made it really hard to be present for finding new business!

With inquiry, in the same situation, I might have chalked this up to a learning experience. Without clinging to the belief that the client should pay when clearly they weren't going to, perhaps I would have changed my policies and decided to ask new clients to pay in full, upfront, for jobs billing over a certain amount. At the time, this never occurred to me; I was too busy being right...and a victim. Guess what? I got stiffed again by an art director who subcontracted a job to me during my last year in business, also at an amount that was well below my traditional fees. In the end, she claimed she didn't get her full fee from her client, so she couldn't pay me. I fumed about that one for quite awhile too.

The belief statement, "He should have paid me" turned around to "I" becomes "I should have paid myself." This is also a story of the past, since I didn't—but I can do so from this moment having payment policies that work for me, by not getting derailed when a business agreement falls apart, and by charging rates that are more comfortable for me to begin with.

Solutions arise out of a clear mind; a confused mind spends a lot of time and energy resenting what was, rather than living in and loving what is. Clients should pay what they owe me? Sure, in a world where everything is fair and everyone obeys the rules. Sometimes we don't live in that world. If that hurts, and it serves you to do so, I invite you to do inquire into this believe. In doing so, you are not letting the client off the hook for that money; he's not hooked at all. Rather, do it so that you can let yourself off the hook. Remaining hooked to "he should" is hopeless; it won't change things, and it's not serving you unless your main interest is in being right.

©2008 by Carol L. Skolnick; all rights reserved.

June 23, 2008

Asking Depression - Preorder Today!

Byron Katie has said, "All sadness is a tantrum." Why would she say such a thing? This seemed really crazy the first time I heard it; in fact, I had a little tantrum over it. "Easy for Katie to say," I spluttered. "Let her live my life for a few days and see if she still thinks my depression isn't justified."

But having sat with Katie's words over and again throughout the years, I realized that this was indeed true for me. My deepest depression has been the result of believing that my life ought to be different than it is. My depressive thoughts are always about not getting my way. Having recognized that, I have become more willing to sit with the possibility that I am throwing a hissy fit every time I want to give up and check out. Can I know that what I want is what is best for the world, or for me? Can I know I would be happier if things were different? Who would I be without my story? These are very important questions to ask, and my answers have been the most effective "anti-depressant" I've ever tried...and I tried many.

I hear from many others that The Work dovetails beautifully with their treatment for depression. They are able to meet their depression with understanding while they take their meds and supplements, work their 12-step programs, take care of their nutrition and sleep needs and follow their doctors' advice.

Psychiatrist Dr. Daniel Amen, who describes depressive thinking as "the ANTS that invade your brain" (ANTS is an acronym for Automatic Negative Thoughts), has said that he works with the "hardware" of the brain, and recommends The Work as "software."

Want to know more about this phenomenon of sadness=tantrum? I'm writing about it, and including penetrating inquiry-based exercises, in my upcoming Transformational Inquiry eBook.

Have you pre-ordered your copy yet?

Transformational Inquiry: Asking Depression will be the third of an ongoing series of practical guides that help you to apply The Work of Byron Katie to real-life situations. Upon its completion in the late fall of 2008 (we'll see if that comes true!), it will sell for $24.95. I am offering it now to readers of my newsletter and blog at the pre-publication price of $19.95, until June 30, 2008.

Shoot me an email with the order code available here to receive instructions for ordering before the June 30th deadline.

Because you're helping me to pay the bills in the meantime, you'll be among the first to receive the book when it becomes available, along with a gift: Three Realizations, a collection of "Aha! moments" that changed the lives of some of many of my dear friends...among them life coaches, writers, musicians, artists, office workers, educators, students and teachers of spirituality, and fellow facilitators of The Work of Byron Katie.

For more information and to order, visit
before June 30, 2008.

©2008 by Carol L. Skolnick; all rights reserved.

June 18, 2008

Are We More Afraid?

Are we, as a society, becoming increasingly fearful? Sometimes it seems that way; the media bombard us hourly with the latest red alerts on everything from recalled pet products to cell phone usage; parents appear to be increasingly reluctant to leave their children with caregivers, let them play on playground equipment, or eat the same foods we grew up on...all this in addition to the new disease or threat of war du jour.

If we're more afraid than we used to be, quite possibly there's more to be afraid of...and it's accompanied all the factual (or not) data we could ever want as backup. Maybe innocence was bliss; after all, the generation of mothers that gave birth to the baby boomers weren't aware of the dangers of smoking during pregnancy, or of lead-based paint on the crib bars we chewed on as infants...and we who are now 50-plus turned out okay, sort of. Since we didn't have labels for our childhood "disorders" such as ADHD, we were labeled rambunctious, insubordinate, and "not working up to potential" instead, and spared having to take medications that are now widely prescribed, not without side effects, and therefore controversial. There were no seat belts when I was very little; perhaps the image of babies flying through windshields wasn't any more of an issue than adults flying right after them. Maybe, when we drove those less-streamlined, clunkier, gas-guzzling cars of the 50s and early 60s--the ones that left those huge carbon footprints and befouled our air supply--we drove more slowly and carefully, requiring fewer precautions for strapping in the little ones. (I don't have any stats to back this up, but I bet you could find them easily, in this era of information overload.)

But we didn't come out okay merely in spite of our parents' ignorance, and certainly not because of it; perhaps we came out okay because there were, indeed, fewer hazards. We weren't being bombarded with as much petroleum product residue, or with as many microwaves. Mutant, "Incredible Hulk"-style strains of bacteria had not yet learned to scoff at antibiotics.

That's the practical side of the factors contributing to today's fears, but there's another side to it, incited by commerce. Fear is, after all, a great money-maker, and for this, the media alone is not to blame. Fear isn't just an element of a good story that gets people buying newspapers and tuning in to the evening report; it's how we innocently motivate ourselves to come up with solutions. The creators and broadcasters of the solutions make the big bucks by playing to our desire to be comfortable, safe, secure and happy. Of course, that's Advertising 101, nothing new.

Whether we're fussing over a child's scraped knee, or the possibility of identity theft, we're not afraid of those things per se, but of what we think they mean...some dreadful story of a future that doesn't exist. The kid's scraped knee could result in an invasion of flesh-eating bacteria, and that would result in fill-in-the-worst-case-scenario (hospitalization, big medical bills, no Disney vacation this year, loss of limb, loss of life, loss of the dream of a happy family which absolutely has to include little Joey in all of his pre-scrape perfection). Identity theft could mean that someone else gets what's rightfully yours, and you'll suffer...either momentarily as you invest hours and days you'll never get back to contact your credit card companies and financial institutions, or--worst-case scenario--for the rest of your life, if someone manages to get away with charging several Learjets to your Amex, and you never qualify for a mortgage again.

So, ultimately, all fear is the fear of loss and death, whether it's the loss of a life, the loss of a dream, the loss of control and any possibility of having things go the way we want them to. And we've been well-prepared to respond to fear rather than to the reality of what's happening now. The result is to become hyper-vigilant; more fearful, because, to our way of thinking, there is everything to lose.

What if we were to relax around these fears by questioning them? What is the worst that could happen? If you don't try to micromanage every aspect of your life and your family's well-being, if something terrible happens, it's all your fault and it could have been avoided--is that true?

Few ever stop to examine this, because uninvestigated, our fearfulness appears to have greater payoffs than courage, tranquility, or rationality. The next time you find yourself reacting with hyper-vigilance out of fear, I invite you to take another look at what lies beneath.

©2008 by Carol L. Skolnick; all rights reserved.

June 12, 2008

Ask a Facilitator: Drinking Problem, or Thinking Problem?

Q: I'm having trouble using the Work for my drinking problems. If the thought is "Drinking is fun!" then it doesn't hold up to scrutiny because the thought actually
makes me feel excited and happy (and perpetuates the desire). If the thought is "Drinking is not fun", I end up with a turnaround that says that drinking is fun (which perpetuates the desire). The Work "works" so well on judging others, but it seems to lose something in the translation here. I would be grateful for any guidance or "pointing to the moon"(or book/link) that you could recommend.

A: "Drinking is fun" isn't a stressful thought for you. When you question it with a motive to get to a "negative" turnaround, as you noticed, it doesn't decrease the desire to drink. When you do The Work on "Drinking is not fun" in order to get to a "positive" turnaround (and a reason to continue drinking), you're doing The Work with a motive also, and as you've noticed, it leaves you feeling disconnected.

The suggestion is not to do The Work in order to stop drinking; do it to discover what's true for you. This is about your "thinking problem," not your "drinking problem." If it were not a thinking problem, you'd be perfectly okay with drinking. I hear from you that this isn't the case.

What is your "thinking problem?" That would be an attachment to stressful thoughts that make you want to pick up a drink in order to escape them. "My boss shouldn't criticize me," "Relationships are too hard," "No one cares," "Existence is meaningless." Alcohol alone isn't the source of your problem; underlying beliefs are.

You can do a worksheet on alcohol as well. "I am saddened by alcohol (or, by my addiction to alcohol) because..." In this way, you are still judging your "neighbor." Alcohol and addictions are not you, they are what Byron Katie calls "outside sources." If you write the Judge-Your-Neighbor worksheet on alcohol or on addiction, you will have a list of judgmental, stressful beliefs to hold against the four questions
and turnaround.

It's helpful here to apply the turnaround to my thinking, once you've
answered all four questions. (Please don't jump ahead to the turnarounds; do the homework of the four questions first.) For example, "Alcohol shouldn't be so seductive" turns around to "My thinking shouldn't be so seductive." Alcohol just sits in a bottle; my thoughts about it make it seem more appealing to drink it than to sit with my discomfort or boredom.

I Need Your Love—Is That True? is one of Katie's books that is being used extensively in treatment centers; it addresses the thoughts that lead to co-dependence, and many people with substance abuse issues find it helpful to examine and question the desire to seek love, approval and appreciation. You may also like the audio CD called "The Truth Behind Addiction," which is available at, or as a download here.

©2008 by Carol L. Skolnick; all rights reserved.

June 10, 2008

See-Through You: A Book Review of Dunya Dianne McPherson's Skin of Glass

Unlike the lyrics to the Blondie song "Heart of Glass," which speak to fragility and betrayal, to have a skin of glass is to be transparent to oneself. In her new book, Dunya Dianne McPherson lets us see her, and see through her, as well...literally to the bone.

Skin of Glass: Finding Spirit in the Flesh
, is a literary spiritual memoir by my once and future dance teacher. (She's coming to Santa Cruz in October!) I attended Dunya's Dancemeditation classes in New York for years, initially dragged there by a friend who insisted I didn't have be a good dancer or physically coordinated in order to do this spiritual/somatic practice: a combination of bellydance, Sufi work, and fluid yoga. (In doing so, I discovered that I was a pretty good dancer, and not as clumsy as I thought.)

Dunya was a "bunhead" kid (as we New Yorkers called the young chignon and leotard-sporting girls scarfing ice cream outside the Joffrey ballet school each summer) whose passion for classical dance took her from Wood's Hole to Juilliard. In the early 1980s, severe injuries ended her performance career while it opened her to a new way of experiencing dance as embodied prayer. She went through the usual stuff of spiritual biography—big experiences, parental disapproval, disillusionment with the teacher—until the path and practice became uniquely her own.

What distinguishes this spiritual autobiography from others is the emphasis on the body. It is after all through the body that we come to spiritual maturity. Dunya's memoir is a remembrance not simply of events, but of the evolution of bone, skin, sinew, muscle, organs, blood, sweat, lymph, and hormones along with the soul. The language is poetic and erotic, whether Dunya is describing a transcendent act of lovemaking or the inward journey sparked by an awareness of skeletal structure.

The reason this book is special to me goes beyond Dunya's exquisitely written story and seeps into my own. My discovery of Byron Katie's inquiry collided with my Dancemeditation practice; each enhanced the other. As fluid movement had its way with my body, I was no longer the limited, egoic story; I noticed that as soon as I attached to a thought that interrupted the flow, I would take a tumble. When I was connected with my essence, unselfconscious and unafraid, the dance danced itself. Who would I be without my story? A woman dancing beautifully for herself, even while performing for others.

Dunya and I approached the path to self-realization from different sides; she was a dancer who met spirit through dance, I was a seeker who met dance through spirit. Through our respective practices, we touch what cannot be grasped by the thinking mind...and we meet in the middle, where there is no distinction, where all is transparent, where we see and are seen.

"Inside any deep asking is the answering." —Rumi

Skin of Glass: Finding Spirit in the Flesh

by Dunya Dianne McPherson
216 pages
New York: Dancemeditation Books, 2008

©2008 by Carol L. Skolnick; all rights reserved.

June 9, 2008

Desk of Lies

My desk is frequently an unholy mess. When I'm on a writing or workshop deadline, or working on several different projects at once, or traveling, I tend to put off the things I want to do the least (for example, logging my expenses, or anything having to do with math). So, my closets and bathrooms are really clean and organized, my handouts are written and printed, but my paperwork is all over the place...which makes it more difficult to deal with the "priority projects."

There's nothing inherently wrong with messiness unless I say so...and eventually everything that needs to get done gets done. The problem lies not in the messy desk, but in the lie I tell myself--which is that I intend to get to the tasks I'm avoiding just as soon as I can, when the truth is, I could do them right now. I rationalize that the things I need to get to first have to be in my face (or on my desk), otherwise I'll forget about them.

I tell myself, "There is method to my madness." That's a lie, too. There's madness for sure, but the method is one of avoidance, which only serves to keep me mad, as in "crazy."

Truly, after awhile I have no idea what's in that pile; I only know that it's all stuff I don't really want to pay attention to, which includes bills that really do need my immediate attention if I don't want to pay late fees...ideas for articles I "want" to write...reminders of events that I "ought to" attend...and names and addresses of people I meet with whom I "should" keep in touch. When it's all piled together on my desk that way, none of it gets taken care of in an efficient or timely fashion, and some of it just gets lost until it's too late.

I'm not writing this in order to tell you how to organize your desk. There are many wonderful professional organizers in the phone book and on the Internet who can tell you about that kind of thing. I've consulted them myself, so even I know how to do what they'll tell you to do. I also know how to eat well, budget my time, exercise my quadriceps, and spend less time on my email. That doesn't mean I apply my knowledge regularly.

If I've got the systems down, why do I ever have a messy desk (or an overflowing email in-box, or weak thigh muscles)? Because no system works if you don't use it with any consistency. You can hire someone to help you get your life in gear, and if your head is not in gear, you'll find reasons not to use your system. A cluttered desk may be more symptomatic of a cluttered mind than an out-of-control workload or a messy personal style.

The unquestioned mind can feel a lot like a messy desk. Sometimes it seems like there's no good reason to get down to this work of inquiry on stressful beliefs. "I don't have time," we may think, and turn our attention to something else in the name of priorities...or "That issue I thought I wanted to work on isn't up for me now."

Later, when the issue is "up for me," I'm not as clear-headed as when it isn't. I may give it short shrift, preferring to put my attention on re-arranging the closets.

"I'll log in those receipts later." Meanwhile, more receipts appear, and the neat little pile gets bigger and bigger until eventually, it topples and takes over the desktop. "I'll do The Work later." Meanwhile, mental detritus continues to accumulate until eventually, when it feels overwhelming, we get around to cleaning up some of it. Even if you've worked with a facilitator, or attended The School for The Work, it's like everything else: you have to use the system or it ceases to work for you.

Once I actually sit down and begin to log my receipts (or organize my calendar, or toss some of the notes to myself that turned out to be not all that important or compelling), I come to see that the task I was stressing over wasn't so difficult after all; in fact, it feels great to finally take care of it.

Dealing with our pileups of stressful thoughts may also prove to be entirely manageable, and even enjoyable, when we pay attention to them in the same at a time.

I think I'll begin with "My desk is too messy..."

©2008 by Carol L. Skolnick; all rights reserved.