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 forward...by 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 TheWork.com, 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 way...one at a time.

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

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

June 8, 2008

On the Eighth Grade Inquiry Presentations

This past April, I was invited by a middle school physical science teacher to present The Work of Byron Katie to all seven classes of her classes; about 180 eighth graders in all. During each class period, I had 40 minutes to introduce The Work (which was tied into their 4th-quarter project, “Random Acts of Kindness”), and have them practice inquiry as both client and facilitator using the “yellow card” with the basic four questions and turnaround. About two-thirds of the students thought this wasn’t enough time (I quite agree) and were confused by the exercise; most were also thrown by the announcement of their project, confused by the unannounced appearance of a guest speaker, and they weren’t sure how The Work tied in with their studies. Some thought doing The Work with others was too personal, and one girl said she wasn't comfortable examining "bad" thoughts because she thought she'd focus on them; instead, she tries hard to be "positive."

According to their teacher, some of the students have continued to do The Work using the Judge-Your-Neighbor worksheet. One girl wrote, “All I want to do now when I’m mad is go to my room and ask myself those questions.” About a third of the students wrote that they saw how when they believe stressful thoughts, they are not always kind to themselves and others. Some reported immediate improvement in their relationships with family and friends. “I learned that it’s better to question your thoughts before you go into action mode,” said one. Another reported, “Ever since you visited out class I have really looked into myself and realized how different I am than who I thought I was. [It] made me realize that whenever my dad says he needs my help around the house or something, I feel glad to do something for him.”

“I didn’t know that your thoughts and beliefs created your world. That must by why everyone’s world is a little different,” said one wise young lady. “I think the lesson has helped me already get in touch with myself…[and] helped me through some problems I was having,” said another.

However, this kind of insight was rare. Here are some more typical responses from the students who liked The Work:

“If I had a bad thought, I can now change it to a positive one.”

“I learned how to see the world positive by turning all my stressful thoughts around.”

“Stress is inevitable, but I have to turn my stress into peacefulness. And if I could do that then maybe I can become a nicer person.”

“By questioning our thoughts, we can turn them around.”

“I learned how to take a bad thought and turn it into a good though.”

“I liked the bad thoughts turning them to positive!”

“I learned that if you think bad thoughts you’ll have a bad attitude.”

“I learned that bad beliefs make bad thoughts and actions.”

“You shouldn’t think bad because then you won’t have an enjoyable life. It’s just always better to be positive.”

“I really liked it when you told us that we can make our beliefs whatever we wanted.”

“Now I know how to turn my thoughts around and make me feel better.”

“Thank you for teaching us how sometimes our thoughts can be bad for us.”

These responses are so interesting. I never once used the words “good,” “bad,” “positive” “negative,” or “change,” but that’s what these wonderful ones heard. I showed the students how to inquire into stressful thoughts; they apparently received a lesson in affirmations! Our students as young as 12 or 13 seem already to have bought the new-agey notion that they should always be happy and positive.

It got me thinking about people of all ages want to (or believe we ought to) feel better than we feel, or to be “better” than we are, in spite of all the self-esteem messages we’ve received in school, in our spiritual training, or in therapy.

Katie says “Do The Work for the love of truth.” And let’s be honest: how many of us came into The Work as truth-seekers? I know I didn’t; I just wanted my suffering to stop.

Still, who can know the ripple effects this very rushed introduction to inquiry might have on a young life (as it did on this older one)?

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

June 4, 2008

The Work on AWAKEN Internet Radio Show

Carol L. Skolnick, Certified Facilitator of The Work of Byron Katie, will be a featured guest on the AWAKEN Talk Radio show on Thursday, June 12, which airs from 10:30 am-12 noon, Pacific Time.

The Work is a way to identify and question beliefs that cause stress, suffering, and self-limitation.

The show's topic is Stop Stressing. Carol will talk about The Work with hosts Krista-Lynn Landolfi and Jenna Devynn Beck. Phone lines will open at 11:10, and you're encouraged to call with your questions or to do The Work with Carol.

The number to call is 347.945.6373. Long distance charges may apply.

To listen to the show live on June 12, and for more information, go to:


I look forward to your participation!

June 2, 2008

Stepping Out in Peace

On my journey of only a few miles along the Santa Cruz coastline this weekend—a walk that was hard on my body with its achy middle-aged joints—I thought of the indefatigable messenger popularly known as Peace Pilgrim. For 28 years, from 1953 until shortly before her death, this remarkable woman, born Mildred Norman, walked more than 25,000 miles (she stopped counting in 1964) all over North America in the name of world peace. Her message was simple, and familiar to most of us on any spiritual path as well as this parallel path of inquiry: in order to experience peace in the world, one must reach a state of inner peace.

Peace Pilgrim vowed to "remain a wanderer until mankind has learned the way of peace." Her travels, which began after a personal epiphany at age 44, ended with a fatal car accident in 1981, shortly before her 73rd birthday.

In July of this year, 2008, Peace Pilgrim would have turned 100 years old. If she were alive and able today, no doubt she would continue to walk. It seems we haven't learned the way of peace yet; not in the world, not in our relationships, not within...not yet. We would all stop the war within and without if we could. I may be a slow learner, but I'm learning more about peace every day; and I write these posts during my inward pilgrimage as a way of keeping that message of peace alive in me. As we question the beliefs that disturb our peace, we are better able to keep alive the message of the great souls like Peace Pilgrim who saw only good in others and lived a life of service. Thank you, all who read and resonate with this, for walking the walk.

"It isn't enough just to do right things and say right things—you must also think right things before your life can come into harmony.” —Peace Pilgrim: Her Life and Works in Her Own Words, p. 16

To learn more about Peace Pilgrim and her 100th Birthday Celebration, visit the website Friends of Peace Pilgrim here.

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