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.