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.