December 24, 2010

Merries and Happies

To my friends, clients and colleagues around the world...

I'm a big fan of fresh starts. I've always loved "back to school," "first day of Spring," and ringing in the New Year with the best of intentions.

Of course we need not wait until a certain date to make fresh starts. But if New Year's is your traditional resolution time, it's as good a time as any to set things into motion in a positive way.

I for one intend (I don't make resolutions, which I tend to break) to do what it takes to let the good things in my life grow, by reaching out, saying yes, moving in directions that feel good and true for me, facing my fears, cleaning up my messes, and dealing with my resentments. Not because I "should" do these things, but because I love how I feel when I do.

This year, I say "yes!" to is working directly with more people like you, who value the work of inquiry. I say "yes!" to more powerful collaborations with other coaches and practitioners and to more public speaking. "Yes!" to helping more couples overcome obstacles in their relationships and having more loving partnerships. "Yes!" to journeying with individuals who are ready to make big changes and would like support. "Yes!" to working with visionary leaders who know that a conscious and communicative workforce is a profitable workforce. Together, we are a force of nature who can make things happen!

In addition, I am committed to making my services available to more people who want to work with me on an ongoing basis but have limited means. Currently, through the end of 2011, I am offering prepaid 12-session packages to subscribers to my newsletter at a much rate lower than the one published on my website. Other arrangements are available for nonprofit groups and unemployed or underemployed individuals. (If you fit this description, please contact me through my website for more information.)

I am also committed to giving back. Throughout 2011, I will donate $10 of any contracted fee of $900 or more to one of several charities and foundations that I currently support: Partners In Health, Groundworks Opportunities, World Wildlife Fund, or the Institute for The Work.

I see this New Year as one where we can shake off whatever has been holding us back and move towards our own greatness...where the stories of the past do not prevent us from peace, prosperity, health and happiness in the here and now...where we can handle whatever comes with clarity and a strong center, and where we support each other in mutual service. Will you join me?

November 22, 2010

Got Gratitude? If Not, Try This

2010 has been a difficult year for many of us, the world over. I have friends who have been successful and productive for most of their lives who are now unemployed or underemployed, have lost their homes or are in foreclosure, who have become clients of food pantries, and who have had health crises they can't afford to address.

Not everyone has a supportive family, a spouse or friends to help. Some of us who do may feel they don't do enough for us. We look to our politicians; what have they done for us lately? Where's our economic recovery?

And we're supposed to be thankful now? might be a little easier to cope with the hardships if we could muster up some gratitude for what we have.

I don't suggest we go all Pollyanna and say we are glad to be living in a friend's basement when in fact we are not glad about that...or grateful to have at least one good hip when the other one's disintegrating and hurting like hell. No government worker I know here in Santa Cruz is glad about the furlough days that cut into their salaries.

So I suggest we take a look at the people, institutions and bodies that have done us wrong in this past year, and ask ourselves...

1. What have I received from this person, place, institution or body? Maybe not today, maybe not this week, this month or this year. What about in this lifetime? Make a list and be specific; don't negate any of what you have received, no matter how small or insignificant you rate it. Example: "My husband walks the dog sometimes." "My body wakes up every morning." "My mother read to me when I was little." "The pantry gave me government-issue cheese and canned beans for six months."

2. What have I done for this person, place, institution or body lately? Put it in writing. Notice how it feels to read your list. Does it feel like "enough" for you? Did you do these things out of obligation, with generosity, with a motive to get something in return, because you were afraid not to?

3. Is there something I am not acknowledging or appreciating about what this person, place, institution or body has given or done for me? Am I seeing it as "not enough," "too little, too late," "they owed it to me," or a "yeahbut"? What would it be like to drop the qualifiers?

4. Is there anything I want to say or do for the person, place, institution or body, now that I have looked at my thinking? Am I grateful to them? Do I want to make amends? How can I express my gratitude, or be of service, in a way that would feel comfortable, true and non-manipulative?

©2010 by Carol L. Skolnick. All rights reserved.

October 25, 2010

Is There Such A Thing as Energy Transmission?

Does this do anything for you?

I've watched it twice and I didn't feel a thing. That doesn't mean Eckhart's work is ineffective. It just means that one woman's "transmission" is another woman's lack thereof. I'm certainly open to feeling something...but then, I had no expectations before watching this that I would. While I like Eckhart Tolle's writings and resonate with a lot of what he says, I don't have a story about his having special abilities. Maybe if I believed he could wake me up, I would have woken up watching this, but that would have had nothing to do with him. The thought, "Here's an enlightened one, and s/he's going to awaken me," could result in something that feels good. And if the good feelings don't last...what would I have that I didn't have before? What did I lose? What happened to my story of energy transmission?

Similarly, if I feel terrible when I'm around someone I have labeled in a negative way, it's still just a story. I may not like the person or I may feel uncomfortable around them, but no one can make me feel one way or another. I am reacting to an image, an idea. (This doesn't mean I'm going to lock myself in a room with an armed and dangerous serial killer!)

Teachers are great for pointing the way to the heart, but ultimately it's our own hearts we get in touch with in their name. That's why a particular teacher works for some folks and not for others. It's also why it's not necessary to negate all the goodness we have experienced in relationship to a teacher (or to any human being) if the relationship ends in disappointment, or has run its course.

Unless we're talking about fixing a car, I don't find this emphasis on "transmission" to be helpful; I find it creates someone higher and someone lower.

I prefer to know that I can "enlighten" myself in any given moment by being present with what is happening now (for example, through inquiry). Then there is no dependency on anything or anyone outside myself; and everyone is equally blessed with the power of transmission.

©2010 by Carol L. Skolnick. All rights reserved.

October 5, 2010

Ask A Facilitator: Won't I Be a Doormat?

Q: If I answer Question 4, "Who would I be without that thought?" it's just speculation. In reality, I'd be an idiot without my thoughts, ignoring the facts and with no protection. Can't I just skip to the turnarounds?

A: Yes it's speculative; question 4 of The Work of Byron Katie is meant to open the mind to possibilities other than the one we've been believing. It's not about ignoring facts, or even about changing from one thought to another.

In my experience, without the "education" of my answers to the four questions, the turnarounds can leave me feeling incomplete. It's too easy for me to go to default, making my turnarounds into affirmations (which tend not to work for me) or sticks with which to beat myself (which, though habitual, really really really don't work for me).

I'm not the most "positive" person on earth, as my readers and friends may have noticed. I doubt, I distrust, I fear something bad will happen if I'm not vigilant. So for me, question 4 is a stretch, and it's meant to be. I, too, want to say, "I'd be a fool, I'd be a patsy, I'd be a doormat."

When the mind comes up with those quick answers, I have learned to be patient, to say, "That could be; and is there anything else? What if this stressful thought did not run my life? How would I show up, facts in hand, without living out of this belief and all the repercussions of doing so that I have seen in Question 3?"

That allows me to see myself in any situation as loving, present, self-posessed. And then I can at believe my "positive" turnarounds without myself to task over the "negative" ones.


Let's say I have done The Work on "He verbally abused me." Let's say my answer to questions 1 and 2 are "Yes, it is true. I can absolutely know that it's true." (I don't have to get cosmic and say, "Oh, he called me names and said things that I experienced as shaming and blaming, but that was only my interpretation." If I'm doing The Work on this when the issue is still "hot," I'm not in that space; I would never tell anyone else that they had brought their abuse on themselves.)

So, briefly, when I live out of the belief (which is different, for me, than believing it: you can acknowledge that something happened and not base your every waking moment on it), I am seeing just one part of our relationship. I take the moments where he said and did this, this and this and that becomes the entire relationship, in my mind. I hate him, I see him as sadistic, I blame him for my unhappiness, I worry that he's right; my self-esteem plummets. I overeat to ease the pain. I complain about him to others. I fight back with my own sharp tongue, an eye for an eye. I manipulate him with my body. I project a loveless future for myself. I want him to suffer. I want him to understand that he damaged me. I am damaged goods.

Who would I be without this thought? (Here's where the voice kicks in that says I'd be Cleopatra the Queen of Denial, an idiot, a battered woman who is victimized by the big bad man, etc.) I would see that ending the relationship equals sanity and I need not do it with drama and recrimination. I would see him as doing the best he can when he is obviously in pain, and this does not mean I stay with him. I would notice that I still care for him and am still attracted to him, and this does not mean that I stay with him. I notice that I care about myself enough to stop hurting myself in his name. I don't make all men out to be abusers. I cherish the wonderful connection we had and don't diminish that.

Now I can experience my turnarounds (He did not verbally abuse me. I verbally abused myself. I verbally abused him. He verbally nurtured me) with clarity. They are all true to varying degrees, and I was not wrong to believe my original statement; I'm not insane.

©2010 by Carol L. Skolnick. All rights reserved. The Work of Byron Katie, ©Byron Katie International, used with permission.

September 10, 2010

In the Name of The Work, How Do I Abandon The Work?

Byron Katie has said, "If I think you need The Work, I need The Work."

I'll take it one step further: outside of a mutually agreed-upon, facilitator-client relationship, in the moment I invite you to question your thoughts, I have left The Work; it has become something else entirely.

What do I mean by this? Discuss.

September 3, 2010


As the Jewish New Year approaches—a time for self-reflection, forgiveness and making amends—I wanted to share with you a poem/prayer by Meredith Cahn that I received in my email today. It touched my heart and I would take it one step further: "Let me not bear guilt on my own account." Let there be no guilt, only atonement/at-one-ment!

Its arrival is most timely, as I have been thinking about some worksheets I have somehow escaped dealing with (nine of them at last count!!!) that I may begin again with a clean slate and a light heart.

Whatever your spiritual beliefs or lack thereof...may all be inscribed in the Book of Life for a joyous new year/new you!

For more about these holidays in light of self-inquiry, please see my series of articles "Days of Awe" posted here at the Soul Surgery blog in 2007, beginning with this one.


Ribono shel Olam,

I stand before You

and before my community



Seeking at least to be open and forgiving

To all those who have hurt or angered me,

Be this hurt of body or soul,

Of honor or property,

Whether the other was forced to hurt me

Or did so willingly;

Whether it was by accident or intent;

Whether I was hurt by word or by deed;

Whether this wound is a new one

Or one that still festers from some earlier world of mine--

I forgive because we are both human.

May no person bear guilt on my account.

—Meredith Cahn

August 13, 2010

Focus on Facilitation: Adapting Inquiry to Alternative Learning Styles

The theory of multiple intelligences may be useful for facilitators of The Work of Byron Katie.

I have often used metaphors with my clients as a way of explaining how The Work works, but until last week, I never danced around the room!

Many of us are kinesthetic, musical or spatial learners; I know I am to an extent. I don't always understand abstract concepts right away, but if I can employ different senses and parts of my brain, find a tune to fit something I need to memorize, visual something concrete, I learn more quickly. As an educator, I was taught to use media and movement with my students as a way of helping them learn using different parts of the brain; for instance, getting some of my high school students to appreciate Robert Frost's poetry in print wasn't a happening thing, but they enjoyed listening to a recording of him reading "The Road Not Taken" (they were amused by his quavering voice and old-fashioned New England accent), which opened them to discussing the author's technique and intent. Similarly, when I was teaching elementary-school age English as a Second Language students, we sang songs in English which included lots of repetition; some kids who were not able to or interested in learning English in traditional ways soon were speaking in full sentences!

I have a client who, after several sessions, continued to have difficulty with question 3 of The Work, "Who would you be without this thought?" She gave me a clue about how to proceed by saying, "I have a hard time stepping out of the situation." I said, "So let's step out of it." Standing straight in front of her, I said, "Let's take a hypothetical situation. Say one day I left the house, went to work, and I was held up at gunpoint by a Croatian man in a warehouse, and now I can't go into warehouses, or be around men, or Croats, or hear Serbo-Croation being spoken, without getting panic attacks. My thought it, 'I'm too sick to work." (My apologies to men, Croats, and warehouses; nothing personal.) Because of her particular situation, which had nothing to do with being held up at gunpoint or men or Croatians, or warehouses, she actually related to the example.

I stepped to the left. "Prior to that incident, and that thought, I went to work each day, and had interactions with all kinds of people, and entered all kinds of buildings, without fear." She got that. I stepped back into the center.

"How do I react when I believe the thought, I'm too sick to work'? I tell a story about what happened, after the fact." I step to the right, facing the center. "I remember what happened over there, and from over here, my body tenses up, I feel faint. I break out into a cold sweat around men. I can't go into the basement at home; it looks too much like the warehouse. I'm sure that if I leave the house, it will happen again. My mind travels to someone pulling a gun on me and I die painfully." I go on like this for a bit more.

"Who would I be without this thought?" I move back to the center and take a step backwards." "Now I am taking myself out of the situation and looking at it, as it really happened, as if watching a movie, but without my spin on it. I see a man holding a woman at gunpoint and then letting me go. I, the woman, am okay, not dead yet. I notice I was always okay; he never hurt me.

"Now I need to use my imagination a little. Who would I be right now without this thought, applying for a job? I would go to the office building; I would fill out the application; I would be present, empowered and excited."

Click! Now my client sees that The Work is a way of observing the mechanisms of the mind; she doesn't have to deny what happened or even her experience of what happened; she gets to take on different vantage points and see if they can be equally valid. She has asked that we "somaticize" this portion of The Work this way from now on; and my guess is that we won't always need to, once she gets it "in the bones."

©2010 by Carol L. Skolnick. All rights reserved.

July 9, 2010

"Dangerous" Turnarounds and the Power of "Sometimes"

Here are some dangerous thoughts; dangerous for us who believe them, because we may stake our very lives on them and create unnecessary stress, suffering and separation.

-I am right.

-My way is the right way.

-I know what's best for you.

When we do The Work on these thoughts we may come upon these turnarounds (among others):

-You are right. (Or) I am wrong.

-My way is the wrong way.

-You know what's best for me.

Notice if you are swapping one funky thought for another! These thoughts, while they could be as true or truer than the original statements, are equally dangerous if we make them into our new religion.

The purpose of inquiry is not to make yourself wrong and another right. It's not to make another into an all-knowing Messiah. Turnarounds need not be sticks with which we beat ourselves, and they're not meant to cancel out our beliefs.

It's important to keep a sense of balance when doing The Work, to remember that the purpose of inquiry is clarity, and the result of turnarounds is balance. One way to do that is to incorporate the word "sometimes" in your turnarounds.

Examine how things can be as true or truer "sometimes."

-(Sometimes) you are right. (Also) I am wrong, sometimes.
-My way is the wrong way, sometimes.
-(Sometimes) you know what's best for me.

When you add "sometimes" to your turnarounds, it may be easier to find specific, genuine (not automatic, not spiritual) examples. For example, "sometimes" you know what's best for me when you have more information than I do. (My chiropractor knows it's not good for me to do certain exercises because he knows the condition of my spine. You know what's best for me, sometimes, when you give me unasked for advice that I don't take because I'm standing on ceremony. Sometimes you know what's best for me when you tell me something I don't want to hear; it brings up all my stuff about you that I haven't brought to inquiry.)

Another way to work with tricky turnarounds:  add phrases like "when you do." "If you do." "When I do." "When it is.) "If I do." "In this moment." Examples:

"My way is the wrong way (in this moment when I see myself as knowing what's best for you)."

"You know what's best for me (when you do, such as in when you defy me and I need that "medicine")."

©2010 by Carol L. Skolnick. All rights reserved.

June 16, 2010

Whose Identity Is This, Anyway?

The day after Santa Cruz Pride Weekend, I stopped to look at the colorful posters in the window of the Diversity Center, our local GBLT support organization, to see if there were any fun concerts or activities I might like to attend. I noticed a moment's hesitation when a woman came out of the center and gave me a cheerful hello. This really disturbed me. A part of me still felt I shouldn't be there.

There was a time in my life when I would have felt too uncomfortable to smile and say hi back to her, when the hesitation would not have been momentary but total. At that time I would never have stopped to read the posters in the window in case anyone I knew (or anyone I didn't know) might think I had a vested interest in gayness. Even though I lived in Greenwich Village for many years—the former heart of gay life in the city—and even though I had gay, bi and lesbian friends and attended Pride Weekend activities with them, I always made sure to wear my "Straight But Not Narrow" button, just in case anyone had any ideas. Since none of my straight friends ever went to watch the parade—they tended to avoid downtown altogether—I thought I was extremely open-minded; I had no idea how homophobic I was. Years later, when I became friendly with a trans-man, I had yet another entire set of misconceptions and fears to question and work through.

Now that I (mostly) know that others' sexuality and gender identification are none of my business, I continued to stand in front of the Diversity Center, read the posters, smile and say hi to the woman who came out of the center, and I thought, perhaps "my" gender and sexuality are none of my business either. They are not "mine."

No one can help loving someone else in the way that we do. (And why would we want to help it? It doesn't need our help!) No one does anything to come into this world with the genes and organs we have. How can I take credit for this? How can I even label myself one thing or another?

I understand the thinking behind Gay Pride; pride being the opposite of shame, it makes perfect sense to celebrate what society has long deemed shameful, and always with disastrous results. Of course, straight people can be ashamed of their sexuality as well. As a pre-teen, I was simply horrified by mine; my desire for boys seemed huge and overwhelming, totally wrong for someone my age to be carrying around. Then there was that O.A. meeting I attended once at the Gay and Lesbian center in Manhattan, where I felt I would be hanged at sundown if anyone knew a "breeder" had infiltrated their safe haven. It seems so funny now. Why didn't I celebrate those wonderful people—and myself—for gathering in support and fellowship?

It occurs to me that if I'm ashamed of my sexuality, just as if I am ashamed of my body, I'm confused. And also if I'm proud of it, I'm confused. Once again, I'm identifying with something that doesn't belong to me and, like everything else, is subject to change without notice.

©2010 by Carol L. Skolnick. All rights reserved.

May 20, 2010

Focus on Facilitation: I Heart "Difficult" Clients!

Recently I worked with someone who yeahbutted, becaused, justified, defended, and told stories for the better part of three sessions. This isn't unusual and I handled it the way I usually do; I listened for awhile, then pointed out what was happening and led her back to the questions...which pissed her off. That's also not unusual; and that's okay with me, I'm not doing this job in order to make friends, and I make that clear with every "difficult" client I encounter, while making sure they are okay with getting back to the process of inquiry.

During the last of our three sessions, something sunk in, the client said said, that hadn't budged for her after years of therapy on the same issue she was trying to dodge as she worked on it with me. So she signed up for more sessions.

If every client were "easy," I would not have the privilege of witnessing how most everyone who opts to sit in the client "hot seat" thirsts for resolution and eventually finds it. Sometimes they don't, or they don't just yet; and that is business of mine. When the time is right, there is simply nothing we, as clients, can do about breaking through. When it's not time, there is simply nothing that we, as facilitators, can do about that either. There's no magic formula, there are no right words to say. That's why it's great to tap into our own difficult-ness, so we can meet them where they are, where we are. Have you ever been resistant, cranky, closed, convinced you're right? I sure have. Five minutes ago. Five minutes from now.

I was a difficult client amundo o-rama. Just ask Byron Katie; she fondly remembers me fighting with her, in my fiery red dress. Then she got to watch while my world melted away before our eyes, not a moment before it was supposed to. Too bad my two times in the chair with her and my time at my first school weren't recorded so you could all see how adorable I am when I'm insane. (Friends of mine know that I'm still difficult!) And how helpless I was as sanity slowly came to light.

Nobody needs The Work, not if they don't want it. And if a "difficult" client is sitting with me, I have to assume they want it. I'm not going to give up on them, try to change their minds, spout canned wisdom at them. I'm not going to pounce on them the second I hear them say the letter "b" (as in "but" and "because"). This isn't a game of "gotcha."

Instead, I'm going to hear them and let them hear themselves. (So many juicy core beliefs come to light when a client justifies, defends and gives backstory; why wouldn't we want that?) Then I'm going to give them whatever I have, which isn't much. That's what was given to me: not much; and of course, that "not much" was more than enough. That's why I'm still here to tell the tale.

In my experience, the "difficult" clients are working harder than anyone else I work with. They are scared to lose their stories; and yet, they want to. The story is half gone already and they are holding on to its remnants for dear life, knowing they are about to lose the old religion for good.

Maybe the bigger we are, the harder we fall.

I love my "difficult" clients! Yeah, I play favorites; because (oh no, justification!) they are me, they are my heart, they are my work. And "difficult" is a story I used to use to torture myself in their name.

I hope, for your sake, that you don't still believe in "difficult" clients.

©2010 by Carol L. Skolnick. All rights reserved.

May 18, 2010

The Arrogance of Not Knowing

At a certain point in your inquiry practice, you will undoubtedly come to recognize the arrogance behind the words "I know." However, the opposite stance can be just as arrogant: "I can't know anything! (And its mostly unspoken implication, "Therefore you can't know anything either.")

In this way, "I don't know" becomes as much of a religion as "I know." This is pure dogma and has little if anything to do with the process of inquiry or any real understanding that comes of it.

There can be great freedom in realizing that there isn't too much we can know for sure, particularly when it comes to stressful, limiting assumptions we have made all of our lives. It's when we want to impose I-Don't-Knowism on the rest of the world that it becomes yet another prison...and a very oppressive one at that.

Proselytizers from The Holy Church of I-Don't-Know may come across in the following ways—but only for our highest good, of course. Is this you? (It's been me at times, for sure!):

1. Facilitating others when they haven't asked for it.

Human Being with Human Reactions: I have a headache.

Devotee of I-Don't-Knowism: Is that true?

Human Being: Yes, it's true. My head is pounding. I shouldn't have had beer and pizza last night.

Devotee: Oh really? "You shouldn't have had beer and pizza." I would soooo question that. Does that belief bring peace or stress into your life?

2. Nondual One-upmanship.

Human Being: Wow, I just heard on the news that 108,000,000 people died in Squatslavia today when a 12.0 earthquake, a tsunami, and wildfires demolished the entire country.

Devotee: I don't see a problem. Could it be that this is for their highest good? I can't know what's best for the Squatslavians. Or for the world. Or even for myself. How do I know the world is supposed to self-destruct? It's self-destructing; that's reality.

3. Being non-committal in the name of enlightenment.

Human Being: Will you marry me?

Devotee: In this moment it's a "yes," and "mind" might change itself. I love you with all my heart, and I can't know how I'm going to feel five minutes from now, and either way, it's not personal. So it would be out of my integrity to say yes. Or no.

Human Being: Well, I don't know what to do now. Do we make plans for our wedding, or what?

Devotee: (Insert favorite Ramana Maharshi-ish or Nisargadatta-esque "we are not the doers" statement here.)

If you think I am exaggerating, you haven't hung out on social media recently. Sometimes people are sort-of kidding (you can tell if they put a little smiley face next to what they wrote) but often this is in all seriousness. Not surprisingly, the "conversion" rate is not terrifically high and no wonder; there's no meeting people where they are in this kind of "communication."

At the end of her workshops, Byron Katie often says, "Want to alienate your friends and family? Talk to them like this: [Putting on an obnoxious voice:] 'Is that truuuue? Turn it aroooouuuund!'"

This always gets a big laugh, Then darned if many of us don't go home and do it! (Been there, done that, and I apologize! Ugh!!!)

In contrast, those who live out of their realizations and don't teach/preach frequently are asked by those who knew them "when," "You seem terrific, what are you doing these days? Did you fall in love or something?"

If you can answer that with a simple "yes" or "no," then sign me up.

©2010 by Carol L. Skolnick. All rights reserved.

February 19, 2010

Helping Others While Helping Yourself

Ironically, some the very things we have come to view as expensive luxuries are the ones that help us to take good care of ourselves.

Like many friends and colleagues all over the world, I have been feeling the pinch of the economy in recent years. So it feels funny to expect everyone to find a way to pay my old fee structure, set during more prosperous times, when I myself can't regularly afford many of the things that help me to prosper and grow in my life, whether it's a workshop, a massage, coaching sessions or even health care.

Believe it or not, marketing gurus to the self-employed advise raising fees in a recession! I've never grokked the logic of this advice and it has never sat well with me; it dismisses the experience of the people I most desire to serve, who don't need one more stressor, like higher prices, on their plates.

If you've wanted to do ongoing inquiry with a facilitator but simply could not justify the expense, you'll be happy to hear about my new (and unpublished on my website) Transformational Inquiry Prosperity Package, available now through the end of 2010 only to my friends, clients and subscribers: 10 pre-paid one-hour sessions of The Work for $750. That's only $150 more than the already discounted six-session package advertised at, at just $75 per session, it's my lowest publicly offered fee in eight years.

In addition, I will donate $10 of each package fee either to Partners In Health--the relief organization that has been active in Haiti for 20 years and has the infrastructure in place to help victims of the earthquake--or Groundworks Opportunities, which has been instrumental in helping Rwandans come to grips with the past and rebuild their lives, from building houses to learning The Work. You choose which group you'd like to see prosper from your Work. (If you prefer that the donation go to a local charity, I can arrange that as well.)

To enroll in the Prosperity Package (I can't bring myself to call it a recession special!), I only require that you...

*Prepay for all 10 sessions.
*Complete all 10 sessions in three months' time (ideally one session per week; and of course you can do it more frequently).
*Be an active subscriber to the infrequent, fun and informative Transformational Inquiry newsletter; if you aren't already on my mailing list, sign up at (You'll also receive a complimentary white paper, The Nine Proficiencies of The Work at Work.)

Please note I cannot accept Paypal payments with this offer.

Active subscribers to Transformational Inquiry, please contact me here:

February 17, 2010

Ask a Facilitator Anything!

How Much Time Should I Take for The Work?

Q: How often do you suggest someone do The Work? It takes me about 12-20 minutes to question one belief out of maybe 20-30 beliefs on the Judge-Your-Neighbor Worksheet.

A: How much time would you put aside for a daily meditation practice, or for exercise? I see doing The Work as very similar to doing these other things; you don't want to exhaust yourself, but the more regularly you work at inquiry, the more "muscle" you'll develop.

That said, I think the amount of time you set aside isn't as important as making space for it in your day. If you're new to inquiry, you might want to do it every day at first. Twenty minutes could be long enough; an hour is great if you find it's helping you to sit with the questions longer. In session with a client, we work for an hour, sometimes an hour and a half. The important thing is to routinely question your stressful beliefs so that you begin to experience the effects of inquiry when you are not actively doing it.

When I was learning how to do The Work, I used to spend a couple of hours every day...but that's because I was in a big hurry to fix myself! I soon burnt myself out (and also I came to see that The Work is not a "fix," it's a way to develop and expand awareness). Later on, I spent maybe 20 or 30 minutes a day doing actual writing, then it became a few times a week or less, or as needed. The mechanism of inquiry was alive in me by that time so I didn't always have to write everything down. When I found myself letting myself take shortcuts, I went back to writing.

From time to time I go back to doing The Work every day, but mostly I use it when I feel confused or upset with no relief, or when I am particularly curious about why someone or something is troubling me, or when a stressful concept I thought I was done with feels sticky once again. If I have a worksheet with a lot of thoughts I want to look at, I might spread it out over several days.

Everyone is different and you may find you want to spend more or less time in inquiry than others.

Can't I Have Wants and Needs?

Q: I just started reading Katie's books and I'm wondering what happens when someone truly is dissatisfied with their situation and wants to leave. When is it appropriate to have boundaries? Or is it just about finding peace in whatever situation you're in and accepting people for who they are? Can't I have wants and needs? For example, I accept my husband for not being expressive and demonstrative; does that mean I shouldn't want to leave him? If he doesn't put any time into the relationship, should I just accept that?

A: If I know I need to leave a situation, I leave it! The key word here is "know." Accepting and finding peace in a challenging relationship does not mean you have to stay there. And I will ask myself: can I know I need to leave, or am I really wanting to stay while (hopelessly) hoping my partner will change?

I'm all for having needs and wants and for being very clear about what they are. If I want someone to fulfill those needs and wants for me, that's a recipe for disappointment and resentment. If I want a demonstrative, expressive partner, for example, and my partner is not demonstrative and expressive, whether I stay or go depends on how badly I truly want that and whether I'd rather be with him than not.

Is it true that you accept your husband? Here's where acceptance comes from: question beliefs like, "My husband should be expressive" and "He doesn't put any time into the relationship." Doing so puts you back in touch with what's true for you. Acceptance is acceptance of the truth; acceptance doesn't mean you shortchange yourself.

If you know it's time to leave, what stressful thoughts keep you from doing so? (Fears, "shoulds," etc.) If you know you want to stay, what stressful thoughts keep you from loving your relationship? (Write a worksheet on your husband and find out!)

Never A Reason to Break Up?

Q: It seems there would never be a reason to break up with a partner, because if we do The Work, we would find a turnaround for every criticism pointing back to ourselves. What am I not getting/seeing here?

A: There could be many reasons to break up with a partner, including simply knowing that it's time to go. Relationships run their course. We change our minds. Our lives and our priorities change. We don't have to vilify the other person in order to leave them...and we don't have to stay just because we've discovered our criticisms of them could easily be directed at ourselves.

Why do you walk down one street rather than another one? Does it have to mean that one street is better than the other street? Maybe you're in a hurry today and it takes a little less time to walk down the street you are choosing, or there's a lovely tree there that you like to look at, or you simply enjoy a change of scene. You're not a terrible person for having preferences! There's a street I avoid because it is hilly and when I come back from the store carrying packages, I prefer not to climb uphill. I don't say "This street is too hilly, turn it around: I am too hilly. Uh oh, I'd better keep walking on the hilly street because otherwise it means I don't love what is!"

When we do turnarounds in The Work, it's not meant to talk us into or out of anything; it's simply a way to expand awareness. I can't emphasize this point enough: turnarounds show us peaceful alternatives that we may not have seen. They point to what else could be as true or truer in this vast universe of choices. They show us where we have been mistaken, where we might want to loosen our grip, create more freedom in our lives, heal ourselves and make amends to those we might have hurt.

If, when judging your partner, you have a "negative" turnaround to yourself—for example, "He's inconsiderate." "I'm inconsiderate."—it doesn't mean you have to stay with him because you've been inconsiderate. This turnaround is pointing to, "Where have I been inconsiderate of him?" Perhaps by wanting him to change for your sake...and maybe he can't do that. It could be that this is a wonderful man who is not your wonderful man; you've been confused about that. Now you can do right by him and stop the violence (to yourself as well as to him) of wishing he were different.

If you stay, questioning your thoughts will help you stay with love, including self-love. If you go, it could be the most loving thing you can do...without resentment or blame.

At first I wanted to stop seeing a man I was dating because HE did this and HE did (or didn't do) that. My friends were saying, "Oh, you've got to end it, HE's a this, HE's a that, you deserve much better. (Friends just love to take our side when we're going through relationship stuff, as if there were an enemy against whom we need defending.) While I appreciated their support, seeing the man as a dastardly fiend didn't actually make me feel better, nor did it make it any easier for me to tell him I was done.

I got clear that what was going on between us was mostly going on between my ears; old beliefs that prevented me from letting myself know what I knew, that pulled me out of my own integrity. The "negative" turnarounds, such as "he lied to me"/"I lied to him"/"I lied to myself" rang very true and they did not feel like I was whipping myself. When I finally told him it wasn't working out for me, never implying that he (or I) did anything wrong or that he wasn't good enough for me, he said he had never been "dumped" so nicely before and hoped we would stay friends. I feel closer to him now than when I was trying to "accept" him.

©2010 by Carol L. Skolnick. All rights reserved.

February 4, 2010

Forgive My Innocence

Today, which was a melancholy day for me, I feel moved to share this poem by the New England writer and Pulitzer prize-winning poet, Robert P. Tristram Coffin. Coffin, who died in 1955, published dozens of books of poetry and prose in his lifetime and was widely anthologized. Though now his work is largely forgotten, I never forgot these powerful words of confession and amends, which I first encountered at age 12; they never fail to bring tears to my eyes.

Whenever I feel irredeemable, I think of Coffin's poem and I just know that anyone who regrets their actions as deeply and sincerely as he did is instantly forgiven in the moment of asking. As he shares his heart, I see not his sin, not his guilt, but his innocence.

Recognizing this in myself is another matter; I'm working on it.

"Forgive My Guilt"
by Robert P. Tristram Coffin

Not always sure what things called sins may be,
I am sure of one sin I have done,
It was years ago, and I was a boy,
I lay in the frostflowers with a gun,
The air ran blue as the flowers, I held my breath,
Two birds on golden legs slim as dream things
Ran like quicksilver on the golden sand,
My gun went off, they ran with broken wings
Into the sea, I ran to fetch them in,
But they swam with their heads high out to sea,
They cried like two sorrowful high flutes,
With jagged ivory bones where wings should be.

For days I heard them when I walked that headland
Crying out to their kind in the blue,
The other plovers were going over south
On silver wings leaving these broken two.
The cries went out one day; but I still hear them
Over all the sounds of sorrow in war or peace
I ever heard, time cannot drown them,
Those slender flutes of sorrow never cease.
Two airy things forever denied the air!
I never knew how their lives at last were spilt,
But I have hoped for years all that is wild,
Airy, and beautiful will forgive my guilt.