Thursday, October 4, 2012

What's the Worst that can Happen?

Thoughts are the worst thing that can happen.
You know that fear? That fear of completely losing it? Or that fear of going over the edge into crazy town? Or the thought that says, "If you lose it, you might not get it back again?"

Have you ever thought about what this 'it' is you think you're scared of losing? Or the 'it' that's going over that apparently dark and scary edge?

Is it your sanity? Your security?

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Trauma Victims and The Work

Samsara addresses Trauma Victims and The WorkI have been wanting to talk about this for a while but was only recently made re-aware when I wrote the article, "Engaging in Risky Sexual Behavior" at my website only to later address the ego and its functions here in "Attaching to Thoughts."

Both were in the context of a Byron Katie video that had a mother holding stressful thoughts about her daughter and her sexual behaviors. In the context of that video, mom makes the statement, "I had to live through her getting raped." And right on cue I went right to compassion for the daughter that superseded my already strong compassion for her life in the face of her mom's judgment on her sex life. I tended to agree with Katie in that her 'sexual behavior' could have been 'therapy.'

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Attaching to Thoughts

ego and the mind's job is to validate what it thinks

Thoughts are not the problem. 

Believing them is a different story.

No matter any thought that goes through my mind, I never have a problem until I believe it and it's the mind's job is to believe what it thinks. I have no problem when I am thinking wonderful happy thoughts. But when I have hooked into a stressful thought and begin romancing it, there's my pain. For people who love to say, "Pain's a given. Suffering is optional," I would like to say that is not my experience. Who chooses to suffer in the face of experiential freedom? Until I became aware that I was not my thoughts, it was not a choice. I invite you into that awareness.

Attaching to Daughter's Risky Sexual Behavior

"Again, I had to live through her getting raped."

The below video, in which I reference in "Risky Sexual Behavior" on my website, I wanted to use to talk about what it looks like when a person is very attached to a thought. I do not do this to pick on the woman because we've all done it or do it; But to show the way the ego mind works, evincing proof that although we may not like or enjoy our suffering, but in the face of our ego (or what we believe) being threatened we'll often dig our heels in, in order to somehow prove or legitimize that suffering.

There are quite a few instances (and edits) that I notice in this video that the woman is making clear she does not desire to let go of the story that her daughter is engaging in risky sexual behavior. But here she is at a Byron Katie meeting sharing her "Inquiry" aloud and is doing "The Work" in front of people and with Katie.

Let's Look at how the Ego Works to Protect its Suffering

Despite that the Dear Woman is Faced with Byron Katie DOING "The Work"

inquiry or the work asks four questions
 1.)  As the video starts, Byron Katie asks, "Engages in risky sexual behavior. Is that true?" Mother answers immediately: "It is true."

Without a pause, that woman is holding to that. She is not letting go. And not only is it true, but it is true (that her daughter engages in risky sexual behavior). She emphasized the 'is' because the Ego senses the war about to ensue.

And this is probably precisely why there is such a second question, "Can you absolutely know that it is true?" because the Ego is most powerful in the mind of the one it is controlling isn't it? But hey, Katie does not play. She assumes you want an end to your suffering or you would not be there. I love that.

In my own experience, I suggest a mental slowing down before responding to the first question because it gives me an opportunity to let my ego take a minute off from being right or 'knowing' what it thinks it knows. And if you don't think my ego knows everything it thinks it does, ask it. :)
2.)  So of course, Katie hits the second question, "Can you absolutely know that it's true that she engages in risky sexual behavior?" Again, without pause or contemplation, "Yes." 

And it's a strong yes. It's not waffling or waning. The ego is about to do battle and no hostages! Byron Katie, The Work, it is undeterred! "I don't care what you think you're about to do, I'm here to stay."  This woman, without pause, in this moment knows with absolute certainty that x, y, z - because does it matter what it is at this point? What she thinks she knows is just the vehicle for the Ego's expression. It could easily be that 2 + 2 = 4.

The point is not whether it IS true or NOT. The point of this - in my practice - is to release the ego's grip on me so that I can release my beloved (?) suffering and gain freedom. But while I am caught up in my story and the believing of it, the Ego is hiding and cloaking or otherwise obfuscating itself.
"Can you absolutely know that it's true?" is a LOT different than the first question. If your answer is "No." from the 1st question of Inquiry there is no point in the 2nd question. On the other hand, If your answer is Yes to the first question, then this 2nd question is asking you to hold up your 'Yes' up to 'absolute knowing.' Absolutely knowing anything is huge. When I hear people absolutely knowing a thing, that does tell me the depth of the Ego's grip in that I know the story of my own Ego and there is no such thing as a new stressful thought; They just wear different faces. And if I let them, they can be perfect vehicles for Clarity. :)
3.)  And Katie continues, "How do you react? What happens to your life when you think this thought?" Notice, now, how Mother is slowing down. She even removes her glasses to think about her gamut of emotions.
This is the opportunity to really use the imagination to re-visit the feelings and emotions this painful belief produces. My brain makes thoughts and yours might too. :) Regardless of whether these thoughts come from a collective consciousness [a la HSP] or a subconscious something that I am unaware is happening or even the obvious external stimuli [ie, Beloved is late and he is on his motorcycle. Oh my gosh, what if he is dead? And into the terrifying future I go.], these thoughts of mine happen. And I've also noticed there is no problem with them happening - ever - unless I travel with them to the future or the past.

4.)   So then Katie explains how we see images and then we experience emotions. Katie asks [01:27 on the video] : "Is that imagination or is that your daughter?" Mother answers, "It's history."

Ah. So the Ego opts for 'None of the above!' and instead chooses an answer that [it thinks] legitimizes itself. "I'll go with otherwise legitimate sounding concepts that legitimize my suffering, Alex!" And yes, it's funny to think of it this way but this Mother is very attached and no doubt she has a real problem because she thinks she does. I do love so very much how she absolutely does not let The Work or Katie off the hook by answering like she thinks she is supposed to but rather how she genuinely feels and thinks. This is what I love to see.
By not being honest with where I am in whatever I am in, I am unable to bring my problem's face to the light. And as long as I keep it hidden, it's a secret. And when it's a secret, it operates. And when it's done being a secret or I expose it to the light, I can disinfect it. It's the first step. And pretending I have no problem, or pretending I have the 'right' or 'desirable' answers in whatever situation, my secret can remain hidden, doing its job. And this does not mean we trust our 'secrets' with just anybody.
5.)  Katie asks her again after offering logical evidence that because the audience 'sees' her daughter, although never even having met her, it's obviously 'our' imagination! Notice the woman's discomfort. Her elbow shifts and she looks as if she feels defeated when she answers, "Imagination."

We are able to 'see' the daughter who engages in 'risky sexual behavior' and the fact we see no face doesn't stop us does it? We're imagining all sorts of 'risky sexual behavior' maybe and we have no 'history' to tie it to do we? Imagination is the clear and obvious winner.

6.) "Who would you be, in that moment, without the thought, '________ engages in risky sexual behavior?'"  [02:30 on the video] And the woman says nothing until Katie says, "And it's easy to find if you look at yourself just prior to the thought." 

The woman answers "Right" so quickly it seems as if she is trying to cut Katie off at the pass. And if this is not evidence of a strongly inclined ego, listen to her inflection of "Yes" when Katie continues, "Weren't ya great?" Her Yes sounds like a 'So what? Shut Up!' Then the woman tries to interrupt as Katie puts forth another question asking if it's her daughter doing that to her or her thoughts.

I am not picking on this woman. I have done this. You have done this. This IS the human condition. Our mind's job is to believe and validate what it thinks otherwise what is the point of it?  I 'believe' that when I put the key in the car it will start. If I did not believe this I would not put the key in the ignition. I 'believed' that when I planted my garden, that it would yield vegetables, otherwise what was the point of it? I 'believe' that as I get into my car and drive that I will not die in a car accident on that trip. And our 'beliefs' are not necessarily what make Reality. My car fails, my garden rots, and I die in a car accident despite my beliefs.
The mind is good, yes. Very good. Very amazing. Very capable. But at the same time, we turn these 'Beliefs' into God and we worship at the altar of our minds without any room for Reality or Awareness. And so we suffer. And we suffer in the name of morals or God or the Devil or intellect or fear or regret or, in the case of this woman, the name of her daughter... it just goes on. And as long as we can attach a concept to it, the suffering is legitimate.
7.)   Byron Katie then asks for the turnarounds. She asks the woman where had she been engaging in risky sexual behavior. After a couple of examples, [05:35 on the video] The Woman/Mother says, "Well, again, I had to live through her getting raped."

Now I am not sure if this woman meant that one to be an example of how she engaged in risky sexual behavior herself and so is 'triggered' when she thinks of her daughter living in 'risky sexual behavior' mode or if this woman's ego was STILL vying for legitimacy. I am not sure. But it seems as if Katie is thinking the latter when she says, "Oh that's a good one!" and goes onto say one rape was enough without her mother raping her over and over again in her mind
She had to live through her daughter's rape. Well. My first thought is, "If you lived through it, why did she have to?" Co-opting another person's pain/tragedy into my own story is a victim/martyr mentality. [See Codependency]
Codie Joke: "My husband's got cancer! My mom's got Alzheimer's! My sister broke her foot! My daughter got pregnant and my son's getting bullied! Why is this happening to me?"


Carl Jung said, "Neurosis is always a substitute for legitimate suffering." The only legitimate suffering I have found is the one that challenges my ego on its face. And when this happens, in embracing the 'suffering' of my ego, I can not attach to it so seriously. It's not that I have killed it; Rather it has dissolved its stronghold. Inversely, to 'protect' my ego is to adopt a stance that you are my enemy; That everything is my enemy that challenges my 'correctness.' And in my particular versions of suffering, I can validate that I was indeed neurotic. I protected my victim-hood like a newborn baby and how dare you not engage in my mythology. Guess what? You're the enemy now.

Loving What Is
Going into Byron Katie's The Work may be more of a challenge for those very attached to their beliefs, and I was one such person. Even so, based in my own experience, as well as friends I have worked with, the only qualities needed that would yield the results of non-suffering were H.O.W. I absolutely did not come into The Work not attached to my pain, but I did come to it in Honesty, Open-mindedness, and Willingness.

I hope the woman in the above video has experienced freedom since her meeting with Katie. Like my own, I honor her process and I appreciate her honesty. And I appreciate the laughter and joy in witnessing how ego is still using the same tricks. It's just not as clever as I once thought it was.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Abusive Partner is your Guru?

Did Byron Katie just say that my abuser is my guru?"There’s never a mistake in the universe. So if your partner is angry, good. If there are things about him that you consider flaws, good, because these flaws are your own, you’re projecting them, and you can write them down, inquire, and set yourself free. People go to India to find a guru, but you don’t have to: you’re living with one. Your partner will give you everything you need for your own freedom." ~Byron Katie
Friends who have not yet escaped abuse or who are still suffering the psychological ramifications of abuse or mistreatment have got to be railing at this latest one that caught my attention. In fact, even if one has escaped and has attained some degree of peace, even a slight memory might provoke that thing inside that I lovingly call, "The Red Hots."

Abuse is not honorable at all, so if your partner is or was abusive, did Katie's statement catch your attention? If so, keep reading...

Friday, May 25, 2012

Happy to Have Been Locked Away in an Abusive Facility

physically, emotionally, mentally under lock and key at the hands of this place, i now have the key to free myself
I am happy to have been locked away in an abusive facility; A now defunct kids helping kids facility that kidnapped, locked up, and abused kids. A place that, by the very definition of abuse, hurt me. It abused my mind, my body, my autonomy, my sense of worth, and my basic trust in the general kindness of human beings. It is fair to say I suffered trauma. And I'm happy to have been there.

Completely and totally true. Bizarre? Maybe. But if it's true, the rest doesn't matter. What might matter, though, is my experience on how I got to this point. By using the most traumatic period of my life as an example of how The Work worked for me, maybe you have a chance at peace with any trauma you may have gone through. Or, if no trauma, then maybe this will serve as hope for even any mild annoyances you might be facing that you'd rather not be.

It is always my goal in this blog, that by sharing my process I can serve as testimony to the amazing power of the 4 Question Inquiry that Byron Katie brought to the world in Loving What Is: Four Questions That Can Change Your Life. (And no, you don't even need the book.)

"15 yr old Alcoholic Needs Help!"

When I was 15, I was placed into a "youth residential treatment facility" for alcoholism. The facility employed methods that cult experts would deem cultish. Even if it were not cult-like, it was still abusive.

It did have all the elements of a good abusive cult; separating you from your family and cutting off all contact, breaking your own spirit [little s] down to self-esteem nil by shaming, blaming, name-calling, using other brainwashed followers to work on you, hot seat confrontation by other followers, the inability to escape, call, or write for help, guards at the door, peers watching you shower, use the bathroom... And then, on the same hand, telling your parents it's best to have no contact because we're just liars and manipulators anyway. They called it "tough love."

"Adult Alcoholic Now with Trauma Needs Help!"

When I finally got sober in 2003 - thanks to an awesome woman i met in an organization that uses 12 steps -  over a decade of being cult-free, I still listed "this place" on my resentment list for my 4th step. I did this because I still had residual [ignored] - hate that all the alcohol I'd managed to drink still couldn't murder; All the hyper-controlling of food couldn't starve away; All the pets couldn't love away; All the romantic relationships could not save me from. I still had a good solid red hot hate for this place and the events that went on there and the things that happened while in there.
So my 4th Step was successful insofar as it led me into my 5th step and so on... and of course into sustainable sobriety for a few years. But what I would not recognize until 2006 - that is 3 whole non-drinking years later - is that my subconscious mind was hiding memories from my consciousness until I had the tools to deal with the memories it was saving me from. Pretty cool, that mind of ours. [Dis-associative amnesia is what I later learned it was called.]


Sobriety Happens. Trauma Still Happens.

And when those memories came flooding in, my subconscious mind had more faith in me than I did because the pain was very painful. In time, I was able to trace back my feelings over instances of violations, victimizations, severe distrust of 'the system,' violent reactions to being cornered, hate over confrontations and controlling personalities, people touching me or coming in too close to my space, and my zealous love for children and animals, the unempowered/dis-empowered, the un-voiced/de-voiced, and the disabled. I traced it back to this place that made Lord of the Flies look like angel food cake.

Enter Byron Katie and The Work

 So there's the story. There are no new stressful thoughts that I can share with you that you do not already know in your own experience. There is no way I am going to convince you of the memories of my pain. There are only two choices: I hurt or I didn't. And for this process called The Work to work in your life, I don't even need you to believe me; In fact I encourage you NOT to. Instead, I encourage you to use this for your own indelibly ingrained trauma. I'll share my answers but you answer yours for yourself.

If you are in pain over any situation in your life, just follow along and in bold blue when I make a statement or ask a question, pretend I am asking you. "The Work" only stops working when you do not answer the questions.

The Thought: "I should never have been put into this teen residential place because was an abusive place and it hurt me." I am going to answer along as honestly and as innocently as I did when it first occurred to me to bring it to Inquiry.

Let's do The Work  
(4 Questions and a Turnaround)

"I should never have been put into this place."
1.) Is that true?
Yes, that is true. I should never have been put into this place. [Now to be honest...before 2006, I was here. But after a little sanity via sobriety & recovery, my truer answer was more like, "Well, I'm not sure."]
2.) Can I absolutely know that to be true?
I cannot absolutely know that to be true. [This is the point where the ego can finally relax in defending its 'right' to be angry, and I can acknowledge that perhaps...perhaps there might be something I am unaware of. There is nothing 'bad' with the ego; It's doing its job perfectly when it defends itself cause that's its job. But if I want to live in happiness, joy, and peace, I have to let my ego take some time off. :) ]
3.) How do I feel, what happens, when I think that thought, "I should never have been put there," (and yet I was)?
[This is the opportunity to let it all out. Let the ego have its way. Keep the pretty language in the trash where it belongs for this one. Get cleansed. Tell on it.] I feel [felt] angry, powerless, and the opposite of autonomous and safe.  I feel [felt] intense anger toward my parents for not knowing what the place was really like. I feel [felt] anger at the doctor who suggested it, and anger at society for allowing it to exist. I hate authority in any form because I see it as a kidnapping agency without a jury to convict. I distrust those around me with my story so I keep it inside. I feel shame, stress, anger, fear, violation, victimization... I feel like God is dead and no one, not even my parents, care.
4.) Who would I be, how would I feel, without that thought?
[This is finally now - my favorite - the question where we can breathe. I meditate on this step and really let my imagination take flight. "Who would I be without this stressful thought?" If this is difficult to do, imagine yourself or remember an incident of happiness in your life... How did you feel BEFORE the stressful thought intruded? This is where we imagine ourselves without this thought. And now, since I really *am* without that thought, having done The Work on it some years ago, this one is in present tense and how I truly do feel. Now please remember, yours may be different.]    

I would feel grateful that there was a place that taught me there was such a thing as 12 steps. I would feel happy that for 4 months my parents had a break from dealing with my alcoholism and other shenanigans. I would feel honored that my parents would spend money on a rehabilitation they thought I was getting. I would feel autonomous and free because I was one of the kids who did not suicide during or after exposure. I would not feel stress or victimized because I would recognize that there were some good people in there who did help me to survive that place without completely cracking up. I would not feel distrustful, shame, stress, anger, violation or victimization.

Now the Turnaround(s): 
[I turn around the original statement I'm holding up to Inquiry and I find - at LEAST three - examples of the turnaround being as true or truer than the original thought. Or even examples that let me off the hook from the pain. This gives me an opportunity to expand my mind to include thoughts my 'pain' never allowed me to consider before now.]
I should have been put into this place.
  1. I know this to be true because I was.
  2. The doctor who suggested this place had diagnosed me as having alcohol poisoning. Had I not gone into this place, I may've been dead at any moment in the following 4 months I was in there.
  3. My body needed a break from alcohol and it's true that nothing less than physical removal from it could have stopped me at that point.
  4. While in there, I developed a keen sense of compassion for other peoples' pain.
  5. While being taken to school as to what abuse looked like, I knew I would not want to harm people with verbal assaults.
  6. I developed a healthy aversion to group-mentality when it does not align with my own Spirit.
  7. As an adult, I realize that the ever popular thought of "oh no! teenagers!" does not apply to me. Due to being in this place I advocate for the understanding of all kids & teenagers and they are my favorite people.
  8. Due to how I responded while in this place ~ and how it often looked 175* degrees different than other kids ~ I grew into awareness of my HSP [Highly Sensitive Person] status. This would eventually lead me into finding my niche and helping OTHER HSP's.
  9. Because of the horrifying model this place used, I know what NOT to suggest to parents who may have a child with a potential drinking problem.
  10. This teen residential facility did teach me about 12 step programs at 15 [AA and NA], which subsequently stayed in my memory as for when I would be ready to seek sobriety in 2003.
  11. Over a decade later, I would meet other 'former kids' associated with this place, because I was in this place, and I am so grateful to have met them. Some friendships came from it!
  12. Had I not been put here I would have graduated HS earlier and not made the friends I DID make that have carried on into the present.
  13. I highly doubt I would have made it to college because I was spurred to moving in my Grandmother after 5 years of High School who had the faith in me I needed to think about going to college - which I did! And I LOVED college!

Loving What is by Byron Katie
That is almost exactly what it looked like when I originally brought this stressful belief into inquiry. Sometimes the relief comes quickly; Sometimes it feels like nothing happened. BUT in every case and instance in which I have taken a painful thought to Inquiry, something amazing has always happened in every single instance: I find, that without even thinking or looking, that I haven't necessarily let go of any thought but that the stressful thought has let go of me.

Do not be concerned if 'all of a sudden' nothing happens. In my more stressful thoughts brought to inquiry, it feels as if nothing has happened. But later when faced with the same thought I have noticed it doesn't feel as familiar or stressful. I'll share one of those examples later and link it here.