Monday, 28 May 2012

The Work - Byron Katie

“Since the beginning of time, people have been trying to change the world so that they can be happy. This hasn’t ever worked, because it approaches the problem backward. What The Work gives us is a way to change the projector—mind—rather than the projected. It’s like when there’s a piece of lint on a projector’s lens. We think there’s a flaw on the screen, and we try to change this person and that person, whomever the flaw appears on next. But it’s futile to try to change the projected images. Once we realize where the lint is, we can clear the lens itself. This is the end of suffering, and the beginning of a little joy in paradise.” 
 Byron Katie

Over the last few weeks I've been reading Loving What Is: four questions that will change your life, by Byron Katie. I can honestly say: it's mind blowing. It is probably the most profound and yet the simplest approach to self-help that I have ever come across. 

The concept is this:

It is our internal battles with reality that cause our suffering. By insisting that the world/people/family* behave in a certain way, saying 'this is how life/my family/my loved ones should be*', which isn't at all how they are, causes our mental anguish.

“Placing the blame or judgment on someone else leaves you powerless to change your experience; taking responsibility for your beliefs and judgments gives you the power to change them”  Byron Katie

Using inquiry, we can examine each thought and see it for what it really is and the act of doing so, then allows it's release.

Inquiry consists of the Judge your Neighbour worksheet, which asks 6 questions. You are invited to be as judgemental, petty, obnoxious and bitchy as you can manage (which frankly, Ladies and Gentlemen, I can manage bitchy, bile and spite as Olympic sports). You analyse each statement using these 4 questions and you then turn it around completely.

1. Is it true?
2. Can you absolutely know it's true?
3. How do you react, what happens, when you believe this thought?
4. Who would you be without the thought?

You turn around the last statement on the sheet.

What do I like about her approach? You can go on her website, download everything you need to begin your enquiry without parting with cold, hard cash. She makes all of the resources needed to do the work readily available to everyone. She goes and does sessions in prisons, schools, churches; in fact, she'll go anywhere she's invited. For expenses.

The Work is almost like a short-cut into Buddhism. Thoughts become like rain, falling from the sky. Byron Katie teaches non-attachment. It is the belief in these thoughts that cause suffering, not the thoughts themselves. They flow on by without attaching themselves.

Reality is.

That's it. That's her big truth. 

She says there are three types of business: mine, yours and God's (or reality, whichever works for your belief system). When you spend all of your time thinking about someone else's business or arguing with reality, you are in effect completely separated from yourself. You aren't dealing with your business. And that's the only business you can deal with.

Is it that simple? Yes it is. That's what makes it so powerful. It's called The Work, because you do have to work at it. I can see it at a personal level. I start having difficulties when considering the news I read daily. It doesn't negate the NLP. In fact, it's made it incredibly more powerful. 

If you're curious, YouTube her. Let me know what you think.

*delete as appropriate

Monday, 14 May 2012

Self-Help Books: an exercise in ambivalence

I went to a bookstore and asked the saleswoman, "Where's the self-help section?" She said if she told me, it would defeat the purpose. 
George Carlin
I read my first self-help book at 28. It was by Iyanla Vanzant and it was In the Meantime. I found it very useful at the time. Her premise was simple: you will get the love you deserve, In the Meantime, you've just got to get yourself sorted. It sat on my bookshelf, next to my Marion Zimmer Bradley, Stephen King and Dean Koontz.

A few months after that, I had cause to hang out with someone who didn't have one self-help book, she had one bookshelf of them. She bought the CDs, the DVDs, went to the weekends and she was probably one of the most dysfunctional people I've ever met. Conversations with her were difficult; it was like fielding volleys delivered in Psych 101. An endless analysis of my 'issues'. It wouldn't have been so bad except I couldn't see where all the self-help stuff actually improved her Life and her relationships. All it seemed to do, was to give her a better vocabulary when it came to criticising other peoples' behaviour and motivation. Oh yeah, and mine. We don't hang out any more.

That experience made me somewhat cynical. Ultimately, it raised the question: does the guru walk their talk? Can someone who is in a dysfunctional relationship, is unhappy in their economic activity, is unable to maintain warm friendships, can they tell another person the best way to live their lives? How important is their present-story to their guiding someone else out of the darkness?

I'm asking questions. I don't have the answers. These are questions I ask myself daily.

How useful are self-help books, if instead of one, a person needs a whole book-shelf of them? Do they undermine self-reliance, or do they provide a valuable insight to Life, the Universe and Everything? Is there a clear cut answer, or is it like truth, a blending of the two?

If a person is constantly referencing their behaviour externally, i.e. they ask other peoples' opinions in order to understand what's happening around them, it shows a lack of confidence in their decision-making skills. No doubt, you've already met them. When you all sit down to dinner at a restaurant, they ask everyone what they're having before they can even think to chose something to eat. 

The other end of the scale is the internally referencing person, who doesn't need to ask anyone, anything because they're right and that's that. I'm sure you've met someone like that too. Impossible to deal with because their view of reality is inflexible.

Those are two extreme examples, most people swing between the two, which I think is a good thing. Flexibility is one of the key behaviours which promotes good mental health and well-being. Being able to adjust to new circumstances and the surprises Life throws, rather than trying to impose a world-view on an entirely incompatible situation, dictates how well a person resolves inter- and extra- personal difficulties. This is the cornerstone of NLP. A person cannot change what happens outside, but they do have a choice in how they react and feel about it. It's about taking control. It's what I love most about NLP. Anyway, I digress.

Since 1998, I have acquired quite a few self-help books. Some of which I bought thinking: that'll be good to read, and they've sat bored on my bookshelf. Others, I've read cover to cover and over again. A year ago, I became a Licensed NLP Practitioner and in that time, my collection expanded exponentially. I was intrigued to find out what other people were saying about the path to wellness. I find I can't put them down. I read them and then compare and contrast with what I learnt from Bandler and his team last year. Many of the books are NLP manuals, the nuts and bolts of NLP techniques, some of them are not. I find some of them useful, some of them quite appalling. But over the next few months I'm going to be reading them all (did I mention I bought quite a few without reading them?) and I'm going to be sharing my thoughts on them with you.

In the Meantime, if you've got any suggestions and thoughts, for goodness sake: join in. The more the merrier. This is a journey we're all sharing and the more opinions and thoughts you contribute, the more enriched our time together will be.

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Blinkers Off

"I don't think that the expression that we're not given more than we can handle refers to just the tragedies in our lives. If you can't handle the good stuff, if you can't handle money, or a good relationship or success, you're not going to get it. It will only be given to you when you can handle it." 
Oprah Winfrey

I have been thinking quite a bit about Abundance and Impoverishment recently. I have not finished properly thinking things through, so you'll have to excuse my muddled thinking.

I love the concept of Abundance. One could argue, if one believed in those things, that my thinking comes from my star sign: Taurus. If there's a more self-indulgent star sign, that is more focused on pleasure in all it's forms, I'll eat my hat. Or, it could be as a result of my faith: paganism celebrates everything from the full-moon to birthdays. Any excuse, we're out there with food, drink, incense and candles, dancing and singing and having a lot of fun, giving thanks. The great thing about Abundance is that there's more than enough for everyone: love, laughter, money.

Yep. You read that right. Money.

Because what is money? It's a concept. It's not a thing like tables and chairs, or even rocks. It's the consensus of what something is worth whether it's the time you exchange for your labour, or for an ounce of gold. And if there's not enough of it...well governments have been known to print more. Before the economists amongst you jump up and down and start pelting me with eggs...hear me out and then pelt me. Money is an idea. It's a belief. As a belief system, it's pretty weird. If ever you want to create havoc in your personal/familial relationships, throw money into the equation and watch it bring out the worst in people.

There seems to be the general consensus that there just isn't enough Money and Love to go around in the world.


I would argue that it's the poverty of thought and of belief, that is more insidious than any red numbers in a bank account.

If money is an idea, then poverty is a fundamental lack of imagination. It's the inability to see the riches available. 

The impoverishment of imagination causes so much of the heartache I see playing out around me. People feeling they need to fight for every crumb of love, permanently afraid and turning the fear into anger so they don't have to deal with the root cause of it all. Attempting to hoard love, withhold it, control it and in their despair, to destroy it.

The thing is, love is like money. It's an idea. It's a construct, the shape of which we all have our assumptions. Therefore, all that's needed is to unleash our imagination and start dreaming big dreams.

It's not enough to dream big dreams, the power from Abundance thinking comes from the action which it inspires: compassion, generosity, charity, gentleness, kindness. 

And here's where we could get stuck, by responding 'yeah, but Life isn't like that', 'it's not the way it is', 'it's hopeless'. At the root of those statements my dears, is the fear that we are not entitled to good things. And here we come to Oprah's quote. If you don't think you deserve or the good stuff, success, you won't see the wealth that's already in front of you. I like the thinking that says: wealth isn't only about money, wealth is about friendships, significant relationships, and the things you are grateful for.

I will have to come back to this. My brain hurts.