What I love about The Work is that it allows you to go inside and find your own happiness, to experience what already exists within you, unchanging, immovable, ever-present, ever-waiting. No teacher is necessary.You are the teacher you’ve been waiting for.Youare the one who can end your own suffering.
I often say,”Don’t believe anything I say.”I want you to discover what’s true for you, not for me. Still, many people have found the following principles to be helpful for getting started in The Work.
Noticing When Your Thoughts Argue with Reality
The only time we suffer is when we believe a thought that argues with what is. When the mind is perfectly clear, what is is what we want. If you want reality to be different than it is, you might as well try to teach a cat to bark. You can try and try, and in the end the cat will look up at you and say,”Meow.”Wanting real ity to be different than it is is hopeless. You can spend the rest of your life trying to teach a cat to bark.
And yet, if you pay attention, you’ll notice that you think thoughts like this dozens of times a day. “People should be kinder.” “Children should be well-behaved.” “My neighbors should take better care of their lawn:’ “The line at the grocery store should move faster:’ “My husband (or wife) should agree with me.” “I should be thinner (or prettier or more successful).” These thoughts are ways of wanting reality to be different than it is. If you think that this sounds depressing, you’re right.
All the stress that we feel is caused by arguing with what is. After I woke up to reality in 1986, people often referred to me as the woman who made friends with the wind. Barstow is a desert town where the wind blows a lot of the time, and everyone hated it; people even moved from there because they couldn’t stand the wind. The reason I made friends with the wind-with reality-is that I discovered I didn’t have a choice. I realized that it’s insane to oppose it. When I argue with reality, I lose-but only 100 percent of the time. How do I know that the wind should blow?It’s blowing!
People new to The Work often say to me, “But it would be disempowering to stop my argument with reality. If I simply accept reality, I’ll become passive. I may even lose the desire to act:’ I answer them with a question: “Can you really know that that’s true?” Which is more empowering?- “I wish I hadn’t lost my job” or “I lost my job; what can I do now?” The Work reveals that what you think shouldn’t have happened should have happened. It should have happened because it did, and no thinking in the world can change it. This doesn’t mean that you condone it or approve of it. It just means that you can see things without resistance and without the confusion of your inner struggle. No one wants their children to get sick, no one wants to be in a car accident; but when these things happen, how can it be helpful to mentally argue with them? We know better than to do that, yet we do it, because we don’t know how to stop.
I am a lover of what is, not because I’m a spiritual person, but because it hurts when I argue with reality. We can know that reality is good just as it is, because when we argue with it, we experience tension and frustration. We don’t feel natural or balanced. When we stop opposing reality, action becomes simple, fluid, kind, and fearless.
Staying in Your Own Business
I can find only three kinds of business in the universe: mine, yours, and God’s. (For me, the word God means “reality.” Reality is God, because it rules. Anything that’s out of my control, your control, and everyone else’s control- I call that God’s business.) Much of our stress comes from mentally living out of our own business. When I think, “You need to get a job, I want you to be happy, you should be on time, you need to take better care of yourself;’ I am in your business. When I’m worried about earthquakes, floods, war, or when I will die, I am in God’s business. If I am mentally in your business or in God’s business, the effect is separation. I noticed this early in 1986.
When I mentally went into my mother’s business, for example, with a thought like “My mother should understand me:’ I immediately experienced a feeling of loneliness. And I realized that every time in my life that I had felt hurt or lonely, I had been in someone else’s business.
If you are living your life and I am mentally living your life, who is here living mine? We’re both over there. Being mentally in your business keeps me from being present in my own. I am separate from myself,wondering why my life doesn’t work. To think that I know what’s best for anyone else is to be out of my business. Even in the name of love, it is pure arrogance, and the result is tension, anxiety, and fear. Do I know what’s right for me? That is my only business. Let me work with that before I try to solve your problems for you. If you understand the three kinds of business enough to stay in your own business, it could free your life in a way that you can’t even imagine. The next time you’re feeling stress or discomfort, ask yourself whose business you’re in mentally, and you may burst out laughing! That question can bring you back to yourself. And you may come to see that you’ve never really been present, that you’ve been mentally living in other people’s business all your life. And if you practice it for a while, you may come to see that you don’t have any business either and that your life runs perfectly well on its own.
Meeting Your Thoughts
with Understanding A thought is harmless unless we believe it. It’s not our thoughts, but the attachment to our thoughts, that causes suffering. Attaching to a thought means believing that it’s true, without inquiring. A belief is a thought that we’ve been attaching to, often for years. Most people think that they are what their thoughts tell them they are. One day I noticed that I wasn’t breathing-I was being breathed. Then I also noticed, to my amazement, that I wasn’t thinking-that I was actually being thought and that thinking isn’t personal. Do you wake up in the morning and say to yourself, “I think I won’t think today”? It’s too late: You’re already thinking! Thoughts just appear. They come out of nothing and go back to nothing, like clouds moving across the empty sky.They come to pass, not to stay.There is no harm in them until we attach to them as if they were true. No one has ever been able to control his thinking, although people may tell the story of how they have. I don’t let go of my thoughts- I meet them with understanding. Then they let go of me. Thoughts are like the breeze or the leave son the trees or the raindrops falling. They appear like that, and through inquiry we can make friends with them. Would you argue with a raindrop? Raindrops aren’t personal, and neither are thoughts. Once a painful concept is met with understanding, the next time it appears you may find it interesting. What used to be the nightmare is now just interesting. The next time it appears, you may find it funny. The next time, you may not even notice it. This is the power of loving what is.
Becoming Aware of Your Stories
I often use the word story to talk about thoughts, or sequences of thoughts, that we convince ourselves are real. A story may be about the past, the present, or the future; it may be about what things should be, what they could be, or why they are. Stories appear in our minds hundreds of times a day-when someone gets up without a word and walks out of the room, when someone doesn’t smile or doesn’t return a phone call, or when a stranger does smile; before you open an important letter, or after you feel an unfamiliar sensation in your chest; when your boss invites you to come to his office, or when your partner talks to you in a certain tone of voice. Stories are the untested, uninvestigated theories that tell us what all these things mean. We don’t even realize that they’re just theories.
Once, as I walked into the ladies’ room at a restaurant near my home, a woman came out of the single stall. We smiled at each other, and, as I closed the door, she began to sing and wash her hands. “What a lovely voice!” I thought. Then, as I heard her leave, I noticed that the toilet seat was dripping wet.
“How could anyone be so rude?” I thought. “And how did she manage to pee all over the seat?Was she standing on it?” Then it came to me that she was a man -a transvestite, singing falsetto in the women’s restroom. It crossed my mind to go after her (him) and let him know what a mess he’d made. As I cleaned the toilet seat, I thought about everything I’d say to him. Then I flushed the toilet. The water shot up out of the bowl and flooded the seat. And I just stood there laughing. In this case, the natural course of events was kind enough to expose my story before it went any further. Usually it doesn’t; before I found inquiry, I had no way to stop this kind of thinking. Small stories bred bigger ones; bigger stories bred major theories about life, how terrible it was, and how the world was a dangerous place. I ended up feeling too frightened and depressed to leave my bedroom.
When you’re operating on uninvestigated theories of what’s going on and you aren’t even aware of it, you’re in what I call ”the dream.” Often the dream becomes troubling; sometimes it even turns into a nightmare. At times like these, you may want to test the truth of your theories by doing The Work on them.
The Work always leaves you with less of your uncomfortable story. Who would you be without it? How much of your world is made up of unexamined stories?You’ll never know until you inquire.
Looking for the Thought Behind the Suffering
I have never experienced a stressful feeling that wasn’t caused by attaching to an untrue thought. Behind every uncomfort able feeling, there’s a thought that isn’t true for us. “The wind shouldn’t be blowing:’ “My husband should agree with me.” We have a thought that argues with reality, then we have a stressful feeling, and then we act on that feeling, creating more stress for ourselves. Rather than understand the original cause -a thought-we try to change our stressful feelings by looking outside ourselves. We try to change someone else, or we reach for sex, food, alcohol, drugs, or money in order to find temporary comfort and the illusion of control.
It is easy to be swept away by some overwhelming feeling, so it’s helpful to remember that any stressful feeling is like a compassionate alarm clock that says,”You’re caught in the dream.” Depression, pain, and fear are gifts that say,”Sweetheart, take a look at what you’re thinking right now. You’re living in a story that isn’t true for you.” Caught in the dream, we try to alter and manipulate the stressful feeling by reaching outside ourselves.
We’re usually aware of the feeling before the thought. That’s why I say the feeling is an alarm clock that lets you know there’s a thought that you may want to do The Work on. And investigating an untrue thought will always lead you back to who you really are. It hurts to believe you’re other than who you are, to live any story other than happiness.
If you put your hand into a fire, does anyone have to tell you to move it? Do you have to decide? No: When your hand starts to burn, it moves. You don’t have to direct it; the hand moves itself. In the same way,once you understand, through inquiry, that an untrue thought causes suffering, you move away from it. Before the thought, you weren’t suffering; with the thought, you’re suffering; when you recognize that the thought isn’t true, again there is no suffering. That is how The Work functions. “How do I react when I think that thought?” Hand in the fire. “Who would I be without it?” Out of the flames. We look at the thought, we feel our hand in the fire, and we naturally move back to the original position; we don’t have to be told. And the next time the thought arises, the mind automatically moves from the fire. The Work invites us into the awareness of internal cause and effect. Once we recognize this, all our suffering begins to unravel on its own.
I use the word inquiry as synonymous with The Work. To inquire or to investigate is to put a thought or a story up against the four questions and turnaround (explained in the next chapter). Inquiry is a way to end confusion and to experience internal peace, even in a world of apparent chaos. Above all else, inquiry is about realizing that all the answers we ever need are always available inside us.
Inquiry is more than a technique: It brings to life, from deep within us, an innate aspect of our being. When practiced for a while, inquiry takes on its own life within you. It appears whenever thoughts appear, as their balance and mate. This internal partnership leaves you free to live as a kind, fluid, fearless, amused listener, a student of yourself, and a friend who can be trusted not to resent, criticize, or hold a grudge. Eventually,realization is experienced automatically, as a way of life. Peace and joy naturally, inevitably, and irreversibly make their way into every corner of your mind, into every relationship and experience. The process is so subtle that you may not even have any conscious awareness of it. You may only know that you used to hurt and now you don’t.
By : Fran Homesa – firstname.lastname@example.org