Who would you be without your story that you as a man should do this or that? Who would you be without your story about what you need, what it should look like? Who would you be without your story that begins with “I’m just this way” or “I’ve always been this way?”
One of the things I seem to continue to bump into are my stories, read beliefs, about who I really am and what I am here on earth for. Some of my current personal narrative, quite a lot really, is about helping myself and others lead a passionate and purposeful life. And getting to do exactly what I want most of the time, and on my time. That all feels good and I want to keep that the main theme.
There are other stories and beliefs though that when they arise trigger unwanted feelings with physical contraction and tightness I can call pain. And when these stories continue looping through my brain, the pain and suffering can be prolonged.
Often these stories consist of characters in my past and present I feel at odds with or have judgment about, situations where things just did not go well and continued in that direction. Since the past is no more, it’s only my thoughts about and interpretation of a situation, right or wrong, real or imagined that continue to haunt me and steal my energy. Other stories are about what may happen in some future. In this kind of story or thought train I am anticipating a negative or destructive future that just does not exist.
That puts me in mind of the famous American humorist and author Mark Twain who was quoted as saying, “I am an old man and have known a great many troubles, but most of them never happened.”
So how does one keep that kind of thought train from pulling into the same station time after time, spewing toxic exhaust and making noise in one’s life?
Recently I spent nine days with Byron Katie, originator of a process she developed to pull herself out of a deep depression and misery. Katie co-wrote Loving What Is and I Need Your Love, Is That True? as well as other literature helping people all over the world question their thinking that is causing them stress, pain, suffering and separation. Three times a year she teaches a course called The School for The Work, a school she says is the school of “wonderful wonderful YOU.”
There, with a couple hundred other participants, I spent time completely immersed in the process known as The Work, questioning my thoughts and thinking about different aspects of my life and personality that irritate, provoke or trigger irritations, resentments, disappointments and expectations that have plagued me over time. When engaged in with an open mind, this inquiry process provided us a power lift up and away from the old nags, a remarkable and transformative return to who we really are when we take the time to examine these thoughts that can separate us from or cause us to lose sight of our essentially loving, whole, exuberant, enthusiastic, creative and curious selves.
And like other profoundly powerful processes I use, it is amazingly simple and accessible to anyone with half an open mind. Beginning with a particular belief statement, one asks four questions:
“Is it true?” Yes or No.
Can you absolutely know it’s true? Yes or No.
How do you react and what happens when you believe the thought?
Who would you be without that thought?
After answering these four questions yourself or having someone else ask you, you look for the opposite of the belief or statement you are working with and explore whether there is any truth or evidence that would suggest it is true or truer than the original statement.
Here’s an example of a statement I was recently questioning with one of my co-graduates of the nine-day school.
Belief Statement: Sylvester (name changed to protect the innocent) treated our friendship as a burden
1.) Is it true Sylvester treated our friendship as a burden. Yes or No?
2.) Can you absolutely know that Sylvester treated our friendship as a burden? Yes or No?
3.) How do you react and what happens when you believe the thought that Sylvester treated our friendship as a burden? How do you treat them? How do you treat yourself?
I get a constriction in my throat. I feel anger, sadness, and frustration. I don’t make an effort to communicate and separate myself from Sylvester denying him my friendship. I judge myself as less than evolved for not getting over it and for judging him as the perpetrator when I am just as responsible for the break.
4.) Who would you be without that thought that Sylvester treated our friendship as a burden?
If I never had that thought I would be free to focus on what was good about the friendship. I would not hold my friend in contempt and might make an effort to reach out. I’d be emotionally light and open.
After the four questions, one looks for a “turnaround.”
Sylvester did not treat our friendship as a burden.
I looked for and found many examples for how that was true or truer than the original statement that Sylvester treated our friendship as a burden.
I treated our friendship as a burden.
I looked for and found some truth to this one as well.
I treated me as a burden.
Some turnarounds don’t immediately make sense until one recognizes that one’s own thinking can be a burden and in this case my carrying around this thought about Sylvester was truly weighing me down. I was burdening myself!
I can truly say that I felt differently and thought differently after just this one session doing The Work. Whether I take some action or not is almost beside the point. The point, as Katie says, is this.
You can take all this to your grave or you can use inquiry (The Work) to lighten your load and more fully enjoy every inch of your life, being open to what Reality actually presents to us, rather than holding on to and continuing to react to painful images of the past, or anticipating a scary or negative future that has not happened.
I strongly encourage any man open to it, to explore the possibilities of doing The Work to gain greater freedom and flexibility in life. Boys, as well as men can be assisted in this process too as another way to question the notions of masculinity that cause harm and destruction in their daily lives.
For more information about The Work, simply search
You can watch the remarkably clear and loving Katie doing The Work with others and download enough free materials to get you started.