Tuesday, January 29, 2008

The Work - a Powerful Practice for Transformation

What is The Work?

The Work is a simple yet powerful process of inquiry that teaches you to identify and question the stressful thoughts that cause all the suffering in the world. It's a way to understand what's hurting you, a way to end all your stress and suffering.

People who do The Work faithfully report life-changing results.

Eliminate stress: Live without anxiety or fear

Improve relationships: Have a new sense of connection and intimacy with your husband or wife, your parents, your children, and with yourself

Reduce anger: Get angry less often and less intensely, and eventually not at all

Eliminate depression: See perfection in situations that were once debilitating

Clarity: Act more intelligently and effectively

Energy: Experience a new sense of vigor and well-being

Peace: Learn how to love what is, and find lasting inner peace

How to Do The Work

1. Judge Your Neighbor

For thousands of years we’ve been told not to judge, but we still do it all the time—how our friends should act, whom our children should care about, what our parents should feel, do, or say. In The Work, rather than suppress these judgments, we use them as starting points for self-realization. By letting the judging mind have its life on paper, we discover through the mirror of those around us what we haven't yet realized about ourselves.

Fill in a Judge-Your-Neighbor worksheet[below]:

The Judge-Your-Neighbor Worksheet

Fill in the blanks below, using short, simple sentences. Don’t censor yourself; don’t be wise or “spiritual.” Take this opportunity to express your negative feelings on paper.

1. Who angers, irritates, saddens, or frustrates you, and why?
I am ________________ at ________________ because ____________________________________
Example: I am angry at Paul because he doesn’t listen to me, he doesn’t appreciate me, he argues with everything I say.

2. How do you want them to change?
What do you want them to do?
I want ________________ to ____________________
Example: I want Paul to see that he is wrong.
I want him to apologize.

3. What is it that they should or shouldn't do, be, think, or feel?
________________ should/shouldn't ____________________________________________.
Example: Paul should take better care of himself. He shouldn't argue with me.

4. What do they need to do in order for you to be happy?
I need________________ to ____________________________________________.
Example: I need Paul to hear me and respect me.

5. What do you think of them? Make a list.
________________ is ________________________
Example: Paul is unfair, arrogant, loud, dishonest, way out of line, and unconscious

6. What is it that you don't want to experience with that person again?
I don't ever want to __________________________
Example: I don’t ever want to feel unappreciated by Paul again. I don’t ever want to see him smoking and ruining his health again.

2. The Four Questions

Investigate each of your statements from the Judge-Your-Neighbor Worksheet using the four questions and the turnaround below. The Work is meditation. It’s about awareness, not about trying to change your thoughts. Ask the questions, then take your time, go inside, and wait for the deeper answers to surface. Download the blue sheet for use as a facilitation guide.

In its most basic form, The Work consists of four questions and a turnaround. For example, the first thought that you might question on the above Worksheet is "Paul doesn't listen to me." Find someone in your life about whom you have had that thought, and let's do The Work. "[Name] doesn't listen to me":

Is it true?

Can you absolutely know that it's true?

How do you react when you think that thought?

Who would you be without the thought?

Then turn it around (the concept you are questioning), and don't forget to find three genuine examples of each turnaround.

3. Turn it Around

After you've investigated your statement with the four questions, you're ready to turn it around (the concept you are questioning).

Each turnaround is an opportunity to experience the opposite of your original statement and see what you and the person you've judged have in common.

A statement can be turned around to the opposite, to the other, and to the self (and sometimes to "my thinking," wherever that applies). Find a minimum of three genuine examples in your life where each turnaround is true.

For example, "Paul doesn't understand me" can be turned around to "Paul does understand me." Another turnaround is "I don't understand Paul." A third is "I don't understand myself."

Be creative with the turnarounds. They are revelations, showing you previously unseen aspects of yourself reflected back through others. Once you've found a turnaround, go inside and let yourself feel it. Find a minimum of three genuine examples where the turnaround is true in your life.

As I began living my turnarounds, I noticed that I was everything I called you. You were merely my projection. Now, instead of trying to change the world around me (this didn't work, but only for 43 years), I can put the thoughts on paper, investigate them, turn them around, and find that I am the very thing I thought you were. In the moment I see you as selfish, I am selfish (deciding how you should be). In the moment I see you as unkind, I am unkind. If I believe you should stop waging war, I am waging war on you in my mind.

The turnarounds are your prescription for happiness. Live the medicine you have been prescribing for others. The world is waiting for just one person to live it. You're the one.

Examples of Turnarounds

Here are a few more examples of turnarounds:

"He should understand me" turns around to:
- He shouldn't understand me. (This is reality.)
- I should understand him.
- I should understand myself.

"I need him to be kind to me" turns around to:
- I don't need him to be kind to me.
- I need me to be kind to him. (Can I live it?)
- I need me to be kind to myself.

"He is unloving to me" turns around to:
- He is loving to me. (To the best of his ability)
- I am unloving to him. (Can I find it?)
- I am unloving to me (When I don't inquire.)

"Paul shouldn't shout at me" turns around to:
- Paul should shout at me. (Obviously: In reality, he does sometimes. Am I listening?)
- I shouldn't shout at Paul.
- I shouldn't shout at me.

(In my head, am I playing over and over again Paul's shouting? Who's more merciful, Paul who shouted once, or me who replayed it a 100 times?)

Embracing Reality

After you have turned around the judgments in your answers to numbers 1 through 5 on the Worksheet (asking if they are as true or truer), turn number 6 around using "I am willing ..." and "I look forward to ..."

For example, "I don't ever want to experience an argument with Paul" turns around to "I am willing to experience an argument with Paul" and "I look forward to experiencing an argument with Paul." Why would you look forward to it?

Number 6 is about fully embracing all of mind and life without fear, and being open to reality. If you experience an argument with Paul again, good. If it hurts, you can put your thoughts on paper and investigate them. Uncomfortable feelings are merely the reminders that we've attached to something that may not be true for us. They let us know that it's time to do The Work.

Until you can see the enemy as a friend, your Work is not done. This doesn't mean you must invite him to dinner. Friendship is an internal experience. You may never see him again, you may even divorce him, but as you think about him are you feeling stress or peace?

In my experience, it takes only one person to have a successful relationship. I like to say I have the perfect marriage, and I can't really know what kind of marriage my husband has (though he tells me he's happy too).

For an example of how to put this into practice, see the following video demonstration.

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