On dropping labels

Felt today the inclination to drop labels. I’m not a woman. Not a wife. Not a mother. Not a friend. Not a sister. Not a daughter. Not a neighbor. Not a Utahan. Not a college grad. Not a creative genius. Not a seeker. Not a 52 year old. Not a traumatized person. Not a writer. Not queer. Not even Shaunalei. Rather, I’m noticing . . . I’m feeling inclined to . . . I’m sensing . . . I’m wondering . . . I’m considering . . . I’m enjoying . . . I’m resting. . . I’m writing . . . I’m experiencing . . . I’m here.

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On our innate human interdependence

Wishing to highlight today the importance–the virtue–of receiving. Not only in times of obvious weakness and need but in the daily dance of mutuality, belonging, and shared resourcefulness that our innate human interdependence requires.

Many of us were raised on a strict diet of works-based salvation (aka earned worthiness) and its correlate, the Calvinist work ethic. Adding to this was the seemingly benign declaration quoted by Paul: “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” Rags-to-riches stories and the mythos of the “self-made man” also bolstered our cultural conscience’s glorification of emotional and temporal independence, self-reliance, strength, and prosperity. Giving, helping, serving, succeeding–all these were lauded–whereas asking, receiving, needing, illness were tolerated (at best) or vilified (“the evil of the dole”). The sad result: self-criticism, self-hatred, self-imposed isolation, and (potentially) self-destruction in our adult years when we don’t manage to “self-make” (aka succeed financially) on our own.

I believe it is a naive –or cruel– belief system that asserts “Manage on your own” — “Overcome your weakness” — “You have only yourself to blame for your troubles” — “If only you would work harder . . .”

There are many, many contributors to a person’s seeming prosperity or poverty (emotional or financial). NO ONE is self-made. NO ONE is solely to blame. NO ONE provides for themselves all on their own. (Even their food is derived from the earth, water, and sun, NOT merely their will.)

I believe it is time to end the stigma of need and replace it with a richer awareness of our interdependence here on earth. We ALL need to belong. We ALL need emotional and/or financial assistance at one time (or many others). We ALL need guidance and mentoring. We ALL need the patience and forgiveness of others. We ALL have something to give (if not financial or physical, then emotional: companionship, stories, mentoring, cheerleading . . .). We ALL need a tribe. We ALL need a healthy earth.

“No [person] is an island” unless they de-value and desert their intrinsic need for love, belonging, and meaningful co-creation. How sad when a person’s belief that they “SHOULD” make it on their own impoverishes them spiritually–causing them to feel unknown, unsupported, and unloved–and isolates them from a supportive tribe. Time to drop the impoverished and ignorant belief in the magnanimity of self-sufficiency and invest heart and soul in the heartland, the homeland, of our common humanity.

Humans need each other!

May we be courageous in “finding our tribe” when we find ourselves lonely and asking for help when we find ourselves in need.

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Byron Katie’s “The Work” questions (customized into 30 steps by me)–sba, 3/16/21

(Recommended to me by Dr. Geri–Geraldine Alldredge, PhD.)

Doing “The Work” via 30 Steps:

(To confront thoughts such as “I’d better resign myself to the fact that I’m mentality ill–and my elevated thoughts are just delusional.”)

1. Come up with a list of one-liner complaints (that are true to your feelings and experience) which include an “I complain about _____” statement and a “because _____” statement. (e.g. I complain about the predatory food chain because it is violent and unfixable.)
2. Next, choose a single complaint from your list.
3. Next, cross out the words “I complain about” and “because” in the sentence, to create “the thought” to be considered/examined. (e.g. The predatory food chain is violent and unfixable.)
4. Next, read aloud “the thought”.
5. Drop into stillness and observe what arises in the mind’s eye. (This is The Work at work. Wait. Sit with the “the thought”.  Observe any bodily feelings, emotions, or visuals as they arise.)
6. Write down what you experienced or observed.
7. Now, ask yourself, “Is is true that ___[‘the thought’, stated aloud]______?” (Observe what answer surfaces.)
8. Whatever the answer, ask aloud: “Can I absolutely know ‘the thought’ is true?” (Observe what answer surfaces.)
9. Whatever the answer, ask next: “How do I react–what happens?–when I believe and fixate on ‘the thought’?” (Observe what surfaces. For example,
  • What emotions arise when I believe “the thought”?
  • What images of past and future do I see when I believe “the thought”?
  • How do I treat myself and others when I believe “the thought”?)
10. Write down your observations.
11. Now gently ask, “Who or what would I be without ‘the thought’?” OR “Who or what am I when I doubt or reject ‘the thought’?” (Observe what answers surface.)
12. Write down your answers.
13. Create a new “turnaround” thought that is likelier and more inspiring of hope and goodwill. Circle, highlight, or otherwise emphasize this ‘new thought’. (e.g. The predatory food chain is a means for the world to avoid overpopulation and to evolve healthier, smarter animals. Or, The predatory food chain is a poignant symbol of the ironic interdependence of all life: the consumed (the lessers) become part of the consumers (the greaters) when eaten by them, yet, eventually the consumers die and become the consumed (by decomposers ): the  greatest becoming the least, and the least becoming the greatest. )
14. Ask, “Who or what am I with this ‘new thought’?” (Observe what answers surface.)
15. Write down your answers.
16. Close your eyes. State aloud the “new thought”. See yourself trusting, embracing, incorporating the ‘new thought’ in a variety of lived contexts. (What does this “new thought” look like, in practice?)
17. Ask yourself: “How does embracing this ‘new thought” make me feel?” [Wait, and observe the surfaced answer.]
18. Write down your answer.
19. Ask: “How does embracing this ‘new thought’ inform my priorities?”  [Wait, and observe the surfaced answer.]
20. Write down your answer.
21. Ask: “How does embracing this ‘new thought’ positively contribute to my relationships?” [Wait, and observe the surfaced answer.]
22. Write down your answer.
23. Ask: “How does embracing this ‘new thought’ affect  my self-concept and confidence?”  [Wait, and observe the surfaced answer.] 
24. Write down your answer.
25. Ask: “How does embracing this ‘new thought’ improve my quality of life?”[Wait, and observe the surfaced answer.]
26. Write down your answer.
27. Decide: Do you accept and trust this “new thought”? Do you choose to believe it and live it?
If your answer is Yes, proceed. If your answer is No, you might choose to return to Step 13.
27. Gently place your fingers on your forehead. Take a deep breath. Now state aloud: “Careful mind, why have I gracefully embraced this ‘new thought’: ______[state the ‘new thought’ aloud]_____?”
28. Gently place your fingers above your heart (on your sternum). Take a deep breath. Now state aloud: “Loving heart, why have I gracefully embraced this ‘new thought’: ______[state the ‘new thought’ aloud]_____?”
29. Gently place your fingers on your belly. Take a deep breath. Now state aloud: “Living body, why have I gracefully embraced this ‘new thought’:   ______[state the ‘new thought’ aloud]_____?”
30a. (Optional.) Place your hands palm to palm in “prayer”. Gently rest your prayer hands against your forehead, with thumbs on your Third Eye region. Pray/think gratitude to Byron Katie, for discovering and sharing The Work. To your inner wisdom, for leading you to more elevated ways of being. To all your teachers, for showing you alternate ways of thinking and doing. To this earth, for being a place of renewal and re-invention. To life, for the opportunity to experience and experiment. To [your name], for being game–and a good sport. And for showing up to play.
30b. Repeat the process with another one-liner complaint from your list. 
Tom Moon, psychotherapist in San Francisco wrote: ” One morning, in a sudden moment of life-changing insight, [Byron Katie] saw that her suffering came from her thoughts about her situation—such as ‘my life is horrible,’ and ‘I don’t deserve happiness’—and not from the situation itself. She realized a simple truth: when she believed her thoughts, she suffered, and when she didn’t, she was happy.
“Out of this insight, she developed a process of self-inquiry which she now calls ‘The Work.’ It involves asking four simple questions about each belief that causes us pain:
  1. Is it true?
  2. Can you absolutely know that it’s true?
  3. How do you react when you believe that thought?
  4. Who would you be without the thought?
“After answering these questions, respondents are asked to come up with a ‘turnaround,’ a sentence expressing the opposite of what one believes. So, for instance, ‘He doesn’t understand me,’ could become, ‘I don’t understand him,’ or, ‘I don’t understand myself.’
  . . .
“I see ‘The Work’ as a form of self-directed cognitive therapy. It has helped many thousands of people to get out of their mental ruts and to improve the quality of their lives.
. . .
“I’ve found Byron Katie’s process to be a simple, but highly effective, tool for opening the mind and expanding perspective.”
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