“A thought is harmless unless we believe it. It’s not our thoughts, but our 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.”
The more she meditated the more she saw that her mind was always trying to tell her stories, to make sense of the world. Many of these were ghost stories and spectres - images and words (which is all imagination provides) creating a nebulous feeling of hopelessness, pain, depression and hate. Upon the new realisation she wondered how to address the ghosts, the painful stories, beliefs and assumptions. At first she tried to just ignore them. Then she tried to cover them with positive speak, but her mind was still believing them, so it never felt safe enough to believe a new story - it just created inner conflict. The old stories had been presented to her so often that she was convinced that they were true.
So she decided to meet all the thoughts with kind questioning, with time and space, leading to a simple understanding; when our beliefs argue with reality we suffer. She treated it as meditation; allowing each question to be held, without forcing answers. Almost as if the ghost thoughts were like children - they just wanted to be heard and understood before they could move on and transform. She began to see that reality was just fine and it was only her beliefs that were causing her pain. With inquiry they evaporated like the fictitious ghosts that they were.
“When we stop opposing reality, action becomes simple, fluid, kind, and fearless. An unquestioned mind is the world of suffering.”
I have used these techniques of self enquiry to great effect. BK calls it THE WORK, and I have translated the questions of the work into an easy to remember acronym. I think of this as ghostbusting! It makes it fun. My ghosts are funny, silly and after some practice they are never painful, because I see they are not real and I no longer believe what they show me. With inquiry I go inside and meet them with kind questioning, loving laughter and acceptance, freeing me from any negativity. Positivity is an natural response. It floods in and I get on with enjoying. I can move on more easily and smoothly by combining meditation and inquiry. Ghosts still appear and that's ok. It’s taken me 2 years of THE WORK to reach a threshold where I catch 80% of the ghosts within a minute. If you’re just starting, go slow, take your time and know that it will get easier with practice.
Ok, you ready? Got some negative beliefs driving your pain? Think of one now - a belief about yourself or a judgement about someone else. Where are you playing a victim? Here’s the guide to STOP and T.H.E W.O.R.K:
Before we to THE WORK we need to get clear on the situation and our thoughts.
If you’ve been to one of my courses 'Mindfulness and Emotional Empowerment’ you’ll know I was inspired by Mark Dunn to create The Stop Technique, but also by Byron Katie’s The Work. The tool below is a combination of them both, which I recommend you use in journaling:
S: Situation: What happened - just the facts. As if you were describing a CCTV.
T: Thoughts (Do THE WORK on them)
Example: Here is a real-life example from my personal diary:
Situation: This morning I did the morning check-in at 7am,which was nice. I felt a bit coldy. I then had breakfast and nice interaction with Seren. Short cuddle with Claire, they left. I had toast and listened to music, making my to-do list. Then at 8:20 I looked at Facebook and then a FB video. 40 minutes of scrolling videos later and it’s 9am.
True, Hundred %, Emotional reactions, Without, Opposites, Reasons, Kind words.
T: TRUE: Is it true?
Ask yourself “what am I thinking that is making me feel this way?” Write it down or speak it. Then inquire if it’s true.
H: HUNDRED %: Can you absolutely know, one hundred percent, it’s true?
We may be so convinced, that our honest answer for now is yes. So let’s get really clear. Only facts are true - is this fact or opinion? It can only be one. It’s either a yes or no, in this situation.
Eg. It’s not 100% true. I guess it’s an opinion.
E: EMOTIONAL reactions: How do you feel and react when you believe the thought?
Take a moment and see how you physically react and what emotion is stirred up. Write it down.
Eg. Shame, worry, regret, anger, hatred, punishment, nausea, claustrophobia, confusion. I then react by not knowing what to do and being aimless, thus wasting more time and deepening the cycle. When the time comes for an appointment I have to go, having never done any tasks. I usually then escape my stress by looking at videos, deepening the habit.
W: WITHOUT: Who would you be without the thought?
This engages our higher imagination to picture ourselves free of the belief. How would we feel and act?
Eg. If I were here without these thoughts I’d carry out my plan and go to Bristol climbing wall and work from there, cracking through with my tasks
O: OPPOSITES: What opposites can I find?
Thought statement can be turned around to the self, to the other, and to the opposite meaning. Try them on for size and see how they feel.
Eg. I am not an addict - I am free to do my projects and create cool stuff
I utilise my time of precious things
I deserve my job and partner
I am a brilliant champion making the most of my life, like my mum
R: REASONS: What reasons can you find to drop the old thoughts and support the new (opposite) thoughts?
List 3 if you can. Use your memory to see what really happened and to think laterally, outside of the box, not just literally.
Eg. I created a morning check in I get paid for and which helps others
I made a job that gives me time for fun and connection
I stopped looking at the screen and now I’m here, reflecting
K: KIND words. Find a kind thing to tell yourself ? Can’t think of any? K - It’s OK, I’m OK. Repeat the positive words for 1 min.
Eg. Neil, you got caught on the screen for 40 minutes, and that’s OK
You’ve recovered and now you remember what’s important
You are doing really well and you can still make the most of today and create wonderful things.
What I think is missing from Byron Katie's work is a positive action plan. So I finish the STOP technique briefly to move into action:
Options: I could...
Work here now
Drive to Bristol climb/ work
Plan: Work here until 10:30, then drive to Bristol and climb 11:30-12:30 then lunch with x
WHY THIS WORKS
The beauty of the work is that it allows us to see the thought and break it down to see it’s origins are usually in a self-judgement. You might be surprised how often the judgement we have of others are about ourselves and visa versa. When we exhibit shame - judging ourselves harshly - it is often reflected by someone else's judgment of us a long time ago, when we were young. We internalise that programming as a ghost - a voice that repeats. Until we slow down and do THE WORK of ghostbusting it will keep making us feel terrible and acting from emotional upset. With some work done we soon find that every situation that triggers the painful feelings and thoughts ( the belief inside), is a gift of self learning. We become more wiling to experince that pain and difficult situations.
My advice when using this?
“When they attack you and you notice that you love them with all your heart, your Work is done.”
Neil Morbey is a meditation teacher, group facilitator and inspiration guide for Positively-Mindful.com