Friday, January 05, 2018

You can be Right or you can be Happy....The Turn Around to the rescue

Liberation Pathway #4:
“I’m an ass. You’re an ass. Let’s get on with it.”
Don’t believe your own thinking.
“I’m imperfect and you’re imperfect and that’s perfect.”
You can be Right or you can be Happy

We are starting to wake up to this sad and funny truth, right: One of the best ways to be miserable is to get into the messy and stuck place where we and SURE that if the other person would just “shape up” then everything would be fine.
And, of course, “shape up” means act and think just the way we want them to. It often includes that they capitulate and admit they are wrong, and bow down in contrition to our being right.
We can suffer.
Or we can do something different.
Here’s a very fun game to do something different.

I’m an ass/ You’re an ass Game #1:
The next time you get in an argument with a friend or your mate or anybody, ask:
“Can we do the generic argument?”
If they say, Yes, ask them to copy everything you say.
As they do, the conversation will go like this:
Person A: “I’m right and you’re wrong.”
Person B: “I’m right and you’re wrong.”
Person A: “No, no, you’ve got it backward. I am right and you are wrong.”
Person B: “No, no, you’ve got it backward. I am right and you are wrong.”
Person A: “You’ll be so much happier once you admit that you are wrong, and I’m the one that is right.”
Person B: “You’ll be so much happier once you admit that you are wrong, and I’m the one that is right.”

This can be a lot of fun.
Hopefully for both people a light bulb will go off: this is what is really going on underneath the arguing.

 Core to happiness, and core to waking up: realize that what we think is “right” is our opinion. Not the truth.
And realize that sticking to that opinion (being right) is making us miserable.
Our unhappiness is almost always rooted in crappy thinking.
Usually poor me/ selfish/ afraid/ angry/ I’m right and you’re wrong/ you need to change thinking.
Which kind of crappy thinking doesn’t matter.
What matters, is that it is not true.
Something else is true, and weirdly enough what is often true, is the upside down/ opposite/ turn around of what we thought was true before.

Let me share a story about a girlfriend of seven years awhile back who had the effrontery to move on.
With crappy thinking I was able to suffer greatly.
Then I tried the “turn around,” and my suffering transformed to love and liberation. And happiness.

Why am I writing this book?
One reason: to spare you some of the suffering that comes with love when it goes awry.
And it goes awry a lot, does it not?
Here’s a case study, with Sally Ann and I, circa 1999….
We were supposedly in love, and yet the main thing we did was argue and fight.
We’ll call her Sally Ann, and I’d met her seven years earlier, when I was building a fence in her landlord’s backyard. She was younger than me and in grad school at Berkeley, getting her masters in landscape architecture, and she was an earthy sort, and lonely, and smart, and we both loved design and gardens, and in short time, each other.
We had a blast and lived together in two places in Berkeley until she finished her master’s degree. About the same time my son had finished high school and his “gap year” of traveling, and was off to college.
Time to leave the city. We were both ready for the country paradise. Whoopie!
Time to frolic and grow miraculous food and gardens in the country. Time for love and flowers and nature all to blossom.

Sally Ann and I visualized a paradise cottage in the country, creek to one side, forests at another edge, open fields nearby. We found one that met all these wishes on the outskirts of Sonoma the town, in Sonoma the country, in California the state.
Heaven for awhile. ( We didn’t visualize a stable landlady. We didn’t visualize harmonious love. Alas…)
We made our own paradise garden. We ate outside almost every meal we were together, right at the edge of an oak forest, with a seasonal creek nearby, and a four acre open field on the other side of the cottage. 
We raised tomatoes and herbs to sell at the farmer’s market.
We made love. 

We fought.
And we fought.
And we fought.

Trouble in paradise.

There is a fun and annoyingly accurate assessment for relationships : if F, standing for fighting, is greater than F, standing for sex, you are in trouble.
We got more and more in trouble.

Have you ever been there? The fighting F greater than the sexy F?
We were fighting a couple of times a day. We were F…ing a couple of times a week.
We supposedly loved each other and fight fight fight. It got to that ridiculous stage were we were arguing about who had started yesterday’s argument and so on and so on, until we can’t even remember what the original disagreement was all about.

Have you ever been there? Argue, argue. Are you there now, sometimes. It’s hell, right?
Love gone wrong can be one of the greatest hells on earth. Love, seen through to its depths (which is almost always discovering OUR contribution to the mess, and OUR need for real transformation), can be the most immediate and concrete path to real spiritual growth.
That’s a major reason for this book: to show you some paths to trade in the mess of love for the use and delight of love as a path of spiritual transformation.

… back to Sally Ann and Chris in hell. F way more than F, in the paradise country town of Sonoma in the glorious county of Sonoma.

And then she solved the problem.
Ended the fighting.
No more F and no more F.

She ran off with Joe.

She ran off with Joe, charming Joe, Joe who was a lot like me, except that he could act out his adoration for Sally Ann instead of fight with her. Joe who was a lot like me except he could be in love with her instead of in conflict. 
They had a wonderful F to F ratio, thank you.

And how did I respond? Did I find refuge in the present (which I had been studying and “practicing” and dedicating myself to for at least twenty years prior to this)?
Did I soar on the wings of liberation and non-attachment?

I did the usual.
Feeling the victim, betrayed, sad, depressed, worried, angry at Joe and Sally Ann.
And angry at myself.
Why angry at myself? The obvious evidence: my side of the arguing had been not so wonderful.
And so….

Poor me.
Hating the “bad” other person.
Hating the “bad/ failure” me.
Hating life.
All that.

You’ve felt it, sometime?
You are feeling it still now? If so, I’m sorry. 
Suffering sucks.
And a lot of divorces and breakups are swamped in these shitty feelings, and a lot of people still carry them around.
Not pretty.
Not happy.

Which sucks. If a relationship done right can be one of the most wonderful, blissful and quickest paths toward spiritual advancement, the opposite is something most of us have suffered: a relationship gone wrong can be the depths of hell on Earth.
Suffering sucks.
Relationship suffering deeply, painfully sucks.

And there are ways out of it. I’ll offer one way, starting right now, with the breakthrough I discovered way back in 1999.
The discovery was to do the “turn around.”

The Turn Around, the turn Around, the Turn Around.

This “turn around” is a subset of something called “the work of Byron Katie.” 
Who is Byron Katie? Very short version: She’s a woman who came to enlightenment via the path of alcoholism, obesity, chain smoking, yelling at her family and deep depression. She wasn’t trying for enlightenment. She was hating her life and hating her suffering and wanted it to end.
And it did. Her suffering ended. Not her life, A brand new amazingly real and useful life began.
She “woke up” one day, in 1986, in a halfway house in the dusty backwater desert town of Barstow, California. She was laying on the floor because she felt unworthy of a bed. A cockroach walked across her leg. All her suffering vanished when she “woke up” to the world just as it was, the world without ANY of her judgments about the world. No judgments meant no suffering.

She was free.
Life was almost entirely laughter and delight.
With very brief returns of the “old world,” in which an old thought of complaint and judgment and non-forgiveness would cause her delight to tumble, which hurt. From the heights of bliss, back to “normal” human suffering: this was all the more painful for how huge a contrast this now was.
And she realized that her occasional bout of pain, was the normal lot of most human beings. When she looked out at normal humanity, she saw everyone outside of her continuing to suffering from their own thoughts beliefs and judgments.
So, she invented a method to “undo” the thoughts / beliefs/ judgments that are at the root of almost all suffering.
This wasn’t about positive thinking.
This wasn’t about affirmation.
This was a great “un-doing,” which you’ll become familiar with as the book progresses.
For now, we only need here to look at a valuable and almost immediately useful subset of her “work.”
Which you are welcome to dive into more fully at

For now though, let me continue to share the Sally Ann and Joe and Chris story, and how part of “the work” led me to one of the great freedoms and clarities of my life.

So, there I was, alone and bitter and out of the famous present and miserable. And over there, a few miles away was Sally Ann off having a great F to F ratio with Joe.
Time to do the work. The work of Byron Katie.

This is the “turn around” part of the Byron Katie work.

It’s bizarrely simple:
You take your judgment, formulate it as a “should” or “shouldn’t” commandment, and you write it down:

“So and so should listen to me more.” (It’s always about me/ me/ me, isn’t it?)
And you reverse the sentence: “I should listen to so and so more.”

“So and so should appreciate me more.”
Turns around…. “I should appreciate so and so more.”

Beliefs that we have been torturing ourselves with for years are highly fertile fields for the turn around:
“My father shouldn’t have criticized me so much.”
And even if he started it, even if he was “worse,” the turn around has tons of wisdom, “I shouldn’t have criticized my father so much for criticizing me.” More on this later, as a way out of years and years of feeling bad about my wonderful and imperfect dad.

Now, though, I’m going to share how I rescued myself from my suffering with Sally Ann, and then offer you this as a way to transform your own life with this “turn around.”

With Sally Ann the breakthrough came by turning around this belief, “Sally Ann should love me more.” Oh, did I suffer when I believed that. But… ta da… the work of Byron Katie and the turn around to the rescue…
This turn around seemed true enough at an intellectual level:  “I should love Sally Ann more.”

I kind of nodded my head, yes, yes,
And then, for some reason I let this sink down, and a heart-rooted lightening bolt went off. 
I really SHOULD love Sally Ann more!!!

I had loved Sally Ann. A lot.
Part of me still did.
And when I went to that part, the whole world opened.

Loving her meant being happy she was with Joe.
She wanted to be with Joe.
Joe made her happy.
Loving her more meant waking up to this reality: I loved that she was happy. With Joe. With Geronimo. It didn’t matter: loving her meant wanting her to be happy and being happy that she was happy.

Loving her meant being happy that she was living the life she wanted to live.
Loving her meant being heart fully happy for her that she was free of our fighting.
Loving her meant: loving her.

This set me free.
This opened my heart.
This allowed me to beam with happiness when I thought about her and Joe. I could be happy for her even when I saw her and Joe happily wandering the small town together.

This was freedom.
This was love.
This was, in a strange way, enlightenment.

And….. could you sweet audience, use something like this to transform your life?
And will I show you a way to do this?

Love and “Don’t Believe Your Thinking” Game, #2
All you do is take a Should or a Shouldn’t about someone who is bothering you.
Your mate.
Your ex-mate.
The friend you are furious at.
Write a short “should” or “shouldn’t” sentence.
John should appreciate me more.
My Dad shouldn’t have criticized me so much.

Sit, or stand in a particular place and believe this fully and see what this does to you.
Even let your body contort and whither a bit from the pain.

Shift to another chair or stand in another place.
“Turn around” the statement:
I should appreciate John more.
I shouldn’t have criticized my Dad so much.

Find at least three ways that the turn around is true.
Yeah, yeah, you aren’t going to like it. 
At first.
Until the humor sets in.
Then you’re going to love it, like I did realizing that I was the one who should love Sally Ann more.

Why three ways?
Because when I explained this to a fellow student in my certification coach for Co-Active Coaching, she said it reminded her of her time in the Israeli military (all youth between 18 and 21 spend two or three years in the military). Everyone was trained that when they had the finger of accusation pointed out, three fingers were pointed back.
So, find three ways that the turn around is true.
Then life gets amusing and humbling.
And free.

And what happened to me after Sally Ann.
Sooner or later the thinking that “I’ll never find anyone as great” proved untrue and Celeste came along.
And with Celeste a very fun story of the turn around as a tool for one word accusations came true. (Accusations like: He is so mean. She is so petty. He is grumpy. She is in denial.)

Here’s the story about “selfish.” The one finger I was pointing out and realized that three were pointing back at me. 

Selfish Chris wakes up
Celeste was a vitally healthy and earth loving yoga teacher I never would have met if I hadn’t said “Yes” to someone who asked me to join her going to yoga.
Prelude: Meeting Celeste by saying, “Yes.”
I was working a couple hours a day being the lead creator and garden maker of what is now the Sonoma Garden Park. Five acres of food and flower and pathways and a straw bale barn and a lot of beauty. In the early days of the garden, before it reached a certain critical mass of beauty, very few people came to help me except young folks doing “community service” for some crime of youth, almost always alcohol or pot related.
And one day, a gal whom I’d begged to come help when she worked in the local health food store, was there. Because she’d gone off to college and studied community gardens and remembered my whining and had come to help for the morning.
We did a lot of weeding and I actually helped her with an issue with her sister using this “work of Byron Katie.”
Then it was time for her to leave, the hot time of the day, around noon. She asked if I wanted to join her going to yoga.
I had never ever considered yoga. This was 2000 before yoga was the rage everywhere, and I thought it was only for women who wanted to be pretzels. But, this woman had helped, and had listened to a chance to change doing the Byron Katie work, and I’d had some good luck before saying Yes, so I said yes.
I went to the class, and this woman and I were the only students.
The teacher was Celeste.
Who appeared not to be my type. But who was a great yoga teacher and I realized that I was a bit more stiff than I had thought I was.
So I kept going to Celeste’s classes.
And we started to talk.
And ride bikes together (I had a truck, but preferred the bike in the small town of Sonoma, where nothing was more than about a mile apart).
Then she came out to the garden, and I was wondering if she was girl friend potential, which could be discovered by how well she liked to garden. I put a pick in her hand and she went happy with delight to put it to use.
Okay, that test passed and we spent more time in the garden.
We read some short stories together.
We got fond of each other.
Then we got more than fond.
Then we decided to live together and I moved in with her.

Trouble with Celeste’s Daughter “selfish” Lara
This did not go over well with her daughter.
The night I moved in with Celeste, hers feisty teenage daughter, Lara, got very angry with her mother for choosing to start living with me. She moved out in a snit and went to live with her father.
She was short and nasty with her mother on the phone. A teenage girl. A pain in the ass. Which is to say, normal.
And I didn’t take it as normal. I was Mr. Righteous. I knew what was wrong with her. She was “selfish.”

I huffed and puffed and complained and felt righteous and angry and bad about this and then….
And then the good old turn around kicked me in the butt and brought to me a sense of humor. And friendship, it turned out.

Who is the Real “Selfish” One?
I realized that my major beef with her “selfish” behavior, was that it shook up Celeste and made her less delightful to be with. So it was my selfishness that wanted Lara to be different and less difficult. So her mother would be more fun for ME!
It wasn’t about Lara, it was about me. The “selfish” daughter “should” calm down, so I, in MY selfishness, could have a better time with Celeste.
When I realized this, it wasn’t a light bulb of love going off, the way it had with Sally Ann, but a light bulb of honesty and the blessed relief of humor. 
The freedom of real realization. Realization about myself, not Lara realization: She’s selfish. I’m selfish. We’re the same.

One day Lara was visiting her Mom and I, and I told her this, how I’d realized my big beef about her being selfish was really about my being selfish.
She seemed to love this honesty from an adult.
And when I left to go somewhere, she said to me, in great good humor, “Good-bye, selfish Chris.”
Let’s play the one finger out, three fingers back game with this one word accusations …..

Don’t Believe Your Thinking Love Game #3:

Think of someone you have a slight “beef” with
Think of three things wrong with them
Write these down in a short, judgmental form:
So and so is mean.
So and so is selfish.
So and so in grumpy

And… guess where it goes next, fellow ass?
I am mean.
I am selfish
I am grumpy.
With whatever words you had to label and judge so and so.

And, gasp again, find three examples of each.

You are probably going to want to avoid this. One more thing to “get around to.”
Me, too. I don’t want to do this now, as I’ve been doing all the games throughout the book.
And hey, I’m going to get a pen and journal and do it now.

I didn’t want to do it.
I did it.
And, it was pretty instructive.
How was it for you?

Once more: if you are too important, too busy, to do the games, because you imagine you don’t need them, and these is good information for the unfortunate souls who aren’t you, wise up.
We are all imperfect.

One of the great gifts of our own imperfect minds is that we can learn, somewhat bizarrely, EXACTLY what we need to work on in ourselves by discovering/ noticing/ getting honest about whatever is bothering us in other people.

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