I was recently given an Oprah Magazine to read by a friend of mine. I don't think I've actually ever picked up an Oprah Magazine and I have to admit I don't think I've seen her show in several years. I just don't watch daytime TV or read magazines (I'm a novel reader). But I tossed the magazine in my beach bag, and one day several weeks later while the kids were building sand castles and I was free from interruption, I pulled the magazine out.
It changed my life.
Or at least my perspective on life.
It changed my life.
Or at least my perspective on life.
Byron Katie is a woman who says all the drama and craziness that goes on in our head is our own made up movie we've created about issues in our lives (my summary). She tells us to stop a moment when we find ourselves getting carried away with obsessive thoughts and ask ourselves four questions:
Question 1: Is it true? This question can change your life. Be still and ask yourself if the thought you wrote down is true.
Question 2: Can you absolutely know it's true? This is another opportunity to open your mind and to go deeper into the unknown, to find the answers that live beneath what we think we know.
Question 3: How do you react—what happens—when you believe that thought? With this question, you begin to notice internal cause and effect. You can see that when you believe the thought, there is a disturbance that can range from mild discomfort to fear or panic. What do you feel? How do you treat the person (or the situation) you've written about, how do you treat yourself, when you believe that thought? Make a list, and be specific.
Question 4: Who would you be without the thought? Imagine yourself in the presence of that person (or in that situation), without believing the thought. How would your life be different if you didn't have the ability to even think the stressful thought? How would you feel? Which do you prefer—life with or without the thought? Which feels kinder, more peaceful?Turn the thought around:The "turnaround" gives you an opportunity to experience the opposite of what you believe. Once you have found one or more turnarounds to your original statement, you are invited to find at least three specific, genuine examples of how each turnaround is true in your life.
Ha! Really? Is life really that simple?
Well, I read that article 3 months ago and I can't tell you how happy and peaceful I have been ever since. I don't even need to go through all 4 questions. When an issue arises, usually I can put the issue to rest after just examining it with the first - Is this true? Everytime it has stopped the wheels from turning. It has stopped the thoughts from starting to churn.
It's not a new philosophy for me. Maybe that's why it's been so easy for me to incorporate it into my life. I have always been the inner skeptic. I am the first to visit snopes.com whenever sent an alarming email. With every political debate I analyze who is saying what - what their motives are behind their statements. What is driving them. And I always want to know the full story. I always want the truth behind the statements before I decide how I feel about an issue.
But now I have words to my feelings. "What is the truth?" I have found myself saying that over and over. I wish the entire world could stop, take a breath and think about those words. All the tensions I witness being discussed on the news could be reanalyzed if anyone was just interested in the TRUTH and not the sensationalism and drama that tend to hide the reality from us. I'm so tired of politically motivated correspondents and analysts that I have stopped watching the news. It has become no different than Inside Edition or Star Magazine to me.
When I was recently reading the book, Eat, Pray, Love I found myself constantly telling the main character in my head, "What is TRUE??" I kept thinking if she would just stop and realize that her life is pretty darn great and that crying on her bathroom floor in misery doesn't solve anything, then she would be able to snap out of her depression (not to say that depression isn't real. Chemical depression should be taken very seriously. Situational depression is what I think could be handled with a dose of reality, release from self-absorption and counting of blessings). But then again, I suppose if she had stopped, thought about how nothing really is as bad as it seems and pulled herself together she wouldn't have traveled the world, written a best selling novel and had a blockbuster made about her life - The movie in her head became her reality indeed! So maybe she's the one who is the smart one!
Anyway, my point being for those of us who are not going to transform our lives by becoming famous for the low points in our lives, there is a way out of our drama and day to day issues that seem to become larger than life.
Take an example:
My husband wanted to get together with some friends for a bonfire at the beach. He told me to tell them to meet us at 4:00. I called them and said this instead, "we'll call you when we're leaving the house so we can get there about the same time. Could be anywhere from 4 to 5:00." In the past I would have told them to meet us at 4:00 like he said and this is what would have happened:
His 2:00 meeting that he had at work would run over. I would start to stress out that we were going to be late. He would eventually get home, sense my stress and start to feel rushed and stressed as well. We would end up becoming irritated and angry at each other. We would all rush around and be crazy to try to make the promised time.
But instead this is what went through my head when he said 4:00. I knew he had a meeting with clients at 2:00. I knew he couldn't control how long the meeting ran. I knew he would do his best to be ready to go and meet our friends by 4:00, but that putting pressure on him to meet that goal was unnecessary. His meeting did run over. He rushed through the front door at 4:00, found me sitting with my feet up reading a book, the kids ready to go, playing quietly and the car packed. He was apologizing for being late and running up the stairs at full speed to change. "Don't worry," I called after him.
He came back down blinking at me, astounded that I wasn't rushing around. I explained. "I told them whenever. Don't rush."
We ended up having a wonderful time as a family.
Why? Because I focused on the truth. Why was it necessary to make it harried and stressful? Why do we have to be sucked into a rigid time (this is so unlike me - I'm a scheduled person to a T)? What are the tendencies for his meetings to run late? He's a talker. That's what I love about him.
Since I have developed this new philosophy I have become more relaxed. I have enjoyed my interactions more. I don't get so angry or impatient with people. I see things from their view and respect where they are coming from. Their truth is important too.
My daughter is starting the 5th grade and has a teacher who is "rumored" to be dating a married parent at the school. Affair gossip follows me around town like the plague. Everywhere I turn people want to fill my head with information about my daughter's teacher and what they've heard. I do ask how they know the information to be true. Usually the answer is, "I heard it from so and so who heard it from so and so. . ." A few have witnessed them together. But I ask, "how do you know they were romantically together?" After all they have kids the same age and the kids are always with them. How would that be any different than my husband taking my kids on a playdate with another mom? Does this mean they are having an affair? I dismiss the rumors because unless they have directly witnessed overt, public affection, then I doubt they know anything that is actually TRUE (no one has). Maybe they are having an affair. Will I ever be the one to know the truth? Is it going to affect my life? Doubtful. So I cut off the talk and don't dwell on it. Other moms are fretting. Some have taken their kids out of her class. What do I know to be true? She is a good teacher. She is kind and friendly. She is a mother. The kids love her. That's all I know.
If you've read some of my previous blog stories, you know my daughter Emma has encountered her share of bullying from one of her friends (previous BFF). We finally put an end to the toxic relationship after a horrible situation that arose. The decision to end it was based on this thought from me:
What is the truth? The truth is we are miserable in these relationships (my friendship with her mom and the girls' friendship). She has taken years of abuse. Her mother never addresses the issues or apologizes. It is toxic. She has a boatload of friends who treat her with respect and kindness. That is the truth. The truth is that the friendship needs to end.
It did and we couldn't be happier. The drama in our lives has ended.
So when you are faced with an issue that has the potential to become the biggest focus in your life at the moment, stop yourself and say, "Is it true. And is it worth it?" And then take a moment to count your blessings.