Tag Archive 'Byron Katie'

Sep 21 2011

Compassionate Witness On Board – #80

When I was in my early twenties, I read an article in Parade Magazine about Liza Minnelli, who had just emerged from rehab. Something she said in that article has stayed with me all these years. It was very simple, yet so vastly profound that it helped change my life forever. She said that she was developing a new relationship with herself and throughout the day would check in, asking, “How are you doing honey?”

That blew my mind! The thought that I could talk to myself that way opened up a whole new way of being with myself. I started checking in with myself and calling myself “honey’ and ‘sweetheart’.  Gradually, over time, the critical voice that was always beating me up became a loving voice. My chronic, internal judge was being replaced by my Compassionate Witness. This is an on-going process that continues to this day.

In my forties I fortified the voice of my Compassionate Witness by doing a two-year training in Hakomi, a healing, therapeutic approach that brings mindfulness, curiosity, and loving presence to whatever is present. Strengthening the energy of presence was building a mighty muscle that would carry me through tough times.

I flex that muscle now whenever I’m haunted by horror thoughts of possible cancer carnage…I take deep breaths and become very present. This invites in my Compassionate Witness, who says, “I know that you feel scared right now honey. Let yourself feel it.” I reassure myself that when and if that time comes, I will be present with what’s present, breathing into it, fully feeling and facing it, putting on my Big Soul panties and dealing with it. (And…if it gets too bad, LOTS of powerful, kick-ass painkillers…because saint I ain’t!)

I know that healing happens in the light of awareness. The glue that binds our painful patterns together is soluble in awareness, which is much like water: “Nothing in the world is as soft and yielding as water; yet for dissolving the hard and inflexible, nothing can surpass it.”(Lao Tzu)  Awareness is very potent stuff!

When I bring my Compassionate Witness to everything I think, do and feel, something astonishing happens…I gradually BECOME more the witness than the thing that I’m witnessing! Bringing all my shadows into the light, I become whole – welcoming every part of me to the party. My Compassionate Witness throws a great party! Every shadow, every guest who shows up (and they are quite a motley cast of characters!) is welcomed with open arms. Even the biggest shadow of them all…death.

Facing our death is something we’re all going to have to do eventually – it is the big fat elephant in the room. Buddha said, “Just as the elephant’s footprint is the biggest footprint on the jungle floor, death is the biggest teacher. Death or Yama Raja, death personified, drove me to the peace beyond birth and death.”

I want to be in that peace beyond birth and death; therefore, I’m intent on facing my fear of death, and death itself, and making friends with it. That way I am embracing it, rather than bracing against it. Leonard Cohen wrote, “If you don’t embrace the ocean you’ll be seasick every day.” When I come into harmony with all that floats and flounders about in my ocean, I am at peace.

What I resist persists; in that case, I’m hoping that now that I’m no longer resisting, maybe death won’t be persisting! Not any time soon anyway. Hopefully, I’ll have many more years to practice being fully present with my fears about the big “C” and the big “D” — bringing me more into union with the big ME, my true oceanic self!

Byron Katie said: “Life is simple. Everything happens for you, not to you. Everything happens at exactly the right moment, neither too soon nor too late. You don’t have to like it…it’s just easier if you do.” With the loving support of my Compassionate Witness, my greatest intention is to face whatever happens, and all my feelings about what happens, with an open mind, an open heart, and open arms.

Do you have a Compassionate Witness? There is no better traveling companion on life’s journey…it will help you get through ANYTHING!

In Love,

Jan Jacobsen

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Jan 03 2011

Christmas Mirror-cle – Issue #64

“Mirrors, mirrors all around, reflections of myself abound.

What most needs to be loved is found in what I judge in you.”

That is from a poem I wrote about projection a few years ago. Along the same lines, there’s a saying that goes, “If you spot it, you got it.” It means that what we see and judge in others is in us in some way. I would amend that to say, “If you spot it and you have a charge on it, then you got it.” We can spot things in others, but if it doesn’t have a sticking place in us and we’re at peace with it, then we don’t ‘got it’. But if we spot it and fought it (judge and resist it), to be sure, we got it!

Having cancer and not knowing how much longer I have (do any of us really?), I am compelled to do what I came here to do – face my shadows, free myself of judgments, heal and become whole. There’s no time to waste. Though I’m still feeling good and free of symptoms from my original tumor, I recently discovered a hard, pea-sized bump under my skin that could be a giant pimple OR a life-threatening tumor (which would mean the cancer is spreading). I don’t know if I’m making a mountain out of a molehill, a tumor out of a pimple, but either way, it is a burr under my saddle (yes, it is located in THAT region once again) reminding me that it’s clean-up time, it’s time to make peace with the many me’s that life is reflecting back to me.

Adding to this auspicious time, a friend sent me a reminder that something pretty potent is happening soon – the 21st of December is Winter Solstice AND a lunar eclipse, the first time these two events have coincided in hundreds of years. She wrote that this is “A powerful time to be introspective, thinking, meditating, imagining, giving ourselves full permission to dream, to fantasize about what we would want for ourselves if we could have anything at all, anything we’ve ever hoped for, before our time on this earth is complete.”

What I dream about is being free of judgments and having love and compassion in my heart for all the people in my life…but alas, saint I ain’t (as Tom’s father used to say). Just when I think I got all my wacky, quacky ducks in a row and feel like I’m doing pretty darn good spiritually, the universe sends me people who push my buttons and I am confronted with my judgments. Some of you might be currently experiencing this if you’re visiting family during this holiday season because, as Ram Dass once said, “If you think you are enlightened, go visit your family.”

Throughout the years I have drawn into my life charming, angry, defensive men. I’ve had judgments about these men and felt victimized by them. It was quite a surprise when I finally realized that little ol’ innocent me was also charming, angry and defensive. That was a shocker! These men were the perfect mirror for my disowned anger. Over the years I have been learning to love and integrate those parts of myself, finding that once anger is owned it transmutes into empowerment – the highest octave of anger is strength and power and setting healthy boundaries, without judgment. (This shift in me allowed the wondrous Tom to come into my life – he is the least angry man I have ever known).

I believe that empowerment begins with ownership. I recently saw actress Jenny McCarthy being interviewed on The View and she talked about her relationship with actor Jim Carrey (they recently separated after five years together). She talked about how she made a list of all the things that bothered her about him, and said when she read it she substituted ‘he’ with ‘I’. It helped her to see all the ways that SHE did what she was accusing him of doing. (She explained that this was based on Byron Katie’s work, the part where you take your thoughts and judgments and turn them around).

At this holy time of the year, I know that it’s all about wholeness – the words holy, whole, and health share the same root. My challenge and great desire is to be inclusive, all embracing and at one with everything in my life. The universe is currently obligingly gifting me with an opportunity to do this – lately I have been ‘spotting’ angry, defensive men and the women who love them. I witness myself clucking my tongue, judging them, wondering what THEY are doing in my life…and then I am reminded, “Mirrors mirrors all around, reflections of myself abound, what most wants to be loved is found in what I judge in you.” This is coming round again to be loved and healed and wholed.

Big breath of acceptance…yes, it is time to ‘reflect’, to face and embrace what life is mirroring back to me, and to imagine, to dream and envision what it would be like to be free of these judgments, to be whole, to be filled with love and compassion for myself and others. This is the Christmas mirror-cle I am hoping for this year. I’m singing, “Wholly wholly wholly, merciful and mighty, God in three persons, blessed many me’s (and you’s).”

I hope you are having a ‘wholly’ holiday season, loving the many hues of the many you’s that life is reflecting back to you. I’m wishing for you and for me a Christmas mirror-cle of peace, love and oneness.


Jan Jacobsen

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Feb 22 2010

The Olympian Challenges of Life – Issue #43

   How do you deal with disappointment? While watching the Olympics I have been fascinated with the various reactions to winning and losing. Some lucky ones say, “I’m just happy to have been here and had the Olympic experience.” Others, who expected to win gold and won silver instead, experience a bitter disappointment that will forever affect them. Yet other athletes who won the same medal are overjoyed and will carry that joy the rest of their lives. It is our thoughts about what happens that affects us more than anything else.

   We don’t have much control over mistakes, slip ups, going off track — life happens; but we do have control over how we choose to perceive it. How we look at things has a huge impact on the quality of our lives. Scientists have found that our perceptions affect us on a cellular level. Our brain cells, our bodies, and our lives literally rearrange themselves according to our beliefs. If we think we’re a failure, our brain cells and body will reshape themselves around that belief, and our lives will draw in experiences that confirm it. It is the beliefs we hold, the stories we tell ourselves that shape our lives.

   That is the true Olympian challenge we all face.  Life’s disappointments offer us the opportunity to go for the real gold – the ability to direct our thoughts to positive, life-enhancing perceptions.

   As a child I adopted an attitude of thinking negatively; I figured that way I wouldn’t be disappointed. It didn’t work. I was often disappointed. My negative attitude arranged my cells and myself into one big disappointment magnet! I finally wised up to how my thoughts were creating my reality. 

   It has been my Olympian challenge in life to transform my attitude from negative to positive. My recent experience with cancer has been a test for me – do I get caught up in the draining, complaining energy of  “poor me” down the drain? That’s no fun! Though I did dip my toe in that energy a bit, wondering what I did wrong. But then I chose to shift to a higher perspective, to look for the gold in my experience, focusing on positive perceptions, which generate healing and good feeling.

   I’d like to share with you some of the ways that help me shift to a higher perspective. When you find yourself dwelling in disappointment you can do the following:

1.    Remind yourself that it is your thoughts that are making you feel bad. It is not another person or event that is causing you to suffer, it is how you are perceiving it. I recite to myself Shakespeare’s quote: “It is neither good nor bad but thinking makes it so.” 

2.    Choose encouraging thoughts instead of blaming thoughts. For instance, tell yourself that you did the best you could at the time, and when you knew better, you did better. Appreciate yourself for trying.

3.    Question your negative thoughts. Byron Katie has devised four questions that help jog our thoughts loose from their rigid position. Ask yourself: “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 this thought?” These questions open us to a whole new way of seeing the situation.

4.    Become thoughtless — shift to your right brain. Negative thinking happens in our habitual left-brain chatter. Singing and other acts of creativity, like dancing and play, shift us to our right brain where we are in the present moment and see the bigger picture. When you find yourself sinking in stinking thinking, come into your ‘right mind’, into the Now — sing a song of self-love and encouragement. I like the song, “Pick yourself up, dust yourself off and start all over again.”

5.    Ask yourself, “What can I learn from this?” Search for the learning in your experience the way you would search for a treasure. The real gold medal in life is the learning we acquire. Focusing on what we have learned makes us a better person, instead of a bitter person.

6.    Cultivate an attitude of loving kindness towards yourself. How would you talk to a child who is suffering in disappointment? Address your own self the same friendly, loving way. A much better goal than being perfect is to learn to truly love ourselves AS IS. That is a major life accomplishment worthy of a gold medal!

7.    Go for the gold! Find the gold in the experience — how has it made you a better person, a stronger person, a more empowered person? For instance, many people who have had challenges such as cancer, including myself, have been awakened to the preciousness of life, and galvanized to live our highest purpose. What a gift! You can multiply the gold by sharing it with others, so that they too can benefit from your experience.

   Life, like the Olympics, tests our metal. I remember a past Olympics when Russian Bela Karoli, the American gymnastics coach, was encouraging Keri Strug, who had sprained her ankle, to do her last vault to help the team win the gold. “You can do eet Keri! You can do eet!” And that diminutive, determined dynamo did it!

   We can do it! We can be winners in the Olympics of our life! All it takes is to choose how we think about things. With Olympian determination we can keep coming back to choosing self-loving thoughts over self-castigating thoughts, focusing on what we have learned rather than what we have lost, creatively shifting into new perspectives instead of staying stuck in old thought patterns, dwelling in the present moment rather than wallowing in disappointment, and finding the gold in every situation and sharing it with others.

   Are you facing a challenge right now? Flex your muscles, activate your determination, call on your Olympian courage, and with all the power that is within you commit to focusing on life-enhancing thoughts and perceptions – you can do eet!

   In Love,

Jan Jacobsen

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Jan 23 2010

Life Themes – What is Yours? – Issue #40

   Every week at my Toastmasters club we choose a theme for the meeting. This week the theme was “Mistakes”. With that as our focus, people inadvertently made blunders and one glitch followed another. Fortunately, our overall theme is to always have fun, so the meeting became a comedy of errors with lots of laughter and the enlightening awareness that our focus on mistakes was creating mistakes. One man said, “Imagine if the theme for today had been “Accomplishments.”

   We all have themes in our lives, either consciously, unconsciously or both. Fear of making a mistake was an unconscious theme of mine from an early age. In grade school one of my teachers wrote on my report card: “Janet will one day find that it’s a waste of time to worry so much about making a mistake.” It’s not only a waste of time but it causes a whole lot of suffering. That suffering motivated me to consciously cultivate and grow over the years a new theme: “This moment is perfect just as it is.”

   Byron Katie writes that when people would say “Namaste” to her, she always thought they were saying “No mistake.” She loved that, because that is the theme of her life — there are no mistakes — there simply is what IS. She says, “Arguing with reality is like trying to teach a cat to bark – hopeless.” And it just creates more suffering. During my anxious time last year with my ruptured appendix and uterine cancer, I read and reread Byron Katie’s book, “A Thousand Names for Joy” — I wanted to saturate myself in that attitude, in the peaceful state of surrender to what is. As a result, that expansive state of acceptance aligned me to the flow where everything unfolded easefully and things worked out better than I could have imagined.

   Once we become aware of our unconscious themes, we can then choose a conscious theme — when the unconscious theme recurs, as it will, we can use it as a reminder to reinforce our new, desired theme. When cancer came a calling it at first evoked my old theme, the fear that I’d somehow made a terrible mistake that caused my cancer. But then I focused on my desired theme, “This moment is perfect just as it is.” That being my focus, that became my experience. Having had cancer made my life better, richer, and more on purpose, because that’s the way I choose to think of it. Shakespeare said, “It’s neither good nor bad but thinking makes it so.” Our focus and how we interpret what is happening is like magnetic paint that colors our experience and draws to us more of that experience. Like energy attracts like energy and our themes perpetuate themselves.

   I believe countries have themes. I was feeling disheartened by the terrible tragedy in Haiti, feeling the heaviness of that country’s theme of ongoing poverty and despair. But I am heartened by what I see as their underlying theme of resilience, faith and courage. As slaves they fought for their freedom and won it. A young girl named Bea was trapped under the rubble for days, buried alive. When they finally got her out, she said, “I believed I would live. I wasn’t scared. I wasn’t scared at all.” Their spirit and faith prevails as many of them sing, chant and pray in the midst of this devastating tragedy. Here is a line from one of the songs sung by Haitian native, Wyclef Jean: “Earthquake we see the earth shake but the soul of the Haitian people it will never break.” Now that’s an uplifting theme!

   The Earth opened up like Pandora’s box and out came death, destruction and despair – but also faith, hope and charity in an outpouring of compassion and support from all over the world. In the movie Avatar, the natives of Pandora greet each other by saying, “I see you.” The world is now seeing the Haitian people and many are waking up to the theme that Avatar puts forth, that we are connected to the Earth and to each other, we are all one, and we must care for one another and help each other. In that sense, this moment is perfect just as it is.

   What are some of the unconscious themes in your life? What are conscious themes you are cultivating? What you focus on grows — may you use life’s manure to fertilize and grow a theme that uplifts and inspires you and others.

   In Love,

Jan Jacobsen


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