The Great Barriers

From Mountain’s Stillness, River’s Wisdom by Philip M. Berk:

Ask yourself,
“What is it that I truly want in my life?”

Once you realize that the only barriers
to freeing yourself are your own barriers,
you can start believing in yourself
and in all that you are capable of

Philip’s poem was sent to me by fellow Great Dane loving Sharon Black. It reminds me of The Work of Byron Katie, whose inquiry process helps us face our limiting beliefs (those only barriers that are our own barriers). After experiencing The Work for the first time last October I decided to take a deeper plunge. I gave up my TEDx Vancouver seat, figuring that while it was lovely to go and listen to world changing ideas, I best start with myself.

I was expecting an emotionally heavy weekend retreat. With my waterproof mascara packed, I headed off on the ferry, unsure what skeletons I would meet during my days of inquiry. What will I do The Work on, I wondered. It wasn’t like I was walking in carrying a list of issues I wanted to deal with.

And here lies the magic of The Work. Byron Katie describes that we’re either attaching to our thoughts or inquiring. There’s no other way. Our amazing hosts Caitlin Frost and Kim Howden suggested various thought-discoverers like these ones:

  • Judge Your Neighbour Worksheet.
  • Someone in my life who could really use my advice (list the advice and pick one for inquiry).
  • Make a list finishing the sentence “my life would be better if” (and pick one for inquiry).
  • Identity: finish the sentence “I am” with a list, pick one, then make a new list adding “and that means that” (then pick one for inquiry).
  • Life regrets: make a list finishing the sentence “I should have/I shouldn’t have (and pick one for inquiry).
  • Make a list finishing the sentence “things I really want to do in my life (and haven’t)”, pick one, then make a new list adding “If I _________, I’m afraid that ____________” (then pick one statement for inquiry).
  • Make a list of “what is it that you hate doing in your life” (and pick one for inquiry).

And the thoughts would come tumbling out. I found such lightness and laughter when the clear light of truth shone on the content of my thoughts. That’s what I’ve been carrying around with me? Wow! So while there was an element of heaviness in my retreat, it was merely an occasional companion in the depths of my limiting beliefs and un-inquired thoughts. For example, I discovered that I believed I was letting down generations of my family by not cooking homemade meals every night. Generations?! Of course until inquiry I didn’t know that was knocking around in my head and heart. Sure felt great to uncover it and find some freedom.

(Sidebar: Cafe Gratitude’s first question in their Question of the Day would be great sparks for The Work.)

What is it that you truly want in life? What are your limiting beliefs, the barriers, that you can inquire into and free yourself from?