One: Gratitude

Week One —  Day One: 

Improving Love right Away—



On June 20, 2015, I walked half a block down my street in Austin, Texas, to meet a woman I knew and admired and liked, but with whom I thought I had no “romantic” expectations. I had met her a mere three months before, in March. She had moved to Austin in February. Now in June it was a gentle summer’s day, and we were going to meet for a lunch and study session. I was writing a book on radical listening. She was smart and kind and I wanted her input. Her name was Carol Williams then.

It’s Carol Williams Elms now.

We thought we were meeting for an hour and a half. For lunch and a bit of her help on a book I was writing, the precursor to this one.

Twelve hours later, at one am, as I pried myself out the door, to walk the half block back to my home, we both were almost certain we’d met the future lifetime partner that had a day before seemed “almost impossible” to find. I’d written an “almost impossible goal” to find a fabulous woman within walking distance. And an “almost impossible goal” to find a lifetime partner at 70 years old. Carol had been praying for a life partner. And then… the miracle seemed to be happening.

And even with goals and prayers, I don’t think this “miracle” would have happened without our both being immersed in gratitude. Why?

We all thrive in gratitude…

On that day becoming night together, and since then,  the practice of gratitude was a deeply embedded part of both our lives. Then, as now, I was writing in a “gratitude journal” at least twice, often three or four or five times, a day. Carol, on that miracle day, had a steady background prayer life, of which gratitude and thanks was a significant part. Now she has a gratitude journal, too. Will you soon get a gratitude journal? Only if you want transformation as deeply and easily as possible.

Don’t believe me, or anyone. Test drive gratitude right now.

Mini-game: Think of 3 things you are grateful for. Does something shift?

You might enjoy feeling where in your body this shifts seems to be.

How does this work?

The Power of Gratitude

Gratitude focuses our hearts and minds on what we like and love in life, what is going well in our life, what we are thankful for and want more of. Instead of wasting time and mental energy on worry or complaining, gratitude allows us to look at life from a peaceful and open heart. With an optimistic heart alert to what has gone well in the past, we are primed to be looking forward to more “good stuff” unfolding each day.

Nice, eh?

Modern research has shown what ancient wisdom has long suspected: the brain (and person) can be in either fear or gratitude.

But not both.

Carol and I were tuned in to what we appreciated about our lives. This made it far easier to tune into what we could appreciate in the other person. And then, twelve hours after I’d walked in the door, we reluctantly dragged ourselves apart amazed that we might well have found the “almost impossible.”

Dear reader, let’s jump into action.

Leap. Hop. Skip. Prance. Slippy slide. Have some fun.

Day One: Gratitude Exercise #2:


If you have a partner, or a willing friend, ask them to join you.

Notice how you are feeling now.

Say aloud five things you are grateful for. Feel your heart as you say these five.

Then the other takes a turn.

Notice how you are feeling now.

Share with each other the shift this made, this simple speaking aloud and sharing of five gratitudes. (PS, you can say more if you wish)

If you are alone, jot down here a few reminder sentences on what shifted by saying five gratitudes aloud.

My notes on the differences I noticed….

Really, do it now. This is not a book to “just read” and imagine “doing it” later. This is not a book of “good ideas” for you to give your “screwed up” friends. This is a transformation manual for those who want even more amazing life.

Which is you, right?

You are either in a “pretty good” (or even “great”) relationship and you wouldn’t mind it being even better.


Two: You are in a funky relationship that cries out, begs and wants to be better.


Three: You are not yet in a relationship and you think that would be a pretty fine addition to your life. IF IT WAS A GREAT RELATIONSHIP.

Whichever category you are in, saying gratitudes helps clear your heart and your day and your life and your relationships.

Let’s try a more full bodied plunge into gratitude.

Stand up.

Gratitude #3: Standing Gratitudes.

Stand up.

Go to a window if there is one, or outdoors if that’s easy.

Say aloud two to twenty gratitudes.

Go slowly and hear your own voice.

If you have a friend or mate to join you, all the better.

Notice what difference this makes.

Don’t be shy.

Even in a tight ass office seeing someone stand and hearing them speak forth some gratitudes might be a catalyst for something nice.

Like what?

Like find out.

Find out.



Real learning is noticing a difference that makes a difference.

Learning is not taking in anything by rote.

Learning is a shift that makes a difference. And being aware of the shift.

That’s this book: a bunch of things to try out and notice what difference they make.

As I’ve said above, you can be grateful or you can be in fear. Can you feel a shift in you when you say gratitudes aloud?

And last game/ exercise for today, a practice that can change your life, because it is solid and demands reputation each day.

It can take less than a minute.

This could be something to start every day for the rest of your life.

Day One: Gratitude Exercise #4:


Get a paper or a journal


A page grateful to be used for gratitudes

Write the day and the date.

Draw in a smily face, or something amusing.


Write five gratitudes or more.

Write slowly.

If a lined journal, leave a line between each line of writing

Write big and slow and feel your hand moving, and see the letters forming.




Stand up.

Move around. Jump for joy a bit if the mood comes to you.

Or wiggle for relief.

Maybe go take a walk.

Before you go to bed, read over your gratitudes and write a few more.

Or say some before you go to bed to your mate if you have one.

Or say them aloud to “God” if you have one. Prayer as thanks, super important to one and all.

Or say some aloud to “Divine Energy” if you think/ feel that might be useful.

And fun.

Gratitudes each day keep the doctor away. 


Listening Without Interrupting.... A life changer

Change Your Life

Day Four: Listening without Interrupting.

Listening in the Present

So there we were.

We’d had our lunch.

It was okay.

We’d talked about the book, and that was great . We were enjoying each other’s company. Luckily, the book had an “exercise/ game” that was a great one for Carol and I to play.

It’s the game you can try.

And now: hey, let’s try the main exercise of the precursor book of mine. It’s a pretty good game. It changed our lives. Maybe it can change yours. 

You can do it with a mate.

A friend.

A child.

I’ve done it with strangers, though you need a congenial setting like a yoga workshop where strangers approaching strangers isn’t too weird. I’ve done it with visitors to a garden I was creating in Sonoma. (The Sonoma Garden Park, which still is thriving. If you are ever in the town of Sonoma, go out to East 7th and Denmark and visit.)

And the exercise for your mate, your friend, a co-worker, a child, a parent, a congenial stranger.

It’s this: Talking in turns. To a timer. Slightly artificial but the requirement of NO INTERRUPTION gives it a big boost.

Talking for a set amount of time, to a timer, seems “too structured,” until you do it. Then you realize how rarely do people really listen to you. As in, almost never.

And more to the brutal and wonderful point: how often do you, wonderful reader, yes you (or me, for that matter, wonderful me) listen without interrupting?

The deeper goal is to be so present while listening that you aren’t busy formulating responses. Which is what we usually interrupt with. We sort of listen, and then get our own response which is just SO IMPORTANT to blurt into the conversation. And we go into “pseudo-listening,” where we are often merely repeating to ourselves over and over what our SO IMPORTANT remark will be when we can finally interrupt.

And we go on fine tuning for that slight break in their narrative so we can jump in with our SO IMPORTANT bit of hooey.

The deal is this: what they are saying might not be so important. But it is what they want to say.

If they are trying to be present when they are really alive to the moment.


Even if they aren’t present at least:

One: They get listened to for five minutes.

Two: You get to practice not interrupting for five minutes.

Three: You can watch your thoughts/ reactions come up and realize that you can live just fine without blueing them out.

Four: You may well be delightfully surprised at how pleasant it is to really listen to another person.

And so, dear reader, here it comes, a truly transformative practice.

You listen.

You don’t interrupt.

You may discover that remarking, even after five minutes, on what the other said, can create unhealthy vibrations.

Especially if what one of you ventures into in the five minutes is a complaint that you’ve been waiting to say.

So, we’ll set this game up at two levels.

You need only do the first level today.

There is a third level for some more advanced day, but today, let’s start. 

Let’s start talking and not interrupting and even carrying it to a deeper level: no commenting on what the other person said.

So, here’s the first level game of listening for today.

Exercise/ game #2: Listening in the Present.

Sit near each other.

Have a timer.

Set the timer for four minutes. Yes, four. That’s enough for a start. You’ll see.

One person talks.

For four minutes.

About anything important to them.

Except any complaints about the other, or the other’s family/ friends, etc.

And except comments about “the relationship.”

Now, for many couples, this denudes the conversation of all that was talked of before. 

So be it.

There is the present to talk about.

There are goals (other than relationship goals).

There are gratitudes.

There are observations about life.

There is being present and honest: “I don’t know what to say next.” “I’m sitting here wondering that you are thinking.” “I’m sitting here afraid you are judging me.” “I’m sitting here wanting you to like or be impressed with what I’m saying.”

This is called being vulnerable.

This is good for people.

Try it and see.

One person talks for four minutes.

If the talker “runs out of things to say,” just sit quietly. Even if they try to squirm out of it by saying, “I’m out of things to say, you take a turn,” don’t. Just give them attention, words or no words, until the timer buzzes off.

When the timer rings.


Breathe deeply together for three breaths.

Switch direction for another four minutes.

Repeat this two more times.

Gasp…. that’s all of 24 minutes, plus some deep breaths.

Many couples feel they don’t have this much time.

Then the question becomes: why are you together? As roommates? As partners in raising children and making up schedules for events?

Life needs more than this.

Discover it.

Loving Your Enemy


Week Two - - - Day Two

What about “other people” who bother/ hurt/ annoy/ “betray” us?


The “Work of Byron Katie”


This is almost sacrilege, if you pay attention to yourself and to almost everyone around you.

We believe our own thinking.

We have various opinions/ beliefs/ conjectures/ stories about reality and somehow, we believe them.

This is crazy, except that so many do this, we see it as “normal.”

So, for two thousand years the commandment of Jesus to “LOVE YOUR ENEMIES” has been a bit of a washout.

Brief aside: and it’s the closest I’ve found to a “joke” in the New Testament, as Jesus says, essentially: Anyone can love someone who’s kissing your ass; but let them give you a little grief, and then love goes out the window.

People give us grief.

We can feel bad about it.

Most people do.

Most people grumble inside and out, and spend considerable effort to get others to agree that they are “right” in their feelings of grievance. Isn’t my husband/ wife/ son/ daughter/ mother/ father an awful person, they whine. And many so-called friends, who want equal time to be consoled as the victim, agree.


Where does that leave us?

Victimized and weak and feeling sorry for ourselves or angry or withdrawn or ….

You name it.

Here’s the deal.

If we aren’t being shot at, or bombed and aren’t starving or in some war zone, almost all of our suffering is an inside job.

And this isn’t to be believed.

It’s to be experienced.

The way?

Notice the difference when

  1. We believe our own thinking

  2. We don’t believe our own thinking

This was how Byron Katie discovered her method.

She had “woken” up. She had had her “moment of clarity.” By in large she was in bliss, ease and laughter.

And then she’d have a thought: “My mother treated me such and such, and that was really terrible. She shouldn’t have.”

And she’d plummet.

She came up with a system we’ve given the first sketch of:

Judge your neighbor (lover, mother/ father/ friend/ sibling, co-worker, etc)

Write it down (She doesn’t say it, but I recommend : a simple should/ shouldn’t statement)

Ask four questions

Turn it around

Judge your neighbor

Write it down

Ask four questions

Turn it around

1 Judge your neighbor. 

Don’t pretend you aren’t carrying around a big fat should or shouldn’t. Let it out. It’s how most of humanity spends most of its thinking/ feeling about others.

2. Write it down.

This slows the obsessive going over and over and over. You get it down once and you can see what your war with reality is about.

Let’s take one I suffered over for years:

“My father shouldn’t have been so critical of me.”

3. Ask four questions.

4. Turn it around.

We’ve seen the turn around.

Which always seems more stringent than it really is.

“I shouldn’t have been so critical of my father.”

But he started it, he was mean, etc, etc, and yet, for years, this was my main spiel in talking to others about my father.

I was big on his should clean up his critical act, and yet, welcome normal human hypocrisy, I couldn’t clean up mine.

But before the turn around, what are these four questions?

Just four?

That can do the work of most therapy?

And even most deeply spiritual work?

Here they are.

  1. Is it true?

Huh? That’s all. Of course it’s true that “my father shouldn’t have been so critical.”

And who says.

Let’s say some seventy percent of fathers are critical.

Who commanded that I get one of the thirty percent who aren’t?

And if it’s the other way around, and only 30% are critical, who commanded that I “should” have one of the nice ones?

Strange but true: my father had his own issues, his own abuse, his own torture, his own rough experiences.

All this happened outside of my control.

He was what he was.

He had some wonderful moments. And some not so wonderful moments, especially when he’d had a little too much to drink.

He wasn’t perfect.

And is it true he shouldn’t have been critical?


Would I have liked it better?


And is/ was the world fashioned to be what I like?

Sometimes yes, sometimes no. In the father I was dealt game, no.

In case that question doesn’t help pry us loose from our confusion of “truth” and opinion, here’s the next one.

2. Is that thought/ belief/ story absolutely true?

Is it absolutely true that my father should have been less critical?

This is like the God question: should the universe have been set up differently so my Dad would have different behavior from a different psychology from a different past?

Sorry, but the world was what it was as he was developing and even if he himself wished he’d been different, which I suspect he did at times, that doesn’t change what he was able to do.

And… who knows how much worse it could have been if he hadn’t made small and mainly failing efforts to be better at fathering?


3. How do I feel and react and live when I believe that thought?

We’ve already seen that the thought isn’t true?

What are the consequences of believing something that isn’t true?


When I look at how I felt when I believe this, I get a laundry list of misery:





Avoid certain men

Mean to my father


And more.

The trick is to do this 4 question process over and over witlh all sorts of bummer thoughts.

And sooner or later you/ me/ anyone will come to realize: it’s not my father making my feel bad, it’s my story/ thought/ belief about how he should have been different/ better/ perfect that is ripping me apart.

And it’s not even my story: it’s my BELIEVING MY STORY. Because we are usually fairly wired to have these thoughts about just how bad/ mean/ unfair/ awful others have been to us.

And the fun ( I should say “fun”) part of this, is that in question 3 I can start to feel just how by inserting these thoughts into my believing I can make myself sad, angry, victim, miserable.

And now, the learning part.


This is one of the biggest differences in the world: do I/ you believe our thoughts about how other “should” have been different.

Question 4: Who or What would I be if I didn’t have that thought?

Same Dad. Same past. Same history of various times of criticism. I now, who am I if I don’t have the thought, “he shouldn’t have been so critical?”

Just someone noticing a critical father.

I don’t have to change him.

He can criticize away in my imagination (he’s dead. But that doesn’t stop huge numbers of people from feeling bad about the past behavior of a parent, or an ex-spouse, ex-boss and so on).

That’s him.

He’s saying the words, but if I don’t have the thought “he shouldn’t,” I can just listen.

Actually, I feel sorry for him, in a way. He wants to love his son, and the best he can do is going into this critical thing.

What would I be if I didn’t have the thought?



Even curiosity: what is making him go off like this.

And so, now my Dad is free, to have been what he was.

I am free, to no longer agonize myself by wanting him to be different.

And what, you might ask: if he weren’t dead and we had one of these fairly normal Thanksgiving dinners were someone rips into someone else.

He comes to Thanksgiving.

He starts to criticize.

I don’t have to feel bad.

I don’t have to tell him to shut up.

I don’t have to argue with him.

I can say, okay, that’s your opinion.

Or, I can say, what I figured about fifteen years after he died to do with my at the time alive Mom when she started to criticize me.

I could listen.

And say: I hear you believe this and this and this.

And: what you are really trying to say is that “I love you.”

“I love you, too.”

This confuses a critical person. And they may even, as my Mom did after four days or so, realize, “Hey, I really do love them.” And start saying, “I love you,” instead of criticizing.

This isn’t guaranteed, but it’s worth a try.

And even if it takes a year to change, or they die before they change, you’ve spent all that time not letting someone “get to you,” and you’ve spent all that time saying, “What you are really trying to say is that ‘I love you.’ “

This makes a difference to them, whether they outwardly change or not.

And makes a difference to you, a huge difference, because you aren’t torturing yourself with the notion they should change.

Now, loving your enemy may mean only inviting them to dinner a couple of times a year, because that’s the way you want your dinners to be.

And you never have again, to be afraid of someone’s mean or critical words.

They are coming out of them.

It’s their business.

Too bad, but you can love them no matter what.

(Hitting is another story: call the cops.)

And guess what, pathway nine could better be said like this






Be Still and Know I am God


Week Two - - - Day One

Connect to something Higher

As part of who you really are


Carol and I had an amazing day, that first twelve hour non-date, in which we discovered: hey, this could be the lifetime partner that I have (almost) been afraid to imagine might be out there for me.

Part of the wonderment was a spiritual sharing.

Maybe you can have a great relationship with a spiritual common ground, but I doubt it.

Anyway, I’d heard her talk enough to know that Christianity, in the sense of being a “Christ follower,” was very important to her. One of the parts of my life had been that, though I only occasionally went to church (I found a wonderful community on Orcas Island called the Orcas Island Community church, and had just begun to go, say every other Sunday, to a open and affirming and creative and really Christian church in Austin called Life in the City), I read and reread the four gospels every four or five years. 

Nothing beyond Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, but I kept being drawn back to the words of Jesus.

Recently, before this meeting/ opening with Carol, during my time at the Orcas Island community Church, I’d discovered the “Restored New Testament” a translation by Will Banstable, which included the Gospel of Thomas. This is worth looking at.

Anyway, we were into the night and had already gone out to dinner and had watched a Brene Brown TED talk on vulnerability and I asked: 


One of Carol’s was: “Be still and know I am God.”

This lit up something in me. 

It’s from the Old Testament, but I know enough about meditation and the wonders of finding the real self that is beneath all the blah blah words words to recognize this as an immensely important piece of wisdom.

In the yammer, in the thinking about even Life and God, or even about “the Now,” words disconnect you from the reality of Life experienced right now.

So, I didn’t know how much Carol applied this in her life, but I knew that this was an indication that she deeply wanted to know the God/ Spirit/ Real World that is deeper than and underneath words.

It turned out that this was a wish of hers that she had immense resistance to in some ways, so good was she at the “Human Doing” side of life, but the hint, the urge, the promise was there: She wanted to and hungered for the “Human Being” side of life.

And for you.

This is a daily practice that you can slip in in brief moments when you go outside and look at the sky or at some tress.

This is a daily practice you can delight in as you sip a cup of tea or coffee and just look out at the world, and avoid all the distraction of “the news,” or your phone, or “thinking” about your “to do” list.

To be present just with an empty mind, even for a few minutes as you sip your coffee can be immensely rewarding.

And taking walks in nature.

And taking the walk to your car.

And something like meditation, taking time to follow your breathing and see what silence you can find.

Don’t fight for silence.

Don’t demand that your mind have no thoughts.

And do, look for the silence between thoughts.

Or, look for the silence out of which thoughts come.

And here’s the best part: even as you are having thoughts or feelings some part of you can be knowing that.

What part is that?

Play with this:

Being still and know that I am God exercise #1

Twice a day, just sit

Maybe as meditation

Maybe on a bench outside

Maybe drinking a  cup of tea or coffee

Have phone off and away

Have eyes opened or closed

Have the intention of allowing yourself the silence of any silence you can find

Do this for at least five minutes, roughly.

If you are “meditating” set a timer

If you are just “hanging out” take a guess toward at least five minutes and notice the urge to get up and “get things done.”

Resist this urge a few times

Enjoy “just being”

This is purposefully vague.

Later, meditation will be one of the suggested pathways, and inside of meditation taking the intention of following awareness rather than the objects of awareness (thoughts, feelings, sensations). 

For now, though, if you meditate, see this as a chance to dwell as much as possible in a quiet mind.

Coffee, tea, nature: hang out with a quiet mind.

There are all sorts of things like “The Dao that can be spoken in not the Dao” that point to the empty quiet at the center of things.

And, that doesn’t matter.

Experience the stillness for yourself.

One breath at a time.

Even now: 

Be still, #2:

Look away from the page

Sense your body and your breathing

Look out a window if there is one

Look at something you might enjoy looking at if there is no window 

Dwell in something like emptiness/ peace/ stillness for just a bit

That’s all.

A slight break can go a long ways.

And here’s a bit more of a break:

Be still, #3:

Go to a window


Move around your arms in some slow and pleasant motion

Bend your legs a little and feel a bit “rooted” into the floor

Enjoy gravity and breathing as two word free experiences

Enjoy whatever you are seeing outside the window

As before, indulge in this delight: TO BE A HUMAN BEING.

This life we have is precious.

We shouldn’t have to wait until we are near death or some loved one has died to realize that.

It’s precious every moment of every day.

And knowing this without words is one way we can feed our souls.


Lust as Touch/ Lust as Puppy/ Lust as Exploration/ Lust as Fun

Week Two - - Day Two

Lust as Curiosity and Play

The Joys of Two Bodies instead of One

(It’s not so serious, this sex/ sensuality thing)


Think of a puppy, rolling in the mud.

It’s joy.

It’s bliss.

The pure delight of life touching the sensuous joy of life.

That’s what you want your touch life to be like.

It that leads to great sex, or wonderful sex, or fantastic sex, fine.

If it stick around in the glory of two bodies that get to touch (think of a mother or a father and their young baby/ child), so be it.





What if “happy ever after” meant this now and the next and the next?

Including THIS NOW, right now.

Including this now, RIGHT NOW.

Including this NOW, right NOW.

INCLUDING this now, right now.

And so on.

Are you smiling?

If not, go ahead. Give it a try.

Happiness #5:


Breathe deeply

Sense your feet

Walk around and look at things 

And touch some of them

Do this with

Curiosity and



Life is meant to be touched.

And while you’re at it, get up again and wander, this time touching things with….

Happiness #6: Your feet


Breathe deeply

Wander around wherever you are

With shoes and socks off

Touch and feel things with your feet


This is the world of children

This is our world at the beach

This is our world in bed


Of course, there’s no rule against shoes and socks off in the house, and many houses do have a rule of shoes off.

This is a good rule.

Consider making your house and shoe free house.

You’ll like it.

So let’s get back to our partners.

We last had a grand time explore their feet and their hands with our hands. Let’s expand this in a way that’s a little silly, and ultimately, profound.

Or, could be profound.

I’ve found.

But what will you find?

We’ll see/ feel/ notice/ realize.

Touching and Relationship Exercise #3:

Touch your partner’s hand with your feet and your hands

For three or four minutes

It’s going to be awkward

Oh, well

You’ll both feel sensations that may well be new

This sounds like a great way to expand a relationship to me




With hands and feet

Have fun

Be silly

Be inquisitive 

What will happen?

This is life.

This is a book for those who want a more full and amazing life.

One way is to clear away your thinking by not believing in it.

Another is to be present and smile and breathe so you are in the midst of your own life as you are living it.

The third is this:

Touch more.

Explore more ways to touch.

As always: be present.



Take it in.

Hint: going slower almost always makes things more vivid.

Find out in that’s true for you.


happiness is...


Week One - - - Day Six

Enlightenment as Happiness

Pursuit of Happiness

Happiness as an Alarm Clock/ Bell weather 

Who you really are?

This is where it’s time to admit it, or not:

Do you think that one reason you are on earth is to be happy?

And not just me/me/me happiness, but to bring a smile to people around you.

(While you have a smile on your face.)

((And in your heart.))

To welcome people into your space.

To smile when you see someone or pass them on the street or on the bike path.

You do walk or ride on a bike path, don’t you? Or in the woods? Or along the water/ creek/ ocean/ backtrail?

You want to be healthy and preferably are healthy, right?

Healthy and happy: is that what you are meant to be?

My guess is yes.

And let’s start with happiness.

Right now.

Happiness Exercise #1: Write five

Write five short sentences about things you love that make you happy.

You know the song: brown paper packages, tied up with strings?

Or you don’t.

Just write, in (gasp) a standalone page in your gratitude journal, five things that you love and that make you happy.

Like so…

“I love to walk outside and look up at the clouds for awhile.”

“I love to make love with Carol.”

“I love to go slowly in this writing and let it evolve as it wants to.”

“I don’t coming back to the present and feeling the aliveness of me in my body.”

“I love the rain just now, as I write this, a very full and wholesome rain.”

I didn’t use the word happiness.

And writing each phrase reminded me of the happiness that is me.



When I pay attention to now or to gratitude or to solving a problem without effecting or to moving slowly with awareness or to being present, I feel like I am happy.

When are you happy.

Happiness Exercise #2:

Make this a background assignment though out the day: notice when you are happy.

If you are reading this late in the day, make the assignment carry over for all of tomorrow.

Notice the little things that make you happy.

Especially pay attention to the little things that have nothing to do with accomplishment or “getting your way.”

Such as?

Such as a leaf blowing in a breeze.

Such as your feet walking you down the hall.

Such as the idea of being aware of happiness.

Such as the vitality of being in the present.

Such as writing slowly in a gratitude journal.

Happiness is simple.

And we often, way too often make ourselves unhappy with our thinking, and believing that thinking.

So, anyone can think: “I wish I’d had a nicer mother.” Or, “ I should have had a nicer mother.”

And they can believe that and feel bad.

Or, they can balance that with: “Well, there were times when she was pretty great.”

Or, “She did the best she could.”

Or, the turn around: “She was grumpy. I am too, sometimes.” “She was mean. I am too, sometimes.”

Or, we can look around the room and see what is here now, and feel our arms and legs now and be grateful to be alive and let the past be passed.

That’s a weirdly huge part of the little bit of enlightenment I have hold of: The past is over.

Wanting the past to have been different never changes the past.

Being present is always possible.

Here’s a huge part of happiness and the beginner’s enlightenment I can pass along:

Happiness Exercise #3: Wherever you are.

Take a deep breath

Sense your finger and toes

Put a smile on your face

Realize that in the present you have choices.

Realize that in the past, you have no choice.

Realize that now you are alive.

Chose gratitude and awareness of being alive right now.

See what that does for you.


Check this out.

This is not positive thinking, “I am happy, I am happy, I am happy.”

This is peaceful non-thinking.

Why waste time wanting the past to be different, one of the impossible tasks in this world?

Why waste time demanding that you are in some other present?

You can stand up. You can walk to another room. You can go outside for a walk.

And right now: you are where you are.

Pay attention to “Now I am aware…” and see if that does not provide relief, if not happiness.

The happiness I’m proposing is a bit like contentment, except that if you really embrace this moment, and the people and nature and “stuff” around you, the whole world can be like an ongoing Christmas morning.


I don’t know.

Do you?

Let’s try:

Happiness Exercise #4

Look around you

Realize that you aren’t dead

Have no thoughts in your head


Don’t believe any you have ( more on this tomorrow)


See everything as a present of Life Right Now

What’s that like?

Suggestion: stand up

Suggestion: do something that you would consider an “energy” exercise, the involves slowly moving your arms above your head and back down

Make it elegant

Squat a little and shift your weight

Be inventive


What’s that like?

And I realize that “energy exercise” is jumping ahead a little.

That’s okay.

We have energy in our bodies. We are bundles of energy. It’s often clogged up.

How could you move in a way to loosen it up?


Happiness Exercise #5

Be like a little kid for awhile




See what happens

Loving What Is/ Stopping Emotional Suffering/ Freedom...The Work of Byron Katie

Week Two - - Day Five

Staying Alive

Your thoughts are still hooey, usually

Don’t believe them without questioning


Week Two - - Day Five

Staying Alive

Your thoughts are still hooey, usually

Don’t believe them without questioning


Like what?

Like: Is that true?

Like: Are you sure?

Like: Is that an opinion or a real fact?

Like: Is that true without any thought about it?

For example: take a pen or a napkin. Hold it in you hand. Let it drop. Don’t believe it will fall.

Does it fall?


Now take a very common thought: my father/ mother should have been nicer.

Is that true?

Is that an opinion or a real fact, like the napkin/ pen falling.

Is that true without a thought about it?

Here’s the weird deal.

Most of us are not around our parents right now. So without thinking they are just a memory.

We can have an opinion about our memory of them.

And is that opinion a fact, like say, that they are so many inches high, or so many years old?

Or alive or dead?

In the present, you are reading these words, and standing or sitting or laying down somewhere, or walking, running, so on.

You can drop a napkin as you run or walk and it will fall.

But for your mother or father to “have been” better can only be a thought experiment. They were what they were. Like it or not.

Hitler was what he was.

No need to condone.

Nor stop the rise of new Hitlers.

And to demand that history have been Hitler free is futile.

The past is over.



Now let’s get really weird. As you read this, sitting across the room from you WHAT IS REAL? Is your father/ mother telling you over and over that you are a fool for reading this book?

Maybe not. 

In your head (you so-thinking, but not, just nonsense in your head) they might be saying: don’t believe this. I am still here giving you a hard time.




You can feel bad. You probably will.

And your feeling bad doesn’t control them.

Common opinion is that they should be nicer around you, and the fact is that they aren’t. Common opinion doesn’t control them.

And do you have choices?


You can leave the room.

You can ask them to be quiet or sing Ave Maria or Here Comes the Sun.

You can agree with them that you are a fool and ask: so what?

You can ask them to complain in French or Russian or Yiddish or Mandarin.

You can ask them to complain in gibberish.

Which is to say: you can ask for changes. You can make changes.

But wishing/ wanting/ thinking they should be nicer in the moment they aren’t being nice: Is that true? Is that true? Is that true?

Is that the same reality that dropping a napkin of a pen is?




Mull this, as we proceed to one of the easiest and most effective routes to inner freedom.

It’s called “the work of Byron Katie.” 

Byron Katie is the stage name, name on books of someone we call Katie.

She had an enlightenment/ wake up moment in 1986. Sometime a long time ago.

She calls it a “moment of clarity.”

She was on a quest to stop at least 10 years of suffering. She’d been overweight and alcoholic and chain smoking and raging at her family for many years. She’d been saying to herself over and over, “I want to die,” and…. she had enough innate wisdom to avoid hurting/ killing herself.

Like anyone who wants to die, what she really wanted to die was her suffering.

And it did.

Mythically, supposedly, as a cockroach walks over her ankle as she’s laying on the floor of a halfway house, feeling too unworthy to even be on a bed.

Cockroach walks over her ankle, she feels, her mind “wakes up” to the simple reality that she does not need to believe any of her thinking.

ANY of it.

It’s all gone, somehow, all her complaints about the world, all her ideas about herself, even simple ideas like “I am a woman,” and “I am a mother.”

Nothing is left.







Enlightenment Exercise #1

Don’t think for three seconds

What’s left?

That’s all.

Just three seconds.

No words/ thoughts/ ideas/ concept about reality.

What’s left?


And, she’s not totally free because her mind kicks in every now and then.

She would have the famous “my mother should have been….” thoughts and she would plummet back to ordinary suffering reality.


She now had a comparison: the bliss of no thoughts, or of not believing her thoughts.

This method came to her:

Judge your neighbor..

Write it down…

Ask four questions…

Turn it around…

Or maybe the four questions came to her. Or maybe one at a time.

Doesn’t matter.

The work/ game/ exercise/ pathway to freedom today is to take four thoughts that make you miserable and ask the four questions about each one of them.

One at a time.

(Katie says she did “the work,” which is these four questions and the turn around, ON HER MOTHER, for three years AFTER SHE WOKE UP>  Trouble/ suffering likes to reappear and reappear until it’s cleaned up. This is the way. Not positive thinking. Not “getting rid of negative thoughts.” 

Forgiveness yes.

And how to forgive?

This is the easiest way, I believe.)

So, let me give the example with my father in my thoughts when I was in the habit of believing them and suffering immensely.

“My father shouldn’t have been so critical.”

Question One: Is it true?

Well, it’s an opinion. Many would wish and agree that their father and my father and most fathers wouldn’t be so critical.

And is it true, like the napkin or the pen falling?


Question Two: Is it absolutely true?

As in…Is the Universe is set up so that this statement is true? Has God made this the Rule?

My father should have been one of the great and wonderful ones who wasn’t critical.



They do exist, and I’d say it’s less than half. Probably less than half of half in modern industrial TV meaningless culture. (What’s your guess as to the percent of non-critical fathers in the world? In the US?)

And that doesn’t matter in my reality, in my chance to make myself suffering or “wake up” from my suffering.

Even if he’s the only critical father in the world, is it part of God’s scheme that he shouldn’t be that one?


This is a tough question or a fun one, this Is it absolutely true?

Basically it’s saying: am I God and I can decry the way reality should be or should have been? Or does God/ Reality get to say that What Was is what was? 

Question Three: How do I react when I believe that?

I ask people to sit or stand in the “I believe the thought/ story” chair or spot.

Returning to our poor me/ bad Dad “story,” I pick In that spot, the “MY Dad shouldn’t have been so critical spot.”


What happens?

This is cause and effect: put in a thought and >>>>

I feel cheated, and weak, a victim and angry. I avoid people who remind me of my father. I’m forever yammering to people about how rotten my father was. Poor me.

Blah, blah.

You know this hole. The victim hole. The poor me hole.

Feels good briefly and there are always others who will help you feel sorry for yourself, and then we all can start to feel: this feels weak, this feels awful, this feels like I’ve spent way, way, way too much time in this feeling.

And who is causing the feeling?


By believing the thought/ story / belief/ opinion.

And is there a choice?

Of course, always a choice.


Jump to a new spot. Move to a new chair.

In the new spot, without the belief, who and what are you.

And don’t take my word for it.

Try it out.

Four times. Two times. Ten times.

And, guess what: start with one time.

One parent.

One ex-spouse.

One estranged sibling.

Go for it.


Don’t Believe Your Thinking Exercise: The Work of Byron Katie

Write down a juicy “should” statement. 

Suggestion, start with one of your parents.

Or an ex-spouse.

Write down a short sentence with a “should.”

Ask the first two questions.

Write down the questions.

Write down the answers. No or Yes.

Get clear: is this an opinion or is this a fact.

Question 3:

Pick a spot or chair where you believe the “should.”

See what that does for you.

Question 4:

Pick a spot or chair where you don’t believe that thought.

Either having no thoughts, as in being present.

Or, simply refusing to believe the thought.

See what that does for you.

Warning: this is almost too good to be true.

Suggestion: deepen this by “learning,” which is noticing differences.

Pick the spot you prefer, the being present spot or the “not believing the thought” spot.

Freedom via Byron Katie Exercise #3 (The first was the turn around exercise)

Go back and forth

The Believe the Thought chair or spot.

The Not Believing chair or spot.

Keep feeling the difference.

In your gut, heart and cells.

Don’t “think” about it.

Know it.

This is silly easy, and had to do.

Most people can’t stand to give up the story, even if it sets them free.

Until they get out of their heads and experience the freedom.

This is not to be thought about.

Do it.

Over and over and over again.

Three times a day for the next three months.

See what happens.

Listening in the Present

Week Two - - - Day Four

Open the Door


Listening without an agenda 


Here’s the deal, as some like/ love to say….

Here’s the deal: we talk and often it’s to hear ourselves talk.

We listen, and it’s to find a hole in the air time to insert our important talking.

We say our important thing and don’t listen to anything that is not, “Oh, what you said is so great.”

To wit:

We talk too much.

We don’t listen enough.


Seems to me, and you can watch your own life and mouth and emotions from now on.

Do you interrupt?

Do you take a pause of a breath or two before you say your bit.

Do you take some time to paraphrase what the other person said before you say your thing?

Do you take some time to ask curiosity questions about what you’ve just been told.

Curiosity questions are very different from accusatory or third degree questions.

And, can we admit and recognize that we sometimes go that route.

Wait, wait: 

Alll these statements seem to be implying that we aren’t perfect.

Hell, yes.

I’m not perfect.

You’re not perfect.



Let’s say that again, because this can be the pathway to real ease and love and liking. In life. With your mate. With your children. With your siblings, co-workers, neighbors, friends and especially…. ex-friends and ex-lovers.

I’m not perfect….

You’re not perfect…



Ta da.

So, we interrupt others.

Others interrupt us.

We are excited to get our own bit in and don’t want to listen.

Others are excited to get their own bit in and don’t want to listen.

We aren’t present when we listen.

Others aren’t present when they listen.

We aren’t present when we talk.

Others aren’t present when we talk.

Big deal: welcome to humanity.

And, big big deal:


So today we are going to start the timed talking exercises.

If you’ve been together awhile, there is a tendency to use a platform of talking for four minutes to “dump” all the accumulated garbage of your relationship.

Here’s the deal (that’ll be this chapters running joke)

Here’s the deal: We all have accumulated garbage


Almost everyone either stuffs it and gets more and more unhappy/ agitated / miserable/ resentful


Blurts it out and scalds the other person..

Later we’ll figure out what to do with the garbage you want to let out and even that will be in two stages ( First, letting out the garbage as gibberish. Second, saying it from the “I feel…” form, with an added. “And if I take this from your best possible intentions, here’s one way I can see this….”)

For now though, we’re going to start the really, really, really important “work” of listening from being present and listening without interrupting.

And in this chapter: listening without commenting on what the other person said.

So, here’s the deal….

Listening / Turns Talking Exercise #1:

Sit facing your mate.

Or co-worker, friend, even a willing stranger.

Agree that you will talk in turns.

Agree that the goal is to be present to body, light and sound:

While you talk 


While you listen.

Set the timer for four minutes.

One person talks of

  1. Gratitudes

  2. What they are aware of as sensation, sight or hearing, in the present.

  3. No “feelings”

  4. No “thoughts”

  5. No judgments, even seemingly non-judgmental, like “It’s too hot,” or “It’s hot.” …. “My skin on my leg feels warm” is in reality. But the judgment “It’s too hot” or “It’s hot” is a good habit to leave behind.  (In this exercise and in life in the full)

The other person listens.

  1. Just listens.

  2. Following your breathing and sensing arms and legs as per the Gurdjieff meditation

  3. Paying attention to reflected light coming in your eyes and sound coming in your ears, as per the Gurdjieff meditation.

  4. Noticing the wise/ helpful/ argumentative/ whatever comments you want to say.

  5. Realizing that these are comments you WILL NOT SAY. DURING THE TALK, OR AFTER THE TALK.




The timer goes off.

Bow to each other.

Take a few deep breaths looking at and smiling to each other.

Switch directions.

Go the other way for four minutes.

Then switch two more times, at least, so each person has at least twice to talk. 

Three times is better.


How Carol and I feel in love, part three:

We had a luncheon meeting.

About my book.

We talked a bit about it.

Then I suggested the listening in turns exercise, which was part of the book.

We talked for five minutes each.

Back and forth.


Back and forth


Back and forth

For about three hours.

Then I asked if she’d seen the Brene Brown TED talk on vulnerability. No. We watched it and more wonders happened.

And, crucial was all that time listening, listening, listening. 

Discovering who the other person was.

This is a wonderful way to connect.

Again and again and again.

Try it and see what happens.


Full Time Meditation... the "Gurdjieff" Meditation. Fun, full, amazing... like you

Week Two - - Day Three

Being Present in Three Layers

The Gurdjieff Meditation

I “wasted” 15 years of my life doing carpentry and garden design to sharpen and deepen this meditation.

It is the best I’ve discovered for having a real life and combining that with having your attention deeply and clearly on and in the present.

You can do it right now as you read this. Or walk to your next place.

I can do it right now, as I write this. Or walk to my next place.

It doesn’t require eyes closed.

Wasted mean this: I put my time and attention into getting better at being truly present in my mind and body.

How you spend your time and attention is what is important to you.

How you spend your time and attention is what is important to you.

Start now.

The Gurdjieff Meditation:

Part One:

Sit at the edge of your bed or on a chair.

Sit upright.

Close your eyes.

Sense the tips of the toes of your right foot.

All five.

Keeping them in sensing/ awareness go up the toes.

Go up the foot.

Go up the ankle.

Keep everything “lit up” with sensing and awareness as you go up.

Sense up slowly, all your leg and knee, up to your right hip.

Hang out their for awhile.

Enjoy the flooded, lit up feeling in your entire leg.

Do this as long as you want.

Keep your eyes closed.

Breathe deeply and with joy.


Gurdjieff Meditation, Park Two

Keeping the right leg and toes all “lit up”

Sense your right fingertips as well

And then move slowly slowly

Up your right hand

Up your right wrist

Up your right arm

Include the elbow

All the way to your shoulder joint.

Enjoy the feeling of this “lit up” right side: arm and leg.

As long as you want.

Feel the difference, side to side.

Feel the fullness of sensing your arm and leg.

Realize how HUGE a piece of you this is.


Part Three:

Keeping the right arm and legs in sensing/ awareness/ lit up mode

Add on :

Left shoulder

Left arm

Down through your left elbow

Out through left hand

Left fingers

Left fingertips

Exult in all three: both arms and your right leg

Enjoy this.

Feel the three out of four.

Feel the amazing miracle of being you.




Part Four:

Keep all three in awareness and “lit up.”

Add on:

Left hip

Left thigh

Left knee

Left lower leg




Toe tips, all of the left toes

Enjoy all four

Enjoy the full you

Feel your breathing in the center

And mainly 

Feel how firm and full this feels with both arms and both legs

Take this a a gift to yourself

For joy realize this is “inner attention”

Feel it as reality.


Part Five:

Keep all four in lit up awareness and sensing.

Add on hearing.

Notice outside sounds coming into your brain.


For as long as you wish.


Notice the miracle of inner PLUS outer attention..


Part Six

Keep arms and legs “lit” up

Keep awareness of sound coming in your ears

Open your eyes

Pay attention to reflected light coming in your eyes

Enjoy this.

Notice: inner and outer attention







Grand Canyon

Grand Canyon

Stop Suffering..... Don't Believe your "Thinking"


Day Five

Don’t Believe Your Own Thinking (Words in your Head)

Clearing the Pathway for Love 

(and “Enlightenment”)

Being in Reality vs Being in the nonsense/ beliefs/ words

Here is some sad but true news: we are all crazy.


Here’s is some liberating and amusing news: we are all crazy.

We love someone, and we obsess about how they need to change.

In spite of a lifetime of evidence, we imagine we are blameless and that any trouble is “Your fault.”

We call the kettle black: other people are selfish, or inconsiderate, or rude or any one of the traits that we drift (or plunge) into when we fall into our own moments of stress or forgetfulness or foolishness (or tiredness or assholeness).

Alas: We are so SURE that if so and so would just straighten up, all would be well in the world.

If they would just CHANGE all would be good again. Of course, that we might change our behavior or our own thinking or our own beliefs, this doesn’t occur to us.


Usually is the kicker.

We aren’t perfect. We are all assholes sometimes.


The sooner and the easier and the more humorously we can catch our fall into the “you are to blame, just fix yourself” mode, the sooner we can laugh and love and be free again. To NOT forgive is the swallow the rat poison and hope the other person dies.

This chapter is a chance to begin to practice this dance of jumping out of our old stuck perspective and realizing that we have the major say in our own misery.

Actually: it’s more severe than that: almost all our first world suffering (first world suffering as emotional vs third world suffering as starving or our houses being bombed or our lives in violence) is an inside job.

Who makes us miserable, when we are?

We do.

We are miserable because we believe our own thinking.




Since we cause this suffering, we can “un-cause” it. How?

Stopping believing our thinking. (And by “thinking” I mean words in our head that are judging and blaming reality. Real thinking is of the try this and see what happens. Try something else and see what difference happens. In fact, we are going to use “real thinking” to compare the difference: how are we when we believe our thinking vs how are we when we don’t believe our own thinking.)

Sounds too simple.

It is.

Read on…

A real life story when I discovered my assholeness….

Here’s a little story about a nice “turn around” with a fourteen year old that I was certain was being the “Stupid/ bad/ selfish” one. In my stupid (and suffering) state, I was quite clear: she needed to change.

This story takes place in Sonoma, around 2000, in the summer. I’d gotten over the trauma of a gal named Sally Ann running off with a man named Joe. I’d stopped believing my thinking that she was meant to stick around and argue with me. And I had stopped believing my own thinking that no one else great would show up in my life.

And then Celeste did. A perky yoga teacher, who shared gardening and bike riding and a general love of nature with me.

We grew fonder and fonder of one another, and then couldn’t restrain ourselves to two residences. So I came to spend the night with her.

Off in a huff went Lara, her fourteen year old daughter. Her father and Celeste had been unhappy for many years and had been apart for almost a year, and that didn’t matter to her: she didn’t want her Mom living with her new guy.

There I was.

Off she went. In a huff. In the middle of the night. Big drama. Big show.

And she’s fourteen, right? She’s a pain in the ass, nasty to her Mom, the whole usual teenage thing.

And me in all my wisdom, decide to get all twisted about her being “selfish.”

Which I could make a great case for; after all wasn’t she throwing hissy fit after hissy fit? (I.e. acting 14).

And then a pleasant and slightly stunning light bulb went on: I was the selfish one.


When Lara threw her hissy fits, it upset her mom, and so Celeste and I had less fun.

This upset MY selfish wish to have great times, all the time, with Celeste.


I was a hypocrite (this has been discovered since, many times) and that was funny and a relief. She was selfish. I was selfish. So be it.

And guess what? Once my mind got clear, our relationship got clear. Like this:

One day she was over visiting us and I decided to tell her my discovery about me being the “selfish” one.

What teenager doesn’t want to hear an adult admit that they are an ass?

She lightened up and when I left to go to a garden I was caring for, she shouted out after me, “Goodbye, Selfish Chris.”

We were friends ever after, including some very interesting times when Celeste and I had amicably decided to part and Celeste super quickly found the husband that was just right for her.

And you?

And me?

First we can remember that this is such a common occurrence that there is a folk phrase: WHEN I STICK OUT ONE FINGER IN ACCUSATION, THREE FINGERS ARE POINTING BACK AT ME.

Second, we can make a game of this, of course.

Don’t Believe Your Thinking Exercise #1: One finger out, three back.

Think of someone you’ve got a nice juicy one word condemnation for. Selfish. Lazy. Avoidant. Whatever.

Be accusative: point your hand, one finger out at some imaginary them. Let yourself be all crunched in and tight breathed when you believe this story.


Stand straighter. Wiggle your body a little. Look at some nature if you can. And then….

JUMP to a new spot, and pick one of the fingers that is pointing toward you. Smile and discover one way, this is you, too. If so and so is mean or selfish or inconsiderate, find one way that you are.

Alas, and then…

JUMP to another freedom spot, and pick another finger pointing back toward you. Smile, breathe deeply and find one more way this is you.

Alas, three fingers pointing back. JUMP a third time, and feel the third finger pointing back and find, alas, one more way this is YOU TOO. Yep. YOU TOO.

You and the other: imperfect humans. Damn! or, Goody!

Now make sure you did that.

It’s not something we usually like to do.

It’s something we are very glad, once we’ve done it.

And … and the eating crow part, the admitting our own flaw part, is usually not popular.

At first. 

Here’s a not believing our own thinking game / reframe, that’a little easier to pull off, and hence can be part of our daily strategy.

When: only when we are unhappy.

You mean we can “un-do” our unhappiness?

Find out…..

Don’t Believe Your Own Thinking Exercise #2: Jump to Gratitude

This is a learning game. They all are.

Stand on some spot that you’ll call and feel as the “blame spot.” Once there, think more consciously the blame thoughts you are already thinking about some other “bad/ imperfect/ to blame/ yucky” person in your life.

There is almost always a SHOULD or SHOULDN’T attached to your story about them.

Write down the should/ shouldn’t thought.

Feel what happens to you when you believe this.


Jump to another spot and say aloud five gratitudes.

How do you feel now


Go back to the blame/ should / shouldn’t spot, and feel how that feels.


Then, relax a bit.

Stand up straighter.

Look at something real, preferably nature outside.

Take a deep breath.

Wiggle your body from fingers to toes.

Now JUMP, really, Jump to another spot, and in that spot say aloud six gratitudes.

Three gratitudes for life in general. 

Three gratitudes/ appreciations for the “bad/ yucky” person.

Feel what happens to your body, mind, heart, soul and breathing as you do then.


This isn’t bullshitting.

This is core to a good life.

We can choose the blame spot, and ….. happens.

We can choose/ jump to the gratitude and appreciation spot and … happens.

Notice: this isn’t being “good.”

This is being smart/ wise/ kind to ourselves.




We’ve already experienced the power of gratitude.

And we’ve made it explicit that learning is noticing a difference that makes a difference.

Here we are jumping to a different spot, to have a gratitude based outlook on reality.

And experiencing the difference.

And… we can always slink back, temporarily, to the grumpy/ blame spot.

Gratitude, and we get one result.

Blame and should/ shouldn’t and we get another.

And some part of us can experience deeply this sad and brutal truth: where we put our attention determines our inner “weather.”

Which means: we can chose happiness or suffering.

In the mere jumping to a different view of the world.

A game worth playing. Any time we are miserable with a bunch of should or shouldn’t accusations in our minds.