The past two days I have spent my lunch breaks re-reading Loving What Is by Byron Katie. Her perspective and ideas repeatedly blow my mind. Every time I open the book I feel like my world is shifted, my stress eased, and my mind made more clear. Today’s mind grenade:
People often ask me if I had a religion before 1986, and I say yes- it was “my children should pick up their socks.” This was my religion, and I was totally devoted to it, even though it never worked. Then one day, after The Work was alive in me, I realized that it simply wasn’t true. The reality was that day after day, they left their socks on the floor, after all my years of preaching and nagging and punishing them. I saw that I was the one who should pick up the socks if I wanted them picked up. My children were perfectly happy with their socks on the floor. Who had the problem? It was me. It was my thoughts about the socks on the floor that had made my life difficult, not the socks themselves. And who had the solution? Again, me. I realized that I could be right, or I could be free.
It took just a few moments for me to pick up the socks, without any thought of my children. And an amazing thing began to happen . I realized that I loved picking up their socks. It was for me, not for them. It stopped being a chore in that moment, and it became a pleasure to pick them up and see the uncluttered floor. Eventually, they noticed my pleasure and began to pick up their socks on their own, without my having to say a thing.
What are the “socks on the ground” that are causing you stress? I don’t have children so I don’t actually have little pairs of socks on the floor that are causing me agony day after day, but that is Byron Katie’s whole point: everyone’s problems are essentially the same no matter how big or small they are. What is hurting us is the way we think about them. After reading this passage I was able to look into my own life and pinpoint some of my own “socks on the ground.”
I don’t think Byron Katie is suggesting that a mother let her kids trash the house and she happily pick up their garbage while singing like Snow freakin’ White. I think she is merely saying that the reality is that they are leaving their socks on the ground, so having thoughts like “they shouldn’t be doing this” doesn’t get you anywhere. If you read the pages before and after this excerpt, it helps you to understand a little more.
What is already true is much better without any plan of mine. I’m so glad of that. My life is so simple, now that I no longer rule the world in my mind. And my children and friends are very grateful.
Thank you, Byron Katie, for writing things like this. For helping us control freaks of the world to slowly but surely learn to let go and be free.