I read a brilliant post by astrologist and modern mystic Joan Pancoe last week that I thought was so insightful and helpful. Joan’s bio on her website describes her as ” a gifted trance channel, karmic astrologer and spiritual teacher in private practice in New York City since 1976″. I wanted to share her message with you. Here is her original post: http://joanpancoe.com/newsletter.php?id=8 . I am providing my perspectives on this approach below, but highly recommend reading Joan’s post (and signing up for her newsletters).
What are our “if onlys”. These are the things we strive for in our life, that we delude ourselves into believing will provide a permanent happy and fulfilled state. Examples of “if onlys” include:
- Physical body: I lost 10 lbs., I didn’t have this disease or condition, I looked like my younger self, I didn’t have this feature, etc.
- Emotional body: I wasn’t so … (fill in any thought that is related to low self-esteem and worth), depressed, sad, stuck, etc.
- Outside world: Got a new job or advanced in my current one, got a degree, got a house, got a new car, got a bigger house, got a partner/spouse, had a child, had more children, had grandchildren, had more money, etc.
We believe that when we obtain one of these “if only” goals that we will find this sense of wholeness, acceptance, and being sated. Obtaining the goal will change who we are. We may also believe once we obtain this goal, that the world will also reflect back to us now we are whole, accepted, acknowledged and loved. We believe this even though past experience shows us when we obtain a goal, the happiness is temporary. Eventually, maybe in a few hours, weeks, or years, we will find a seed of dissatisfaction that grows and create a new “if only”. In an egoic sense, this keeps us focused on this elusive future, rather than being based on the present and seeing all the good in our life, exactly as it is in the present moment. This is not to say there won’t be challenges in your life that can be extremely challenging to deal with in the present but there will always be some good in our life mixed in with the challenges, that may translate to blessings or transformations in the future.
Exercise # 1: Make a list of your “if onlys”
Now, if we examine these “if onlys” through the lens of Byron Katie’s “Loving What Is’ approach, we can start to awaken, snap out of this pattern of having our state of wholeness and happiness dependent on a future perfect state of being or goal being accomplished, and wake up to what is here in the present. We assume the goals/people/situations/events we are pursuing will bring us happiness. Going through Byron Katie’s four key questions allow us to see that may not be the case and puts more focus on what we have in the present (and can we make our peace with that and find joy in the here and now). The key message to get with this exercise is that our thoughts of lack and not being or having enough in the present create suffering and if we can reorient ourselves as we think about ourselves in the present, we may find ourselves overflowing with abundance and love, and have all we need.
Exercise # 2: Plug in each of your “if only” beliefs into the four questions and see what answers you get. It’s helpful if you can make your mind like a blank slate before you ask the question and let go of your stories. Be like a curious child looking at this question for the first time.
Here is a guide to Byron Katie’s four questions (from her website: http://thework.com/instruction-the-work-byron-katie/ ). She also has worksheets you can download, so you can print off one for each “if only”. You can also explore her book “Loving What Is” to understand how the questions work and are applied. She has videos as well on YouTube where she uses these questions on workshop attendees. The real-world examples from people attending her workshops discussed in her book or shown on her videos really help you better understand the four questions below.
The Four Questions:
Q1. Is it true?
The answer to the first two questions is just one syllable: either yes or no. Be still and find your honest yes or no as it arises to meet the question. If your answer shows up as a yes, move to question 2. If it’s no, then experience that no for a moment and then move to question 3.
Q2. Can you absolutely know that it’s true?
If your answer to question 1 is yes, ask yourself: “Can I absolutely know that it’s true?” Take this opportunity to look again. Shine the flashlight on that moment in time again, and see what reveals itself to you.
Q3. How do you react, what happens, when you believe that thought?
Close your eyes and witness the feelings, body sensations, and behaviors that arise when you believe that thought. Notice and report the answers to any of the following:
What images do you see, past or future, and what emotions or physical sensations arise as you witness those images?
How did you treat the other person?
How did you treat yourself?
Do any obsessions or addictions begin to appear when you believe that thought?
Q4. Who would you be without that thought?
Closing your eyes, return to the situation. Take a moment to reflect, observe, and experience the situation again, this time without the thought. Who or what you would be without the thought? How would you see or feel about the other person? Drop all of your judgments. Notice what is revealed.
The key idea to get from this examination of our “if onlys”, is that we can turn these if-only thoughts around we can let go of this suffering and live in the present in a more joy and gratitude-filled state. This doesn’t mean we don’t set goals and strive for things in our life, or we disown success; it means we don’t pin our identity and happiness to those things, so if people, material items, or roles/jobs leave our lives, we don’t find ourselves being empty again.
Give this exercise a try without attachment and see what you find out about yourself. You may find yourself feeling liberated when you didn’t even realize you had these energy cords tied to your future.