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Living lightly - Living Freely

Taken from The Saanich News:
LETS TALK October 18, 2007

Paul Beckow M.Sc. R.P.C.
Individual, couple, and Family Counsellor

For years, I’ve been very curious about what it takes to really be satisfied and content in our lives.

Perhaps my curiosity began at thirteen when my parents separated and my mother explained to me: “Your dad and I just weren’t happy together anymore.”

I wondered, how can that happen? Not happy anymore? It struck me as very strange - and very sad.

Or maybe this interest appeared because I could see the stress, confusion, and mischief I could create in my own life - and it shocked me.

Or perhaps my curiosity was driven by my desire to substantially contribute to my clients in their search for clarity, freedom, and power with their life situation.

Whatever the reasons, I was committed to uncovering the secrets of being contented in life. I decided I wasn’t going to settle for anything less than the mastery of being the source of my own satisfaction and happiness.

So I got down to work.

In my exploration I came upon insights that firmly rocked my world and my findings have been organized into clear principles and practices, all part of a course I now lead called: Living Lightly – Living Freely.

What are some of these discoveries?

First I saw: Events themselves don’t make me feel

To begin with, I came upon a truth so basic and simple that it’s power remains invisible and, even if noticed, regularly disregarded. I saw that, to use the words of the Greek philosopher Epictetus: “People are disturbed not by what happens to them, but by their thoughts about what happens to them.”

It was true! I could say with certainty, whenever I experienced a stressful feeling – anything from mild discomfort to sorrow, anger, anxiety - I could see that there was regularly a specific thought that had appeared that caused my reaction.

I could see it wasn’t really the events of my life that caused my feelings and moods - but my thoughts, my “stories”, my inner dialogue, the things I was saying to myself, what I believed to be true ABOUT the events.

That’s what Will Rogers meant: “I have had many terrible experiences in my life. A few of them actually happened!”

Looking within

This insight directed my attention and curiosity inward. To the thoughts. To the chatter. Rather than explain my feelings as though they were directly caused by what was happening (or happened) in the external world, I began to look within.

What was the nature of these reactions, thoughts, and stories? What were their concerns, attentions, desires, opinions. What were they driving at?

When I looked closer I saw an enormous amount of fussing and self-interest - opinions, fears, hopes, strategies. Always a sense “I’m right” “I know” “I want”. “I don’t want”. A sense of protection, of striving, of trying to get somewhere, of wanting, things not being enough.

Further, I could see if I thought something to myself, I unquestionably believed it. I rarely re-examined challenged or inquired into the truth of my thoughts.

This startled me. My thoughts and stories gave me my experience, my world, and the quality of my life. Yet they remained un-investigated or questioned. Specially if my thoughts caused emotion. I could see I was often lost or asleep in my “stories.” And this was my life. My unconscious and unexmained life.

I began to question my thoughts.

It was then I noticed a lot of what I was saying to myself, while on first cut I believed it to be true and real, wasn’t true or real at all.

The present moment and reality.

Next I saw something else. I saw there was a vast difference between the reality of this moment right here, right now, - and the thoughts or “stories” I was telling myself.

Reality is a very pointed here-and-now thing. Reality was found in the present moment. My stories were not real. They were “stories” – descriptions, made of words. They were not real life.

For example, it’s clear reading about last night’s hockey game in the morning newspaper, while informative, is not the same as being at the hockey game. Not at all. The two are different as night and day.

My aunt Ruth wasn’t my story of her. That was simply a story. My work wasn’t my story of my work. Although it definitely seemed so to me.

I wondered: So what is real? And who would I be without my thoughts or stories? It was then that I began to settle down and quietly watch.

Investigating thought

At this point in my exploration, I met the author Byron Katie through her book “Loving What Is”. “Katie,” as she’s called, designed an amazing way to examine and inquire into our thoughts and their impact on our experience of life.

For her, the way to end anxiety and suffering is to investigate the thinking behind it. She invented a set of simple yet profound questions to do this, questions which when asked and engaged in authentically, produced release and whole new perspectives.

The inquiry teaches freedom through the very thoughts that are creating our stress or unhappiness. “My husband doesn’t support me” “Work is going to do me in. “My daughter is selfish” “Alice doesn’t like me.”

Katie promises that anyone can do this.

All is well

Using the tools of inquiry, I saw that when I began to watch and question this way, there was a strong sense of release from thoughts that were causing me to tighten and contract With this practice, a natural ease and joy seemed to awaken in me, a sense of choice appeared, and I began to experience an exciting new possibility.

I saw I could begin to notice each stress-full thought and undo it before it could take root. By watching openly, quietly, without believing so many of my thoughts, stories of quarrel and resistance lightly disappear. I am left, simply, present.

That’s when I saw that without me and my story, the fact was - I already was free and satisfied! The natural state in my life - in life period - was free and peaceful.

Nothing was wrong. There may be a real life situation to respond to, but nothing was wrong. The truth seemed to be “All is well”.

I was getting my hands on the magic wand. I was discovering what it takes to look after my own satisfaction and well-being. My search was bearing fruit.

Today it has become my passion to share this work and this exploration with others.

Living Lightly – Living Freely. Beginning Thursday eve, October 26. Paul shares this work and exploration in a six evening course. If you’d like to register or for more information, call the Victoria Family Institute 250-721-2477.


For personal or couple counselling, for more information, or to register for a course - please contact Paul Beckow at The Victoria Family Institute.

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