Working directly with our own FEAR

fearless image papaya art.jpg

Life is full of opportunities and challenges. Fear can limit us in both. We can learn to work skillfully and compassionately with our own fear through directly engaging our fearful thinking with inquiry. From a place of more clear relationship to our own fear, we can act more clearly and wisely, and can also access more learning, growth and connection right in the thick of what scares us.

What do we do with our fear?

People say “Be Fearless!” and I have noticed that is much easier said than done. It is also not always helpful to repress our fears, or to hold our breath, close our eyes and push through it (the “Just DO IT” approach) which sometimes works to get us over an initial hesitation, and other times lands us in stressful territory without our full capacity available because we are still struggling with our fear and stressful thoughts. A fearful mind is not very open and creative and adrenaline only gets us so far.

I have found the practice of The Work to be profoundly helpful in working with the fears that hold me back in all areas of my life. Both in my personal relationships and also it has enabled me to step in to offer myself and my professional work in places I would formerly not even imagined stepping into. It has been very powerful also in my coaching work with leaders, performers, parents... we all experience it, and the patterns of how it can limit us are far reaching. We fear conflict, uncertainty, disconnection, blame, our own competence, judgement from others, pain, disaster, failure (and success..) and even fear our own fear a lot of the time.

The fear of fear often stops us from really engaging with our own fear, learning from it, untangling it... The process of The Work - identifying what we are believing (and are triggered by) and then using the powerful questions to really inquire allows us to have a much more clear and intimate relationship with our own fearful thinking. To know it, but not be ruled by it. When I “Work” my fears, I find it makes me smarter, more compassionate, more agile in my thinking, and helps me deal with what is in front of me clearly and with the appropriate amount of energy. If what I am afraid of happens then I am available to deal with it in a clear way if and when it happens, rather than scaring myself and wearing myself out imagining all the possible terrible outcomes.

Many of us have a deep underlying belief that we need to be afraid. That it keeps us safe. That rehearsing the worst possible outcomes in our minds ahead of time (over and over...) will somehow prepare us, will make it easier, that we will suffer less.


Can you absolutely know it is true you NEED to be afraid? That it actually helps you?
What if that is not true? What if we don’t need fear in order to be alert and intelligent? In my own many years of inquiry around fear - from swimming with sharks to raising teenagers to facilitating challenging meetings with high conflict - I have found it turns out not to be true.

I am not against fear, and I do still experience it. I just find I don’t actually need it, and that the cost of running from it and staying caught in it is very high, in my effectiveness and my well being. And I find that when I work with it using the powerful inquiry practice of The Work, rather than react to it or repress it, I am a happier, more effective person with more options.
What are the fears that are causing you stress, using up your valuable resources and just might be limiting you?

Check it out for yourself with The Work by writing them down and inquiring.

Transforming Limiting Beliefs - The WORK in Estonia

I had the privilege and pleasure of offering a 3 day deep dive retreat in Estonia this summer working with an amazing group of people - many from Estonia, and other travelling from Lithuania, Sweden and France. It is so powerful when we have the opportunity of a retreat to really take the time to host ourselves with good practice, food, rest and company of others on the journey, and also gives the time and space to become aware of, and begin to work with, the deeper patterns that underly the places we get stuck. Thanks to my amazing Estonian hosts Piret Jeedas and Kati Orav and all who showed up with such curiosity, courage and friendship.

Beyond the Basics in Europe

Hosting ourselves, each other, our work in the world

I was invited by some amazing European colleagues and had the privilege of co-hosting a 3 day intensive training with 95 leaders and change-makers from more than 17 European countries this July. As always, it is as much an opportunity for me to learn and meet amazing people as share some of my offerings.

Alongside great conversation, explorations of complexity, power, approaches to working on challenging, complex problems over the long term, we took a morning to dive into the crucial area of hosting ourselves in the form of working with our own stuck places, fears and patterns.

In order to be able to fully step into the challenges we are facing - both the large scale, deeply complex issues like transforming our financial system, or poverty, or racism...and the seemingly smaller but sometimes also challenging areas of how we collaborate and work through our differences in our teams, families and communities - we need rigorous and compassionate personal practice to allow us not just to move through the places we get triggered or stuck, but to actually fully engage the learning that is available at that threshold.

It is always a powerful experience to sit in a circle of our colleagues and make visible the often hidden territory of our own shadowed thinking, and to hear the patterns and shared places we get stuck. It is a first, valuable step in bringing these patterns to light where we can work with them - individually and collectively. Noticing the patterns of belief about our own value or our own capacity to show up and do the work (“I don’t have enough experience”); our judgements and assumptions about other people or groups of people (“They don’t get it” “They can’t be trusted”); our fears of what will happen (“it will fail” “I will lose my job” “people will get hurt”), and also the big fears that can immobilize us (“it is too late” “the problems are too big”.)

And it is not enough just to see and hear the beliefs and patterns that are holding us back. We need to engage deeply and skillfully with them so that we can learn what we need to learn for our own evolution, and to allow for the evolution of our work in the world to come from new ways of thinking.

Ongoing good work to be doing together. And a powerful, wonderful and engaging 3 days with our European colleagues and friends at Art of Hosting, Beyond the Basics Europe.

Without my Story

A poem from my dear friend and mate in the work of life, Tim Merry. Written on a napkin on our back porch – after a week of good work in friendship, music, forest walks and talks, delicious food and a touch of apricot wine.



What would I be without my story?
Of the whispering mind
Cop in the head
Put to Bed
Not even snoring
Just Breath

Who would I be without my stories?
Like a tree
Without the rustle of the leaves
Winter mind
To the Inside
Inside the inside
A space so wide
It has no centre
Because it is centre

Thanks Tim!

Peace, power and warrior of the heart

Can’t You See the Mighty Warrior?

How often you ask,

What is my path?

What is my cure?

He has made you a seeker of Unity,

isn’t that enough?

All your sorrow exists for one reason -

that you may end sorrow forever.

The desire to know your own soul

will end all other desires.

The smell of bread has reached you -

if that aroma fills you with delight

what need is there for bread?

If you have fallen in love,

that love is proof enough;

If you have not fallen in love,

what good is all your proof?

Can’t you see? -

If you are not the King

what meaning is there

in a kingly entourage?

If the beautiful one is not inside you

what is that light

hidden under your cloak?

From a distance you tremble with fear -

Can’t you see the mighty warrior

standing ready in your heart?

The fire of his eyes

has burned away every veil,

So why do you remain behind the curtain,

scared of what you cannot see? -

Open your eyes! The Beloved

is staring you right in the face!

If a master has not placed

His light in your heart,

What joy can you find in this world? -

every flower is lifeless,

and sweet wine has no taste.

~ Rumi ~

Reflections on the Warrior without War

I am very moved in my life and practice by this sense of the Warrior and what that can mean for me in my journey of peace. There is an energy in the concept of Warrior that intrigues me, that I experience and touch deep inside myself in times of deep presence and clarity. It is something that appears to serve me in my work with myself and others in such a loving and powerful way. That supports me in looking fearlessly and directly at life and experience, and taking in the beauty of whatever shows up. It seems to be a thread in that energy that moves me swiftly when I just seem to know what to do.

What is this ‘warrior’ that is not fighting and has no violence in it? That holds me in possibility of a deeper kind of peace that has both a gentleness and a fierceness to it. And yet there is power and a kind of sharpness there. It can have both weight and lightness to it.

I became very aware of this place in myself a few years ago when I began Tae Kwon Do martial arts training. It surprised me how I was drawn to the energy of ’Warrior’. As a person with a strong value of non-violence I had to sit with it for awhile to find what was true for me in what I was experiencing. I could easily have named it aggression and turned away from it, but when I sat with it, I could tell that’s not what it is for me. Not when it is clear. It seems like aggression, fear and competition can attach itself to that source, but they are not the source itself. There was something else there that I recognized as part of me, and that was clear and strong and loving. What I am naming Warrior, and hear as Warrior in Rumi, lives beneath the thoughts and beliefs that distort it and enlist it for war. And ignoring or suppressing or simplifying that to ’bad’ felt like killing off a beautiful and important (though mysterious) part of myself that I sensed I would need for this journey I was taking with myself and out into life.

When I am still with this energy it in its pure form, I remember it well – as a child stepping out into the world – speaking something true for me; as a young woman heading off to the university of my choice. I remember it from falling in love, giving birth to my children, holding my father's hand when he was dying and looking straight into his beautiful blue eyes. I feel it when I say ‘no’ from an honest place and when I say ‘yes’ from an honest place. I feel it when I open to a powerful question, get still and really take a close look.

I have many amazing teachers in this ongoing practice of connecting to my own honest, peaceful warrior. Bryon Katie shows up for me in this learning so powerfully with the clarity of the Work she offers in inquiry, and the fierce and gentle love as she holds space for others to find their own peace and power – willing to travel anywhere for the love of truth (
I also continue to be in rich learning with my Warrior of the Heart Senei’s and mates Bob Wing and Toke Moller (
And with the work these mentors of mine offer in the world, I can find the wise teacher in myself, and work with whatever ‘war’ is left inside me that would keep me from engaging with my own ‘warrior’ energy in the world in a peaceful, wise and loving way.
I can often feel it when it gets mixed up, and I am so grateful to have these tools to open to that, look directly, learn and shift. The journey continues…

Loving the questions

Sometimes in this Work and in the path of inquiry to find peace in ourselves in can feel overwhelming. Every inquiry brings more stressful thoughts and beliefs in to awareness and it can seem endless. If I believe that I will never be free until I resolve it all – it can close me down to so much of the journey, which turns out to be my life – the parts that are opening and the parts that still feel confusing and closed. When I try to force the unfolding – I am out of my own business and into the business of life. I create violence in my attempts at peace. I notice that when I ask myself the questions – and then open and just wait – I get what I need.

After a powerful walk in the Work today – a client of mine sent me this beautiful quote that holds a lot of truth for me.

Rainer Marie Rilke wrote:

“Have patience with everything unresolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves as if they were locked rooms or books written in a very foreign language. Don’t search for the answers, for they could not be given you now, because you would not be able to live them. And the point is to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps, then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer.”

The Winter of Listening by David Whyte (The House of Belonging)

No one but me by the fire,
my hands burning
red in the palms while
the night wind carries
everything away outside.

All this petty worry
while the great cloak
of the sky grows dark
and intense
round every living thing.

What is precious
inside us does not
care to be known
by the mind
in ways that diminish
its presence.

What we strive for
in perfection
is not what turns us
into the lit angel
we desire,

what disturbs
and then nourishes
has everything
we need.

What we hate
in ourselves
is what we cannot know
in ourselves but
what is true to the pattern
does not need
to be explained.

Inside everyone
is a great shout of joy
waiting to be born.

Even with the summer
so far off
I feel it grown in me
now and ready
to arrive in the world.

All those years
listening to those
who had
nothing to say.

All those years
how everything
has its own voice
to make
itself heard.

All those years
how easily
you can belong
to everything
simply by listening.

And the slow
of remembering
how everything
is born from
an opposite
and miraculous
Silence and winter
has led me to that

So let this winter
of listening
be enough
for the new life
I must call my own. 

The Journey by Mary Oliver

One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
kept shouting
their bad advice–
though the whole house
began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.
“Mend my life!”
each voice cried.
But you didn’t stop.
You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried
with its stiff fingers
at the very foundations,
though their melancholy
was terrible.
It was already late
enough, and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen
branches and stones.
But little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do–
determined to save
the only life you could save.

This poem resonates for me with all the amazing and courageous people that I have the honour of travelling with in my hosting of the Work. A deep bow to all of us in this mysterious journey to knowing ourselves.

Leadership and work with an open mind and heart

Self-Inquiry and the Work of Byron Katie
Caitlin Frost, Certified Facilitator and Trainer in the Work of Byron Katie

(first posted at:

"Your most effective leadership tool is an open mind"
- Byron Katie

In the world of leadership and organizational work where we are aspiring to access new paradigms of and possibility, it is crucial to have personal practice for opening our minds and hearts in the places we get stuck. Fear, assumptions, judgements, limiting beliefs and stressful thinking can close us down – particularly in the face of change and challenging situations. 

Whether we are aware of them or not, our own limiting beliefs and thinking impact our actions, what we pay attention to, the choices we make, who we can work effectively with, and what we are able to see (or not see) as possible. Our own thinking can also have a strong effect on how much satisfaction and enjoyment we get from our work, and our ability to learn and grow.

The Work of Byron Katie is a simple yet powerful process of self-inquiry. It is a skillful process for working with your own thinking to open space where you find your mind and heart closing or closed. 

The effects of working with yourself in this way can be profound – allowing you to access your own intelligence, experience possibility that was unseen from the stuck place and experience authentic connection to yourself and others.

In my work as a leadership coach, facilitator and trainer in participatory processes – including Open Space Technology – I have found this Work to be profoundly powerful for myself as well as with my clients and colleagues. For me The Work is ‘family’ to all the other participatory and connecting group and leadership processes – and doing this work alongside them supports my ability to host that work at a deeper level. 

As leaders, facilitators and change agents, we want to step fearlessly into the challenges of change, conflict, and the unknown as we look for new ways to be in work and to ‘solve’ the problems of the world. We want to connect with each other deeply, listen and collaborate and be able work with a wide diversity of people – ‘whomever shows up’ – and to reach beyond that with a genuinely open mind and heart. We want to bring the very best of ourselves to our work and life and to hold truly open space for ourselves and others to do good work. 

And sometimes we hit a place where we close – where we are afraid, confused, overwhelmed, stressed, hurt, angry, or stuck. Where we are firmly attached to outcome. Where we are not ok with ‘whomever shows up’, or ‘when it is over..’. Where we are afraid and not feeling at all ‘prepared to be surprised’. When we are caught up in needing the approval of our client, or our boss, or our colleagues or we find a particular person or group difficult (or impossible) to work with and we are unable to listen and act wisely and compassionately. 

“It’s not our differences that divide us.
It’s our judgements about each other that do.”
Margaret Wheatley, Author: Leadership and the New Science; Turning to One Another

The Work of Byron Katie, offers a skillful and effective way to engage directly and compassionately with your own thinking in these places of closing. Through a process of self-inquiry, based on simple and powerful questions and your own honest answers – you have the opportunity to reconnect with your own clear mind and heart. From that place there is more opportunity to experience possibility, learning and authentic connection with ourselves, other people, our wisdom and life – and lead, collaborate and create from that place. 

"Inquiry helps the suffering mind move out of its arguments with reality. It helps us move into alignment with constant change. After all – the change is happening anyway, whether we like it or not. But when we’re attached to our thoughts about how that change should look, being out of control feels very uncomfortable"
- Byron Katie

The Four Questions and Turnarounds of “The Work”

Doing the Work consists of two parts. Identifying what you are thinking or believing when you are stressed or closing; and then taking your stressful thought or belief through a process of inquiry using the 4 questions and ‘turnarounds’ of The Work as your guide. Anyone willing to answer honestly can do this work, and it can be done with a facilitator asking you the questions, or as a journaling exercise where you write down your own answers.

(This Work is best understood by experiencing it for yourself. I invite you to give it a try with something that has you stressed or stuck.)

Working with one belief/thought at at time – you answer each of the 4 questions. This work is a meditation – and you are invited to open your mind and see what answers arise. Prepare to be surprised!

Question 1. “Is it True?”
It seems like an obvious question, but we often don’t stop long enough to really consider it. Especially when we are stressed. Take your time to contemplate it – and then land on a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’. There is no ‘right’ answer – the power is in inviting the question in and opening your mind to find your own honest answer – not what you have been told by others or assume, but what is true for you when you get still and access your own deeper wisdom about it.

Question 2. “Can you absolutely know that it is true?”
Similar to question one – this gives you another chance to contemplate if your answer was yes to the first question. Again a simple yes or no is invited – and either is fine. Again the gift is taking the time to drop a little deeper and consider the possibility of both yes and no – invite some balance – and see what shows up.

“The CEO needs to be at the meeting”. Is it true? Can I absolutely know that it is true that we need her to be there?

“We need more money”. Is it true? Can I absolutely know that it is true – that we can’t do this without more money?

“They don’t listen to me”…. Is it true? Can I absolutely know that it is true that they are not listening – can I know that for sure?

Question 3. How do you react, what happens when you believe that thought?
This question invites you to notice the effect of attaching to the thought/belief. How do I feel? How do I act? How do I treat myself and other people? What am I not able to do? Again it is a meditation – not a judgment – just watching and learning.
For example How do I react and show up when I believe that they don’t listen to me? What does that feel like? What happens?

Question 4. Who would you be without that thought?
This question invites you to see – just for a moment – , who you would be in that same situation if you were not believing that thought. Again just open your mind and see what you experience.
For example: Who would I be in that same situation without attaching to the thought “they don’t listen to me.” What would that feel and look like?

The Turnarounds:
And then there is a playful part of the Work called the ‘turnarounds’ where you take the initial stressful or stuck thought/belief and ‘turn it around’ in different ways to explore where the opposites or other perspectives could be equally or more true. Another very specific to the situation way to open your mind. To open space for balance in perspective.

For example: If I am working with the thought: “They don’t listen to me”

Turned around to the opposite - They do listen to me (and then I really consider where this could have truth and find examples.)

Turned around to the ‘other’ – I don’t listen to them (and then I get to see where this could also be true – where am I not listening?)

Turned around to myself – I don’t listen to myself (where do I not even listen to myself in this situation? possibly because I am so worried about what they will say or do I am not really listening to me either.)

And then I allow some silence to sit with myself in what I have answered and found.

There is no specific advice or ‘to do’ as an ‘outcome’ of doing this work. I just find that I am more open on the other side of it, and from that place I am often able to connect where I couldn’t, or see options where I didn’t, and experience more peace. Sometimes the effect is immediately profound, other times it is subtle. Sometimes I don’t realize what it has shifted until later and then I notice somewhere I was stuck and I am not anymore, or someone who triggered me just doesn’t anymore. This Work invites me out of my “I know mind” and into a place of presence and connection with what is really happening and what else is possible. 

The questions are simple – and I have found they can take me to very deep places of learning and transformation in work and life. I have been doing this Work for more than 10 years – myself and with others – and it still amazes and moves me on a regular basis. 

If you are curious and want to know yourself more deeply in the places you are stuck, give it a try.