Re: Byron Katie and "The Work" Participant Reports
Date: April 02, 2009 08:48PM
Another post from "arienariadne".
Yes, the description of The School on Katie's site does, indeed, sound delightful. And I was so desirous of being delighted. I expected something gentler and kinder than I got. I'm sure other people had other experiences, but I stopped experiencing gentleness and welcome by, at the latest, midway through Day 2. I kept looking for the pony in that pile, thereafter, but with a lot more caution and self-protection. One thing I took from the school: you can't expect people to take care of you; you have to be ready to take care of yourself. Of course, Life's delivered that message pretty consistently already. And Katie encouraged self-care, but then did not make it easy or foster inclusion for those who acted on it. I did see staff being very kind and gentle with some people. There were some folks who got sick or were struck with aches and pains. I saw staff bringing pillows, ice, showing gentle concern. Yet, somehow, I did not experience that, or the likelihood of that, personally. Maybe it was precisely because I was determined to take care of myself...eat what I needed by purchasing it separately, rest when I needed by skipping exercises or sessions if necessary...that made me feel cut off. Perhaps a self-fulfilling prophecy. Nevertheless, there it was and it was not all, entirely my own projection. I was fortunate to be acquainted with someone there who felt free to share their perceptions. I checked those out pretty carefully: "Is it ME, or does thus-and-such unforeseen and unfortunate thing seem to be happening?" I had read somewhere, before the school, that Katie would ask people to leave the school if she thought they were problematic. And she specifically stated that anyone caught marketing anything at all or were caught with weapons would be ejected immediately (and I saw no weapons, but a couple of people tried to sell me something). So I knew it was possible to rub The School folks wrong. Somehow, I intuited that you wouldn't have to go so far as marketing or having a weapon to get kicked out. It was Katie's "Family," after all, and she called the shots.
As to The Work being disorienting...Yep, I think it often is, for even the most self-protected, and perhaps can always be destabilizing for some folks. Those turnarounds are a bitch sometimes! I could tell from what newbies were sharing at The School that several people were starting to come unglued after a couple of days. Some folks seemed sort of unglued from the beginning. There was a general decompensation over the days. As time passed, I began to be worried that some folks wouldn't recover adequately before they left.
So I agree with Redwoods and Gimmeshelter, there needs to be some kind of warning or screening...both so that folks can get an accurate picture of what takes place and make more informed choices about this particular, very strong "medicine," and so The School can operate more efficiently. I'm into Katie's business with this last statement. Speaking for myself, then, it bothered me to see so many people crying, groaning, looking sad, depressed, or confused so much of the time. I thought I would see lots of smiles and relaxed faces there. What I mostly saw were either blank or sad/mad/confused faces. There were be sudden guffaws or giggles, true...but they would often come out of the blue and inappropriately. There was some big-time LOOSENING going on there...and that might be desired effect or it might be symptomatic of something seriously wrong. One size definitely does not fit all. The blank looks seemed most apparent in the staff members and the people who were Repeaters.
Yes, it was very much as if they were entirely self-referencing. It often looked robotic or affectively blank. There was a failure to engage another person...EXCEPT when The Work was in progress. Doing The Work with Staff was a crazy-making experience. They might not make eye-contact at any other point in nine days, but they were entirely present while doing The Work. They opened up and became real people while doing The Work on themselves. They might insist on a big hug at the end. Then, next time you saw them, they would usually look past you like you weren't there. The Work (which, while acting as Facilitator, required strict adherence to the questions exactly as written and no commentary, otherwise...just listening) was the only readily available means of connecting with anyone else there. The rest of the time, we were either silent or listening to Katie or listening to someone sharing on the microphone in front of everyone. I did have the impression that the staff was extremely stressed and that there were internal problems there. There were several indications that all was not well between Katie and some Staff members.
A note on the food. Yes, the description on the School site is literally accurate and I expected vegetarian fare. What I did not expect was how tasteless or disgusting that might be. I've been a strict vegetarian for periods of many years, twice in my life. Currently, it's difficult to get enough protein to meet some special medical needs and I've returned to the carnivorous state. What I do know is how well-cooked vegetarian foods and vegan fare can taste. I've got lots of experience cooking and eating that way. This food was unnecessarily bland and unimaginative. The hotel staff apparently screwed up and put salt and pepper on the tables the first day. We never saw it again, thereafter. Some days eggs were only available on a table marked, "Pre-arranged Special Diets." That would be like parking in the handicapped space just because it's nearer to the store...I didn't want to take someone else's eggs. Cheese was usually available and yogurt in the mornings. Sometimes there would be a sprinkling of cheese in a prepared dish. Breakfast, in fact, was usually pretty good. But the fish, which showed up a few times, was utterly plain baked whitefish. I ate it because I needed the protein, but I came to dread meals...the steam-table smells of recycled food (tofu squares with peas, quinoa, steamed plain cauliflower) and the enforced silence (people walk around with signs that say "SILENCE.)" A friend of mine had gone to Kripalu for a 3-day Intensive and said the food was fabulous..launching a description that made me eager to return to vegetarian eating. I think there was just no effort to make the food good at The School. Or perhaps the hotel kitchen couldn't accomplish the task. Or perhaps there was some budget-cutting going on. Katie would say I'm definitely off into a story now! Vegetarian and vegan food does not have to be lousy. There was one item, served one time, that I really enjoyed: a veggie burger that I slathered with mustard. It was probably pre-prepared and shipped to the kitchen; it was far too good to have been prepared from scratch by our hotel cooks. Or maybe that was just the mustard. Obviously, I'm a bit food-focused.
[[url=http://guruphiliac.lefora.com/2009/03/23/byron-katies-school-for-the-work-march-09/page1/]Byron Katie's School For The Work March '09[/url]]