Are You Trying to Teach a Cat to Bark?

Last week, I attended the Wisdom 2.0 Conference, which is all about exploring the intersection of mindfulness and technology. I was excited to be in the presence of one of my greatest teachers, Byron Katie, and to hear her speak live. If you aren't familiar with her "Work," I highly recommend you check out her website and many books. 

One of my favorite Katie lines is:

"If you want reality to be different than what it is, you might as well try to teach a cat to bark."

Arguing with reality is a hopeless endeavor, and we suffer greatly when we resist the truth.

Stories from the Land of Should
Much of our suffering comes from our stories of "should" and "should not," and the judgments we embellish them with.

According to Katie, "In reality, there is no such thing as a 'should' or a 'shouldn't.' These are only thoughts that we impose onto reality. Without the 'should' and 'shouldn't,' we can act efficiently, clearly and sanely.

Asking 'What's the reality of it?' can help bring the mind out of its story, back into the real world. Reality is always kinder than the stories we tell about it."

Think about it: which of these statements is more loving and empowering, and creates the best mindset for change?

a) I shouldn't have gained so much weight. I'm worthless.
b) I gained weight. Now what can I do?

a) I should have exercised today. I'm so lazy.
b) I didn't exercise today. What can I do tomorrow?

a) I shouldn't have eaten so many cookies. I have no willpower.
b) I ate six cookies. What could I do differently next time?

Reflect on where you're suffering and struggling in your life, then ask, "What story am I telling myself? What's fact and what’s fiction?"

With inquiry, you will discover that nothing less than freedom comes when you stop trying to teach a cat to bark.

For more tips on how to stop "shoulding" on yourself, click here.