“Byron Katie has rocked my world and shaken loose my mind more thoroughly than any other spiritual teacher I’ve ever encountered, living or dead.” —Elizabeth GilbertByron Katie (or Katie as many call her) has an intriguing story. Following almost a decade of severe depression, self-loathing and suicidal thoughts, she suddenly woke up one day and saw things differently – or in her words, “woke up to reality.’ She realised that what had been causing her depression was not the world around her, but the beliefs she’d had about the world. It was an epiphany that was to change her life forever and has seen her go on to helps millions of people.
I discovered that when I believed my thoughts, I suffered, but that when I didn’t believe them, I didn’t suffer, and that this is true for every human being. Freedom is as simple as that.
Byron KatieThe following excerpts from Katie’s audio book ‘Loving What Is: Four Questions That Can Change Your Life’ explain how Katie’s process of inquiry she calls ‘The Work’ can help radically shift your perspective, setting you free from suffering:
Suffering is optional. Whenever we experience a stressful feeling, anything from mild discomfort to intense sorrow, rage or despair, we can be certain that there is a specific thought causing our reaction, whether or not we are conscious of it. The way to end our stress is to investigate the thinking that lies behind it, and anyone can do this by himself with a piece of paper and a pen. Through ‘The Work’ – Katie also calls it ‘Inquiry’ – we discover that all the concepts and judgments we believe, or take for granted, are distortions of things as they really are. When we believe our thoughts, instead of what is really true for us, we experience the kinds of emotional distress we call suffering. Suffering is a natural alarm warning us that we are attaching to a thought. When we don’t listen, we come to accept this suffering as an inevitable part of life. It’s not.
Fill out the Judge Your Neighbour Worksheet (which you can download on thework.com)
Write down your thoughts about someone who upsets you – a situation past or present that feels unresolved in your life. (Katie suggests that if you new to inquiry don’t start with yourself. It is easier to do our judgements of others.)
1. Is it true?
2. Can you absolutely know that it is true? (Invites people to inquire more deeply.)
3. How do react when you think that thought?
4. Who would you be without this thought?
5. The Turnaround: This is a chance to experience alternatives to the original statement that may be as true or truer.
Notice when your thoughts argue with reality. The only time we suffer is when we believe a thought that argues with ‘what is’. When the mind is perfectly clear ‘what is’ is what we want. If you want reality to be different to what it is you might as well try to teach a cat to bark. You can try and try and in the end the cat will look up at you and say meow. You can spend the rest of your life trying to make a cat bark, and yet if you pay attention you’ll notice that you think thoughts like that dozens of times a day: – people should be kinder – the queue at the supermarket should be shorter – my husband should agree with me – I should be fatter, thinner, more successful. When you argue with reality you lose 100% of the time.
The work reveals that what you think shouldn’t have happened should have happened. It should have happened because it did. No thinking in the world can change it. This doesn’t mean that you condone it or approve of it. It just means that you can see things without resistance or the confusion of your inner struggle.
Judge your neighbour.
Write it down.
Ask four questions.
Turn it around.
The power in this process cannot be denied if you hear it in action on ‘Loving What Is: Four Questions That Can Change Your Life’ (available on Audible). I think that to really make this process work for you it is necessary to dedicate a significant amount of time to listen to (or read) Katie’s material. I have found that the more books of hers I read the easier it is to understand Katie’s way of looking at the world and how it can be applied to my own. It is time very well spent in my opinion.
You can learn more about Byron Katie and ‘The Work’ at her website thework.com. There are free resources and videos on her site, and there is a large selection of books available on Audible. I think audio is a great way to be introduced to this process, as much of the content in Katie’s books is dialogue. I suggest starting with ‘Your Inner Awakening: The Work of Byron Katie: Four Questions That Will Transform Your Life‘ and ‘Loving What Is: Four Questions That Can Change Your Life‘ The latter really does offer a lot of insight by letting us hear the process as it is applied to people’s real-life situations. Some of the stories are heartbreaking and yet she is able to help them see through the pain to another perspective. I found it truly compelling and inspirational.
If you want reality to be different to what it is you might as well try to teach a cat to bark. You can try and try and in the end the cat will look up at you and say meow. When you argue with reality you lose 100% of the time.
I hope you find ‘The Work’ as exciting and as helpful as I do. Have a great week,