"So you don't drop your thoughts of chaos and suffering out there in the apparent world. You can't drop them, because you didn't make them in the first place. But when you meet your thoughts with understanding, the world changes. It has to change, because the projector of the entire world is you." ~ Byron Katie
The Work of Byron Katie is a contemplation of four questions, and our own unique answers. It invites us to notice how we live when we believe our thoughts, and how it could be if we question them, and realize they may not be the only truth, or true at all. First we identify a thought that’s causing some kind of stress (anger, sadness, anxiety, hurt, etc). We question one thought at a time. Ask, Listen and Discover:
Is it true? Can you absolutely know it’s true? How do you react, what happens, when you believe the thought? Who would you be without the thought?
Then we turn the thought around. Finding turnaround examples is an opportunity to experience something different, to try on another perspective. Maybe something shows up that is as true, or truer. Maybe it affirms what you've already realized. It's exploring possibilities that can guide insight and new direction.
For example, let’s look at the thought “He is damaging his life”. (It is a common thought when concerned about someone using substances in dangerous ways. I have thought it also, and experienced the worry and fear from it. And there seems to be evidence of its truth. Let's see what happens when we question that thought.)
We ask and answer the four questions.
Is it true, "He is damaging his life"? Yes or No Absolutely, can you know that 100% for sure, "He is damaging his life? No or Yes
How do I react when I believe the thought, "He is damaging his life"? Fear. Worry. Depression. Images of all the things that are going wrong, could go wrong, images of past, images not yet happened in the future. I become the one who knows how he should live his life, in his business and in God's business about what life should look like and for how long, etc. The payoff to believing this thought is that somehow it might inspire me to say something inspiring to change his mind, his ways. The cost is I preach and teach, and cause even more tension and separation. I'm so far into what he should do, I'm not doing what I can do to connect with my heart, love him as is where he is, and connect with him. It hurts!
Who would I be without the thought, "He is damaging his life"? I want to use time well, to consider how I can show up calmly to express love, not my fear or demands, or preaching at him. I support the connection, the moment. I realize my best response is to get into my heart, to love him, to express that so I create a safe connection, a space where we both can be. I am very concerned about his health, I say so but without need of his agreement or change, and I offer my support if he wants to seek health. I am keenly aware that his skills in life are useful for the street, useful to him, for now, and it can change. I haven't lived that life, and I give him credit for living in these conditions, and know how much compassion I need in me to offer to him, so he is met with my love, my acceptance, my support as is and if or when. I am in my business, my choice clear, simplified to being love and giving it.
Then, we turn the thought around simply exploring possibility, possibilities that could be as true or even truer.
He is not damaging his life. What life? The one I insist upon for him of which I'm not given a vote and have no control? Or the one he is actually living? The one he is living in active addiction is going pretty well if getting drugs and escaping pain is the goal. I don't like it, but there's truth to it. I really can not know the future and if all of this will somehow contribute to a major breakthrough, a powerful contribution to his self-realization. To him, for now in his perspective, he is not damaging his life.
I am damaging my life. Yes, the stress when these thoughts go unquestioned really causes me all sorts of anguish and physical stress. I isolate, I avoid, I pretend, I stress eat. I live mostly in the imagined future of fear rather than in reality and in a pro-active, healthy, educated, skillful present day approach. I try to live his life for him, and not focused on my own life. Good to see. Of course I may need time to grieve, to process changes. I can deepen my self-care, seek support, connect with nature and others, etc.
I am damaging his life. It's true. This thought, my fear causes damage to our relationship. It separates us, it makes me say things that make him upset and may trigger him. I am definitely damaging him in my imagination, in fact I have him dead in my imagination. I see fear rather than possibility in the here and now and that is not an encouraging or supportive approach to his life. Again, I see and feel, that to come back to my business, my heart, being love and giving it to him, it creates more of life, now. always now.
When doing The Work, it’s helpful to notice our answers with compassion and to seek truth for understanding, not blame or criticism. You know the saying the truth sets you free? It really does. In the process of doing The Work, confusion can turn to clarity and understanding. Where there is understanding, there can be peace. Love shines there, in and through each of us!
The Work is not therapy, it’s not to condone harmful actions, and it’s not to deny or change the thought. It's not to pretend emotions aren't warranted or to push them away, ignored. It's about self-realization. It’s a way to embrace reality and address situations in a more effective way. New information arises from our inner wisdom and our heart. New insights into how to approach life and circumstances in a more proactive way are also effects of doing The Work. It’s a way to move into a kinder way, and out of fear, unmet expectations, misplaced assumptions, misunderstandings, depression, anxiety, blame, and more.
Doing The Work reveals the cause and effect of what we’re thinking and believing, as well as what can change, what can heal. The Work provides an opportunity that is profound, complete and powerful because it's such a personal experience. Your answers are your own, and can be felt on various levels: physically, spiritually, mentally and emotionally. I invite you to experience this transformative process. I've become someone far more peaceful, capable, and willing to inquire through the confusion. During inquiry, I feel a shift away from the stress of believing my assumptions and stories, and into truths that bring greater understanding and direction. This inevitably and reliably brings a more relaxed state of body and mind. With inquiry, I come out on the other side … from darkness into light, and lighter, one thought at a time. And, you can too.
Youcan believe your thoughts and stressful stories, or question them.
"Truth and Love must always go together. It's been said, Truth without Love is brutality, and Love without Truth is hypocrisy. The mind grows by taking in Truth, and the heart grows by giving out Love." ~ Warren Wiersbe