One of the (formerly secret) exercises from The School with Byron Katie, and one of my favorite forms of inquiry. Highly recommended.
You think you want your plan. You don’t. You want what is.
– Byron Katie
Byron Katie, saying it as it is since 1986.
Why do we want what is? One answer is that we get so much out of what is, often more than we would get out what we think we want, and what specifically that is depends on the specific situation. The more basic answer is because we are what everything is. Our identity is the same.
When you free yourself, you free us.
– Byron Katie
In the context of The Work of Byron Katie: When I free myself from a particular belief, I free others from me perceiving, acting, and living from that belief.
Belief here means taking a story, any story, as solid, true, and final. When we do so, we inevitably create suffering for ourselves, and we tend to become a nuisance to others. Most of us have learned – from parents and culture – to do so, and undoing it takes time. It’s an ongoing process, one belief at a time.
Also, these beliefs operate at different levels. Some, we may take as real and final in our conscious view and we may not be motivated to question them until life clearly and painfully pushes up against these beliefs. In other cases, our conscious view may be quite different from a deeper belief that still color our perceptions, actions, and life. And there are combinations of these. (more…)
Anything you want to ask a teacher, ask yourself, and wait for the answer in silence.
– Byron Katie
For me, this feels like planting a seed. Set the intention for something to emerge around a question. Let it go and live life. And an answer comes within a few days or more. Even if I do ask someone more experienced than me, I tend to do this first. Then I get my own answer, and their answer may come from a different angle and be helpful for that reason. And practical pointers from others are always welcome.
Judge God, and find freedom.
– Byron Katie
This is one of the statements aimed at (a) generating curiosity about The Work, and (b) serve as a reminder or pointer for those already familiar with it.
Judge God and find freedom: Write down your judgments about God, AKA life, the world, situations and circumstances, other people. Honestly inquire into those judgments and find what’s more true for you. And find freedom. Find freedom from your own stressful beliefs. It does work.
In the A Christmas Carol episode of Doctor Who, the doctor rewrites the past of the Scrooge character, which changes his personality. Different memories, different personality.
That’s how it is with inquiry as well, and perhaps especially The Work. As Byron Katie says (paraphrased), forgiveness is what happens when we see that what we thought happened didn’t.
Through questioning our thoughts about our past, we change ourselves.
The ultimate addiction is the mind believing itself.
– Byron Katie
This is perhaps the only addiction, at least from the mind side of the mind-energy equation. The mind is addicted to believing its own stories. And from there, the other addictions are created.
The mind is addicted to believing its own stories. It uses a lot of energy and resources maintaining, supporting, and propping up its stories so they seem true to itself.
It does so because it’s familiar, other minds do the same, and it seems scary to do anything else. Who would we be without those stories? How would we function? What would we find?
Also, most minds don’t know how to release its addiction to beliefs. We are unable to, so it often doesn’t even bother trying. Until, perhaps, the pain of believing stories is so strong and obvious that we wish to find another way.
And a few words about addiction.
In a conventional sense, we can say that most addictions come from trying to deal with pain, wounds, and a sense of lack. We try to fill a hole. We try to avoid the pain. We try to find some temporary relief and comfort. And we do so through a wide range of addictions – whether it’s entertainment, relationships, nature, work, music, books, food, spirituality, drugs, alcohol, or something else.
Addiction is the mind’s safety valve. It’s natural. And yet, it can create a lot of additional problems in our lives. And it does prevent deeper healing, awakening, and embodiment.
Addiction is also how we often get on the path to healing and awakening. Eventually, the pain inherent in it is too much. We see it doesn’t work. It’s a dead end. We wish for something else.
The original addiction is believing painful thoughts. That’s how the pain is created that leads to and fuels the other addictions.
So what’s the solution? Of the many out there, here are some I am familiar with.
Rest with and allow sensations, including the uncomfortable ones. Rest with and allow any experience, including the uncomfortable ones. Make this a new habit.
Inquire into the painful thoughts. Find what’s more true (The Work). Allow the charge to go out of them (Living Inquiries).
Release the tension fueling the pain and addiction from the body. (Therapeutic tremoring, TRE).
Change your relationship to the painful stories and what they are about, and the pain itself. Befriend it. (Ho’o, tonglen.)
Release and clear the emotional issues fueling the addiction(s). (Vortex Healing.)
Train a more stable and pliable attention. This is a useful tool for any endavour.
Addiction is a universal human experience. We are all addicted to something in a conventional sense. And we are all addicted to believing thoughts as well. It’s natural. It has a function. And yet, it’s painful and unsatisfactory in the long run. So it’s also a gift that can set us on the path of healing and awakening. And there are ways to heal addictions, especially if we have the right tools and guidance, and motivation and persistence.
The universe is a friendly place.
That’s something Byron Katie says, and it’s sometimes repeated by her followers.
It can be understood in a few different ways.
Life unfolds as we like it. When life unfolds as our personality and human self (conditioning) likes it, it’s easy to see it as kind and feel that the universe – in this case – was friendly.
Life is challenging. When life is challenging, we can see it as an invitation for clarity, healing, maturing, and awakening. Specifically, we can question our stressful – and unkind – beliefs and find what’s already more true – and kind – to us. We discover that when we go deeper, we find more true and kind stories. Here too, we can see how the universe is friendly even when life goes against our very human preferences.
Anything at all. Independent of what happens, it all happens within and as Spirit. When we see this, we see that the universe is inherently kind no matter what happens. The universe is inherently friendly.
The first opens us up to gratitude in an ordinary way. The second is a path to deeper seeing and deeper healing, maturing, awakening, and embodiment. And the third is revealed to the extent the “veils” have gone, the identifications with and as particular content of experience creating a belief in stressful stories (any story is stressful when believed) and sense of being a separate being.
Anyone who is angry is fearful.
– Byron Katie
That’s my experience as well. Behind anger is fear. Fearful stories create anger, fear, compulsions, and much more.
Stressful stories that we hold as true lead to fear – which can take the form of anger, sadness, or compulsions. The answer is to question these stories and hold all of it in kindness and presence.
We use other people to feel okay.
– Byron Katie
Yes, we use other people to feel OK.
We medicate ourselves with their love, their attention, their affection, their admiration, and through touch and sex. (We can even medicate ourselves through drama since it’s a distraction from more uncomfortable feelings and thoughts.)
And all that is OK, although it sometimes comes with a lot of struggle and suffering. We hold on for dear life when it looks like we may lose it. We experience withdrawal when we lose it. We seek it when we feel we don’t have it. We wish what we have is different and better at making us feel OK.
We use others to fill that hole or void in us that many of us experience. We use others to cover up or compensate for a sense of not being good enough, and any other ways we feel deficient.
There is another way. And that is to meet our own experience with kindness, and gently explore how our mind creates these experiences of void and deficiencies. That’s where we can find a more real and thorough resolution and a more genuine and ultimately satisfying relationship with ourselves and others.
When we use others to feel OK, we create a sense of separation between us and them. And when this softens or falls away, what’s left is a sense of intimacy.
What is suffering?
The imagined not-now.
– Byron Katie
The imagination of what was. What may be.
The imagination of this moment lasting forever.
With added stories that this – what’s here now, including these stories – is not OK.
How does the mind do this?
By associating sensations with these images and words, so they have a charge, and seem solid and real.
Or, said a few other ways, by identifying with the viewpoint of these words and images. By taking itself as this viewpoint. By believing these stories. And it does so by associating sensations with the words and images, the viewpoints, the stories, making them appear to itself as solid and real, and sometimes even unquestionable.
Any not-now is imagined. It’s made up of words and images, which are placed on an imagined timeline. This is very helpful, and we couldn’t function without it. At the same time, it is all imagined, and it’s good to notice. Even the stories about the present, and the idea of a present, are imaginations, made up of words and images, sometimes associated with sensations.
Would you like to know the secret to happiness? Kindness and Gratitude. Nothing else is required.
– Byron Katie
Yes, and that includes kindness and gratitude towards everything in our experience. The whole field of experience. Any image. Any word. Any sensation.
Since most of us are trained to not do this, at least not consistently or universally, it can take time. We are retraining ourselves. We are forming a new habit. A large oil tanker needs time to slow down and turn, and that’s how it often is with us too. But with intention and dedication, it is possible. It can be done.
The body is the ego’s greatest ally.
– Byron Katie
Yes, in so many ways.
I am this body. I will die. I don’t want to die.
My body is sick. It will get sick. It’s not good looking enough. It’s too old. It will get old. I won’t be attractive anymore. They won’t like me. I am wearing the wrong clothes. What will people think about how I look? Am I good and impressive enough looking to find a partner?
I am this body. The rest of the world is not me. It’s something that can help me or hurt me. It’s a precarious situation.
And more basic:
These sensations are connected to these images and words, and means these images and words are real, solid and true.
The mind is great at coming up with thoughts related to or relying on the body. And there is no end to how much stress can be created by these thoughts when they are unexamined and held as true. (Even if just a part of us hold them as true.)
Pleasure is pain.
– Byron Katie
Yes. Pleasure is pain because……
Pleasure and pain are both sensations + images + words. The only difference is the meaning my mind attaches to the sensations. (One example is fear. If I experience fear while watching a good movie, or while on an amusement park ride, I may interpret it as pleasure. If I experience fear while alone in a dark alley, or after getting a diagnosis from my doctor, my mind may interpret it as pain.)
Pleasure is pain when I attach to the idea of needing pleasure. When it’s compulsive, pleasure seeking is painful. Trying to get it is painful. Anticipating it going away is painful. Having it go away is painful. Anticipating not finding it again is painful. Realizing that pleasure seeking is inherently unsatisfactory, while still being caught in it, is painful.
If in heaven you believed everything you believed here on earth, where would you be?
– Byron Katie
Hell, heaven, even purgatory are states of mind, and we experience them here and now.
Hell. In a way, it’s true that people who hurt others go to hell, because hurting others comes from a hellish mind state. It comes from believing painful thoughts. It often comes from unhealed trauma.
People who Christians traditionally thought would go to hell often already are in hell. Their actions comes from a hellish mind state.
And when I say “people” I mean (just about) all of us, including myself. I sometimes experience and act from a hellish mind state. It may not always be as extreme as it sometimes is for us humans, but it’s still a hellish mind state, and it can lead to actions that sometimes hurts others (in an ordinary, everyday sense).
Heaven. Similarly, we all sometimes experience heaven. We find ourselves in heavenly mind states. These come about in three ways.
(a) When things go our way. When life conforms to our shoulds.
(b) When we find peace with what is, as it is.
(c) When we meet our experiences and our world with heaven, with love, kindness, noticing, feeling, allowing (the content of our current experience).
The first of these is somewhat outside of our control. We are dependent on life circumstances for this form of heaven to happen. The third comes from intention, practice, and creating new ways of relating to our experiences and our world. We create our own heaven, by relating to our world in a heavenly way. (It’s much simpler and more ordinary than that may sound.) It doesn’t just happen, we make it happen in an active and engaged way. And the second comes from the third.
Purgatory. This is what happens on the way from hell to heaven, on the way from a hellish mind state to a heavenly mind state. It may happen in inquiry, when we look at and feel hell as part of the exploration, eventually leading to finding more peace with it. It may happen in TRE, when trembling releases old and previously unresolved emotions and memories. It may happen just as part of life, when old unresolved things surface with an invitation to see it, feel it, find love for it as it is (to meet it with heaven).
I usually don’t use these words, since they belong to a different worldview than the ones I am more comfortable with. But it’s sometimes helpful to use terminology from our mainstream culture to bridge and explore. (It also bridges something in me.)
And yes, I know that the ideas of heaven and hell come from Christianity and not Jesus. They are not found in the New Testament in the way they later came to be understood. They are created by the Christian tradition. And even within that tradition, there are many ways to understand these words.
There is no other. There is nothing that isn’t born out of you.
– Byron Katie
My world is my own world of images, words, and sense experiences. My world is what I am. It all happens within and as this field of awareness. In that sense, there is no “other”. It’s all born out of me. And “me” here means this field of awareness it’s all happening within and as.
What’s more accurate is that “other” is unfindable. I cannot find others – or the world, or me, or anything – outside of my own images, words, and sense experiences. And unfindable doesn’t mean doesn’t exist.
In any case, for practical reasons, it makes sense to assume that there are others, and a world, and me, and the rest. It helps me orient, navigate, and function in the world. One doesn’t exclude the other.
Your body is nothing more than a metaphor for your thinking, mirrored back at you.
When you believe that you are this body, you stay limited, you get to be small, you get to see yourself as apparently encapsulated in one separate form. So every thought has to be about your survival or your health or your comfort or your pleasure, because if you let up for one moment, there would be no body-identification. Every thought has to be about “I” – that’s how you survive.
Without a story of being limited, you’re infinite. People think that limitlessness is terrifying- the ego does everything not to let an experience like that happen. But if inquiry is alive in you, it doesn’t matter if you’re a Katie or a bird or a galaxy or a rock or tree or grain of sand.
Eventually there is no fear. You come to feel total acceptance: “I am this, for now.” You realize that you’re nothing; you’re prior to thought, not a woman or a bird or anything but awareness: a completely silent mind looking at itself. It is limitless. It’s still. It’s aware of itself, delighted with itself, as all things.
– Byron Katie
Do you want to meet the love of your life? Look in the mirror.
– Byron Katie
This may seem as a nice thought, and yet we know that it’s not true, right?
It may not feel true. And the reason it doesn’t feel true is that we are not quite there yet.
If we have spent a lifetime being lukewarm to ourselves, or even ignoring or battling ourselves, it takes some intention – and perhaps time – to turn it around.
How do we love ourselves?
The answer comes in two parts. First, what do we mean by “ourselves”? Is it just the image I have of myself? No. The answer is more radical than that. It’s all of our experience. It’s all that I am experiencing, here and now. What I am experiencing happens within and as what I am. It is what I am, in the moment.
Then, do I love it? Typically, we find that we like some parts, dislike other parts, and are neutral towards some parts. Loving it is different. It means kindness to our experience, no matter what that experience is. Kindness towards sadness, anger, joy, exhilaration, grief. Kindness towards resistance, discomfort, contractions. Kindness towards joyful and scary thoughts. Kindness towards physical pain. Resting with it, in kind presence. Even finding love for it.
That’s how we love ourselves. Finding love for my experience, as it is, here and now.
It’s a tall order. It’s radical. And it’s how we discover that we are the love of our life.
I, as all of my experience in the moment, is the love of my life, when I have found how to meet it with genuine love.