Byron Katie: An imagined self is all that exists

An imagined self is all that exists. You can question it away if you really want to take the trip. Questioning is safe, I assure you. When you question what you think you are, it leaves no self. It leaves you as something more valuable: the unchanging nature of what the dream flows out of, what the dream mirrors. As long as life is a dream, let’s deal with the nightmare. Question what you believe, and notice what’s left. Until you genuinely realize that you’re not the “you” you believe yourself to be, you aren’t free to be more. That’s why the limited mind is so painful. Mind is always attempting to burst out of its own prison, the identity as a body. When you realize the nature of mind, you realize that it’s everything, it’s the nature of everything, and that any apparent lack is just a figment of your imagination.

— Byron Katie, “A Mind at Home with Itself”

There is a lot here, and I thought I would explore some of it.

An imagined self is all that exists. Yes, in a sense. If we take ourselves to fundamentally and ultimately be this human self, that’s not quite it. It’s imagined. Any fundamental separation between “I” and the rest of the world is imagined. Ultimately being this human self is imagined.

You can question it away if you really want to take the trip. Yes. What she talks about is The Work, and we can use that to see – and deeply change our perception and see – that taking ourselves to fundamentally be this human self, and any ideas of real separation, are imagined. They are not inherent in what we are and the world as it appears to us. We can also use other forms of inquiry, and other approaches in general.

Questioning is safe, I assure you. Yes, especially if it’s under guidance of someone experienced, skilled in guiding others, attuned to where we are stuck and what the remedy is, and generally attuned to what we need and are looking for. Questioning leads us to find what’s already more true for us, and that is safe. It can be sobering but its safe.

It leaves you as something more valuable: the unchanging nature of what the dream flows out of, what the dream mirrors. We find what we are, or – more accurately – what we are finds itself. We find ourselves as capacity for the world as it appears to us, as that which our experiences happen within and as. That’s what this world “flows out of” (happens within).

Until you genuinely realize that you’re not the “you” you believe yourself to be, you aren’t free to be more. Any belief is limiting. We pretend that the viewpoint of the story is how the world is, and we are unable to move outside of it. (Although we always do anyway.) If I think I fundamentally am this human self, I cannot so easily notice or take seriously what I am. Any identity or role I believe I am confines me and doesn’t allow me to explore life outside of it.

Mind is always attempting to burst out of its own prison, the identity as a body. It’s painful to live within our self-created limitations, so we naturally want to be free of it. We are drawn to it. If we don’t really understand what’s going on, we may try to find this freedom through hobbies, travel, extreme sports, drugs, rebelling against something, and so on. If we do, we can find this freedom through inquiry and similar approaches.

When you realize the nature of mind, you realize that it’s everything, it’s the nature of everything. To me, my own true nature is the true nature of everything. Since I am capacity for my world, and I experience everything within and as what I am, then it will naturally appear to me to have the same true nature as myself. To myself, it does. (That doesn’t mean it actually applies to the rest of existence. Some part of my true nature – capacity and being a no-thing that can be filled with apparent things – is likely the true nature of all of existence. The rest – the awakeness – may not exactly be the true nature of all of existence. But that’s a topic for other articles.)

and that any apparent lack is just a figment of your imagination. When we notice what we are, there is no inherent lack. The world happens within and as what I am, so how can there be lack – or absence of lack. The word doesn’t apply. At the same time, as a human being in the world, I have needs in a more ordinary sense, and that’s still here. I need food, shelter, friends, and so on.

It’s easy to misunderstand these topics if we don’t have a taste of it for ourselves. In a way, it’s inevitable. That’s why reading or hearing about it is a first step, or food for further inquiry. And looking for ourselves, perhaps guided by structured inquires like The Work of Byron Katie, is what it’s about. That’s how we get to see this for ourselves and deeply transform our perception and life.

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