Free & not free

As long as we believe that we’re our bodies, we don’t have to know that we are infinite, our cells without limit, like music itself, free.

— Byron Katie

There are two sides to this.


Yes, as what I am, as my more fundamental nature, I am – in a sense – free. I am what any experience happens within and as. I am what forms itself into any experience.

It’s a kind of freedom.

It’s a freedom from taking myself as fundamentally something within the content of experience, as a thing in a world of things.

When this recognition is more thorough and lived, there is a freedom to more fully and consciously allow what’s already allowed, which is the experience that’s already here no matter what it is, how it looks, and how my personality likes it.

That also opens for the freedom to be more honest about all of this, as it is.


There is another freedom.

That’s the freedom that comes from recognizing the nature (and limitations) of thoughts in general, and especially through examining specific thoughts.

Here, there is freedom from holding the thought as true, there is freedom to recognize the limited validity in the thought, and there is freedom to more fluidly use a range of thoughts as pointers.

We are more free in our relationship with thoughts.


We are also bound, in a sense.

This human self in the world has all kinds of limitations, although I don’t know exactly what those are or where any imagined boundary goes.

In my case, this human self lives with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS). That puts a limit on my activity levels and what I can do. (I lived very differently when it was less strong.) I don’t know exactly the limits, they are to some extent stretchable, and all of it can change at any moment.

There are also the limits of physics and biology. I can’t fly unless I go in a machine that can fly. I can breathe underwater. I need air, water, food, and shelter to survive.

Society and culture also have limits, which again often are a bit fuzzy. I need money to survive unless I happen to find a situation where that’s less of an issue. If I break a law, I have to be ready to face the consequences.

There are also other kinds of limits, which all are a bit fuzzy. There is a kind of limit to the profound interconnectedness of all life. All of life supports me. Society and humanity support me. I wouldn’t be alive without it. I can’t thrive without it.


As usual, there are a lot more wrinkles to it. Here is one:

The more I find and live from my nature, the less free I am, in a sense.

In my experience, I am more bound to living from what’s wise, kind, and sane. Of course, that doesn’t always happen. Sometimes, unresolved issues in me hijack my life and I act and live from reactivity. But, in general, that’s the tendency and movement.

The same goes for living from my inner guidance. The more my nature notices itself and lives from that context, the more I find I need to live from my inner guidance.

I also have a responsibility to life and the larger whole. That too limits my life to a great extent.

These are all limits that feel profoundly right and I love and seek to be more bound by. (There is still a long way to go.)


So yes, there is a limited freedom in my nature noticing itself.

It’s a freedom from certain types of identifications, or at least a freedom from blindly believing them.

There is a freedom to allow the experience that’s here as it is, which includes my human self’s reactivity to it. At least, there is a freedom to notice that my nature allows it all freely..!

There are also many ways there is no or not much freedom, and that includes living from integrity, authenticity, inner guidance, responsibility to the larger whole, and so on. I don’t always live from it, and when I don’t, I notice the consequences in me and in my life.

Image by me and Midjourney

A simple exploration for finding trust in the wisdom of our human self

Byron Katie has a simple exercise: When you wake up in the morning, don’t get up. Wait and see what happens, and find some curiosity about it. (Paraphrased.)

When I do this, I find that my human self gets out of bed on its own, and at the right time. It has an innate wisdom that makes it get up when the time is ripe. It happens without any conscious planning or effort or use of will. And it’s often surprising. One moment I was in bed, the next standing on the floor, and there was no planning or effort or will involved.

This helps me see that my human self lives its own life and that it has innate wisdom and kindness.

And I can do this in other areas of life as well. I can wait, notice with curiosity, and see what my human self does on its own.

When I get out of my own way, my human self is more free to live from wisdom and heart.

There is, as usual, a lot more to say about this.

For instance, our human self is always living its own life. It’s just that our mind adds a layer of identification so we think and feel that “I” did it. When we find what we more fundamentally are, it’s more obvious that our human self is living its own life. Words happen. Actions happen. And there is no involvement of an “I”.

The only difference is that the strange loop that creates a sense of “I” or “doer” goes away, or at least is not invested with a sense of reality. The charge goes out of it.

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Byron Katie: “I don’t know” is a lot of freedom

“I don’t know” is a lot of freedom

– Byron Katie

There is a lot to explore in these types of quotes.


It’s accurate that I don’t know. I don’t know anything for certain.

Any story is more or less accurate in a conventional sense. They fit the data more or less well.

Even if they seem relatively accurate, they highlight some features and leave a lot out.

They always come from a certain perspective and worldview. And there are inevitably many other perspectives and worldviews that make as much or more sense. Some would make as much or more sense to us now if we knew about them. Some may make as much or more sense to us in the future, with a bit more experience. And some of these would even turn our perception upside-down and inside-out.

Stories are different in kind from what they are about. (Unless they happen to be about mental representations). And that means they are inherently imperfect in terms of capturing anything in its fullness or in a very accurate way.

Reality is always more than and different from any map. (Any story – any mental representation whether it’s a mental image or words – is a map).

Stories cannot hold any final, full, or absolute truth. That’s not their function.

Any story I have about the world is provisional and a question.

It’s here to help me navigate and function in the world.

That’s why it’s helpful to examine any story we hold as true at some level in our being. And it’s good when we are able to hold them lightly.


“I don’t know” gives me freedom.

It frees up more of my natural receptivity and curiosity. It gives me the freedom to explore the validity in a range of different stories about the same topic.

It gives me the freedom to relate to these stories more intentionally and make use of them in whatever way makes the most sense in the situation.


At the same time, I know some things.

In a provisional and conventional sense, I know certain things.

I know what name I go by in this world. I know some about my history. I know how to read and write. I know, to some extent, how to take decent photos and make decent drawings. I know a few things about meditation and many spiritual practices, both from my own experience and from what others say about it. I know some things about the world. I know some things about ecology and sustainability. I know some things about what I feel and think and experience here and now. I know some of my preferences and likes and dislikes. And so on.

I can have an inner knowing or intuition. This too is a question about the world. (Although it often turns out to have wisdom and kindness in it.)

Also, it’s possible to know some things about my nature. I directly perceive something about what I more fundamentally am. I find myself as capacity for the field of experience, and what this field of experience happens within and as. And that is also provisional and a question. I know that this too can be turned upside-down and inside-out at any moment. I know there is always infinitely further to go.


“I don’t know” can also be used to hide.

We can use it to hide from others what we know. We say “I don’t know” when we actually do know something but don’t want to share it for whatever reason. Or we just stay silent when it would be more appropriate to share something.

And we can use it to hide from ourselves what we know. We know something we don’t want to know, and pretend to ourselves we don’t know. Or we distract ourselves from it, perhaps by going into compulsions.

In my case, a part of me wants to hide in general to feel more safe. This is a response to challenging situations from early in life, and I still live out that pattern in some situations and areas of life. For instance, I don’t use my name on this website, and I very rarely talk with anyone about the topics I write about here, even if they are central to my life. (I hide to stay more safe, but it doesn’t work. If anything, it just leads to frustration in the long run.)

In some situations, we can use “I don’t know” as a shield or a weapon. (And when that happens, we know.)

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Byron Katie: If the voice in your head is you, who is the one listening to it?

If the voice in your head is you, who is the one listening to it?

— Byron Katie

This is a very good question, and it can be difficult to explore without some guidance.

Most people would answer “me” without examining very closely what that actually means.

If we explore it, we may find that we refer to an image of ourselves, and often a set of different images, and often images connected with certain words and sentences and that these images and words are associated with sensations in the body.

What the question points to is what all of this is already happening within and as. It refers to what the world to us – any content of experience – happens within and as. To ourselves, that’s what we more fundamentally are. That’s our nature.

And to find that, we typically need more guided pointers and explorations.

Byron Katie, of course, gives people these pointers in the form of The Work.

We can also do other forms of guided and structured inquiry like the Kiloby (Living) Inquiries, based on traditional Buddhist inquiry.

We can use Headless experiments or the Big Mind process.

We can explore Basic Meditation regularly over time, and find that any content of experience – including the images, words, and sensations we may take ourselves to be – come and go. And we may eventually find ourselves as what it all happens within and as.

And so on.

And here, when it’s noticed, there is an invitation to keep noticing and explore how it is to live from this noticing. And also keep exploring any hints of our mind continuing taking itself as images, words, and sensations in new and more “spiritual” or “awake” ways. (As “emptiness”, “consciousness”, “love”, “oneness” and so on.)

I don’t know the context for Byron Katie’s words, but they were probably said to someone ready to hear them and make use of them. Someone ripe for noticing.

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Byron Katie: No one really knows what they are doing

No one really knows what they are doing.

– Byron Katie

I don’t know about others, but it’s true for me. I find I don’t know anything for certain. I am mostly just winging it in life and in whatever I am doing. And from what others report, it seems it’s similar for them.

It’s interesting to explore this a bit further.

I obviously know, to some extent, what I am doing in some areas of life. I know how to write these words. I know how to create a new post here. I knew how to start the computer. I seem to know how to get out of bed in the morning, make breakfast, talk with people. And so on.

And at the same time, the larger picture and the context for my daily life activities is not knowing. I don’t know anything for certain.

I don’t know the wider consequences of my actions. I don’t know the bigger picture of my life and my actions. There are innumerable contexts for how to look at my life that may be as or more valid to me than what I am currently familiar with. I don’t know to what extent my assumptions – about anything including what appears the most obvious – are valid.

And that’s fine. It’s the water we all, I assume, swim in.

Byron Katie: When you walk in a dream and know it’s a dream, that’s love

When you walk in a dream and know it’s a dream, that’s love.

– Byron Katie

Night dreams and waking life both happen, to me, within and as the consciousness I am. In that sense, waking life and dreams are not very different.

And waking life, to me, is interpreted by my overlay of stories making sense of it, from the most basic stories that outline, differentiate, and label, to the more elaborate ones that tell intricate stories. This too is a kind of dream, it’s a layer of stories created by my own mind.

When I recognize waking life as happening within and as consciousness, as happening within and as what I am, there is love. It’s all happening within and as oneness. It’s a love that comes from recognition and is not dependent on feelings or states.

Similarly, when I recognize my stories as stories, and viscerally get that they are stories, it opens for love. It opens for receptivity, curiosity, and love. And this goes for any stories – about myself, others, situations, the world, life, the divine, my nature, and anything else.

Byron Katie: What’s called bliss and what’s called ordinary mind are equal

What’s called bliss and what’s called ordinary mind are equal. One is not a higher state than the other.

– Byron Katie

Can I find this in my own experience?


When I look, I find I am capacity for all of it

I am capacity for all of it. And it’s all happening within and as what I am.

In that sense, bliss and ordinary mind are equal. To what I am, any state and experience are equal.


And to who I am, to this personality, they are not necessarily equal. Here, there are preferences.

As my human self lives and operates within a more conscious noticing of my nature, these preferences are held more lightly.


How does this look in daily life? 

I notice that any state and experience happens within and as what I am. That my nature is capacity for all of it. And that they are equal in that sense. There is “one taste”. 

If I want to clarify this, or explore it in a more structured way, I can use Headless experiments, the Big Mind process, Living Inquiries, or other forms of inquiries aimed at helping us notice our nature here and now. (More accurately, aimed at inviting our nature to notice itself – as capacity for all experiences and what all experiences happen within and as.)

At the same time, my personality and human self have preferences, and it’s important to take these into consideration. Sometimes, these preferences come from some kindness and wisdom, and I chose to follow them. Other times, I may notice or suspect they come from reactivity, and then I instead chose to explore them and see what’s more true for me. 

It’s an ongoing process and exploration, and it’s often a bit messier than this. And that’s part of the process too.

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Byron Katie: God’s will and my will are the same, whether I notice it or not

God’s will and my will are the same, whether I notice it or not.

– Byron Katie

I cannot know what she means by it, but here is what comes up for me.


How do I understand the difference between my will and God’s will?

My will, or personal will, is what I want, and it may be different from reality. I want ice cream, and I don’t have it. I want better health and can’t find it. I want more money, and it’s not coming. I don’t want to lose the ones I love, and they are lost.

God’s will is what is. It’s reality. It’s the situations we find ourselves in and ultimately the experiences we have. We can also call this life’s will.

Often, it seems that my personal will is at odds with reality. And when that happens, I often create a sense of struggle for myself.


What I experience as “my will” is ultimately life’s will. It’s life taking that form.

As anything else, my will has infinite causes stretching back to the beginning of this universe and out to the widest extent of existence. It’s the local expression of movements within the larger whole. It’s life or the universe taking this local form.

Nothing happens that’s not “God’s will”, and that includes the apparent personal will. That too is God’s will.

That this apparently personal will happens, and the form it takes, is God’s will.

Nothing happens that’s not God taking that form.


Said another way, these thoughts, feelings, experiences, choices, and so on happen, and then a thought comes and says “I did it” and calls it “my thoughts”, “my feelings”, “my choices”. It’s the same with “my will”.

Something happens and a thought calls it “personal will” or “my will”.


Another side to this is the apparent difference between personal will and God’s will, or personal will and reality. On the surface, it seems that I want something else than what is and I struggle with that difference. As I examine this, I may find that what I more honestly want is what is.

Behind the surface layers of wants, desires, hang-ups, wounds, unloved fears, and unexamined stories, I find that what I really want is God’s will.

My most sincere wish is for what is, even if this is sometimes covered up by confusion, hurt, and reactivity.


We can report on what we find, or philosophize on it within stories, and that can be interesting. There may be valuable pointers there, and it may serve as a stepping stone.

And where this becomes more alive and transformative is in our own exploration.

When I inquire into my stressful stories, which all are about the apparent conflict between my will and life’s will, what do I find?

Do I find that my will ultimately is at odds with God’s will?

Do I find that my will is separate from or different from God’s will?

What happens over time when I keep exploring specific stressful thoughts? What shifts?

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Byron Katie: There is nothing more exciting than peace

“There is nothing more exciting than peace.”

What does that mean to you?

– Byron Katie

There are two parts to this.


It’s when I notice and allow what’s here, and notice it’s already allowed. It’s when I genuinely befriend the content of my experience, and especially any parts of me reacting to something in my experience.


When I am at peace with what is here, I am more receptive. I can discover more about what’s here and the different ways to see it. I am less distracted by the drama of fighting with what’s here.

Lack of peace means I am struggling with what’s here. It means I am caught up in stressful stories. And that limits my perception. It limits what I can see and discover and my options. I narrow my world.

Peace opens up my world, and struggle narrows it.

Peace is more genuinely rich than struggle.

That’s one reason nothing is more exciting than peace.

Also, allowing and finding curiosity about what’s here feels more alive. There is an excitement in that aliveness.


This is an ongoing exploration.

And it only happens here and now. Any idea of it happening in the past or future is an idea. It’s a pointer for allowing it to happen here and now.

It’s inherently new and fresh and new things will always open up.

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Byron Katie: Perception rules, until it doesn’t

Perception rules, until it doesn’t.  

– Byron Katie

What she likely refers to is the perception that comes from our mental representations of the world, ourselves, and anything else.

If we hold these mental imaginations as true, they will rule our life. We perceive and live as if what our stories tell us is true. Our beliefs run our life. Contractions run our life.

If we examine them and find what’s more true for us, we can relate to these perceptions more intentionally, hold them more lightly, and use them in a more constructive way.

What’s more true for us than the initial stories our thoughts tell us?

It may be that our mental field overlay on the world is just that, an overlay. A way to make sense of the world. Our thoughts are, in a very real sense, questions about the world. They have only a practical value to help us orient. They don’t hold any final or absolute truth.

It may be that the reversals of our stories also have genuine validity for us. Not only one view has validity.

It may be that we are what our thoughts happen within and as. If mind holds a thought as true, it identifies with the viewpoint of the thought and perceives and lives as if it’s true. If we recognize a thought as a thought, we can see it as an object and relate to it more intentionally, including through investigating it.

Byron Katie: Notice the moment when love is exchanged for chaos

Notice the moment when love is exchanged for chaos in your world.

– Byron Katie

When love is exchanged for chaos in my world, it’s from getting caught up in reactivity. I operate on old unquestioned beliefs and assumptions. And when I notice that, I have several choices.

I can keep creating chaos for myself, which sometimes happens and there is something to learn there. If nothing else, I learn it’s exhausting, uncomfortable, and doesn’t get me anywhere.

I can also take a step back. I can notice what’s happening. Disengage from the impulse to react, to the extent I am able. And I can also use any number of approaches to shift how I relate to the situation and explore what’s happening.

The different practices I write about here, including The Work of Byron Katie, can all be very helpful here.

These days, I am mostly exploring becoming more intimate with the contraction I am caught up in a struggle with, as I have described in recent posts.

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Follow the simple instructions

Byron Katie sometimes talks about following the simple instructions. This applies to doing the inquiry, and also – in a specific way – to daily life.

I am at the cabin, and notice this several times a day. I have a thought telling me to do something, check if there is a good reason to not follow it, and if not, do it.

Today, the thought told me to move some branches I fished out of the lake over to the composting pile. It told me to get more water from the lake. And so on, and since there was no good reason to not do it, I did it.

In these cases, it was something I had planned to do, and I waited to see if or when I would get the guidance to do it.

We can call this voice inner guidance or something else, and it has a certain quality. It is an actual voice, and it’s free of drama and insisting. It’s just there, and it’s simple and clear.

Following it in small things in daily life, and seeing the effects, makes it easier to get into the habit of noticing and following it – after checking if there is a good reason to not following it.

Why check? Because we all have many different voices in us, and we may not always be able to tell them apart, so it’s good to check just in case.

I have also followed other types of inner guidance today. I was wondering when to have lunch, and waited until there was a clear yes in me. I wasn’t sure what to have for dinner, and looked around the kitchen until I found what relaxed my body and gave me a clear yes. I noticed I was a bit hungry after going to bed, imagined eating something specific, noticed my body relaxed when I imagined it, so got up and had a bit to eat.

In each of these cases, I checked the effects of following the guidance. For instance, how did my body respond from eating when and what I was guided to eat? It seemed that the guidance was reliable.

Through this, we find some discernment and trust in the different ways we are guided, and really the ways we guide ourselves.

I notice a few different ways this guidance works. It can be a literal and clear inner voice. I sometimes check for a yes, or wait for a yes if it’s about timing. I sometimes imagine doing something and see how my body responds – if it relaxes, it’s a yes. Sometimes, I wonder about a choice, see an image in a flash, and check it by noticing how my body responds when I imagine doing it. In each case, I check if there is a good reason to not do it. And I check the effects after following the guidance.

Sometimes, I also wait to see when this human self will do something, like getting out of bed, and I usually get surprised.

NOTE: I am at the cabin these days, and write this on my phone. That means the articles become more informal, more flow-of-consciousness, and less structured, since editing is not as easy as on a computer. Normally, I would probably clean up this article and make it shorter and to the point, although more informal posts have their place & value as well.

Byron Katie: Believing my thoughts is exhausting

Believing my thoughts is exhausting.

– Byron Katie

It takes a surprising amount of energy to maintain stressful beliefs, and any belief is stressful whether we initially notice or not.

Most of us have a significant number of stressful beliefs, many in the form of unnoticed and unquestioned underlying assumptions, so there is no wonder we sometimes feel exhausted from the weight of these beliefs, and we may also see the accumulated effects of this over time.

Why does it take so much energy to believe a thought?

One reason is that it has to be maintained. Since it’s out of alignment with reality, reality won’t do it for us. We have to actively believe the thought. We have to tell ourselves stories maintaining it.

Also, we have to defend the belief and the identity it creates from anything that threatens to poke holes in it. We have to defend the belief from the views of others not aligned with it, and also any thoughts and views that come up in ourselves not aligned with it.

We have to contort our system into perceiving, feeling, and thinking as if it’s true.

When we believe a thought we pretend to believe it. Somewhere in us, we know it’s not true. We know we cannot know for certain, and we know that apparently competing views have validity.

We have to deal with others disagreeing with our perception and how we live our life.

This means that believing a thought creates near-constant stress and struggle. We may not always notice since we are used to it and it’s more in the background. And we may have some relief from it when we are distracted from these processes. But most of the time, these stressful processes happen within us.

When we inquire into a stressful belief, we may see more clearly how exhausting it is to believe it, and we may also experience the release when we find what’s more true for us.

A common side-effect of either transcending or noticing what we are, especially when it happens more suddenly and undeniably, is that the tension and stress of believing all these thoughts fall away and there is a sense of remarkable and somehow familiar ease.

The way I wrote about this can make it sound as if we do this intentionally, and that’s obviously not the case. Our system has adopted these beliefs in order to protect us, and it’s perfectly natural and innocent. At the same time, it’s stressful and exhausting, and there is another way. Adopting that other way requires us to invite our system to reorganize at a visceral level, and there are several ways to do this including inquiry, heart-centered practices, energy work, and body-centered approaches.

Byron Katie: If you say one single thing that I have the urge to defend, that thing is the very pearl waiting inside me to be discovered

If you see me as unkind, that is an opportunity for me to go inside and look at what appears in my life. Have I ever been unkind? I can find it. Have I ever been unkind? I can find it. Have I ever acted unfairly? That doesn’t take me long to acknowledge. If I’m a bit cloudy about it, my children can fill me in. What could anyone call me that I couldn’t find at some time in my life? If you say one single thing that I have the urge to defend, that thing is the very pearl waiting inside me to be discovered.

– Byron Katie

This quote goes straight to the heart of inquiry. Whatever we want to defend points us to where we are stuck. It points us to a cherished and unquestioned belief about ourselves and the world, and on the other side of that is what we really want, even if we don’t know it. On the other side is freedom from that particular belief and identity.

And… it can help us sober up around whatever we initially wanted to defend, find a greater wholeness by seeing in ourselves what we see in others, find more options for how to perceive and live our life, and learn something about the beliefs dynamics and what’s on the other side.

Byron Katie: We are not the doer. We can just watch

We are not the doer. We can just watch. Like, I invite everyone to notice where their hands are right now. Where their feet are right now and did you put them there? Did you plan it or was it a happening? You know, it could be that we are being done and everything else is just a story we’re believing and who would you be without your story? Not forever, but just right here, right now, in this moment, who would you be without your story?

– Byron Katie

The most direct way to notice this is to find what we are, in our own experience. When I find myself as capacity for the world, and what my field of experience happens within and as, I notice that anything in my field of experience – including this human self, thoughts, feelings, choices, actions – lives its own life. Even a sense of a doer happens within this field of experience and lives its own life. As does any sense of an observer. Or anything else.

Right here and now, I notice hands typing words on this screen. The hands move on their own. The words appear. Some thoughts appear on their own, the hands write them on the keys, and the words appear as black lines on the screen. There are sensations mapped on a mental image of the body. Thought of going out into the sun shortly. This is all happening. It lives its own life. Even saying that it’s happening within and as what I am is, in a sense, too much, even if it’s not wrong. Saying I am capacity for it all is the same, as is saying it’s all happening within and as awakeness. It’s all happening on its own and living its own life.

Byron Katie: Now isn’t


Now isn’t. (Have you noticed?)

– Byron Katie

I don’t know how Katie sees this, but here is what comes up for me.

When I try to find “now”, I cannot find it outside my idea of now. I can find what appears in my senses – sights, sounds, smell, taste, sensations and so on – but I cannot find “now”.

Now is an idea with associations. It’s a mental representation, not what it points to.

Also, what we in our thoughts call “now” has already passed. Our thoughts are always one step behind.

In either case, “now” doesn’t exist as we imagine it.

Byron Katie: When you deeply and openly question your reasons, does ‘because’ disappear?

Without reasons, there is no ‘because.’ So question all reasons. When you deeply and openly question your reasons, does ‘because’ disappear?

– Byron Katie

Any “because” is a guess. It’s something we make up to try to make sense of our choices and actions, and the reality is that we don’t know.

When someone asks me why I am doing something, and I suspect they really want to know, I give them an honest answer: I don’t know, and I may add a few guesses and make it clear these are guesses. Since this goes a bit outside of norms and expectations, it often leads to a conversation about it.

If I suspect the question is more for social reasons and to connect, I may just give a standard plausible answer. Unless it’s in a situation where a conversation about the don’t know and the guesses could be interesting.

For instance, why am I writing here? I honestly don’t know. I find it hard to even come up with guesses. The most honest answer is that I am drawn to it. I feel an impulse in me to write here. What’s that impulse about? I don’t know. I find the topics here interesting. Writing here helps me explore them – it helps me to notice, explore, and write it down. Also, I had a wish to give talks, write books, and so on, on some of these topics. Since my life took a very different turn due to major health problems, writing here is doing some of that in miniature. There is a knowing that something here may be helpful to someone, and if just one sentence is helpful for one person, that in itself would be sufficient. (And that’s already the case since it seems helpful to me.) There may also be other reasons: Perhaps I am writing here to avoid direct noticing and feeling? Perhaps I do it to feel smart and clever? (Although I am very aware that what I write reflects my own very obvious limitations.) Perhaps it’s a way to give some sense of meaning to a day where I mostly have to rest and can’t do much of what I normally would do? (That one resonates.)

Byron Katie: Philosophy is so slippery

Philosophy is so slippery. Realization is everything.

– Byron Katie

Philosophy is slippery. Although philosophy can reflect direct realization, it’s often an expression of trying to figure out something within thoughts or be clever with thoughts. As we know, there is almost no limit to what thought can come up with, and it doesn’t need to be useful. If it’s not grounded in direct noticing or realization, it becomes an endless maze with no exit.

Realization is different. It’s about direct noticing. It’s about being familiar with a certain terrain. For instance, we may find our true nature as what all our experiences happen within and as. We may have experience with living from it and the challenges that come with it. Or, through direct noticing and a lot of experience with inquiry, we may recognize that a thought is not what it apparently refers to. It’s an image, a fantasy. It’s a question about the world. It may be more or less practically useful. And it cannot contain any final or absolute truth.

There is something interesting here: When realization and direct noticing is expressed through words, it’s typically and immediately recognized by others familiar with the terrain. While those who are not familiar with the terrain tend to perceive it as philosophy, as something that comes from thought, and they may respond to it with, to them, more philosophizing.

I have to admit, that’s why I rarely if ever talk about these things with others unless I know they are familiar with the terrain or they are genuinely interested in the terrain and not philosophizing.

There is also a grey zone here, an inevitable overlap between realization and philosophy. We may be familiar with the terrain, and when we go to express it in words, we dip our toes in philosophy. Some of it is unavoidable. We will interpret and express it in a certain way, based on our culture and how we have heard others talk about it. We may also get carried away and elaborate using favorite ways of thinking about it. To the extent we are aware of this and intellectually honest and sincere, we can name the philosophy aspect, minimize further philosophizing, or enjoy philosophizing and name it.

This is probably why many love a simple and direct expression of realization, as we see in some Sufi and Zen poets. The simplicity of it minimizes philosophizing.

Byron Katie: Not knowing is the way to understanding

Not knowing is the way to understanding.

– Byron Katie

This can be understood in a few different ways.

When we set out to learn something, knowing that we don’t know much or anything about it is a very good start. We are receptive. Have some insight into our own lack of understanding. And from here can seek out learning and get experience and learn. It puts us in the right mindset for learning.

After we have a great deal of experience, understanding, and skill, it’s still this way. Knowing that we don’t know everything about it puts us in the right frame of mind for continued learning. It opens for receptivity, curiosity, and continued exploration.

We may also find that we don’t know anything for certain. This applies to even our most basic assumptions about ourselves, others, and the world, and it opens for an even wider receptivity, curiosity, and exploration.

It also opens for an understanding of the nature of knowing. We don’t know anything for certain. Any thought or map has some validity in it, we just need to find how. Thoughts are questions about the world. They help us orient and function in the world and have a great practical value. And their value is limited to the practical. Their function is not to give us any final or ultimate truth because they can’t.

Finally, it can help us to notice what we are. To the extent we grok that we cannot know anything for certain about anything, including who and what we are and what the world is, this opens up for noticing what we are. It opens up for finding ourselves as capacity for the world, for our experience of this human self and the wider world.

Not knowing is the way to understanding. When we start out learning something, knowing we don’t know puts us in the right frame of mind for learning. Even after we get far more experience and skills, the same applies. Knowing there is a lot we don’t know helps us find the receptivity and curiosity to continue to learn. Knowing we don’t know anything for certain widens this receptivity and curiosity to anything and everything. And getting that thoroughly opens us to notice what we are.

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.

Byron Katie: Life is what was now

Life is what was now.

– Byron Katie

I often do a quick check on the origin of quotes, but don’t need to with this one. It’s classic Katie.

Life is what was now. As soon as this moment is reflected in a thought, that moment is already gone. Thoughts are always one step behind. What’s here now is what’s in the sense fields – which thoughts haven’t had a chance to reflect yet – and the thoughts themselves.

Byron Katie: Every concept that has ever existed is inside you

Every concept that has ever existed is inside of you.

– Byron Katie

I assume she doesn’t talk about concepts like E=MC2.

She is talking about universal and potentially stressful thoughts. I am not good enough. I am unlovable. She doesn’t like me. Something terrible will happen. And so on.

As thoughts, they are neutral and more a question. When we take them on as beliefs, they become stressful for us.

These thoughts and beliefs have been passed on through generations. We learned them from parents, friends, teachers, media, art, entertainment, religion, and mythology.

And we can examine them, find what’s more true for us, and find freedom from them. We can turn a stressful and limiting belief back into a more neutral thought and an innocent question.

There is a gift in the universality of these thoughts and beliefs. It means others remind us of our own, so we can take them to inquiry. And it means that when we turn beliefs into neutral thoughts, we become an example to others that it’s possible. It may be the start of them questioning their own beliefs and recognizing them as innocent questions.

Byron Katie: Make friends with mediocrity, it’s the place of balance

Make friends with mediocrity. It’s the place of balance.

– Byron Katie

If we are sincere and honest with ourselves, we see that we are mediocre. Even if the world tells us we are excellent at something, we know that we really are somewhere in the middle. The scale stretches infinitely in both directions.

There are many upsides to seeing ourselves as mediocre. It leaves infinite room for continuing to explore, discover, and develop. There is no particular special identity to defend or uphold or live up to. It opens for a more real connection with others. It opens for receptivity and learning. Ultimately, it’s more real and aligned with reality.

There is a lot more to this. We cannot really take credit for anything since it’s all given to us – our talent, resources, skills, passion, interests, opportunities, and so on. It all comes from somewhere else. Even our choices come from somewhere else. It’s all given to us from life and the universe. From genetics, upbringing, society, culture, and the evolution of our species, this living planet, and the universe as a whole. And all of this is is really the expression of life, the universe, and existence. All that’s expressed through and as this human being is the local and temporary expression of life, the universe, and existence as a whole.

Byron Katie: The mind establishes itself as a victim

The mind establishes itself as a victim only to get what it doesn’t want.

– Byron Katie

Why does the mind establish itself as a victim?

At one level, it’s a way to try to protect the self. It’s the mind’s reaction to fear that’s unloved and unexamined.

Apart from that, what do I find I want to get from taking myself to be a victim? To answer that, I am looking at a specific situation, and I find…. I hope for sympathy. Allies. Support. Love. I hope taking myself as a victim will help protect me, including through being prepared for future victimization. I wish to not be surprised by life again so I victimize myself before life does it.

What does Byron Katie mean when she says “only to get what it doesn’t want”? What is it about all of this that I doesn’t want?

I find that I don’t ultimately want sympathy, support, etc. from others. What I really want is to give it to myself, and if it comes from others as well that’s a bonus.

What about protection? When I look, I see that protection is ultimately not possible. I would rather be open to life. (While being a good steward of my life in all the ordinary ways.)

What about not being surprised by life? Life surprises me always anyway, and I know that anything can happen at any moment. Again, what I really want is to be open for it.

And victimizing myself to nip life’s victimization in the bud? I don’t really want to victimize myself, it’s not ultimately a comfortable position. Also, life doesn’t victimize, I do it to myself anyway. Here too, I would rather be open to life.

So yes, I can find that what I get and hope to get from victimizing myself is what I don’t really want.

What else do I get from victimizing myself? I get to feel like a victim of life and the world. I get to live in fear. I get whatever reactions I get from others when I present myself as a victim – from pity to unsolicited advice to avoidance. (None of which I really want.)

How is it true that I am not a victim? The idea of victim is our human idea, it’s not inherent in life. I make myself into a victim, and it’s all from an idea. In my specific situation, I still have a lot of freedom in how I relate to situations and live my life. I have tools to work with beliefs and emotional issues.

How is it true I am a victimizer (opposite of victim)? I victimize myself. I make myself into a victim, in my own mind. Also, I am sure I have acted in ways so others saw themselves as a victim. (When I act on fear, and when I am absorbed in my own issues so I lack concern for others.) I can find specific situations.

By examining this, preferably much more thoroughly than I have done here, I get to see the idea of victim more clearly. I get to see it’s something I create for myself. I victimize myself. There is no victim in herent anywhere in life. And what I hope to get from it are things I ultimately don’t want.

Byron Katie: Hope means intentionally using the idea of a future to keep you from experiencing the present

Hope means intentionally using the idea of a future to keep you from experiencing the present

– Byron Katie

Hope as an alternative to getting caught up in worries

Conventional wisdom says that hope is good. In difficult times, we need hope to keep going.

That’s not wrong. If the alternative is to get buried in fears and worries, then hope is much better.

And as with anything out of alignment with reality, there are downsides to hope.

The downsides to hope

Somewhere in us, we know that hope is a fantasy that we invest some reality in to comfort ourselves. We know we cannot know what will happen in the future, and that any ideas we have about the future are – quite literally – a fantasy. We can never convince ourselves completely to hope even if we try.

Also, by overly relying on hope, we may not take care of the current situation to the extent we are called to.

As Byron Katie says in the quote, we use hope to avoid experiencing the present. We use it to avoid scary thoughts about the past, present, or future, and we use it to distract ourselves from sensations connected with these scary thoughts.

The alternative to hope

Fortunately, there is an alternative to both hope and getting buried in worries.

We can examine our scary stories and find what’s more true for us. (This is, almost inevitably, more peaceful.)

We can see how it is to say YES to the scary thoughts and sensations and the situation triggering them.

We can befriend the triggered – scared and worried – side of us. We can listen to what it has to say. Find the genuine care and love behind it. Create more of a conscious partnership with it.

We can find ourselves as capacity for it all – what’s triggered in us and the triggering situation. It’s not inherently “other”.

Through this, we may find we don’t need hope anymore. We don’t need to rely on it to avoid what’s here since what’s here seems less scary.

Byron Katie: All your there and then is really here, now

All your there-and-then is really here, now

– Byron Katie

To me, my there-and-then is here and now. It all happens within my own mind.

It all happens from a mental overlay labeling, interpreting, and creating stories, including the story of there and here, and then and now. (That’s not to say here and there, and then and now, doesn’t exist. It’s just that to me, as I perceive it, it happens through this mental filter ordering and making sense of it.)

And all of it – all sensory experiences, all mental images and words, anything anywhere or anytime, all experiences – happen within and as what I am.

Byron Katie: As you lose identity, you discover yourself

As you lose identity, you discover yourself.

– Byron Katie

Yes, this is true in two general ways.

I assume Byron Katie talks about losing our identification with identities. We can use and relate to identities without being identified with them.

When we lose an identity – any identity – we find more freedom, fluidity, and flexibility as a human being in the world. We are more free to bring out sides of ourselves that didn’t fit our previous identity. We have a larger repertoire in how we live our lives and respond to situations. We discover more of who we are as a human being in the world.

As our identifications in general thin out, we may also more easily discover what we are. If we have many and strong identifications, the mind tends to be fascinated by and transfixed by identities and taking itself to be these, and that leaves less room for the mind to notice what it already is. It takes itself to be something within the content of its experience (usually this human self), and overlooks what it already is: that which all experiences happen within and as. We discover what we already are.

How do we lose identification with identities?

It can happen to some extent, and over time, through….

Noticing and becoming more familiar with what we are, for instance through forms of inquiry like the Big Mind process and Headless experiments. As we become more familiar with ourselves that which our experience happens within and as, identification as something within this content tends to soften.

Basic meditation, through noticing and allowing whatever happens in our experience here and now, and notice it’s already allowed (by mind, life). Again, we find ourselves as that which our experience happens within and as, and we notice that all content of experience comes and goes – including that which we habitually identify as. This allows identifications as something particular within content of experience to soften.

Heart-centered and projection-related practices like tonglen, ho’oponopono, metta, and heart prayer. This too helps to soften our identification with our habitual identities.

We can also identify and investigate particular identifications, and especially our most central and habitual ones, through…..

The Work of Byron Katie. Here, we identify and examine beliefs to find what’s more true for us, and this helps identifications to soften.

Living Inquiries, where we examine how the mind creates its experience of identifications, compulsions, and fear. This is based on traditional Buddhist inquiry and similarly allows the glue of identifications to soften.

Vortex Healing where we invite in deep healing and unraveling of emotional issues and identifications.

These are obviously just a few of the approaches I personally find useful. There are many others out there.

Here are a few more notes on this topic:

We can’t choose to “drop” identifications. They soften and perhaps fall away through investigation and healing.

Identification means identification with or as a thought. The mind believes a thought, which means it identifies with the viewpoint of the thought, and makes it appear true for itself. This is also how emotional issues are created, so working on and finding healing for emotional issues helps soften identifications.

There is no “should” in any of this. We are free to explore this or not, and one is not inherently better than the other. It’s just that identifications – and beliefs and emotional issues – tend to be stressful and uncomfortable, so it’s more comfortable to invite identifications to soften.

There is no quick fix. This is a lifelong exploration and process. Even with the most effective tools and most helpful orientations, it takes time. And that’s completely OK. It’s a fascinating process.

There is not finishing line or endpoint. It’s an ongoing investigation. At least, that’s how it looks to me now, and I find it easier to have this as a general guideline for myself.

There are some orientations that support this process. For instance curiosity and sincerity, and a wish to befriend ourselves and our experience and the world as it appears to us.

Byron Katie: Whatever you’re experiencing, it has a right to live

Whatever you’re experiencing, it has a right to live

– Byron Katie

This is a simple and beautiful pointer.

When I fight with my experience, I create discomfort and drama for myself, and I tend to get caught up in reactivity to the experience and sometimes acting on it even if I wouldn’t if I was more clear and kind.

When I give it its right to live, I make it much easier for myself. There is more space to relate to it intentionally. There is space for me to respond more consciously to it.

Whatever I am experiencing is not “mine”. It belongs to life. In one sense, it reflects the whole evolution of the universe, this solar system, this living planet, all living ancestors going back to the first cell, and all my human ancestors and how they were formed by life. In another sense, it just happens – out of the blue. Who am I to say it doesn’t have a right to live?

If I try to change or eliminate my experience, it’s an exercise in futility. I cannot. It’s too late. The experience that’s here is already gone.

How I respond to my experience is also part of my experience, and that too has a right to live. I can find some understanding and compassion for myself when I respond to my experience in ways I perhaps wouldn’t if I acted from more kindness, clarity, and wisdom. That understanding and compassion creates some space for doing it differently.

So it makes a lot more sense to give it its right to live. It already has that right, so I am just aligning with reality. It reduces a lot of the drama and discomfort in my life. And it makes it easier to relate to my experience more consciously, and respond to it with a bit more clarity, maturity, and kindness.

Byron Katie: Since the past is unreal and the future is unreal, all your thoughts are about nothing

Since the past is unreal and the future is unreal, all your thoughts are about nothing.

– Byron Katie

For us, the past is imagined. The future is imagined. And what we call the present is our ideas about something already gone.

Since all our thoughts are about the past and future, they are about nothing.

Byron Katie: When you fall in love with the unknown

When you fall in love with the unknown, you are free.

– Byron Katie

This is not the unknown that’s outside of what we think we know. This is the unknown within what we think we know. The receptivity that comes from knowing we cannot know anything for certain. And that this applies to everything, including our own personal life and who and what we take ourselves to be.