Many years back, I attended Byron Katie’s 9 Day School for the Work in L.A. I had read her best-selling book, Loving What Is and was so intrigued with her work that I wanted to dive deeper into her concepts. I was struggling in my marriage and intuitively knew this experience would help me sort through these complexities. Katie’s work, in my opinion, is one of the best non-conventional, revolutionary leadership teachings ever offered. It takes us to the ‘truth’ of who we are – our true self – and how our thinking can cause so much pain and suffering. The L.A. Times says: “Her method can cut through years of self-delusion and rationalization.”
On May 18th, 2017, she spoke at Stanford University; her talk was titled: Who Would You Be Without Your Story?
“Experience the happiness of undoing stressful thoughts through The Work, and allow your mind to return to its awakened, peaceful, creative nature. I teach people to question their thinking, and this changes their world. I didn’t let go of my negative thoughts; I questioned them, and then they let go of me. As for doing, I do whatever I can to serve peace. My job is the end of suffering.”
The world will be at war as long as the mind is at war with itself.
Katie refers to her teachings as ‘the work’ which is a way to identify and question our thoughts, which we rarely if ever do. She says, “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 than 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 meow. Wanting reality to be different than it is, is hopeless.”
Thoughts are born every day. It’s said that we have 60,000 daily. They come. They go. They rise. They fall. The job of a thought is to pass. But what happens to our thoughts? They go uninvestigated as we believe they are true and we make a story out of them. Our stories are connected to the past, present, and future. It may be about what we think ‘should be’, or ‘need to be’, or ‘why they are.’ When we learn to stop and inquire, we can see that our story is merely an internal narration of how we see things at that time or as others, such as our family, friends, or colleagues see it. – thoughts that, as of yet, have been unquestioned. So, the work is about uncovering the real truth.
Notice your thoughts, as they may sound something like this: “People should be kinder.” “He should tell me he loves me by now.” “My wife (or husband, child) should agree with me.” “I should be thinner.” “I just got challenged on how I run my organization. This has never happened before. This does not make sense.”
Thoughts, such as these, are ways of wanting reality to be different than it is. Which thought is more empowering: “I wish I hadn’t lost my job,” or “I lost my job (reality); what solutions to this problem can I work on right now?” We naturally get caught up in denying what has been said or justifying how it should not be this way or how it is not so. Accepting what is does not mean you condone or approve it. It just means you have the opportunity to see things without resistance and without confusion or your inner struggle. The work reveals that what you think shouldn’t have happened should have happened. Because it did. And no thinking in the world can change it.
No one wants to be sick, to lose their job, to be in a car accident; but when they things happen, how can it be helpful to mentally argue with them? We replay that unpleasant experience over and over and then tell others and the situation gets ingrained even more. We do this because we don’t know what to do instead. When we stop opposing reality (no resistance) action becomes simpler, fluid, kind, and less fearful.
There are two parts to the Work: The first is writing down your judgments about any stressful situation in your life. The second is investigating each written statement, using four questions, then turning each thought around with specific, genuine examples.
Go to: thework.com, to see Katie’s vast library of one-on-one recorded sessions or Google, Byron Katie and you will find many You Tube links to check out her work in more detail.