The Work of Byron Katie
The Work is my (non!)drug of choice for working with people on their thoughts because it has radically transformed my way of being in the world. It continues to keep me clear and enable me to meet whatever comes up in my thinking that takes me out of peace and unconditional love toward myself and others. It's not that I'm unflappable or experience no pain. (I'm not even trying to eradicate pain, which I consider a natural part of life—really different from constant suffering exacerbated by thoughts that reinforce and perpetuate that suffering!). It's still sometimes stunning to me that I now move through life from a stance of such joy and trust and self-love, so that it stands out for me—there's a jolt--when I'm irate or discouraged or critical. I notice it when I'm ruffled rather than carrying it around all day, day in and day out, like it's normal. Thus, any unwanted reaction or emotion shows me I've got something new to question—or, as Katie says, to meet with understanding.
Katie, the originator of The Work, teaches that nothing that ever happens to me is inherently stressful. My stress comes out of the thoughts I have about what happens to me.
If someone else speaks to me with anger, there's no problem until I'm offended and give the anger back. (Katie says that defense is the first act of war!) If I lose the job or someone walks out of my life, there's no problem if I say, "I've been spared" and look for the benefits to myself. (And I can engage in such mental processes even as I feel pain, allow the pain, let it take its right time to dissolve. If I'm judging my feelings, I can question and release those judgments.) I can take anything that frustrates me in how others behave and use it as a mirror to look at myself more carefully and to make sure I'm the one living by my values. (It's not my job to mind the values and consistency of others.)
What are the blanket beliefs about life out of which I operate unconsciously? I need to be perfect, I can't do what I love, There's never enough time, There's something about me that keeps me from love. I can locate these and question them . . . so that I can have a peaceful, loving, expansive life that isn't dictated by a false limiting concept—a lie I tell myself and believe. When I'm not run by concepts, I get to be alive and alert in the moment, living a dynamic, immediate, felt experience of life. I get to be present and open to revelation, healing, magic.
We all have a story about ourselves, about other people, about how life works. And we have no other option but to live out the life that this story describes. Katie's provocative question is, Who would you be without your story?
The Work consists of four questions and a turnaround—a way of rephrasing our stressful thought so that we can look at it from other angles and expand our way of seeing. After that, our vision comes closer to the truth and to the infinite potentiality of the Universe. The four questions are:
To learn more about The Work, watch brief video clips of Katie doing inquiry on any number of topics (scroll down for listing once you're on the video page), and explore the many free resources offered on her website, go to thework.com. Note that more specific links to Katie's resources appear in the right column.
To learn more about how The Work has impacted me personally, read my story.
Would you like an inquiry shortcut?
This downloadable pdf offers a powerful method for generating and processing a list of thoughts, with clear examples and easy-to-follow format. Click on the icon below.
Free Resources from
Katie offers a wonderful free Helpline (which I've made use of personally, even rampantly during certain eras). Note that it's not a crisis line, though you're welcome to be in crisis when you call. All they ask is that you show up with written statements, as they won't listen to story: they'll simply take you through the 4 questions and turnarounds on one (or more) of your written statements. You can generate statements by using the Judge Your Neighbor Worksheet or just by writing down your thoughts in list form, using short, simple sentences.
The Helpline isn't set up as a single number to call 24 hours a day. Instead, volunteers post times they're available for inquiry along with their phone numbers and Skype names. Your job is to call at the right time. If you don't get through, do leave a message, as most will put you in a queue and call or Skype you back. (Note that here you'd be using Skype only in its audio form—no video). These people are sitting around waiting for someone to do The Work with during their posted times, often as part of their certification process to be officially certified facilitators (a title I haven't earned myself). So please consider pushing through the seemingly universal resistance to helplines, and just call to give these nice people something beautiful to do, and to give yourself a chance to meet your painful thinking and send it on its way.
If you'd like to use a written self-facilitation format, here's Katie's One-Belief-at-a-Time Worksheet.
There's also an app for taking a thought through the inquiry process if you're someone such a thing applies to. Find it here (#5).