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. But I move through life now from a stance of such joy and trust and self-love that it stands out for me when I'm irate or discouraged or critical. I notice it when I'm ruffled. 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. 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 the right relationship. 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.
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 http://www.TheWork.com. Note that more links to Katie's resources appear in the right column of this page.
To learn more about how The Work has impacted me personally, read my story.
"Jaya helped me through one of the most difficult transitions of my life. I called her in a pretty hysterical state at one of my lowest moments. She expertly guided me with kindness, insight, and patience. Two hours later, her compassionate, intuitive approach gave me the clarity to make smart, peaceful choices for how to handle my situation. I have had the privilege of doing The Work with many fine and skilled facilitators and Jaya, to my mind, is one of the best."
— San Francisco client
Free Resources from Byron Katie
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).
Would you like an inquiry shortcut?
Here's a powerful method for generating and processing a list of thoughts, with clear examples:
When you have doubting, miserable thoughts, I invite you to stop everything and write them down. You need to see, again, that what you've got going is a finite list of thoughts. And in writing them down (list form, one thought per line), you show yourself that this is a list of thoughts. It's not reality, but as long as you vaguely, unconsciously believe you're in reality, then everything will come out of that: your feelings and the next downward-spiraling thoughts and your big and small decisions (including the unnourishing food you shove into your face, the show you turn on that segues in 14 seconds into the next episode, the poison you drink that will ensure you wake up feeling rotten about your life).
Once you write down the thoughts, if you do nothing else, simply remind yourself they're just thoughts. And because they're thoughts, that means they're not absolutely true. You can also tell yourself, No wonder I feel as I do—who wouldn't with this set of thoughts? If and when you can or wish to, work with them further by doing these two things:
1) Find the direct opposite of the original thought then find several (at least 3) reasons why the new thought could actually be true. The reasons could be general things you know about life, things you've observed in yourself or others, and very recent specific evidence that the turnaround thought is in clear evidence in your reality.
2) Notice that the original thought might be partially true, or it might be true sometimes and, looking at it that way, ask yourself, So what? Am I equipped to deal with that? Does it benefit my growth? For a future-oriented thought: Could I get through that? Could there be benefits to me in facing such a thing if it went that way?
So if you have the thought, for example, as you await your baby, I WON'T BE A GOOD MOM, write it down and look at it, and say, That's just a thought—and because it's a thought, it's not reality; it can't possibly be all true.
Then (part 1), look at the opposite, and say or write, I WILL BE A GOOD MOM, and give at least three reasons why that's very likely to be true.
Next (part 2), consider that the thought may be partially true: it could be that, sometimes, in your life as a mother, you'll have a moment or even an ongoing issue in which you might think, This is rotten parenting, I'm a bad mom: So what?
Having met your thoughts, looked at them a little closer to see what's truer than the worst of what you were just believing about yourself, your life, what you can or can't have, see if you can feel into any sense of freedom or expansion. If you're still hurting emotionally despite the mental exploration and possible relief, see if you can get okay with that without thinking or saying something like, It didn't work. If you're just trying to meet your thoughts in a clear, let's-get-real way, it worked: you got more real. You're closer to truth now. Katie says to do The Work with no motive except for the love of truth.
As for your feelings, they'll do what they do. This is why I emphasize working separately with the pain body and simply tuning in to where your emotions have landed in your body and giving kind awareness and breath (the only balm you can apply from within) to those areas. After and before and sometimes while you meet your thoughts, attend to your physical emotions separately and kindly. And then attend to the task at hand and, wherever you can, as Abraham-Hicks says, reach for a better-feeling thought.
As I love to say, scooch toward joy, toward your vision, toward what feels good. Just scooch. It's okay if you don't get there right now, but do scooch in the right direction. Life will direct and redirect you to get you where you need to go.