The Work Of Byron Katie
The Work is a beautiful way to unravel stressful thoughts that grab my attention over and over again. In doing The Work, I am able to know myself better.
Remember the finger puzzle that locks your two index fingers? When you pull away to release your fingers, it only grabs tighter. The release of the fingers happens when you move your fingers closer. The Work reminds me of that puzzle.
When I have a stressful thought, I want to get away from it or do something to make it go away. However, I have found that the harder I try, the more tied into the stress I become. The Work asks me to do something different. It invites me to pause, breathe, to come closer and get to know the thought. When I do, I find my freedom.
Doing The Work consists of asking four questions, and then turning around the original thought.
Is it true?
With this first question, I stop for a moment, close my eyes, and take a breath, and then answer this question with my full attention. Sometimes my answer is Yes, sometimes it is No.
Can I absolutely know it is true?
If I answer 'Yes' to the first question, this second one asks me to look more deeply. Neither of these first two questions is a challenge. They are simply invitations to take a deeper look at what I am believing, and to do so with curiosity, honest curiosity.
Who am I?
What happens when I believe this thought?
With a desire to know more, I come closer to the stressful thought, immerse myself in it, so that I might see all the ways the thought plays out in my world and relationships--How do I treat myself (and family, co-workers, neighbors) when I believe it? How do I drive my car when I am believing it? What does my body feel like in these moments I am very committed to this thought?
As I work with this question, recapturing who I am when I believe the thought I am working with, I often find myself frowning, breathing more shallowly, and I feel more isolated from those I care about.
Who would I be without the thought?
What an amazing question! It feels like stepping out into fresh Spring air after a long time cramped in a small stale space!
My first response is usually a very deep breath, my forehead relaxes, and I am not so narrowly focussed. I start to imagine something better. I feel more at ease, and my mind begins to see other ways of thinking about the situation.
In that moment, the stress is relieved and I am creative in my search of other possibilities. In that moment, the thought that had such a tight hold on my body, personality and relationships is loosened.
In a turnaround, I turn the thought around in as many ways as I can think of. I have fun exploring and naming ways that opposite thoughts are also true, and sometimes even more true than my original stressful thought.
When I am very upset as I believe a thought, I often forget that there are other ways of looking at it that are also true. Opening to the possibilities turnarounds offer can be such a relief! And so often I am absolutely amazed at what I find.
I breath with more ease. My body is more relaxed. My thinking is not so tight.
Doing The Work asks me to look into my thoughts and connect with them, consciously. It grants me permission to truly see the impact they have on my health, my life and my relationships. This is where the opportunity to step outside of them exists. Like a snake shedding a skin, I see what my life would look like if I was not so consumed by what I was thinking. I can look at who I am, and how my life is different when I do not hold onto this particular thought so tightly.
In the same miraculous way that the body takes nourishment and rebuilds itself, the mind is able to digest the awareness of who I am when I believe a stressful thought, and who I am when I do not, and update. The relationship I have with the world and myself is moved to a different place in my inner world, and I act from this new perspective.
I find that over time, I do not hang on so tightly. I am able to move more freely, both in my thinking and my relationships. And I am more at peace with myself and the world.