The Work of Byron Katie
Updated: Jul 14
"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."
"He shouldn't have done that.", "I hate it when...", "I wish I were....", "She really should...". Begin listening to your thoughts and most likely these are the kinds of things you will hear. What we tell ourselves about a situation determines our experience of it. And if we are arguing with reality, resisting what is, our experience will be suffering. But, it doesn't have to be. We do not have to believe everything we think. The Work of Byron Katie is a process of inquiring into stressful thoughts to see if they are really true for us. We write down the stressful thought, then ask ourselves four simple questions: 1. Is it true? 2. Can I absolutely know that it is true? 3. How do I react, what happens when I believe that thought? 4. Who would I be without that thought? Then we turn the statement around to the opposite and give three examples of how that statement is true.
I attended the Byron Katie School for the Work in 2008 and found it so valuable. It is a tool I use personally, and suggest to my clients on a regular basis. This isn't about changing your thoughts, it is a heart-centered meditative inquiry into what is really true.
Here is an example of one my own thoughts I have done the work on:
My husband doesn't listen to me. 1. Is it true? Yes! 2. Can I absolutely know that it is true? (Can I know for certain when he is listening and when he isn't? Are there times when he does listen? No 3. How do I react, what happens when I believe that thought? I feel angry. I roll my eyes. I build a case against him in my mind remembering all the other times he didn't listen. I'll say "did you hear me?" in an accusatory tone. I sometimes won't finish what I was saying - "never mind!". 4. Who would you be without that thought? I would be open and accepting. I would simply repeat what I had said if he didn't hear me the first time, or wait until a better time to talk. Turn it around: I don't listen to my husband. Examples: 1. When I am thinking he isn't listening I am not listening to him! 2. There have been times when I have been distracted or lost in thought and not listened to him. 3. There have been times I didn't like what he was saying and did not listen, did not hearhim. My husband does listen to me. 1. He listened to me yesterday tell him about a dream I had. 2. He listened to me this morning talk about a business idea I had. 3. He listened to me when I told him what I want to do for my birthday. Another turnaround might be I don't listen to myself like when I am thinking about what he should be doing. I am in his business and not my own and I am not listening to myself.
Don't let the simplicity of this process be deceiving. It is very powerful. Just the act of noticing what you are telling yourself about a person or situation is a significant step. Then to even have the willingness to question the thought is the beginning of the end of suffering.
For free downloads of worksheets to guide you through The Work, please visit http://thework.com/en/do-work
Below is a video of Byron Katie leading someone who experiences chronic pain and illness through The Work.