The Work ~ Byron Katie

A very simple yet powerful self inquiry technique is called “The Work”, as taught by Byron Katie.

This technique is really effective in dropping mind stories.

We generally go through life wishing that almost everything that is going on is in some form or fashion different than it currently is.  It can be the kind of job we have or don’t have, the kind of  relationships we have or dont have, the way people treat us,  the we are wronged by so many, no one understands us, how we give and don’t get back what we deserve, etc… the list is endless.

Byron Katie’s book “Loving What Is”, introduces a technique called “The Work”, which has a simple way of asking four questions and turing the situation that is making us unhappy, around. It shows us how to “accepting what is”.

Her quote, “When you argue with reality, you always lose – but only 100% of the time”, is possibly the most useful quote to remember, in our lives. 100% of our suffering comes from arguing with reality. Any time there is discomfort, unhappiness, sadness… it is helpful to observe what is going on in our minds, there is something we are wishing for different than it is and hence are not accepting the reality of the moment, that is resulting is the discomfort.

“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.” ~ Byron Katie.

We spend all our lives trying to change the world around us, in order to be happy.

“My kids should treat me with respect”, “My partner needs to give me more attention”, “I should be loved by my family as I have defined love”, and so on.

When we insist on things like this, we cause a lot of hurt and anger and unhappiness in ourselves, and all around us, by trying to change everyone around us. Katie’s technique “The Work”, gives a simple technique to see what the reality is, and how to accept this reality, so that we can be happy, or at least at peace.

And my favorite quote from Katie….

“Would you rather be right or free?”

This one actually helps you let go of the mind stories.

Our mind always wants to be right…

“but I deserve the attention I want but I’m not getting!”,  “I have a right to expect my children to take care of me when I get old!”,  “It is what parents do, they take care of their grandkids, I have every right to expect my parents to help me with my kids!”,  “How can you tell me to turn it around and make all of this my fault, they must change in order for me to be happy!”

Would you rather be right … or would you rather be happy?

Let go of the desire to be right … and allow yourself to see the reality of what is going on. You can be free of suffering.

You can get details on how to do “The Work” here:

Step 1:

The First step is to fill in a Judge-Your-Neighbor Worksheet.

  • You can get a copy of the worksheet here.
  • Write down everything that is bothering you.
  • If you have managed to identify your mind stories you can write these down in this sheet.

Step 2:

The Second step is apply 4 questions to each one of the things you wrote down:

1. Is it true?

  • The answer is a “yes” or a “no” only.
  • If your answer is “no”, continue to question #3.

2. Can you absolutely know that it’s true?

3. How do you react, what happens, when you believe that thought? (Occasionally people find the following sub-questions helpful.)

  • How do you feel when you believe that thought? (Depressed, anxious, etc.)
  • Does that thought bring peace or stress into your life?
  • What images do you see when you believe that thought about a past or future?
  • Describe the physical sensations that happen when you believe that thought.
  • How do you treat that person and others when you believe that thought?
  • How do you treat yourself when you believe that thought?
  • What addictions/obsessions begin to manifest when you believe that thought? (Alcohol, credit cards,  food, the TV remote?)
  • Where and at what age did that thought first occur to you?
  • Whose business are you in when you believe that thought?
  • What do you get for holding on to that belief?
  • What do you fear would happen if you didn’t believe that thought? (Later, take this list of fears to inquiry.)
  • What are you not able to do when you believe that thought? (Take this list to inquiry.)

4. Who would you be without the thought?

  • Close your eyes and drop your story just for a moment; notice: who would you be without that thought? Who would you be without your story?

Step 3:

The next step is to turn it around (the concept you are questioning), and don’t forget to find three genuine, specific examples of each turnaround.

  • Turn the thought around.
  • Statements can be turned around to the opposite, to the self, and to the other, and occasionally there are other variations as well. When dealing with an object, you can replace the object with “my thinking” or “my thoughts.” Find a minimum of three specific, genuine examples of how each turnaround is as true as or truer than your original statement.

Examples of Turnarounds:

Here are a few more examples of turnarounds:

“He should understand me” turns around to:

  • He shouldn’t understand me. (This is reality.)
  • I should understand him.
  • I should understand myself.

“I need him to be kind to me” turns around to:

  • I don’t need him to be kind to me.
  • I need me to be kind to him. (Can I live it?)
  • I need me to be kind to myself.

Embracing Reality:

After you have turned around the judgments in your answers to numbers 1 through 5 on the Worksheet (asking if they are as true or truer), turn number 6 around using “I am willing …” and “I look forward to …”

For example, “I don’t ever want to experience an argument with Paul” turns around to “I am willing to experience an argument with Paul” and “I look forward to experiencing an argument with Paul.” Why would you look forward to it?

Number 6 is about fully embracing all of mind and life without fear, and being open to reality. If you experience an argument with Paul again, good. If it hurts, you can put your thoughts on paper and investigate them. Uncomfortable feelings are merely the reminders that we’ve attached to something that may not be true for us. They let us know that it’s time to do The Work.

Until you can see the enemy as a friend, your Work is not done. This doesn’t mean you must invite him to dinner. Friendship is an internal experience. You may never see him again, you may even divorce him, but as you think about him are you feeling stress or peace?

In my experience, it takes only one person to have a successful relationship. I like to say I have the perfect marriage, and I can’t really know what kind of marriage my husband has (though he tells me he’s happy too).

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