Byron Katie’s story is pretty amazing.
In 1986, at the bottom of a ten-year spiral into depression, rage, and self-loathing, she woke up one morning to a state of constant joy that has never left her. She realized that when she believed her stressful thoughts, she suffered, but that when she questioned them, she didn’t suffer, and that this is true for every human being.
Her simple yet powerful process of inquiry is called The Work.
The Work consists of four questions and the turnarounds, which are a way of experiencing the opposite of what you believe. When you question a thought, you see around it to the choices beyond suffering.
I discovered Byron Katie’s ‘The Work’ in 2013 whilst in a particularly awful section of my life, a time when all was crashing around and within me after my marriage had failed, and my post-divorce relationship had also failed. For a time her books accompanied me through hell and high-water and most importantly, guided me on how to be OK with all of it through a set of simple questions, dropping my judgement of others and asking “Is that true?”. I found the process extremely liberating, like a weight lifting out of my life that I hadn’t realised was there. Most importantly – it brought me to so much self-discovery and healing after which I have never looked back.
She realized that when she believed her stressful thoughts, she suffered, but that when she questioned them, she didn’t suffer, and that this is true for every human being.
On first doing the work I had a life-changing realisation. The belief that I was working on was around my ex partner – ‘He didn’t love me’. As directed, I found many reasons which proved he didn’t love me – hurtful things he had said, stuff he did wrong (in my eyes). In the next piece of The Work, I discovered that for every upsetting behaviour I was accusing him of, I had pretty much matched it with my own mistreatment of him, I could find many instances of behaviour that proved that ‘I didn’t love him’. But the final turnaround was my epiphany – through that I discovered what had been at the bottom of all my failed relationships – I looked at the words I had written on the worksheet and it was like a veil lifted from my life. The statement I had written said ‘I didn’t love me’… astonishingly simple, extremely true. I realised that I had not cared for myself in the relationship and was full of self-loathing. How could I expect anyone else to want a relationship with me if I didn’t even like myself?! It was a wake up call, one that set me on a path of self-healing and building a strong relationship with myself before even attempting one with anyone else.
I am a different person these days thanks to that book and the questioning skills it taught me. Had I not discovered it I don’t know if I would have coped with half of the challenges I’ve had since.
Byron Katie’s books include the bestselling Loving What Is, I Need Your Love – Is That True?, A Thousand Names for Joy and A Mind at Home with Itself – buy them here.
You can do The Work for yourself on the website – the worksheets are totally free to download and fill in and there are lots of resources such as videos of people doing The Work live. For more information, visit www.thework.com
Photo credit: Scott London