Byron Katie is someone whose work has occupied my bookshelf for a decade.
A friend lent me Katie’s book, Loving What Is, long enough ago for its pages to yellow, probably hoping I’d stop the woe-me monologues and do some work on myself. I don’t remember reading it then, or for the decade that followed.
The book and I have moved four times. Four times, I held it in my hand before placing it in the cardboard box after considering whether it should be donated or kept. Four times, I decided to cart it along, in case…you know…one day, I’d want to read it.
Then my kids growing up happened. Divorce happened. Not having a job happened. Love, loss, grief, and pain happened. 12-step meetings happened. Time on my hands happened. And then, one March morning, COVID-19 happened and with it, the explosion of Zoom gatherings, one of them, a daily live call with none other than Byron Katie.
Four times a week for the past three weeks, I have parked my butt in a chair and stared at Byron Katie’s face on the computer screen while doing The Work, which is what she calls answering the four questions:
- Is it true?
- Can you absolutely know it’s true?
- How do you react, what happens, when you believe that thought?
- Who would you be without that thought?
Turn the thought around. Experiencing the opposite of what you believe—which when asked in reference to a particular problem, can shift the reality that lives in our minds. For three weeks, I have sat wondering, where the hell have you been? And chuckling at the answer: In your damn bookcase!
In her mid-40s, Katie was depressed, overweight, agoraphobic, and addicted to codeine and alcohol. There were mornings when she couldn’t get out of bed to brush her teeth. She ended up in a halfway house and one morning, while on the floor, this epiphany occurred to her:
“I discovered that when I believed my thoughts I suffered, but when I didn’t believe them I didn’t suffer and that this is true for every human being. Freedom is as simple as that.”
Her book has finally escaped my bookshelf. It now makes its rounds from the bedside table to the rim of my bathtub, to the coffee table, and travels inside my backpack to the coffee shop with its socially distanced tables. It’s become my bible, and her weekly Zoom calls, a place where I return to practice inquiry, which is nothing more than the mind questioning the mind.
The quotes that follow are ones that I’ve jotted down because they made some part of me go, Aha! May they serve as a tool to help you live a life free from suffering.
“Who needs God when I have my opinion?”
“Ego is another word for fear.”
“The ego is simply a thought system. It’s nothing.”
“Thoughts are offered up by the ego. It is a happening.”
“The ego does not know how to include. It can only bring chaos and confusion.”
“Anything that is so afraid that it never sleeps deserves our compassion.”
“Identify what was offered up by the ego by saying, ‘Thank you for sharing.’ That is respectful.”
“Not happy with that!” says the ego to small wins. It’s not enough.”
“The ego will immediately defend. That’s its separation.”
“Don’t I want to know what it is that has that kind of power over me?”
“Only ego is born; only ego can die.”
“Do you want to meet the love of your life? Look in the mirror.”
“I don’t want to be hurt by my own lack of integrity.”
“Advice to others is always advice to myself and I’m usually the last one to listen.”
“I’m trying to be nice means: I’m trying to be someone else. I’m not comfortable in my own skin.”
“What am I buying with my niceness?”
“It’s not your job to like me, it’s mine.”
“No one in this world needs me but me!”
“I am here to take care of me. “
“We are not the creators of our thoughts. Thoughts surface without prompting. We are being thought.
“Don’t believe everything you think.”
“Thoughts are attacks, time bombs until a switch in our mind happens. Then there is an openness, an emotion.”
“This is a friendly universe. What I am thinking and believing leads me to suffering, makes me angry at others. It’s depressive.”
”It is what I am thinking and believing about a situation that leaves me exhausted. Not the situation or people themselves.”
“Question every thought, every belief for the love of truth.”
“I love what I think, and I’m never tempted to believe it.”
“I’m on solid ground, always. What I am thinking and believing is what goes against that and causes weakness.”
“My whole world comes out of me, my perceptions, and my beliefs.”
“When I am suffering and want other people to feel it, it’s an endless chase. No one can feel our pain.”
“The cause of suffering is our state of mind.”
“Confusion is the only suffering on this plane and I am the only one on this planet.”
“Suffering is thinking and believing what we are being thought and attaching to that.”
“Connection is another word for love.”
“Am I open to what the other thinks and believes? Am I connected?”
“Admit what I did and said and apologize for that, but not why, that is justification.”
“People live in our heads as we last perceived them, last saw them. They can live like that for years.”
“You are who I believe you to be.”
“What I believe about you is the best that I can do and it separates me from you.”
“Suffering is being at war with the other in my thoughts.”
“Show me. I’m yours.”
“Questioning our thoughts can take us to reverence and shift us. We are not in a hurry. We are in Earth school. We are doing our homework.”
“If I’m in a hurry. Slow down. That’s how to get there fast.”
“Freedom is another word for strength.”
“Everything is beautiful other than what I am thinking and believing about that.”
“If we can believe, we can question what we believe.”
“What’s exciting about life? I get to wait and see!”
I have left the best for last.
“My world is in me.”
I am the Michelangelo of my life. With my thoughts, I get to create beauty or ugliness. Peace or chaos. Connection or separation. It all begins with awareness of my thoughts and beliefs because in every be-lie-f a LIE is embedded. Question everything and watch your life expand.