Review: Byron Katie and Loving What Is

Who is the Writer?

In 1986 Byron Katie (or Katie as she is most often called)  was 43, living in a half way house, and sleeping on a floor because she didn’t feel worthy of the bed.  She was in a half way house for women with eating disorders and had been sent to the attic because the other women in the house were frightened of her and didn’t want to be around her. She had spent 10 years in a downward spiral of rage, paranoia and despair.  When she awoke on this one particular morning in February she felt she had no concept of whom or what she was -There was no me” she said.  From that day onward, Byron Katie saw the world differently.  She saw it without the filter of “I” of ego.  And because of that she lost all story about who she was in the world.  She became a sort of wise woman to all who knew her and she was sought after for her guidance.  When asked if she was “enlightened” she responded “I’m just someone who knows the difference between what hurts and what doesn’t”.

Why did she write this Book?

Katie wrote this book because she found her life became richer “without a story”.  Living now in a world without fear, sadness or anger and with a wide open heart she can now eagerly look forward to what life will bring her way.  In writing this book, Byron Katie believes that, just as she found peace and release, you the reader can do the same if you do what she calls “The Work”.  This book is her attempt to explain The Work through scripts from workshops and personal reflections.

Who is this Book for?

I think this is a great way to begin to let some cracks of light in where your life has sealed itself shut.  The Work, as she calls it, really is a scalpel like tool to getting past all the justifications and “ya buts” we have in maintaining our story about the people around us and the world we live in.  For people who continually feel that their problems lie outside them with others and the unfairness of life, this particular tool can rock their worlds.

The four questions she uses for each process are ruthless in their commitment to reality, rather than the story you are invested in.  Byron Katie puts forth to us in her book that any thought we have that argues with reality creates stressful feelings which we then act from.  The thought that “Paul should take out the garbage” is a stressful thought because he doesn’t take out the garbage.  So having the thought “Paul should take out the garbage” only leads to reactive statements like “It makes me feel like I have to do everything” and “if he loved me he would take out the garbage”, which leads  to, you got it, stress.  Using her four questions she guides her participants into the reality of the story and illuminates through the process of The Work, how to see this situation differently and diffuse your reactivity to it, thereby eliminating stress in your life.

What is the Message here?

If you follow Katie on these dialogues (which she provides as full script from her workshops with participants of The Work) she will have you write out (no skipping out on writing it down she says!)  answers to a series of questions about how you feel about someone.  Someone who is causing you stress.  Then you take these 6 statements and you apply the four questions of The Work  to each statement, ending with a turnaround statement, which will turnaround how you think about it.

The Four Questions you use to investigate your thinking are:

  1. 1. Is it true?
  2. 2. Can I absolutely know that it’s true?
  3. 3. How do I react when I think that thought?
  4. 4. Who would I be without that thought?

Then she moves to the turn around. The turn around is the trickiest part if you are self applying this technique I found.  You take your statements and rewrite them, taking out the name of “Paul”, and inserting “I”.  So “If Paul loved me he’d take out the garbage” becomes “I would love me if I took out the garbage” and “ If I loved Paul I’d take out the garbage”. Your job is to find the truth in these statements.  To see if the turn arounds  are as true or truer than the original statement.  Is the sign of Paul’s undying love  taking out the garbage?   When you see how you can treat yourself better, love yourself through your own inner dialogue, and when you can find forgiveness for those you accuse, then there can be peace.  She ends this work with the phrase “I look forward to..” or “I’m willing to…”  You would close with “ I look forward to feeling unloved when Paul doesn’t take the garbage out”.  Kaite feels that this is where you embrace life and all it holds, knowing that the painful parts are great reminders of the work you still need to do to be truly free.

What I’m taking from this book and putting into my toolkit

(The Truth Up Front: When I just was reading this book I struggled to see how it could work for me, but when I was about 4 chapters in received an invitation to go to a class on The Work for a few hours and that made all the difference.  This review is surely colored by having had a three hour class with a leader)

The four questions are useful on a day to day basis for me I find and even the turn around work I’m using sometimes

Here is a quick example of how I’ve used The Work of Byron Katie:

My son shouldn’t talk back to me.

Is it true?  Well, no, because he does.  He does talk back to me.

What happens when you think that thought?

When I think that thought I get angry because he is and he shouldn’t.

Who would I be without that thought?

Without that thought the argument between us wouldn’t escalate and I wouldn’t get mad and yell.  Without that thought we could probably move on and have a nice day.

What is the turn around?

My son should talk back to me

The turnaround reminds me that I want him to be strong and talking back is him standing tall, and he talks like that to me because I model it as a parent sometimes in the way I talk to him.

I should talk back to me.

I’m part of the problem in the “talking back”.  I should remind myself to model talking to him in the way I want to be spoken to.

This work reminds me that my story isn’t absolute.  I can step back an realize my active role in choosing the story and creating a God like story line of what people should and shouldn’t be doing.  (This “Are you God?” question is a Katie favorite)

The Four Questions remind me that there are stories that I subject myself to that create non productive anger, bitterness and frustration.  I can wake up and say “Wow-I’m making myself miserable right now”.  From here I can act can act from choice which I believe is what living powerfully and peacefully originates from.

I Love this part

Katie gives you lots of transcripts from her workshops and that really helps the reader understand what she is up to.  She begins with the simple “judge your neighbor rant” and ends with being afraid of bombs falling in war and the topic of incest.  She continues to give examples of how to deepen the uses of these questions with further inquiries and turn arounds you will need to go to these places.

Words of Caution

I think if you want to gain awareness and crack open that seal on your story this book can be helpful, but I wouldn’t try to ‘self’ coach in deep waters.  Our minds aren’t good at stepping outside and being self aware and the commitment to the truth we believe is hard to see.  You really need an outside, non invested guide.  Maybe you and a friend could aid each other?  But I wouldn’t do too much alone.

What I hated

I didn’t ‘hate’ anything in this book, but I’m uncomfortable with Katie Byron as a mystic seer and  she does allow herself to be cast this way.    These four questions can start a road but they aren’t going to provide enough gas for the whole trip in my opinion.

Rating 4 /5

You can get further information from www.thework.com or call 1 800 98 Katie or email customercare@thework.com

You can look at her worksheets online at www.thework.com

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