“Peace doesn’t require two people; it requires only one. It has to be you. The problem begins and ends there.” – Byron Katie I sat in the dark, shaking with rage after my child fell asleep. He had done this. He made her fearful and sad. A fierceness rose in me like a volcano. I […]
Just for fun, I have started using the inquiry techniques from Byron Katie’s The Work on Facebook memes. I had two come through my feed that are in direct opposition to each other, that inspired me to try this out.
The first says “If someone treats you bad, just remember there is something wrong with them, not you. Normal people don’t go around destroying other people.” The second one says “Never reject anybody in your life, because good people give us happiness and bad people give us experience. Both are essential in life.”
Is it True?
I am going to deconstruct the first one so this doesn’t take forever to read. Is it true that if someone treats you badly, something is wrong with them, not you? Is it true that Normal people don’t go around destroying other people? My immediate psychological knowledge of mediation and doing investigations can surface proof that if someone treats you badly, there are many possible sources of why that is occurring. My spiritual knowledge tells me that these types of things are co-created. I also would be curious about what is normal, and how another can destroy me.
Can you absolutely know it is true?
Since I can argue against a few assumptions in the meme, I do not believe that this could ever absolutely be true.
How do you react, what happens when you believe this thought?
If I believed that something was wrong with other people, I would be less empathetic. It would entrench me in separation. It would lead to ways I could judge others and justify it. I would feel like a victim. I would begin searching for normal people, who may be people who have the same woundedness as me or see the world with the same beliefs I do. I would close off from other options. I would feel defensive.
Who would I be without the thought?
Ironically, I would be a bit like the second meme. I would be open to how this experience is happening for me instead of to me. I would be free. I would know I have the opportunity to change my experience.
Possible turnarounds of that thought could be:
- If (I feel like) someone treats me badly, something is wrong with me (my view of the situation). How do I know this is true? When I have used curious questions to understand others or what they have done, I don’t experience it the same way. When I have used non-violent communication, the situation has often turned out to be about needs.
- Others treating me badly is not in my control. My problem is how I experience or view it. How do I know this is true? I know that I cannot control others. I have found techniques like not judging an experience as good or bad can completely change my emotional experience.
- Normal people DO go around destroying other people. How do I know this is true? Normal is a word that can subtly be used to control how the world is supposed to be according to your world view. As a leader, sometimes we make decisions that will mean people have to change, or they need to leave the organization – essentially destroying them. No matter what the specific circumstances are, two world views clashed – and that is common and therefore normal. This sentence is inherently dangerous and controlling in some ways.
What happens when you do turnarounds?
For me, I find that eventually my beliefs are the source of my pain. My thoughts are the source of pain. If I view the world without my thoughts or beliefs as a point of reference, there is an openness, a peacefulness and an incredible freedom.
“A thought is harmless unless we believe it. It’s not our thoughts, but our attachment to our thoughts, that causes suffering. Attaching to a thought means believing that it’s true, without inquiring. A belief is a thought that we’ve been attaching to, often for years”. – Byron Katie
What happens if you stop believing your thoughts?
1. You stop feeding drama with thoughts and words
One of the first things I noticed when I stopped believing my thoughts was that I was no longer replaying painful scenarios in my head over and over. I wasn’t anticipating conversations with people and deciding how they should play out.
I found it was much easier to let go of my day. It became easier to be curious about things that happened in my life. I could ask how an event brought me closer to awakening. I stopped believing my story, which was usually told with all my conclusions rather than the observable experience.
2. You stop blaming or judging.
When I stopped believing my thoughts, I realized that right or wrong were also thoughts and beliefs. I could stop beating myself up for not living up to standards (thoughts) I held for myself. I could stop trying to be perfect – defined as always being right and honorable and loving.
Then I could stop judging others. I could look at the belief triggered by another instead of blaming the other. I might still be unable to go to their world but I didn’t need to judge, be angry or afraid of what they could take from me – like showing me I wasn’t perfect according to my definition – and therefore not deserving of love.
“Placing the blame or judgment on someone else leaves you powerless to change your experience; taking responsibility for your beliefs and judgments gives you the power to change them.” – Byron Katie
3. You no longer suffer because you want something different than what is
The biggest source of suffering comes from resisting what is, and comparing it to what you wish. When you stop believing your thoughts, you stop creating an alternative to what is. You realize that what is happening is exactly as it should be, and it has always been this way.
“I am a lover of what is, not because I’m a spiritual person, but because it hurts when I argue with reality.” – Byron Katie
The best part? You can relax. You don’t have to control everything and everyone. The universe becomes a loving place instead of a human version of Whack a Mole, with unexpected impossible challenges.
Little by little, you release a bit more and become more aligned with what’s true.
What is heaven? I remember a conversation I was part of one late night at a university party where a guy named Kevin suggested that this Life is heaven. I thought he was crazy.
How could a life with heart break, loss, worry, and grief be heaven? Isn’t heaven a place of no suffering and perpetual happiness?
One of my favorite movies is What Dreams May Come. Heaven there is a world that responds to our every intention and creates paradise.
Most traditions have some image of heaven or afterlife. But those all come from a dualistic view. Dualism is the position that mental phenomena are, in some respects, non-physical, or that the mind and body are not identical.
Non-dualism presents a different view. “Non-duality’ is actually a translation of the Sanskrit word ‘Advaita’, which simply means ‘not two’ and points to the essential oneness (wholeness, completeness, unity) of life, a wholeness which exists here and now,prior to any apparent separation. It’s a word that points to an intimacy, a love beyond words, right at the heart of present moment experience. It’s a word that points us back Home. And despite the compelling appearance of separation and diversity there is only one universal essence, one reality. Oneness is all there is – and we are included.
What we are really trying to do when we say ‘non-duality’ is point to life as it is right now, before the appearance of concepts and labels; before thought creates a world of things: table, chair, hand, foot, fear, me, you, past, future. What is life before thought? Can we even talk about that? Is it possible to capture non-duality into words?” –Jeff Foster
The problem is that we think of heaven as something outside. “Isn’t it fascinating how automatically thought (or ‘the mind’) tries to turn what we are talking about into some kind of special state or experience. Thought hears about ‘non-duality’ and wants it. And it asks, ‘How do I get it? How do I reach it? How do I see it? Who can take me there? Who can transmit it to me? Who can teach me it or give it to me? Where will I find it?’ It starts lookingfor something called ‘non-duality’. It starts waiting for it. It lives in hope.” –Jeff Foster
“So, how do you get back to heaven? To begin with, just notice the thoughts that take you away from it. You don’t have to believe everything your thoughts tell you. Just become familiar with the particular thoughts you use to deprive yourself of happiness. It may seem strange at first to get to know yourself in this way, but becoming familiar with your stressful thoughts will show you the way home to everything you need.” – Byron Katie
I am so happy. I can’t imagine anything in life that could add to my happiness.
What if I am always happy? What if, while circumstances could make life more easeful or more intense, I am happy anyway?
What if I have realized that my experience of things in my mind are just thoughts? What if I have stopped believing what I think?
And now, what if I am remembering who I really am? To me, that is heaven.
Some stories stick with you. For me, there is a great Star Trek TNG called Darmok. In this episode Picard is captured, then trapped on a planet with an alien captain who speaks a metaphorical language incompatible with the universal translator. They must learn to communicate with each other before a deadly planetary beast overwhelms them.
Picard realizes that the Tamarians communicate by citing examples and metaphors derived from mythology and folklore, but without knowing the context with which to ground these metaphors, the chance for successful communication is slim.
This weekend, I went on a retreat focusing on tools for eliminating our beliefs as a lens through which we view reality. It is the lens of our beliefs that keeps us separate from each other and from experiencing reality as it is.
I have leaned on Byron Katie’s The Work for a few years now. I was pretty sure I knew how to use it. And then I did this workshop.
For a full day, I tore apart my stories. First, the easy ones – the ones I have incorporated into my day to day views of life. Then we hit a cherished belief. I believe in responsibility. I believe in responsibility as a foundational spiritual value. I had to challenge it. I held tightly and could not find space to let go of this value, even though it was causing me suffering when I believed it.
My facilitator said “OK here’s what arises for me. I suffer when I believe my own thoughts. If we are responsible, we have control. If we have control, wouldn’t we chose to always be present and kind and loving? Are we really responsible?”
My ego broke open. Suddenly I saw how this belief kept me unhappy with myself, able to judge others, and apart from experiencing reality as it is. I can say control is an illusion but it became so apparent to me in that moment how beliefs completely create our experience. It is just like speaking in metaphors in the Star Trek episode.
And like that episode, we communicate best with others who share our metaphors and stories. We feel connected when a friend agrees and supports our story. We feel betrayed when someone we love moves into a different story than the one we shared.
I am not done processing the window into reality that opened when I saw that we do not control anything. We are not responsible. Things happen and we experience them. We move in directions based on what we value. Circumstances may make a certain experience more likely.
I can hardly wait to open the window into reality a bit wider.
Is she talking to a schizophrenic?
That was my first reaction when I read an interaction of a woman working with Byron Katie. If you are not accustomed to exploring and identifying underlying beliefs, the things that are surfaced in those conversations seem a bit…well…crazy.
The Work is simple. And it works. But, one consequence is that you see reality as it really is. You begin to see that what was going on inside you was what was really crazy. Awakening invites us to live outside the context of the mind and to experience an entirely new way of being.
“As I began living my turnarounds, I noticed that I was everything I called you. You were merely my projection. Now, instead of trying to change the world around me (this didn’t work, but only for 43 years), I can put the thoughts on paper, investigate them, turn them around, and find that I am the very thing I thought you were. In the moment I see you as selfish, I am selfish (deciding how you should be). In the moment I see you as unkind, I am unkind. If I believe you should stop waging war, I am waging war on you in my mind.” —Byron Katie
The Work process is clear cut and easy to do. It is so easy, there is an App for it. You can do the work anywhere. The real key to it is the process of identifying and uncovering the beliefs that are shaping your view and experience of reality.
“Uncomfortable feelings are clear reminders that we’ve attached to something that may not be true for us. They are gifts that let us know it’s time to identify the stressful thoughts and do The Work. Until you can see the enemy as a friend, your Work is not done. This doesn’t mean that you have to invite your enemy to dinner. Friendship is an internal experience. You may never see the person again, you may even divorce him or her, but as you think about the person, are you feeling stress or peace? In my experience, it takes only one person to have a successful relationship, and that’s me. I like to say that I have the perfect marriage, and I can never know what kind of marriage my husband has.” —Byron Katie
Fighting against reality is the ultimate version of that quotation “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results.” So what have I learned? I have done The Work on every difficult relationship I have – my mother, my father, my former partners, the annoying guy at work…and in all cases, I come back to the same thing I need to do: accept the person as they are, accept reality as it is, and stop struggling to make it different. I often hold the belief that if I were somehow different, the relationship with this person would be different. They would turn in to the mother/father/lover/colleague that I always wanted them to be. And this is a form of crazy.
“All fear comes from thought in the form of memory (past) or projection (future). Thought creates time: past, present, and future. So fear exists and comes from the perceived existence of time. To be free of fear is to be free of time. Since time is a creation of thought, to be free of fear you must be free of thought. Consequently, it is important to awaken and experience your Self outside of thought, existing as eternity. So question all notions of yourself that are creations of thought and of time—of past, present, and future. Experience your eternalness, your holiness, your awakeness until you are convinced that you are never subject to the movement of thought, of fear, or of time. To be free of fear is to be full of Love.” – Adyashanti
I have been a lover of the past. I have believed that my past qualified me for better things, or at least should be enough to earn me happiness. I have looked backwards to find ways to prevent myself from repeating the past. I have held on to parts of the past, akin to the famous break up line “No one can take away what we had.” With respect and spiritual truth, I am going to call B#$* S*%# on all of that.
1. Live in the Present
This one sounds obvious, but our minds so often make our past into a story that we tell, retell, revisit, and reconstruct. This process keeps us in the past, and keeps us from experiencing our soul, our enlightenment, and our freedom.
“Your body has been going through this thing called “life,” but your head has been going through this thing called “my fantasy about life” or “my big story about life.” You have been caught in an interpretation about life, so you have never really been here. Here is the Promised Land. The eternal is here. Have you ever noticed that you have never left here, except in your mind? When you remember the past, you are not actually in the past. Your remembering is happening here. When you think about the future, that future projection is completely here. And when you get to the future, it’s here. It’s no longer the future. To be here, all you have to do is let go of who you think you are. That’s all! And then you realize, “I’m here.” Here is where thoughts aren’t believed. Every time you come here, you are nothing. Radiantly nothing. Absolutely and eternally zero. Emptiness that is awake. Emptiness that is full. Emptiness that is everything. ” –Adyashanti
Often, some aspect of the past is connected to us energetically. Life events can leave unprocessed energy in our bodies and our minds. While couselling can be helpful to process some of that, there needs to be a process of moving the energy of whatever connects you from the past. Whether it is a lover, or a regret, or an old pattern of yours, it can help to imagine the energetic connection it has with you and dissolve it. A lover often has energetic strings to your heart and other chakras. Imagine the energetic chords being dissolved with golden light as you connect to universal love and energy to refill the energy to the chakras. Or sometimes what you are releasing feels like it has hooks into you. Imagine releasing the hook from where ever it seems most attached to you. And remember that this energy is not wrong; what you feel is neither good nor bad. You simply don’t want to hold it any more.
3. Is it True?
I have found that one of the fastest ways to release the past and thinking that holds you there is to apply the Work of Byron Katie. Heck, there is even an app for it!
The Four Questions:
Is it true? (Yes or no. If no, move to 3.)
Can you absolutely know that it’s true? (Yes or no.)
How do you react, what happens, when you believe that thought?
Who would you be without the thought?
4. Stop Believing Your Thoughts
Your thoughts are not who you are. You have no control over thoughts. They come and go without you doing anything about it. You cannot cause your next thought. It simply is. Thoughts occur more often when we condition them by returning to them, giving them our energy (ruminating or talking about them), and by believing them. Do not resist a thought. If it is a thought that is painful to you, I suggest you try “#3 – Is it true?”. Once you really look at a thought and challenge it, it is like a rope you saw in the dark and thought was a snake. Once you see it as a rope, it can never become a snake or source of fear for you again.
5. Focus on Being
“Awakening to the truth is a deep realization of what you are as an experience. What is it that is feeling? What is it that is thinking or sensing? This is not about coming up with the right name for it, so don’t name it for a moment. It’s about just noticing, just experiencing. Feel it. Sense it. Welcome it. Spiritual awakening is realizing what occupies the space called “me.” When you listen innocently, you’ll see that there really is something more here than a me.” – Adyashanti
It becomes more difficult to live in the past if you are BEING at this moment. When I was suffering the most emotionally, I found meditation, retreat, and yoga to be the best cure. I went to Brazil on a spiritual retreat and left alot of my story behind. I had to sit with myself in meditation for 10 hours a day, and discovered that there was something more than Me. After that, everything in my life flowed from that place and aligned with it. That is not to say I don’t have days or moments of blech. But the blech is an experience now. It is an opportunity for experience or for inquiry. It is not good or bad – just dropping those labels makes a huge difference.
As you let go of the past, the space it creates in your life for more of what you value to show up is amazing. Slowly, subtley, you look around and realize your life has become a reflection of your energy and your vibration. And then nothing is ever the same again.