Thursday, February 28, 2008

What is The Work of Byron Katie?

In its most basic form, The Work consists of four questions and a turnaround.
The questions are:

Is it true?

Can you absolutely know that it's true?

How do you react, what happens, when you think that thought?

Who would you be without the thought?

Then turn it around, it being the concept you are questioning, and for each turnaround find three genuine and specific examples of each turned around statement in your life.

It's not a quick question and answer process. It's more of an active meditation. You sit with each question and answer and really feel it in your body and notice how you feel every step of the way.

For example I posted The Invitation by Oriah Mountain Dreamer here because I came across it again and remembered that I had liked it very much in the past. It is a poem about relationships of all kinds, not just romantic ones, and about all desires we think we should fulfil to connect with each other. Then I reread it and realised that I don't hold any of it to be true for me any more! So I'm going to use a line from that to show the work in action. (I've removed the post of The Invitation as it's very long but anyone wanting to read it can see it here:

The main thrust of the poem centres around 'I want to know" and then each 'I want to know" follows with a list of desired outcomes eg. "I want to know what you ache for
and if you dare to dream of meeting your heart’s longing."

So let's do the work..

I want to know - is that true?

I want to know - can I absolutely know that that's true
No I can't absolutely know that

How do I react, what happens, when I think that thought - I want to know?
I feel pressure. I feel out of control when I can't know. I feel angry and unsettled. My mind travels into the future and projects that if I can't know that I'll have lost something. The feeling of wanting becomes like a void or a giant mouth that just can't get enough. My body feels heavy and my stomach knots.

Who would you be without the thought - I want to know?
I'd be at peace. I'd be content with the openness of not knowing. The future feels open, exciting and expansive again. My body lightens and I feel a real sense of relief.

Turnaround 1
I don't want to know
eg. When I read a book or watch a movie I love the excitement of just moving through page by page or scene by scene not knowing where the story is going to take me
eg In life I live in a don't want to know way. I notice I don't really like very fixed plans and I prefer to let things evolve
eg. In relationships I realise now when I look back that I like the idea of knowing but in reality what I really look for is the comfort of just being. When the feeling is clear there is nothing to know.

Turnaround 2
I want to know about my thinking about want
eg. I notice that when I get into wanting to know what someone else wants or thinks that I put myself in a situation of stressful thinking as my thinking is trying to hold onto something impossible to attain. It is trying to project a future that hasn't happened and blocks acceptance of the truth of the present.
eg I realise that what someone else thinks or wants is their business and is in their minds. It has nothing to do with me and thinking that it has is hopeless
eg. People interacting only need to have one common thought, the thought that they like being in each others company. If they have that common thought they spend time together if they don't have it they don't. All the other thoughts are just ideas to swap around and play with. Thinking I 'want' to know more then blocks me from seeing what actually is right in front of me

So as an outcome what feels as true or truer. Having worked it I don't want to know is much truer for me. That thought brings me peace. When I believed I want to know it brought me stress.

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