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Loving What Is – by Byron Katie
This book would definitely be among the first that I would recommend to anyone who is serious about transforming their lives. In fact, I see it not so much as a book, but more like a “manual”. Byron Katie provides us with some incredibly powerful tools that we can use on any aspect of our lives that may be causing us stress, anger, grief or any other form of emotional unease.
Her wisdom is disarmingly simple, which means that when you first read one of her points, you may think to yourself: “Well that’s just common sense” yet as you try to actually integrate the teaching into your own life you’ll realize how difficult it can be to follow through on something that is just “common sense”.
For example: Katie begins the book by declaring “the only time we suffer is when we believe a thought that argues with what is.” Take a moment to re-read that and I’ll bet that you would agree with the statement. What a simple concept, right? And yet how difficult that is to put into practice.
After all, if you believe that statement, you need to be prepared to give up thoughts like: “my spouse just needs to …” or “the government should …” or the ever-popular “it shouldn’t be raining today!”
If you were to read only the first four pages of this book, you would still have some powerful seeds for changing how you interact with your world. One of my favorite quotes from Byron Katie is:
“I find only three kinds of business in the universe: mine, yours and God’s. Much of our stress comes from mentally living out of our own business.”
Just imagine how much different your life would be if you were somehow able to stay focused solely on your own business? Imagine the freedom! You wouldn’t have to worry about what your spouse was doing, because that’s his or her business. You wouldn’t get upset about what the government was doing, because that’s their business. And you wouldn’t waste any energy complaining about the weather, because that’s God’s business. You would be free to focus on yourself!
But of course that is easier said than done – which is why Byron Katie developed a practice called “The Work”. She describes The Work as a process of inquiry that brings us into awareness of the internal cause and effect that stems from holding onto thoughts that argue with what is.
Here are the steps involved in The Work.
- Judge Your Neighbor
- Write It Down
- Ask Four Questions
- Turn it around
Here’s a very quick and simple example of how those steps would play out.
When you judge your neighbor, you may come up with a thought like: “My boss just doesn’t appreciate me!” As you write that thought down you move into the questions which are:
• Is it true?
• Can you absolutely know that it’s true?
• How do you react when you think that thought?
• Who would you be without the thought?
So here’s how our example might play out:
– My boss just doesn’t appreciate me. Is that true?
– Can I absolutely know that it’s true?
“Well, no. The boss has never come right out and said that, but I feel that way based on how I’m treated at work.”
– How do I react when I think this thought?
“I get upset. I get defensive. I dread going into work. What was supposed to be my dream job has become a nightmare.”
– Who would I be without that thought?
“I might begin to enjoy my work again. I wouldn’t hate the thought of Monday mornings. I would be free!”
The final step of The Work involves something that Katie calls “The Turnaround”. This is where you turn the judgment around a few different ways to see if you can find something that is as true or truer than your original thought. Here’s how the Turnaround could work for our example. I could take the statement: “My boss doesn’t appreciate me” and turn it around to “I don’t appreciate my boss.” Then I check to see if that statement feels as true or more true than the original. I might also try turning it around to “I don’t appreciate me”.
The idea behind the work is that when you begin to examine the thoughts that are causing your stress, you can begin to see where they aren’t true and how you can begin to change your perceptions in order to begin to accept what is.
Now my very rudimentary example here doesn’t really do justice to the power that The Work has to change a person’s thought patterns and behaviors. The book does a much better job, since Katie dedicates the bulk of the book to relating stories of how people have used the work in various areas of their lives. These areas include: couples and family life – work and money – self-judgements – children – underlying beliefs – the body and addictions –
If you really want to see how powerful these techniques are, you should visit www.thework.com to watch videos of the work in action. These are very moving examples, featuring real people working on real issues and having real breakthroughs.
I know that one of the main reasons that this book appeals to me is that I spend a lot of time in my head. It is one of my greatest strengths and it is also my greatest weakness. The Work allows me to use the strength of my mind and my intellect to help untangle the weakness of my mind and my preconceptions. Byron Katie describes this process as “putting the mind on paper”. If you are someone who tries to think your way out of situations, but often end up chasing your own tail, then this book may be just the tool you’ve been looking for. After all, Albert Einstein said: “Problems cannot be solved by the same level of thinking that created them.” The book Loving What Is will certainly take your thinking to a different level!
Let me finish by going back to one of the first points that I made. I believe that the true power of this book is its ability to get the reader thinking about the simplest things that can make the biggest difference. After all, just imagine how much different your world would look if you recognized the difference between your business, their business and God’s business and if you simply stopped arguing with what is and instead started loving what is. The result would be nirvana because if you are always loving what is, then you will always be happy.