I don’t think I fully realized the potential of Byron Katie’s work until I spoke to her face to face and really took time for me to actualize the words she was saying. Although I consider myself a spiritual person…I spend more time being inside my own head judging other people — than I spend contemplating my own nature.
I really did not realize what I violent person I am until Katie and I talked. I spend more time accusing, threatening, hurting, and judging people in my mind than I do loving them unconditionally. At the same time, I think that war should be eradicated, poverty should be remedied, and that everyone should be a totally nonviolent being. What a hilarious thought. I have this grandiose expectation of the world around me, while inside my mind (which is my world) — I’m instigating wars, I’m robbing people, and I’m abusing people. As Katie says — it takes immense strength to question our thoughts…but it takes more strength not to. I’m starting to really understand her words and how powerful The Work actually is.
I read this quote a couple months ago from one of my favorite artists that really stuck with me… “I once said to a boy, 'You're a really good kisser,' and he said, 'You're only as good as the person you're kissing,'”
This is the nature of our reality. All the things that are beautiful in our worlds are autogenic — and all the things that are terrible in our worlds are autogenic as well.
One of Byron Katie’s questions is “who would you be without that thought”. A lot of times, it turns out that the answer is “nothing”. What a simultaneously delicious and scary answer!
Byron Katie says “self realization, until lived, has no power”. Nothing has been truer in my experience. You can know all the mantras, all the answers to the questions — but unless you actually feel them, they are useless. I can go around preaching non-violence, wellness, peace — but until I utilize the tools, I really have no authority.
If you'd like to learn more about Byron Katie and the work -- these live dialogues are a good place to start...
David: Why are questions so powerful?
Katie: Well, they’re not actually. The answers that meet the questions — that’s the power and the excitement. It’s the unknown known. It’s so beautiful, because you cannot plan it. All you can know is nature is good.
The short version - what meets the question is the power.
David: What does truth mean?
Katie: What’s true is personal work. It’s not what the world believes — it’s where we take our own minds back and begin to listen. The truth is what’s revealed to us. This is inquiry — it’s like a shortcut. You ask and listen and blow your mind to smitherines — “mind” meaning what you believe you believe that you don’t believe.
D: If you could have anything — what would you have for your birthday meal?
K: Oh, my birthday meal! This beautiful mind that inhabits this apparant me. It’s like birthday every moment.
D: What are your rituals?
K: Well, they’re not something I have to do. For example, in the morning my eyes wake up on their own. The mind begins to see on its own, and imagine on its own, and witness itself on its own.
I get up. What’s more exciting than getting out of bed? I brush my teeth. I love brushing my teeth. I go into the kitchen and some mornings I’ll juice some oranges and just notice my thinking. When you love what you think you love everything that you see, everything that you do. It’s an unceasing meditation. And then, as the world would see it, I go to my email - I go to my office - I go to the Turnaround House - or any event I am doing, then lunch - then back to life. Life without a plan.
I would have a plan - but I would cheat myself. Any plan that I would attach to, would cheat me — it’s limited. It’s okay to get a plan — and then witness what really happens.
D: What are you most proud of?
K: The end of suffering…and I can’t take credit for it…and that brings tears to my eyes.
D: I’ve noticed that something that comes up in a lot of your dialogues with people and also my own dialogue when I inquire with myself is the idea that “without this thought…I wouldn’t suffer”…but there is this element or grasping onto our suffering. “Who really would I be without this?”
K: That’s where you notice the surface, the superficial, and then you really ask yourself — and you just witness. The original question is “what would you be without the thought?”, but people said it frightened them….and so it’s “who” or “what would you be”.
“Who would I be without the thought”, as far as the ‘dreamworld’, it’s the dreamer awake to the dream. It’s thrilling.
There is so much to take in. It’s a state of grace and it’s all here. It’s all here for you.
“What is he thinking…what should I say…” - that is a world of suffering, because it’s a world that we can never know. It’s lost. It’s confusion.
D: Why do we grasp onto our suffering?
K: We believe what we’ve been told and we’ve never tested it for ourselves. For example, maybe your mother or father or siblings said that your name was David — and in that moment — it was a moment that you believed it and you became David — and prior to that moment, you were not. You believed yourself to identity.
To question it is where the dreamer begins to perceive the loss of identity, just like a snake shedding its skin. It’s so lovely.
D: What inspires you?
K: Kindness. Maybe “inspire” isn’t the word I’m thinking of…but it moves me…it touches me. What is so beautiful is that, eventually, there is nothing that is not kind. It’s so visible that you can’t miss it, but the believers mind overrides that reality.
D: If you wanted to create an environment where people would thrive, what is the first thing you would do?
K: Just notice they’re already thriving. Everyone is thriving other than what they are thinking and belieiving. You know - I think of those years of depression…for so long being unable to even get out of bed…it’s so dark. But, I was really helping the planet because a mind like mine should not be out of the bedroom. I wasn’t doing it on purpose. In my mind…I would do anything to live like I imagined other people living — and all that time… goodness was going on…as long as I was in that bedroom I was not living in the world as a mean-minded human being. I was being of major service. There’s no one or nothing that isn’t of major service to good.
My children say, “Mom, why weren’t you there for me?”…my mind is saying “because I loved them beyond what I understood” - and that ‘I’ isn’t personal….I just had some help — and we could name it depression.
D: I love this quote that you say, “victims are violent people”. Can you expound on that?
K: Well, I was depressed. We’ll go back to the bedroom in which I lived. My thoughts were not kind — they were violent…”people don’t care about me”….”why aren’t they inviting me” (of course I wouldn’t answer my phone or even go to the door…I couldn’t). My mind was so unkind. “There is something wrong with me”. “I hate me”. “No one understands me”. It was just me, me, I, I. I was so violent because I was simply believing my thoughts.
If someone slapped me — that’s not violent. If I slap someone — that’s violent. It’s not the slap that’s violent…it is what I am thinking and believing that is the cause of that slap. That is violent, that is the root, and that is where violence needs to be addressed.
If you slap me, it’s what I’m thinking and believing about you that’s the cause of any violence in my world — not your thoughts, actions, or words. If you slap me, I say “thank you”, because I needed that and I’m really awake to it. When I’m authentically telling the immediate truth, it’s always there, then there is no violence in the world. No violence in my world.
D: Do you have a favorite book?
K: Yes, the book of the world as I understand it to be….that book is always being written.
D: What do you like about it?
K: Everything. The miracle of sitting here with you; the miracle of the man that just walked by and smiled; the miracle of the woman that’s walking by; oh and what is she carrying; and did you see what she was wearing? It sparkled.
D: If you knew that it was your last day on Earth what would you want the world to know?
K: Well, it is. I would want the world to know that suffering is optional. We can always identify what we are thinking and believing — which is the cause of the suffering. Identify it and question it.
No one can set another person free. That freedom lies inside — and no one holds more wisdom than another human being. It’s just a matter of allowing the authentic to meet the questions.
And I would want everyone to know that there is no one and nothing that isn’t good.
D: I was watching one of your dialogues last night and you said “what could you say that could bring me to anger? That is the pearl….that is the diamond. What do I fight? What am I at war with?”. I love that and was wondering if you could expound on that as well.
K: No matter what a person would say or do…it’s what I’m thinking or believing about that person or situation that is the cause of my anger. So, it really is just that simple.
There’s no left or right to it, there’s no maybe about it, and I find that the best news that I ever discovered. No one can hurt me — that’s my job.
D: Who are your heroes?
K: Anyone who has the courage to question what they believe. What we are believing is our identity…and it takes a lot of courage to inquire. But there is something that takes even more courage…and that is to live without it. Anyone that is living a life — even a moment of suffering — just know you have the courage.
Inquiry is the death of the identity that would suffer at all.
D: How do you approach the unknown?
K: With excitement! It’s a life of unknown, but the nature of everything is pure love — a state of grace. So, it’s just living a life of what is….loving what is.
D: Did you have to give yourself permission to be a leader — and what was that process like?
K: I’m a follower. If I’m with a thousand people and we’re all walking — I’m the last one, they just haven’t caught up with me yet. People think I’m in front of the line and everyone sees me as a leader — when actually, I just haven’t caught up. It’s like, I have a whole world to go around to just catch up with them.
You’re all that’s left of my thinking. You’re all that’s left of my identity. Without you, how can I exist? I’m not holding an identity here….you hold it for me.
D: I see that.
K: Good, good honey.