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To get rid of the negativity and to find solace in the more beautiful and positive aspects of life, Byron Katie presents her creation ‘The Work’, a modern way to heal your life. Byron Kathleen Mitchell who is better known as Byron Katie is a famous American speaker and author who teaches a very effective method of self-inquiry. Her teachings intend to end the suffering and pain of the people through her books, videos, audiotapes, and workshops.
How Did ‘The Work’ Evolve?
Byron Katie herself was depressed for 10 years and filled with self-loathing. She was paranoid, agoraphobic, and wished for death each and every day. During the last two years of that phase, she couldn’t even leave her bedroom.
One day she was lying on the floor of her attic room and a cockroach crawled over her foot. When she opened her eyes and saw the creature, she experienced a joy which was indescribable and in that very moment ‘The Work’ was born.
“I discovered that when I believed my thoughts, I suffered, but that when I didn’t believe them, I didn’t suffer, and that this is true for every human being. Freedom is as simple as that. I found that suffering is optional. I found a joy within me that has never disappeared, not for a single moment. That joy is in everyone, always.” – Byron Katie
The Work to Heal Your Life
The Work is a simple yet a very powerful process which can be used to identify the nature of the negative thoughts and the reasons behind their existence.
The method requires you to take into account all the judgments you are having about other people or situations. Afterward, these judgments are put against the four questions of the ‘The Work’. These questions are:
- Is it true?
- Can you absolutely know that it’s true?
- How do you react, what happens, when you believe that thought?
- Who would you be without the thought?
According to Byron Katie, “All war begins on paper.” She encourages to write down everything which is going on in your mind against these questions on a piece of paper. Doing all the working in your head is not an effective way of following this process because the mind has the ability to outsmart you.
The mind can only be stopped by penning your thoughts. When all the thoughts are put into writing, they become stable, and the inquiry can easily be applied otherwise, the mind will be able to justify all the irrational thoughts faster than the speed of light.
Question 1. Is it true?
After writing down the thought, give yourself a moment and consider its authenticity. Do you really think that the person or the situation is worthy enough to make you suffer like this? Anticipating the harm which hasn’t even occurred yet will get you nowhere and will put you in a situation which is actually worse than the original scenario if something bad occurs.
Paulo Coelho says it in the best way in his book The Alchemist, “Tell your heart that the fear of suffering is worse than the suffering itself. And that no heart has ever suffered when it goes in search of its dreams, because every second of the search is a second’s encounter with God and with eternity.”
Question 2. Can you absolutely know that it’s true?
Take another opportunity to open your mind and question all the thoughts. Dig deeper and find out all the possible reasons. Is the self-loathing or the hatred for a particular person or a situation providing any benefit to you?
This life is going to end one day and by adopting such a negative outlook on it, you won’t leave behind any precious memories for your loved ones and your next generation. The only thing which will be cherished after you leave the world for good is the love you’ve spread through your personality.
“In the end nothing we do or say in this lifetime will matter as much as the way we have loved one another.” – Daphne Rose Kingma
Question 3. How do you react, what happens, when you believe that thought?
With this question, you need to consider the cause and effect of each of your thought. Believing the thought results in a number of unpleasant emotions and feelings including panic, irritability, disturbance etc. Write down all your experiences and emotions. Also, write about the way you will be able to treat that person or situation after letting these thoughts overpower you. Make a list of all your actions and be specific while doing so.
“Without pain, how could we know joy?’ This is an old argument in the field of thinking about suffering and its stupidity and lack of sophistication could be plumbed for centuries but suffice it to say that the existence of broccoli does not, in any way, affect the taste of chocolate.”
These sentences are from the book The Fault in Our Stars written by John Green who explains why suffering should not be considered an essential part of life.
Question 4. Who would you be without the thought?
Now, you need to do exactly the opposite of what you did in question 3. Imagine yourself in the situation when you are no longer affected by the thought and don’t believe in it. What is the feeling like? How do you think you are different by deviating yourself from the stressful thought?
After putting yourself through both the situations, you need to decide which life do you prefer? The one without the presence of negativity or the one with all the negativity? Where are you at peace?
Byron Katie says, “As long as you think that the cause of your problem is “out there”—as long as you think that anyone or anything is responsible for your suffering—the situation is hopeless. It means that you are forever in the role of victim, that you’re suffering in paradise.”
Turning the Thought Around
This is an opportunity to turn around your thoughts and experiencing the opposite of what you have been believing. Once you are able to find a couple of turnarounds for all your statements, you must write down at least three specific and genuine examples of how the turnaround has brought positivity in your life.
“People who love themselves, don’t hurt other people. The more we hate ourselves, the more we want others to suffer.” – Dan Pearce
Byron Katie herself has emphasized on the words of Dan Pearce saying that there is no possibility of others loving you as long as you don’t love yourself. Everything starts from your own self and is then spread into the environment affecting the people and situations around you. The first step will always be from your own side and working on this will ensure that your mind comes totally at peace.
“Don’t wait for other people to be loving, giving, compassionate, grateful, forgiving, generous, or friendly…lead the way!” – Steve Maraboli
Byron Katie herself explains ‘The Work’ in this video and guides how it can become a life changing experience for some people.