Monday, 28 May 2012

The Work - Byron Katie

“Since the beginning of time, people have been trying to change the world so that they can be happy. This hasn’t ever worked, because it approaches the problem backward. What The Work gives us is a way to change the projector—mind—rather than the projected. It’s like when there’s a piece of lint on a projector’s lens. We think there’s a flaw on the screen, and we try to change this person and that person, whomever the flaw appears on next. But it’s futile to try to change the projected images. Once we realize where the lint is, we can clear the lens itself. This is the end of suffering, and the beginning of a little joy in paradise.” 
 Byron Katie

Over the last few weeks I've been reading Loving What Is: four questions that will change your life, by Byron Katie. I can honestly say: it's mind blowing. It is probably the most profound and yet the simplest approach to self-help that I have ever come across. 

The concept is this:

It is our internal battles with reality that cause our suffering. By insisting that the world/people/family* behave in a certain way, saying 'this is how life/my family/my loved ones should be*', which isn't at all how they are, causes our mental anguish.

“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

Using inquiry, we can examine each thought and see it for what it really is and the act of doing so, then allows it's release.

Inquiry consists of the Judge your Neighbour worksheet, which asks 6 questions. You are invited to be as judgemental, petty, obnoxious and bitchy as you can manage (which frankly, Ladies and Gentlemen, I can manage bitchy, bile and spite as Olympic sports). You analyse each statement using these 4 questions and you then turn it around completely.

1. Is it true?
2. Can you absolutely know it's true?
3. How do you react, what happens, when you believe this thought?
4. Who would you be without the thought?

You turn around the last statement on the sheet.

What do I like about her approach? You can go on her website, download everything you need to begin your enquiry without parting with cold, hard cash. She makes all of the resources needed to do the work readily available to everyone. She goes and does sessions in prisons, schools, churches; in fact, she'll go anywhere she's invited. For expenses.

The Work is almost like a short-cut into Buddhism. Thoughts become like rain, falling from the sky. Byron Katie teaches non-attachment. It is the belief in these thoughts that cause suffering, not the thoughts themselves. They flow on by without attaching themselves.

Reality is.

That's it. That's her big truth. 

She says there are three types of business: mine, yours and God's (or reality, whichever works for your belief system). When you spend all of your time thinking about someone else's business or arguing with reality, you are in effect completely separated from yourself. You aren't dealing with your business. And that's the only business you can deal with.

Is it that simple? Yes it is. That's what makes it so powerful. It's called The Work, because you do have to work at it. I can see it at a personal level. I start having difficulties when considering the news I read daily. It doesn't negate the NLP. In fact, it's made it incredibly more powerful. 

If you're curious, YouTube her. Let me know what you think.

*delete as appropriate


  1. I meant to say to you on Saturday, but didn't have the opportunity - have you met Marshall Rosenberg's work? Exploration of non-violent communication was the final piece in the puzzle for me; something that other self-help/self-exploration approaches failed to present.

  2. I have his book sitting on my bookshelf, waiting for me. I know Saturday was a bit of a blur for me, so I feel like I never had the chance to talk to anyone with any depth.

    I will YouTube him, to see him in action, there was something about the transcripts which made it seemed a bit stilted...but then much of the power of these approaches lies in the moment.

  3. There are lots of books - which one do you have?

    The approach as 'scripted' *is* stilted, I totally agree, but it can be successfully modified and Anglicised. Some of the trainers in the UK have modified and extended it: - I've worked with and can recommend Laura Harvey and Shona Cameron.

    I've used it extensively in schools where there are high incidences of out-of-control behaviour being described by teachers, and with dysfunctional families. I did a lot of NLP stuff years ago when I first qualified and worked in Dorset where there were several colleagues who were qualified practitioners/trainers. I think the two approaches sit well together.

    That said, I'm very eclectic, and a great believer in using whatever works in a situation.

  4. I've got Non Violent Communication by Marshal Rosenburg. I've flicked through it and as I said, it didn't grab me. But it might have been I just wasn't ready for it. I'm still enjoying Byron Katie and I'll confess I've been a seminar junkie and booked to see her on the 16th of June. I'd like to see her for myself.

    One of the things I really like about the way I was taught NLP, was that at it's core it's a tool box. And it's about using the technique that will help your client in that moment as they are sat in front of you. So it's left me aware that there's so much else to learn.

    It's really cool you've experienced NVC for yourself and used it. I'll revisit it with a more open mind.

  5. I'll go watch. I always appreciate the things you write about and find to think about. I'm not sure if there is a short cut to Buddism, but I'm willing to venture forth. Thank you.

    (it's Boxer, come see.)

    1. You know me, I'll find the time to obsess about anything. :-)

      I say it's a shortcut to Buddhism, because like the Buddha's teachings, Byron Katie says it's the attachments we give to things, situations and people that causes suffering. Remove the attachments and there is only love.

      I'm on my way over right now. xxx

  6. This sounds like good sense and the sort of thing I try very hard to do - but need constant reminders. I'm popping over also.

    1. I've found that it has it's own internal logic that when it embeds in your unconsciousness, it changes so much of your thinking.

      I've noticed that my ranty streak seems to have taken a chill pill. Now I ask of this situation: whose business is this? I also ask why I'm ranting, what do I hope to achieve. I find I tend to wander off and have a cup of tea instead, which is so much more pleasant for me.

      Byron Katie says that it's not a question of letting go of thoughts, it's letting the thoughts let go of you.

      Maybe it's not a question of you needing constant reminders, but a case of you becoming more aware of the changes in your thinking? If you're looking out for the changes in your thinking, the more you'll notice and the more there will be?


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