We all know what it's like to be plagued by troubling thoughts, but what Byron Katie discovered was that, when those thoughts are questioned instead of automatically believed, they evaporate.
How to get the most out of these Wisdom Quotes:
Put aside everything you think you already know.
Open your mind and heart to receive something new.
Take your time going through each point.
Return to any points that particularly touch you.
In the coming days, listen carefully to the wisdom within you.
* All quotes from Byron Katie being interviewed by Jay Shetty in the video: If You Want to Love Yourself to the Core, Watch This!
1. The Seeing That Ends Suffering
"To wake up in the morning and realize that I was still breathing felt like something was intentionally torturing me. I was so suicidal, and agoraphobic, so I was trapped, most of the time, in my bedroom.
My self-loathing was so strong that I was sleeping on the floor next to my bed. I was so full of self-loathing that I didn’t believe I deserved a bed.
This particular morning, as I lay sleeping on the floor, a cockroach crawled over my foot. I opened my eyes and all the suffering was gone.
All the suffering was gone!
The valuable thing was that I saw that, when I believed my thoughts, I suffered, but when I didn’t believe my thoughts, I didn’t suffer.
The way that I saw that is, when I opened my eyes, the ego did not have the opportunity to fill that space, and everything was present. And in that, I began to laugh. I got the joke.
I saw that what I was thinking and believing was the cause of my suffering. It was how all suffering is created, and it’s true for every human being. We believe our thoughts, we suffer. We question them, we don’t suffer.
Some great mind said, “An unquestioned life is not worth living,” and that’s certainly my experience too."
Byron Katie may be one of the only people in the world to have had an awakening sparked by a cockroach crawling over her foot, but she's certainly not the only one to have woken up from the nightmare of her thought-created reality.
What happened that morning that flipped Katie's world upside down, and transformed her from a suicidal agoraphobic to someone who has helped thousands of people set themselves free from mental anguish? She saw that when she believed her thoughts, she suffered, and when she didn't believe them, she didn't suffer.
The problem with this revelation, however, is that it sounds too simplistic. If you're familiar with psychological suffering, your heart is closed much of the time. It feels so disturbed by the workings of the mind, that it closes to protect itself. But to see what Katie saw, there needs to be an opening.
Notice, first of all, that you're closing your heart every time you believe a stressful thought. It's not the thoughts that are the problem (they are just energy). It's believing them that causes you to suffer. You don't need to agree with this intellectually. You need to see it spiritually. Are you willing to open your being to receive an insight that will transform your experience of life?
2. Troubled Thoughts Evaporating
"Jay Shetty: Those thoughts that you were believing at that time, where were they coming from?
BK: It was from me. It was, “something terrible is going to happen, there’s something wrong with me, the world doesn’t really care about me, no one cares about anyone, he doesn’t care about me, I can’t do it…”
And the effect of believing those thoughts is depression and guilt and insanity.
From that moment on the floor, anytime thoughts would hit, my head would say, “Is it true?”
The thought would come, e.g. “Something terrible is going to happen!” And it would evaporate. It couldn’t continue.
People began to call me from all over the world and ask me the strangest questions. I didn’t know if it was the water I was drinking or the food I was eating, because everything had so radically flipped, from one polarity to the other. They would ask what happened.
They would say, “Life isn’t worth living,” and it would blow my mind because I knew they knew better. I knew they knew better because, once you see your own true nature, you see it in everyone and everything."
We all know what it's like to be plagued by troubling thoughts, but what Katie discovered was that, when those thoughts are questioned instead of automatically believed, they evaporate.
I remember when the separation first happened between myself and my thoughts. In that moment, there was a shift in consciousness from being one with my thoughts to seeing that I was not my thoughts. This realization spontaneously dissolved the problems I had created and carried in my mind my entire life.
Dr. Dicken Bettinger uses the example of walking around with a bag full of hammers. There's the annoying little hammer of worry that repeatedly taps away, and there's the big, heavy hammer of anger that gives sudden, painful blows, etc. As soon as you realize that you're hitting yourself on the head, you naturally put the bag of hammers down. No effort. Just seeing.
Katie says of the people who came to her for help, "they would say, “Life isn’t worth living,” and it would blow my mind because I knew they knew better." How could she say that all these suffering, suicidal people knew better? Because that "knowing" is hidden only as long as we're exclusively listening to the mind. There is an opportunity for all of us to "know better" at any moment and to be free from a life of suffering.
3. A Million Me's
"So I began to show them the experience [I had of awakening] on the floor.
They would say: Something terrible is going to happen.
And I would say, Is it true?
(That puts them on the floor, not literally, but it puts them into that experience on the floor.)
How do you react? What happens when you believe that thought?
Then, in that meditative state, they become aware of: how I react when I believe the thought of seeing those images of the past-not-now and the future-not-now.
We’re not confused when we are present. Whatever we need to do can be done there, and everything to do it with is also present.
How do you react when you believe that thought?
They become aware of the images and what they believe onto the images. So we have the image of, let’s say, this morning at breakfast. We see the image of that past, and then we believe words onto that image, and then the imagined life is created.
Really, that is all of life that most humans understand. It keeps us in the not-now, the past-future, past-future. The movie is so all-encompassing.
I see me at breakfast but I really believe that’s me, even though I can’t take it out of my head, I can’t touch it, I can’t move it, that’s not I. Me of the past, me of the future - so now there’s three of me! And now all these pasts - there are a million of me, there are a million of me in the future. Who am I?
Then the fourth question: Who would I be without that thought?
And it just drops the image of the past where something terrible happened, and the future where it’s going to happen. It dissolves the nothing, all those I’s, and the answer to, “who am I?” is present. Just present.
People take this on as a practice and, as they do, they see the guilt of the past and the horrors of the future, and they are awake to “not I, not I, not I,” all the not-nows, so they are with the one they love - the beloved, themselves, [awake] to the love of life."
Here, Byron Katie walks us through the four questions of what she calls The Work. She encourages us to apply these four questions to every stressful thought we have and to watch what happens. These are the four questions:
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 that thought?
Katie points out that we need to be in a meditative state, we need to get still in order to do self-inquiry properly. Then, through these questions, we are brought back to that moment of clarity that Katie experienced on the floor when she awakened out of her mind into complete presence.
In the above example, notice how we are creating images of ourselves in the past and future, neither of which exists right now. These images, of memory and imagination, create our "imagined life."
No matter how stressful a thought is, when you question it, it begins to unravel, and the result of that is that we start dropping all these mind-made images of ourselves. This, in turn, causes our anxiety and stress to dissolve. This is the profound well-being that is available to us in every moment.
4. Taking off the Post It Notes
"I would say, first, get in touch with your emotions because they’re the closest thing to you. When we’re angry, for example, we feel it and we tense. So, first get in touch with your emotions, in other words, notice. Notice.
And then move up to your head and notice, because those emotions let you know, remind you, what you’re thinking and believing is the cause of your suffering.
Then you can identify the thoughts you’re thinking. Don’t trust them to stay. Move them from your head to paper. And then, sit with those four questions, e.g. “He doesn’t care about me.” That belongs on paper, and then you question it using these four questions and turnarounds.
Let’s say, I think there’s something wrong with him. Is it true? Can I really know this? How do I react when I believe the thought?
And who would I be without it?
Then I get to see the same situation again minus the post-its I was putting on the event, and I get to witness the real world. I’m sitting in the old world new.
I’m meditating on a moment in time and I’m present.
I see the past-future imaging and all of that. I’m just meditating, dropping my story, dropping that identification on him, taking off all the post-its I believed onto him. And I just see him. I see him, without what I’m believing onto him.
And then I have a lot of amends to make. I need to go back to that person, admit my wrong and apologize to make it right and start over. Enlightenment has no power until it’s lived.
If I see something unacceptable in my world, I look to me. I don’t look to other people. They cannot give me the answers that I’m seeking."
Katie takes us on a journey from our emotions to our thoughts, to self-inquiry on paper. This way of self-inquiry may not be for you but the important thing here is to get in touch with yourself and notice what is happening when you feel anxious.
Anxiety and stress are felt in the body. Notice where it feels tense, heavy, or uncomfortable. This is the sign, the valuable reminder that "what you’re thinking and believing is the cause of your suffering."
Now notice what you're thinking. Can you identify the thought that's causing that tense feeling in your body? If it helps, write it down.
When you tune into yourself in this way (instead of living unconsciously, hypnotized by your mental narrative) you become self-aware. This frees you from being a victim, always at the mercy of your anxious thinking. This self-awareness is enough to bring you to a much calmer place, where you can see things clearly, without all the post-it note beliefs you've been putting onto them.
5. Question Your Universe
"If I think this world is a terrible place, my mind will show me all the images of the past that prove it, and the future that says it’s going to happen again. It proves it. What we’re thinking and believing is proven with us, but it’s fake news! It’s fake news because it’s not real. It’s imaging, it’s dreaming, it’s the dream world.
So to ask, “Is it true?” begins to wake us up to reality. When we ask, “Is it true?” - to meditate, to get still in that...
What we’re asking to meet the question is that don’t-know world that is so unavailable to us when we are living as believers in these terrifying, depressive states of mind.
It is a friendly universe, but what I’m thinking and believing about this universe could use a little work - if I don’t love it as it is. We question what we’re thinking and believing about life and it leaves us in a friendly universe. It’s a radical thing to wake up to reality. No downside.
I believed this universe into being and if I don’t love it, I need to question my universe. And that means question what I believe about you, about me, about them, about it, about God, about everything, and wake up to reality, without any preconceived idea about what it is. In my experience, it’s nameless anyway.
No separation, just living out of our true nature and trusting that. It’s a fearless state of mind which means that there’s nothing we cannot accomplish. We want to accomplish something. If we don’t, we consider what we were thinking and believing that stops us. Inquiry leaves us in this fearless state of mind."
Imagine if everyone realized that they were the creators of their own universe. How empowering it is to know that the world you're experiencing is created by your thinking mind and can be changed in an instant. Sydney Banks said, “You are one thought away from happiness, one thought away from sadness. The secret lies in thought.”
What kind of universe are you living in? Most of us live in a scary and unkind world. One of my favourite Byron Katie quotes, which I often remind myself of is, "Life is kinder than your thoughts about it."
Katie says, if you don't love your universe, you have some work to do. This work is to question everything - what you think about everyone and everything. Question all the beliefs that this world of yours is built on, and watch it transform.
When you're not believing your stressful thoughts, what's left is your true nature, which includes a fearless state of mind. After all, what is there to fear when you're not imagining a scary future?
6. Welcome to Katie's World
JS: "This segment of the interview is called, “Fill in the blanks." I read a statement and I ask you to fill in the blanks for us:
JS: Thoughts and judgements are…
JS: True freedom starts with…
JS: Being present means…
JS: Most people believe…
BK: In goodness.
JS: The Work has allowed me to…
BK: Be free.
JS: Change is hardest when…
BK: My mind’s not open to the world.
JS: I have no tolerance for…
BK: To be continued. Life will show me what I have no tolerance for. I think of pain, but even physical pain is either remembered or anticipated.
JS: Now, this is the “Final Five,” where you answer every answer with one word to one sentence maximum. These are five powerful questions:
JS: What did you once pursue but no longer value?
JS: What do you know to be absolutely true?
JS: What do you feel is true, but other people disagree with you?
BK: That you’re beautiful.
JS: If you could create a law that everyone in the world had to follow, what would it be?
BK: Honesty. Authenticity.
JS: What was the biggest lesson you learned in the last 12 months?
BK: There’s nothing out of order."
I want people to be free.
Why am I doing what I do?
Because I have seen they’re already free.
They’re already free!
And then I discovered that what people are thinking and believing is the only prison they’ve got.
I’ve just shown this one way, and there are so many beautiful ways. It doesn’t have to be just this or just that. There’s something for everyone."
Byron Katie's view of life has always fascinated me. Her openness is unfathomable, and she has a clarity that enables her to see nothing but love in even the most distressing circumstances. Her world is a world without confusion, without separation, and with purity of heart, meeting each moment with delight and the deepest gratitude. Through her words, we are invited into her world, where anxiety is questioned and dissolved again and again and again...
Katie shares herself freely through The Work, holding open Zoom meetings three times a week, and providing opportunities to do the work with trained facilitators in many languages. You can find out more here.
Looking at Katie's answers above, which did you find most surprising? Were there any that you didn't understand? Feel free to ask questions in the comments.
Are you ready to question every stressful thought and discover the freedom that is already yours? Or will you carry on being a believer? Katie says, "This work is free. All it will cost you is your identity. It will leave you in a kinder one."