A boon for those who think we are victims, by changing how we see things. | Loving What Is: Four Questions That Can Change Your Life | Byron Katie, Stephen Mitchell
Loving What Is: Four Questions That Can Change Your Life
Three Rivers Press
, 2003 - 352 pages
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If You're In The Right Space, It Will Change Your Life
And when I say, "In the RIGHT space," I don't mean right as in "correct," I mean if you're RIPE for it.
see by all the negative reviews, many people are not ripe for it. And beyond finding it unhelpful, they often go so far as to accuse the author of being a charlatan, of trying to swindle people, of stealing methods others discovered, of being cruel, mercenary, evil, etc. Wow. How is it
so many others claim such great benefits from this book? Clearly, it's more a matter of where the reader is than where the author is.
I like The Work. And I consider it just one of the many tools that help guide me to peace and the truth. In my experience, the Work is an invitation for a person to open up to a profound understanding of the inherently untrue nature of thoughts and also to open up to the great connectedness that dissolves any sense of separation between individuals (and, well, everything).
However, if for
ever reason, the inquiry process leads a person to stop short of these realizations, there is the potential for the issue being investigated to just become more fodder for illusory thoughts and our resistance to them.
In the case of the incest survivor who turned her story around from "He abused me" into "I abused myself" and "I abused him," when these turned around ideas arrive in a clear mind that perceives the inherent untruth of these thoughts, "He abused me" and "I abused me" are equally valid ... that is, really, equally invalid. The polar opposites of our charged thoughts highlight our adherence to these painful ideas, and when we see both sides of the coin (and we recognize that both sides are within us), the entire complex can be neutralized.
Second, when "I abused myself" and "I abused him" are presented to a clear mind, we understand that HE and ME are the same entity. HE IS ME. This doesn't make the abuse *good* just because it's always us abusing us, but it lets us see the broad nature of things: We are the 6 billion fingers of the Great Divine (Dao, God, or whatever else you want to call it), and in our blindness and confusion this is what we do to each other. We abuse each other. We abuse ourselves. It's a natural consequence of living in illusion. There's no room for moralism: We do it inside our bodies all the time, killing everything we eat, killing any invading cells, etc.
To a mind that still reels from the very idea of abuse, a mind that is addicted to seeing the world in terms of right and wrong, turning "He abused me" into "I abused Me" or "I abused Him" just turns "He is wrong" into "I am wrong."
In my case, from years of other spiritual work, I discovered The Work with the open perspective I describe above. (This is not to say I'm more enlightened or better than someone who has a different perspective. It's just a statement of my point of view, and the fact that I was "ripe" for this when it came to me.) Thus, The Work is a powerful tool, though not all that different from what many other traditions prescribe, for rooting out untruth and letting it go.
I acknowledge again that not everyone finds The Work from the same starting point I had. Not all minds are ready for this. If, in the process of trying out the
and turnaround, the mind is too entrenched in its beliefs to really TURN AROUND, it won't work. This isn't a judgment, just an observation. Moreover, the mind may think this is outrageous. Interestingly, the one who was abused wasn't outraged by this - the outrage occurred in the minds of readers looking for outrage.
It's funny, there's a popular bumper sticker here in Portland, Oregon. It says, "If you're not outraged, you're not paying attention." I say, If you're not outraged, you're at peace. ;)
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Great tool for coaches!
I have used Byron Katie's "The Work" with my coaching clients to shift perspectives and get "unstuck" from unproductive thinking patterns. It is a wonderful resource. It is also a powerful self-development and personal growth tool.
A boon for those who think we are victims, by changing how we see things.
From the depths of despair, Byron Katie found inner strength to ask herself
and hence thousands of others as well. She calls these questions we
ask ourselves or have someone else ask them for us, "The Work." By looking at our life situations from a different perspective, we can move beyond the seeming difficulties to enjoying
"Katie" provides many rich examples of circumstances for many different people and how they moved away from feeling down and out, to
life as it presents itself. This is her premise to "Loving What Is." Acceptance is really a mind-set and is much better than blaming others or wallowing in our own self-pity. Learn to forgive and forget and our lives will seem to miraculously change!
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Interesting Method That is Taken Way Too Far
It has been said
the difference between dangerous bull and merely obnoxious bull is that dangerous bull contains enough truth in it to be deceptive. While I certainly wouldn't label Byron Katie's ("BK" from now on) ideas as "bull," the same idea applies here: BK's book deftly mixes important truths and
seems to be a helpful method with amateurish and potentially dangerous ideas, which makes the book more worrisome than any deranged rantings about reptilians and time cubes.
The book elaborates extensively on one idea which certainly will be no secret to anyone acquainted with Eastern Philosophy or Shakespeare (recall Hamlet's line that "there is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so") - that pain is caused, not by our relationship with the world around us, but by the way we think about it - and then introduces a method which BK calls "the work" for re-evaluating our thoughts and providing ourselves with inner peace.
The idea which provides the foundation for the method presented in this book is true enough, validated by personal examples and scientific evidence for centuries. The power of the human mind over our bodies is truly impressive, and potentially terrifying when something goes wrong up there, as anyone who knows a schizophrenic or a victim of phantom leg syndrome
The major problem with BK's view of
boils down to the fact that this isn't the only true proposition about human beings. Her flighty idealism evinces a poor understanding of human biology. It is true that hormonally stable, neurotypical individuals can indeed solve most of their petty day-to-day irritations by controlling their minds, but most of what determines our behavior and thinking (as she notes in the book, if we're not making a concentrated effort at it, we are nothing thinking so much as being thought) happens on a hidden biological level. BK treats conscious re-thinking (my own term for what she'd call "the work") as the great Key to Happiness -- fine to tell to a fairly normal individual, but not so much to an individual whose problems lie on a deeper level and who requires medical intervention in order to lead a tolerable existence.
She also seems fairly ignorant of basic human psychology, which we have found to be fairly uniform in its workings throughout different cultures and the great well of time -- one reason why we can read the writings of a Japanese noblewoman in 11th century Japan and still relate to the content on some basic, primal level. I don't think she'd debate this point (she probably tell me that people have been making the same mistakes since the beginning of time, and that this in no way invalidated her point, and she'd be correct). I bring this up because, in the same way that human thought is largely homogeneous throughout history, so too are the ways in which we deal with life. Pain and suffering are normal and healthy reactions to trauma and heartbreak. There is no quick fix for really deep scars. Only time and living can heal the most debilitating emotional wounds and allow us to return to a state of relative equilibrium. Just as the body has a method for dealing with wounds, so does the mind.
This is the point where BK loses me: she holds that ALL pain can be eradicated by "the work." She lives in a Mcworld of instant gratification where pain instantly dissolves in the solvent of inquiry and a healthy individual can live his or her own life without ever having to be exposed to suffering. To her, pain is an illusion, and all one needs to do is install this filter of
in one's head in order to to be left with nothing but the chewy bits at the end.
What a bloodless world she inhabits! Pain and pleasure are degrees of differentiation that are comprehensible only in relation to the other. Not only is pain necessary in healthy psychological healing, it is also what allows for sympathy and compassion. It is not only methodologically wrong, but also teleologically undesirable. I have no doubt that BK is honest in her feelings and observations: she seems, in fact, brutally honest about what it would be like to talk to her. It is the same in all her books. There is an observation in another one - "A Thousand Names for Joy" - that would serve well as an illustration. When she bumped into friends of her mother (they hadn't seen her mother in years), they asked BK how she was doing. BK's response? "She's wonderful. She's dead." Who wants to live in a world with people like this, who have no regard for the feelings of others?
I'm sure if one escapes into BK's Neverland of complete emotional disengagement that one might be able to avoid, temporarily, the hard pangs that come with serious emotional trauma. One can likely become a robot who pays loads of money for her seminars and training camp and fend off the ravages of emotion for a certain length of time. Perhaps so long as one is being exploited by her cultish public offerings. But, eventually, these BK-bots will want to open themselves up to life again, and they're going to have to sort through the inevitable emotional wreckage which BK's influence will have resulted in.
This ethical objection to her philosophy is what animates most of the outrage directed at a couple of interviews in her book, where she 'counsels' war and molestation victims. Others have elaborated on this portion of the book so thoroughly that it would be pointless to do so myself. I believe I have made my own reasoning on these clear.
She frequently (always briefly) speculates on philosophical matters throughout the book. These portions are always boorish and amateur, and the idealism here is only a Western watering-down of the obtuse metaphysics of Eastern traditions.
The method itself uses four questions to help practitioners re-evaluate their own thoughts. The idea is that our pains and grievances are warped and unreal projections of perceived deficiencies in ourselves. She has a person first fill out a "Judge-
-Neighbor worksheet," which makes the person elaborate in petty and often excruciating detail the problems they have with someone else (BK advises beginning practitioners to always focus on the Other in order to allow for reflective honesty, since it reflects the person doing the judging anyhow). After they do this, she has them run each complaint through a series of four questions:
1) Is it true?
2) Can you absolutely know that it's true?
3) How do you react, what happens, when you believe that thought?
4) Who would you be without the thought?
As they proceed through these questions, people (always weaker-willed than the VERY strong-willed BK) are inexorably led to the conclusion that their complaint's truth-value is unknowable and that it is only wreaking havoc on their emotional lives. They are then instructed to 'turn it around,' which means to reverse the focus of the question in some manner. This can be achieved in multiple ways. As a simple example, the complaint "[x] doesn't love me" could be turned around to become "I don't love myself." This is following BK's notion that all of our judgments ultimately reflect something about ourselves.
A common complaint by critics is that even when BK tells people that she is not directing the flow of the inquiry, she very obviously is. This is a legitimate complaint. BK all but leads some of these people around by the nose while telling them that she isn't leading them anywhere.
I make this sound manipulative. Well, it is manipulative. So is ANY form of rhetoric or directed questioning. The problem lies in her dishonesty about this matter with her (I use this term loosely) 'patients.'
If Byron Katie is a bad ethicist and metaphysician, she is, at least, a skilled epistemologist. She says that her method works for eliminating normal stress from one's life, and from what I've seen (and personally experimented with), this seems to be true enough. BK must be credited for this.
There are various other complaints. For instance, she sounds flagrantly condescending with her liberal use of endearments ("honey," "dear," "sweetheart," etc.). But these things can mostly (like my example) be boiled down to simple personal eccentricity which admits of no moral evaluation.
I'm afraid I've rather made the woman sound bad. But there is a reason I've given this book three stars. Her method is fine for day-to-day aggravations, and many could perhaps benefit from gaining an extra element to their personal perspective by reading this book. But don't swear by it to the point where you become a creepy self-involved sociopath who is unable to relate to other humans on any important level.
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Great in conjunction with Eckhart Tolle's A New Earth. Helps to clean the head and get rid of mental baggage.
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