So I was sitting on the couch in the Green Room at Serenity Retreat (bear with me, I will shut up about it soon, I promise). It’s a little room Kim uses for sessions, meditation, courses, stretching and so on – on the odd occasions when the weather doesn’t play ball. I’d thumbed through the bookcases but nothing had really caught my eye. But then, when I got up to go, I noticed a paperback sitting next to me on the couch. I assumed it belonged to someone but, as everyone started leaving, it still sat unclaimed. So I went to put it back on a shelf but paused.
‘It’s probably meant for you,’ said Hilary with a smile.
‘Maybe it is,’ I laughed and popped it in my bag. But I didn’t really believe it – just went along with it for the smile. I was feeling a bit cynical back then…had lost my faith a little in life bringing me exactly what I need; had abandoned the trust.
And when I got back to my patch of beach, I pulled it out my bag and took a look. Loving What Is by Byron Katie. Hmm.
And the blurb reads:
Who would you be without your story?
"The Work of Byron Katie is a way of identifying and questioning the thoughts that cause all the anger, fear, depression, addiction and violence in the world."
Another self-help book with all the answers? But then I checked it out and, well, she wasn’t charging megabucks for workshops or whatevers…in fact, you can do ‘the work’ for free on the website.
And I started reading. And she was talking about business.
'I can find only three types of business in the universe,’ she said. ‘Mine, yours, and God’s.’
God’s? ‘For me, the word God means ‘reality’,’ she explained. ‘Reality is God, because it rules. Anything that’s out of my control, your control, and everyone else’s control – I call that God’s business.’
Ah, okay. So that’s like me trying to keep the airplane up in the air by force of pure willpower, when really I should leave it in the hands of the pilot and God? Makes sense.
She nodded. ‘Much of our stress comes from mentally living out of our own business. When I think, ‘You need to get a job; I want you to be happy; You should be on time; You need to take better control of yourself, I am in your business. When I’m worried about earthquakes, floods, war or when I will die, I am in God’s business.’
‘Do I know what’s right for my self?' she went on. 'That is my only business. Let me work on that before I try to solve your problems for you. Just to notice that you’re in someone else’s business can bring you back to your own wonderful self. And, if you practice for a while, you may come to see that you don’t have any business either and that your life runs perfectly well on its own.’
And yes, I do believe that too.
And then she lost me with her four questions malarkey. You’re supposed to take a thought about someone or somethingy and ask:
1. Is it true?
2. Can you absolutely know that it’s true?
3. How do you react when you think that thought?
4. Who would you be without the thought?
‘Try it,’ said Katie. ‘Don’t just think about it, write it down.’
Pfff! I’m too impatient for that…
‘It won’t work unless you do, sweetheart,’ she said with a smile.
‘Oh FFS, Katie.’
But because I was on a beach and the waves were soothing me, I wrote. She gives prompt questions:
1. Who angers or saddens or disappoints you? What is it about them you didn’t or still don’t like?
2. How do you want them to change? What do you want them to do?
3. What is it that they shouldn’t or should do? Be? Think? Feel?
4. Do you need anything from them? What do they need to give you or do in order for you to be happy?
5.What do you think of them? Make a list. I.e. Bob is greedy. Bob is selfish. Bob drives me crazy.
6. What is it that you don’t ever want to experience with that person, thing or situation again?
And then you turn it around, finding how all those traits you find so revolting in the other person are all there, mirrored in your own experience. Oh so clearly. It’s kinda hard to explain in a blog post without boring you beyond belief so, if it sounds like something of interest, check out the book or the website…you can try out the process – what Katie calls ‘the work’ - there.
I came to love it. Try it on anyone – your nearest and dearest (she says our families are our greatest teachers); the random person who pisses you off at work; on the bus; at the school gate. Try it, above all, on your worst enemies, the people who really REALLY piss you off.
‘There’s no such thing as verbal abuse,’ said Katie firmly. ‘There’s only someone telling me a truth I don’t want to hear.’ Oh yes! I'm with ya, sister.
‘Find an enemy!’ she said joyously, warming to her theme. ‘They won’t give you sympathy. You go to your friends for refuge, because you can count on them to agree with your stories. But when you go to your enemies, they’ll tell you, straight up, anything you want to know, even though you may think you don’t want to know it.’
It’s tough love, for sure. ‘If I think someone else is causing my problems, I’m insane,’ said Katie with a shake of her head. ‘Pain is the signal that you’re confused, that you’re in a lie. I am everything they say I am. And anything I feel I need to defend keeps me from full realization.’
And finally, she said, when you drop all the lies, all the bullshit, all the avoidance and the hiding, you become alive and you become free. ‘We are really alive when we live – open, waiting, trusting, and loving to do what appears in front of us now.’
Really? ‘What we need to do unfolds before us, always…’ She promised.
Always? ‘We never receive more than we can handle, and there is always just one thing to do. Life never gets any more difficult than that.’
Okay, Katie. :-)
Check it out here: http://www.thework.com/index.php
PS – if, like me, you’re going, ‘Oh, but what about serious stuff - like serious illness, and debt and war and rape and so on’, she has answers for that too.