Tuesday, August 4, 2009

investigate your thoughts with 4 little questions

These "prompts" are from the work of Byron Katie. She takes Taoist philosophy and makes much of it applicable to our modern day lives. As in Taoism, she believes that we need to live in the moment, because that is all there really is - this moment. Katie also says that if we are suffering it is due to thoughts we think that are ultimately not true. She encourages us to investigate our own thinking process with what she calls self-inquiry. You investigate your thoughts, beliefs, judgments with the four questions above, and then with the last statement, which she calls the turn-around. The turn-around is actually a way to pull back our projections (truths about ourself that we cannot acknowledge, so we see them in (project them on) others).

If you go to http://www.thework.com/ you will learn all about this process for removing much suffering from your life. Katie calls the process "the work". On her website you can watch videos of her doing the work with a variety of people dealing with many different issues. (There are also many videos of her doing "the work" on youtube.) You cannot help but be enthralled. People are, of course, at first very resistant to give up their cherished beliefs and judgments, but with Katie's gentle questionning, they begin to see that a lot of what they believe is simply not true and if they gave up the thought they could free themselves from unnecessary suffering. You do not have to do this work with Byron Katie. You can use the questions in the image above to conduct your own exercises in self-inquiry.

On her website you can also download free worksheets to help you do this work of self-inquiry on your own. It is a simple, yet powerful process. I encourage you to check it out. Katie has several books and CDs on the market. I suggest you begin with "Loving What Is" if you are thinking of purchasing one.

As described in a previous post back in June, Byron Katie's technique was instrumental in helping my daughter who was diagnosed with cancer last year, myself, and other members of our family to learn to accept (if not love) what is . . . and when mental suffering arose to question our thoughts and feel at peace. My description of Byron Katie and her work was buried in a long post about my daughter, so I thought I would give it its own post. These questions can be so liberating they deserve to stand on their own. Don't wait until you are in a difficult situation to learn the method of self-inquiry. When in crisis, it is often difficult to concentrate and learn something new. Learn this simple method before a crisis arises - it will give you a wonderful tool for everyday life, and what I think is almost a magic wand when life throws you into a brick wall.

Here is a little summary of Byron Katie's life that I found on Flickr:

Byron Kathleen Reid (everyone calls her Katie) became severely depressed in her early thirties. She was a businesswoman and mother living in a little town in the high desert of southern California. For almost a decade she spiraled down into depression, rage, self-loathing, and constant thoughts of suicide; for the last two years she was often unable to leave her bedroom.

Then one morning in February 1986, she experienced a life-changing realization. There are various names for an experience like this. Katie calls it "waking up to reality." In that instant of no-time, she says,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. She realized that what had been causing her depression was not the world around her, but the beliefs she'd had about the world. Instead of hopelessly trying to change the world to match her thoughts about how it should be, she could question these thoughts and, by meeting reality as it is, experience unimaginable freedom and joy.

As a result, a bedridden, suicidal woman was instantly filled with love for everything life brings.Katie's method of self-inquiry, called The Work, didn't develop from this experience; she says that it woke up with her, as her, that February morning in 1986. It is a simple, powerful method, accessible to people of all ages and backgrounds, and requires nothing more than a pen, paper, and an open mind. The first people exposed to The Work reported that it had transformed their lives, and she soon began receiving invitations to teach the process publicly..

Since 1986, she has brought The Work to hundreds of thousands of people across the world, at free public events, in corporations, universities, schools, churches, prisons, hospitals, at weekend intensives, and at her amazing nine-day School for The Work.


  1. Very imformative as always. Living for the monent, one day at a time is the way to live life. Even stopping to smell the roses.
    Thank you so much for sharing your knowledge.

  2. This is all quite new to me, Bonnie = but most interesting - I shall investigate further.

  3. I knew once you used the "T" word (Tao) I was in for the duration. I am going right over to Katie's website. You are terrific - thanks for the post, and the direction.

    Your friend in the cosmos...


  4. Choices:

    I'm so glad you stop by. Your welcome - but the best thing would be to check out Byron Katie and thank her. :)

  5. The Weaver of Grass:

    I hope you do. Everyone should know this. We should teach our little ones how to do this. Life is suffering, until we stop believing everything we think.

  6. Expat From Hell or friend in the comos:

    You sound excited about discovering Byron Katie, and it warms my heart to think she can liberate you from hell, too.

    The Work is simple, but it is not easy. I resisted it quite a bit at first because it was WORK. It was not easy to question my thinking.
    Hope you will give it a fair try and get back to me with your feedback.

  7. dear bonnie, i was introduced to the Work almost 4 years ago and i can honestly say it changed my life. i use it with my clients but have had to refrain from using it with my family members - because they get annoyed when i ask the question "is that true?"....and actually if i feel that i HAVE to ask that question about something in their lives, then i am not staying in my own business and it gives me yet another opportunity to do the Work, yet again, on myself! Sigh...

    and you are right - it is work! i also just finished reading wayne dyer's new book, "excuses be gone" and he has taking the 4 questions and turned them into 7 questions.
    1) is it true?
    2) where did the excuses come from?
    3) what's the payoff?
    4) what would my life look like if i couldn't use these excuses?
    5) can i create a rational reason to change?
    6) can i access univesal cooperation in shedding old habits?
    7) how do i continuously reinforce this new way of being?

    i wonder what Byron Katie thinks of THAT!


    I'm so happy to find someone else who has benefitted from Byron Katie's "work" of self-inquiry. I'm fortunate in that one of my children has just absorbed the concepts by osmosis and has really become my teacher. Often, she gently reminds me when I articulate some concern about my children, "Mom, it's not really your business." So hard to stay in our own business!

    I saw Wayne Dwyer on PBS pushing his new book, which to my mind were Byron Katie's concepts articulated with slightly different words. I was really surprised he would do that, and must say my ego self did not like this sort of open theft. But I'm sure Katie would say, What is, is and when I argue with reality, I lose - but only all of the time. I'm sure she is not interested in staking territory . . . but she is more enlightened than I. :-)

    Thanks so much for your comments!


Comments are always read and appreciated.

(I am grateful for all awards received. However, I ask that this be an "award-free zone" and meme-free zone. Thanks for understanding!)