Monday, September 6, 2010

Is it really true?

I have previously posted about "The Work" of Byron Katie.  Her simple approach to life is to be curious about the stories we tell ourselves - to inquire within about the veracity of many of our thoughts, judgments and beliefs.  Whether we realize it or not, many of our assumptions and perceptions about ourself, our loved ones, the world, are a source of much anxiety and pain.  We often point at circumstances or people as the cause of our pain, while Katie demonstrates that we need to take responsibility, look within and challenge our thinking. 

 Katie offers an easy method for freedom from distress by using a method of self-inquiry.  I have provided her series of questions for the self-inquiry below.  You can learn more about Katie, her work, her writings by visiting her website at  There you can download a free pamphlet containing her life-enhancing philosophy, as well as worksheets to use as you apply her method to your own painful or counterproductive thinking.

It has been my experience that we often put up the most resistance to the very things that would most benefit us.  I know I felt quite resistant to her self-inquiry method - feeling it was overly simplistic and that people and the world are just too complex to find emotional freedom with the use of four basic questions.  But I persisted through my skepticism and resistance and have found a key to opening the murky lenses of my perception.  So worth the effort.  Do give it a try

 If you would like to see Katie helping others with similar issues as yours, using the four questions, there are videos you can watch on her website.  There are also many videos of her working posted on YouTube.  You just have to type 'Byron Katie' in the search box.  Here is her method of self-inquiry:

P.S.  It occurred to me while publishing comments that it would have been helpful if I had posted examples of the types of thoughts, beliefs, judgments that can benefit from being challenged a la Byron Katie.  So here are a few examples illustrating the kind of thinking that can be challenged with self-inquiry.  What thoughts, beliefs, assumptions, judgments do you have that need challenging?

*  I must do everything I can to prevent my children from suffering.

*  Life just isn't worth living since my my husband died.

*  I'm just not the type of person who easily attracts the opposite sex.

*  My mother should stop asking me questions about my life.

*  I can't bear to see my wife suffer with this disease.

*  I'm not able to spend much time alone.

*  I just can't travel to a foreign country by myself.

*  I'm just not cut out to be a good mother.

*  I'm basically just an angry person.

*  My son should settle down and get married.

*  I'll never recover from those terrible losses in the stock market.

*  My wife should pay more attention to me.

Is it true? 

  Is it really true?

  How do you feel when you believe that thought?

  Who would you be without that thought?

  Turn the thought around.  (E.g. I should pay more attention to my wife.)


  1. I've found Byron Katie's work to be useful, too. And, like you, I've found it to be true, what you say: "It has been my experience that we often put up the most resistance to the very things that would most benefit us."

    I'd love to hear your thoughts about why that's so.

  2. I like what you posted from Katie's lessons. It's a practical way to explore what I believe. It reminds me of Don Miguel Ruiz's fifth agreement, which is with the other four at the bottom of my blog: #5 is:

    Be skeptical, but learn to listen. Don't believe yourself, or anybody else. Use the power of doubt to question everything you hear: Is it really the truth? Listen to the intent behind the words, and you will hear the real message.

  3. Hi, Bonnie :) Brilliant post...this is just what I needed today. I love the painting beautiful!
    I am going to check out the web site!
    Thanks and Have a Terrific Day :)
    Hugs :))

  4. I had never heard of the lady before but went to take a peek. Interesting and certainly her perspective offers some food for thought.

  5. Again, Bonnie, you post something I needed! Like you I thought Katie's approach was too simplistic after reading about the 4 questions and visiting her site. Reading this post and valuing your opinion has prompted me to further investigate my own judgments about myself and why I resist. Looks like I'll be answering some questions...

    Happy Labor Day!

  6. nice. will check it out further...i really like your painting as well...the colors are wonderful...

  7. Thanks for the post, Bonnie. I've scanned the surface of Katie's work, but never gone deeper. Your encouragement will send me to take a second look. If memory serves me correctly, she is married to the author, Stephen Mitchell, who has written a number of great books and translated, among other things, the Tao Te Ching and the Bhagavad Gita.

  8. Hi Dan: I agree - 'the work' is a useful tool to help us return to the reality of what is ... but it is just one of so many 'tools' available to us.

    There are many reasons why we resist our own good or benefit (I'd love to hear your take on this too!). Here are a couple off the top of my head:

    New ideas or suggestions require us to think more deeply about our choices/values and this can be perceived as threatening and anxiety-producing to our 'tyrant' ego.

    Changing or trying something new means stepping out of our comfort/safety zone. If we are already dealing with life anxiety, we will not want to risk taking on the additional anxiety that accompanies change and we resist even what could benefit us.

    The ego has many defenses against being dethroned, challenged, asked to change - and views such possibilities as humiliating. It resists so as not to be humiliated. It would rather forego a benefit than experience the humiliation of not knowing or feeling it is not good enough as it is.

    Sometimes our ego strength is weak and defenses (resistance) comes up to protect its own fragility. If the ego is fragile, these defenses should be respected, for the time being.

    I'm sure you have other ideas from a Buddhist perspective. I would love to hear them.

  9. Hi Ruth: The basic principles that support life are so simple and have been known and pronounced by different cultures, at different times, in different places, etc. They always ring true when we hear them. Thank you for writing out Ruiz's 5th Agreement for us. It is very much like Katie's questions.

    All fundamentally the same - all good - find it where you can and use it!

  10. Hi Kelly: I hope you do check her out. Let me know what you think once you do!

  11. Hi Marie (Lost Aussie): I'd love to get your feedback after you check her out. Byron Katie's books helped my daughter get through a life-threatening period with cancer and major thoracic surgery. The simplicity of these questions were used by her to reconnect with the beauty of reality in each moment and do so while on an unbelievably strong cocktail of pain meds. My daughter likes her quote "When I argue with reality, I lose. But only all of the time!"

  12. Hi Gwynnie: I clung to many of my pain-inducing beliefs while reading her books - but I knew my resistance was telling me this was exactly what I needed. I have read her books several times to try imbed the principles in my brain! I challenge my thoughts many times a day, using her questions. And now with time - I don't have to laboriously go through the whole set of four. "Is it true?" does the trick and I am back in tune with what is, instead of fighting what is.

  13. Hi Brian: Do check it out. There is a book using her method for children - and it works wonderfully with them. E.g. I'll never understand math. Nobody likes me. I'm too short. etc.

  14. Hi George: As Ruth's comment infers - there are many paths to the same destination. Having immersed yourself in Zen principles and practices you may not need to use her method. It is a fine tool, however, for those who have not had the advantage of such training.

    Katie's work is very Taoist-like - although her husband Stephen Mitchell laughs that when he first met her she had not read the Tao Te Ching and did not know how Taoist her philosophy was! He has written a book with her called "A Thousand Names for Joy".

    I'd been interested in your honest appraisal of her work, based on your 'scan'.

  15. HI BONNIE-

    Oh my, as I am at a pivotal time along this healing journey and just today I cried out loud how angry I am that I have M S and how it has changed my life. I know such thinking cannot be a way of life but I had to say it, yell it, cry it....maybe even many more times. I also cried out this is not a gift or another lesson!!! Wow. I know how exhausting such emotion is, but I needed the release. Now what?

    Love to you
    peace, hope and healing....

  16. Hi Gail:

    This is exactly what I asked myself when I first discovered her work! I have heard so much pain over the years and it needed expression.

    Byron Katie's fundamentally saying we need to accept what is ... What it took me a while to realize is that your reaction and feelings are what is in the moment for you. In that moment your anger and pain need acceptance too. While your anger is there - it is what is and it is true. You just don't want to get stuck there and miss the bigger level of acceptance of what you are called to deal with.

    While on a grand scale you are called to come to terms with what is - your illness - on a moment to moment scale you have every right to express what is with regard to your emotions. And then accept and express the next moment and the next. We tend to think of what is as a permanent situation but what is changes with each moment.

    It was a lightbulb moment for me when I could articulate this. If I have not explained it clearly enough - don't hesitate to ask for further trys!!! :-)

  17. I know about the Work, but haven't applied it to the thought, "Men are allergic to me." Yes, I think it's perfect for review.

  18. Hi Meri: It will be interesting to see what insights emerge from the turnaround!

  19. Interesting concept - simplistic yet useful. I too like your painting and the different colors you used.

  20. Great post, Bonnie. I def relate to example question #3.. .and people in general. I seem to make people uncomfortable and feel they tend to avoid me. . .or so I believe (Maybe its the goggles? :)

    Facing our fears or setbacks and questioning the very substance and relevance of them is probably the best and only way to move on and away from them. Practicing these ideas and methods as you have and are doing takes dedication and discipline. Well done

  21. I am aware of her work and found it quite useful if I could remind myself the 4 questions :))

  22. It's good to see the questions you posted. I had a big one, when our daughter was little, and she pushed my limits, crying at the least owie or conflict. My question was, "Why does she have to cry so much?" or the statement, "She cries too much!" At that time we had heard about a method that is also wonderful, called Apples of Gold, that if you don't like your emotional response to something, maybe you have the wrong belief about it. So I questioned my belief that Lesley cried too much, and I changed the belief to: Kids cry. It helped some, but it took daily practice to remind myself without going nuts! Thankfully, at age 29, she is a fine, normal woman, and at 54 I am a fine, normal mother. :) At least that's what I tell myself!

    Thank you so much for your further tips about the recipe!

  23. What I meant by my prior comments was that I am familiar with the techniques used by Katie in The Work, but I have not consciously used those techniques, step by step, to resolve issues in my own life. I greatly respect Katie's work, however, because she is helping people to change their lives by changing their thinking.

    The problem, as I see it, is that most people are slaves to the thoughts produced by the ego. I'm not free of such thoughts, of course, but I try my best, moment by moment, to see them for what they are — just thoughts. Most importantly, I try not to identify with the thoughts. If I am not burdened with the belief that I am what I think I am, I can be anything I want to be, including the opposite of my thoughts. That's where our full potential lies — beyond the conditioned mind and thought patterns, beyond our treasured but threadbare beliefs.

    Thanks again for this posting. As the comments demonstrate, this has been a fruitful and needed discussion.

  24. Thank you so much for your blog.... your words of wisdom and beautiful art.

  25. Pat: Thanks! Sometimes the simple things turn out to be the most profound - when we use them.

  26. Hi Gary: So true Gary. And, yes it might very well be the goggles!

    Seriously though I think many of us can relate to the third example of thoughts that need to be challenged. I hope you will not be miffed if I use this example as a teaching tool. Inquiry around the statement in your comment MIGHT look like this:

    G. 'I seem to make people uncomfortable and they tend to avoid me ....'

    BK Is that true?

    G. Yes - I've experienced it many times.

    BK Can you absolutely know for sure that you make people uncomfortable and that they avoid you?

    G. I don't ask them - so no I can't know for sure that it is true.

    B.K. How do you react when you believe the thought 'I make people uncomfortable and they tend to avoid me'?

    G. I feel bad and wonder what's wrong with me.

    B.K. And how would you be (feel) if you did not have that thought?

    G. I would probably not feel so bad or sad. I would not be wondering what was wrong with me.

    B.K. So without that thought you would be free to live your life and interact unencumbered with people.

    G. It probably would be easier if I wasn't consumed with the thought.

    BK Now turn that thought around to some of its opposites.

    G. Ahhh ... people tend to make me uncomfortable and I tend to avoid them. Hmmmm.

    BK Yes. Knowing that, you have reclaimed your power and can do something about it.

    G. Yes but sometimes I do feel more comfortable when I avoid people.

    BK Then there is the next thought you need to challenge, for you are avoiding people - thinking they are avoiding you - and having a lot of bad/sad feelings about it. Doesn't sound like comfort to me. Perhaps getting out there and reaping some of the rewards of interaction would be more satisfying than wondering what is wrong with you!?

    BK So you feel more comfortable when you avoid people .... Is it true? .......................

    This little 'made-up' example of how to employ the four questions and the turnaround demonstrates the insights that could await any of us if we give it a try.

  27. Hi Turquoise: You just need to actually use the method a few times and you will then carry the questions with you in your head. Or write them out on a little piece of paper and put them somewhere you can easily access them.

  28. Ruth: Love that - Golden Apples - questionning beliefs - it is pure gold. It is not magic, however, and as you say it does require persistence to eliminate an erroneous, painful belief.

  29. George: So true. Learning not to identify with our thoughts or emotions is key. That is where cultivating the stance of the Observer or Witness has such great value. We observe our thoughts as they pass by like clouds on the screen of our mind - but we do not have to react from them or identify with them. Thanks so much for making that point.

  30. Def not, Bonnie. I think many of us can relate to those feelings and sentiments. That is a very interesting exchange and work around towards the solution to understanding and healing.


    thanks SO much for taking the time to reply to me and my whoas, geeesh, I am a mess. I understand your words so well and I know that acceptance, surrender has many levels and ebbs and flows and moments of extremes and neurtrality.(sp) Quite a ride. Again, "thank you"

    Love Gail
    peace and hopeand healing,,,

  32. Gary: Thanks for responding. So true that a bit of awareness and understanding can lead to healing. Sometimes the process of life is hard, but if we can unburden ourselves of thinking that adds to the suffering, then we can just flow with life as it happens.

  33. Hi Gail: I'm sorry you are going through such a difficult time. One approach I learned from Stephen Levine is to relate TO your pain/distress/thoughts/feelings and not FROM them. So that could sound like this:

    "Of course my emotions are raw right now - I have been through so much in recent months. I will notice and be aware of what I am feeling without attaching to the feelings which will only cause me added distress."

    "Of course I am feeling overwhelmed - on top of everything else I was traumatized by the accident. I will observe my distress and use it as a signal that I need a lot of rest right now."

    Acknowledge what is as it emerges - don't deny it - just try not to get identified with it. You are not the emotions you are feeling, they are just signals to you that your body/mind has experienced tremendous stress. YOU are much more than any feeling or thought. YOU, yourself, are not a mess - you are experiencing raw, overwhelming emotions which make sense given what you have been through. YOU are not your body. While your body has challenges, YOU, the real YOU is so much more than your body or any disease it may be dealing with ...

    I'm sure you already know these examples - but sometimes when we are enveloped in emotions it helps to read or hear them again.

    Hang on ...

  34. Even though my mind will automatically still give an ego driven response or thought, I do notice I catch it more often and acknowledge and move on from it. How useful to have these simple, but altering questions to guide us. I noticed this weekend while on a mini vacation, that I kept thinking of things to bring home for my dad to enjoy... but I was able to process that it was habitual thinking, and even sit with a moment of missing him, without it bringing such sadness to me. "I am not grief, even though I have periods of grief."

    Thanks for this guide and your insight.

  35. Vicky: Thank YOU for this insightful response. You share pertinent examples right out of your life of how it works.

    Ego has its place. The goal is to learn to use ego where it is needed and not be driven by it.
    Thanks again for insights that point this out.

  36. Like that thing about self inquiry

  37. Hi Haddock: I'm glad you found it interesting. Do drop in again!

  38. How interesting - this is the first I’ve heard of this therapy. It does show how much anxiety can come from unrealistic perceptions or projections. A shift of blame could make the sufferer an actor instead of a victim.

  39. Sarah: Actually I would not call it a therapy - it is more of a method of self-inquiry. I like your suggestion that the inquirer/sufferer could become an actor rather than a victim!

  40. Love that painting! Now, you must be open to these thoughts to benefit from them. It's almost the same with those folks who attend church. If you are open, you are ready to be in the pew and accept the message. Wouldn't it be nice if we were all so open, all the time.

  41. Hi Lakeviewer: Yes, it is good to be open to learn new things ... and ... we still need to be discriminating and choose what is right for us, both with regard to religion and with regard to psychological growth.


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