Questioning What You Think Is True And Terrible, And Discovering Peace Instead
I first encountered Byron Katie by reading her book Loving What Is in 2003. I was a young mom, with two children barely entering school. The toddler years were over, and I thought, It’s time to get a job, upgrade my life, re-spark my marriage.
I was a little bored, I must admit. Time for the next chapter.
Little did I know, reading Loving What Is would bring me to registering for a weekend with Katie in my hometown of Seattle when she visited us a few months later.
And shortly after that weekend, I flew to California for her full nine-day School for The Work to dive in really deep. I completed the school in 2005 and it is still, hands down, the most powerful and important program I ever enrolled in. It changed my life.
Up until then, I had done a lot of programs, let me tell you. I even had a master’s degree in applied behavioral science, in my quest to understand the human condition and to understand myself and all the suffering I had experienced in my life.
What were we all here for? Why? What can we do to make things better? How can I be useful here on planet earth, and contribute to life as it unfolds? What’s going on, anyway? Why do people get hurt, or hurt others? How do we heal?
Fast forward to a decade after my first School for The Work with Byron Katie. It’s New Year 2016.
I have recovered completely from the torture of an eating disorder and obsessing about food and my body, I have been cracked open by divorce and found my former husband to be one of my best friends. I have had cancer, felt the fear and then found peace. I have entered my fifties building a new thriving business and writing a book, and I’m doing what I always wanted to be doing: trusting reality, and trusting life rather than feeling suspicious and afraid of it.
How did this all happen?
I learned to question my stressful beliefs, through Katie’s guidance.
So here I was at Katie’s annual event called The Mental Cleanse to watch and listen as she facilitated people through her method of truth-seeking.
Sitting at an event, listening, drinking in what’s going on is so incredibly sweet.
Day 2 of the Mental Cleanse in Los Angeles.
The day is mapped out and scheduled, there’s a huge conference room with many chairs all lined up for the audience, and on stage two big comfy chairs for Byron Katie and whomever is sitting with her investigating something troubling about the human condition.
Yesterday, five different people shared, and some were the kind of situations I thought, when I first encountered The Work: You can’t really question that situation and find peace, can you?
A teenager hearing horrible voices, a drunk husband who peed in the hallway, a young woman who had been sexually molested by a stepfather, terror of the huge earthquake coming to the West Coast of the US, and the impending death of aging parents.
These are some of what we think of as the greatest difficulties of life.
At least I’ve thought it.
Relationships are maybe one thing, or being annoyed at your job, or not having enough money, or running out of gas in your car, or missing a flight, or a family feud. But death? Earthquakes? Abuse?
Is it possible to come to peace with even very frightening events?
That’s what I know and remember as I sit listening, hearing these brave people do their work.
Every time someone goes up into the chair to work on stage, it’s really an investigation for all of us. We’re all sharing the questioning of these stories that appear tragic in the human condition.
We’re doing it together.
Katie said to the audience, “You can undo 1,000 years of suffering this morning.” By getting very still and inquiring. By asking, Is it true, that thought you’re thinking? That image you’re seeing?
Isn’t it just a memory? Is a memory reality?
Are you sure those things are as insurmountable, impossible, sick, violent, horrible, and debilitating as you’ve believed?
Are you OK in this moment? Did you make it through?
I keep noticing. Yes.
At The Cleanse, Byron Katie said, “Every time we do this work, we’re answering the question: who am I?”
Who am I? I’m not really sure. But I know it’s good.
This is a complete turnaround. With this underlying belief that what I am is good and loving, my life keeps getting better and better, more and more calm, more and more exciting without being frightening.
And if it is frightening, I do The Work.