Book Summary of “Loving What Is: Four Questions That Can Change Your Life”: Loving What Is is a mode of inquiry, which is based on four questions intended to help free oneself from suffering, from delusions and from limiting beliefs.
By Byron Katie, 2016 (Synchronique éditions), 304 pages.
Original version, 2002.
Note: This article is a guest post written by Emily from the blog, Être enfin zen (‘Becoming Zen At Last’).
The book Loving What Is: Four Questions That Can Change Your Life comes with a 2+ hour DVD that shows Byron Katie helping people apply her method.
Review and Summary of “Loving What Is”:
Loving What Is is a mode of inquiry that is built around four questions intended to help free ourselves from our suffering, delusions and limiting beliefs.
The book is divided into 14 chapters. Much of it explains what the method is, which author Byron Katie calls ‘the Work’, and how to apply it. Byron Katie guides us throughout Loving What Is while helping us to apply the four questions in different categories: for couples and family life, for professional life and money, for self-judgments, for the body and addictions, for dealing with the worst, for doing the Work with children, etc.
Who is Byron Katie?
Byron Kathleen Reid, known as Byron Katie, was born in 1942 in the United States. She married twice, had three children. Professionally, she was successful in her career. Then, around the age of 33, she fell into such a depression that she could no longer get out of bed or bathe. She also had outbursts of anger that terrorized her children.
Ten years later, at the age of 43, she was hospitalized in a rehabilitation center (it was the only establishment that her insurance company agreed to cover). In this center, she terrified the other patients so much that they had to isolate her. She even felt that she didn’t deserve a bed and slept on the floor.
It had been a week since she had been in this establishment when, one morning in February 1986, Katie woke up. She was freed from her suffering. “All my rage, all the thoughts that had been troubling me, my whole world, the whole world was gone. At the same time, laughter welled up from the depths and just poured out. Everything was unrecognizable.”
When Katie returned home, her family no longer recognized her. Then, over time, they realized that the old Katie was not coming back. Her children, her neighbors, her friends asked her what had happened to her. She had understood, through self-analysis, that all her old thoughts were wrong. This ordinary woman, who was not looking for anything special spiritually, had discovered how to achieve peace and freedom.
What is the Work?
One might think that this method is too simplistic to be effective, but it is precisely because it is simple that it is effective. The Work is rapidly and radically transforming the way we approach our problems. This transformation makes them disappear.
Very quickly, people came to Katie’s to discover this freedom as well. Then, gradually, Katie began to travel to share her method in churches, town halls, in large companies, in law firms, therapists’ offices, prisons, schools, hospitals, etc.
People who do the Work explain that after a while, “The Work is no longer something I do. It is doing me.” The mind finds stressful thoughts on its own and deconstructs them even before suffering arises. Conflicts no longer need to exist but only love for oneself, for others, for everything that life brings. “Loving what is” becomes a natural process.
Recent neuroscience research supports Byron Katie’s discovery. Antonio Damasio and Michael Gazzaniga, who are two renowned neuroscientists, explain that “the left hemisphere of the human brain is prone to fabricate inner narratives that do not necessarily correspond to the truth.” Their research shows that we tend to believe the stories we tell ourselves. This is where the suffering comes from.
Byron Katie says the only way to understand what the Work is is by experiencing it yourself.
Chapter 1: A Few Basic Principles
Notice When Your Thoughts Are in Conflict with Reality
If we pay attention to it, we find that we believe thoughts such as “people should be nicer”, “children should be good”, “my husband/wife should agree with me”, “I should be thinner “, etc.
These thoughts make us suffer because they clash with reality.
Stick to Your Own Business
According to Katie, there are only three kinds of business in the universe: mine, yours, and reality (reality is anything beyond my control, yours or anyone else’s).
Our stress comes mainly from our tendency to meddle in other people’s business (“you should find work, you should be on time, I want you to be happy”, etc.) and in that which is related to reality (when we have worries about earthquakes, war, or our own mortality).
If you live your life, and I mentally live yours, who is there to live mine?
A good question to ask yourself when you feel stressed or anxious is to ask yourself whose business are you meddling in.
Receive Your Thoughts with Understanding
A thought is harmless until you believe it. Our suffering does not come from our thoughts, but from our attachment to those thoughts. They are like clouds passing through the sky. They appear and then disappear.
Through inquiry, we can become friends with these thoughts. Would we argue with a cloud? There is nothing personal about it, nor is the case with thoughts.
When a stressful thought is approached with understanding, the next time it pops up, you might find it interesting. Then, the time after that, you might find it funny. And ultimately, you won’t even notice it anymore. This is the power of loving what is.
Become Aware of Your Stories
Stories are thoughts about the past, present or future that we believe to be true. These are the stories that ‘should be’, ‘could be’, or ‘why it is so’.
The Work will inevitably lead you to a story less painful than the original one. Who would you be without it? How much is your world based on unexamined stories? You will find out through inquiry and investigation.
Look for the Thought Behind the Suffering
We seek to alleviate our stress by looking for something outside of ourselves. We seek to change others, or we turn to sex, alcohol, food, drugs or money in order to find temporary solace and the illusion of having control over our life.
Depression, fear, pain are gifts that tell us “What are you thinking about right now? You live in a story that is not true for you.” Once trapped in our stories, we look outside of ourselves to try and change the stressful emotions associated with them. Usually, we become aware of the emotion that comes before thought. Emotion is therefore an alarm signal indicating to us that there is a thought within us to which we might want to apply the Work. This is a topic I cover in an article that discusses the three things I put in place to be emotionally stronger.
The Work makes us understand the principle of cause and effect, which takes its toll on each of us. When we understand this, all our suffering begins to dissolve on its own.
This is the Work, the investigation that we are going to carry out on our thoughts and our stories. It consists of examing them using four questions and turning them around (all this will be explained in the following chapters).
Inquiry serves to put an end to the confusion of our mind, in order to find inner peace even in a seemingly chaotic world.
Inquiry goes far beyond the technique. It is an approach that gives life to an innate aspect that comes from deep within us. With practice, awareness comes automatically; it becomes a way of life. Peace and joy naturally find their way into all areas of our mind, inevitably and irreversibly.
With inquiry, we know that before we suffered, and that now, we no longer suffer.
Chapter 2: The Great Undoing
Put the Mind on Paper
This is the first step of the Work. Write down your judgments about others as they come to mind in short, simple sentences. You can use a sheet of paper or download and print the “Judge-Your-Neighbor” Worksheet. You will find it here on the French site of Byron Katie.
Katie suggests that we don’t start with judgments about ourselves but start with someone we are resentful of.
We should not be surprised if at first, we have difficulty filling out the Worksheet because for millennia we have been taught not to judge. However, if we are truly honest, everyone judges everyone else.
The practice of the Work enables us to discover that what we think of others is only a reflection of what we think of ourselves. Many of us know it, so we may ask ourselves “why should I judge my neighbor when I know very well that it is all about me?” Katie replies, “I understand but trust the process. Judge a neighbor and follow the simple instructions given to you.”
How to Complete a Worksheet
Be as harsh, childish, and mean as possible. Do not hold back.
Sit down with your sheet and pen and write down the thoughts about others that hurt you the most, the ones circling around in your head (the method comes a little later). If you do it without writing, your mind will outwit you. Before you even know it, it’ll have come up with another story to prove to you it’s right. The only way to stop it is by putting it down on paper.
First, blame those who hurt you the most: “my husband left me”, “my partner transmitted AIDS to me”, “my mother does not love me”, “my children do not respect me not”, “my friend betrayed me”, “I hate my boss”, etc. Each new story is a variation on the same theme: “this shouldn’t be happening, I shouldn’t be going through this, life is unfair”, etc.
If you don’t know what to write about, wait. Life will give you a subject.
The Judge-Your-Neighbor Worksheet
This sheet is used to bring to light judgments which otherwise are difficult to detect.
These judgments will be the material you use to do the Work.
Here is an example Worksheet with Elizabeth, which Katie is helping with her inquiry, about her son Christophe:
- In the situation you are thinking about, who is the person who makes you angry, upset, sad or disappointed, and why?
I am sad (or I am angry, scared, disturbed, etc. because of) because my son Christophe does not speak to me. He cut ties with me.
- In this situation, how do you want this person to change? What do you want him to do?
I want Christophe to talk to me from time to time. From time to time, I want him to invite me to come and see him, his wife and children.
- In this situation, what advice could you give him?
Christophe should stand up to his wife. He should tell her that he doesn’t want to keep his mother away. He should stop blaming me.
- In order for you to be happy in this situation, what do you need that person to think, say, feel, or do?
I need Christophe to accept me. I need him to accept my way of life and need him to understand that I did my best.
- What do you think of this person in this situation? Make a list (feel free to be mean and harsh in your judgments).
Christophe is cowardly, resentful, proud, and stubborn.
- Regarding this situation, what do you never want to relive?
I never want to feel like he’s rejecting me again. I never want him to cut ties with me again.
Inquiry: The Four Questions and Turnaround
For each of these sections of the “judge-your-neighbor” worksheet that you just completed, ask yourself the following four questions. Write down your answers:
Question 1: Is it true?
Think back on the situation and ask yourself “is it true that Christophe cut ties with me?” Keep the situation in mind, and if you really want the truth, then an answer will emerge from you, which will be a ‘yes’ or a ‘no’.
The answer to questions 1 and 2 can only be a “yes” or a “no”. If other answers come up, you are not doing the Work; you are looking for freedom outside of yourself. If you feel defensive responding to it, write it down.
There are no right or wrong answers. At first, you may be confused because all of this is unknown to you. You are now looking for your own answers, not those of others or those you have been taught.
Question 2: Can you know absolutely that it is true?
“In this given situation, can I know absolutely that it is true that Christophe cut ties with me?”
Question 3: How do you react when you believe that thought?
List the reactions you have with the person you are judging here. Elizabeth tells us, “It kills me. I panic as soon as the phone rings. It gives me a headache and my shoulders are all tense.”
What images of the past and the future do you see going through your head, and what physical sensations do you feel when observing these images? Do obsessions or addictions manifest when you believe this thought? (Do you take refuge in alcohol, drugs, the use of your credit card, food, sex, television, etc.?) Also note the way you treat yourself “I shut down, I isolate myself, I feel bad, I feel anger, I eat compulsively, and I spend entire days in front of the television without really watching it. I feel depressed, excluded, resentful and alone.”
Question 4: Who would you be without the thought?
This is a very powerful question. Imagine yourself in the situation without the thought that Christophe cut ties with you. Imagine that you might not even be able to have this thought. Take your time. Notice what is revealed to you. What do you see now? How does it feel?
Turn the thought around.
“Christophe cut ties with me” becomes, once reversed, “I cut ties with Christophe.” Is this turnaround as true if not truer for you? Look within yourself for situations that you think illustrate this statement. Have you ever cut ties with your son? When you think of him, for example, don’t you have thoughts that cut you off from him?
To form turnarounds, reverse the original statement. We can generally reverse the statement towards oneself: with the example, “Christophe does not speak to me”, this becomes, “I do not speak to myself”; towards the other person: “I do not speak to Christophe”, becomes, on the contrary, the exact opposite, “Christophe speaks to me.”
Then, for each turnaround find at least three specific and authentic examples demonstrating that it is just as true if not truer for you. For example, with the turnaround, “I do not speak to myself” seems just as true if not truer than the initial statement of “Christophe does not speak to me” since, when Elizabeth thinks that Christophe should speak to her, she mentally occupies herself with the business of her son and not with her own. She herself gave up on a dream, which is that of how her son should lead his life. She feels all the loneliness of not talking to herself.
Another example, with the sentence, “I need Christophe to accept me”, which becomes, once reversed, “I need to accept Christophe.” What Elizabeth really needs is to accept her son and his family as they are, with their way of life, with or without her.
If you are not satisfied with your first Worksheet, there is nothing to be alarmed about. Try filling out another Worksheet on someone else or read the next chapter. You are beginning to understand the Work. It’s like learning to ride a bike: all you have to do is keep pedaling, even when you are wobbling.
If you find, like many people before you, that the Work has no immediate effect, know that you have already progressed, but in a way that is still imperceptible to you. The Work can be very subtle but very profound.
Chapter 3: Entering the Dialogues
Katie travels the world in order to facilitate the Work: she organizes workshops in which she participates. The people who volunteer take turns coming onto the stage with her and then Katie guides them with their Worksheet, which they have filled out beforehand, with the four questions and the turnarounds.
Wherever she goes, it is always the same stories she hears.
She included in Loving What Is many dialogues resulting from these workshops, which I cannot transcribe here because of their length. They are very informative because Katie goes to the end of the process with the people she assists. I thought I would share an excerpt here, but the entire dialogue is necessary to understand the process. So, I gave up on that idea.
Chapter 4: Doing the Work on Couples and Family Life
Katie has noticed during her experience that the people who are closest to us are the best teachers we can have. Our parents, our children, our spouse tirelessly show us the truth that we do not want to see, until the day it becomes clear to us.
Chapter 5: Deepening Inquiry
This section is used to help us see more clearly in the process.
Question 1: Is it true?
If you answered “yes” to question 1, then ask yourself, “What is actually happening in this specific situation?” If, for example, you think that your husband, Paul, shouldn’t be watching so much television, what is the reality of this situation? The reality is that Paul watches television a lot. Paul shouldn’t watch television so much is simply a way of arguing with reality. The “should” and “shouldn’t” do not exist in reality.
Question 2: Can you know absolutely that it is true?
If you think this is true, a very effective way to open your questioning is to follow your statement with “and that means …” If for example, you wrote “I am angry with my father because he hit me.” Is this true? Yes, you are angry, and yes, he did hit you. Now rephrase “I’m angry with my father because he hit me and that means…” Your sentence could then end with “and that means he doesn’t love me.” Can you absolutely know that he doesn’t love you?
Another way to make your questioning easier is to ask yourself “What do you think you would gain from this?” For example, if you wrote, “Paul should tell me he loves me”, what do you think you would gain from it? It might be more security. Write your new statement: “I would feel more secure if Paul told me that he loves me.” Can you absolutely know that you would feel more secure if Paul told you that he loves you?
A third way to make the inquiry easier is to find the version of your original statement that contains a “should” or “should not”. If in the statement, “I am angry because my father hit me”, we know the answer – is this true? Yes, definitely. In the reformulated version, “my father shouldn’t have hit me”, we are less sure, and we may discover another truth that is more deeply hidden.
You can also work with the proof you have. For example, “I am sad because Paul does not love me,” write down all your proof and investigate it. Examples of proof:
- He walks past me without speaking to me.
- When I walk into the room, he doesn’t look up.
- He pretends I’m not there, and goes on with what he is doing.
- He doesn’t call me by my first name.
Question 3: How do you react when you have that thought?
You’ll notice that when you have this thought, you feel uneasy, which ranges from mild discomfort to fear and even panic. When you have answered this question, your suffering begins to break down because you realize the cause-and-effect relationships.
You can ask yourself two additional questions to help you with the inquiry:
- Do you see a reason to drop that thought? (And most importantly, don’t drop it. It is the thought that lets go of you, and not the other way around).
Yes, I see one: I was at peace before that thought arose, and since then I have felt tense and stressed.
This question can cause radical realizations.
- Do you see a non-stressful reason to hold onto this thought?
You can find many reasons, but they will all be stressful or unpleasant.
Question 4: Who would you be without the thought?
How would you be without the thought? See yourself in the presence of the person you are judging doing what you think they shouldn’t be doing. Close your eyes for a minute or two, take a deep breath, and imagine who you would be if you didn’t have the ability to think that thought. How would your life be different in the same situation? Observe the person without the story you tell yourself about them. How do you feel about them? Which version do you prefer? With or without your story? Which do you think is the most pleasant? Which do you think is the most peaceful?
People sometimes answer that they do not know; others answer that they would be at peace, in serenity, would be a more loving person, etc.
They play a powerful part in the Work. Inquiry followed by turnarounds is the fast track to self-actualization.
The Three Types of Turnaround
Katie recommends that we always do the inquiry using the four questions before we move on to the turnarounds. Indeed, it could be tempting to go directly to the turnarounds, but they may then be guilt-inducing. The point of the Work is not to instigate shame or guilt, nor to prove that you are wrong and the other right. The power of the turnaround relies on the discovery that everything you think you see outside of you is actually a projection of your own mind. Everything is a mirror image of your own thinking.
There may be times when you don’t find the turnaround is true for you. For example, with the statement, “Paul should quit smoking”, and you don’t smoke, maybe the “I should quit smoking” turnaround surprises you. Maybe you are smoking in your mind. You smoke with anger and annoyance every time you imagine Paul stinking up the house with his cigarettes. In this case, it is better that you quit smoking in your head and at Paul’s smoking.
You can also replace the word “smoke” with another term. On your side, is there something you indulge in like Paul’s smoking? For example, compulsive shopping, food, alcohol, etc. The turnaround could then be “I should stop compulsive shopping to feel better.” Be willing to take the same advice yourself that you give to Paul. Advice showing you how to attend to your own business.
The Turnarounds in Action
Self-realization can only be complete if it is materialized in actions. Live the turnarounds. Go see the people involved and tell them how difficult it is for you to do what you yourself wanted them to do. Tell them in what ways you tried to manipulate them, to fool them, how you used anger, money, sex, guilt, to get what you wanted.
Katie understood that what she thought was not that easy to put into practice and that we are all doing our best. This is how a life of humility begins.
A great shortcut to breaking free quickly is to sincerely apologize and right your wrongs. When Katie happened to hurt someone, she immediately told them why she had done it; she said it was about the fear of losing or the desire of getting something from the person.
What is at stake here is our own peace, our own freedom. Living turnarounds enables us to correct our mistakes and start afresh on equal terms, without guilt (see my article on guilt). Putting them into practice in our daily life is a mark of generosity towards oneself, and the results are simply miraculous.
The Turnaround of Statement 6 of the Worksheet
The turnaround for statement 6 of the Worksheet is different from the other turnarounds. “I never want to again” turns into “I’m willing to …” and “I’m looking forward to…” For example, “I never want Paul to lie to me again” changes to “I am willing for Paul to lie to me again” and “I am looking forward to Paul lying to me again”.
The challenge of this turnaround is to welcome life as a whole with open arms. It enables us to soften our resistance and to open ourselves up rather than trying in vain to eliminate or dismiss what we think is causing us pain.
To look forward to these emotions is to wake up. In other words, we are no longer closed off from reality; we agree to open ourselves to all the possibilities that life offers.
Chapter 6: Doing the Work on Professional Life and Money
Do you think money can provide you with security? Katie noticed that we usually have the money we need, even if we hardly have any. So, how could money be the problem if we think clearly? The only thing we have to do is change the way we think about money.
A clear and healthy mind knows how to work, how to send emails, what calls to make, how to create and get what it wants without resorting to fear (e.g., thinking that having money will provide security). When we understand that we already have the security we expect from money, then it is easier to get rich with this state of mind.
You can feel fear when you start the Work: “if I feel totally serene, why would I bother to act?” One of the main obstacles is the anxiety of losing your fears. We are certain that, without the stress and anger, we would no longer act. However, the truth sets us free, and freedom makes us act. Without stories and without enemies, the action is spontaneous, clear and of limitless benevolence.
Katie gives us an example of the Work she did in a company. I will share it with you because it is so interesting to note the consequences that an unclear state of mind can lead to.
An executive told her, “I have an assistant who has worked with me for ten years. I know she doesn’t do her job well, but she has five children…”
Katie: “Well done! Keep her there so it shows the rest of your employees that if they have enough children, they can work for you, whether or not they are doing their job well.”
The executive: “I just can’t fire her.”
Katie: “I totally understand. Then give her job to someone more qualified; send her home where her five children need her and send her a paycheck every month. It would be more honest than what you are doing right now. Guilt is expensive.”
When he read his Worksheet to the assistant, the assistant admitted that he was absolutely right, that what he had written was right.
Katie then asks the assistant, “What do you suggest? What would you do if you were your own employee? “
Often, employees fire themselves when they understand what is going on. This is what this assistant did. She found another job at a company closer to her home, which allowed her to be both a competent assistant and a good mother. The executive realized that he had never questioned the thoughts that prompted him to show “loyalty” to an assistant whom the situation, in fact, made just as uncomfortable as it did him.
Chapter 7: Doing the Work on Self-Judgments
You have found that judgments against your neighbor can always be turned around on you. If you feel uncomfortable with a turnaround, you can be sure that you have exposed a belief about yourself that you have not yet questioned. If, for example, when you reverse the statement “he should love me” into “I should love me”, you feel stress, then it is certainly time to do Work on that thought.
The questions apply in the same way as with judgments about our fellow human beings. If, for example, you are working on the belief “I’m good-for-nothing”, is that true? Can you know it absolutely even if your parents, your children, yourself have been saying it for a long time? List your successes: for example, I did the dishes, I brushed my teeth, I breathed.
Sometimes it suffices to replace the “I” with “my way of thinking”. For example, “my way of thinking is useless, especially as far as I’m concerned.”
Don’t get stuck with the turnarounds; there is no right or wrong answer. Wait for the turnarounds to find you, rather than the other way around.
Chapter 8: Doing the Work with Children
Regardless of age, we believe the same thoughts: “I want my mom to love me”, “people shouldn’t be mean”, etc.
It is easy to do the Work with children because they are readily open to questions and may find it transformative.
Chapter 9: Doing the Work on Underlying Beliefs
Behind the judgments we wrote down on the Worksheet lie other thoughts that we have believed for years. They serve as a fundamental basis in our way of understanding life. These are underlying beliefs.
One effective way to find them is to list our “proofs of truth” when they appear during question 1.
For example, take the opening statement, “I’m mad at my kids because they don’t really respect me.” Your proofs of truth may be:
- They ignore me when I ask them to put their things away.
- They bicker loudly when I’m on the phone with a client.
With the proof of truth, “they ignore me when I ask them to put their things away”, we find as the underlying thought:
- Children should respect adults.
- People should respect me.
- People should follow my directions.
- I know what is best for others.
- If I am ignored, it means that I am not respected.
Next, we apply the Work to each underlying thought using the four questions and the turnarounds.
Chapter 10: Doing the Work on Any Thought or Situation
Every problem and every thought is there for you to free yourself. Until you feel perfectly right in this world, the Work is not done. The whole point of pain, of money, is to help you realize yourself.
When you are comfortable enough with the Work you do on people, you can wonder about concepts like famine in the world, terrorism, sexuality, fundamentalism, or any other upsetting thought that occurs to you. You will find that any problem that seemingly comes from the outside is nothing more than a misperception within your way of thinking.
You will use turnarounds along with self-judgments: you replace the problem in question by “my way of thinking”. For example, “I don’t like war because it frightens me” turns into “I don’t like my way of thinking because it frightens me” or “I don’t like my way of thinking, especially about war, because it frightens me.” Is this turnaround as true if not truer for you?
- When the Story is Hard to Find
Sometimes we have trouble identifying the thoughts that are disturbing us. Katie offers us the following exercise:
You take six blank sheets of paper that you number from 1 to 6.
At the top of sheet 1 you write: “sad, disappointed, ashamed, embarrassed, scared, upset, angry”.
Below, add: “because”.
And in the middle of the sheet: “and it means that…”
At the top of sheet 2: “want”.
Sheet 3: “should”.
Sheet 4: “need”.
At the sheet 5: “judge”.
Sheet 6: “never again”.
Let your mind express itself without any restraint, without following any particular order.
On sheet 1, write down what you think is a fact. For example, “we had an appointment for lunch, she did not show up; she left me waiting at the restaurant and did not even bother to call me.” Write these facts after “because” then circle the corresponding emotions: “sad”, “angry”, etc. Then after the words “and it means” write down your interpretation of the fact: “she doesn’t love me anymore” or “she has met someone else.”
If you find yourself thinking “I want”, write that thought on sheet 2. Otherwise, what would make this person ideal for you? Play God, for example, “I want her to be absolutely always on time, without exception and in all circumstances”, etc.
For sheet 3, write the thoughts that begin with “he/she should” or “he/she shouldn’t”.
Sheet 4 is for needs: what would enable you to bring the situation back in line with your sense of comfort and safety? For example, “I need her to love me” or “I need to be successful in my career.” Write down at the bottom of the page what you would get if your needs were met.
On sheet 5, be as cynical and ruthless as possible in your judgments about the person.
On Sheet 6, write down what you promise or hope you will never live through again.
Now, you can highlight the affirmations that make you suffer the most and do the Work on them, one by one. If you cannot yet look forward to reliving what is written on sheet 6, or if that troublesome story still eludes you, the following exercise can be very effective:
Focus on what is upsetting you. Then, using a stopwatch, write down for five minutes without stopping all the thoughts that create this suffering. If you’re tempted to stop, rewrite the last sentence you wrote until you’re ready to resume. Once that’s finished, underline the most painful or embarrassing sentences. Next, rewrite the sentences on whichever of the six sheets they best match. Then, walk away from the sheets and come back to them later, or even the next day. The sentences that cause you the most suffering tell you where to start the Work.
Chapter 11: Doing the Work on the Body and Addictions
The body cannot be a problem. If we suffer with regard to our body, it is because of our thoughts about it. Suffering comes from the story we tell ourselves about our body, which can be challenged with the help of inquiry. I tell myself a story and I am convinced that the problem is my body. That if it changed, I would be quite happy.
The problem always comes from an unquestioned thought. Therefore, the Work is about our way of thinking and not about the object of our addiction. The truth is that dependence on an object does not exist. Only the attachment to an unquestioned belief exists.
An addiction is a thought that arises and tells me that I should or should not smoke/drink/spend money/eat, etc. I believe it and then distance myself from the reality of the present moment (which is that I eat, that I smoke, that I spend money, etc.). We believe thoughts that are not true to us, and those thoughts are the reasons why we smoke, drink alcohol, etc.
If you think alcohol is making you sick, angry, or confused, and you drink it anyway, it is like drinking your own disease. You drink with what you know about it, and it produces exactly the effects you expect. Alcohol is honest and reliable: it promises to get you drunk, and it does. It promises to make things worse, and it does. It can teach a lot about integrity.
The aim of the inquiry is therefore not to stop drinking or smoking, but to dispel any confusion regarding the effects of alcohol.
Chapter 12: Making Friends with the Worst That Can Happen
Katie has assisted people in doing the Work on rape, incest, war in Bosnia, torture, detention in Nazi concentration camps, child death, chronic pain caused by diseases such as cancer.
Many of us think that it is impossible for us to accept these kinds of monstrous experiences, let alone approach them with unconditional love. Not only is it possible, but it is also our true nature.
Reality is always beneficial, even in situations that seem nightmarish to us. The real nightmare is the story we tell ourselves. The worst that can happen to us is to believe in an unexamined story.
If you feel like you have been a victim (of rape, a terrorist attack, a bombardment, etc.), and if you feel ready to do the Work, Katie invites you to devote a little more time to two parts of your inquiry. After asking yourself question 3 (how do you react, what happens when you have this thought?) and realizing the pain this causes in you, ask yourself: how often has this happened? How many times have you experienced it in your mind?
Then, when you discover your role in this event, however small (for example, the fact of innocently submitting yourself to the act in question out of need for love or to spare yourself from worse harm), notice how taking on this role is powerfully liberating and how much, on the contrary, to deny it is painful (I wrote an article on this subject, why it is necessary to step out of the victim role, and how to do it). Next, take your time to forgive yourself. It is possible that after this process, your identity will no longer be that of a victim.
Note: Byron Katie has set up a network of volunteers who are available over the phone to help you do the Work. You can find all this information on Katie’s website.
Conclusion on “Loving What Is”:
Loving What Is is a gem. For my part, it has radically transformed my views on those around me. My relationships are gradually improving in such a way that they are naturally based on love. I am even surprised that people now ask me my opinion on this or that aspect in a relationship. And, I am asked for my advice on painful relationships!
I mind my own business a lot more and a lot less about other people’s. Consequently, I live my life more because I worry less about those of my contemporaries; I have gained invaluable time in my daily life to devote it to personal projects. And I realize, when I watch my colleagues, for example, how much time we spend worrying about other people’s business.
I shattered beliefs that limited me professionally; I dared to take on the Olivier’s “Pro blogger” program, which I would never have done before discovering Loving What Is. And, I dared to create my blog, in which I share my discoveries on personal development and the challenges that stand in my way.
Then, implicitly, without realizing it, Loving What Is has opened me to patience, to love, to a much broader but also more nuanced understanding of life. It has opened me to peace, serenity, freedom (there is still a way to go; I sometimes fall back into my old ways, but the door has been busted wide open). I am also detaching myself from material considerations. The transformations concerning me are numerous and dazzling (I haven’t even been doing “the Work” for a year).
The DVD that accompanies Loving What Is is very good. It helps you to discover what the Work is because the process is surprising at the beginning. For my part, it took me a few hours to figure out where Byron Katie was going with it. Then, once I understood, I said to myself “ah, but of course!”
Well, I never lend this book, Loving What Is. Often, I go back to it and use it when I am doing the Work, because each chapter has resources that help me each time. I prefer to offer it to those around me if they wish.
In my opinion, if we want to understand ourselves in depth and get rid of our limiting beliefs, if we want to free ourselves from our problems and live in peace, in short, if we want to realize ourselves, this is THE book on personal development that you must have.
- Very nice concise writing that gets to the heart of the matter.
- Concepts are clearly explained.
- An effective tool that helps you devote yourself to your personal development.
- With this single book, we can work on all areas of life (family, professional, spiritual, etc.) and break free from all our negative emotions (fear, anger, guilt, frustration, etc.).
- Loving What Is brings about true and profound self-realization.
- The many exchanges detailed between Byron Katie and the people whom she helps to do the Work enables us to embark on our own personal journey.
- The DVD, which is a real plus.
- The inquiry takes time. It’s a learning process, so it’s time-consuming at first. However, the gains are so great that the time is far worth it.
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