Sunday, October 25, 2009

Byron Katie Loving What Is

A few weeks ago I attended a workshop at Kripalu Center with Byron Katie who teaches a self-knowledge and self-change process called The Work. Katie teaches a method that invites us to judge others and then turn around those judgments to look deeply into our own thoughts and beliefs—and ultimately to free ourselves by seeing our projections.

At Kripalu Katie worked with individuals on stage asking them to voice judgments about family and friends and then she walked them through her inquiry process by asking them to answer these questions about each judgment:

Is it true?
Can you absolutely know it’s true?
How do you react when you believe that thought?
Who would you be without that thought?

And then: Turn each thought around to it’s opposite.

Doing the “Work” provides a kind of fast-track to seeing inside of me. The idea behind it is that we make our own suffering by projecting all of ourselves onto others and then being mad at them for the things we projected. That is not so new. Many spiritual teachers and The Course in Miracles have pointed out how we create our world by projecting what we cannot accept in ourselves. But Byron Katie has given us a fast way to actually do it:
Judge your neighbor. Write it down. Ask four questions. Turn it around.

What I found this week after finally doing the exercises—called worksheets—is that of course it's me, of course it’s my thoughts, and the best part is that I can laugh at myself. In some cases writing out a worksheet was enough for me to shift my thinking about another person and in other stickier cases I could at least loosen my grip.

What struck me today is that for those of us in 12 step recovery—the lessons of The Work correlate nicely with our amazing 12 steps. The Tenth Step Axiom says that when I am disturbed there is something wrong in me. Doing a Byron Katie worksheet shows me this is true each time. The process also speaks to acceptance: what is, is. All my fussing and fighting and judging and insisting don’t change what is. And only when I face the truth about myself or a situation, only then can I begin to change—me!

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