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Friday, March 4, 2011

Who Would You Be Without That Thought?

"We are disturbed not by what happens to us, but by our thoughts about what happens."   Epictetus 

fearLESS Friday
Four Questions that can completely shift things

I am so full of energy right now and eager to share with you four of the most freeing and potentially life-changing questions I've ever come across.  For those of you who haven't yet crossed paths with Byron Katie and "The Work," I'm excited for you!  And, if you're already familiar, you know (as I know) that there's pretty much always something new to clear.

I discovered Byron Katie a few years ago and wrote a bit about her here in this space, this is what I had to say about this process back then:

I just (as of a few weeks ago) discovered Byron Katie and what she calls, "The Work." I have been, and still am, happily blown away. I have never come across anything so simple and profound (and I have read a ridiculous number of self-help/spiritual books). So, I had to post this--I feel everyone who wants freedom from any form of suffering (who doesn't 
want this?), should give themselves the gift of her wisdom.

In Byron Katie's words:  "The only time we suffer is when we believe a thought that argues with what is. When the mind is perfectly clear, what is is what we want.  Suffering is optional, whenever we experience a stressful feeling--anything from mild discomfort to intense sorrow, rage, or despair--we can be certain that there is a specific thought causing our reaction, whether or not we are conscious of it."

When something seemingly negative happens in our lives, we typically react with resistance, anger, frustration, disappointment, jealousy, sadness, doubt...we judge it, we wish it weren't happening. We get mad at someone, we get mad at the rain or the traffic or the dishes or the laundry or ourselves. We get mad at our bodies.  Or God. And sometimes all of the above.

But what if we knew, really truly knew, that whatever is happening is exactly what should be happening? That really all of it, regardless of how it appears, is ultimately a beautifully perfect thing. How do we know that it is a beautifully perfect thing? Because it's happening.

The Work is based on four questions and a turnaround. These questions (also referred to as inquiry) reveal where our thinking isn't true for us, where it is causing suffering.  You can take absolutely any stressful thought and apply these four questions to it.  Applying these questions to thoughts that cause me suffering, have created so much space in my mind and life and helped connect me to that calm, sweet place that is deep and true. And, of course, it's an on-going process because, as we all know, there are always, always new stressful thoughts that are trying to bite us in the butt.

Below are the four questions:

1. Is it true?
2. Can you absolutely know that it's true?  (This question allows you to drop deeper.)
3. How do you react when you think that thought?
4. Who would you be without that thought?
Turn it around.

So, today I'll apply these questions to a thought that has clearly been causing me unnecessary suffering.  Here is one (of the many) stressful thoughts I have been thinking lately:

I should be losing weight   (I've been eating well & exercising like crazy and nothing is happening)

1)  Is it true?  Yes!
2)  Can you absolutely know that it's true?, I can't absolutely know that it's true.
3)  How do you react when you think that thought?  I get tense and angry and frustrated.  I get impatient.  I worry that there is something wrong with me (like, I must have a thyroid issue or something), my chest becomes tight, I focus on how tight my clothes feel and on those rolls that I feel "shouldn't" be there.  I feel less attractive.  I think about all of the clothes that fit a few years ago and am mad that I can't wear them anymore.  I don't buy new clothes because I think any day now the weight will start to come off.  I get mad at whomever's in charge of all of this.  I don't focus as much on all that is beautiful and good.
4)  Who would you be without that thought?  I would be more relaxed.  I would focus on simply taking care of myself, nurturing myself--doing what feels right and good for my body.  I would trust my body to do what it needs to do.  I would feel calmer and more accepting of how my body is right now.  I would tune into my body more deeply and ask it what it really needs.  I would appreciate my curves, I would see the beauty in them rather than wishing them away.  I would focus on all that my body does for me, all the ways in which it works perfectly and beautifully.  I would look in the 
mirror and find the beauty.  I would love my body just as it is.
Turn it around   
I shouldn't be losing body is exactly how it's supposed to be in this moment.  My mind should lose's bogging me down with all these weighty thoughts.  

Whew!  This has been good!  It's been a while since I've really sat and formally inquired into the thoughts that are causing me suffering.  I feel clearer and more accepting, like I can breathe a little easier.  I feel lighter.

Okay, your turn.  You might want to start by doing a free-writing list (just let it come out raw and un-edited).  Start with these words:  I should or she should or he should or they should and just let it all come out. From there you can choose a few with the most charge and start doing The Work on them.  I'd love to hear about your experience with this...please share!  Once you do the "shoulds," you could do a list of "shouldn'ts."

***If you're curious and would like to dive in deeper, you can visit Byron Katie's website  where you will find pretty much everything (including lots and lots of videos of Katie doing this work with others) you would want to know about this incredible process.  

Happy unravelling!


  1. Julia,
    I love that word "unravelling" that you used at the end of this post, because that so well describes what "The Work" can do. Thanks for writing about this. You have reminded me that I have her book and have used those questions in the past to turn around some of my own faulty thinking. That book my just come off the shelf and into my hands this weekend for a refresher course!
    Blessings to you ~

  2. I LOVE Byron Katie. SO much. I love her work- the work. I have checked out her books on tape so many times from the library and every time there is a steady stream of this flowing through my brain, my life is sweeter. Then I forget. Then I listen or read again and I remember. :)

  3. Thank you for sharing this Julia. I first saw Byron Katie on Oprah's Soul Series and just loved the powerful simplicity of The Work. I have been using these questions today and feel some relief already! Love to you, my friend.

  4. Yes!

    'I shouldn't be losing weight... My MIND should lose weight... it's bogging me down with all these weighty thoughts'.

    Yes, yes, YES! Ho!

    You're beautiful Julia. Gently does it xxx


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♥ Julia