If you practice yoga, you might be familiar with the positions called inversions that flip our bodies head down and feet up.
these positions can encourage us to turn our beliefs upside down and try an entirely
fresh perspective. When we get stuck in habitual thoughts, for instance, we
forget that we may not be right – that,
maybe, even the opposite is true!
I discovered Byron Katie’s book, Loving What Is, during a difficult family time about eight years ago, and it felt like a huge breath of fresh air turning my mind upside down.
A Beginning Born of Desperation
system, called “The Work,” originated
in 1986, on a February morning in a California halfway house. There, Byron
Katie woke up on the floor, intoxicated with joy, suddenly and inexplicably
free of all the thoughts that had been tormenting her.
spent in a downward spiral of rage and despair, screaming at her children, and
barely getting out of bed, she had finally – out of
desperation – checked herself in to the halfway house.
morning a week later, she woke up filled with the sure knowledge that all her
negative thoughts had been untrue. Everything in the world around her was
unrecognizable and delightful.
began living her life in a new way, people started coming to her for guidance. Soon,
she was being invited to speak to groups all over California and eventually,
the world. To date, Katie has written four bestselling books.
So, What Is “The Work”?
consists of four simple questions and a turnaround that allow you to see your
problems in an entirely new light.
echoes many of the greatest world thinkers when she says, “It’s not the problem
that causes our suffering; it’s our thinking about the problem.” But she goes
beyond that statement to offer a simple system of self-inquiry that can lead
anyone to transform their perspective.
take a pen and paper and write down a thought that is causing you pain. I
invite you to join me and try this for yourself.
the example, “As an older woman, people see me as having less value.”
Question 1: Is It True?
and answer this as honestly as you can. Look for your own answers, not anything
you have been told or taught.
Question 2: Can You Absolutely Know That It’s True?
deeply. Look for answers that go beneath the ordinary response. Picture a wide
variety of situations, and check whether the statement still seems true.
Question 3: How Do You React When You Think That Thought?
thought make you feel hurt, diminished, insecure? Do you get quiet or act with
less confidence? Do you hold back on expressing your personality and sharing
miss out on enjoying situations because you do not feel valued? Do you push
people away due to feeling hurt or angry?
Question 4: Who Would You Be Without the Thought?
eyes and wait. Imagine yourself, just for a moment, without this thought. How
does this feel? Imagine how you might live differently without this thought. Imagine
being confident and secure, not worrying at all about what others are thinking.
Imagine how people might respond to you.
To create an incredibly powerful turnaround, turn the thought upside down and consider any opposites. For example, “As an older woman, the world sees me as having MORE value,” which certainly may be true. Or another turnaround could be, “As an older woman, I see MYSELF as having less value.”
turnaround statement, take your time and deeply consider how it might be true
in your life. Look for specific examples of how the turnaround might be true,
maybe even more true than your original statement.
is to open your mind to other possibilities; alternative ways of seeing your
life that can bring you peace.
I love the
turnaround and use it on a regular basis to open my mind to new possibilities.
another example. My thought, “I need to help my grandchildren more,” can
become, “I need to help my grandchildren less,” or “My grandchildren need to
help me more!” All with some ring of truth!
Proven by Research
This process of inquiry fits with current research on the biology of the mind. Prominent neuroscientist Antonio Damasio (The Feeling Of What Happens) identified our tendency to get stuck in familiar, repetitive narratives about our lives that may not accord with the truth.
provides a simple clear method of questioning these narratives. For me,
investigating a painful thought using the four questions and turnaround of “The
Work” brings great freedom as I shake loose the places where my mind has been
stuck and open up to other possibilities.
recommend her book, Loving What Is, to give you a fresh and original way
of looking at your life differently.
What painful thoughts plague your mind? How
can you use Byron Katie’s method of inquiry to transform them? What other methods
have you used? What were the results? Please share with our community!