Today, I attended a Byron Katie workshop. Byron Katie’s work involves asking yourself four simple questions whenever you’re feeling bad. They are as follows:
- Is it true?
- Can you absolutely know that it’s true?
- How do you react, what happens, when you believe that thought?
- Who would you be without the thought?
You then turn the thought around. I’ll give you the example I used when filling out the “Judge-Your-Neighbor” worksheet. We were instructed to go back to a time when we felt hurt. I remembered being dumped by a boyfriend. Katie asked us to go back to the centre of the most painful moment of that episode. I was lying on my bed, roaring crying. I felt shocked, upset, disappointed and rejected. I was also angry because I felt that he had disrespected me.
Here are a couple of the questions from the worksheet: In this situation, what advice would you offer to that person? You should be honest and true to yourself. What do you think of this person in this situation? I think ______ is asleep, unfair, dishonest, cowardly and immature.
I asked myself the four questions, which I understood and which rang true for me. But it was the turnaround that really blew me away. Turn the thought around: I should be honest and true to myself. Yes, without a doubt. ______ is honest and true to himself. He is awake, fair, honest, brave and mature. Of course he is. He was awake enough to know that he didn’t want to be with me any longer. He was honest with himself and with me. He was brave enough to end it. He was mature enough to do the right thing. I was asleep, unfair, dishonest, cowardly and immature. Right again! I was willing to stay in a relationship that wasn’t working. I was being dishonest with myself and with him. I was wailing like an abandoned infant. Wow!
There were a number of other Aha moments as the day progressed. I’ll mention a few of them. One man stated: “_____ should be more open-minded.” Katie asked, “Can someone be more open-minded than they are in that moment?” The answer is no. This really got me thinking. Imagine if we stopped trying to control how others behaved? If we stopped judging them, criticising them, feeling superior to them, feeling hurt by them? The other person is not hurting us. It is our thought, our reaction that hurts us. And we have the power to change that thought. What a liberating realisation!
Byron Katie spoke about relationships. She suggested: “Your partner is your teacher. He / she is working on you as he / she is always showing you what you need to learn. This makes it much easier for you as it cuts your work in half.” I had never thought of it that way before. So, it’d be in my interest to find myself a “teacher”… Must put in a request…
Finally, one woman told us that she hates her belly because it’s too fat. Byron Katie picked up a little flower and said (in the type of voice a flower might have): “I’m so beautiful!” She then pointed the flower in the direction of a vase filled with different flowers. She / the flower said: “There must be something wrong with me… I’m not yellow. I don’t have as many leaves as that flower, I’m not as open as that other one, and I think I’m too short.” We laughed at how ridiculous it sounded. She then turned to the woman and asked, “Your belly is too fat for what?” The woman answered, “To be sexy and attractive.” Katie said: “So, you see your body as collateral. You think – I’m not going to get much with this body.” Again, we laughed. The woman admitted that sometimes her boyfriend tells her that he doesn’t like her belly. Byron Katie said: “You be your boyfriend and tell me that you don’t like my belly. I’ll be somebody who loves my belly. I’ll be you.” When the woman told Katie that she had a problem with her belly, Katie responded: “Oh my God, I hope you get over that! That must be awful for you. Whose problem is that? It’s certainly not mine.” She added: “If your mind cannot compare, is it possible to see yourself as anything other than perfect?” She concluded: “Your ego doesn’t want you to become enlightened. Your attachment to the thought that you are fat is not allowing you to wake up.” Sit with that one for a moment…
Who would you be without the thoughts that are terrorising you? Relaxed? At peace? Happy? Present? Become aware of the thoughts that are making you feel bad. Develop an inquiring mind. Question your beliefs. And turn them around. As Byron Katie says: “Change your thoughts. Change the world.”