Byron Katie talks with blogger Curt Rosengren about productivity and success — and how the creative mind is based not on its activities but on a fundamental stillness. Rosenberg’s blog, the Ripple Revolution, is founded on questions: What lights me up? What difference do I feel called to make? How do I weave that into a career and a life that energizes and inspires me? Compatibly, Katie’s method, called The Work, is comprised of questions, four of them, which test the stressful thoughts that are the cause of all suffering. Katie’s is an iconoclastic approach, based not on any belief system, but rather on living above and beyond beliefs, particularly those that hold one back from being, as Rosengren puts it, lit up and inspired.
“The Work lets you see through any kind of stress. It shows you what true success is, at every moment in your life, and it even gives you specific directions on how to achieve it. These directions come from your own internal wisdom, no one else’s,” she tells Rosengren.
The motivation, she says, comes not from adapting inspiring beliefs but by simply questioning the beliefs that cause stress, some of which are deeply ingrained, such as the idea “I can’t do it.” When a belief like this is examined closely, either alone or with the help of a facilitator, it can vanish like a dream, leaving a state of fearlessness — often in a short time, she says. Rosengren replies that he has used The Work and has been startled at how his perspective shifts.
“Let’s say I believe that I can’t do something that I want to do,” Katie explains, and then she gives examples of the toll on emotion, energy, and passion that this belief engenders, how it can spin itself into a personal religion of impotence. But when you question the truth of a thought, realize the cause-and-effect of believing it, and see who you would be without it, a new perspective unfolds. The final step in The Work is to experience the exact opposite of the belief. Katie calls this the turnaround, a word defined in the Oxford dictionary as “an abrupt or unexpected change, especially one that results in a more favorable situation.” She tells Rosengren that the turnaround is all of that and more. ”I turn the belief around to ‘I can do it,’ and then I find at least three genuine, specific examples of how that’s true in my life.” By noticing exactly how a particular thought controls your mind, seeing clearly what your life would look like if you didn’t believe that thought, and immersing yourself in the turnarounds, the truth of the situation is revealed where before there was only an assumption and a predicament. “To accomplish the thing that you have a passion for, you continue to examine these debilitating thoughts and continue that, one thought at a time. The worst thing that can happen is that you fail, which puts you in the position you’re in right now. So you have nothing to lose. But what an exciting life in the meantime!”
Katie makes the case that The Work is simple. It has no requirements, just a pen, paper, and an open mind. Its four questions are: Is it true? Can you absolutely know it’s true? How do you react, what happens, when you believe that thought? and Who would you be without the thought? But she emphasizes that simple is not effortless. “I don’t call it The Work for nothing. It takes stillness. It takes honesty,” she says. “Some people think that they don’t have time to get still, but that is just because they’re believing one more self-limiting thought. The ego gets to rule, and they’re stuck with the identity that they don’t have time for this. But however we think we can’t do it, however we think we’re failing, none of us are. We’re all doing the best we can. Of that I’m sure.”
The impetus for doing The Work can be a stressful emotion that acts as “a little temple bell that tells us it’s time to do The Work,” she says. Often the coping mechanism for discomfort and fear is distraction through changing activities or using whatever is available to smother uneasy feelings. “We try to override them. We deny them or bury them or shift what we’re doing, we reach for the cigarette or alcohol or sugar or credit card. But at some point, after a lot of suffering, I had to look at what created these feelings in the first place. Through inquiry I began to notice that nothing was holding me back, and, Curt, when I say that nothing was holding me back, I’m really serious. I would question anything that would hold me back, because to be held back from the world is separation, and the cause of separation can’t be anyone or anything else. I am always the cause of it. Nothing else is possible.”
Katie mentions that her methodology is offered on her website, thework.com, free of charge, and that she also offers public events and a nine-day school, a total immersion in The Work.
“Happiness is our birthright. And only what we are thinking and believing costs us our birthright. But when we question the stressful thoughts, everything changes. ‘I can’t do it.’ Turn it around. ‘I can do it.’ This is not just a sunny positive affirmation. The four questions educate you to your own suffering. The examples for the turnaround ground in the actual situation of your life. So you can test it, and for all of you who have been afraid to accomplish that thing you have passion for, you continue to find those examples, one at a time.”
Rosengren asks Katie what is her passion. She says it is working with people who have suffered from limiting beliefs and witnessing them grow beyond their suffering, sometimes in a matter of minutes. “What excites me is not having one fearful thought about what I love. And we can have that in any occupation we choose.“
“We have no idea of the paradise we live in, the paradise we miss until our minds are clear enough to notice it,” Katie says. “The end of suffering is what excites me.”