The Work is a simple process of inquiry into the beliefs that cause us pain, stress and trouble.
We expose our troublesome beliefs and thoughts to the healing light of conscious examination.
By suspending judgment for a few minutes — i.e., stepping out of an investment in a troublesome belief — we find that there are other points of view that may be more useful.
Through The Work, people find that their stressful beliefs — about life, other people, or themselves — may shift radically. The Work opens a path to liberation. Our lives are changed — not only how we perceive but also the way we create experiences in our world.
Based on Katie's direct experience of how she was creating suffering and then ended it, The Work is an astonishingly simple process, accessible to people of all ages and backgrounds, and requires nothing more than a piece of paper, a pen, and an open mind.
Through this process, anyone can learn to trace unhappiness to its source and eliminate it there. The Work shows us how all the problems in the world originate in our thinking. It is a tool that can open our mind and enable us to set ourselves free. Some approaches to self-liberation — e.g., some techniques of meditation — tend to put us in conflict with our thoughts. The Work gives us a simple way to examine our thoughts without resistance. We find ourselves (often unexpectedly) in a position of choice from a new perspective. I often find myself laughing at something that ten minutes ago seemed depressing and futile.
The Work — Inquiry into a thought, judgment or belief that's disturbing your peace
1. Is it true?
2. Can you absolutely know that it's true? If so, how can you be absolutely certain?
3. How do you react, what happens, when you believe that thought? How do you treat the other person? How do you treat yourself?
4. Who would you be without that thought (your story)? If you could never again hold that thought, how would you feel different?
Now, turn the thought around. [Original thought: Paul doesn't listen to me.]
a) to the self [I don't listen to me.]
b) to the other [I don't listen to Paul.]
c) to the opposite [Paul does listen to me.]
And name three genuine, specific examples of how each turnaround is true in your life.
- When you argue with reality, you lose — but only 100% of the time.
- An unquestioned mind is the only suffering.
- I don't let go of my concepts — I question them. Then they let go of me.
- Reality is always kinder than the story we tell about it.
- Everything happens for me, not to me.
- No one can hurt me — that's my job.
- If I think you're my problem, I'm insane.
- Personalities don't love — they want something.
- If I had a prayer, it would be this: “God spare me from the desire for love, approval, or appreciation. Amen.”
- Don't pretend yourself beyond your own evolution.
- How do I know that I don't need what I want? I don't have it.
- Forgiveness is realizing that what you thought happened, didn't.
- You either believe what you think or you question it. There's no other choice.
- The worst thing that has ever happened is an uninvestigated thought.
- Sanity doesn't suffer, ever.
- You move totally away from reality when you believe that there is a legitimate reason to suffer.
- I'm very clear that the whole world loves me. I just don't expect them to realize it yet.
- There are no physical problems — only mental ones.
- Reality is God, because it rules.
- Arguing with reality is like trying to teach a cat to bark — hopeless.
- When I am perfectly clear, what is is what I want.
- Gratitude is what we are without a story.
- If it feels forced, question the identity you're trying to establish.
Lisa Smith's Meetup group where Lisa facilitates The Work
Lisa Smith's Web site (where you can also see her artwork)
Scientific definition of Confabulation (creating whole memories from fragments by filling in the holes), from the book, Brain Fiction: Self-Deception and the Riddle of Confabulation
Some information about cognitive-behavioral therapy in the treatment of generalized-anxiety disorder and endogenous depression
(The Judge-Your-Neighbor Worksheet starts on the next page.)
Judge your neighbor • Write it down • Ask four questions • Turn it around
Fill in the blanks below, writing about someone (dead or alive) you haven't yet forgiven 100 percent. Use short, simple sentences. Don't censor yourself — try to fully experience the anger or pain as if the situation were occurring right now. Take this opportunity to express your judgments on paper.
1. Who angers, confuses, saddens, or disappoints you, and why? What is it about them that you don't like?
I am _______________________ at (name) _______________ because __________________________________
(Example: I am angry at Paul because he doesn't listen to me, he doesn't appreciate me, he argues with everything I say.)
2. How do you want them to change? What do you want them to do?
I want (name) ______________________ to _______________________________________________________
(Example: I want Paul to see that he is wrong. I want him to apologize.)
3. What is it that they should or shouldn't do, be, think, or feel? What advice could you offer?
(Name) ___________________ should or shouldn't ____________________________________________________
(Example: Paul should take better care of himself. He shouldn't argue with me.)
4. What do they need to do in order for you to be happy?
I need (name) __________________ to ___________________________________________________________
(Example: I need Paul to hear me and respect me.)
5. What do you think of them? Make a list.
(Name) _____________________ is ______________________________________________________________
(Example: Paul is unfair, arrogant, loud, dishonest, way out of line, and unconscious.)
6. What is it that you don't want to experience with that person again?
I don't ever want to _____________________________________________________________________
(Example: I don't ever want to feel unappreciated by Paul again. I don't ever want to see him smoking and ruining his health again.)
The Four Questions
- 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?
Turn the thought around (original thought: Paul doesn't listen to me.)
a) to the opposite (Paul does listen to me.)
b) to the self (I don't listen to me.)
c) to the other (I don't listen to Paul.)
And find three genuine, specific examples of how each turnaround is true in your life.
For information on how to do The Work, go to www.thework.com
© 2010 Byron Katie Inc. All rights reserved. www.thework.com Rev. 06 Sep 2010
From Katie's now out-of-print book, All War Belongs on Paper
16. Self-Awareness Exercises
In this chapter I offer more experiences from the first three years of the many revelations that followed my moment of clarity. I invite you to play in these exercises and observe what you experience and what value emerges from your practice. Continue to investigate your wonderful self with The Work as beliefs arise.
Begin to be aware of the times when you judge or criticize someone or something. Watch for key words. Notice when you hear yourself saying or thinking, “He should... He is... He wants... He needs.…” For example, in a grocery store line, you might be short of time and think the person in front of you is disorganized and rude. Quickly turn your judgment around. Ask yourself, “Is it just as true about me? Am I rude (sometimes) to others or to myself? Am I being rude (to myself or possibly to her in any way) in the moment that I am thinking that she is rude?”
This exercise takes your attention off the other and places your attention back onto you. It puts you in your own business which is the only place rudeness can really be understood and taken care of. Placing the blame or judgment on someone else leaves you powerless to change your internal experience. Finding within yourself the beliefs and judgments you had projected onto them gives you your power back. Forgiveness naturally results.
I always know that the person in front of me is God disguised as “the other” in order to offer me the opportunity to realize for myself what is true. Reversing judgment leads to self-realization and forgiveness (the awareness that no one has ever done anything to me). I am responsible for my own peace and well-being.
Speaking and Thinking in Present Tense
Become mindful of how often your conversations focus on the past or the future. Be aware of the tense you use: was, did, will, are going to, etc. To speak of the past is to reawaken and recreate the illusion (in your mind) of what you think happened in a non-existent world. To speak of the future is to create and live (in your mind) a fantasy. In both cases, you have moved from reality and have missed the experience of living fully in the present moment.
If you want to experience fear on purpose, get a future. If you want to experience shame and guilt, get a past. If you want to experience peace, discover who you are without your story.
Being In Nobody's Business
After working with the practice of staying out of God's business and other people's business, begin noticing how you get into your own business as well. It's painful to think that you should be anything other than what or who you are right now, as that is what you are right now. Hold lightly what you think is good or bad for you. When you notice yourself entering a story of how you should be or what you should be doing, it's time to inquire. Is it your business if you fell down? Did you do it on purpose? Did you do it at all? Is it your business what your body looks like? Is it your business what you have been eating? Now it is, yes. I understand that you think so. But up until now?
You may come to see that you really don't have much business at all, and that even you are not your business.
Detaching from Your Body and the Story of Who You Think You Are
I used to speak in this manner: “She thinks she wants a drink of water now.” There was no personal reference point, and no one really seemed to mind. Just for fun, you may want to try speaking (and thinking) about yourself in the third person. Begin to notice and eliminate the use of all personal pronouns of the first and second persons (I, me, you, we). Rather than saying, “I'm going to lunch now,” say “She's going to lunch now,” (referring to yourself) or “It's going to lunch now.” Do this with a friend for an hour, the afternoon, or the entire day. Refer also to the other in third person. For example, “How is she today? Does she want to go to the park?” Begin like a child. Experience the body impersonally. Notice the detachment from the story of who you think you are.
Listening to the Body's Voice
Body is the voice of mind, it appears. It speaks to you through physical sensations such as muscular contraction, twitches, butterflies, spacing out, laughter and tension. Become aware of how often you move away from a natural resonance and into a story. A feeling will let you know.
Practice being still. Let your body show you where your mind contracts. When you notice a sensation, no matter how subtle, inquire within, “What story about what situation is triggering this physical sensation? Am I out of alignment with my integrity, and if so, where?” Find the story and inquire! Listen and allow the answer to guide you back to that place of peace and clarity. We never really leave peace. Investigate what appears to take its place.
Doing the Dishes
“Doing the dishes” is a practice of loving the action in front of you. Your inner voice or intuition guides you all day long to do simple things such as brush your teeth, drive to work, or do the dishes. When a thought appears such as “Do the dishes” and you don't do them, an internal war breaks out. It sounds like this: “I'll do them later. I should have done them by now. My roommate should have done them. It's not my turn. It's not fair. People will think less of me if I don't do them now.” The stress and tiredness you feel are really mental combat fatigue. Doing the dishes without a story is rejuvenating. When the truth comes to you clearly, you can skip the war. Just rise and do the dishes before thought marries belief and opens the door to suffering.
The orders inside me prepare me for the next gift. I finally saw the truth. The message simply said, “Do the dishes.” How can I save the world if I can't follow the simplest directions?
What you need to do unfolds before you, always. Practice listening to your inner voice and then acting on its suggestions with implicit trust. Let it create for you a life that is graceful, effortless, and miraculous.
Reporting To Yourself
This exercise can help you understand, and therefore fear and terror lose their grip. Practice reporting events to yourself as if the situation you find yourself in is actually a news story and you are the reporter. If you are fearful, bring your mind back to what is really happening in this moment. Report to yourself only the reality of what is actually occurring right now.
What is happening physically in this moment? Where is your body? Where are your hands, arms, feet, legs, etc.? Feel the grounding. Feel the weight of your body from where you are. Settle into it. What do you see (trees, walls, windows, sky)? What sounds do you hear? What do you taste and smell? Notice your breathing. Notice that you are always absolutely fine with “what is.” If you find an exception to that, do The Work. There is nothing to fear until you project a story of a future and scare yourself with attachment to a story that has not yet happened and therefore is not true. Reality is kinder than the nightmare you imagine, but only always.
The Vanity Mirror
If you want to see who you are not, look in the mirror. Use the mirror only once a day. Who would you be without the story of who and what you think you see in the reflection?
Watching the Play
See yourself sitting in a balcony, watching your favorite drama — the story of you and your problem. Now watch the actors and actresses (the people in your life who participate in your problem) play out the story on an imagined stage below. Notice that you have seen this drama performed hundreds, perhaps even a thousand times in your mind. Continue to watch until you begin to notice boredom. Watch the performers exaggerate their roles in the attempt to hold your attention. Notice that when you know to do it, you simply rise, leave the balcony, and exit the playhouse.
The next time you find your favorite movie running in your mind, playing this scene again, it may occur to you just how tired of it you really are. You may just step out of the theater of your mind and get real. Who would you be without your story?
Make a list of everything you like or love about someone and share it with them. Then turn it around. Say each thing on the list to yourself, and own it all. You may recognize that what you love about someone else is just as true of you. Allow the fullness of what you find to express itself in your life.
Coming from Honesty
Practice moving and responding honestly. Be a child again. Act in full integrity with your feelings. If any feeling feels too huge or unbearable to feel all the way, give yourself permission to sit alone and really get in touch with it. Music is a wonderful partner for this. Dare to feel it even if it feels too big. Dare to cry, raise your voice, laugh, and allow the whole sound to flow out in a way that you know is genuinely all the way honest for you. Be attentive to the beliefs that appear to compromise expression.
Live your truth without explanation or qualification. For example, practice leaving a room honestly without manipulating those you leave behind with polite excuses. “I need to leave now” is enough to begin. Turn, walk, and leave; nothing more. Who would you be without your story?
For twenty-four hours, stop looking outside yourself for love, approval, or appreciation. Rather, look only to yourself for that. Become the internal experience of gratitude. You may be the only one left.
Awareness of You
I came to recognize that the one in front of me is a reflection of my thinking. They are literally the image of my thoughts mirrored back to me to be realized. Beyond my story of who “they” are, beyond all appearances, there is only the essence of goodness, which is who and what I am. No story — nothing — changes that. It can only bring stress to alert me to my insanity. The Work is a path to realization of this truth.
Your story appearing now is all that exists of us or ever has existed of us, or of you. Realizing this may give you the opportunity to experience presence in all forms.
The person before you is the opportunity to know yourself. Your thinking about them is how you either separate from or join yourself. Inquiring allows the heart to overflow with love and gratitude for the appearance of the one you are with.
Relax for a moment and be still. Imagine that you are a child and remember one way that you believed you were victimized. It could be someone yelling at you, lying to you, putting you down, hitting, incesting, or molesting you.
Can you see the person abusing you? Are they roaring like a tiger? Watch their lips as they talk to you. See their hand or body as it comes down on you, for example. Look at their face. Look deeply into their eyes. Don't move away. Really look at them. Can you really know that they want to hurt you? Can you really know that they are not inflicting more abuse upon themselves in that moment? Sit in stillness with this. Then ask yourself the following question: If I had to choose one or the other for all eternity, would I rather be the abuser or the abused? Which position is the more merciful?
Surviving Your Most Feared Experiences
When you have a fearful thought that says someone in your life is going to leave you, not give you something you want, or take something from you, practice surviving it.
Go inside. Imagine that your most feared experience is happening to you. Can you survive it? Can you endure being alone, having no money, no food and no water? Continue going deeper until you see that you absolutely could endure it. Could you endure death? The truth is that we all can and all do eventually. Life and death are a story passed on. Fear (a story attached to) keeps the concept of death alive and apparently real.
There is nothing ever to fear in reality. If I am frightened, I haven't inquired. There's no exception to that. Isn't that fine?
The following is a friend's experience of one day within the Fourteen-Day School for The Work of Byron Katie. Experiences such as hers may seem revolutionary to some, yet are very common for people in The Work.
Wondering/Wandering Around Los Angeles
I was fine until I woke up, thinking about what would happen this afternoon. I was going to be alone for hours in a part of Los Angeles full of homeless street people. I was scared. One of my greatest fears in life had always been that I would end up crawling on the streets without any money, and eventually starving and dying there.
My stomach was tight and my palms were sweaty. My thinking was going nonstop. “Will my husband, John, be okay in his wheelchair alone? What if I have to go to the bathroom? What if I become hungry or thirsty? What if I speak to a homeless person and he becomes angry and suddenly stabs me to death?” I even imagined our teacher, Byron Katie, trying to calm down my parents who came to bring my dead body back to Japan.
So why all this mental drama? John and I were participating in Byron Katie's two-week certification course. On this day, she had suggested to those of us who wanted to, to wander throughout a certain section of Los Angeles without any food, water, cash, traveler's checks, credit cards, or identification of any kind. She had also suggested that we memorize and apply a few phrases like, “May I join you?” “I'm not interested.” “I'm hungry. Can you feed me now?” I was scared! Everyone in Japan knows how dangerous and scary those homeless people in America are.
This is what actually happened:
I met a jazz trio of street musicians. I'm a Japanese Taiko drummer, and the drummer asked me to show him Japanese drumming. I demonstrated “Matsuri-daiko,” a Japanese festival piece, and then taught him the festival rhythm.
I enjoyed dancing to the music. As I was dancing, I saw a pigeon on the tree above us peacefully watching and listening. At that moment, I felt, “I am that!” I was that pigeon enjoying the whole show. I was dancing, but I didn't feel like I was doing anything.
I sang, “You are the Sunshine of My Heart” with a passerby. I danced and performed a short Taiko drumming piece. I told a man, “I'm thirsty. Can I have some water?” He not only gave me water, he gave me a package of granola bars, too. He told me that there is free drinking water available at a bookstore across the street and that they have a nice bathroom as well.
There was a woman sitting with a big sign that read, “I'm a Homeless Woman with HIV.” I was shocked. She was not only homeless, but has a life threatening disease as well. When I asked her, “May I join you?” she greeted me in Japanese. Although Caucasian, she had been born in Okinawa, and was very happy to meet me. She said, “We sleep on the street.” Her energy was so clean and peaceful. She had no shame or fear or hostility of any kind. There was even a sense of self-respect in her about her being. She never asked for anything from me. Although I didn't ask for anything either, she gave me a beautiful pear.
I wondered, “How can she be so peaceful under such conditions?” I had believed my parents, teachers and Japanese society's idea that there must be something wrong with these street people. I had believed that they were desperate to get money to survive and just taking from others. I had accepted those beliefs without investigation.
This woman was with two friends, one of them in a wheelchair. He was hiding a bottle in his jacket. He said his left arm and foot were dead, and this was his medicine to kill his pain. The three of them were counting all the money they had at that time, joining together to buy something at the food store. I offered to help them count money. They really appreciated it. I felt total trust from them.
They didn't have quite enough money for what they wanted. I said, “I don't have any money. I wish I had. I'm sorry.” The three of them all together said, “No, no, no! Please don't worry about it. You don't have to feel sorry at all. Please don't feel bad.” They never expected anything from me. They just welcomed me like a friend.
I met a very shy, gentle and peaceful man who showed me his sleeping bag to sleep on the street. He brought a small piece of paper and asked me if I could write his name in Chinese. He told me that he saw a television program three years ago asking support to adopt Chinese children who don't have parents and who needed financial support. He said, "I've had an adopted daughter in China for three years. I've been sending only twelve dollars a month, and I have a daughter! Isn't it just wonderful? I hope to see her someday."
That blew my mind. Instead of using the twelve dollars to make his homeless life more comfortable, he gave it to another. This gift held his real heart. I felt it gave his
whole life meaning. I saw God in this man's beautiful eyes.
Every person I met was absolutely sweet. Not a single one asked me for anything, and several gave me food, although I had not asked. Time after time, I was touched by their generosity and kindness.
On the streets of Los Angeles that day, I looked past my beliefs and the stories I had held, and I found that what Katie told us is true. Reality is always much kinder than our stories.
Making Friends with Death
Be still. Imagine that you're alone, and that you're about to die. Your family and friends have all deserted you. Find a physical location to die (in your mind). It could be a place where you are comfortable, or it could be the place of your worst nightmare. It could be a hospital, a hospice, the streets, the seashore, or a forest. Wherever you are, there is no one there to love or appreciate you, no one to comfort you or hold your hand as you die.
Imagine that you are lying on your back. Experience the surface you are lying on and make friends with it. Just experience it. Look above you and look to each side. Notice your surroundings. What do you see there? Experience your surroundings without any beliefs that would frighten or repel you. You may as well. You are dying. Continue seeing everything until all is right in your world. When you have found peace, just die. Then open your eyes and notice where you are. (Don't experience the meditation beyond death, use death as another inquiry.)
Reality — where you are right now — is as bad as it gets. We don't fear death. We fear our beliefs about death. The worst that can happen to us is attachment to a story appearing now. Beliefs, like waves in the ocean, come to pass, not to stay. The only death is the death of a belief.