“Is It True?”: Byron Katie’s Power in Three Exchanges
See how the deep wisdom of a self-inquiry master unfolds false beliefs into oblivion
A good friend into mystic philosophy called me recently. He’s been counseling his ex-wife and it’s a tough time.
He and I are both very into nonduality: Sri Ramana Maharshi, A Course in Miracles, Zen, Nisargadatta… all of the most earth-shattering veil-breakers…
And yet here we are, having challenges in our relationships with other human beings on this rock!
That’s because spiritual philosophy can only go so far as a concept.
It has to be embodied.
Which is why I am so thoroughly enamored by the brilliant, heart-opening method of self-inquiry by Byron Katie, lovingly called The Work. I write about Katie and her process in my book Original Sin Is A Lie—where I reference the fact that she’s been compared to Sri Ramana Maharshi for example due to the nature of her awakening: which was completely instantaneous! After being suicidally depressed for over a decade, one morning she woke up. She woke up to it all. Katie realized that we have made everything up in this world, and by investigating our thoughts, we can understand this and find real peace. (Read about her origin story either online or in my book... and I also go through an example of a thought I’ve ‘Work’d’ through.)
The Work itself is the analysis of a judgmental thought using four simple questions.
An egoic thought or judgement is written down, and then explored from a contemplative space. Upon writing down the thought, the first question to ask is, “Is it true?”
It is immensely practical.
You see, spiritual work (lower case “w”) is experiential, or it is nothing at all. All of these concepts and pretty quotes by long-dead gurus are the first step and the least important one. It has to be lived. And Katie is one of the best in the world at the integration.
In this article I’m pointing you to three Byron Katie sessions.
Let’s see The Work done with the master, live in front of a studio audience.
Come on down… to the hotseat of presence and awakening!
Man: “I am angry, confused, hurt, and disappointed with church and government leaders because they don’t accept me as natural, equal, and worthy.”
Katie: “They don’t accept you as natural” — is that true?”
In this wonderfully intimate public session, Katie supports the inquiry of a gay man into his beliefs about himself and those around him.
I’m a bad therapist.
I’m a philosopher. A writer. I can’t help you in a one-on-one... that much!
The best thing I can do in that setting is listen. I can hear you out in a sincere, deep way.
Otherwise, for people going through a tough spot... Here’s B.K. and the most mind-blowing process for feeling better I have ever stumbled across in my two decades as a student of spirituality:
A son desperately wants to please his mother. “I want Mom to tell me that she loves me.” “Mom should stop saying no.” “I need her to enjoy something I give her.” When he believes these thoughts, he is miserable. When he questions them, he realizes that he doesn’t need her to do or be anything.
In these exchanges, people begin the process in TEARS.
But by the end of these sessions, the participants are LAUGHING.
It’s pure alchemy.
This final video below is heart-wrenching for 7 minute whole minutes where Byron Katie calmly listens to this woman’s story. This woman is falling apart into a thousand pieces. And yet at the 6m mark Katie lovingly reassures her, “Let’s start at the top, sentence by sentence.. I just don’t see anything here that we can’t walk through together. Not one thing.”
What would you do if your partner told you you were fat, then had an affair, died, and left their money to someone else? Like Karen, you might sink to new depths of shame and self-loathing. Join Byron Katie for this unforgettable journey into suffering, and watch as it turns into laughter.
They go from utter despair to zany laughter.
It’s the feeling of sincere relief: “Wow I can be free from this thought that has plagued me for so long.
I don’t have to keep walking around with these anvils in my hands!”
May we all begin to question the millions of false stories we continue to make up everyday, and find the deep peace within.
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Bob Peck is a festival award-winning filmmaker, author, lawnmower, meditator, and a spiritual student of Christ, Krishna, the Buddha, and Paramahansa Yogananda. With bachelor’s degrees in Religious Studies & Radio-TV-Film from the University of Texas, he has made ‘conscious films’ — spiritual & advocacy documentaries — since graduating in 2011. He’s also a Kriya Yoga practitioner through KYI and a certified mindfulness & meditation teacher. His day job is centered around ads and mindfulness in Big Tech. A native Austinite, he lives with his wife and young son in Austin, Texas. Original Sin Is A Lie is his first book.