Letter from Katie
I’m writing to you on Martin Luther King Day. One of the many things that I love and appreciate about Dr. King was his unshakable clarity of purpose. Once we have seen such inner guidance and purpose for ourselves, fear becomes secondary, and as a result one’s own body ceases to get in the way of doing and saying what’s right and true. When he said, “I have been to the mountain top,” “my eyes have seen….”—this kind of power that he is pointing to, the kind that he continued to speak out of, became so visible to so many of us that we too felt compelled to follow him. Did we follow him, or were we following that indisputable clarity and visible strength that so many of us witnessed through him? He didn’t fight, hate, disgrace, or do harm. He simply followed what he believed to be right and just, and invited us to join him in that. And what his eyes had seen, what he had realized, took away enough fear that his wisdom touched our core and created a movement so powerful that we still celebrate his life, courage, and conviction of equal rights, and that same enlightenment today.
In our own way, many of us in The Work have witnessed our own lives begin to take on a kindness and fearlessness within our families, our friendships, our nation, and our world. I will continue to invite everyone, in the interest of freedom and the end of suffering, to become familiar with The Work, and get a glimpse of a new life of freedom through this gift of inquiry.
I have enjoyed your email and snail mail, and thank you for that. As I am unable to address all the mail, I have responded below to some of you who speak for many others. I hope that you enjoy this newsletter and that in time you continue to have the best year of your lives, full of moments of clarity, and always, all ways, the new and unending beginning.
The two videos in this newsletter are centered on people’s anxiety about President-elect Donald Trump. There seems to be an epidemic of unquestioned fears floating about. Watch how two brave women question their judgments about what President-elect Trump will be up to during the next four years. See what waits for you on the other side of inquiry.
Also, welcome to those of you about to attend the next 28-day Turnaround House event in Ojai. I look forward to seeing you here next week. We do have room for one more, just in case any of you others have been planning to attend and haven’t enrolled yet. Sending you what has already been sent—a way of realizing this amazing life through inquiry.
Loving what is always you in me,
2016-2017 New Year’s Mental Cleanse in Los Angeles
The audio recording of the Mental Cleanse is now available with an iPod Nano, iPod Shuffle, USB thumb, or as downloadable MP3 files from the Store for The Work. Shop now (Available for sale now through January 31, 2017. ).
Questions and Answers
Suzannah from Egypt
I feel that when I change my suffering because I feel it to be unbearable and/or wrong, I learn to embrace it and then I feel like I am sold the lie that 1) I was suffering in the first place, 2) I needed to change my suffering because suffering is bad or not a part of life, and 3) I was the one “changing” my suffering. Three years ago my best friend died of stomach cancer, and I felt like I could not handle her death and slowly my old life was beginning to leave me. I did not enjoy life, I did not feel the need to eat or to make friends or to have sex or to improve my relationships or to get anywhere in life anymore. Everything that I thought kept me here in this world, my basic instincts, were falling away. Today I see it as kind of a liberation instead of depression. A liberation from the fear of death, from the guilt of hurting and in this way hurting others around me, and from the anger of not getting enough friends, sex, etc. Where is the freedom in being forced in your mind to change suffering because suffering is “wrong” and “to be changed”? Can we enjoy suffering?
No one wants to suffer. We all want to be happy. It’s not that suffering is “wrong.” It’s that we naturally want to be free of it. The best way I know of to be free of suffering is to question the thoughts that cause it.
Can suffering give us peace?
Yes, because it points to its own cause and reminds us to question the judgments that are the cause.
Does suffering exist or is it just another word for peace?
It’s another word for illusion, a past/future trance.
If all suffering in the world can be embraced, why would I want to embrace it?
I don’t embrace suffering. I identify the cause of it (my stressful thoughts), write them down on a Judge-Your-Neighbor Worksheet, and question them. The answers shown to me are the embrace.
Shouldn’t I celebrate others’ suffering as their own interpretation of peace?
Suffering isn’t peace. Suffering is one path to peace.
I work at the airport in Budapest, Hungary, and I face this question every day.
I would question the thought. “Those people are suffering”—is it true? Can I absolutely know that it’s true? I would meditate on how I react when I believe the thought and notice who I am without the thought. And when I turn the thought around, I notice that though I can’t absolutely know that they are suffering, I do know that I am suffering over their imagined suffering. So I Work with myself and relieve the suffering of one human being: myself. In this way, I am free from suffering and more able to support those who ask for help.
Thank you for your kind consideration.
Ting Zhao from Georgia
Do you suggest that someone do The Work the moment they feel upset about something or someone?
Yes. And if not, to question their thoughts as soon as they are able to.
How do you do The Work in the middle of a hard discussion, when there is turmoil and you feel it in your stomach?
To feel the turmoil, I would be as quiet as I can possibly be. If I feel out of control, I excuse myself as politely as possible, leave the room, write down my stressful thoughts on a Worksheet (check out The Work app in the app store for iOS and Android), and question what I was believing in that particular situation. Or just do the best that I can not to hurt the person or people I’m with (to do as little harm as possible) until I’m in a position to question the thoughts I was believing at the time and make right any wrongs I feel that I need to make right for my part.
Rawan from Egypt
I’m ultimately grateful to you for finding The Work and getting me out from those very small places I used to be stuck in for years. I have so much joy and most of the time I’m at peace and loving what is, yet sometimes I get hit by this awful thought “There’s something rotten inside me...”
This was true for me. My unquestioned judgments about myself, others, and the world were poison to me—a rotten way to see life.
“…and my heart can never fully open.”
How can a heart be open when it is believing rotten things about yourself and life? A very difficult way to live.
I try so hard not to believe it and question it, but I end up grieving and being shattered.
That’s why I call it The Work. It’s hard work, but life is harder without it!
I feel my mind is so tricky and scary that I can’t even trust it during the process of The Work.
Work with a Certified Facilitator (thework.com). They will direct you in how to meditate on a specific moment in time, to anchor your thoughts, to be still, to question those thoughts, and to realize the freedom that was already there.
I fear hurting people, and I can’t feel safe with myself.
Do the best you can. (And know that, like all of us, you do.)
Michael from Colorado
I keep creating difficult ways of living by not completing things. Pulled out of massage therapy school and am living in my car. Have had difficult living situations with roommates and not making enough to pay bills. My family says I am mentally ill, I feel like I’m just unhappy, and I just want to feel good about what I’m doing.
You’re living in your car: can you feel good about that? Life as you see it in the moment is the beginning of where to be happy and the “how” is a Judge-Your-Neighbor Worksheet and an opportunity to be free of suffering. Wake up in the morning, do The Work. No job? No rent or mortgage payments! Can you make a list of things to be grateful for? The Work is my job whenever I am unable to love what is, now. Not having a job, living in your car—what a perfect opportunity to make self-realization through inquiry your job! Be well, dearest.
Chandika from Oregon
I am super addicted to comparing myself to other people! I’ve done enough to see that this all stems from comparing myself to my older sister, and I think I understand the full extent of destruction it causes, yet I can’t seem to stop myself. I need help applying the work in this area.
What “other people” are you referring to? The people of past/future? When you’re comparing yourself to your sister, be aware of what you are comparing. Is that really your sister? Is that really you? Are the people of past/future real, or are they simply imagination, images in your mind’s eye? Comparing one image with another image: what does that have to do with you or your sister? Hmmmm.
Fill in a Judge-Your-Neighbor Worksheet on your sister in any situation where you felt hurt by, envious of, or less than her. As you sit in the third question—“How do you react when you believe that thought?”—notice the images of past/future, and notice the emotions that happened (in the past) as you silently witness how you felt and reacted when you believed the thought in that moment of envy.
Tess from New York
Hi Katie, Tess here. My question is: Is there an actual physical place in Ojai, California, where Work events take place? Like a permanent building/retreat center?
Yes, the Center for The Work is a physical place. Watch the calendar for our events. For example, we held the “Who Am I?” event here recently. Also, we use it daily during our 28-day Turnaround House event and more.
A Letter from Turkey
I want to write and share one of the endless internal dialogues that I have with you. As you may have heard, the situation in Turkey is rather turbulent and daily life is disturbed with a number of unfortunate incidents.
I am so very grateful to you and to The Work for being able to go through the day with a clear mind and inner peace and being able to invite people to do the same no matter what the external conditions are. Being diagnosed with cancer, and hearing that a bomb exploded and killed 39 people 100 meters away from where my daughter and grandchildren lived, did not disturb this peace, and I believe this is the most amazing blessing. It feels like being held by grace. If it were not for The Work, I would not be the same person that I am today under the circumstances.
I have people call me and thank me for The Work, for the way it enabled them to have a normal life in Turkey under the present conditions.
Katie, what you have given me, my children, and the world is beyond valuable and precious. It is a lifesaving survival tool that I will do my very best to continue to pass on to as many people as I can.
With much love and deep gratitude,
Thank you, my dear N., my sister.
You are the embodiment of all that I would want to give in this world. No longer the world of suffering in this state of grace. I love you, and I think of you every time I hear the word “Turkey.” My family, our family.
“Katie, I don’t want you to die.”
I’d like to share the journey that I had with this thought. —Sujung
I’m contemplating the memory of me saying “I don’t want you to die” to Katie at the Convention. That morning during The Work for Breakfast, I did The Work on “I want my hands to function properly.” The situation was that after the laundry, while I was picking up the laundry from the washer and moving it to the hanger, I dropped a clean piece of laundry, and I felt frustrated with my hands for being clumsy. At first, it seemed trivial and I was hesitant to explore the thought on my hands, but somehow I said “Okay, let’s do it,” and my wonderful partner, Alicia, started to ask me, “Is it true that you want your hands to function properly in that situation?” When I was asked question 3, “How do I react when I believe the thought?” I said, “I feel lost” several times. She asked me to stay there and feel that feeling of being lost. I closed my eyes in an attempt to go there and feel it, but in that short moment there was some ongoing resistance to going there, and then there was a moment when the resistance dropped, and I was right there at my mom’s death when I was seven and felt LOST, and didn’t know what to do. I went to school, came home, she was gone. She had died in a car accident. I started to sob, and the cry came from a deep place inside me. I call it the “animal cry.”
After that, when it was the morning session with Katie, after Ernesto’s amazing insightful story, somehow my hand was up in the air, I was handed the mic, and I started to talk to Katie and said, “I don’t want you to die.” It didn’t matter how childish I sounded, how absurd it was to ask her not to die for me. It was necessary for these words to be expressed, because they were so true for me in that moment.
I realized later that the experience meant a lot to me, not just because I had a chance to tell her that, but also I was able to throw a tantrum, which I have almost never done since my mom died. I was so grateful that Katie was there not teaching, just listening to my tantrum and meeting me from where I was. I got a chance to tell Katie what I wanted from her, which I couldn’t when I was seven.
When I asked Katie to promise me that she would take good care of her health and live long for me, she promised she would do her best to take good care of “that” body. I felt relieved and was able to sit down. The child was heard finally....
I thank Katie for holding the space for me so that I could be who I was in that moment... a child throwing a tantrum, resisting what is, asking mom not to die for me... Sometimes maybe that is all that is needed. To be heard… sitting with that child in us... meeting her from where she is.
I’m amazed at what the “seemingly trivial” one-liner brought me and where it led me. I’m also amazed at how things are happening for me each moment. I wanted to talk to Katie after the session, share my experience and hug her, but there were quite a few people lining up to talk to her, so I left the room. At noon that day, I saw Katie in the lobby having a meeting with the Thinking Project team. I went to the staff room and came back to the lobby and saw Katie just finishing the meeting and walking to the elevator alone. I called her name, she turned around and we hugged. Tears began to pour immediately, so I cried in her arms for a while. After a good cry, she kissed me on the cheek and whispered in my ear, “Isn’t it wonderful to love someone so deeply?” and I nodded, crying. When we were parting, I was able to say what I wanted to say: “I love you so much.”
At the banquet, I saw people taking photos with Katie. I wanted to take a picture with her last year after I was certified, but I didn’t have courage to ask her, so I didn’t. After I came home from the convention, whenever I saw photos of people with Katie, I felt annoyed at them and at me. I was beating myself up for not asking her what I wanted. However, this time, the moment I noticed the thought “I want to take a photo with Katie,” I just stood up and went to her. There were people waiting to take pictures with her and suddenly she stood up. People moved away and suddenly she was right in front of me. I said “Katie, I want to take a photo with you.” She leaned toward me and said, “You know, I need to go to the bathroom.” Usually this is how I would’ve reacted: “Oh, I’m sorry, go ahead.” But this time, somehow, I was like an innocent child. So I asked. “Oh… Are you coming back? Will you come back?” and she said “Well, just in case, let’s do it now.” So we did. We took a photo. ;) ;) ;)
It dawned on me that asking “Are you coming back?” means a lot to me. Several months ago, I was washing the dishes after dinner, and my husband was in the living room. Suddenly I heard the beeping sound and the sound of the door closing. I felt my heart dropping, called him several times, ran to the door, and opened the door. He was there waiting for the elevator to come. I asked, “Where are you going without telling me where you are going?” and he whispered, “Downstairs. I’ll be coming back soon.” I felt relieved and closed the door. I was walking to the kitchen feeling confused, wondering what it was that made me feel so desperate to go catch him. He is coming back soon. He is coming back soon. Suddenly one thought appeared: “But Mom didn’t come back. Mom didn’t come back.” And there I was, standing in the middle of the living room starting to weep. She didn’t come back. She was gone when I came home from school.
I am grateful that I was able to ask Katie if she was coming back. It’s amazing to see how these are all connected and how they all come to surface so beautifully… to be met. I’m so grateful that I had a chance to relive the situation with Katie. I thank Katie for her presence, and I thank me for my presence. It IS wonderful to love someone so deeply!!!
From a registered surgical nurse in the UK
My experience with The Work of Byron Katie started four years ago. The Work found me in a moment of my life when I was unable to get out of bed, feeling strong anxiety, and I saw nothing to hold on to. Daily practice in The Work allowed me to stand up to my analytical mind in such a solid, unquestionable way, and that just blew me away. I saw every conception of reality I had created leaving me, slowly and irrevocably. Since then I feel an impulse and excitement to share The Work with people. I’ve shared it with my friends and family and have done Judge-Your-Neighbour Worksheets with them.
Since I discovered The Work, I’ve had Skype sessions with a facilitator once a week for a year and a half, I hear BK’s podcasts and watch her seminars on YouTube with the same excitement some people watch a football match, which has blown my mum’s mind a few times in the past. I’ve seen numerous interviews, and I have attended a few Work retreats in these four years. I keep practicing The Work, and I know I need support with some topics and I look forward to it. I’m reading Loving What Is at present.
As I work towards inner freedom, my family and everything around me moves me towards love and inner peace in ways I’m not even able to understand. There is no better contribution to the world than my working with myself. That’s what I came here to do in this world, and I believe that’s what we are all here for. Especially being a therapist and a nurse, I need to make sure I keep freeing myself in order to be able to best support others. As a nurse, taking medicine to the next level, I understand how our lack of self-awareness has affected our physical health, and the need to start focusing on healing from the inside has become obvious.
As a human being I feel the suffering in my clients. Some of them experience breakthroughs during our sessions, and I’ll soon be working at the Women’s Center with very vulnerable women. I look forward to being at the School for The Work so that I can better handle these situations, being able to guide my clients towards the identification and dissolution of their belief-causing suffering, giving them the same chance someone gave me four years ago, to shift reality and to outgrow the hell they are experiencing.
In Memoriam Lucie Rock
Lucie Rock, born in Montreal, Canada died on October 29 from lymphoma cancer.
She was a student of The Work and was deeply engaged in turning her stressful thoughts around. She attended the School for The Work, the No-Body intensive, and a One Year Immersion program with a Certified Facilitator/Trainer.
She did hundreds of Worksheets every year, unraveling what kept her away from freedom. She did The Work before her diagnoses, and during and after her treatment. She did The Work when declining a new experimental treatment, allowing her tired body some peace. She often, very often, did The Work at night when unable to sleep, eyes closed, in pain, continuing to grow in the perfection of her inquiries.
A few weeks prior to her death, she continued her Work with the desire to undo her fears and to find peace. As I have known her, I would not be surprised if she continued to do her inquiry during her last four days, when finding herself somewhat “nailed” to her hospital bed, completely inert, unable to communicate or to move.
This is how I explain her last facial expression: a smile on her lips and love in her eyes.
Thank you, Katie.
Thank you, The Work.
Thank you, all who partnered with Lucie on her path to peace.