Byron Katie is a world-renowned author of four major books. She is a trusted and incredible leader in her field and has created a powerful process of inquiry called “The Work”. That doesn’t mean, however, that her journey has been easy.
In a recent episode of ON PURPOSE with Jay Shetty, Katie explained to Shetty that there was a time when her thoughts had her in a deep state of depression that lasted ten years. She was in such a troubled state of mind that her level of self-loathing and self-esteem led her to believe that she was not even worthy of sleeping in a bed, so she slept on the floor.
One particular morning, everything changed.
“I was in this dead sleep, and a cockroach crawled over my foot,” she told Jay Shetty. “I opened my eyes, and basically, all the suffering was gone. The valuable thing that I discovered was when I believed my thoughts, I suffered. When I didn't believe my thoughts, I didn't suffer. When I opened my eyes, the ego did not have the opportunity to fill that space, and everything was present. ‘The Work’ was born on the floor at that moment.”
Katie takes Shetty through the steps in The Work, which are also outlined in her book Loving What Is: Four Questions That Can Change Your Life. Through “The Work”, Katie has been able to give people the tools to discover their stressful beliefs about life, other people and themselves so they can start to shift them. She offers her teachings for free to people at public events, prisons, hospitals, churches, treatment centers, corporations, universities, schools and her website.
Step One: Notice
Think about a situation or a person that caused you stress, anger, sadness, or humiliation. Reflect on that moment and be present in that situation now. Take those emotions and name them, find the reasons that you were upset. Notice what you felt at that moment.
“Get in touch with your emotions because they're the closest thing to you,” Katie told Jay Shetty.
Step Two: Write
Take the negative thoughts and energy, get them out of your head and move them to paper. Allow yourself to be as judgmental, childish, and petty as you were in that initial moment. Use this as an opportunity to discover the cause of your stress and emotions during that time.
“I think it's so important to get out of our heads, Jay Shetty agreed. “When things are in your mind, they can get convoluted and polluted. Sometimes recording your voice and hearing it puts you in an observer mindset. You can hear what you're really trying to say. When you try to communicate this way, it's almost like hearing in between the lines. Same with writing things down. I think these are such powerful tools.”
Step Three: Question
There are four questions that Katie contemplates when she is isolating the issues that cause negative feelings.
Question One. Is it true? The answer to this question is either yes or no. If your answer shows up as a yes, move to question two. If it’s no, then move to question three.
Question Two. Can you absolutely know it is true? If you can answer this question as yes, then you need to revisit that situation to shed some light on it. See if it reveals anything new to you.
Question Three: How do you react, and what happens when you believe that thought?
How did you treat yourself or the other person in this situation?
“Go back into that situation, and identify what you were thinking and believing,” Katie told Jay Shetty. “What they were thinking and believing then was the cause of the trauma. No matter what that person did to me, what I was thinking and believing was the cause of my trauma. So I question those thoughts, and the trauma breaks. I am enlightened to the cause of my suffering.”
Question Four: Who would you be without that thought? Close your eyes and return to the situation. Take a moment to reflect, observe, and experience the situation again. Who or what would you be without the thought? How would you see or feel about the other person? Remove your judgments and notice what is revealed.
Turn It Around
The final step in this process is to take the original negative thought and turn it around.
“Is the opposite as true as or truer than the original thought?” Katie asked Jay Shetty.
When you find a turnaround, don’t blame yourself or feel guilty. Allow the alternative to bring you peace.
Katie feels there are three businesses – mine, yours, and God’s. She explained to Jay Shetty that a person needs to be present in the business they are in. If they’re physically present with someone, their mind should not be on another person’s business.
“If I'm mentally in my daughter's business while I'm sitting here with you, I’m feeling disconnected from you,” Katie explained to Shetty. “I can just ask myself mentally, ‘Whose business am I in?’ I can notice, and the emotions will let me know for sure. Then I just come right back here right now. This is where I can make a change.”
“I can't make a change over there,” she continued. “I can't be in all these places at once. We tend to be all over the world. His business, her business, their business, God's business, the weather's business.”
Jay Shetty agrees.
“We are rarely in our own business,” he said. “The news takes us to everyone else's business. Our social media takes us to other people's business. We're always talking about other people's business! How do you get your own business done if you're always in someone else's business?”
Thinking and Believing
Jay Shetty admires Byron Katie’s body of work as deeply intuitive.
“Katie talks about thinking and believing,” stated Shetty. “She asks, ‘What are your thoughts? What are your beliefs?’ Suppose you genuinely revisit those pivotal, crucial transitionary moments of your life. In that case, you recognize that all of that pain and suffering that you are experiencing or holding on to comes from a thought and a belief that you're still holding on to.”
The Work is a meditative practice. It takes stillness and the ability to listen to your inner self. When you process through the steps of The Work, you can turn thoughts around and help yourself achieve peace within.
“True freedom starts with an inquiry,” Katie tells Shetty. “Socrates said, ‘Unexamined life is not worth living’, and that's certainly my experience too.”
More From Jay Shetty
Listen to the entire On Purpose with Jay Shetty podcast episode with Byron Katie on “How To Property Ask The Universe For Healing” now in the iTunes store or on Spotify. For more inspirational stories and messages like this, check out Jay’s website at jayshetty.me.