The Ego Is…

“The ego is terrified of the truth. And the truth is that the ego doesn’t exist.” xoxo bk

A Mind at Home with Itself

My new book, A Mind at Home with Itself, will be published on September 19. (Please pre-order it at amindathomewithitself.com.) Here’s a chapter from the book. (The word “Buddha” means “the awakened one.” It’s a word for the clear mind—for me, for you, for all of us.)

 

Chapter 8:
The Ultimate Generosity

The Buddha said, “Let me ask you something, Subhuti. If someone were to amass inconceivable wealth and then gave it all away in support of charitable causes, wouldn’t the merit gained by this person be great?”

Subhuti said, “Extremely great, Sir. But though this merit is great, there is no substance to it. It is only called ‘great.’”

The Buddha said, “Yes, Subhuti. Nevertheless, if an open-minded person, upon hearing this sutra, could truly realize what it is teaching and then embody it and live it, this person’s merit would be even greater. All the buddhas, and all their teachings about enlightenment, spring forth from what this sutra teaches. And yet, Subhuti, there is no teaching.”

The Buddha’s point here is that when you realize there is no self and no other, you give an incomparable gift. It’s the ultimate generosity, both to others and to yourself (neither of whom exist). All Buddha awareness—that is, any mind that sees reality as it truly is—arises from this realization.

There is no distance away from mind. It’s all an imagined trip. Mind never moves as the source. It doesn’t “come back” to itself, because it never leaves. Heaven and earth were born when I was, and the only thing that was born is the “I.” The whole world arises out of that unquestioned “I.” And with it arises the world of naming, and the sleights of mind that match those names. Out of that story come a thousand—ten thousand—forms of suffering. “I am this.” “I am that.” “I am a human.” “I am a woman.” “I am a woman with three children, whose mother doesn’t love her.”

You are who you believe you are. Other people are, for you, who you believe they are; they can be nothing more than that. If you realized that the mind is one, that everyone and everything is your own projection (including you), you would understand that it’s only yourself you’re ever dealing with. You would end up loving yourself, loving every thought you think. When you love every thought, you love everything thoughts create, you love the whole world you have created. At first, the love that overflows in you seems to be about connecting with other people, and it’s wonderful to feel intimately connected to every human being you meet. But then it becomes about mind connected to itself, and only that. The ultimate love is the mind’s love of itself. Mind joins with mind—all of mind, without division or separation, all of it loved. Ultimately I am all I can know, and what I come to know is that there is no such thing as “I.”

So you discover that even mind is imagined. Inquiry wakes you up to that. When people question the apparent past, they lose their future. The present moment—that’s when we’re born. We’re the unborn. We’re born now… now… now… There is no story that can survive inquiry. “I” is imagined by “me,” and as you get a glimpse of that, you stop taking yourself so seriously. You learn to love yourself, as no one. Mind’s love affair with itself is the great dance, the only dance.

When you realize that there’s no self, you also realize that there’s no death. Death is just the death of identity, and that’s a beautiful thing, since every identity the mind would construct vanishes upon inquiry, and you’re left with no identity, and therefore unborn. The “I” of past and future are both nonexistent now, and what remains is imagined. When mind stops, there’s no mind to know that there’s no mind. Perfect! Death has a terrible reputation, but it’s only a rumor.

The truth is that nothing and something are equal. They’re just different aspects of reality. Something is a word for what is. Nothing is a word for what is. Awareness has no preference for one over the other. Awareness wouldn’t deny any of it. It wouldn’t deny a needle on a pine tree. It wouldn’t deny a breath. I am all of that. It’s total self-love, and it would have it all. It bows at the feet of it all. It bows at the feet of the sinner, the saint, the dog, the cat, the ant, the drop of water, the grain of sand.

The Buddha says that the merit of someone who realizes this central teaching of the Diamond Sutra is greater than the merit of even the most generous philanthropist. This realization is the greatest possible gift. But ultimately there’s no merit. No one is keeping score, after all. How can you acquire merit if you don’t even exist as a separate being? “Merit” is just a way of saying that you can do nothing more valuable than realize who you are.

The Buddha-mind holds nothing back. Everything in it is freely given, as it was freely received. It has no storage place; what flows into it flows out of it, without any thought of having or giving. There’s nothing to have that isn’t immediately given, and its value is in the giving. The Buddha-mind doesn’t need it. It’s a receptacle; it exists in a constant flow. Whatever wisdom the Buddha may have is something he can’t claim. It belongs to everyone. It’s simply realized from within and given away in exactly the same measure. The more valuable it is, the more freely it’s given.

I can’t give you anything you don’t already have. Self-inquiry allows you access to the wisdom that already exists within you. It gives you the opportunity to realize the truth for yourself. Truth doesn’t come or go; it’s always here, always available to the open mind. If I can teach you anything, it is to identify the stressful thoughts that you’re believing and to question them, to get still enough so that you can hear your own answers. Stress is the gift that alerts you to your asleepness. Feelings like anger or sadness exist only to alert you to the fact that you’re believing your own stories. The Work gives you a portal into wisdom, a way to tap into the answers that wake you up to your true nature, until you realize how all suffering is caused and how it can be ended. It returns you to before the beginning of things. Who would you be without your identity?

We’re born as a story. The story stays out there and lives its life, forever. For me, “forever” lasted for forty-three years, and it was every lifetime that has ever been lived—all of time and space. I thought I was stuck there, in hopeless agony, with no way out. Then the four questions brought me back to the storyteller. Once I realized that no one was telling the story, I had to laugh. It turned out that I had been free all along, since the beginning of time.

 

In this sutra, the Buddha talks about generosity, but he doesn’t talk about love. Why do you think that is?

Love is usually thought of as an emotion, but it’s much vaster than that. Egos can’t love, because an ego isn’t real, and it can’t create something real. The Buddha is beyond any identity, and that’s what I see as pure love.

When I refer to love, I’m merely pointing to the unidentified, awakened mind. When you’re identified as a this or a that, a him or a her, any kind of physical self, body, or personality, you remain in the limited realm of the ego. If your thoughts are opposed to love, you’ll feel stress, and that stress will let you know that you’ve drifted away from what you fundamentally are. If you feel balance and joy, that tells you that your thinking is more in keeping with your true identity, which is beyond identity. That’s what I call “love.”

 

What’s the relationship between love and projection?

When I judge someone, I’m seeing a distortion of my own mind superimposed onto an apparent other. I can’t love the one I’m with until I see him (or her) clearly, and I can’t see him clearly until I have no desire to change him. When confusion takes over the mind, when it argues with reality, I see only my own confusion. “Love thy neighbor as thyself” isn’t a command coming from the outside; it’s an observation. When you love your neighbor, you’re loving yourself; when you love yourself, you can’t help but love your neighbor. That’s because your neighbor is yourself. He’s not the “other” that he seemed to be. He’s a pure projection of mind.

I understand how painful the unquestioned mind is. I also understand that love is the power. Mind originates in love and ultimately returns to its source. Love is mind’s homing device, and until mind returns, it has no rest.

 

You say that there is no death. But bodies die, don’t they? Is the mind independent of the brain? How can you know that when the brain dies there is any mind at all?

Nothing is born but a thought believed, and nothing dies but that thought once realized, and eventually you come to understand that the thought was never born in the first place. I don’t see anyone as alive, since all beings are within me and are only as “I” see them to be.

If you think that bodies die, they die—in your world. In my world, bodies can’t be born anywhere but in the mind. How can what was never born die? That’s not possible, except in the imagination of the hypnotized, innocent believer.

 

You say, “Nothing and something are equal.” Doesn’t that mean that nothing matters? And if nothing matters, isn’t that depressing?

All somethings are nothing, since they’re all imagined, and “nothing” is equal to “something.” Does anything matter? Yes, to the ego. But the fact that the ego believes it doesn’t make it real.

Once you realize that you’re no one, you’re thrilled that nothing matters. There’s so much freedom in that! The whole slate is wiped clean at every moment. It means that every new moment is a new beginning, where anything is possible. You also realize that the turnaround for that statement is equally true: everything matters. That’s just as thrilling as its opposite.

Podcast: I’m Disappointed in Her—The Work of Byron Katie

I’m Disappointed in Her—The Work of Byron Katie

A man whose baby has died struggles with listening to his wife complain about work. His thoughts are “Her world view is rubbish,” “She needs to not care about work,” and “How can she think about work when our baby is dead?” At the core of his inquiry is the belief “She behaved in a way that made our baby Sophia’s death more likely.” MAN: She waited and waited and waited before having a child, and that made it more likely that the child would die. BK: “Her behavior made Sophia’s death more likely”–can you absolutely know that that’s true? MAN: No. BK: And how do you react when you believe that thought? MAN: I feel broken. Snapped. Blocked. Like I can’t go on. BK: How do you treat her in that situation when you believe that thought? You’re looking at her, but you’re seeing the woman who killed your child. MAN: I’m not truthful with her. I’m pretending everything’s okay. I’m screaming “no” inside, and “This is rubbish!” I feel aggressive and hopeless. BK: You believed she shouldn’t wait so long to have a child. And she believed she needed to wait. She’s just like you, and you’re blaming her for being just like you. You’re both guilty of believing your thoughts–that’s all. If you prefer to suffer, go on believing your stressful thoughts. But if you’d rather be happy, question them.

Meditating on Freedom—An Interview with Lilou—The Work of Byron Katie


Lilou: People are really going through hard times with depression and suicide, etc. What is your perception of this?

BK: People are projecting the past and the future in their minds. When you imagine what the future will be, fear is created. Now is the only time we can really live in.

I always say, that if you want a little fear and terror, get a future. I invite people to put their thoughts on a Judge-Your-Neighbor Worksheet. The power of The Work is the answers that arise from the individual doing The Work. As we tap into that knowledge inside us, we find freedom. That’s why inquiry is so powerful. The Work is a beautiful way to peace, and it doesn’t require a teacher.

Lilou: I hear that you received The Work in a moment, kind of like Eckhart Tolle.

BK: The valuable thing about that moment for me was: I saw that when I believed my thoughts I suffered, and when I didn’t believe them I didn’t suffer. I’ve come to see that this is true for every human being. In that moment, it was very clear to me, but when I tried to tell people about it, there was no way it could be described. So the questions take people into that experience.

Lilou: How did you work out this radical shift in yourself with your family?

BK: Well, I had been agoraphobic. After my eyes were opened to reality, my family wondered “Who is this high-functioning and non-reactive woman? What is living in that body we call our mother?” They were constantly waiting for an angry reaction that never came. It was very confusing for them. I invited them to say whatever they wanted to say. They began to introduce me to my old self. That’s how I kept one foot in what I call the dream-world, without being the dream.

Lilou: How do we know if we’re taking the right actions in life?

BK: There’s no argument in your mind. If you choose to turn to the left, or to the right, or do nothing, the worst that can happen is what you’re thinking and believing. All the while you’re on the perfect path.

Lilou: So you’re saying that reality is this movie we’re in, that we’re living, and creating, and everything is right there, as we project it.

BK: Yes, in the moment. The images in our minds, and the thoughts we’re believing about the images, the way we define what we see–all this is happening in the moment. Believing that we’re that image can be terrifying, but if you’re witnessing the images out of a clear mind, they can be incredibly loving, dear, and enlightening.

Lilou: You have that grace and you can describe it, and we want to live there. It seems permanent with you. Some people experiencing The Work have it on and off, so it’s a continuous exercise.

BK: The Work is a practice , and I recommend that people do it every day. I invite people to identify any thought that causes them stress, to write it down, and to question it. Each time people do that, they become clearer, kinder, more loving human beings. And their whole world begins to shift. The world is internal. As the mind shifts, the world shifts. Thoughts create the world, as you perceive it. As the mind continues to question itself, it falls in love with itself and begins to project a beautiful world. This is the opposite of denial. It’s seeing out of your true self. If you see the world as a frightening place, don’t try to change it, look to your own mind.

Lilou: How do we get from the four questions to a nine-day intensive program, your School for The Work? The questions are very direct and simple.

BK: No one needs to come to the School to set themselves free. I make this opportunity available to people who want to immerse themselves in inquiry. It’s a very powerful experience, and almost everyone who comes walks out a transformed person. I hear this over and over. During these nine days, I take people through every possible source of stress, including fear and terror, the physical body, prejudice, gender, sex, communication, relationships, the things they are most ashamed of, and God. The curriculum is nothing short of radical.

Lilou: To find equilibrium in all areas: Is that what we’re supposed to do? Are we supposed to do The Work on all areas for true happiness?

BK: Yes, because ultimately every area has the potential to cause problems–in other words, to give rise to the unquestioned thoughts that cause our suffering. We have a continuation of the School through the Institute for The Work. It’s an aftercare program that allows people to sit in The Work as a daily practice and as a community that is meditating on those questions.

Website: http://www.thework.com
Webcasts: http://www.livewithbyronkatie.com
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ITW: http://www.instituteforthework.com/itw/

© 2016 Byron Katie International, Inc. All rights reserved.

Podcast: My Mother Doesn’t Want to Know Me

 

A woman does The Work on a moment in time when she was texting with her estranged mother. Her belief at that moment is “My mother doesn’t want to know me.”

BK: We’re meditating on “She doesn’t want to know me”—is it true?” The answer is always one syllable: yes or no. Notice the other thoughts that arise around this, and gently go back to the question. Do you see images of you and her in the past and the future? Is that you or imagination?

Together, they question statements like “I want my mom to acknowledge me,” “I want her to admit that she screwed up,” “She should apologize for the past,” “She shouldn’t expect me to parent her,”and “She should admit she’s a psychopath.”

“You cannot experience rage unless you’re in a movie.” —Byron Katie

Podcast: Something Terrible is Going to Happen—Interview: Byron Katie

Byron Katie speaks with Deborah Beauvais of the “Love by Intuition” show on 1510 AM WMEX Boston. Katie describes, in detail, her experience of awakening and the beginning of The Work. Then she guides Deborah in doing The Work on the thought “Something terrible is going to happen.”

DEBORAH: Could you share a little bit about what woke you up? I know that you had thoughts of suicide for years.

KATIE: I was so depressed for more than a decade, and was also agoraphobic. To be a shut-in, and stuck with what’s in your head with no way out, was hell.

Then, there was a moment without a thought. There was no I–no experience of a self–just this identification-less space. And then I became aware of the thoughts that arose, and I began to laugh. I noticed that prior to the thoughts, I experienced what they call “the peace that passeth all understanding.” Afterward, once comparison returned, I saw that this state of mind was heaven. Just prior to the mind’s arising, nothing had a name. This experience in and of itself is not important, but what came out of it was the clear realization that when I believed my thoughts, I suffered, and when I didn’t believe them, I didn’t suffer. And out of that realization, came a way to question who and what we are with our stories. And who would we be without our stories?

DEBORAH: We tend to gravitate to suffering, like it’s in our DNA.

KATIE: That suffering is how we stay identified. It’s how the ego exists.

DEBORAH: Do we feel first when we have a thought, or are we having thoughts first and then feel?

KATIE: We’re more aware of our feelings first, but when we get still enough to notice, you may see, as I have, that we think first, then images of past and future happen so quickly that we don’t even realize that they’re happening. So it’s think, feel, act, have. I refer to this as the order of creation; the creation of your own world.

“When it argues with reality, the ego is up against the greatest power in the world: love.” —Byron Katie

Event: 26 August 2017 Spirit Rock Meditation Center

Join Katie in a workshop designed to take you on a journey of self-discovery. With her humor and lovingly incisive clarity. Katie will show you how to identify and question the stressful thoughts that cause all the suffering and violence in the world. Anyone with an open mind can do The Work. Participants will have the opportunity to ask questions and to do The Work with Katie.

 

This event has sold out for several years running. Register early to ensure your space.

Happy and Successful? Is It Possible? An Interview With Byron Katie.

If I asked you which you would rather have- happiness or success- what would you say and why?  And please, don’t give me what you think is the politically correct answer.

Here’s an interesting thought for you to consider: what if you don’t have to choose one or the other? What if you can be happy and as successful as you want/think you can be?  Does that sound radical and crazy, or totally possible to you?

The truth is we often believe we have to be accomplished and get to the “top” then we can finally be happy.  I know, and work with, many accomplished people who are not happy.  So I’ve found that we have it backwards:  We first need to be happy, then and only then, we can be successful, however you define your own success. 

I was a happy, practicing lawyer until I realized that we didn’t have the best image as lawyers.  I became fascinated with this issue and wanted to turn it around for lawyers.  I also then realized that my natural gift was in personal brand management- that’s what makes me happy as a human- and guess what else?  It also makes me successful, too.

Here’s the dilemma.  I’ve discovered most of us don’t even stop and consider this distinction, let alone get to the possibility of “having it all” by being happy and successful. I believe it is because we have developed by being conditioned by society (your family, friends, etc.) to THINK this way.

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