Embracing the Darkness

The Tao doesn’t take sides;
it gives birth to both good and evil.

–Tao Te Ching

The darkness, the void, the space that the mind is terrified to enter, is the beginning of all life. It’s the womb of being. Fall in love with it, and when you do, it will immediately be taken from you, as you witness the birth of light. The Tao doesn’t take sides. It embraces both the darkness and the light. They’re equal.

The Master can’t take sides. She’s in love with reality, and reality includes everything — both sides of everything. Her arms are open to it all. She finds everything in herself: all crimes, all holiness. She doesn’t see saints as saints or sinners as sinners; they’re just people who are suffering or not, believing their thoughts or not. She doesn’t see any difference between states of consciousness. What’s called bliss and what’s called ordinary mind are equal; one is not a higher state than the other.

There’s nothing to strive for, nothing to leave behind. There’s only one, and not even that. It doesn’t matter how you attempt to be disconnected, that’s not a possibility. Believing a stressful thought is an attempt to break the connection. That’s why it feels so uncomfortable.

All suffering is mental. It has nothing to do with the body or with a person’s circumstances. You can be in great pain without any suffering at all. How do you know you’re supposed to be in pain? Because that’s what’s happening. To live without a stressful story, to be a lover of what is, even in pain — that’s heaven. To be in pain and believe that you shouldn’t be in pain — that’s hell. Pain is actually a friend. It’s nothing I want to get rid of, if I can’t. It’s a sweet visitor; it can stay as long as it wants to. (And that doesn’t mean I won’t take a Tylenol.)

Even pain is projected: it’s always on its way out. Can your body hurt when you’re not conscious? When you’re in pain and the phone rings and it’s the call you’ve been waiting for, you mentally focus on the phone call, and there’s no pain. If your thinking changes, the pain changes.

I have an Israeli friend who is paralyzed from his neck to his toes. He used to see himself as a victim, and he had all the proof — the mind is good at that. He was certain that life was unfair. But after doing The Work for a while, he came to realize that reality is just the way it should be. He doesn’t have a problem now. He’s a happy man in a paralyzed body. And he didn’t do anything to change his mind. He simply questioned his thinking, and mind changed.

The same kind of freedom can happen to people who have lost their husbands or wives or children. An unquestioned mind is the only world of suffering. I was once doing The Work with some maximum security prisoners in San Quentin, men who had been given life sentences for murder, rape, and other violent crimes. I asked them to begin by writing down their angry or resentful thoughts: “I am angry at ________ because ________,” and then I asked each of them in turn to read the first sentence he had written. One man was shaking with rage so uncontrollably that he couldn’t finish reading his sentence, which was “I am angry at my wife because she set fire to our apartment and my little girl was burned to death.” For years he had been living in the hell of his anger, loss, and despair. But he was an unusual man, who really wanted to know the truth.

Later in the session, after he read another statement he had written — “I need my daughter to be alive” — I asked him The Work’s second question: “Can you absolutely know that that’s true?” He went inside himself for the answer, and it blew his mind. He said, “No, I can’t absolutely know that.” I said, “Are you breathing?” He said, “Yes,” and his face lit up.

And eventually he discovered that he didn’t need his daughter to be alive, that beneath all his rage and despair he was doing just fine, and that he couldn’t even absolutely know what the best thing for his daughter was. The tears and laughter that poured out of him were the most moving things in the world. It was a great privilege to be sitting with this amazing man. And all he had done was question his own beliefs.

Link to Huffington Post: Article

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12 comments

  1. That stuff about pain, that’s BS. When pain is bad, it’s all you can think about–or rather, getting out of pain is all you can think about. Katie is talking about pain you treat with Tylenol, for God’s sake; try pain of a 7 or 8 on a scale of 1 to 10, every day, all day, and tell me it’s wonderful.

    1. Rosalie~
      Katie, like most people, prefers not-pain over pain. But she has noticed that when she accepts the fact that the pain is here in this moment, she suffers less than if she pretends that the pain “should” not be present. Neuroscientists have validated the anecdotal evidence. It may not drop from a 7 to a 0, but even if it only drops from a 7 to a 6, is that not preferable?
      You seem to be angry that Katie is not showing due respect to pain. That shows that you are very loyal to your suffering. Whenever your Story tells you of the nobility of suffering, don’t believe it.
      ~Rick

    1. Let me tell 2 things about pain:
      1] My late mother was a nurse. She worked 6 months straight in the special burns department of Tel Hashomer hospital that was set up for the burned armored corps soldiers who were hit by incendiary shells in the Yom Kipur/October War October 1973. 10 years afterward when i went on walks with her now & then we would meet a man with burn scars. Each one told us that the Morphine did NOT stop the pain. It only made them unable to scream.
      2] When I was a teenager I underwent kidney surgery, under total anesthesia of course. So “felt no pain”. BUT decades later when I took a deep acting remedy to help my body erase the remaining deep trauma I felt, in shorter time span than the surgery took thank God, the entire procedure -the cutting of the skin the muscle strata the damaged kidney etc & the stitching up. I felt all the stages. What does this tell us? That the body DOES INDEED FEEL & remember pain it experiences when one is unconscious!

  2. שלום,
    איך לחקור את המחשבה:
    אני לא רוצה שהערבים ירצחו יהודים?
    ההיפוך:
    כן רוצה שהערבים ירצחו – נראה בלתי אפשרי

    תודה
    קרן

  3. I am sorry that some people have so much suffering and have not found a way to fix it. Of course, they have to seek medical help to alleviate the physical pain, and sometimes also the mental illness or pain… But questioning this way can help a lot. It can take away the anguish of the pain. It has helped me in both kinds of situations and I continue to listen to Byron Katie, to learn more and to remind myself when new challenges arise. It is the only thing that really helps me.

  4. Dear Katie, Thank you so much for continuing to do the conversations on you tube. They are a great resource that I dip into when I need a pep talk. Today I dipped in for the first time in months as I in recent weeks I was overcome by fear. I knew it was destructive of me – closes me down as a human being. Thanks to your inspiration and gentle guidance I am able to shift it and to start seeing it as it is and not to resist reality in all it’s forms.

  5. はじめまして。
    日本の福島県に住んでいます。

    私は、ザ・ワークという本を読んで、とても助けられました。
    私たち日本人は、とても思いやりがあるために、自分自身のことを許すことが苦手になっています。
    とても純粋で志し高い日本人精神を誇りに思っています。

    このザ・ワークを通して日本が目覚めるきっかけになってほしい。
    どうか未来の日本のために来日してもらえないでしょうか?

    お会いできる日を楽しみにしています。

  6. I have recently discovered Byron Katie’s work
    Would she consider making the work available in hindi ?

    I liked the fact that I got everything for free, and then I thought I would like to make it available to people who can understand only hindi…

    I have already been using links on my profile and so far no one has pointed out that this is objectionable.

    I’m on face book as smita choudhary and you could google me if interested in preventing the translation and use- I have no intention of using it for profit- but I do understand that this could be done by someone.

    Would katie mind?

    If someone is already working on the translation I would be very very happy to be directed to the hindi space and save myself some very hard work. 🙂

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