Letter: “When you get it”

Dearest Katie,

About two years ago I read Loving What Is and began my Work journey, this never ending internal life. After listening to the audio of the book, and subsequent audios, I sent you a letter, which ended up on the Parlor. I had quoted a section of the book, which I just could not at all understand at the time. That part about “When you get it, they’ll get it. That’s the law! It must be so” “They will follow.” (paraphrasing). I wrote you asking for clarification, as I just couldn’t get it. I am starting to now. I have lived this question on and off since your response back then in the Parlor. I am seeing more and more, what starts to shift around me when I do my part, my Work. And I see it’s nothing personal. I see when my own mind begins to clear, it clears everywhere, and in some cases it just blows my mind. My whole world shifts. One of my sisters who had been very angry at me for a year and a half, approached me recently and said, “I just want you to know that I am ending being mad at you. I can’t stand it anymore. I see it is not hurting you and it is killing me. I love you. I always have. And spending more time around you these last three weeks has shown me this so clearly. And besides that I don’t just love you, I like you! So I am ending all this silly business with you. I am back on with you. I miss you so much.” This blew my mind. And I understood.

My son K, who is twenty-three years old, affectionately sometimes calls me Guddha – a cross between Grant and Buddha. And I know it cuts both ways. He does think I am wise sometimes, as he rubs my head affectionately. And I am sure sometimes he says it when he thinks that I think I am wise. Guddha sounds different in my head at those times! Like “Oh Mr. Know-it-All”. Thank you K. Now maybe I will call him Kuddha! He decided a few months ago to do The School. He is doing the March School. Now how wise is that? Finding his way to his own freedom. I’m loving it. So, please study up on the curriculum a little extra, as I am wanting the universe for him, which I really know he already has! “When you get it, they’ll follow!” Thank you for your doing and undoing, dearest Katie. Hugs and gushy kisses as always.

Love, Grant

P.S. Thank you for sharing the Rwanda letter on the community site. A real blow away.

Dearest Grant,

Thank you for your letter. One of my grandsons says that he is attending the School for The Work this summer in Los Angeles. I would love that he gets what your son received at the School, and that is his own truest mind back, awake and responsible for his own life and best interest. We all adore your son! Let him know that he is cleared to staff a School if he wants to. I love watching even six- and seven-year-olds work with people who are sixty, seventy, twenty and every age in between at the events I get to facilitate as well.

For those of you asking about your children coming to the School during the upcoming summer break, the answer is, of course, “yes.” Both my grandsons are fourteen, and I think of the fourteen-year-old daughter of one of the women at the last School (just a few days ago). This young lady wouldn’t let anyone—not even her mother—get away, skate away, shift away, shrink away from the authentic self she could see in us. This darling and ruthless fourteen-year-old facilitator used her skills (the most ruthless skills always are our kindness, gentleness, caring, and the most unmoving integrity in the face of the one in denial, the facilitated) to tear open a lot of stuck minds and lives. As I am not traveling out of the country this summer (thank you all for supporting my visit to London and Copenhagen in January) and many of you are wanting your children to come to the School during summer break, and of course I am very happy about that, I will be there as usual, from early morning to late at night, all day, every day, watching awareness shift from the fear-based self into another paradigm, the new one, the kinder one, yours. I hope to see not only my grandson but who knows?—maybe both my grandsons as well as your children and grandchildren at the summer School for The Work in Los Angeles.

loving you,
BK

“I Lost My Job”

Dear Katie,

I’m a sixty-two year old computer consultant, and I just lost my job two months ago. The stress is unbearable. I keep looking for something to do, but the positions out there are just not for me. They’re not ready to hire someone my age. I have tried everything, from going to job fairs, to sending out my resume to all the businesses around town. I go to networking events and use the Internet. Nothing. Portland is a beautiful city, but it has a very high unemployment rate. I’m one of the statistics, as they say.

My wife is worried out about me. She’s barely holding on to her job and together we are scraping by. Every day I try to think of what I could do to make things better, but I can’t seem to find my way out of this sick feeling. I have difficulty sleeping. And I have lost my sense of humor.

A friend of ours gave me a copy of Loving What Is, and I’m trying to find my way through it. I don’t love this. I don’t love what is happening to my life. I would much rather have a job.

Desperate in Portland,

B

Dear B,

Let’s start with “the stress is unbearable.” Is that true? Can you absolutely know that it’s true?

How do you react, what happens, when you believe the thought “the stress is unbearable’? What are the images that flood your mind? Do you see yourself as never working again, as destitute, as a homeless person pushing a shopping cart on the street? How do you treat your wife when you believe this thought? How do you treat yourself? Does this thought bring peace or stress into your life? Anything else? Be still. Watch, notice, what else do you see. Notice and identify the emotions that are the response to the images that you experience as though they were real. What else do you see in the silence and stillness of observation?

Now ask yourself: Who would you be without the thought “the stress is unbearable”? Who would you be if you were incapable of thinking that thought in the midst of your emotions as they were happening? Just notice, go back into that space and look again. What did you miss?

Now turn the thought around. “The stress is not unbearable.” Can you find three examples when the stress, at its worst, was not unbearable, and it felt to you like it was? Can you get out of bed? Is the stress too heavy for you to brush your teeth in the morning? Perhaps you went to the park for a walk with your wife. Maybe you were watching your favorite TV show, or simply sharing a joke. Find at least three specific, genuine examples. Who knows?—you may find dozens of them that are true for you every day. I have noticed that in the face of what we are believing, reality waits to be noticed; eventually we wake up to it or not. (Some choose not to and some can’t yet, and it is until it’s not.) The Work is about collapsing that time, that dream, that trance. The unquestioned I-know mind will lead you to believe that your stressful thought in the moment is not only true but it is true forever. A belief in the moment is more powerful than any “thing.” It is powerful enough to create the entire world as you understand it to be.

The original thought, “the stress is unbearable,” is itself the cause of stress. When you realize this, you may also realize that every untrue thought that you’re believing creates not only life but a life with stress. And then you may realize that stress can only come from believing your thoughts about the world. It does not, it cannot, come from the world. Realizing this is a very major road to inner peace.

I invite you to write down your stressful thoughts as they occur, and investigate them. Use the four questions and the turnarounds, with examples of each turnaround. “We’re going to lose our home.” “I’ll never get a job.” “I’m a failure.” “I’ll be out on the streets.” “My family will fall into ruin.” “I can’t survive on the streets.” “I can’t survive.” “My family will leave me.” ” They will lose respect for me.” And on and on.

What is is, but only because it is. Until you wake up to reality in the moment, it is very difficult, even impossible, to love what is. Have you noticed? The only thing that can cause you stress is the story of a past or a future. What I love about the past is that it’s over! What I love about the future is that it doesn’t exist. What I love about this moment now is that I can “be” this that I am awake to. No problem! I already am.

In this moment now, all the pain that was ever suffered in the world is past, and that is the grace that we cannot appreciate when we are believing our past/future stories. Because the mind is believing its thoughts, often we feel tortured now as we live in reality, a true state of grace in the moment. It’s not right or wrong, it’s just that reality is always kind. But the story we superimpose onto reality can be hell. So I invite all people directly to the wisdom inside them, and The Work can take you there anytime you are open to your own self, your own true wisdom. Find the way out of the nightmares that you experience by going in.

And if there’s something to fear, wait until it happens and be fearful then. Why be frightened about a thought of a possible future when it is only a thought that is producing the movie?

Once you can think clearly, without the stress of your painful thoughts, the whole world, in all of its unlimited abundance and glory, will open up for you. A fearful mind is limited; it can see only a very few options. A clear mind can see many more options—unlimited options. It can act efficiently, effortlessly, intelligently, in the present moment, and not be stuck in its deadly stories of past and future.

My job is to extend the invitation to do The Work and to let you know that The Work works for everyone whose mind is open to it, and that the only thing that stands between you and a peaceful life is your unquestioned thinking. That’s all. I invite you to question “We are barely scraping by.” And to move to other turnarounds on the above concept, “the stress is unbearable.” What is the opposite of “unbearable”? Have fun with that. Or what is the opposite of stress? “Joy”? The joy is unbearable?

I am loving what is in this moment now, “it” works,

bk

Business Inquiry: “Having More Customers Means Having More Profits”

This is Jerry’s Business Inquiry example: “Having more customers means having more profits”

Jerry: “I am a business development manager for a mid-size consumer goods company, and my team has a real hard time with this. We believe that ‘having more customers means having more profit.’

Next, Jerry questions the common business assumption held by his team. As you follow his inquiry, I invite you to notice your own experience in life when you believe this thought. (Maybe yours is, “Having more money means having a happier life.” Or “having more friends means having more income.” Or, “…….?”)

Ask yourself: is it true? Is it true that “having more customers means having more profits”?
“Yes.”

Can you absolutely know that it’s true?
“No, we can’t be 100% sure.”

So how do you react when you believe the assumption that more customers equals more profit?
“Well, we go crazy trying to win new customers. We lower our prices, we go out of our way to sell. Sometimes our sales people push too hard. Sometimes they over-promise. Sometimes we fight with marketing or the product development team. . We stop trusting them, we begin to see it as “us,” the good guys, versus “them,” the bad guys, the ones not doing their jobs. We try to meet our quotas at all costs. Discounts, financing games. These hurt our business and our reputation.”

Who would you be without that thought?
“We might have more time and energy to focus on the customers we do have, or on improving our product. We could work on getting closer to our best customers, helping them thrive. We could become more valuable to them. We could tailor some of our products for their customers, helping them stand out from their competitors. And if they’re successful, we share in that success. They’ll buy more, we’ll sell more. We know their demographic quite well, and we could work together on making something of value for their customers. There’s a side benefit there. We’ll reduce our marketing costs if we can make the same revenue with fewer customers.”

Turn the belief around.
“Having fewer customers means having more profit.’

Might that be as true as or truer than the original belief?
“I can see that it might be at least as true. It depends on what we are doing to get more customers, and on what we could do without trying so hard to get more. We could focus on our most profitable customers. We could get closer to our most valuable customers. We could definitely be integrated more tightly. We could focus on helping our customers’ businesses do better.”

Can you find three examples to make that a true statement?
“One, we could focus on the customers that have the strongest cash positions, the ones who are most likely to weather the recession.

“Two, we could stop wasting time on difficult customers, the ones that keep changing their orders. They’re very high maintenance, but we keep them because we think we need them to meet our numbers.

“And three, we could stop serving customers that don’t pay in a timely manner, the ones with poor payment history.”

In this example, we see how challenging a simple but powerful belief in the sales team– that “having more customers mean having more profit” leads us to a new strategy to survive and profit in a recessionary economy. What’s more, the customers we get closer too during these trying times are the ones who will appreciate and trust us when times get better. So by shrinking our customer base, we actually improve our long-term profitability.

Business Inquiry: How to Do The Work at Work

What are the beliefs that are getting in the way of your job or your business?

In the same way as we do inquiry on our stressful thoughts about people in our lives, we can do business inquiry, questioning the assumptions we take to work and about our work or not having work. These assumptions may seem neutral to some of you, but they may in fact be causing a lot of stress in your life.

Why do we do things the same way over and over again and expect different results? Because we are believing our unquestioned thoughts over and over again in the same way, that’s why. Simple.

What if we were to challenge our underlying beliefs, the beliefs about our work, the markets, our products and services, our customers, our partners, suppliers, our financial thinking, in fact everything we believe to be true about our jobs, the people we work with, our businesses?

Here’s how.

(Notice how familiar this process is.)


Write down a business assumption or belief on the line below and then question it in writing (use additional blank paper as needed), using the following questions and turnarounds.

(If you prefer, use the One-Belief-at-a-Time Worksheet. You are welcome to download it here now.) While answering the questions, be still, and go deeply as you contemplate. The Work stops working the moment you stop answering the questions.

Assumption/Belief/Concept

(Fill in the blanks)…………………….

1. Is it true?

– The answer is a "yes" or a "no" only.
– If your answer is "no," continue to question #3.

2. Can you absolutely know that it’s true?

3. How do you react, what happens, when you believe that thought? What actions, thoughts, images, happen as an employee, a business owner, or a consumer, when you believe that thought?

(The following sub-questions are meant to assist you in contemplation of the third question above. I include them only so that those of you who wish can be as thorough as possible. Some of them won’t be appropriate, and some will work for you. Use the sub-questions as a possible menu that catches what you may have missed as you look at "How you react when you think that thought?".) Each of you deserves to be free from denial and delusional thinking, and it is always your choice. Those of you who are ready, take a deep breath; and now let’s continue with the sub-questions to question #3.)

– What images do you see (past and/or future) when you believe that thought? Close your eyes, relax, contemplate, witness what you see.

– Describe your feelings; notice what happens in your emotional body when you believe that thought or assumption. Notice what addictions come to mind when you believe that thought. Notice the ones that you act on and any guilt that may follow. Describe in detail how you react.

– How do you treat your employees, customers, suppliers, partners, competitors when you believe that thought?

– How do you treat yourself when you believe that thought?

– What negative business behaviors happen when you believe that thought? (For example, defensiveness, secrecy, lies, exaggerations, justifications, theft, breach of laws (legal and moral), false accusations, anger, punitive behavior.)

– Where and when did that belief/assumption first occur to you (at what stage or part of the business)? After you define that, close your eyes and find its origin. Were you three years old when you recall its origin in your life? Six, seven years old? Notice: is it still causing fear and failures in your business and life as a consumer today?

– What negative results do you get for holding on to that belief or assumption? What are your business expectations, and what is the cost to you in losses, financial and personal?

– What do you fear would happen to your business and your financial life if you didn’t believe that thought? (These, as well as the others, can be added to your list for inquiry later.)

– Does that thought bring peace or stress into your business life?

4. Who would you be without the thought?

Close your eyes; drop your belief just for a moment and look back; notice what your business would look like without that assumption.

What could your business be doing if you weren’t holding on to this belief? What do you see? Find three examples of what you could easily do differently if you didn’t believe that thought.

Find turnarounds. Are any of them as true as or truer than your original belief?


Next:

Jerry’s Business Inquiry >> “Having More Customers Means Having More Profits”

Turnaround House: A Letter of Gratitude

I ran away from a 29 year marriage with 2 suitcases and not much else. I was in such a state of fear/anxiety that I was shaking uncontrollably as I drove away from the house…fearing I might meet my husband on the road somewhere in the very rural small town setting where we lived.

I was forced to give up my medications for depression/anxiety because he chose not to work and to use all of our savings until we had none left and he applied for welfare. My attempt at suicide to escape the darkness, loneliness and utter fear/desperation failed–he left me lie unconscious for 3 days in our bed without ever calling 911. Somehow, when I awoke, he just yelled as usual that I “should go live in a f–in hole somewhere and not be so selfish to do something like that again!” This from a man who was a former CEO of a company and now due to his life choices, our family was on welfare and without any insurance or income.

My thoughts were in such a state of confusion, I couldn’t think. I was just in survival mode there for months now. I left the state and ran to family for safety and relief. I spent the better part of the next year sobbing, unable to eat/sleep and barely functioning day-to-day. During the year, I tried talking to him, he was unwilling. I finally filed for divorce and after having to go back to the state again and see him (and him yelling abusively at me as though I had never left a year before, and this time in front of one of our children), I knew it was the only thing I could have done. After the divorce hearing and seeing him again was so devastating, returning back to my family again, I was inconsolable. I felt complete devastation and was consumed by suicidal thoughts. Unable again to eat/sleep/think I spent one night hugging the toilet bowl on the bathroom floor for 10 hours dry-heaving and sobbing. I didn’t know what to do. I saw Byron Katie on YouTube and had had two of her books. It looked like relief. I picked up her book and couldn’t even process the sentences in my head I was in such an awful place. I just continued to watch videos. Then, I found her website and wrote a letter about myself and my situation. I received a response almost immediately which helped me hang on. Katie invited me to Turnaround House and I gratefully accepted that invitation.

It was difficult for me to imagine attending the program, but I felt it was my only hope for a way out. On the way to California on the plane I finally read Katie’s book Loving What Is and I felt so much better afterwards seeing how much her program had helped people who were confused and in fear to become at peace with themselves. I felt Katie could resonate with me personally as I was coming from a very similarly dark place that she had lived in herself before finding her way out through The Work. Although I had never met her, I trusted her completely.

I attended the Turnaround House program and am now home. To say this was life-changing is a serious understatement. Words cannot begin to describe that I am not the same person coming out that went into it. I am happy and have a peacefulness within my life which I have never known before. I know I will never need depression/anxiety medications again. I know now that LOVE heals. This program is LOVE. Katie and her staff were completely committed to loving me and helping me heal myself. Its all about self-realization and self-empowerment. I have the confidence to face whatever comes in life now.

I am so grateful to Katie for taking me into her heart and program and giving me the tools to have the life I now know I deserve and love. I love them all and I love me now too.

KB

Letter: “My son will soon be dead”

Katie:

I am still suffering with the thought that my son, who has a brain tumor, will soon be dead. I think of reasons why that would be good in this friendly universe, like then he, who has never seemed happy to me, will be in more peace. What money I have left will be all mine. I will have no children left to worry about or see in pain or laughter. My other son (whom you did TW on with me back at my first school in Oct 2006) drowned at 18 months. In that School I looked at the worst thing that could happen, that I would lose this other son, and now it is happening. Oh yes, another good thing about the last son dying, he won’t have to watch me get old and die.

When I imagine what it would be without the thought that he will soon be dead, and turn it around, that I will soon be dead, I feel a shift. I think I love him, and I notice I love myself more and it’s myself I’m really concerned about in all this. I want him to be fixed and safe so I will be fixed and safe. And it doesn’t look like it’s going to happen and I’m Working on it happening…with me being fixed and safe.

I do The Work constantly and am getting peaceful off and on. Then I see he is not happy and my resistance to “what is” gives me deep pain.

I notice now that my peacefulness seems to be tied like a stock chart to his state of comfort. When he says “Mom, I’m not worth $1500 a month for chemo” I die. I can’t feel prepared yet for his death. I want to pass onto the other side of this but I don’t yet no how. Thanks for being there, Katie.

Peace and Love,
JJ

Dearest JJ,

You do “yet” know how, The Work works when your dear mind is open to “what is next”. You’re not prepared for his death yet, is it true?

It sounds like your not prepared for his LIFE yet, he isn’t dead, he is still living!!!!!! The dead or dying son in your heads image is not your son, it is an image. You are trading your sons life now, for images of death, not your sons life and it is “killing” your time with him and your life with him in joy. He has a right to believe that he is “not worth it”, listen to him, he has a right to his opinion and it doesn’t mean that he isn’t worth everything to you, you can still honor his opinion. You don’t have to agree, your opinion is your business unless you think that his life is not worth $1500. per mo and maybe you don’t sense you don’t believe that he is going to live anyway, and in an odd way it is understandable that the mind would take you there.

I love you JJ, don’t let your unquestioned mind cost you one minute with that darling, dear, dearest son of yours. Is it sadness that you are feeling or love? Isn’t it love, feel it as deeply as you can, let it live in you, allow it, let it cry you, take you over even, its okay, love is all powerful. Don’t confuse feelings that you believe to be sadness with what love feels like, my dearest. I am with you, ask him to hold you for me.

with all of my heart,
kt

Stephen Mitchell’s Book Tour: The Second Book of the Tao

secondTao

For those of you who have questions for Stephen, or just want to say hello to him on his book tour, you can catch up with him in the following places:

Portland, OR
2/27/09 Powell’s City of Books 7:30PM
1105 West Burnside Street

Seattle, WA
2/28/09 Elliott Bay Book Company 2:00 PM
101 South Main Street

Santa Barbara, CA
3/2/09 Mind & Supermind Series 7:30 PM
Lobero Theatre, 33 E. Canon Perdido St.

San Francisco, CA
3/3/09 Berkeley Arts & Letters 7:30 PM
First Congregational Church of Berkeley
2345 Channing Way

3/4/09 Book Passage, Corte Madera 7:00 PM
51 Tamal Vista Boulevard

Sonoma, CA
3/5/09 Reader’s Books 7:30 PM
127 East Napa Street

Denver, CO
3/6/09 Tattered Cover 7:30 PM
2526 East Colfax Avenue

Boulder, CO
3/7/09 Boulder Bookstore 2:30 PM
1107 Pearl Street, Boulder

Santa Fe, NM
3/9/09 Garcia Street Bookshop 5:00 PM
376 Garcia Street

New York, NY
3/11/09 Rubin Museum of Art 7:00 PM
150 West 17th Street

Philadelphia, PA
3/12/09 Free Library of Philadelphia 7:30 PM
1901 Vine Street

Los Angeles, CA
3/18/09 Los Angeles Public Library 7:00 PM
630 West 5th Street

3/19/09 Barnes & Noble 7:00 PM
1201 3rd Street, Santa Monica

A Glimpse of Stephen’s New Book

He calls it The Second Book of the Tao. The book is now available online and in bookstores everywhere.

Here Stephen reads an excerpt from the book:

Chapter 8

How do I know that loving life
isn’t simply a delusion?
How do I know
that when we’re afraid of death
we aren’t like someone
who left home as a young child
and has forgotten the way back?
How do I know that the dead
aren’t so happy that they wonder
why they once clung to life?

You may dream that you’re at a banquet
and wake up to find yourself miserable.
You may dream that you’re sobbing your heart out
and wake up to find yourself at ease.
How, in the middle of a dream,
can you know that you’re actually dreaming?
In the middle of a dream, you may even
try to interpret the dream;
only after you wake up
do you realize that you were dreaming.

Someday there will be
a great awakening, when we know
that all this was one big dream.

And when I say that we’re dreaming,
of course I am dreaming too.

COMMENTARY

How do I know? Well, I don’t. So that settles that.

But loving life isn’t a problem. Preferring life to death: that’s what causes the confusion.

It could be (if there were such a thing as departing) that death is the return to a presence the wandering mind has long forgotten. It could be (if there were such a thing as separate beings) that the dead look upon our attachment to life like fond grandparents watching a teenager’s first tumultuous love affair. It could be, in fact, that the dead are nothing but their own delight, there (if there were such a thing as space) where they know even as they are known.

We are close to waking up when we dream that we are dreaming. All the imagined ups and downs, the hubbub and reversals of fortune, are what most people call life. But before and after, at the point where the end meets its beginning, there is only what has woken up from the cycle of waking, dreaming, and dreamless sleep.

As for a “great awakening”: dream on. When do you think that that someday will come, after all? Isn’t it enough just to open your eyes, feel the pillow beneath your head, and see the hands of the alarm clock pointing to this very moment (as if there were such a thing as time)?

Stephen’s Translations

Stephen sits in front of my computer translating the squiggles into words.

He translates email almost as well as he does poetry. Neither makes sense to me. What I love is his patience, as he reads it again, slowly, and this time I understand.

I didn’t know I liked poetry until I heard Stephen re-reading my emails.

The Husband Story

If you say that you love your husband, what does that have to do with him?

You’re just telling him who you are. You tell the story of how he’s handsome and fascinating and sexy, and you love your story about him. You’re projecting that he’s your story. And then when he doesn’t give you what you want, you may tell the story of how he’s mean, he’s controlling, he’s selfish—and what does that have to do with him? If my husband says, “I adore you,” I think, “Good. I love that he thinks I’m his sweet dream. How happy he must feel about that!”

If he were ever to come to me and say, “The sorriest day of my life was when I married you,” still, what would that have to do with me? He’d just be in a sad dream this time, and I might think, “Oh poor baby, he’s having a nightmare. I hope he wakes up soon.” It’s not personal. How can it have anything to do with me? I love him, and if what he says about me isn’t true in my experience, I would ask him if there’s anything I can do for him. If I can do it, I will, and if it’s not honest for me, I won’t. He is left with his story. No one will ever understand you. Realizing this is freedom. No one will ever understand you—not once, not ever. Even at our most understanding, we can only understand our story of who you are. There’s no understanding here except your own. If you don’t love another person, it hurts, because love is your very self. You can’t make yourself do it.

But when you come to love yourself, you automatically love the other person. It’s not a choice. Just as you can’t make yourself love us, you can’t make yourself not love us. Husbands, wives, lovers—all a projection of mind. When you truly love someone, a thought like “You should love me” brings laughter to your heart. Can you hear the arrogance of that thought? “I don’t care whom you want to love. You should love me, and I’ll even trick you into it if need be, or at least I’ll try to, out of my self-deluded head.” This is the opposite of love.

If I think my husband should love me, I’m insane.
Whose business is it whom he loves? His, of course. The turnarounds show me the way toward what is truer to my heart: I should love me, and I should love him. Let him love whomever he loves—he’s going to anyway. The story of whom someone should love keeps me from the awareness that I am what I’m seeking. It’s not his job to love me—it’s mine.

A Reading

I look up, I see Stephen walking into the room with a copy of his new book under his arm. He’s happy like a child, delighted with what he sees as the book’s production values, what it looks like, how it feels. We sit down together and he reads to me from it.

His beautiful, kind voice sends me to sleep almost instantly.

When I wake, fifteen minutes later, Stephen is still reading.

A Valentine’s Story

I first met Stephen because Michael Katz said that I needed a literary agent. I said I didn’t have a book, so I didn’t need a literary agent. But Michael persisted. I liked him a lot, so eventually I said okay. It was like the Beatles song: I didn’t have a car, but I had a driver. He also gave me a dozen of Stephen’s books. I didn’t read any of them. Actually, I gave them away. Then Michael wanted to introduce us.

I’ll let Stephen tell the story:

“Sometime in November or December of 1999, Michael Katz, my old friend and literary agent, sent me two videotapes and an audiotape of Byron Katie. He had discovered Katie and The Work a few months before and had been deeply impressed. As a long-time student of both Suzuki Roshi and of Gregory Bateson, he had a finely-tuned sense of the genuine, and he recognized something extraordinary in Katie. He told me that he had begun to do The Work as a daily practice, and that it was clearing his mind in subtle ways that Zen meditation had never touched.

“I always trust Michael and almost always follow his advice. So when he told me to watch the videos, I did. I was impressed. I liked Katie a great deal. I thought that The Work was a powerful method for people who had problems with anger, desire, or confusion—though I (I thought), as a mature Zen person, was of course far beyond the need for it. But I was very impressed.

“I told Michael my reaction, and he said, ‘Now I want you to see her. It’s ten times more powerful in person.’ I told him I would. She was giving a public event in Marin County at the end of January. For some reason that I didn’t understand, I wanted to meet her privately before the event, so I made an appointment with her assistant, Melony. It was for 10 A.M. on Sunday, January 23, 2000, at a house in Mill Valley.

“I remember arriving that morning five minutes early and sitting in the car until it was 10 o’clock. I remember the feeling of excitement as I waited, and the specific thought: ‘Don’t get too excited. And don’t expect her to recognize you. Even if she doesn’t recognize you, it will be fine.’ That was the thought that passed through my mind several times.

“I rang the bell at 10 o’clock exactly. Katie’s host came to the door, opened it, and let me into the living room, where she was waiting on a couch. It must have been 10:03 when I looked into her eyes.

“The experience is as vivid to me now as it was at that instant, and as impossible to describe. I will try a few statements, from different directions. All of them are trying to say the same thing. I had seen a videotape of her, so I was prepared to meet someone very wise. But I wasn’t prepared for what I saw the first instant I looked into her eyes: the awe of it. I felt I was looking into a heart that was completely pure. I felt that I was being totally seen, totally met. What was in those eyes was something I had never experienced before: something that the phrase ‘unconditional love’ can only point to from a great distance. I felt that I was standing in front of a clear mirror and seeing myself and that I was more beautiful than I could ever have imagined. I felt that whatever it was that was missing in my own heart was suddenly, magically, standing in front of me, and whatever it was that this radiant, joyous woman had understood was now available to me as well.

“I used to think of myself as a connoisseur of eyes. I had met many spiritual masters: Zen masters, lamas, gurus, and so forth, and some of them had the brilliance and humor in their eyes that for me was the mark of the genuine. The strongest experience of this kind that I had had was with my old Zen master in June 1973, in Providence, Rhode Island. The first moment I had set eyes on him, I knew that he knew the great secret, the answer that I had been looking for during seven years of hard work on ‘Job and the problem of suffering.’ It was there, in his eyes, and at that moment I thought of the line from Yeats: ‘Their eyes, their ancient, glittering eyes are gay.’ That moment had changed my life.

“But Katie’s eyes were even more glittering, I felt, even more ancient, and so beautiful that I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry with joy. The joy shining from them was something I had never seen before. I felt overwhelmed, relieved, mortified at my own arrogance, deeply grateful, and in love. The love wasn’t personal. It wasn’t I, the man Stephen, falling in love with a woman named Katie. It was like falling in love with the Buddha. It was like falling in love with the magnificence of the human heart.

“We sat together for about an hour and a half. We talked a little. I told her a little about my life, how I had come to Zen, what it had meant to me, what felt still unfinished. I don’t remember what she said. I do remember that it was perfectly clear to me that she had no attachment to being a spiritual teacher. This was extraordinary, since even my own Zen master, wonderful as he was, had more than a smidgen of attachment to being a teacher. Most of the time, we just sat in silence. She had taken my hand, and we just sat together holding hands. The silence was very full, and deeply fulfilling. I had never been so happy.”

All Ways Lead to The Right Place

I’m sitting with friends in the sun, at a table outside Ojai Coffee Roasting Co.

My cell phone rings. It’s Stephen. He’s going to join us.

I give him directions: “Turn left, honey, turn right, and look for us on your left. We’re at the first table in front of the door.”

We see Stephen. He is walking toward us, then right past us, concentrated on some beautiful thought probably, oblivious. Now he’s getting ready to cross the street.

We yell, “Stephen!”

He turns, walks back, and joins us with a smile. For him, for all of us, all ways lead to, and are, the right place.

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