Four Liberating Questions

By Tom Moon, MFT–

Corey came to see me, consumed with hurt and rage. Two years ago, his partner Lyle, whom Corey said “was the love of my life,” abruptly moved out of their apartment and disappeared while Corey was at work. In the following days, Corey discovered that Lyle had been involved with Lyle’s “best friend” for more than a year, and that the two had left the state together. Corey subsequently spent most of his waking hours so preoccupied with angry and vengeful thoughts that his life came to a standstill. He wanted to let go, but he felt completely stuck.

Together, we tried a number of methods to get him unstuck, and what finally did it was a process of self-examination developed some years ago by a woman named Byron Katie. Beginning in her early thirties, Katie was so depressed and stuck in self-loathing that she was often unable to get out of bed for days or weeks at a time. One morning, in a sudden moment of life-changing insight, she saw that her suffering came from her thoughts about her situation—such as “my life is horrible,” and “I don’t deserve happiness”—and not from the situation itself. She realized a simple truth: when she believed her thoughts, she suffered, and when she didn’t, she was happy.

Out of this insight, she developed a process of self-inquiry which she now calls “The Work.” It involves asking four simple questions about each belief that causes us pain:

  1. Is it true?
  2. Can you absolutely know that it’s true?
  3. How do you react when you believe that thought?
  4. Who would you be without the thought?

After answering these questions, respondents are asked to come up with a “turnaround,” a sentence expressing the opposite of what one believes. So, for instance, “He doesn’t understand me,” could become, “I don’t understand him,” or, “I don’t understand myself.”

I see “The Work” as a form of self-directed cognitive therapy. It has helped many thousands of people to get out of their mental ruts and to improve the quality of their lives.

Corey and I applied this process to his belief that: “In order for me to be happy, I need Lyle to admit he hurt and betrayed me, and I need him to offer apologies and restitution.”

Here is an abbreviated summary of our discussion:

Tom Moon: “Is this idea true?”

Corey: “Yes!”

Tom Moon: “Can you absolutely know that it’s true?”

Corey: “Well, no, I can’t really know what would happen if he ever did actually come clean with me. Maybe I’d be happier, and maybe I wouldn’t feel any different than I do right now. I’m not much of an expert on how to be happy.”

Tom Moon: “How do you react when you believe that thought?”

Corey: “I feel heavy, bitter, weighed down. I feel vengeful. And I feel helpless because he has to do something in order for me to be happy, and he isn’t doing it.”

Tom Moon: “Who would you be without the thought?”

Corey: “I’d feel a lot lighter and happier, that’s for sure. Lyle would finally really be gone from my life. When I think about him all the time, it’s like he’s still with me every day.”

Tom Moon: “Okay, now turn the thought around into its opposite: The first thing that occurs to me is that I don’t need anything from Lyle in order to be happy. It’s believing that I do that is keeping me unhappy.”

As we talk further, another turnaround occurs to him. “I need to admit that I’m hurting myself every time I ruminate about him, and instead of waiting for him to apologize, maybe I need to apologize to myself for what I’m doing to me,” Corey said.

In the weeks that followed, Corey asked these four questions every time he found himself ruminating about Lyle, and was gratified that his destructive preoccupation gradually melted away. Corey’s experience is not unusual. In my work, I’ve found Byron Katie’s process to be a simple, but highly effective, tool for opening the mind and expanding perspective.

An important advantage of this process is that it is easy to learn. Most of the people I work with are able to use it effectively on their own after just a little guidance and coaching. One easy way to begin learning how to do it is to access Katie’s website (http://thework.com/en), where you’ll find a step-by-step description of how to do it.

 

Tom Moon is a psychotherapist in San Francisco. For more information, please visit his website http://tommoon.net/

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.

Delighting in Criticism

Delighting in Criticism

I’ve come to see that there is no such thing as criticism, there are only observations. And there is no observation that does not enlighten me, if my mind is open to it. What could anyone say to me that I couldn’t agree with? If someone tells me I’m a terrible person, I go inside myself, and in two seconds I can find where in my life I’ve been a terrible person; it doesn’t take much searching. And if someone says I’m a wonderful person, I can easily find that, too. This is about self-realization, not about right or wrong. It’s about freedom.

When someone tells me that I lied, for example, I go inside to see if they’re right. If I can’t find it in the situation they’ve mentioned, I can easily find it in some other situation, maybe decades ago. I don’t say that out loud. But inside me, it’s a joining. And then I can say, “I am a liar. I see where you’re right about me.” We agree. That person is realizing who I used to be, the very thing that I began realizing twenty years ago. I fall in love with people who are angry at me. They’re like people suffering on their deathbeds: we don’t kick them and say, “Get up.” It’s the same when someone is angry and attacking you. This is a confused human being. And if I’m clear, where is it that I couldn’t meet him? That’s when we are the happiest, when we’re giving ourselves without condition.

If a criticism hurts you, that means you’re defending against it. Your body will let you know very clearly when you’re feeling hurt or defensive. If you don’t pay attention, the feeling rises and becomes anger and attack, in the form of defense or justification. It’s not right or wrong; it just isn’t intelligent. War is not intelligent. It doesn’t work. If you’re really interested in your own peace of mind, you’ll become more and more aware of that sense of wanting to defend yourself against a criticism. And eventually you’ll be fascinated to find the missing pieces of yourself that your critic is helpfully pointing out, and you’ll ask him to tell you more, so that you can be enlightened even further.

Criticism is an immense gift for those who are interested in self-realization. For those who aren’t, welcome to hell, welcome to being at war with your partner, your neighbors, your children, your boss. When you open your arms to criticism, you are your own direct path to freedom, because you can’t change us or what we think about you. You are your only way to stand with a friend as a friend, even when she perceives you as an enemy. And until you can be intimate with us however badly we think of you, your Work isn’t done.

After you’ve done inquiry for a while, you can listen to any criticism without defense or justification, openly, delightedly. It’s the end of trying to control what can’t ever be controlled: other people’s perception. The mind rests, and life becomes kinder, and then totally kind, even in the midst of apparent turmoil. When you’re aware of being a student, everyone in the world becomes your teacher. In the absence of defensiveness, gratitude is all that’s left.

To read more visit: Huffington Post

For a list of upcoming events, free resources and video’s visit: thework.com

Bad News — You Have Cancer

A doctor once took a sample of my blood and came back to me with a long face. He said he was bringing bad news; he was very sorry, but I had cancer. Bad news? I couldn’t help laughing. When I looked at him, I saw that he was quite taken aback. Not everyone understands this kind of laughter. Later, it turned out that I didn’t have cancer, and that was good news too.

The truth is that until we love cancer, we can’t love life. It doesn’t matter what symbols we use—poverty, loneliness, loss—it’s the concepts of good and bad that we attach to them that make us suffer. I was sitting once with a friend who had a huge tumor, and the doctors had given her just a few weeks to live. As I was leaving her bedside, she said, “I love you,” and I said, “No, you don’t. You can’t love me until you love your tumor. Every concept that you put onto that tumor, you’ll eventually put onto me. The first time I don’t give you what you want, or threaten what you believe, you’ll put that concept onto me.” This might sound harsh, but my friend had asked me to always tell her the truth. The tears in her eyes were tears of gratitude, she said.

No one knows what’s good and what’s bad. No one knows what death is. Maybe it’s not a something; maybe it’s not even a nothing. It’s the pure unknown, and I love that. We imagine that death is a state of being or a state of nothingness, and we frighten ourselves with our own concepts. I’m a lover of what is: I love sickness and health, coming and going, life and death. I see life and death as equal. Reality is good; so death must be good, whatever it is, if it’s anything at all.

Until you experience death as a gift, your work’s not done. So if you’re afraid of it, that shows you what to question next. There’s nothing else to do; you’re either believing these childish stories, or you’re questioning them—there’s no other choice. What’s not okay about dying? You close your eyes every night, and you go to sleep. People look forward to it; some people actually prefer that part. And that’s as bad as it gets, except for your belief that says there’s something else. Before a thought, there’s no one, nothing—only peace that doesn’t even recognize itself as peace.

What I know about dying is that when there’s no escape, when you know that no one is coming to save you, there’s no fear. You just don’t bother. The worst thing that can happen on your deathbed is a belief. Nothing worse than that has ever happened. So if you are lying on your deathbed and the doctor says it’s all over for you and you believe him, all the confusion stops. You no longer have anything to lose. And in that peace, there is only you.

People who know there’s no hope are free; decisions are out of their hands. It has always been that way, but some people have to die bodily to find out. No wonder they smile on their deathbeds. Dying is everything they were looking for in life: they’ve given up the delusion of being in charge. When there’s no choice, there’s no fear. They begin to realize that nothing was ever born but a dream and nothing ever dies but a dream.

When you’re clear about death, you can be totally present with someone who’s dying, and no matter what kind of pain she appears to be experiencing, it doesn’t affect your happiness. You’re free to just love her, to hold her and care for her, because it’s your nature to do that. To come to that person in fear is to teach fear: she looks into your eyes and gets the message that she is in deep trouble. But if you come in peace, fearlessly, she looks into your eyes and sees that whatever is happening is good.

 

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Photos from Kuwait

Osrati, the oldest magazine in Kuwait, and one of the oldest in the Gulf region, has published an excerpt from the Arabic translation of Loving What Is. The article’s title is “A Rebellious New Start to Your Life, Called The Work.”nl-4-16-kuwait-1 nl-4-16-kuwait-2

What We Can Learn About True Freedom From Ex-Convicts, Special Ops Vets and Byron Katie

“Sweetie, you’re not getting this. I could be like Hannibal Lector and bite a nose off a face. I could have my guys kill for me, but I liked it to be up close and personal. I killed pimps, cho mo’s [Child molesters], dealers…the cops would actually thank me, give me back my weapons, and say have a nice day, sir.”

This is from an actual conversation I had recently! I sat on the floor with Viking. * He’s three times my size, and he just laughed when I asked how he killed in prison without weapons. He had made a journey few ever will—from the most violent death-row convict to a free, (mostly) peaceful man.

Allow me to fill you in on the twenty-four hours before this conversation. I had gone to an invitation-only Byron Katie/ Inside Circle Foundation (ICF) event in California wine country. This was to be the first time ever ex-convicts (and we’re talking former lifers) would share with “free people” the transformational work they’d done in prison. I had come because Byron Katie’s daughter, Roxann, invited me and I trusted her implicitly, but I had been told nothing about what would occur…

Continue reading the full Huffington Post article here .

Not Seeking Approval

The Master can’t seek fulfillment. She’s already filled to the brim; there isn’t room for a drop more. When you have what you want — when you are what you want — there’s no impulse to seek anything outside yourself. Seeking is the movement away from the awareness that your life is already complete, just as it is. Even at moments of apparent pain, there’s never anything wrong or lacking. Reality is always kind; what happens is the best thing that could happen. It can’t be anything else, and you’ll realize that very clearly if you inquire.

I have a friend whose wife fell in love with another man. He had been doing The Work for a while, and instead of going into sadness and panic, he questioned his thinking. “‘She should stay with me’ — is it true? I can’t know that. How do I react when I believe the thought? Extremely upset. Who would I be without the thought? I would love her and just wish the best for her.”

This man really wanted to know the truth. When he questioned his thinking, he found something extremely precious. “Eventually,” he said, “I was able to see it as something that should be happening, because it was. When my wife told me about it, she didn’t have to censor anything to protect me. It was amazing to hear what it was like for her, without taking any of it personally. It was the most liberating experience I ever had.”

His wife moved in with the other man, and he was fine with that, because he didn’t want her to stay if she didn’t want to. A few months later she hit a crisis point with her lover and needed someone to talk to. She went to her best friend — her husband. They calmly discussed her options. She decided to get a place of her own where she could work things out, and eventually, after many ups and downs, she went back to her husband. Through all this drama, whenever my friend found himself mentally at war with reality and experiencing pain or fear, he inquired into the thought he was believing at that moment, and returned to a calm and cheerful state of mind. He came to know for himself that the only possible problem he could have was his unquestioned thinking. His wife gave him everything he needed for his own freedom.

I often say that if I had a prayer, it would be this: God, spare me from the desire for love, approval, or appreciation. Amen. I don’t have a prayer, of course, because I don’t want anything but what I have. I know the benevolence of life. Why would I pray for something different, which would always be less than what’s coming? God is another name for reality. It’s complete, it’s perfect, it fills me with the utmost joy. The thought of asking for what isn’t never even arises.

But if I still believed my thoughts, I would pray for one thing first: to be spared from the desire for love. This desire causes nothing but confusion and misery. It shuts down the awareness of what you already have in reality. It’s painful to seek what you can never have outside yourself. I say “can never have” because obviously you don’t understand what you’re seeking. If you understood it, the seeking would be over. Because you think you know what love looks like, what it should or shouldn’t be, it becomes invisible to you. It’s the blind seeking what doesn’t exist. You beg, you plead, you bend over backward and do all sorts of other emotional acrobatics in this unending search for happy endings. Only by seeking the truth within will you find the love you can never lose. And when you find it, your natural response is appreciation.

This would be my one prayer, because the answer to it brings the end of time and space. It brings the energy of pure unlimited mind, set free in all its power and goodness. When you stop seeking love, it leaves you with nothing to do; it leaves you with the experience of being “done,” in a doing that is beyond you. It’s absolutely effortless. And a whole lot gets done in it, beyond what you think could ever have been accomplished.

When I don’t look for approval outside me, I remain as approval. And through inquiry I have come to see that I want you to approve of what you approve of, because I love you. What you approve of is what I want. That’s love — it wouldn’t change anything. It already has everything it wants. It already is everything it wants, just the way it wants it.

Follow Byron Katie on Twitter

Enlightened Activism

The world is perfect. As you question your mind, this becomes more and more obvious. Mind changes, and as a result, the world changes. A clear mind heals everything that needs to be healed. It can never be fooled into believing that there is one speck out of order.

But some people take the insight that the world is perfect and make it into a concept, and then they conclude that there’s no need to get involved in politics or social action. That’s separation. If someone came to you and said, “I’m suffering. Please help me,” would you answer, “You’re perfect just the way you are,” and turn away? Our heart naturally responds to people and animals in need.

Realization has no value until it’s lived. I would travel to the ends of the earth for the sake of one person who is suffering. The desperate, the hopeless, are unenlightened cells of my own body. It’s my own body I’m talking about — the body of the world is my body. Would I let myself drown in water that doesn’t exist? Would I let myself die in an imagined torture chamber? My God, I think, there’s someone out there who really believes there’s a problem. I remember when I used to think there was a problem. How can I say no when that person asks for help? That would be saying no to myself. So I say yes and I go, if I can. It’s a privilege. It’s more than that: It’s self-love.

People are perfect just the way they are, however deeply they’re suffering, but they don’t realize that yet. So when I meet someone who’s suffering, I don’t say, “Oh, there’s no problem; everything is perfect.” Though I can see that there’s never a problem, and I’m available to help him see that, telling him what I see would be unkind. That part of my body is suffering, everything is not perfect for him, because he believes it’s not. I, too, have been trapped in the torture chamber of the mind. I hear what he thinks he needs, I hear his sadness or despair, and I’m available. That’s full-blown activism. In the presence of someone who doesn’t see a problem, the problem falls away — which shows you that there isn’t a problem.

If you have a problem with people or with the state of the world, I invite you to put your stressful thoughts on paper and question them, and to do it for the love of truth, not in order to save the world. Turn it around: save your own world. Isn’t that why you want to save the world in the first place? So that you can be happy? Well, skip the middleman, and be happy from here! You’re it. You’re the one. In this turnaround you remain active, but there’s no fear in it, no internal war. So it ceases to be war trying to teach peace. War can’t teach peace. Only peace can.

I don’t try to change the world — not ever. The world changes by itself, and I’m a part of that change. I’m absolutely, totally, a lover of what is. When people ask me for help, I say yes. We inquire, and they begin to end their suffering, and in that they begin to end the suffering of the world.

Love is the power. I know only one way to be an activist who can really penetrate the human race, and that is to give the facts, to tell your experience honestly, and to love without condition. You can’t convince the world of anything, even if it’s for the world’s own good, because eventually your righteousness will be seen through, and then you’re on a stage debating a corporate polluter, and you start pointing your finger in outrage. That’s what you’ve been hiding when you believe, “I know what’s best for the planet.”

Violence teaches only violence. Stress teaches stress. If you clean up your mental environment, we’ll clean up our physical one much more quickly. That’s how it works. And if you do that genuinely, without violence in your heart, without anger, without pointing at corporations as the enemy, then people begin to notice. We begin to listen and notice that change through peace is possible. It has to begin with one person. If you’re not the one, who is?

The world will test you in every way, so that you can realize that last little piece that’s unfinished inside you. It’s a perfect setup. Checkmate.

 

Gratitude: The Litmus Test for Self-Realization

As the mind realizes itself it stops identifying with its own thoughts. This leaves a lot of open space. A mature mind can entertain any idea; it is never threatened by opposition or conflict because it knows that it can’t be hindered. When it has no position to defend or identity to protect, it can go anywhere. There’s never anything to lose because there’s no thing that exists in the first place. Laughter pours out of it and tears of gratitude from the experience of its own nature.

Everything appears to come into me. I watch and witness what comes out of me. I’m the center of everything. I hear opinions and concepts, and because there’s no I to identify as, I take it all in. When you realize that you’re no one, you’re comfortable with everyone, no matter how desperate or depraved they may seem. There’s no suffering I can’t enter, knowing that it’s already resolved, knowing that it’s always myself I’m meeting.

As we question what we believe we come to see that we’re not who we thought we were. The transformation comes out of the infinite polarity of mind which we’ve rarely experienced, because the I-know mind has been so much in control. And as we inquire, our world changes, because we’re working with the projector–mind–and not with what is projected. We lose our entire world, the world as we understood it. And each time we inquire, reality becomes kinder.

The part that is doing the questioning is the neutral part of the mind, the center, which can take one polarity of mind to the other. This neutral part offers the confused, stuck, I-know polarity the option to open itself to the polarity of mind that holds the sane, clear, loving answers that make sense to it. The neutral part doesn’t have a motive or desire, a should or a shouldn’t; it’s a bridge for this polarity to cross over. And as the I-know mind is educated, it dissolves into the polarity of wisdom. What’s left is absolutely sane, undivided, and free. Of course, all this is just a metaphor, since there is only one mind. The bottom line is that when the mind is closed, the heart is closed; when the mind is open, the heart is open. So if you want to open your heart, question your thinking.

Inquiry always leaves you with less of a story. Who would you be without your story? You never know until you inquire. There is no story that is you or that leads to you. Every story leads away from you. You are what exists before all stories. You are what remains when the story is understood.

Life on the other side of inquiry is so simple and obvious that it can’t be imagined beforehand. Everything is seen to be perfect, just the way it is. Hope and faith aren’t needed in this place. Earth turned out to be the heaven I was longing for. There’s such abundance here, now, always. There’s a table. There’s a floor. There’s a rug on the floor. There’s a window. There’s a sky. A sky! I could go on and on celebrating the world I live in. It would take a lifetime to describe this moment, this now, which doesn’t even exist except as my story. And isn’t it fine? The wonderful thing about knowing who you are is that you’re always in a state of grace, a state of gratitude for the abundance of the apparent world. I overflow with the splendor, the generosity of it all. And I didn’t do anything for it but notice.

The litmus test for self-realization is a constant state of gratitude. This gratitude is not something you can look for or find. It comes from another direction, and it takes you over completely. It’s so vast that it can’t be dimmed or overlaid. The short version would be “mind in love with itself.” It’s the total acceptance and consumption of itself reflected back at the same moment in the central place that is like fusion. When you live your life from that place of gratitude, you’ve come home.

Huffington Post Article

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

When You Compare, You Lose

When we believe our thoughts, we divide reality into opposites. We think that only certain things are beautiful. But to a clear mind, everything in the world is beautiful in its own way.

Only by believing your own thoughts can you make the real unreal. If you don’t separate reality into categories by naming it and believing that your names are real, how can you reject anything or believe that one thing is of less value than another? The mind’s job is to prove that what it thinks is true, and it does that by judging and comparing this to that. What good is a this to the mind if it can’t prove it with a that? Without proof, how can a this or a that exist?

For example, if you think that only Mozart is beautiful, there’s no room in your world for rap. You’re entitled to your opinion, of course, but other people think that rap is where it’s at. How do you react when you believe that rap is ugly? You grit your teeth when you hear it, and when you have to listen (maybe you’re a parent or a grandparent), you’re in a torture chamber. I love that when mind is understood, there’s room for rap as well as for Mozart. I don’t hear anything as noise. To me, a car alarm is as beautiful as a bird singing. It’s all the sound of God. By its very nature, the mind is infinite. Once it has questioned its beliefs, it can find beauty in all things; it’s that open and free. This is not a philosophy. This is how the world really is.

A judging mind makes the world very small and dangerous.

If you believe that anyone’s action is bad, how can you see the good in it? How can you see the good that comes out of it, maybe years later? If you see anyone as bad, how can you understand that we are all created equal? We’re all teachers by the way we live. A blind drunk can teach more about why not to drink than an abstinent man in all his piety. No one has more or less goodness. No one who ever lived is a better or a worse human being than you.

A mind that doesn’t question its judgments makes the world very small and dangerous. It must continue to fill the world with bad things and bad people, and in doing so it creates its own suffering. The worst thing that ever happened exists only in the past, which means that it doesn’t exist at all. Right now, it’s only a stressful thought in your mind.

Good vs. Bad
Good things, bad things; good people, bad people. These opposites are valid only by contrast. Could it be that whatever seems bad to you is just something you haven’t seen clearly enough yet? In reality — as it is in itself — every thing, every person, lies far beyond your capacity to judge.

Once you no longer believe your own thoughts, you act without doing anything, because there’s no other possibility. You see that all thoughts of yourself as the doer are simply not true. I watch the hand that I call mine move toward the teacup. It has such intelligence, glides through the air so purposefully, arrives at the cup, fingers close around the handle, hand lifts cup, brings it to the lips, tilts it, tea flows into mouth, ahh. And all the time, no one is doing it. The doer is quite another, the one beyond the story of “I am.”

Things seem to arise, and someone with a clear mind lets them go because they’re already gone. This apparent letting-go is not some saintly act of surrender. It’s just that nothing ever belonged to her in the first place. How could she not let go of what doesn’t exist except as the story of a past or a future?

The clear minded person has only what she believes herself to have, so she has nothing, she needs nothing. She acts and waits for the miracle of what is, expecting nothing that would spoil the surprise. When her work is done, she forgets it, because there’s nothing to remember. It’s done. It’s gone. She can’t see what doesn’t exist. Was her work good or bad? How ridiculous! Did it penetrate deeply or have no effect whatsoever? As if that were any of her business! Will it last forever? Did it last even for an instant?

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/byron-katie/when-you-compare-you-lose_b_8017988.html

Testimonial: A Thousand Names for Joy by Byron Katie

When I first started reading , A Thousand Names for Joy, I didn’t expect to like it. But very quickly I got swept up by Katie’s simplicity, love, and clarity. It rolled out like music, like variations on a theme—the same basic realization expressed in so many ways, and under so many varying circumstances. As I read on, I found that I wasn’t being “educated” about the awakened mind, I was seeing it in action, I was feeling it. It was amazingly personal. For me it was a transmission, which is much more valuable than any explanation could be. In the end, I was blown out by this book. It is the most incredible teaching I’ve ever read.

Katie’s Work is absolutely different from anyone else’s. Most self-help books aren’t really about anyone’s “self” except the author’s. They provide you with their ideas about how you can be happy, and these ideas are supposed to work for everyone. But instead of offering a one-size-fits-all strategy, Katie has shown me how to craft my own solutions, under any and all circumstances. The value of this can’t be overstated.

In addition to helping me with problems after they’ve arisen, The Work showed me how to stop the problems from arising in the first place.  I’ve learned that the way to counterbalance difficult emotions is not necessarily to explore or analyze them, but to catch them as they present themselves, question their validity, and then simply let them go. Once I examine any thought whatsoever, I’m struck by what it really, truly is in the first place: a thought. A thought has no bearing on reality. If you’re suffering from a broken heart, for example, when you look, you see that your heart is not really broken. No matter how hard you try, you literally cannot find a broken heart. There is only the thought that a broken heart exists. The funny thing is that if you stop believing that thought, the heartbreak also stops—not because you’ve healed it, but because it was never there in the first place.

It can be difficult to believe that it’s this simple, but it is. Most self-help strategies are detailed commentaries on complex psychological or spiritual theories. But Katie’s suggestions are almost pre-psychology and even pre-spirituality. They’re about how the mind naturally works, no matter how you were raised or what you believe. She helps you step off the merry-go-round of newer, better, perkier self-help strategies and instead relate plainly and directly to your life as it is, without a lot of drama. It’s so incredibly practical.

Katie’s emphasis on self-inquiry shines a light on the present moment, something all spiritual teachers tell us we should do. However, they usually don’t tell you how. But Katie does. She taught me how to set aside my beliefs and philosophies about what is going on and instead relate to what is going on. That’s pretty deep when you think about it, but it also may be the reason you may not understand the power of her work right away. It’s so stripped down and essential. It’s not a system of belief, and we’re not used to things that aren’t assigned to a particular school of thought. But because it’s a living tool (not a system or belief), it’s always relevant and can be customized to meet any situation.

One way this has shown up for me is with my husband. Even though I don’t always succeed (ahem), I’ve learned how to separate my projections about who he should be and how I need him to act from who he really is. It actually strikes me as funny to realize that until I could do this, I was probably having a relationship with my thoughts about my husband instead of a relationship with him. I like him much better than I like my thoughts about him.

Like Katie’s self-inquiry, the Tao Te Ching is not a checklist of actions you can take that will solve all your problems. Instead, it’s an uncannily accurate description of how reality works and what the mind responds to. Just as our Western scientists have mapped and catalogued the physical world, the Tao Te Ching explains human nature. What Katie and the Tao Te Ching have in common is that both explain how to step out from behind the veil of calcified belief systems and instead meet your world directly. Both explain how the mind works when left to its own devices and that if we can just get out of the way, its natural wisdom will reassert itself and provide exactly the right solution in all cases.

 

S.P.

The Work: It’s Not Reality That Makes Us Suffer; It’s Our Thoughts About Reality

Twenty-nine years ago, at the bottom of a 10-year fall into depression, rage, and self-loathing, I realized something amazing: that when I believed my thoughts I suffered, but when I questioned them, I didn’t suffer, and that this is true for every human being.

It’s not reality that makes us suffer; it’s our thoughts about reality. I discovered that we can put any stressful thought up against four simple questions and a turnaround, and meet that thought with understanding. It’s the truth that sets you free — not the world’s truth, not anyone else’s truth, but your own truth.

The Work is a way of identifying and questioning the thoughts that cause all the suffering in the world. The first step is to write down your judgments about any stressful situation in your life, past, present, or future — about a person you dislike or worry about, a situation with someone who angers or frightens or saddens you, or someone you’re ambivalent or confused about. Write your judgments about that person down, just the way you think them. Be harsh and childish, and write in short, simple sentences. (You’ll find a Judge-Your-Neighbor Worksheet to download and print at thework.com/do-work, along with complete instructions on how to do The Work.)

Once you’ve filled in a Worksheet, put each statement on it up against the four questions of The Work, then turn the statement around. The four questions are:

1. Is it true?
2. Can you absolutely know that it’s true?
3. How do you react, what happens, when you believe that thought?
4. Who would you be without the thought?

Turn the thought around, and find three genuine, specific examples of how each turnaround is true in your life.

1 and 2 Ask yourself if the thought is true. For example, “He doesn’t care about me” — is it true? Don’t ask if the thought matches what you’ve been told or have learned. Don’t consider the way life is supposed to look. (He didn’t put down the newspaper when you came into the kitchen; he didn’t call to tell you he’d be late; he walked out the door without saying goodbye. Yes, but can you be sure that any of this means that he doesn’t care about you?) Don’t consult the part of you that knows what the answer should be. The question is, does the thought match what you know inside? Does the thought resonate with your deepest sense of reality? Can you absolutely know that it’s true that he doesn’t care about you? (Your answer to the first two questions should consist of one syllable — either “yes” or “no.” If your answer to the first question is “no,” go on to question 3.)

3. Explore how you live when you believe this thought. How do you react, what happens, when you believe the thought “He doesn’t care about me”? What does it feel like to believe it? How do you treat yourself and others? How do you treat him? Take your time with this process. Do you react with sadness? Depression? Anger? Do you withdraw from him? Do you try to win him over? Do you judge yourself and feel like a failure? Do you light up a cigarette or head for the refrigerator? Be as precise and detailed as you can be.

4. Explore what life would be like without the thought. Use your imagination to give yourself a glimpse of who or what you would be if you didn’t believe this thought. Don’t look for a better thought to substitute for the painful one. Just live for a while in the space that opens up when you view your situation without the old thought. Pretend that you don’t even have the ability to think the thought. What would that be like? Look at him in your mind’s eye without the thought, “He doesn’t care about me.” Maybe you’ll simply see a man who is deeply absorbed in reading his newspaper, who loves his wife but doesn’t want to shift his attention to her right now. Maybe without the thought, “He doesn’t care about me” you’ll find it easier to take pleasure in his pleasure.

5. Turn the thought around. Consider opposite versions of the thought. If a certain turnaround doesn’t make sense to you, don’t bother with it. Turn the original statement around any way you want to until you find the turnarounds that penetrate the deepest. Turning around, “He doesn’t care about me”:

I don’t care about him. (When I feel hurt, I withdraw or I get angry, and I don’t care what he feels.)

I don’t care about me. (I don’t care about myself when I go to war against someone I love. I take away my own peace of mind, I put myself in a hostile situation, I create an enemy for myself, I give myself a lot of stress and sadness. This is when addictive behavior such as bingeing, smoking, or overeating begins to kick in.)

He does care about me. (He may love me and still speak harshly to me. He may love me and still want to ignore me or leave me.)

Ask yourself if any of your turned-around versions seem as true as or even truer than your original thought, and if they do, find three genuine ways in which each of them is true in your life.

Turnarounds can dramatically set you free from a thought, especially if you’ve loosened your belief in it by following the earlier steps.

Judge your neighbor, write it down, ask four questions, turn it around. Who says that freedom has to be complicated?

Follow along on Huffington post: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/byron-katie/the-work-its-not-reality-_b_7701054.html

The World Beyond Thought

When you’re shut down and frightened, the world seems hostile; when you love what is, everything in the world becomes the beloved. Inside and outside always match — they’re reflections of each other. The world is the mirror image of your mind.

Not believing your own thoughts, you’re free from the primal desire: the thought that reality should be different than it is. You realize the wordless, the unthinkable. You understand that any mystery is only what you yourself have created. In fact, there’s no mystery. Everything is as clear as day. It’s simple, because there really isn’t anything. There’s only the story appearing now. And not even that.

When you realize that you can only see the world as you believe it to be, you look from a new perspective. The world is an optical illusion. In the end, it’s just you, crazed and miserable, or you, delighted and at peace. Everything happens for you, not to you.

I have questioned my thoughts, and I’ve seen that it’s crazy to argue with what is. I don’t ever want anything to happen except what’s happening. For example, a man sticks a pistol into my stomach, pulls the hammer back, and says, “I’m going to kill you.” I am shocked that he is taking his thoughts so seriously. To someone identified as an I, the thought of killing causes guilt that leads to a life of suffering, so I ask him, as kindly as I can, not to do it. I don’t tell him that it’s his suffering I’m thinking of. He says that he has to do it, and I understand; I remember believing that I had to do things in my old life. I thank him for doing the best he can, and I notice that I’m fascinated. Is this how she dies? Is this how the story ends? And as joy continues to fill me, I find it miraculous that the story is still going on. You can never know the ending, even as it ends. I am very moved at the sight of sky, clouds, and moonlit trees. I love that I don’t miss one moment, one breath, of this amazing life. I wait. And wait. And in the end, he doesn’t pull the trigger. He doesn’t do that to himself.

What we call “bad” and what we call “good” both come from the same place. The Tao Te Ching says that the source of everything is called “darkness.” What a beautiful name (if we must have a name)! Darkness is our source. In the end, it embraces everything. Its nature is love, and in our confusion we name it terror and ugliness, the unacceptable, the unbearable. All our stress results from what we imagine is in that darkness. We imagine darkness as separate from ourselves, and we project something terrible onto it. But in reality, the darkness is always benevolent.

Darkness is the mind that doesn’t know a thing. This don’t-know mind is the center of the universe — it is the universe — there’s nothing outside it. And it’s the gateway to all understanding. Once the darkness is understood, you’re clear that nothing is separate from you. No name, no thought, can possibly be true in an ultimate sense. It’s all provisional; it’s all changing. The dark, the nameless, the unthinkable — that is what you can absolutely trust. It doesn’t change, and it’s benevolent. When you realize this, you just have to laugh. There’s nothing serious about life or death.