Byron Katie: Seeing Things As They Are

An interview with Joanna from,

Byron Katie is a speaker and author, and the creator of The Work, a system that promotes generosity, selflessness and harmony. This extract of her new book A Mind at Home with Itself shows The Work in action:

You’ll notice that Katie is very free in her use of terms of endearment.This annoys some people (not all of them New Yorkers); one reader of Loving What Is grumbled that if she wanted to hear a woman calling everyone “sweetheart” or “honey,” she would go to a truck stop in Oklahoma. To her, these endearments sounded conventional and insincere; for Katie, they are the literal truth. Everyone she meets is the beloved.

JOANNA [reading from her Worksheet]: I’m upset with Dave because he walked away without giving me a hug or acknowledging me.

KATIE: Okay. So what’s the situation? Where are you? Give me a picture of where you and Dave are.

JOANNA: We were in the house, and he walked out the door to go to his car.

KATIE: “He walked away without giving you a hug or acknowledging you”—is it true?

JOANNA: Yes. He turned around and walked out of the house, walked to the car; I chased him to the car, and I was throwing my hands up, and he looked at me, and I said, “What’s going on?”And he said, “What?” I said, “Are you just going to leave?” I felt completely unacknowledged.

KATIE: Sweetheart, the answer to the first two questions is one syllable: yes or no. When we do The Work, we meditate on a stressful moment in time. Notice how your mind will want to justify your position and defend it and talk about it. Just notice that. Then come back to meditating on the question “Is it true?”until you’re shown a solid yes or a solid no. Okay? “He walked away without giving you a hug or acknowledging you”—can you absolutely know that it’s true? You don’t have to guess. Images will show you the answer. It takes stillness. Be a detective. If you believe it’s true, be a detective. Try to prove yourself wrong, but be authentic. You can’t fool yourself. Let the images show you. It takes courage to look. So can you absolutely know that it’s true?

JOANNA [after a few moments]: No.

KATIE: Just feel that answer. Give it time to sink in. If you find a no, good; if you find a yes, that’s good too. Then give your answer some room to be absorbed. Sometimes it’s difficult when no is the answer. We may even feel that it’s not fair for him to be right. We don’t want to give him that. [Pause] Okay, let’s move on now to the third question. Continue to meditate on that moment in time, with your eyes closed. Notice how you react, what happens to you emotionally, when you believe the thought “He didn’t hug or acknowledge me.” Does your chest tighten? Does your stomach flip over? Do you get heated? Do you experience anxiety? Do you attack him with words or a look? A demand? An insult or some form of punishment? Notice. How do you react when you believe the thought “He walked away without giving me a hug or acknowledging me”?

JOANNA: I get very anxious and needy. Very needy. I doubt myself. I doubt my worthiness. My self-worth goes down. And then I feel like I have to beg him for attention. Then I start thinking, “Oh, I’m too needy.” And I question everything. I get a desperate feeling almost. Reaching, like trying to grasp for something that’s not real.

KATIE: Just experience that, and keep your eyes closed. Who or what would you be in that situation without that thought, as you witness this man you love as he walks to the car. Who would you be without the thought “He walked away without giving me a hug or acknowledging me”?

JOANNA: I would just notice him walk to the car. [The audience laughs.]

KATIE: Continue to witness that moment without the thought.

JOANNA: I’d probably notice what a handsome guy he is, too. [More laughter] So does that mean in the future when he walks away I should recognize . . .

KATIE: It’s only about right here, right now, as you witness that moment, only the one you’re contemplating now.

JOANNA: Should I never expect him to give me a hug? Should I just accept that that’s what he does?

KATIE: Now we’re in a discussion, and discussions will never solve your problem. Let’s move back to The Work.


KATIE: This Work is about noticing what was really happening, not what you thought onto what was happening. It’s not a plan for what to do next. Right now we’re just looking at who you would be in that situation without the thought, without this condition that you put on him. It’s sometimes hard for us to answer this question.The ego wants to be right, it doesn’t want to let him off the hook for not being able to read your mind. We think that if we see who we would be without the thought, then he’s right and we’re wrong,and it’s worth holding on to our anger, because he’s wrong and we’re right.

JOANNA: I think it’s not so much anger. It’s just a feeling of rejection. How do you . . .

KATIE: Yes. It hurts.

JOANNA: I don’t want to feel that anymore.

KATIE: Do you love him?


KATIE: All right. Close your eyes. Drop your story, just for a moment. Look at him going to the car. Look how free he is. He loves you so much he doesn’t have to hug you. [Laughter] This is one secure guy. If you drop your story, you’re open to learning. But as long as you believe your story, you’re just open to pain. In fact, you become the cause of your suffering—but only totally. How do I know? It hurts. He’s free. He doesn’t have to tell you goodbye.

JOANNA: Yes, he’s free. He doesn’t understand.

KATIE: He’s completely innocent. Do you see it?

JOANNA: Yes, I do see it. Very clearly.

KATIE: Good. “He walked away without giving me a hug or acknowledging me.” How would you turn that around? What’s an opposite?

JOANNA: He . . .

KATIE: “He didn’t give me a hug or acknowledge me”—turn it around.

JOANNA: He did give me a hug and acknowledge me.

KATIE: Okay. So, tell me, as you witness that situation, where is it that he did give you a hug and acknowledge you?

JOANNA: Well, when he got to the car, he did acknowledge me when I made it clear he hadn’t, or how I felt he hadn’t. He looked at me and said, “What do you want me to do?”

KATIE: And did you say, “You are so handsome! I’d like you to give me a hug, sweetheart.”

JOANNA: I did say it.

KATIE: You did?

JOANNA: Yes. But I didn’t say it like that. [Loud laughter]

KATIE: Oh, you’re fun to hug. In that moment.

JOANNA: Yeah, I could tell it was not as . . . I said, “Well, are you going to leave without giving me a hug or acknowledging me?” Exactly like that. He was just leaving.

KATIE: So you didn’t ask for a hug.

JOANNA: You’re right. I didn’t.

KATIE: You asked a question you already had the answer to.


KATIE: And then did he hug you?

JOANNA: He did.

KATIE: And you didn’t even ask.

JOANNA: It was . . . a hug. It wasn’t exactly what I wanted, but it was a hug.

KATIE: It wasn’t the hug you wanted. Did you instruct him?

JOANNA: It felt like he was doing it because I asked him.

KATIE: Because you threatened him. [Laughter] You didn’t ask him.

JOANNA: Exactly.

KATIE: Is this starting to make sense to you?

JOANNA: Yes, it is.

KATIE: I love this Work. I love that through inquiry you begin to see who he lives with. [Laughter]

KATIE: So “he didn’t hug or acknowledge me.” Turn it around: “I didn’t . . .”

JOANNA: I didn’t hug or acknowledge him. That’s true. I could have run and grabbed him and hugged him.

KATIE: Yes. Other than what you were believing, you’re as free as he is. That’s a beautiful thing. Okay, let’s look at statement 2. In that situation, what did you want from him?

JOANNA: I want Dave to hold me and look at me before he leaves. Just to look at me.

KATIE: You want him to hold you and look at you before he leaves?

JOANNA: Right. Sometimes I feel like he looks past me.

KATIE: Okay. Now, witness that situation. Close your eyes. “You want him to hold you and look at you before he leaves”—is it true? You know those things you think you really want? Maybe you don’t. You don’t even stop to ask yourself. You just go on believing. So in that situation, “You want him to hold you and look at you before he leaves”—is it true?

JOANNA: In that moment, yes.

KATIE: And after what you’ve seen now? Is it true?

JOANNA: Not as . . . No. Not really.

KATIE: No. Now notice what happens to you and how you react when you believe that thought. And, again, we’re not guessing, are we?[To the audience] Do you all see the images of the two of them, for yourselves? How many of you have become an instant victim of your thoughts? A martyr? [To Joanna] And nothing’s happening except that the man’s going to the car! [Laughter] You’re suffering. You’re a victim. And it’s all his fault! So, who’s the cause of the suffering? Is it him? Or you?

JOANNA: It’s me.

KATIE: And notice how you treat him when you believe this thought. He’s free. He’s walking to the car. “I want him to hold me and look at me before he leaves.”

JOANNA: I start believing all sorts of stories: that he doesn’t really care, that he doesn’t love me.

KATIE: So who would you be without the thought, watching him go to the car, without the thought “I want him to hold me and look at me”?

JOANNA: I would just be happy with what happened. I would just be happy and grateful for what he’s doing. For exactly who he is, how he is, in that moment. I would just love him.

KATIE: Yes. Now let’s turn it around. “I want him to hold me and look at me before he leaves.”

JOANNA: I don’t want him to hold me and look at me before he leaves.

KATIE: What does that mean to you?

JOANNA: I don’t want him to because he doesn’t want to. He doesn’t want to, necessarily. It doesn’t mean anything.

KATIE: He probably doesn’t even know you’re there. I mean, only you can know as you look at the situation. What else does it mean to you? “I don’t want him to hold me and look at me before he leaves.” I have one. Would you like to hear it?

JOANNA: Please. Yes, definitely.

KATIE: Did you ask him, “Would you please hold me and look at me before you leave?”

JOANNA: No, I didn’t ask. I just assumed.

KATIE: Is he psychic? [Laughter]

JOANNA: No. I guess I just wanted him to want to.

KATIE: You wanted him . . .

JOANNA: To just be natural. That it would just be natural that he would want to.

KATIE: He is being natural. He’s going to the car. Naturally. That’s his natural. [Laughter] There are two men: there’s the man in your head, and then there’s him. [Laughter] And when he is not the man of your imagination, you punish him. You become cold, or whatever it was you did. Like saying, “Were you going to leave without hugging me?” In that tone of voice. Okay? You become the one he didn’t fall in love with.

JOANNA: Right. That’s so true.

KATIE: “I want him to hold me and look at me before he leaves”—is it true? I know it’s not true because you didn’t ask. [To the audience] If you ask and he doesn’t do it, you again get to meet the man you’re with. [To Joanna] So let’s play that out. Okay? You be the man who doesn’t want to. That’s where you’re going, right? Okay. I’ll be you, and you be Dave. “Would you hold me and look at me before you leave?”

JOANNA: “I can’t. I’m too mad at you. I can’t do it.”

KATIE: “Because you’re too mad at me? Oh, I understand that completely. And would you hold me and look at me even though you’re mad? Could you possibly do that? It’s really important to me. I really don’t care about how you feel right now.” [Laughter]

JOANNA: “Well, that’s too bad, because I don’t care about how you feel either, so have a good day.”

KATIE: “Wow! That’s really good advice: ‘Have a good day.’ Thank you, sweetheart. I’m going to work on that one.”

JOANNA: So your point is to not take things personally and that nobody . . .

KATIE: No, my point is that I can’t change him. Do you want to hug and look into someone’s eyes when you don’t want to?

JOANNA: No, of course not. But don’t we want that from the love of our life?

KATIE: Well, when I want that, I ask Stephen. “Sweetheart, would you look into my eyes and hold me?” If he’s busy, I’ve got an entire population to ask. [Laughter] I can just step out the door and ask the first person I see. [Laughter] Stephen is never too busy, in my experience. But if he were, and I really wanted to be held, why would that stop me? I’m serious. Do you understand that?

JOANNA: But I want it from one person and nobody else.

KATIE: Well, this is just all about me. I’m the one who wants to be held. I’m the one who wants someone to look into my eyes. What does it have to do with him? He’s just handy. [Laughter]

JOANNA: Okay, so . . .

KATIE: You want him to fix you. Isn’t that all that’s happening? “You give me what I need to feel secure, or we’ve got a problem here. I mean, this is all about me.” It would be more honest if you said, “I’m not really doing well, and I know that you don’t want to hug me now, and I know you’re really mad, but I need you to help me because I don’t know another way. Please help me. Help me. Help me. Help me.”

JOANNA: And this person is most likely incapable.

KATIE: He says no.

JOANNA: And probably because he’s incapable of it, no matter what.

KATIE: Well, he just says no. Okay? So, I’m the one left with me, since it’s all about me anyway. I’m left to take care of myself. Can you find another turnaround? Put yourself on all of it. “I want me . . .”

JOANNA: Oh. I want me to hold me and look at me before I leave.

KATIE: Yes, before I completely leave reality. I am a mess. I need to be held. So, as you watch him leave, you might sit there, hold yourself sweetly, and rock, because you’ve got a big problem and it’s not because of him. So put your arms around yourself, hold yourself, get still. If I have a problem, I don’t look to my husband to solve it; that’s not his job. I look to myself. That’s quite a shortcut. It’s for people in a hurry. And as a result, I’m close to my husband—closer than close.That closeness is mine. It’s intimate. I’m connected. So let’s keep traveling. You’re doing really well. “I want me to hold me . . .”

JOANNA: I want me to hold me and look at me . . .

KATIE: Yes. If that doesn’t hold your interest, why would it hold his? [Laughter]

JOANNA: Right.

KATIE: And you can really hold yourself. There are many ways of doing it. And you can go to the mirror and look into your eyes. If you drop your story and really look, you’ll meet the love of your life. We can’t receive that from another human being until we find it in ourselves, until finally we discover that it’s not possible to be rejected.

JOANNA: Thank you. Thank you so much, Katie.

KATIE: You’re very welcome.

A conversation between Katie and Eileen Fisher in the LifeWork Embodiment Lounge

Eileen Fisher and Byron Katie dive in and explore topics that include anxiety, creative mind, how to serve, conscious consumerism, and a fearless state of mind.

This conversation was filmed live at the Eileen Fisher Embodiment Lounge at the Wisdom 2.0 conference in San Francisco in February 2017.

Discover LifeWork, an evolving collection of resources to make your day a little more interesting:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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An Interview with Sunita Sehmi

Who would you be without your story? An interview with Byron Katie, founder of The Work.

Byron Katie, founder of The Work, has one job: to teach people how to end their own suffering. She has been bringing The Work to millions of people for more than twenty-five years. Her six books include the bestselling Loving What Is, I Need Your Love—Is That True? and A Thousand Names for Joy. The Work of Byron Katie is a way of identifying and questioning the thoughts that cause all the fear and suffering in the world. In this one-day workshop, Katie’s hope is that you experience the happiness of undoing those thoughts through inquiry and allow your mind to return to its awakened, peaceful, creative nature. The Work consists of four questions and the turnarounds, which are a way of experiencing the opposite of what you believe. When you question a thought, you see around it to the choices beyond suffering. I was very privileged to interview her. I hope you enjoy this as much as I did!

Sunita Sehmi: Tell us about yourself.

Byron Katie: My background was pure suffering. I was deeply depressed for ten years, alcoholic, obese, agoraphobic, suicidal. I didn’t think that there was a way out. Every day I wanted to die. During the last two years of this, I could hardly leave my bedroom. I slept with a loaded pistol under my pillow. I would sometimes go for two weeks without being able to bathe or brush my teeth, so intense was my self-loathing. Then one morning in February 1986, out of nowhere, I experienced a life-changing realization. In that instant of no time, I discovered that when I believed my thoughts, I suffered, but that when I didn’t believe them, I didn’t suffer, and that this is true for every human being. Freedom is as simple as that. I found that suffering is optional. I found a joy within me that has never disappeared, not for a single moment. That joy is in everyone, always.

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What It Means To Awaken

“I think Byron Katie is just a real thing. I love her to death. She’s pure and her intent is only to serve and she brings people back to reality so quickly. Teaches them not to believe their limiting thoughts and to question them and find the real truth.” —Tony Robbins

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