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.

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The Good News

Stephen and I were talking about Jesus and the Gospel, which he told me means “the good news.” He asked me what I thought of Jesus’s message. Here is an edited version:

There’s nothing that isn’t good news. The good news is that there is no bad news. I imagine that Jesus saw goodness in all things. He received everything with an open mind and heart, and he realized that every experience is given, every experience is a gift. It’s falling down, it’s getting up, it’s your everyday chores, it’s the smell of fresh strawberries, the smell of garbage, it’s the death of a loved one, it’s your husband falling in love with another woman, it’s everything that happens in your life, whether you believe that it’s good or bad. He saw the apparent bad as good, because he no longer lived in the world of opposites, the world where there is anything powerful enough to override the true nature of everything. He had understood this good news, the nature of things, so deeply that he could live it.

This is another way of saying that Jesus trusted God with all his heart. He called God “Father” not because he imagined God as a human being sitting above the clouds, but because to his mind a father was pure generosity. I don’t think Jesus was a mystic; he didn’t have visions or exotic experiences; he saw and heard and smelled just what you or I see and hear and smell. But he saw it all as good. He knew what the Bible meant when it says that on the sixth day God looked at all of creation and said, “It is very good.”

People usually talk about God as if He were a character in a story. I don’t think that Jesus saw God that way. I think that he saw God with a clear mind, as everything. For me, the word God means “reality.” Reality is God, because it rules. I often say, and I love to repeat this: If you argue with reality, you lose—but only 100 percent of the time.

I can always trust God’s will, and I don’t have to guess what it is. Whatever happens is God’s will. Whether I live or die, whether my husband and children live or die, whether I am rich or poor, sick or well, whether there is war or peace, abundance or famine, sunshine or hurricane or earthquake, that is God’s will, and therefore it’s my will. I’m in love with reality, and reality includes everything: both sides of everything. My arms are open to it all.

The story goes that “God” gave the commandments to Moses on Mount Sinai. I don’t know what happened, if anything, on Sinai. But I do know that if God is a character in a story, I have to project all sorts of qualities onto him. If I believe that he is judgmental and punishes disobedience, like a strict father, I have to live in fear. If I believe that he is compassionate and loving, I’ll live in trust—until something apparently bad happens or until things don’t go my way. After the Newtown massacre in 2012, I heard a priest say on television that God was sad because He couldn’t keep it from happening. I can see why people get angry or disappointed at a God like that. But with either version of God—the cruel, judgmental one or the well-meaning, powerless one—people are simply reacting to their own projection.

Even if you project God as all-loving, all-compassionate, and all-forgiving, that God is still too far away for me. He is still separate, and there is no freedom in separation. It has to be closer than that. With anything you love, with anyone you love, you always want to be closer, closer. For me, God means no separation. No separation, physical or mental. When the mind can no longer separate God from reality, we are left in the state of total intimacy. We become one with reality in an entirely new way, and that’s a beautiful thing.

I have spent a lot of time in the desert, apparently lost, and very comfortable in being lost. I’ve spent hours watching insects going about their lives. I’ve watched a bird in a cactus or in the crevice of a hill gathering materials for a nest, with everything supplied for it to do that, an abundance of everything. Its wings carry it wherever it needs to go, and it even has feet to hop on, and it knows its way around, and everything works perfectly in unison for it to get what it needs. Everything the bird has eaten and drunk nourishes its body, and its life is so simple, water and air and earth all working together as the original mother of perfection. That perfection is always going on, everywhere. Other than what you’re believing about it, what else could reality be? What else could you be?

Those insects, those birds, were always acting within their own integrity. They were following God’s simple commandment. No external authority can give you the peace of heart that you feel when you act from your own integrity. And how can there be an external authority? Isn’t that just you, believing what someone else says is true? The truth can only come from within your mind. Ultimately, no matter what someone tells you to think, you’re the one who believes it or not, and responsibility begins and ends in the innocence of believing. Life is a projection of mind, and you’re the projector. You are the authority. You always have been.

I experience reality as something so benevolent, so beautiful, so pure that there is no word for it. I don’t have a problem calling it “God.” It exists wherever I turn my eyes (and even saying “exists” is saying too much). When I first realized this, I was amazed. I was ecstatic, and I still am. God, God, God—that was the song I heard. That is the song I keep singing. There is nothing that doesn’t fit into this kindness, this pure abundance. And who of right mind wouldn’t be devoted to it? It was—is—so obvious. That’s where I found myself—on my knees internally, at its feet, without reservation, unceasingly, awake to what I had realized. God, for me, is the beloved, the goodness and purity of the world. And in my experience, I can’t know God until I know myself.

Stephen tells me that the Hebrew name for God can mean “That which is.” “That which is” is an excellent name for God. God is everything. Everything is good, and when we don’t experience it that way, we suffer. Seeing anything in your life as unacceptable obliterates God’s goodness. But it obliterates it only for you, only for a while. God’s goodness doesn’t change. It is what it is, whatever you think it is, until it’s not. And for this we have inquiry.

If you‘ve enjoyed sitting in on this conversation, let me know, and it can continue.

Loving what is all,

Question: What does that mean, “take on the role of God”?

“Until we know that death is as good as life, and that it always comes in its own sweet way, we’re going to take on the role of God without the awareness of it, and it’s always going to hurt. Whenever you mentally oppose what is, you’re going to experience sadness and apparent separation. There’s no sadness without a story.
What is is. You are it.”

What does that mean, “take on the role of God”?
– Mark

Thank you for your question, Mark. “Taking on the role of God” means that we step into the identity of the wise one, that one who knows what should happen, and so we try to control things, out of this I-know mind.

We think that we know what is best for the people we love and for ourselves.

We oppose reality, and whenever we do, it hurts.

We believe our thought that death is a bad thing, we are sad or angry when someone we love dies, and we are afraid of dying ourselves.

This is the I-know mind, pure arrogance, the sufferer.

I invite all of you reading this to send me your stories about the pain of taking on the role of God and the experience of not taking it on. What did you notice? What was it like for you? What did you realize?

Letter from a Soldier

Dear Katie,

My name is David. I am a 25 year old man who has been in search of tranquility, serenity, peace, and surrender for the past ten years. About six months ago I really started to work on myself spiritually, I’ve been trying to become a man that does not judge others and can express unconditional love. I have taken a deep interest in some spiritual teachers such as Ram Dass, Eckhart Tolle, and Thich Nhat Hanh. I understand that presence and surrender can be reached now, but it is still an ongoing challenge for me to create a no mind. There are many helpful tools that you have to offer and many circumstances you discuss that help people out in their everyday situations. I was wondering if you can discuss or post something on a podcast about individuals in the military that are currently deployed in a war zone. This is the circumstance that I am in at this moment. I try to find as much tranquility as possible from my present circumstance, but sometimes it becomes very difficult. I feel that I become very unconscious in a combat situation and my environment is not conducive for presence. I understand what I am asking is probably not going to happen, but its worth a shot. If you do read this email…..thank you. But if you are too busy, I completely understand. Thank you for your time.

Respectfully sent, David

Dearest David,

You can’t create a no-mind, a don’t-know mind; it already exists, and it doesn’t need to be created. In my experience, as we question our stressful thoughts, we begin to experience the no-mind, without effort. It ceases to be something we’re trying to do and begins to be experienced as a natural state of being.

Question any thoughts about the future that come to your mind. If the mind believes a stressful thought that is even thirty seconds in the future, it will naturally leave you out of the now, frightened, depressed and lonely. Here are some things you may sometimes feel in your situation. You can question any of them that seem relevant:

I’ll never get through this.

I don’t know what I’m doing here.

This is never going to end.

I can’t handle it.

I want to go home.

I’m going to die here.

It’s very important when you’re using the four questions to understand that the moment you stop answering the questions, The Work stops working; for example, as you’re answering, when you notice your mind wanting to defend or justify the concept that you’re questioning, with something like, “Yes, because” or “No, but.” Just allow the answers to the first two questions to be your own honest yes or no only, and even though you may be sure that your truth is “yes,” for example, allow the “no” equal rights, test it as well, against the first two questions and allow your answer to drop in, to fall into the depths of yourself. Give your answer time to live in you before you continue on to the next question. Allow your feelings fully in the third question, give them time to express themselves completely. Watch, witness, experience how you react when you believe that thought. Be still with the fourth question as well. Notice who you would be without that thought. Who would you be in life if you didn’t believe the thought that you are questioning? Also, when you’re doing the turnarounds, with each turnaround it’s important to find examples of how each turnaround is true in your life. The turnarounds are not meant to be “positive affirmations”; they have to be genuine and real, not manufactured as feel-good (even though some of them really shift your life to an authentic state of “feel-goodness”).

There is no internal or external war that cannot be worked through, if peace is your goal. The Work works for those whose minds are open to it, whatever the circumstances. I love that you do The Work for the love of truth, for the love of peace and no other motive.

Also, if you fill in Judge-Your-Neighbor Worksheets, there are people within the Institute for The Work of Byron Katie whose hearts’ desire it would be to facilitate you, at no charge, as a service to you as a soldier. (You can do this through Skype.) Freedom from fear is possible in a war zone, even on a battlefield. I love that you understand that the world, including war zones, is not the problem; what we’re believing about the world is the problem. Our beliefs create our internal war zone, and the end of suffering is possible, one belief at a time, for everyone whose mind is open to this inquiry, The Work.

I send you my love and gratitude for your life in this world, and anything that I can do to serve you, please return this email with your request.

In deepest gratitude,

Loving what is, and that would be you,

Byron Katie

Dear Katie,
I am forever grateful for your email. I really appreciate the fact that you took the time out of your busy schedule for me, it really means a lot! The questions that you mentioned all applied to me, especially the one that states “I’m going to die here.” The danger that I have been exposed to has brought up feelings of stress and anxiety. But I have never felt more compelled to be present and at peace, to share love and compassion with fellow service members, locals, and even the enemy. As we all know, war is a terrible unconscious act of humanity as a whole. My acceptance and surrender to this is becoming more apparent every day. Your teachings have really helped me find the tranquility that I have longed for. Thanks again.


Is it True? Our Mind Creates Our Reality

A while back a friend sent me the following quote, from the Indian Buddhist teacher Aryadeva. He wrote this almost 1900 years ago:

To question that things might not be as they seem can shake the very foundation of habitual clinging. This questioning spirit is the starting point for self-reflection. Could it be that this tightly-knit sense of self is not what it seems? Do we really need to hold everything together, and can we? Is there life beyond self-importance? These kinds of questions open the door to investigating the cause of our suffering.

“The actual practice of self-reflection requires us to step back, examine our experience, and not succumb to the momentum of habitual mind. This allows us to look without judgment at whatever arises, and this goes directly against the grain of our self-importance.

“Self-reflection is the common thread that runs through all traditions and lineages of Buddhist practice. It also takes us beyond the boundaries of formal practice. We can bring the questioning spirit of self-reflection to any situation, at any time. Self-reflection is an attitude, an approach, and a practice. In nutshell, it is a way to make practice come alive for us personally.”

Interesting. The old is new, and the new old.

Back to the present. The phone rings.

I say yes or no.

There are not many ways to directly answer people’s questions.

And as these answers flow out of what’s true for me in this moment, out of this pure power within me, the world is shaped on the other side of the phone, mind is influenced, interpretations form, life moves this way or that as effect, it seems. How else could the world be created?

They say, “It’s your fault,” and I think, “Isn’t it odd that after the fact they would hear a yes or a no in such a way?”

Or they say, “Thank you, thank you thank you,” and I think, “Isn’t it odd that such power is given to such simple answers, yes or no?”

The world is created as I sit here, it springs into being and is mirrored back to me as life. It’s wonderful not to be the doer.

Everything is a story. The mind spins stories out and you believe what the mind tells you. Every time you are stressed out or fearful, you are believing what the mind is telling you. The Work is about discovering what is true and what is not true for you, the difference between reality and imagination.

A Letter from Justina in West Cork, Ireland

Dear Katie,

I just wanted to write and tell you that yesterday was my first time doing a seminar where I incorporated ‘The Work of Byron Katie’ into the area I usually cover. I was so excited. At first, beforehand, I got a bit nervous,but then I worked it and discovered that what I was feeling was excitement and not nervousness, as what was happening for me was that I was introducing you and who could feel anything but excited about that!

It was amazing. It felt like you were there with me. I’d do my bit and then talk about the work and say well let’s hear what Katie has to say and show them extracts from your interview with Josh and some pieces from the videos on The I did two meditations with them and you did one from the meditation DVDs.(!) They did JYN worksheets, one belief at a time worksheets and some work on accepting criticism. They loved it and really began to meet their difficult thoughts head on and watch them dissolve. We ended with the aim to get together and begin an inquiry circle. I hope that happens but I’m open to whatever comes.

It wasn’t a big group – yet 😉 – I live in a very small town in West Cork, Ireland and they were there because of what I do around my book Dance with Life. Though I did say this was an opportunity to experience The Work of Byron Katie as part of that, I wasn’t sure as to how they would react and of course their reaction was wonderful. What other reaction could there have been?

I am so grateful to you and to the school as after the school training I felt so prepared to just be able to be still and trust the work to work without my input, interference or ‘help’.

So I just wanted you to know that a part of you participated in a workshop here and through the awesome powers of internet and DVDs, some people in a small Irish town now have a connection to you and The Work. And most of all I wanted to thank you for that support and for all the ways you help me to move the work.

much love


One time I came back from a trip and everything was stolen.

I loved it.

I couldn’t find one true thought about needing anything.

As I stood there, Paul, my husband at the time, was very upset. He still believed these things were his, although they already belonged to someone else. He suffered and suffered.

Anxiety – The Beginning of Wisdom

An uncomfortable feeling is not an enemy.

It’s a gift that says, “Get honest; inquire.”

We reach out for alcohol, or television, or credit cards, so we can focus out there and not have to look at the feeling. And that’s as it should be, because in our innocence we haven’t known how.

So now what we can do is reach out for a paper and a pencil, write the thought down, and investigate.

Live Now: Just Do the Dishes!

Become mindful of how often your conversations focus on the past or future.

Be aware of the verbs you use: was, did, will, are going to, etc. To speak of the past in the present is to reawaken and recreate it fully in the present, if only in our minds, and then we are lost to what is present for us now. To speak of the future is to create and live with a fantasy.

If you want to experience fear, think of the future.

If you want to experience shame and guilt, think of the past.

Just focus on the dishes in front of you.

“Doing the dishes” is a practice of learning to love the action that is in front of you. Your inner voice or intuition guides you all day long to do simple things such as doing the dishes, driving to work, or sweeping the floor. Allow the sanctity of simplicity. Listening to your inner voice and then acting on its suggestions with implicit trust creates a life that is more graceful, effortless, and miraculous.

The miracle of now.