Here’s an article from the Japan Times about Nina and Ashik Peter Lynch as they move The Work in Japan. I can’t thank them enough.
The Work: Four Questions for a Peaceful Mind
By Angela Jeffs
Nina Lynch and her husband, Ashik, share The Work of Byron Katie, a simple method to change our views of our lives from negative to positive, and so make better lives.
As Nina explains: “[Byron Katie] was able to see that her suffering continued as long as she believed her stressful thoughts, and when she questioned them she discovered that reality, truth, or ‘that which is,’ was much kinder and more benign than she’d been experiencing.” In that realization, Byron Katie found a simple technique based on four questions that can be used by anyone to question their thoughts and radically change their lives. She calls it The Work.
Nina found The Work while staying in Kyoto some years ago. “A friend gave me Byron Katie’s book Loving What Is. Having read it, I did The Work, then attended workshops, and the nine-day intensive School with Katie in Los Angeles.”
Since then Nina has staffed Katie’s schools and weekend workshops and takes every opportunity to participate in her events as well as working as a volunteer on the hotline, which is available to anyone through Katie’s Web site. “If you have stress in your life, if you worry about money, if you have relationship issues, are depressed, unhappy, are an unsatisfied seeker of truth, or are in any way discontented with your life, The Work is for you.
“It’s changed my life,” she continues. “I’m a happier, more productive person and I know that life is kind and good to me. My deepest wish is to share The Work with anyone who wants to experience truth and be free from suffering.”
Nina does sessions and worldwide teleclasses of The Work from her home. After introducing The Work informally to small groups in Tokyo in July, she and Ashik will be presenting The Work at Circle of Light in Tokyo’s Ogikubo on Sept. 17, and then will facilitate a weekend workshop in Omote-sando on the 23rd and 24th, “The Way to a Peaceful Mind.” The workshop will be primarily in English, though there will be Japanese translators available, and Nina and Ashik can be helpful in Japanese, German, French and Spanish if necessary.
“We’re available in Tokyo from Sept. 15th to the 30th for in-person sessions, for individuals, groups and couples, and we do phone sessions, both classes and individually, with people from all over the world. For the teleclasses we use Skype Internet telephony.”
Nina has always been a seeker. Her first memory of looking for answers was when at age 11 she went to every church in her hometown of Oxford, England, asking how to find God.
From then until now, Nina has not stopped searching “for myself, for peace of mind, enlightenment, whatever you call it.” She began the study of meditation in India 30 years ago, and it’s been a part of her daily life ever since. Since India she has traveled all over Europe and North America, where she now makes her home, and lived in Japan for four years.
“When I met Byron Katie and started to do The Work daily, my internal and external life totally changed. It is the key that I needed to unlock my meditation. Now my mind is clearer, stress is disappearing, joy is abundant.”
Nina continues to do The Work on an everyday basis. Personally I learned how after commenting on a statement she made in an e-mail, “This house is a wonderful sanctuary up here in the mountains and it helps to make my life much easier,” and asked her, “Why did you feel your life was hard?” Her reply gave me an idea of how The Work works, just four questions followed by a turning around of the original thought to its opposite:
“My life is hard. Is that true?
“Yes, sometimes I feel it is.
“Can I absolutely know that it is true?
“No, I can’t know that it’s true beyond any doubt at all.
“How do I react when I think that thought?
“I think of the things that I think are difficult, like: getting enough money, my feet hurt sometimes because I have stiff joints in my toes and sometimes it is harder to walk than other times, then that means I put on more weight and am not so healthy. Sometimes I think that living with Ashik is hard because, like me, he’s not always easy. Or I think that life in America is hard because of all the negatives I can so easily get into . . . and so on, so I can end up feeling more unhappy.”
Nina now turns her stressful thought around to its opposite: “Who would I be without that thought?
“I’d see my comfortable bed that I sleep on, that I slept on really well last night. I would see a fridge full of food, vegetables growing in the garden, friends close by who I trust, and we’re supportive and helpful to each other. My blood family, though they live far away, don’t give up on me, and one of my sisters is coming to visit soon. I’d see how many things are actually fine and perfect as they are and I’d feel full of gratitude.”
Nina then looks for at least three examples of this opposite, which turn out to be actual examples of how reality is different, and more peaceful, than the stories her mind had decided to attach itself to:
“One, my life is easy, because I have a wonderful man in my life who is currently fixing the lights in our living room, something that I can’t do, and it would take me a lot of time and energy to learn, so it’s very convenient that he does it.
“Two, I have always been taken care of; it was only my thinking that said life was hard. For example, though I grew up being poor in England, we never starved, we always had enough.
“Three, when I first went to live in Japan, and arrived with no language and no money, people offered help, gave me a place to stay, took care of me.”
Nina believes The Work can be just as much a powerful tool toward healing in Japan as in the English-speaking world. She is producing a Japanese edition of extracts from Katie’s book, which is already available as a download from Katie’s Web site.
Nina quotes Katie as saying that there are only three things we actually do in life: sit, stand or lie horizontal. All the rest is a story.
“The Work 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. Turn it around, undo it. You are what exists before all stories. You are what remains when the story is understood.”
Here is a wonderful letter from Johannes about his experience during this summer’s School at Bad Neuenahr and after. Originally published in last month’s Parlor, it is worth reading again and again. Thank you, Johannes!
Sorry, that my English is so bad. Therefore I have to write in German. I hope, there is someone who can translate it for you.
[The rest of the letter is in German and has been translated (with some polishing by Stephen) by Gabriele Brunner, who does such an excellent job translating my words at the School for The Work in Germany. I highly recommend her. Her email address is gabribrunner [at] yahoo.de.]
I was a participant at the last School and am still full of gratitude for this great experience. I have invested a lot in my process of personal growth and spiritual development up to now, but what you gave me in the School certainly made it the best and most effective thing I have ever done. I got exactly the right tools for the rest of my life and I have the option now to explore to the depths the question “Who am I without my story?” and to find peace within myself.
My father was a Protestant minister like almost all my ancestors back to the seventeenth century. He was a man who was very torn inside, who could find no peace in God, but who fought as a warrior of faith against the evil world and wanted to convert it to his faith.
I was given my first name in honour of an eighteenth-century theologian who had written a catechism. I recently looked at the old book and discovered that, funnily enough, the theologians of the time did The Work in their own way to provide believers with answers to their religious questions. After each religious belief is stated, there is the question: “How can I know that this is true?” For example: “God created the world—How can I know that this is true?” And then comes the explanation.
When we did the exercise about the worst stories that had happened to us, I was dealing with my family history, the whole terrifying tradition of Christianity, all these warriors of faith and desperate God-seekers and how I ought to hold that. When I deleted the untrue thoughts from the story, I distilled it down to this: “Johannes Quistorp—the story of a family. His great-grandfather was manic-depressive, and he named his son Gottfried (peace in God). This man also named his first son Gottfried, and this Gottfried died at the age of eighteen. His second son (my father) was manic-depressive and gave his son the middle name of Gottfried name in memory of his brother. This Johannes-Gottfried (me) left the church, had himself sterilized and is doing The Work now. He is beginning like a child, over and over again, to find his peace in “God.”
I have to report another beautiful experience that happened during the School. I was in my room, still lying in bed when my roommate, Jim, came out of the bathroom and said something I misunderstood because my English is so bad. He said, “It’s all yours.” And my very first thought was: God shows Adam the Garden of Eden and says to him, “It’s all yours.”
During the morning walk, in the “Naming the World” exercise, I heard over and over again a voice within me saying, “It’s all yours.” It also crossed my mind that God had added a but: “But you may not eat from the Tree of Knowledge.” I had the feeling that once I had named the world with its original names, I had spat out the apple of the Tree of Knowledge.
Then, at breakfast, when I wanted to eat an apple I looked at the apple and looked at the world and said to myself, “It’s all yours.” I see the apple, I see the world and (!) I bite into the apple. I am no longer in the Garden of Eden, I have fallen into duality and this is why both are there: “It’s all yours” and the bite into the apple of knowledge—they’re equal and there are always both of them. I am a human being, who knows about the world and knows about where I come from, where my home is.
On another morning walk I had another exciting experience. We were walking down a street lined with trees, on the left and on the right, and after a while, when I looked exactly and saw “literally” what was happening, the truth was that it was not I who was walking down the street but the trees that were coming toward me, passing me and disappearing behind me: in other words, the world was passing through me and I was always exactly where I was. When I looked through the trees up to the sky the truth was that the trees were passing me as the movement happened, but the sky, just like me, always stayed in the same place. I am always connected to the sky when I am not hurrying through the world in search of some kind of experience, when I really am where I am.
The next morning, while we were walking in the woods, single file in a long line, I had the same perception and simultaneously felt deeply connected to the whole School family. You can also perceive the same thing when you drive your car in the countryside. The landscape comes toward you, passes you by and disappears in the rear view mirror, but I am in my auto (which literally translated means “self”), I always stay in my “auto,” in my self, and I am actually not moving.
During the next morning walk, I closed my eyes again and again in between naming things, to collect myself and to see the world with my inner vision. This resulted in the following rhythm: 2 steps—open eyes—breathe in / take in, 2 steps—close eyes—breathe out / give away—or vice versa. Or 4 steps—close eyes—breathe in and out, 4 steps—open eyes—breathe in an out, so that in the end the inner and outer vision, taking and giving, were one and there was no longer any difference between them.
Finally I would like to tell you about my experience sitting on a bench in Cologne. I closed my eyes, and in the beginning I was still identifying what I heard. Sometimes there were so many noises that I was not able to differentiate them: there was just space, listening and naming. Everything goes straight through me and I can collect myself. My ears turn more and more toward the inside and I become very vast. I hear/feel my heartbeat and I am all ears: I become one big ear. I am so open that even when there is a sudden loud noise, I notice, very precisely, that nothing contracts within me. At that moment an expression by the great German poet Rilke came to my mind—Rilke had named the experience so strikingly, with a single (!) word that is not a metaphor, but reality. He called it “worldinnerspace” – a true primal word for this experience.
Later I am standing at a spot close to the Rhine. I close my eyes again and listen to my heartbeat and feel that I am the center of my world. Many different sounds are coming from all sides. At first my closed eyes are still going in the direction where the sounds are coming from, but then they give in: the things outside fall into the inner world and pass through me as if there were no me at all. Outside and inside become transparent. The more I enter the receptive, the more subtly and clearly I can let everything through. All over my body I feel my heartbeat, every single heartbeat very precisely, then I open my eyes very slowly, slowly let my gaze go wherever it wants to go, always in contact with my heartbeat. And I see my heartbeat: the whole world moves in the rhythm of my heart. In the seeing I feel my heartbeat, each heartbeat, wordless seeing, without meaning. Moment by moment. When I look and feel my heartbeat, my inner world and the outer world remain directly connected with each other.
In front of the cathedral, in the midst of the many people, I stood again with closed eyes, and felt my heartbeat inside me. And there was a vast, open space and the world was flowing right through me. I have been living in and around Cologne for fourteen years, but in all these years I never perceived as much of the city as during these four hours. I was never so present in the city – and at the same time I saw nothing of Cologne: at the moment of the experience there was no Cologne, no city, no place. I was just in the world.
When I left Bad Neuenahr on the train and had to show my train ticket, I reached into my pocket and I accidentally gave the conductor the little yellow card with the four questions. I had to laugh out loud. That’s how I took The Work into my everyday life right away.
I had seven dreams the week after, in which I did The Work, three of them in one night. Usually I was not able to go back to sleep afterward because I was so moved by them. In one of the dreams I was in a big group and did The Work with two people. The result at the end was: I can honestly see the way it is; I can honestly say the way it is; I can honestly leave it the way it is – no more and no less. In one of the dreams I did The Work on three issues and each time I emptied myself even more, layer after layer, until only an outer contour of myself was left and the inside was nothing but radiant emptiness. And when this image came up, I knew that I had succeeded in the real turnaround: I am You and You are Me. I am just amazed and I am full of gratitude for how much I have obviously integrated The Work inside me already.
Many many thanks to the translator for her effort, since the letter has gotten pretty long.
Dearest Katie, I hug you full of gratitude
If I had a prayer, it would be this:
“God, spare me from the desire
for love, approval, or appreciation.
Participant: I’m hurt by K****, my partner, because he left me.
Katie: So “He left you”—is that true?
Participant: Not really; in my heart he is there all the time.
Katie: So how do you react when you think the thought “He left me”? What happens? You’re living your life, you’re very happy, and then the thought hits, “Crrrrgh!”—“He left me.”
Participant: I feel inferior, or worthless. I feel very much alone, helpless, and I just don’t know what to do.
Katie: And I would put “I don’t know what to do” on a separate piece of paper, and Work it later. So, “He left me”—who would you be without that thought? Who are you without that thought as you live your life?
Participant: I feel free, secure, content.
Katie: So close your eyes. Now watch you, going to the market, doing the dishes, without the thought “He left me.” What do you see? Watch your life.
Participant: I see many people, and I join with them in a very good time, and I have freedom inside.
Katie: Yes, you have your life back.
Katie: “He left me”—turn it around.
Participant: I left him.
Katie: So when you were with him, give me examples of how you would leave him when you were with him.
Participant: For a long period of time, I didn’t think of him. I had intimate situations with others. I didn’t feel well with him.
Katie: Yes…yes. So you’re just like him! “He left me”—can you find another turnaround?
Participant: He didn’t leave me?
Katie: Yes. You love him; he’s in your heart. Can you find another turnaround?
Participant: I left him in my thoughts.
Katie: Yes, and I found one, would you like to hear it?
Katie: “I left myself.”
Participant: Yes. This is true.
Katie: When you mentally go into his life and who he should be with, you leave you. You move into a dictatorship, and that’s very painful, running people’s lives, and telling them who they should be with, and who they shouldn’t be with. And then you feel that. It’s the opposite of caring and love. Thank you, precious.
Participant: Thank you.
Find your own worksheet, here.
Here’s an excerpt from chapter 29 of my new book A Thousand Names for Joy: Living in Harmony with the Way Things Are:
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.
I stand in my own truth and don’t presume to know what’s best for the planet. Knowing that the world is perfect doesn’t mean that you withdraw or stop doing what you know is right for you to do. If, for example, you’re concerned about the environment, please give us all the facts. Do a whole study of it, go to graduate school if you have to, help us out here. And if you talk to us clearly, without an agenda or any investment in the results, we can hear you, because you’re on our level. You’re not talking to us from a superior, I-know position. If you know that we’re all equal, that we’re all doing the best we can, you can be the most powerful activist on the planet.
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.”
When you attack a corporate official for destroying the atmosphere, however valid your information, do you think that he’ll be open to what you’re saying? You’re threatening him with your attitude, and the facts can get lost, because you’re coming from fear and righteous anger. All he’ll hear is that you think he’s doing it wrong, it’s his fault, and he’ll go into denial and resistance. But if you speak to him without stress, in total confidence that everything is just the way it should be in this very moment, you’re able to express yourself kindly, effectively, and with no fear about the future.
By the way, the Dutch version of the book is called Katie’s Tao.
Thank you for allowing me to share this with our readers, Brian.
I just wanted to write to you to say thank you for sharing The Work. I am enjoying exploring this amazing process, and I’m feeling positive changes in my life already as a result. I want to deepen my practice, and am moving forward every day with it.
Just yesterday, I had a profound experience of The Work, after a difficult argument with my partner. It was amazing – I started from a position of such blazing anger, such self-righteousness, such belligerent indignance…and then I did The Work, and I felt all of that dissolve, leaving a humbling and beautiful sense of responsibility, compassion, and love. It felt as though I had traveled through time – the “calming down” period that would normally take a day or more, took only a few minutes. And it was more than just “calming”, the natural settling down after a storm…it was like the storm clouds were actually clearing, leaving just the light and the fresh air. What a beautiful gift.
I very much hope to join you at an event in the near future – I live in the UK, and will certainly be looking out for any events near here which you scheduled in. I would love for you to come to England again…
With best wishes and much gratitude to you, in Love,
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.
Here’s a dialog from this (hot) summer in Europe:
Participant: I’m angry at ***** because she didn’t give me the job.
Katie: “She didn’t give you the job”—is that true?
Katie: Yes. She either gave you the job, or she didn’t. So the answer’s yes.
Katie: So how do you react when you think that thought—”She didn’t give me the job”? What happens when you believe it? What happens to your body, what happens to your mind?
Participant: The mind begins to think very fast, I should have learned to know her, it’s my fault, I should have seen it from the first beginning, I should not have been so engaged; self-reproach.
Katie: So you re-live the past. That thought is how you keep your life lived in the past with no awareness of this moment now. To believe that thought is how you live in the present – how your body lives in the present, but your mind isn’t here. You’re lost in a very painful dream of a past, with shame and guilt and blame. So, close your eyes, and look at your life, exactly as you live it, only without the thought—“She didn’t give me the job.”
Participant: I enjoy meeting other theatre people and to expand, and to meet people, enjoy…
Katie: Yes, well that’s your job. That’s your job, isn’t that the one you love? The important one?
Participant: Yes…yes. Yes.
Katie: So “She didn’t give me the job”—turn it around?
Participant: I didn’t give myself the job.
Katie: Yes, the job that you love. So give you your job back…to love life, and being in theatre, with people you love to be with, and happy life. And when you see her, thank her. It freed you up to do this job. And the next time there’s an audition, show up! Who knows? Especially if it’s hers.
Participant [laughing]: Yes.
Katie: What else did you write?
Participant: She should have given me the job.
Katie: Is that true?
Katie: So turn it around?
Participant: She shouldn’t have given me the job.
Katie: So if the universe is friendly, why is it better that you did not, that she did not give you the job? Why is your life better because of it?
Participant: I can look at my fears. They are always underneath, and now they really crop up. It’s not so comfortable, and I feel that it’s on my way now…and that this is my job.
Katie: Yes. It certainly freed you up for that. You might send her a thank you note, and tell her that you loved the audition, you learned more than you could ever thank her for, and next time she’s holding one, to please let you know. This gives you such a close intimate experience with her. It’s wonderful to be close to the people who give us what we really want, whether we know it or not.
Katie: Thank you.
Participant: Thank you.
You can do The Work here.
Terrorism at the World Trade Center: A Dialogue in Cambridge, September 13, 2001
I was scheduled to be in New York on 9/11/01. The morning I was to travel from Long Island, the planes hit the towers, bridges were closed and highways shut down before I could enter the city. I was free, however, to get to my event in Cambridge two days later. I worked with a woman who was terrified. She gave voice to the fears that many people were feeling. Amazingly, by the end of our dialogue, she was smiling. Her whole attitude had changed. Stephen and I wanted to include this dialogue in Loving What Is, but our publisher said that it was too hard for most people to believe. They wouldn’t accept that such a major transformation could happen so quickly.
Sometimes we get stuck in the prison of our own mind…
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.
Notice when you hurt that you are mentally out of your business.
If you’re not sure, stop and ask, “Mentally, whose business am I in?”
There are only three kinds of business in the universe: mine, yours, and God’s.
Whose business is it if an earthquake happens? God’s business.
Whose business is it if your neighbor down the street has an ugly lawn? Your neighbor’s business.
Whose business is it if you are angry at your neighbor down the street because he has an ugly lawn? Your business.
Life is simple—it is internal.
Count, in five minute intervals, how many times you are in someone else’s business mentally. Notice when you give uninvited advice or offer your opinion about something (aloud or silently).
Ask yourself: “Am I in their business? Did they ask me for my advice?” And more importantly, “Can I take the advice I am offering and apply it to my life?”