At 5:59 on Friday night, I didn’t really know much about Byron Katie. I knew she had a program called The Work and had read an interview with her, but that was the extent of my knowledge. 72 hours later and I can say that this woman’s teachings have already changed my life in an incredibly positive way.
Byron Katie discovered The Work after spending a good part of her life in a deep depression, ready to end her life entirely engrossed in her thoughts. In February 1986 she “experienced a life changing realization” and The Work was born. What is The Work? The work is a process of inquiry focused around 4 questions and a series of '”turnarounds”. The 4 questions are:
Is it true?
Can you absolutely know that it’s true?
How do you react, what happens, when you believe that thought?
Who would you be without the thought?
Over the course of the weekend we explored these simple questions and came up with some pretty profound thoughts and discoveries. We also got to witness Katie do the work onstage with other participants in the workshop. Through the “Judge your Neighbour” exercise and the 4 questions and turnarounds, I had some pretty astounding breakthroughs about myself on Friday and Saturday. I came to say some things out loud and on paper that I already knew to be true, but had never acknowledged. I saw that I project so many of my thoughts and perceptions onto other people which causes me a lot of unneeded stress in my life. I have a lot of negative thoughts and I think that The Work is going to give me an amazing vehicle to challenge those thoughts and ground myself in reality. I also got to witness some incredible work being done by the brave participants of the workshop who shared their Work and went through the 4 questions with Katie. She is an amazing speaker and has a beautiful view of life and her reality of the world.
On Sunday morning Katie asked us to fill in the sentence: "The thing that I am most ashamed of is _____. The answer was hard for me but it’s something I’ve thought about many time in the last 12 years. The thing that I am most ashamed of is that I didn’t tell my mom that I loved her on the night before she died.
Katie then asked us to explore what that statement meant by writing a list entitled “and that means”. As a result of my statement I wrote down things like I’m a terrible daughter, she felt unloved and I deserted her. Powerful statements that brought up a lot of thoughts and emotions. We sat with these thoughts for awhile to let them drop in. We were then told to turn to our neighbour so that we could explore one of the concepts that we discovered in our “and that means” statements. I didn’t have anyone sitting right next to me, but found a woman further down the row to be my partner. We had circled some of our key concepts and I had chosen “I deserted my mom” for this exercise.
Katie said many times in the workshop that “there are no new stressful thoughts, only recycled ones” and while I believed this to be true, but when my partner shared her worksheet with me it really hit it home: she felt she had abandoned her daughter. I couldn’t believe the coincidence but realized that of course we would be partners and that there was no better person in the room to be sharing my Work with.
Even though it’s been almost 12 years since my mom’s death, answering the 4 questions was incredibly emotional for me. While my answer to is it true was yes, after letting it sink in, my answer to the second question was no. The amazing thing about The Work, is that there are no right or wrong answers, because it’s all in you. I admitted that when I believe the thought I deserted my mom I feel like a terrible daughter and that I let her down. I went on to discover that without the thought I feel more at peace and free to go on living my life.
In the turnarounds, you explore the opposite of the concept you’re working with. For each turnaround you give 3 examples of how that new statement is true. The turnaround that was hardest for me was “my mom deserted me”. The turnarounds are “are revelations, showing you previously unseen aspects of yourself reflected back through others”. And while “I didn’t desert my mom” and “I desert myself” were absolutely as true or truer than the original statement, I don’t think I had allowed myself to really my mom deserted me ever before. It was so powerful to think about examples for all of the turnarounds and a tool that will definitely be integral for me going forward.
The turnarounds are not about denial and they are not about blame, but they are discoveries and that’s exactly what I found. My partner was so brave in answering the questions and doing the turnarounds and it was so moving to listen to her and be present with her in that moment. There were a lot of tears but I was so grateful for the experience, a wonderful person to share it with and a new way to approach my life.
I’ve picked up Katie’s book A Thousand Names for Joy and I look forward to reading it as well as continuing with The Work on my own. It has already had a great impact on my life and I look forward to everything else I am going to discover. You can find more about information about Katie and The School for The Work on her website (which also includes all the resources you need in order to do The Work on your own) I have to say a big thank you to Meghan and Inspirational Works for giving me such the opportunity to do The Work with the amazing, Byron Katie.
Isn’t it wonderful
to be where you are,
when you imagine where you’ve come from?