Change Your Life With 4 Simple Questions

The Work of Byron KatieByron realized that the cause of her depression was not the world around her, but the beliefs she had about the world.Since 1986, she has brought The Work to millions of people across the world and now shares with the Best of You Today her tool to open our minds and set ourselves free.

BOYT:  Can you share with our readers how you got started?

Byron Katie:  Well, I was extremely depressed, paranoid, agoraphobic. It was a horrible life and there was no excuse for that because my children were healthy and I had a lovely home. From the outside, it was inexcusable that I would be ungrateful or depressed. And yet, I was suicidal. I didn't believe I even deserved a bed to sleep in. I was sleeping on the floor and when I woke one morning I opened my eyes and all the darkness was gone. It was replaced with something indescribable. I learned in that moment that when I believed my thoughts, I suffered, but when I questioned my thoughts, when I didn't believe them, even though they were streaming through, there was no suffering. And I've come to see that this is true for every human being in the world. When they question what they believe, there's peace and it is life altering and life changing.
 
BOYT:  Many people who have such incredible insights go through very painful, dark moments to get them to that enlightened state. Why do you think human beings have to go through the pain to get to where you are today?
 
Byron Katie:  I’ve considered this a bit. You know, you hear that people in surgery or during great trauma such as being raped leave their body. It's as though the mind is so troubled that it cannot go any further, it cannot project any further. When the mind cannot project, there's a moment when there's nothing, and in that moment the marvelous experiences are available to us. My experience is that all suffering, all pain, is a projection of the mind. So in that moment, the mind cannot project more pain. For some of us, there is a break in consciousness at that moment where everything is visible. I think it’s an out-of-body experience during which the mind is not going to stick around and say, "I am that body, I am this pain."
 
BOYT:  How do people find this moment where they can exist without going through pain?
 
Byron Katie:  Well, this is just a moment in time, and people have these important experiences, but it doesn't last. I invite people to identify stressful thoughts that they're believing. When they're depressed or their heart is racing, I tell them to identify what they're believing. Then, when you have a chance to meditate, sit down and ask four specific questions and focus as the answer arises. For example, if someone has the thought, no one cares about me, I encourage them to sit with that thought and question it. Is it true? Get very still, meditate, and contemplate the question, Is it true that no one cares?
 
BOYT:  Can you please explain "The Work" and the four questions that people should be asking themselves?
 
Byron Katie:  The four questions, how to do "The Work," encouragement, and videos are all available for free on thework.com. The first question is, "Is it true?" You think no one cares – is it true? The second question, "Can you absolutely know that it's true?" Get still and just contemplate this and notice how the mind wants to answer it spontaneously, but sit still with it. The third question is, "How do you react, what happens when you think that thought?" Then images begin to come to you, and it shows you your life, how you react, and what happens when you believe it. Then the fourth question, "Who would you be without the thought, who would you be in those same situations, only without the thought?" And then marvelous revelations happen as people sit and get quiet in that question. Then turn it around: “No one cares,” turned around is, “People do care.” This work is meditation and answers come to us from deep within. They really bring revelations and major shifts in our lives. When we believe people don't care, we have tunnel vision, and this is the cause of depression. 
 
BOYT:  Out of all the books that you've written, which book do you think brought about the most personal growth?
 
Byron Katie:  I grow every moment of every day. It just doesn't stop. If you use the four questions for a while, you do the work for a while, the questions wake up in you, and it's that constant revelation and growth going on. Mind is infinite when it finds that polarity of goodness and kindness, when it's not busy attacking everything and everyone. If we just answer the questions, this amazing grace does the rest for us. 
 
BOYT:  What advice would you offer your 20-year-old self, knowing what you know today?
 
Byron Katie:  Oh my goodness. I would just put my arms around myself and say, "Oh, sweetheart, what you're thinking and believing – is it true, are you sure?" And I think I would look into my eyes and just say, "There's hope, just breathe." 
 
BOYT:  Do you find many examples of those who have done "The Work" enjoying great improvements and changes within their lives?
 
Byron Katie:  Oh, absolutely. The Work works, and it works because the answers are within you. That is the power. Anyone can do The Work if they can answer a question. People can read about the shifts and changes that have taken place on my website.
 
BOYT:  We’re based in San Diego; do you ever have workshops here?
 
Byron Katie:  I do. I have a nine-day school for "The Work" that's happening in October in Southern California. The next one is in Germany toward the end of July.  I have all the dates as well as a free help line on thework.com. Anyone that wants to experience "The Work" can call and it's a service offered all over the world. 
 
BOYT: What person or people do you admire in your industry?
 
Byron Katie: Janine Ross. I love the stillness that her work involves. I only saw her once on “Oprah” (“The Oprah Winfrey Show”), but I was very impressed with what I was hearing. I think she has a lot of Zen practice. It is this stillness where you are aware of your inner life. She moves it to a practical use, the way The Work does. What I heard was lovely. 
 
BOYT:  What one piece of advice can you offer our readers?
 

Byron Katie:  Listen to your inner self and question anything that would bring any unkindness, any lack of kindness, in your being. Identify what you're thinking and believing and then question it. 

 
BOYT: What do you have planned for the future? Are you writing more books? Are you going to be continuing to do your seminars? 
 
Byron Katie: The nine-day school for "The Work," that's my heart's desire. I have a 28-day program in Ojai, I call it Turnaround House, and it’s amazing. It's like a five star B&B, where people come for 28 days to work on their mind and turn their life around – it's a wonderful experience and people come from all over the world. My events are my heart's desire and I'm going to do them as long as I can walk. I don't see me ever stopping.  It's ongoing in my head, this happy life. Who would think that earth turned out to be heaven? To me, earth is heaven, and it's so clear to me. I thought it was hell, but earth is fine, it's what I was believing about earth that blocked my view and today I'm awake to it and I'm so grateful.
 
BOYT: What would you say is your biggest challenge? 
 
Byron Katie:  Communication. How do you express something so beautiful? I just haven't found the words. I'm learning clear communication as I go. How do you say, I love you, how do you live that? It’s just always about learning and growing.
 
BOYT:  How do you remain grounded and present daily? You've made reference to meditation. Do you meditate?
 
Byron Katie:  It's as though it never stops. My entire world is internal. I find that anything outside of my mind mirrors back my own mind. It's this constant meditation: loving everything you think. It's really heaven.
 
BOYT:  You say one’s mind thinks the painful thoughts; did yours stop thinking such thoughts, or are they there and you just do not believe them anymore?
 
Byron Katie:  I haven't met a thought I haven't loved in years. So, if someone says it's a terrible world, I take it in and I listen. They'll say, “My child is sick,” or “My husband's leaving me,” whatever it is, and I'm listening. At some point, I might say, "It sounds like a lot of pain, and I have discovered something that really works, and it just takes a moment in time. Would you like to experience it?" If they say yes, we do The Work. If they say no, then I can listen, and I can put my arm around them and understand. To me, that is a win/win.
 
BOYT:  People forget about the importance of kindness. How is it that you’re so remarkably compassionate?
 
Byron Katie:   Oh my goodness. I remember wanting to be heard. I just listen and am present with another suffering.
 
BOYT:   Does ego play a role in the ability to connect with people?  How can people address their ego and become more compassionate and willing to take acceptance for their lives?
 
Byron Katie:  I just kind of fell into it, questioning my stressful thoughts. It just left me as this human being that cares. I always did care, it's just that I can live that fearlessly now, without my ego taking the situation over.  For me, the ego is like an immature or child's mind that believes itself. The Work really is the mind's love affair with itself; it's the end of the war with the self. Until we end the war within our own mind, how can we end the war with our family members and community and world? How can we expect our politicians to end wars in the world when we can't end it in our own heads? The invitation is to identify what you're thinking and believing, test it through these four questions and turn-arounds, and see if it is true for you. You take one concept at a time and then turn it around. “I did it wrong,” for example, becomes, “I did it right.” When we get still, we begin to see what is true and what is not, and where we're justifying and trying to make ourselves feel better and where we're authentic. That's what comes out of meditation and the stillness – we find our authentic self.
 
BOYT:  Can you share something that our readers might be surprised to know about you?
 
Byron Katie:  I love my chickens, I love, love, love my chickens. I love my chickens. I have five, and one of them has just started laying an egg and the others will probably follow behind. But, oh my goodness, they let me pet them and I feed them out of my garden. I could go on and on, I love my chickens.
 
The Four Questions:
 
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 that thought?
 

About Byron Katie

Byron Katie, founder of The Work, has one job: to teach people how to end their own suffering. As she guides people through the powerful process of inquiry she calls The Work, they find that their stressful beliefs—about life, other people, or themselves— radically shift and their lives are changed forever. Based on Byron Katie's direct experience of how suffering is created and ended, The Work is an astonishingly simple process, accessible to people of all ages and backgrounds, and requires nothing more than a pen, paper, and an open mind. For more information, visit The Work.

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