“Look into the mirror… and meet the love of your life”
- an interview with Byron Katie by Femke Wijdekop
Byron Katie is one of the most gracious and warmest persons I have ever talked to. TIME Magazine calls her “a spiritual innovator for the new millenium.”, yet when talking to her I felt totally at ease, like being in the presence of a close relative who has known and loved you since childhood.
Her life story is a tale of deep suffering, ended by, what she calls, a ‘moment of clarity”- a moment that has lasted until this day! In the midst of a normal life, she became increasingly depressed, and over a ten-year period sank further into rage, despair, and thoughts of suicide. Then one morning, she woke up in a state of absolute joy, filled with the realization of how her own suffering had ended: when she believed her painful thoughts, she suffered, but when she questioned them, the suffering stopped.
The freedom of that realization has never left her, and Byron Katie has since dedicated her life to helping others liberate themselves with her teaching called The Work. She has authored several books, among which Loving What Is and I Need Your Love – Is That True? (ABC Spiritual Book Club bookpick), and teaches all around the world.
This summer, when she comes to Amsterdam for a lecture and workshop (for more information, check out thework.com), Byron Katie will give an exclusive book signing at the American Book Center in Amsterdam! This event will take place on Saturday June 23, from 15-16:30, on the Ground Floor.
With regards to the interview: I’ve transcribed some of the questions, but you can listen to the whole conversation by clicking on the MP3-link at the bottom. The total interview-time is 27 minutes.
FW: This interview is for our listeners of Amsterdam FM radio and the customers of our bookstore the American Book Center. My first question, for our listeners who are not yet familiar with your teachings, is: Can you explain the steps of The Work?
BK: Yes, and I would love to. The Work is a way to identify the thoughts that you yourself are thinking, the thoughts that cause all the suffering and chaos in the world. And The Work is basically a way to identify the thoughts that bring on the stress in our lives, and the chaos in our lives. It’s a way to identify those thoughts. And once they are identified, we can question them. And what we question them with is four questions.
The first one is: “Is it true?”
The second one is “Can you absolutely know that it is true?”
For example, a concept, maybe ‘he doesn’t care about me’. So the first question is “Is it true? Is it true he doesn’t care about me? And then you answer yes or no. Can you absolutely know that it is true that he doesn’t care about you? And then you answer it, and the answer is either yes or no, and this Work, you know, it is an inward journey that these questions are taking us to.
And it’s where we no longer refer to what the world thinks and what we have been taught, but we anwer these questions from an inner place that is really wise and we can trust.
The third question, notice how you react and what happens when you believe the thought ‘He doesn’t care about you’. And this is where you begin to discover all those emotions and feelings that happen and then the way we act out of them. So notice, how you react when you believe that thought.
And then the fourth question is “Who would you be without the thought?” And then you notice yourself in that same situation, only not believing the thought. And you just witness that and it shows us, in that space, what we have missed. There’s is a whole world that we miss when we are believing our thoughts. It really is the cause of separation and that feeling of loneliness. It’s a beautiful question, that last question, “Who would you be without it”.
So then, I invite people to turn the concept around. So “He doesn’t care about me” – turn it around: “I don’t care about him”. And then I begin to journey into that and see where I have been hurtful or unkind or disrespectful and I can always make amends in those places and start over. He doesn’t care about me – another turn around is “I don’t care about me”. Well if I’m not caring about me in that moment, how can I expect other people to care about me. And I can take care of that. “He can’t care about me, can I take care of me?” He doesn’t care about me – another turn around: “He does care about me”.
And to find examples of where that could possibly be true in that situation. So these are a lot of words for a very simple process and that’s it, that’s it. Just four questions and turn-arounds after we identify our concept. It shifts lives radically. All over the world now, The Work has travelled far and wide.
BK: Well, for example, I will say it simply this way. The world is perfect the way it is. It’s what we are believing about the world that is the cause of the chaos and suffering, the confusion. If we were not confused, no one would harm another human being or ourselves. There would be no way to be the cause of suffering, whether it is to ourselves or to another.
FW: Why do you think that we are so addicted to this very painful way of thinking, when it feels so bad?
BK: Well, because we don’t know another way – we are like children that are lost. And this Work, these questions, educate us. Because we are tapping into a source that can solve anything and everything. I was talking to a woman last night. She saw one of the videos on You Tube, and then like two days later she ran into someone she didn’t like at all. And she noticed, she liked him. And then she wondered ‘what is going on here? ”. And then she tried not to like him, and she couldn’t do it. And then a couple of days later, she ran into someone she didn’t care for. And the same thing happened. She noticed that she cared about this person. She tried not to care about this person and she couldn’t do it.
And then she though back to that video on You Tube that she saw where I was simply doing The Work with someone, and everything that I was working on in that video, is what she was experiencing. And so when we no longer believe what we think, it shifts the way we see the world. Now I don’t know another way to break this hypnotic spell other then to question what we belief, because we are under like a hypnotic trance. If my mother said, “your name is Byron Kathleen”, I was not that until the moment I believed it. So she didn’t name me that – I named me that, that’s when it became real, my reality. And what’s true about that scenario is that prior to me believing that, I wasn’t. So who am I?
And these questions take you directly into that Source, that is so clear, in all of us. No one holds more wisdom than another. We are all equal in that.
FW: Do you still need to do The Work on your thoughts?
BK: Well it has been a long time but I would not hesitate. If I were confused, I would not hesitate. If I would find myself being hurtful in any way or unhappy in any way, I would immediately simply identify what I’m believing. What I’m thinking and believing, and I would write it down and I would question it. Because no one can save me, that’s my job! No one can make me happy, only I can do that.
If someone gives me something, that I really wanted, it’s what I’m believing about that, that is the cause of my joy, not that item, not the materialistic item itself, or experience.
FW: Do you discover any original confused thoughts when you do The Work on people, or do we just all recycle the same old lies?
BK: Same old, same old. No new stressful thoughts! In every language in the world, in every country I travel to – it doesn’t matter the language or the culture. We are all believing the same, stressful thoughts. So imagine how simple it would be to simplify our lives. There is nothing new!
BK: Oh my goodness.. usually it is about relationships. You know I’m on my way to Israel after I work here in Holland, and it’s a forgiveness workshop. People begin thinking it’s about one thing, but it always comes back to the personal. Like “he doesn’t care about me, there is something wrong with me”, “I’m not smart enough. They think I am stupid. They don’t respect me”. It’s so basic.
FW: It seems like we are most often, as you call it, ‘running the business’ of the people who are closest to us, so the people we supposedly love the most are the ones that we love the most conditionally. Why would that be?
BK: Well, we are believing our thoughts. And it’s their responsibility to do what I want them to do, if they really cared about me. You know we are believing thoughts like that.
FW: And we are projecting them especially on people closest to us?
BK: That’s because they are the closest to us! (laughs)
FW: Oh, they are the most at hand!
BK: They all run away from us, whoever is next.. We would project the same thought and ideas onto them.
FW: So it’s not personal??
BK: It’s not personal. If you would just lie down on a beautiful lawn with grass and you looked at the grass long enough, you would start finding things wrong with each blade of grass. You know this one is OK, this one is not OK, this one is too tall, this one is too short.
FW: You say that everything we are defending against, is the truth we don’t want to see. That there is nothing in this world that happens that is not for our enlightenment. Our enemies are God in disguise because they give us everything we need for our freedom. So our enemies are heaven-sent, in a way.
BK: That’s it. Without exception. Because they wake us up! It’s not that person, that is the cause of my pain. It’s what I’m believing about that person!
FW: So they are there to reflect our own distorted beliefs about ourselves and the world?
BK: Yes, they are a mirror.
FW: You are giving a workshop to managers this week in Amsterdam, a business workshop. If business CEO’s all over the world would really start to do The Work on themselves and the way the run their business, how would that change our economy?
BK: It would so radically change it. Oh my goodness. “I don’t have to be the one that invents something, someone out there is doing it for me. And if I support that person, then it benefits me, it benefits the whole world. So The Work really is the end of competition. It’s the beginning of giving resources that are effective, energy-efficient, effective all the way around. Kinder, wiser. The clearer we get, the more we understand, until finally we are just giving all the time and receiving all the time.
It’s living selfishly, really, but everyone benefits.
FW: What is the last message you would like to give to our customers?
BK: That freedom is possible and the end of suffering is possible. And that if they really want to meet the love of their lives, just to look in the mirror!