Byron Katie was consumed by anger, self-loathing, addictions, and misery. Living in a half-way house, she had a flash of insight in which she discovered that she had the power to change her life by changing her thinking. Her breakthrough, called the Work, has helped thousands move from a place of sorrow to a place of peace.
You begin the Work by writing about someone that you have not fully forgiven. You describe how this person angers, confuses, saddens, or disappoints you and why. Next, you discuss how you want the person to change and what you want them to do. After that, you tell what this person should or shouldn’t do, think, or feel. Finally, you write down what this person needs to do in order that you can be happy, what you think of them, and what is it that you don’t want to experience from this person again.
You move into a place of loving kindness and gentleness as you ask the following questions:
1. Is it true?
2. Can you absolutely know that it is true?
3. How do you react, what happens, when you believe that thought?
4. Who would you be without that thought?
After you mindfully answer those questions, you then turn around your answers. For example, if you say, “My spouse does not listen to me, “ instead you say, “My spouse does listen to my spouse,” “I don’t listen to me,” and “I don’t listen to my spouse.” After considering these statements, you find three genuine, specific examples of how this turnaround is true in your life.
One might argue that this type of thinking condones violence or abuse, but, in fact, the Work speaks forcefully against abuse. Instead, it allows us to move forward in our lives by refusing to let any abusive person destroy our peace of mind. It also helps us to realize that we can become our own worst enemy when we ruminate on the faults of others without realizing that we, too, are guilty of similar behaviors.
The Work enhances the teachings of Jesus, who taught us that we cannot honestly judge others when we ourselves have similar weaknesses. He said, "Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.
"Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother's eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, 'Let me take the speck out of your eye,' when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye” (Matthew 7: 1-5 NIV).
This teaching can be turned around. Since God asks us to love others as we love ourselves, we discover when doing the Work that we experience sorrow when we continually berate ourselves for making mistakes that others make as well. As we show the same loving kindness to ourselves that we show to others, we experience spiritual healing. Of course, we ask for God’s forgiveness when we sin, but we also need to forgive ourselves after we have experienced His grace.
Katie reminds us that there are three types of business in the universe: mine, yours, and God’s. She explains that much of our suffering comes from trying to live outside of our own business. She says, “When I think, ‘You need to get a job, I want you to be happy, you should be on time, you need to take better care of yourself,’ I am in your business. When I’m worried about earthquakes, floods, war, or when I will die, I am in God’s business.”
When you practice the Work, you discover that you don’t have any business because your life runs beautifully as you detach from your negative thinking. You also discover that the way that you view and judge others is a reflection of your own thinking. As we release others from judgment, we free ourselves as well.
Katie offers some free worksheets to help you get started. You can find them at http://www.thework.com/downloads/worksheet. She teaches us that suffering can challenge us to inquiry and that as we discover the truth about our thought-induced suffering, we recognize that we no longer need people and situations to change in order to find peace. Peace is inside us, waiting to be found.
© Carol Brown