The Work of Byron Katie is a tool, a way of identifying and questioning all the thoughts that cause suffering.
The Work guides you to see what is true under your stressful thoughts and allows your mind to return to its peaceful, awakened, and natural state.
The first step is to notice your stressful thoughts. What are you stressing about right now? If you are afraid of something, identify who or what caused the fear in you. Also think back to when and where the triggering took place. Find the very specific time and location.
The next step is to write your stressful thoughts on a Judge-Your-Neighbor Worksheet. There are six questions on the sheet which invite your mind to tell its story. Contemplate each. Wait for the answers to arise in your mind, then write them down. Invite yourself to take as much time as you need to fill in your worksheet.
Once your Judge-Your-Neighbor Worksheet is complete, you can put each of the statements on it up against the four questions below. Each time you answer these questions, please mentally revisit the situation, meditate, then answer.
- Is it true?
- Can you absolutely know that it’s true?
- How do you react, what happens, when you believe the thought?
- Who would you be without the thought?
Once you’ve answered all four questions, it’s time to do the turnarounds. You basically turn each thought around to the self, to the other, and to the opposite. And then you find three specific examples for how each turnaround could be as true as or truer than your original thought.
For example, if I am working on the stressful thought, “He should understand me,” I might turn my concept around in these three ways:
Turnaround to the Self: “I should understand myself.”
I think back to the situation that I chose for the worksheet. Why should I understand myself in that moment?
- Perhaps, it is better for me to understand myself first, so I can communicate to him better.
- And, I should understand myself better, so I know why I am angry or why I feel lonely.
Turnaround to the Other: “I should understand him.” Again, I go back to the situation and contemplate this question, “Why should I understand him in this specific situation?” I wait for the answers to surface, never forcing myself to find “the right answers” but staying with it until I find three genuine examples that could be as true as or truer than my original belief.
Turnaround to the Opposite: “He should not understand me.” Now, I ask myself, “Why should he not understand me in the situation?” and then I wait for the answers to surface in me.
Every time I work, I look for at least three examples for each turnaround and often find four, five, or six examples. I don’t want to miss anything, so I take my time during this process.
This is a brief explanation of how to do The Work. Do you get the idea?
Some Misunderstandings of The Work:
I often meet people who say “I don’t like The Work because it tries to make me change my mind about someone.” Or, “I feel like I’ll have to admit that I did something wrong.” No! The Work is not about changing your mind or “getting rid” of your stressful thoughts. No one can change anyone’s mind including you changing your own. That’s absolutely impossible!! The Work is NOT about getting rid of your stressful thoughts at all.
The Work is a way to see the beliefs that are causing the stressful thoughts and then questioning the truth of those beliefs. All you need is to be open-minded and to notice the source of the stressful thoughts. That’s all. Once you discern the truth (the source) of your stressful thoughts, they cease to have power in you. And when you keep asking questions (keep doing The Work), the thoughts eventually take a back seat and YOU return to the driving seat, so to speak. I often call this moment, coming home.
Another misunderstanding about The Work is the idea that once you’ve worked your thoughts, you should be happy. You should feel better. You should be able to forgive someone. You should be able to love yourself. Well, those things may happen eventually, but they are by-products of The Work, not direct outcomes. The direct outcome of The Work is to realize what’s causing the stress. As I mentioned earlier, that is all you need to do. Just notice.
The Work is a radical, simple–yet profoundly powerful–tool. That is my experience. If you are intrigued by what I’ve said here, please contact me.