Why I Love The Work of Byron Katie

  • Posted on: 30 May 2007
  • By: mokshalom

Byron Katie is a beautiful gray-haired woman with a twinkle in her eye and a tremendous amount of love in her heart. If you ever get a chance to see her in person, you can feel the love radiating out from her as strongly as the bright light from the sun.

She delivers her message through a simple process called "The Work," which consists primarily of writing down your negative thoughts and questioning them. It's simple, elegant, and requires no particular spiritual belief or religious dogma.

The beauty of The Work is that when you do it consciously, you'll find that it sets you free. Free from expectation, worry, judgment, and desire.

The Work not a cult, or a hyped up self-help seminar that makes you feel really good while you're there but doesn't really deliver once the high has worn off.

You'll find a lot of quotes from Byron Katie on this website. This is because her philosophy has impacted me greatly. In our culture, we are hounded constantly by "shoulds" and "ought tos." We are brainwashed into believing that a particular type of American dream is what will make us happy and OK.

This might look like: I need to have a good marriage, a big house, a nice car, and happy children in order to know that I have "arrived."

Yet, what happens when your marriage fails, your house gets hit in a hurricane, your car breaks down, or one of your kids has some problems?

Now, if you are a follower of The Secret, you'll blame yourself for "attracting" your divorce, for causing your car problems, and for bringing down an entire hurricane upon yourself. (Fancy that - you are so powerful that you manifested an entire hurricane. Whoops...your neighbors got hit too. Well, you'll have to apologize to them later for your negative thoughts.)

If you buy into the belief that you are 100% in control of everything does that truly give you more peace? Or does it just stress you out more in the long run? Does the thought that you have to manipulate yourself and the world around you to "attract" a "perfect" life actually make you happy?

With The Work, you realize that you don't need the perfect Stepford Wife existence to be happy. You're OK because you know, once you've stripped off the externals, that what exists underneath is simply pure love. By giving up that illusion of control - no, you did not create that hurricane all by yourself - you gain the wisdom of acceptance. And that brings true peace.

Katie recently posted about The Difference Between The Work and The Secret in her blog. She writes:

“There is a secret”—can I absolutely know that it's true that there is a secret which, if known, would give me the key to having everything that I want and need that I don’t have now in life? One that will give me later what I don’t have now (examples: a BMW, the necklace that I really want, weight loss, a bike)? No, I can’t know. How do I react when I think the thought that there is a secret and others know it and I don’t? I must live in a past and future that don’t exist as anything other than unfulfilled imagination, yearning for what I don’t have and believing that material wealth and better health are the key to my happiness, left out, isolated, unhappy, trying my best to get the things that I want and often failing and feeling like a failure. I begin to believe that I cannot harness this “secret” and end up with the same life that I started with in the first place, with or without material success. Who would I be without believing that there is “the secret?” Loving life, being “the obvious,” rather than being the secretive.

Now, I know what I find more peaceful to me - The Work. If you want to focus on manifesting material wealth as a means to your happiness, go for it. Personally, I find that's putting the cart before the horse. My happiness comes to me for free. I don't need to work for it or manifest it. It just is, once I let go of all my pre-conceived notions of how my life "should" be better or I "should" have this or that in order to have "arrived."

If you are unfamiliar with The Work, check out their website, where there is a host of material to get you started:

http://www.thework.com/resources.asp

(Scroll down to the left where you can download worksheets and a facilitator's guide for free.)

Comments

You say: "The Work not a cult, or a hyped up self-help seminar that makes you feel really good while you're there but doesn't really deliver once the high has worn off."

I beg to differ. I used to be a big fan of Byron Katie and her "work", but over time I realized that something was quite "off" about it. I won't go into the details of that here. If you are truly open-minded, you might want to check out this:

http://guruphiliac.blogspot.com/2008/02/byron-katie-is-either-going-to.html

and/or do a search on "Byron Katie" and "cult". You might be surprised.

Although if you are anything like I was, you're likely convinced that "The Work" works and therefore will not want to check out this info. You might be convinced that "The Work" is some kind of miracle cure.

Time has shown me that "The Work" is anything but.

You probably won't post this comment, but I did feel a need to say something based on my own hard-won experience. Best to you.

Thanks for your comment. You sound disgruntled, and I have a feeling (and correct me if I'm wrong here), that your upset has to do with a previous expectation that The Work to fix everything in your life, only it did not. Now, you're on a mission to tell everyone how much of a fake Byron Katie is.

Here's my response:

First, I don't believe in miracle cures. There is no one "answer" that will solve every problem for every person on the planet. I like The Work, but it is not the only thing I do. It is, in fact, something I personally use once in a while as opposed to daily. But I like Byron Katie's philosophy and I'm big into "unplugging," so I like to share her ideas here.

I did read that link you provided and the ensuing thread. Even the person who posted the article provided a clarification and an update, and if you go about halfway down the page, you'll see that someone who has gone to Katie's 9-day intensive clarified that all the exercises were strictly voluntary, that no pressure was involved.

Regardless, one kooky 9-day intensive does not a cult make. A cult, in my book, is an organization that sucks you in to the point where it takes over your life. One week and a half workshop is not the same thing as being involved daily or weekly in a pressure-filled organization.

I've been to many of Byron Katie's live events. I started going years and years ago, whenever she happened to be in LA. She has and does still give a lot of free workshops. I must have started going around 2000, way before she got nationally recognized. Neither then nor now (I just saw her last fall) was there any pressure put upon me to sign up for a longer workshop. I was not sold anything. There was no sales pitch whatsoever.

Katie sits down, invites someone from the audience to come up and do The Work, and then she does The Work. That's it. When the times up, she says thank you and we leave. There are no post-workshop announcements, trying to convince us we need a week-long intensive to learn it more. That's it. I walk in, sit down, listen, and walk out.

Certainly, she's got a lot of swag being sold at the back of the room, but I don't begrudge her making money off of what she does...especially when said purchases are done without pressure and are entirely voluntary.

I'd say, in the past 8 or so years I've been doing The Work, I have probably spent less than $50, and that would be on a few books and tapes. That's the price of an expensive meal in Los Angeles. Big deal.

Transparency, or lack thereof, is another thing to look for when it comes to cults. The Work is entirely transparent. All the information you need to do it is provided for free on her website, along with free videos to watch.

In comparison, I have yet to find any solid information anywhere on what exactly people learn when they go to Landmark Forum. I had a friend in a similar organization, Lifespring, many years ago. She kept wanting me to come to an introductory seminar. I kept saying, "do you have any information, a brochure at least?" No, she did not. "You just have to come and experience it," she said. And there's a huge red flag.

Now, there is the issue of whether Katie is being put forward as some sort of saint or guru. Yes, she is, and if that sort of thing annoys you, then you probably won't be drawn to her. But in her defense, she's not going around like other gurus and saying she's perfect or has somehow cured all her life problems. She has cancer. Her eyesight is failing. She is very transparent on these failings of her physical body.

Finally...can The Work be dangerous? Yes, if only that there is a particular personality type that likes to latch on to the spiritual flavor of the week and grasp onto it as if it were the second coming of Christ. These people inevitably jump enthusiastically into whatever lifeline they think they've found, put their hearts and souls (and pocketbooks) into it, hoping and believing that this will suddenly cure them of themselves.

People like that will most likely get too sucked into Byron Katie...but then those same people, given a different environment, would have become fundamentalist Christians or a Hare Krishnas.

With everything, a certain detachment helps. I use The Work and respect Katie, but I don't believe she is the end-all and be-all or my only answer. I see The Work as a useful tool. As such, I use it when it is helpful to me. Other times, I use yoga, or Reiki healing, or EFT. There is not one thing that I grasp onto as my life preserver, to the point where I lose my head over it.

So as long as you don't lose your head over it, I see no harm or danger in doing The Work. It is, after all, free, and when you sit down to do it at home, you are only doing it with yourself, not Katie.

I was recently recommended Byron Katie's work by a close friend and while searching for her name I stumbled upon your post. I am very sensitive of the threads of exploitation weaved into the fabric of many "self-help" for-profit organizations like Landmark, and many religious ones also.

I see your reply as honest, open and grounded. I believe that creating pressure trying to "monetize" on a gift (a gift like the practice of the four questions, or a "spiritual practice" etc.) is a sign of an inherent distrust in the value of that gift. The lack of money-related pressure shows me that giving the gift is the reward for the giver.

Thank you.

Andre

Yes, you said it quite clearly. Just started "The Work" recently and it has been nothing but beneficial in my spiritual growth. Katie reminds us that all human suffering stems from confusion and I wholeheartedly agree. Here in USA, especially here in California, we are constantly being bombarded day and night what to think, what to believe, what to buy, how to react, who to worship, who to fear, who to love or hate, who our heroes should be. ALL THESE SHOULDS ONLY SERVE TO CREATE MORE CONFUSION AND MORE ENDLESS SUFFERING. Katie also reminds us to "stop arguing with life." That's a great idea for ALL of us to remember is it not?

And you're spot on about cults. They all seem to be very secretive, take over your life, promises that all your problems will be solved if you join us. They ALL seem to have a way of constantly coercing followers for substantial amounts of money for further indoctrination, instruction, privy information. Landmark (former EST), LifeSpring, Scientology all come to mind. And are huge red flags.

This is not what "THE WORK" does at all. It is NOT a cure-all that'll make our worries, problems magically go away forever. It's simply a tool to improve our standard of living and to alleviate the condition of human suffering.

In my experience, especially while attending a 9 day School for The Work, Katie does offer The Work as the answer to everything. If one says that all suffering is caused by confusion, that The Work ends confusion, and that it should be used in a daily practice and whenever stressful thoughts arise, then that's pretty comprehensive. Katie's selling "Awakening" and she, herself, turns The Work on anyone who questions her: "How do you feel when you think that thought?" and "Turn that thought around to yourself." She claims enlightenment ("I have no story") and offers enlightenment. And yet, she couldn't help complaining about the big house her husband insisted they buy...this on the same day she is teaching us all to use "effective No's," to say "Thank you and no!," to anything that isn't right for us.

I question that cancer claim, too. Basal cell carcinoma is the un-biggest deal in the cancer world. Most everyone who has ever spent much time in the sun will get it, have it removed without disfigurement because it grows so slowly, and not shop it around to sell themselves. Katie had more surgery with her facelift than she'll experience having a little basal carcinoma removed. And she can always have her plastic surgeon do any minor, outpatient surgery needed. Tempest in a teacup, mate.

You said:-

"... Now, you're on a mission to tell everyone how much of a fake Byron Katie is"

My Reply

"Can you absolutely know that this is true?"

You said:-

" There is no one "answer" that will solve every problem for every person on the planet. "

My Reply:-

"Can you absolutely know that this is true?"

You said?

"... no pressure was involved."

My Reply?

"Can you absolutely know that this is true?"

You said:-

"... one kooky 9-day intensive does not a cult make."

My Reply:-

Can you absolutely know that this is true?

You said:-
"... I was not sold anything. There was no sales pitch whatsoever."

My Reply:-

Can you absolutely know that this is true?

You said:-
Katie sits down, invites someone from the audience to come up and do The Work, and then she does The Work. That's it. When the times up, she says thank you and we leave. There are no post-workshop announcements, trying to convince us we need a week-long intensive to learn it more. That's it. I walk in, sit down, listen, and walk out.

My reply:-

So what about the WORK SCHOOL, the Work website with all the media and promotional materials? Is that not a form of selling?

You said:-
"...Certainly, she's got a lot of swag being sold at the back of the room..."

My reply:-

Oh ,so there is selling then, only its at the back of the room, not on the left side or the right side, so that sort of makes it...well...not really selling???

You said:-

"... All the information you need to do it is provided for free on her website, along with free videos to watch."

My Reply:-

"Can you absolutely know that this is true? If so why do people still go looking for more of her work, or attend more than one talk just to hear it repeated, or even need a certified professional to work them through it, as some clearly do?"

You said:-

" I have yet to find any solid information anywhere on what exactly people learn when they go to Landmark Forum."

My reply:

So you haven't found any solid information yourself, so therefore that means that none must exist, even if other people claim to have some??

You said:-

"... She (your friend) kept wanting me to come to an introductory seminar. I kept saying, "do you have any information, a brochure at least?" No, she did not. You just have to come and experience it," she said. And there's a huge red flag."

My reply:-

Could her not having brochures, possibly be because, those people themselves were not so much into hard selling and marketing, and therefore did not need to use brochures, but instead wanted to be transparent, by allowing you to just come see for yourself and make up your own mind?

You said:-

".... there is the issue of whether Katie is being put forward as some sort of saint or guru. ....she's not going around like other gurus and saying she's perfect or has somehow cured all her life problems."

My Reply:-

What other gurus, are going around saying that they are perfect, and have somehow cured all their life problems? Name some please, I want to go check them out? Cos how can they absolutely know that this is true?

You said:-
"... there is a particular personality type that likes to latch on to the spiritual flavor of the week and grasp onto it as if it were the second coming of Christ..."

My reply:-

"Who are these personality types? How can you absolutely know that their existence is real, and they are separate from you me and everyone else"

You said:-

"These people inevitably jump enthusiastically into whatever lifeline they think they've found, put their hearts and souls (and pocketbooks) into it, hoping and believing that this will suddenly cure them of themselves. People like that will most likely get too sucked into Byron Katie...but then those same people, given a different environment, would have become fundamentalist Christians or a Hare Krishnas.
"

My Reply:

Who are 'these people'? Could you absolutely know that they exist, outside of your own reality or story? If so how?

You said:-

"With everything, a certain detachment helps. I use The Work and respect Katie, but I don't believe she is the end-all and be-all or my only answer. I see The Work as a useful tool. As such, I use it when it is helpful to me. Other times, I use yoga, or Reiki healing, or EFT. There is not one thing that I grasp onto as my life preserver, to the point where I lose my head over it.

So as long as you don't lose your head over it, I see no harm or danger in doing The Work. It is, after all, free, and when you sit down to do it at home, you are only doing it with yourself, not Katie."

My reply?

"How could losing your head over something, actually be good for you?

I have heard it said that the heart is the one to follow, not the head.

Maybe a lot of what we believe to be true, is simply true for us. Maybe what other people believe even though different, is also true. Maybe, there is a truth that is bigger than either my individual belief about reality, or yours. Maybe what you believe is just 100 percent your business,and nobody else's.

Maybe...I don't know for absolute certain.

Kind Regards
Aartisans

I have never met Byron Katie though I have done "The Work" with someone who has studied intensively with her. The person I have done this with is a friend of mine. I was close to her as she was going through some very difficult personal issues that had her tied up in knots constantly. After she went on her first 9 day, she came home with a profound lightness of being. Her perspective on the issues had completely shifted. I saw how much this helped her. When I had my own personal issues tie me up into confused knots, I consulted her. The Work was also profoundly helpful to me as well. It was as if I was relieved of carrying a ball and chain around in the space of a couple of hours. I've consulted her several times and each time it is very very helpful. My friend is now a practitioner of The Work. I have referred several others to my friend. One used the work to transform her chronic insomnia...

I don't have any interest in attending a 9 day or of joining any group. I feel absolutely no pressure to do so. I am grateful for The Work simply as a tool.

I have never met Byron Katie though I have done "The Work" with someone who has studied intensively with her. The person I have done this with is a friend of mine. I was close to her as she was going through some very difficult personal issues that had her tied up in knots constantly. After she went on her first 9 day, she came home with a profound lightness of being. Her perspective on the issues had completely shifted. I saw how much this helped her. When I had my own personal issues tie me up into confused knots, I consulted her. The Work was also profoundly helpful to me as well. It was as if I was relieved of carrying a ball and chain around in the space of a couple of hours. I've consulted her several times and each time it is very very helpful. My friend is now a practitioner of The Work. I have referred several others to my friend. One used the work to transform her chronic insomnia...

I don't have any interest in attending a 9 day or of joining any group. I feel absolutely no pressure to do so. I am grateful for The Work simply as a tool.

Could all of you just lighten up? If Byron Katie helps someone, that's great. If she doesn't, fine. This blah blah blah about it all is getting annoying. I'm sure Ms. Katie does not lose sleep over whether or not people think she is a cult master. There is this thing called Free Will, my dears. No one is twisting anyone's arm to listen to her or buy her recordings. I find her refreshing, but she is not the only person I listen to. So what the heck is the big deal about her making money? So what if she's had a face lift? So what if she complained about her husband and the house? I also suspect that Ms. Katie could care less about her work being defended. She seems perfectly happy with her message and her approach. Everyone, just chill!

The witnesses at James Rays trial are being asked why they did not take action to save the peoples lives? They explain their state of mind in the middle of James exercise. Confused, disorientated and conditioned to follow James orders.

The 64 dollar question is, will we take action if BK endangers the person next to us, even if most of us will survive? Will we stay silent as a drug dealer sets up shop on the corner down from our house? After all, we have talked to our children about drugs.

James is not on trial for the death of one of his students that died in the summer of 2009. It was covered up. She had been put through the same process of food depravation as the school. While begging for food in San Diego she fell or jumped off a balcony at the mall. Has this happened at the school? If it has, was it covered up? Should we all be passive aggressive about the dangers and silently watch?