In 1986, 43-year-old Byron Katie found herself alone on the floor of a halfway house, desperate and hopeless after years of depression. It was then, at her lowest moment, that she had a revelation: she discovered that when she believed her thoughts, she suffered, and when she didn’t, her suffering disappeared. She knew instantly that this was true for everyone. The joy she experienced was so intense that people began seeking her out to learn the source of her radiant happiness. Katie has since gone on to share her experience with millions through a process of self-inquiry called The Work.
As explained in her book, Loving What Is, The Work consists of four simple questions that, when answered honestly, reveal how a particular thought conflicts with reality. According to Katie, every stressful emotion, from rage to grief to disappointment, comes from listening to our thoughts instead of what is really true. While we cannot eliminate our thoughts, inquiry can free us from the pain they cause, allowing us to feel the peace that comes from loving exactly what is happening in each moment of our lives.
The Work is an essential component of both my personal and professional healing practice. For many years, I struggled with issues of self-esteem. I often felt like I meant nothing to the world, and that I wanted to disappear. Doing The Work has allowed me take responsibility for my own happiness, a possibility I hope to share with each client who comes to my studio.
How is it used in my practice?
Every session begins with a conversation about what is bothering you. As we move towards identifying the root cause of your stress, I will make note of statements that carry a particularly strong emotional charge. Then, if The Work seems like an appropriate therapy for your needs, we will use Byron Katie’s process of inquiry to reveal how these statements inhibit you from living your personal truth.
The Work can be intense but also extremely liberating. While it is possible to have an “ah-ha moment” during the first session, inquiry is most effective when practiced regularly. I encourage clients to do The Work any time they experience an unpleasant emotion. This could be as simple as feeling annoyed when your spouse neglects to take out the trash, or as profound as the sadness that accompanies the loss of a loved one. Regardless of the emotion, the process is the same. With consistent practice, you will automatically begin to meet your negative thoughts with inquiry instead of suffering.
View Part 1 of The Work: “I’m not living up to my full potential.”
View Part 2 of The Work: “I’m not living up to my full potential.”
View “I’m not good enough.”
View Oprah’s Soul Series interview with Byron Katie.
View The Work of Byron Katie video, “Turn it Around.”