Thursday, May 19, 2005

Loving the enemy, Byron Katie style

One of the way cool parts of the Bible is where Jesus is laying out what loving your enemy is all about. To very broadly paraphrase, he says: ‘Anyone can love someone who is kissing up to them, but what about when someone gives you a hard time, can you love them then?’ With a slight shift, this is the secret to happiness: anyone can be happy when things are going their way, but when they aren’t, can we still be happy?

The Work of Byron Katie is superb for getting out of the mental loops where over and over we are making our partner the enemy. Take any thought of this sort—you should listen to my side, you aren’t being fair, blah, blah, blah— and repeat it over and over in our minds and we’ve got an enemy on our hands.

Byron Katie is a woman who “woke up” from years of depression, alcoholism, obesity and rage, to a space of freedom and clarity. In this clarity she saw that the world was no longer to blame for any moments of unhappiness. Her thoughts always were. But since she had no “spiritual” background, being a gal from Barstow when this happened, she didn’t go the route of “letting go” of thoughts, or “rising above” thoughts, or “affirming” away thoughts, or even “non-attachment” to thoughts.

She took the route of honesty. Seeing that judging was what she did best, and that these judging thoughts could whirl on and on if not slowed down by putting them in writing, she came up with this processes: Judge your neighbor (partner, co-worker, anyone who annoys you). Write it down. Ask four questions. Turn it around.

Take, as an example. the thought, “You should understand my side of things.” Write it down. Ask four questions:

1) Is it true that , “You should understand my side of things?” Now, we always feel it’s true? But is it true in the reality of things?

2) Can I absolutely know that this is true that, “You should understand my side of things?” The answer here is , of course, no.

3) How do I react when I attach to this thought, “You should understand my side of things?” Well, I feel misunderstood. Or angry. Or cheated. I might also react my being withdrawing, or complaining to friends, by giving scolding looks. And so on. This question brings the truth home of what I am getting out of believing this thought. This is me and my thought and my consequences.

4) Who would I be without this thought, “You should understand my side of things?” This gets pretty amazing, seeing the other without the thought, with an empty and clear mind. The goal is not to “give up” the thought, merely to contrast the world with the thought, as in question 3, and the world without the thought, here in question 4.

Turn it around: You should understand my side of things, turns around two ways: I should understand your side of things. I should understand my side of things. Both these routes will lead me far, partly into realizing I’m trying to con you into giving something I’m too lazy to give myself, and partly into a joy of realizing: we are both having a hard time with this, we are in the same boat. From that, like to like, liking is easy, and love can’t be far behind.

This is an easy and a very deep practice, but it is called The Work of Byron Katie, because it is work, not magic, though the results can be magical. Katie’s website can help continue, and Readers carries her new book on relationships, I Need Your Love: Is that True?

( For further insights into Land, Love and Awareness, you might peruse the essay-site,, or enjoy listening to the radio show Land and Love, Tuesdays, 9:30-10:30 P.M., on our own wonderful KSVY, 91.3 FM


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