Saturday, July 30, 2005

Byron Katie and relationships

Let’s say a bit of trouble comes your relationship way. Hey, that happens to me, to you, to all of us. What to do? Suffer silently, that’s one way. Complain. Get rid of the terrible problem person. Or, how about this: work on yourself? Well, if that’s your cup of tea, here’s some strong and effective brew: The Work of Byron Katie.

Byron Katie is a gal who in 1986 had a “waking up” experience. Not a meditator, nor a “spiritual” person, she was an alcoholic, chain smoking, obese and unhappy person, deeply depressed for ten years. Then, she “woke” to an peace beyond understanding, where it became clear that her suffering hadn’t been about the world ( her husband not loving her enough, say) but was about her thoughts about the world ( the thought that her husband should love her more than he did). This wasn’t an intellectual understanding. She came to silent and vast and clear space of immense peace, and then discovered that what jolted her from this was the reoccurrence of the same old thoughts.

Not having been trained to “let go” of thoughts, nor to make affirmations, nor to “watch her thoughts without identification,” she came up with her own system, that was this: Judge your neighbor. Write it down. Ask four questions. Turn it around. Some complain it’s “too simple,” but hundreds of thousands say, hey, this is what I needed, a “simple” was to climb out of my suffering. It’s about meeting thought with thought, in a way that isn’t warlike, but a search for truth. It works, but only if we do the work. Which is:

First, to judge your neighbor/ spouse/ child/ boss/ worker/ parent/ sibling. And so on. You get the idea. We do it anyway, sometimes disguised as I really love them except for “this little thing.”

Second, write it down. In short simple sentences. “Dad shouldn’t have criticized me.” “Mom should have loved me more.” “Spouse should appreciate me more.” “ My child shouldn’t…” Whatever is bugging you, instead of going around and around as words in the head, or in the mouth, write it down, which slows the thinking down and gets it there in black and white.

Third, ask four questions. One, Is it true? Two, Can I absolutely know it’s true? Three, How do I react when I attach to that thought? Four, Who would I be without that thought? Take the common thought, “My partner should appreciate me more.”

1) Is it true? Well, it feels true, but what about the reality? What is the reality truth? The partner appreciates me some days, not on others.

2) Can I absolutely know that this is true? Well, if I were God I could, but since I’m not, I can’t absolutely know what’s true for my partner.

3) How do I react, when I attach to the thought that “my partner should appreciate me more?” Troubled. Angry. Victimized. Withdrawing. Complaining on the phone. Giving the partner the cold treatment. ( Notice: these are all consequences of our thinking, not of our partner.)

4) Who (or what) would I be without the thought? This takes a quietness and imagination, but usually brings us back to something very interesting.

And finally, the fourth part: Turn it around. “My partner should appreciate me more,” turns around to: I should appreciate my partner more. And: I should appreciate me more.

There is a website, ( and some at my site, There are two books, Loving What Is and I Need Your Love: Is that True? It’s simple, and it’s work, and it works if we do the work on the only one we can: ourselves.

We’ll explore this more, but for now the basics are four by four. Four processes: judge your neighbor, write it down, ask four questions, turn it around. And four questions: Is it true? Can I absolutely know it’s true? How do I react when I attach to the thought? Who ( or what) would I be without attachment to the thought?

That’s it. Simple. But, work. Give it a try, or an “little bit,” you are holding in grudge-land about your partner, or an ex-partner, or a parent. You might be very pleasantly surprised at how true is the phrase that, “The Truth will set you free.” And the truth isn’t something big and fancy, but it is deep and profound. It is discovering how we are the source of our own relationship unhappiness.



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