RG: Katie, Einstein once said that the most important question to ask is, “is the universe kind?” In my case I always believed that the universe is very harsh and unfriendly, and I know many people with that belief as well. But I’ve come to find out there are so many worlds in this world. People live in different states; some are very depressed, some are angry and live in a kind of hell – and other people are in very light and happy states most or all of the time. When I ask people if they know somebody who’s truly happy in a lasting way, most people tell me they know nobody like that. Well I do, you are one of these people. But I also know that you lived in hell for a long time, so what happened? What changed? How did you discover this world that you live in now, and what is it like?
BK: Well, I discovered that basically when I believe my thoughts I suffer, when I don’t believe my thoughts I don’t suffer. And I’ve come to see that this is true for every human being.
And the way that I found that to be true is I experienced myself in an amazing moment of clarity. It’s like IT opened it’s eyes and it looked and it had never been born before, and it was awake, and it saw everything. It has no identification, for it or what it saw, there was nothing. And then I noticed the mind just bombarded me; and in that moment laughter was born – it just rolled out because it recognized that none of the thoughts were true. This wisdom that could see past everything.
So actually I inquired within that moment – before the thought, no problem – and then the thought comes and when we believe it, that’s where the whole world is created. Thought brought an imaginary form with it and a whole world, basically.
RG: The thoughts people have are so real to them, how did you discover that they weren’t, that they could be something different?
BK: Well I saw that it just wasn’t true. I saw that no thought was true, so the world that it reflected wasn’t real, that it was all imagined. And then I saw from people that is was real for them like, “It is a chair, it is a table, it is a sky, it is a tree.” And I came to see that I used to believe that also. But then I saw that the “I” wasn’t personal.
That’s where the turnaround came to life, for example, “That is true,” turn it around: “That isn’t true.” And it is true until we see that it’s not. Questioning what we believe brings everyone to the conclusion of the truth, if they stay with it, in my experience. If freedom is what they’re looking for.
RG: When people begin to do the inquiry and start asking the questions, often there are some other thoughts that come up that tend to sabotage the process and take us out of it.
For instance, one of them is, “It’s selfish to be so concerned with your own happiness.” What would you answer to that?
BK: Well it’s selfish not to. You know we live our lives trying to make people happy. Well we’re a people too. So we try to make people happy by giving them things: our advice, our money, our sex, our bodies. Then we find that it’s not lasting. So if we want to know the secret to happiness, we turn around those ideas, and we begin to learn to give it to ourselves.
And for me that is questioning my thoughts. When I have a thought as simple as, “I wish he would appreciate me,” I asked him to, and if he does, wonderful, I get what I wanted, but if he doesn’t, I turn it around. You know, if I want appreciation, why don’t I give it to myself?
And then we begin to understand that it’s something else we wanted.
So we begin to become our best friend, we begin to bring us our own happiness, more importantly we become responsible for our own happiness, and we allow other people to be responsible for their own.
In the mean time if I think appreciation is so wonderful and it brings me happiness,why don’t I share my appreciation of him? That way we both get happiness and I get double everything.
RG: What about if the thought comes up, “There are just too many thoughts, I’ll never see the end of it?”
BK: I would just question it, “There are just too many thoughts you’ll never see the end of it,” is that true? Can you absolutely know it’s true? How do you rationally believe that thought?
One way we react is we become hopeless, our shoulders become heavy, we begin to slouch, we sit down, we become depressed, and we become that thought; hopeless.
And then the fourth question; who would I be without that thought? I’d be doing my work, I’d be doing my inner work, I’d be setting me free from the thought system that I’m believing in the moment.
And the turnaround, “There are too many thoughts,” it’s hopeless. “There are not too many,” it’s not hopeless, and that could be just as true. And who cares about all those thoughts? Just the one we’re stuck in, let’s just work with that.
RG: One situation that can happen is that you’re doing the inquiry and everything is going good and then suddenly there’s just a conviction that says there’s something you need and off you go! And the whole practice you just started is forgotten.
BK: That’s ok, we believe our thoughts or we question them there’s no other choice and if a person believes their thoughts, I invite them to question them and break the spell. Wake themselves up.
RG: How is it that we all have equal wisdom?
BK: We just do. The way I’ve come to understand it is I didn’t have a teacher, I didn’t have religion, I had no background. I like to say my religion was “My children should pick up their socks,” and I was devoted to it. There was a great deal of punishment metered out when they did not comply with what I believed to be their own best interest and welfare.
So it was a very cruel world if you were one of my children. And it was very cruel for me also, because to hurt my children through words or acts, I hurt me. It was a cycle I had no way to escape. I was simply believing my thoughts.
RG: So you believed your thoughts and you’re saying by simply questioning your thoughts your whole family, your world changed?
BK: Yes, I questioned my thoughts and my world changed, it put me in a kind universe and that’s how I decided that the universe is kind. I kept coming back to that kind universe and all of the proof. I couldn’t prove the unkind universe; that’s what keeps the mind busy, proving the universe is unkind. That’s the mind’s job. It takes all the information out there and looks for evidence. With awareness, you then ask, “Is it true?”
RG: One of the thoughts that come up when we do The Work is that it doesn’t work, because sometimes that can be our experience.
BK: The work isn’t anything, so it can’t work, it doesn’t work, it’s four questions and a turnaround. But the answers that surface as the person answers those questions, that’s where the enlightenment comes from. From within.
RG: Then how would you tell people to deal with the thought, “I’m missing something?”
BK: To question it, and turn it around and then test it. For example, you’ve walked through all four questions and then: “I’m missing something”. Then we focus on what should be in the space that’s not, and miss what’s really in the space. So my mind is totally away, doing some trip and I’m missing the universe that is not only kind, but actually overly generous. In fact, unlimitedly so.
RG: So what is freedom?
BK: Freedom is no care in the world. The only care is how can I help? It’s a natural state and there’s no investment in it.
Happiness is balance. This woman today in the audience said ,
“When I fall, I love the trip and I kiss the cement. And how do I know that it’s time to kiss the cement? I’m kissing it, I’m there.” She wasn’t opposed to it. Basically she was absolutely OK with it, but she said that she didn’t love it. It’s not this ecstatic “Oh I love the cement!” It’s just this natural connection with everything, this unity, this dearness, where you fall, you rip your pants, you break your knee open, your head hits and you just don’t mind, and there’s nothing uncomfortable about it. In fact it’s amazing to realize that you don’t dislike it and to me that’s happiness, that’s freedom.
RG: So it sounds like the basic recipe is just to completely show up in the moment without a thought that anything should be different than it is.
BK: Yes, and that’s the end of the war with what is.
Source: Interview with Byron Katie