How The Work Works – the work of Byron katie


Worth reading! From Off the web!

Many people in many traditions have spoken about a state of continuous and unshakable inner peace, in which the mind delights in everything that happens. Byron Katie calls this “loving what is.” It is the mind’s natural state. Through the self-inquiry of The Work, people can return to it as often as they wish, and eventually it becomes constant. Suffering is optional.


The initial insight, as in cognitive psychology, is that all human suffering is caused by believing our stressful thoughts. As the philosopher Epictetus said, “We are disturbed not by what happens to us, but by our thoughts about what happens.” Byron Katie puts it this way: “The only time we suffer is when we believe a thought that argues with what is. When the mind is perfectly clear, what is is what we want.”


It’s not possible to end stress or suffering by substituting positive thoughts for negative thoughts. This may work to some extent, but eventually the mind will outsmart you. There is a whole underworld of unexamined thoughts that will override the positive thoughts that you’re trying to believe. Ultimately it’s not possible to let go of our negative thoughts, because we can’t control the mind. When we look deeply into the mind, we see that we aren’t creating thoughts in the first place. We aren’t thinking; we are being thought.

Suffering can be alleviated and ultimately ended by questioning our stressful thoughts. The Work provides a simple and powerful method for doing this. Byron Katie says, “I didn’t let go of my stressful thoughts. I questioned them, and then they let go of me.”


One of the brilliant innovations of Byron Katie is the Judge-Your-Neighbor Worksheet. This allows people to identify the thoughts and stories that cause their suffering. The first step in doing The Work is to fill out a Worksheet. “Though the mind can justify itself faster than the speed of light, it can be stopped through the act of writing. Once the mind is stopped on paper, thoughts remain stable, and inquiry can easily be applied.”

The stressful thoughts to be identified on a Worksheet are about someone else, not about yourself; hence the term “Judge-Your-Neighbor.” This is sometimes difficult for people, since we have been taught not to judge, though we do it all the time. When you do The Work, you see who you are in a stressful situation by seeing who you think other people are. Byron Katie explains this in the following way: “Since the beginning of time, people have been trying to change the world so that they can be happy. This hasn’t ever worked, because it approaches the problem backward. What The Work gives us is a way to change the projector—mind—rather than the projected. It’s like when there’s a piece of lint on a projector’s lens. We think there’s a flaw on the screen, and we try to change this person and that person, whomever the flaw appears to be on next. But it’s futile to try to change the projected images. Once we realize where the lint is, we can clear the lens itself. This is the end of suffering, and the beginning of a little joy in paradise.”


1. Is it true? People are encouraged to meditate on this question and go deeper than answers that seem obvious but that bring them stress or suffering. “My husband (or my wife) should listen to me—is it true?” Most people’s automatic response is “Yes,” indignantly or sadly. After someone truly contemplates the question, the answer may still be yes but there may be a slight weakening of the ego’s position. Or maybe the person sees clearly and shockingly that the statement isn’t true. It may be something they have believed for years and decades.

2. Can you absolutely know that it’s true? If their answer to the first question is yes, this second question gives people another chance to examine the stressful thought and to go deeper into the open mind, which in Zen is called the “don’t-know mind.” Yes is still a valid answer.

3. How do you react—what happens—when you believe that thought? This question allows people to see the cause-and-effect of believing their stressful thoughts—to witness what happened, what they felt, said, and did, when they believed the thought in that They are encouraged to inhabit the situation they were remembering in the first statement on their Worksheet and trace, in detail, the physical sensations and the emotions caused when they believe “My husband (or my wife) should listen to me.” Someone might say, for example, “I feel anger in my belly. My face flushes. I start to talk louder. I see my husband as neglectful. I become antagonistic. I try to convince him. I see him as the enemy,” and so on. These specific reactions are clear evidence of how unuseful, even damaging, this belief is to the person believing it. Whether they answered “yes” or “no” to the first two questions, they get to see how the thought leads them away from connection with the other person.

4. Who would you be without the thought? This is a question outside the realm of cognitive psychology. It allows people to see reality without the superimposition of their own belief. It gives them a vivid glimpse into what life is like without a problem. They become the seer, the listener, egoless, receiving the other person without blame, demands, expectations, or anything but an open mind. This question has resulted in very powerfully transformative experiences, even for people whose response to questions one and two were “Yes.”


After the mind has educated itself about a particular stressful thought through the four questions of The Work, people are invited to turn the thought around. The turnaround is a way of experiencing the opposite of what you believed was true. Sometimes there may be just one turnaround; sometimes there are two or three turnarounds to one of the statements on the Worksheet (turnarounds to the opposite, to the self, and to the other). For example, the statement in that situation, “my husband should listen to me” can be turned around to “My husband shouldn’t listen to me,” and also to “I should listen to me,” and finally to “I should listen to my husband.”

Once people find a turnaround, they are invited to contemplate specific examples of how the turnaround is true in their lives, how it is as true as or truer than their original statement. This grounds the turnaround in actual experience and further weakens the power of the stressful thought over the mind. For some people, just one deep session of inquiry is enough to completely unravel a belief, so that it doesn’t occur again, or if it does, the response is amusement rather than stress.

Often, after fully contemplating the turnarounds, people who have answered “Yes” to questions one and two, if they are asked the questions again, will answer “No,” often with a smile or a laugh.

When we are suffering in any given moment, we are in a trance, hypnotized.

 The Work wakes us up.

Here’s a way to “Un-Do” Your Beliefs


“If your beliefs are stressful and you question them, you come to see that they aren’t true — whereas prior to questioning, you absolutely believe them. How can you live in joy when you’re believing thoughts that bring on sadness, frustration, anger, alienation, and loneliness? When you believe those thoughts, you think that the world is making you unhappy. But it’s your thoughts about the world that are making you unhappy.

My mother became a believer, and then I became a believer. But when I was 43 years old, I began to think for myself, somehow, by fluke and by grace. And I thought, “Oh, my. I was so mistaken.” The world isn’t what I believed it to be. I am not what I believed me to be, and neither is anyone. So now I live in a state of grace, where I don’t have to know.

I realized that when I believed my thoughts, I suffered, but when I didn’t believe my thoughts, I didn’t suffer. And I’ve come to see that this is true for every human being.

So, the first two questions in The Work — “Is it true?” and “Can you absolutely know that it’s true?” — are what I saw when the thoughts appeared. No thoughts are true. They can’t be. I saw that with absolute clarity. The third question is “How do you react when you believe that thought?” Well, that was obvious: sadness, anger, despair. I saw that all these things are the effects of believing a thought that isn’t even true. Then I saw that there was no identity until the thoughts appeared, so the fourth question is “Who would you be without the thought?” Then what I call the turnaround, which is a way of experiencing the opposite of what you believe, occurred. I saw that for every thought, the opposite is just as true, or even truer. I realized that it was all upside down and backward — what was true, what was not true, what was the dream world, what was the real world.”
Excerpts from talks with The Work of Byron Katie

20 Ways to Stay in the Peace: Part 2

Worth Reading: Off the web … simple yet powerful practices from The Work that will give you new ways of looking at your life circumstances, and in that, create new possibilities for self-realization. This is part 2 of the 20 Ways.


8. Reporting to Yourself

This exercise can help in healing fear and terror. Practice reporting events to yourself as if a circumstance you find yourself in is actually a news story and you are the roving reporter. Announce exactly what your surroundings are and what’s happening “on the scene” at that very moment. Fear is always the result of projecting a re-creation of the past into the now or the future. If you find yourself fearful, find the core belief and inquire: “Is it true that I need to be fearful in this situation? What is actually happening right now, physically? Where is my body (hands, arms, feet, legs, head)? What do I see (trees, walls, windows, sky)?”
De-Personalizing our stories gives us an opportunity to look at circumstances more objectively, and choose our responses to what life brings. Living in our minds, believing our untrue thoughts, is a good way to scare ourselves to death, and it can appear in any form –  old age, cancer, degeneration, high blood pressure, etc.

9. Literal Hearing

Practice listening to others in the most literal sense, believing exactly what they say, and do your best to resist falling into your own interpretations about the information they share with you. For example, someone might compliment you on how beautiful you are, and you interpret that as an implication that the person has ulterior motives. Our interpretations of what we hear people say to us are often far more painful or frightening than what people actually say.

We can hurt ourselves with our misconceptions and our thinking for others. Try trusting that what they say is exactly what they mean: not more, not less. Hear people out. Catch yourself when you want to finish a sentence for someone either aloud or in your mind. Listen. It can be amazing to hear what comes out when we allow others to complete their thoughts without interruption. And, when we are busy thinking we know what they are about to say, we are missing what they are actually saying. You might want to consider these questions:

“What can be threatened if I listen and hear literally? Do I interrupt because I don’t want to really know what they have to say? Do I interrupt to convince them I know more than they do? Am I attempting to portray an image of self-confidence and control? Who would I be without the need to possess those qualities? Is there a fear of appearing unintelligent? Would people leave me if I heard them literally, and no longer engage in manipulative games?

10. Speaking Honestly and Literally

Speak literally. Say what you mean without justification, without any desire to manipulate, and without concern about how another may interpret your words. Practice not being careful. Experience the freedom this brings.

11. Watching the Play

See yourself in a balcony, watching your favorite drama about you and what distresses you. Watch the story on the stage below. Notice how you have seen this drama performed hundreds, perhaps thousands, of times. Watch this until you find yourself becoming bored. The performers are having to exaggerate their parts to keep your attention. Notice when you get honest with your boredom, you get up from your seat, leave the balcony, exit the playhouse, and step outside. Always know you can re-visit. Who would you be without your story?

12. Watching a Second Version of the Play

Write your story from the eyes and mind of another. Write as many different versions with as many different outcomes as you like. Notice what you notice.

13. Exercising Polarity

If you find yourself dwelling on a negative thought, practice going to the opposite positive extreme or polarity. When you catch yourself slipping back into negativity, choose again to return to the positive polarity and be present with your conscious choice; feel the truth of it. There is only love, and what doesn’t appear as love is a disguised call for love. It is your birthright to live in the positive polarity of love and truth.

compiled by Mary Lynn Hendrix

The 4 Questions  with Byron Katie

Beliefs Don’t have to Define You, and They Don’t have to be Permanent

contemplation“The things that happened as a child, or the thing that upset us yesterday, will stay with us for as long as we live, as long as we still believe what we were believing in that situation.

The Work of Inquiry can break the spell; it wakes us up from those living nightmares. As little children we can’t question our thoughts, but as adults we do have an opportunity to set ourselves free.”

– Byron Katie


Learn more about The Work: 

Learn more about the Inner Child:

How You Can End Suffering

An Interview with Byron Katie, author of The Work

Ray: But why do so many people feel as if they are sad or suffering?

Katie: If your beliefs are stressful and you question them, you come to see that they aren’t true — whereas prior to questioning, you absolutely believe them. How can you live in joy when you’re believing thoughts that bring on sadness, frustration, anger, alienation, and loneliness? When you believe those thoughts, you think that the world is making you unhappy. But it’s your thoughts about the world that are making you unhappy.

Ultimately, there’s no one who can teach you except yourself. Each of us needs to look at what our belief system really consists of. Look at the concepts that come across your mind and just notice what you believe.

Ray: Some people may struggle to disengage the intellect. How do you undo thinking without thinking? Isn’t inquiry a thought engaging itself, or deconstructing another thought?

Katie: Actually, it’s mind seeing through itself and understanding itself. I like to say that understanding is the power. Without intellect, there’s no story and no world.

The moment it begins to question itself, the mind becomes so clear that it starts working with itself rather than with the body’s identification.

By questioning our stressful thoughts, we come to see that they’re not true. And if we see that our stressful thoughts aren’t true — if we have questioned them deeply and thoroughly enough — what does that leave? It leaves love. It leaves you completely in love with yourself and with a mind that can only project love onto everyone else, as well.

Ray: You don’t use Positive Affirmations though. Why not?

Katie: You can never make yourself believe that you’re lovable, however hard you try. Notice – when the chips are down, what you really believe rises to the surface of the mind to replace what you want to believe. So, after years of “I am lovable, I am lovable,” when your husband lies to you or your mother is rude, the underlying thought “I’m unloveable” overrides all your positive affirmations. What we really believe is what we manifest. What we believe, we see. So, we cannot see what we don’t believe.

The Mind is not the enemy – Become a gentle observer of your thoughts… try to view unexamined concepts as an invitation to investigate and reclaim your natural state of joy.

Is it Your Business?


There is nothing so dark that we cannot put it on paper, question it, and set ourselves free.

Byron Katie states that there are three kinds of business – mine, other people’s, and God’s (or nature). Being in other people’s or nature’s business is especially stressful, because for one thing, we have no control over them.

For instance, if I worry about what someone else is thinking, I can make myself insane! And 99% of my guesses are probably wrong. Not to mention I have no power over another persons thoughts. Where would their thoughts come from, anyway? From their own history, that’s where. Instead, I can focus on my own opinions in a situation. I can exert some control over those.

“The next time you’re feeling stress or discomfort, ask yourself whose business you’re in mentally. You may come to see that you’ve never really been present, that you’ve been mentally living in other people’s business all your life. Just to notice that you’re in someone else’s business can bring you back to your own wonderful self.”- Katie

Finding True Peace with Only 4 Questions

“Loving What Is and Finding the Truth with Only 4 Questions”

Off the web – by Farnoosh Brock

“If I had a prayer, it would be this: “God, spare me from the desire for love, approval or appreciation. Amen”

~Byron Katie

What if four questions could turn your frustration around and create harmony in your life? What if you could ask yourself powerful questions and trust that the process would lead you to inner peace and pain-free existence?

What if it really were that simple – not easy, mind you, but simple?

I’d been hearing about Byron Katie’s “The Work” and her book, “Loving What Is” for months, but I was too cheap to buy it! That’s right! It was on my ever growing reading wish list and I’d run way over budget on books. But then something shocking happened that put this book in my hot little hands. For free!

You see, I made an amazing discovery this spring: our local library!

booksWhat upsets me just a wee bit, if you don’t mind me confiding in you, is that everybody else already knew about this fantastic resource but me!

Between the years of being a reading-deprived corporate junkie to my current life of Kindle-obsessed reading monster, I completely forgot the existence of free books, free audio products and other amazing free goodies at my disposal at the local library!

Frankly, this is one of my most embarrassing discoveries but excitement leads the way now. I am just over the moon to discover the local library. Not only do they have a good number of books on my wish list, they let me borrow Kindle books. For free. From their giant database. Unbelievable!

Before I share any more embarrassing discoveries, let me get back to “The Work”. This book has been an awakening in ways that I had not intended to experience. Subtle. Powerful. Inviting. Gripping. Nudging. Original. Oh my, quite the awakening.

In “The Work”, Byron Katie takes us through the process of asking four fundamental questions to the difficult, aggravating, frustrating and painful situations in our lives, be it a relationship, a workplace or office situation, a personal dilemma, or an internal conflict. She calls it “putting it to inquiry”.

“You’re either attaching to your thoughts or inquiring. There is no other choice.”
~Byron Katie

The basis of “The Work” are the four questions that you use in the inquiry process. You want to use the questions to probe, to nudge, to go deeper and deeper inside yourself for one and only one reason: to find the truth – your truth.

I love how she asks her participants if they want to know the truth. Some of us don’t. Some of us like the lies we have made up. Some of us are too attached to those lies, and some of us would never welcome a wake-up call. Some of us imagine falling apart in the face of truth, so we run and hide with the lies.

But if you are not in that category, if you are courageous enough to face your demons with the statement: “I want to know the truth!”, then you are the perfect candidate for Byron Katie’s brilliant – simply brilliant – inquiry method.
How the Inquiry Works

Imagine a frustrating, painful, aggravating, anger-inducing, hurtful, or awful situation in your life. Write down everything you feel about it. Then take each statement, one by one, and ask four questions of it:

The 4 Questions

1. Is it true?
2. Can I absolutely know that it’s true?
3. How do I react when I think that thought?
4. Who would I be without the thought?

“Would you rather be right or free?”
~Byron Katie

Let’s go deeper into “The Work” by better understanding the power behind each question:
Q1: Is it true?

What’s the reality of it? What is already happening, in other words?
Whose business is it? There are only three kinds of business in the world, she tells us: mine, yours and God’s, which she defines as the reality of what is. Want to take a wild guess where you need to be at all times to be at total peace and harmony? That’s right! You need to be in your business just as I need to be in mine. Because when you are in my business, you are neglecting your own. And when you are in God’s business, you are denying reality which has yet to work out well for anyone.
Q2: Can you absolutely know that it’s true?

Can you be irrevocably certain that what you believe is true?
And if you say yes to this one, go further and ask yourself what that truth means to you? What does it tell you about yourself? Then put the inquiry to those new answers. Next, ask yourself what is your proof? You can answer by saying that you know this to be absolutely true for such and such reasons. Then examine the proof to see if it is absolute by asking the original question again.
Q3: How do you react when you think that thought?

Can you see a reason to drop the thought? (This is just a reason to drop it, not the act or the request to drop it.)
Can you think of one stress- free reason to keep the thought?
The inquiry is not about getting rid of thoughts; it’s about realizing what’s true for you, through awareness and unconditional self-love. Once you see the truth, the thoughts let go of you, Byron Katie tells us, not the other way around.
Q4: Who would you be without the thought?

This is the most powerful question of the inquiry, and one that makes it most difficult to be truthful, because it makes us our most vulnerable. Imagine who you would be and what you would do without the weight of the thought.

“Reality is always kinder than the stories we tell about it.”

~Byron Katie

I love the simple and yet brutal way that “The Work” cuts through the core and brings us out gently to face our truth. Naked. Vulnerable. Unguarded. And yet, somewhere, somehow, it leaves us feeling powerful and free.

The goal of the inquiry is to bring us back to our right mind, she tells us gently, so we can realize for ourselves that we live in paradise and haven’t even noticed.

Can it be so simple? Well, asking a question is simple but doing the work to come up with the right answer is neither simple nor easy. You are penetrating through tough walls, and if you have built up a protection around stories that you may have made up over the years, it is no easy task to break through the wall.

But you start by gently tapping instead of going at it with a sledgehammer. You can begin by allowing yourself to be vulnerable, because if you want to feel free of pain and suffering, you have to be willing to examine your thoughts. It is those very thoughts that build up the walls of a prison, and that prison, you cannot escape until the thoughts let you go.

Reality, it turns out, is hardly ever that harsh. Could we learn to embrace it with the inquiry method? Could it maybe even make us happy or something like that?

I am willing to bet yes. I am willing to bet on the inquiry, and on Byron Katie whom I adore already, and I am willing to bet on YOU. You are deserving of happiness. And freedom. And inner peace. If there is a way, and if it’s all in your own power, won’t you give it a try? Don’t worry. I’ll be doing it with you. You won’t be alone!

I have just shared a snippet of the powerful inquiry that Byron Katie shares in “Loving What Is”. There’s more, a lot more, and if you want to learn how to go through the process, and truly understand the power of these questions in action and in application, read her work. (Oh, and you don’t have to buy it, just check out your local library ;))!

“The Work” is a new level of introspection that I am now using with great results to work through my own personal problems and plan to use with my fabulous clients to help them work through some of their challenges. May it shine a light of clarity into your problems too.

“You move totally away from reality when you believe that there is a legitimate reason to suffer.”
~Byron Katie

-Farnoosh Brock