Four Questions that Can Change Your Life
by Byron Katie with Stephen Mitchell
Harmony Books 2002
Out of nowhere, like a fresh breeze in a marketplace crowded with advice on what to think and believe, comes Byron Katie and what she calls The Work. In the midst of a normal life, Katie became increasingly depressed and desperate. Then one morning, she woke up in a state of absolute joy, filled with the realization of how her own suffering had ended. The freedom of that realization has never left her, and in Loving What Is you can discover the same freedom through The Work.
The Work is simply four questions that, when applied to a specific problem, enable you to see what is troubling you in an entirely different light. As Katie says, “It’s not the situation that causes our suffering; it’s our thoughts about the situation.” Contrary to popular belief, trying to let go of a painful thought never works; instead, once we have done The Work, the thought lets go of us. At that point, we can truly love what is, just as it is.
Loving What Is will show you step by step, through clear and vivid examples, exactly how to use this extraordinary process for yourself. You’ll see people do The Work with Katie on a broad range of human problems, in their relationships, at work, and on their deepest anxieties and fears. Once they have done The Work, they experience a sense of lasting peace and find the clarity and energy to act, even in situations that had previously seemed impossible.
“Her method can cut through years of self-delusion and rationalizations.” –Los Angeles Times
“The Work of Byron Katie is a powerful process of discovery, a key that unlocks the heart. Byron Katie’s insight into what is at the core of happiness and fulfillment is truly enlightening.” —Tony Robbins, author of Awaken the Giant Within
‘Good Lord! Where did Byron Katie come from? She’s the real McCoy. Her Work is amazingly effective – a simple, straightforward antidote to the suffering we unnecessarily create for ourselves. She asks us to believe nothing, but provides a surprisingly effective and simple way to cut through the tangle of delusions we wrap ourselves in. Just reading the exchanges in Loving What Is, I can admit things I didn’t want to admit and stop torturing myself in ways I didn’t realize I was doing.’ — David Chadwick, author of Crooked Cucumber: The Life and Zen Teaching of Shunryu Suzuki ‘
Loving What Is is filled with the essence of wisdom. Katie’s Work is a wonderful, transformative practice for anyone interested in spiritual growth. — Lama Surya Das, author of Awakening the Buddha Within
“The Work of Byron Katie is a completely accessible user-friendly form of the ancient way of spiritual inquiry, a simple method that anyone can use to untangle difficulties in work, love and family, and at the same time it opens the deepest spiritual directions.” John Tarrant, author of The Light Inside the Dark
“Suppose you could find a simple way to embrace your life with joy, stop arguing with reality, and achieve serenity in the midst of chaos? That is what Byron Katie’s Loving What Is offers. It is no less than a revolutionary way to live your life.”
— Erica Jong, author of Fear of Flying
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.
If you want reality to be different than it is, you might as well try to teach a cat to bark. You can try and try, and in the end the cat will look up at you and say, “Meow.” Wanting reality to be different than it is is hopeless. You can spend the rest of your life trying to teach a cat to bark.
And yet, if you pay attention, you’ll notice that you believe thoughts like this dozens of times a day. “People should be kinder.” “Children should be well-behaved.” “My neighbors should take better care of their lawn.” “The line at the grocery store should move faster.” “My husband (or wife) should agree with me.” “I should be thinner (or prettier or more successful).” These thoughts are ways of wanting reality to be different than it is. If you think that this sounds depressing, you’re right. All the stress that we feel is caused by arguing with what is.
After I woke up to reality in 1986, people often referred to me as the woman who made friends with the wind. Barstow is a desert town where the wind blows a lot of the time, and everyone hated it; people even moved from there because they couldn’t stand the wind. The reason I made friends with the wind—with reality—is that I discovered I didn’t have a choice. I realized that it’s insane to oppose it. When I argue with reality, I lose—but only 100 percent of the time. How do I know that the wind should blow? It’s blowing!
People new to The Work often say to me, “But it would be disempowering to stop my argument with reality. If I simply accept reality, I’ll become passive. I may even lose the desire to act.” I answer them with a question: “Can you really know that that’s true?” Which is more empowering?—“I wish I hadn’t lost my job” or “I lost my job; what intelligent solutions can I find right now?”
The Work reveals that what you think shouldn’t have happened should have happened. It should have happened because it did happen, and no thinking in the world can change it. This doesn’t mean that you condone it or approve of it. It just means that you can see things without resistance and without the confusion of your inner struggle. No one wants their children to get sick, no one wants to be in a car accident; but when these things happen, how can it be helpful to mentally argue with them? We know better than to do that, yet we do it, because we don’t know how to stop.
I am a lover of what is, not because I’m a spiritual person, but because it hurts when I argue with reality. We can know that reality is good just as it is, because when we argue with it, we experience tension and frustration. We don’t feel natural or balanced. When we stop opposing reality, action becomes simple, fluid, kind, and fearless.