Life can often feel like an uphill battle that especially follows the old adage, “Bad things happen to good people.”
Unfortunately, we can’t change reality, and what usually results is us feeling anxious and frustrated over things that shouldn’t be happening. But as Byron Katie tells us in her book, Loving What Is: Four Questions That Can Change Your Life, we do have the power to change the way we react to bad thoughts that hold us down.
All it takes is the inquiry of four questions that prompt you to meditate and open yourself up to a new perspective of whatever is happening. Essentially, these questions help you find clarity. “It’s like diving into yourself,” Katie wrote. “Contemplate the questions, drop down into the depths of yourself, listen, and wait. The answer will find your question.”
The hope is that you’ll be able to use these four questions, also known as “The Work,” to help navigate any situation you find yourself in, whether dealing with work and money, or a friend or close personal relationship. To help you get started on working through some of your issues, here are Katie’s four questions for inquiry. So grab a pen and paper, focus on something that’s been bothering you, and get ready for an awakening.
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1. Is it true?
This question is the first step in realizing the reality of a situation that bothers you. “Reality, for me, is what is true,” she said. “The truth is whatever is in front of you, whatever is really happening. Whether you like it or not, it’s raining now.” The answer should be a simple yes or no. You may find yourself being defensive but continue to stick to a simple yes or no answer. If your answer is the latter, move onto question three.
2. Can you absolutely know that it’s true?
If you answered yes to the first question, then this one will make you dive deeper into examining what is reality and what you think you know is right. It pushes you to think beyond your own perspective. “Often it is the interpretation, which may be hidden from you, that causes you pain,” Katie said.
3. How do you react, what happens, when you believe that thought?
“You can see that when you believe the thought, there is an uneasy feeling, a disturbance that can range from mild discomfort to fear or panic,” Katie wrote. During this question, we should experience the effects, feelings, and actions of the thought that we are investigating by turning it into a list.
4. Who would you be without the thought? Then, turn the thought around. Then find at least three specific, genuine examples of how each turnaround is true for you in this situation.
Close your eyes and think about life without the existence of this thought. Maybe write it down. “How would your life be different in the same situation without this thought?” Katie wrote. This can be daunting, but it can also be freeing. Then, turn the thought around, flip the situation on its head and think about the problem as if it applies to you. For example, “The original statement ‘Paul doesn’t listen to me,’ when turned around, becomes ‘I don’t listen to myself,'” Katie wrote. It might just be that we create these problems for ourselves and then self-victimize.
If you are ready to release the pain and self-doubt, ask yourself these four questions and discover what’s really at the core of your thoughts and feelings. Do “The Work” and set yourself on the road to inner peace and self-enlightenment. It’s worth the journey.
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