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,” says Katie. “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 or money, or a friend, family member or partner. To help you get started, 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 any situation that is troubling you. “Reality, for me, is what is true,” says Katie. “The truth is whatever is in front of you, whatever is really happening. Whether you like it or not, it’s raining now.” Your answer should be a simple yes or no. You may find yourself being defensive or resistant but continue to stick to a simple yes or no answer. If your answer is the latter, move on to 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 explains.
3. How do you react 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,” says Katie. 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?
Katie asks us to consider how our lives would be different in the same situation without this thought. Write down what comes to mind. This part of the exercise can be daunting, but it can also be freeing.
Once you’ve pictured your life without the existence of this thought, turn the thought around and flip the situation on its head. For example, “The original statement, ‘Paul doesn’t listen to me,’ when turned around, becomes ‘I don’t listen to myself,'” Katie states. Ask yourself if this statement is truer than your original thought. It may be that on some level, you are creating these problems for yourself in order to 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.
Illustration: Marie Guillard