I had been familiar with a profoundly simple modality called The Work of Byron Katie for many years, having interviewed the woman with the gender neutral name, who has indeed become a household name partly by virtue of her first book called Loving What Is, her appearance on Oprah and being featured in TIME Magazine. In 1986, Katie had a revelation while in the throes of depression and addiction. When she believed her thoughts, she suffered. When she didn’t believe her thoughts, she didn’t suffer and so created a four question inquiry process and added a ‘turn-around’ which asks the practitioner to turn the troubling thought every which way to determine which feels ‘true or truer’ to that person.
1. Is it true?
2. Can you absolutely know that it’s true?
3. How do you react, what happens when you believe that thought?
4. Who would you be without that thought?
I had experience back in 2005, with Christopher Fromkin who is a trained facilitator of The Work, in the midst of some life challenges and he skillfully assisted me in moving through them fairly gracefully. We remain friends to this day and I thank him for his wisdom. This past Sunday had me again taking a long standing life issue to inquiry in a workshop facilitated by my friend Annabella Wood who was introduced to Katie in 1990 and became a certified facilitator in 2002. Annabella is a multi-faceted being who was newly ordained as an interfaith minister, has a handywoman biz, is a talented singer-songwriter-performer and for several decades, was a long distance truck driver. On this day, she was surrounded by 18 eager students, while wearing a way cool shirt that was embellished with a guitar and musical notes.
The workshop began with having us complete a form that I’ve laughed about every time I have seen it over the years, because it is called Judge Your Neighbor. Since we all do that, it is an apt title. Everything we judge as being bad, wrong, not ok, can be a stumbling block to healing. I differentiate between discernment about unhealthy situations from which we might need to extricate ourselves, to out and out judging that if someone doesn’t ‘do it our way’, then they are wrong. Who hasn’t felt that way from time to time?
I watched as Annabella masterfully assisted a woman in ‘taking to inquiry’ her feelings and thoughts about a strained relationship with her sister that had impeded her for a few decades. I was amazed how Annabella really nailed some of the issues with The Work as a tool, while her intuition enhanced her perceptions. When the session with my classmate was over and Annabella inquired about who was ready to roll up their sleeves and be next, I found myself raising my hand. I had come there for that reason, not to be an observer, but to fully immerse myself in the process and come away with some gems. That I did. I also noticed some combatting thoughts…wanting to have healing and a sense of resolution and not wanting to monopolize, since I reasoned that other people likely had more pressing concerns or even trauma to process. Since that is my MO, to deflect, minimize…who me? needy? No way… it was even more urgent to step up. So I did.
Sitting opposite Annabella, I found myself sharing that while I enjoy being center stage, I often hurry through what I have to say, especially as a workshop participant, since I hadn’t wanted to ‘take up too much time.’ It harkens back to childhood in which I relished the experience being the center of attention and ‘loved best of all’, and I didn’t want to steal anyone’s thunder. I sometimes felt I did that with my younger sister. So, I presented my issue which is about reciprocity of support and what became startlingly apparent was another set of conflicting beliefs that part of the reason I seek support is a lack of confidence in my own abilities that somehow require validation from an outside and on the surface ‘more successful’ source and a sense of resentment that I don’t always receive in kind, the support I offer. Feeling disengenuous and manipulative at times, I offer support ‘because I can’ and had expected that anyone else who could….welll……’should’ and if they didn’t, I made them wrong in my mind. As I was exploring this dynamic using The Work, I found myself with the physical manifestation of my thoughts, which included a choking up, shortness of breath, hurried speech. Annabella kindly instructed me to slow down my pace and asked the others in the room if they minded that I take my time and really get into it. Not only did they not mind, they welcomed the opportunity to see someone who has this well armored facade, let it down. It can get really heavy after awhile.
As tears flowed and layers of guardedness fell away, I felt a sense of relief that at least for this period of time, I didn’t have to hide beyond my spiritual PC image, really getting to the nitty gritty. I know that I have more to do with this issue, but by the time the workshop was complete, I had a much clearer understanding of myself and the ways in which things just are, rather than how I think they should oughta be.
To learn more about The Work