Loving What Is by Byron Katie – Book Summary

Byron Katie is an American speaker and author of Loving What Is. She is not associated with any specific tradition or religion, and this book is co-written with her husband Stephen Mitchell.

This book is written around a method of self-inquiry, which is identified as “The Work”

In her early thirties, this businesswoman and mother from South California became severely depressed, and spent almost ten years being angry, hating her-self, and having constant thoughts of suicide.

The last two years she was so depressed that she was not able to leave her bedroom.

In February 1986, as an inpatient in a mental health facility, she had a life-changing realization, a spiritual awakening.

In this moment of illumination she discovered that when she believed her thoughts, she sufferered, but when she didn’t believe them that she didn’t suffer, and that this was true for all of us.

She discovered a joy within herself and this Joy is in everyone, at all times. It never disappears, and suffering is optional.

The Work

Not long afterwards people starting asking the author how they could get this freedom. They came from all around to meet her, and some even to live with her. The work is an incarnation in words, of the wordless inquiring that had arose in her on that February morning.

The news soon spread about the transformation people were experiencing through, The Work, and the author was invited to speak publicly in California, and eventually across the World.

It is based on four questions and a process, which is called a turnaround:

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

The work can be done by yourself or with another person. It allows you go inside and experience what already exists, your own happiness, and only you can end your own suffering.

Many times each day we have thoughts like:

  • People should be more caring
  • Children should behave better
  • I should be more successful
  • The queue in the supermarket should move faster

It is thoughts like these, which cause us stress because we are arguing with what is. The work shows you that what we think shouldn’t have happened, in fact should have happened, because it did and no amount of thinking can change this.

This doesn’t mean you have to approve of what has happened but rather look at it without mentally arguing against reality.

Business?

The author explains that there are only three types of business in the universe:

  1. Gods
  2. Yours
  3. Mine

To her the word God means reality and anything out of anyone else’s control is God’s business. She goes on to say that whenever she has felt hurt or lonely during her lifetime, she had been in someone else’s business. The only business each and everyone has is our own business, and when you think you know what is best for someone else, you are out of your business.

When you stay in your own business, this can free your life, so just notice when you are in someone else’s business and come back to your own wonderful self. With practice you may notice that you don’t actually have any business and your life runs well on its own.

Thoughts

It is not our thoughts, which cause us suffering, but our attachment to them. Attachment is when you believe it is true and a belief is a thought that you may have been attaching to for years.

Taking responsibility for your beliefs and judgments gives you the power to change them.

Byron Katie

Thinking isn’t personal and thoughts just appear, and the author explains that she meets her thoughts with understanding. They then they let go of her, and that this is the power of loving what is.

Stories

Stories describe our thoughts or sequences of thought that we persuade ourselves are real. It can be based in the past, present, future or can be about what things could be, should be, or why they are. These stories appear hundreds of times a day, when:

  • Someone walks out of the room without speaking to us
  • If someone doesn’t smile
  • If someone doesn’t return your phone call
  • When your boss asks you to come to his office
  • When your partner speaks in a certain tone

These stories are unproven, uninvestigated theories that tell us what these things mean. The author tells how her small stories became large ones and the large ones become major theories about life, and how terrible and dangerous the world was.

This left her feeling too disheartened and scared to leave her bedroom. It is at times like this when you should test the truth of your theories by doing

The Work on them, as this leaves you less of your painful story.

Thoughts behind the suffering and Inquiry

All stressful feelings are attached to an untrue thought, and although it is easy to be overwhelmed by some feelings, its helpful to remember that pain, depression and fear are gifts, which are telling you to take a look at your thinking.

The Work calls us into being alert to internal cause and effect. When you are familiar with this, all our suffering starts to come undone on its own.

The author uses the word inquiry to mean the same as The Work, as this is a way to end confusion, find internal peace and realize that we have all the answers available inside us always.

In this way you are either Inquiring or attaching to your thoughts.

Freedom is easily achieved when you judge your neighbor, write it down, ask four questions, and then turn it around:

The first step is to write down any judgments you have about a stressful situation in your life. This can be past, present, future, something that angers or frightens you, or just someone you are unsure about.

You can either write on a blank piece of paper or download a Judge Your Neighbor worksheet from http://www.thework.com

The author advises that you write about someone you have not totally forgiven, rather than writing about yourself, as eventually you will see who you are, when you see who you think other people are, as everything outside is a reflection of your own thinking.

It is important to write on the worksheet because if you try to do it in your head your mind will outwit you. Sit down and wait for the words to come, and once the mind is uttered on paper, you can inquire.

Don’t try to be kind, wise or spiritual, but just write with the spontaneity of a frightened, confused, sad or angry child.

The judgments are what you will use to do The Work, as each written statement will be put against the four questions, so they will lead you to the truth.

A judge your neighbor worksheet will contain:

  • Who saddens, angers or disappoints you and what you don’t like about them.
  • How you want them to change and what you want them to do.
  • What should they or shouldn’t they think, say, do and be.
  • What you need them to do or give you so that you can be happy.
  • A list of what you think of them.
  • What you never want to experience with that person, situation or thing again.

Next comes the inquiry, you ask the four questions and turn it around:

  • Ask your mind if it is true, and wait for the answer to emerge.
  • Can you ever really know that this is the truth?
  • Really examine how you respond to that thought, what you do, how you react towards the other person, and how you treat yourself.
  • Then consider who you would be without that though by imagining you don’t have that thought. What do you discover, see and feel?

Then turn the original statement – the author’s example was that she didn’t like Paul, her second husband because he didn’t listen to her. However when she turned this thought around it became “ I don’t like myself because I don’t listen to Paul”

The turnaround could be true or truer for you and for the sake of this example; you would carry on to see if you find other examples of how you don’t listen. Another turnaround to this could be, “I don’t like myself because I don’t listen to myself”.

You should continue with these inquiries until you have worked through every statement on the Worksheet, as the turnarounds will bring you health, peace and happiness.

Each time you do a turnaround; rewrite your statement, as if it were written about you. You may find many turnarounds in one sentence, or there may only be a couple that feels true for you.

Next

Continue by applying these four questions and the turnaround to each of your judgments. If this doesn’t work for you try it on a different person and come back to the other one later, as there is not need to worry whether The Word is working or not, as it can be very subtle and deep. Everyone is a mirror image of yourself and your thoughts coming back at you.

Couples and Family Life

The author explains that our parents, spouses and children will show us the truth, over and over until we see it. She relates how when she returned from the halfway house in 1986, she had a totally different understanding of both herself and the world. Inquiry was alive inside her and all her thoughts were met by a wordless questioning, and she found nothing that her husband or children did could upset her.

Whenever something that her husband did led her to think, “He should” she knew that this led to “I should”, and she laughed at herself.

Facilitation

The author explains that although she acts as a facilitator in the examples in the book, this is not necessary, as the book is designed to help you do The Work by yourself.

Loving What Is contains several dialogues, which are edited transcripts of the author’s workshops, but because this is a book summary, you will be given an overview rather than the dialogue.

Elizabeth

The first dialogue is that of Elizabeth, a mother who learns to comprehend what she believes to be neglect from her son. She does this by realizing that her resentment, sadness and guilt have nothing to do with her son, but her own thinking.

On her worksheet Elizabeth has written that she is angry and sad, because her son Christopher doesn’t contact her, talk to her, or invite her to meet his family.

She wants her son to accept her and her way of life, to understand she did her best, and believes he should stand up to his wife and tell her he doesn’t want to leave his mother out. She says Christopher is rigid, arrogant, resentful and coward.

On inquiry Elizabeth found that she had no reason to hang on to these thoughts, as they were not true, and that doing so was making her unhappy, angry, giving her headaches and tension in the shoulders.

She was confused and had been blaming her son for whatever action or non-action, he took. Believing this fairy tale kept her in hell, feeling hurt and angry.

The author explained that she had been mentally living in her son’s business and had traded herself for the dream of how she thought her son should live. When asked who she would be without this story of victim hood, Elizabeth admitted that she would be a free, joyful being.

Elizabeth’s turnarounds led her to see that:

  • She was lonely because she was not there for herself
  • She needed to accept herself
  • She needed to accept the way her son and his family lived
  • She needed to accept her way of life
  • She was a coward
  • She was arrogant, resentful, and rigid.
  • She was willing to feel her son rejecting her

The author explained to her that if she still feels pain the next time her son rejects her, then her Works not done, and her son will continue to reject her until she understands.

In this case she should write it down, take it to inquiry by asking the four questions, turn it around, realize what pain is left, and give herself her freedom.

Marisa

The second dialogue is with Marisa. She feels angry and hurt with her husband David because he says he needs time to sort things out.

She is tired of asking and is too impatient to wait for him to express what he is feeling. On inquiry she could find no stress free reason to believe in her thoughts, which gave her so much pain.

Her beliefs led her to treat her husband badly, to make him feel guilty, to scream at him, close him off, cry and threaten to leave him. They also led her to be prying and demanding.

She acknowledged that she would be a happier person if she didn’t believe in these lies.

Marisa’s turnarounds lead her to see that:

  • She wanted to express her own feelings, and that this was her way, not his.
  • She was patient
  • She loved her husband
  • Her husband didn’t want to hurt her.
  • She wanted to hurt herself

Marisa then spoke of her husband’s affair that he had told her about five months ago, and how he still talks to this woman, and that they both still have feelings for each other.

She believes her husband wishes to be with the other woman, but the author points out who he is actually with, and that if this was true that there is nothing stopping her husband being with the other woman.

Marisa acknowledges that when she has these thought she is not fully in the present, she doesn’t treat him well and pushes him away. She is not living with the fact that he’s loves her and is with her.

With more turnarounds she realized that:

  • She wants her happiness
  • She loves herself
  • She is looking forward to feeling that her happiness depends on somebody loving her.

Sally

Sally believes that she is responsible for taking care of her children and their choices, and she is looking for a way to work through her depression. Her son irritates her when he doesn’t do his homework or chores. She has been telling him for the past eight years that he should do so.

The author asks her to look at the fact that she has been giving him guidance for eight years, yet it hasn’t worked. She asks Sally whether it is true that she is responsible for her children’s choices.

Sally responds that its truer to say that she wants to take care of him although she doesn’t like what he’s doing.

On inquiry Sally admits that her son does his homework eighty percent of the time, but she believes he should do it at all times.

Sally has it pointed out to her that for eight years she has been arguing with reality and always lost, which causes her frustration and depression.
Sally’s turnarounds lead her to see that:

She irritates herself when she doesn’t do her chores.

She has also been depressed in the past year because her baby wasn’t who she wanted him to be, he was unhappy, sick, unfriendly, and didn’t sleep a lot.

This made her feel sad and embarrassed worried about how others might treat him during his life. She feels a failure as a mother.

She cannot see a stress free reason to hold on to her thoughts and knows without them she will have peace, contentment and clarity. The author explains to Sally that what she is hearing from her is that she is looking outside for her own peace, which is the wrong direction.

Justin

To the author Justin appeared to be an unrealistic, misunderstood teenager. He is confused, angry and saddened because his family judges him, and believes their path is the only way.

He wants his family to accept and love him as he learns his own truth. He wants them to accept his music. He wants them to listen to him.

Justin admits when he thinks these thoughts he is stopped in his tracks, feels weakened and terrified, because he feels he needs to disagree with some of the things he has been taught.

This causes him to rebel against his parents and to become distant. Through inquiry Justin is able to see that there is no stress free reason to believe his thoughts, as people do judge each other, and that if he didn’t think, “I want my parents to stop judging me” he would have inner peace.

During his session, Justin said he was confused because he judged himself, his parents and family. The author explained that when he stopped doing what he wanted his family to stop doing; he would be then able to talk to his family.

Justin’s turnarounds lead him to see that:

  • He wanted to be who he is and not limit his love and attention to himself.
  • He wanted to be who he is and not limit his love and attention according to their perception and idea of his progress.
  • He wanted to accept himself as he learned his own truth in life.
  • He wanted to accept his family as they learned their own truth in life.
  • He wanted to love his family for having found parts of their own truth.
  • He wanted to love himself for having found parts of his own truth.
  • He wanted to respect his music
  • He wanted to respect their music
  • He looked forward to being left unheard.
  • He should hear his family

Reality and deepening inquiry

The author highlights that reality is always kinder than the stories we tell about it, and offers additional ways of working with the four questions and turnaround, to deepen your enquiry.

Is it true?

Sometimes it is easy to see that what you have written down is simply not true. If this is the case move on to question 3.
If not there are other ways you can inquire further into question 1

  • What’s the reality of this situation? This is what is really happening whether you want it to or not. When you accept the reality changes will develop in your life.
  • Whose Business Is It? When you believe something or someone other than yourself needs to change, then you are mentally out of your business, and will feel stressed, lonely and separate.

Can you absolutely know that it’s true?

If you answer to question 1 is yes ask:

  • Can I absolutely know that it’s true? Although the statement appears to be true, your thoughts are founded on a lifetime of unsubstantiated beliefs.
  • When you think it is true, or you are stuck, you can add, “and it means that——-” to what you originally wrote. This will give you a new statement, which you can take to inquiry.
  • Another way to bring about an answer is to ask your self what do you think you would have if reality were working together with you.
  • Ask your self what is the worst that could happen, be thorough and write it all down. When you have finished writing this new list direct the four questions and turnaround to each statement.
  • Sometimes changing the statement around makes it easier to investigate e.g. change “I am angry at my father because he hit me” to “My father shouldn’t have hit me.”
  • Look for proof, write down, and inquire using the four questions and turnaround.

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How do you react when you think that thought?

When you believe the though, there is a feeling of unease ranging from mild discomfort to panic or fear.

When you answer this question you see the cause and effect of the thought, suffering begins to come undone.

Don’t try to drop the thought but see if you can see a reason to do so. Inquiry is about noticing not dropping the thought, about recognizing what’s true for you, and once you see the truth, the thought lets you go, not the other way around.

You can also ask your self if you can find a stress free reason to keep the thought and who would you be without it. The answer to this question is peace.

It’s not the problem that causes our suffering; it’s our thinking about the problem.

Byron Katie

The author explains that many people hardly recognize themselves when they become free of the limitations of their stories.

Happiness is in knowing that there is nothing to know and you already have all you need, right now.

The Turnaround

In this process you take what you have written about other people and see that it is true or truer when you apply it to yourself.

As long as you believe that the problem is because of someone or something else your situation is hopeless and you suffer, but the truth sets you free. Your perceived enemy is the projection of your thinking.

There are three ways that you can turnaround a statement until you find the ones that penetrate the most:

  • From the other person to yourself
  • To the opposite
  • To the other

The author explains that the Work is not about blaming, shaming or proving that you are in the wrong, but in discovering that everything is a mirror image of your own thinking. When you see the innocence of the person you have judged, this leads you to recognize you own innocence.

Number 6 on the judge your neighbor worksheet

The author explains that number 6 is rather different to the others because you change, “I don’t ever want to – ” to “I look forward to – ” and “I am willing to – “ So whenever you think you are not willing to live through the stress and anger again be willing, open and flexible and look forward to it, as willingness opens the door to all of life’s potential.

Work and Money

If your life is controlled you by thoughts of work and money, all you have to do is to change your thinking because without a story you are successful wherever you are.

The author explains that if you believe you need money in order to be safe and secure, then you are living in a hopeless state of mind.

When your mind is confused in this way you will still be unhappy and insecure even if you make millions.

Stress is an alarm clock that lets you know you’re attached to something not true for you.

Byron Katie

When you understand that you don’t need more money than you have, you start to realize that you already have all the security that you wanted the money for in the first place, and it is much easier to make money from this standpoint.

Gary

The next dialogue is between the author and Gary who is annoyed because he believes his employee Franks is incompetent.

This belief makes Gary anxious and frustrated and he doesn’t trust Frank to work on his own.

Gary admits he would feel better if he could drop this thought and sees that although Frank is not competent, it’s the thought that he should be that is driving him crazy. Without this story Gary would be effective and compassionate

Gary’s turnarounds led him to see:

  • Frank should not be competent
  • He himself should be competent
  • He wants himself to take responsibility for his part of the project
  • He should take responsibility for Franks part of the project
  • He should step up as an expert in his field
  • If he wanted to complete his project he needed to carry both Franks portion of the project and his own.
  • Gary was incompetent to do this
  • So although Gary was competent in his own right he was not competent enough to see that Frank was not supposed to be competent and this was the source of his stress. He decided he was willing and looked forward to having a person like Frank on his team.

Marty

Marty’s emotions go up and down with his stock. He is angry with his uncle Ralph because he has given him bad information on the stock market, which cost him dearly.

He believes that his uncle is always trying to prove he is better than everyone else, by the size of his bank account, and Marty has been increasingly borrowing from him for two and a half years.

He feels victimized, believes his uncle is controlling, vindictive and demanding, and that he should take responsibility, admit his errors, not demand money but repay his debts for him plus give him a hundred grand.

This thinking makes him feel separated, fearful, sad, angry and in pain.

The author explains to him that the reason for his turmoil is because he is stuck in the center of a lie. Without this story he would be free of expectations, which would make him feel more whole inside.

Marty’s turnarounds lead him to see:

  • He was angry with himself for believing his uncle and taking his stock tips.
  • By accepting the tips, he gave them to himself, and that cost him all his money.
  • He should bail himself out.
  • He should pay his own debts and give himself a hundred grand.
  • He should pay his own debts and give his uncle what he owes him.
  • Although it was not likely that this scenario would to return, Marty also saw:
  • That he was willing to listen to his uncles stock tips, owe him money and willing to take his petty, irate sh!t.

Margaret

Margaret was depressed, angry, frustrated and hurt, she wanted corporations to start taking responsibility and support the environment, third world countries, stop abusing animals and stop thinking only about money.

She could not find a stress free reason to believe the thought that they only care about money and acknowledged that without these thoughts she would be happy and more peaceful.

Margaret’s turnarounds lead her to see:

  • She wanted to start taking responsibility, to support the environment, third world countries, stop abusing animals, and stop thinking about money only.
  • She should be caring and give back to the planet.
  • She needed to stop destroying and hurting, to respect life and start making a difference.
  • She needed to start respecting her own life.

Self-Judgments

We often judge and tell ourselves time and time again what we are and are not, but on investigation, these self-judgments just melt away.

Often when doing the Work you find your judgments of others turn back on you, which can make you feel uncomfortable. This is how you know you have hit a belief about yourself that you have not investigated yet.

There is no right or wrong way to do turnarounds, if one doesn’t work for you, just move onto the next statement.

Marilyn

In the next dialogue with the author the participant, Marilyn didn’t follow the rules and wrote about herself. She wrote that she was angry with herself because she wanted to get over her anger and many fears.

She is afraid to participate in life, to get a job, to have sex, and afraid she will lose control. She feels terror and is deeply embarrassed as she talks about this, especially the topic of sex.

Although she is forty-seven she is deeply concerned about how mortified her parents would be and what they would think of her if they were sitting in the audience. She acknowledges that she has spent all her life living in fear of how her parents might react. Working with the author Marilyn realizes there is no way she can absolutely know what her parent’s reaction would be.

She is unable to give a peaceful reason to believe that her parents would be mortified if they were in the room and was able to see that her parents weren’t her problem and feels liberated.

Underlying Beliefs

There are usually other thoughts underneath the judgments we have written, which are more wide-ranging versions of our stories and have never been questioned. If you feel stressed when you become aware of these beliefs, then they are worth investigating, as attachment to these beliefs will make your life painful.

Examples:

  • Its possible to be in the wrong place at the wrong time
  • Death is sad
  • Life is unfair
  • Something terrible could happen to me

The author advises that anytime you notice that you are feeling defensive when talking to your friends and family, or when you believe you are right that you note down your own underlying belief and do the Work on it.

The best way to discover these underlying beliefs is to write out your “proof of truth for question 1. Once discovered, apply the four questions and then turn it around.

Charles

In the next dialogue the author talks with Charles who is convinced that his happiness depends on his wife because, “she is supposed to make him happy”

However, before leaving him for a month she told him that he repulsed her because he was overweight and snored.

He admitted being repulsed by people beating up children in airports, and that nothing could stop him feeling this way, and that it was his business and someway into the dialogue is able to admit his wife’s repulsion is her business and is able to see a reason to drop the story that his wife shouldn’t be repulsed by him.

He is also not able to see any stress free reason to keep the story.

Charles turnarounds lead him to see:

  • He doesn’t accept his wife for who she is
  • He repulses himself
  • He is angry with himself because he is overweight and snores.
  • He is angry with himself because he told his wife she repulses him because she is willing to give up the relationship so easily.
  • He wants himself to be grateful for life as it is.
  • He wants to own his own power.
  • He has been in love with a fantasy and repulsed by the fact his wife doesn’t match the fantasy.
  • He wants himself to see how considerate, thoughtful and loving her is.
  • He wants himself to see how considerate, thoughtful and loving his wife is.
  • He loves her with all his heart.
  • He needed to love himself as he is.
  • He realizes that without his story he would be a talented, strong, sexy powerful man. He is able to say that he is willing to have her abuse him verbally, to hear her say that she’s in love with someone she hasn’t seen in fourteen years, and that he looked forward to it.

Ruth

In the next dialogue Ruth seems to believe that her future depends on the money she has invested and she explains to the author that her fear about making decisions about her money is so strong that it virtually paralyses her.

She doesn’t want to have to decide where to invest yet she doesn’t trust others to do it for her.

She admits that she would be much more relaxed without this thought, but says she can’t control her thinking.

She says that she would be more relaxed, happier and more fun to be around without this story, and was unable to see a stress free reason to keep the thought that her future depended on the money she had invested in the stock market.

Ruth’s turnarounds lead her to see:

  • She doesn’t need to make decisions
  • Her thinking is irrational
  • Decisions shouldn’t be so difficult or frightening.
  • She was willing to panic over money in the stock market.
  • She looked forward to panicking over money in the stock market.

The work for any situation

The author explains that all thoughts and situations can be put up against inquiry. When you are experienced in doing the Work on people, you can inquire into issues such as:

  • Fundamentalism
  • Government
  • World hunger
  • Bureaucracy
  • Terrorism
  • Sex

When you inquire into issues and turn your judgments around you will realize that every apparent problem is no more than a misperception within your own thinking.

Body and addictions

You never have a problem body, the problem is always related to your thoughts and there is no such thing as addiction to an object, just an attachment to the uninvestigated thought you have at that moment. Addiction is when a thought arises that says you should or shouldn’t do something and you believe it.

Harriet

In the next dialogue Harriet explains that she is angry at her heart because it is weak, diseased, restricts physical activities and she might die at any time.

When the author asks if this is true, she says yes both her parents and three grandparents died from heart disease, so she says its hereditary, although this has not been confirmed by a doctor. Harriet admits she does not know that she has heart disease.

However her belief limits her activities makes her frightened, depressed and inactive because she imagines the terror of a heart attack.

In conversation with the author she is able to see that she would feel freer and be more peaceful if she never had the thought that her heart is weak and diseased.

Harriet’s turnarounds lead her to see:

  • She is angry at her thinking because it is weak and diseased.
  • She wants her thinking to be healed completely.
  • She is willing to give up on her heart.
  • She is willing to let it cease to function.
  • She is willing to let her heart prevent her living a normal life.
  • She looked forward to giving up on her heart.
  • She looked forward to letting her heart prevent her living a normal life.

Alcoholics

The Work includes all the twelve steps of Alcoholics Anonymous. The author explains that she has worked with hundreds of alcoholics and found that they were drunk in there thinking long before they were drunk in their drinking.

This is why when working with an alcoholic she asks them to go back to the thought they had just before the thought that they needed a drink and to work on that.

She talks of the problems her daughter Roxanne had with alcohol and her own fears throughout this time.

Charlotte

In the next dialogue the author speaks with Charlotte who is afraid her daughter’s drug addiction is killing her, although she admits she cannot know that this is absolutely true.

She also fears her daughters drug addiction is endangering her granddaughters life.

She is afraid and becomes very angry with her daughter, judges and pushes her away, not wanting her around. When asked who she would be without the thought that her daughter’s drug addiction is killing her, she acknowledges that she would be less reactive, kinder to her daughter, more relaxed and more herself.

In order to turnaround the fear surrounding an issue of any addiction, you need to replace the words, drug or alcohol with “my thinking”

In this way Charlottes turnarounds lead her to see:

  • Her thinking is killing her daughter.
  • Her thinking is killing herself and the relationship with her daughter.
  • She was using her daughter to stay toxic herself.
  • Her thinking was endangering her own life.
  • She also realized how much she was in her daughters business that she was mentally addicted to running her life. Her thinking was enabling her daughter to use drugs. Further turnarounds lead her to see:
  • She should do something about it.
  • Her daughter’s drug addiction was her daughters business.
  • Her addiction was her business.
  • It is only her thinking that brings such excruciating pain.
  • She is afraid of her own thinking because it changes her personality and brings her such pain.

The Worst That Can Happen

The author explains that nothing terrible has ever happened except in our thinking, and the story we tell is the only nightmare that we have ever lived. The worse thing that most people fear is death.

This is because when the mind looks at death, which is nothing, it calls it something and until you know that death is the same as life, you will want to control what happens, and this will always be painful.

Through inquiry, as we comprehend that death is just a thought and that our identity is a thought too, we come to understand who we are and this is the end of fear. Loss is also just another concept or thought.

Henry

In the next dialogue Henry is angry at death because it destroys him, he feels helpless and frightened, afraid of dying, of a big black hellhole fire, believing that it is painful and the end.

He says he never wants to experience the fear of death again. When asked if he knows that this can be absolutely true, he says that he can’t, but he can see a reason to drop this story.

He believes he should be reincarnated but when he thinks this thought he feel anxious about what he is doing now in case he is punished for it later.

When asked who he would be without this story, he says pushed away from God and the author explains to him that this is not possible, he can only push himself away from the awareness of God.

He says his life would be beautiful without this thought. His turnarounds lead him to see:

  • He can accept death.
  • His thinking is painful.
  • His thinking is the end.
  • He is willing to experience the fear of death again.
  • He looks forward to experiencing the fear of death again.

William

The next dialogue is one between the author and William, a Dutch man who is sixty-seven has who had his whole life dominated by his experience when he was six years old.

He talks of playing with a live hand grenade which the invading Russians had given the children to play with, of watching as another of the boys had is arm blown off as he removed the pin.

He remembers many children being maimed, their screams, flying limbs and wounded faces. He talks of the screams he heard from the women as they were raped at night and of the rape of a six-year-old girl by a soldier.

William was six when the war began and twelve when it ended. During this time he was hungry, fearful, insecure and his father wasn’t there when he needed him.

He talks of the worst time for him, a twelve year old walking home from school. He can hear bombs, so he goes into a house, which falls down, and the roof hits him on the head.

He crawled out of the ruins and into a bakery. On leaving the bakery he went into the crypt of a church thinking that he would be safer there and later suffering from concussion was loaded onto a truck with other wounded people.

With this thought William is angry, frustrated, desperate and disappointed, war keeps breaking out in him, and he struggles unsuccessfully to resolve conflicts in a peaceful manner.

The author is able to explain to William that in reality the worse thing that actually happened to him was being concussed.

On inquiry William is able to see that he has kept this experience alive for fifty-five years, which causes him to be fearful. He is able to see a reason to drop this little boy’s story as without this story he would be free from this fear.

Holding on to this story makes him feel like a victim, and he cannot see a stress free reason to keep this story.

Williams’s turnarounds lead him to see:

  • His inner conflicts should be resolved in a peaceful way.
  • His thinking wastes much of his own material resources, like happiness and peace and destroys a lot of his life.
  • He brings sorrow and suffering to his own family.
  • He was willing for the bombs to be falling on his head again, even if it was only in his thinking.
  • He was able to look forward to the worse that could happen.

Diane

The author explains that she has worked with hundreds of people, mainly women who are totally trapped by their own thinking about their rape or incest.

Many suffering daily from their thoughts of the past, but through the Work they come to understand that the present pain they feel is self-inflicted and work their way towards freedom.

In this dialogue with Diane the author spent more time on the two parts of inquiry. First asking question 3, then asking Diane additional questions so that she fully felt the pain that resulted from the thought:

  • How many times did it happen?
  • How many times have you relieved in your own mind?

Diane is angry with her mother and saw her as a co-conspirator because she allowed Diane’s stepfather to abuse her, and never tried to stop it, although she knew it was going on.

Diane admitted that she could not know that this was the absolute truth. She felt sad and lonely and said she would be at peace without this thought.
When she was eight she had seen her older sister beaten for standing up to her step father and saying that she was being abused, which kept her from reporting her own abuse and made her withdraw into herself as the abuse continued on an almost nightly basis.

She hated herself because she believed her mother treated her badly because she that she did not love her as much as her natural son.

At the age of fourteen her mother asked her to lie in court about the abuse so that she would still receive her child support and alimony, but Diane did not lie, but no one believed her and she was sent away.

She has some contact with her mother and still loves her, but she wants her mother to admit that she was wrong and apologize to her.

During inquiry she was able to see that it would have been much less painful for her, if she had taken a beating, rather than have the abuse continue. Diane feels guilty because she loved her stepfather and after the first instance of abuse she was able to get anything she wanted from him.

Without her story Diane knows that she would be better to herself, her son and not be so angry.

In her turnarounds Diane was able to see that:

  • She abused him- somewhat.She is angry with herself because she allowed herself to be abused by her stepfather and did nothing to stop it.
  • She never loved herself in the way that she loved her mother’s natural son.
  • She wanted to admit that she was wrong and to apologize to herself.
  • She wanted to apologize to her mum and admit she was wrong for her small part.
  • She should love herself and acknowledge this.
  • She needed to tell the family that she was wrong.

Gail

The next dialogue is with Gail who is angry because her nephew who she was extremely close to has died and she feels dead inside.

She is angry with him because he took stupid risks which led him to fall sixty feet from a mountain. She says Sam should have stuck around and feels sad, tired and separate because he did not.

Gail says that without this thought she would be happy again and she would be alive and present in her own life, and be able to appreciate the beauty in his death.

Her turnarounds lead her to see that:

  • She should stick around.
  • Sam should not stick around.
  • She needed herself back.
  • She needed to know that she was fine and at peace with or without Sam.
  • She needed to show herself the perfection of Sam’s dying.
  • She is dead when she goes into her story about Sam dying.

Emily

The next dialogue is with Emily who since the events of September 11 has been terrified that she may be killed in her office building, or on the subway and she worries about how scarred her two young sons would be if they lost her. She is furious with her family for not helping her to make a contingency plan in case the terrorist problem escalates.

She thinks terrorists are ignorant and evil and she feels helpless.

Whenever she is on the subway, she feels shutdown, she will try to read a book, but keeps picturing her children’s faces. This brings a great deal of stress to her life. If she didn’t have this thought she would be much more comfortable on the subway.

Emily’s turnarounds lead her to see:

  • She is furious at herself for not making a contingency plan.
  • She doesn’t need a contingency plan.
  • She is ignorant in her hatred and need to feel powerful.
  • She is evil, ignorant, powerful and successful.
  • Her uninvestigated thoughts were like locusts.
  • She was willing to see another ash-covered person.

The author highlights here that you move totally away from reality when you believe that there is a legitimate reason to suffer, and that there is only one problem ever and that is your uninvestigated story in the moment.

There is a comprehensive question and answer section in this book, which goes into depths regarding any questions the reader, may have.

Your Life – Your Work

The author explains that she has often heard beginners ask what would happen if they did The Work regularly, as people fear that without their story they wouldn’t know what to do.

However the opposite is true, as inquiry gives rise to action, which is fearless, kind, and clear because the work is not about changing thoughts but noticing them.

The Work shows you where you have got your happiness the wrong way around. When you believe that people should be kind to you this really means you should be kind to them and yourself.

Self-realization shows that you are fully responsible for yourself, so instead of looking to others for fulfilment, you can find it in yourself.

Pain is not a teacher until you investigate and understand its cause and there is no peace in the world until you find peace inside yourself in this moment.

Do The Work until you see your part in it and then apologize to the people you have judged, tell them what you have learned about yourself and how you are working on it now. It is in speaking these truths that you are set free.

Without a story, life gets richer

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