“Who would you be without your story?” is a powerful quote from Byron Katie, an American speaker and author, who created a method of self-inquiry known as “The Work”. This quote resonated with me the second I read about this method since it is so simple yet it has the potential to open your mind and help you see any challenging situation with completely different eyes. The method consists of only four questions we can learn to ask ourselves every time we are having a thought or belief that is causing us pain, for instance, a negative thought like “I won’t get the job” or “My husband is so unfair to me”, so the four questions are about the thought or belief being experienced and go as follow: 1) Is this thought true? 2) Can I absolutely know that it’s true? 3) How do I react, what happens, when I believe that thought? 4) Who would I be without that thought?
By answering these questions and giving turnarounds to the answers, we start questioning the veracity of the thoughts and beliefs we first considered to be absolutely truth. These thoughts and beliefs are our “stories”, in other words: there is what happens in life, and then, there is the story we tell ourselves about what happens in life. And here’s the key: It’s not what happens in life, but our stories, thoughts, and beliefs about what happens that cause us to suffer. So, if we want to get rid of the suffering, it is important to learn how to question our stories, thoughts and beliefs in the first place.
We all have endless stories, opinions and thoughts about our friends, co-workers, our boss, parents, love-partner, and most importantly, about ourselves. We judge the person who doesn’t share our same religious or political views, we get mad with the friend who doesn’t “get us”, we resent our boss for not appreciating our hard work, we blame our parents for not giving us all the love and attention we needed as a child, we criticize ourselves for not having the perfect body, and the list goes on. We play these stories in our head over and over and most of the time we see ourselves as the victim: “Why is everything happening to me?”. And some of these stories have been with us for so many years that they have come to define who we are – or who we think we are. And we rarely have stopped to consider the fact that all these stories may not even be truth, they are just that, stories, our thoughts and beliefs about what happens in life.
This is probably my fascination with “The Work” by Byron Katie, it is an amazing and really simple tool we can all use to find clarity and peace when faced with challenging situations. It is as simple as start questioning our thoughts and beliefs from the second we catch them arising. Of course, it is a life-long process that requires great effort from our part but I believe it’s worth it. I can tell you in my own experience that it’s a daily practice where I’ve learned how to stop the second that I catch myself having a conflicting thought that is causing me pain and I immediately start asking the four questions: Is this thought true? Can I absolutely know that it’s true? How do I feel when I believe this thought? Who would I be without it?
Once I finish the four questions and the turnarounds to the answers, I realize that the thought I had was not truth. So, I feel relaxed and at peace. I start appreciating exactly what it is and stop expecting things to be different. I start to flow with life. In Byron Katie’s words: “I discovered that when I believed my thoughts, I suffered, but that when I didn’t believe them, I didn’t suffer, and that this is true for every human being. Freedom is as simple as that. I found that suffering is optional”.
So, today I invite you to get curious about your thoughts and beliefs. Especially the ones that cause you pain. Learn to questions them and realize how most of the times they are just not true. Be patient with yourself and have compassion with your process. It is about -slowly but surely- start opening yourself to new ways of thinking and experiencing life. It’s about being fully present in every moment of your life and appreciating everything exactly as it is and not how you think it should be.
If you start practicing this method let me know about your process! Share in the comments below your experience by answering these questions: “What is your story? Who would you be without it?”
With all my love,
Ps. If you want more information about “The Work” by Byron Katie, all the resources are available for free in her website: www.thework.com