If I had read this book sooner, it most certainly would have made the list of best self-help books I read in 2015. In fact, this is one of the best self-help books I have EVER read. It’s called Loving What Is by Byron Katie.
I first heard about this book around Christmas time when I was listening to one of my favorite podcasts, Sorta Awesome. The host recommended listening to episode 88 of the Lively Show. In that episode, Loving What Is was mentioned so I checked it out the next day from the library.
It’s a short book, and the actual meat of the book is not much more than 1-2 chapters. Katie describes a process called The Work that helps people detach from their thoughts and waken to reality. The process is simple but powerful. It involves writing down your thoughts in a certain way (she calls it the Judge Your Neighbor worksheet), then asking 4 questions about what you wrote, and finally turning the statement around to see if it’s more true when said in reverse.
The worksheet encourages you to think of a recurring stressful situation and write about it. Who did what, what they should do, what you need from them, etc. Then you inquire with the 4 questions:
Is it true?
Can you be absolutely certain it’s true?
How do you feel, what happens, when you believe that thought?
Who would you be without the thought?
Then you turn it around, to the self, to the other, or to the opposite and ask yourself if those statements are as true or more true than the original.
Here is an example based on something that happened when Andrew and I were having a spontaneous conversation about a particular aspect of our business recently:
Statement from the Judge Your Neighbor Worksheet:
I’m angry at my Andrew for not listening to me or respecting my opinion about work.
- Is it true? Does Andrew not listen? No.
- Can you be absolutely certain it’s true?No, I can’t absolutely know it’s true that Andrew doesn’t respect my opinion and I know he listens to me a lot!
- How do you feel, what happens, when you believe that thought? It makes me feel frustrated and sad and like my opinion doesn’t matter. I shut down and give up.
- Who would you be without the thought? I would just feel free and patient and giving.
- Turn it around:
a. I don’t listen to myself and I don’t respect myself
b. I don’t listen to Andrew or respect his opinion.
c. Andrew DOES listen and DOES respect my opinion.
All of those turn around statements are AS TRUE or MORE TRUE than my original statement. Reality staring right back at me.I am 100% in charge of how I responded to that stressful situation and I created the belief that Andrew doesn’t listen and doesn’t respect my opinion when in reality those weren’t true statements. I’ve spent my whole life believing the things my brain thinks. This simple exercise helped me realize that and I can laugh at it and move on.
I can’t do this book justice without writing the whole book over again, but you can visit the website for The Work HERE and read up on it. Better yet, you can fill out a Judge Your Neighbor Worksheet right on your computer or iPad without printing anything out and try out the 4 questions yourself.
What this book is helping me truly see and accept more fully is what I have read a million times in a million different ways about mindfulness:
I create my own suffering by believing the things I think, which are not reality. If I realize this and I still cling to thoughts that create suffering for me, it’s important to ask myself what ulterior motive I might have for not taking responsibility for my own happiness.
This book is nothing more than an incredibly simple and practical way to be a Buddha. I can’t tell you how many times I have read that we create our own suffering with our thoughts but couldn’t really GET what that meant or how to change it. This book is the how, and it’s easy enough for anyone to do if they dare wake up to reality!
For some it might seem completely insane to not believe what you think. But really any sense you have of being in control of your own thoughts is an illusion. They come and go without our volition and don’t listen to our instructions to stop. Try meditating for 5 minutes and tell me you have control over what pops into your head! It’s up to us to realize this and learn to shine some reality on our thoughts so we can stop our own suffering and learn to love what is!
P.S. I used an affiliate link in this post so if you click it and buy the book you will be supporting this blog.