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The 4 Questions That Can Change Your Life

Exploring "The Work" with Byron Katie
4 Questions That Can Change Your Life

After decades of depression, 30-something Byron Katie spiraled into a sadness so severe even her family was avoiding her. At her lowest point, the once-successful business-woman and mom found herself lying on the floor of a halfway house."I was sleeping on the floor because I was so filled with self-hatred that I didn't believe I deserved a bed, and a cockroach crawled across my foot," she recalls.

In that instant, she experienced a moment of enlightenment that has guided her life and her work as a spiritual teacher ever since, leading her to write six books (some co-authored with husband and author/translator, Stephen Mitchell), and conduct workshops across the U.S. and internationally.

"On this morning I woke up, and in place of all that darkness was a light and a joy that no one told me existed. I'd heard about heaven, but my world was about raising children, paying the bills and doing the best I could. I hadn't done therapy or had religion," she continues. "I noticed that thoughts just happened and when they hit my head a whole world was there. It was all manufactured out of mind. So, I began to laugh. I finally got the joke. It was an amazing internal 'Oh my goodness.'"

This realization is the basis for "The Work," Katie's method of self-inquiry that teaches people how to identify the thoughts and beliefs that are causing their depression, grief, guilt and misunderstandings. Katie maintains that the only reason people don't change is because they believe their thoughts.

"Most of the time we are all so busy believing our thoughts that we might not know what's actually happening. This practice of 'listening in the silence' can shift your world."

By applying her four key questions to any negative thought, Katie claims change can occur. So, I decided to try it and see.

First, I got quiet and brainstormed my feelings about a subject that bothers me – weight I'd like to lose. "I am tired of being 20 pounds overweight, and I don't see any way to lose it. I want to lose it but don't believe a diet will work. I judge myself as weak for not losing. I want to lose the weight by changing my thinking, but changing eating is difficult and I can't make it work. I am stuck in a weird pattern with food and holding on to what I don't like and don't want."

Second, I stated my belief in a sentence."Changing eating is difficult, and I can't make it work."

Finally, I applied Katie's 4 questions to my belief.

  1. Question 1: Is it true?

    "Yes. I haven't lost this weight and I've been trying."

  2. Question 2: Can you absolutely know it's true?

    "Not entirely. What about when you went away to write? You lost eight pounds in three weeks and ate and drank what you wanted. It took some discipline, but it was possible."

  3. Question 3: How do you react – what happens when you believe that thought?

    "When I think this thought, I give up and eat. I feel hopeless and helpless. I let things go. I think that I am not capable of losing weight, so I hold onto the weight. It's too hard, I whine."

  4. Question 4: Who would you be without the thought?

    "Free. Lighter. Like I'm letting go of extra baggage. I can see every reason to drop the thought that it should be easy or that it is too difficult. Both keep me holding on to the weight. I do not see any stress-free reason to hold on to the thought that losing weight is either difficult or easy."

Finally, turn that thought around.

"Suppose you think," Katie explains, "My mother doesn't care about me. The turned around thought which is 'My mother does care about me,' can be quite startling."

And things can be turned around in more than one way she says.

"'My mother doesn't care about me could also become, I don't care about me.' Look at where is your mind is tearing you to shreds. Put those ideas on paper and do "The Work".

It's time to turn my thought around. I write: "I am able to change my eating in order to slim down. I am happy and healthy with my ability to take care of myself. It is effortless to love and appreciate my body."

I feel better, and since I've done "The Work" I found a weight loss program – that works for me and have lost ten pounds and counting.

Katie says "The Work" is a constant. When she notices stress, she identifies her thoughts immediately and chooses not to suffer. "It's the turn-arounds that enlighten the mind." And I agree.

Byron Katie's six books include the bestselling Loving What Is, I Need Your Love—Is That True?, and A Thousand Names for Joy. For more information, visit www.thework.com.

Adele Slaughter, an award-winning journalist, poet, and former writer for USAToday.com, is currently finishing her first novel titled "Jealousy."
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