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Living in the Present
People talk about living in the Now. I live in the Now all the time, and so do you. Actually, there’s nowhere else you can live. You may not always be aware of it, though. Have you ever stopped to realize that even “now” is the story of a past? As soon as you think it, the now is gone, just like everything else in the world.
Twenty-four years ago I experienced what people told me was enlightenment. I didn’t know what that was. If I have to call it anything, I call it waking up from what isn’t to what is reality. For ten years I had been depressed, enraged, addicted, paranoid, suicidal. Then one morning, as I woke up on the floor beside my bed, I saw that there was no separation in the universe, that in fact there was nothing identifiable to separate, no universe, no me, no you. All that darkness was gone, instantly, and never returned, and in place of it was a peace and joy I had never imagined. The “I” that I’d thought I was could no longer exist. There was only reality, nameless, brilliant, pulsing as love itself. Pure joy. Since that moment, I haven’t ever encountered anyone or anything that I experience as a problem, or that I would want to change in any way.
How do we live in that place of total non-separation? I found a technique I called The Work. More accurately, The Work found me, in that very same moment of death and birth. Being totally in love with reality all the time is great, but it took The Work for me not to lose that awareness, not to revert back to the insanity of believing that who I am could ever be defined, that any of the thoughts that identify you or me is true.
What I learned in that moment was that all our suffering comes from believing our stressful thoughts. I saw that when I believed any of the stressful concepts passing through my mind, I suffered, but that when I questioned them, I didn’t suffer, and since then, I have discovered that this is true for every human being. We believe a stressful thought and suffering follows. That’s a law. We believe “She wronged me,” for example, and the cycle starts. I suffer from believing she wronged me, and then I try to place blame or guilt on “her,” and it cycles back and forth.
The Work is a way to step in between thinking a thought and believing the thought. You do The Work on the stressful thought, the one that you are believing, and amazingly enough, you may see that it’s just not true. You’ve been tying yourself in knots, and often your partner too, over a false belief, a lie. And you get to see, in detail, the cause-and-effect of the thought.
The Work is so simple—that’s one of the things I love about it. You take any stressful thought—for example, “He is mean to me”—and you question it, using the four questions of The Work. Keep in mind that your answer to the first two questions can be either a yes or a no, whatever is true for you. Whatever answer you discover, notice, be still, and then gently move to the next question and wait for your (often very shocking) answers to appear.
1. Is it true?
2. Can I absolutely know that it’s true?
3. How do I react when I believe that thought?
4. Who would I be without that thought?
After you answer the four questions, you do what I call turnarounds, which are a way of experiencing the opposite of what you believe. For instance, if your stressful thought is “He’s mean to me,” your opposites might be, “He isn’t mean to me” (or “He’s nice to me”), “I’m mean to him,” and “I’m mean to myself.” And then you find at least three specific, genuine examples of how each turnaround is true in your life.
The point isn’t to prove who’s meaner. The point is to show that what you have been believing, when investigated, turns out to be the cause of your suffering. You can never suffer from the person you are blaming. When you realize that, no one can ever bother you, and no thought can cause you suffering. Thoughts, concepts, and the images that appear in your world all become beautiful ways of seeing life. Then whatever you choose to do—stay in a relationship, leave a relationship—you do with a fearless clarity and integrity, rather than out of a fantasy of what the relationship should be giving you. Congratulations, you’re living directly out of your true nature, in reality! In my experience, there is far more joy available to you than you could ever imagine.3
Byron Katie’s simple yet powerful method of inquiry into the cause of all suffering is called The Work. Since 1986, she has introduced The Work to millions of people throughout the world. Eckhart Tolle says that The Work is “a great blessing for our planet,”and Time magazine named Katie a “spiritual innovator for the new millennium.” Her three bestselling books are Loving What Is, I Need Your Love—Is That True? and A Thousand Names for Joy. Her website is www.thework.com, where you will find many free materials to download, as well as audio and video clips, a schedule of events, and a free helpline with a network of Work facilitators.