Life is full of annoyances. B U T what if I told you that you could feel the annoyances and then let them go? That you didn’t need to dwell on them to the point of starting an imaginary war with someone in your mind.
Oh, that’s right. I know how many times you’ve cursed out your partner in your mind. Building up an entire narrative in your head before they are even given shot to defend themselves.
Byron Katie’s Loving What Is talks about how to reframe our thoughts so that they can stop causing us to suffer. She says, “a thought is harmless unless we believe it. It’s not our thoughts, but our attachment to our thoughts, that cause us suffering”. Thoughts are just a thing. Like a raindrop. And you wouldn’t argue with a raindrop, would you?
Here are my biggest take aways from the book.
Suffering is optional
When I hear the word suffering, my mind automatically goes to people living in poverty. The starving children in Africa. Or people who had a home destroyed in a natural disaster.
But suffering can happen on a much smaller scale. Suffering can look like frustration, anger, or despair. Suffering can be living out of alignment with your authentic self. Suffering can be telling yourself a friend disrespects your time because she was late to lunch. Or that the lady in front of you to check out is heartless because she cut you in line.
Katie says every stressful feeling is caused by believing an untrue thought. And the way out of the stress is to get to the root of what lies behind that thought. Once you get to the root thought, you can then change it, alleviating you from your suffering. Katie’s process, which she calls “The Work”, is to ask yourself 4 questions to investigate the thinking that lies behind the suffering (more on this below). Doing so can liberate yourself from falling victim to your thoughts, and bring you back into reality where you can make a conscious choice in how to react.
Stop should-ing the situation and start looking at reality
Suffering is usually wrapped in the “should”s we believe to be true. “People should be kinder”.
“He should text me first”.
“My neighbors should stop making so much noise”.
But the only time we suffer is when we believe a thought that argues with reality. What causes our suffering is thinking things “should” have gone a different way. Wanting things to be different from what actually is.
Reality is the “as is” of life. And when you argue with reality by attaching your story of what should be, you loose because you experience suffering. As Katie says, “when I argue with reality, I loose. But only 100% of the time”
Our suffering is caused because we are attaching to a story of what we think should have happened instead. But this story is NOT reality. This story is rooted in our perception of what happened. Not what actually happened.
We need to love what is. We need to stop arguing with reality. You can’t change reality. Whenever you try, it’s like trying to make a cat bark, it just won’t happen. We drive ourselves crazy when we try to. When something is happening in our life, the best thing we can do is to just let it be. To accept it. It is what it is. The healthiest thing we can do is to love what is.
Trying to change reality is the root of our suffering. We have to stop opposing what’s happening and let it be.
Whose business are you in?
Byron Katie says there’s only 3 types of business. Your business, other people’s business, or the universe’s business. And much of our stress and anxiety comes from meddling in other people’s business outside of our own.
Being in someone else’s business can look like “I want you to get a new job so that you’re happier” or “Why haven’t you made a doctor’s appointment yet? I’ve asked you 8 times. You need to be taking care of yourself”.
Being in the universe’s business can look like loosing sleep over natural disasters, stressing over the stock market, or wishing your flight wasn’t delayed.
Katie says, “If you are living your life and I am mentally living your life, who is here living mine? We’re both over there. Being mentally in your business keeps me from being present in my own. I am separate from myself, wondering why my life doesn’t work.”
You cannot control someone else’s actions. How other people act is none of your business. What IS your business is your reaction and tolerance of their actions. If you are interfering with anything other than YOUR business, you are bound to experience suffering. You have to keep in mind that no amount of suffering can change something that is outside of your control. But what you can do is turn inward and change what IS in your control. Which is your own business - YOUR perception of what is happening, YOUR attachment to the story, the narrative YOU have created, YOUR thoughts and YOUR emotions.
Compassion Alarm Clock
Byron Katie talks about using our suffering as a compassion alarm clock. We can know where we have work to do by checking in with how we’re feeling. Are we suffering from our thoughts? Then you can guarantee that there is work that needs to be done there. Feeling suffering can be an alarm clock telling you to wake up and actively work to change your thoughts to end the suffering you feel.
The work - 4 questions that can change your life
Byron Katie’s “The Work” consists of 4 questions that can liberate you from your thoughts and end your suffering. They are:
Is this thought true?
Can you absolutely know that it’s true?
How do you react when you believe that thought?
Who would you be without the thought?
And then, once you answer all 4 questions, turn the thought around. Change that thought to the opposite of what you believe.
Here’s a personal example I used the 4 questions on.
Thought: He didn’t text me today. He doesn’t care about me
Is this true? This thought was very strong, so let’s say yes. This is true.
Can you absolutely know that it’s true? Absolutely? Well, no. I guess I can’t absolutely know that it’s true. He could have been busy, he could have been stressed out with work. His phone could have died. His mind could just be preoccupied. There are a thousand reasons why he may have not texted me.
How do you react when you believe this thought? I feel really crappy. I feel forgotten. Like I’m not enough.
Who would you be without the thought? I would feel free without this thought. I would feel light. I would feel worthy. I would be able to move on with my day. I could probably see that if I wanted to talk to him, I could just text him because I wouldn’t be feeling so worthless.
Now, turn the thought around to the opposite of what you believe:
I don’t care about me.
WOW. I can now see that the thought has nothing to do about him, there could be a million other reasons why he didn’t text, and that I would feel SO much better without this thought. The turnaround thought shows me that by thinking this thought, “he doesn’t care about me”, that I don’t actually care about myself. Because I am thinking a thought that is NOT rooted in reality, thus causing me to suffer. Now I know that the old thoughts aren’t true, every time they pop into my head, I can tell myself that it’s not true. Even if I have to remind myself over and over and over again.
I gave a few more examples about how I used the 4 questions to help me overcome major anxiety I was feeling, you can read that here.
There is a ton of great insight in this book, but it also takes time, effort, and practice to implement in your life. It will feel foreign at first, but if you stick with it, it becomes more natural to implement in your day to day. If you are someone who feels like they can’t get a grip of their thoughts, it’s definitely worth checking it out. As Katie says, “The greatest stock market you can invest in is yourself.” So check it out and let me know what you think!
You can order your copy of Loving What Is here.