All the stress that we feel is caused by arguing with what is.
It is funny how we see resistance in other people but we are completely blind to our own. That is because we don’t respond to events as they occur, but to our interpretations of them. One simple question can get us back on track; but it’s a dangerous one: ‘is it true?’.
On a day-to-day basis, we don’t distinguish between events and the interpretations we give them. “The world as it is” and “the way we are” have become inseparable.
Recently I stumbled upon the work of Katie Byron, who discovered that our attempt to find happiness is backward: instead of hopelessly trying to change the world to match our thoughts about how it “should” be, we can question these thoughts and, by meeting reality as it is, experience unimaginable freedom and joy.
She found out that when she believed that something should be different than it is (“My husband should love me more,” “My children should appreciate me”) she suffered, and that when she didn’t believe these thoughts, she felt peace.
Based on that experience she developed what is known as “The Work of Katie Byron”. In the above video you can see Byron in action. Her method looks very strange at first, because she explicitly requests participants to be judgmental, harsh, childish, and petty. She even designed a Judge-Your- Neighbor Worksheet to write with the spontaneity of a child who is sad, angry, confused, or frightened.
Then, the inquiry starts with four simple questions:
- Is it true?
- Can you absolutely know that it‟s true?
- How do you react, what happens, when you believe that thought?
- Who would you be without the thought?
When we really sit with these questions and let them resonate, we witness that we are the storyteller of our lives, though the projected image of our thoughts.
In Byron’s own words: “What The Work gives us is a way to change the projector— mind—rather than the projected. It‟s like when there‟s a piece of lint on a projector‟s lens. We think there‟s a flaw on the screen, and we try to change this person and that person, whomever the flaw appears to be on next. But it‟s futile to try to change the projected images. Once we realize where the lint is, we can clear the lens itself. This is the end of suffering, and the beginning of a little joy in paradise.”