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Interview with Byron Katie

Byron Katie

Ram Giri: Hi Katie

Byron Katie: Hi

RG: Katie, Einstein once said that the most important question we need to ask is if the universe is kind. In my case I always believed that the universe is very harsh and unfriendly, and I know many people who live in that belief, in that world. But I’ve come to find out there are so many worlds in this world. People live in different states; some are very depressed, some are angry and live in a kind of hell – and other people are in very light and happy states most or all of the time. When I ask people if they know somebody who’s truly happy in a lasting way, most people tell me they know nobody like that. Well I do, you are one of these people. But I also know that you lived in hell for a long time, so what happened? What changed? How did you discover this world that you live in now, and what is it like?

BK: Well, I discovered that basically when I believe my thoughts I suffer, when I don’t believe my thoughts I don’t suffer. And I’ve come to see that this is true for every human being.

And the way that I found that to be true is I experienced myself in an amazing moment of clarity as I lay sleeping on the floor and a cockroach crawled over my foot. And in that moment, it’s like IT opened it’s eyes and it looked and it had never been born before, and it was awake, and it saw everything. It had no name, no recognition, no identification, for it or what it saw, there was nothing. And then I noticed the mind just bombarded, and in that moment laughter was born, it just rolled out because it recognized that none of the thoughts were true. And it was wisdom that could see past everything. So actually I inquired within that moment – before the thought, no problem – and then the thought comes and when we believe it, that’s where the whole world is created. And thought brought imaginary form with it and a whole world, basically.

RG: The thoughts people have are so real to them, how did you discover that they weren’t, that they could be something different?

BK: Well I saw that it just wasn’t true. I saw that no thought was true, so the world that it reflected wasn’t real, that it was all imagined. And then I saw from people that is was real for them like, “It is a chair, it is a table, it is a sky, it is a tree.” And I came to see that I used to believe that also. But then I saw that the “I” wasn’t personal. That’s where the turnaround came to life, for example, “That is true,” turn it around: “That isn’t true.” And it is true until we see that it’s not. Questioning what we believe brings everyone to the conclusion of the truth, if they stay with it, in my experience. If freedom is what they’re looking for.

RG: When people begin to do the inquiry and start asking the questions, often there are some other thoughts that come up that tend to sabotage the process and take us out of it. For instance, one of them is, “It’s selfish to be so concerned with your own happiness.” What would you answer to that?

BK: Well it’s selfish not to. You know we live our lives trying to make people happy. Well we’re a people too. So we try to make people happy by giving them things, by giving them our advice, our money, our sex, our bodies, etc. etc. and then we find that it’s not lasting. So if we want to know the secret then we turn it around and we begin to see what would it take to make one human being happy, so we become our own guinea pig.

And for me that is questioning my thoughts. When I have a thought as simple as, “I wish he would send me flowers,” (I asked him to send me flowers and if he does, wonderful, I get what I want), but if he doesn’t I turn it around. You know, if I want the flowers why don’t I give me flowers?

And then we begin to understand that it’s something else we wanted, it wasn’t just the flowers, and if it’s just the flowers then wonderful you’ve got them, Who cares where you got them, there they are.

So we begin to become our best friend, we begin to bring us our own happiness, more importantly we become responsible for our own happiness, and we allow other people to be responsible for their own. And in the mean time if I think flowers are so wonderful and it brings me happiness why don’t I send him flowers? That way we both get happiness and I get double everything.

RG: There are all your different turnarounds there in action. What about if the thought comes up, “There are just too many thoughts, I’ll never see the end of it?”

BK: I would just question it, “There are just too many thoughts you’ll never see the end of it,” is that true? Can you absolutely know it’s true? How do you rationally believe that thought? One way we react is we become hopeless, our shoulders become heavy, we begin to slouch, we sit down, we become depressed, and we become that thought; hopeless. And then the fourth question; who would I be without that thought? I’d be doing my work, I’d be doing my inner work, I’d be setting me free from the thought system that I’m believing in the moment.

And the turnaround, “There are too many thoughts,” it’s hopeless. “There are not too many,” it’s not hopeless, and that could be just as true. And what I’ve come to see is that there are not too many, there is the perfect amount. And who cares about all those thoughts, just the one we’re stuck in, let’s just work with that.

RG: One situation that can happen is that you’re doing the inquiry and everything is going good and then suddenly there’s just a conviction that says there’s something you need and off you are. And the whole practice you just started is forgotten.

BK: That’s ok, we believe our thoughts or we question them there’s no other choice and if a person believes their thoughts – which is to say they’re having a wonderful life – then good. And if a person is not having a wonderful life then I invite them to question their thoughts and break the spell. Wake themselves up.

RG: Another thought that can sabotage us is the thought in its different permutations that “There’s something missing in me, something is lacking in me, so why even try?”

BK: Yeah, and of course I would really question that, “There’s something lacking in me,” is it true? And walk it all the way through. “There’s nothing lacking.” It’s just all the answers that give us this wisdom that is such a profound difference in our lives. It wakes us up. So we all have equal wisdom. No one has more than anyone else and The Work is the way to tap into that. So it’s not hopeless if a person taps into it.

RG: How is it that we all have equal wisdom?

BK: We just do. The way I’ve come to understand it is I didn’t have a teacher, I didn’t have religion, I had no background. I like to say my religion was “My children should pick up their socks,” and I was devoted to it. There was a great deal of punishment meted out when they did not comply with what I believed to be their own best interest and welfare. So it was a very cruel world if you were one of my children. And it was very cruel for me also because to hurt my children through word or act is how I hurt me, but it was a cycle I had no way to escape. I was simply believing my thoughts.

RG: So you believed your thoughts and you’re saying by simply questioning your thoughts your whole family, your world changed?

BK: Yes, I questioned my thoughts and my world changed, it put me in a kind universe and that’s how I decided that the universe is kind. I kept coming back to that kind universe and all of the proof. I couldn’t prove the unkind universe; that’s what keeps mind busy, proving the universe is unkind. That’s the mind’s job, to show us the universe is unkind, but when we begin to question that, then all the real evidence is that the world is kind. And I invite people to test it.

RG: One of the thoughts that come up when we do The Work is that it doesn’t work, because sometimes that can be our experience.

BK: The work isn’t anything, so it can’t work, it doesn’t work, it’s four questions and a turnaround. But the answers, the answers that surface as the person answers those questions, that’s where the enlightenment comes from. From within.

RG: Then how would you tell people to deal with the thought, “I’m missing something?”

BK: To question it, and turn it around and then test it. For example, you’ve walked through all four questions and then: “I’m missing something,” turn it around, “I’m not missing something.” And then to look at your universe and find the proof of that, to test it. I look around and I didn’t want a table, I didn’t think of it and here it is, and my friend Christian, my goodness, and Stephen, and here we all are! That’s an amazing universe, but if I’m focused on what should be in the space that’s not, I miss what’s in the space. So my mind is totally away, doing some trip and I’m missing the universe that is not only kind, but actually overly generous. In fact, unlimitedly so.

RG: One of the things that touched me particularly that I always remember, it’s very helpful to me, is what you said when people ask you, “Are you enlightened?” I heard you answer; “Well, I wouldn’t know anything about that. I became enlightened to what hurts and what doesn’t hurt.”

BK: Yes

RG: And I find about myself that often I’m not clear on that. How do we really come to know what hurts?

BK: Well feelings let us know, the physical body lets us know. And the other thing you mentioned, people say am I enlightened? Well how would I know? But I know what freedom is, that I know. “Enlightened” I have no thought to. “Freedom” I do, and when we’re free there’s no problem and that’s a very friendly universe to live in. I love this planet.

RG: So what is freedom?

BK: Freedom is no care in the world. The only care is how can I help? It’s a natural state and there’s no investment in it. I wouldn’t be helping for your own good. It’s a mindless thing, the way kindness operates, that’s it’s system, that’s it’s nature, “How can I help?” And you would be the judge whether it helps or not, but I am the judge of my kind nature without thought to it. It’s the way of it.

RG: If that’s freedom, what is happiness Katie?

BK: Happiness is balance. This woman today in the audience said that after the session we were working on, “When I fall, I love the trip and I kiss the cement.” And how do I know that it’s time to kiss the cement? I’m kissing it, I’m there. We were playing around like that is what is absolutely true in my experience. And then she leaves the session and she falls and she rips her pants, and she skins her knee, and she hit’s the cement and all of this, and she says, “I wasn’t opposed to it. After the session it happened and I wasn’t opposed to it.” Basically she was absolutely OK with it, but she said that she didn’t love it. And I just loved that because that’s love, that’s loving what is. It’s not this ecstatic “Oh I love the cement!” It’s just this natural connection with everything, this unity, this dearness, where you fall, you rip your pants, you break your knee open, your head hits and you just don’t mind because there’s nothing uncomfortable about it. In fact it’s amazing to realize that you don’t dislike it and to me that’s freedom.

RG: So it sounds like the basic recipe is just to completely show up in the moment without a thought that anything should be different than it is.

BK: Yes, and that’s the end of the war with what is.

RG: Well, thank you Katie

BK: You are so welcome, I love that this serves.


– Ram Giri Braun



A meditation on the Heart

Freedom from stress, pain and suffering

How Love Heals

"People and situations do not cause you pain.
Your thoughts and emotions about them do.
You can change those reactions.
This is the key to freedom."
- Ram Giri