An excerpt from my book:
Eating As A Spiritual Practice
My new book, "Eating As A Spiritual Practice" contains a few stories that may not be related to food in the way that you might think. Since beliefs have a great deal to do with all of our actions and thus our health, I decided to post this story from my book to acquaint you with The Work Of Byron Katie. My book, "Eating" is a memoir - cook book because I tell the story of how I became the foodie I am, and how I have witnessed our individual and collective food choices affecting our communities, policies, health crisis, and environmental destruction.
Below is a story my first experience doing The Work. It is about the beliefs I had about my son, who had been using drugs since he was 13. Katie helped me find some peace in his long journey with addiction, which was my long journey as well.
Though my journey with circumstances and beliefs that drove the fear, I see now that there might be wisdom in lightening up while in the face of struggling. We can still stay prudent and act in alignment with our highest values, but we can do it with a light heart if at all possible. So many people have guilt around every decision they make. This cannot be healthy. We cannot afford to go around with suffering thoughts and feelings. We can only do what we can do, focus on ourselves, our families and our communities. I send blessings to everyone that is suffering in the world, either through the communities they live in, have a disease, or feel tremendous doom over our environmental and political situation. The Serenity Prayer comes to mind when I drift off to worry, doubt and fear: "God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference".
Please comment below if you have done The Work or how you see your beliefs are affecting your life and the goals you want to achieve.
Aloha and Happy New Year! Susan Teton
Aspen & The Work of Byron Katie, an excerpt from "Eating As A Spiritual Practice".
One weekend a group of friends and I drove to Aspen to see Byron Katie, the soon to be best selling author of “Loving What Is” and other titles that followed. My friends were familiar with “The Work”, the process Katie calls her method of inquiring into beliefs and judgments that cause us human mortals suffering. On our first morning after arriving in Aspen late the night before everyone got busy writing their worksheets on the areas that found that caused them suffering so they could do “The Work” with Katie.
What on Earth is The Work, you ask? Here is a little of how it goes. People boldly write down on the “Worksheet” what is bothering them about a person or situation in their life. In other words, their story of what is causing them pain and suffering. Then a brave soul will join Katie on the stage, worksheet in hand. Like a guru she sits up there with a lovely table, adorned with flowers, and a glass of water. Next to her is an empty chair fluffed and ready for the next willing participant. On stage, in front of everyone, Katie facilitates one person at a time through her process. They read their thoughts and judgments from their worksheets and she asks her 4 famous questions and then offers the turn around. The 4 questions are: 1. Is it True? 2. Can you absolutely know that it is true? 3. How do you react when you think the thought? 4. Who would you be without the thought? And, then finally she asks you to turn the thought around, giving the thought or concept another way to live inside of you.
A little surprised at the serious attention my friends gave to their worksheets, I realized that I was there more for entertainment and a weekend in Aspen with cool people. I had no intention of doing “The Work” with Katie. With no one to play with during our first morning together before going to the workshop, I found myself grabbing a worksheet. I pulled up a chair and began to write out my story of Jason. He was my biggest claim to suffering, so I casually wrote out my gut feelings knowing this piece of paper would only be seen by me and me alone.
I was drawn to Katie’s work because it was riveting to say the least. People had the most incredible stories. I marveled at their courage to get up in front of an audience and expose themselves as they did. It was better than the Jerry Springer show. Katie was a master of helping people to see how ridiculously untrue most of their thoughts were, and how they were actually mirroring behavior with the projections and judgments they put on others. Her magic touch was in how loving and compassionate she was, her quick sense of humor, and how vividly she listened.
I mean, talk about getting naked. People took their entire skin off. They walked on the stage in despair knowing they were right and had valid reasons for their pain and judgments. They walked off the stage free from suffering, smiling, and often even laughing. Watching them and the process was miraculous. I admired their courage particularly because it was something I would never do. Too shy, I would not expose myself like that in front of so many people. But, I did not yet even know this about myself.
After breakfast we took a ride into town and gathered in the auditorium. Poised elegantly in her chair, Katie spoke, “OK, who wants to do The work?” We watched and listened attentively as a couple of people went through the process with her. Witnessing her clever insight and humor while helping each person see how their own story was at the root of their pain, was entertaining to say the least. I was blown away while my rooted perspective on life began to loosen it’s grip.
After a short intermission visiting with friends out on the front lawn of the auditorium we came in for another round. All seated quietly, Katie on stage and ready. She spoke, “So, who wants to do The Work? As she scoped out the audience, no brave souls volunteering yet, her head turned my way. Without awareness or forethought my arm began lifting into the air. In the same moment with swift precision, Katie caught my eye, Her arm reached out with a pointed finger straight at me. She claimed her next victim while saying “You”. Trust me, I had nothing to do with it. Someone or something raised my hand, within a flash, as if orchestrated by a swift angel.
My body began walking to the stage. “Oh my God, how did this happen. Who did this. What is happening?" My emotions overtook me as I muttered to myself. Frightened, with a dry mouth, emerging moist arm pits, and a heart beating rapidly, I took a seat. “Let’s hear it she said”. With worksheet in hand my heart pounded out the first words: “I am saddened, upset and angry at my son because he is ruining his life”. Here came question #1: “Is it true”? She said, like a puppet who always says the same thing. “Yes”, I exclaimed. “He does drugs, gets thrown in jail, puts other people in harms way, steals and hurts himself”. There. Was I convincing? I thought so.
Not buying my story, she posed the second question, “Can you absolutely know that it is true, that your son is ruining his life”. With a beat, I closed my eyes, went deeply inside and looked far and wide. Could I know? As I searched my own consciousness to see if it was true, I heard more of Katie’s words “Perhaps this is his path, his journey to take and he must do it his way”. She repeated the question, “Can you absolutely know that it is true, that your son is ruining his life”?
I searched some more and could not find my thought to be true. “No”, I said, “I can’t”. For the very first time a sliver of illuminating light poked through my archaic belief system. Something loosened.
Satisfied with my answer and ready to move on, Katie asked question number three, “How do you react when you think the thought he is ruining his life”. Again, I looked inside and watched my behavior. It looked like a movie of a stressed out mom with fixed attention on her son, calling and following him, helping him when it wasn’t appropriate, pleading with him to change, and full of worry constantly. Ugh! I quietly, slowly, and humbly told Katie what I saw.
Satisfied once again that her process was working beautifully, Katie posed question number four, “Who would you be without the thought, that your son is ruining his life”? Familiar now with the territory of my own consciousness, I dove deep inside and there was nothing but freedom. Ahhhh, my body melted with the thought. There went the strain, the fixed attention freed. I began to envision myself going through life with joy and carefree laughter birthing a new and creative lifestyle fulfilling “my” dreams. I could feel it more than I could describe it.
Without any words from me, Katie could see that I had landed in a new story. She went for the turn around. With an instructive tone, she said, “Turn the thought around”. Answering her questionably I said “My son is not ruining his life?” She looked at me and stated, “Could be just as true”.
My world had just been blasted open. I began to see that my way was not the only way or the “right” way. This does not mean I let go yet, but at least I knew where to look. My son was living his life his way, and although I could convince anyone, including myself, that I was “right”, in my fear, doubt and worry, the only thing I really knew to be true was that he was living as he was living, period, end of story. If I argued with reality it would only cause me to suffer.
Floating in a sea of “ah has”, I heard Katie prod further, “There is another turn around”. Gazing at her in question, she helped me by saying, “I”. Catching her drift I completed her thought, “I am ruining my life”. She added, “By thinking he is ruining his”.
There it was! My thinking, my judgments, my fear, my attachment was ruining my life.
If that were not enough, then came her last question, one that expresses the overall theme of “The Work of Byron Katie”. “Who would you be without your story?” I looked deep into her blazing blue eyes with the depth of mine, meeting her in a new space of total acceptance, I said with absolute resolve, “I don’t know, but I am going to find out”.
I can’t know the real truth in this situation because it was not mine to argue with. I learned from Katie that there are three kinds of business: my business, your business, and God’s business.
I learned that I must let go of the belief that my son was ruining his life because I was ruining my own life by constantly obsessing about his! Katie helped me see the bigger picture, helped me let go and let him live his own life. It was with this work that I began to see the wisdom of working on ourselves, because when we change, everything changes, and all we can change is ourselves. We live in a matrix, and are finding out that our thoughts and energy effect others without us even saying anything, or passive aggressively acting out. It was hard to let go, but it was the beginning of turning my focus toward myself, while letting him be him.
Are you suffering from others actions? Are you suffering from your own inner demons? Can you find joy and satisfaction in your thoughts and actions? If not, is there something you need to change in your thinking or your choices? My New Years resolution is to lighten up and let go of every negative thought I can find. My choices and decisions are going to come from a new place. This is the intention I am promising myself this for the coming year.
PS: I went on to eventually do several of Katie's magnificent schools, and worked with her for over a year. As a matter of fact, it was with her schools that I learned to be a Chef! I am now certified in "The Work" and welcome a call if anyone could benefit from a session. Aloha