The Work
By: Byron Katie

Loving What Is by Byron Katie

Pro: The Work as described in the book Loving What Is by Byron Katie is simple, straightforward and easy to implement while being one of the most powerful tools I have ever used.

Con: I would have appreciated more explanation and examples of using the process on thoughts I had about myself.

I was introduced to Byron Katie by a coaching colleague of mine. I began by first reading her book: A Thousand Names for Joy: Living in Harmony with the Way Things Are which is a number of short chapters giving her philosophy on life. I was so intrigued by her harmonious viewpoint that I picked up Loving What Is to more fully understand her process for creating presence in life.

Katie’s story is dramatic: depression, health concerns, no sense of purpose, anger and family upset. It was one morning while lying on the floor of a half-way house (she didn’t feel worthy enough to use the bed) that she was awakened to the reality of how things really are. In reality, only this moment exists, nothing else. It is our thoughts and assumptions about reality that causes our suffering. If we can investigate our thoughts, we will find that we can release them because, alas, they are not real either.

The work is a set of 4-questions and a turnaround. The questions are put up against any thought you have that is causing frustration, worry, anger and fear. The questions are:

  1. Is it true?
  2. Can you absolutely know that it’s true?
  3. How do you react, what happens, when you believe that thought?
  4. Who would you be without the thought?
Turn it around, and find three genuine examples of how the turnaround is true in your life.

The reader is encouraged to start the exercise with judgments they have about other people, not with judgments they have about themselves. Another key is to write down each question and your response as the mind has tricks to avoid the real answers when you attempt to do this all in your head. You can find a worksheet to walk you through the exercise on Katie’s website:

The purpose of the questions is to realize the true impact of the thought and the idea that you cannot absolutely know that all of your thoughts are true. The turnaround is the mirror to show you that you have the power to believe what you choose to and that other people are a reflection of our own assumptions. I explore this idea fully in: How to Change Other People.

The format of the book is simply interviews that Katie conducts with people who have attended her seminars. Each interview demonstrates “The Work” around a different topic. You can follow along with your own thoughts and answers as you read.

The most powerful part of the book for me was watching it work in my life. I downloaded the worksheet and completed it for myself around someone who was frustrating me in my life. I was astounded when I interacted with them next as all of my negative emotion toward them was gone! Just simply gone. I hadn’t felt anything particularly spectacular when I did “The Work” around this person, but somehow the exercise released deep emotions I had toward them. I was giddy with excitement at the result.

Byron Katie calls this “The Work” because it is work. Releasing your attachment to your thoughts is not something to do once, but to do over and over again as negative emotions arise.

I absolutely recommend Loving What Is as a book that should be part of every personal development library. As Katie says: “When I argue with reality, I lose - but only 100% of the time.”

Return from The Work to Inspirational Books.

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