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Byron Katie Memories

July 28, 2009

10 days ago I had the pleasure of listening to Byron Katie speak at the Martha Beck Coaches Convention. If you’re unfamiliar with Katie’s work, I strongly suggest picking up a copy of Loving What Is. I read it a little less than a year ago and it definitely changed the way I look at things, but hearing her speak was an even stronger motivator to look at my thoughts differently.

I mentioned before that I didn’t take any notes during the conference, other than a few at Pam Slim’s talk on coming up with content. I let the talks all wash over me, assuming I’d absorb what I needed. On my plane ride home, though, I did make a few notes, and I’m going to share those. I think; I haven’t read them since then, so if they say something too crazy/personal/woo-woo, I’ll probably edit them! Then I’ll follow up with other moments of importance from Katie’s speech that are still with me.

“Things To Remember” from my journal:

All the things we fear are projected images of the future…ie: we fear losing money but it’s just images in our head, projecting what we fear that future (without money) will hold. There was a man with a gun to her stomach (Byron Katie was held up at one point) and felt for him. If she had feared death in that moment she’d have already been dead. She always says yes to herself. When she says no to other people, she’s saying yes to herself.

Amazingly I remember much more than what I wrote in my journal, so I’m going to expand below.  I am writing what I recall from Byron Katie’s speech and how I personally interpreted thoughts. This is just my opinion of what she shared with us!

1. If you are in a scary situation and you start projecting images of what might happen to you, you’re no longer living. As I mentioned in my journal notes, Katie was once held at gunpoint. She was not afraid, however, and was thinking, “How sad for this man and his life if he kills me”. She was completely detached from the stories and scenarios most of us would start projecting, such as, “I’m going to die, this is horrible, I’m going to be killed”. She told us if she  had been filled with those thoughts she’d already be dead. If you’re not in the present moment and are filling your head with worries of death, how is that life?

I personally thought about this myself just a day later when I was flying home from Chicago. I am not frightened of flying, but I definitely tense up if there is turbulence or something unusual going on during my flight. When I tensed up during this flight, I thought back to what she said. It might be a hard concept to understand and agree with at first, but truly, if you are in a plane that is experiencing problems and you start freaking out that you’re going to die, you might as well already be dead. You’re not in the moment. You’re worrying about something you cannot change. Obviously this logic can be applied to any fear we struggle with, from losing our jobs to wondering if a loved one will be safe and healthy. When we start worrying about the future instead of living in the present, we’re just making up stories in our heads about what may happen. That’s not living life to its fullest.

2. The stories in our heads make us who we are. I’m already very, very aware of this. In fact, my coaching style often revolves around this concept. We’ve got two kinds of emotions: those that make us feel good and those that make us feel bad. If you’re feeling bad, dig deep and figure out why you’re not feeling good. Then dissect the thought or “story” you’re telling yourself that’s making you feel that way.

“Bob doesn’t love me”, “I’m too fat”, “I’ll never succeed”, “I’m stuck in a life I hate”, “Carlos shouldn’t have died”, “Gena should be nicer to me” and on and on and on. We tell ourselves stories about other people and how they should be and act, and stories about ourselves and how we should be. If it makes you feel crappy, you really need to get to the story and ask yourself who you’d be without that thought. I strongly suggest you look at Byron Katie’s website or read one of her books for more information on this concept, because once you understand it and apply it, it’s truly life-altering.

3. Byron Katie always says yes, and so should you. Katie spoke for one hour and then Martha Beck went on stage with her and did a Q&A session with her for another hour. (The next day Martha compared Katie trying to explain these concepts to all of us, including Martha herself,  to explaining Newton’s Laws of Motion to a Labrador Retriever. We weren’t insulted; it’s true, Byron Katie is a Master and by far the calmest, most soothing person I’ve ever been with in a room.) One of the things they discussed was how Katie deals with all of the requests for assistance she gets. People email her, call her, and write to her all the time asking for her guidance. Some of them she responds to, some of them she doesn’t. When Martha asked how she determines who she responds to, Katie said that she always says “yes”. But here’s the catch: She always says “yes” to herself, even if that means saying no to others.

When she said this the entire room audibly said, “oooooohhhh”. We life coaches are probably a 98% female population, and I’d say most women struggle with saying “no” much more than men, so this was huge for us. Byron Katie always says “yes” to herself. That means she can turn down dinner with a friend, an invitation to an event, or any other offer without thinking twice. She simply does the thing that she wants to do. I know, I know, you’re thinking, “but I can’t say no to my mother-in-law/coworker/pimp/cat/PTA because blah blah blah”. The real reason you can’t say no is because you’re telling yourself a story about what will happen if don’t say yes.

When you find yourself in an unhappy situation, as yourself, “who would I be without this story?” That’s it. You don’t have to get rid of the thought, just test out your emotional compass when you look beyond the story you’re telling yourself.

Those are the main points I remember from the talk, though the essense of the speech certainly left more of an impression on me than I can convey through a blog post. I’m going to say it one more time: Go check out Byron Katie’s website, read one of her books, and start picking apart the beliefs that are keeping you unhappy!

Be Joyful!

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