One of the most inspiring books I have ever read is titled “A Thousand Names for Joy” by Byron Katie. The book, based on her understanding of the ancient Chinese classic “Tao Te Ching” by Lao Tzu. I can also highly recommend her other books and healing processes she calls “The Work.”
Katie speaks from a mind that is clear; working with a system that enables one to disengage from attachments of the mind, that trick us into believing that whatever we think is true. Katie presents an understanding that helps one find release from this incessant clinging that causes us pain. Suggesting that if we believe in what we think, then we are “carried off” by the “endless dramas” of our self. Dramas of the ego, striving to protect or defend or aggrandise itself.
Habitual thoughts that we carry, as we avoid experiencing that which is beneath our addictions, or simply because we have become the re-actions, when similar stimulus is encountered, yet again and again and again.
Our preferences creating “who” we are. What we like or dislike, prefer, or see as plain “wrong.” So many scenarios that exist because we have opinions about things and cling to these opinions as if our very existence depended on it.
Byron Katie sees the mind’s “natural condition” as peace. A peace where we are at one with the world. Then “a thought enters” and once we believe it, the peace seems to disappear. This sense of peace may be experienced in the practice of meditation, when one allows the mind to settle, and all of its busyness becomes stilled. It is at this point where awareness of ‘what is,’ becomes ‘present’ again. Not always easy, but very worthwhile.
According to Katie, we “become the stories” that we tell our self. (120) We become a storyteller who ends up believing the stories we tell, where we become those very stories, whether we like the feeling of them or not. Katie reminds us that we are “what lives prior to” these stories, (120) before the mind becomes entangled.
In learning to see the effects on us of our mind, it is also worth noticing the effects that thoughts have on one’s emotions. Katie’s offering is that sadness is “always a sign that you’re believing a stressful thought that isn’t true for you.” (73) That sadness is a “war with what is.” A “tantrum” that we throw, wanting what we want, to be other than ‘how it (actually) is.’ In her words, a show that we have become “insane.”
Katie promises that when the mind is clear, there isn’t any sadness. (73) And when you realise that ‘how things are,’ is the Will of the Divine, and it is “then, you’re home free.” (133)
If you “don’t believe your own thinking,” then “life becomes effortless.” (1)
And, if you can become a lover of what is, then suffering will be over. (57)
Katie’s process called “The Work” involves four questions and a turnaround. A simple process in practice, but quite profound in effect. She suggests that if you can question what you believe, it is then that you will begin to see clearly. To go beyond the beliefs that are lodged in the unconscious mind.
She playfully offers that: “The nature of things is to come and go,… so why not enjoy the show.” (28)
Katie sees that in the scheme of things, we are “all children” and that “Infinite Mind” is also a child though “ageless.” She suggests that Infinite Mind “lives in the unknown, thriving on the unknown, where its gets its nourishment and delight.” The place where “its creative power is free.” (124)
Katie suggests that the world will indeed test you in every way, as a positive thing; “so that you can realise that last little piece that’s unfinished inside you.”
When you are “finished” then you will most likely, feel the freedom of peace. Feel the freedom of joy. It is at this point where you will understand that “everything is exactly as it should be.” (68) To live with an open mind is the way to peace, “the beginning of freedom.” (180)
So clear your mind, and see that “everything in the world is beautiful.” (7) And even if everything seems to be collapsing, allow yourself to know the truth, that there is, “only joy.” (121)
Arjuna Govinda (August 2011)
* All quotes refer to Byron Katie’s book “A Thousand Names for Joy: how to live in harmony with the way things are.” Link for contact with Byron Katie’s work.