Loving What Is

I've read many, many self-help, leadership, and management books over the years as I strove to be the best mentor and assistant to my editors as possible. Sometimes the books can blur together and seem to offer the same advice over and over again. I was delighted when I picked up "Loving What Is" by Byron Katie, and found that its message was not only refreshingly new, but was directly, immediately, and globally helpful. It was a technique you could apply to literally any person or situation that was bothering you in life, and work towards finding a way to end the stress surrounding it.

Byron calls her technique "The Work". In essence there are four steps to looking into any issue in your life.

Let's say you have an issue with a parent who you feel does not treat you the way you want to be treated. First, you write out your strongest feelings about the person. You allow yourself to rant and clear your system of all that anger or fear or frustration.

Now you start with the first sentence in your rant, whatever it happens to be. Let's say it was "My father always treats my siblings better than he treats me!!"

Question 1: "Is it true?" Really think about it. Does this statement feel true to you, when you really sit down and look at it? Maybe you realize that no, this was an exaggeration. That it only happens sometimes. You could also feel yes, it IS true. There are no right or wrong answers. This is about evaluating things clearly.

Question 2: "Can you ABSOLUTELY know that it's true?" Maybe from HIS point of view he is treating everyone fairly, and it's something about the way you see things - that you ignore the things he does for you and pay sharp attention to the things he does for the other siblings. Is it absolutely true that from his point of view he is always deliberately showing preference? Sometimes giving through to these issues can help you have a better understanding of them.

Question 3: "How do you REACT when you think that thought?" Realize that while his action might take up 10 seconds, your replaying over and over again of the action could take up years of your life. You and your thoughts are destroying your joy, while his action was maybe 10 seconds long. Your own brain and thoughts are the prime actor here!

Question 4: "Who would you be WITHOUT the thought?" This is a really challenging one and can take some people a lot of time to wrap their mind around. What if you were somehow able to be in a situation where you were NOT always thinking that your father liked your siblings better? Would you be happier when you were with your dad? Happier when with your siblings? Heck, happier all the time?

There are "turn arounds" to consider as part of this. Take your statement and alter it to further explore the issue. So for example you would think "My father never treats my siblings better than he treats me." Could that be true? Could he actually be treating everyone fairly in his mind? How about "I treat my siblings and father better than I treat myself." If you are beating yourself up all day long every day just because of a "story" in your mind, aren't you treating yourself horribly, and in comparison you treat your family fairly well?

Byron explains that thoughts are like raindrops - they just ARE. You watch them come and go - but you don't have to get emotionally wound up in them. You can choose to see them, understand them, and let them fall and go away.

She gives many examples in the book, specific examples of specific people facing a variety of problems from spouses to children to parents to work situations and even incest and war. In every case the person is able to find more peace in their life. This is NOT about saying "what the person did to me is right." It is SIMPLY about saying "what the person did happened, and it is in the past, and it is my hanging onto this story and replaying it constantly in my mind which is now damaging me." You have to love yourself more than that. You have to let yourself heal, you have to nurture and care for yourself.

This is the kind of book that you enjoy reading over and over, because each time you read it you gain more knowledge about how the process works, you gain more insight into specific problems you are having.

I do wish they went into more detail about ways to get over inner resistance though. A lot of people are going to have strong resistance to giving up their stories. If their entire life has been based on the thought that "My childhood was unfair! It ruined my entire life! My life sucks because of my parents!!" it will be very hard for that person to release that story and move on. It is a core part of their being. Sometimes the examples in the book make it seem like you simply ask these four questions and POOF your mind instantly becomes serene. But for some people who have issues wrapped with a stranglehold around their sense of who they are, it will be much harder to unravel those tendrils. And really, those are the people who need this book the most.

Well recommended for anyone who has issues in their life - but know that you have to be willing to really think about the issues. They won't vanish on their own. You have to be willing to take that step and imagine what life would be without this "story" giving you a crutch to lean on.

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