Book Reviews - Question your thinking, change the world
by Faraaz Tanveer
Question your thinking, change the world, Byron Katie; Edited by Stephen Mitchell,
Hayhouse India, 215 pages, Rs 195
"Sanity doesn't suffer, ever" – Byron Katie
When you argue with reality, you suffer. It's a simple idea, but a radical one. Since 1986, Byron Katie has been helping thousands of people around the world to stop arguing and start doing what it takes to make their lives more open and proactive. She does it through a deceptively simple but profoundly insightful method called The Work.
The Work of Byron Katie is an effective way of clearing the mind of stressful thoughts. First you capture the thoughts on paper, to facilitate an objective view. Then, one thought at a time, you attempt to determine if they are even true. It is revealing to know just how many lies you have been believing, not those gotten from others but the ones in your own mind! Even if you are convinced about its validity, it can be illuminating to take a careful, detailed inventory of the ways it affects your life. And finally, imagining yourself without it is a doorway to another way of being altogether. The Work is a method of enquiry into the relationship between thoughts and reality. It is not an intellectual attempt at explaining away our problems, but a meditation that introduces us to our own minds.
The book under review presents a collection of Katie's quotations on varied issues. In this thought-provoking collection spread over five sections, she brings her refreshing insight and straight talking 'tough love' to issues relating to relationships, health, parenting, work, self-realisation, money, death and much more. Her radical views question our most closely held beliefs and challenge us to take responsibility for our own lives. We begin to realise that it is not the circumstances but our own thinking that limits us.
A journey through this collection will be much more enriching if you familiarise yourself with The Work first. Katie's website (thework.com) is a rich source of user-friendly material to start your enquiry. You can download the 'little book' and worksheets for free from the 'resources' section and give it a go. Once you get a hang of her method and get a better idea of where she's coming from, the insights presented in this book get a proper context. Otherwise, some of her observations may sound too remote and difficult to grasp. Katie's approach is loving and intellectually consistent, an elusive combination that only a few can stake a claim for. She is refreshingly 'un-spiritual' and playful. Although The Work has been compared to Cognitive Psychology and Tibetan Buddhism, she doesn't encourage adherence to any particular tradition. Four Questions and a turnaround is all that she offers. She remind us that the wisdom we are seeking is already within us.
She writes,"We buy a home for our children, for our bodies; we get a garage for our car; we have doghouses for our dogs; but we won't give the mind a home. We treat it like an outcast. We shame it and blame it and shame it again. But if you let the mind ask its questions, then the heart will reveal the answers. Then the mind can finally rest at home in the heart and come to see that it and the heart are one. That's what these four questions are about. You write down the problem and investigate, and the heart gives you the answer you've always known. This is humility. There's nothing else to do. Standing in a room or sitting in a chair, just watch the story. If it's frightening or depressing, ask four questions, turn it around, and come home."