Donna Quesada: I would just like to say, welcome to Byron Katie and express how delighted I am on behalf of Awaken and also personally, to share this time with you today.
Byron Katie: Thank you, Donna. It’s a privilege to be here. Thank you for your good work
DONNA: It’s just a treasure to have you.
KATIE: That is very sweet of you to say.
DONNA: We have a little tradition here. I don’t know if you know… We like to hit the ground running, so to speak, about the question of Awakening… and get your idea about what it means to you, to awaken…
KATIE: For me, it means the absence of suffering. I’m awake to the cause of suffering and that is a very different experience, when I consider where I come from. Because I truly know, like we all do… what hurts and what doesn’t. So, I discovered about three and a half decades ago… I saw clearly that I was gifted into the insight of all suffering. It was like I finally got the joke. I was ready for some kind of shift. I thought you had to die to be free… physically die, to be free. It seems… what I can say in my experience, is that I did. And here I am, it seems.
DONNA: Well, In researching a little bit of your work for this interview, I heard you speak a little bit about your story, and although it might get tiresome, I wonder if you might share it one more time, for those who aren’t familiar with it? Especially, that moment of the cockroach!
KATIE: Well, it comes with it, so as luck would have it, here we are!
DONNA: That moment when you got the joke…
KATIE: When I got the joke, just prior to that, I was asleep on the floor. We all go to bed. We sleep at night. But on this particular morning, I was awakened, as a cockroach climbed all over my foot. And before my mind could identify any one thing… like an I, a self, or anything else… All of a sudden, there was a window, and there was a sky, and there was a floor, and walls. That is when I began to laugh. Prior to believing what I was seeing… there was nothing… and believing. The attachment that happens to us automatically it seems… Believing makes it so, and it has never changed in all these years… that mind is the creator of everything. There was such a radical shift in me. So incredibly opposite to what I had been living. To the eventual joy of my children and my husband at the time, and friends. That personality had shifted to an extreme opposite.
Once seeing the cause of suffering, I think there is discontent, and I would agree with that. There is a cause to the suffering. Well, I saw it on the floor. With no religion. No background, other than suffering, raising children, paying the bills… So, suffering, the cause of suffering, I saw so clearly on the floor. Even though there was no suffering on the floor… There was just window, sky though the window, ceiling, floor… but there was still no I. It appeared to stand up. It walked into the bathroom. It was very close to that proximity, and turned and looked into the mirror. And as I looked into its eyes, something incredible happened that I can’t describe, but it’s almost like I could see what it appeared to be, and fell in love. And it was more than eyes. I was a kind of not I– I.
DONNA: Let me make sure I understand; you were looking into your own eyes?
KATIE: Yes, without identification.
KATIE: Yes, and that hasn’t changed.
DONNA: So, this awakening experience…
KATIE: You know, Donna… just to interrupt you… I can say that hasn’t changed, but the illusion came with that, and people wanted to know this radical shift in me. That’s where the questions come from. I just want people to know that there is nothing mysterious going on here. It’s causes and effect. It’s causes and life appears to be the effect.
DONNA: So, we are talking about awakening, and to you, that is the absence of suffering… As Buddha pointed out, 2,500 years ago… It’s just part of existence. It’s here. But most of it is self-inflicted, and it stems from the thoughts we think. And that dawned on you in the form of an experience… You looked into your eyes, but it wasn’t even Katie anymore…
KATIE: No, no. The way I used to talk, “It thinks it wants a drink of water now. It thinks it’s going to sleep now. It thinks it’s walking.” And I had to literally learn to talk and say, “I.” And, to this day, it’s not a rub, it’s not a slight rub. It’s just not true. So, I live that. And it appears to communicate and there’s no harm.
DONNA: What’s interesting, is that in your case, it was kind of a literal awakening, as well as metaphorical because you actually were awakening. And, as I’ve learned, and correct me if I’m wrong, is that you had gone through a traumatic time in your life. How did that figure in? Did it have to do with where you were?
KATIE: I don’t even know that it was a cockroach. That’s just what it seemed to me. Some kind of bug. It’s not as though I chased it or went after it. I was in a gifted state of mind that I nurture in everyone and everything. There is no one and nothing that isn’t mine. That’s my cause. It’s causes and effect. That’s cause. It’s not personal. It’s just cleanup work to do.
DONNA: So, you didn’t have a teacher?
KATIE: It’s a truism. It’s quite a lesson… that I invite everyone to identify what we think and believe in, and to question it. So, no teacher. I can’t quite say that. Every person that I work with continues to teach me. Those people. Those beings. That is how I see it, to believe. I’m always in school.
DONNA: How did that experience lead you to The Work, and your now famous Work questions?
KATIE: The Shift was so radical. The body looked the same, but the being was so radically different. Even my children were like, “where did my mom go? You’re not my mom.” In a good way. With my husband, it wasn’t such a good way. What did you do with my wife? I didn’t marry you… This isn’t fair… This isn’t right.” And rightly so. He fell in love with… not this. He did not marry this. The change was so radical.
Getting back to your question… People… Just word of mouth. I was very agoraphobic. My doors were now unlocked, and my windows wide open. And people would come stay with me and live with me. And I thought, maybe what they were talking about was the water in the tap or the air in the house. I had no idea. All I knew was to say, “yes.” And then, I started traveling all over the world, by invitation. And I say “yes,” and continue to do my best.
DONNA: And I’d like to go over your four questions. Did they come to you intuitively, as a result of this experience?
KATIE: People would say, “what is this thing that has happened to you? What is this thing?” I’d say, “if it’s the water,come drink it.” The only thing I was capable of was integrity. Literally, to me, to this day, there is no one who is not on the floor. I don’t mean, visually, in my mind’s eye. On the floor, the way I was, believing what I believed. Before I lay down, and with all those concepts, and what I saw… like the window, for example. It’s a window. I saw it wasn’t true. I saw it was a state of mind. And I saw I attached a noun… a description to that. Now, it’s window. And prior to that, there was just a state of mind that I can’t describe. A joy to this day. It’s freedom from suffering. And just believing it’s a window is not a cause for something. Now, there is two. There is I and a window. There is a sky and a whole thing. And walls and ceilings and like that. That’s where I began to laugh. So, I give everybody the opportunity about teaching, which I could not presume to do… being the best teacher I ever had. People form their own experience from the floor. Is it true? Is it a window? Is it true? But what people are believing are concepts, like… He doesn’t care about me. There is something wrong with me. I’ll never get it. I’ll never make it in the world. My life is miserable. Life isn’t worth living. And everywhere, from trivial concepts, to very depressing concepts, that affect people’s physical health. And relationships. So, I work with people, as if that is me on the floor, and with a lot of compassion. Because that’s asking a lot… to say, “he doesn’t care about you,” or, “there is something wrong with you.”
DONNA: I’d like to explore that, actually. I’d like to jump in. When you say, “Everybody is on the floor,” what I understand is that we are all fighting this internal battle, and it feels big to us, whether it’s relationship issues…
KATIE: Personal identification, and life, is suffering. What makes up this identification?Well, mind does. So, this is the gentle way of waking up to reality, that seems very slow to people who would consider it. But it’s lightening. And it is a meditative process, so I like to say, if you are in a hurry, slow down. Get still and question what you are believing in the moment, that is the cause of your suffering. And eventually, we begin to smile at the things that pass through our minds,,, and be grateful for what passes through our minds. A state of gratitude, and even smiles, and laughter.
DONNA: And the things that caused us so much grief…
KATIE: Become ridiculous once we question them, which is not something you can teach. What you are believing is ridiculous. What are you talking about? This is my life. So, there is nothing ridiculous about it. But inquiry does open us up to another world. Imagine a world where you didn’t believe that people care. Or that there was something wrong with you. Imagine the difference in that world. It’s a radical shift in identification.
DONNA: I was watching some of your sessions with great interest. Completely absorbed. And I was so moved by the work that you do and the compassion that you have for people. And clearly, you’ve watched people wake up right in front of you. Speaking of awakening… I watched it. I could sense it. And it was real. And I’d like to go down that road a little bit because you were talking about the kinds of things that people bring to you and it is like being down on the floor because when you are suffering, it doesn’t matter how big or small it seems to someone else.
KATIE: It’s beyond measurement, isn’t it?
DONNA: I watched with great interest when you were in Germany. And there was a German man who was talking about his relationship with his wife. And I don’t expect you to remember every session you’ve ever had, but it struck me because it’s such a prevalent problem in relationships. And the world says how important communication is. And I was watching how he broke down, and he was saying how his wife doesn’t listen to him, and they don’t talk. I just want to play devil’s advocate, as a way of unpacking this. People watching might say, “yeah,” and they are jumping on the bandwagon… “she should listen to him,” and, “this poor man.” And I think we have all been in his shoes. I’ve felt that a partner or a boyfriend wasn’t listening. But you asked him, “okay, your wife isn’t listening to you… is it true?” And, after a certain amount of time, he was able to do what you call, “the turn around.” Now, we are getting into the four questions. How do you deal with these kinds of objections… “but it is true…” and, “she should listen?” And, “I’m supposed to love that, and accept that and, where is the line of tolerance?”
KATIE: Well, I just listen, and I go back and be there in that situation when she is not listening and then he meditates into that situation. And now, I invite him to open his eyes and look at her. She’s not listening to you. Is it true? And then, that person can settle down. Their mind is open to inquire. And those of you that are watching, who are meditators… you’ve really got an edge. You understand how to get still. So now, look at her. Is it true? She’s not listening?
And that’s where his “no” would come from. And, if he says, “yes,” then, I just move to the next. “Can you know it’s really true she’s not listening?” So, be there now, in that situation with her and witness. “Do you hear any signs that she hears you, what so ever?” Witness. And if he still says, “yes,” what’s wrong with that? We are just looking for one’s truth. Not mine. His. And then, notice how you react. What happens when you believe that thought that she is not listening? And that’s where we begin to take responsibility. Do I become excited? Abusive verbally? Do I give her the look? Does my stance change. Physically? The way my arms, shoulders… do I go to emotions? What does that feel like? What images of past/future? Do you witness in that situation?
And so, it covers everything. We are going back, and we are looking at our heart and the suffering that we experience when we are believing the thought. How do I react? What happens when I believe the thought? And it’s really helpful to get in touch with emotions first because as you continue to sit in it, it becomes extremely clear why you would feel that way when you are looking at those images that are going… past… future. That is the dream and what they are witnessing in their mind’s eye that they aren’t even aware of because of the emotion. Not the other person. Whether they are listening or not, has nothing to do with it. This is the life of a believer that we are sitting in.
And, the last question, and there are only four… “Who or what would you be in that situation? Who or what would you be? What do you see without the thought?” She doesn’t listen to you. And then, you know, it’s a meditative process. And it’s like you take all the mental post-its of being and you witness what was really there beyond your input. Your mental input. And that’s amazing. That’s when you can see the other person and really get a look at them without slapping mental identification on them. And compassion happens there and a connection happens there. It’s a beautiful thing to sit in. It’s a beautiful question, “who and what am I without what I’m thinking and believing?”
And then, I invite people to turn it around. The way I like to say it, you are stepping into a shoe store and you find a fabulous pair of shoes but are they uncomfortable. Do they really fit? So, “she doesn’t listen to me, in that situation.” So, find an opposite… “she does listen to me.” Now, we are meditating in that same situation and seeing how that shoe fits. Or, just trying it on. It doesn’t mean she is listening. We are just trying on this pair of shoes. “She is listening to me.” And then, as we are sitting in that, we might see some sign that she really was. We might not. We are just trying on the shoes. And sitting in our own integrity. Open mindedness. As open as we can get it to be. Being wrong. Or being right.
DONNA: And so, the questions are, “is it true?…”
KATIE: “Is it true?” “Can we know that it’s true?” “How do I react.” “What happens when I believe that it’s true?” And, “when I believe the thought one way or another, and, what would I be without it” is the fourth one. And then the turn arounds. “She doesn’t listen to me.” Another turn around. “I don’t listen to me.” So now, I’m going to meditate on that and see. Is it that I wasn’t listening? Something very revealing there. We never know what we are going to find. We are just trying on the shoe. I don’t listen to me. And notice how far reaching that is. I don’t listen to me. How often do we live our lives where we really aren’t listening to what is said, or compassionate or kind? Over-ruled, over-ridden by these concepts that would deny reality. Let’s see if there is another turn around… “She doesn’t listen to me.” “I don’t listen to her.” And to just drop into that and be there now in that situation. Where is it? Let’s say it’s my word “I don’t listen to her.” And, I’m sitting here with you, Donna, and where is it that I didn’t listen to Steve this morning? So, I am always sitting in the work that I am sitting in with others. This is beautiful communion.
Read and Watch Part II Here: Awaken Interviews Byron Katie Pt 2 – I Am The Cause Of My Own Suffering
Read and Watch Part III Here: Awaken Interviews Byron Katie Pt 3 – Serving Humanity