Books I Want My Kids to Read Someday #108: “A Mind at Home With Itself” by Byron Katie

Dear kids,

I am filled with anxiety at the thought of doing justice to a book by Byron Katie in a single paragraph. (Maybe I should question this thought.) Here are my notes for A Mind at Home With Itself: How Asking Four Questions Can Free Your Mind, Open Your Heart and Turn Your World Around. They speak for themselves, anyway.

My Highlights:

  • The mind can never be controlled; it can only be questioned, loved, and met with understanding.
  • The only important thing to know is this: if a thought hurts, question it.
  • Empathy, in my experience, has nothing to do with imagining pain. It is a fearless connectedness and an immovable love. It’s a way of being fully present.
  • I take people’s problems seriously, but only from their point of view, and I remain closer than close. In my world, it’s not possible to have a problem without believing a prior thought. I don’t tell people that, because telling them what I see would be unkind. I listen to them, and I wait to be of use. I too have been trapped in the torture chamber of the mind.
  • And eventually, as love would have it, if their minds are open to inquiry, their problems begin to disappear. In the presence of someone who doesn’t see a problem, the problem falls away—which shows you that there wasn’t a problem in the first place.
  • But that doesn’t change the fact that pain is a projection of mind. If you observe it closely, you’ll see that it never arrives; it’s always on its way out. And it’s always happening on the surface of perception, while underneath it is the vast ocean of joy.
  • I used to tell my children, “Make friends with mediocrity.”
  • I have often said that when you realize that the nature of everything is good and that good is everything, you don’t need inquiry.
  • When the mind begins inquiry as a practice, it learns as a student of itself that everything is for it. Everything adds to it, enlightens it, nourishes it, reveals it. Nothing is or ever was against it. This is a mind that has grown beyond opposites. It’s no longer split.
  • People don’t have to get along with me. Do I get along with them?—that’s the important question.
  • “The litmus test for self-realization is the constant state of gratitude.”
  • People think that enlightenment must be some kind of mystical, transcendent experience. But it’s not. It’s as close to you as your own most troubling thought. When you believe a thought that argues with reality, you’re confused. When you question the thought and see that it’s not true, you’re enlightened to it, you’re liberated from it. You’re as free as the Buddha in that moment. And then the next stressful thought comes along, and you either believe it or question it. It’s your next opportunity to get enlightened. Life is as simple as that.
  • Everyone is the Buddha. Everyone has the perfect body. If you weren’t able to compare your body to any other, what could possibly be lacking? Without the mind’s comparison, no one can be too fat or too thin. That’s not possible; it’s a myth. Comparison keeps you from the awareness of what is.
  • Bodies don’t crave, don’t want, don’t know, don’t care, don’t love, don’t hate, don’t get hungry or thirsty. The body only reflects what the mind attaches to. There are no physical addictions, only mental ones.
  • No one has ever attained enlightenment. Enlightenment is not a thing. It’s a figment of the imagination. It happens in a past that doesn’t exist. Are you enlightened to your own stressful thinking right now? That’s the only enlightenment that matters.
  • I was in what I called “earth school,” and everyone was showing me who I was through my thoughts about who they were.
  • I often tell people, “Don’t pretend yourself beyond your evolution”—in other words, don’t believe anything that you haven’t actually realized out of deep personal experience. Many people read books that teach positive thinking, or the so-called “law of attraction,” and they do affirmations, and then they feel guilty when they get sick or when they don’t become rich. “Oh dear, I have cancer. I’m responsible for it. I must be doing something wrong.” Or “I’m not a millionaire by now. I must not be sending out enough positive energy.” That’s like saying, “May my will be done, not God’s will,” rather than realizing, deeply, that God’s will is your will at every moment. It’s trying to get what you want, rather than wanting what you have, which is the only way you can ever be happy.
  • We can also turn the statement around. “There is no merit” turns around to “There is merit,” and that’s true as well. There’s value to everything we do, and nothing is more valuable than anything else. That billionaire philanthropist, the one who has built so many hospitals and funded so much scientific research? When you stop comparing, the value of what he has done exactly equals the value of what you have done. You’re benefiting humanity every time you do the dishes, sweep the floor, or drive your kids to school. Benefiting one person equals benefiting a million. When you do your job completely—that is, when you do it with a clear mind—you’re absorbed in the action, you disappear into it. The only things that exist are the dish, the soapy water, the sponge, the hand moving in its own rhythms. There’s no self in it, no other. You are not the doer; you’re being done.
  • Just say yes. Just do the dishes. To say yes to that voice, to enter that great experiment, is true co-creation,
  • One day in 1986, soon after I returned from the halfway house, I heard a voice, the same voice I’d heard thousands of times before. It said, “Brush your teeth!” I had thought revelation would be a great burning bush, and all it turned out to be was “Brush your teeth!”
  • It wasn’t about cavities; it was about doing the right thing, honoring the truth inside me.
  • You have no control. You never had any control, and you never will. You only tell the story of what you think is happening. Do you think you cause movement? You don’t. It just happens, but you tell the story of how you had something to do with it: “I moved my legs. I decided to walk.” I don’t think so. If you inquire, you’ll see that that’s just a story. You know that you’re going to move because everything is happening simultaneously. You tell the story before the movement, because you already are that. It moves, and you think that you did it. Then you tell the story of how you’re going somewhere or how you’re doing something. The only thing you can play with is the story. That’s the only game in town.
  • Do you ever find yourself trying to please people or gain their approval? I please myself, and I approve of myself, and I project that onto everyone. So in my world, I already please everyone, and I already have everyone’s approval, though I don’t expect them to realize it yet.

Love,

Mom

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