Okay. Let’s take a minute here. Things are about to get complicated. You’ve heard this God-is-all-there-is theory before, but have you ever really unpacked it? Well, Byron Katie has. And in a way I hadn’t heard–really heard–until following her on her unique trip of the mind.
Before discussing this idea, though, let’s do something else. Let’s break down her entire philosophy of life–all the basics. I told you before that I wrote a few sections for this book concerning Katie’s actual teaching and concerning how to do The Work. This is a fun one of those. I call it A Byron Katie Metaphysics.
If this were a college class, here’s how it would start: the professor would watch the clock, waiting to begin. As soon as the second hand reached the twelve of the appointed minute, he’d say, “Byron Katie isn’t a spiritual person.”
Laughter. “Huh?” one student might say.
Another: “Okay. Then who is?”
“According to her, no one,” the professor would reply. “There’s no need to be; spiritual ideas are just a layer, an interpretation. Reality isn’t spiritual. Reality just is. What do you think? Does that make sense?”
“Are you saying that God is like reality? But God isn’t like reality. God is an unknowable, non-physical concept.”
“Are you sure? Byron Katie believes that God and reality aren’t only similar, but they’re exactly the same thing.”
“Yeah. Kinda changes everything, doesn’t it?”
The discussion would continue for forty minutes or so, and just before the end of class, the professor would hand out a piece of paper.
“Here are our topics for the semester.”
The students would then begin to read.
Byron Katie’s Philosophy of Non-Belief in Three Parts:
Part One: There Is No Knowledge
- God may or may not exist. Truth may or may not exist.
- If God does exist, He is unknowable. If truth does exist, it is unknowable.
- Reality exists. However, it is experienced subjectively and thereby distorted.
- In sum, there is no true or objective knowledge, either of things seen or unseen. There is only subjective knowledge.
Part Two: There Is Only Reality, and Reality Is Perfect
- If there is a God, God is just another name for reality. If there is a truth, truth is everything that is.
- Reality is perfect. Everything that is, is exactly as it should be. Always.
- For this reason, whenever you argue with reality, you suffer. In fact, all suffering results from believing a thought that argues with what is.
- It is possible to be completely free from suffering.
- The process of ridding ourselves of our suffering is self-inquiry.
Part Three: Experiences Are Not Reality
- Reality and experiences are different. Reality is objective. Experiences are subjective.
- Our experiences are a mirror of ourselves, of what we are believing about who we are and what the world is like.
- Therefore, when you judge another person, you are actually finding that same quality in yourself.
- By changing your beliefs, you change our experiences.
Part Four: Twelve More Surprising Beliefs
- The universe is friendly. Reality is much, much kinder than the stories we tell ourselves about it.
- Love is what we are made of. We can’t help but love, and we don’t need to try. If we want to feel it, we just have to uncover it.
- There are no legitimate “shoulds” in the world. Not one. Everything should be exactly as it is, because it is. Even things like death, anger and abuse.
- All thoughts are a gift, even the really awful ones. By listening to them, even loving them, we give them room to teach us, then leave us alone.
- Intuition is more reliable than planning. Listen to your inner guide, not your mind. The right decision will come when you need it.
- There is no such thing as a victim. You can only suffer if you believe a painful thought or tell yourself a painful story—not a moment sooner. Therefore, the only person who can hurt you is yourself.
- “Letting go is an outdated concept.” It is impossible to drop a thought on purpose; it’s just not the way the mind works. Instead, the beliefs we don’t want let go of us after we question them honestly.
- There is no reason to defend yourself. “Defense is the first act of war,” Katie famously says. Avoid starting wars.
- There’s no such thing as enlightenment. And even if there is, simple kindness is a more noble goal, anyway.
- The thoughts we think are not observations of facts. They are only suggestions. No need to take them seriously.
- Negative thoughts about an incident are often far more injurious to us than the incident itself ever was.
- Since God is reality, if you want to love God, just love what is.
Don’t you wish your real college courses had been this thought-provoking?
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I will grant that a lot of what Byron Katie makes sense and can be put to good and practical use; however, it hits me wrongly. When I compare it to Pam Grout’s “Reality doesn’t exist; it is simply our interpretation of how we see it.” I like Pam’s much better. Do they intersect? Yes, some, but they also seem to skew out from each other in many places. I don’t see KB’s views as very loving or fun or helpful in a lot of ways…
Just my 2 cents.
Love the way you wrote/bullet-pointed these concepts and YES, I would’ve loved this class. So…the questions that come up for me are:
1) How much, if any, can we affect change in the reality that envelops us over the course of our lives?
2) How do we “overcome” obstacles that arise in wanting, planning or pursuing specific life experiences if we are committed to accepting and facing reality with a smile?
3) Where do we draw the line in holding and pursuing preferences for a reality other than the one we’re experiencing?
They’re probably all the same question and it’s just a matter of learning to separate *wanting* from any disappointment in *lacking*. Wanting feels like both a trap and a purpose…
Taken from our email convo:
Great questions! I have the same ones. Hmmm… We do have a lot of control over our fate, I think… As we “reprogram” ourselves to think differently, different life experiences will come to us naturally, and we will be more adept at seeking out new opportunities, too. … Personally, I don’t leave much to fate. If I want it, I go after it. I simply try to do so in an enlightened way, with the attitude that if it’s not meant to be, well, I’ll be fine. Does this “going after” of something sometimes feel like non-acceptance? Surprisingly, not really. Think of it this way: *Acceptance is not liking something. Acceptance is looking at something you don’t like and realizing that it is the very best thing for your growth right now.* Acceptance isn’t liking something. It is *appreciating* it.