Journeying with Byron Katie in South Africa and Namibia
by Kriben Pillay
Ever since Byron Katie's final presentation at the University
of Durban-Westville's Hindu Centre on Sunday 31 August 2003 -
after a week of non-stop presentations and media interviews
that started in Cape Town the previous Sunday and which took
us to Namibia and Johannesburg and finally to Durban -
e-mails and telephone calls have been pouring in from people
touched by this extraordinary woman and the process that she
calls "The Work".
Out of the depths of her own despair, Byron Kathleen Reid
(now simply called Byron Katie), awoke one day in 1986 to
absolute clarity and unconditional love after a ten-year
period of seclusion, food and substance addictions, and
obsessing about suicide. In this awakening, she found what
all the great spiritual teachers had found - except that she
was without any spiritual training whatsoever - that is, that
it is possible to transcend our limited, self-centred and
fearful life into a life that is an expression of
connectedness and love. In Katie's case, the awakening was
accompanied by four questions that allowed her to undo
stressful thoughts that threatened to take her away from this
new incredible awareness of life that was devoid of any sense
Since 1986, Katie has been sharing this wonderfully simple
tool with hundreds of thousands wherever she is invited all
over the world. And, by invitation, she finally came to tour
South Africa and Namibia, giving endlessly of herself to
those who came in suffering or perplexity.
"The Work" is not another motivational technique, nor is it a
means to further delude the mind. Rather, in the tradition of
Socrates, the Buddha, and later teachers like Ramana Maharshi
and J. Krishnamurti, Katie's process is a process of inquiry,
where questioning the mind's stories allows us to see what is
real without the overlay of our acquired conditioning.
Like the title of her recently published book, Loving What
Is, "The Work" brings us to full acceptance of reality in the
moment, where we are no longer arguing with it but allowing
ourselves to be a creative participant in the unfolding of
each moment, as it is now. This is not a fatalistic approach
to pain, but a dynamic unpacking of the stories that created
the pain in the first place.
From Cape Town to Windhoek, Johannesburg to Durban, Katie -
with great skill and compassion - unpacked participants'
stories of suffering: painful relationships, parenting,
blindness, cerebral palsy, obstinate employees, the fear of
dying alone, political corruption, crime, the rape of little
children - these were some of the issues inquired into. And
each time Katie created a space for participants to see that
suffering arises from the confusion within the mind. Laughter
replaced tears, and self-righteousness was transformed into
humility and compassion. Interestingly, an issue that
preoccupies many people in this part of the world - racism -
was the only currently predominant issue that was not brought
up. This did not escape Katie's notice, but she never imposes
and always allows participants to work from a place where
they are most comfortable. After all, working in front of a
group of 500 strangers can be a daunting and fearful
situation in itself, but those courageous people who sat with
Katie and did The Work all walked away with peace restored to
their hearts and minds.
So, up close, what is Katie like? I can write about the total
absence of reactivity, even when a tiresome allergy and
non-stop presentations caused her great fatigue; of a woman
who is totally present for the person who is sitting before
her; of her great compassion for a child who was struggling
with the death of her loved ones; of her wonderful sense of
humour amidst the grilling criticisms of hard-nosed
journalists ... and of the almost palpable sense of the
sacred that emanates from her. But I suppose, for me, the
most accurate answer would be that Katie is a living
reflection of our potential to be mature, sane human beings.
She did not come to South Africa and Namibia to sell another
self-help programme; to make millions by promising a thinner
body, a life without illness, the perfect soul mate, or how
to manifest material wealth. Rather, she came with four
questions that allow us to discover our own answers. She is,
of course, a highly skilled and quietly supportive questioner
and an empathic listener. As she worked in front of several
hundred people, there was an immense quietness and never a
sign of audience restlessness.
Of course, not everyone in the audiences wanted inquiry that
strips way our illusions. One woman argued that she knew that
she would be attacked some day in crime-ridden Southern
Africa. "The Work" in that moment was perhaps not for her.
She could not see that she was attacking herself with
thoughts that had no bearing on the reality of the moment;
the moment where she was in perfect physical safety, except
for her thoughts that told her otherwise. But Katie's way is
not to convince intellectually, for this simply keeps the
sense of separation in place. She gently went on to the next
participant. If we want to hold onto our suffering, then that
is our business. "The Work" refuses to fall into the old trap
of being self-righteous, of wanting to put the world right.
As the Buddha is reputed to have said: " I show you
suffering, and I show you the end of it."
"The Work" is radical surgery without any anaesthetic (one of
Katie's sayings), but it is only for the one who has truly
grown weary of suffering. And from the responses of Southern
African audiences, many are fast reaching this place.
In Durban, Katie and her friends had lunch at my home. Our
Zulu domestic help, who lost her son in a freak accident
three years ago, was hugged and kissed and within a few
moments a glow from within lit up her face. She may not have
responded to "The Work" in its English format, but she
responded to the one whose awakening had taken her beyond the story of death.
In a supermarket you might pass Katie and see her for an
ordinary woman - as we experienced her at the breakfast
table, or on the short safari in the semi-desert of Namibia -
until you look into her startlingly blue eyes with their
infinite acceptance, tranquillity and wisdom, and see the
essence of your own pure heart.
e following is transcribed from a CD published by Noumenon Journal: Byron Katie's 'Into the Mind of Suffering' audiotapes: South African Tour, 2003.' "Six hours of illuminating facilitations taken from the Cape Town, Stellenbosch, Windhoek, Johannesburg and Durban public presentations, covering virtually every area of human suffering." To learn more about this CD and how to purchase, please visit the following link: http://www.noumenon.co.za/
Listening to this CD isn't like a cup of hot coffee with cream. It's more like coffee beans in the grinder. It's the grind of the beans of lives down to the level of reality. It's hearing about a woman having to whip a child as part of her job and suffering the memories of it. It's the grind of those disturbing thoughts. This is the Work at work. This is unedited Byron Katie.
There is often tremendous audience response throughout this dialogue. Sometime I've indicated such, other times I leave it to the reader. The title of the transcribed track is, I Resent Hierarchy in the Church. The entire 23:47 of the track has been transcribed. In it, each reader will probably recognize some limitation they harbor. I have not cleaned-up or edited this transcription. All, or most, of the 'hmm's' and repetitions are kept intact in order to expose the rawness of the exchange. ------------------------------------------------------------------------------
I start out by identifying the client and Katie, after which I believe the dialogue flows and it is clear who is who. This CD track begins in the middle and ends before the end of the complete dialogue, but much is revealed.
In Byron Katie's Work, each client fills out a worksheet which requires her or him to make judgements and then apply four questions to each judgement: Is it true? Is it absolutely true? How do I react to the statement? Who would I be without that thought? Then the judgement or statement is turned around and through the turnaround the reality of the judgement is uncovered.
Client reading a judgement: "I resent hierarchy because of women's voicelessness, et cetera."
Byron Katie: "Your're doing very well. It's not easy to do this. If you know that their thoughts are their business and just focus, we're gonna go in. So read the next one.
"I need a certain person to help me, to motivate me and to encourage me."
"So you need this person to motivate you and encourage you. Is that really true?"
"Don't you love it?"
The "No" and "Yes" responses are very firm and certain and the audience feels it joyfully.
"The mind is ... it is the most amazing ... it's like a child. It believes what it thinks.
"I think I believe this, or I like to hang onto this."
"Yes, because there's no responsibility, there's no responsibility in it."
"They did it. I'm safe."
"That's right. So I need ... I need me to encourage me and help me and motivate me."
"Mmmmaaa," Katie sounds and give a noisy juicy kiss of love, connection and appreciation. The audience connects with this. Katie says, "You ... you are a great church to be. You're finding your own religion, one that works for you. How do you react when you think the thought and you believe it, that you need this man to motivate you and encourage you and he's busy, and besides, you're a woman?"
"That's exactly it ... hmm."
"How do you react when you think that thought, 'I need him to motivate and encourage me.' Where does that thought hit you?"
"Ohh, it makes me angry."
"And where to do you feel that anger when you think that thought?"
"In my gut...?"
"Yeah ... and we live out that. That's what we live out of. This ... this ... this lie that we think we believe. This lie that we haven't questioned. And that feeling in your gut, it is the dearest friend you could have, and lets you know that your mind is attached to something that is not true to it, not true to the heart. Not true, period. (Pause.) Does that thought bring peace or stress into your life?"
"The anger is obviously stressful."
"So give me one peaceful reason to believe this. 'I need ... I need my partner, I need my children, I need my parents, I need my boss, I need the television set, I need him or her to motivate me and encourage me.' How do you live your life when you believe that? And when they don't encourage you, then what do you do? Then what happens to the anger? Does it accelerate to sadness?"
"Depression. Self pity. And that's when we go to the refrigerator. That's when we go to the credit cards that are already maxed. That's when we go to the cigarettes. That's when we go to the drugs. That's when we marry people we don't even like. So who would you be if you did not believe this lie?"
"Who would I be?" the client says quietly to herself.
"Who would you be in that church with that man, going there to worship, who would you be without this thought: 'I need him to motivate and encourage me'?
Unfortunately the client's response is barely audible. She may have said, "At peace."
"Exciting, isn't it?" Katie responds. Maybe experiencing the presence of something else, maybe it's the opposite of anger."
"The whole church thing is..."
"A beginning," Katie offers.
"Yes, but it's so emotive ... I ... I don't know that I could describe who I am without it."
Well you could begin with, 'you are the wo...,' so people say, 'who are you?', you could say, 'Well, I am the woman who does not need anyone else to motivate or encourage her."
"Okay, I'll try that."
"...as you continue to question what you believe, you begin to realize who and what you are from a whole ... a whole new place. We are not what we think we are. In one moment you were the woman who needed him to motivate her, now you are the woman who doesn't. Those are two different worlds, two different people. You just lost one identification and taken on another that's much kinder. It gives him a break, for one thing."
"He'll be delighted."
"That's what I like about this group, there's as delighted as we are." Katie waits while the audience reacts warmly, and continues. "Can you see another turnaround with that? 'I need.' What is the opposite of 'I need'?"
"I don't need."
"Then read it: 'I don't need him...'"
"I don't need him to motivate me and encourage me."
"Yeah. And how did you treat him when you thought you needed his encouragement and he didn't give it?"
"How did you treat him when he tried and it wasn't enough?"
"I argue. I argue and I challenge and I make him angry."
"You give him the look."
"Kind of like that, yeah."
"Yeah, so now you know to go back to him and make amends."
"Hmm, yeah, okay."
"This would only be for your sake. What does he have to do with your peace? Self-realization is bam, bam, blaaa, it's nothing till it's lived. It lives. It lives. It's who and what we are. It's so simple. You know how I know that we're all good, that everything is good? One thought that argues with it we feel as stress, anger. Do you know that even sadness is a tantrum? I'm not saying it's not the best thing we have going. And it's certainly not wrong. It's the gentlest of the tantrums. And it's okay, it's all okay. ... let's look at the next one."
The client reads another judgement she had written down. "He should care and he should not ignore me."
"Oh, that's a good one. I know the other ladies of the church would agree. And if they don't agree with us we don't call them friend. Those that agree with us, of course, they're the ones that know what's up. Isn't that the way of it? This is confusion. Read it again."
"He should care and he should not ignore me."
"He does not care..."
"Is that true?"
"He doesn't care, I don't think, about my peace of mind."
"And can you absolutely know that that's true?"
"How do you react when you think the thought, 'he does not care'?"
"I think that I'm very angry."
"Drop the 'I think'."
"I'm very angry."
"Yes. And how do you let him know?"
"Mmm, as subtle as you can get without..."
"Yeah." Pause while audience reacts. "How many of you is this familiar to? Would you raise your hands? That would be us. Yeah, yeah, that would be us. The human race."
"So I want to get it right, now," the client says, "I don't care if he doesn't..."
"Well whose business is it, who's business is it if you care?"
"Whose business is it what he cares about?"
"Thank you very much. Can you make yourself care about someone when you don't?"
"No, there's no way. I think he may be just like you. Let's see, she gives him the look, she's very angry, and she wonders why he doesn't care. So, sweetheart, who would you be in his presence without the thought 'he doesn't care'?"
"Beautiful, beautiful you. Authentically you. Let's turn it around and see what makes more sense."
"It doesn't matter..."
"No, read it the way you wrote it."
"He should care, he should not ignore me."
"Turn it around, 'I...'"
"I should care. I should not ignore me. (Pause.) That begs the question, 'what am I ignoring about me?'"
"Yes it does. For one thing, you've given him all your power. You've been ignoring that. Where else are you ignoring you? Waiting for him to move forward?"
"Convenient, and not very effective."
"No. So how do I get past it?"
"When you stop waiting for him, it's simple, all the doors open. Now what is it you want him to give you? Like, you want to do something in the church. 'Women moving forward,' something like that. What is it? Specifically. Think of a project that he is ignoring. A project that you want, that you've argued with him about."
"Women's ordination. ..."
"Okay, so I'll be ... you be him, and I'll be someone who cares deeply about him. I'll be you."
There's a lot of audience response during this dialogue.
"I'll be him," the client says.
"Okay. So I believe that women should be ordained now," Katie says, pretending she is the client.
"It won't happen in our time. It will only happen when enough women stand up, make a noise about it."
"Thank you. That's all the encouragement I needed. Thank you for understanding. Thank you for motivating me. You know, because of you it could happen in my lifetime. Now I would like to sit down with you. What do you suggest that I do?"
"I'm very busy at the moment."
"I really hear that. Now who do you suggest I talk to that is not busy?"
"Nobody wants to listen to you."
"'You could be right, thank you.' Now sweetheart you just start knocking on doors. All I heard from this man was encouragement. He certainly motivated me. I didn't hear any opposition. I heard his opinion, and motivation, and encouragement."
"Just once more, I don't know."
"It's frustrating waiting for someone else. Now it's in your hands. You move. You want it in your lifetime. Move. Move it. Now go to the Pope. You be the Pope and I'll be someone who cares about him very much. I'll be you."
"I don't care very much about him, I'm afraid."
"So why would you want women to be ordained under him?"
"No, but it's not as simple as that."
"So who do you respect in the church? Not the Pope. Maybe it's just God."
"Yeah, well you could do that from here. And churches, you know they're fabulous, they put fortunes into these, these places we can go sit in silence. And they give you music that is ... it's divine, all for you. You get yourself right and that's it, that's the connection. And you can step into these amazing buildings and see what they do for you. It's way better than being the Pope. Who knows? Or as good as. You want to hear my thought?"
"You've just been ordained."
"I suppose I want the recognition though."
"It's such efforting. It takes a lot of energy. And when you get it they say, 'She's wonderful, wonderful,' and then what do you have? You're still sitting in the same chair."
"Or maybe they'll give you a prettier chair and then you're just still sitting. Maybe it's okay from here. Maybe every person in your presence is your ministry. ... Maybe your ministry is just to understand and love what is."
"Yes, I understand that a lot of what I am up against is plain fear... ."
"I think the Catholic church. All hiearchy fears women."
"All hierarchy fears women. Is that true? My goodness, that's a good one."
"'They fear women.' Is that true?"
"I think they do."
"And how do you react when you think that thought?: 'All hierarchy in the church fear women.'"
"Actually, in a way, if I understand it, if I truly get in touch with it, I pity them. Because it's like they're all walking on one leg. They're only utilizing half a brain because the female's out of the equation."
"Sweetheart, can you turn that around."
Exasperated and tired, the client responds, "I don't know."
"That my favorite position," returns Katie. 'I don't know.' They fear ... all hierarchy fear women."
"So I fear all..."
"Hierarchy. I don't fear them."
"Well then go for it."
"No. But I feel powerless."
"So go to the first step and where you would run up against a brick wall. What would that be?"
"Oh, wow..." she says under her breath.
"We're past this 'him'."
"The brick wall I suppose is the Pope."
"Okay, so now you're with the Pope. And I'm sure that's okay with you because you don't fear hierarchy. You're with the Pope."
"And I'm you. I'm someone who loves and respects him. Or I'm with the Pope. I'm you, whatever that is."
"Yeah, but how can one person change his mind?"
"Well sweetheart, you sound just like the hierarchy. 'We can't do it. It'll never be done in your time.' That sounds more like your voice now."
"I can't turn that around. They're too powerful."
"How would you turn that around?"
"I am powerful."
"'I can turn it ... you said, 'you can't turn it around, they're too powerful.' 'I can turn it around, they're not too powerful.' Your're not limited. You can start another church called the Catholic church, ordain yourself, and begin. In your lifetime. And if you don't mind if no one comes, you still have what you want. Nothing can stop you. Who knows, maybe the ladies of the church will come. And when you make your amends to this 'him', maybe he'll come too. Follow the church inside you, precious."
Taken from non-duality.com
--Written by Dr Kriben Pillay © 2003 http://users.iafrica.com/n/no/noumenon/