The book I am currently reading is called "A Thousand Names for Joy", by Byron Katie. Byron Katie is a woman who went through 10 years of depression. She checked herself into a clinic because she was having suicidal thoughts. One day as she laid on the floor, unwilling to lay in the comfort of a bed, she had a realization and discovered that all of her suffering was caused by her thoughts. She realized that every thought she ever had, represented a story based on falsehoods, and through simple inquiry the suffering disappeared. All that was left was, pure joy.
I have read many books that talk about what it’s like to be unattached to your thoughts. I’ve read about what it’s like to live in the moment and let thoughts come and go with the breeze, unaffected and unperturbed. Yet in all these books I’ve never quite understood exactly how to get to this place of joy and bliss. I’ve always known that it is possible but it seemed as if it could only truly happen through the grace of God. Katie presents a truly living example of someone who is absolutely blissful and can not only describe what it’s like to be in this state but also describes how to get there. You can get there by four simple questions.
Is it true?
Can you absolutely know that it is true? He
How do you react, what happens, when you believe that thought?
Who would you be without the thought?
Whenever you are suffering you can know that it is caused by a thought and somehow that thought is pulling you away from what is, from reality. By asking yourself these four questions suddenly you are diving into the inquiry of what your thoughts mean, why they are there, and how they are affecting you. The results of these questions can be different for everyone, but what it does, is it allows you to see your thoughts for what they truly are and to understand your suffering. Once you begin to understand your thoughts and understand how they cause suffering, you don’t let go of your thoughts, your thoughts let go of you. What is left, is joy and bliss.
After you experience the four questions, you do what is called the turnaround. This is when you take your stressful thought and flip it. You’ll be amazed how many times the opposite of your thoughts are what is actually true. The turnaround allows you to possibly see the true story or the true reality, rather than believing thoughts that have no validity.
When I first started doing this work I was pretty skeptical, and almost thought myself above it. It was too simple, I thought. However, as I began to inquire more and more into my thoughts, I have slowly begun to feel them drift away. It’s not always an immediate change, but simply by acquiring over and over again somehow the thoughts become less heavy. I feel I am butt scratching the surface of all the stories I have in my mind, but it’s a wonderful feeling to have a process or a strategy to work through them.
"A Thousand Names for Joy" isn’t really about the four questions. It actually concerns the Tao de Ching, which is an ancient text of wise sayings. Each chapter is her responses to the various sayings. It is amazing how much understanding this woman has of reality but not in the way of knowing any exact specifics of creation or the afterlife. Her understanding is more towards the simplicity of living with joy and why it is our natural state of being. Many times her explanations of these confusing quotes are very hard to understand and I am left with a crinkle in my brow, but somehow I’m also left with peaceful enlightenment.
I’ve come to understand that there is way too much pressure to be a certain way, and do certain things. Byron Katie has helped me to realize that everything is perfect exactly as it is and the best way to achieve something is by doing nothing. I never actually have to do anything, because really all of my actions are just occurring. All this gets very confusing, but most of our suffering is never caused by the actions of our lives but by our thoughts about our lives. Things appear in our lives, and things disappear, and all the while we are battling in our minds what we want and what we don’t want. We grit our teeth, bear down and struggle to erase and create, and we think we have so much power. Yet through all the manipulating and all the stress, what did we accomplish? Would everything which occurred have happened anyway without the stress and without the effort?
How peaceful would life be, if we just woke up in the morning and said whatever happens today is perfect? No manipulation, no stress that things turn out a certain way, and surprisingly you would find yourself not sitting around without action, but acting as you’ve never acted before. Action would arise out of a mind of clarity and everything which was created would be perfect. Not perfect because it is exactly what your mind imagined, but perfect because whatever occurred is what you want, and what you want, is what it is.
In addition, I am amazed lately how truly blessed I am. Maybe things don’t always turn out the way I want them to, and maybe I could have done things differently over the past five years but I have been given a grand opportunity with this experience. I have been given the opportunity of self-realization, an opportunity more priceless than anything else. Every experience we have creates this opportunity and that’s why every experience is perfect, exactly as it is.