Supplement: Satsang with Byron Katie
- This is a supplement to the regular highlights. It features
all of Petros' reports on Satsang with Byron Katie. Future
ones will be added to the regular Highlights. One thing I
enjoy doing with digests I get from various lists, is
printing them out to read at work during breaks or slow
time; they can be read at any number of places beyond the
reach of the computer: the bus, the laundromat, any kind of
waiting room, during a stop on a long walk, in bed, at you
friend's while hanging out, all kinds of places. I use a
9-pin or 24-pin printer on draft mode, so the copies are
cheap. For this purpose alone it is worth spending under $50
for a good used printer.
Check out Byron Katie's website at http://www.thework.org
first for some background on this, then you'll get more out
of my report.
Katie's teaching is more psychological in nature than
metaphysical. It's referred to simply as "the Work" (tm),
and she has "intensives" and two-week "certification"
courses rather than satsangs. The intensives are free or
for donation only, but the longer courses may be expensive.
This weekend's intensive was held in a hotel ballroom in El
Segundo, adjacent to LAX for convenience I suppose. It was
set up like a satsang, with about a hundred chairs facing a
wide dais with a comfy couch upon which Katie sat. She has
a very professional organization, with video monitors
arranged about the room and several wireless microphones
that volunteer assistants could pass around to people who
had questions and comments. Katie herself wore a headset
mike, which meant you didn't have to strain to hear what was
Essentially she asked who was taking "the Work" for the
first time, and picked someone from the group of raised
hands to come up and sit beside her on the couch. Prior to
the start of the meeting everyone who registered was handed
a piece of paper on which to write down the basic
self-inquiry questions in the Work which could then be
discussed on the platform.
Katie has a soft but very confident and intelligent manner.
Her whole work consists of encouraging people to "turn
around" their judgments of others, bring them back to
themselves, so that they can see clearly how their judgments
of others merely reflect self-judgment. She says it's best
to begin by judging others, because we're so good at it!
After working with one man's particular problem for about
ten or fifteen minutes, Katie turned to the audience and
encouraged people to provide feedback; then used this
feedback itself as a means of showing each person how they
are really addressing themselves. The exciting part is that
eventually people "get it," and actually *listen* to
themselves before saying anything that they wouldn't be able
to "turn around" and put back on themselves.
More on "the Work" in my next post.
When you register at the desk you are handed the "little
blue book" which contains the written portion of The Work
(tm.) In a nutshell, this is:
"Judge your neighbor, write it down, ask four questions,
turn it around!"
Also one is handed a clipboard and a printed form which
contains the same questions, and one is "invited" to fill
this out prior to the beginning of the intensive. The
inquiry is as follows:
1. Who or what don't you like? Who or what irritates you?
Who or what saddens or disappoints you? (I don't like or am
angry at ________________, because ___________________.)
(When one of Katie's volunteers greeted me at the
registration desk and helped me find a seat I was already a
little annoyed, as I tend to get very hostile and
hyper-cynical before anything of this sort. When she asked
me without any preface, "Who are you angry at?" I thought
she was reading the expression on my face and was a little
taken aback until I realized she was just showing me how to
do the inquiry. I considered saying something like, "People
who ask stupid questions" but my brain wasn't working fast
Maybe I'm coming down with a bug or something, but I felt
rather under-the-weather this morning and the sight of all
those tanned Californians hugging and kissing each other and
getting all slimy just made me a little queasy.)
2. How do you want them to change? What do you want them
to do? (I want __________ (name) to ____________.)
3. What is it they should or shouldn't do, be, think or
feel? What advice could you offer?
4. Do you need anything from them? What do they need to
give you or do for you to be happy?
(Katie says, "Personalities don't love, they want
5. What do you think of them? Make a list.
6. What is it that you don't want to experience with that
person, thing or situation again?
The "four questions" part is:
a. Is it true?
b. Can I really know that it's true?
c. How do I react when I think this thought?
d. Who would I be without this thought?
And the big "shift" comes at the Turn Around portion of the
Work, which follows in my next post.
After dialoging with someone form the audience, going
through the person's six questions and four inquiries, Katie
works to get the person to turn the judgment around, back
onto oneself. This is the most important part of the whole
process, and is where the real shift of awareness comes in.
This is also why Katie wants us to start work with *others*
rather than ourselves, since we have so much more practice
judging others (this is also a good example of her subtle
humor.) It also creates more of a shift when the turn-around
For instance. The first person up on the couch with Katie
was an Australian man who decided to write about a Rajneesh
therapist he knew by the name of Tirtha. He read from his
notes that he felt this man was continually bullying him,
disrespecting him, and had prejudice against him. Katie
said "turn it around." Thus: "I am continually bullying
myself, disrespecting myself, and have prejudice against
myself." The point is *not* to try to get rid of these
negative attitudes, but to go deeply within and experience
Quotes from Katie:
"You cannot fail to be whole. Whatever name you are given,
you can find within yourself if you go deeply enough. I am
always discovering new names for myself to make myself more
whole. For instance, if my husband says I'm an asshole, I
can go deeply enough inside to find that in me. When he
says I'm wonderful, if I go deeply enough inside I can find
that there too."
"It's not other people's job to acknowledge you or like you;
that's your job."
"Thoughts appear. It's not personal. You're not doing it."
Though the intensive was scheduled from 9:30-4:30 today and
Sunday, I left after just an hour because I felt I had
"gotten" what she was saying. I was feeling a lot better
about everyone there, no more hostility or irritation, so I
figured that was a good time to leave. Maybe I'll come back
You know, I felt after I left the meeting this morning that
something really important was going on there. There is
this sense one receives from Byron that there is almost no
"person" left inside her. Just a precise responsiveness to
others. Yet I was too asleep or dull to appreciate it until
hours later. I will come back Sunday morning and sit in on
Quotes from _Losing the Moon: Byron Katie Dialogues on
Non-Duality, Truth and Other Illusions_.
"As God, I'm watching my image. It's called you. It's
called the books over there. It's called the wall.
Fireplace. Everything. Okay? So I'm watching it, and I
thought I was that. I thought I was God. Here's how I came
in as a reversal: I wasn't born this woman for 43 years and
then awakened -- I was BORN. I was born at what you would
call age 43. I came from nowhere and nothing. It was wiped
out. I looked at my hand for the first time. I came in
through a back door."
"I'm too beautiful to be nothing and no-one. Give me a
mirror. Why would I deny my very self?"
"To wake up forever implies time. To wake up is just a past
history apparently arising. It's old. It's to keep you
from the experience now. . .
. The stories go on, but without attachment to the story.
And that's what the inquiry leaves us with. The freedom of
non-attachment. Internal. Detachment from the movie."
"When you look at, 'What do I get for holding the belief, I
want to be enlightened,' you see you get to stay stuck in
what you quote Ramana as saying is the problem ["The only
obstacle to your enlightenment is the belief that you are
not enlightened." Ramana Maharshi]. And the inquiry shows
that beyond a doubt. . . . And who would you be without
it? That's when you go into that space. And you can
continue to hold the same concept after investigation, but
without attachment, which is mostly what I experience you do
anyway. You can't long for what you don't know. The
concept is what you say it is."
"And I could honestly say, 'Nothing is God.' It doesn't even
exist, it's just one more concept. But when a person has
'God is good, everything is God,' then everything has to
fall into that pocket. It's a one-mindedness. .
. . And it's infinite. So, it's that symbol that I
suggest to people.
Everything will fall into it, beautifully. And on the other
side of it, when all falls into it, you come to see that it
"For some of us, to go back to the Self is to ignore what's
out there -- it's a direction that would exclude. And I
say, love where you are, because that's my experience."
"I'm pretending not to be non-duality. Ramana holds the
place where people can understand that truth. And I pretend
I don't. And there's no 'I' doing it. It's just an
I returned to the Byron Katie intensive this afternoon for a
couple of hours. I was feeling a lot better. I definitely
confirmed the sense I got yesterday about the quality of
BK's method of approach and understanding.
She invited a 12-year old boy up to her couch to dialogue
about some abuse he had experienced from a stepfather, and
time he spent in a shelter for single women and their
children. Katie listened as he read from his "Work sheet"
the six questions (see my earlier post) and helped him
through the process of "turning it around." (This process
of writing it down, going through each inquiry, and "turning
it around" is called "doing the work.")
Judgments of other people in our lives are thus clarified
and turned around, so that we can easily see how we are
really only ever judging ourselves.
Negative judgments are inquired into.
"Who would I be without this thought? Who would I be
without this story?"
"Can you see a reason for keeping this thought? Don't *try*
to get rid of it! But can you see a reason for keeping it?
Who would you be without this thought?"
"Is this judgment true? Can you know that _____________ is
"Judge your neighbor, write it down, ask four questions,
turn it around."
"If you're over in someone else's mind dealing with their
business, and they're in there dealing with it anyway,
that's two of you over there, and there's nobody where YOU
are. No wonder you feel lonely!"
"Except for the story, there's no reality to it. Ever."
This process took about half an hour, after which Katie
opened the dialogue up to the audience for comments,
questions and general feedback. Most people in the audience
offerred their support and encouragement to the boy. He
really did fantastically well. Afterward everyone was
invited up to the couch to give him a big hug. (His mom
ALEKS QUESTIONS PETROS
you mentioned that byron katie is working from a
psychological rather than metaphyical ground.
Yes, it comes across as psychological or psychoanalytical,
but in fact the source is from a much deeper place. I can
sense it in her dialogues with people. I just bought one of
her books at the meeting today and in it, she is quite
explicit about her debt to the teachings of Ramana and
nonduality in general. More on this later. I can
understand the tactic of not making this explicit in public
gatherings, however -- in order to make her teaching more
accessible to people who may be put off by esoteric concepts
and Indian terminology. (Katie does this much more so than
Gangaji, who still makes use of Indian concepts and
interesting, cause a thought/question crossed my mind after
the gangaji satsang along these lines. she claimed the
same-- said she wouldn't use the word enlightenment, or
ignorance! that hers was not a religion or a denomination.
the question is-- then why the air of spiritual gathering?
the pranams, the silence, the lineage. ... i mean-- if
you're not building a church, why put a steeple on it?
Interesting question. You should have asked Gangaji
In my experience, some sort of setup is necessary. The
"couch" has become practically a religious icon in
psychotherapy. In satsang, it's the Chair.
(Though Katie uses a couch on a dais, so that she can have a
person sit next to her during dialogue and everyone can
Katie also has some flowers and music, and photos of her can
be purchased along with audio and video cassettes of prior
intensives. However, there is no prostration or folding of
hands (namaste), it's very "western" except for the dais
arrangement. I mean, anyone (like me) who's been to many
satangs would immediately see the Indian influence and
either feel comforted (like me) or put off (if someone had
bad experiences with "gurus" in the past.)
would you say that katie is more western in her
Definitely, except for the details mentioned above. I'll
post some quotations from her book soon and we can read
places where she expresses a debt to folks like Ramana
Maharshi -- but she doesn't have "a" teacher, as far as I
i'll be interested in hearing if you formulate any more
thought about her not seeming to have "a person" left inside
her. .. i do know exactly what you're saying there. ..
Yes. I feel that there is *almost* no personality left in
there. I mentioned this to a friend of mine who also
attended the intensive and he also knew what I was saying
and agreed. I say "almost," because Katie does have a
colloquial presentation style and a subtle, ironic humor,
not to mention a typically Californian warmth that makes her
accessible to so many people. I might venture to suggest
that she has kept just enough of a personality to be
approachable and available to a large number of modern
If you lose too much "persona" in this part of the world,
you are not likely to be respected as a Teacher, but just
end up homeless instead. There's a place for such extremism
in India, but it is not part of our culture. That's okay,
because I like it this way.
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