The Work of Byron Katie: freedom from should and shouldn't


Day Twelve

 Present , The Present, the beautiful Now

The “work of Byron Katie” to come into Reality and




Byron Katie has a fun phrase: “When I argue with reality, I lose, but only 100% of the time.”

And then you can get in a long boring discussion about “What is reality?”



What is your experience right now?

Recall how we ended the last chapter:

Awareness >>>> Gratitude >>>> I love…


This in an incentive to “get into” our experience right now.


Another incentive to being now, is to to remember what every child knows: get present and life is great.


Somewhere in the good luck of my life, around 1998 or so, I ran into the “work of Byron Katie.” Byron Katie is the “stage name” of a woman everyone calls Katie, when in her presence.

She fell into enlightenment as it were, not striving for any spiritual awakening, but having a clear and desperate goal/ wish: to die to her suffering.

She’d been a many year alcohol, and chain smoker and obese and yelling at her whole family, and had come to fear of even leaving her house/ halfway house/ wherever she was.

She was a mess.

She knew she was a mess.

She didn’t want to harm her body, but wanted the upside to suicide, she wanted to die so her suffering would go away.


As life is sometimes, she got her wish.

Laying on the floor of her halfway house, because she felt unworthy of being on a bed, a coach roach crossed her ankle.

She somehow trigger cosmic laughter in her at the realization that all the thinking she’d been believing, all the stories about how she and others should change, all these could just be dropped.

So she did.

All that was left was joy and laughter.


Almost everything else was gone.

In this state of ongoing bliss, she found her problems and everyone else’s to be the illusions they were, built on thoughts that weren’t true.

She was free.

She could see others weren’t free.

And occasionally she’d be visited by an old thought (my mother should have….), and plummet to old fashioned normal human suffering.

The contrast was huge.

And she discovered the quick way out, for her and for others.


Judge your neighbor.

Write it down.

Ask four questions.

Turn it around.


Why judge? Because pretending we don’t is a dead end.

Why write it down? To slow down the obsessive thinking we get when we go over and over in our heads with “My father shouldn’t have been so critical.”

When I wrote that down instead of replaying the tape endlessly, I could see that my suffering had been pinned down with seven little words.


Why ask four questions?

Two to determine: am I getting upset by reality or my opinion about reality.

Two to FEEL at an instinctive level the difference between believing my opinion/ story/ thought vs who or what am I without the thought/ story opinion.

In Buddhist terms this is attachment vs non-attachment.

She didn’t use these terms, hadn’t really studied Buddhism, just found out noticing the difference made all the difference in the world.

Who am I and how do I relate to life when I believe my story?

Who or what would I be without this story.


Why “turn it around?”

The turn around is simple the three fingers back thing.

If I say you should stop being selfish, let’s turn it around: I should stop being selfish.

If I say you should listen to me better, let’s turn it around: I should listen to you better.


What this got to do with “being present?” Without our story about the past, and without our comments and judgements about the world, we can live in the quiet present, that ongoing unfolding on now where What Is is the whole deal. 




And for you and me today, how can we play this Byron Katie game (see for videos and worksheets and lots of resources)?


Well: here’s the four questions.


One: Is it true?

Two: Is it absolutely true?


Three: How do I react when I believe the story/ thought/ judgment?

Four: Who or what would I be without the story/ thought/ judgment?




Let’s sift this immensely powerful tool for coming back to the present into three games:


Game one with the work of Byron Katie:

For the next week, take every “so and so should” or “so and so shouldn’t” statement and

One: write it down

Two: Ask, it is true? (Think of dropping a pen. Will it go toward the Earth. This is true whatever we think. Almost anything dependent on our opinion, even if most people in the world agree… mother’s shouldn’t be mean, say…. is not real truth.

Three: Ask, is it absolutely true?

Four: Talk a short walk or look out a window at nature: feel the difference when you realize that this is an opinion and not a truth.


The phrase:


Or: Are you really sure about that?

Can be a great backup phrase for almost all of the thoughts that are accompanied by feeling bad.

This is wonderful news.

Game two, takes us to the awful truth: it’s not what others do, it’s our reaction to it that is causing our suffering.

it’s not what’s happening in the world, it’s our believe in what “should” or “shouldn’t” be that’s causing so much pain.

(And you can work for change.

And you can wish for/have a goal for a fabulous woman within walking distance. 

But no “should.”

A goal is a direction for how you’d like the future to be. It’s not a demand. God doesn’t owe that to you.

But sometimes getting it clear to God or the universe what you want help open reality to wonderful shifts happening. Not because they “should, “ but because you were grateful, and present and open to the possibility of an even better world.)


Game Two in the Work of Byron Katie:

Take any should or shouldn’t feeling/ thought.

One: write it down.

Two: stand on a spot that you call: Believing My Story. On this spot feel what the belief/ feeling/ thought / opinion does to you:

Your breathing.

Your posture.

Your feeling state.

Your connection to the world and the present.

Your connection to optimism and to joy.

Three: As is day for jump to another spot. Either the gratitude spot or the Pure Present spot.

Hang out there and feel the difference.


Jumping to gratitude or the present is a sneaky way of doing question four ahead of time, and so be it.

This is why the “work” of Byron Katie “works” so well.

It’s not about: you have to let go, you have to forgive, you have to give up your believe.

It’s about real learning. Recall learning: noticing a difference that makes a difference.

This is often the biggest difference in the world: believing our thoughts that want to feel bad about reality, and not believing those thoughts, or just giving up the whole thinking thing, and what’s left?


So, let’s do question four as the third game.


Game three in the world of Byron Katie:

Take any should/ shouldn’t belief that you are suffering from.

One: write it down.

Two: go to the suffering spot and believe it. See how that feels physically and emotionally and what it does to your life.


Feel that.

Enjoy that.


Deeply breathe in the freedom and joy and whatever else you feel.


Now, learning:

Slink back to the believing it spot.

See how you are there.

And jump back to the WHO OR WHAT WOULD I BE WITHOUT THAT THOUGHT spot, Feel the difference.

Go back and forth.

Enjoy. This is life.

This is freedom. This is who you really are without the usual slavery to believing your thoughts.