Saturday, July 14, 2007

A Thousand Names for Joy

The following are some selected quotes from A Thousand Names for Joy by Byron Katie. I hope you enjoy.

I discovered that when I believed my thoughts, I suffered, but that when I didn’t believe them, I didn’t suffer, and that this is true for every human being. Freedom is as simple as that. I found that suffering is optional. I found a joy within me that has never disappeared, not for a single moment. That joy is in everyone, always.

The apparent craziness of the world, like everything else, is a gift that we can use to set our minds free. Any stressful thought that you have about the planet, for example, shows you where you are stuck, where your energy is being exhausted in not fully meeting life as it is, without conditions. You can’t free yourself by finding a so-called enlightened state outside your own mind. When you question what you believe, you eventually come to see that you are the enlightenment you’ve been seeking. Until you can love what is–everything, including the apparent violence and craziness–you’re separate from the world, and you’ll see it as dangerous and frightening. I invite everyone to put these fearful thoughts on paper, question them, and set themselves free. When mind is not at war with itself, there’s no separation in it. I’m sixty-three years old and unlimited. If I had a name, it would be Service. If I had a name, it would be Gratitude.

All fear is like this. It’s caused by believing what you think–no more, no less. It’s always the story of a future. If you want fear on purpose, get a plan. Fear is not possible when you’ve questioned your mind; it can be experienced only when the mind projects the story of a past into a future. The story of a past is what enables us to project a future. If we weren’t attached to the story of a past, our future would be so bright, so free, that we wouldn’t bother to project time. We would notice that we’re already living in the future, and that it’s always now.

The Great Way is easy. It’s what reveals itself right here, right now. “Do the dishes.” Answer the email.” “Don’t answer the email.” It’s the great Way because it’s the only way. Whatever you do or don’t do is your contribution to reality. Nothing could be easier. Nothing else is required; you can’t do it wrong.

She lets all things come because here they come anyway; it’s not as if she had a choice. She lets all things go because there they go, with or without her consent. She delights in the coming and the going. Nothing comes until she needs it, nothing goes until it’s no longer needed. She is very clear about this. Nothing is wasted; there’s never too much or too little.

When you hide your flaws, you teach us to hide ours. I love to say that we are just waiting for one teacher, just one, to give us permission to be who we are now. You appear as this, big or small, straight or bent. That’s such a gift to give. The pain is in withholding it. Who else is going to give us permission to be free, if not you? Do it for your own sake, and we’ll follow. We’re a reflection of your thinking, and when you free yourself, we all become free.

When you revere a spiritual teacher, it’s yourself that you’re revering, because you can’t project anything but yourself... It’s a fine thing to love Jesus [or Buddha], but until you can love the monster, the terrorist, the child molester, until you can meet your wort enemy without defense or justification, your reverence for Jesus [or Buddha] isn’t real, because each of these is just another of his forms. That’s how you know when you are truly revering your spiritual teacher; when your reverence goes across the board.

I trust everyone. I trust them to do what they do, and I’m never disappointed. And since I trust people, I know to let them find their own way. The wonderful thing about inquiry is that there’s no one to guide you but you. There’s no guru, no teacher who, in her great wisdom, shows you the answers. Only your own answers can help you. You yourself are the way and the truth and the life, and when you realize this, the world becomes very kind.

We think that because Jesus and the Buddha wore robes and owned nothing, that’s how freedom is supposed to look. But can you live a normal life an dbe free? Can you do it from here, right now? That’s what I wan t for you. We have the same desire: your freedom. And I love that you’re attached to material objects, whether you have them or not, so that you can come to realize that ll suffering comes from the mind, not the world.

The litmus test for self-realization is a constant state of gratitude. This gratitude is not something you can look for or find. It comes from another direction, and it takes you over completely. It’s so vast that it can’t be dimmed or overlaid.

Beliefs Lead to Suffering

I just finished a wonderful book called A Thousand Names for Joy. It’s by a lady named Byron Katie who is in her sixties and “woke up to reality” (a.k.a. became enlightened) back in the mid eighties. I was previously unaware of her work, but am grateful that a friend suggested this book. It’s so nice to get a female perspective, and an altogether different perspective, on what it’s like to be enlightened and how we can all get there. It’s also wonderful to see how much it agrees with Eckhart Tolle. The bottom line is that acceptance of what is will set you free.

Katie, as she likes to be called, had the following observation about life after she awakened, which, by the way, took place while she was living in a halfway house for women, depressed to the point of being suicidal (a state that many enlightened folks underwent before their transition).

“I discovered that when I believed my thoughts, I suffered, but that when I didn’t believe them, I didn’t suffer, and that this is true for every human being. Freedom is as simple as that. I found that suffering is optional. I found a joy within me that has never disappeared, not for a single moment. That joy is in everyone, always.”

She quickly developed what she calls The Work, which is a series of four questions that she uses to put thoughts and beliefs to the test, thereby transcending their hold on us. The Work has gained widespread popularity and she has been traveling the world to bring it to people everywhere (see for more, as well as my example at the end of this email). The four questions are:
1. Is it true?
2. Can I absolutely know that it is true?
3. How do I react when I believe this thought?
4. Who would I be without the thought?

The steps are then followed by a turn around where various opposites of the thought are stated to see that there may be truth in the opposite of the truth, or at least see how we feel when we choose to believe the opposite of what we believe. The goal is finding the truth behind what we believe to be the truth.

I was lucky enough to see some real life examples of what I had learned from reading this book, as well as use the work on one of my long held beliefs, and what a wonderful thing it was. My wife and I were dining outside at one of our favorite local restaurants one evening. A couple sitting nearby on the patio had a couple of well behaved dogs with them (the restaurant typically allows dogs on the patio so it was not an uncommon site). At one point, one of the dogs decided to take issue with the waiter and began barking at him. The waiter quelled him with a treat and we all continued about our business. The dog barked a few more times at the same waiter, who continued to try to make friends with the dog. Eventually they figured out that it was the hat that was making the dog uneasy and eventually things settled down.

However, during this period of time one of the diners complained about the presence of the dog to their waiter. Management was notified and the staff, it appeared, were debating whether to ask the couple to remove the dog or just let them finish and leave (they were almost done with their meal). The dog had settled down and none of the other diners were really bothered by his occasional outbursts while he was having them. When the couple, who like most diners was unaware there had been a complaint made, finally left the man who had complained began clapping very loudly, I suspect hoping that he would be the start of a wave of applause throughout the patio. He was the only one who was so inclined and I suspect I was not alone in finding his behavior more disturbing than that of the barking dog.

As if that were not enough excitement for one evening, a little while later the couple at the table next to us began to wonder where their food was. They asked their waiter about the status and indicated that they were there before someone else who had just gotten served. He went back to check the status and came back empty handed. Before he could get the words, “Here’s what happened...” out of his mouth the man at the table stood up abruptly and said, “We have to leave! Come on, let’s go!” the waiter was trying to apologize for the mix up that had occurred in the kitchen, but the man didn’t wan to hear it. His female companion was calmly explaining that they were very disappointed while the man was saying, “And your food isn’t really that good.” or worth waiting on or something to that effect.

As you can see it was quite an evening. It made me tense witnessing both of these encounters and left me with an internal cringe that lasted a while. However, as I found myself confronted with passing judgement on these people, I immediately realized that their suffering was based on their beliefs about the way life should be. One man believed that the dog was a nuisance and that dogs should not be allowed on the patio. So it was not the dog’s presence that upset him, it was his thoughts about the dog’s presence. The couple next to us believed that they should have been served before someone who came in after them, which brought about their anger.

It helped me see that these real world examples of suffering are caused by all of the beliefs we have accumulated throughout our lives, but what’s more important is what I got to witness in myself (where it all begins). My initial impressions at the man clapping and the man leaving in a huff would have been, “What an asshole.” However, I accepted that they were doing only what they felt was right at the time thinking it would bring about what they wanted. Instead I had to look at the feeling of uneasiness that I had and see why it was there. I am obviously made uncomfortable by conflict but what thoughts do I have that might bring this about? Here was a chance for me to do the Work on myself.

It finally occurred to me that the reaction I experience had to do with the belief that people should be more tolerant. So, let’s put that to the test and see what happens.
People should be more tolerant.
1. Is it true? Yes.
2. Can I absolutely know that it is true? Well, it seems pretty true. The only thing that makes me hesitate from saying it’s absolutely true is that people are all on their own path and can not help it if they are not yet aware of the fact that their intolerance is causing them pain. So I guess I can not know for sure that everyone should be more tolerant even if it seems like a good idea.
3. How do I react when I believe that people should be more tolerant? I become uncomfortable with the way things are. I become worrisome. I get angry and indignant and judgmental.
4. Who would I be without the thought? I would be more accepting of others. I would not have internal conflict. I would be happier.

Now turn it around. People should not be more tolerant. They should be just the way they are now. People already are as tolerant as they should be. I should be more tolerant. The truth comes out in this step and the problem is realized to be one inside me and not caused by others. My lack of tolerance for less than tolerant people creates more intolerance in the world and makes me an unhappy camper when I am exposed to intolerance, thereby pushing me further away from my end goal. It’s simple but powerful Work that helps set us free from the thoughts that keep us from realizing our full potential. See what you think.
Take care,
PS - I’ll send you another email full of inspiring quotes from 1000 Names for Joy after this.