4 Little Questions

4 Little Questions

Odyssey

June-July 2003

Can four simple questions change your life? Author Byron Katie, who travels to South Africa and Namibia soon, is sure they can.

In person, Katie (as she likes to be called) comes across as funny, wise, and deeply at peace. Yet Katie's life before The Work was anything but peaceful. A businesswoman and mother living in the high desert of southern California, she became severely depressed while in her thirties. Over a ten-year period her depression deepened, and Katie spent almost two years rarely able to leave her bed, obsessing with suicide. Then one morning, from the depths of despair, she experienced a life-changing realisation.
 

Katie saw that when she believed that something should be different from what it was ('My husband should love me more,' 'My children should appreciate me'), then she suffered, and that when she didn't believe these thoughts, she felt peace. She realised that what had been causing her depression was not the world around her, but the beliefs she had about the world around her. In a flash of insight, Katie saw that our attempt to find happiness was backwards - instead of hopelessly trying to change the world to match our thoughts about how it should be, we can question these thoughts and, by meeting reality as it is, experience greater freedom and joy. Katie developed a simple yet powerful method of inquiry, which she called The Work, that helped make this transformation practical. As a result, a bed-ridden, suicidal woman became filled with love for everything life brings.

Katie's insight into the mind is consistent with leading-edge research in cognitive psychology, and The Work has been compared to the Socratic dialogue, Buddhist teachings, and 12-step programmes, such as those for serious addictions. But Katie developed her method without any formal knowledge of religion or psychology. The Work is based purely on one woman's direct experience of how suffering is created and ended. It is astonishingly simple, accessible to people of all ages and backgrounds, and requires nothing more than a pen and paper and an open mind. Katie saw right away that giving people her insights or answers was of little value - instead, she offers a process that can give people their own answers. The first people exposed to The Work's four questions reported that the experience was transformational, and she soon began receiving invitations to teach the process publicly.

Since 1986, Katie has introduced The Work to hundreds of thousands of people in over 30 countries around the world. In addition to public events, she has introduced The Work into corporations, universities, schools, churches, prisons and hospitals. Katie's joy and humour immediately put people at ease, and the deep insights and breakthroughs that participants experience make the events captivating (tissues are always close at hand). Time magazine has profiled Katie, calling her 'a visionary for the new millennium'. In March 2002, Harmony Books published Katie's first book, Loving What Is: Four Questions That Can Change Your Life, co-written with renowned author/translator Stephen Mitchell. Loving What Is is published in 16 languages. It reached as high as number 21 on amazon.com, and has been on bestseller lists at bookstores around the United States.
 

'I love South Africa,' Katie says. 'I'm coming at the invitation of my friend Kriben Pillay.' Dr Pillay, from Durban, is the author of Radical Work: Exploring transformation in the workplace through the Work of Byron Katie and publishes the journal Noumenon. His film, Itala's Transformation, premiered at the sixth Exploring Consciousness Film Festival in April. Katie said she has the highest respect for Dr Pillay, and she wants to support him in his efforts to spread The Work in South Africa and Namibia.

See Byron Katie's website http://www.thework.org/intro.html for exercises and a biography.

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