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A Closer Look At Questions 3 and 4

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Byron Katie explains what she means by, “How do you react when you think that thought?”— Is it a gut reaction? Is it emotional? Is it thought?

It would be like you coming home expecting to see your son running into your arms. You’re very happy walking through the door, and then he’s not there. You look around, and you can’t find him. You look more and, if you’re married, your wife says, “Uh-oh, I haven’t seen him in a while,” and then you both begin to panic.

Notice the emotions that happen, on a scale from 1 to 10. They can go from mild discomfort all the way up to real panic. Nothing’s actually happened, except that you’re believing thoughts like “I need to find him,” “He’s missing,” “He’s in trouble,” or “Something terrible has happened to him.” Whatever your thought is in that situation—“He could be hurt” or “He needs me” or “I need to call 911”—how do you react when you believe that thought?

And then you find him—maybe he fell asleep in the closet and you find him there. How do you treat him if you’ve been believing those thoughts? While one person might simply be relieved, another person might wake him up and start crying and holding him, or someone else might yell at him for causing all that worry. Just imagine the little guy and his fear and what that would mean to someone who was just taking a nap, after all.

So: “How do you react when you believe that thought?” How does it feel in your body when you believe the thought? How do you treat other people and yourself? Is this where addictions kick in? Is this where you begin to overeat or smoke the cigarette you said you’d never smoke again?

That’s all in the third question. It’s meditation. You sit and you watch what happens to your life as a result of that thought. You go back to your childhood and then all the way up to the present. “How do you react—what happens—when you believe the thought?” It’s an amazing question. Your whole life will just appear in front of you in images.

And then the fourth question: “Who would you be without the thought?” The result is calmness. You can watch your life without the thought. Let’s say, for example, the child is asleep in the closet, and you are afraid something has happened to him. Who would you be without the thought “Something terrible has happened to him”? The thought is like a nightmare that has surfaced. Even though you don’t really want to admit it, it’s always present for some of us. It surfaces when you can’t find him after the first five minutes.

So, you watch: “Who am I without the thought ‘Something terrible has happened’?” And then you get to that closet a lot quicker because your mind is clear. It’s not panicked. It’s more intelligent and calm without the thought. It does the same work, but it’s so much more effective. Our children and the world deserve that kind of clarity.

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