Don’t Believe Your Thoughts: Freeing Our Minds, Part IIIAug 05, 2021
In the last 2 posts (Do you have a Gollum in your head? and Don't Believe Your Thoughts), I wrote about identifying repetitive, ensnaring thoughts (vs. identifying with them, as part of who we are) - to see them clearly, and turn our attention back to what’s real, in the present moment. Today I want to share a practice that helps us work directly with these painful thought and belief patterns.
This practice comes from Byron Katie, author of Loving What Is. “In 1986, Byron Katie found herself at the bottom of a ten-year spiral into depression, rage, and self-loathing, until one day she … realized that when she believed her stressful thoughts, she suffered, but that when she questioned them, she didn’t suffer. The simple yet powerful process of inquiry that was born from this experience is what Katie calls The Work.”
The Work starts with identifying those stressful thoughts and beliefs. You can use the Judge Your Neighbor worksheet to become clearer on what they are. It’s important to write them down, to capture those thoughts on the page so they can be investigated, rather than just swimming around in your consciousness.
Once you identify the thought, you apply four questions of inquiry to each stressful thought or belief.
- Is it true? (Yes or no? If no, move to 3.)
- Can you absolutely know that it’s true? (Yes or no.)
- How do you react, what happens, when you believe that thought?
- Who or what would you be without the thought? Imagine feeling into how you would feel, who you would be, if it were not possible for you to have this thought, if you never had this thought again?
Again, it’s important to write these questions and answers down because it helps us to separate from the thought; otherwise the mind will continue its antics of sucking you in and convincing you of the truth of your beliefs. I recommend doing this for every thought that causes you suffering (though not in one sitting).
When you recognize the thoughts for what they are, the impact of these thoughts on your happiness and consciousness, and see who you could be without the thoughts, it’s easier to notice when they come up and “change the CD” in order to change the mental pattern over time. We can stop watering the seeds of our own suffering and live with more presence and freedom.
The next installment will investigate “Turnarounds,” the last part of The Work - it can be tough to understand, but gives us a lot of insight into how the mind works!