Two Kinds of Truth

balsamroot flowers on the mountainside
It is one thing to view this photo of balsamroot flowers near my home. It is quite another thing to get up early and go experience them in real life.

I’m in Search of Truth

And when I do The Work of Byron Katie, my interest lies in finding more and more of the truth about myself. But one thing can get in the way of that search: already knowing what is true. 

This happens naturally when I use the intellect to gain knowledge. The intellect gains knowledge by comparing previous experiences, analyzing, and learning from the experience of others. 

We Are Rewarded for Using Our Intellects

Life has shown us again and again that when you think first and then act, you make fewer mistakes. When you plan first, then execute your plan you can go further. This is all based on intellectual understanding. 

The intellect is a powerful tool for gaining knowledge and understanding. And it can be a support when doing The Work. But it can also be a hindrance.

Intellectual Understanding Is Based on Something Outside Myself

When I’m analyzing, my reasoning is always based on some previous experience of mine, or on the experience that I have heard from someone else. I then use the intellect to build a new structure based on these previous understandings that results in a new understanding.

This is very satisfying. And very powerful. It’s basically a way of modeling something. I make a model in my mind and then draw conclusions based on the model I create. 

But there is a down side. No matter how flawless my model is, it is still just a model. If I use this kind of intellectual reasoning to model the experience of inner contentment or freedom, I get a good image of what it would look like. But I don’t get the actual experience.

To Get the Experience, I Have to Forget my Understanding for a While 

Let’s say I know that it’s my thinking that makes me suffer. I’ve read books about it. And i’ve experienced it in the past. 

So if I start suffering now, I realize that it’s just my thinking. Good. It’s true. But chances are, it’s not enough. Understanding that “it’s just my thinking” may not allow me to fully let go, especially if I’ve used this train of thought a lot and it has become cliché for me.

To really know this on an experiential level I have to start over, like a child not knowing anything. Then I can get really honest. Yes, I know it’s just my thinking. But there’s a part of me inside that does not know that on an experiential level. I need to back up and listen to that part of me.

That’s How I Do The Work

I might have worked similar situations in the past, and I may pretty much understand the situation I work now, but there is still a part of me that doesn’t understand it. I understand it intellectually. But I don’t understand it experientially. 

The Work is about experience. That’s why it is meditation. 

To do The Work, I have to get really honest and humble with myself. Where am I still stuck? Even though I understand that no one can hurt me, I still experience it as someone hurting me in this moment. So I have to go with my experience. It’s more honest for where I am.

My experience has to be the starting point of The Work. I write my stressful thoughts to question even if I’ve worked them before and “I understand” the turnarounds. I write them down to question now, simply because my emotion doesn’t lie: I still don’t quite get this one. 

It doesn’t matter if I read an amazing book turning it all around. I have to go down in the hole and walk the part of me that is still confused out of the darkness step-by-step. That part of me that is confused is my deeper truth. That is the experiential me, not the me that understands intellectually. 

When I Follow My Experience, Things Change

Now, I’m getting real with myself. My intellectual understanding is more like castles in the air. There is nothing wrong with castles in the air, they only need to be connected to the ground. Following my actual experience is how I do that. 

So I forget about my previous experiences and my intellectual conclusions when I do The Work. And I trust that what is causing me stress now is still a place where I don’t quite get it. I trust my experience of confusion instead of all my book learning or previous experiences of “getting it.” 

I have to move with the patience of a parent with a child as I do The Work with that part of myself. I can’t jump too quickly to conclusions. I can’t come in quoting books I’ve read in my examples. I have to let the child answer the questions and find the turnaround examples. I may “know” where it’s going, but that child in me needs to walk the distance on its own. 

Only then will my insights be based on my direct experience. Only then will they have any effect on how I live my life.

Have a great week

“The invitation is to go beyond the intellect. The questions are like probes that dive into the mind, bringing deeper knowledge to the surface. Ask the questions first, then wait. Once the answers have arisen, the superficial mind and the deeper mind meet, and the turnarounds feel like true discoveries.” Byron Katie, A Mind at Home with Itself