Because we’re not used to exploring it, the inner world seems be seems to be shrouded in mystery.
And the landscape in that inner world is different for each of us. That’s why you can’t read a book and know your inner world. Your particular inner world may be similar to what you read about from others, but it is also unique to you.
And only you can explore it.
When the first European explorers crossed the oceans, their idea of what the world looked like was very different than it is today. For example, they thought America was India, and when you look at the maps that were drawn of the world at that time, they were grossly inaccurate compared to what we know today.
But this process of exploring, stepping into the unknown, had to happen in order to come to the more reliable knowledge of the world that we have today. Sailors literally had to set off into uncharted territory and do their best to map it.
That meant that their first attempts would be inaccurate. They had to start somewhere. But with more and more exploration, they found more and more data. And with time, they found consistency in the shapes of the continents.
What I love about The Work of Byron Katie, is that it consistently sets me in the direction of the unknown. It points me away from what I’m familiar with (what I believe) and towards the very opposite of what I think is true (uncharted territory).
This uncharted territory is the part of the mind that lies unexplored in each of our lives. To begin to explore this uncharted territory can open the mind so much, and it can solve so many mysteries.
But no one can do it for us. It’s not enough to read about it, or hear other wise people talk about it, because their minds are different than ours. If we follow someone else’s experience, we are still pointing outwards towards a “them” out there, and we never point ourselves inward where the real uncharted territory lies.
That’s why spiritual talk remains unsatisfying. It is intellectual only. To change the way I live, I must step into the unknown in me and explore with the courage of a sailor. Then, when I’ve seen with my own eyes the new truths within in me, I naturally start to live them.
We all love to play it safe. We all want to have someone go ahead of us, to lead the way, to demystify the inner world for us. But no one can do that for us. When we want others to show us how it is in our inner world, we stay camping on the shores of the ocean of ourselves.
There is no substitute for diving in directly and finding out ourselves.
But the learning will necessarily be different than book learning. There is no orderly display of knowledge from the outset. There are no tables and maps. There is no curriculum.
Instead, there is only trial and error. The path of direct experience in your particular inner world is a path that has never been walked before. You must walk it yourself.
In that darkness of unknowingness, there is always a direction. Like a compass, the mind can sense when it is moving towards pain or towards peace. The idea of this inner exploration is to move away from pain and towards peace. This is the path of increasing understanding and decreasing confusion.
The Work of Byron Katie points out this direction at every step. At every step, you can find the thoughts that cause stress, and pain, and confusion. And through The Work, you can turn these thoughts around and begin to walk in the opposite direction, in the direction of increasing peace and clarity.
That’s how it works. It’s so simple. The Work simply asks me to notice my own experience and to follow my experience away from what hurts me and towards a more peaceful view of things.
There’s no faith involved. It is literally just following your own direct experience out of suffering, one step at a time. And where your work takes you may be very different than where someone else’s work takes them. We are each in different worlds, and at different stages of exploration.
And just like the European explorers, you may start out “feeling your way” in one direction, and later find out that there is an even better direction for you. So it’s a constant process of adjusting, and adjusting, and adjusting—but always based on direct experience. That’s what demystifies the inner world.
Direct exploration means that doing it “wrong” is as important as doing it “right.” Don’t expect to step into this process of exploration and see everything in shining lights after the first step. Instead, revel in each step of progress that leads, not intellectually, but experientially away from suffering and towards peace. And if you take a step towards greater suffering, you’ll feel it, and that is useful information too.
The joy of exploring is that there are always new corners of the inner world to discover. There is always the possibility to gain new knowledge and understanding when you keep exploring—as well as a possibility for greater and greater inner freedom, as long as you keep feeling your way forward.
The Work is a wonderful tool for this inner exploration. I would not travel the seas without a compass. And I would not travel the inner world without The Work.
If you want to begin a systematic practice of The Work, I invite you to join my nine-month, online course called The Work 101, a course in stress management through self-exploration.
“I am here to take the mystery out of everything. It’s simple, because there really isn’t anything. There’s only the story appearing now. And not even that.” Byron Katie, Question Your Thinking, Change the World
Further reading: The Work Is Not an Intellectual Exercise