The Work, like cooking, is messy. There are many steps involved: gathering, crushing, peeling, etc., not just a moment of revealing the finished product.
If you go to Byron Katie’s YouTube channel, you will find dozens of amazing videos of Byron Katie doing The Work with people. As she leads people through the four questions and turnarounds, you’ll watch lights go on, stories drop, and hearts open. It can be very inspiring to see the transformations that occur so quickly on stage with Katie.
But when you try to do The Work on your own it may or may not be quite so amazing at first. By comparison, we’re all newbies at this work.
If you continue with The Work anyway, you may find that the same amazing process that you saw with Katie is happening inside you too—even if it is less dramatic, or takes longer, or has more side roads along the way. It’s only when you compare your work to those videos that you can create disappointment or expectations for yourself.
That is because Byron Katie is so experienced at doing this work over so many years that she can support someone to drop in very quickly. Also, you are seeing some of the most notable videos. Not all of them are so earth-shattering. Not all of them make the cut.
It also depends on the person doing The Work. I’ve seen some people who were closed to the process even when working with Katie. You don’t see those videos either.
For most of us, we are somewhere in between: somewhat experienced in The Work and somewhat open for inquiry. And I notice that my openness changes: sometimes I’m more open to explore when I sit to do The Work, and sometimes I’m not open at all.
Sometimes, the very first stressful thought I question, opens me up. Other times, I may try many different thoughts to question before I connect with what is really bothering me and begin to shift my perspective through inquiry.
And at still other times, I may have found the thought to question but I have challenges going through the four questions or finding turnarounds and examples.
Each time I do The Work, I don’t know what I will run into. I’ve never walked this road before. That is why The Work is often much less polished and dramatic when I do it. But it is perfect for me discovering my truths as I explore uncharted territory.
I notice this with my clients too. One client I worked with recently wanted to work on his fear, but before he could go anywhere with that, he discovered an underlying belief which prevented him from even starting that work.
He realized that he was not even open to experiencing fear as an emotion. There was something not approving of fear in him. As we explored, he discovered underlying beliefs such as “Only cowards are afraid,” and “Fear is childish,” and “I need to be rational,” and “Fear is unmanly.”
There was no way to jump into a fearful situation and start questioning his fearful thoughts. He noticed his resistance and then identified those thoughts first. He saw images of when his parents had told him to “not be afraid,” and he had understood, “I should not have fear.”
By questioning thoughts like, “Fear is childish,” and “I should not have fear,” he could slowly deal with the extra layer of stress he had around fear. For him, this was necessary before starting to do The Work on the fear itself, e.g. “I’m afraid of making a mistake.”
How did he know to follow this “side road”? He was listening to himself as we went.
When I listen to myself, I can feel where my stressful thoughts are sitting. It may not seem like a direct path, but it is the only path I can take. I must listen to where I am, and to what my thoughts and resistances are saying, and question those one step at a time.
It doesn’t matter where I end up. True exploration—true inquiry—simply follows the thread inside me by listening and feeling. It may look messy at first. You may not want to present it in raw form on YouTube, but this is how I actually do The Work.
The Work is exploration. By definition, it is a messy art. And I don’t want to clean it up. The joy of cooking, and of doing The Work, lies in the freedom to make a mess!
The more you do The Work, the more you see options for exploring that you couldn’t see before. This just comes with experience. It also can help to practice The Work with others who have more experience.
This is why I created The Work 101, my intro course, and Inquiry Circle, my ongoing practice group for The Work. In The Work 101, you’ll learn lots of options for digging into The Work based on my experience over the years.
I have collected my favorite tips for how I like to explore my inner world using the four questions and turnarounds. And people tell me that some of my approaches work for them too. If you would like to learn from my experience, and from the experience of the other experienced co-trainers as well, join me for The Work 101 which is now a part of Inquiry Circle, and continue in our community after you complete the course.
Further reading: How to do The Work with the Heart