Is it true is one of the four questions Byron Katie asks in “The Work”. In “Loving What Is, Four Questions That Can Change Your
Life”, published in 2002, Katie laid out the process of a meditation on examining our thoughts with what seems like four really simple questions:
1. Is it true?
2. Can you absolutely know that it’s true?(if the answer to number 1 is no)
3. How do you react, what happens when you believe that thought?
4. Who would you be without the thought?
THEN, turn the thought around and find three or more genuine examples of how each turnaround is true in this situation.
Because here’s the thing, we give way too much weight to our thoughts. Our brains naturally want to believe whatever pops in there, and unfortunately, our bodies don’t know the difference from true or false, they react to whatever thoughts you’ve got running around in your head, and that can create all kinds of issues.
Have you ever stopped to ask if your thought is true? Before coaching, I’m not entirely sure I did much of it myself. Now, I do it all the time, and have found I’m much more non-reactive than before, and much more thoughtful (no pun intended).
Often it’s about the stories we make up in our minds that create suffering. And believing those thoughts or stories, taking them in without examination, just leads to more pain. Here’s an example, you may have heard this story before:
A young lady was waiting for her flight in the boarding room of an airport. As she had to wait for hours, she decided to buy a book, and to spend her time, she bought a packet of cookies too. She sat down on an armchair, in the VIP room of the airport, to rest and read in peace.
Beside the armchair where the packet of cookies was kept, a man sat down, opened his magazine and started reading. When she ate the first cookie, the man also took one. She felt infuriated but didn’t say anything. She just thought – What a nerve! If I were in the mood, I would punch his eye so that he didn’t forget this daring. To each cookie she ate, the man ate another one. That was letting her fume up with rage but she couldn’t react.
When only one cookie remained, she thought – Ah! What will this abused man do now?
The man now divided the last cookie through the middle, giving her the other half.
Ah! That was too much! She was too angry!!
Then she took her book, took her belongings, and headed to the boarding place.
When she sat down on her seat, inside the plane, she looked into her purse to take out her eyeglasses. To her surprise, her packet of cookies was there, untouched, closed!
She felt so ashamed! She realized she was the wrong one… She had forgotten that her cookies were kept in her purse. The man divided his cookies with her, without feeling infuriated, nervous or mad… While she was going mad thinking that he was dividing her cookies. And there was no more time to explain herself, say thank you or apologize!
Okay, so the story she was telling herself, that the man was a thief is now turned around, she’s the thief. Good thing he was generous and willing to share. But here’s the point, she made up a story, providing a bounty of thoughts that had she questioned them, she would have discovered they weren’t true and she could have felt so much better.
Let’s take this through Byron Katie’s process, we’ll narrow it down to one thought: The man is a thief.
1. Is it true? Well, she certainly thought so in the moment
2. Can you absolutely know that it’s true? No, as she found out later
3. How do you react, what happens when she believed that thought? She reacted poorly, was convinced the man was awful and rude and it made her feel self-righteous and mad. She in turn, was not nice back to him.
4. Who would she be without that thought? Probably much more inquisitive, maybe more generous, maybe even willing to make a new friend.
Turning it around may look like this: (she would have had to make these considerations after the fact, not in that moment)
The man is NOT a thief. How could this be true? She found that the cookies were indeed his, she could have checked around for her own cookies before making assumptions and she could have asked him why he was eating her cookies – and at that point she would have learned they weren’t hers.
Another turn around could be: I am the thief – oh there’s a few examples of how that’s true for sure.
And another turnaround could be: The man is generous. You see where this is going?
So here’s an idea. The next time you find yourself feeling out of sorts, stop, sit down and consider what it is you’re thinking. Identify what’s troubling you, then ask “Is it true”? If you find the answer is yes or no, keep digging, keep going through the process Byron Katie lays out.
Question your thoughts, and try to get to a place where you know for sure what’s true.One of Katie’s famous quotes is: “When you argue with reality, you lose, but only 100% of the time.” The idea is to question those stories you’re making up, and work to find the truth.