Lite Review: Loving What Is: Four Questions That Can Change Your Life by Byron Katie with Stephen Mitchell

How can asking yourself four simple questions help free you from years of pain and suffering? In this transformational guide, the authors show you a radical way of experiencing life by teaching you a method of inner questioning that will change the way you think about your problems. “As the thinking changes, the problems disappear,” says Mitchell (co-author and spouse).

The author is among several well-known spiritual leaders who have reported suffering a breakdown before experiencing a major breakthrough. When Katie “woke up to reality” in 1986 after 10 years of suffering from a deep depression, she began the inquiry process that is now known as “The Work.” The formula she developed is simple: judge your neighbor, write it down, ask four questions, turn it around. The Work can be done on people, beliefs, concepts, or anything else that causes you pain. It can be done by businesses, institutions and organizations, as well as individuals, groups and children.

Chapter one opens with one of my favorite quotes from the book: “We are entering the dimension where we have control – the inside.” The Work is basically a method of inner questioning of the negative thoughts that bring you pain, suffering, stress and anxiety in an effort to understand them and determine if they are really true for you. “Suffering is optional,” says Katie.

What are the four questions that can be so life transforming?

  1. Is it true?
  2. Can you absolutely know it’s true?
  3. How do you react, what happens, when you believe that thought?
  4. Who would you be without the thought?


Turn it around

Part of the book consists of edited one-on-one dialogues with Katie and workshop participants doing The Work. At a typical workshop, volunteers sit with Katie in front of the audience and read aloud what they’ve written on their Judge-Your-Neighbor Worksheet. Katie gently and kindly (she can also be tough when needed) guides them through the four questions and turnaround. She may ask additional, related questions or share her own experiences depending on the volunteer’s story/problem/issue. The volunteers (and audience) often experience profound insights and breakthroughs at these sittings. Through these examples, and the detailed instructions given throughout the book, those new to inquiry learn how the process works. There’s also a helpful Q&A at the back of book.

The author has written several other books and travels extensively both in the US and abroad teaching The Work. After years of sharing The Work with thousands of people all over the world, Katie discovered that there are no new stories: “Every story is a variation on a single theme: This shouldn’t be happening. I shouldn’t have to experience this. God is unjust. Life isn’t fair.” I could identify with these statements because I have certainly felt that way at times. Loving what is means accepting reality as it is and not resisting it. Easier said than done, of course. There’s a good reason that the process is called “The Work.” It’s an ongoing process, and not a quick fix.

I love this book and it’s had a big impact on me. After I did The Work on a personal issue, I felt lighter, as if a burden had been lifted, and a few of my other worries just fell away. I experienced a mental shift and as I continue to inquire, the process feels increasingly intuitive.

“The purpose of this book is your happiness” states Katie. Through The Work, the peace and happiness you are seeking may be only four questions away.

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