Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Byron Katie ...another American sage

An email from a friend, a few years ago.  Reading it again reminds me of not getting too attached to my own story.

I hope you all don't mind getting such a long email.  I spent 10 incredibly powerful days with Byron Katie in Oct. 2002 and it was life changing. My spiritual counselor/dear friend Mary-Margaret Moore suggested I attend Katie's workshop. Reading the words from Roger Housden's book, excerpts from Sacred America, Ch. 18 is about Byron Katie. These words really brought her close to me again. Also, my heart is wide open for incredible Katie at the moment because Mary-Margaret told me on Friday "Byron Katie has gone blind. She's been blind and no one really knew it. She's having eye surgery to see if there's anything that can be done." In her inimitable Byron Katie fashion, which you'll see below if you read it, she just simplifies all of her life.  What she says is that her eyes no longer work. Period. No story. No drama.This passage is not about her blindness, as it was written a little while ago.  If any of you wade thru this email,  I'd love to hear your thoughts.   Love to you all,  Lynn
Now from Roger Housden's book:
"There is an immediacy about this woman, an utter simplicity and directness of movement, that leaves the air clean of any trace of motive. What I feel in those first few seconds is the presence of a being who isn't being anyone—not a teacher, a wise person, or anyone with anything particular to tell. It feels both a relief and strange at the same time."
  (NOTE from Lynn:  this is also what attracts me so much to dear ol' Mary-Margaret..they are very similar beings/Being.)
"What Katie saw on the floor of the halfway house was that we create our reality with our own beliefs, and that the most tenacious belief we have is that we are a separate entity in a world of separate entities. Our personal stories of hope and fear keep the illusion of separateness intact. Further, we genuinely believe that who we are is the drama of that story, its ups and downs, successes and failures, its search for God, truth, happiness, the perfect partner—at the same time believing other people's stories. Just like a Buddhist would say it, I thought, listening to her. Except Katie has no knowledge of Buddhism, or any other ism.
Her awareness would become the rocks, the sky; other people; she traveled through everything, became everything. Once her awareness went into a bird, and the thought came, but I don't know how to fly. The question followed immediately, can I really know that? and she flew on as that bird. For Katie, there is no story that we are not, even the story of a bird flying. There is only one life living us all, and only our limiting beliefs prevent us from seeing that truth.
A radical teaching, the kind you find in ancient yogic texts. Nothing less than the undoing of everything we think we are, we think the world is, life is; the return to what is there before thought, belief, and language divide up the world. Not a return to the unconscious merging of the infant, but to a condition of awareness that knows existentially the one life living us all. Yet Katie says none of this, teaches nothing, as such. She gives you The Work and invites you to perform the operation on yourself
She asks me to think of someone I am having difficulty with in my life; to make a statement about something that irritates or saddens me, and to ask myself if it is really true. As I make my statement about leaving someone dear to me, she looks at me, and smiles from somewhere far, far down. Then she says, "Hopeless," and smiles again.
"How can you really know that is true? It's just your belief. Without that belief, you might realize there can be no arriving or leaving."
I sit for a moment opposite this woman who seems literally to ripple with joy, so much she can barely contain it. She is totally there, utterly without effort, pouring a love from her eyes not for me alone but for everything.
She asks me a third question. "How do you react when you believe that thought?" And then a fourth: "Who or what would you be without the thought?"
"Free," I laugh, "I would be free, free of an object by which I try to identify myself, give myself firm ground to stand on. I would be free to let life move through me without trying to hold on to it or push it away. And I would be closer to that same person than I could have ever dreamed of."
"No one has ever done anything to you, honey," she says, gazing upon me with an infinite tenderness. "We all do everything to ourselves, and we do it with our beliefs. They are your beliefs, no one else's. I am not saying you haven't parted from each other. What is, is. I am saying it isn't what you think it is, and nobody is ever creating the story except you. The Work helps you see through the fabric of your own beliefs, through the layers you put onto reality, onto what is. It allows you to lose control and that is the doorway to revelation. Can you even say it's a beautiful day and really know it's true? Without those conditions, we can know ultimate intimacy. The judgment, the construct that we put on reality sticks to it like Velcro and dampens the very intimacy we are seeking through our descriptions and theories."
Nonattachment is the deepest form of intimacy, they say. Except she talks about Velcro, uses the language of everyday America. She was moving on already, saying that until we drop our story we don't even breathe without a motive, every breath coming from fear. When we drop our story there is no longer a world, no existence who is there to exist—no other worlds, no angels or devils. The Work, she says, is trickery, a trick to enable you to experience your own awareness of self beyond the story.
......I can feel that she simply doesn't connect to any aspect of my identity; yet she is wholly there with me, her attention pouring over me undiluted. In this gaze that sees me through and through, I am aware of feeling returned to a deep restedness, the peace that comes from knowing there is no one to be, nothing to hold up any more, at least, not in this moment.
Katie's life is dedicated to going wherever she is asked, providing there is space in the schedule, which is rare these days since she has invitations from all over the world. She never charges, but offers The Work on a donation basis. What I notice as we stroll around is that she seems to say yes to everything and everyone. Isn't there ever a place for no, I wonder?
"Yes, no, same thing," she says. "What we are looking for is integrity, the truth of the simple heart. That's what I'm married to. I go and do The Work wherever I am asked because people suffer. If you suffer, I have an interest. That's it. If you care about it, I do, because I know it is an illusion. I lived that illusion for forty-three years, and I found a way through it. Someone who is tired of suffering can hear what I am saying and will do The Work for the love of truth."
There is only one way you can ever join anyone, she asserts, and that is in awareness.
"You experience what is usually called love with someone who is a reflection of your own wonderfulness." She seems to smile with her whole body. "Someone who is agreeing with you. As soon as they stray from that role, then love goes and we try everything we can to fit them back into the place that we like. What you love, then, is your own story of the other. Connection, joining, marriage, all those things are about your own nature, nothing else. If you were clear you would be happy living with Frankenstein."
I can hear the truth of it, clear as a knife slicing through an apple. Yet I feel a tension, too, between the truth and the wish to hold on to my own story anyway, some mad attachment to the drama of my own suffering. If there is only one awareness, I say, that must mean the end of sexual desire, which needs a sense of other to arise.
"My own experience is that I have no interest," Katie responds, with not even a hint of self-consciousness. "But if I say that, people can make a dogma out of it. So I say, inquire, ask the question: is it true you have no sexual interest? What do you get for holding that belief? There's no formula, no better or worse. It's none of my business whether I have a sexual desire or not. It just is, or it isn't. But I don't, that's my experience."
Over dinner I ask her about evolution. The whole story of Western civilization is founded on the idea of progress, the gradual development of our knowledge and intelligence ..........
"No, nothing is going anywhere, that's my experience," she says when I ask. "Nor do we go anywhere; we are already. You know, I work with a toxic waste corporation with branches in Dallas and Chicago. I ask them how they think they can clean up the planet if they don't clean up their own minds. Everything begins and ends with us, and the bottom line is, What is is. Everything else is a story about what is. Your life is a story about what is. All the issues we get excited about are stories we lay over what is. The highest truth, if you can bear it, is that God is what is, and I mean all of it. I see no darkness anywhere, and I know people find that hard. At the same time, it doesn't mean you don't care, that you don't respond to suffering. I am moved to respond to suffering at the root. That's all I know. That's why I go where I am asked."
I am beginning to wilt now, with so much to absorb from our hours together, but she jolts my attention when she goes on to say that just the previous week she went to a prison in Texas, where there was only one white prisoner among three hundred inmates. The prison psychotherapist had invited her to come and do The Work. When she started, she could get no eye contact with any of them. An hour later it was different.
"I'd ask them what was not okay in their world. They'd tell me about their wife cheating on them. I'd say, "Your wife is meant to be loyal, is it true?" We'd go through the inquiry, and they would start to see the death of a sacred belief, one they would have killed for without a second thought. The reality, I'd say, is that it happens. How can it not be true? As long as you fight with reality, you are going to lose."
"Another thing. When I went in there, they were all innocent. When I left, some of them were guilty—they were acknowledging that they were the ones who had gotten themselves into prison, not society, not Mom or Dad, not the system. We are the ones doing it to ourselves. We are always going to have a story, which's what our life is. If you have a good story, I say keep it, just be a witness to it and let it roll on without a motive. If you are in a nightmare, then better to wake up, since you are the only one hurting."
As I am about to leave this secular American equivalent of a great Indian or Buddhist sage, she sends me off with one last shot from the hip.
"You know, I don't pray because I already have everything," she says, looking at me again with those fathomless eyes. "But if I had a prayer, it would be, God spare me from the desire to be loved and appreciated."
Wham! If anything is the teaching, it is that. Byron Katie is so undeniably what she talks about. If she were in India, she would be hailed as one of the masters of nondualism, in the lineage of Ramana Maharshi, the great sage who died in the 1950s. (He also woke up spontaneously while lying on the floor, though under much more normal circumstances.) But she isn't in any lineage. She just happened, out here in the desert. No accident, either, that she is a woman. In America, it often seems to be women who are cutting through established forms and making new tracks of their own. And these women seem more naturally free of the need to be teachers, to establish a hierarchy in which some know and others don't.
Katie's everyday language, her lack of any religious baggage, her utterly individual experience of awakening, exemplify an emerging form of quintessentially American spirituality. One founded not, like so much of the New Age phenomena, on a new and more exciting set of beliefs, or on wishful thinking, but on the radical experience of Being. There can be no better antidote than this to the American obsession with Doing.


A Life Transparent said...
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A Life Transparent said...

Thank you for sharing

trrish said...

Glad you found it.