Noticing When Your Thoughts Argue with Reality

Byron Katie

I am a lover of what is, not because I'm a spiritual person, but because it hurts when I argue with reality.

The only time we suffer is when we believe a thought that argues with what is. When the mind is perfectly clear, what is is what we want.

If you want reality to be different than it is, you might as well try to teach a cat to bark. You can try and try, and in the end the cat will look up at you and say, "Meow." Wanting reality to be different than it is is hopeless. You can spend the rest of your life trying to teach a cat to bark.

And yet, if you pay attention, you'll notice that you think thoughts like this dozens of times a day. "People should be kinder." "Children should be well-behaved." "My neighbors should take better care of their lawn." "The line at the grocery store should move faster." "My husband (or wife) should agree with me." "I should be thinner (or prettier or more successful)." These thoughts are ways of wanting reality to be different than it is. If you think that this sounds depressing, you're right. All the stress that we feel is caused by arguing with what is.

After I woke up to reality in 1986, people often referred to me as the woman who made friends with the wind. Barstow is a desert town where the wind blows a lot of the time, and everyone hated it; people even moved from there because they couldn't stand the wind. The reason I made friends with the wind - with reality - is that I discovered I didn't have a choice. I realized that it's insane to oppose it. When I argue with reality, I lose - but only 100 percent of the time. How do I know that the wind should blow? It's blowing!

I am a lover of what is, not because I'm a spiritual person, but because it hurts when I argue with reality. We can know that reality is good just as it is, because when we argue with it, we experience tension and frustration. We don't feel natural or balanced. When we stop opposing reality, action becomes simple, fluid, kind, and fearless.

Beginners sometimes ask me what would happen if they investigated their thoughts on a regular basis. They are afraid that if they didn't argue with reality, they wouldn't be motivated to act and wouldn't know what to do. The experience of those who investigate their thoughts is that the opposite is true. Inquiry naturally gives rise to action.

When you begin to meet your thinking with understanding, your body follows. It begins to move by itself, so you don't have to do anything. Inquiry is about noticing our thoughts, not changing them. When you work with the thinking, the doing naturally follows.

If you sit in a chair and have a great insight, is that the end of it? I don't think so. Gaining insight into your thoughts is only half the process; the other half happens when the insights come to life. Until they live as action, they're not fully yours.

Excerpt from book Loving What Is: Four Questions that Can Change Your Life, by Byron Katie with Stephen Mitchell
(New York: Harmony Books, 2002).

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