Byron Kathleen Mitchell, better known as Byron Katie (born December 6, 1942) is an American speaker and author who teaches a method of self-inquiry known as "The Work of Byron Katie" or simply as "The Work". She is the founder of Byron Katie International, an organization that includes The School for the Work and Turnaround House in Ojai, California. TIME describes her as "a spiritual innovator for the 21st century."
Byron Kathleen Mitchell
Byron Katie in 2006
Byron Kathleen Reid
December 6, 1942
|Other names||Byron Katie|
|Known for||"The Work (of Byron Katie)"|
A method for self-inquiry
Katie was born in Breckenridge, Texas in 1942, and grew up in Barstow, California. Her father was a train engineer and her mother was a housewife. She was married at age 19, had three children and started a career in real estate.
In 1986, when she was 43 with three children and unhappily married to her second husband, she reportedly suffered from depression, agoraphobia, overeating and addiction to codeine and alcohol. She called her insurance company for help, and was referred to Hope House in Los Angeles, a woman's counseling center that has since closed. After two weeks at the house, she reportedly experienced an epiphany in her thinking which created a way for her to challenge and lessen the harmful effects of long-held beliefs. She credited the epiphany, which became known as "The Work", for a subsequent weight loss and other reductions in bad habits.
She began holding informal meetings to discuss her philosophy, and in the early 1990s, began having more formal workshops. The workshops eventually led to the formation of Byron Katie International.
In 1999, the California Board of Psychology questioned if she was engaging in unlicensed psychotherapy, after Katie had counseled an incest survivor. The Board found she was not practicing psychotherapy, and dropped the investigation.
She describes her 1986 epiphany as follows:
I discovered that when I believed my thoughts, I suffered, but that when I didn't believe them, I didn't suffer, and that this is true for every human being. Freedom is as simple as that. I found that suffering is optional. I found a joy within me that has never disappeared, not for a single moment.
Katie calls her process of self-inquiry "The Work."
Katie's experience, as described in her book Loving What Is, is that all suffering is caused by believing our stressful thoughts. This, she says, puts people into painful positions that lead to suffering, as she recognized to be the case with herself. Through self-questioning, she describes how a different, less-known capacity of the mind can end this suffering.
Specifically. The Work is a way of identifying and questioning any stressful thought. It consists of four questions and a turnaround.
The four questions are:
- Is it true?
- Can you absolutely know that it's true?
- How do you react, what happens, when you believe that thought?
- Who would you be without the thought?
The next step of The Work, the turnaround, is a way of experiencing the opposite of the believed thought. For example, the thought "My husband should listen to me," can be turned around to "I should listen to my husband," "I should listen to myself," and "My husband shouldn't listen to me."
Then one finds specific examples of how each turnaround might be true.
- Loving What Is: Four Questions That Can Change Your Life, with Stephen Mitchell, Harmony Books, 2002, ISBN 0-609-60874-6 (HC)
- I Need Your Love—Is That True? How to Stop Seeking Love, Appreciation, and Approval and Start Finding Them Instead, with Michael Katz, Harmony Books, 2005, ISBN 1-4000-5107-X (HC)
- A Thousand Names for Joy: Living in Harmony with the Way Things Are, with Stephen Mitchell, Harmony Books, 2007, ISBN 978-0-307-33923-2 (HC)
- Question Your Thinking, Change the World: Quotations from Byron Katie, edited by Stephen Mitchell, Hay House, 2007, ISBN 978-1-4019-1730-2 (PB)
- Who Would You Be Without Your Story?: Dialogues with Byron Katie, edited by Carol Williams, Hay House, 2008, ISBN 978-1-4019-2179-8 (PB)
- Tiger-Tiger, Is It True?, illustrated by Hans Wilhelm, Hay House, 2009, ISBN 978-1-4019-2560-4 (HC)
- Peace in the Present Moment, with Eckhart Tolle, Hampton Roads Pub Co Inc 2010, Newburyport, MA 2010, ISBN 978-1-57174-643-6
- The Four Questions: For Henny Penny and Anybody with Stressful Thoughts, by Byron Katie, Illustrated by Hans Wilhelm, TarcherPerigee 2016, ISBN 0399174249
- A Mind at Home with Itself: How Asking Four Questions Can Free Your Mind, Open Your Heart, and Turn Your World Around, by Byron Katie with Stephen Mitchell, HarperOne 2017, ISBN 0062651609
- "New Age: Four Questions to Inner Peace". time.com. 2000-12-11. Retrieved 2017-07-12.
- "How a Self-Help Guru Is Born". latimes.com. 2002-11-24. Retrieved 2017-04-25.
- Matousek, Mark (May–June 2006). "Quit Your Pain". realization.org.
- Flanagan, Caitlin. "Can These Four Questions Change Your Life?". OPRAH. Oprah. Retrieved 13 July 2017.
- Massad, Sunny (2001). An Interview with Byron Katie
- Katie, Byron; Mitchell, Stephen (2002). Loving What Is (first ed.). New York, New York: Three Rivers Press. p. xiii. ISBN 1-4000-4537-1. Retrieved 13 July 2017.
- Spencer, Stephan (3 August 2012). "Byron Katie Just Wants You to Be Happy" (Interview). Huffington Post. Retrieved 23 April 2014.