Loving What Is – Summary

This is my summary/interpretation of the book Loving What Is: Four Questions That Can Change Your Life by Byron Katie.

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

Thoughts are forever flowing through our head. For the most part, thoughts themselves aren’t even true, they’re just a haphazard selection of ideas flying by our attention. Some of these thoughts cause us to feel bad — and we need to understand that there’s a cause-and-effect going on: negative thoughts cause us to feel bad. It’s not the external circumstance that causes the problem, it’s the negative thought about that circumstance that causes the problem — that’s it. When we imagine ourself in the same situation but without the thought, the situation always seems better.

In addition: it turns out that we are to blame for all our problems. Everything we think others should do, WE should do instead.

Whenever we believe that thoughts represent truth, we’ll suffer with stress. Like breathing, thinking happens automatically — and like the air we breathe, thoughts flow in and out. There’s no problems until we attempt to hold one in or keep one out — just let the thoughts flow unimpeded.

Everything that happens SHOULD happen. Don’t attempt to argue against something that already happened — it’s a recipe for pain.

We must mind our own business and stay out of everyone else’s business (including reality’s business). Attempting to control the world and everyone in it is a recipe for stress.

Unpleasant feelings are an indication that we are believing a negative thought. When we use unpleasantness as a means to find these thoughts, we can perceive their falseness and their ability to cause pain.

All the answers we need are within us. Essentially, when left alone, life takes care of itself. Any problems we experience are due to a belief in false thoughts. Stop believing in these pain-producing thoughts and life readily works itself out.

The external world we experience is a direct reflection of our thinking. We project our thoughts and stories onto the screen in front of us. It’s a bad idea to run over to the screen to try and change what’s on it. The better approach is to change what’s being projected in the first place. In other words, if there’s dirt on the lens, clean the dirt off the lens, not from the screen it’s projected on. Likewise, our problems originate inside, in our thoughts — not on the outside.

It turns out that every external problem we think we’re having, serves as a map to the actual problem in our thoughts. In this way, we can eradicate the source of every perceived problem we have.

Step one: if we’re feeling stress, trace it to the offending thought and write that thought down (this freezes the thought and allows it to be examined). Every stressful thought basically boils down to: “this shouldn’t be happening”.

For the first two questions, the answers should be “yes” or “no” — that’s it.

Example thought: My mom doesn’t understand me.

Is it true? Yes. Oftentimes her responses indicate a lack of understanding.
Can you absolutely know that it’s true? Hmm, I suppose I don’t know what’s actually going on in her head. No.
How do you react when you believe that thought? I feel misunderstood and separate. I then proceed to treat her like she’s a dummy. Overall it makes me feel bad.
Who would you be without the thought? I’d be more content in general and I’d be more satisfied with my interactions with her.

Turn the thought around:
Turnaround to self: I don’t understand myself.
Example: Sometimes I don’t even know what I’m trying to say. Why should I expect her to understand everything I’m saying?
Turnaround to other: I don’t understand her.
Example: It’s true, I’m not always sure what point she’s trying to make. And maybe she did understand me, but I couldn’t understand how her response was appropriate.
Turnaround to the opposite: My mom does understand me.
Example: Overall we do seem to communicate effectively, maybe I’m just nitpicking the little things.

The turnarounds are the medicine we seek. By pointing the outwardly-projecting thought back at ourself, we realize the true source of the problem. And when we know the source, we experience relief.

Whoever’s around us will expose our weaknesses, and in that way we’re taught to improve. And every “he/she/they should”, is really “I should”. We will blame others for our suffering and paint them as scapegoats — but the true source is always the confusion found in believing our own thoughts. Everything others say we are, we are — never defend, just see the truth in what they say. Whenever we feel defensive, we know we’re hearing the truth.

We are sad because we tell ourself sad stories. When we change the story we tell, we change our experience of existence. And there’s never anything to forgive, simply because we cause our own problems. Never wait for a particular condition to be true in order to be happy, “skip the middleman and be happy now.” Despite any tumult that surrounds, remain calm and unconfused, then we become an example for our surroundings to follow. “With the thought, there’s stress, and without the thought, there’s peace.”

The experience of existence is as gentle and pleasant as the stories we tell about it. If we don’t want stress, don’t argue with what’s happening. In this moment, everything is as it should be. Nothing needs to change, it’s not our business anyway.

Stressful feelings and suffering are the result of believing that a thought represents reality. Whereas if we don’t believe thoughts, the effect is a peaceful life. Life is paradise when we no longer default to trusting thoughts.

Whenever we feel wronged or insulted, how many times do we replay the scene in our heads? WE are the abuser that torments ourself with repeated showings of the incident. We are more unkind to ourself than anyone has ever been.

“I am willing to…” turnaround: I am willing to have my mom not understand me.
“I look forward to…” turnaround: I look forward to my mom not understanding me.

With these types of turnarounds, we embrace what-is. We no longer have to deny certain circumstances or assign them the label of “things to avoid”. We can be fine with whatever happens. Inner-peace is attainable right now.

What is within our power to change? Our thinking. So that is what we should change. If we want to clean up the world, we must start with our thoughts. We have everything we need right now. We have the right amount of money and financial security for the moment we’re in.

When we realize a problem is our own darn fault, we laugh — suddenly we’re no longer a victim and we have the power to fix things. We go from loser to winner. Whereas when we blame others, and think our suffering is their fault, we’re forever a victim and constantly stressed-out. We often abuse ourself through others.

Try this instead:
Step 1: Notice an unpleasant feeling.
Step 2: Write down the associated thought.
Step 3: Ask the four questions.
Step 4: Turn the thought around.
Step 5: Feel much better.

Love is the only motivation we need — not anger or fear or frustration or guilt.

Self-judgement example thought: “I’m a failure.”
Is it true? Yes.
Can you absolutely know that it’s true? Hmm, maybe I’m doing exactly what I should be doing. So, no.
How do you react when you believe that thought? I feel like a loser. I feel bad.
Who would you be without the thought? I’d be more confident and I’d feel better.

Turn the thought around:
Turnaround to the opposite: I’m not a failure. I’m a success.
Example: I do what I do — I’m successful at being me.

Using “My thinking” instead of “I”:
The statement becomes: My thinking is a failure.
And it’s true, my thinking makes me feel bad.

Decisions are already made. When the thought to do something appears, do it. That part of our story begins with the thought, and ends when the activity is completed. In this way the story of our life unfolds before us. The internal debate about doing something is the problem. Instead of doing, we worry. Don’t worry, just do.

For the best circumstances, the mind must be clear. If the mind is turbulent, the world will appear so too. It’s useless to work on the image that’s projected, we need to work on the projector itself. And when the mind is clear, our impulses will show us where to go and what to do — that’s a happy life. Whereas if the thoughts are stressful, then it’s time to ask the questions and turn the thoughts around.

Unpleasant feelings are simply an indication that we’re confused. Ask the questions and turn the thoughts around to become unconfused. The world should be a source of joy and comfort — until it is, keep asking and turning.

Substitute “my thinking” for the perceived problem:
Example thought: “I don’t like violence because it makes me feel bad.”
In the turnarounds this becomes: “I don’t like my thinking because it makes me feel bad.”
or: “I don’t like my thinking about violence because it makes me feel bad.”

Our bodies maintain balance and are self-healing, they’re more than capable of running themselves. What gets in the way is our stories about our body. “My body is sick! My body is in pain!” Confused thoughts are the problem, never the body itself. Let the body take care of itself, we’re not capable of controlling the circumstances surrounding its smooth operation. The only thing we can contribute to a healthy body is our healthy thinking — focus on that. The body is a reflection of the mind: a sick mind leads to a sick body — heal the mind, heal the body.

Ultimately we can’t know anything. Therefore, the best course of action is to accept life exactly as it is in every moment. Develop a positive perspective and proceed from there based on the inspiration we’re provided. And the way in which we develop a positive perspective, is to blame our problems on our confused thinking — NEVER blame the world or life itself or our body or our choices or other people — our problems begin and end with our confused thoughts. Fix the confusion, and the problems disappear. In other words, stop trying to wipe the screen at the other end of the room, clean the lens of the projector instead.

The world is attempting to help us perceive our confused thinking. Nothing out-there is ever as bad as the internal hell we create with our incessant maschochistic thoughts. We imagine the worst and repeatedly live those thoughts everyday. We craft a horror-story and fantasize that we’re in it with no way out. We perceive injury and insult and replay it within our minds over and over again for years. We assign roles to people, making them the villains of our life. Yet WE are the villain tormenting ourself in a prison of our own design. We are the villain tormenting others, treating them as if THEY’RE the bad guys.

Without the horror-story, life becomes a joy to experience. Investigate the horror-story by using the four-questions and the turnarounds in order to discover its untruth. The pain we experience right now is self-inflected — it’s based on a story we tell ourself. We must stop being so unkind to ourself. Explore the depths of these horror-stories and let the light in. Start with whatever is causing stress right now.

Thoughts just appear. Pain comes from blindly believing them. Undo this attachment to the untrue thoughts, then feel relief. The path to a peaceful life begins and ends within — no other input or participation of others is necessary. The world we experience WILL reflect our own internal mental state — a joy-filled mind leads to joyful circumstances. When we finally understand that this is a benevolent world, our questioning will be over.

Remember: our judgements about others become a prescription for ourself. Any advice we give out, is actually for ourself. We are our own student.

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Swiping Thoughts

I’m a loser. There’s just no doubt about it. I’m short, I have bad teeth and terrible social skills, I’m rude and self-centered, pompous and patronizing, I have no career, I have to ask my mom for money, I’ve got nothing going for me, I’m just existing because it’s easier than not existing. I’m such a weak character, it’s so embarrassing to be me. If I compete at something, there’s a better than average chance I’ll lose — I’m clearly a failure.

The above paragraph represents a thought. What do I notice while having the thought? I notice that I feel pretty bad. Based on my reaction, I can tell it’s a negative thought. Negative thoughts MUST be managed. Thoughts are not real, they’re mere mental-suggestions. It’s like a buddy throwing out ideas: “we could split a pizza, we could eat our own feces, we could order some chinese-food, we could insult ourself until we cry, we could go to the movies…”

But this buddy has no filter and is kinda psycho. You have to think of him more like a five-year old just spitballing ideas. He’s not leadership material. His suggestions should never be taken without proper evaluation. Whereas if you take what he says with a grain-of-salt, then he’s kinda fun in a wacky way. Again, the way in which to evaluate his ideas is by noticing how they make you feel. If it feels bad, it is bad — don’t accept the suggestion.

If he’s persistent, then you be persistent. Don’t entertain that nonsense. Whenever you hear “You’re a loser, you suck!”, don’t take the bait, don’t play that game. It’s a trick to engage your attention, a way to thrill you through the feeling of pain. There’s other ways to alleviate boredom, just keep rejecting the unpleasant suggestions until a more pleasant option pops up. The great thing about thoughts is that there’s millions more in the pipeline, you’ll never run out, just keep swiping for the next one.

Global Alterations

In self-improvement circles, there’s a topic that’s often skirted-around, so I want to make this point crystal-clear.

When delving into self-improvement, you’ll naturally think that only YOUR life gets better while the nastiness around you remains the same. That’s not true. As you proceed down the self-improvement path, the nature of the reality you’re experiencing transforms. When you improve, the situations and circumstances of the world improve. When YOU get better, everything gets better.

“WHAT!!?? That’s ridiculous!!” Now you realize why people don’t usually talk about this topic directly. As someone that just stepped on the self-improvement path, you can’t readily fathom such a concept — it doesn’t make sense. You simply wanted to gain a little clarity over your life or lessen your anxiety — and now all of a sudden the world as you know it is going to change as well!?? Yes, that is exactly what I’m saying.

And I’m not simply talking perception-wise, I’m saying the construction of the world will be reformed. If you’re dedicated, you’ll see a dank-and-dark realm-of-misery transform into a sunshine-filled amusement-park. This might make more sense if you think of existence as a dream. When dreaming, the scenes tend to take the form of whatever mood you’re in. If you’re anxious, you’ll have worrisome dreams for example.

So when your outlook improves, your dream improves. You’ll be tuned into a whole new station of Earth-TV. It’s another plane of existence in which great things happen. If you’ve ever wondered why some people are having an awesome time despite all the nastiness you see, this is why. That nastiness doesn’t exist for them, it resides on an entirely different frequency. They could tune-in if they wanted, but that’d be dumb obviously.

That nastiness can’t be “fixed” by the way. It exists as it is for those that want to experience it. For a time, you wanted to experience it, but now you’re moving beyond that junk-food-level of existence — you’re done with using fear and frustration and pain as a source of amusement. You’re done with masochism. Now you’re on the self-improvement path. Sure it takes some discipline to get there and maintain it, but it’s worth it.

At first, the self-improvement path won’t seem worth it. From your current perspective, it’ll look like you have to climb to the top of a garbage pile. “So what! It probably smells worse at the top!” But no, that pile of garbage will transform as you climb it — it will become the hill of your dreams i.e. grassy fields filled with daisies underneath blue-skies dotted with puffy white clouds (or whatever). Note: if the world doesn’t transform before your very eyes, then you’re not applying enough discipline.

New Book

It’s been a couple weeks since I paused this blog to write a new book. It ended up being super-short, but perhaps it’s a work-in-progress at this point (I do appreciate brevity though). And since it’s so short, I’ll just keep it as a dedicated page on this blog for now: Virtual Enlightenment.

It’s a non-fiction simulation-based self-help book. It explains how the adoption of “simulation theory” can actually lead to a more enjoyable existence. It’s a concept that helped me tremendously, so I figured I’d write it in a book. Of course this blog says the same things but the book is a more succinct format.

Goin OM

Buddy: Hey bro wanna hang out?
You: Sure, but first I have to meditate.
Buddy: Huh!? Haha! Do you float off the floor too!
You: Nah, I just sit there and breathe.
Buddy: Lol! I didn’t know you were a guru now!
You: Nope, just a meditator.
Buddy: Ha, okay, you do you! Catch ya later!
You: Well, we can chill after I’m done.
Buddy: I’m headin out, see YA!

How many times has this happened to you? You mention to your pals that you meditate, and they just don’t get it? Well now there’s a new phrase to keep you in the cool, it’s called: Goin OM! (just say “home”, but without the “h”).

When you tell your friends that you’re “Goin OM”, they’ll know you’re ridin the next trending tidal wave. Heck, they’re gonna wanna Go-Om too! By steering away from elitist-sounding spiritual jargon, you can use a hip new way of sayin something people have been doin for centuries, if not millennia (that’s a really long time!).

What exactly IS “Goin OM”? Why it’s just a slick way of sayin you’re takin a small bit of time to still the mind — just sittin silently for twenty minutes taming your thoughts all while repeating the sacred sound of the universe: OM.

So the next time you have to tell a buddy that it’s time to meditate, just say: I’ll see ya in a few, but first I’m goin OM!

You can even hashtag it!! — #GoOm #goinOM

Wandering Wrongly

Dear Rich, I’m a bit unhappy with life, what’s up with that?

Well dear reader, from my experience it typically means that at some point, you developed a fundamental misunderstanding of life. Fortunately, information that can correct this exists — unfortunately, because of your misunderstanding, you wouldn’t recognize it by simply stumbling across it — it’d just seem like nonsense.

The typical pattern then proceeds as follows: at some point along the way, you’ll become so unhappy with life that you’ll eventually reject and abandon every idea you ever believed in. With this blank slate, you’ll be ready to receive new information — and the only ideas left, will be the ones that more-accurately explain the fundamentals of life.

In other words, because of your misunderstanding, you’ll keep going in every wrong direction until eventually, only the correct direction remains. That makes it sound like you’re a moron, but that’s not true — you’re simply an ignorant noob that has no idea what you’re doing.

Is there a way to shortcut this wandering? I’d say, why bother. You have to do something while you’re here on Earth, right? So the search for understanding is as fun a path as any, and certainly as meaningful — don’t you think? And let’s say you did shortcut it, then what? What do you think people that understand the fundamental nature of life do?

Even if you became the most enlightened person possible, you still gotta keep busy. If you examine the people that look like they’re having a great time, they’re doing normal everyday stuff — the only difference is that they appreciate it, and through that appreciation they thoroughly enjoy it.

I mean yeah, there’s some things you could do to make things easier on yourself now, for sure. But that takes trust and dedication — and I’m just not sure you’re ready. What do you think?

Fear Dismantling 101 – Day 7

Let’s sum up so far. On day one you discovered that the only thing standing between you and the enjoyment-of-life is fear. On day two, you named Fear as an enemy that must be denied and defeated. On day three, you realized all that fear you’ve been feeding yourself results in a scary interpretation of your everyday life. On day four, you learned how detrimental the idea of random-chance is to your well-being. On day five, you learned to fight fear with fear by scaring yourself into better behavior. And on day six, you stopped thinking of yourself as afraid — you have preferences instead.

What we are developing here is a stable platform of beliefs amidst a turbulent ocean of thoughts. Fear may be a feeling but its foundation is rooted in untamed thoughts. Scary thoughts are just the meaningless musings of your mind — the problem starts when you invite those unpleasant thoughts in to stay awhile.

Your responsibility is like that of a gardener. What kind of seeds will do well in your soil? In other words, what interests you — what delights you? Plant those seeds. Uh-oh, with exposed soil comes weeds. Better plant those seeds fast. Get something in the ground already!! Just select something you like and focus on it. You can switch things up later if the results are unsatisfactory.

Okay, your sprouts are still small, so weeds remain an issue. Weeds are the thoughts that don’t belong in your garden, they’re nuisance plants that take resources from the plants you prefer. Pluck them, dismantle them, then tend to the sprouts and thoughts you care about. Why would you ever water weeds and let them grow in your garden? Keep those unpleasant thoughts outta there!

Within a well-pruned mind, fear cannot run rampant. And here’s a little exercise you can do to make the pruning process easier. Start by breathing — which hopefully you’re doing already… in… out…. Keep breathing… in… out…. Now, as you exhale, mentally say the word “om” (I usually pronounce it like “home” but without the “h”). Why silently say a word? Just to help you maintain focus — because eventually you’ll notice that you’re not saying the word anymore. When that happens, simply start saying it again.

It’s a little game you’re playing: Maintain the Om. One part of your mind will want to wander everywhere else but Om. But another part of your mind is trying to keep Om at the forefront. Eventually you’ll get better. And if you do this for twenty minutes everyday, you’ll get some good practice ignoring your thoughts and focusing your mind.