“When we stop distracting ourselves, and courageously dive into the heart of any feeling, positive or negative, light or dark, right or wrong, we rediscover the vast ocean of who we are. For every feeling is made of unspeakable intelligence, and no feeling is a mistake. And we are vast enough to hold it all.” – Jeff Foster
She came on my radar sometime in the past two years and although I haven’t read any of her books (yet), I have casually engaged with the free materials available on her website. And I have been listening to her podcasts and watching videos.
Fundamentally, to paraphrase what I hear Katie saying over and over in different ways is: ‘Did you ever notice that it’s not the world that causes your suffering? It’s your thoughts about the world. And that distinction means the end of suffering.’
And to quote her directly: “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. That joy is in everyone, always.”
Katie’s approach when she sits and talks with people is to directly engage with where they are at, with their specific thoughts, feelings and beliefs. I imagine it’s much like it is said that the Buddha taught: in direct response to specific suffering. As she guides individuals through the simple steps of The Work, its beauty and wisdom are revealed in the application of that inquiry. And she invites anyone to try it. To look clearly at what is going on in your direct experience, and to consider alternative interpretations.
So, since there isn’t an overall doctrine (in fact The Work functions to question ALL beliefs), I have struggled a little with what would be most useful to re-blog here. But while listening to a podcasted interview today, my mind was blown when Katie explained how she uses her method of inquiry to explore the most essential question: ‘Who am I?’ So I thought, why not go right to the deep end, I’ll write and re-blog about what excites me!
What she explores (very briefly at 30:50 minutes) that got me excited is: ‘Am I my name?’ If you’re already familiar with teachings on the selflessness of persons and phenomena — what is called ’emptiness’ in Buddhist traditions — you might really enjoy this fresh and direct approach.
If you want to play along at home, and engage in a little inquiry into your true nature, here are the four questions of The Work for you to apply to that one fundamental belief: I am [insert your name].
1. Is it true?
2. Can I absolutely know that it is true?
3. How do I react — what happens — when I believe that thought?
4. Who would I be without the thought?
The best way of engaging here is to be still and ask your heart. Sometimes you might take time to sit in meditation with the questions, and you might also gently inquire throughout your day whenever you notice the thought comes up.
There are other steps to engage fully with the process, such as filling in the Judge-Your-Neighbour-Worksheet and Finding the Turnarounds. If your interest is piqued, I recommend exploring the podcasts and videos where Katie works directly with people. That way you get a taste for how The Work works and how to work it (couldn’t help myself there). And you might see your own suffering and gain wisdom from hearing other people question their beliefs.
Everything you need to Do The Work is available for free.
Over at her website, much-loved teacher and author, Tara Brach, has hundreds of dharma talks available to stream or download free! As she sweetly says at the beginning of each episode, they are “offered freely, and your support matters.” I subscribe to her podcast directly through iTunes and enjoy listening while driving, walking the dogs or working out.
In her most recent offering, Three Attitudes that Nourish a Liberating Practice, Tara shares her experience and insights from a recent retreat. She begins with the line of inquiry that lead to her developing the talk: ‘what way of paying attention really wakes us up out of the dream of being a separate self?’ And then, throughout the hour, she answers this question by sharing stories and guiding brief meditations. Spoiler alert: the three special attitudes to bring to your spiritual practice that will yield results (regardless of your particular practice or faith tradition) are 1) relaxation, 2) interest and 3) friendliness.
While I’m at it, if you haven’t read it, Tara Brach’s book, Radical Acceptance: Embracing Your Life with the Heart of a Buddha, is truly wonderful.
A healing guided meditation by Jack Kornfield to open your heart. Find a quiet place, 24 mins and enjoy:
“As you breathe in the heart area gently… let yourself remember and feel the sorrows you carry from betraying or harming others… from betraying or harming yourself… and from being betrayed and harmed by others.”
Allow the meditation to take your heart from the feeling of sorrow to the peace of forgiveness, and finally to the mind of lovingkindness, for your self, your friends, your enemies and all living beings.
I listen to a lot of spiritual teachings by podcast. For me, it’s a great way to pass time while driving long distances or working out at the gym.
While searching up talks by Adyashanti, I recently discovered and enjoyed a fantastic discussion of Adya’s book Emptiness Dancing, presented by Lisa Natoli. Lisa is author of Gorgeous for God, and teaches in the tradition of A Course in Miracles.
In this hour-long podcast, Lisa reads from Adya’s book and gives commentary and her perspective on awakening. It’s a beautiful thing to see the truth of Ramana Maharshi‘s teaching: ‘you already are that which you seek,’ revealed in the paths of different spiritual traditions.
It takes a few minutes for Lisa to settle in on the topic, as she casually chats with her dog and sorts out a few distractions in this recording, which she made on the fly while traveling in Australia. But her presentation is straight-up and authentic, and it’s worth waiting for her to hit her stride.
If you are on a computer you can listen here (link will not appear on your mobile device):
Or you can download the podcast for free from iTunes (it’s the first podcast in the list ‘Adyashanti/Lisa Natoli Audio’).
(audio stream embedded and available via Talk Shoe)