unconditional love


I'm not a big fan of self-help books. The few I've read have felt like bad mail-order medicine--tastes awful, costs too much, and never works the way it's supposed to. So I've resisted blogging for the past week or two because I've found my life substantially changed by a book that you can in fact buy in the self-help section of a bookstore. While I'm not concerned about the book's labels, I suspected that anything I wrote about it would be perceived negatively by my fairly intellectual audience.

But one of the things that's starting to change inside of me is my concern about what other people think. I'm discovering how much of an (often unconscious) motivation it has been for my actions, and how crippling that is. I can say without hesitation that as a result of this book, I'm a happier, more centered person today than I have ever been--and that despite some significant personal turmoil over the past few months.

The book is Loving What Is, by Byron Katie. It was recommended to me by my dear friend Linda Stone, someone whom I trust and respect, or I might never have looked at it. I started with the audio version--I have an Audible subscription, and here in Seattle I have a significant (at least an hour a day) commute. What did I have to lose by listening to it? It's not like the time would otherwise be spent doing something useful. But before I'd gotten halfway through the recording, I knew I wanted the book, as well. And before I was finished with the first book, I knew I wanted the second one, too.

How has it changed me? Slowly but surely it's helping let go of my unrealistic expectations of the people around me and my unrelenting need to control them, and it's forcing my attention back on myself and my thoughts. It's like a crash course in the first step of a twelve-step program. Actually, it's a crash course in all twelve steps, with a non-denominational spirituality that works well for my world view, and an astonishingly simple (but not necessarily easy) approach to dismantling your own thought process and then putting it back together in better working order.

And because I've changed my approach to my own thoughts, I'm finding that I'm less angry, less frustrated, less annoyed, less unhappy. And I'm more centered, lighter, and happier. I laugh more. I cry less. I don't yell and snap at the people around me. I don't fume silently because of other people's actions (or inactions).

How long will this last? I don't know. But it doesn't feel temporary. It's not like a diet, or an exercise program. I don't think I can stop thinking in this new way now that I've started. It feels so right, so unforced, so clear a path. It feels as though I'd have to work much harder to stop feeling this way than to continue. One of the things that I particularly like about Katie's approach is that it is so much in harmony with other spiritual ideas that have resonated with me--from the 12 steps of Al-Anon to the concepts of attachment and detachment in buddhism to the simple admonition that we should do unto others as we would have them do unto us.

I have no idea if this book will help anyone else around me, and I'm finally reaching the point where I realize it simply isn't my job to push other people onto a path (although, like Linda, I can see the value in at least pointing out that a path exists). I suspect that it's much like attending a 12-step program--if you try to do it before your mind is ready, it won't do you any good at all. But if you come to it when you're in a place like I was--frightened, angry, lost--perhaps it can help you, like me, find your way out of that, and into a place where you can love yourself, and the world around you, unconditionally.


I haven't read her first book, but I did read parts of her second book after I came across it in the new books section at the public library. Reading her book really helped me deal with some feelings I was having about people and situations in my first year of grad school.

Just seeing the title to this post brought me into a keener sense of presence, and I was breathing more deeply as I continued to read.

I have not read Byron Katie's book -- yet ... but just put it on my Amazon wish list. Your commentary on Loving What Is, and its impact on your life, reminded me of another author, Oriah Mountain Dreamer, and the introduction to her second book, The Dance (which I have read):

The Dance is the story of how we can live soulfully on a daily basis. It is the story of my discovery that the question is not “Why are we so infrequently the people we want to be?” but rather “Why do we so infrequently want to be the people we really are?” It is the story of discovering why our quest for self-improvement does not lead to happiness or better lives or a more peaceful, just world. It is the story of finding who we really are, becoming all we are and knowing it is enough. It is the story of our struggles with those things that make it hard to remember who and what we really are, the places where is easy to become afraid-in our culture, the places where we deal with sex and death and money and power.

I've always enjoyed your writing, and am grateful for the openness and vulnerability you have shown in sharing so many aspects of your life online, which has, in turn, given me more gumption in sharing aspects that I might have formerly hidden in the shadows on my blog ... an illustration of a concept I most often identify with Marianne Williamson, from the opening paragraph of her book Return to Love (another book which I have not read [yet]):

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It is not just in some of us; it is in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.

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This page contains a single entry by Liz Lawley published on September 4, 2005 8:52 PM.

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