Amy Kellestine, Book Editor: I first stumbled upon The Work, conceived by Byron Katie, approximately six years ago. To say it has been life-altering would be a gross understatement. In her latest literary offering, A Mind at Home with Itself, she collaborates with her husband, the poet and translator Stephen Mitchell, who has published modern translations of works such as the Bhagavad Gita and Tao Te Ching. A Mind at Home with Itself brings a fresh perspective on her approach and philosophy by providing reflections and commentary in response to the ancient religious text, the Diamond Sutra.
This interview has been edited and condensed, while retaining Byron Katie’s valued insights.
Parvati Magazine: The book has a unique format, structured around the Diamond Sutra. How would you describe the Diamond Sutra to the uninitiated?
Byron Katie: My husband, Stephen Mitchell, says that it’s one of the great spiritual texts of the world. It was new to me when he suggested that we use it in this book. He read the entire sutra to me, in his translation, and I was astonished—filled with awe at the beauty and clarity of it. It’s all about selflessness and generosity.
There are four layers in A Mind at Home with Itself: the Diamond Sutra itself, chapter by chapter; my commentary and experience, which follows each chapter of the sutra; a Q & A for each chapter; and five dialogues interspersed, in which I facilitate The Work with people on various topics.
PMAG: So Stephen was part of the inspiration to align The Work with the sutra?
BK: I kept telling him that the sutra was so clear and brilliant that I really had nothing to add. But he kept insisting that words from me would be helpful for a lot of people. He said that my experience could illuminate these great truths. I love Stephen and I respect his opinion, so of course I was willing, and that’s how the book got written.
PMAG: What do you most hope long-time fans and practitioners of The Work will get out of A Mind at Home with Itself?
BK: I don’t relate to hope, because hope is the story of a future. But if I did have a hope, it would be that people find that the book helps clarify their minds and deepen their questioning. Suffering is optional once we understand how to question our mind.
PMAG: It’s been 15 years since Loving What Is was published. What keeps you busy when you aren’t writing?
BK: What you call “writing” to me means simply answering Stephen’s questions. I give him time as I am able to. But I have a company to take care of, meetings with my staff, hundreds of emails to answer, public events, the nine-day School for The Work several times a year, the No-Body Intensive, a silent retreat called “Being With Byron Katie,” the 28-day live-in program called Turnaround House, and my three amazing children and five grandchildren. Often there’s not much time for books.
PMAG: You must have heard many inspiring stories from readers who have implemented The Work successfully. Is there a favourite or most memorable story that comes to mind?
BK: I have received many hundreds—thousands—of these stories, filled with gratitude for The Work, from people all over the world. One that comes to mind now is from a man who read Loving What Is from cover to cover one weekend—hardly stopping to eat, he said. On Sunday he began to feel that his wife and children were being suspiciously considerate to him, as if it were his birthday. Finally he asked his wife, “What’s going on here? What are you planning? Why are you all being so nice to me?” His wife stared at him, he said, and started laughing. “We’re not doing anything different,” she said. “You’re the one who has changed; you’re the one who’s acting kinder!”
Byron Katie is the originator of a powerful process called The Work. Consisting of four questions and the turnarounds, The Work is a way of experiencing the opposite of what you believe and finding the perspective beyond suffering. Katie has been bringing The Work to millions for over thirty years. Her books include the bestselling Loving What Is, I Need Your Love—Is That True?, A Thousand Names for Joy, and A Mind at Home with Itself. For more information, visit thework.com.