Episode 14: Byron Katie and Stephen Mitchell -A Thousand Names for Joy: Living in Harmony with the Way Things Are - Part 2

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A unique intimate dialogue with Katie and Stephen about how they met, how they came to collaborate and marry, and the back-story of the evolution of this highly-praised new book, extending the power of The Work, as Katie gives her contemporary reflections on the timeless Tao Te Ching in its best-selling and most widely appreciated English translation by Stephen. More details on this episode go to http://personallifemedia.com/podcasts/living-dialogues/episode014-byron-katie-stephen-mitchell-a-thousand-names-for-joy-part2.html

Transcript

Byron Katie and Stephen Mitchell -A Thousand Names for Joy: Living in Harmony with the Way Things Are – Part 2

Announcer:  This program is brought to you by personallifemedia.com.

[Music]

Stephen Mitchell:  I'm Stephen Mitchell.  I am the co-author of “A Thousand Names For Joy” by Byron Katie and of many other books.  I would like to express my appreciation to Duncan Campbell for his program “Living Dialogues”.

He is a wonderful interviewer.  Every time I am on I have great fun and he draws out fascinating things that I didn't even know I had in me to say. I appreciate him and I appreciate what he makes available to a wide audience.

Byron Katie:  So this is Byron Katie, the author of “A Thousand Names for Joy” and “I Need Your Love – Is That True?” and “Loving What Is”.  I appreciate Duncan Campbell and “Living Dialogues” as it reaches so many people and is so consistent helping people reach an understanding that they already have.  He is the one that connects people to that and I am so grateful.

[Music]

Duncan Campbell:  From time immemorial, beginning with indigenous councils and ancient wisdom traditions, through the work of Western visionaries such as Plato, Galileo and quantum physicist David Boehm, mutually participatory dialogue has been seen as the key to evolving and transforming consciousness, evoking a flow of meaning, a ‘dia’ – flow – of ‘logos’ – meaning, beyond what any one individual can bring through alone.

So join us now as together with you, the active deep listener we evoke and engage in living dialogues.

[Music]

Duncan Campbell:  Welcome once again to “Living Dialogues”.  I'm your host Duncan Campbell.  And again I am delighted to have as my guests Byron Katie and Stephen Mitchell to continue our conversation about their co-authored book “A Thousand Names For Joy”, which consists of Byron Katie’s commentaries on various passages of the “Tao Te Ching” translated by her husband Stephen Mitchell and published more than a quarter of a century ago.

Byron Katie is known to literally hundreds and hundreds of thousands of people all over the world for what she calls “The Work”, a method of self-realization and self-awareness that she developed based on her own experience of awakening over 20 years ago.

Stephen Mitchell is also known worldwide for his translations of many of the great spiritual texts of the world including “The Bhagavad Gita”, the “Tao Te Ching”, “The Book of Genesis”, “The Book of Job”, “Gilgamesh” and numerous others.

More about Byron Katie and Stephen Mitchell can be found on www.thework.com and also Stephen Mitchell's website www.stephenmitchellbooks.com.

So, in this particular part two of our ongoing conversation with Byron Katie and Stephen Mitchell we are going to begin by recapping a bit of what we said in the last dialogue concerning the nature of love.  And we will continue from there.

Katie begins by recapitulating why it only makes sense to really love everyone.  In the most profound way, this is not simply wishful thinking or being a good person.  It is actually being who we really are.

Byron Katie:  I invite everyone to love everyone because until we do, we are just not comfortable.  And the opposite of love is what we are opposing in that person we could say.  And it's only something in ourselves.  So when we wake up to that it doesn't leave anyone to not like especially when it is a strong dislike.

Duncan Campbell:  And the title of your first book together “Loving What Is”.  And often we hear the mystical so-called statement ‘love is the nature of consciousness is love’.  When one experiences that and has that unity consciousness, you know, people often describe it as love but not in the sense of an effort or a territoriality or a need or any of the things that we might conventionally put the label on.

Stephen Mitchell:  You know, one of the things that I personally love so much about “A Thousand Names for Joy” is that it unpacks the phrase ‘loving what is’ and gives specific stories in Katie's life that might seem impossible for a human being to be experiencing, like hearing that you have cancer and loving that.  Or having your house emptied out by burglars or standing in front of a man who has a revolver pushed into your belly.

And the stories give readers - I have heard many early readers with this impression - a vivid portrait of what it is to actually love what is, whatever it is.  Whether it is what people might normally experience as disaster, something like watching the attack on the World Trade Center or being with your mother who is dying of pancreatic cancer or hearing that you, yourself have cancer - any of these experiences.

And this book is full of vivid stories like that about how it feels to go through any experience with lightheartedness and open heartedness and a mind that doesn't dwell anywhere as the Diamond Sutra says is the essence of Dharma.  So it fleshes out, it unpacks that phrase ‘loving what is’ in a most wonderful and helpful way in my experience.

Byron Katie:  That’s the part I like when I hear Stephen say helpful, in a most helpful way.  That's my interest.

Duncan Campbell:  And it arises naturally because like in all the great texts we go back to the “Bhagavad Gita”, one of the great texts that Stephen has also translated and brought through in I think a very essential, core essence way, it is sava. It is the karma yoga.  It is being of service to others that eventually is the only action that makes sense to the non-existent self, to the self that is simply there.  And it's what you do.

Byron Katie:  Yes.  It's only adding to yourself.  Every time you give or contribute, it is adding to yourself.  And a questioned mind, you know it's like it is not possible to live out of the motive, not even the motive of peace or love or any of it.  It is just awake to its own nature.  And one term for that is love.

But, you know the mind, the love affair mind to itself, you know, mind ending the war with itself; the mind that loves everything it thinks; the mind that has ceased to not understand itself.  You know, projection still happens.  It's just that when you love everything you think you love everything you see.  It's not a choice.  It ceases to be a choice.  You know, it's over.

Then the mind, because it is no longer stuck in what it believes is free to be the power that it is, you know, creation just infinite.  Total power.

Duncan Campbell:  Another one of the great paradoxes that oftentimes strikes people as a real conundrum, which is not my will but thine be done.  And people think of that, “Well does that mean I have to surrender to some institutional church or to a priest or to the pope or to somebody else's idea of reality?” 

But from the perspective of experience that you're describing, the freedom paradoxically is in the choicelessness.

Byron Katie:  Yes.

Duncan Campbell:  That you just simply manifest what needs to be manifested.

Byron Katie:  Yes.

Duncan Campbell:  And you don't have to choose anymore because if you are openhearted, the answer, as you say when you're doing ‘The Work’ and your interaction in the dialogue, comes to you being open to the person.  And to the person it may strike them as really a huge insight that maybe resided in you or you gave to them.

Byron Katie:  Yes.

Duncan Campbell:  But then they gradually understand that their participation and being open and vulnerable and expressing their confusion and their desires is actually what is being mirrored back to them.  And it becomes self-clarifying.

And you of course call that to their attention and say, “It’s not me honey.  It's you that is having this clarity.”

Byron Katie:  Yeah.  It's like where did that answer come from?  You know?  It was yours.  What you have just experienced came out of you.  And thank you for my part and we are partners in this and in fact even closer than that.  One mind.  One mind.

Duncan Campbell:  Having a dialogue with itself.

Byron Katie:  Yes.

Duncan Campbell:  Exactly.

Byron Katie:  Yes.

Duncan Campbell:  And that is so hard opening.  I know from doing the work myself, if I described it to you earlier the experience I had out there in Barstow with you and those other people that were with us, maybe 15 or 20 in those days when I came for that three or four day visit and how powerful it was for that setting and your work and the people there who co-created it with me and with you.

Byron Katie:  Yes.

Duncan Campbell:  It was so transformative for me.  And I had that experience in that moment and it has never left me.

Byron Katie:  Yes.

Duncan Campbell:  I mean, it's like a wakened imprint that then opens so many other channels in your life.

Byron Katie:  Yes.

Duncan Campbell:  I go back to Stephen’s comment that it was interesting that before he would commit himself, having trained for many years in meditation and immersed himself in these great spiritual texts so profoundly that he could bring forth the pure stream of the meaning without sullying it with his own personalistic interpretation.  That was the last thing he wanted to make sure was that were you one of the people of whom we have seen sadly a number, who when they bring forth their gift and then are projected upon by the people hungry for nurturing, get overwhelmed and fall prey to either a money problem or a sex problem or a power problem.

And it is extraordinarily difficult to hold that space if there is any spot on the mirror because the projections of the people will go right to that spot.  And it will either be cleansed or it will become very problematic.  And so when Stephen said, you know for someone to work with you in the way he does they have to be themselves without jealousy because there are so many people that are giving you their attention, their support, their –

Byron Katie:  Their lives.

Duncan Campbell:  Their love.  Their life.

Byron Katie:  Their lives.  You know, when a person gives me their deepest, darkest belief, they tell me what they believe, they are giving me themselves, their identity, their whole lives.  And we begin to disassemble that as I ask the questions and they answer them and there is nothing more intimate than that.

Duncan Campbell:  So, one of the things that I would like to ask is in a relationship as you began working on the translation and the putting together of the book, the translation of the work we might say into the engaging narrative of “Loving What Is”, when did it occur that the two of you decided to get married?

Byron Katie:  Well, you know Stephen is very clear and I don't see how something like that could ever occur to me.  I am already married.  You know, I am married.  My mind, you know again, this is complete.  You know, nothing can add or subtract from this.

But Stephen is a remarkable man.  He said, you know, “Will you marry me?”  And I just became very still.  And for weeks, maybe a year I don't know, I think Stephen could probably tell you or longer –

Stephen Mitchell:  Some people could have a problem with that.

Byron Katie:  I was waiting to see why not.  And my mind couldn't give me a reason why not.  And I'm probably, it's like I love that it was Stephen because I'm - just living with Stephen is an amazing experience.  He was just very clear.  “Let's get married.”  And then –

Duncan Campbell:  And Stephen, what prompted that on your own part?

Stephen Mitchell:  It felt like we were married already, so –

Byron Katie:  Ah.

Stephen Mitchell:  I wanted the outside to match the inside.

Byron Katie:  And that was correct.

Stephen Mitchell:  And Katie was looking for a reason why not.  And she called her children and she called her mother.

Byron Katie:  I called Paul.

Duncan Campbell:  Paul, your ex-husband?

Byron Katie:  Uh huh.  My friends.

Stephen Mitchell:  And nobody could find a reason.  And then one day we were in New York and I said, “Let’s go over to Tiffany's.”  We found a very simple ring and it just unfolded like that.

There is a very funny passage in the book about Katie not knowing even the moment before that there was a wedding going to happen and it did.  I was amazed that she still has her wedding ring after six years because she tends to give away even very expensive presents when somebody likes it.  And she actually tried to give away the wedding ring to a mutual friend –

Duncan Campbell:  Exactly.

Stephen Mitchell:  - of ours.  And he gave it right back.

Duncan Campbell:  Yes, I remember that story.  Yes.

Stephen Mitchell:  It just –

Byron Katie:  He gave it back the next day I think.

Stephen Mitchell:  It just happened with its own intelligence.

Duncan Campbell:  Well it seems it is very interesting to me.  I am intrigued because you know we have the convention in society, which I think is true across many cultures, not all but many that we are aware of where it is the man who does the proposing and the woman who does the accepting and may withhold her judgment.  She may wait until the time is right or whatnot.  What do you think - either one of you that may have to do with the nature of masculine and feminine and that wonderful interaction?

Byron Katie:  Well you know, we did wait until the time was right and it was very surprising.  I knew Stephen would know.  And that's how it worked out.

Duncan Campbell:  I think of a poem of Rumi’s.  At one point he was talking about the masculine.  I think he was putting the Shiva Shakti thing in its traditional way on its head, manifesting and the feminine says, “Yes” to the manifestation.

Byron Katie:  Hmm, yeah.

Duncan Campbell:  That’s one way of thinking about it.  So I went to propose to my own wife and I had the thought and I put my arms around her.  She was at the kitchen sink and she turned around before I could even open my mouth and she said, “Yes!”  It was remarkable.

Byron Katie:  Yeah, that's beautiful.

Duncan Campbell:  Yeah, very beautiful.

Byron Katie:  You know, something that I have never even told you honey that just came to me is Stephen has such discernment.  He is amazing that way.  And people put terms on me like enlightened and terms that I have never understood and don't have an interest in.

It's like if I am, how would I know?  It's not possible and living with Stephen, if there were something that would surface, he would feel it, smell it, taste it, be on top of it and give it to me.  It is like living with a clearest, clearest, most wonderful awareness as a husband.

Stephen Mitchell:  I have a pretty well developed bullshit detector.

Byron Katie:  And I can laugh.  I can joke.  I can say anything and it doesn't matter what I say, there is a - I don't know, it's a wonderful thing to be married to such a mirror.  And I think we all are.

Duncan Campbell:  And I think that is the nature of our relationship.  I recall a spiritual teacher I had who said, “If you want to accelerate your own awakeness, get married.”

Byron Katie:  Yeah, get married.

Duncan Campbell:  And he always talked about marriage as a meeting of these two spiritual friends and we are witnessing and supporting this saying “Yes” to each other, the spiritual friendship where each will support each other.

Is it Rilke, Stephen I think it is, who talked about the nature of the depth of the sacred marriage is supporting each other's sacred solitude.

Stephen Mitchell:  In “Letters To A Young Poet”.

Duncan Campbell:  Yeah.

Stephen Mitchell:  He has a wonderful passage about that.

Duncan Campbell:  Yeah.  And so the solitude of the ‘it-ness’ rather than the ‘me-ness’ and respecting that and supporting that rather than trying to, as we see in so many of your dialogues with couples that - or one member of the couple who has agonized.  Because I recall one young man named Bruce in your book was agonizing because his woman has left him.

Byron Katie:  Oh, in “I Need Your Love”?

Duncan Campbell:  Yes.

Stephen Mitchell:  No, no it's in the new book.

Duncan Campbell:  Oh, in the new book.

Byron Katie:  Oh.

Duncan Campbell:  Bruce and Sheila is it?  I forget.

Stephen Mitchell:  But anyway, he has the very firm conviction that she abandoned him.

Duncan Campbell:  Exactly.  He knows that that happened as a fact.  And then you start over the questions, “Can you absolutely know this is true?”  He says, “Absolutely, it happened.”

And then you embark on this long, wonderful dialogue with him and in the end he begins to have that wonderful sense of humor about himself and the audience is laughing and he is laughing and he is reading what he wrote.  And he said, “It seems so absurd now that I would say this, you know.”

Byron Katie:  Yeah, so he was awake.

Duncan Campbell:  Yes.

Byron Katie:  To that.

Stephen Mitchell:  I love the dialogues in the book too because you can see the moment when somebody is going through that internal process and saying, “Oh my God, could this not be true, this thing that is my religion, that I would have died for, the belief that she abandoned me?  Could it possibly not be true?”

And then Katie guides him into the cause and effect of believing that and it is just wonderful having a front row seat in somebody's inner life.

Duncan Campbell:  Mmmhmm, and beautifully done because so vulnerable with these sanga, the audiences there.  And instead of feeling shamed or exposed, the person held in that space feels liberated and he laughs right along with the audience and there is a sense of great community.  That is what happened to me actually.

What happened to me when I was doing The Work out there with you in Barstow was the sense of tremendous vulnerability.  But it was so powerful there was no embarrassment to it.

Byron Katie:  Yes.

Duncan Campbell:  And it flowed right into the liberation.  That is a remarkable thing about The Work.  People may hold back thinking, “Gee, do I want to get up there in front of all these people?”  But actually when one does it –

Byron Katie:  It’s quite different.  Yes.

Duncan Campbell:  It’s quite different.  Exactly.  Yes, so one of the things I think that we might talk about here Stephen is, in going back and forth between the “Tao Te Ching” and your appreciation and understanding of Lao Tzu, what do you see?  Is this in a sense a kind of updating and amplification of it?  Is it the same in its essence?  How do you see the interaction between the two books?

For full transcript, please contact Duncan Campbell