Doing The Work, part 1

“The Work is a way to identify and question the thoughts that cause all your suffering.”

Today begins a four part series on Byron Katie’s “The Work.”

If you’ve never heard of Ms. Katie or The Work, hold on to your wig.  This work will transform you forever if you are willing to change.

She has developed a concise list of 4 questions that unravel habituated, negative thought patterns.  After all, our thoughts fuel our feelings and actions – good or bad.

Until we look at our thoughts, though, we cannot make permanent changes in our feelings or actions.

Once a thought is examined using The Work, or other forms of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), wisdom and healing can arise.  The thoughts that cause emotional damage can feel anxious, heavy, or highly charged.  By sitting with our thoughts, we can start to see beyond them and experience internal freedom.

The first real jail is the one we create in our minds.

I want to share The Work as a practical tool for health and well being – in this post, especially for singers.  The resources published here are available online for free at  Please visit for videos, handouts, and tutorials, and then generously share with your friends.

By examining our thoughts, and helping our students examine theirs, we can allow more love into our lives, and ultimately bring more peace to the world.

Identifying the Thoughts

The first step in examining thoughts involves recognizing them.  The thoughts best served by The Work are judgements – against ourselves and our neighbors.  And even our voices.

Let’s start with a list of common judgements singers have about their voices, and use one of them for what Byron Katie calls “inquiry.”

  • My voice should feel better.

  • I hate my voice when it sounds like this.
  • My voice should sound better than it does.
  • I don’t like the way my voice sounds.
  • There is something wrong with me and my voice because it can’t do certain things.
  • I am mad at myself and my voice that it doesn’t sound like it used to.  (ie.  my voice should sound different than it does.)
  • I will never get used to this new way of sounding.
  • My voice will never heal, or get better than it is right now.  My singing days are over.

Any one of these thoughts could be used as an example for The Work.  Let’s choose just one, and go through each step of the process with it. (I will use it for all 4 posts.)

(For a handout that will assist you in identifying your judgements, go here.)

The First Questions

The first two questions of The Work are:

  1. Is it true?
  2. Can you absolutely know that it’s true?

From the above list, I’ll use the last example and see what happens.

First you repeat the statement:”my voice will never heal, or get better than it is right now.  My singing days are over.”  Then, you ask “is it true?”

Instead of jumping to a pat answer – this is the time to stop, close your eyes, and ask yourself, “is it true?”  Sit with the question and feel it.

If you decide it IS true, then move onto the second question,”can you absolutely know that it’s true?”  This means: do you know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that your singing days are over?

And if you are being totally honest with yourself, you will most likely say, “No.  No, I don’t know this is absolutely true.”

Now, you’ve made room for a new reality to come in.  The mind no longer clings so desperately to the thought, “my voice will never get better,” and you feel a small sense of relief.  Small, but certain relief.

In the next posts, we will walk through the last two questions of The Work, plus what Byron Katie calls the “turnaround.”

(Click here for the PDF instructions for doing The Work.)





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