How Can I Find Joy Using the Practice of Inquiry?

There are many moments in life when we have stressful thoughts. Byron Katie, who introduced the practice of inquiry, or The Work, discovered that when she believed her thoughts she suffered, but when she didn’t believe them she didn’t suffer. This is how she obtained freedom and found joy.

Upon discovering this, she introduced a simple yet powerful practice of questioning our stressful thoughts.

The Work is known to be a form of meditation that involves four steps, namely notice, write, question, and turn it around.

This guide will introduce you to this powerful practice of inquiry so that you can also find joy in questioning your stressful thoughts.

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The Practice of Inquiry

#1: Notice

First, you will have to notice when a particular set-point-driven thought arises. You can relax and be still. You can search through your mind for a specific situation where you are angry, hurt, sad, frustrated, or disappointed with someone.

Some of these thoughts can be:

  • Judgement: e.g. the thought that your spouse or friend should do more to support you.
  • Attachment: e.g. a worry about losing a close relationship with your friend.
  • Resistance: e.g. trying to run away from an opportunity because of your fear of failure.

You can notice, name, and feel the emotion you were experiencing at the time, or the feelings you have towards that situation. You can figure out the reason you were upset.

#2: Write

After noticing your thoughts, emotions, and the reason you were upset, you can capture these stressful thoughts in writing. It is easier to investigate your thoughts when they are in writing.

You can answer the following questions:

  • In this situation, who angers, confuses, hurts, saddens, frustrates, or disappoints you?
  • Why is the reason that you have such emotions?
  • In this situation, how do you want him/her to change? What do you want him/her to do?

#3: Question

Next, you can question your thoughts by answering four questions. You can isolate a single thought for inquiry, repeat the statement, and then ask yourself each of the following questions:

  • Is it true? You can answer yes or no for this question. Notice when you want to justify or defend by saying but or because.
  • Can you absolutely know that it’s true? Again, your answer should be a yes or no. This is an opportunity for you to look at your thoughts again.
  • How do you react, what happens, when you believe that thought? What images do you see and what emotions or sensations arise as you witness those images? How did you treat the other person or yourself?
  • Who would you be without that thought? Put down all your judgments and think about how you would see or feel about the other person.

Instead of rushing through the process, you can pause for a few moments after asking yourself each of these questions. Let the answers come up in your mind without trying to anticipate them.

#4: Turn It Around

Now, it’s time to consider whether the opposite of your original statement is as true or truer than the original thought.

You will have to turn the thought around, that is, to consider its opposite, and then find at least three specific and genuine examples of how each turnaround is true for you in this situation.

For example, if your original thought is “My friend doesn’t appreciate me”, the turnaround might be:

  • “My friend does appreciate me.”
  • “I don’t appreciate myself.”
  • “I don’t appreciate my friend.”

With each turnaround, write down three reasons why it is just as true as, if not truer than, the original thought.

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Book Recommendations on the Practice of Inquiry

If you would like to learn more about the practice of inquiry, here are some book and resource recommendations:

  • Start Here: Master the Lifelong Habit of Wellbeing: the practice of inquiry is one of the training practices in the Life Cross Training (LIFE XT) program introduced in this book.
  • Loving What Is, Revised Edition: The Work is first introduced by Bryon Katie and this book provides a guide on how we can use this exercise.
  • The Work: The official website of The Work contains a number of downloadable resources that will help you apply this practice.

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