Byron Katie, born Byron Kathleen Mitchell in 1942, is probably the most popular enlightened spiritual teacher in the United States, but people seldom think of her that way because she appears to be a self-help lecturer, motivational speaker, entrepreneur, and businesswoman. Of course she is those things as well.
Judging from this interview, we think she is probably Self-realized. In other words, she has probably undergone manonasa.
According to Wikipedia:
Katie was born in Breckenridge, Texas in 1942, and grew up in Barstow, California. Her father was a train engineer and her mother was a housewife.
In 1986, when she was 43 with three children and unhappily married to her second husband, she reportedly suffered from depression, agoraphobia, overeating and addiction to codeine and alcohol. She called her insurance company for help, and was referred to Hope House in Los Angeles, a woman's counseling center that has since closed. After two weeks at the house, she reportedly experienced an epiphany in her thinking which created a way for her to challenge and lessen the harmful effects of long-held beliefs. She credited the epiphany, which became known as “The Work”, for a subsequent weight loss and other reductions in bad habits.
She began holding informal meetings to discuss her philosophy, and in the early 1990s, began having more formal workshops. The workshops eventually led to the formation of Byron Katie International.
She describes her 1986 epiphany as follows: “I discovered that when I believed my thoughts, I suffered, but that when I didn’t believe them, I didn’t suffer, and that this is true for every human being. Freedom is as simple as that. I found that suffering is optional. I found a joy within me that has never disappeared, not for a single moment.” Byron Katie calls her process of self-examination “The Work.”
For a longer biography of Byron Katie, see Rebirth of a Madwoman: The Resurrection of Byron Katie.
By Byron Katie
Byron Katie’s husband, Stephen Mitchell, explains that early in their marriage he used to read to her from great spiritual teachers like Lao-Tzu and the Buddha. She called these people “his dead friends.” Katie would take in their words, sometimes nodding and saying “that's accurate.” But occasionally, to his surprise, she corrected their statements with one of her own.
He believed that she was speaking as the peer of these ancient sages, as somebody who has had the same experiences and can speak about enlightenment with equal authority. Eventually Stephen decided to read to her his translation of the Tao Te Ching, all 81 chapters, and write down her responses. Those responses became the raw material for this book.
This page was published on June 13, 2014 and last revised on June 18, 2017.