Katy Koontz, Editor
THE INSIDE SCOOP
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Most spiritual leaders can tell engaging
life stories, crediting a series of pivotal
experiences with shaping their lives’ work
and influencing who they have become.
Not so for Byron Katie, the subject of
this issue’s “Listening in With …” She
does indeed have a remarkable story, don’t
get me wrong. But rather than reaching a
higher level of consciousness by devoting herself to serious spiritual
study and spiritual practice, all Katie did was wake up—both
literally and metaphorically.
Byron Kathleen Reid (now Mitchell) was born in Texas and
raised in a small town in the Mojave Desert, 100 miles northeast
of Los Angeles. In 1960, she left for college but dropped out during
her first year to marry her high-school sweetheart. They had three
children before divorcing in 1976, long after Katie began slipping
into a debilitating depression.
Katie remarried in 1979 but continued to deteriorate. She
became obsessed with suicide and was prone to rages. She overate
compulsively and was addicted to codeine, alcohol, and cigarettes.
An agoraphobic, she didn’t leave her bedroom for two years (and
didn’t bathe for weeks at a time). Katie was so riddled with paranoia
she sometimes kept a loaded gun under the bed.
Desperate for help, she called her health insurance company and
was referred to a women’s residential treatment center run like a
halfway house in Los Angeles. The other residents were so afraid of
Katie’s wild mood swings that she had to sleep in the attic.
Less than two weeks after her arrival, she woke up one morning
as a blank slate, as if seeing herself and the world for the first time.
Katie felt totally free, exuding joy. She had no ego, no memories,
and no knowledge of social norms (such as one shouldn’t go out
in public wearing pajamas). The old Katie evaporated overnight, a
totally new person appearing in her place. No drugs—therapeutic
or recreational—or special therapies had been involved.
When she returned home, she didn’t recognize her husband or
her kids at first. She soon began meditating for hours a day. She quit
smoking, lost 75 pounds, and became vegan for a time. While never
touting a religion or any type of doctrine, she began sharing her
epiphany: Our minds project the world we see, and we suffer only
when we believe our painful thoughts, which are illusion. She had
woken up understanding a method of self-inquiry based on asking
four questions (which she calls The Work). Reality, she teaches, is
far kinder than the stories we tell ourselves, and freedom and joy
are ours for the claiming.
Katie now has an international following and has helped millions
at her public events and workshops as well as in prisons, hospitals,
churches, corporations, universities, and schools. Clearly, The