Posted by: Banta | December 7, 2015

A practice of opposites

Blog on Byron Katie

For reasons too mundane to list, I missed my yoga class today. To compensate I defaulted to Plan B—a video class on YouTube. I could say that I chose this particular class at random, but no doubt I pressed the Play button through some act of divine intervention. As the saying goes, when the student is ready, the teacher appears.

We began in child’s pose, sinking our bones into the mat as instructed. The teacher explained that her focus for the hour was the ‘practice of opposites.’ As our bodies entered into the different poses—or asanas—she invited us to consider the value of reacting to emotional triggers with a feeling or behavior directly opposite to our usual or habitual reaction.

For example, if I am resisting an opportunity for generosity or whole-hearted giving, I might dive into the chance to be generous instead. If my knee-jerk response is “no,” I might try an arms open wide “yes.” If I feel annoyed by a situation, I might assume the best and lean into compassion instead. You get the gist.

The stories we tell ourselves, to a great extent, create our reality. Byron Katie, author of Loving What Is, woke up from a deep depression thirty years ago with the epiphany that her attachment to her own thoughts was the cause of her suffering.

According to Katie, “You either believe what you think or you question it. There’s no other choice.” She teaches the use of four questions to tackle any persistent thought that triggers suffering. For example, if I think I am unsafe, and feel anxious as a result, Katie says to ask, “Is it true?” Yes or no. Am I unsafe, literally? In this moment?

The second question is, “Can you absolutely know that it is true?” Yes or no. Then, “How do you react? What happens when you believe that thought?” When I believe I am unsafe, I react with fear and anxious worry. I distrust others. I lose sleep. I may become paralyzed by inaction for fear of stepping outside my comfort zone.

Katie’s last question is, “Who would you be without that thought?” It helps to sit with this one for a bit. Without the thought that I am unsafe, I would be someone who is no longer a hostage to fear and anxiety. I would feel more alive, more trusting. I would sleep better, be free to move freely about in my life and in the world. I would have more energy for love.

Once we see the cause and effect of our thoughts, our suffering begins to unravel. Katie would add that, “Arguing with reality is like trying to teach a cat to bark—hopeless.” Loving what is does not mean a passive surrender. Quite the contrary. It means embracing what reality presents with the clear understanding that things are not happening to you, but for your benefit and your greater good.

Loving what is represents a ‘practice of opposites’ much like the one I encountered in the YouTube yoga class today—an “opportunity” to embrace what life dishes out with more grace and gratitude than we thought possible.


  1. Thank you, Banta. Deep breaths as I remember yet again. Hope all is well and that your holiday is filled with grace.

  2. Beautiful.

  3. It requires courage to make the leap recommended. Where does that come from? And what do we do when the leap fails to land in comfortable territory? Repeat? My questions are not challenges but more explorations aimed at following the logic where next it leads. There must be more behind Katie’s three questions.

  4. A challenge to embrace. Inspiring!

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