One of my favorite spiritual teachers is Byron Katie. Byron Katie is best known for her process of inquiry called “The Work.” The Work is four questions designed to change your thoughts, and change your life. You can read about The Work here. It is an incredible process. If you watch some of the videos on the site and see Byron Katie and The Work in action, you will be won over. Byron Katie is special. Her work is charming and incredibly intelligent.
Something else that Byron Katie is known for, which is something that has made a very big difference in my life, is her idea that everything falls into one of three categories: My Business, Your Business, and God’s Business. The premise for this thought, as I understand it, is that we are each responsible for our own happiness. We must devote our time and energy to healing ourselves, growing ourselves, minding ourselves, and living our own best life. We needn’t spend time worrying about others, micromanaging the lives of others, or applying “shoulda, woulda, coulda” statements or thoughts to others.
Byron Katie is not promoting selfishness, by any stretch. The emphasis with this thought process is that we all have our own areas for growth and we should devote our time and energy to the endeavor of perfecting our self. When we grow and heal our self, we grow and heal the world. This doesn’t mean that we give up caring for others or looking out for the well-being of others; rather, we adopt an attitude of loving-kindness and let go of the things we cannot control.
Examples follow for each of the three categories:
My Business: the welfare of my children, the state of my marriage, my work performance, my personal growth, my behavior in each of the meaningful relationships in my life, and so on.
Your Business: how your friend mothers her children, the new car your friend purchased that you know she can’t afford, how you think your co-worker should be managing his team, who you think your grown daughter should be dating, where or how you think your grown daughter should be living.
God’s Business: natural disasters, accidents, life, death, and illness. God’s Business also covers all those “what if” scenarios we like to roll around in our minds and discuss endlessly with our friends.
A few weeks ago, I was feeling fine but I sensed a sort of heaviness in the background of my mind. After feeling this way for several days, I stopped and thought about the root cause for this tension. I named the three things that were upsetting me. Two of these things fell in the “Your Business” category, one of them fell in the “God’s Business” category. For four days I had been walking around with a black cloud over my head and none of it was “My Business.” Everything in my own life was fine and yet here I was walking around brooding about things over which I had no control. When we don’t have control over something but worry and brood over it anyway, we cause suffering–in ourselves and others. When I looked at the situation in this way, I realized how silly and nonsensical my thoughts were. I had allowed myself to suffer over things that were not my business! After this realization, I was able to release the tension. I still care deeply about those issues but I released my attachment to them. Releasing attachment to something outside of our control ends suffering. When we are not spinning our wheels suffering, we have the mental energy and focus to set our sights on growth and right action.
I try to carry this thought of “My business, Your business, God’s business” around with me. Sometimes when my husband and I are feeling frustrated about something we will playfully remind one another of these categories. It brings us back down to earth. In some cases, it gets us off our high horse! I hope this helps you in your life, too.
To listen to a fascinating interview between Oprah and Byron Katie, click here.