Byron Katie and "The Work" Participant Reports
Date: March 29, 2009 05:05AM
Post by "arienariadne" on the Guruphiliac Forum, March 23, 2009:
Just completed Byron Katie's 9 Day School (March '09). I am disappointed to report that the information on Rick Ross's site is accurate...and, if anything, understated. I would sum the experience up by saying Katie used a two-by-four when a teaspoon would have done the job.
I think the fast was closer to 48 hours than to 36. There was no warning there; we were shepherded into the silent meal tent as usual after the silent morning walk (around the unlovely blocks nearest the hotel, across the street from LAX. Think: broken pavement, parking garages, and other hotels) to find water, lemons, and blank Worksheets. This went on for meal after meal for two days, culminating in a picnic at the end of the "homeless" field trip. By the time we took that field trip to Santa Monica and Venice Beach to consort with the homeless, those of us who had gone along with the fast were hungry, rather weak, frustrated, and pitiful...in other words, we fit right in and were grateful for any food the vagrants offered. It was the surprise factor that made these exercises cult-like. We were rarely told anything about what was to happen next. This was deliberate and, apparently designed to engender lots of strong emotions that we would then be able to "do the Work" on.
That field trip was advertised as one of several. There were no others, however. Nothing was ever explained. This seemed to be a matter of policy; we were taught not to use the concepts of "but" or "because" or to explain things to anyone. Exercises that might have been meaningful if I had known what was coming and prepared mentally, agreed to the experience, were usually presented in a tricky or sneaky fashion. We were an "all-volunteer" army full of conscripts, draftees, and the pressed. As an example, this exercise: we were given about 15 minutes to pick up some wrapping paper and ribbon (cheap and paltry, at that), go to our rooms, and bring back our most beloved possession, wrapped. We were told not to expect to ever see it again. This was on day eight in the morning. So completely had some participants given up their will, they wrapped their ID, credit cards, money, and often plane reservation confirmation information to put in the box. Several gave up wedding bands, expensive watches, family heirloom jewelry, and that sort of thing. I am told that, at the end, the items were put out and anyone who wanted to could recover their belongings, but few did so.
Many of the participants were Repeaters (recidivists) and knew what to expect. A surprising number had never spent any time doing the Work before. One person said a friend of a friend said they should come to The School, so they did. Katie seemed surprised by the number of novices and had to change the curriculum to cover more basic concepts in the first two days, forcing a rushed atmosphere in the last days. In the Money segment, it became clear that a fairly large proportion of the class came from privilege and entitlement backgrounds. Certainly, in those cases, it begged the question what kind of person pops out $5000.00 in this economy to devote 9 days to a program they know almost nothing about? Did parents and relatives send them hoping for a miracle? Many were obviously Bliss Ninnies flocking to the next Spiritual Hit.
I am exhausted. It was amazingly stressful, although I had thought we were going to lose much of our stress at The School. I'll post more later on the Surrenders, the Staff behavior, and Katie's behavior. Right now, I'm still trying to regain my equilibrium and de-tox from the experience. The days began at 7:00 a.m. and often ended after 9:00. All meals were to be taken with the group, eating only what was provided and nothing in between (and fasting, when they did not provide food, of course). The food was tailored to vegans, raw foodists, and vegetarians. Usually either egg or plain baked white bland fish was offered sometime in the day, but the overall protein content was insufficient. No salt, sugar, or strong flavorings that might have made the dishes more palatable were used or available. The typical meal was salad with only oil or miso dressing, fresh and plain steamed vegetables, tofu in some form, brown rice, quinoa, fresh fruit. It sounds, as I write, so much better than it was; day after day of the same foods, recycled usually into another tasteless dish, eaten in enforced silence...it was demoralizing and dehumanizing. Apparently, as with so many other features of The School, we were to learn that we really did not need food to taste good or familiar or interesting. This is feature of The School was especially unfortunate in the current national climate, I think. To reduce our carbon footprint, many of us are considering moving toward more local food, less animal protein, etc., in hopes of healing or slowing the destruction of our habitat. Really interesting, delicious vegetarian recipes are amply available and some of us carnivores might have been seduced by tasty vegetarian menus at The School to proceed along the same lines back home. Instead, I am longing for salmon, tuna, shrimp (all of which could have been offered within a lacto-ovo-fish regime), salt, garlic, etc. And...dare I say it?... ribs!
We were told to give up our supplements, medications we did not need (CMA: "If you are prescribed a medication, you must take it" And, yet, many gave up their prescribed medications anyway, apparently hoping to be so purified by The Work that they would not need them), make-up, jewelry and other apparel enhancements (some people appeared to wear the same clothes for days at a time), exercise, and all our other "addictions." In my observation, addiction to The School and The Work were meant to replace all else.
The boot-camp tactics and mentality, the pressure to conform to total thought and behavior requirements, and many other features seemed very cult-like to me. I would not hesitate to say The School is a cult experience. And I'm sad for that, since I think The Work is a very useful tool for self-help. Something seems to be going very wrong in BKI and The School. All things arise, organize, and disintegrate. The School is on the down slope in my opinion. More later.
[[url=http://guruphiliac.lefora.com/2009/03/23/byron-katies-school-for-the-work-march-09/page1/]Guruphiliac Forum Post - Byron Katie's School For The Work March '09[/url]]