9 Aha! Moments that blow Oprah off the Screen
1986: Byron Katie
For two years, Byron Katie was so maniacally depressed she rarely got out of bed. A real estate broker in Bakersfield, CA and mother of three, she ended up an alcoholic — and in a local halfway house. When Katie awoke one morning in February, 1986 at the age of 43 to find a cockroach crawling up her foot, she had an out-of-nowhere epiphany.
“All my rage, all the thoughts that had been troubling me, my whole world, was gone,” she recalls. “The only thing that existed was awareness. During the two decades since that halfway-house psychic makeover, Katie has written three bestselling books about her Work, and drawn audiences in the thousands to lectures and workshops, for which she typically charges no fee. To both experts and lay people alike she appears to live in an elevated psychological state utterly free of internal conflict, akin to a yogi or a lama. Katie herself claims that she does not even see herself as a spiritual person. “I don’t know anything about that,” says Katie. “I’m just someone who knows the difference between what hurts and what doesn’t.”
IN HER OWN WORDS, Byron Katie's Aha! Moment:
I was very suicidal, very depressed. Agoraphobic. Paranoid. Really pretty hopeless. Just obsessing the suicide. Many years. So I went to this halfway house and…the women were so afraid of me that I was put in an attic — that was the only way I could stay. They put me in an attic up above. And I slept on the floor in there. And one morning I was asleep on the floor and I felt this thing crawl over my foot and I looked down and it was a cockroach. I opened my eyes and… [pause] what was born was not me…and, the way I tell it is…she rose, she walked, she apparently talked. She was delighted. It is so ecstatic to be born and not born. It sees, and sees everything, without a concept. It’s amazing.
I thought that suicide was the only way out — that it was my only option. . . . I used to lie in bed for so many of those seven years and just wail, “I want to go home!” I thought that was suicide but inside of me that’s all I know. It was a purity — “I want to go home.”
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. That joy is in everyone, always.
NEXT: Eckhart Tolle, 1977