Why Are Questions 1 and 2 a Yes or No Only?

Imagine yourself in a darkened theater a hundred years ago. On stage is one of the most famous magicians of the early 20th century, Harry Blackstone.

One by one, he is pulling brightly colored silk scarves out of thin air. He throws them on the stage floor in front of him while everyone sits mesmerized. The pile is growing higher and higher and, as the orchestra reaches a crescendo, he stops. He approaches the pile of colorful scarves in front of him and pulls a live donkey from the pile.

You and the rest of the audience have no choice but to jump to your feet with applause.

But What Was Really Going On?

A competitor of Blackstone wanted to find out. So he sat through dozens and dozens of shows trying to figure out the trick. No one could understand how Blackstone made a full-size donkey appear from underneath the scarves.

Then one night, while sitting in the audience, the visiting magician discovered how he did it.

While Blackstone was pulling scarves out of thin air, two scantily clad women with diaphanous wings came on stage and pranced around. This diverted the attention, and Blackstone simply walked off stage, got the donkey, and led it back in plain sight to center stage, where he buried it in the scarves.

This Is Known As The Art Of Diversion

Magicians use it. Politicians use it. And we use it all the time in our day to day lives. Sometimes we even use it when we answer questions 1 and 2 doing The Work of Byron Katie.

What are we talking about?

The Work of Byron Katie is a way to question what you think is true. For example, you might think," "He lied to me." If this thought is stressful for you, The Work of Bryon Katie invites you to ask yourself question 1, "Is it true?" And then to ask yourself question 2, "Can you absolutely know it’s true?"

Together, these questions make you pause and reconsider the thing you think you’re so sure about–that he lied to you.

But Sometimes We Don’t Want To Reconsider What We Think Is True

Sometimes we’re invested in our positions. And we don’t want to budge. This is exactly when we use diversion tactics, like a master magician, when answering questions 1 and 2.

Instead of answering with a simple "Yes" or "No," and owning it, we start justifying, or defending, or telling a distracting story. We say, "Yes, it’s true he lied. He lies every chance he can get. I saw him lying to his own mother once."

But This Is Not The Work

The Work is about the simple truth, your honest truth. And truth does not need a lot of explanation. One syllable, "Yes," or "No," will do. The moment you start defending or justifying your position, you stop listening. You stop looking for the solid truth, and you distract yourself with stories.

You bring out the dancing women with diaphanous wings. And you keep the attention away from any real truths you might be about to discover inside. You miss a chance for meditation.

The Work Is Meditation

It is a process of self-discovery. The truth is hiding inside of us. The Work gives us a chance to scan through our memories and find that truth. It gives us a chance to look at our stories more objectively, and from a fresh point of view. It allows us to take the spin off of what we see.

And it gives us a chance to evaluate our thoughts as they come into contact with our hearts. Our hearts can feel the truth. And likewise our hearts can feel a lie.

But When We Divert Our Attention We Cannot Feel Anything

When we distract ourselves we miss out. When we avoid a simple "Yes" or "No" answer in questions 1 and 2, we miss the opportunity to test the truth of that answer. That’s why questions 1 and 2 of The Work are an invitation to take a stand. If we do this, we give ourselves a chance to test out what we say against the truth-meter in our hearts.

We can always change our minds. Sometimes just committing to a "Yes" can make us realize that it’s really a "No" after all. Or vice versa. When we take a stand, we have something solid to test against our hearts and minds.

Here Are Some Common Examples Of How We Avoid Taking A Stand In Questions 1 and 2

Example 1: Going into a story.

"He didn’t listen to me. Is that true?"

"He never listens to me. That’s the problem. I’m sick and tired of it. If he wants to continue being my friend, he’s going to have to show a little respect. I mean, this is not the first time it has happened…"

Notice how this example of going into story distracts and justifies. And notice how the question being asked doesn’t get answered. This kind of diversion would make Harry Blackstone proud, but it leads you straight out of The Work.

Example 2: "Yes, because…"

"I want my boss to check-in with me. Is it true?

Yes, because it’s her responsibility to make sure that everything is going smoothly. How can I do my job if she’s not doing hers?"

Notice the phrase, "yes, because…" in this exchange. It’s full of justification. It distracts. It distracts by trying to use proof. By piling on tons of proof, the "Yes" starts to appear completely iron-clad and irrefutable. This kind of justification distracts from real inquiry.

Example 3: "No, but…"

"He lied to me. Can you absolutely know it’s true?"

"No, but I have an eyewitness account from Sarah. And she is very trustworthy. Personally I’d believe her before I’d believe him any day."

Notice the word, "but." It means you don’t believe the "No" you just uttered. You are still defending. You don’t get a chance to really feel the "No" and consider if there may be any truth in it. This is not inquiry. And this is not The Work.

Example 4: "Maybe. I don’t know."

"He’ll reject me. Is it true?"

"Well, maybe. I just don’t know. There are so many factors involved. It’s hard to tell at this point."

Notice the lack of commitment here. "Maybe" doesn’t take a stand. It leaves you suspended in the same uncomfortable place where you started.

But Sometimes You Really Don’t Know The Answer

Do you still have to give a "Yes" or "No" in that case too? Well, you certainly don’t have to. But you’ll miss an opportunity if you don’t. Things don’t start to move until you take a direction.

So the invitation is to take a stand. Try a "Yes" or a "No." And see how it feels. You can always change your mind. But if you rest in "maybe," you’ll just be hanging out, and putting inquiry off for when you get to questions 3 and 4.

So Give It A Whirl And See What You Find

This week while you’re doing The Work, I invite you to pay attention to your answers to questions 1 and 2. Notice what it feels like to take a stand with a simple "Yes" or "No." And take a moment when you find a "Yes," or "No" to sit in it. How does it feel against your heart? Is there any new insight that comes once you make your first commitment?

I’d love to hear your experiences. Send me an email or post it on the blog. And let me know if you can catch the Harry Blackstone of your mind, as he mesmerizes and distracts the audience, and tries to lead his donkey out to center stage.

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