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22 April 2006 @ 12:31 pm
"My husband should not be more honest...  
...because he [isn't]. My children shouldn’t respect me more because they [don’t]. Instantly, I became a lover of reality.”

This is a quote from Byron Katie's latest book I Need Your Love. Is that true? I haven't read this book, but I did read and very much enjoy her first and previous book Loving What Is. She talks about 'shoulds' in LWI, and at the time I read it, I had difficulty understanding what she meant.  If someone isn't more honest, they should be, right? Aside from focusing on the odd circumstance where it might be prudent/lifesaving or whatever to lie, it seems reasonable enough to say that in most ordinary contexts, people should be as honest as possible.

In reading the quote from her second book, I begin to  understand her meaning  better. When she states that her husband should not be more honest, she isn't making a value judgment about one behavior as compared to another. She isn't saying that it's OK (or not OK) for her husband to be dishonest. Instead, she is observing that her husband isn't more honest, and that is all. What we think should be often has little relationship to what is. When we add the extra layer of meaning by attaching a 'should,' we are much less able to experience directly what is.

So why is it better to practice seeing what is? Because adding the 'should' causes stress and tension, resulting in our being less effective and less happy.  Picture yourself in traffic, late for an appointment. Many 'shoulds' can arise in the mind: I should have left earlier; I should know better than to not leave myself enough time; This road should have been widened to four lanes ages ago, and so on. There are no points of power in any of these thoughts. They are only stressful. Instead, one could try this: traffic shouldn't be moving any faster, because it isn't. I shouldn't have left earlier, because I didn't. This leaves the mind with the following information: I left late and traffic is moving slow. No evaluations, no self-denigration, no anger. When the mind's energy isn't taken up by all the stories one can fabricate about leaving late and slow traffic, it is calm and free to reflect on the present conditions and to imagine ways of creating more desirable ones in the future.

I read an article by Stephen Kiesling entitled "Whole Body Happiness" (Spirituality and Health, June 2006). Kiesling mentions research conducted by Robert Thayer, professor of psychology at California State University, Long Beach and author of Calm Energy: How People Regulate Food and Mood With Exercise. Thayer finds that different levels of happiness correlate with four different tension and energy states: calm energy, tense energy, calm tired, and tense tired.  Calm energy is the optimal state of body and mind, the state in which we are most relaxed, alert, and effective. Removing the 'should' layer as B. Katie suggests is one important way to sustain calm energy.