About a year ago, a dear friend of mine gave me a gift that changed my life forever.
Let’s just say that it wasn’t one of the more relaxed dinners I’ve ever had. About one second into the evening, Stephen uttered one brilliant sentence referencing a philosopher I’d never heard of, and I started to panic. Clearly I was not intelligent enough to keep up with a conversation with Stephen (and the other luminaries at the table, geniuses all).
Moreover, I definitely wasn’t enlightened enough to contribute to a conversation with Katie. It’s hard to explain, but one look into Byron Katie’s eyes and you know in your soul that you are in the presence of an awakened master. Fortunately, there was a lot of food, and I am good at eating, especially when I’m stressed.
An hour or so into my panic-filled eating extravaganza, my friend vacated the seat between me and Katie and Katie slid over next to me. She gently held my hand (I was so relieved I almost cried) and looked into my eyes. “Who would you be without your fear, sweetheart?” she asked me kindly. I did not feel judged. I felt understood; moreover, I suddenly understood myself.
That one question — Who would you be without your fear? — is a game changer. I’ve been thinking about it consistently for a year now. More than that, I’ve been practicing living without fear, and I’ve experienced just how different a person I am when I’m not afraid. At times I’m still anxious and afraid, but fear isn’t a very powerful force in my life anymore.
Without so much fear, I am able to live from a place of greater integrity. I’ve stopped worrying about what other people think of me. For a lifelong people-pleaser, this is a radically different way of living.
I learned to love Byron Katie through another intellectual and spiritual hero (and fellow sociologist), Martha Beck. I left the dinner with Katie knowing I needed to find out who I was without fear; it was Martha who taught me how to drop fear and live with integrity.
The best way to learn Martha’s method for living without fear — the foundation for finding the peace and bliss that we all long for in this life — is to do one of Martha’s integrity cleanses, or, even easier, to read her new book, Diana, Herself: An Allegory of Awakening. If you’ve read Martha’s other books (like Expecting Adam or The Joy Diet) or you read her column in Oprah’s magazine, know that this book is a massive deviation from her typical work.
Even though this book is fiction and not self-help or memoir, Martha does not hold back her clear instructions for living with greater peace. I devoured Diana, Herself in the span of a few days; I daresay it is the most powerful book I’ve ever read for furthering my own personal and spiritual growth. (The book is available on Amazon).
Join the discussion: Has anyone ever asked you a question that changed your life? What was it? What book has most changed your life?