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Transcript Interview Episode with Katherine Jansen-Byrkit

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[00:00:00] Katherine: My teachings are also about helping people work with their scared part that you can intellectually know this is good and important and the right thing to do, but there's a part of us that is in new territory. And to your point of being shy and working with anxieties. Testing the waters of being your authentic self and seeing do those friendships remain is there a fallout?

And, and if there is, how do we navigate it?

[00:00:32] Laurin: Hello, friends and welcome to Curiously Wise. I'm your host, Laurin Wittig. And today I have Katherine Janssen-Byrkit with us. She's really queued in on this wakefulness idea.

And so we're gonna talk about that today. I'm gonna let her pretty much introduce herself but she has written a book which we'll talk about towards the end and Katherine, welcome.

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[00:00:51] Katherine: Thank you, Laurin. Thank you so much. Happy to be here.

[00:00:55] Laurin: So let's just start. And I don't do a formal bio all the time because often it just, it unfolds in the conversation. So I like, I like to bring it that way. So anything personal that you wanna throw in, that's great.

[00:01:07] Katherine: Okay.

[00:01:07] Laurin: Okay. So what do you mean by the term wakefulness? Cuz you use that in your book title and I know you use it in your work as well.

And I guess I should say you're a psychotherapist. And you use it in that work.

[00:01:19] Katherine: Yeah. Well, I can give you a backstory if, if our conversation goes there, but the idea it is not political. Though that word woke has become kind of an interesting political thing right now, but it is really this idea of waking up to our true self. That in a way we can live unbeknownst to ourselves in trance states. We have a self.

We grow up. We have a childhood. We have a name. We have a history. We have thoughts and dreams and a way of being, and that is all good. And some of those ways of being over time begin to kind of keep us from living as our true self. They're really sourced by whether it's trauma, modeling, even cultural pieces.

So to me, being awake is every day waking up in a literal way too. With the intention to live is my most conscious and loving self. Free from conditioning forces that keep me from those two things, my most conscious and loving self.

[00:02:20] Laurin: Mm. I very much have a similar intention for every day, but some days it's harder than others. You know, some days the world gets in the way or the to-do list is too long and must be done. So, how do you personally keep yourself on track with being your best self or not letting the worldly things get to you?

[00:02:40] Katherine: Yeah. That's, really the pertinent question. My book really is a walk of the journey I took initially in my life coming from trauma and a suicide attempt at 16 years old kind of healing from the inside out.

So. Those things have served me well over the years. And I am finding a return to some of those same kinds of basic practices critically necessary for me to be able to remain buoyant and hopeful and not overly anxious or needing to distract myself from the anxieties that my body carries.

There are powerful and difficult things happening in the world. There are incredible things always happening in the world of course. So my work as a psychotherapist is to help people not disassociate from their inner whatever's happening going on inside or the outer world, but that means we have to kind of keep our head above water.

So it is very much about personal practice and I do a mindfulness piece every morning. I exercise regularly. I'm really strong self-care on my days off. I'm passionate about my work, but I try to keep it very much a balance. So yeah.

[00:03:52] Laurin: Yeah, that I know is, I don't know, it seems like it's getting harder and harder to sort of be here in myself and not let the chaos that's going on push me off balance.

[00:04:06] Katherine: Yes.

[00:04:07] Laurin: And like you said, it's not that I'm ignoring what's going on, but I can't let it influence my mood or the balance of my energy.

[00:04:15] Katherine: For me, the idea of wakefulness is spiritual, but not religious and that I don't. It is about finding that spark, that consciousness, that some people would call it just love whatever that little light within us. It is abiding, but it is not unaffected by what we expose ourselves to.

So again, it's, I love your words, Laurin. It's not about denial. But it is about the secretness of that and the preciousness of that and not taking that for granted. And so we have that brain that can kind of look for problems, have that negativity bias. We need to be very much kind of the master of our inner existence, not just our outer existence.

And one little tool in the toolkit is called internal boundaries, and a lot of people think of boundaries as outer boundaries. You don't get to say that to me or I need to have a boundary that I can't always help you move. Or, you know, those kinds of relational ones.

Well, internal boundary is where I don't carry anybody else's pain. I feel it like there's empathy. That's actually very important, but I fashion it almost like a cylinder inside of me. And it's how I've been able to do my 20 years of clinical practice with some pretty intense suffering and pain of my clients and my kids and my own is that it is not mine, so I care, but I don't carry it.

So I think those internal boundaries have become very, very important these days.

[00:05:42] Laurin: Yeah. I love that. That you care, but you don't carry it. That's a lovely way to phrase it. So, yeah,

[00:05:50] Katherine: Yeah. Cause I think people think they have to stop caring and actually detached and be numb in order to carry on. And that's actually not true, but it's an active practice.

[00:06:01] Laurin: Yeah, I find it's like a muscle. The more I practice it, the easier it gets to be. There are times where I go, oh, I forgot to do my practice for the last three weeks, you know. And I'm feeling the battering of the outside and okay. So let's go back and meditate. I love to meditate first thing in the morning.

I don't get to do it every day, but that for me, that's my set place cuz I can just really make sure I'm okay before I move into the rest of the world.

[00:06:28] Katherine: Yeah. Yeah. Well a couple of things, one on the idea that I think it's important for people we make sense of the world. That's how the human system works. And it's a tough world right now to like, wow. And then there's this and why, and, and all those existential kinds of questions.

And I say this with, you know, a broken heart at times. There is for some of us both personally, and you know, this is a sad analogy, but it took animals being abused for there to be laws. You couldn't abuse animals. It took child abuse for there to be laws that you. So how we as a species get to where we need to get to as painful and messy and imperfect.

And there is that movement toward consciousness and the suffering is not for nothing. And again, that's just an important frame sometimes not to understand why am I having this hard day? Why is this tragedy happening to me, but to have a kind of trust in it as you're working with it at the same time.