Stephen Mitchell

Stephen Mitchell was born in Brooklyn, New York, in 1943, educated at Amherst, the Sorbonne, and Yale, and de-educated through intensive Zen practice. His many books include the bestselling Tao Te Ching, The Gospel According to Jesus, Bhagavad Gita, The Book of Job, Meetings with the Archangel, and Gilgamesh. Mitchell is married to Byron Katie and co-wrote two of her bestselling books: Loving What Is and A Thousand Names for Joy.
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Gilgamesh is considered one of the masterpieces of world literature, and although previously there have been competent scholarly translations of it, until now there has not been a version that is a superlative literary text in its own right. Acclaimed translator Stephen Mitchell's lithe, muscular rendering allows us to enter an ancient masterpiece as if for the first time, to see how startlingly beautiful, intelligent, and alive it is. His insightful introduction provides a historical, spiritual, and cultural context for this ancient epic, showing that Gilgamesh is more potent and fascinating than ever.

Gilgamesh dates from as early as 1700 BCE -- a thousand years before the Iliad. Lost for almost two millennia, the eleven clay tablets on which the epic was inscribed were discovered in 1853 in the ruins of Nineveh, and the text was not deciphered and fully translated until the end of the century. When the great poet Rainer Maria Rilke first read Gilgamesh in 1916, he was awestruck. "Gilgamesh is stupendous," he wrote. "I consider it to be among the greatest things that can happen to a person."

The epic is the story of literature's first hero -- the king of Uruk in what is present-day Iraq -- and his journey of self-discovery. Along the way, Gilgamesh discovers that friendship can bring peace to a whole city, that a preemptive attack on a monster can have dire consequences, and that wisdom can be found only when the quest for it is abandoned. In giving voice to grief and the fear of death -- perhaps more powerfully than any book written after it -- in portraying love and vulnerability and the ego's hopeless striving for immortality, the epic has become a personal testimony for millions of readers in dozens of languages.
Out of nowhere, like a cool breeze in a marketplace crowded with advice, comes Byron Katie and “The Work.”

In the midst of a normal life, Katie became increasingly depressed, and over a ten-year period sank further into rage, despair, and thoughts of suicide. Then one morning, she woke up in a state of absolute joy, filled with the realization of how her own suffering had ended. The freedom of that realization has never left her, and now in Loving What Is you can discover the same freedom through The Work.

The Work is simply four questions that, when applied to a specific problem, enable you to see what is troubling you in an entirely different light. As Katie says, “It’s not the problem that causes our suffering; it’s our thinking about the problem.” Contrary to popular belief, trying to let go of a painful thought never works; instead, once we have done The Work, the thought lets go of us. At that point, we can truly love what is, just as it is.

Loving What Is will show you step-by-step, through clear and vivid examples, exactly how to use this revolutionary process for yourself. You’ll see people do The Work with Katie on a broad range of human problems, from a wife ready to leave her husband because he wants more sex, to a Manhattan worker paralyzed by fear of terrorism, to a woman suffering over a death in her family. Many people have discovered The Work’s power to solve problems; in addition, they say that through The Work they experience a sense of lasting peace and find the clarity and energy to act, even in situations that had previously seemed impossible.

If you continue to do The Work, you may discover, as many people have, that the questioning flows into every aspect of your life, effortlessly undoing the stressful thoughts that keep you from experiencing peace. Loving What Is offers everything you need to learn and live this remarkable process, and to find happiness as what Katie calls “a lover of reality.”
In her first two books, Byron Katie showed how suffering can be ended by questioning the stressful thoughts that create it, through a process of self-inquiry she calls The Work. Now, in A Thousand Names for Joy, she encourages us to discover the freedom that lives on the other side of inquiry.Stephen Mitchell—the renowned translator of the Tao Te Ching—selected provocative excerpts from that ancient text as a stimulus for Katie to talk about the most essential issues that face us all: life and death, good and evil, love, work, and fulfillment. The result is a book that allows the timeless insights of the Tao Te Ching to resonate anew for us today, while offering a vivid and illuminating glimpse into the life of someone who for twenty years—ever since she “woke up to reality” one morning in 1986—has been living what Lao-tzu wrote more than 2,500 years ago.Katie’s profound, lighthearted wisdom is not theoretical; it is absolutely authentic. That is what makes this book so compelling. It’s a portrait of a woman who is imperturbably joyous, whether she is dancing with her infant granddaughter or finds that her house has been emptied out by burglars, whether she stands before a man about to kill her or embarks on the adventure of walking to the kitchen, whether she learns that she is going blind, flunks a “How Good a Lover Are You?” test, or is diagnosed with cancer. With her stories of total ease in all circumstances, Katie does more than describe the awakened mind; she lets you see it, feel it, in action. And she shows you how that mind is yours as well.


From the Hardcover edition.
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