Spiritual Reflections on The Three Principles

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I would like to offer a set of reflections on The Three Principles, a spiritual psychology teaching that originated in the mid-70s and has spread globally, and with which I’ve been involved for about 19 years. This view is from, and as, a spiritual perspective. I don’t really like the word “spiritual” since it always bring to mind images and ideas, all of which are not “it”. But it’s a starting point.

When we read or listen to something about the The Three Principles understanding (or anything else) there can be a tendency to hear from an agree/disagree filter – in other words, from a point of view.
But in presence there is no point of view, as it is within what all points of view appear, and disappear.
What we are has no borders, no manifest containers or boundaries. In a borderless, effortless space, things appear, such as our lives. A sense of self, of motion, of love for ten thousand things, the objects of consciousness, awareness.
In this space, any image of what this space is, is only an image, passing and vulnerable to revision. Another word for that is “illusion”.

True intelligence begins and ends with knowledge of one’s nature. The three principles offer a shortcut, a stepladder to the formless.
It’s a form that says there’s no form: a pointer. It’s a tool. Why is it important to see it as as tool? Because there is a tendency to take a tool too seriously, to focus on that which has already been formed, on memory. These tools were formulated (by psychologists such as George Pransky and Roger Mills, with Sydney Banks as a guide) in order to be able to communicate, teach, to convey a teaching, to repeat an outcome in time.

True understanding happens outside of time, in an instant the mind cannot create, since the mind is a machine that creates nothing, only repeats what was input, like a computer.
The gift of understanding comes unbidden, like a long lost relative showing up at the door, happiness on both sides, which is One happiness.

The word spiritual can also seem to imply there’s something that is not spiritual. Or something to do to be spiritual. Or someone to be, some kind of person, a spiritual person. Nothing could be further from the truth.
You can’t help but be spiritual. In fact the more you do, the less you are, even though you are anyway – a paradox, because there’s no way the mind can get this.

So treat the The Three Principles lightly, like a good friend, and not like they are your master. In fact that goes for any spiritual teaching.

We have tendency to get lost in psychology. And this is especially true with a teaching that is used to address psychological issues, or social issues, and focuses on the idea of thought and thinking in order to transcend thought and thinking. Many “get it” right away and free themselves from the tyranny of the small mind (“mind” is just a word or concept for a collection of thoughts, images and sensations – all thought-like), but others are fascinated, or frightened, or puzzled and full of questions, or in some way paying attention to and focusing on thinking. It’s our biggest hobby. We play with it all day long, and into the night, pick it up first thing in the morning. But …
Who are you?

Once you kick the ladder out, or let it fall away, the question has a different meaning. You’re all things, in a sense, and no things. The unknowable knower… words fail. And the mind falls quiet. You might laugh, or smile. It doesn’t matter – there’s no real mattering going on. There is this un-graspable simplicity. Quiet.
So Mind, Thought and Consciousness mean the totality of what is, and that’s the way Sydney Banks meant it, or Lao Tsu, or any other sage you want to name. Let’s not get hung up on names, but have fun along the way, playing with them, as they come and go, friends. Be happy, be free.

Do Circumstances Cause Feelings?

Dear Eric, thanks for your reply to my enquiry about meditation. Perhaps you might clarify something I’m also struggling with. I really don’t get this 3P [Three Principles Psychology] idea that it’s never the circumstances that cause our feelings. If I were in Auschwitz, or had a relative murdered in Orlando, or was wrongly imprisoned for 30 years, wouldn’t these dreadful circumstances not cause me to feel sick, disgusted, angry, suicidal etc ? If you can help me understand this I’d be really grateful. Also don’t you find that the 3P world is turning into a bit of an industry these days ? Like TM it seems to promise the earth !
Thanks. Keith

Hi Keith – Your question has two parts.
1. Do circumstances cause feelings. This is easy to discredit if you notice how different people react entirely differently to the same circumstances. If it were the circumstances, you would have consistent responses, but in fact you see as many versions of “reality’ as you do individuals, as a function of the thought systems they’ve developed, and thinking in the moment, to use the language of the Three Principles (3P). As further proof of this, there was a gentleman (Jewish) who found profound meaning amidst his experience at Auschwitz and later wrote about it: Viktor Frankl.

Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way. – Viktor Frankl

Another way to put it is, there is a third factor between “you” and “the world”: the reality that your brain and consciousness (or whatever one points to as the “manufacturer” of experience) has constructed.

Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom. – Viktor Frankl

We don’t know the true or ultimate nature of these things (nor of anything) – brain, mind, consciousness, etc. (despite the claims of many to the contrary!) – but we do know our personal experience is an illusion. In other words the reality you experience is a construction, not reality. We don’t even need to delve into “what is reality – consciousness or material reality?” Leave aside philosophy for now. However, *that* you experience is not an illusion: you are conscious. That’s the starting point of your investigation.
The awareness of this fact may or may not free you instantly or over time. The ego is pernicious.

When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.
– Viktor Frankl

That’s a short answer. I did not talk about grieving, which is a good topic to look at (don’t hang onto personal thoughts of loss – for longer than their shelf life anyway – that’s ego again!). This whole topic you bring up is very deep and is at the heart of many of these teachings.

I also did not mention that there are what you could call automatic, physiological reactions to circumstances that are wired in for the survival of the body (whatever a body is – we don’t know). An example would be: you step out in the road and truck is bearing down on you and there is a reaction to step back (even physiological response can potentially be controlled however such as the yogi who controls his body temperature – that such a possibility exists is good to know about). However the response we are talking about that are problematic – the ones that cause you to seek help or change – are psychological in nature. They are arbitrary, learned, self-made and maintained, and ill-adaptive. They are what stand between you and permanent peace and happiness, the foundation that is our Being.

2. The Three Principles Psychology industry. Yes I do find that. It’s double-edged sword in that it helps spread “the message” but it does get watered down and misunderstood and become more and more a packaged product (and sometimes takes on the character of a evangelical religion: dogmatic and world-saving). However, I originally learned of it from one of the very early “packagers”: Richard Carlson. He didn’t call it “The Three Principles” or as something that was inspirited by Sydney Banks, but he was a great popularizer. It was too watered down for me, so I was fortunate to find a footnote at the end of his book about a book by Roger Mills (Sanity, insanity and Common Sense, by Rick Suarez, Ph.D. Roger C. Mills, Ph.D., Darlene Stewart, M.S.), that led me on a journey through “Health Realization” as it was called then.

Peace,
Eric

NOTES:
Dependent on circumstances is no happiness at all
Re-creating the spark from circumstances doesn’t work
Manufactured happiness is elusive

Deep connection, from phenomenal to present

The spark not a product of the objects

The Nature of Ego in the Psychology of Happiness

Preface
I found this article on my computer. I don’t remember writing it – it says 1998 (this is June 2016) – but I kind of like it. The writing seems fairly cohesive and has a friendly tone, and I think it might be of interest or who knows, even useful, to someone new to a spiritual take on psychology such as what is now known as “The Three Principles” field, or has an interest in Buddhism and how it relates to everyday functioning as a person (with an “ego”), etc. At the time I’d been heavily influenced by a dream I’d had about innate natural peace: namely that it is our birthright, and that the only thing that takes us away from that is our imagination. After the dream I discovering the work of Richard Carlson (instant recognition of “Yes!” when I saw the title “You Can Be Happy No Matter What”), then Roger Mills from a footnote, George Pransky, and going to a “Psychology of Mind” conference in 1997 (what became Health Realization and the Three Principles) – all of whom were influenced by the enlightenment of Sydney Banks.
In any case I’m putting it out there and you can be the “judge”. I guess it was just my ego that didn’t think the article was good enough at the time, haha!


I want to talk about ego. I want to define ego simply as anything that takes you away from the moment. Any kind of thought process that takes you away from full awareness and living in the moment, being free, having your mind free, in the moment. So this pulling you away could include fearful thoughts, insecure thoughts, could include jealous thoughts, anything involving over-planning, worrying, or anger and resentment clung to, or desires leading to expectations not fulfilled.

What is ego? It’s not a thing, it’s not a thing in the sense of a psychological entity, it’s more like a habit pattern – something that’s always there – everyone has ego. So I am going to talk about ego in a sense different from a Freudian sense of ego. A Freudian sense of ego, is, as I understand it, a psychological structure of the adult, something that needs to be strengthened, more like the center of adult identity and action, it’s what you’re operating out of. But I want to talk about ego more like the Buddhist would talk about it, where ego is anything that is false to your true self. It’s an illusory kind of activity, mental activity leading to behavior (all behavior starts with thought – thought broadly defined).

Anytime you’re trying to prove something to someone – acting out of that kind of insecurity – that’s ego. So rather than something that makes you strong, ego is a limiting factor. It limits you in your happiness, it limits you in your ability to live in the moment, and experience enjoyment, love, all the richness that’s available within yourself, and that’s capable of being experienced here and now. The ego relates to externals, to what you think you want or need, or have to have from the external world, or what you need to sort of falsely create as a shell protect yourself , in your behavior, as in the example I gave earlier of trying to prove something to someone. Or ego can be the personality you pull out when we are feeling insecure – when we are frightened at some level around other people – we’ll put on a persona. If we’re not relaxed and letting ourselves be, letting ourselves flow, spontaneously, self-consciously, then we are acting out of ego.

There are countless examples of how ego can act. It’s endless. But there is only one example of perfect peace, and it cannot be described, only experienced. When you put ego aside, it’s very simple, it’s difficult to describe what it’s like. You cannot replace it with a verbal description. One can point to those states though that almost everyone is familiar with.

What we need to do to feel beautiful feelings is get beyond personality. Personality only darkens our spirits, causes us to despair in our loneliness, behind walls of our own creation.

Probably everyone has noticed how, when they are engaged in an activity they really enjoy, their mind works differently. Let’s say you are with a close friend you really trust, and you are not worried about how you are acting, you are not self-conscious, your ideas and behavior just flow from one moment to the next, there is no effort involved, and it’s not contrived. Things just happen naturally.

So, you don’t want to get rid of ego, in the sense that, through some effort, you try to get rid of this “thing” called ego. First of all, the effort would increase the strength of the ego, the effort itself is ego. Second of all, it isn’t exactly a thing – an object in the normal sense of the word – that you can push out or push aside. Maybe we could call it a “reaction pattern”.

So that points up another interesting aspect of ego. If it’s a reaction pattern, where does the pattern come from? Well it comes from the past, from memory. Now, everything is in the present. Everything that we experience is in the present, even if we are going over the past or thinking about the future, that is still mental activity in the present. The reality of the past is that it exists as thoughts in the present.

OK, so what are the nature of these thoughts? They are habits or patterns or memories that we’ve stored, and we’re putting them into place, we’re using them in the moment, but not in a new way. And so what would be different from that would be newly generated ideas which come along and are let go. We spontaneously generate new ideas and create new patterns in the moment – there is something generative or productive.

So the ego then is circular in the sense it’s using old habit patterns, old thoughts, old memories. It’s self-validating in the sense that you will perceive that as the reality and it will validate itself wherever you look outward, in a circular way.

Let’s see if I can explain this more clearly. Perhaps an example would help. Let’s look at a typical kind of insecurity. Let’s say someone believes they are not a very likable person or that people find them unattractive, and this is an idea, a fear – you could call it part of their ego – when they are around someone, their insecurity triggers fearful thoughts, and they act out of that in a way that validates it. That is their reality in the moment, according to how they are thinking. They will not perceive anything that does not correspond to that reality, to those thoughts – they will not perceive someone acting in a way that makes it evident that they like that person. They won’t be able to see that someone likes them. And they will act and generate behaviors that are less likable. So there is a sort of self-validating logic to it – or psycho-logic. It’s what is known as a self-fulfilling prophecy as it were.

So all these ideas fit together. But what I want to talk about, and what you probably want to hear, is how do you get beyond ego? Well that’s a very interesting question. The Buddhists would say that it’s through meditation, and that kind of awareness, you see the illusory nature of ego.

I would say not through meditation but by being in a meditative state, and not by the rituals, techniques or effort of meditation per se. That sort of artifice – getting into all the trappings of meditation, schedules, the discipline, and what happens when you do that, or you don’t do it – either clinging to the rituals and schedules and disciplines, or reprimanding yourself if you don’t do it. That’s simply reinforcing ego. Now, some Buddhists would probably recognize this, but they would still it is as very hard work – you know, penetrating, cutting through ego.

But there is a paradox there. Letting go of ego is absolutely the simplest, easiest thing in the world. It is the nature of effortlessness: what we are talking about is a natural state of being – and how we get out of that into this way of reacting called ego. So you want to be careful about setting it up as something that you have to do to get in the future somewhere, or worrying about that you didn’t have in the past, or worrying about that you don’t have now.

Does a child have to meditate or worry about their ego?

The way around this seeming dilemma, or the way I want to suggest as a way of helping you, is to point you in a direction of deepening your understanding. Because by looking at your own experience and what happens in the present, reflecting on it, understanding your mind a little better, you can get a perspective. And furthermore, by pointing you in the direction of positive states of mind, and what that’s about, you can familiarizing yourself with that. The Taoists call it gathering Virtue.

That is the direction that will help you let go of ego: becoming more and more familiar and at ease, and having greater faith in that positive state of mind. And then it will just happen, without you even noticing or looking for it. You’ll start developing greater awareness, greater ability to live in the present, to let go of old patterns, get insight into yourself and your life and what’s going on. This will happen easily and naturally, with a higher level of understanding. Which is not to say that you won’t have moments, times, perhaps days when your psychological functioning isn’t as good. But you’ll always have a way back to peace and faith, and you’ll have a way forward – you’ll know, you won’t be as disturbed by your own thoughts – what I was calling ego in this essay. And you’ll have hope. I mean, everyone has moods and ups and owns, and an “interesting life” as the old Chinese curse about living in interesting times talks about. But you can learn from those. But above all, over time, you’ll make sense of things. You’ll see the psychological realm is not this superstitious, chaotic, scary realm. There is a way to comprehend, to understand what is going on.

I don’t want to give you the impression that I know the ultimate nature of mind. What I am talking about is understanding what is happening in the mind with thought and consciousness. I can talk about consciousness in some other essay. Mainly I was talking about thinking and ego – what kind of thinking patterns I’m calling ego. But the mind – or the Mind with a capital “M” – I don’t think anyone knows the nature of mind. Things come from Mind – it’s like the power source behind our thoughts, backing them up. You can speculate, give it a name, but I don’t think we understand where creativity and new patterns in life, and the energy of life comes from, except in material terms. We can explain, or describe realistically, material “energy” in physics. But the creativity of life and mind, and it’s beauty, is still a rather wonderful mystery. We can deepen our understanding of what we see going on, but we can’t explain it away. Like trying to explain the nature of love, these are big things, bigger than me, bigger than any individual – and bigger than ego. We can participate in them, but not capture them in our concepts.

So what I was doing here was taking the idea of ego and use that as a point around which to talk about conceptions of psychological functioning, or healthy and unhealthy psychological functioning, and pointing the reader in a positive direction.

One other thing about ego – or lack of ego rather – we don’t take our thoughts, our selves, or our selves based in thought, so seriously. We may witness ourselves acting in the world in a happy way, enjoying ourselves. But we don’t attach so much significance or seriousness to the “little” self. We experience a lighter sense of being, still rich and full and flowing along, but less acutely aware of being a center of the world. You see that your so-called personal problems are not that huge, not that significant in the overall scheme of things. The world looks different to you. Your perception changes drastically.

So, in short, when we step aside, or don’t let ego affect us negatively, we are more aware how thinking operates in our lives and don’t get caught up in it. We then have greater resources available to us from inside. We get fresh new thoughts, and beautiful feelings such as joy and gratitude. We can never step aside from our thoughts entirely, or we would be pure awareness without content. Leave that to the hard-core mystics.

But step aside from ego for a while and you uncover the ordinary peace and happiness that’s always waiting there. Isn’t that what we all need and want?

notes 6/15/04
Ego: both positive and negative sense of self-importance (I’m so wonderful or I’m so bad – form of excitement, distraction, amplification, falseness).

Eric C. Platt
© June 1998

Back To Reality?

Just back from a retreat yesterday, I go into the bank and am chatting with the cheerful teller, telling her how I’m just back from a week retreat and am adjusting, and she commiserates about vacations saying, “back to reality” twice in our conversation. What? I walked out, wondering, what on Earth was she talking about? I glance over as I write this and see a book with a sub-title “A Real World Design Guide”.
I suppose it’s an indication of some clarity of mind that I don’t see any division between the reality or real-world-ness of life here at work or at home and the one on a spiritual retreat or vacation. It’s all the same, to me. Mind and Reality. Making it up as we go along…
So am I *supposed* to be unhappy and uptight at work, and only allowed to relax and Be on vacation?
If your work isn’t feeling like a vacation often enough, or your vacation is too much work, there’s something you’re not understanding. You need to vacate your mental premises and let life work through you.

OK back to work …

(This posting is purely for your enjoyment…).

Transform a Difficult Relationship By Seeing Yourself

Seeing from the eyes of love and understanding, rather than judgement and fear, we can see someone anew. This is not a technique, but something that happens spontaneously, in the moment.

I’m not in a romantic or intimate relationship at the moment, but I’ve seen an amazing transformation in at least one “relationship” with someone in my life who was very problematic before. I perceived them to be egotistical, dominating, type-A, and saw their behavior as often manipulative, coming from an agenda, not straightforward.

Instead of seeing what was wrong with them,  I started to look from eyes of happiness and love. Things changed in an instant, then transformed over time. We are now on terms of ease and generally great cooperation, etc. Instead of me feeling an underlying fear and tension, I saw *her* fear, the insecurity that was driving her behavior– not intellectually as before but more compassionately, in the moment – as an ordinary human being, not from a critical standpoint. She no longer seems a threat.

I was looking at her ego.  What I needed to see was mine!

It’s so easy to identify other people’s “problems” – what’s that saying about the sliver in their eye and the two-by-four in your own?

So it’s not a matter of being critical of ourselves, but focusing on our own happiness, having an insight that we are indeed really the same: what I see in you is what I am seeing in myself, literally, because you only exist as thought in this “eye” …

It’s easy to fall into the trap of other people existing as something other than a thought in our selves. Another way of saying this is, we are all part of the same reality, which is one reality.

You think you know what’s wrong with someone, what makes them trigger your frustration in “dealing with them”.

I heard the psychologist Mark Howard say once that if you find yourself trying to teach a loved one some psychological understanding, you aren’t *listening*. If you have experienced this – seen the humor in the situation when they don’t exactly take kindly to you pointing out something like “It’s all in your thinking” – you know what I’m talking about.

In psychology, we come to this truth from inside thinking (thinking-feeling and perceiving), transcending it from the inside-out. In some spiritual circles, this is transcended directly, by looking at the experience of awareness of the “I am” and seeing that is the same as the reality of oneness, then looking back or down and transforming all the details of one’s life, such as thinking about others and oneself as separate entities, and feeling in the body, and so forth.

Change and learning and growing never stop, even for so-called enlightened folk…

How To End Anxiety: The Dawning of a New Understanding

It’s only via an apparently finite mind that we can know an apparently finite object – Rupert Spira

Here’s my two cents on anxiety – something I’d had lots of experience with, once I’d cured myself of depression. Today it was happening – I was feeling anxious – and as often in the case, I was not sure if it was associated with thoughts about anything in the external world. They call this “generalized anxiety” in the psychiatric world of thinking.

There was nothing to do as far there being something underneath that was driving it: it did not appear to be driven by thinking about something that needed to be done that I should attend to. I’d already done everything I could do as far as “taking care of business”.

So, taking cues from some of the teachers I listen to, I just experimented with looking at the possibility that this is just a mis-identification with the belief in a separate self.

Specifically, I looked at the sensations in what I take to be the body – I perceived an energy, or perception of energy felt in the center of the body. Like a vibration, or whatever it feels like to you. You look at what it *actually* feels like to you. Yes, have courage. It’s nothing to be afraid of. Just a movement, a sensation. And presumably some thinking triggered by the sensation, or helping to create this movement, in a kind of feedback loop.

OK. What does this sensation mean? Nothing really, except for the fact that I’m aware of it. So it exists within this awareness. I move my arms outward, in a motion like I’m sending it out, the contraction, if it’s there. This is just a joke because I don’t believe it would work, but a friend told me to try it. Can’t hurt…

Play with it:
Where did the thinking come from? From where it was before? Or from nothing? As far as we are concerned, it comes out of nowhere. In other words from the unknown, from the not-known, from the formless, whatever you want to call the nothing from which it came.

OK so we are in the middle of nowhere, and what’s here? Awareness. And what’s inside awareness?
Aha, we were thinking this thinking is *me*. That that’s us. A thought. Got wrapped up in that thought! The little “me”. That’s the key right there.

Me and my anxiety. And thinking about me and my anxiety. As if I *know* who and what I am: I’d been identified with this activity totally. Pff. Hahaha. What a game.

At that point I fell asleep.

When I awoke, the anxiety was gone.

As I write these words, I breath and feeling a relaxing, expansive sense. Nothing is wrong. Peace.

Some Thoughts on Thought

Some Thoughts on Thought, Universal or Not?

Since becoming involved with an Advaita community (meditating and discussing consciousness with them, etc.), many of whom are also informed by Buddhism, it’s interesting to see the differences of language and concepts pointing to the same understanding of the universality of Consciousness, as well as experiencing it (to what little degree this not completely realized being can!). Getting glimpses of this lends life feelings and sense of underlying love, beauty and truth.

I’m not a coach, teacher, professor or anything else, just a explorer of truth and life and always looking to heighten happiness and peace in myself and therefore others, anyway I can, including putting my thoughts down in writing.

In the Three Principles Psychology community, there is much talk about universal Mind, Consciousness, and Thought, as this “metaphor” is the primary, central teaching tool. Now, I’d always thought that Thought must also be universal, as part of that (spiritual) trinity as it were. But after bringing up the topic with the teacher (Francis Lucille) at a question-and-answer session following a silent meditation satsang recently (something new to me), in an attempt to give some context to my question (which I don’t even remember at this point) I began to wonder of I had it wrong. He pointed out that in his experience, Thought took place *in* consciousness and was not universal. I was taken aback but couldn’t argue with him.

DSC007884_log-gravings_1200

What is your actual experience with respect to Thought? The experience I have is that it happens *within* Consciousness, and is not universal in the way that Consciousness and Mind are. Thought is universal in the sense (no pun intended!) that it’s made of Consciousness, since everything is. Universal Consciousness and Universal Mind are really the same thing, but we make a distinction between Mind and Consciousness, plus Thought, as “how it works”, as a teaching tool. Then hopefully, the scaffolding can be discarded once this “I am” as the subject is having a direct experience as awareness itself (the central insight – sight from within), or at least seeing that their experience (such as feelings) is somehow “made up” and coming from within, not outside (not people, circumstances, biology, etc. – nothing objective).

So Thought is “universal” in the sense that it’s common to everyone, whereas Consciousness (and Mind) are truly common, as reality is all the same Consciousness. However we experience this self as a separate entity because of the action of Thought, creating the infinite forms of experience and this sense of a separate entity, even though what it is experiencing has it’s origins in a universal source. Thus we talk of form from the formless. Of course, if everything is spiritual, then Thought is as well. But it’s not universal in the same sense that Consciousness is: indeed what makes looking at Thought useful to us in this context of universality is that it’s the *bridge* between the form and the formless, the universal and the seemingly-not universal. Or we could say it’s the connection between the spiritual and the psychological. These are all just different ways of pointing to the same fact: that Thought is the missing link.

The answer people seek lies not in their separate beliefs, but in the realization that Thought is the common denominator in all psychological and spiritual understanding

– Sydney Banks, The Missing Link

Notes, June 22, 2016:
Thinking and thought are just part of what is, which cannot be separate, since reality is just everything that is. Separateness is just an idea. So thinking is subject to the same laws as everything else, and is completely determined. Free will is only an afterthought. Nothing is random. However, Consciousness in itself is completely free. There’s the paradox. Unless you see that Consciousness does not come from the body. The situation is reversed: thoughts of a body happen within Consciousness.

What Is Meditation, and Is It Needed?

To taste something sweet, is it necessary to eat strawberry ice cream, or can you simply eat a wild strawberry?

Meditation. Like yoga, it seems to be something you hear about more and more, as more and more people do it, hear about it, or feel they should do it. But I wonder, with increased popularity, is there a decrease in understanding? Like yoga, which has gone from a deep practice of mind-body-spiritual integration, to more of an American-style exercise program, has much the value of it been lost, as it’s gone from an inside-out understanding to just a another practice or technique, a thing to do – about the mind, with no understanding of Consciousness – or a de-stress tool, or just set of clothing to take on to prove yourself with and talk about with your friends?

In any case, even before any popularity, you may hear people in spiritual groups or outside talk about how much they meditate, how long they’ve meditated, or how long one needs to or should meditate in order to make advances towards one’s goal, whether that’s a short term goal or a long term one. They may do it to reduce stress, or in order to realize some special state, such as enlightenment. Or they discuss and compare what kind of meditation they do, or that they feel bad because they haven’t meditated: guilty or stressed because they dropped out of the habit, like someone that jogs and hasn’t had time. However even the sincerest meditators can misunderstand what is going on with this subtle form of self-enquiry, self-therapy, self-improvement, or whatever you want to call it.

So meditation is usually seen as a goal-oriented activity – don’t we always have goals when we do something? – where one tries to achieve something, the highest form of achievement being “enlightenment” or “Self-realization” (the distinction between those is enough subject for another article). As “seekers”, we are seeking to fill a lack, or find something. And if you achieve that, you’ve made it spiritually, and then maybe become a spiritual teacher yourself, instead of following one. That’s meant only half as a joke – there really is that thinking out there! You can see how this would plug into an achievement or competitive, comparing-oriented social mindset. This realization is seen as something that happens through time: some are told it could take 20 or 30 years, or more than one lifetime.

I’m not a Buddhist, Hindu, Three Principles coach, Non-dualist, licensed psychologist, or any other brand of religion or psychological-spiritual practitioner – call me a freelance philosopher if you need a label – but from my limited perspective as a seeker, finder, thinker, and realizer of glimpses of Truth, here’s my perspective.

After spending a little time hanging out with some nondualists and meditators “non-dualists” I find myself asking this question yet again: what is meditation and what is its real value? The non-duality Advaita school of teaching – and spiritual communities in general – is one that seems to value meditation highly, and often see it as a necessary tool of self-enquiry and purification as it were, to see the conditioning and true nature of beliefs (along with intellectual self-enquiry) and habits that stand in our way, on the path towards realizing the true self.

On the other hand, mystics may say otherwise. They will point to the fact that you are already enlightened, already happy, and what you seek is who and what you are. A seeming paradox.

And within a spreading global spiritually-based psychology movement called “The Three Principles“, it’s often mentioned that meditation is not needed, perhaps seen as superfluous, or even looked down on or dismissed as a waste of time, since if you’ve seen the simple truth that innate health and wellbeing are our default state, and have an understanding that it’s thinking you taking you away from it, you can easily drop the interference and return to “home”. You are your own teacher (despite the fact that there is an enormous and growing cottage industry of coaches, teachers, counselors, therapists, consultants and so forth that want you to invest quite a bit in their teachings! But I digress…).

My view of meditation is becoming more nuanced as a result of exposure to and discussion with those in both the Three Principles Psychology (“3P”) communities and the nondual ones (online and off). And in living it: 19 plus years in the 3P and, well, it depends on how you define it, but I got interested in Zen Buddhism around 1988 (seriously anyway) and before that had a spontaneous and profound nondual type experience around 1980, when thought ended and “I” died and consciousness merged with the total absolute light, the Mind of neverything (I had no framework or understanding of what had happened, and got lost for quite a while, haha)… but I digress…

An Analysis: Being or Doing, And Understanding or Not
I see we have these two axis at play: meditation as being or doing, and understanding or lack thereof. Let’s codify this so we can play with the combinations:

Am: Meditation as Being, a mental state: a quiescent mind, or
Ap: Meditation as Doing, a practice, a technique or goal-oriented activity.
Bu: An understanding of what’s going on, or
Bl: A lack of understanding of what’s going on.

OK now so just for fun let’s combine these 2 axis into 4 possibilities, with some examples:

1. AmBu: A meditative state, with understanding
Walking in a park, you start seeing so much beauty, feeling a happiness, like an expansive love for life welling up inside, and understanding it’s a reflection of a deeper reality that’s always with us but is obscured by what we do with our minds. This could be healing or be an upward shift in consciousness, or if less profound, simply enjoying what is, Life. “Noncausal happiness” is you will.

2. AmBl: A meditative state, with little understanding
Walking in a park, you start seeing so much beauty, feeling a happiness, like an expansive love for life welling up inside, and thinking it’s a reflection of this park where you’re walking, and your city, so you keep going back to the same park trying to get the feeling. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.

3. ApBu: Meditation practice, with understanding
You sit, meditate with some friends and let your mind settle, and feel a good feeling well up as your thinking quiets down, and understand it’s a quiet mind that’s allowing the reality that’s always there to surface. You’re able to see this happen at other times too, but the practice is a nice opportunity you took advantage of.

4. ApBl: Meditation practice, with little understanding
You sit with some friends and let your mind settle, and feel a good feeling well up as your thinking quiets down, and attribute it to the technique and new habits that need reinforcement from this technique. You may bfeel bad about yourself, or in a bad mood if you miss your meditation sessions, or even become “addicted”. You might beat yourself up thinking you aren’t being good and disciplined, or maybe your mind gets scattered and lost in a stressful state and you attribute it to lack of meditation practice.

The conclusion I draw from this is that meditation as a practice can be useful and enjoyable, but generally is not necessary. Meditation as a mental state is necessary, and more or less tantamount to what makes a happy and fulfilling life.

Furthermore, with a deep enough understanding of life, or for those naturally knowing or inclined, a meditative state is a common and spontaneous occurrence.

Curious to get other’s perspectives on how they saw meditation in light of the Three Principles, I had some online conversations with various folk from that field.

Elena Castro, a Three Principles coach, said it like this, first quoting Sydney Banks, the enlightened man from which sprang, with the later help of some psychologists, the whole field of Three Principles psychology:

From “The Ultimate Answer” (an audio CD of Syd Banks speaking):

“You are looking for silence. That is why people meditate all over the world, trying to silence their mind so that this wisdom will come in. Now, that’s one way of doing it, and I am not going to say any more about that. But you know what 3 principles do? They direct you into it.”
– Sydney Banks

My own experience, Eric, was kinda similar to yours: decades of meditating with nice feeling while doing it, having no idea what that really was. 3 principle made it clear what was happening while meditating and that that experience is not a result of a practice, but it is me feeling mySelf. Never had a need to meditate afterwards – I experience myself, knowingly, relaxing into myself regardless of what I am doing.

I found this in an early audio tape of a Sydney Banks talk from 1975, in Victoria, Canada:

I’ve been picked on so many times about [meditation]. It’s a beautiful thing for your mind, it’s a beautiful thing for your body, it’s a little like taking a tranquilizing pill. The state you get from it will [inaudible] last two hours or who knows. But the mind searching for itself cannot find itself, this is the game of life. If you sit thinking about Life, you’ll never make it. The mind searches for itself belongs to a form. And we’re all forms playing the game of life. This is what we’re supposed to be. We’re not supposed to know what the game of life is. This is what we call the game of life. And what we’re supposed to do is to try find our way back…

Lian Brook-Tyler, another Three Principles coach, puts it like this:

Mindfulness can bring some benefits and like other techniques, is something that makes sense to practice when we don’t understand how things work and we’re trying to manage and improve our experience.

The three principles is a description of how human experience is created. It’s useful to understand because it often results in an experience that feels a whole lot easier and more enjoyable. 🙂

And Elizabeth Lovius, another Three principles-inspired practitioner, who calls herself an “agent of change”:

Mindfulness = prescription (something to do). Three principles = description. (Something that is/to understand)

And Damian Mark Smyth, “author of Do Nothing!: Stop Looking, Start Living (Volume 1), about the principles that create our inborn happiness, clarity and calm in business”, put it succinctly:

Mindfulness is balancing… the Principles are Gravity

Conclusion
Do what makes you happy, and not because you should. Use meditation as an occasional tool to “see” such things as a feeling you just can’t seem to get a handle on, or a mood that you can’t shake. Don’t make it  mechanical habit. It’s a beautiful “thing”, and life is not a thing!

Draw your own conclusions. I’d love to hear your thoughts and insights.

 

Rupert Spira  
The Highest Meditation

Rupert Spyra’s teacher, Francis Lucille:
Nonduality 13 of 16 – What Is Meditation?

Meditation 6 of 24 Regarding the Apparent Contradiction Between Self-Inquiry and Meditation

At the end of the above video, Francis says – and this is a nice way to end this article:
“…The great secret is that consciousness is universal. You have to be open to that – before you do all of these exercises, be at least open to this possibility.”

Eckhart Tolle and Attention to Thoughts

Nice to hear Eckhart Tolle talking about thought and feeling (from the video “your Ego Love Unhappiness”):

The feeling will often tell you what kind of thought it is, whether it’s true or not. And then you can recognize certain thoughts as not productive and as thoughts you would choose not to have if you had a choice. But the wonderful thing is you *do* have a choice. And it is actually possible to drop certain thoughts when you recognize them as having no function whatsoever except to make you unhappy (chuckles). And there’s a wide range of thoughts that have no function whatsoever except to make you unhappy (chuckles). But sometimes the egoic self actually even loves its unhappiness because it’s so familiar. So every therapist is familiar with clients who do not want to let go of their neurosis because they feel at home with it (laughs). But if you recognize these thoughts as not helpful, then it’s easier to “…OK…” – don’t follow them where they want to take you. And by choice – remember what we said about attention – you actually realize you can choose where you want your attention to go. The thoughts pretend to be all-powerful and (sucking sounds) try to get all your attention ‘…No! My choice is not to put all my attention into my thoughts…’

He then goes on with the example of putting attention into breathing, then feeling more alive, being present in the moment. Of course this is just one technique or doing, and there are many ways to go with the attention… but you *can* do something other than struggle with thinking.

I had a new woman I’d dated (fairly happy and successful), had become a friend, who once texted to me when I was in a down mood, “It takes a powerful mind. Good luck.” – at the time it sounded like she was saying ego or small mind – most people don’t understand the difference. But one could see this as having or attuning to a powerful consciousness. All just words, but the point is there has to be something higher or bigger than personal thinking to “use” or attune to, in order to transcend it… we do have a choice. There is that possibility to think different even if you are not seeing it at the moment. Thoughts change but but the fact of Thought doesn’t. Your consciousness changes but Consciousness doesn’t. Mind is always free. And they are one and the same.

Western Philosophy of Mind and the Problem of Life

Turning Western Philosophy of Mind on It’s Head

Is life a problem to be solved? The philosophers and scientists who are trying to figure out how the mind works are basing their models on an orientation towards problems solving.
They look for example, at animals in the world surviving, and see them solving problems: how to hunt for prey, how to build a nest, how to navigate through space and so forth. Then they try and build machines to do tasks. And this is all very interesting and useful. But does it tell us anything if applied more broadly?
When I was towards the end of the years of studying philosophy in academia, I was listening to a professor’s lectures who was talking about some theory about the mind based on models of the brain. That was their schtick, their career. It was very clever. And it was very fascinating, but something was off. I couldn’t put my finger on it. For years I’d been digging. I dug and I dug and I dug, trying to figure out, trying to understand how the mind works and what the relation was between the mind and a program, or in her case, a brain, the material and the physical. How do you get a mind from matter, from some machine or brain thing or pieces. How do you put the pieces together, the parts. It was a fun game but oh so frustrating because it was so elusive. It was hard to even know what you were chasing, what to solution would look like, what the definition or outlines were. We were using language to try and understand what was going on and get to a solution.

They were working with what they call “representations”, which is basically a fancy term for models, or what we use to build a model of the world and use it, the thinking structures or schemes.

But the models you come up with, invent, imagine, are based on what you think the mind is, what is valuable, what the mind is for – even what reality is, what life is. If you are using problem-solving and analysis and thinks that what counts or is real, then your models will be about that.

Then one day, at the end of my rope, it hit me. I had an intuition that intuition was the way to go. What!?
That this capacity to just “see” a solution was the main capacity we have, the main power. Not problem solving, but a creative light.
Life was not a process of converging on a solution, but one of creating divergent solutions, some for no purpose at all but the pure fun or joy or energy of living. Like art.

This blew my mind because there was no way to present it. I tried talking about there are no representations, but that was a flop, and the professor was embarrassed for me. And I had trouble articulation it because it was so intuitive. But I knew I was onto something. But it seemed to put me beyond the pale of academia (at least as far as the philosophy department went). I was elated…in a sense, but my philosophy career ground to a halt. I could draw pictures, but what to say?

If you figure out that there’s nothing to figure out, and the game is figuring out, where does it leave you? With no leg to stand on. So I focused on just graduating, playing the game, get the degree, and get the hell out. I needed my freedom.
So you go off and create. And meditate. meditate and create. So that’s what I did. I studied Zen Buddhism, went to a Zen school for a bit, and started taking art classes and making art.

You’ve heard the saying, which is perhaps a cliche now “Life is not problem to be solved but a gift to be opened” which is a good clue.

Have fun and enjoy life.

But that way of thinking hung with me: analyze, criticize, argue, think think think and overthink. Process, research, analyze. It goes beyond what they do in academia. It’s a habit, a way of using this beautiful brain and power to create. It helps to solve problems. But then we apply it too much, in areas that just need awareness, letting the feeling be a guide to where the thinking is at and navigate.

This is where having a guide and the support of others who have followed clues and found answers, helps. We seek spiritual solutions or insights. We go to psychologists or therapists. We read books, talk to friends.

But a lot of those solutions, those pointers, are also based on a misunderstanding. They are trying to apply a medical model, or a problem-solving model, focusing on a problem and hitting it with tools. But it’s the wrong tool. You’ve heard the “if all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail?” Well there’s a lot of hammering going on.

Let’s quiet down the hammering.

The other things I learned was that being smart and being happy are two different things. It’s obvious, but yet we think being smart would somehow lead to happiness. Like you could apply that smartness to the problem. Solve the problem, hammer on the nail. Or use it to get something that will make you happy. Like money or a relationship or fame. Then you will be happy, Because those things will make you happy. Out there. Conditions.

But that is all after the fact. Of life. Of being alive. Now.