Nonduality and the Three Principles Psychology as Teaching Models

An acquaintance from an online forum sent a message to me recently, with a good question about Sydney Banks, the enlightened man who inspired what became the Three Principles Psychology movement, and it’s relation to nonduality teaching (I’d sent him some articles about nonduality student’s experiences):

“Had a good read – very interesting docs . I have been to a Rupert Spira talk. Do you think that if Syd was alive today he would be like Rupert? Rupert doesn’t do coaching or training but my gut feel is non-duality is what Syd was talking about and Roger Mills and George Pransky turned it into a therapy? What do you think?”

That’s an interesting question. Thank you. This is a big topic (one I’ve written many notes on about before but not published), but these questions help to serve as a focus. Here is my (provisional) answer:

Mystics like Sydney are pointing to the same reality as teachers of the nondual understanding like Rupert (Rupert’s teacher was Francis Lucille, who was also my primary recent teacher).

Would Sydney have liked Rupert? Well, Sydney liked everybody. 😉 I’m sure he would have “approved” of what Rupert is teaching in general but I have no idea what he would have said. He was known to suddenly get all up in arms as it were, and tell practitioner that they didn’t understand the Three Principles. George Pransky at one point threw out all his old books and/or tapes after one such incident – because they were too much about the details of thought rather than the universal Sydney was wanting to point the world to – in order to start over with a simpler and purer understanding. In another incident, The Psychology of Mind Centre in Australia (based on an earlier form of the understanding called Psychology of Mind), which during the 1990’s ran seminars for business leaders, did coaching, put out a newsletter, and distributed Syd’s and other’s tapes, was all but shut down after Sydney proclaimed it was not authorized or legit somehow (again, I’m hazy on the exact details of history). Sydney would remind them that it’s spiritual, formless, and they are in their heads or caught in form…

In any case, there are no authorities — Sydney would be the first to say that – and to not listen to him (he did say that) and that it’s not in the words (he said that too). He also said “don’t quote anybody”. 🙂

All that being said, the nondual understanding, or Advaita Vedanta in the classical Indian tradition, is what you could call an advanced teaching. It’s for people that have already been through quite a lot (such as meditation or other practices, or life experiences and insights or “glimpses” and “openings” that have raised their level of consciousness, or surrendering much of their ego from suffering or through grace, etc.). They are ready for it, are ripe. In other words that have a certain spiritual maturity. It’s audience is very very small worldwide. Unfortunately there are a lot of “Neo-Advaita” teachers that don’t understand it as deeply as they should, and a shallow version gets taught, and it can be abused behaviorally, or just understood intellectually. The truth is, it’s not an easy road.

Nonduality is not a thing or topic but the very essence of, or pointing to the fundamental truth of, the spiritual traditions. As such it doesn’t have any trappings of techniques or models. But that essence-hood can make it very hard to understand. In addition there is the phenomenon of you get a lot of seekers gunning for enlightenment, an attitude which is goal-oriented and full of expectation (common in an ego, achievement and competition-oriented culture), which ironically keeps them from their goal. Advaita sprang up as a teaching, in a culture where non-worldliness was much more acceptable than in the West. One could experience extreme bliss, go sit under a tree, and folks would put garlands of flowers around your neck and feed you. Here you would be put in an asylum (that’s a joke, but there’s a grain of truth to it). We want something more “embodied” that we can live and still run in the world. On the teacher side of the equation, you have those becoming gurus where an ego is still involved, and there are abuses (of power: for money, sex, trappings of fame, etc). So you see the whole guru game, and the drawbacks of authority and organizations.

If it’s truly spiritual, it’s about Freedom. It is freedom, absolutely. There are no rules. You are your own guru, your own teacher. There is in truth only One teacher: Universal Intelligence. This may come in the form of life experiences, teachers, a guru, parents, lovers, kids, dogs, birds, flowers… a sudden insight from out of the blue. A glimpse of truth.

Nonduality in these paths (and I’m no authority on paths – I stumbled into it without much formal teaching or reading, because I was ready apparently) is approached by what’s called the “Direct Path” as contrasted with the “Progressive Path”.

The progressive path is the use of practices and behaviors to purify oneself over time – essentially rid the mind and body of the accumulations of past ignorance, to put it bluntly – until one is ready to take the final leap and see ultimate truth, the absolute, become one with the One, drop the self, die to the world, however you want to put it.

By way of contrast, the Direct Path says you are already there Now if you only knew it, or rather, realized it, so look at what’s in the way, which is all illusory. There is no path. It’s the pathless path. This is why Zen and Taoism (Lao Tzu’s teachings) are so similar. It tries to cut across time directly to Truth with a capital “t”, which is all-pervasive, eternal and unnamable. But the illusion of being a human and a mind and body and a doer are very stubborn.

In some ways what Sydney was saying in his early tapes reminds me of the Direct Path, in the way he talked about “find it Now” and cutting across time, and that you are what you are looking for, etc. But it came through his limited exposure to spiritual teachings and language. He came to Self-realization by grace (prodded by suffering) and not through some path, from what I know.

The charm of the Three Principles as I see it at moment, is it’s accessibility, it lack of trappings of technique, it’s secularism (it’s not an offshoot of an Indian religion for example), lack of history and therefore freedom from fancy language (Like Sanskrit which gets pulled out, such as to label a meditation and dialogue a “satsang”, which can sound pretentious to some). It is a teaching model associated with psychology, and you can follow it’s history. Syd’s insights “came through” psychology by fate or an accident of history, depending on your outlook. I don’t think anything’s an accident, so apparently it was a good vehicle. You can read about some of that history in Jack Pransky’s book (Paradigm Shift: A History of The Three Principles), or you can look at earlier versions of the model in books like “Sanity, Insanity, and Common Sense” (Rick Suarez, Roger C. Mills, Darlene Stewart, 1987) or Richard Carlson’s many offerings.

In summary, if you want to make money with with a teaching, or be a “coach”, the Three Principles may be more suited to it and more attuned to our psychologically-oriented culture and a larger audience. The spiritual roots are hidden under a secular guise of what looks like technique and psychology and is even sometimes peddled as “scientific”, which it is only in a vague metaphorical sense. The Three Principles appeals to the huge self-help culture of America and elsewhere. But the spiritual foundations are what give it power over psychology, since it is pointing beyond the mind and the personal self, where traditional psychology gets stuck.

Personally, after 20 years studying and using the Three Principles approach or understanding, I felt it was limiting, without embedding it in a larger understanding. To try and untangle some of my issue with it, here they are:

1. It was too complex: there is really only one “principle” in reality, the unnamable Divine one. The notion of a principle tends to obfuscate, to me, rather than clarify. As a description and not prescriptive model, principles serve as metaphors, but are too easily construed as concepts or even quasi-techniques, and often taken aboard as beliefs. Indeed, beliefs are precisely what one wants to drop on the spiritual unfolding of knowing ones true nature. Admittedly replacing one set of beliefs with another can be a natural pitfall of all teachings and paths, but “principles”, though fairly neutral sounding, is a double-edged sword, because they sound quite solid, like things, and are even misconstrued as being “laws”. They are often compared with the law of gravity, which is yet another misunderstanding of science, using a metaphor of “law” in a crude and opaque way. Spiritual reality is beyond all rules, laws (scientific or otherwise) or intellectual understandings.
2. It was potentially confused in some aspects of its basic ontology. For example, is Thought, one of the Three universal spiritual principles, universal or personal? The personal mind, where thoughts arise, is only universal in a generic sense that body and everything is part of the universe, whereas Universal Consciousness and Universal Mind are truly universal, timeless and impersonal spiritual principles. (The Three Principles also branched off into the “Single Paradigm” teachers, focusing on Thought as the key to human experience, which further confused the scene).
3. It had become too much entangled in marketing to see the forest for the trees. By the time I saw postings on a Three Principles FaceBook forum touting coaching services aimed at helping someone write a Three Principles book, no matter their level of understanding, and at the same time no substantive discussion or dialogue on the forum other than advertising yet more seminars, retreats, online courses, books, etc., I abandoned it as a source to deepen understanding of truth for myself.

4. Inaccurate understanding: as I mentioned above, it is often touted as a “scientific” understanding. This is a misunderstanding of science at a deep level. Western science is about phenomena: that which is observable by the senses or instruments. Spiritual understanding is a subjective, experiential knowing of the essence of reality, invisible to the senses and outside the domain of science. For example, what does science have to say about the experience of beauty, love, or absolute truth? You might find neuroscientists claiming they find such things in the brain, but these are hypothesis or stories made up starting from an unproven and ultimately unprovable assumption (namely that consciousness is brain-based), not known facts. These assumptions are pasted onto observations such as CAT scans, which merely proves some vague correlations and not causality. Spiritual realization is knowing there is no such thing as causality anyway: causality depends on time and space, which are created by universal mind (as Sydney pointed out)! Science is designed to examine that which can be seen inter-subjectively and tested and repeated. It also cannot approach one-off phenomena like miracles and moments of grace. It can’t go there. Period. It’s not the instrument. Science and its handmaiden of technology are about the world — they are very powerful in that domain — not about ultimate questions. In short calling the Three Principles “scientific” is a silly bit of marketing hyperbole, or simply ignorance.

A further mistake is equating intellect with ego (ego being the false self, or a thought-created self-image that is falsely identified with as the real self). While the intellect, can certainly be used to defend ignorance (ignorance in the spiritual sense), and feed an ego, particularly if it’s an ego that prides oneself on intellectual knowledge (which is limited and relative, unlike ultimate knowing), the intellect can nonetheless not only be a tool in one’s liberation — using the mind to undo the mind’s false notions — and post-liberation, an entertaining way to celebrate life, in playing with ideas. The intellect is limited to conceptual thinking and tends to think in terms of cause and effect, and is a useful tool in practical matters, but can’t see beyond its own limited way of understanding (indeed permanent happiness has to by nature be acausal or causeless, that is, beyond the world of cause and effect). However it can be used in service to spirit, life, God, however you want to say it, both during the process of transcending the ego and once transcendence is more established. In short, intellectual activity can be either a block or a friend on the spiritual path. Like any tool, it depends on how it is used.

5. I experienced quite lot of an anti-intellectual attitude, almost fascist in character. Whereas intellectual enquiry is encouraged in Advaita/Nonduality (when taught properly) as a way to cut away false beliefs (such as in a separate self), in the Three Principles world it’s frequently shot down, discouraged or dismissed, often followed with the quasi-compassionate backup notion that “it’s about the feeling”. The psychological truth this reflects however is that feelings can be useful barometers of the quality of one’s thinking, but this understanding got misused socially. This anti-intellect attitude becomes a cop-out with respect to answering good but difficult questions, in my view, and can often be a reflection of a dogmatic and defensive outlook. The intellect is an important if not essential tool for the truth seeker. This of course depends on your inclination: some characters are more heart-oriented, thus by way of comparison the Hindus have the Bhakti (unconditional devotion, which is heart-centered) vs. the Jnani (ultimate Knowledge) paths in Indian yoga, among others. They both lead Home. Are the Three Principles a heart-centered teaching? It may be in essence, given Sydney’s inclinations, but it clearly isn’t only devotional in terms of a teaching model.

One must understand two circumstances that factor into the context of what Sydney Banks was trying to do and what he was up against. It can be hazardous duty to try and communicate what were essentially mystical revelations to a broad audience, given how they will inevitably be misinterpreted “when they fall on the ears of the listening mind” as he once said. In addition, he didn’t have an educational background to articulate it in a refined way or a manner that addressed the potential intellectual questions. In fact he was even promoted as being a welder with “only an 9th grade education“, perhaps suggesting an innocence or trustable lack of sophistication. One article in a small Vancouver newspaper from 2009 quotes him as expressing this simplicity of background as the fact that he claims “He wrote more books than he read”.

The philosopher and mystic Franklin Merrell Wolff, Harvard-trained in philosophy (and formerly a mathematics teacher at Stanford before he chose to pursue enlightenment), had some pertinent observations about mystics with limited tools of expression:

“He may even Know, and know that he Knows, without being able to concieve of what he inwardly Knows—for conception in these matters requires the skill of a superior intellect, and it appears that skill of this sort is by no means a condition of introceptive [a third mode of knowing, beyond sense perception and cognition] awakening. Hence we have many inadequate interpretive statements from those who have attained some degree of this awakening.” (Wolff, p. 121).

I also started to see what were essentially religious attitudes in online meetings, promoting and defending the Three Principles or Sydney in an agitated way. Getting religious about it misses the point, and would have upset Sydney no doubt! Getting religious reflects ego and insecurity, is a narrow and rigid way of seeing it, mistaking the form for what the forms are pointing to, which is absolutely universal. It’s just a path, a tool, a model. It’s ultimately a metaphor. It’s not about a person (Syd) nor The Only Way nor We Are Better Than Thou. I realize this does not condemn the whole field or it’s practitioners, it was just my particular experience. The Three Principles model has helped a tremendous number of people, in very diverse fields. It’s an applied or embodied understanding, whereas Advaita and Nonduality can seem extremely esoteric and impractical (it in fact is very practical, especially as taught by my Western teachers – I didn’t really get a foothold in success, peace and happiness until I got involved – but, as I said, it’s definitely not for everyone).

Now that I’ve gotten some of the problems I’ve perceived with the Three Principles as it has played out in the world, off my chest, I’m going to outline what I think the strengths, utility and beauty of this understanding is.

It’s a revolution in comparison to traditional psychology and psychotherapy. It’s a 180 degree turnaround from the medical model and the attempts to be scientific that got particular emphasis from Freud. Hundreds of schools of therapy exist, and are based on the idea of problem solving, looking at the past, analyzing family dynamics, building coping skills, adding techniques and ideas, labels and diagnoses, finding patterns, trying to change behavior, reactions, or manipulating the contents of thinking, or social or material circumstances… all based on the assumptions that human beings are separate, material entities, at bottom biological machines, thinking machines, like fancy social robots that evolve through time and and learn and must make an effort to be better selves. They also all have in common the fact that they are based on theories: concepts or opinions by theorists and practitioners, the totality of which do not form one coherent, unified understanding of psychology.

Further there is an assumption that is one feels bad, or is suffering, or very disturbed then there is something fundamentally wrong, that one is damaged in one’s substance or at minimum the programming of the machine, and either you are doomed to a life of patching up that damage (with drugs and techniques and circumstances, etc.) or to make efforts to change the programming.
Now while it is true at one level that looking at us as mind-bodies in world, that we are in a sense products of genetics and past “conditioning”. However, what is doing the looking? Science has not been able to answer that and usually will not even look at or admit to the problem. Consciousness is at best, the “hard problem” in philosophy (Chalmers), or at worst, completely dismissed as non-existent (Churchland).

In this atmosphere it is understandable that some practitioners (in the 1990s I believe), such as Roger Mills, labeled this understanding and organizations to teach it, “Health Realization”. They recognized that in reality, we are ultimately healthy and happy behind the screen of Thought, if we could only realize that truth. Nothing can damage or hurt us. What we are is imperturbable at bottom. This has been an outstanding realization for countless people touched by this understanding. They have found greater happiness, health, creativity, resourcefulness, resilience, and common sense, to lead practical, engaged lives.

While there are some changes happening at the fringes and the leading edge of psychology that recognize there is some reality and value to spirituality informing psychology, most psychology sees spirituality as akin to religion, or as simply beliefs. So in a almost dismissive or patronizing sense, the person is seen as taking on notions that are comforting or valuable but only in a personal and arbitrary way. The beliefs don’t reflect reality and don’t reflect truth, nor are spiritual experiences seen as ultimately much more than hallucinations, though they are sometimes admitted to be valuable, mysterious and even life-changing (such as in psychedelic therapy). There is still the assumption it’s brain-based.

In this context, it can be experienced as a complete revolution to point out the fact that reality, as experienced, is an “inside-out job”, as a function of the power of Thought to create the appearance of form, and of Consciousness to make it a real experience, and Mind as a unlimited intelligence, and these universal powers, which are really One, to be ultimately universal spiritual realities. That’s a pretty mind-blowing revelation, and counter to almost everything in the therapy and psychology culture.

In a culture awash in materialism and scientism (the religious assumption that science and objectivism and reason gives us a complete picture of reality) the pursuit of external solutions to suffering and dis-ease – countless schools of therapy, techniques and motivational models, drugs and on and on – the Three Principles offer a simple model for looking within. In the simplicity is the power and sometimes a difficulty for the human mind, given how the mind wants something to grab onto, process, analyze, study, evaluate, compare… the process has to be more one of letting go of assumptions and beliefs than an additive one of taking on more learning of pieces of knowledge. In this respect it is very much like traditional wisdom teachings, which point to one’s ultimate nature and the futility of of gaining ultimate wisdom from the knowledge the world outside programs us with. All these schools tell us to look within for the answer. It can be difficult for Westerners to even make sense of that phrase “look within” for the answer, especially when it can threaten their cherished notions of reality.

Three Principles teachings also wisely point out that it’s the “grounding” or wisdom and understanding of the teacher – who they are, their love and understanding — that makes healer and a helper or guide, and not any particular knowledge. Their “presence”, their happiness and peace, in itself says more than a million words could. This is in parallel with other wisdom schools, which recognize that only someone who has been fundamentally changed and realized truth can actually transmit something, and that what they transmist is often or basically wordless, akin to an “energy” or field of knowing awareness. A higher energy if you will (though that way of saying it starts to sound too New Age to me!)

Another charm of the Three Principles is their accessibility and approachability. Although the flip side of this is what you could call a diluted wisdom and a commercialization (one friend, a former British Jungian therapist and Buddhist practitioner, and intellectually brilliant, laughed it off, calling it “Bastardized and Americanized Buddhism”), it at least does not appeal to a spiritual ego as much as esoteric teachings from foreign lands with complex histories and terminology. It’s more easily swallowed, and can be like a spiritual tricycle ones rides until you’re ready for deeper layers, deeper unfolding of consciousness. It allows wisdom to get a foothold via a psychological vehicle. Furthermore, there are very few bells and whistles to the Three Principles. Some of the original teachers, those who knew Sydney Banks, were influenced by his repeated urgings to keep it simple and that it’s spiritual.

As I see it, since this wisdom came thorough psychology and psychologists out into the world, there was tendency to embellish out and make it into a psychology. For example there used to be four principles in the early days (useful and revolutionary as they were) that were formulated by Rick Suarez with help from Darlene Stewart and Roger Mills (Sanity, Insanity and Common Sense, 1987), and picked up by the popularizer Richard Carlson. To their credit they realized psychology should be based on principles rather than concepts. The ones they formulated were the basis of what was called “Psychology if Mind”:

Thought Systems
Separate Realities
Thought Recognition
Levels of Consciousness

These four principles were later refined or simplified into three (by who I’m not sure, but Sydney was no doubt involved): Universal Thought, Universal Consciousness, and Universal Mind. From then on, Sydney talked of the Three Principles endlessly.

In the final analysis, none of this really matters. Why? Because, what’s the goal: It’s happiness. If you were to be asked to pick between enlightenment and happiness, which would you choose? It’s permanent happiness we want, or happiness that’s realized enough of the time such that you don’t care if you’re “enlightened” or understanding some ultimate truth. It doesn’t matter where we that happiness is coming from, what reason or unreason seems to cause it. What we seek is causeless happiness, because it’s the only kind that can be counted on, ultimately. Happiness, peace – that is, being worry-free – is the goal, and this can only happen in the present Now, because your are established in some eternal presence that goes beyond your little self. That’s it. What more could you want? If something still feels missing, you are still seeking, and that’s OK. And even when you have realized quite a lot of happiness and truth and peace and love, it’s still an endless journey and infinite depths are possible (“There is no end to Consciousness” Sydney said once in a talk).

Follow your enthusiasm, your love, not what you “should” do. If it’s boring, do something else. If you are happy doing something (or in not doing something), that’s your path. But if you are doing it *only* for the money, watch out, misery-lane lies ahead (unless making money is what makes you truly happy – there *are* people that love business, working and money-making more than anything). If you are doing it for some other object in the future in order to get something or be something that you think will bring you happiness, you are setting yourself up for unhappiness, investing your happiness in something outside yourSelf. It has to come from the heart. It’s about giving, not a getting. And, not everyone is born a teacher or coach, or even a truth lover. Some beings express themselves as writers, or artists, or car mechanics, or gardeners, or don’t talk about Truth at all, they just live it – there are no bounds, no set way to embody happiness, truth, peace, love – it’s totally free.

Be Happy, Be Free

References

“Sydney Banks – wrote more books than he read”, by Douglas Todd, Vancouver Sun, August 3, 2009.

Transformations in Consciousness: the metaphysics and epistemology, by Franklin Merrell-Wolff. State University of New York Press, 1995.

Depression And Anxiety Are Springboards To Happiness

April 2016

Recently, at a question-and answer session with a spiritual teacher, I heard them say that pain or difficult states of mind were “springboards”. That was an intriguing statement.

I could say depression and anxiety were springboards to spirituality and psychology for me around 28 years ago, and this understanding we now call the Three Principles Psychology about 18 years ago, but honestly when you look at depression (or any feeling) it is a label we place on a range of experiences. In fact it was a label I had to learn. I didn’t know I was “depressed” or give much thought to that word until a therapist told me I was.

It had started off and on roughly 5 years earlier while I was in a difficult relationship with a restricted, conditional love feeling, then a breakup triggered a break with my own self-feelings of care and natural self-love.

Then it got worse and I just felt terribly hollow or empty and lacking in something that felt essential: I was unable to focus, and everything feeling difficult, like moving through molasses. There was an energy drain, like something was terribly *wrong* with *me* but I couldn’t put my finger on it, or settle my thoughts, which were in a thousands states of argument and conflict with themselves. (Looking at it now, you could call this “resistance”). I felt a deep unnamable dread, as well as a speediness that went around and around in circles, a form of what I learned was called “stress”; I was disconnected, fragmented, alienated such that when I was asked how I felt I could not answer. I didn’t know how I felt. Feeling was alien territory for me.

The ego dynamic — the false, thought-created self, the constriction of energy — both drives a draw towards reality (spiritual truth) and in a depressive response, a pulling away from reality, a withdrawal from.

A side story is that I had a spiritual opening (in the form of an NDE — Near Death Experience) at, you could say, too early an age — 21 — to know what to do with. I had no context of understanding, or a way to integrate it. For a little while I was unusually peaceful, loving and relaxed. But then the world began to weigh heavily on me. I had to form a structure around this sensitivity you could say, because there were still the inherited patterns from the past, in the body and subconscious. This manifested in the form of seeking experiences, using drugs, getting into intense sexual relationships, getting depressed, philosophically obsessed (so much so that I got a degree in it), and all the overly critical and analytical argumentative habits that kept the game going.

I lived in my head, trying to solve my problems, with a critical and analytical mind. This was most intense in the college years. I started seeing a therapist after failing some classes towards the end of my time there, but didn’t feel like she helped much. However I did have a huge moment of philosophical illumination (I was a philosophy major obsessed with what the nature of intelligence and the mind) in the experience of seeing the limitations of the thinking I’d been involved in — what all these professors were doing with their theories and arguments — that it was all made-up models of the mind, made out of the same kind of mental mode that was trying to solve the problem! I had a huge intuition. My big intuition was that intuition was the way to go, not their problem-solving cognitive process, as if we were in essence just computers, doing processes in time. Intuition and vision were the central faculties we have, I saw. But that just did not fit into the academic world of philosophy. Long story short, I left that field, at least as far as formal academic study.

A year or so after that, while taking a painting class with a teacher into Zen and yoga, I start exploring, studying, and practicing Zen and had a tremendous opening of awareness and burst of creativity. But I would still go through moods and had great trouble with relationships and work and in other areas of life. It was turbulent. I got into a long-term “serious” relationship with someone who despite their wonderfulness, had some underlying troubles of their own, and a work situation at an unhealthy corporation (not unusual!). I was not a happy camper. At least for any significant period of time. Oh sure, I found pleasure in activities that were creative and free, like gardening and painting and hiking in nature or laughing with friends, or helping nice clients in my consulting business. But they were very ephemeral. Something was out of synch with the inside and the outside. This creative force, the light of intuitive knowing that comes and goes, was not the answer, in itself.

Cut to 9 years later when I had a dream that set me on a course that changed everything. The dream was about a natural, internal, unshakable peace that was so obvious and central to what we are that it could not be explained. Shortly after that I saw a book in a New Thought church bookstore – my eyes went right to it and I knew the instant I saw it, it was what about I’d experienced — there was a quiet recognition. The book was “You Can Be Happy No Matter What” by Richard Carlson. It was pointing to the basic fact of there being something inside that was always there that was “healthy”, as well as the thought-feeling connection (which I’d seen in an instant huge “Aha!” from cognitive therapy, but could not hold onto with all it’s exercises and efforts).

But Richard Carlson was not a satisfying read to me — it seemed watered down somehow, and I had to find out where these ideas came from. I found a footnote in the back to a book by Roger Mills, Darlene Stewart, et al, of an article entitled “Sanity Insanity and Common Sense”. I managed to track it down with some effort, via a graduate student friend. That led me to the watershed read of “Realizing Mental Health” by Roger Mills, the tapes about depression and the busy mind by George Pransky, then going to the Psychology of Mind Conference in Santa Cruz in 1997, meeting Ami Chen Mills and George Pransky, Annika Hurwitt and others. The rest is on-going history.

I can’t seem to get away from it, happily. It’s gone so far as, in the last couple months, to have dived head first (heart first?) into non-dualism study and I’ve signed up for a retreat with Francis Lucille. He’s not a Three Principles teacher but it’s all the same, isn’t it…

December 2017

As I see things now, the central problem is the ego. Having said that, I have to untangle the mess, because there isn’t really a thing called the ego, and there isn’t really a problem!

The ego is merely a believing, a movement of thought, and a contour of energy. The activity of believing is one of holding something to be true that you don’t have any evidence for. In the case of an ego, a self is learned when one is young. You learn that you are a body, a name, and various attributes that go with that identity: preferences, activities, family, friends, maybe religion, and ways of thinking, talents and work and career and on an on. At some point you start to defend that “I thought”. And you repeatedly talk to others and oneself with the “I” pronoun, solidifying it’s seeming reality. After all, your perspective of the senses seems to be a body, and you are told there’s something called a “mind” that lives inside something called a “head” that lives atop this thing called a body. And we are told it’s a universe of things, and you are living in this universe but all these things are material and separate from each other and you are separate from other things too.

So this whole set of positionalities and opinions grows up. It wants thing, it gets things, it doesn’t get things, it fears things, it desires things. But it’s in a problematic position because as a seeming thing that’s separate from other things, and underneath wanting to overcome this sense of separation and feel love, be it in relationship, or in activities or substances, or to “be somebody” it can never overcome the underlying presumption of who it is. …So the seeking goes on and on, and sometimes it all seems to go around and around in circles. Moments of clarity then getting lost again. It takes an effort to be a somebody, because it’s not an actual reality, and must be maintained by the activity of thinking. But it is a very deep habit.

Sometimes people – these apparent entities associated with bodies – have to go through tremendous suffering to see through and let go of the illusion of being somebody. We’ve heard the stories of drug addicts and convicts in prison having awakenings. Or some folks have them spontaneously, out of the blue seemingly, and become sages. Other work very hard over decades and slowly or suddenly see what they really are. There is no one path to Truth.

In any case, what I have found is a background of happiness and peace more and more pervades, such that the moods and disturbances seem more like what they really are: waves on the surface of an ocean, and ocean that is always there. The body may go through things: after drinking a lot of wine, the brain and body are more tired and not quite as sharp as tools or instruments. But that’s all they are: instruments. For service or celebration. They are not ultimately who I am. Who I am cannot be described or named (as Lao Tzu so widely pointed out thousands of years ago — “the Tao that can be named is not the eternal Tao”) but you can look at what you are not, by looking closely and clearly at what you *think* you are, what you assume you are, what you believe your self to be, and over time, it will dissolve, crumble, be seen for the mythical beast it was.

Then the fear, the negativity that was learned, the habits and tendencies associated with this false belief, this notion of a self that doesn’t in reality exist, will start to be replaced. What will it be replaced by? Happiness and peace: Love, Truth and Beauty to put it more classically, as the perfume of the essence. But the essence in itself is hard to point to, especially when our identity and culture is based on a view of reality that is one of phenomena that can be described by a science with limited scope.

A useful line of enquiry can be observing the movements of “energy” in the body — which is really just sensations experienced by awareness – and see that what we have labeled “anxiety” or depression” are just various kinds of tensions and movements in the body. Nothing more nothing less. Except that thoughts may be triggered, and thinking may trigger them, in a circle of reaction. But both of those can be observed, and in the observing, their power is diminished. We no longer identify with them. They are not given energy. The come and go.

Mystics point to something that cannot be grasped by the mind. However, it can be experienced. It that sense it is “subjective”. But not subjective in the pejorative sense of something that is arbitrary and made up in the mind, as if it were a hallucination, but rather one finds it’s actually quite logical that there is something that must always exist, and that we are conscious right now (conscious of reading these words). In that experience is a starting point to enquire as to what is real: this temporary phenomenon witnessed everywhere: body, world, mind, or the possibility of something universal, ever-present, ever knowing, without boundaries. Be open to the possibility.

You start to see that there are no problems in reality. Why? “Problem” is an interpretation. Good and bad are products of the mind of a judging entity who evaluates. Because what you took for “reality” was not reality. And what can be called reality can always be counted on. It’s a change in the coin of the realm as it were. Stop believing and start knowing: what you are, what this world is, what your mind and body are. Put the relative in its place and the absolute in proper relation. “Render unto Caesar what is due Caesar and to god what is due god”. See where your values lie and priorities lie in your life.

This takes some courage and strength. The world does not embody this understanding at this point in history to any great degree, and we are awash in “noise” to the contrary: messages about the body, the self, about acquiring objects, about who we are and should be, about what to want, what you should do… what happiness supposedly is and where it’s found. There is much suffering and turmoil, and you must transcend that. Only you can find what you re looking for. But you can find guides and pointers along the way.

Start to live with this knowledge you’ve gained by insight, such as *there are no others” in reality. And you will see how it plays out, proves itself. For example, real love doesn’t come and go — the invisible sense of connectedness you feel at moments, whispers of the timeless — but appearances and wanting come and go. The false will come and go and the true will be confirmed. Likewise, experience of great beauty: is that “out there” or “in here”, or somehow both and neither? And if something is really true, will it only be true only at some time and place, or eternally, in every Now? Ask yourself these questions.

Peace and Love my friends.

Notes On Saving The World

“I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” – Jesus (John 16:33)

If I see a worm on the sidewalk, I put him in the grass.
If I see a man passed out on the sidewalk I call for help. I do what I can, because I care, and then forget and enjoy the beautiful day, learning and creation.
If a friend calls me with a problem, I say what I can out of whatever love and wisdom I can find in my heart.
I don’t think about it or brag about what I did.
I was inspired to help a community garden because I loved it and I cared; I was made Chair and I helped and created things, working around the politics and egos.
I just did what needed to be done.
I got involved in a forum on the homeless because they needed some reason and intuition and I did some clear thinking for them, but without strife. Then I left the forum and never looked back.
I don’t get stimulated by the drama or politics or feed my ego. It happens and then it’s done.
I am not trying to save the world.
The world is constant change, contrasts. Ups and downs. Good and bad. Duality. That’s what makes it a world.
And when you look you can find all the drama, conflict, suffering of all kinds, lack, tribulation and gnashing of teeth, turmoil, strife and distress, and as much wailing and lamenting about it that you could possibly want. If that’s what you want…

Reality is Not Lacking

It has been said that whatever you pay attention to grows. Whatever you think is important, becomes important to you. So ask, what is your god, is your god the world, your body and your mind, or is your god the real god beyond conception: consciousness, your true nature, the inner “god” of happiness and peace?
Water seeks it’s own level, and does what it was meant to do in this world.
If you think you know better than the universe, be careful. Those that try to save the whole world like the Hitlers and the Pol Pots are surrounded by change and suffering.
If you really want to change the world then become happy and free and you will be the greatest service.
You are connected, are everything, like a ray in a hologram. This is your world and your universe. It flows outward, like ripples in a pond.
Be Self serving, not self serving. The former is the way to glory, the second the way to misery and destruction.
How do you do this? By knowing what you are. Stop believing your thinking and feeling.
Observe and find out what you are, not what you think you are.
Meanwhile, if you see some suffering you want to alleviate go for it. Live according to what you think is real. You don’t have any choice anyway. But you have a choice whether to react from programming, or to see and respond in the moment, from your best and highest notion of what’s universal and true for all. The first way is bondage, the second way is freedom.
You aren’t responsible for the universe; you are responsible for yourself *as* the universe.
Love the world as yourself.

Twenty-nine

“Do you think you can take over the universe and improve it?
I do not believe it can be done.

The universe is sacred.
You cannot improve it.
If you try to change it, you will ruin it.
If you try to hold it, you will lose it.

So sometimes things are ahead and sometimes they are behind;
Sometimes breathing is hard, sometimes it comes easily;
Sometimes there is strength and sometimes weakness;
Sometimes one is up and sometimes down.

Therefore the sage avoids extremes, excesses, and complacency.”

– Lao Tzu, Verse 29, The Tao Te Ching

Spiritual Reflections on The Three Principles

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

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.

Facts of Life – The Axioms of Happiness

I had some wonderful insights, after a friend confronted me with some powerful questions (when I was complaining), the central one of which was “Who are you?”. That stopped me in my tracks. Here’s what I realized:

If anything is spiritual, everything is. All experiences.
If everything is spiritual, all thinking is.
Your unhappy thinking is no big deal. No one cares so why should you.
You’re already happy, you just didn’t know it.
You don’t have any problems.
It’s all happening right Now.
None of this is personal.
If you want to feel love, give love.
Everyone is already enlightened. It is like running around clutching a handful of diamonds, complaining you are poor, seeking riches.
The logic of the mind that keeps one limited to an imaginary jail is not real, and can be dissolved, evaporated by a love and energy that *is*. So … expand, open, and
Enjoy life!
It’s all a mystery.