Notes on “Feelings”

Sometimes in the The Three Principles field, or in spiritual circles, I’ll hear some confusion about what is meant by “feelings”, and what is being pointed to when a teacher or coach talks about them, especially in the context of being pointed to “a feeling” as guide to truth.

This is my initial attempt to bring some clarity to the concepts, as well as spark some understanding and who knows, potential insight, into what we mean when we say “feelings”. I’m using the word “understanding” as it’s used in these fields to mean seeing for oneself the truth of these very deep truths the teachers and sages are pointing us to, or a life coach is facilitating the insight into, so we can get a “grounding” in the understanding (of our “true nature” for example – another way of expressing the search for truth and happiness).

As I see it there is the understanding and there’s the expression of it. So the possible combinations of those two – understanding & expression – are:

1. High understanding and ease of expressing & communicating it.
2. High understanding and difficulty of expressing & communicating it.
3. Low understanding and ease of expressing & communicating it.
4. Low understanding and difficulty of expressing & communicating it.

Note the expressing & communicating are not necessarily the same thing: where I sit on the balcony as I write this, there are many birds singing. They are being very expressive indeed, but they are not communicating to me. The same bird species and perhaps other birds understand them at some instinctual level, but to me it’s just pretty noise, like music (even though I “know” intellectually, that naturalists say the birds are using song to carve out and maintain their territories, sometimes I wonder if they are also expressing joy of being, since I may get an immediate impression of that when I feel there is no difference between “me” – when “I” disappear – and the bird singing. This is the difference between intuitive knowledge and intellectual, stored knowledge. Which is right? Depends on your perspective and purpose).

For the purpose of this essay, to simplify things I’ll assume we are all good communicators, such that there’s not a huge practical difference between expressing and communicating (and we are all of the same species speaking the same language!). Therefore the issue at hand is, what do we really mean when, in the Three Principles Field, by “feelings” (and in non-duality and other spiritual circles, since there is an overlap i those fields, and that is also where I’ve become familiar with other’s interest in feelings, since we all want “good” ones and not “bad” ones supposedly, in our innate search for happiness) .

Let’s focus on #2 – an understanding and difficulty of expressing it – since it may be best to assume folks seem to have “it” to a degree (an understanding, and that’s whom I’m addressing), and I’m writing about how to better express it in words, how to “language it” (or try!). Why? So we can communicate, lessen confusion, and hopefully maybe even shed a little light on the matter at hand (a better understanding).

By the way, I like one definition of “understanding” a friend gave once: “standing under truth”. There you are, minding your own business, after struggling to understand something, and an insight comes from out of the blue, from above as it were, and you find yourself with a greater or better understanding.

So in terms of the understanding, what Syd meant when he said “look for a feeling”, at it’s most basic level was simply pointing to the fact that it’s an experience, not an intellectual understanding.

Then, on a somewhat more temporal level, there are particular deeper feelings that could be said to be intimations, or perfumes of timeless truth: the hard-to-pin down experience of the universal reality: love, peace, deep joy, great beauty… very “quiet” feelings.

Then on a even more temporal level, there are more ephemeral feelings, like being “in love” that are exciting, like a drug. They are experienced in the body (which is the mind: sensations experienced in consciousness via the instrument of the body). They are a little less quiet.

And even shorter lived experiences disturbances we could call “emotions” (e-motion) like anger, lust, fear, “stress” – that have an intensity and may seem real but come and go very quickly. Also in-the-body-experience of course. And even noisier.

So to be helpful to others, it’s good to distinguish what feelings are experiences of lies, and what of truth.

For example, one friend in a Three Principles forum gave the example of a violent sociopath who (he claims) gets a good feeling from killing someone – a sense of glee perhaps. Do you want to say “follow your feelings”? No – in that case it would be immoral or lead to bad behavior. So it can be important to distinguish what we mean by “feelings”, on a practical as well as to make sure we are communicating.

Bondage is following feelings that are lies – not reflective what you truly are – and freedom is being lived according to true feelings, and experience that can’t be described, only “felt” as a whole.

It can be difficult to talk about or convey some of these deeper feelings: poets and mystics have been taking shots at the moon for thousands of years, and there’s never an end to the attempt to express. These feelings are not rational: they are of a non-linear reality that we are trying to package in a linear fashion via a string of sounds, or in the case of writing, some little strings of symbols that represent sounds, and by some amazing magic, these sounds in the mind are turned into, exploded into, birthed with meaning. These little marks on paper or on a screen are what a reader makes sounds in their heads with, that hopefully spark something for them (an insight, an experience, an understanding).

“If the only thing people learned was not to be afraid of their experience, that alone would change the world.” – Sydney Banks

I’ve also heard Syd on a tape say “Don’t be a afraid of feelings. Now, I don’t mean going around proving you have feelings…”

The way I read this was, “How can you dissolve these feelings if you aren’t even aware of them? How can you reveal deeper, better feelings if you are clouded by uncomfortable ones you don’t acknowledge, or that are unconscious, that are running you, that you are letting yourself be controlled by? I’m not saying change your behavior: rather, look within.” For example, I was using substances for years to try and control, reduce uncomfortable feelings like anxiety or depression. But those feelings were covers for deeper feelings that were evidence of deeply held beliefs that were untrue (for example that I was a separate and limited entity, a body that was going to die). How could I uncover, unmask the feelings and see what truth they were hiding if I was running scared from them? Like monsters that are just mirages: sensations in the body and thoughts, all of which are in the mind. And what is this “mind”? A set of activities, movement, that another thought comes in as labels as “me”, then takes seriously. That’s what gets us in trouble.

One of the bits of wisdom the field has helped to spread is that feelings can be a guide, much like the dashboard on a car. Here is a quote from an early Three Principles book (from 1997 when it was called “Health Realization):

‘Just as the warning lights on the dashboard of your car alert you to potential danger, your negative feelings alert you that your thinking is no longer serving you. Without your feelings to alert you that a problem is lurking, you’d have no way to determine when you have drifted off course.

If you constantly label your negative feelings – for example, “I’m angry” – instead of simply noticing “I’m uncomfortable,” you keep the negative feeling alive in your thinking, increasing the degree to which you are caught up and concerned about how you are feeling. Your thinking becomes a spiral whereby the more analytical you become about how you are feeling, the more trapped you will become.

The act of noticing uncomfortable feelings — seeing them as a warning flag — reminds you that you are thinking; it wakes you up. This simple act clears your mind and points you back in the direction of your healthy thought process.’
– “Slowing Down To The Speed of Life” by Richard Carlson And Joseph Bailey

Are these feelings “rational”? For example are any of these “levels” of feelings good guides to action (in the present, or to gauge what someone has done in the past, or to decide on a future action)?

There are better words than irrational. “Irrational” can be a pejorative term, for example, an “irrational fear”, or someone is acting hysterical or irrational. We could say “un-rational”, “un-rational” or “para-rational”. Take your pick.

Here’s what I posted to a Three Principles FaceBook group recently, as an example of a feeling-as-experience:

‘This is something I’ve seen lately, but am not used to ‘hanging out with’: that spiritual truth, love, beauty…. are irrational. But in a good way. 🙂

For example, lately the focus-point if you will, has to do with the will, doer-ship, personal will, decision, choice, however you want to say it. And yes, as I was discussing with my spiritual friend yesterday, it’s paradoxical. The mind just can’t get around it, has to give up at some point.

The experience of “being lived”, as some have said it (Wei Wu Wei, Byron Katie are the one’s I’ve heard lately) happens in the moment, for example in “being of service”, or “being in love” (happens several times a week for me) and we can think about it later, conceptualize it, but it’s like the empty shell, the mold from which the sculpture emerged, or the cocoon leftover, but the butterfly lives and flies free.’

On Beyond Limitations of the Three Principles Psychology Model

  

‘There’s no limit to how much you’ll know, depending how far beyond zebra you go.’ – Dr. Seuss

This post arose from a post I made to the spiritual psychology FaceBook forum “What The F*#$ Are The Principles?“. 
https://www.facebook.com/groups/299806010361726/permalink/622340784774912/

I’d like to share something, for whatever it’s worth, about the Three Principles Psychology (3P) model that has been vague for a while came into sharper focus yesterday, in large part because of participating in an online forum and becoming familiar with how people are responding to, using, and (trying to) live the 3P.

I’ve been involved with this field for about 21 years, since it was called Psychology of Mind, and then Health Realization (as student-participant, writer and occasional counselor).

Here’s the rub: the emphasis on Thought as a power, or Thinking as a function (in the moment, forming one’s perceived reality), can be powerful, if contextualized properly – which is what Universal Consciousness and Universal Mind are supposed to do – but not enough emphasis or intuitive energy is given on who or what the “I” is that thoughts occur to. So what happens is people fall back into the psychological and personal. This is especially true if one is intellectually oriented, as we generally are in this culture, some of us more than others (like me!). So we remain more or less, off and on, trapped in thinking, one’s experienced filtered by thinking and habitual, unconscious tendencies. The blind spots remain.

We respond with, or plateau at various levels off and on, of, for example “I know it’s just thinking but… How do I get out of thinking? How do I change my thinking? Can I stop thinking? I know it’s just my thinking, but that’s not helping?”… and so on, often not sure how to transcend thinking. And of course telling ourselves or them it’s just their thinking (especially without a broader, deeper understanding first) often doesn’t help, and may even irritate or frustrate (especially if it’s a loved one!).

Meanwhile we are not seeing in unity and simplicity, but in duality: A thinker with it’s thoughts, and a (separate) world.

I myself was fairly stuck, off and on, with slow progress of my understanding over the years – more often talking the walk than walking the talk – and didn’t get zapped in the way I needed until a very direct teacher said “Who are you?!” in an energetic way that shocked my thought system, and eventually led me to go hang out with non-dualists. Then the scales started to fall from my eyes. (This “zap” was by a coach who uses the 3P but was grounded in his own totally physically-lived Zen-like experience of life prior to learning about Syd Banks’ beautiful teachings, which helped him give form to what was an extremely direct and energetic understanding, for use in coaching).

I realize this is my path, and everyone is unique, but thought I’d share how I see it no: this caught-in-thought phenomenon and the sense that something isn’t quite as simple or direct as it could be in the 3P, has been bugging me for a long time.

It’s not clear yet what the solution is yet – how to introduce a kind of self-enquiry to “bring it home” – I’m just starting to explore this… and of course it all depends on the student, the context.

It does occur to me as I write that the basic situation is that the 3P are heard as a kind of objective model or description – which is made worse by it sometimes being called “scientific” – when what is needed is to point out somehow the radically subjective nature of experience. (This objective-seeming model is also why it can easily be taken on as a belief, to replace other beliefs).

However, this is all impersonal, everything that’s happening. It is happening to you, as a perceiver at the same time as it’s completely universal. The mind can’t grasp it, but you can start to chip away at the armor, the false beliefs. Eventually one will be open to see in unity, in truth.

You can also start to see why it all depends on the teacher: their “grounding” (here we go again, haha…) and what they “transmit” via their presence, life, who they are. Their happiness and love and psychological freedom are the most important substance of their message. The form (the 3P, the teaching action, the person) is just a way to try and communicate the formless. Sydney Banks always kept reminding the psychologists that it’s “spiritual”.

My two cents of the moment…

Some Notes on the Three Principles Teachings and it’s Origins

Because it came from a spontaneous realization (for the most part: Sydney Banks did say he had read some Krishnamurti that a work buddy at the mill lent to him, but he certainly wasn’t a student of spirituality or a seeker or knowledgable) – and he had no tradition other than some standard Bible-based teachings in the orphanage, his teachings don’t belong to any tradition or lineage. He also had only a 9th-grade education. A formal education however is not a prerequisite for spiritual insight, In fact it can get in the way. The intellect, speech and the learning are mere tools for expression and investigation.

This is evident in the language Sydney Banks used in his early talks (tapes from the 70s), which are a profoundly heart-felt mix of language that he picked up, or that occurred to him, or Christian metaphors (Christ Consciousness). They were used spontaneously to try and convey his mystical insights.
This, like all teachings, is a double-edged sword: whereas traditions (like Advaita from Hinduism) have the drawback of all the baggage and concepts and religious attitudes and ornamentations (not to mention schisms between interpretations), a new spiritual teaching has the drawback of being difficult to interpret and understand clearly. On the other hand it has a freshness and power that is felt at the level of feeling and intuition, when the mind can’t hold onto the words.
Such new teachings do not come through a lens that has not been refined through the ages. However it may have an impact in the way it addresses people in the current concerns and pre-occupations of the time – which for example for many Westerners is psychology, psychotherapy, counseling, the world of self-improvement, New Age teachings, and so forth.

That Syd then happened to meet some psychologists (George Pransky, Roger Mills, etc.) who, along with Rick Suarez and others were able to help shape the teaching into a model over the years, was a fortunate “accident” of history. There are no accidents however. In retrospect it was fate, and seems perfectly fitting. For this wisdom to go out into the world in a way that is digestible – with Thought as the bridge – by a very broad audience is an amazing, well, miracle if you will.

What “reaches you” and opens your eyes depends on your propensities, what resonates with you, what you feel you can trust. With the Three Principles, I could feel something that the intellect could try and deny but it was obvious Syd was onto Truth in a deep way. Then years later, the clarity and precision of the teachings of Francis Lucille, and Laura Lucille (Advaita vedanta mainly, non-dualism) and others from a that school of teachings, that lineage, helped open the doors and clear the way conceptually and in terms of a felt presence, since I have been able to spend time with them (Syd died physically in 2006 and I only saw him once, at a conference in 1997, from a distance).
Having a formal background in philosophy (and philosophy of science), and an intellectual bent, meant I needed that precision and clarity in order to have my questions answered, and fortunately, Francis also had a background in Western as well as Eastern philosophy and science.

I still have a way to go in the terms of the body, relationships and certain emotions (which are interrelated) but at least I know that light needs to be shed there… 

Mind, Consciousness, and Thought are training wheels.
Non-duality is the ground on which they stand.

Q: I really enjoyed reading the history of 3P and your take on non-dualism being the foundation. I agree that ultimately what Syd was pointing to was non-dualism. I have studied with Rupert Spira and really enjoy Francis Lucille as well but I have a question for you. Where in non-dual teachings is there any reference to circumstances having nothing to do with experience. I have never heard or read any non-dual teacher saying anything like that? The reason I ask is I think the Inside Out understanding is very helpful and I would like to anchor it back to spiritual truth but I can’t find it.

A: Thanks. The answer to your question would depend on the non-dual teacher. I’ve heard Laura Lucille (Francis’ wife and a “spiritual friend” as she puts it) talk about how the world we experience is a projection of mind. Her last teacher (for one year before he died) was Robert Adams. However Robert Adams saw the reality of the world differently than how Francis Lucille sees it, since Adams was more pure Indian Advaita, and Francis is influenced also by the Kashmir Shaivism school as well as Western philosophy, physics, etc. But none of the traditions matter so much as what we can uncover via this dialogue, using the 3P and nonduality as mirrors.

I could try and answer what I think they would say but it’s better to ask them. As I pointed out, it would take some time and effort to get the language and definitions straight. I tried to do this with Francis when I first met him, but quickly realized it was better to understand as best I could what he was wanting to convey than try and get him to understand 3P. That approach has worked well, because I can now shine a light back on the 3P.

I would start by saying that you could see it like this (partly tongue-in-cheek): Mind, Consciousness and Thought are like 3 training wheels. Non-duality is the ground on which that trike stands. The direct path (Francis, Laura, Robert, Ramana Maharshi, etc.), is the quickest way to get to that ground (situated on a mountaintop), but it’s a very steep path, and not very many desire to go that route.

I would say the emphasis is a little different with the 3P, and since Syd’s insight came through psychologists (in order to get it out into the world on a wider basis), there is more of a concern with an application to what is seen by psychologists and in areas where there is dysfunction, conflict, and suffering, or less-than-optimal functioning, and a greater manifestation of human potential is wanted: namely in a person or in communities. So there is more of a concern with the human than with the absolute or with looking at the ultimate nature of the self and reality. In Advaita and Buddhism the concern is with enlightenment via undoing the mistake of identification, and realizing in essence that you are not human, but a figment of imagination as it were, in the cosmic dreamer.

Given this emphasis on the human and relieving their suffering via a spiritual psychology, the powerful tool of 3P can spark the insight that one is not a victim (of circumstances or anything) because you made your experience up via the power of thinking, and it’s brought to life via the special effects department called Consciousness and the energy and intelligence of Mind behind it all. What it meant by “universal” however, in my view is played down (by psychologists, coaches, practitioners, etc), partly in order to sell the medicine, and partly because it’s so darn hard to comprehend and really “see” and live what is meant.

But this universal aspect is what answers your question: the common ground between Syd’s teaching and direct path teachings is breaking down thought patterns that are in the way of realizing what you are. In the direct path they are called “beliefs”. They both point us “inside” until we see the nature of the true self, and then that evolves to seeing the nature of the world as well, as also created and empty of objectivity.

They also show us not to take life seriously, and stop focusing on and trying to solve problems. They both point to the ego as the troublemaker. The ego is just an image – made of thought, propped up by beliefs – all supporting the belief in a separate self.

Syd and the non-dualists both point out that we have free will as universal consciousness-mind, and whatever we experience we are responsible for it. It all comes out of nothing (I heard Syd say this in an early tape) which is exactly what the Buddhists and Advaitans say too. But you have to have a proper understanding of what “nothing” is: the source that is not an object. What we are.

You have to be careful about setting up a dualism regarding thought and circumstances. You only know of circumstances via experience. The point is it’s all created, and it’s all you – you as Mind, Consciousness, thought – so take responsibility for your experience, both of circumstances and reactions, since you chose, as absolute freedom, to create it (ask yourself why you did create it if it’s problematic, and enjoy it if it isn’t problematic).

If what you are referring to by “circumstances having nothing to do with experience” is the fact that happiness doesn’t come from circumstances, I’ve heard this mentioned many times by Francis and Rupert (e.g., seeking happiness “person place or thing” is setting yourself up, etc.), or if you mean, how our feelings and experience in the moment are coming from thinking and not from “out there” then I’d say this is true but can be heard in a limited, psychological sense, and thus can be a slippery slope, heading towards solipsism or the the personal and the worldly, and I doubt Syd would put you on that slope. To put it more bluntly, experience has *everything* to do with circumstances, because they both arise from the same source (Syd used to say the material and spiritual are One, and give examples from Native American or Hawaiian spirituality teachings where they would use their own metaphors for that). In other words, absolutely everything is included in the experience you have created – thoughts, feelings, sensations, perceptions, a body a world, a universe – and nothing is excluded in non-dual spirituality. This is the ultimate inside-out understanding: no inside and outside.

So instead, look up-slope towards the vertical dimension of the reality of Consciousness-Mind (or “awareness of being aware” as Spira puts it), once freed from its own creations of thinking patterns (beliefs), will reveal the truth of what you are: perfect, without attributes, boundless, and free.

Postscript

I should point out there is no real “going beyond” the Three Principles – all these wisdom teachings and religions, underneath, are pointing to the same (non)-thing: they are (talking about) the “beyond”. Syd said that all the time, and would talk about Native American spiritual wisdom, Hawaiian kahunas, and so forth, or say things like “keep going to your church” and listen, beyond the words, to the essence.

All I’m saying is, the form, whatever it is, isn’t it. Go beyond the form, to the spiritual (origin, essence … all just words and concepts). Syd kept saying this over and over and over again, in a thousand different forms. Find it for yourself because the form is the outer, the formless is the inner, and they are the same thing. It’s a paradox to the mind and the mind can’t hold it.

It takes no time to be who you are.

Jumping the Boundaries of Time – Syd Banks

 

The Three Principles and The Direct Path

What is the difference between the Three Principles psychology (3P), a spiritual school that uses the model of Universal Mind, Universal Consciousness and Thought, and direct path methods? The direct path is a path of spiritual enquiry wherein one goes directly to truth, rather than through steps (also called the “progressive path”). It is a process of seeing through the beliefs of who and what you thought you are, and being pointed (by a teacher, if you want to go faster) to what you actually are. Paths that are indirect use various practices as well as (sometimes) objects of devotion. The practices are meant to purify, prepare, and undo conditioning. They happen through time. The direct approach is, well more direct (hard to describe how something can happen outside of time! that’s where “transmission” of truth comes in, and unconditional, impersonal Love). Practices can include meditation, bodywork like yoga, chanting, lying on a bed of nails or various forms of asceticism. There are as many forms of practices and techniques as there are potentials in the mind for creating things to get rid of (endless in other words), and ways and means of preparing a person. The direct path gets straight to the point and informs you there is no person to begin with.

Mind, Consciousness and Thought are training wheels. Non-duality is the ground on which they stand.

The common basis with the 3P then is there is no reliance on techniques or motivation, but rather the attempt to impart an understanding. The understanding – a moment of suddenly seeing for oneself, the Aha! moment – that there never was a problem to begin with, were it not for your use of the power of mind (thought), the gift of universal Consciousness, and the infinite intelligence of Mind. The traditional direct path teachings put it in terms of Consciousness, folding in Mind as that aspect that is the infinite innate intelligence of life (which is in consciousness), and talk in terms of the “bodymind”: the sum of personal thinking, feeling and perception we place in an arbitrary and illusory container we call ourselves, which really only exists *within* consciousness. Consciousness is the only reality.

The 3P are not usually taught in such a bold way as to come across as a spiritual teaching, given the secular context of our Western culture, and the psychological context of it’s origins and name (not to mention it’s taught as self-improvement, such as for business performance or in schools). For example, students will usually assume “consciousness” means some localized, personal phenomenon, probably coming from the brain. Likewise the notion of universal mind will seem a little strange, unless put in terms that sound religious, like “God” (which is also dualistic: there is a “me” and a God somewhere). Given the contexts of teaching, there are concessions made to an audience that for the most part couldn’t swallow something as direct as a direct path teaching. The 3P are also, more and more, being adopted as a coaching model, and so starts to become, or seem, as akin to a technology or system. It is sometimes even called a technology or as “scientific” (it’s not: science is about phenomenon, and consciousness is not a phenomenon, it’s what appearances take place *in*).

There is also the fact that the 3P originated, or were catalyzed, in the response of a enlightenment experience (of Sydney Banks) and his early exposure to modern psychology. This exposure came in the form of psychologists like George Pransky ( a very ambitious man) and Roger Mills, who came to visit him, curious about reports of people getting happier. Thus their form reflects the history and the intent. While the field has changed in the 20 years I’ve been observing or participating in it, I did witness a liberating focus on the contrast with traditional psychology and therapy (something I also had exposure to, as a patient of therapists and as a student of psychology). Sometime this contrast was put in terms of, seeing how psychology looks to ones’ past, digs into memories, and tries to solve problems using the tools of the mind, thus re-creating the very source of the problem in the first place. The analogy is telling someone that the cure to burning one’s hand on a stove is to place the hand back on the stove! Sometimes the contrast was in terms of “processing thinking” versus “flow thinking (or experience)”. Indeed, it was a 180 degree turn from traditional therapy to not be directed to get involved in memory, and be told one is already healthy. Most importantly, the attention was directed to the function of thought, and the total context in which thinking in the moment is taking place, rather than the content of thought. Almost all other approaches are focused on content: how to change it, fix it, explain it, access it, talk about it, control it, and so forth. Indeed, for some it is so eye-opening to be told they are the thinkers of their thoughts and that this is what is creating their experience, that it totally transforms them. For others, it was little more difficult (myself included: I needed a more direct and intellectually clear teaching).

One can start to see what some of the difficulties are for a teaching model that tries to get at the core of what we are, in order to release greater human potential, such as happiness, love, harmoniousness, creativity and peace of mind. What is being pointed to will be taken in by the “small self” – the mind, or “ego” – and turned into a new set of beliefs, or rules to follow, or something to be understood by the mind. This is the model we grow up with: we go to school to gain some knowledge and skills and get a grade and award and stamp of approval. But here we are asked to stop believing things, unlearn what we learned, and let go of who and what we thought we were. Such a thing has to be introduced gently and gingerly. It is as radical as you could get. The word “radical” come from “forming the root’ and ‘inherent’”. It is being pointed towards what is inherent: freedom and happiness.

The false self is akin to an entrenched political bureaucracy. It will do anything it can to preserve itself, including lying, trying to control, manipulate, beg steal or borrow another day of existence. It will absorb any new teaching and claim it as it own. The ego will morph into infinite forms to pretend to be what it is not: real. It will even pretend to be spiritual in the name of a new self, trying to get out of self by more self-ing. What a cosmic joke! What it fears s non-existence: absolute disappearance. Ironically, the functioning of the false self just is this movement of thought: a self-preserving illusion. As such, it takes effort to maintain, and this energy and effort is felt in the form of tension, stress, depression, conflict with others and with oneself, and a million other symptoms of unhappiness and dis-ease of body and mind. This goes on outside of the direct awareness, and thus is called “unconscious” or “blind spots”, and is the reason why becoming conscious of these patterns and games spells their dissolution. When light is thrown on a shadow that looked like a snake, suddenly the snake disappears: it was never there in the first place!

This message is quite in contrast to the culture at large, which trades in what are supposed to be the objects of happiness: persons, places, and things. But many come to feel at a loss for why they are not happy even though they have it all. Or, they are at a loss to why they can’t get anything at all, the things according to which they were told or assumed, would make them happy.

Notes:
see also Direct vs Indirect paths. (Immediate vs Progressive paths)

About Needing “Grounding” and Spiritual Teaching

The question often comes up, what is meant by “grounding”. Am I “grounded” and how can I tell if someone else is “grounded”? The question was spurred by my participation in forums of the spiritual psychology movement known as The Three Principles (3P)*, which is where I hear this question often, and occasionally in the context of other spiritual communities, such as Advaita vedanta.

What follows are some of my initial thoughts: think of this as an editorial (but with a large grain of truth, based in experience, happily!).

That one needs “grounding” is not the best metaphor in my view, as it bring to mind an image of a *thing*. Or it sounds like achieving a certain state. It really simply means you can only give or teach who, or really, what you are. You can only teach what you know.

Would you go to a poor man to learn how to be rich? No, you would go to a rich man and get some clues from him. Likewise, would you go to a teacher who is miserable, or worried, or driven, or somehow not completely free and happy, in order to learn how to be happy?

So ask yourself:
1. Are you happy?
2. Is it lasting?
3. Can you show others the way?

Then, if your answer is yes to all three, some tools are handy:
A. Being a teacher (not everyone is born to be a teacher or wired that way, or have learned the skills).
B. Some good tools or metaphors, stories and analogies, like The Three Principles teaching model.
C. A strong desire to teach or a call from others who need your services.

But the model is not the territory: a grounding in the 3P is not about the 3P, it’s about what the 3P are pointing to: what’s been called the “inside-out nature of life”. This is often confused. You could take 300 classes and seminars and study the 3P for 30 years and be certified and stamped as “grounded” and learn everything backwards and forwards and be able to recite it and write books and give seminars, and still not be actually, truly grounded.

As a side note, Jack Pransky interviewed George Pransky, for Jack’s book “Paradigm Shift: A History of The Three Principles”, about trying to implement a certification system back in the early 1990’s, and looking at grounding, but they realized there was no objective way to measure it, and the project was scrapped.

“We began to see that this work was all about grounding, and that grounding is hard to evaluate. It’s a large, subjective component. There were no techniques that could be evaluated, as in other approaches. The only thing that mattered was the person’s understanding, and that was difficult to quantify. …We concluded that this understanding does not lend itself to an objective qualification program. I feel that way to this day. I think that a certification program in the Principles would be fraught with insurmountable difficulties.”  George Pransky, in Paradigm Shift, p.74 

Who is to say who is “grounded”? Would it be the highest guru or teacher? Who certifies that? It would have to be God, but unfortunately, the various direct channels to him are alas, back to square one: us imperfect, generally incompletely realized, subjective humans. So… only you, the “grounded”, know for sure, and the students may get an inkling too, as well as other teachers, from how happy they become and the kind of vibe they pick up from you. But no one but you can say for sure. It’s just like with religious or spiritual teachers: you can only measure it, as it were, from the fruits of the teaching and understanding: are people becoming happier and more free, or are there all kinds of shenanigans going on, that indicate ego at work (an extreme example would be religious or cultic leaders like Osho or Jim Jones).

So how can you measure it? You can’t, but you could tell by the fruits (see the 3 questions at the start of this essay).

And like “grounding”, Mind, Consciousness and Thought are not a thing, not tangible, but a message, a metaphor used by teachers and students, indicating towards the source of experiencing, the reality of which cannot be grasped by the personal, limited mind or understood intellectually. It is pointing out what is behind your every experience, right here and now. The understanding is experiential in essence, as it is not only about experience, but is experience. And the quality of that unfolding experience will change, yet be “grounded” in that which does not change: the unnameable reality of “Mind” or “Consciousness” or whatever you want to call the source of experience. It is a self-rewarding process, not dependent on externals. It’s a love affair with Truth, as it were.
The 3P are just a tool to show the way to knowing what you are, just like all paths: non-duality, Buddhism, mystical Christianity, whatever.
The 3P are not a thing, just a pointer, a teaching tool.

Sometimes I think the 3P are too complicated, because in being put out through psychology, or as an answer to the old psychology, or packaged as a kind of psychology, it becomes a thing to understand, learn, study (another thought form). But what it’s pointing to is a “vertical dimension” that transcends thinking, that accounts for new thinking and complete changes of outlook. as in non-dual teachings, what one needs to do is *unlearn* all the false beliefs about what you’ve concluded is “you” and allow the unfolding, the flowering of what you really are: that is what the 3P and all the teachers have been trying to point out. It’s about reality as fact, not as thought (what you think you are, or thought you were, or what you thought reality was…). In this sense it is similar to the Direct Path.

Why do you think Syd Banks (the enlightened founder) kept pulling the rug out from under these psychologists who were developing the models, and coaches, laying down the law, and for example having them pull their tapes that were getting too much into detail about specific psychological issues, and telling them “You don’t understand the Three Principles!”, and saying “It’s Spiritual!” to psychologists like Mark Howard, before he was about to give a talk? (See Jack Pransky’s book, Paradigm Shift, for more details about historical incidents like these).

Ground down to its essence (no pun intended), the 3P’s aim is to show you that right now, there is only one thing in the way of being happy: your thinking. And parenthetically, I believe this is why the “Single Paradigm” teaching has arisen, thanks to folks like Dr. Keith Blevens & Valda Monroe, to try and get to the “purity” (another deceptive word and concept) of the teaching or message or method. But the purity is to see that whatever you think The Three Principles are, that’s not it. The Tao that can be named is not the eternal Tao.

The result of this insight or grounding is that one sees things from the inside-out instead of outside-in. Peace and happiness are seen to be innate, and things “out there” in what we took to be a solid objective reality, we realize couldn’t be causing unhappiness or distress. Of course, there is no inside and outside – that’s the point – we created a duality and set ourselves against a world: a world of our imagination. Ineffably, reality is found to be friendly and harmonious. It has built-in super-intelligence, that goes beyond our piddling personal will.

On top of that is the commercialization, the attempt and desire to “apply” it, making it more of a thing to study and commodify. Therefore you have to certify or prove your “grounding” and worth in the marketplace. It also becomes goal-oriented: you’re trying to get something out of it, for the self that needs to be looked at for it’s reality in the first place: so do you come to the teaching with ulterior motives, or is it a truly impartial looking and investigation?
There is nothing wrong with getting paid for a service, and trying to help others to be happy and free, but if a business or career goal is the initial or primary motivation, before one has even found one’s “grounding” and Source, you are playing a game with your mind. It’s just like the game of self-improvement: you will never “get there”, because you are starting from the assumption of what is the problem in the first place: the little self, the thought-derived false entity, or “ego” (I don’t like that word because it carries too much baggage from psychology and Freudian concepts of self). So one, in essence, ends up applying a tool without knowing what it’s for!

In my opinion, no one should be teaching the 3P or other spiritually-based teachings unless such an impulse came about as a spontaneous realization – whether from studying the 3P or not it doesn’t matter – and they are a (born or made) teacher, and their primary motivation is love of what they do, and a continual subjective flowering of their true self. If they have a object-oriented outlook (i.e., they see themselves an as object, the world as objective, and they have an objective, and see you as an object…) and see others as means to an end, watch out: misery-lane ahead, confusion will ensue, and/or you could end up wasting a lot of time (and money). Although, the truth is, whatever “mistakes” you make, or “bad” teachers you encounter, will also be a part of your true path: they will help you discriminate the wheat from the chaff.

There’s also the interesting misperception in the spiritual community that if you become “enlightened” (who becomes enlightened?) you automatically become a teacher. Not so…
Likewise someone could have the world’s deepest “grounding” in the 3P and not become a teacher or coach…

Finally, it’s very important to see that by working on oneself, by becoming happier in a true way, in and of itself, becoming more of who you really are, you are automatically helping the entire world, the entire universe – because you are that. Like ripples in a pond, light spreads endlessly. Do not set out to save the world (we’ve had enough Pol Pots and Hitlers and Stalins, thank you very much). In truly and absolutely freeing yourself, you are of service to all. So start with yourself, and start from where you are. Don’t make the focus others – there are no others – or the world. Be in this world but not of it: transcend thought, be the observer of the mind-created universe. That is the best way to help humanity and the planet, etc, paradoxically. Let it unfold naturally, effortlessly…

To end, I’ll mention that in my life I’ve taken a long tour as it were, through many different wisdom traditions, all pointing to the same nothing (no-thing). And here I am, feeling very light, not knowing who I am – so it’s more like a not-taking oneself (the real, serious, fake self) seriously, and not knowing: a kind of mature innocence, a freedom.

But to teach something takes skill, and a love of it, and there are some people who are born teachers. It’s also good to have a good repertoire of tools, like a gift for or memory for words, stories, helpful concepts, a vehicle for your clear understanding. And a calling…
Personally, I have always enjoyed creating stuff and writing, and spontaneous conversations with friends and strangers. So that’s what I do. It could change – never say never. But now is now.

My 3 cents. 🙂 Keep it simple …

*(The Three Principles are universal Mind, Consciousness, and Thought).

Notes on Psychological “Boundaries”

Boundaries are often talked about in behavioral terms: don’t cross this boundary, or I feel like my boundaries have been violated, or the respect for boundaries must be enforced or known for oneself so as to stop or remove oneself from a situation. But there is another dimension, an inner or psychological dynamic that I’ve seen in my experience.

I will share my experience with the boundary issue and how I perceive it as having to do with what we call the ego and expansion of falsity, meaning a false sense of self. About 30 years ago I rescued a friend from an abusive relationship with her husband, only to fall into a relationship with her, in which some of the same dynamics came out. Looking back this was an opportunity to see this dynamic. I’ve also had people and whom I did business and in my family of origin with that were extremely dominating and controlling, that gave me further practice in seeing beyond illusion and finding love within.

It is because the suffering, fearful ego-ic sense of self feels so severely a sense of separation and lack that it thus perceives boundaries or limitations of others – in reality there are no others but otherness is felt so strongly – that they must force or manipulate themselves through or over to overcome these boundaries, this alienation. You could see it as living a far deviation from one’s divinity, out on a limb in delusion, blind to it. This ego can even be a spiritual ego, in ordinary seekers or in the most extreme cases being some gurus who take advantage of there position to get sex, money, to abuse and belittle others and so on.

Unconsciousness or self-blindness or lack of insight is another way to put it: at-effect rather than at-choice, even though at some level it is a choice that knowingness knows about in the depths of oneself.

What I saw was an inflated and brittle false self that needed propping up with a sense of control and dominance, covering an extreme insecurity, and a compensation by this constant effort to be what one is not, but think one should be. The lack of respect of boundaries had to do with seeing another person as an extension of one’s own ego, one’s own sense of separation and lack, such that if a perceived other does or is perceived to do something contrary to what the enforce rigid rules and feeling of control dictated, a reaction ensued arising out of this old inherited mechanism: fear, judgement, jealousy, anger… and a sense of unworthiness that is projected outward and blamed on some cause out there, even though it is not out there.

Yet that reaction that created drama also fed the unstable false self, because that which is unreal needs constant energizing since it is fundamentally a lie. That false self projects onto other selves, and if the other self is vulnerable to taking it on, that feeds the loop. This dynamic can also be seen in other forms, such as the politician or actor who needs the “love” of an audience to feel a sense of worth, yet privately collapses into despair, depression, drug use, has trouble in relationships, etc. It is an addictive process, a self-reinforcing loop.

Truth needs no support outside itself and is effortless power. But what is not real has to be a maintained through effort. So it’s a magnification of the usual false self-ing process. TO see it in a more innocent way, consider how we have evolved from animals, and how animals have a mind, alert and active, seeking food, pleasure, fearing and protecting, but also reactive, automatically. This same reactive mind has evolved into a more sophisticated form in the human ego. But we can evolve further than that…

What can you do? The mind may not have the answers, but can be pointed towards what does have the answer. Bring consciousness to whatever is perceived, whether it is within oneself or an “other”, and expand to what surrounds it. It may sound simplistic, but the consciousness that we are knows no boundaries or limits, contains all experience, and holds within it an intelligence far beyond the intellectual machine or the automatic reactions. It is in fact what you are, beyond beliefs and past, which is only memory now. This benevolent observer, this awake awareness is always present, always secure, always available, beyond the mind, merely covered over by personal filters (habits of thinking). It is unattached to any situation or outcome because it is beyond time and place, personal meaning, value and significance, yet contains all in it’s embrace. Perfection knows no limits. Always new, always fresh, clean of the past, happy and free.

You can love them (as a friend) and still leave the situation if they don’t change (and more often than not they won’t) – at least you will feel better. By love I mean in a detached benevolent way, see that they are fearful and suffering – it is more objective and understanding, and automatically loving yourself – difficult to describe but you are in touch with your true self, which is free. The whole dynamic changes all by itself then. They are still, or may be at times, bound up in their false self and reactions, controlled by inner unconscious demons. But at minimum your situation will change once you free yourself. Don’t focus on them (I can’t emphasize that enough), or what they did, or the past. Work on yourself. The only freedom you have is now, to choose, within. This is not selfish but benefits the totality. If you see yourself truly now, you can see others truly now. The whole game is about finding out who you are, now, and freeing yourself. That’s it.

Note: I would suggest something experiential to bolster all this theory and talk. My friend Laura Lucille recently published a new meditation about experiential (direct) knowledge. Sit quietly and listen:
Exploring Experiential Knowledge – Meditation

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