Down But “Very Okay”

Last week, a client sent me a text message wondering if I had time to talk. I said yes, and, as we confirmed the time, I asked him if he was okay. His reply was interesting: “I’m down, but I’m very okay,” he said.

Now this was a major breakthrough for this client. For him to see that it’s possible to feel low, and know that—in spite of the feeling—he is still okay, is at the heart of our work together. In other words, grasping that errant feelings are not indicative of circumstantial problems is what, to me, fuels a person’s innate resilience.

Here’s another way I often describe this perspective: Most people would claim that when they feel low, i.e., anxious or insecure, it’s because of a troubling circumstance. Yet, in truth, it works the other way around. A person’s anxiety or insecurity is what makes a circumstance look troubling. That’s right, the feeling starts inside of us—from our thinking—and it then dictates our experience.

The other day, for example, my son suffered an injury while playing college baseball. While I certainly wasn’t happy about it, I experienced the circumstance with calmness and hope. Later that day, however, I felt quite differently. My thoughts had accumulated to the point that I nervously envisioned his season, and perhaps his baseball career, being over. But wouldn’t you know it, the next day as we waited for the results of his MRI, I was once again open, secure, and poised for whatever came next. My son and I even discussed the possibility of him playing a graduate (fifth) year if necessary.

Remember: You might be down from time to time, but that feeling does not come from something that happens on the outside. Your state of mind creates your experience; your experience does not create your state of mind. And knowing this is what underlies your ability to find answers and overcome.

Like my client, my son, and me—you are always okay. Why? Because your feelings only come from the inside. You’re never a victim, no matter how much, in the heat of the moment, it might look otherwise.

 

P.S.  My son is a little banged up but fine. But you knew that already!

The truth about “reality” (It’s what you think)

Principles are true whether we like them or not, whether we agree with them or not, whether we even know about them or not. Principles are the essential logic of the universe. As we discover them, things that were confusing suddenly make sense.

little boy counting

Think of little children before they have recognized the principle of addition. If you ask a toddler who is playing with some friends how many cookies you should bring in so he and each of his friends can have one, the answer is likely to be something like “lebenty-seven”. Toddlers haven’t seen yet that you can count by adding one to one, one more to two — until you have counted everyone. So that ordinary question is a nonsense question to the toddler, and any answer that sounds like a number will do. If you ask the same question to a six-year-old, he will count his friends and himself and tell you the number of children in the room, understanding that one cookie per person will be the same number.

Until we discover principles for all of the aspects of life that baffle us, we do the best we can making up theories and answers without any foundation. From the moment of birth, we are on a life-long journey of discovery. As soon as principles are recognized, understanding flourishes. Logic and common sense are revealed.

So it has been with human behavior. Until very recently, there were no universal answers to these kinds of questions:

  1. Why do people react so differently to the same events?
  2. Why do people remember the same things fondly or with humor sometimes and with anger or regret other times?
  3. Why do people lash out at others they truly love and have no desire to hurt?
  4. How do people miss things that are happening right in front of them?

 

To explain the array of human behaviors and experiences, we have looked for external causes. We look around and ask ourselves who or what made us do that? Whatever is close at hand or comes to mind looks like the culprit. I yelled at someone I really like and respect. What made me do that? Must be the angry driver that cut me off moments before that got me all stirred up. Or maybe it’s because my mother yelled at me while I was growing up and I can’t help it because it’s part of who I am. … My teenager, normally responsible, forgot about an upcoming test and didn’t study for it. Must be the distraction of that new girlfriend who calls him all the time. Or maybe it’s because we pressure him to excel and he is sending us a message?  … I lost a report my boss needed for a meeting. Why? Must be because I’m so tired from being kept awake by my neighbor’s loud music. Or maybe I’m undermining my boss because he reminds me of that uncle I couldn’t stand when I was growing up?  We could make a full-time job out of the blame game (some would say we do), and it wouldn’t solve anything or change anything or help us to see how to sidestep behaviors we don’t like.

At last, it is beginning to dawn on us that we can’t understand ourselves by looking all around after the fact. Now we are learning to turn and look inside at the psychological functioning of all human beings and, deeper than that, at the spiritual source of that functioning, to understand behaviors. This change in direction began with the discovery of the Principles of Mind, Consciousness and Thought, the fundamental logic that explains who we are and how we operate. We are, at our core, pure energy. We manifest that energy as ideas and images that pass through our minds. We are aware of what is passing through our minds because our sensory systems register it. As that understanding spreads, more and more people experience a moment of insight that we are all the source of our own thinking, feelings and behaviors, that the common core of humanity is that every person on the planet, regardless of what they’re saying or doing, is generating that experience exactly the same way, using the universal energy of life to create the expression we call our individual life on earth.

At last, people are starting to recognize that we live in this world by thinking our way through it, by the creative process of forming one thought after another and experiencing that thought as reality. In simple terms, at last we’re seeing that what isn’t on our mind isn’t in our life at that moment. The only means we have of knowing what is going on in our lives is bringing things to mind, and to the extent we are aware that we are doing that, we are more or less free to shape our experience.

The simplest of life examples bring this home:

    • I was in a hurry to get to work some years ago and was talking on my car phone to a client who was anxious for an answer. My head was full of the client’s problem as I backed out of my driveway, directly into the rear end of a big red truck that was parked across the street from me. It was there when I got into the car. I had looked into my rear view mirror, habitually. But because I was so distracted by all my work-related thoughts, I didn’t “see” the truck. Was it part of that moment’s “reality”? Absolutely. Was it part of “my” reality? No. My only reality was the client’s urgent issues.
    • I arrived in my room at a beautiful resort hotel in California one afternoon right before sunset. I had just been facilitating a large retreat and I was trying to sort out whether to take a different approach the next day because of some of the questions that had been raised at the end. I stood in front of the window, focused on my problem, playing the day’s events over in my mind. When I went down to dinner, the waiter asked me if I had seen the sunset that night. “No, why?” I asked. “It was gorgeous,” he said. It had happened right in front of my unseeing eyes from my west-facing room, but I missed it entirely. My mind was on my work.
    • When my grandson was little, he loved to invent things. He had all kinds of problem-solving ideas, and he would describe them in great detail to me as we were sitting on my porch. One afternoon, I heard him say, “So what do you think, Grammie? Will it work?” Tears came to my eyes as I realized he had been talking to me about an idea for several minutes and my mind had been elsewhere. I had no idea what he had been describing to me.

 

We all have many stories like that. The common thread is that whatever we are thinking about IS the moment for us, no matter what is really happening around us. The fundamental truth is that we can use the universal gift of thinking that we all share however we choose to, and we will experience our choice as if life were happening to us, even though it is truly happening through us. The depth with which we come to realize, appreciate and use this power is the measure of our joy in life. As soon as we can “see” and feel how we are using our thinking, we have the power to change. We find gratitude and empowerment in the knowledge that we are always, as Sydney Banks says, “one thought away from an entirely different reality.”

“Thought on its own is a completely neutral gift. Thought is not reality; yet it is through Thought that our realities are created. It is what we are humans put into our thoughts that dictates what we think of life. Among the greatest gifts given to us are the powers of free thought and free will, which give us the stamp of individuality, enabling us to see life as we wish. These same gifts can also be the greatest weaknesses of humanity.”                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Sydney Banks, The Missing Link, pp. 49-50

The post The truth about “reality” (It’s what you think) appeared first on Three Principles Living.

Your Thinking or Your Life?

One of the first things I noticed when I got involved in this line of work was how my peers—mental performance coaches, sports psychologists, and self-help authors—seemed to be complicating something that, in principle, was so simple.

That is, if a person was struggling, these experts would have the person analyze and then try to cope with his or her problems. When, in my opinion, this is the last thing a coach or counselor should do. Why? Because doing this requires thinking. And an excess of thinking is what makes a person feel bad and struggle in the first place. It energizes problems that don’t really exist.

Me, I’m interested in one thing when I work with people: to what degree do they grasp that their feelings come from their thinking and not from their life. How I uncover the answer to this question is also quite simple. Here’s a demonstration:

Person A: I’m really struggling, Garret.

Me: What’s going on? How come?

Person A: My wife’s driving me crazy, my contract’s up at the end of the season, my left knee aches, and my coach doesn’t understand how to motivate me.

Now, this person doesn’t understand the direct link between one’s thinking and one’s feelings. He’s formed an imaginary connection between his life circumstances and how he feels. And if he keeps looking in that direction, he’ll feel and perform worse.

Here’s the opposite example:

Person B: I’m really struggling, Garret.

Me: What’s going on? How come?

Person B: My thinking is all over the place; it’s getting the better of me right now.

This person understands the thought/feeling connection; that the source of his discontent comes from inside of him. Like Person A, Person B’s wife, contract, knee, and coach might look like problems at that moment. Yet, he knows that when a person’s head gets jammed with thought, everything looks that way. Person B won’t try to cope with things that have nothing to do with how he feels. That’s why, in short order, his feeling state will improve, answers will appear, and his problems will wither away.

Yes, it is that simple. In fact, if you want to know how well someone understands the workings of the human mind, just consider how they answer this elementary question:

Your thinking or your life?

And it always comes down to your thinking. The human mind is built to self-correct when fault is not placed on external events or circumstances. It might look otherwise, but you create your experience from inside to out—100 percent of the time.

There is a Huge, Important Difference between “It’s a Thought” and “It’s just a Thought”

Often when clients say, “I see that it’s thought” they feel heavier rather than lighter. They think to themselves, “what am I going to do about those thoughts? How do I get rid of them? How do I keep them from reoccurring? How am I going to manage my thinking? If I don’t do a good job my thinking will plague me!”

Conversely, when clients see that, “it’s just a thought” they invariably feel more free and more lighthearted.  Seeing that it is, “just a thought” sheds light on the nature of thought. To me “just a thought” says two things about the nature of thought. “Just” suggests that thought is the only thinghappening. Your feelings, your perceptions, indeed your entire experience is exclusively coming from your thinking at that moment. It just means thought is the only thing happening. In short, thought is not a lot even though it is the very fabric of our mental lives.

“Just” also means to me that thought is not a big deal. It’s just thought. It’s not made of concrete or kryptonite. It is more like a feather, a cloud that will pass through our minds uneventfully. It’s fluid, it’s transitory and it only has the power to weigh on us when we don’t see it for what it is.

The word “just” distinguishes the principles from the many approaches that also focus on thought – cognitive therapy, positive thinking, affirmations, reframing and the like. The “just” in the principles point to the nature of thought. All these other approaches concern themselves with the content of thought – what to do with thought, how to deal with thought and how to improve our thinking. The principles assume, and I would say correctly so, that seeing the nature of thought allows us to change our relationship to thinking notwithstanding the content. It is this change in our relationship to our thinking that provides the well-being. So, the word “just” is a four letter word that has profound implications.

Stuck on a Goal

Setting goals seems to be a big deal these days. Coaches, teachers, parents, and employers often suggest it, and goal setting is a theme of many self-help books. Yet, to me, in focusing on specific goals—and not what creates the goals in the first place—people are getting stuck in the past, rather than inspiring themselves to future excellence.

Let me explain. In brief, a goal is nothing more than a thought. The thought might come from a moment of insight or vision, but, nevertheless, it’s still a thought. And, in principle, thoughts are transient. When human beings are operating efficiently, thoughts move in and out of our heads with ease. When we’re not operating efficiently, thoughts get embedded and multiply. We then notice this accumulation of thought through our feelings. The more thoughts in our heads, the worse we feel.

To illustrate how this paradigm relates to goal setting, let’s say you’re a major league baseball player. From a super-clear head, you visualize yourself winning a batting title. Nothing wrong with that. However, you then decide to make a batting title one of your goals for the upcoming season. You even write this objective down and pin it to your bedroom wall. So over the next few weeks you grind after the batting title, the aged thought, with no consideration for the level of clarity that created the inspiration in the first place. Suddenly, you can’t get a hit to save your life.

Why can’t you hit? You’ve frozen yourself in time. Thoughts about the batting title have built in your head to the point that you’re not seeing straight. You’ve jammed your mind’s innate ability to generate fresh thinking, new perspectives, or answers.

Instead, why not look past your thinking, or goals, to your built-in capacity for inspiration? That’s what creative people do—on and off the playing field. Their minds don’t get jammed because they know that fixating on a goal—old thinking—prevents evolution and growth. It binds them to yesterday.

Here’s the bottom line on goals: If you understand that thoughts are designed to fluently flow in and out, it won’t make sense to take the content of your goals as gospel. Again, visions for the future are bound to change, actually they’re meant to. Get stuck on a goal and you’re restricting the abundant opportunities that lie ahead.

Transcend Trauma

Picture
Many of us are troubled by things that have happened to us. In some cases we hold deep secrets about these things, so awful that even our close loved ones are unaware of our pain.

Yet even while these are hidden in the recesses of our minds, we seek ways to release ourselves from the past.

As one who had a violent marriage to a heroin addict, I was such a person. I would have given everything I had to someone who could have helped me transcend my own trauma. But shedding it looked impossible to me. For a long time I could not count a single day when I was not terrified.

Being in that wilderness without an exit was the lowest point in my life.  As time passed I had good days when I forgot about it all. I had fewer bad days. I longed for, but wasn't quite able to find what I really wanted: my complete freedom.  

Then the way to freedom showed itself. Not in a blaze of light, but a small parting of a curtain. And as I persisted in finding out what was behind that curtain I found my own way.  

Sydney Banks, a great teacher of kindness wrote "The Missing Link" and in it he said:

There is no way to guarantee a trouble-free life.

Life is like any other contact sport. 
You may encounter hardships of one sort or another.

Wise people find happiness 
not in the absence of such hardships,
but in their ability to understand 
them when they occur.
 
The "ability to understand" is they key I was looking for.  I spent a lot of time rummaging in the drawers of the past looking for my answer, my freedom, but didn't find it until I found out something deeper about myself and my true nature. 

To me, Syd is suggesting we all allow our own deeper nature to show us the way forward through love and understanding.  He is inviting us to look away from the searing pain and toward the spiritual, formless side of life -- not to ignore what is happening now -- but to look behind it.  To look to something more.

During the time I looked for my answers, I read many spiritual books. Among them, "A Course In Miracles." I even worked helping to translate the Course in the very early years before any translations had yet been published. The Course has been in my life for 30 years now, off and on, and I must admit it has both comforted me and confounded me. 

I came across this on page 591 today:
You need no healing to be healed.

The miracle comes quietly into the mind that stops an instant and is still.
I almost missed the great importance of this.  I wished I had really seen this those many years ago when I was struggling to let go of all the painful memories I carried with me.  

It comforts me to know that these messages of help are everywhere, although we may miss them or not understand them. But even more than this, what truly helps me today is to know that there is a spiritual, or formless life that is me, and remains unchanged regardless of what happens to me.

How can we turn to the remembrance of what we are, within the formless nature of life itself, and know that it is inviolate? 

How can we be in acknowledgement of the events and yet separate and untouched by their consequences?

It seems impossible. Yet, it is not.  That is all I know. For so it has been for me.  


More books that have helped me on my way.

Transcend Trauma

Picture
Many of us are troubled by things that have happened to us. In some cases we hold deep secrets about these things, so awful that even our close loved ones are unaware of our pain.

Yet even while these are hidden in the recesses of our minds, we seek ways to release ourselves from the past.

As one who had a violent marriage to a heroin addict, I was such a person. I would have given everything I had to someone who could have helped me transcend my own trauma. But shedding it looked impossible to me. For a long time I could not count a single day when I was not terrified.

Being in that wilderness without an exit was the lowest point in my life.  As time passed I had good days when I forgot about it all. I had fewer bad days. I longed for, but wasn't quite able to find what I really wanted: my complete freedom.  

Then the way to freedom showed itself. Not in a blaze of light, but a small parting of a curtain. And as I persisted in finding out what was behind that curtain I found my own way.  

Sydney Banks, a great teacher of kindness wrote "The Missing Link" and in it he said:

There is no way to guarantee a trouble-free life.

Life is like any other contact sport. 
You may encounter hardships of one sort or another.

Wise people find happiness 
not in the absence of such hardships,
but in their ability to understand 
them when they occur.
 
The "ability to understand" is they key I was looking for.  I spent a lot of time rummaging in the drawers of the past looking for my answer, my freedom, but didn't find it until I found out something deeper about myself and my true nature. 

To me, Syd is suggesting we all allow our own deeper nature to show us the way forward through love and understanding.  He is inviting us to look away from the searing pain and toward the spiritual, formless side of life -- not to ignore what is happening now -- but to look behind it.  To look to something more.

During the time I looked for my answers, I read many spiritual books. Among them, "A Course In Miracles." I even worked helping to translate the Course in the very early years before any translations had yet been published. The Course has been in my life for 30 years now, off and on, and I must admit it has both comforted me and confounded me. 

I came across this on page 591 today:
You need no healing to be healed.

The miracle comes quietly into the mind that stops an instant and is still.
I almost missed the great importance of this.  I wished I had really seen this those many years ago when I was struggling to let go of all the painful memories I carried with me.  

It comforts me to know that these messages of help are everywhere, although we may miss them or not understand them. But even more than this, what truly helps me today is to know that there is a spiritual, or formless life that is me, and remains unchanged regardless of what happens to me.

How can we turn to the remembrance of what we are, within the formless nature of life itself, and know that it is inviolate? 

How can we be in acknowledgement of the events and yet separate and untouched by their consequences?

It seems impossible. Yet, it is not.  That is all I know. For so it has been for me.  


More books that have helped me on my way.

Healing from Grief and Loss – Mary White

I was recently reminded about how an understanding of the Three Principles helps during times of grief and loss. Five months ago, I had to put down my beloved dog Zak who was suffering from cancer. He was a strikingly handsome Hungarian Vizsla with an indomitably joyful spirit. At the age of 10 he had the youthful exuberance of a much younger pup and was expected to live to about 14. As I have a deep love of animals, especially dogs, Zak felt like a like a son to me. He was also my best friend and confidant. We were a pack of two.

When I first heard the results of a biopsy indicating a grade 3 mast cell tumor, I was shocked into the realization that I may soon lose my much loved pet. In that poignantly painful moment, I took a deep breath and told myself slowly, “remember what you know.” These words repeated in my mind for the next 6 months as Zak endured 2 highly invasive surgeries and difficult recoveries. I remained hopeful. I put him on homeopathic medicine, upgraded his diet and “loved him up” as the veterinarian told me to do.

Remembering ‘what I know’ refers to the fact that my experience of life is internally (not externally) created. It is a gentle reminder that my feelings and emotions arise with my thoughts and I have the ability to move in the direction of emotional suffering or peace at any time, regardless of circumstance. The power of thought is not static but continuously flowing and as the thinker, I have a choice whether I hang on to a thought (by recreating it) or not. This helps me to gain perspective on the potential “what ifs,” guilt, blame, anger, “why me’s”… personal thoughts that commonly occur in times of loss but are not very helpful.  

Remembering ‘what I know’ also refers to my awareness of a universal spiritual intelligence within me. If I quiet down my personal thinking, I can hear the voice of my wisdom or common sense; find peace, acceptance and gratitude in the midst of deep sadness; access my sense of humor when appropriate and know that I am okay no matter what. I am reminded of how fortunate I am to have learned about the powers of Mind, Thought and Consciousness, the source of all human experience.

What I have learned over the years from many losses of loved ones is if I stay in the flow of thought and remember the true source of my experience, I feel protected. I have the courage to embrace and experience deep sadness knowing that it comes in waves and passes. This understanding gave me the courage to hold my mother’s hand until she took her last breath when she died in 1996 from emphysema. Staying grounded in the present, understanding that thought creates feelings and not attaching to personal thought allowed me to experience intense sadness without losing myself or running away from it.

Before learning the principles, I was terrified of truly feeling my feelings, especially sadness, as though I might fall into the abyss of grief and never come out. Now I know that grief is nothing to fear. It is like an intricately woven tapestry of multi colored threads: a wave of sadness, a fond memory, a feeling of gratitude, unconditional love, a moment of anger, a fleeting sense of guilt, a humorous memory, an intense moment of missing someone, and on and on. The way I understand what Sydney Banks called the “true nature of thought” is that we are always in the moment of creating. It is an illusion when we get stuck in what’s been created.

A few weeks after Zak was put to rest, I was driving in a rural area on my way to facilitate a group at a treatment center. As I crawled along in rush hour traffic I was suddenly stricken with a pang of loss and longing for him. I did not want to start crying and show up at my group a blubbering mess, so I took a few deep breaths and calmed down. Immediately, I noticed the gorgeous country landscape, the fields of green grass and sweeps of golden wild grasses, a dilapidated old barn, the grey backdrop of sky and clouds. I saw two red-winged black birds flitting around in the tall grass. Suddenly overcome by a beautiful feeling, I thought, “There is Zak!” I felt Zak’s presence in the birds, in the landscape, in the sky. I was filled with a sense of the oneness of life.

Since that week I am incapable of killing insects in my house so I carry them outside. I catch myself staring out the back door at squirrels and birds. I feel more connected to every living critter. Life feels sacred. When Sydney Banks talks about how the form and the formless are one I hear that everything is connected and death is only a transition. When I miss Zak (or a loved one who has passed) I remember that only the physical is gone and the spirit remains within me and everywhere. This way I don’t really “lose” anything but, instead, gain a deeper appreciation for life.

It is inside of us to grieve well. In grieving well, we heal from loss and grow spiritually.