Return to the Source

For years, I’ve spoken out against the widespread tendency of addressing behavior as a path toward creating improved behavior, not to mention peace of mind and civility. Here are some current examples of this tendency:

  1. Signs on ball fields, courts, or rinks instructing parents to act a certain way.
  2. Punishing or trying to reform bullies in our schools.
  3. Time outs for young children.
  4. Fines or suspensions in professional sports.
  5. Threats of incarceration in spite of overcrowding in our jails.
  6. Movie theaters that tell the audience to turn off their phones.
  7. Curfews for newly licensed drivers.
  8. Campaigns against domestic violence or animal cruelty.

The list goes on and on. Many experts are doing their best to help. But look around: These types of behavior-modification strategies show no evidence of curbing wayward behavior. Why? Because behavior is an effect. A person’s thinking and resultant state of mind are the cause.

Consider this illustration regarding number one on the list (warning signs for parents at youth-sport venues): The fact is that a father can show up at his daughter’s basketball games on different days and in different states of mind—one day his thinking is clear, the next it’s cluttered—and react to what’s happening on the court in totally different ways. From a high state of mind or clarity, it will seem as if the referee who just called a foul on his daughter has a good point—“A foul’s a foul.” From a low state of mind or clutter, he’ll maintain that “This rotten ref is out to get my daughter!” The behavioral warning sign on the wall of the gym is essentially irrelevant. The father’s behavior will only be as good as his thinking and state of mind on that day, at that moment.

What’s even more interesting (at least to me) is that deep down many of us seem to grasp the shortcomings in behavioral warnings or trying to fix behavior. Have you ever watched someone act in a dysfunctional way and asked, “What were you thinking?” In other words, you intuitively knew that the person’s thinking was the cause of the dysfunction and his or her behavior merely followed suit. Again, that’s why addressing behavior is futile—it’s after the fact.

So what’s the answer? What will promote a more civil and loving world (not to mention, increased productivity at home, school, or work)? Here you go: We all need to learn that our thinking creates our feelings and perceptions; other people/circumstances are powerless. Go back to the father at his daughter’s basketball game. No one likes to be told how to act—especially when they have an excess of noise in their head. But if this father grasped that his feelings (about anything) can only come from inside of him, it would no longer make sense to lash out at a referee in an attempt to feel better.

Ditto for the other circumstances on the list, including bullying. We now have bullying specialists (who are offering a slew of advice and/or codes of conduct) in every high school in the US. Still, the epidemic is raging. Reason being, bullies will only behave respectfully—stop bullying—when they realize that that their insecure feelings come from their own thinking. Another student is not to blame.

Finally, I want to be clear that I’m not excusing wayward behavior; I’m simply explaining it. Behavior-modification strategies have failed us for years because trying to change behavior requires thinking, and an excess of thinking is why a person behaves badly in the first place.

It’s pretty simple really. If we want better behavior, we must address it at the source: one’s thinking. Everyone’s thinking is designed to clear naturally but will only do so when we stop adding thought by looking outside for explanations and fixes for how we feel on the inside. Hmm, I suppose if the owner of a youth-sport venue really believed that a sign for parents was necessary, it could read:

“Remember, parents: Your feelings come from you.”

Happy New Year, everyone. Here’s to a great 2015. Thank you for reading these articles each week. I hope they’ve sparked a little something inside.


The Proof’s in the Pudding

Not long ago, I was speaking to a professional golfer about my belief that the use of a deliberate pre-shot routine is not helpful. He asked why. My response: “I’d rather you not get in the way of your instincts through the use of a prescribed strategy.”

He replied, “That’s why I practice the routine, so it becomes second nature.”

“Well, I’m not a fan of second nature,” I said. “Let’s stick with first nature—your instincts.”

Man, sometimes it feels like a tall mountain. The use of mind strategies or practices (mental routines, visualization, combing one’s past for answers, affirmations, rules, goal setting) is so commonly prescribed in performance coaching and psychology today that this approach has become the standard. My question is: If it works, why is our collective level of behavior and productivity not improving?

The answer is: It doesn’t work. Yet, rather than scrap the whole approach, people—including mental-health experts—persist, jumping from one unsuccessful strategy to another.

Here’s a hot one right now: mindfulness. I watched a 60 Minutes segment on this practice just last Sunday. It revealed that companies like Google and Facebook are now offering mindfulness training and retreats for their employees. Plus, even a US congressman is into it. He’s leading mindfulness classes on Capitol Hill while elementary school students in his Ohio district are being taught to meditate to control their racing thoughts. The overall theme of the 60 Minutes segment: When you feel stressed, take a breath, chill, get yourself together, and then proceed—mindfully. The segment did close with this surprising twist: “Mindfulness is not something you do; it’s who you are.”

That I do agree with.

But if it’s true that human beings are born mindful (aware, conscious, whatever), why did 60 Minutes air a full-length segment presenting mindfulness as something that must be learned and deliberately practiced? Doing this is similar to the pre-shot routine I mentioned earlier—second nature or noninstinctual. In other words, as with any mind strategy, mindful meditation requires thinking. And since you can’t become mindful by filling your head with thought, to me, the practice of mindfulness is essentially sucking the mindfulness right out of people.

So, then, if strategies and practices such as mindfulness aren’t the answer, what is? What’s the solution to our current behavioral and peace of mind crisis? Pretty simple, believe it or not.

Let’s start by immediately scrapping today’s “standard” approach and all the “how-to” methods (e.g., how to become mindful) that come with it. Next, replace it with this fundamental truth: The human mind will self-correct—if we stay out of its way. Thought, by design, comes and goes; it fills our heads then empties. Clarity brings mindfulness, positivity, and love—clutter, the opposite.

This sadly means that in the above congressman’s district, in trying to become mindful, kids are actually being taught to obstruct their innate functioning (or what I call their psychological immune systems). Have you ever seen youngsters get upset and then get over it almost immediately? Did they intentionally practice mindfulness, or cope, to do so? Of course not. They self-corrected (became mindful) because that’s what human beings are built to do.

Enough is enough. Human beings don’t need crutches. We simply need to look toward how we work inherently or what’s really happening behind the scenes in our heads (the ebb and flow of thought I just mentioned). Adults, it’s one thing to point each other in the wayward direction of stifling what nature intended, but doing this to our kids is absurd. It’s time we wake up and stop this backward cycle. Mind strategies and practices are not the answer. The proof’s in the pudding. We keep looking outside for fixes, and our level of behavior keeps getting worse.

One last thing: For those who disagree with me, that’s cool. I welcome your comments. However, please don’t send me data supporting the practice of mindfulness (as the producers did on 60 Minutes). The mind and brain are not the same thing. You can’t measure the mind with calculations, through the use of statistics, or under a microscope. The brain, sure; it’s biological. The mind, however, is spiritual; it’s formless. No one can quantify something that has no form.


The Implications of Understanding—for Performance and Beyond

Take a moment and consider the implications of this statement: If a person who doesn’t know that feelings can only generate from within gets insecure or angry, it will appear logical (to that person) to blame these feelings on the nearest circumstance or individual.

What implications occurred to you? Domestic violence? Road rage? Bullying? Racism? Animal cruelty? How about war? Indeed, every problem known to mankind can be traced back to a misunderstanding of where feelings come from. That’s why, even though most of my work revolves around performance, I usually end my talks by saying: “What we’re discussing here is not small potatoes.”

But let’s circle back to performance for a minute. What are the performance implications of not blaming the world around you for what’s happening within you? What are the performance implications of knowing that your feelings come from the inside—from your thinking—and not from circumstance?

Plenty. And I’m going to use the sport of golf to illustrate. If a golfer stands over a shot, feels nervous, and looks outside to explain his nerves, here’s what happens: He blocks his innate ability to overcome his nerves. If the same golfer stands over a shot, feels nervous, and does not look outside—his nerves will fade as he automatically self-corrects. That’s a pretty big implication for golfers, yes?

Let’s follow this further: Because he’s not self-correcting, the golfer in our first scenario will almost always reach for a shortcut—a mental technique—to rid his head of unwanted thoughts. But since the use of such techniques requires thought, the golfer’s feelings and performance level will spiral downward even more. In other words, at the heart of any golfer’s bound-up feelings is an outside-in misunderstanding (believing that feelings come from circumstance). This misunderstanding leads to steered shots, bad decisions, and self-centered behavior on and off the course.

To be clear, no person understands 100 percent that his or her feelings originate from the inside. We’re all prone to miss it. That’s the reason my work is strictly about deepening levels of understanding—or pointing people in the direction of their innate ability to self-correct. What are the implications of deeper levels of understanding? Take a moment and consider that question, too. Here’s a hint, though: The answer is not small potatoes.

Joy to the World!

I wish Joy to the world, not only during this holiday season, but always.

Joy is the deeply beautiful feeling that connects us to all of life, beyond our differences and before our fears. It is innate to all people, and readily accessible, but, like a rainbow peeking through storm clouds, easily obscured or overlooked. It is born of quietude, a mind at peace, immersed in the present. We fall into joy naturally. The feeling wells up from within our spirit as we simply allow our minds to come to rest. Regardless of turbulence around us, joy elicits calm, certainty, wisdom, understanding and unconditional love. It lifts us away from anxiety and towards transcendent responses to all of life’s challenges. The power of joy is far greater than the pressure of distress.

For a few years now, I have offered programs at the Women’s Resource Center in Bradenton, Florida, that have the word “Joy” in their titles, most recently, “Get Your Joy Back!” On the first night, I ask participants what drew them to the program. Most often, the responses are something like, “I had forgotten all about joy. It seems like something for little children that we don’t have as adults. But I saw the title and I realized I really would love to have joy back in my life. I just didn’t think it was possible.”

Why not? Once we awaken to the way the human mind works, anything is possible. The very same power that brings us worry, upset, stress, despair can also generate joy when we recognize it and see how we use it to create our reality. We leave joy behind when we get into the habit of thinking too much about everything, trying to rely solely on our intellect to arrive at answers. In my mind, the reason little children are so filled with joy is that their whole world is about discovery, about a constant flow of insights, one Aha! moment after another. Every new experience is a delight, a learning, a chance to see and know something fresh. Children don’t overthink. They don’t know, and that’s OK with them; they wonder and they realize. They live in the moment; untroubled by the past and unafraid of the future. They’re sad, they’re happy, they’re silly, they’re serious. they’re angry, they’re loving — they just move through whatever they’re feeling and let it go when new feelings arise, without any judgment or effort to hold onto one or drop another. They are humble; they don’t have a lot of ideas about what they should be or should be able to do. They jump into life and live it to the fullest!

The only reason growing up brings an end to that is that we learn to take our thinking seriously and we lose that graceful ease of moving from one thought to another, moment to moment. Instead of thought serving our curiosity and bringing us ever more insights about life, thought takes on weight and volume and we learn to bear it like a burden and try to take charge of it.

It’s pointless to try to figure out how and why that happens. But it makes sense to understand that we all have within us the power to stop it from happening, no matter how long it’s been going on.  We never lose the capacity for joy; we’re born with it and it is as much a part of us as the beating of our hearts. We never lose the ability to dance with life, moving effortlessly through the darkness and the light.

We rediscover our intrinsic joy when we see for ourselves the remarkable gifts we were given to lead our lives, the gifts of Mind, Consciousness and Thought. We don’t have to “do” anything to use them to create a joyful life. All we need is to recognize when we are overriding the natural flow of thoughts and turn away, leaving our thinking alone to right itself. Those gifts are spiritual, not actual. They are creation. They bring us into creation. We are parts of the infinitude of creation, just as molecules of water are part of the ocean, and there could be no ocean without them, nor could they be without the ocean. Mind is universal energy, life itself. Thought is the power we have to use that energy to create our personal ideas, to navigate our own way. Consciousness is the power we have to be aware of what we are thinking, to see and feel life in action. These forces are, like gravity, eternally true and always at work, whether we know it or not. When we do know it, we know better than to interfere by using our power to think against ourselves. Knowing that we are creating reality, knowing that we are the thinkers of our own thoughts, we can see that our moment-to-moment thinking creates moment-to-moment changes in our feelings about life. When we cling to thinking that brings bad feelings in an effort to overcome it, or fix it, or change it, we just hold those feelings in place. When we see it is the nature of thought to flow and change, we can use bad feelings as reminders that we are thinking too hard, filling our heads with extraneous thoughts, interrupting the spiritual flow of the present moment. We can take bad feelings as a signal to slow down, turn to quiet.

Joy is the wise and lovely state we enter as soon as we find faith and gratitude that, although we were given the power to think our way into anything, we can use that power to clear our heads and start fresh. Now. No thought has power over us; we’re making all of them up for ourselves. We can discard any thought in an instant, as readily as we created it.

So, look to joy. A river of answers to all our perceived problems flows through that precious state of being.


P.S. If you are interested in a deeper exploration of Joy, please consider joining me and my wonderful colleagues Bill Pettit and Christine Heath for a four-day retreat in June, 2015:

The post Joy to the World! appeared first on Three Principles Living.

Losing a Story and Finding a Daughter by Sue Pankiewicz

Sue PankiewiczIn my many years’ long and determined search to find a cure, locate a fix and try to control my dear daughter’s recovery from her mental illness, I experienced a kind of blindness. She has been recovering during this time and I simply didn’t see it clearly, and sometimes not at all. In my searching and thinking about how to bring her back to me I missed her being with me all along.

But how could this be? Although I could write for hours about this, here is my understanding in a nutshell – (still quite a big nutshell).

I had a seemingly well seventeen-year-old daughter, notwithstanding some of the common disputes that are associated with parents and their teenage children, who disappeared overnight, into a traumatic and frightening experience of a psychotic breakdown leading to a diagnosis of paranoid schizophrenia.

For a long time after she first became ‘ill’ I blamed myself for having been a negligent, incompetent, selfish and useless mother. Other mothers managed to raise healthy, successful, well-balanced and successful children – I had many friends and colleagues who I could see doing just that. It didn’t seem to count that I had three other thriving children. It didn’t stop me from blaming others either.

Through the years I nurtured a deep belief that she would get better, that she would stop hearing voices, believing bizarre thoughts and acting on them. I didn’t find any support for my belief within the medical professional and yet it persisted.

The good news is that what I had was a true sense of her innate wellbeing, resilience and inner mental health – seeing all the rest as an overlay of dense, speeded up, unregulated and random thinking, which she could not differentiate.

The bad news is that I had a rigid idea of what recovery would be, what it would look like and how soon it needed to be achieved. So the picture in my head and the accompanying story of ‘her’ – of who she really was and who she could become again – was entirely my own creation I took to be truth. I assumed that she had just lost sight of this same picture and this same story, and undoubtedly she wanted the same for herself as I wanted for her.

So there I was – I had a goal and an underlying faith in her own potential for wellbeing, alongside no idea how divisive and destructive the former would prove to be or how little I would pay attention to the latter. I had no idea how I myself would be creating every moment of my experience, as I embarked in fear on what I saw as a nightmare journey.

What I now see, close to fourteen years on, is that my own story, crafted from my own thoughts, opinions, beliefs and ego is all that really came between me and the possibility of going through the circumstances and situations that occurred, with the loving grace that comes from a quiet mind. I thought her mind was the problem to fix and unknowingly I used my own confused and troubled one to try to do the fixing – great solution!!

She hasn’t been in crisis for several years and she lives happily and independently with her partner of 17 years, having weathered the earlier storms of their relationship.  She takes medication, is restricted by her symptoms and limited by her avoidance of any situation she thinks causes her to feel disturbed and uncomfortable.  Looks like wisdom is working very well.

These are still some of the consequences and ongoing features that she lives with that can still trouble me, but I no longer feel the need to burden her with my negative feelings and behaviours. I know how I feel is an exact reflection of my own troubled thinking and not caused by who she is or what she says or does. This understanding frees me up to let my feelings pass. Thus we spend more time with each other living in the present moment where she can rely on me to stay in my wellbeing, to not judge or criticize her, find her failing, or try to sneak in a new ‘fix’. I hope you can imagine how different this must feel.

I have enormous respect for this child of mine, whose psychotic experiences have wreaked such havoc in her life. I am humbled by her non-judgement of me even as I behaved in very judgemental ways with her. I am grateful to her for her acceptance of me regardless of what I think I have been like – moody, withdrawn, awkward, critical and blind. And for her tolerance of my overt attempts to change her thinking, appearance and lifestyle and her complete lack of self-pity and complaint I am in awe.

In regaining this precious daughter who was always there I know she is gaining a far wiser, kinder and more loving mother who is no longer blinded by her own self-created story stuck in front of her eyes.

Sue Pankiewicz

The Why

Last week, I received a call from a college baseball player who dreams of becoming a US Marine following his graduation this spring. He called to chat about preparing for the upcoming season, school, and life in general. But there was also a troubling “issue” with his Marine application that he wanted to discuss: In a 100-word essay, he was required to write about why he wants to be a Marine. And, regrettably, he couldn’t come up with “the why.” He couldn’t get past word one.

This type of dilemma is more common than you might think. Here’s proof: Can you readily answer why you decided to read this article? Why you feel comfortable in your home? Why you chose your career? Why your kid plays baseball instead of lacrosse? In fact, the more we rack our brains for answers to questions like these, the further from truth we venture.

In other words, productive and enduring decisions occur when we act instinctively, not intellectually. If, for instance, love at first sight has turned into a happy marriage for you, chances are you can’t put your finger on the precise reason. Likewise with my decision to change careers and found Inner Sports years ago. In spite of some friends who questioned my why (and my sanity), I simply did it. The truth is I really didn’t think about what I was doing until after Inner Sports was up and humming along.

Remember, obvious answers won’t require an explanation. People only look outside, compile facts, and defend “the why” when they make decisions against their better judgment. The reason, then, that the baseball player above couldn’t get past word one in his essay? He simply wants to be a Marine. And that’s been true—and felt right to him—for as long as he can remember.

Oh, and one more thing. It won’t take 100 words, and it probably won’t be what the Marine recruiting center is expecting, but the answer to his essay dilemma, the perfect why, is: there is none.

Behind the “What to do?” & “How to do it?” – Terry Rubenstein

 " The blind spot concerns not the what and how they do it -  but the who : who we are and the inner place or source from which we operate both individually and collectively "

  Otto Scharmer , Presence  

Why are we all so obsessed with the " Hows?" and the "Whats?"

"Tell me what it is and how to do it?"  is one of the most common request from our clients.  Sincerely. They want to learn. They want to escape the stress and pain of living in an ego filled mind. In a world that feels overwhelming and hostile at times and at other times confusing and dissatisfying. 

The principles of Innate Health fail to address these questions in a truly satisfying way because they address a far more important and fundamental question. If we don't understand who we are and where we fit into the universe , these questions of  "How?"and "What?" will be superfluous and ultimately dissatisfying. 

In my experience, every time I glimpse the " whole " or the " bigger picture " or the "oneness of life " , the previous questions become redundant and insignificant. Outside of the "whole" , lost in the fragmentation of my analytical mind,  lost in the web of my intricate thought system , I like everyone else need  to know .... Need to know what? Well the answers to "fixing", "improving"and "changing" my inner and outer worlds.

However when I realise or fall into the space of truth beyond the fragmentation of thought and form , everything emerges and unfolds from there , effortlessly and perfectly,  without judgement , without confusion and without suffering. To use the old cliche which helps highlight the point - "The whole is the sum of all parts" and you therefore can't understand or grasp the separate parts without seeing the context of the whole.

Mind , Consciousness  and Thought  are in my humble opinion,  the simplest gateway to "see" , "glimpse" or  "realise" the "whole" which is ultimately where answers arise and clarity dawns on us rather than us going after it like a child chasing a butterfly. 

If you aren't interested in a bigger truth than your own personal one then this learning will be frustrating for you. It doesn't cater to half truths or passing truths or human truths. It addresses an unconditional, universal truth that has stood the test of time. It has travelled through the ages unscarred , unchanged.  It is constant and it is the backdrop to every life story that plays out and  unfolds on this earth and beyond. 

It's a truth that encapsulates every human experience there ever was and ever will be. It holds the secret to all of life and offers it freely as a gift to anyone and everyone who is prepared to " listen " - to go inside and listen from a place beyond the conditioned mind - to a deeper place of consciousness that reveals reality as it is NOT as it appears to be. 

If you aren't ready for this level of revelation then the Principles  aren't for you. For they hold nothing back. There are no half truths here. But I can assure you, their revelation is uplifting , filled with the sweetest love you will ever taste and connected to a part of you that is greater and wiser and kinder than you ever dreamed possible. 

Do they disconnect you from every day life ? For sure not. They allow you to get your hands dirty and play the game of life as rough and tumble as it gets. No one is immune from the human condition. However they allow you for a couple of seconds , sometimes minutes , sometimes hours , sometimes days to rest in a quiet mind of knowing , trust , faith and wisdom where you get to transcend the pettiness , the smallness and see the beauty of every aspect of the whole as it manifests momentarily into a tapestry of such perfect and intricate beauty that is beyond words and far beyond our intellect. I have a name for this place / space - ""GRACE" 

And as for the other times ? When you feel trapped in the dark? The understanding of the Principles  is the slither of light under the door that will eventually allow you to find the key and let yourself out. 

What a gift that thought is so forgiving. It bares no grudges and leaves no marks or scars. It doesn't house your well being. It doesn't house love. 

So throw away the " What's?"and "Hows?" and join us in engaging in learning and discovering the emergence of a deeper consciousness that will ultimately not make you immune to life, but a partner in its unfolding and oneness.