The Neutrality of Culture

Last week, I stumbled onto a new book whose premise is that a “selfie” culture is making our kids selfish. Likewise, just about every day, a mental-performance expert insists that a team’s or organization’s culture is its most relevant asset. The trouble with these similar perspectives, however, is that neither is accurate. The more the members of a team or organization see that a culture (someone else’s idea of right and wrong) is actually neutral, the more they’ll excel.

The truth is that human beings can only work one way: inside to out. Meaning, a culture has no ability to make a person feel or do anything. That’s why not all kids growing up today are selfish. That’s also why, during the Holocaust, not all Germans followed Hitler’s message.

What I’m sharing with you is this fundamental principal: People who believe they work outside-in (their feelings are the result of something external) are the ones who become selfish and insecure. Why? Because attaching one’s feeling to the outside requires a tremendous amount of thinking. This clutters the mind. Compounds of a cluttered mind are, among other things, selfishness, insecurity, and the tendency to follow. To the contrary, those rare individuals who know they work inside-out (their feelings are generated from within) are the ones who become generous and secure. Why? Because when people don’t attach their feelings to the outside, the mind automatically clears. Compounds of a clear mind are generosity, security, and the tendency to lead.

Here, then, is the bottom line on culture: Since it plays zero role in forming the above compounds, promoting a specific culture is simply not helpful. Sure, certain teams or organizations do create a tradition of distinction. But that’s because their leaders continually point others inward for answers. They show that the environment in which a person lives or works (a culture) is never a driving factor. Those on the outside-in end of the spectrum falter and those on the inside-out end of the spectrum thrive.

It started with a game

Louise Storey“Isn’t it funny you don’t realise what you have until you don’t have it anymore? Usually we mean this to be something we’ve lost that we treasure. In this case losing something has been the best thing that has happened to me and my family. Let me explain…”

As a teenager I remember feeling self conscious, lonely and depressed once or twice to the point of wanting to end my life. I didn’t even know what depression was then, the label came a few years later and I self diagnosed myself. I didn’t talk to anyone about my feelings, I just sat in my room, thinking and thinking and imagining how life was so different for me than everyone else. I learned to put on a good front / mask.

Anyway swipe through to a few years later, I didn’t do bad at all in my life I have a wonderful loving, caring, understanding husband of 12 years, I have 2 beautiful children and loving parents. I also had a well paid job that I loved and was good at.

However, I still had self doubt, I cared a lot what others thought and I lived my life and made decisions based on outside influences such as friends, family, adverts, society etc etc…I thought this was just the way life was….there was however, something constant in my life though, episodes of depression, sometimes they’d camp out for one or two days and other times they really move in and stayed for longer and dragged me down deeper. I coped though, tablets sometimes, acupuncture, reading all about it, drinking, diet changes etc etc

I got through some pretty traumatic times and was quite grateful for getting through 3 IVF rounds, split from my husband for 6 months, 24 week premature baby and then the diagnosis of my eldest child on the autism spectrum, without ending up in a straight jacket.

I went back to a full-time full on IT travelling job when my children were still young and hired childcare. I loved the freedom that my job was giving me and I spent 1 year putting my all into getting up and running after being 6 years out of corporate life.

What I wasn’t focussing on though was the beauty of my children growing up in front of me. I thought that having more money and being a corporate working Mum was who I needed to be to have what everyone was saying “my identity”.
What I wasn’t focussing on was the wonderful husband (and parents) who were so patient with the stresses and strains of managing both our travel plans, jobs around the house at the weekend, the commitments of parenting (grandparenting) plus the biggest thing of all a constantly stressed out out wife / daughter.

So supposedly I “had it all”. So why then did I feel so unhappy most of the time? ….

I remember very clearly the day before I was going to go on holiday I was in a meeting in work and all the insecurities that I had about being back at work and who I was started to descend on me. I was shaking, I had thoughts about how rubbish I was at my job, I couldn’t do it, I was a fraud etc. I could hardly function in the meeting. I made a decision that made me feel better in that moment, I was going to hand my notice in when I got back from my holiday.

I read Jamie Smart’s Clarity book on holiday.

Something got my attention, but I really have no recollection what. I don;t think the words “three principles” or “Syd banks” even popped out as relevant to me at the time.

I played a bit with some of the ideas while I was still on holiday, giving people my full attention when they spoke to me for example…sounds simple doesn’t it? It was fun and I enjoyed trying out this new game.

So I went back to work and I thought I had nothing to loose as I was going to hand my notice in anyway, I tried out some things from the book, listening mainly with nothing on my mind… although back then I don’t think I really knew what that mean’t.

Almost instantly in a few days, I hadn’t got the insecure thoughts I’d had before the holiday, I just couldn’t imagine them anymore, I became curious about some other areas in the book, tried them out and saw more changes at work. Still a game.

Fast forward to the end of that year, I had gone from an average performer to a top performer at work and winning two awards – one of which was for innovation. I had never won an award in my life!

This really was interesting…so I read more books about something Jamie mentions in his book Three Principles and a welder from Scotland called Syd Banks…well living life started right there…

Its been nearly 20 months since I first read that book and I have been through such an amazing journey of learning and it still continues.

During a 6 month period I started to question why I was working in a full-time full on job. I would wake and have different thoughts everyday. One day I’d wake and I knew I loved my job, it was good money and I had got where I was with hard work, so I shouldn’t leave, then on the other days I’d wake with a pure longing to be with my children, and then as time went on I just knew it was the right time and place to be at home with my children and I’d just have to look for work around the childrens’ school hours. One fear I had at the time was would I have regrets if I left? I was frightened of regretful feelings, would I be able to cope being at home? Now I see what those fears were.

Finally I knew I could trust my wisdom fully and I realised I had to leave, so I handed my notice in. My company offered me all kinds of working hours and workarounds to keep a valuable employee, things I never would have ever dreamt of asking for in the first place. I stayed for another 6 months working around the needs of the children and still doing my job with less stress and doing more productive work than ever……and then one day I just knew it didn’t make sense anymore.

I have just had the most magical beautiful Summer with my family. No regrets about leaving work, very happy and content in all areas of my life.

Having spent time on Jamies’ year long practitioner course, deepening my understanding of the 3 principles, has truly had a transformative effect on my life and the people around me.

I knew from the beginning that “I was living in the feeling of my thinking of thought taking form in the moment” all the way through I knew this to some degree, but I kept getting caught up and sometimes even questioning whether it might be different in this situation.

Now I absolutely know that it works that way 100% of the time with no exceptions, yes there are times when I still get get caught out, but for me the more I trusted and “tested” situations out and saw that it was always that way, the implications on life have been enormous.

So going back to my opening line… what don’t I have anymore thats made me realise what I had?
I had a misunderstanding about how our reality gets created.

Taking away this misunderstanding allows me to constantly see the pain and unnecessary feelings that I once had and that people around me have.

Equally it enables me to see the beauty of the world around me, like family, nature and friendships, all my senses are alive to the world and allowing me to experience a richer world. The implications of this is slowing down, being present with loved ones.

We all love “How to’s”….but there really is no shelving problems, there is no shoving things under the carpet, there is no thought changing method, all there is to do is to understand how our thoughts create our feelings and reality in the moment.

Emotions, memories, beliefs… all thoughts in the moment. The only thing that can happen when you see this misunderstanding is the feeling and thoughts dissolve away or you have the choice to take no notice. It just doesn’t make sense any more.

Sometimes I forget the game and thats when I get hood winked into thinking that something other than my thinking is causing me stress, fear, pain, I have too much investment on an end result, that I don’t trust the inbuilt guidance system we have. That guidance system is what got me through teenage years, IVF, Premature baby stages, I am here safely DESPITE my misunderstanidng.

The misunderstanding

As a teenager I had no idea that all the thoughts I created about my self image, self loathing, what other people were saying about me, the lonely feelings were all created by me, not other people not teachers not my parents, not my body, my clumsy sociable ways. All thoughts created by me…never questioned, and yes a good downing of alcohol cured it all for a while.

“I had it all” – what did that mean? Who’s beliefs were they? Media / friends / society? If so why did I did still feel pain? Again never questioned any of this, why would I?

The traumas – how did I manage to show up everyday when I thought my little baby was going to die at the hospital? Even at that time I knew something was carrying me through.

I even thought it was Jamie’s book that gave me the good feelings and thoughts, I was caught again. Some people might read Jamie’s book and not see it. Some do and it takes longer, some immediately… without trying out “having nothing on my mind” I might never have seen it, through the judgement and beliefs I had about myself and the world.

Work, I truly and honestly thought that going to work would make me feel happy and give me my identity back.

I felt happy when I was working …..BUT it wasn’t the job that was making me happy. Remember at the beginning I wasn’t happy? I was insecure. Then my state of mind and thinking about the job changed as I understood more…more clarity mean’t I had the ability to enjoy the job, but the job was still the same, the people were still the same. For me I was playing the game well, but then I realised I was playing the wrong game.

I thought that giving up my job and being with the children would make me happy. That situation had nothing to do with it. I was able to trust my wisdom that it was the right thing to do at this moment in time. Following wisdom meant the decision came with no regrets or guilt.

Why am I telling you this?

So why am I sharing this information?

From someone who was not looking for herself, thought she had it all in life and thats as good as it got and had to live with painful feelings and thoughts, who doesn’t come from a formal coaching, mentoring or teaching background. I know from living through all my experiences in life with the misunderstanding, I can now see what caused me so much unnecessary pain.

I now know my job in life is to share this with others, to ease their suffering and pain.
…..

Are There Limits?

A good friend of mine, someone who has known me through my whole career, and who has hired me or recommended me several times to work with others, sent me a note after my last couple of Blogs.

“Sadly, although your naivety is touching, I don’t think the Three Principles can help the current world situation,” my friend wrote. “What makes you think you could ever get through to a dedicated terrorist, or to an ideologue who is sure he’s the only one on earth who knows what’s going on, or to an embittered refugee teen-ager who is wandering without a home, having seen his house, his city, his country blown to bits in war?”

I want to answer that question.

I don’t know who we would reach, and who we would not reach. But I do know that, whatever anyone is doing, if it is hateful, angry, resentful, desperate, or violent, that person is caught in fear and insecurity. I do know that people who are deeply mired in insecure thinking do and say terrible things they would never do in a different state of mind. And I do know that the more their insecurity is exacerbated by reactions to the misunderstanding of others, the worse they are. I don’t take their thinking seriously, I know they could change, and I know better than to poke an angry bear. I also know that insecurity is a painful, unhappy state and no one who actually thought there was a choice would choose to stay in it.

I do know it takes a minimum of two people living in a state of insecurity to start a fight, at least two entities feeling threatened and fearful to wage war, a majority of people living in anxiety and hopelessness to elect a despot. I do know the spread of understanding through the world can shift the balance of power. When there are more people living at peace within themselves than not, the tone changes, the balance shifts, and the choices are different. I do know that people who are psychologically at peace choose love and understanding over hate and fear.

There is no cure for insecurity. Everyone has times of insecurity. But there is a cure for acting out of insecurity, for taking insecurity seriously, for believing in insecure thinking, for getting frightened by your own or others’ insecurity. That is what the Three Principles represent and why I believe, with all my heart, that seeing the Principles at work behind life can and will change the world.

What the Principles offer is the certainty that there is a choice and that once people truly see that choice, they cherish it and they do not ever lose hope that others will see it, too. Most importantly, they see the potential for peace of mind in everyone, no matter what they are doing in the moment.

Here is a micro-example that we can extrapolate to a macro-example. I had a neighbor one time who was mean and hateful to everyone. She yelled at anyone who allowed their leashed dog to step foot on her yard; she shook her finger and screamed at people driving by if she thought they were playing their radio too loud or exceeding the speed limit at all; she called the police on anyone walking through the neighborhood who looked “foreign” to her; she complained bitterly from start to finish at any neighborhood gathering she attended. No one wanted anything to do with her. She had a reputation as a nasty, bitter woman. I assumed she was just frightened and insecure.

One day when I was walking by with my dog, she rushed to the edge of her driveway to keep a watchful eye on me, scowling mightily. She was wielding a rake like a weapon. I stopped, keeping myself and the dog well off her property, and said good morning. She glared at me like she had never heard those words before. I told her my name. She didn’t offer hers, so I didn’t push. I pointed out where I lived. She glanced in that direction. I asked her if she had ever had a dog. Her face crumpled and tears almost rose in her eyes. “Yes,” she said. “A Cocker Spaniel. He died of cancer a couple of years ago.” “I’m so sorry,” I said, “No wonder it is difficult for you to relate to neighbors happily walking their dogs.” She wiped her eyes. “Yes,” she said. I asked her if she had lived in our neighborhood a long time . “A few years,” she said. “I hate it.”

I asked her where she was from. “None of your business,” she said, so I backed off the questions. I told her her yard looked pretty. She stood silent. I said, “Well, nice to talk to you. I’ll see you around,” and walked on.

The next time I walked by her house when she was outside, she nodded. I nodded. After a few weeks of occasional nodding, she came to the edge of the driveway again, and this time she asked me if I liked blueberry muffins. I did. She said, “Wait here,” rushed back into her house and emerged with a muffin, still warm, wrapped in a napkin. “I just made these,” she said, thrusting it into my hand, then dashing back into her house. I sent her a little thank you note, telling her the muffin was delicious and I had gone right home and enjoyed it with a cup of coffee.

A couple of times after that, I asked her if she’d like to come to my house for coffee or tea. She said no. But she did invite me and my dog across her lawn to the back of her house to see some flowers she had just planted one day. She never yelled at me. We became reasonably good neighbors. After a while, her family came and helped her move to a different place. Her daughter said to me, “She told me you were the only nice person in this neighborhood.”

That’s not true; there were lots of nice people in the neighborhood. (All people, deep-down, are “nice.”) But I may well have been the only person in the neighborhood who wasn’t upset by insecurity, didn’t take insecure thinking seriously in myself or others, and understood that even the most insecure person will quiet down in the face of non-judgmental kindness and understanding. If everyone in the neighborhood knew that, she would not have been labelled a “bitter woman.” Lots of people would have seen her fear, rather than reacting to her nastiness, and felt compassion for her. Instead of avoiding her, others would have taken a moment to chat, ignoring her initial negativity, and she might have started to feel safer. Who knows, she might, after a while, have been baking muffins for the neighborhood gatherings?

Now for the macro-examples. Just consider: What if the neighbors were different political groups? Different ethnicities? Or nations? What if more and more of the neighbors saw the Principles at work behind life and stopped taking the insecure neighbor’s words and actions to heart, but realized what they were — the best insecure thinking can come up with under the perceived circumstances to keep “threats” at bay?

So that is how the world can change. As more and more people rediscover their own inner peace and understand that all of us are just creating our moment to moment experience of life with our thinking and then taking that thinking more or less seriously, depending on our state of mind, the intensity of reactivity will diminish. The very insecure people will find themselves swimming in a clear, warm pool. They will bask in the sunshine of others’ understanding. They may even relax a little bit and find a few moments of peace themselves in a setting in which unconditional love is the prevailing feeling.

You may ask what about terrorists? What about murderous, furious, aggressive terrorists? And I would say, terrorists would repel, not attract, followers and supporters in a world dominated by secure people. There will always be x-many people so entrenched in their thinking that no light penetrates, but the only power they have is the power to draw others who are fearful, confused and unhappy into their sphere. People who are secure and comfortable with the ups and downs we create within our own minds have no interest whatsoever in joining groups that represent nothing but insecurity, desperation and hatred.

The anti-terror campaign that would truly work to change the future is widespread outreach to young people, offering them understanding of how they and others function psychologically, and pointing them to access to their own resiliency, wisdom, insight and creativity. No one who discovers the individual power to think wants anyone else doing their thinking for them, or telling them what they should think.

Psychological freedom, intrinsic to all of us, is the ultimate freedom. With it, quite naturally, comes natural responsibility.

The post Are There Limits? appeared first on Three Principles Living.

Are There Limits?

A good friend of mine, someone who has known me through my whole career, and who has hired me or recommended me several times to work with others, sent me a note after my last couple of Blogs.

“Sadly, although your naivety is touching, I don’t think the Three Principles can help the current world situation,” my friend wrote. “What makes you think you could ever get through to a dedicated terrorist, or to an ideologue who is sure he’s the only one on earth who knows what’s going on, or to an embittered refugee teen-ager who is wandering without a home, having seen his house, his city, his country blown to bits in war?”

I want to answer that question.

I don’t know who we would reach, and who we would not reach. But I do know that, whatever anyone is doing, if it is hateful, angry, resentful, desperate, or violent, that person is caught in fear and insecurity. I do know that people who are deeply mired in insecure thinking do and say terrible things they would never do in a different state of mind. And I do know that the more their insecurity is exacerbated by reactions to the misunderstanding of others, the worse they are. I don’t take their thinking seriously, I know they could change, and I know better than to poke an angry bear. I also know that insecurity is a painful, unhappy state and no one who actually thought there was a choice would choose to stay in it.

I do know it takes a minimum of two people living in a state of insecurity to start a fight, at least two entities feeling threatened and fearful to wage war, a majority of people living in anxiety and hopelessness to elect a despot. I do know the spread of understanding through the world can shift the balance of power. When there are more people living at peace within themselves than not, the tone changes, the balance shifts, and the choices are different. I do know that people who are psychologically at peace choose love and understanding over hate and fear.

There is no cure for insecurity. Everyone has times of insecurity. But there is a cure for acting out of insecurity, for taking insecurity seriously, for believing in insecure thinking, for getting frightened by your own or others’ insecurity. That is what the Three Principles represent and why I believe, with all my heart, that seeing the Principles at work behind life can and will change the world.

What the Principles offer is the certainty that there is a choice and that once people truly see that choice, they cherish it and they do not ever lose hope that others will see it, too. Most importantly, they see the potential for peace of mind in everyone, no matter what they are doing in the moment.

Here is a micro-example that we can extrapolate to a macro-example. I had a neighbor one time who was mean and hateful to everyone. She yelled at anyone who allowed their leashed dog to step foot on her yard; she shook her finger and screamed at people driving by if she thought they were playing their radio too loud or exceeding the speed limit at all; she called the police on anyone walking through the neighborhood who looked “foreign” to her; she complained bitterly from start to finish at any neighborhood gathering she attended. No one wanted anything to do with her. She had a reputation as a nasty, bitter woman. I assumed she was just frightened and insecure.

One day when I was walking by with my dog, she rushed to the edge of her driveway to keep a watchful eye on me, scowling mightily. She was wielding a rake like a weapon. I stopped, keeping myself and the dog well off her property, and said good morning. She glared at me like she had never heard those words before. I told her my name. She didn’t offer hers, so I didn’t push. I pointed out where I lived. She glanced in that direction. I asked her if she had ever had a dog. Her face crumpled and tears almost rose in her eyes. “Yes,” she said. “A Cocker Spaniel. He died of cancer a couple of years ago.” “I’m so sorry,” I said, “No wonder it is difficult for you to relate to neighbors happily walking their dogs.” She wiped her eyes. “Yes,” she said. I asked her if she had lived in our neighborhood a long time . “A few years,” she said. “I hate it.”

I asked her where she was from. “None of your business,” she said, so I backed off the questions. I told her her yard looked pretty. She stood silent. I said, “Well, nice to talk to you. I’ll see you around,” and walked on.

The next time I walked by her house when she was outside, she nodded. I nodded. After a few weeks of occasional nodding, she came to the edge of the driveway again, and this time she asked me if I liked blueberry muffins. I did. She said, “Wait here,” rushed back into her house and emerged with a muffin, still warm, wrapped in a napkin. “I just made these,” she said, thrusting it into my hand, then dashing back into her house. I sent her a little thank you note, telling her the muffin was delicious and I had gone right home and enjoyed it with a cup of coffee.

A couple of times after that, I asked her if she’d like to come to my house for coffee or tea. She said no. But she did invite me and my dog across her lawn to the back of her house to see some flowers she had just planted one day. She never yelled at me. We became reasonably good neighbors. After a while, her family came and helped her move to a different place. Her daughter said to me, “She told me you were the only nice person in this neighborhood.”

That’s not true; there were lots of nice people in the neighborhood. (All people, deep-down, are “nice.”) But I may well have been the only person in the neighborhood who wasn’t upset by insecurity, didn’t take insecure thinking seriously in myself or others, and understood that even the most insecure person will quiet down in the face of non-judgmental kindness and understanding. If everyone in the neighborhood knew that, she would not have been labelled a “bitter woman.” Lots of people would have seen her fear, rather than reacting to her nastiness, and felt compassion for her. Instead of avoiding her, others would have taken a moment to chat, ignoring her initial negativity, and she might have started to feel safer. Who knows, she might, after a while, have been baking muffins for the neighborhood gatherings?

Now for the macro-examples. Just consider: What if the neighbors were different political groups? Different ethnicities? Or nations? What if more and more of the neighbors saw the Principles at work behind life and stopped taking the insecure neighbor’s words and actions to heart, but realized what they were — the best insecure thinking can come up with under the perceived circumstances to keep “threats” at bay?

So that is how the world can change. As more and more people rediscover their own inner peace and understand that all of us are just creating our moment to moment experience of life with our thinking and then taking that thinking more or less seriously, depending on our state of mind, the intensity of reactivity will diminish. The very insecure people will find themselves swimming in a clear, warm pool. They will bask in the sunshine of others’ understanding. They may even relax a little bit and find a few moments of peace themselves in a setting in which unconditional love is the prevailing feeling.

You may ask what about terrorists? What about murderous, furious, aggressive terrorists? And I would say, terrorists would repel, not attract, followers and supporters in a world dominated by secure people. There will always be x-many people so entrenched in their thinking that no light penetrates, but the only power they have is the power to draw others who are fearful, confused and unhappy into their sphere. People who are secure and comfortable with the ups and downs we create within our own minds have no interest whatsoever in joining groups that represent nothing but insecurity, desperation and hatred.

The anti-terror campaign that would truly work to change the future is widespread outreach to young people, offering them understanding of how they and others function psychologically, and pointing them to access to their own resiliency, wisdom, insight and creativity. No one who discovers the individual power to think wants anyone else doing their thinking for them, or telling them what they should think.

Psychological freedom, intrinsic to all of us, is the ultimate freedom. With it, quite naturally, comes natural responsibility.

The post Are There Limits? appeared first on Three Principles Living.

The Common Human Denominator

If we understand where our reality comes from, we can change the world. This is what would set humanity free to love and thrive, regardless of differences.

We are born without judgment, at the dawn of our ability to form ideas and images. Babies create their beliefs about the world mimicking what they see around them, and experimenting with their imaginations. If you’ve been around toddlers, you know they babble their way through fantastical stories and plans, and they innocently blur the lines between truth and lies because they aren’t concerned about the difference between one kind of thought and another. They turn blankets and chairs into ramparts and castles. They have imaginary friends and imaginary animals. They play with empty boxes and pots and pans for hours, inventing one “world” after another. They make up all kinds of realities and frolic in them, with no boundaries.

That is pure humanity: Limitless capacity to imagine, to dream, to experiment with the gift of thought and enjoy the amazing ability to create worlds that only we can see. But like so many other gifts of life, the power to think is invisible to us, just in the way the power that regulates our heartbeat, the power that organizes the interactions of our vital organs, the power that motivates our immune system to rush resources to a wound, the power that initially propelled us to be born, are invisible to us. The energy of life is and we are a part of it, and we take it for granted. So as we develop habits of thought, or start taking some ideas more seriously than others, or start using our thinking against ourselves, we have no idea where or how it all originated. We don’t consider that, from the very first thought, we’ve just been making things up and seeing them as real in our own separate worlds.

Thoughts look so real because of another power of that comes with being human: the ability we have to be conscious of our thoughts and bring our thinking to sensory life. Little children think of a boogey man, and they “see” him behind the curtain, or “hear” him shuffling around outside the door. There is no boogey man; but he feels really, really, real to the child who has brought him to mind. An adult begins to think a certain person, or a certain type of person, doesn’t like him, and so in the presence of that person, that thinking brings him negative, anxious or angry feelings. The other person or types of people may not even think about him at all, but that doesn’t penetrate the reality of a person caught in the midst of a storm of thoughts and feelings. A delusional person hallucinates a protective companion, and even though the rest of us cannot “see” it, he relates to it and finds comfort from it, and cares for it. An optimistic teacher thinks all students love learning, and as she works with students who have struggled, she awakens their curiosity and draws out their strengths. Although it never seems like we’re making our realities up; although they seem real, they are transitory figments of our imaginations at work, fleeting images that we create, and that we can hold or let go, images that give vibrancy to our life, but have no meaning except the meaning we give them.

As long as we have something in mind, it keeps seeming important and real. So, for example, for those of us who develop prejudicial thinking against certain others, every reminder of those others brings our habitual thoughts to mind, and we experience and re-experience our distrust, dislike, disgust, or disdain. It is so “normal” and “real” to us that we don’t remember “before,” before we ever had those thoughts, when everybody seemed equally interesting and worthy of our non-judgmental interaction.

Why is it critically important to consider all of this? It is the one and only realization that can set us free from accidental habitual thinking and entrenched realities that create hate in the world, harm to ourselves and others, or the inability to find common ground with others who “seem” different. It is because there is a common denominator for all human beings, every human being of every ethnic, religious, political, economic, social and situational variety. The common human denominator is this: Every single human being is born to create thoughts and bring those individual thoughts to life as their experienced reality. We all live in a continuous flow of our own thoughts. But our own thoughts look like reality to us, so it is easy to be deceived into reactions to those who do not see the same reality.

The universal “before” and “after” Aha! once this understanding comes to light, is the degree to which our own, or anyone’s, thinking should be taken seriously. As soon as people wake up to the shared experience of being the thinkers of their own thoughts, the creators of their own moment-to-moment realities, they see that we are all doing the same thing with different results. We’re making it up and seeing whatever we’ve made up as real, as long it’s on our mind. My reality is just as important to me as anyone else’s is to them — but none of them are the same and they are all transitory, depending on the thinker’s belief in his own thinking.

This recognition takes us back to the wonder and curiosity of our childhood — to the amazement that we can think anything, and so can anyone else, and that’s the whole joy of life, the creative power to think whatever we want to think, and hold it or let it go at will. The intriguing fact that we all do it differently sets us free from judgment. The comforting realization that we are all the same, all thinkers, all free to generate an infinity of thoughts, is the tie that binds us — not what we have thought, but that we think. Our shared human nature is deeper than any of our beliefs, yet it is what allows us to have beliefs.

I remember watching my grandson, as a three-year-old, playing with a friend. They had blocks and shapes assembled from the pieces of various toys, and they were each putting them together and then talking about what they had made. “It’s a city,” one would say. “No it’s not!” the other would declaim. It’s a school.” “OK. It’s a circus.” It didn’t matter. They would giggle at each thing “it” could be and then point out that “there are the streets,” “there is the playground” “there are the elephants.” It was all blocks and pieces to me, but I got tremendous enjoyment from watching their minds at play and seeing how readily they shifted from one reality to another, Their pleasure was in the shared experience of creating new realities, not in defending the old ones they had created. That is the default setting we come into life with that gives us the freedom to live at peace and appreciate our differences, rather than defending our own ideas to the death.

When life becomes about the pure, sheer joy of thinking and thriving and creating, the deep appreciation and love for each of us as perpetual generators of new ideas precludes hate and fear. We are entranced that one person’s circus is another person’s city, not determined that the damn thing is a school and anyone who doesn’t see it that way should be punished.

Enjoy this brief video from Sydney Banks, who introduced this idea into contemporary psychology.

The post The Common Human Denominator appeared first on Three Principles Living.

The Common Human Denominator

If we understand where our reality comes from, we can change the world. This is what would set humanity free to love and thrive, regardless of differences.

We are born without judgment, at the dawn of our ability to form ideas and images. Babies create their beliefs about the world mimicking what they see around them, and experimenting with their imaginations. If you’ve been around toddlers, you know they babble their way through fantastical stories and plans, and they innocently blur the lines between truth and lies because they aren’t concerned about the difference between one kind of thought and another. They turn blankets and chairs into ramparts and castles. They have imaginary friends and imaginary animals. They play with empty boxes and pots and pans for hours, inventing one “world” after another. They make up all kinds of realities and frolic in them, with no boundaries.

That is pure humanity: Limitless capacity to imagine, to dream, to experiment with the gift of thought and enjoy the amazing ability to create worlds that only we can see. But like so many other gifts of life, the power to think is invisible to us, just in the way the power that regulates our heartbeat, the power that organizes the interactions of our vital organs, the power that motivates our immune system to rush resources to a wound, the power that initially propelled us to be born, are invisible to us. The energy of life is and we are a part of it, and we take it for granted. So as we develop habits of thought, or start taking some ideas more seriously than others, or start using our thinking against ourselves, we have no idea where or how it all originated. We don’t consider that, from the very first thought, we’ve just been making things up and seeing them as real in our own separate worlds.

Thoughts look so real because of another power of that comes with being human: the ability we have to be conscious of our thoughts and bring our thinking to sensory life. Little children think of a boogey man, and they “see” him behind the curtain, or “hear” him shuffling around outside the door. There is no boogey man; but he feels really, really, real to the child who has brought him to mind. An adult begins to think a certain person, or a certain type of person, doesn’t like him, and so in the presence of that person, that thinking brings him negative, anxious or angry feelings. The other person or types of people may not even think about him at all, but that doesn’t penetrate the reality of a person caught in the midst of a storm of thoughts and feelings. A delusional person hallucinates a protective companion, and even though the rest of us cannot “see” it, he relates to it and finds comfort from it, and cares for it. An optimistic teacher thinks all students love learning, and as she works with students who have struggled, she awakens their curiosity and draws out their strengths. Although it never seems like we’re making our realities up; although they seem real, they are transitory figments of our imaginations at work, fleeting images that we create, and that we can hold or let go, images that give vibrancy to our life, but have no meaning except the meaning we give them.

As long as we have something in mind, it keeps seeming important and real. So, for example, for those of us who develop prejudicial thinking against certain others, every reminder of those others brings our habitual thoughts to mind, and we experience and re-experience our distrust, dislike, disgust, or disdain. It is so “normal” and “real” to us that we don’t remember “before,” before we ever had those thoughts, when everybody seemed equally interesting and worthy of our non-judgmental interaction.

Why is it critically important to consider all of this? It is the one and only realization that can set us free from accidental habitual thinking and entrenched realities that create hate in the world, harm to ourselves and others, or the inability to find common ground with others who “seem” different. It is because there is a common denominator for all human beings, every human being of every ethnic, religious, political, economic, social and situational variety. The common human denominator is this: Every single human being is born to create thoughts and bring those individual thoughts to life as their experienced reality. We all live in a continuous flow of our own thoughts. But our own thoughts look like reality to us, so it is easy to be deceived into reactions to those who do not see the same reality.

The universal “before” and “after” Aha! once this understanding comes to light, is the degree to which our own, or anyone’s, thinking should be taken seriously. As soon as people wake up to the shared experience of being the thinkers of their own thoughts, the creators of their own moment-to-moment realities, they see that we are all doing the same thing with different results. We’re making it up and seeing whatever we’ve made up as real, as long it’s on our mind. My reality is just as important to me as anyone else’s is to them — but none of them are the same and they are all transitory, depending on the thinker’s belief in his own thinking.

This recognition takes us back to the wonder and curiosity of our childhood — to the amazement that we can think anything, and so can anyone else, and that’s the whole joy of life, the creative power to think whatever we want to think, and hold it or let it go at will. The intriguing fact that we all do it differently sets us free from judgment. The comforting realization that we are all the same, all thinkers, all free to generate an infinity of thoughts, is the tie that binds us — not what we have thought, but that we think. Our shared human nature is deeper than any of our beliefs, yet it is what allows us to have beliefs.

I remember watching my grandson, as a three-year-old, playing with a friend. They had blocks and shapes assembled from the pieces of various toys, and they were each putting them together and then talking about what they had made. “It’s a city,” one would say. “No it’s not!” the other would declaim. It’s a school.” “OK. It’s a circus.” It didn’t matter. They would giggle at each thing “it” could be and then point out that “there are the streets,” “there is the playground” “there are the elephants.” It was all blocks and pieces to me, but I got tremendous enjoyment from watching their minds at play and seeing how readily they shifted from one reality to another, Their pleasure was in the shared experience of creating new realities, not in defending the old ones they had created. That is the default setting we come into life with that gives us the freedom to live at peace and appreciate our differences, rather than defending our own ideas to the death.

When life becomes about the pure, sheer joy of thinking and thriving and creating, the deep appreciation and love for each of us as perpetual generators of new ideas precludes hate and fear. We are entranced that one person’s circus is another person’s city, not determined that the damn thing is a school and anyone who doesn’t see it that way should be punished.

Enjoy this brief video from Sydney Banks, who introduced this idea into contemporary psychology.

The post The Common Human Denominator appeared first on Three Principles Living.

The Good. The Bad. The Ugly.

Many of the clients who come to me have been through a lot of therapy, and some are still seeing psychiatrists, primarily for prescription refills. As they pass through my door one by one, I feel increasingly compelled to cry out, heart and soul, for re-thinking our assumptions about mental illness and mental health, for embracing a whole new definition of mental health.

Here is just one example. A young woman I have seen intermittently over a few months has come a long way since we’ve been talking. Over years of struggle, she has been diagnosed with bipolar disease, schizophrenia, depression, anxiety disorder, social anxiety disorder, dissociative personality disorder, eating disorders, and ADHD. She has been in and out of mental institutions and assisted living facilities; she has been seen by psychiatrists and psychologists in several cities and one foreign country over her lifetime. At one time or another, she has taken just about every psychotropic medication out there.

Yet this young woman earned an advanced degree and licensure in a complex allied health field, has held jobs in that field, and reads voraciously. She is smart and well-informed. But she is on disability, and has been for several years, because she is persuaded that she is incurably mentally ill and cannot function on her own. Even so, she shares an apartment with a room-mate, she volunteers through her church, she has friends with whom she socializes, and she is, in her words, “trying to be the best person I can be despite my limitations.”

Just what are her limitations? 1) She believes she is incurably mentally ill. 2) She believes she is disabled. 3) She believes she is different from “normal” people and can’t expect to do what everyone else does.

Why does she believe these things? Because, since childhood, during which she was bullied at home and at school, she has been told that she is a bad person, ugly, that she doesn’t fit in, that no one likes her, that she’ll never amount to anything. Sadly, those beliefs have been reaffirmed by a mental “health” system that, in my opinion, has utterly and completely failed her by providing no more than a series of labels that have reinforced her fear and insecurity, and never once, not even once, pointed to the strength and resilience behind remarkable achievements she has made in life. And she believes those things because she has no idea that she is creating her own experience via her power to think and see her thinking as real. She doesn’t understand that she can change her life with that power, regardless of what anyone else says.

When she told me her story, my first question to her was, “How do you think you got through college and graduate school and got licensure for your profession?” Her first answer was: “I think they felt sorry for me and just passed me through.” As a person who has been through graduate school and has taught graduate students, I found that incredible. No one gets “passed through” graduate school on sympathy. Maybe that happens in elementary school, and even through middle school, but colleges and graduate schools give people the grades they earn, and if they can’t pass, they don’t graduate.There are no social promotions or sympathy passes in higher education. She attended good schools and she earned her grades and her degrees and passed the exam for licensure — yet she is so sure she’s not worthy that she doesn’t believe she really did all that for herself. When she started work in her field, she soon got freaked out by her fear of failure. She did not fail. She was frozen by fear and quit, as she explained, “before they could figure out how bad I was”. Shortly after, she was hospitalized for depression and suicidal ideation. She has been on a downhill slide since then.

In the four times I have seen this woman, I have explained to her that there are no damaged people; that we are born to survive and part of that survival is psychological resilience, innate health, that is always available to us. I explained how thought works, how easy it is to take on negative thinking about anything, including ourselves, and how when we dwell on that thinking, we experience it as our reality.

I asked her to take some time and quietly reflect back on her university experience, and what kept her going. On reflection, she realized she was away from her family and her home town; no one cared that she was introverted; she loved classes and the library; she wasn’t bullied or abused by anyone; she had a few good friends for the first time in her life; her professors were pleased with her work and interacted wth her respectfully… In other words, she was experiencing life as a person free from a lot of negative thinking about herself, fully engaged in something she loved, in a neutral environment in which quiet, hard-working students are not mocked. So, with a free and clear mind, with a feeling of enthusiasm about what was possible, and with her thinking focused on learning and doing well — not on her limitations — she succeeded.

After she described that, she said, “So, I wasn’t crazy during school, then? Just before and after?”

I asked her, “What does ‘crazy’ mean?”

“Honestly,” she said, “I don’t know. I guess it means all these labels and drugs and treatments and hospitalizations, and restrictions.”

I asked again, “What does ‘crazy’ mean to you as a person, never mind the system you’ve been in?”

After a long silence, tears came to her eyes. “I guess it means that I am sure there’s something broken in me because all my life people have been telling me there is. Most of the time, I just feel bad about myself. I don’t understand why I haven’t done anything with my life. I am sad about turning into a crazy failure instead of reaching my dreams. There’s something wrong with me and I can’t see how to fix it. The drugs just hold it at bay.”

“What if I told you there was fundamentally nothing wrong with you?” I asked. “I’m certain of that. You have mental well-being; you can obscure it with a lot of negative thinking, and you can ignore it and lose sight of it, but it is born into you and you can’t kill it. When you look for it, it is always there. Nobody is special; it is part of all of humanity, true for all of us.”

“I guess I might wonder what was wrong with you that you couldn’t see I’m crazy,” she said. Then she quickly added, “But it thrills me, deep down, to hear that I’m not crazy from someone who is a professional. No one has ever told me that before. When you said it, I got a feeling that it could be true.”

Recently, she went back for a med check and told her doctor she was doing much better, though she was sleeping a lot, and she asked if her dosage of psychotropic medicine could be reduced. The doctor told her, “You’re pushing yourself too hard. You’re mentally ill. You need to stay on your meds, as prescribed.”

She was devastated. She came to see me shortly afterwards. “You were wrong, I guess,” she said. “The doctor told me I was mentally ill and I had to accept that. She even suggested again that I would be better off in assisted living, where I would get more help. I don’t know why she keeps saying that. I don’t want more help. She wouldn’t change my dosage.”

I spent the hour with her talking about the difference between recognizing our own wisdom and common sense, vs. just believing what we’re told, even though it feels “off” to us. I talked about the strength of the human spirit, and the source of our capacity as human beings to come to peace and think for ourselves, and distinguish between wise ideas and insecure thoughts.

I explained that “good”, “bad” and “ugly” are just words we use to judge ourselves and others. Just thoughts that come to mind, carry a feeling wth them, and seduce us. When we understand the nature of thought and our own use of it, we can’t deceive ourselves. We can’t suffer from the after-effects of our own unlimited imagination once we know where ideas originate.

At the end, although she had brightened considerably, she said, sadly, “This makes a lot of sense to me, and I always leave here feeling better and more hopeful. But I still have to go back to the doctor because I’ll lose my disability and I’ll end up homeless if I don’t report in and stay on my meds.”

“I hate being a dependent,” she said. “I’m starting to feel like I’m OK. But you’re the only one who believes in me. So I feel like I’m imprisoned by my diagnoses and I just don’t know how to break out.”

I am confident that if she keeps looking, and really experiences the power of her own wisdom and the creativity we all have as human beings to find our way regardless of circumstances, she will see her way to break out. Still, I cannot fathom a “health” system to which true health is totally invisible.

It is time for the mental health system to wake up to the unleashed power of the human spirit, and set these people free. Point to their health. Point to the natural resilience that allowed them to survive and thrive in the midst of chaos. Point to the power they have to change themselves, the power to think! To think again! To think for themselves! To think of anything!

It’s so simple, so simple, so simple. For 30+ years, across continents, in all walks of life, I have seen human beings awaken to their innate mental well-being and shed their past like a dry old skin and emerge, glistening, to a new life of hope and happiness. They had it in them from the day they were born. They were talked out of it by a culture that, innocently, believes that some people are damaged goods.

Look at the evidence, the light in people’s eyes. Look within. Look again.

The post The Good. The Bad. The Ugly. appeared first on Three Principles Living.