THOUGHT vs. thought

A lot of misunderstanding about the idea of “thought” pervades our work in the Three Principles. I’d like to draw a very clear distinction.

When people talk about “thought” in terms of what we have thought, the content of our thinking, we are not talking about the Principle of Thought. The Principle of Thought describes the formless energy (described by the Principle MIND) that flows through all life, our life, that empowers us to create “thoughts”. THOUGHT is energy, the spiritual, creative force of generating ideas about life. Once we have used that energy to form our own ideas, our particular “thoughts” look real to us while they are our minds, a fact described by the Principle CONSCIOUSNESS, the power to be aware of what we see in our mind’s eye.

Quite often, people who understand this distinction might refer to each person’s individual thoughts as “just a thought,” without any realization of how dismissive and insulting that might sound to someone who did NOT understand the Principle of THOUGHT. I remember clearly the first time someone said this to me, early on years ago when I was really looking to grasp the profound nature of seeing THOUGHT as a power, a formless energy that set me free to create my own life and navigate it, free from external pressure. At a time when I was struggling to step into the unknown, and expressing doubts, a woman I knew casually said, “Oh, that’s just a thought. Let it go!” In the state of mind I was in, that left me infuriated and frustrated. It didn’t matter to me at that moment that what she said was true, because it was only true for anyone who has seen deeply enough not to take thought content seriously. At that moment, it felt like I was being judged and found wanting. I see-sawed between fearing that I was wrong and stupid to be upset and thinking that she was just mean-spirited and didn’t understand me at all.

Once I saw more deeply, I realized for myself that when people have upsetting, doubt-filled thoughts, those thoughts are a temporary reality, but knowing they are thoughts coming from within our own minds, they don’t seem important. They, like all thoughts, are understood to be transitory, part of the flow of ideas that create our moment-to-moment experience of life. We know for ourselves that they are “just thoughts,” images we’ve created. When we know it for ourselves, we know not to take any particular thoughts seriously; we know we are always thinking; we know we can think for ourselves; we know we can turn our backs on thoughts that are bringing us into dark emotional places and quiet our minds and think again.

But, here’s what’s important, WE know it from our own insights. No one can tell us something is “just a thought” because, until we see it for ourselves, it looks like an important reality that consumes our awareness while those thoughts are on our minds.

What I have been humbled, again and again, to learn over the 30+ years I have been involved in this work is that everyone can see this for themselves because all human beings are innately resilient and spiritually whole, no matter where our thoughts have taken us in life. But no one can make another person see it. Our role is to show love and respect for people and to truly see the humanity in them, the health and wholeness in them, to see that, regardless of their habitual thinking or their lack of seeing their own power to think, they are intrinsically and simply complete human beings. As people come to peace and quiet in the presence of unconditional love and respect, we can count on their own wisdom to start to surface, and for insights to bubble up. They set themselves free. And then we can celebrate that with them and explain it so that the logic of it is clear and they incrementally gain confidence in their own wise insights.

That is why, in the world of our work, clients often say we “didn’t do that much.” That’s the joy of it. There isn’t that much to do because wisdom is the coin of the realm, shared by all. We may have beckoned to it, but the clients welcomed it and made it their companion and guide.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Why. Bad. Things.

Virtually every day, I’m asked some form of this question:

“Why do bad things happen?”

From a hard-working pro golfer failing to earn his or her tour card by a single stroke, to a horrific and deeply tragic event like what just took place in Las Vegas, why must innocent people suffer?

The answer is: We don’t have all the answers. But what I can tell you is this:

In the heat of the moment, or in the midst of suffering, nothing will make sense. Yet, from distance (if gained), we’ll find perspective.

Now, I surely don’t make this statement to make light of suffering, or to say that wounds don’t run deep. I make it to remind you that suffering is purely a figment of thought and one’s ensuing state of consciousness at that moment in time. When, for example, my thinking takes me back to childhood trauma, I suffer massively. When I get some distance from this train of thinking, I don’t. Again, the events of my childhood are what they are. What’s variable are my thinking and state of consciousness, which cause me to suffer or not to suffer.

Equally fascinating about “why bad things happen” is that, from distance and perspective, it’s common for people to describe the experience of suffering as a path to growth or even enlightenment. It’s as if suffering is part of a universal intelligence or greater plan at work; since, in suffering’s wake, so many of us become more resilient, connected, and loving.

Finally, I want to make clear that this article is not meant to ease suffering (that’s simply not possible); it’s meant to explain it. Suffering occurs when human beings do what human beings do: look outside—to circumstance, the past, other people, or ourselves—in a quest to figure out why we feel what we feel. Salvation occurs when human beings do what human beings also do: wake up to the folly in looking outside and turn back WITHIN.

In other words, the more we grasp just how normal the normal ebb and flow of the human experience truly is, the less our feelings will matter to us, the less we’ll struggle with struggle, and the less we’ll ask “why.”

Hang in everyone. Love,
Garret

So You Want Control?

This might surprise you, but a big part of my job is to remind people that the onus of control, decision making, effort, and even results is NOT truly on them. Every human being is an extension of a higher power. And, in my experience, when this spiritual truth is recognized, nearly everyone feels an overwhelming sense of freedom and relief. I say nearly because, occasionally, a new client or member of an audience I’m addressing will shoot back with this type of concern:

“That’s the problem, Garret. I want control. I must be in charge of my own destiny.”

In fact, just the other day, I was conducting a workshop when those very words were flung my way. I then countered with the following statement, which just poured out of me:

“Okay, my friend, you got it. I’m going to play exalted ruler and decree that you’re in total control of your life. Your thoughts, state of mind, decisions, and all outcomes are on YOU. No instinct or intuition. Every move you make must now be deliberate and calculated. You, and you alone, are driving the bus.”

What’s funny, or better yet unfortunate, is that this type of coaching paradigm is extremely common today. Many coaches and motivational gurus actually point others toward the concept of personal control or burden. And the ultimate result? Confusion, since everyone’s life contains a surplus of serendipitous or unexplainable occurrences that clearly take place out of our control. In sport, for example, athletes often describe their finest moments with words like, “I can’t believe that just happened, out of nowhere, or that was so effortless.” In those moments, control is the furthest thing from their minds.

Meanwhile, back to the man from the workshop. When ordained with complete control, he first replied, “Thanks, perfect.” But then, as concern and doubt flowed though him, he chuckled and pulled a 180: “Hang on, Garret, I assume that we can’t have it both ways (control some things, but not others), so no deal!”

Indeed, we can’t have it both ways because it doesn’t work both ways. As suggested earlier, you and a higher power aren’t separate; you are ONE. Meaning, trying to assume personal control—over anything—is simply not possible.

What a relief.

Garret

“What if I Care More about Fixing the Relationship than my Partner?”

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Coaching 101—From the Inside-Out

Here’s a quick true story that reveals the power of understanding the inside-out (and illusionary) nature of problems, and how this understanding benefits others. Actually, in this case, two people and their relationship.

Last week, I received the following text message from a hockey-playing client: “G, I’m getting super frustrated with my new linemate’s attitude. All he talks about is wanting to score. He’s so selfish it’s a joke!”

I replied: “Hey, bud, he’s new to the city, right? Have you taken the time to get to know him? Have you had him over to the house for dinner or something like that?”

“No, not yet. I guess I probably should.”

“Sounds to me like his thinking is getting the better of him right now. He’s feeling a bit out of sorts. As he starts to feel more comfortable, he’ll automatically become less selfish.”

“Ah, so simple. How’d I miss that?”

“We all do at times. Just remember, all it takes in a relationship is for one person’s consciousness to rise. From there, we start to relate to the struggles of others rather than take their attitude or actions personally.”

“Thanks, G, calling him now, love you.”

“Love you too, talk soon.”

It is so simple: When states of mind rise, problems wither away. So, if you’re a coach (parent, friend, teacher, counselor, or therapist), it’s never productive to dig into the content of someone’s problems. What’s productive is to do whatever seems necessary in the moment to help pull that person out of his or her funk. From there, compassion, trust, and love will automatically flood the space.

Inward and up,
Garret

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The Missing Link—Your Connection to God

Every year, a host of biological, circumstantial, and environmental causes of psychological dysfunction (mental illness and suffering) are disproven. Yet, rather than realize that these types of causes don’t actually exist—we keep searching for more.

Every year, a host of mental techniques, motivational mantras, and relaxation practices are discarded as a waste of time or even fraudulent. Yet, rather than realize that these types of strategies don’t actually work—we keep searching for more.

When will we learn?

When will we stop searching and allow ourselves to see that the Truth has been with us all along?

When will we see that the experience of human beings is nothing more than a projection of one’s connection to God, moment to moment to moment?

In fact, everything we experience springs from whether or not the connection to God is clear.

When the connection to God is filled with personal thought (the intellect on overload), our experience becomes negative.

When the connection to God is clear or flowing (the intellect at peace), our experience becomes positive.

Both will happen. Both are normal. This ebb and flow to the human experience is shared by every person alive.

The father of modern psychology, William James, once said: “Anything short of God is not rational; anything more than God is not possible.”

He also said: “First, it is essential that God be conceived as the deepest power in the universe, and second, he must be conceived under the form of a mental personality.”

James was pointing us to the fact that one’s state of mind exists solely between that person and God. He was reminding us that our connection to God, and our ensuing state of mind in the moment, projects outward—creating our experience of the physical world that we see.

As I said, the physical world is nothing more than a projection. Meaning: What takes place in the physical world can’t cause us to feel or experience anything—even though it often looks like it can.

Indeed, this is the “great illusion” that sages and mystics have directed us away from forever.

They warned: “When we struggle, don’t look outside, to the form, for causes or cures. Look inside to the formless connection to God in the moment.”

The astute philosopher, Sydney Banks, called this connection “the missing link to all psychological functioning.”

Like James, Banks knew that Truth had no form. He knew that the sole cause of our feeling state was found inside, in the preset status of our connection to God (the formless).

Banks also suggested that “experts” who point outside for answers are fine human beings who are trying to help. But their training and research has complicated and concealed the basic principle that human beings project their experience from inside to out.

In other words, these experts have accepted the great illusion as real. They think that an experience causes one’s feelings. Sadly, they think that human beings work outside to in.

Every year, the number of “outside-in” experts continues to grow. In the age of social media, for instance, the great illusion is perpetually validated with more buying in.

That’s why innocent people continue to suffer. They fall for the illusion, and they seek the counsel of others who have fallen for it, too.

Remember:

Causes and cures cannot, ever, be found in the projection—the great illusion—that is the physical world (the world of form).

Continue to look there and, like a dog chasing its tail, you will continue to suffer.

See that—even when you feel separate or lost—the missing link cannot, and need not, be controlled, managed, coped through, or fixed.

Look within, to the ebb and flow of your ever-present connection to God. As William James, Sydney Banks, and the wise from Jesus to Gandhi to King insisted: “The answers you seek can only be found there.”

Thank you for reading,
Garret

Storm Thoughts, or Stormy Thoughts?

Storm Thoughts, or Stormy Thoughts?

As our changing climate spawns more and more violent weather around the world, humans are faced with new challenges to our ability to respond to disruption, discomfort, uncertainty, fear, loss, and grief. This was brought home to me last week, with the steady, deadly progress of Monster Hurricane Irma towards my city, but millions across the globe have recently faced similar, or worse, storms, tornadoes, flooding, extreme heat, extreme cold, rising waters — all leading to life-altering situations.

It’s one thing to be aware that day-to-day stress is self-created from our own thinking, but the rubber meets the road with the realization that alarm, frenzy, frustration, indecision, self-pity, doubt and terror are, too, even when people are facing a deeply threatening, looming threat over which they have no control. Yet that is when realizing how thought works, and sensing our innate power to sustain a free and clear mind, is most critically important. We are always at a crossroad: Do we follow upsetting thinking into a maelstrom of anguish, or do we look away from that path and go to quiet, looking for the wisdom to guide us through the trouble.

Put it this way: If you were in a crowded auditorium sitting in the middle of a row, and someone in the back yelled out, “Fire! Get out now!”, would you follow the person on your left who started jumping around screaming, “Oh my God, oh my God, we’re all going to die! Where’s the exit? I can’t see one! How are we going to get out of here? I’m so scared! What if we’re trapped? Run! Run!” Or would you follow the person on the right who stood up, looked around, and calmly said, “There’s the nearest exit, four rows down to our left. Let’s head that way.”

Since we are always following our own thoughts, it makes a lot more sense to follow calm, clear thoughts than to follow agitated, confused, scared thoughts. The more dire the circumstances we face, the more clarity and wisdom we need to remain safe and make the best decisions. The more urgent the situation, the less it makes sense to waste time and energy on thoughts that serve no purpose but to maintain or exacerbate insecurity and unhappiness. We want our full faculties and our best ideas to address danger. And we want our most serene perspective to guide us through chaos in the aftermath of events.

Truly, in the midst of increasing exhaustion, painful deprivation, unwelcome inconvenience and relentless uncertainty, it is inevitable that negative, insecure thoughts will come to mind. “Why me?” “I want my life back!” “When will this end?” “Where is the help we were promised?” Allowing those thoughts to swirl and expand, we can lose hours, even days, to a whole host of woeful thoughts and just feel worse and worse, more and more afflicted and hopeless. With some understanding that every thought that comes to mind is my thought — I made it up — we have an option. We can let the thoughts that are bringing us down just pass through our minds without paying them a lot of notice, and look to quiet down. And then we find that more constructive, positive, helpful thoughts come to mind. Even if those thoughts involve nothing more remarkable than the most comfortable, effective way to do the best with what we have, it is much more uplifting for people to feel that they have ideas about what to do and know they’ll be OK, than to feel lost, untethered from their lives, and victimized.

Life, as Sydney Banks said, “is a contact sport.” As long as we are still alive in this world, and still playing, then the game is what we make of it. We tend to wish things would move slowly and surely, to expect life to be what we’re accustomed to, to want change to be initiated by us, not to just happen. Those are thoughts, too. If I get attached to thinking life should be a certain way, that doesn’t mean it actually will be. That only keeps me upset because I think it should be. When we are able to take each moment as it comes, all those expectations are gone, we are not prone to disappointment or discouragement, and we simply live, doing what makes sense right now.

In moments of quiet, we get a glimpse of our place in the universe, a sense of connectedness to all of life and the feeling that we are dancing with universal energy, not stumbling through a hostile, separate environment. That quietude welcomes the flow of wisdom, knowledge beyond the intellect. It builds our trust to look there in times when quiet seems much more distant and difficult. Just a moment of quiet reflection opens the door to wisdom, to life-saving and life-sustaining ideas. We fall into beauty and love, the essence of wisdom, even in the heart of the storm.

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