Right and Wrong: Painful Thoughts

Many of my clients are intensely engaged in a fruitless, frustrating effort to prove others wrong, or to get others to say or do what they expect. They come in angry and resentful because these people are “ruining” their life or “making” them miserable. They hang their happiness on getting what they think they “need” from people they who have “let them down”.

When”, I always ask them, “is the last time you complied with an angry, accusatory person who insisted that you do or say something?”

The usual response is, “Huh?” That is usually followed, “But you don’t understand. I’m right.”

Of course, in the state of mind we happen to be in, we all think we’re right. And, there’s the rub. Unless we know that “right” is our own thought, we are doomed to righteous indignation and seeking the company only of people who agree with us while demanding satisfaction from those who don’t.

Here’s an example. I was talking to someone who had gotten through a bitter divorce and arrived, painfully, at a shared custody agreement with her ex-husband regarding their young teenager. He started giving the teenager a tremendous amount of freedom, lots of money, and every material thing the teenager asked for. She was attempting to set boundaries, limit spending money and encourage her teenager to work for things that felt important. It wasn’t long before the teenager was playing one off against the other, and manifesting a lot of negative behaviors. So the mother demanded that the whole family go to counseling.

After one session, the counselor told her, “Well, of course, you’re right, but he’s not going to do anything you ask him to do. He feels if he supported your parenting style and helped you, it would be doing something for you, and he doesn’t want to do anything for you. He can’t stand you. So I think you have to work with things as they are, or maybe try to renegotiate your custody agreement.” The woman was devastated. She wanted an answer about how to create change, not a suggestion that she needed to get resigned to an untenable stand-off.

Right now, we live in a world that does not recognize that all people have the capacity to see their thinking for what it is and change their minds. We live in a world where resignation or argument is as good as it gets. We live in a world that assumes each person’s thinking is the way it is and nothing will change. We live in a world that gives all the power to situations, and no power whatsoever to the thinkers of the thoughts that created the situations in the first place.

In the resilient, dynamic, inside-out world represented by the Principles of Mind, Consciousness and Thought,Our life is what our thoughts make it - inspirational word by Marcus Aurelius on a slate blackboard with a white chalk and a stack of books against rustic wooden table that makes no sense at all. When our clients tell us that someone or something else is making them miserable or doing them wrong, we do not focus on “fixing” the situation or reinforcing their negative view. We focus on the only true source of power, the creative force of each person’s ability to think and think again, and see things for themselves, and appreciate their own unlimited power to change.

All of these situations we address are microcosms of the general failure to solve big problems in the world. People feel victimized by “intractable” situations, rather than seeing that their thinking about the situations is what is holding them in place.

Is it possible that a resentful ex-husband could come to understand that his negative thinking about the past is the source of his hateful feelings about his ex-wife, and question the wisdom of acting against his child’s best interest? Is it possible that an insecure ex-wife could see how her thinking, as well as his, played into the nastiness of the divorce, and question whether her own insecurity was preventing her from finding common ground about what is best for their child? Is it possible that a mental health educator who understood that thinking is a power we all can understand how to use could help resolve this situation?

Yes, Yes, and Yes.

Wake up, world! Wake up to the universal wisdom that could set us all free to resolve conflicts (large and small), create solutions (at home and in the world), and live at peace. It is one thought away from every person on the planet.

To find that thought — whatever healing insight is needed for the situation(s) we are in — all we need is a moment of truth, a moment in which we see for ourselves that we are creating our reality, and we can change it, a moment of quietude into which wisdom flows.

Here is a little talk I offered in 2013 about finding peace on earth, my vision for the 21st Century:

 

 

The post Right and Wrong: Painful Thoughts appeared first on Three Principles Living.

Right and Wrong: Painful Thoughts

Many of my clients are intensely engaged in a fruitless, frustrating effort to prove others wrong, or to get others to say or do what they expect. They come in angry and resentful because these people are “ruining” their life or “making” them miserable. They hang their happiness on getting what they think they “need” from people they who have “let them down”.

When”, I always ask them, “is the last time you complied with an angry, accusatory person who insisted that you do or say something?”

The usual response is, “Huh?” That is usually followed, “But you don’t understand. I’m right.”

Of course, in the state of mind we happen to be in, we all think we’re right. And, there’s the rub. Unless we know that “right” is our own thought, we are doomed to righteous indignation and seeking the company only of people who agree with us while demanding satisfaction from those who don’t.

Here’s an example. I was talking to someone who had gotten through a bitter divorce and arrived, painfully, at a shared custody agreement with her ex-husband regarding their young teenager. He started giving the teenager a tremendous amount of freedom, lots of money, and every material thing the teenager asked for. She was attempting to set boundaries, limit spending money and encourage her teenager to work for things that felt important. It wasn’t long before the teenager was playing one off against the other, and manifesting a lot of negative behaviors. So the mother demanded that the whole family go to counseling.

After one session, the counselor told her, “Well, of course, you’re right, but he’s not going to do anything you ask him to do. He feels if he supported your parenting style and helped you, it would be doing something for you, and he doesn’t want to do anything for you. He can’t stand you. So I think you have to work with things as they are, or maybe try to renegotiate your custody agreement.” The woman was devastated. She wanted an answer about how to create change, not a suggestion that she needed to get resigned to an untenable stand-off.

Right now, we live in a world that does not recognize that all people have the capacity to see their thinking for what it is and change their minds. We live in a world where resignation or argument is as good as it gets. We live in a world that assumes each person’s thinking is the way it is and nothing will change. We live in a world that gives all the power to situations, and no power whatsoever to the thinkers of the thoughts that created the situations in the first place.

In the resilient, dynamic, inside-out world represented by the Principles of Mind, Consciousness and Thought, that makes no sense at all. When our clients tell us that someone or something else is making them miserable or doing them wrong, we do not focus on “fixing” the situation or reinforcing their negative view. We focus on the only true source of power, the creative force of each person’s ability to think and think again, and see things for themselves, and appreciate their own unlimited power to change.

All of these situations we address are microcosms of the general failure to solve big problems in the world. People feel victimized by “intractable” situations, rather than seeing that their thinking about the situations is what is holding them in place.

Is it possible that a resentful ex-husband could come to understand that his negative thinking about the past is the source of his hateful feelings about his ex-wife, and question the wisdom of acting against his child’s best interest? Is it possible that an insecure ex-wife could see how her thinking, as well as his, played into the nastiness of the divorce, and question whether her own insecurity was preventing her from finding common ground about what is best for their child? Is it possible that a mental health educator who understood that thinking is a power we all can understand how to use could help resolve this situation?

Yes, Yes, and Yes.

Wake up, world! Wake up to the universal wisdom that could set us all free to resolve conflicts (large and small), create solutions (at home and in the world), and live at peace. It is one thought away from every person on the planet.

To find that thought — whatever healing insight is needed for the situation(s) we are in — all we need is a moment of truth, a moment in which we see for ourselves that we are creating our reality, and we can change it, a moment of quietude into which wisdom flows.

Here is a little talk I offered in 2013 about finding peace on earth, my vision for the 21st Century:

 

 

The post Right and Wrong: Painful Thoughts appeared first on Three Principles Living.

Right and Wrong: Painful Thoughts

Many of my clients are intensely engaged in a fruitless, frustrating effort to prove others wrong, or to get others to say or do what they expect. They come in angry and resentful because these people are “ruining” their life or “making” them miserable. They hang their happiness on getting what they think they “need” from people they who have “let them down”.

When”, I always ask them, “is the last time you complied with an angry, accusatory person who insisted that you do or say something?”

The usual response is, “Huh?” That is usually followed, “But you don’t understand. I’m right.”

Of course, in the state of mind we happen to be in, we all think we’re right. And, there’s the rub. Unless we know that “right” is our own thought, we are doomed to righteous indignation and seeking the company only of people who agree with us while demanding satisfaction from those who don’t.

Here’s an example. I was talking to someone who had gotten through a bitter divorce and arrived, painfully, at a shared custody agreement with her ex-husband regarding their young teenager. He started giving the teenager a tremendous amount of freedom, lots of money, and every material thing the teenager asked for. She was attempting to set boundaries, limit spending money and encourage her teenager to work for things that felt important. It wasn’t long before the teenager was playing one off against the other, and manifesting a lot of negative behaviors. So the mother demanded that the whole family go to counseling.

After one session, the counselor told her, “Well, of course, you’re right, but he’s not going to do anything you ask him to do. He feels if he supported your parenting style and helped you, it would be doing something for you, and he doesn’t want to do anything for you. He can’t stand you. So I think you have to work with things as they are, or maybe try to renegotiate your custody agreement.” The woman was devastated. She wanted an answer about how to create change, not a suggestion that she needed to get resigned to an untenable stand-off.

Right now, we live in a world that does not recognize that all people have the capacity to see their thinking for what it is and change their minds. We live in a world where resignation or argument is as good as it gets. We live in a world that assumes each person’s thinking is the way it is and nothing will change. We live in a world that gives all the power to situations, and no power whatsoever to the thinkers of the thoughts that created the situations in the first place.

In the resilient, dynamic, inside-out world represented by the Principles of Mind, Consciousness and Thought, that makes no sense at all. When our clients tell us that someone or something else is making them miserable or doing them wrong, we do not focus on “fixing” the situation or reinforcing their negative view. We focus on the only true source of power, the creative force of each person’s ability to think and think again, and see things for themselves, and appreciate their own unlimited power to change.

All of these situations we address are microcosms of the general failure to solve big problems in the world. People feel victimized by “intractable” situations, rather than seeing that their thinking about the situations is what is holding them in place.

Is it possible that a resentful ex-husband could come to understand that his negative thinking about the past is the source of his hateful feelings about his ex-wife, and question the wisdom of acting against his child’s best interest? Is it possible that an insecure ex-wife could see how her thinking, as well as his, played into the nastiness of the divorce, and question whether her own insecurity was preventing her from finding common ground about what is best for their child? Is it possible that a mental health educator who understood that thinking is a power we all can understand how to use could help resolve this situation?

Yes, Yes, and Yes.

Wake up, world! Wake up to the universal wisdom that could set us all free to resolve conflicts (large and small), create solutions (at home and in the world), and live at peace. It is one thought away from every person on the planet.

To find that thought — whatever healing insight is needed for the situation(s) we are in — all we need is a moment of truth, a moment in which we see for ourselves that we are creating our reality, and we can change it, a moment of quietude into which wisdom flows.

Here is a little talk I offered in 2013 about finding peace on earth, my vision for the 21st Century:

 

 

The post Right and Wrong: Painful Thoughts appeared first on Three Principles Living.

Feeling Our Way through Life

Keyboard close-up with three smiley keys (emoticons)

Keyboard close-up with three smiley keys (emoticons)

People seek help from counselors when they feel bad. No one has ever come into a session with me to complain about their thinking. They come in to say, “I’m really depressed.” “I’m sad and I can’t seem to get over it.” “I am so anxious that I can’t concentrate.” “I get so angry I feel like hitting my children.” That kind of statement.

So, intuitively, we know that bad feelings are a sign that we need help. But we believe the bad feelings are coming from the events, people and circumstances in our life. The expectation people usually start with is that a mentor or counselor will help them to “deal with” their feelings.
They don’t anticipate actually feeling that much better, just coping much better with how bad they feel. They’re usually looking for techniques or strategies, eager to tell me about all the things they’ve already tried that haven’t worked over time. Yoga. Meditation. Art therapy. Long walks. Medication. Massage.

Here’s the thing. If you make a recipe that doesn’t taste good, it’s not going to taste any better if you eat it by candlelight, or eat slowly, or serve bread with it, or use better cutlery, or put flowers on the table. You cooked it. You don’t like it. Smart money says you toss it aside take the recipe out of your recipe file, and stop making it.

Our feelings are the experiences we cook up with the thoughts we bring to mind. If we don’t like them, getting over them is no more of a big deal than scraping a plate into the garbage, avoiding that recipe, and moving on. If you keep cooking up the same combination of stuff, you’’ll keep getting the same unpleasant results. We don’t do that with food. Why do it we do it with ourselves?

For me, it was simply not knowing where my feelings were actually coming from. Until someone pointed it out to me, I never noticed that the same people, events and circumstances did not always produce the same feelings, that I often felt completely differently about things at different times. I had just accepted the prevailing view I grew up with that we were always reacting to life, that life could and would make us feel bad or good.

It was a revelation to me that my thinking had anything to do with it. I rejected the whole idea at first. What? I was making myself miserable? I would never do that on purpose! How dare anyone suggest that? But it very quickly dawned on me that if I had the power to make myself miserable, I had the power to make myself anything. Maybe that was actually good news; I could change even if people, events and circumstances around me did not change. Wow!

The only thing in life we really do have any control over is ourselves. We can’t force other people to change; we can’t prevent life events; we can’t pick the historical or demographic circumstances into which we’re born. But we come fully equipped to make the most of our lives, whatever they are. Again, Wow!

We’ve learned to go over and over our same old thinking, trying to understand ourselves, or figure out why we think this or that, or resolve our past traumas by re-living them, hoping they’ll look different to us. As we do this, we feel worse and worse. In my experience of working with people, though, the hardest part of my work is to get them to stop talking about all the negative thoughts they have. “No, but let me explain. You have to see how awful …”

Stop! I’ll stipulate that it’s awful, and I will win the bet every time that if you continue to bring it to mind, you’ll continue to feel awful. I will suggest that as soon as you mind calms and turns elsewhere, you’ll feel different.

This is very clear to me because I stumbled into the Principles that describe how we create our experience of life, the Principles that show us that experience doesn’t create us. We use the energy of life to generate thoughts, constantly. Our mental activity begins when we come into this world and ends when we leave. We constantly create thoughts, which, when they form in our minds, sets a whole bio-psycho-spiritual chain of events in motion, affecting our chemistry, and thus our feeling state. Bad feelings are not our enemies; they are our navigation system. As soon as our feeling state starts to drop, we can be 100% certain that our thinking is not healthy, wise or functional. Whatever we’re bringing to mind, it’s taking us in a direction we don’t want to go. So bad feelings are not something to cope with; they are something to appreciate and use as a guide to slow our minds down. We can just let our thinking pass without paying a lot of attention to the details, until our minds quiet and better feelings return. They always will. And it happens very quickly because thoughts unexamined pass quickly. We are naturally self-righting, but we also have the free will to keep ourselves off balance. As soon as we let go of trying to figure out, organize or control our thoughts, our innate resiliency brings us right back into balance.

Better feelings, good feelings tell us to trust the thoughts we’re having. Once we are operating from a clear head and a quiet mind, the very “problems” that looked so horrible come into perspective. The past takes its place as the past. Present troubles seem more like situations than insoluble problems, and we start coming up with solutions, rather than frustration and upset.

It’s great to know that we are set up to enjoy life. Yes, we can disrupt that by using our power to think against ourselves. Enjoyment and optimism return quickly when we navigate by our feelings, and recognize when to leave our thinking alone.

The post Feeling Our Way through Life appeared first on Three Principles Living.

Feeling Our Way through Life

People seek help from counselors when they feel bad. No one has ever come into a session with me to complain about their thinking. They come in to say, “I’m really depressed.” “I’m sad and I can’t seem to get over it.” “I am so anxious that I can’t concentrate.” “I get so angry I feel like hitting my children.” That kind of statement.

So, intuitively, we know that bad feelings are a sign that we need help. But we believe the bad feelings are coming from the events, people and circumstances in our life. The expectation people usually start with is that a mentor or counselor will help them to “deal with” their feelings.

They don’t anticipate actually feeling that much better, just coping much better with how bad they feel. They’re usually looking for techniques or strategies, eager to tell me about all the things they’ve already tried that haven’t worked over time. Yoga. Meditation. Art therapy. Long walks. Medication. Massage.

Here’s the thing. If you make a recipe that doesn’t taste good, it’s not going to taste any better if you eat it by candlelight, or eat slowly, or serve bread with it, or use better cutlery, or put flowers on the table. You cooked it. You don’t like it. Smart money says you toss it aside take the recipe out of your recipe file, and stop making it.

Our feelings are the experiences we cook up with the thoughts we bring to mind. If we don’t like them, getting over them is no more of a big deal than scraping a plate into the garbage, avoiding that recipe, and moving on. If you keep cooking up the same combination of stuff, you’ll keep getting the same unpleasant results. We don’t do that with food. Why do it we do it with ourselves?

For me, it was simply not knowing where my feelings were actually coming from. Until someone pointed it out to me, I never noticed that the same people, events and circumstances did not always produce the same feelings, that I often felt completely differently about things at different times. I had just accepted the prevailing view I grew up with that we were always reacting to life, that life could and would make us feel bad or good.

It was a revelation to me that my thinking had anything to do with it. I rejected the whole idea at first. What? I was making myself miserable? I would never do that on purpose! How dare anyone suggest that? But it very quickly dawned on me that if I had the power to make myself miserable, I had the power to make myself anything. Maybe that was actually good news; I could change even if people, events and circumstances around me did not change. Wow!

The only thing in life we really do have any control over is ourselves. We can’t force other people to change; we can’t prevent life events; we can’t pick the historical or demographic circumstances into which we’re born. But we come fully equipped to make the most of our lives, whatever they are. Again, Wow!

We’ve learned to go over and over our same old thinking, trying to understand ourselves, or figure out why we think this or that, or resolve our past traumas by re-living them, hoping they’ll look different to us. As we do this, we feel worse and worse. In my experience of working with people, though, the hardest part of my work is to get them to stop talking about all the negative thoughts they have. “No, but let me explain. You have to see how awful …”

Stop! I’ll stipulate that it’s awful, and I will win the bet every time that if you continue to bring it to mind, you’ll continue to feel awful. I will suggest that as soon as your mind calms and turns elsewhere, you’ll feel different.

This is very clear to me because I stumbled into the Principles that describe how we create our experience of life, the Principles that show us that experience doesn’t create us. We use the energy of life to generate thoughts, constantly. Our mental activity begins when we come into this world and ends when we leave. We constantly create thoughts, which, when they form in our minds, sets a whole bio-psycho-spiritual chain of events in motion, affecting our chemistry, and thus our feeling state. Bad feelings are not our enemies; they are our navigation system. As soon as our feeling state starts to drop, we can be 100% certain that our thinking is not healthy, wise or functional. Whatever we’re bringing to mind, it’s taking us in a direction we don’t want to go. So bad feelings are not something to cope with; they are something to appreciate and use as a guide to slow our minds down. We can just let our thinking pass without paying a lot of attention to the details, until our minds quiet and better feelings return. They always will. And it happens very quickly because thoughts unexamined pass quickly. We are naturally self-righting, but we also have the free will to keep ourselves off balance. As soon as we let go of trying to figure out, organize or control our thoughts, our innate resiliency brings us right back into balance.

Better feelings, good feelings tell us to trust the thoughts we’re having. Once we are operating from a clear head and a quiet mind, the very “problems” that looked so horrible come into perspective. The past takes its place as the past. Present troubles seem more like situations than insoluble problems, and we start coming up with solutions, rather than frustration and upset.

It’s great to know that we are set up to enjoy life. Yes, we can disrupt that by using our power to think against ourselves. Enjoyment and optimism return quickly when we navigate by our feelings, and recognize when to leave our thinking alone.

The post Feeling Our Way through Life appeared first on Three Principles Living.

Feeling Our Way through Life

People seek help from counselors when they feel bad. No one has ever come into a session with me to complain about their thinking. They come in to say, “I’m really depressed.” “I’m sad and I can’t seem to get over it.” “I am so anxious that I can’t concentrate.” “I get so angry I feel like hitting my children.” That kind of statement.

So, intuitively, we know that bad feelings are a sign that we need help. But we believe the bad feelings are coming from the events, people and circumstances in our life. The expectation people usually start with is that a mentor or counselor will help them to “deal with” their feelings.

They don’t anticipate actually feeling that much better, just coping much better with how bad they feel. They’re usually looking for techniques or strategies, eager to tell me about all the things they’ve already tried that haven’t worked over time. Yoga. Meditation. Art therapy. Long walks. Medication. Massage.

Here’s the thing. If you make a recipe that doesn’t taste good, it’s not going to taste any better if you eat it by candlelight, or eat slowly, or serve bread with it, or use better cutlery, or put flowers on the table. You cooked it. You don’t like it. Smart money says you toss it aside take the recipe out of your recipe file, and stop making it.

Our feelings are the experiences we cook up with the thoughts we bring to mind. If we don’t like them, getting over them is no more of a big deal than scraping a plate into the garbage, avoiding that recipe, and moving on. If you keep cooking up the same combination of stuff, you’ll keep getting the same unpleasant results. We don’t do that with food. Why do it we do it with ourselves?

For me, it was simply not knowing where my feelings were actually coming from. Until someone pointed it out to me, I never noticed that the same people, events and circumstances did not always produce the same feelings, that I often felt completely differently about things at different times. I had just accepted the prevailing view I grew up with that we were always reacting to life, that life could and would make us feel bad or good.

It was a revelation to me that my thinking had anything to do with it. I rejected the whole idea at first. What? I was making myself miserable? I would never do that on purpose! How dare anyone suggest that? But it very quickly dawned on me that if I had the power to make myself miserable, I had the power to make myself anything. Maybe that was actually good news; I could change even if people, events and circumstances around me did not change. Wow!

The only thing in life we really do have any control over is ourselves. We can’t force other people to change; we can’t prevent life events; we can’t pick the historical or demographic circumstances into which we’re born. But we come fully equipped to make the most of our lives, whatever they are. Again, Wow!

We’ve learned to go over and over our same old thinking, trying to understand ourselves, or figure out why we think this or that, or resolve our past traumas by re-living them, hoping they’ll look different to us. As we do this, we feel worse and worse. In my experience of working with people, though, the hardest part of my work is to get them to stop talking about all the negative thoughts they have. “No, but let me explain. You have to see how awful …”

Stop! I’ll stipulate that it’s awful, and I will win the bet every time that if you continue to bring it to mind, you’ll continue to feel awful. I will suggest that as soon as your mind calms and turns elsewhere, you’ll feel different.

This is very clear to me because I stumbled into the Principles that describe how we create our experience of life, the Principles that show us that experience doesn’t create us. We use the energy of life to generate thoughts, constantly. Our mental activity begins when we come into this world and ends when we leave. We constantly create thoughts, which, when they form in our minds, sets a whole bio-psycho-spiritual chain of events in motion, affecting our chemistry, and thus our feeling state. Bad feelings are not our enemies; they are our navigation system. As soon as our feeling state starts to drop, we can be 100% certain that our thinking is not healthy, wise or functional. Whatever we’re bringing to mind, it’s taking us in a direction we don’t want to go. So bad feelings are not something to cope with; they are something to appreciate and use as a guide to slow our minds down. We can just let our thinking pass without paying a lot of attention to the details, until our minds quiet and better feelings return. They always will. And it happens very quickly because thoughts unexamined pass quickly. We are naturally self-righting, but we also have the free will to keep ourselves off balance. As soon as we let go of trying to figure out, organize or control our thoughts, our innate resiliency brings us right back into balance.

Better feelings, good feelings tell us to trust the thoughts we’re having. Once we are operating from a clear head and a quiet mind, the very “problems” that looked so horrible come into perspective. The past takes its place as the past. Present troubles seem more like situations than insoluble problems, and we start coming up with solutions, rather than frustration and upset.

It’s great to know that we are set up to enjoy life. Yes, we can disrupt that by using our power to think against ourselves. Enjoyment and optimism return quickly when we navigate by our feelings, and recognize when to leave our thinking alone.

The post Feeling Our Way through Life appeared first on Three Principles Living.

War and Peace

It is ultimately a matter of war and peace whether people across the world come to understand the role of their own and others’ thinking and fluctuating states of mind.

 We can look at behavioral options people experience along a scale from high levels of insecurity to high levels of security.

We can look at behavioral options people experience along a scale from high levels of insecurity to high levels of security and the thinking that makes sense in each state of mind.

One person at a time, when someone comes to understand how thought works and what is creating their experience of reality, they become increasingly secure. When a person feels secure, not living at the mercy of external factors, life does not look threatening. Secure people remain calm and exercise judgment, and look for insight and wisdom, rather than reacting or over-reacting without perspective. They recognize the power of beliefs within the context of knowing that each person becomes committed in their own way to their own beliefs, and nothing but their own insights will change their minds. They see with increasing clarity that people are all the same deep down: all people are constantly creating thoughts and then experiencing those thoughts as “reality”. Reality changes as our thoughts change. Knowing that, we lose our attachment to particular thoughts and gain awe for the very ability to keep thinking, to see beyond what we’ve thought so far. Respect for the shared human power to change keeps hope alive and allows us to see possibilities. It allows us peace within ourselves.

On the other hand, those who have no idea where thoughts come from and why reality looks different to different people are always prone to feel insecure, and cling to their thinking to ward off worsening insecurity. It is an either/or. Either we see the fluidity and creativity of thinking and understand that thoughts come and go and reality “shifts” as our thinking/feeling shifts — or we don’t see the fluidity of thinking and believe that thoughts have a life of their own and we have to hang onto our habitual thinking or fall prey to outside forces. Insecurity pushes people farther and farther away from tolerating differences and encourages the creation of elaborate systems of thought to make their own closely-held points of view feel/seem superior. It introduces the need to defend one’s position at all costs.

Two things are important to realize. Things that make absolute sense to us and seem quite obvious when we are insecure do not make any sense to us whatsoever when we are feeling secure. And the reverse is also true; things that seem quite appropriate and clear to us when we’re secure don’t make any sense at all when we are insecure. So as our states of mind change, the things we say, do and pursue are very different. A child who is angry and frustrated will stomp on and break a brand-new toy. In a quiet state, the child would pick up the toy and play with it.

What does this have to do with war and peace? War doesn’t come out  of the blue. War starts to make more and more sense to people who  are frightened and insecure and have no room in their thinking for “others”.  People who are calm and secure experience peace in their hearts and  minds, and thus seek and nurture peace.

Nations are assemblies of people who share a prevailing state of mind and perspective about the world. When people generally feel hopeful and optimistic, they make choices that reflect their level of security. They are inclusive and generous-spirited, and look for solutions that will do the least harm. When people start feeling frightened and pessimistic, they make choices that reflect their need to protect themselves and ward off enemies. They are exclusive and small-minded, and look for solutions that will keep them safe no matter if others experience harm. Out of a world dominated by leaders who live in fear and insecurity come many wars. The more brutal the fights, the more frightened people become, so they become trapped in a downward spiral of pain and despair. Nothing but war and more war makes sense to them — in that state of mind. In a moment of security, it would make no sense to them at all.

It is innocent because no one would choose killing and destruction if it appeared to them they actually had a choice. The key is understanding the illusion of that downward spiral, that insecurity breeds further insecurity until the moment we understand that all of it is built from our own thoughts. Stepping back, allowing the fear to pass and getting a fresh look can change everything.

Every human being on earth wants to have a happy life, but every human being on earth does not — yet — realize that that happiness is internally generated. No one has to suffer so that I will not suffer. When we realize that all people are creating their own thinking within the context of their own variable states of mind, we truly understand what creates human experience and behavior. We know not to pay attention to the thinking that comes to mind when we’re in an insecure, upset state of mind. And we know we can count on our thinking when our thoughts change and we feel calm and secure again. We navigate by the feeling of security. With the knowledge of how life is created from the inside out, we know that an instant of quiet into which one new thought comes can change everything. With that clarity about life, we know that peace is never more than a thought away, and we simply allow the thoughts that take us in the other direction to pass through our minds, just as we would watch a train cross the tracks, knowing that no matter how long it is, every train has a caboose!

“Thought, like the rudder of a ship, steers us to the safety of open waters or to the doom of rocky shores.”  Sydney Banks, The Missing Link, p. 56.

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Common Sense or Fear? Our choice.

 

Every time we get new information, we have a choice what to make of it. That choice has nothing to do with the information. It has to do with whether we understand how we bring our own thinking to life as reality. We don’t choose the first thought that comes to mind. But every subsequent related thought and what we make of it is strictly up to us.

fork in road

The more deeply we understand our own spiritual nature, that we are generating our life experience by bringing thoughts to mind and then taking them more or less seriously, the more easily we make common sense choices.

Example:  I am walking my dog as usual and I see another person, also walking a dog, fall down. This is not something I expected, nor is it something I can simply not allow into my mind. So I am at a crossroads. My next thought could be anything. It could be to rush up to help the person; to stay away in case that person is contagious;  to stand there and shout for help; to turn my back on the situation and figure someone else will come along — and so on. That next thought sets a direction. If my first thought was to rush up to help, my next thought might be caution. Or my next thought might be the checklist I know to determine if the person is having a stroke. Or my next thought might be to secure my dog so she would not interfere with the other dog while I was trying to help. And so on. On the other hand, if my first thought was to turn my back, my next thought might be the formation of a justification for turning away, or it might be to decide the person probably tripped and got right up and I spared him embarrassment, or it might be regret for being uncaring, and so on.

We don’t break our thinking down this way, but that’s how it works. We take in information and then we create our own thoughts about it. We do not act on the information; we act on our own thoughts about it. The direction our thoughts go has a lot to do with our knowledge of what is going on in our minds, and the depth of our own recognition that when the train of thought is leading to anxiety, self-doubt, fear or darkness, we can change direction. The types of thoughts that continue to come to mind are defined by the state of mind in which we are thinking. If we are calm and confident, we’ll continue to think of increasingly constructive things. If we are stressed and fearful, we’ll think of increasingly less constructive things. If we don’t like the feeling state our thinking is leading us through, we can change our our minds.

There is one and only one reason for thoughts of anxiety breeding thoughts of fear breeding thoughts of panic breeding hysteria. That reason is upsetting thoughts taken increasingly seriously. For those who understand that their rising levels of tension are being produced by their own thinking, not by events or circumstances, this doesn’t happen. They know they have a choice, and one choice is to pause, let the flow of negative thoughts pass and allow their minds to quiet. A whole different quality of thinking will arise from a calmer state of mind. Vivid examples of this choice arose in my life this past week.

First, I watched in astonishment as the U.S. whipped itself into a state of panic over the Ebola virus because one case occurred in a man from Liberia, where the virus is rampant, and infected at least two nurses in exactly the way we understand this virus spreads, through direct contact with bodily fluids of a sick person. There is a lot to learn about how we manage health care institutions and how we train health care providers from this case, but there is no reason to extrapolate that everyone in the US is now in imminent danger. But somehow, within days, response escalated into reaction, which escalated into over-reaction, which escalated into national blaming and widespread panic. The increasingly dire thinking about what could happen has spread like wildfire. It doesn’t matter how it started. It spread because people simply are not aware of what they are doing with their own thinking. The first fearful thought brings a little tension, and opens the door to increasingly fearful thoughts and more tension and the race is on. Once people have worked themselves into a frenzy of concern, all common sense is out the window. Unless we know that we have the power to turn it around, our thinking can run wild.

Second, I received the news that one of my dear friends, Dr. Jamie Shumway, had succumbed to ALS after six years of decline. Jamie was a colleague at West Virginia University School of Medicine. He really saw for himself the profound meaning and import of the message of hope I and my colleagues were working to impart: we create our own reality by using the gift of thought to enliven our consciousness of what we perceive as real. When I first met Jamie, he was an irrepressible outdoorsman. He white-water kayaked. He hiked. He fished, He snowshoed. He skied. He was in love with high energy activity. Some years later, he had heart surgery and he had to give up many of his strenuous undertakings. Did he mourn that loss? No, he decided to take piano lessons, and spent hours quietly practicing and coming to appreciate music. He even took part in a recital with a group of youngsters who were taking lessons from the same teacher! He got a huge kick out of that. Just as I was leaving WVU to move to Florida, he began having unexplained weakness in his legs. He served with great grace and wit as the moderator for the beautiful farewell party given for me and my colleague Dr. Bill Pettit, even as he leaned heavily on a podium because he had discovered that he couldn’t stand for very long without support. At that time, he was having neurological tests.

Then came the news, ALS. For the next several years, Jamie did every single thing he could do within his increasing limitations. He moved from a cane to a walker to a wheelchair, but he kept on  going to WVU sports events, going down to the dock to fish, attending parties and events. He continued to work as long as he possibly could. After he retired, he continued to teach, his huge smile quickly helping students forget his voice was strained and his movements very small as he negotiated his motorized wheelchair with the last of his strength. He spent his final months working with a collaborator to finish a book about his life. He died at home. All along the way, he never talked about what he couldn’t do; he reveled in what he still could do, and made the most of it. Even in his last years, many of us had lively conversations with him about the things he had always enjoyed talking about.

He could have spiraled into fearful thinking and regret and recrimination and anger. Certainly, some terminally ill patients facing a long, slow, irreversible decline do that. But he knew how to use his thinking to keep his bearings. He knew how to ignore fear. He knew how to live in the present moment in gratitude for what he had, without wasting precious time stewing about what he didn’t have. He put his energy into ordinary, common sense thinking about making the most of life.

Those who have followed their thinking into a state of agitation about Ebola are not wrong or bad. They are innocently unaware of the simple logic underlying life. We are making up our own interpretations of what is happening and living through them as though they were reality. Jamie knew and felt the power in that. It is a power we all have.

Sydney Banks says it beautifully here:

 

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No need to fix everything!

Lately I’ve talked with several clients who are sure that “fixing” something in their circumstances will bring them happiness. One is determined to find a job in a bigger city, where she thinks it will be “more fun” to live. One is trying to find a new set of room-mates and a new apartment because she thinks she needs to be with people who are nicer to her to be comfortable at home. Another is worried about the danger of living within 100 miles of a major US military installation and wants to move with her children to the wilderness because she thinks that’s the only way to be safe from terror.  Another is trying to change schools because he thinks campus life at his college is dumb and boring. You get the idea. If I can just change this or that thing in my life, then I’ll be happy.Fixing thing

It doesn’t work that way. Or, in the words of one of my early mentors in the Three Principles, “No matter where you go or what you do, you take your head with you.”

  • People who are searching for happiness from places, things or other people will never find just the right ones; nothing, no matter how wonderful, can create happiness for someone who thinks it will come from circumstances.
  • People who are insecure and feel judged will think they are put down no matter how nice others are to them; self-doubt is consistently suspicious of kindness.
  • Worriers will always find something to worry about; worry is like playing endless whack-a-mole.
  • People who are dissatisfied can’t be satisfied by changing their situation; there’s something wrong no matter where they look.

Trying to fix things outside of ourselves is a fool’s errand. It keeps us really busy, in some cases it runs us ragged, to keep looking, looking, looking for that perfect whatever, that moment when we finally get everything right. all pretty and polished. It’s a lifetime of hard work that is destined to fail because the real source of what looks wrong to us is not “out there” at all. We joke about it (see chart), but even our jokes seem misdirected; tea and movies won’t “fix” anything, either, aside from providing brief distraction from the need to fix. Because, irony of ironies, the “fault” is in our understanding of ourselves, not in the world.

Now I’m not suggesting that people shouldn’t make changes in their lives if it makes sense to do so. There are plenty of good reasons to move or to make new friends or to shift from one school to another, and so on. The problem is that none of those good reasons come to light when we’re in a low state of mind. They emerge as insights from wisdom when we are at peace, not when we are invested in “fixing,” but rather in seeing opportunity in change. This may seem like a subtle point, but it isn’t.

When I first was exposed to the Principles, I was just like those clients I described, probably worse. I thought all my stress, anxiety, worry and depression was “caused” by the business I was in and the life I was leading. I dreamed of a Nirvana, somewhere, where I could find peace, but running off to some paradise was an impossibility; I had a family; I had civic obligations; I had business responsibilities.  I was a wreck because I thought the only way to fix my life was to change everything, but I couldn’t change anything. So on top of everything else, I was frustrated because I thought I knew what the “fix” was but it was out of my reach. A basket case, indeed. In that state, when I first heard that I could change my life from within without changing a single iota of the external details, I thought it was ridiculous.

But I was a business person and a pragmatist. I knew that when something you’re doing is not producing the result you want, you can’t succeed by closing your mind to alternatives.  You’ve got to listen to new ideas, try new directions. You’ve got to look at “best practices,” things that others are doing that are working. The more “Principles people” I met, the more I realized they were not overwhelmed, discouraged or disgruntled in the face of disappointment. Nothing seemed to bother them, and yet a lot of them were facing far greater challenges in life than anything I had. They were all at the front end of something brand new in the world that was generally greeted with negativity, suspicion. rejection, insults and mockery. Yet they happily persevered. They fearlessly took risks and they gracefully accepted the consequences when things didn’t work out. When things did work out, they were grateful, but not prideful. And they had a lot of fun.

It wasn’t really difficult for me to answer this question: Do you want to go on doing what you’re doing, exhausted, sad, crying every morning, blaming your business, losing your youth and vibrant health to the erosion of depression and stress — or do you want to enjoy your life and your work, embrace things the way they are, be unafraid to try things if you have a clearly wise idea, and have a great time?   Hmmm. It would be hard to call that a tough one.

What did it take? It was as easy as discovering you’re heading the wrong way on a road and just turning around. As soon as I was willing to admit that there was another way to understand life and started looking in that direction, I felt hopeful and calmed down. I stopped fighting my circumstances and started appreciating internal quietude. I discovered that when I didn’t engage circular thinking from the outset, it faded away. I defaulted to moments of peace of mind and started having insights that were real solutions to so-called problems. I began to see the logic of the Principles at work behind life and find great comfort in the face that every “reality” generated by my thinking was just an illusion of the moment.

All it took was the decision that it was worth looking away from the chaotic thinking that had dominated my waking hours and realizing that when I wasn’t trapped in it,  it disappeared from view and grew less and less visible even when I looked in the rear view mirror.

Peace of mind, it turns out, really is one thought away. Not any one particular thought. Just the one thought that works for you when you decide to stop trying to fix all the stuff in your life and look deep instead of far and wide. From a quiet mind, all the answers we need flow effortlessly.

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“What’s wrong with me?”

Since I have begun seeing clients one-on-one as a Mental Health Mentor, the most frequent questions they ask in the first session are: “What’s wrong with me? How did  this happen? Why can’t  anyone explain to me what happened to my mind?”

For the most part, they’ve had a lot of therapy. And they’ve been given diagnoses. But  diagnoses do not explain. Diagnoses describe and label symptom sets. What’s eating at people are the WHY? questions. Why can’t I just be OK again? How did I go wrong? How do people get chemical  imbalances? How come I have it and my siblings don’t?

What is so humbling and thrilling to me is that I can answer their questions with a clear,  simple,  logical explanation that puts their minds to rest. I remember when I was struggling  with depression and I had those same questions. I had everything a person could ever want in  life, except peace of  mind, and that’s the only thing that ultimately mattered to me. Until I  stumbled upon the Three  Principles, it seemed to me that I was somehow flawed, and that I could never be at peace. Then I saw for myself that I was simply tangled up in a web of insecure thinking. I didn’t even need to try to  stop thinking those thoughts. I just had to see them for what they were — the places my mind goes  and stays when I start getting insecure. My own thinking taken seriously. The illusions of low moods. Images that would simply pass if I didn’t take them to heart.

Everything changed for me with that insight. Absolutely everything. The misery was meaningless to me. It started looking like a bad movie I didn’t have to sit through. I could simply turn away from it and allow my thinking to move elsewhere. There was nothing wrong with me. I was just a regular human being experiencing the ups and downs of my variable thinking about life. I didn’t realize I was taking the “downs” to heart so much that I was holding off the “ups”. I didn’t realize that I was creating all my experiences, good and bad, via my own power to think and see my thinking as reality. When I did realize that, it all cleared up. I was fine.

Now, I can share that with others, and point them to their own insights. The simple truth of it — we are the thinkers of our own thoughts and we “see” what we think as real only as long as it’s in our thinking — just resonates with people. The most frequent comment I get when the first insights start to pop for them is, “Why didn’t anyone ever tell me this before?”

The answer is that the mental health field doesn’t know, either. No one told them before because they had not stumbled into a mental health educator who is not a traditionally trained therapist. Therapy assumes there is something wrong and does all it can to treat it. It often helps a lot. Three Principles practitioners assume there is nothing wrong and do all they can to point clients towards seeing that for themselves. It’s just a whole different paradigm. It offers the possibility of sustained change, what we call “cure”.

The fact that it works, time and again, is the evidence of its validity. Not proof. Evidence. People see their thinking for what it is, and see the power of the Three Principles of Mind, Consciousness and Thought at work and then they drop their negative thought habits, come into the present moment, and find peace of mind.

The answers are readily understood:

What’s wrong with me?  Nothing is fundamentally wrong with you.

How did this happen?  Over time, without realizing it, you started taking your most negative or upsetting thinking seriously and became even more frightened or distressed by it.

Why can’t anyone explain to me what happened to my mind?  Without realizing it themselves, people have been describing to you how unintentional misuse of your thinking creates the experiences we call mental illness. But since it is all an illusion created by your own ability to think, it’s impossible for someone who doesn’t see that for themselves to take the explanation any deeper than that. When you focus on what you have made up with your own thinking to try to “fix” it, you are caught in an endless loop. You have to keep thinking it to deal with it. As long as you’re thinking it with no understanding of how thinking works, it looks real.

How do people get chemical imbalances?  Upsetting thinking changes the chemistry of your brain, and ultimately your body. It all starts with thinking. There is a huge body of research describing the relationship between stress and chemical changes within us. When you stop entertaining stressful thinking and taking it seriously, your chemistry returns to normal.

Oh, yes. It is simple. And life-changing. As Sydney Banks put it in The Missing Link,

“All human psyches are rooted in universal truth and no person’s psyche is better than any other’s. Only to the degree of the individual’s psychological and spiritual understanding does it appear to vary.” 

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