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.

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.

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.

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.

Do you ever get upset?

Upset smiley face“I never see you upset. Do you ever get upset?” At least once or twice a week, someone asks me that question, as if they are expecting that someone who truly understood how the mind works must never be anything but calm and happy.

So sorry, that’s not how it works. There is no way to anticipate what might come into our minds, and sometimes, the thoughts we bring to our minds carry with them upset, angry, frustrated, negative feelings. Of course, I get upset, just like every other human being on the planet.

The difference between me getting upset before I learned how thinking works, and me getting upset now is that now I don’t care if I’m upset. It doesn’t feel important to me. It feels like a passing experience, sort of like a thundershower. And I know not to take it seriously because I know what it is — just a torrent of negative thoughts passing through.

The reason people don’t see me upset now is that I keep it to myself and don’t pay much attention to it, whereas in the past, feeling upset used to be my go-go-go!-signal to take action and, by golly, track down that person and give them a piece of my mind, or write that nasty letter and let someone know they couldn’t take advantage of me, or speak harshly to people I perceived as letting me down, or call a friend to seek commiseration.

Understanding how our minds work, and the nature of thought and experience, does not make us immune to upset. It just makes us disinclined to pay much attention to it. So what? It’s just my own thoughts creating the temporary experience of being upset. Let those thoughts go and different thoughts will come to mind. Then I’ll feel different. I know better, now, than to take seriously or act on upsetting thinking because doing anything in a low state of mind does not work out well at all. (Have you ever actually solved a problem by yelling at someone, or sending a nasty letter?) And I don’t need to burden my friends with my negative thoughts because it’s up to me to see them for what they are and let them pass. Talking about them just holds them in place. And among my friends, there’s no one who would actually discuss them anyway. I know the look — the look that says, “You must be kidding me? That makes sense to you?” In the world I live in, we’d both be laughing in a matter of seconds because it’s absolutely silly to get all worked up about the smoke and mirrors of up-and-down thinking.

So, sure, I have the feeling of upset, sometimes several times a day. But I see it as a signal to slow down, quiet my mind, and wait for a minute. When I get that tight, tense feeling that signals a droopy mood, I don’t try to figure out what’s up. I know what’s up. I am thinking myself into a lower mood. No need to feed that cycle. I turn away from it, rather than indulging it. And then, at the speed of thought, it goes away as other things come to mind, and I start feeling more like myself again.

Often, I ask my clients, “How cheaply are you willing to sell your peace of mind?” Usually, it has never occurred to them that they have to sell it or give it away to lose it, even for a second. Peace of mind is the natural default setting we fall back to as soon as we let go of what pulls us away from it. The only thing that can pull us away from it is our very own negative thinking that we’re making up, all by ourselves, seeing as real, and taking seriously.

The gift of understanding the Three Principles that explain how we create our own experience is that we’re always in the driver’s seat. We get to decide whether to stay upset, or leave it alone. We get to decide whether to take the risk the quick relief of yelling or hurting ourselves or someone else, or get the reward of the quick relief of quietly seeing our thoughts/moods for what they are: Nothing. Images on the screen of our minds. If they’re worthwhile, helpful and uplifting, we can hold onto them and build on them, enjoy working with them. If they’re petty and discouraging and gloom-inducing, we can turn our backs on them.

Of all the gifts I have received in life, the most precious to me is the deep realization is that I am in charge of me. Life is not in charge of me. Nothing can bring me down but me. If I don’t think my way into stress and sadness, I can handle anything life brings me with wisdom, insight and good will. I can get upset and get over it, and do no harm.

What could be better than that?

The post Do you ever get upset? appeared first on Three Principles Living.

Cure Seriousness! Lighten Up!

Avoid being afflicted with Seriousness. It’s debilitating. It brings people down. It hurts. It takes all the fun out of life as long as you have it. It can linger a long time. It can lead to health complications. It’s much worse than the flu.

I talked to a client recently who clearly manifested that he had suffered from Seriousness for more than 40 years. He had the medical and life history to prove it. He cried a lot in the beginning of our session. His story included abusive parents, painful childhood, two abusive marriages; abusive girlfriends; abusive children; violence; deceitful friends — nothing and nobody good. He had just had another in a long history of surgeries and was finding recovery slow and painful. He couldn’t remember ever being happy or carefree. He had been in therapy for 30 of the last 40 years with all kinds of practitioners. But he had never talked to anyone who was a Mental Health mentor before. And he could offer no definition at all of mental health. Asked about it, he gave a definition that involved being marginally functional and able to survive despite mental illnesses. An example of mental health he came up with was being able to get to a doctor’s appointment while having a panic attack, even though the person who had promised to drive him let him down and he had to drive himself.

He didn’t know why he even asked to talk to me because, honestly, no one has ever been able to help. He had also done all sorts of New Age searching and tried all kinds of non-traditional activities. None of that had helped. He was sure he was born to be miserable. So he didn’t want me to feel bad if I couldn’t help him either.  Several counselors in his past had refused to see him for follow-up after a couple of sessions; he figured I would do that, too, and he was already mentally prepared to be rejected again. He had no hope and no expectations that anything could or would change.

“Given all that, why haven’t you just killed yourself?” I asked. “What’s the point of going on?”

That slowed his whiny train of thought. “What kind of damn question is that?” he demanded. “Why would I do that?”

“I don’t know,” I said. “I just haven’t heard you mention any reason to go on living yet, so I thought I’d ask.”

“Of course I have reasons to go on living!” he snorted.

And here’s how it went from there:

Me: “Great! Glad to hear it! What are they?”

Client: What are what?

Me: What are your reasons to go on living?”

Client: Well, you must know some. I can’t think of them right now.”

Me: Do you have any idea why you can’t think of them?

Client: They’re just not coming to mind.

Me: Why not?

Client: I don’t know.

Me: Do you want to know?

Client: Why? Do you know? How would you know that?

Let me stop here. The reason I’m telling this story is to illustrate that people can’t hear anything new when their minds are racing around the same old track. There’s no point talking to a suffering person about feeling better until they have at least a tiny inclination that they might want to hear you. It took me a long time to learn that. I used to think that just being in a good feeling and talking spiritual truth would lead our clients to change. But after a while, it dawned on me that the most unhappy clients who were mired in misery weren’t even remotely aware of how I was or what I was saying.  I might as well have been a lamp in the room. They were just thinking, thinking, thinking of all their problems without a moment’s interruption. So what I’ve learned is, even if it takes most of a session, there’s no use trying to explain to people that you can help them until they get curious enough to pay attention to something other than their insecure thoughts.

This is the crucial thing people who work from the Three Principles  know: People can’t be thinking a hundred miles an hour about the negative stuff they’ve always thought about and listen at the same time. But the secret to lightening up is that they are only one thought away — a millisecond away — from thinking differently. We can’t launch right into sharing new ideas until someone becomes curious enough to slow down and wonder. As soon as they do, things can change really quickly because the steady voice of their own wisdom breaks right through the din.

There’s no technique to that. I’m a former newspaper reporter, so I tend naturally to ask questions to get to the deeper point. Other people have other ways of going about it. The way is not the issue. No matter the intervention, it comes to us from wisdom in the moment, with the client, while we are neutrally listening to them. We need to keep listening until we get an insight about where to go with them. This is not burdensome because we don’t take their sad stories seriously and we know that the person is perfectly mentally healthy and has just lost sight of it. They can’t turn in a new direction until they notice that fork in the road. So until they stop high-speed thinking the way they’ve always thought in the direction they’ve always gone, our purpose is to care about them, “see” the health in them, listen to them, and know that the right intervention will come to mind.

The humbling part is that we are all very different and if you put the same client in the room with 50 different 3 Principles practitioners, the conversation would go 50 different ways. The common thread would be that the practitioner listened and had the faith to keep listening  until his/her own wisdom revealed a direction.  Anything we do and say from wisdom will work out. And once clients are turning towards their own health, instead of reviewing the history of their distress and their problems, they will start to change, and all we have to do is foster, nurture, and encourage that change.

The most fascinating part, to me, is that almost always, I am inspired to do something that causes the client to lighten up, that breaks the chain of Seriousness.  Wisdom takes us towards lightheartedness. Thinking back over years and years of working with people, I realize that the best moments came when the client could laugh at something they had cried over only moments ago.

In the case of the client story I mentioned here, by the end of that first session, the client was laughing at the fact that he was supposed to keep his feet propped up when he sat down and had totally forgotten, and he could still stand up.

“Look at that!” he said, when he stood up at the end of our meeting.  “I just stood up without my cane, and I hadn’t even propped my feet up while we were meeting. I must be getting better. Or something.” Then he laughed, “I suppose you would tell me it’s because I’m not thinking about how sick I am right now.”

Yup. That would  be a great reason to go on living. Imagine all the things you can think about that you’ve never thought about before!

The post Cure Seriousness! Lighten Up! appeared first on Three Principles Living.

Giving Presence

As we cross the threshold from the holiday of giving thanks to the holiday of giving presents, I offer encouragement to include in your giving this year—in addition to whatever actual “presents” you may give—the gift of your actual presence both to your loved ones, to strangers and lastly, but[…]

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