Forgiveness releases you from mental anguish and pain, and all the horrible negative feelings an unforgiving mind experiences. When you learn to forgive, you see with clarity the ignorance and the innocence of those who trespass against you.

That  passage in Sydney Banks’ The Missing Link, from the Chapter “Love and Forgiveness,” means a lot to me.

At a time when we celebrate good will, consider the power of forgiveness. Many of us have lived with the self-defeating notion that forgiving someone for a past hurt or a past deed suggests that we approve of what they did or lets them off the hook. We carry around resentment or anger or ill-will because we think it is a way to hold the unforgiven person accountable. It is not. It is a way to keep ourselves in psychological distress and keep our own comfort and peace at bay.

Can we truly find peace if we can’t love the person, even while rejecting the deed? How much does our peace of mind mean to us? What would resolve the situation and allow the unforgiven person to see something new?

Forgiveness emerges from a deeper realization of the innocence of thought without understanding. For those who understand that our thoughts look different to us in different states of mind, and who understand that every thought appears to be reality but is actually our own imagination come to life, it is all-too-easy to assume that surely everyone must “know” that. Everyone does not know that. Even those who do know that can lose sight of what they know in moments of upset. The vast majority of people in the world act on their most compelling negative thoughts when they have no awareness that they are the thinkers creating those thoughts. At that moment, they do not realize that they  could allow distressing thoughts to pass and look within  to quietude to find higher-quality thinking. Most people don’t realize that  urgency to act is a warning sign that our thinking is coming from increasing insecurity, not from a calm and wise state. 

In a peaceful state of mind, people do no harm. A quiet mind in a calm feeling state produces no malice or vengeance or self-interest or greed or judgment, or pressure to act. When we are in that state of mind, we are naturally aware that we and others can only do things that occur to us from the level of thinking that generates our reality at the time. We see the fundamental connective tissue of all mankind: the fact that we think and our thoughts look real to us as they pass through our minds, just as an old fashioned movie looked real to us as the frames moved past the light.

Forgiveness flourishes when we see innocence as a human quality, something we all share no matter what. Innocence refers to recognition that we move in and out of being awake to the facts that the only navigational tools we have to move through life are our ever-changing thinking, the attention we give it, and the actions that make sense to us as a result. 

Seeing innocence is seeing that all negative, hurtful behaviors arise from insecure thoughts taken seriously in a low state of mind. Attacking or punishing an insecure person exacerbates their insecurity and fosters our own. When we approach others with love and understanding and reach out from that deeper connection, we can address a problem without assaulting the person. Inviting the person into a calmer state, we speak from the knowledge that all of us have done things we regret when we got caught up in insecurity without realizing it.  This is the bridge to forgiveness and resolution.

Once we see the Principles at work behind life we are freed from following the urge to act on dysfunctional thinking. We know we are in charge of our thoughts; our thoughts are not in charge of us. If by chance we do act on angry thoughts before we realize it, we can apologize, or make things right, because we know where the action started. It started within our own minds.

The difference between forgiveness and unforgiveness is knowing that the judgments we have about others come directly from our thinking. That allows us the humility to see our own feelings as non-contingent, unrelated to the actions of others, strictly a product of how we are holding and using our thoughts. That allows us the ease of compassion for people who don’t know that, and thus feel driven to act by the most distressing thoughts they have. Forgiveness  flows from knowing that those who act with no recognition of the source of that action do not, at that moment,  feel accountable. They feel justified because they believe that what they “saw” outside of themselves was the reason for the action. They are unaware that what they “saw” was what they made up within their own mind.

The beauty of forgiveness is not only that it sets us free to enjoy a deeper peace, but also that it allows love to wash over the unforgiven and, perhaps, provide an opening for a quiet moment in which an insight can help them turn in the direction of peace, as well.


The chart above is a simplified description of the range of states of mind, and how different life looks to us in different states of mind. We are all “up and down” all the time, and there are infinite levels — this is just to illustrate that there are substantive differences in how others look to us and what behaviors make sense to us in very different states of mind.

Unconditional Love…

Unconditional Love…

When I first got involved in Innate Health, I heard a lot about unconditional love being the answer, no matter what the problem might be. Back then, it sounded nice, but meaningless, to me. I was stepping into this new world from a life that was totally transactional, a life of “If…then”. If I got this contract, then I could give my employees a Christmas bonus; if my daughter got straight A’s, then we would take her to DisneyWorld; if I lost five pounds, then I could wear the red dress to the party… Everything was conditional, including love. Both my husband and I would say things to each other that started with, “If you really loved me, you would…”

Now, 30-some years later, it is so vividly true to me that unconditional love is the answer to everything that it brings tears to my eyes just to think about it. Unconditional love has nothing to do with human transactions. Unconditional love arises in the spirit. It is the pure, uninhibited joy of being alive and integral to the universe.

Conditionality is a human transaction, a product of thought that imposes ideas on how things should be. We make and believe in our own assumptions without any understanding that they are our fabrications. We do not embrace the unpredictable variability of life or of everyone and everything in it. Anything we find acceptable must conform to our opinions and expectations. We reject people and things that don’t fit our ideas or do not make sense within our world view.

Unconditionality is the inchoate vitality before formed thought. It presents no judgment about life or anything in it. We surrender to the flow of it. Without expectations or judgments, we are immersed in being. Unpredictability, variability do not look disorderly or strange as life unfolds moment-to-moment. It just is. We just are. Everything is rich, fascinating, and materializing in the moment.

Unconditionality is profound love of life, of the beautiful energy surging through the universe and through us, and of the wonder of being united with the essential formless force, and yet creating our own passage within it. Unconditional love is the fullness of heart that emerges from pure appreciation of all of it — the darkness and the light, the perfect and the imperfect, the same and the different, the known and the unknown. Unconditional love is deep, soothing peace. In the “isness” of the universe,  there is nothing and no one to fear. We are safe in each present moment in the emerging wisdom that is always available to us. Wisdom is the knowledge that binds the universe together through the creative dynamic of being.

Why is the state of unconditional love the answer, no matter the problem?

The simple fact is that a person who is living with a free and clear mind in that unconditional feeling of gratitude and reverence for life does not bring to mind thoughts of harming or being harmed. No selfish, greedy thoughts. No mean, hurtful thoughts. No disappointed, discouraged thoughts. No resentful, vengeful thoughts. No anxious, fearful thoughts. That state of mind, that state of being, brings with it access to the flow of wisdom and confidence, moment-to-moment, that we can count on to guide us through life’s ups and downs. Wisdom propels us forward. Entertaining negative or dysfunctional or destructive thinking feels wrong and unpleasant if it enters the mind.  Those who understand the nature of thought turn away from such ideas — just allow them to pass without action — and look to quiet their thinking and embrace wisdom once more.

Is it unrealistic or even wildly pollyanna to imagine that such a state could come to dominate the experience of humanity? That is an unanswered question. Until we turn our backs on the belief that the content of our personal thinking is more important than our understanding of the true spiritual being through which we are generating that thinking, we will not know the answer. Beliefs seem powerful. They look very real to us while they are on our minds, especially when we don’t know how they got there. As more and more people come to recognize themselves as the agents of life, rather than seeing circumstances as the agency of their life, the ease with which humanity can find personal peace of mind and act from wisdom increases. When wisdom informs more and more of human choices, we will live in a different world, grounded in peace and hope, filled with unconditional love.

Once unconditional love is illuminated as the quintessential power to live, then who would not want to call it home? Who would willingly turn away from natural peace and joy?


THOUGHT vs. thought

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

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

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

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

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

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

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







Storm Thoughts, or Stormy Thoughts?

Storm Thoughts, or Stormy Thoughts?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Test Post

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Ten years ago a crack commando unit was sent to prison by a military court for a crime they didn’t commit. These men promptly escaped from a maximum security stockade to the Los Angeles underground. Today, still wanted by the government, they survive as soldiers of fortune. If you have a problem and no one else can help, and if you can find them, maybe you can hire the A-team.

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When Nothing is Wrong

This simple thing occurred to me the other day: It really doesn’t matter what is happening. It only matters how we hold and use our thoughts about it.

For more than 30 years, I have understood that we can find peace of mind “regardless of circumstances,” and I thought I understood fully what that meant. But suddenly, the other day, it meant much more. I realized, all circumstances exist only within our own minds. All “circumstances” are our thoughts.

Everything comes down to a core simplicity: Circumstances — in my life, in my community, in my workplace, in my state, in my country, on my planet, in my galaxy, in my universe — can only be what I bring to mind and how I think about it . The only power any perceived circumstance can have over me is the power I give it through what and how I am thinking about it — or even IF I think about it at all.

Oddly enough, this came to me when I was reflecting about education, and the common understanding that the “system” somehow isn’t working, or is “wrong” for our current needs. Everyone in education talks about that as though it explains “problems”. I know that any “system” is just an accumulation of thought and it only explains how people see a “problem”, but I suddenly recognized that even talking about the “system” is a total waste of time, as though it was an actual thing that had some force to hold us back.

What passed through my memory was a photograph a colleague at the University of South Florida showed to a meeting after returning from volunteer work in a school in a refugee camp in Africa. A group of children were gathered on rickety chairs in front of splintery tables, focused on a teacher putting math problems up on a small, worn blackboard with a tiny piece of chalk. Their faces glowed with enthusiasm for what they were seeing — the fascination of math. They were smiling and fully engaged, intent on the teacher. There was no “system”. The classroom was a hut. They had no texts, no resources, barely any paper and pencils. They appeared to be different ages. School was uncertain, but whenever there was a teacher, there was a class. They had love of learning and a teacher who really wanted to share something wonderful with them. The learning had nothing to do with a “system”; it all emerged from a feeling in the moment, a connection between teacher and students.

With that thought, I realized, once more and with greater clarity, the power of the illusion that something that appears to be “outside” holds over us. We try to fix that “problem”, as though it matters, and thus we are stymied and endlessly frustrated. We tinker with the educational “system” at the same level of thinking and feeling as that with which we create and sustain it. It’s an endless, pointless, circular effort. We forget that learning only happens from insight in the moment.

The “cure” for any system is not thinking about it, but thinking beyond it. I recognized this in a comment from my colleague Anni Poole when I was working with her in England in November. She said, “We already have everything we need in education; we have schools, we have materials, we have children in classes, we have teachers.” That’s true. She was pointing to the one thing we don’t always have: understanding of the magic, the deep, powerful magic, of the profound connection that occurs when teachers and students are in a quiet, open, state of mind as wisdom bubbles to the surface in the form of shared learning. Seeing things fresh. Having new ideas.

I remembered when my daughter was in high school. The science lab was in an older temporary building that was scheduled to be removed as soon as a new wing of the school, under construction, was complete. She was in the last group of students ever to use the old building. When I saw it, I was appalled. Peeling paint, wet spots on the ceiling where rain penetrated, mold, horrible old chairs and tables, ancient equipment, heating and cooling system working marginally. She hadn’t noticed. She loved that class, and the teacher, and everything she was learning. When I asked her about the classroom, the question didn’t even register with her.

When we’re not thinking about what is wrong, nothing is wrong.

The true educational resource, the true capacity we have to be at peace and happy regardless of circumstances, the one solution that will transcend all the things we call “problems” now is understanding and owning our own gifts to think, to let thinking pass when it draws us away from the present moment, and to experience the power of insight flowing through a free and clear mind.

In that state of mind, there is nothing but the the joyful moments of teaching and learning.

We Are Not Our Differences

We Are Not Our Differences

Look at this. Was it a Black man? An Asian woman? A 15th Century Moor? A 20th Century mixed racial girl? A 12th century peasant? A transgender man or woman? A gay or lesbian man or woman? A Priest? A thief? A Buddhist? A Muslim? A rich man? A poor man? A King? A soldier? No way to know. But look at it, and immediately you know this bony frame once supported a living person, a soul, a member of the human race. The particulars don’t alter that. The essence is the same.

Our humanity, our brief experience in this life as thinking, feeling human beings, is what binds us together. Everything we make up about ourselves and each other beyond that is the source of what pulls us apart.

At what point will we all stop dividing the entire human population into friends and enemies, good and evil, right and wrong, strong and weak? At what point will we stop organizing people by race, religion, ethnicity, heritage?

When will we see that we are all part of the human race? No more, no less. Perfectly human. Human at the core. Human from the heart and soul. Human because we are all spiritual beings inhabiting one form or another of a body. Human because our common ground is that we are all thinkers and we all navigate our lives the same way. We generate thoughts which appear real to us, and that appearance becomes our understanding of experience. Superficial differences have nothing to do with the essence of humanity. It doesn’t matter who you are or where you’re from or what you look like: if you’re a human being, you’re making up every moment of your experience of life with the gifts we all share: the energy of life itself flowing through our minds as thoughts of which we become conscious.

What we have in common, no matter who we are, is that we are living in the world we create with our own thoughts, moment-to-moment-to-moment. As soon as we generate a new thought, our world looks different. What we don’t always know is that we are the authors of our own story, the creators of all we “know” and “see”. And the only way the story can change is if we change it. Each one of us. Using our power to think to make up something entirely new.

When will we look at the way children easily interact — non-judgmentally and playfully and fearlessly — and realize that we are born with love and joy to share, and we are drawn unconditionally towards relationships with each other? We give that natural affinity away as we grow older. We are born with it, but we can think ourselves out of it.

Despite being naturally inclined to relate to other human beings comfortably, as we grow up, many of us figure ways to sort ourselves out and find reasons to be suspicious, or angry, or hateful, or judgmental, or fearful. This is not natural. This is all invented, innocently, by the way we use our own thinking to organize the world around us. We could just as easily use our thinking to take stock of all the beauty in diverse humanity and take stock of the gifts all people have. Thinking, and what we put into our thinking, is strictly volitional, and subject to change in a moment.

The future of all humanity and our planet depends on stepping back and seeing who we all really are: human beings using our infinite power to think to create our particular version of all the experiences we live in. We can lose our ability to see each other’s souls by getting emotionally aroused by thinking about each other’s thoughts, and then getting mutually insecure over them. We can forget that thoughts are not WHO we are. Thoughts are only WHAT we do to create, moment-to-moment, what we make of our life. The power to change all thought lies within each one of us. A different experience of everything is only one thought away.

We have the immediate power to change our minds, the power to think anything at all. At some point, I hope we share the remarkable collective insight that if all the effort, energy, treasure and lives humanity has squandered through the ages battling thoughts had instead been expended expressing mutual respect and love, we would live on a peaceful planet, without suffering.

Moral Equivalence is an Oxymoron

Moral Equivalence is an Oxymoron

We come into life with a deep, intuitive sense of what is “right.”

Philosophy expounds on morality at length. All the arguments around it are interesting diversions for the intellect. But the gut knows the truth in the moment. Right ideas, right actions, that which is in harmony with life itself, are experienced in peace and contentment, with a good feeling about ourselves and the world. Not-right ideas, not-right actions, that which is out of synch with life itself, are experienced in confusion and distress, with a troubled feeling about ourselves and the world.

Ask yourself: The last time you did or said something you “knew” deep-down was not “right,” how did you feel?

We have an internal guidance system. Wisdom, intuition, insight come to us with a beautiful, inspired feeling. That feeling tells us we’re right. As we come to understand that more and more, navigating the rocky shoals in life gets very simple. Confronted with dilemmas, we go to quiet reflection, we look to, and follow, what comes to us in peaceful, positive feelings. We recognize the “Aha!” moments that bring us solutions, and act on those. We recognize the ideas and actions that emerge from love and understanding and shared humanity, and act on those.

What is “right” is not “either-or”, “this-or-that”, “maybe-maybe not”. When we know or see that something is right, it is a solitary choice. THIS, this is right. THIS, this makes sense. THIS, this is a constructive idea. THIS, this will move us forward. THIS, this, brings us peace. It is a certainty. It arises from within us, from our own consciousness, from our connection to the order of the universe.

From this understanding, conversations about “moral equivalence” simply mean “we don’t have an answer yet and we’ve stopped wondering.” Right is clear. Moral equivalence is a pretty term for lack of clarity, absence of wisdom. Moral equivalence is a disguise for nagging insecurity that overwhelms the courage to speak what we know is right, if and when we do know it.

Insecurity is just as important a feature of our internal guidance system as beautiful feelings. The feeling of insecurity simply lets us know that our thinking is chaotic, and heading into the maelstrom that drags us down through doubt, fear, blame judgment, sadness, misery, despair. Insecurity is the harbinger of impending calamity. If we feel it coming on, though, it is our most reliable guide back home. Why? Because the feeling of insecurity dissipates quickly when the mind quiets, when stormy thinking is allowed to pass, when we settle down into reflection and wait for insight. Turning away from insecurity turns us back to our innate well-being.

What allows us to do that? A simple fact of being human: We are born into the flow of life, propelled through our part of it by the energy of the life force. We use that energy to “see” and find our way through life by forming thoughts in our own minds and then experiencing those thoughts. Insecurity is the experienced feeling of insecure thoughts. If we don’t like it, we can pause, and await new thoughts. The natural tendency of a quieter mind is clearer, more neutral thinking. That is the power of humanity, shared by all, always. Always accessible; not always accessed.

Oh, world! Oh, beautiful, troubled world! If only we could pause together, take a few moments of quiet, shut down the roaring engines of our racing minds, and hear the silence. Feel the ease. Listen for the harmony. Sense the impulse and glimpse the spark of insight. What might come of it? What healing ideas might arise? What doubts and fears and arguments might fall away? What appreciation for the powers of vision inherent in simple human being might come to light? What mental clouds, like moral equivalence, might dance across the sky into obscurity?

Second Thoughts?

Second Thoughts?

We can’t help the past popping into our minds. It is impossible to know what might awaken a memory— someone who looks like your grade school bully, a sentimental song on the radio, a pattern of light and shade, a faded photograph, a sudden loud sound, a gory TV scene, a patterned dishtowel. When our mind wanders towards anything, we might immediately bring up a momentary memory.

A lot of people who struggle with past abuse, or traumatic events, or remorse over something, or anger at someone, or sadness from a loss will say their memories are not momentary. They will lament that they “just can’t get them out of their mind.” They will say they keep coming to mind, no matter how hard they’re trying to fight them off. The harder they fight their memories, the bigger they seem to get.

There’s a reason for that, in the logic by which the mind works.

Those people are right about one thing: As hard as we might fight, we never win at shadowboxing with our own thoughts. Things will just appear in our minds and we have to hold them there to fight them.

But those people are missing something important. We do have the spiritual power to transcend those thoughts. We don’t have to have second thoughts about them. We don’t have to fight them. We can allow them to pass as we go about our lives in the present. Think of memories as a program on a television you’re not watching while you’re doing something else, although you notice images flickering on the screen from time to time. You can choose at any moment to “grab” an image and drop what you’re doing now to focus on the program. But the only thing that can make you do that is you — you have a second thought about what just passed across the screen and you decide to spend more time with it. As fast as you turned toward it, you could turn away.

The fearful thoughts, the struggle thoughts, the “Oh, no!” thoughts, the angry thoughts, and the grieving thoughts — all those negative second thoughts — precipitate pain and hopelessness and elicit the desire to fight. We get frightened by them and we want to drive them away. We don’t recognize that if we notice images passing but don’t give them a second thought, they’re gone. They scarcely have a fleeting impact on our experience or feelings. They pass like a bird flitting past the window.

How do we find the “strength” to ignore upsetting thoughts? How do we avoid those second thoughts? That’s where our spiritual power comes into play. Over the years, people have always given others the advice to just drop things, or ignore them, or let them go. And those who receive the advice have too often exhausted themselves trying really hard to follow that advice. What has been missing is a deeper understanding of the nature of thought, and the nature of the innate gifts we have to create and respond to it. We don’t need to try. It is natural for thoughts, unattended, to pass. Our strength is the birthright of humanity. We are the thinkers continually creating our own life experience, in every moment. We have the power to hang onto thoughts and fight them, or the power to set them loose and see them naturally dissipate, like patterns in a jostled Kaleidoscope.

Thoughts are part of the whole, universal, dynamic creative flow of life. They come and go, unless we capture and hold them and turn them over and over in our mind trying to do something with them. The nature of thought brings to mind my summer nights in Connecticut as a child, catching fireflies. They were so interesting, blinking and fading in the darkness. When I went to grab a jar and scoop them up and finally caught some, everything changed. They were hard to enjoy. Their natural blinking and fading turned frantic; and stopped, and then I was stuck with dead and dying insects, feeling horrible that I could not safely manage them and knowing I could not return them to the state in which I had found them, happily blinking and fading and moving on through the darkness. I had to deal with them in that unnatural state.

So it is with thoughts. When we grab them and then try to manage them, we end up frustrated and upset. In a sense, we have innocently disturbed their natural movement. As soon as we come to the realization that if we just leave them alone, they will blink and fade and disappear, we are free. Thoughts flicker through our minds and, in the moment, we are always at choice whether to hold them or how to use them. That is our power as the thinkers, shaping the flow of energy that we call life into images that generate the experience of our own moments. If we do not like the the experience the images project through our consciousness, they will fade and evaporate when we turn away and new images come to mind and into expression.

We come into life with that incredible power to direct the experience of our own life through the way we hold and use our thoughts. We can see that our sensory experience, our feeling state, is created in the moment by our thoughts, and is a reliable guide to how we’re doing as thinkers. If we see thoughts for what they are, illusory images, flickering like fireflies, and recognize that the content of thinking is fleeting, we can leave them alone, and turn towards the thoughts that bring lighter, calmer feelings and turn away from capturing and working with the thoughts that create tense, negative feelings. Our feelings naturally change in a blink of the mind’s eye.

The Fight We Don’t Need to Win

The Fight We Don’t Need to Win

A frequent plea I hear from clients is some version of this: “Why can’t I fight off these thoughts? I don’t want this stuff on my mind. I try and try, but I can’t drive the thoughts away! It’s exhausting.”

The underlying difficulty for these clients is that they are shadow-boxing an illusion. But since it is their own illusion, it appears real to them. The harder they fight it, the more vivid it appears. In absolute innocence, they are holding thoughts in place that would have simply passed through their minds if they had not given them a second thought.

Just as surely as we can bring any thought to mind intentionally, we can experience random thoughts that seem to pop into our minds. A fear awakened. A memory triggered. A previous situation revisited. Such thoughts jolt us. When we form a thought, an image on the screen of our mind, our sensory system creates the feeling/experience of that thought. If the feeling/experience is unwanted, unpleasant, unnerving, we are upset and we want to “do” something to clear it away. But as long as we are focused on the effort to get rid of it, we are still creating it and it still looks real. You have to remain aware of something to fight it.

The idea that we have to manage or monitor the content of our thinking and handle distressing thoughts before they “get” us is a misunderstanding of the nature of thought, and of our true power as human beings. Our “superpower” is the power to think, and continually think again, and to know that the power never fails. The content of thoughts is ever-changing and transitory. The ability to think is a constant spiritual power, inherent to our life. Feelings are the shadows of our thoughts, the feedback loop that lets us know the quality of our thinking. Winning a fight against our thoughts is impossible; thoughts are insubstantial.

If we focus on fighting the content of unpleasant thoughts we have created, we put ourselves into an endless loop. We have to keep thinking the content we don’t like in order to keep trying to fight it. We either keep creating the thoughts or we allow them to dissolve into the ether as new thoughts come come to mind. If we ignore the thoughts and recognize the feeling of unpleasantness as a signal to quiet down and know all our thoughts will pass, other thoughts will come to mind. We are inclined to quietude when we hold all our thought content lightly. After all, it’s our imagination at work, good or bad, and there’s always a lot more where it came from.

The first time I ever heard anyone say that feelings are the navigational guides that help us through life, maybe 30 years ago, I rejected the idea entirely. I counted on my intellect for the medical practice management business I was in; I earned my living examining the content of my and others’ thought. I got paid for developing good ideas. It didn’t matter how I felt, for heaven’s sake. Weak people paid attention to their feelings. In my world, at that time. when the going got tough, the tough got going.

But a strange thing happened. I started to notice my clients’ moods. I realized that when they were upset, meetings went badly, they were argumentative, they weren’t able to listen, they paid no attention to new ideas. That explained a lot of the “difficulty” of my work. Then I noticed how personally I took the things upset clients said to me — as if they made sense. My own moods started to be visible to me. I saw that I spent most of my time in extreme levels of stress and distress, and my whole life was a struggle to get my bearings. My mind was going a million miles an hour. It never “stood out” to me because, in my business, everyone was like that. Enduring enormous stress with determination to forge ahead was the hallmark of success.

I couldn’t help but notice that all the people I was meeting who were working in Innate Health were happy, relaxed, at ease with themselves and others, open-minded, fun to work with, AND smart and successful. I started to wonder why I couldn’t live like that. I started to appreciate what I could gain from listening to these people explain to me the true source of peace of mind, creativity, wisdom, insight, productivity, joy: a quiet mind in a positive feeling state. It occurred to me it was contrary to human nature to run a low-mood business. I felt sad that I never had peace of mind. I wished I wasn’t so stressed and upset.

I made it hard for myself early on trying to figure it out. Over time, in the presence of understanding people who believed in my — everyone’s — resilience and innate well-being, I got quieter and quieter. Then the insights came. I started to see for myself that life was really simple. I’m making it up, thought by thought. Thoughts generate a state of mind, a feeling state. If I don’t like my feeling state, I can ignore it and new thoughts will come to mind, just like that. I’m always one thought away from an entirely fresh experience.

I was creating all my stress and distress. Wow! If I was creating it, I could ignore it. I could leave it alone. I could create anew.

Everything changed for me. When I look around the world today, I see my “old” self everywhere, and my heart goes out to agitated, insecure people. I know how real their problems look to them. But I am filled with love and hope for them because the answer to all human suffering is only one thought away. No exceptions. Beneath all the thought-created turmoil across the globe, everyone on the planet is one simple insight away from peace of mind. If it could happen to me, a person who wore my stress like the red badge of courage, it could happen to anyone who simply wondered, “Could I be at peace?” and looked to quiet for an answer.