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?

 

Peace: The Heart of our Being

People “seek” peace. People say it is elusive. Transitory. Lost in a distant, simpler past. An illusion of childhood. Hidden in the wilderness, on mountain peaks, on placid waters. Embedded in lovely music, in hushed houses of worship, in sublime poetry. It appears we think peace is a state we visit, a temporary shelter from the storm of life.

What a comfort to discover that the search for peace begins and ends within us! Peace is the natural state of being before the formation of thoughts about ourselves. Peace is the deepest wellspring of survival, the source from which we keep mercurial life in perspective.

What gives me the right to say such a thing? No one could ever have “told” me that, or “persuaded” me of that. But in the presence of people who had discovered it for themselves and were, therefore, at peace and untroubled by variable thoughts, I stopped thinking so hard and fast myself. I calmed down, and then I SAW it for myself. It came as an insight, a realization about myself, about life. It was an immediate certainty that I am the agent of my own experience. The external world lost its power over me. Just like that, my perception flipped from that of a person living at the mercy of all the things happening around me to a person living at the effect of my own thinking about everything.

I recognized that I cannot change what happens around me; yet I knew I have the power to shape my experience of it from the strength of my own originality. My mind fluttered to rest, and for the first time in a long time, I felt free and empowered. I was sitting with a group in a restaurant when this beautiful moment happened and I never even mentioned it. It was my experience. I figured that my lunch companions were relieved that I had stopped talking so fast and asking so many questions, and I just relaxed and had a good time.

The most significant insight imaginable is not a big deal. It’s not a big deal because the peace was there all along; it IS who we are. Just settling back to who we really are feels natural and easy. But once we see it, we can’t “unsee” it. Even at moments when our minds start racing again, we know what we’re doing. It’s not scary; it’s temporary. Knowing we’re making it all up anyway and knowing there are infinite possibilities of what else we might be making up, we don’t get trapped in our own worst ideas. Peace is a dynamic state, the state of knowing, no matter what, that we are meant to thrive, always close to an answer we’d never dreamed of before.

The outcome of this remarkable awakening to how our own minds work and to our own psychological strength is that we become better problem-solvers. People think we’re in denial, but we aren’t. We are in invention. Accepting what is and re-imagining what we can make of it and where to go from there. Creating fresh ideas, unafraid of the untested.

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Peace: The Heart of our Being

People “seek” peace. People say it is elusive. Transitory. Lost in a distant, simpler past. An illusion of childhood. Hidden in the wilderness, on mountain peaks, on placid waters. Embedded in lovely music, in hushed houses of worship, in sublime poetry. It appears we think peace is a state we visit, a temporary shelter from the storm of life.

What a comfort to discover that the search for peace begins and ends within us! Peace is the natural state of being before the formation of thoughts about ourselves. Peace is the deepest wellspring of survival, the source from which we keep mercurial life in perspective.

What gives me the right to say such a thing? No one could ever have “told” me that, or “persuaded” me of that. But in the presence of people who had discovered it for themselves and were, therefore, at peace and untroubled by variable thoughts, I stopped thinking so hard and fast myself. I calmed down, and then I SAW it for myself. It came as an insight, a realization about myself, about life. It was an immediate certainty that I am the agent of my own experience. The external world lost its power over me. Just like that, my perception flipped from that of a person living at the mercy of all the things happening around me to a person living at the effect of my own thinking about everything.

I recognized that I cannot change what happens around me; yet I knew I have the power to shape my experience of it from the strength of my own originality. My mind fluttered to rest, and for the first time in a long time, I felt free and empowered. I was sitting with a group in a restaurant when this beautiful moment happened and I never even mentioned it. It was my experience. I figured that my lunch companions were relieved that I had stopped talking so fast and asking so many questions, and I just relaxed and had a good time.

The most significant insight imaginable is not a big deal. It’s not a big deal because the peace was there all along; it IS who we are. Just settling back to who we really are feels natural and easy. But once we see it, we can’t “unsee” it. Even at moments when our minds start racing again, we know what we’re doing. It’s not scary; it’s temporary. Knowing we’re making it all up anyway and knowing there are infinite possibilities of what else we might be making up, we don’t get trapped in our own worst ideas. Peace is a dynamic state, the state of knowing, no matter what, that we are meant to thrive, always close to an answer we’d never dreamed of before.

The outcome of this remarkable awakening to how our own minds work and to our own psychological strength is that we become better problem-solvers. People think we’re in denial, but we aren’t. We are in invention. Accepting what is and re-imagining what we can make of it and where to go from there. Creating fresh ideas, unafraid of the untested.

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Peace: The Heart of our Being

People “seek” peace. People say it is elusive. Transitory. Lost in a distant, simpler past. An illusion of childhood. Hidden in the wilderness, on mountain peaks, on placid waters. Embedded in lovely music, in hushed houses of worship, in sublime poetry. It appears we think peace is a state we visit, a temporary shelter from the storm of life.

What a comfort to discover that the search for peace begins and ends within us! Peace is the natural state of being before the formation of thoughts about ourselves. Peace is the deepest wellspring of survival, the source from which we keep mercurial life in perspective.

What gives me the right to say such a thing? No one could ever have “told” me that, or “persuaded” me of that. But in the presence of people who had discovered it for themselves and were, therefore, at peace and untroubled by variable thoughts, I stopped thinking so hard and fast myself. I calmed down, and then I SAW it for myself. It came as an insight, a realization about myself, about life. It was an immediate certainty that I am the agent of my own experience. The external world lost its power over me. Just like that, my perception flipped from that of a person living at the mercy of all the things happening around me to a person living at the effect of my own thinking about everything.

I recognized that I cannot change what happens around me; yet I knew I have the power to shape my experience of it from the strength of my own originality. My mind fluttered to rest, and for the first time in a long time, I felt free and empowered. I was sitting with a group in a restaurant when this beautiful moment happened and I never even mentioned it. It was my experience. I figured that my lunch companions were relieved that I had stopped talking so fast and asking so many questions, and I just relaxed and had a good time.

The most significant insight imaginable is not a big deal. It’s not a big deal because the peace was there all along; it IS who we are. Just settling back to who we really are feels natural and easy. But once we see it, we can’t “unsee” it. Even at moments when our minds start racing again, we know what we’re doing. It’s not scary; it’s temporary. Knowing we’re making it all up anyway and knowing there are infinite possibilities of what else we might be making up, we don’t get trapped in our own worst ideas. Peace is a dynamic state, the state of knowing, no matter what, that we are meant to thrive, always close to an answer we’d never dreamed of before.

The outcome of this remarkable awakening to how our own minds work and to our own psychological strength is that we become better problem-solvers. People think we’re in denial, but we aren’t. We are in invention. Accepting what is and re-imagining what we can make of it and where to go from there. Creating fresh ideas, unafraid of the untested.

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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?

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Living a Dream

We are always living a dream. We cannot experience anything without thinking it first. Whatever thoughts we bring to mind create our experience, which lasts only as long as they are brought to mind. Our thoughts are uniquely our own; no two thinkers arrive at precisely the same thoughts, although many people can share a predilection for certain kinds of thoughts. So each life, truly, is a particular dream, experienced as it unfolds through each person’s thinking.

One of the first statements I saw from Sydney Banks is: “Life is a divine dream, suspended between time, space and matter.” I was fascinated by it, though I could not work out what it must mean at the time. It hung there in my imagination for a few years, equally puzzling to me each time I revisited it. Then I heard Syd speaking once about a conversation he had had with a scientist, in which Syd tried to point out that the constructs of time, space and matter are ideas we’ve made up to be able to talk about our universe. But the only truth is formless energy.  Peering through the thicket of already formed thoughts at formless energy is a pointless exercise. We are bound to be caught in the tangle of our thoughts, not seeing beyond them, if we try to work through them to clear a gateway to infinity.

That gave me the courage to ask Syd a question: “How can I understand that life is a divine dream, suspended between time, space and matter, if I cannot think about it?” At the time I asked that question, the only book Syd had published was Second Chance, in which there is considerable conversation about  SEEING (as opposed to seeing) and KNOWING (as opposed to knowing). The wise character in that book describes SEEING in these two passages, for example (although I highly recommend reading the entire book):

“Remember, I told you …. that there are more realities than meet the eye. This SEEING must come from an experience of SEEING another reality.” (p. 16)

“‘SEEING’ is what evolves man’s mind to a higher level of consciousness. It is this evolvement that enables him to psychologically understand himself and the world around him.” (p.26)

Syd did not answer my question directly, but instead asked me what I thought about Second Chance. I told him I was confused by it and did not know what it all meant. “Good,” he said, “it’s good to be able to admit you don’t know. That’s the opportunity for knowing. From a state of not knowing you are likely to SEE something new.”

So I remained baffled, but I dropped the whole idea of figuring it out. I found that acknowledging not knowing and being at peace with it had really quieted my mind down. Needing to know the answers all the time (a habit developed in elementary school where there was a high premium on being the first with your hand up) had been revving up my thinking a lot more than I had realized. From a quieter state of mind, I was able to glimpse that “SEEING” is spiritual and “seeing” is temporal: that is, SEEING is an experience beyond cognitive limits. SEEING is fluttering briefly into the emptiness before thought where you KNOW the power of thoughts forming, your own power to form thought, as a spiritual gift before form.  I realized that I had previously memorized, pondered about, and repeated the definitions of the Principles as they were always described, thus innocently focusing on the formed word to understand them, rather than awakening to the formless, the true Principles, the spiritual energy of all life in creation, before the words. I had been reading the notes, but missing the music.

That was one of the most exciting insights of my life, and it was a point of transformation. Oh, like all of us, I still talked about the logic of the Principles and described the inside-out outcomes of the ways we create and hold our thinking, but I knew that was all an interpretation of the point, not the point. Not the point. The point is beyond words, in Universal energy we all share and through which we become our formed selves. Seeing the pure energy at the source, though, we have certainty that anything we see or know now could change, simply with the formation of new thought. Access to that reality is through stillness, through quietude, not thinking harder.

Although we can talk about Thought and thoughts, we are pointing to the feeling of the power that frees us from any one thought to release the potential of infinite new thoughts. It doesn’t really matter what anyone thinks, how long they think it, or what they make of it, if they KNOW the Principles. That power is realized and experienced, not taught or learned. For me, in the instant I caught a glimpse of that, I SAW and KNEW the absolute absurdity of taking any thought seriously. No matter what. It’s no more possible to hang onto really beautiful thoughts than to drive away really ugly thoughts. They all pass naturally as the flow of formless energy continues to power us through life. We have to re-think them to “keep” them. When we SEE that for ourselves, we cannot possibly harm ourselves with our own thinking, any thinking. Because we KNOW we are living a dream brought to us by our unique imagination and the creative power of life. We know the dream is fleeting, evanescent, just images we create, passing across the screen of our minds, signifying nothing but the beautiful power to keep creating them.

For me, the depth of gratitude I feel for Sydney Banks for so simply expressing the possibility that any one of us, all of us, can SEE this for ourselves, is immeasurable.

 

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The Principle of Mind

Last week, I published a brief Blog and video posting about the Three Principles as discovered by Sydney Banks, the foundation of Mental Health Education as I and thousands of others practice it. This week, I offer another brief Blog and video, just on the Principle of Mind. (The Principle of Thought will be next week, and The Principle of Consciousness after that.) I hope these are helpful to sharing the profound understanding of how these Principles can change the understanding of the true human potential for peace, across the globe.

When asked why there are three Principles, Sydney Banks used to say, “Well, actually there is just Mind. But we would not know it without Thought and Consciousness. Combine those three and there is nothing more we need to see life.” To see this in depth in Sydney Banks’ own words, read The Missing Link, or any of his other books, all of which can be found at Lone Pine Press.

As much as we try to talk about Mind, there is really little we can say because our very presence on earth is after the fact of Mind. So just as we cannot ask a savant to describe how he “learned” his gift, we cannot ask ourselves to describe how we acquired the gifts that give us life.  All we can know is that we are alive, and filled with the potential that being alive in a dynamic state allows us the possibility, at any moment, to change. The Principles describe our power to change, and it all starts with Mind.

This video is also available on You Tube

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War and Peace

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Is It Easy to Be Happy?

Recently I saw a new client who sobbed at the outset, “I don’t see how I will ever be happy again!” An hour later, as she left, she was laughing. “I’ve sure been a big drama queen with all that serious thinking, haven’t I?” she said.

How does a shift like that happen? In the simplest terms, it is the natural outcome of what Principles practitioners do that is new to treatment. We don’t take unhappiness seriously. We point people to the true, constant, unfailing, spiritual source of human happiness that nothing can touch. We teach people what mental well-being is, and where it comes from, and how we lose and regain our faith in it. They see the universal logic of it and realize what they’ve been doing to themselves with the innocent misuse of their own power. They “wake up” to the truth that, no matter what, deep down we are born to be at peace.

I write about these cases a lot, but it seems like we can’t tell this story enough. The way traditional therapy addresses psychological distress is not working effectively enough to stem the increase in stress, anxiety, and depression, the afflictions of the so-called “functional mentally ill,” because almost all approaches are attempting to give people tools to solve their problems or drugs to dull them. But the “problems” are slippery. They are the variable artifacts of the way people are thinking about them. And the more people and their therapists talk about them and dwell on them and take them seriously, the worse they appear. Principles practitioners realize we should not be treating people’s problems as though they have a reality of their own. We should be addressing people’s understanding of their states of mind, of the nature of thought, of the spiritual power we all have to create thought and take it more or less seriously. We should be helping them to understand when to take their own thinking to heart and when to let it pass and allow their minds to quiet.

We all take for granted without question the way our minds work on ordinary things. I go into a store and see an item I just love, but I don’t think I should spend the money. So I walk away. A few days later, I go back and think, “OK, if I love it that much, I should really buy it.” But when I look at it again, I don’t love it that much. Did the item change? No. My thinking about the item changed. I read recipes right before I go to the grocery store and I start thinking I really should try some of those exotic vegetables. I buy them. Two days later, I get ready to make dinner and I look at them and think, “Too much trouble. I’ll just make a salad.” Are the vegetables any less nutritious? Any less appealing? No. But my thinking about how much effort I’m willing to make to cook them has changed. No one would argue with examples like this.

But what about “serious problems?” That’s when we lose our perspective on the fact that things look different in different states of mind.  In the depth of seriousness, it really does look like there is no other way to see the problem. We forget that life is filled with ups and downs for all people, all the time. There are a lot of serious downs for everyone: we lose dear friends and loved ones; relationships fall apart; arguments escalate; bad things happen in the world; we lose homes and businesses to weather events; things break down just when we need them to work, investments fail; we fall victim to crime or violence. Everyone’s life can change in any moment. And in the midst of the worst things, we feel deeply painful emotions.

But here’s the thing about problems. You can’t change them.  You can only change how you approach them, how you think about them, how much of your peace of mind you are willing to give to them. The “drama” we suffer around problems is not a present moment, creative response.  The only way we experience drama is through dwelling on memories and regrets about what has happened, or dwelling on fear of what might happen next. In the present moment, with a clear head and a quiet mind, we just see how to move forward, one step at a time.

Here’s an example. I once worked with a client who, after years of what can only be called torture, finally escaped an abusive relationship and got far away from her abuser, to a place he would never find her or think to look for her. In a moment of clarity, she had an insight about how to do this and acted on it. For a few weeks, she was exhilarated in her new, free state. She found a job, found a place to live, started a new life. But then she started believing that her abuser would find her because she had let an old friend know that she was OK. What if the friend told him? What if the friend told someone else who told him? She couldn’t sleep nights. She was afraid every time she heard a footstep. She became, as she described, “a bunch of jangling nerves that never shut up.” She was just as terrified as she had been when she was living under the abuser’s roof. She started our conversation trembling, in tears, saying she would never, ever be free of him, no matter where she went. She insisted on closing the blinds to the room where we were meeting so no one could look in and see her. She had made her appointment under a false name and she arrived at the appointment wearing huge sunglasses with her long hair stuffed up under a wide-brimmed hat.

She wanted to talk to me about strategy. Should she move again? Should she chop off and dye her hair and have surgery to change her appearance? Should she change her name? Should she go to another country? She had thousands of thoughts about what she should or could do racing through her mind.

I wanted to talk to her about the beautiful feeling she had when she got the powerful insight about how to escape. She only needed to reconnect to that feeling, to that sense of peace and freedom and certainty, because in that feeling state, she would know what to do now.

I had no idea if any of her fears were justified, or if any of her ideas would work for her. It’s not my place to give advice to people because, in a calm state of mind, they are the experts on their own life choices. My job was to bring her back to the present moment and help her to quiet her frantic thinking and get calm. From that state, she would recognize the idea that would work out for her because her next insight would also come with an uplifting feeling in a moment of calm.

After a few sessions, she called me. She had read The Missing Link that I had shared with her, focusing on the passages about wisdom. She had done her best to quiet down and look in the direction I was pointing in our sessions. The morning she called me, it had dawned on her that she was working for a national corporation, a large big box store with thousands of locations all over the county, and she could ask her human resources department if there were any similar opportunities in different locations. She went right in to talk with them, and found out she could transfer to another state within a couple of weeks, if she was willing to move herself. She was making her plans to move. She had confided in her human resources advisor what her situation was, and the woman had a lot of compassion for her and was very helpful.

“This was such an obvious answer,” she said. “It was right in front of me the whole time. I just didn’t see it. Isn’t that weird? All of a sudden, it just popped into my head.”

Not weird at all, I assured her. It’s the guarantee of the human operating system. If we don’t over-ride the thinking that is natural to us, the easy flow of thought in the present moment, we keep getting the answers that make sense for us.

Did she really need to move? Was this the very best possible solution? It doesn’t matter. She found an answer she felt good about that made sense to her, and she found the understanding of where the answers come from that will continue to keep her safe. She found her happiness, and she knew where to look if she lost it again.

Was it easy?

To me, it’s the simple path to take. Trust that you have innate wisdom. See disquiet and insecurity as a sign you need to let your mind settle. Follow quiet and good feelings. They lead directly to happiness. When we are happy, “problems” fit into the tapestry of our lives and fade from the moment as understanding and solutions come to mind.

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Join me and my colleagues Dr. Bill Pettit and Christine Heath in June for a wonderful retreat, Awaken Joy!        We will share the incredible power of happiness and peace of mind to change our lives, and the world around us.

The post Is It Easy to Be Happy? appeared first on Three Principles Living.

Listen for a feeling

I will never forget the first time I sat in a big conference where Sydney Banks was speaking and heard him say, “Don’t listen to my words; listen for a feeling.” It was very early on in my exposure to the Principles, and I came close to fleeing the room.  As a hard-working, hard-charging business person in a service business, who had been a tough-minded newspaper reporter, I was highly educated and well-trained to listen to and pay close attention to words. Every word mattered. Getting people’s words “right” mattered.  I had a Master’s Degree with a focus on Linguistics, for heaven’s sake, and that was all about words. If you didn’t focus closely on words, you could end up being sued in my work. Feelings!? Huh???

I probably would have fled, except that I was seated in the middle of a row. I glanced around me; everyone was sitting quietly, unconcerned about what Syd had just said, just taking things in. I would have embarrassed the person who had brought me if I clambered over a bunch of quiet people to rush for an exit, and I was also trained to be courteous. So I sat there, trying not to display my restless confusion, wondering what the heck it meant to “listen for a feeling.” I didn’t hear much else that day because, of course, I could not figure that out. So I was still puzzling over it on the drive home.

On the way, I asked the person who had brought me. The ambiguous answer infuriated me, but I kept that to myself, too, for the sake of politeness. “I imagine it means something different to each person who hears it. You have to see it for yourself.” I turned on the radio, hoping to mask how annoyed I was.  That night, I lay in bed in turmoil. “Listen for a feeling,” just four ordinary little words, and they were so outside of my world when strung together that I could make no sense of them at all. I had spent more than an hour in the audience of the talk of a self-confessed uneducated person, and I had no idea of the meaning of what I had heard. Yet hundreds of other people in the room seemed to think it was wonderful. During the break, I didn’t hear a single other soul complain about being perplexed.

When I confessed my fear that whatever this was, it just wasn’t for me — too weird and airy-fairy — to my mentor, he just laughed and said, “Let it go. Just relax. It will all come together for you when you stop trying so hard.”

“But, but,” I spluttered. “I run a business. You guys are trying to turn my brain to mush.”

“Sorry,” he said. “We don’t have that kind of power. You can only do that to yourself. But don’t worry about it. It won’t last. How about we go get some lunch?”

Oh, I tell you, in the beginning these people were maddening! The more agitated I became, the less interested they were in talking about it (unlike most of my friends). But I admit that lunch and a few jokes and some trivial conversation that day cheered me up.

OK, I was at a turning point. I could walk away from a group of people who seemed to me to be uncommonly happy, contented, productive and kind, who seemed to really enjoy their lives, and thereby lose any chance of learning what they knew that I didn’t. Or I could just stop worrying about it and hang out with them, as they suggested, and see what happened if I wasn’t analyzing every single word they said to me.  It was not actually a tough choice. What person who aspired to sanity would walk away from people who clearly cared, had my best interests at heart, and really wanted things to work out well for me? Despite my prickly attitude, they actually seemed to like me; they were immune to taking offense.

Fast forward a year, a wonderful year of soaking in the experience of spending a lot of time with high-spirited, high-minded, compassionate people who just loved their work and life in general. I took the advice to “thank my brain for sharing” when a bunch of questions would start popping up in my head, and I discovered quietude. I discovered having no need whatsoever to keep talking when I had nothing contributory to say. Everyone noticed how much calmer I was.

And then, one magical day, I “heard” the feeling. I can remember that moment with the exactness of a perfectly enlarged and preserved photograph. I was holding a staff meeting with my employees. We had been struggling for a while with how to handle a particularly difficult — all right, abusive — client who was also a major contributor to our income. That afternoon, I just “saw” that I had to put an end to our contract with that client, no matter the financial implications. I had an insight of total moral and ethical clarity; it served no one to go along with abuse for the sake of money. I gathered my staff, after notifying the client, and I told them what I had done. They immediately launched a barrage of technical questions, but instead of hearing their questions, what I heard was, “they are all feeling insecure about this.” The feeling of insecurity loomed in my mind much larger than any specific question.

“You know what,” I said, “we don’t need to worry about all these details right now. We will work it out. And I have tremendous confidence in all of us staying together, working together, and doing just great together. This is just a moment in time. We have no idea, yet, what we might be able to accomplish without spending so much time on a negative situation, so let’s just have our coffee and cookies and enjoy some free time together.”

There was zero precedent for that in my previous work life. The “old” me, the one who couldn’t even imagine listening for a feeling and following that, instead of my intellect, would have forged on, trying to answer each and every question, getting into the weeds of what it would be like to extricate ourselves from a contract, keeping the meeting going until every last question was discussed for as long as people wanted to keep talking about it. I would have been drawing charts and lists up on the board, sending people out to find certain files for reference, calling our attorney and our accountant, focusing on the words people were saying as though, if I really got to the bottom of everyone’s concerns, it would all work out just great.

The “new” me, the one who heard the feeling, simply realized that what my staff needed was reassurance and getting their minds off their fearful questions until they could enjoy their freedom and think fresh. And you know what? That was absolutely perfect. We chatted and had coffee and the cookies someone always brought to our meetings, then went back to work. Within a few days, I had reviewed the dissolution with our attorney and our accountant and I had a game plan. We had a brief meeting; everyone saw what they needed to do, and it turned into a routine business transaction. No biggie.

The big surprise, though, was that my staff relaxed so much once that was behind us that they actually became ambassadors for our work. Our existing clients started telling their friends and colleagues how much they were enjoying working with us, and how pleasant our staff was. Within a year, we had nearly doubled our business.

And from that one meeting forward, that one time I was so fortunate that my head had cleared and my heart had heard, I lost my attachment to my intellect, and I lived in a world of feelings and responded to them with love and care, just as my mentors had responded to me.

Oh, wow! It was so simple, when I let it be simple.

I don’t mean to suggest that I turned into a lifelong model of great leadership with that one big insight. We’re all human; we drop into insecurity before we even see it coming; we do things we regret; we second-guess our own wisdom. But there was one permanent change in my life. That anxious, analytical, revved-up state did not, I repeat, did not feel normal to me, did not feel good to me. It wasn’t my baseline any more. I saw it as a warning sign to slow down and try to weather it until it passed, rather than a green light to create a lot of activity around me. My intent was to regain my good feelings as soon as I could. I did my best not to pay much attention to my own complicated thinking at those times. And I always knew that the quieter, calmer more insightful me was the real me, the true me, the core me that could be sidelined but would always be ready to step back into the game.

Once any of us sees that, we cannot be tricked by our own minds. We know where we are, and we find our way as long as we listen for a feeling.

The post Listen for a feeling appeared first on Three Principles Living.