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A Flavour of the Three Principles of Life

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Sydney Banks before and after

In 1973, a Scottish welder called Sydney Banks was attending a relationships workshop. He was

Sydney Banks
apparently struggling so much that one of the facilitators went to speak to him. Banks said to the facilitator that he felt  too  insecure to gain any value from the workshop. The facilitator's reply was that Banks wasn't insecure, he just thought that he was.

Perhaps it was a product of the intense emotional struggle together with the facilitator's comment, but shortly after that conversation, Sydney Banks had a realisation experience that revealed to him the building blocks of all human experience. In that few seconds his life had changed.

Elsie Spittle, who knew Sydney Banks before and after the experience writes,

" In the past he was rather insecure and hesitant about life...After his enlightenment, his whole persona changed to one of confidence; his presence was charged with an energy I'd never seen in him before. He told us that he had discovered the secret to life..." (Beyond Imagination Elsie Spittle)

Banks codified his new understanding  into three principles that operate together to make up the whole of our experience of life. Those three principles are the simple sounding words, Thought, Mind and Consciousness.

Mind is the energy of the system as a whole that makes everything else possible. It is the energy and intelligence behind Life.

Consciousness is the capacity to be aware, and aware of our experience. Our 'level' of consciousness in the moment determines the quality of our experience.

Thought is the capacity for idea and emotion that flows through us and is expressed as personal thought and feeling. This is how we create our individual experience of reality.

"Thought is the missing link between the formless world of pure potentiality and the created world of form." (The Inside Out Approach Michael Neill)

 

One Thought Away

Sydney Banks said,

"Remember - and this is very important - you're only one thought away from happiness, you're only one thought away from sadness. The Secret lies in Thought."

(Sydney Banks quoted in Neill 2013. The Inside Out Approach)

Thought is at the heart of everything we experience, everything. The core insight of the Three Principles is that  feeling only ever comes from thought and is never directly caused by external circumstances. We are living in the feeling of our thinking.

Now this is a mind melt for many and a relief to some! It can be a mind meltdown because it means that it's not the boss, the spouse, the economy, or whatever we thought was causing our stress and bad feelings which is actually causing them. The bad feelings are the colour of the thoughts (both conscious and unconscious) about a particular situation. The feelings are a barometer, an indication of the quality of thinking we are having, rather than an effect of the world. So when I get annoyed at someone for being an idiot again (and they genuinely are behaving badly) the feelings come from my thoughts not the person's actions.

This can be difficult to grasp, and to a certain extent understanding the Three Principles is not about intellectual understanding. You either get it or you don't,  just as you suddenly understand the punchline of a joke. Much of coaching from a Three Principles approach is staying in the conversation long enough to 'get it'.

Main idea:

  • our feelings come from thoughts
  • our thoughts are not caused by the 'outside' world

A game changer

When you first see that thought is the source of feeling, it is a game changer. For example, I may now realise that I am feeling stressed because I am having  'stress thoughts', not because of the cruel and unusual practices of my employer. Now, the employer in this example may well be behaving in a way that is not helpful or kind, but my feeling of stress comes from my thoughts. That the thoughts are not caused by the employer can be seen from the fact that some days my thoughts about work are different. Some days in exactly the same work situation I have other thoughts and feelings and do not feel stressed. 

There are three typical responses to this information: One is to argue against the idea as if it were just another philosophical position.  The second is to  have an insight  that this understanding really is true, that we really are living in the feeling of our thinking. The third is to go, 'huh?' Quite often with 'huh?' there will be a sense of curiosity that will have you return to this enquiry from time to time, interested but unconvinced until one day you see it for yourself.

The flavour of thought

The major shift that comes with an insight into the Three Principles is that our feelings come with our thoughts, and are not caused by the outside world. Thus feelings are a barometer of the quality of thoughts we are having, rather than a statement about the external world (and certainly not a call to action).

Feelings are the flavour of thought.

So, a 'skill' that develops naturally with this understanding is listening for a feeling. We notice the  thoughts as they pass through us. Once we understand that our feelings are not caused by the world, we don't try to hold on to thoughts. We come to notice that thoughts are a never ending river, coming from the formless and seeking expression in the world of form.

When I know that the feelings comes from the thought I do not have to be afraid of my feelings. They are the colour of that thought. Sad feelings come from sad thoughts and will pass; happy feelings come from happy thoughts and will pass. I am free to enjoy happy thoughts and know that the sad/angry/depressed/fearful feelings will change.

We also begin to notice that thoughts and feelings about the future or the past are actually not about the future or past, they are thoughts and feelings happening now. So, on Sunday if I am getting anxious about work on Monday, it is not the work, it is not Monday, the anxious feeling is in the present moment of the thought. It can be a tremendous relief to know  there is nothing to do about the thought/feeling, nothing to fix because the thought and the feeling will naturally change as the river of thought rolls on.

On the other hand, if  I believe that the feeling is caused by the job  I will expend more thoughts thinking about this thought. I will think up a storm, entirely of thought/feeling  trying to solve a problem. The feeling is not a sign of a problem at work, the feeling is a sign of a thought.

Listening for a feeling

So we listen for a feeling to let us know how our thinking is. We learn to make decisions from our more uplifting thoughts and less often from our gloomy and anxious thoughts. As we do this, we become quieter inside. As we become more silent inside Wisdom begins to illuminate our consciousness. The intelligence of the design begins to light us up, as the sun lights up the earth when the storm clouds part. The sun is always there, the weather changes. The thicker and more agitated the clouds, the less light gets through. The clearer the weather, the more light can get through. When we are angry and convinced we are right, we have little access to our wisdom and it is very easy to take unfortunate action. We only have to take a look at the news for tragic examples. When we are quieter inside we still can experience anger, but we know that the feeling is just the colour of the thought. We do not need to act on the feeling. Action to correct a situation may well be necessary, that is how life is in the physical world; but action that comes from insight and wisdom is far more likely to be effective than action taken from a thunderstorm of feeling.

Staying in the conversation

The Three Principles are making a difference in a growing number of contexts and individual lives. If you keep looking in this direction, insight will come. I hope you enjoy the video below, Michael Neill is one of the leading teachers of this approach.

Michael Neill talks about the Three Principles

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Bibliography

  1. Spittle Elsie Beyond Imagination. Create Space Publishing platform: Create Space, 2013.
  2. Neill Michael The Inside Out Approach. London: Hay House, 2013.

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