In 2007, I stumbled across a description of the spiritual nature of life articulated by an enlightened Scottish welder named Syd Banks. He talked about life in terms of three principles – irreducible elements out of which everything in life is created.
While he described each of the principles in hundreds of different ways, here are some of his more concise descriptions to give us a starting point for our exploration throughout this article:
- Mind is the intelligence of literally all things in this world or any other world… (It’s) the Mind that has the power to guide you through life.
- Consciousness gives us the ability to realize the existence of life… Consciousness is infinite – there is no end to it.
- Thought is a gift we were given to have the freedom to walk through life and see what we want to see… Thought is not reality, yet it is through Thought that our realities are created.
- Mind + Consciousness + Thought = Reality
There’s a deeper feeling that comes with looking in the direction of these principles – a kind of inner awareness I imagine as being similar to a wire somehow becoming conscious of the electricity running through it. People love this feeling, and once they’ve touched it and associated it with learning about the principles, they often want to learn even more.
But because the principles themselves are so basic and our intellects love complexity, those of us who teach about them in the world have a tendency to speak as much or more about the implications of a principles-based understanding of life as we do about the principles themselves.
So we talk about the inside-out nature of experience – the fact that we’re living in the feeling of our thinking, not the feeling of the world. We point to the extraordinary capacity of the Mind to bring forth solutions to seeming insoluble problems. We talk about an understanding of the principles as being the solution to all the world’s problems. And as far as I can tell, we’re right.
And yet, the more we get into the implications of living in a Mind, Consciousness, and Thought-created reality, the further away we seem to get from the very feeling which drew us into the conversation in the first place.
For me, this came to a head a number of years ago after a seminar I was co-leading that had gone extremely well. We spent several hours with a group going through the inside-out understanding of experience, taking individual examples of experiences people had which seemed to be coming from their life circumstances and demonstrating in each case how the experience had only and completely come from their own thinking.
The group seemed thrilled with what they were learning, but I noticed myself feeling a bit “off”. Tempted as I was to dismiss that feeling as being “just my thinking”, I stayed with the feeling for a while in hopes that I might glean any drops of wisdom it had to offer.
Over drinks after the event, I was approached by an “old-timer” – someone who had spent many years studying with Syd directly back in the day. She kindly but conspiratorially asked me if I was open to a bit of feedback. As it happened I was, and what she whispered in my ear has changed the way I think about and teach the principles to this day:
“There are a lot of very well-meaning people teaching a lot of wonderful things that really are helpful,” she said. “But it’s not what Syd was up to.”
And suddenly I saw what was behind the “off” feeling I’d had throughout the day. We were teaching people a better way of using their minds and managing their feelings, based on a more accurate description of how the mind works. Syd was waking people up to the divine nature of their soul.
This, for me, is the “point” of the principles – the direction to which they are pointing. By seeing through the illusion of our Thought-created realities, we see through to a deeper truth – the world of spirit where, to paraphrase Syd, “we are not God, but God we are”.
We wake up to the deepest part of ourselves – our divine, impersonal nature. Here’s how Syd described it in his entry in Richard Carlson and Ben Shield’s anthology of spiritual wisdom, Handbook for the Soul:
The Soul is the only true source of spiritual nourishment. There are many ways to connect with and rekindle your relationship with your soul, but the most effective way is to rid yourself of the obstacles that come between you and your purity of thought.
You can begin the process of nourishing the soul by living in the present moment, in the now. And if your mind wanders, don’t take these thoughts too seriously. Just let them go, realize that they are nothing more than fleeting thoughts, and you will soon be on your way to finding the peace of mind you seek, with loving feelings for yourself and others bringing joy and contentment to your life.
In other words, when we see Thought for what it is, we no longer feel we have to be so careful with our thoughts. Like a pilot who understands the nature of clouds, we can enjoy their beauty, respect the larger system they are a part of, but not let them distract us or divert us from the journey home. We take our dark imaginings less seriously and get over ourselves more quickly. And as we spend less time living in the feelings of our thinking, we spend more time living in the feeling of our soul.
With all my love,
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Today, I want to share a third thing that I have come to see over a nearly 30 year career as a teacher and coach. It impacts how I do everything I do with students and clients, and is perhaps best summed up in this story I first heard in a dialogue between Anthony de Mello, an enlightened Jesuit priest, and one of his students….read more
In part one, I shared a simple truth about human beings that flies in the face of a lot of self-help ideologies and neo-cognitive therapies:
We aren’t in control of our thoughts and feelings. Today, I want to point to what may seem an even odder piece of good news…