One of the most beautiful things I can bestow upon you is the knowledge that love is the mystical key that opens the doors to the beauty and happiness you seek. Love… is a feeling that comes in many disguises. It may be caring for someone in need, loving your husband, loving your children, caring for and helping your neighbours and friends. Or it may be bringing a little joy to others who are less fortunate. There is no end to the different ways to use this beautiful gift called love. –Syd Banks
The Three Principles
A couple of years ago I was introduced to the work of a man named Syd Banks, a Scottish welder turned spiritual teacher who somehow managed to stay relatively unknown despite his teachings permeating the worlds of psychology, social work and self-help, most notably through the writing of Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff author Richard Carlson.Syd died last week, and in memoriam I’d like to share his three principles in his own words and talk a little bit about what they’ve meant in my life and work…
Principle Number One
“You know the eastern philosophers say: “big Mind, little mind”. And here’s the paradox. The little mind is the ego mind, that’s the self-centered “me” the big hotshot, the only thing in the world worth looking at in the mirror, is me.
The big Mind is the Divine Mind-the Universal Mind, which is the intelligence of literally all things in this world or any other world. That’s the Mind you should be looking for. That’s the Mind that has the power to guide you through life, and if you can see that, life becomes simple and you’ll find your happiness. Cause happiness is inside, honestly…it’s inside.”
When I first began studying Syd’s work, I was intrigued but not overly carried away. Despite having had the experience of one of my own biggest problems disappearing through a ‘principles-based’ intervention (to the point where I couldn’t remember I had even had it until a friend reminded me), I thought of it as just another model for understanding what makes us tick. But when I went deeper into the work (which really means deeper into myself), I was shocked to find something solid at my core – an innate happiness and wellbeing that existed independent of any circumstance and independent of any thought.
In my experience, when you begin to look beyond your personal mind to the impersonal, “big Mind”, you find something profound is waiting for you there. But I was still quite coy about speaking openly about this gateway to Spirit until one day I was attending a talk given by the brilliant principles-based psychiatrist William Pettit. He was asked about how he introduced the idea of a divine, Universal Mind to the soldiers he was treating in Iraq and the middle east for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. His answer stuck with me, as I suspect it will with you.
“I have never met a man who has held another man’s life in the scope of his rifle who hasn’t already spent a great deal of time contemplating the divine.” While I haven’t had a great deal of experience in that arena, I will say this – I have yet to meet anyone who hasn’t at least some awareness of a part of themselves which exists outside of and beyond whatever personal trials and tribulations we all face. And the more time we spend connected with that part of ourselves, the more beautiful our lives and the impact of those lives become.
Principle Number Two
“Consciousness gives us the ability to realize the existence of life. Consciousness has infinite amount of levels; you will never come to the end of Consciousness. It is literally impossible, because Consciousness is infinite-there is no end. And that’s a beautiful thing to know, because it means to say there is no end of you finding beauty, love and understanding in this world. You’re not going to stagnate, you’re going to keep growing, and the secret to growing is not to try.
The secret to happiness is not to go out there and try and find it, because happiness is not out there. Happiness lies within the consciousness of every human being if you can take your mind, clear it, become healthy, and see what you’ve got. Because you all have within you a divine secret, that all the wise, from the beginning of time have been trying to tell the world. You have it. That’s why the great mystics of the world tell you to look within, because what you seek is inside.”
One of the many metaphors for consciousness is that of a ladder. The higher up we are on the ladder, the easier it is for us to see what’s really going on around us. The lower we are, the more difficult it is to see. Here’s how Syd described it in his book The Enlightened Gardener:
“The way I see it, levels of Consciousness are similar to an outside elevator on a tall building. It goes up and it goes down all day, every day. The higher the elevator car ascends, the more can be surveyed. Views that may be blocked from the fourth floor can easily be seen from the tenth.
Similarly, the higher your level of consciousness, the more understanding will be in your heart. The higher the consciousness elevator ascends, the more you see and understand, allowing you access to more common sense and wisdom. That is, when your consciousness ascends to a higher level, it assists you to see beyond whatever misled thoughts were obscuring your vision yesterday.
Now consider that if someone were trying to explain such a psychological elevator ride-say, to the twelfth floor-to a person who had never been above the second floor, the conversation would appear mystical for the simple reason that he would be talking about the as yet unknown.”
What I have discovered in my life and in my practice is that the easiest way to measure your current level of consciousness is to tune into your mood. When you are feeling low (angry, frustrated, stressed out, uncomfortable, unwell, etc.), chances are that your level of consciousness has dipped and the things you are telling yourself about yourself, your life and the world will be largely inaccurate and unproductive. When your mood is higher and you are feeling happy, content and at peace, chances are your state of consciousness has raised as well, and from this place you’ll tend to think higher quality thoughts that can lead you to some pretty wonderful places.
Now this is not to say that you’re automatically in the same state of consciousness as the Buddha just because you’re feeling happy and contented today. But the more time you spend hanging out in your own good feelings, the easier it is to hear the quiet wisdom that can lead to a quantum leap in consciousness from wherever you are to whatever it is that is truly possible.
Principle Number Three
“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. It’s the missing link that everybody in this world is looking for.
We worry over nothing. How many times have you worried, and you look back in your life and say, “I don’t know why I ever worried about that,” or you’re in a big tantrum and you’re mad at the world or you’re mad at your spouse and three days later, you can’t remember why you were mad – because all it was was thought and you forgot what the thought was. The past is now, it’s history, it’s an illusion in time and if you’re going to work from that illusion in time, you’re going to keep it going, there’s no end to it.
To forgive is to forget, so you have to forget the past to forgive. Once you do that, you’ll find your freedom. But again I’m going to say to you, you don’t just do that to other people. When you look in the mirror, you see an innocent person. And I know sometimes you might look in the mirror and say, “Innocent my foot.” Because you don’t like what you see.
Why don’t you like what you see? Because of your thoughts, we’re back to that again. It’s always Thought, the missing link called Divine Thought. It’s a gift that we were given to have the freedom to walk through life and see what we want to see. How much better than that can you get? That you have the freedom to walk through life and see as a free thinker, that is the greatest gift ever, to be a free thinker.
Now this doesn’t give you the permission to act on your thoughts because then again, you have the freedom to have a thought to put life into it or let it die. I might have the thought all of a sudden, “Ooh, I’d love to have more money, I’m going to rob this bank,” but if I don’t do anything about it, I haven’t done anybody any harm. It’s only when I put life into my thoughts. But if I have the thought, “I’d like to help those people,” so I put life into this thought, and the second this life goes into this thought, my actions start, and I go out and I help people because you put life into your thoughts. It’s all Thought.”
I have probably written and spoken more about the principle of Thought than any other single thing in the 19 years or so that I have been writing and teaching, so rather than write more here I will finish with another couple of excerpts from Syd about how these three principles fit together in the creation of our lives and ourselves:
“What is Mind, Consciousness and Thought?
Mind is the intelligence of all things; Consciousness makes you aware; and Thought is like the rudder of a ship. It guides you through life and if you learn to use that rudder properly, you can guide your way through life far better than you ever imagined. You can go from one reality to another. You can find your happiness and when illusionary sadness comes from memories, you don’t try to figure it out. Please don’t try to do that – you’ll get yourself in trouble. All you have to do is realize that it’s Thought.
The second you realize that it’s Thought, you are touching the very essence of psychological experience. You’re back to the “now,” you’re back to happiness. So don’t get caught up on a lot of details…
When you’re ready, you will find what you’re looking for. I don’t care who you are. I don’t care where you are. If you’re in the middle of the Sahara Desert…and it’s time for you to find the answer, the right person will appear in the middle of the desert and let you know. He will say something to you that will trigger something inside you.
And that’s where that life comes from…inside out. It’s spiritual knowledge. It’s there, everybody has it and people don’t realize that. There’s no human being more spiritual than you-everybody is equal.
And you know what the equality is?
That we all derive from Mind, Consciousness and Thought.
That’s the equalizer. And while you have that equalizer you’re as good as anybody on this earth, you’re as holy as anybody else on this earth. You always have been, always will be, the only thing is you don’t see it because of your thoughts.”
Have fun, learn heaps, and may all your success be fun!