An Introduction to the Three Principles...
There are three fundamental principles behind all human experience, that clarify how we experience the reality of our day-to-day lives, and that explain why life can be so challenging, despite our attempts to manage otherwise. With an understanding of these principles, everything in life simply becomes easier to navigate. Below is my personal story and attempt to explain the Principles... (a 20-minute read)
Note: This story and website was initially created, as a way to share my experience of the Principles with family and friends, as part of the 2013 edition
of the annual "Christmas Chronicler" newsletter created and distributed by Procrastination Publications.
The Secret to Happiness
The title above just begs for some smart-ass story about getting your spouse to stop snoring, or having found a proven method for avoiding the slowest checkout lane at the grocery store (both of which would be seriously
great, by the way).
Instead, this is actually an authentic story about having found the secret to happiness (perhaps more aptly described as the secret to life), after 40 years of dealing with my varying
levels of insecurities, fears, and depression. And no, I'm not kidding.
So how do I start? Well, there's really nowhere to go with this other than to jump right in, but please note that there is potential
for this to end up sounding like "Jonelle meets up with space alien" (which would also be really cool, by the way). And so, you may need to maintain some semblance of open-mindedness, as you read through this story.
After a recent introduction to a relatively new understanding and description of how human beings perceive and create their reality, I attained a profound understanding of the fact that all of my thought is not real,
and all of my thoughts are completely (and innocently, and unknowingly) made up by me. This insight led to 3 days of intense relief and well being and happiness, the realization of many new insights, followed by a significant change in my overall experience
and understanding of life.
During my 3-day revelation, I saw clearly (and held intense compassion for) the unnecessary suffering that ALL humans (including myself) innocently inflict upon ourselves.
I saw at a profound level, the interconnectedness of all people and all things... I saw clearly, the "equality" of all humans, no matter who they are, or what their actions or circumstances. I held an intense impersonal unconditional love for everyone. And
I came to a deep understanding of faith in the fact that all of us always have access to complete understanding of life, no matter what craziness is going on inside us or around us... I saw that anyone, including myself can have a life much less affected by
anger, frustration, regrets, fears, judgements, envy, jealousy, resentment, loneliness, disappointment, or whatever bad feelings are going through our heads at any moment in time.
And by the way, did
I mention that I wish I had come to this understanding about 40 years earlier?
At this point, I'm guessing that you're thinking one or all of the following:
- OK, what drug is she on, and where can I get some?
- Blah, blah blah...
- If I had a ton of money, I'd be really happy
- We have to "work" to make happiness by being a certain type of person, by doing specific things, by achieving success (however we
define it), or by getting/having specific things
- I'd be happy if it weren't for some of the people that I have to deal with, or work with, or live with, or hear about on the news
- I'd be happy if I found the perfect person to share my life with
- What on earth is she talking about?
The wonderful thing about this understanding
is that we're born with it, and everyone has access to it. In fact, it "operates" whether we understand it or not, and when we do understand it at a level of insight, our lives automatically become easier. The unfortunate thing about this understanding is
that "we often can't see the forest for the trees". We are so conditioned to believing that our personal experience of life is real, and that our happiness comes from outside circumstances (like those mentioned above), that we completely miss realizing what
we already have and what we already are and how our experience is being created.
And, as much as I would love to immediately have everyone experiencing this same realization of wellbeing, I've discovered
that just offering an explanation of what I've learned doesn't seem to immediately "turn on the light" for every person. Most individuals appear to see the common sense of it, but when and how they begin having insights into the profound "truth" of it for
themselves, and notice the resulting changes in their understanding and their state of well being, is as unique as each person.
However, that won't quite dissuade me from trying to explain it... After
all, who wouldn't want to reduce a little suffering, and spread around a little happiness?
And so, with this in mind, I'll do the best I can to explain, hoping that at least a little bit of the insight
may begin to sink in for you. I'll start first by sharing a bit of my previous experiences of life, despite the fact that I still have some lingering insecure thoughts about sharing it.
Procrastination... It Had to Start Somewhere
At a few points in my childhood, and then more noticeably as I headed into my teens, I started to suffer with thoughts of insecurity. I felt that I wasn't very good looking, and spent most of my life feeling self conscious,
awkward, and uncomfortable in my own skin. I also felt inadequate in my behaviours (or lack thereof). When I didn't do the things I was "supposed" to do, like practice the piano, or clean my room, or study for a test, I'd suffer the obvious consequences, in
addition to beating myself up for not doing them. I agonized over why I couldn't/wouldn't do these things (despite the consequences), and never gave myself credit for doing them on the occasions that I did, and in fact never gave myself much credit for doing
anything. In my mind, nothing I did was ever good enough.
I remember distinctly HATING the phrase "give 110%" because no matter what I did, I always knew that it could be done better. I never understood
how anyone could give 100%, let alone 110%... What the hell were they talking about? In retrospect it could be that this unrealistic standard of "unattainable perfection" was what blocked me from making decisions, completing tasks, facing fears, and taking
risks... Although who knows where my crazy beliefs and resulting behaviours actually came from (oh wait, I do know now, and that's what I'll be sharing a bit later)?
My life from that point, began
to appear to me, as an unending state of regret and disapproval of myself for my never-ending procrastination habits, perceived inadequacy, unfulfilled "shoulds", and fear of being judged or found out.
it's not like I was thinking these thoughts 24/7... Life goes on, and so despite my insecurities, I did plenty of things, and I got plenty of things done, and I achieved plenty of things, and I had plenty of enjoyable experiences, adventures, joy, fun, and
laughter, and I lived through the busy-ness of day-to-day life. And most days as I recall, were not that bad... fluctuating between feeling various levels of good and bad, with mostly good (or at least neutral or "OK"). I was also fortunately buoyed with the
ability to frequently see moments of humour in my every day experiences... a lot of things in life simply made me laugh.
Drugs of Choice
And then there were the days and dark evenings dwelling in my worry, fears, disappointment, confusion, despair, as well as frustration over my inability to change. And so unconsciously, as a way to stop thinking my depressive
thoughts, I'd use my "drugs" of choice... watching TV, sleeping, and eating... which I then felt bad about doing too... And so continued the never-ending cycle of beating myself up.
My thoughts were
so real to me in fact, that I'd unconsciously think myself into sickness to avoid my fears of having to do whatever things I thought I would fail at, or I'd just unknowingly wear myself down, so I couldn't fight whatever bug I caught (hence the nickname "3-Day"
in high school, since I often didn't make it to school more than 3 days a week). Then stepping into my 20's, I added another addiction... looking for the answers to whatever ailed me by becoming a self-help junkie.
The 23 years that I spent reading hundreds of self help books, following tons of programs and techniques, and taking tons of courses, was at times actually helpful... After all, I did learn a lot, and I developed lots of useful skills, and I got to
use and share a lot of the knowledge in my job doing training, communications, and organizational development. But ultimately, the depression still continued coming in and out in waves. And the depression contributed to a failed long-term relationship, which
then just added more stuff to feel bad about.
More recently, to add fuel to the fire, my improved listening and questioning skills (developed from my teaching and coaching), resulted in an increased
awareness of my thinking, and just made me more aware of (and focused on) my depressive thoughts whenever I had them. Finally, all the years of self-induced stress and anxiety began causing a permanent toll on my physical health.
At some point earlier this year (2013), tired of being sick, tired of focusing on my depressive thoughts, and with not much relief in sight, I just kind of started giving up, and accepting my inability to change. Funnily enough, what
I understand now, is that "just giving up" was a very helpful thing for me to do... In all the thinking, and agonizing, and trying, I was cluttering up my mind, and not allowing access to the innate wellness (automatic re-set button) that exists within all
of us. OK, I know you're probably thinking that's kind of a loopy statement, and you're worried I'm going to ask you to put a pyramid on your head, or sew crystals into your underwear... but bear with me...
Just at this time of giving up, I came across a video description of the understanding that significantly changed my view of life... I'll do my best to explain it as I currently understand it.
Photo: An early November evening on Salt Spring Island, British Columbia, Canada
The Three Principles
There are 3 fundamental principles (facts) that explain how all human beings perceive their experience of life, and which many others have been pointing to throughout time. They were realized and then shared by an enlightened
man (a Scottish Canadian named Sydney Banks from Salt Spring Island BC). And for some reason, just understanding these principles at a level of insight, can give people access to their innate happiness and well being.
1) One of the principles is referred to as Mind - It's not actually referring to the fact that we all have brains (although it is often argued that some people have no brains, but I won't be addressing that specific example here )... Instead it's just the label used to refer to "that" which makes up life... the fact that all life and all matter is made up of some sort of intelligent
yet incomprehensible energy. For example, some clever scientists discovered we are all made up of a bunch of vibrating atoms (electrons, neutrons, and protons). We have no idea where this energy (or universal intelligence) comes from, we don't know where it
starts or where it ends, and as far as we know it is infinite... existing within everything... extending out forever through the billions of galaxies into the universe... and extending infinitely inward into the limitless minute-ness of those vibrating atoms.
All of this energy exists... It's a fact... But how it was created is a mystery. Many of course, see this energy, or the creation of this energy, as God. Some see this energy as a common thread that unites all people and all things... the spiritual "oneness"
of everything. Whatever it is, it is "big", it is incomprehensible, it is impossible to clearly explain with words, and when you consider its vastness and complexity, it's quite amazing. And what I also know now (as many others already knew or sensed or believed),
is that it has more significance in our lives than we can possibly realize. It's something we are all a part of, and it's something we can all rely on.
2) So besides the fact
that we exist in a living form, made up of the same atoms that make up the rest of the universe, this universal intelligence of Mind also provides us with Consciousness, and here's some things I've learned about this fact. Because we have consciousness, we
experience (or have an awareness of) our life. We not only have the ability to experience the physical world around us through our senses (sight, hearing, smell, touch, taste), but we are also conscious of the world and our experience of it through our thinking/feeling.
Throughout each day, we experience various levels of consciousness, by being less aware or more aware of what's going on around us, and what we're thinking about. On the humorous side, when we are not conscious, we're either passed out or dead (although even
that's probably debatable). And sometimes even when we are conscious, we aren't really "aware" at all, such as in the experience of driving to work, and then realizing we don't remember any of the drive at all. And then there's the "lights are on but noone's
home" level of consciousness issue (but again, I won't be addressing that specific issue here). We also seem to experience various "states of consciousness"
(for lack of a better term), which continually go up and down... from the days when we're easily irritated and bothered by everything that happens, to the days when we seem to be able to handle anything, no matter what problems get thrown our way... Or the
times when we're all caught up in the problems and details of a situation, and yet at another time are able to view it from a broader, clearer, and calmer perspective. Consciousness also allows us to be aware of our connection to Mind.
3) The other principle, already eluded to is Thought. We know we have consciousness, because we have thought. And thought (when you think about it - ar ar) is quite amazing... We all have this "crazy"
ability to produce an infinite number of thoughts about anything. First of all, consider that each of us has about 60-80,000 different thoughts that pass through our head each day (who actually counted that, I have no idea!) Then consider how many different
thoughts we can have about any one thing, and how our thoughts about that one thing can change from second to second, or from day to day. One day I could be thinking really angry thoughts about a specific event, but the next week, not so much. In reality,
the event didn't change, just my thoughts about it did. This perspective helps us to realize that all of our thought is subjective, and basically, "not real". The "not real" thing might be a bit hard to grasp yet, but don't try to figure it out, just read
Thought-Producing Super Heroes
And we never really think much about our thinking (probably because we've already got too much other stuff to think about), but how cool is it that we all have this never-ending stream of thought. In fact, just like our
heart keeps pumping blood, and our body keeps repairing it's wounds... our human system just keeps pumping out thought... continuously, every second, 24/7. We're like "thought-producing" superheroes, who can think or imagine ANYTHING, with no limit to the
variety and creativity of our thought. And look at what amazing things that we as human beings are able to do with our thoughts... learning, imagining, dreaming, solving simple problems, solving complex problems, creating new inventions, creating art, creating
music, and coming up with billions of creative and inspiring ideas, except of course, how to easily remove the stupid plastic packaging off the electronic item we just purchased. Seriously, what is up with that!?!
So how does the understanding of these three principles help make us happy?
Well, as mentioned, we can all likely agree that these 3 principles are true (that we are part of a universal intelligent
energy, and that we experience our lives through consciousness/awareness, as well as through the amazing gift of thought)... However, you're now probably saying... "OK, I get those things... So what?" Unfortunately, just being aware of them "intellectually"
doesn't seem to naturally lead to happiness (navigating life with more ease and understanding). Instead there appears to be a requirement for us to have an "insight" about the principles... We don't just "get it" as a concept, but we suddenly realize the truth
of it for our own entire experience of everything in our life. And at that moment of realization, we begin to connect to something bigger, something spiritual, and we open up some kind of door that begins to give us easier access to what we already have...
innate well being and love. Well, at least that's what happened for me...
"Holy Crap" Moment
And so here's what did happen for me... The realization that I can have no perception or experience of anything, other than through my own thoughts, that all my negative thoughts were made up entirely by me, that I innocently
believed them as real just because I thought them, and that I innocently/unknowingly used my thoughts to beat myself up... "Holy crap! All those thoughts were ENTIRELY - MADE - UP! Holy crap! Those thoughts weren't real! Holy crap! All these years I've been
making all this stuff up! Holy crap! This is completely hysterical. OMG! Holy crap! All my thoughts are made up, and everyone else's thoughts are made up too... We're all equally crazy! And most of us have no idea!" It just seemed to me so incredibly funny!
A kind of cosmic joke being played on everyone. Does God actually have a wicked sense of humour?
With this realization, the huge weight of self judgement and pressure to be something other than what
I was just lifted off my shoulders, and my entire perception of my reality and my life changed. And with the intense relief, I experienced intense joy and connection and love for myself and everyone else, and really saw and felt what is "within" all of us.
Shortly after it first happened, I distinctly remember feeling like Alistair Sims as Scrooge in the old black & white classic movie... giggling, and dancing, and laughing hysterically after realizing he hadn't missed Christmas after all. That's exactly
what I felt like on the inside, and I just couldn't stop smiling on the outside (my cheeks actually began hurting)... "I'm as light as a feather!"
<<< OK, just pause here for a bit.
And if you're so inclined, why not go grab a cup of tea or coffee? >>>
More About Thought
So for most people, it appears that the principle of thought is where they begin to get their first insight... So here's a little more about what I learned about thought. Thoughts, opinions, beliefs, reactions, perceptions,
impressions, assumptions, attitudes, judgments, fears, concerns, worries, anger, frustration, loneliness, jealousy, envy, inadequacy... basically whatever thoughts or feelings we have.... anything that goes through our head is just a thought.
What was astonishing for me to discover, as mentioned, was that our thoughts are not really "real". Things are somewhat real, and events are somewhat real, but our thoughts about them are not. They are all an illusion. Now
I know that might be getting into crazy-territory, but since you got this far, keep sticking with me if you can.
Our perception of life and our experience of life (good and bad), comes not from the
events that happen during our lives, or what we or other people do or don't do, or what we have or don't have. Instead, our experience of life comes entirely from our nonstop, moment to moment, up and down stream of thought. No matter what we see, what we
do, or what happens to us, everything is perceived by each of us, individually, through our own unique and personal thinking in each moment. No exception.
We all have a limitless ability to think an
infinite number of thoughts, and in fact, without even trying, thousands and thousands and thousands of them pass through our minds each day.
And since we can have these thousands of possible different
thoughts, and since we can also have thousands of different thoughts about the same thing, and since those thoughts can also change at any moment... It can begin to give you a sense of the "fleeting validity" of our thoughts and opinions and beliefs about
anything. There isn't one specific thought that is the absolute "truth" or reality, so in essence, no thought is real. Except for the truth of the fact that "we think", we basically make up our thoughts, and therefore make up our own reality (good or bad),
for every single moment we live.
In addition, our thoughts cause our feelings... how we feel... although even feelings come to us through the form of thought as well. Where this can be useful though,
is in the truth that when we have a flow of good thoughts we feel good. When we have a flow of bad thoughts, we feel bad. If we're feeling worry, it's because we're having worry-filled thoughts... We're not feeling worry because of the situation, we're feeling
worry because of our thoughts. If we're feeling angry, it's because we're having angry thoughts. We're not feeling angry because of the situation, we're feeling angry because of our thoughts. Let's take a look at an example...
Flat Tire - Frustrating, Fatal, or Funny
Let's consider getting a flat tire... Most people will have an immediate thought that this event is bad, and get a bit bummed out. One person will get over the feeling quickly (naturally dismiss their thoughts), and just
get into action replacing the tire, and forget about it later. Another person might continue to stew over the situation and get angrier and angrier, kick the tire, throw around the tools, swear through the whole process of putting on the new tire, have it
ruin the rest of their day, spend the week feeling sorry for themselves, and bitch about it to everyone. Another person might go immediately into a bit of fear, being stranded alone while they change the flat tire, or being frustrated with or anxious about
not knowing how to change it. Another person might notice the humour in the situation, deal with it as best they can, and then go around telling their amusing story over the next few days. The common thing here is that the situation could be exactly the same
for each person... Same road, same car, same time of day, same schedule for the day... But each person, without exception, has used their own personal flow of up and down thought on that day in that particular moment, to create their own experience of the
event... And so it goes for every single minute and event and situation in our lives.
So let's look at this another way... For each individual, our experiences and feelings about any bad event or situation,
are not based on the event or situation itself, but are based solely on our thoughts. Even though our thoughts and feelings feel really real, and we can give a hundred reasons to justify why they are real, and why we deserve to feel this way, the truth is
that they are not "reality" or "truth", they are just thoughts... And we made them up (they innocently popped into our head), from an infinite list of thought possibilities. Yes, "bad" things happen, but it is totally through our thoughts that we perceive
the experience... Whatever moment to moment, up and down flow of thoughts we have determines the level of badness, the intensity of badness, the validity of the badness, how long we continue to suffer/re-live the badness despite the fact that the actual event
is over and no longer happening... You get the idea (and if not, just keep reading)...
The Pink Elephant in the Room
Besides thought being infinitely variable, and made up by us, we don't actually come up with our thoughts consciously or deliberately. Literally thousands of thoughts (good and bad) flow through our brains each day, and
we don't have any direct control over what thoughts we think. For example... If I tell you to NOT think about a pink elephant... Just "try" not thinking about it... I dare you! Or for another example, I could ask you to describe what that pink elephant looks
like, which may cause you to believe that you are choosing which thoughts to think. However, in actual fact, even though you are somehow focusing or guiding your thinking toward something specific (the traits of the pink elephant), you are not consciously
"choosing" which traits to think of next. Instead, you are just accepting/thinking the random "pink elephant description" thoughts as they pop into your head.
And so, even though we make up all of
our thoughts, we don't do it consciously. Just this knowledge can give a sense of relief and awareness of our own innocent role in the creation, understanding, and misuse of thought, especially for those of us who tend to beat ourselves up or stress ourselves
out with our own thoughts... whether thinking about ourselves or others (which is just about everybody).
Why this is also good to know, is that even though we have no control over what thoughts appear,
what we now have is the knowledge to NOT take our thoughts seriously, or the knowledge to question their validity or importance. When we realize this, our thoughts hold less power and significance in our life, and we more quickly forget about them... Just
like the first driver with the flat tire who initially got angry, but who somehow understood that this was not something to get overly upset about. The potentially bad event did not stay in their thoughts and affect their mood for the rest of the day. It was
just understood or felt as part of the natural ups and downs of life. As Sydney Banks was known to say, "Life is a contact sport".
Even More Thoughts on Thoughts
If you think about it, we actually dismiss all sorts of thoughts all day long without even thinking about it. There are thousands of thoughts that we don't act on, and thousands of thoughts that we think about and forget
later. (And for goodness sake, why is it that whenever I get introduced to someone, it's always my thoughts about their name that I seem to choose to let go of...) And all those thoughts we let go are no different than any of the other good or bad thoughts
we have... For some reason however, many of us give significance and meaning to our bad thoughts, or at least the specific bad thoughts that tend to catch our attention. But if we could frequently consider or realize that our bad/stressful thoughts are not
real (not providing any truth about what we're thinking about), that they are just a result of a particular flow of thinking in the moment, imagine how much easier and stress-free our lives would be.
Another perspective for thoughts is that they are "neutral" or "powerless" when they initially occur. They only gain power when we give them power. They only become real when we believe them as real.
Ultimately, ALL thoughts (good or bad) are not real. They are illusions. Each of us lives in our own personal reality (experience of life), made up entirely by the continual flow of up and down thoughts
that we innocently choose to believe (give meaning and significance to), along with the corresponding feelings. Because of this, we ultimately have the "free will" to live in our own moment to moment personal vision of hell or heaven on Earth, based on which
flow of thinking is appearing in our head and how much we are innocently and unknowingly focusing on, giving significance, and believing as real.
Back to Happiness...
And so that's where the "happiness", comes in. When we understand that all thought is not real, we begin to pay less attention to our thoughts (good and bad), and so there's automatically less effort and more ease. When
we're feeling at ease, we tend to see things from a clearer perspective, we tend to make decisions more easily, we tend to come up with new ideas, we tend to discover previously un-thought of solutions, and we see the world from a more loving, forgiving, and
And when this happens we begin to get glimpses of the "something" that is much bigger than we can comprehend, the something that ultimately is a part of all of us, the something
that transcends whatever silly thoughts we come up with, and the part of us that is pure unconditional, impersonal love... not in any way broken, and equal and connected to all humanity, each of us innocently creating our experience from the up and down flow
of thought in each changing moment.
So that was my experience, and that's the best that I seem to be able to explain it for today. I can pretty well guess that
you don't necessarily see what I see, and you're wondering when I started drinking... But that's (of course), your thoughts, and fortunately, much less
often mine. And while you may be pondering my fading sanity, I'll hopefully be in one of my occasional moments of grace, dismissing the latest insecure flow of thought passing through my head... And hoping that all others who suffer, are fortunate enough to
eventually see that they are just unaware of the power of the flow of thought, that they're often just overthinking things, that they are actually not "broken" in any way, that they are part of something amazing, that they are worthy of love, that they actually
"are" love, and that they are just one thought away from the insight into their innate happiness and well-being.
If you're interested in learning more about the
Three Principles, or have a sense that I actually may not be going off the deep end after all... I would be happy to talk with you further. Alternatively, this site offers a variety of resources that can provide other perspectives for your understanding of
the "secret to happiness" for you.
More of my personal journey with the 3P understanding can be found at http://www.procrastinationpublications.com/295705292
With love and laughter,
What's a website, without a disclaimer? So here it is...
Despite the profound nature
of my insight into the Three Principles, I am still a perfectly-imperfect "human" (as we all are). I still believe a lot of my thinking including dealing with insecure thoughts, getting frustrated with unwanted behaviours, judging others, comparing myself
to others, wanting to be "special" (the good kind LOL), worrying about financial security, missing noticing the profound miracles of life, and not always living in a state of grace and gratefulness. However, my perspective on life continues to improve each
- I haven't had any extended depressive periods for months
- I still occasionally get irritated, worried, anxious, etc., but the degree seems to be less, and I usually let the thoughts go sooner
- I often remember
the realization that it doesn't matter what I do, or what I have, or what I look like, or what is going on in the world around me, I will be perfectly OK, because I just "am" perfectly OK (which for me, is the real meaning of hope and faith)
of little things that used to irritate me every day are rarely even noticed anymore
- I more often see and appreciate the miraculous nature of life and the people in it
- I more often feel deep gratitude
- I more often feel compassion
and forgiveness, noticing others are just caught up in flow of their thinking
- And fortunately, as always, I still find a lot of things very funny
I don't know if, when, or how an understanding of the Principles will affect
your life, whether through profound insight, or a gentle ease into understanding, or possibly through tumultuous flip flops between the world of thought and the world of grace, or perhaps even not at all. Each person's experience is as unique as they are.
Since this site focuses mostly on my own unique experiences with the Three Principles understanding, I've provided a 3P Resources page, where you can learn about and
from the experiences of others.
May I wish you well on your journey.