What if we humans are designed so perfectly that every feeling we have comes from a place of love? This is the question that Juliet Fay and I explore during our conversation, as well as looking at control and what it may have to tell us, and much more.
Juliet Fay divides her time between West Wales, UK and West Coast, US, sharing and teaching in a variety of ways: group programmes, online gatherings and 1:2:1 consultations.
She trained as a Three Principles Facilitator with The Insight Space, London in 2016-17 under the direction of Ian Watson and Carol Boroughs and returned as a peer mentor for their programme in 2018-19. She also attended The Three Principles School on Salt Spring Island in British Columbia, Canada in 2017 and periodically attends Three Principles Conferences (UK and 3PGC) and programmes virtually or in person.
You can find Juliet Fay at SolCare.org.
- Learning the root cause (and cure for) unstable moods
- How what’s happening for us in a given moment looks true
- How our thinking settles down temporarily when we think we’ve found a solution to a ‘problem’
- How insight is tailored to each of us
- Is life asking us to go deeper into not knowing?
- How can we learn to simply be present with what’s happening, including our feelings?
Resources Mentioned in this Episode
- Unbroken episode with Maryse Godet Copans
- Ian Watson
- Carol Boroughs
- Juliet’s episode on The Beautiful Feeling podcast
- Juliet’s podcast with Carla Royal
Transcript of Interview with Juliet Fay
Alexandra: Juliet Fay, welcome to Unbroken.
Juliet: Thank you. It’s a pleasure to be here.
Alexandra: Why don’t you tell us a bit about your background and how you found the principles?
Juliet: Okay, so I was a searcher. I’m a seeker, and had been, I think, from a young age. And so the principles came across my path at a time in my life, I guess, when I was in a period of struggling more intensely than I had been.
I love the stories of how people find the principles or how the principles find them, whichever way you want to say. And I came across it randomly a video on YouTube, actually, through an email that I’d signed up to, but didn’t usually read. And it’s funny, isn’t it, because I’m actually quite good at keeping my inbox clean of when I’m no longer interested in something, I tend to unsubscribe and this one had had stayed there, all these months and months and months. And I never opened them. And then one day, the subject line just jumped out at me.
The webinar was called ‘Can an insight cure PTSD?’ It was Mary Schiller being interviewed by Molly Gordon, who’s a dear friend. So I’m sorry, Molly, that I didn’t open all those emails before. And I didn’t know much about PTSD. I didn’t. But I was aware it was considered a mental illness. And who knows why, but something really piqued my curiosity. To the extent that it was a live hangout, you could join, and I missed it, and then went back searching through my emails to find it again, because it pinged again in my head.
I’ve really learned to trust this. Now when something pings, and you don’t ignore it, it’ll come back. And then if you still ignore it, it’ll be back my way. So it goes. So I went and I found the recording, I watched it was an hour and Mary Schiller talking about her experience of PTSD and how this thing called the principles and she’d read Michael Neill’s book, I think, his first book, perhaps, and had had a life altering insight. And it really piqued my curiosity. I think that’s all I can say at that point, there was like, there’s something here.
I think it’s a very common story, I went off and just gorged on the Principles materials, webinars, books, anything I could get my hands on, for quite a while I went really deep into it.
I think the first thing that I saw that was so helpful to me at the time, which is maybe very obvious to, maybe if some people learn this already on the way, but somehow I had missed this one, which was that I am always at the effect of what looks true in my head at any given moment. If I believe what’s going on in my head, then what I say and do will follow from that. And that’s true for everyone else to.
Now, that was so helpful, because I’d spent decades trying to figure out and analyze why I was the way I was, and the way I was was I had really unstable moods. To an extraordinary degree. I looked at everything that came from diet to genetics to therapy and medication. I mean, like the loads of people, I tried everything, yoga affirmations, eating kale running. It was, and some things were helpful for a while, and I’m sure right now, from this distance, I guess I can see that we’re always having insights. So I was having insights, but things didn’t, I guess, give me lasting change.
And so this little really quite simple idea that we’re just at the effect of what looks to in any given moment, even if two minutes later, that changes and what you felt and thought five minutes ago looks ridiculous to you. In the moment, that’s all that’s going on. I do remember that, when I saw that there was this huge relief that all this analyzing and trying to sort of get all my ducks in a row to get this perfect, perfect outcome because perfect outcome was part of the problem. If I was a same sweet woman, that’s what I wanted, which is flawed, let’s face it as an objective. But it just took away such sort of layers and layers of complexity.
For me, that’s all that’s going on. I’d love to say that then everything dissolved, and I was fine. But that’s not what happened. For me, that was the starting point. So it certainly didn’t mean I wasn’t at the effect of upsetting distressing very insecure thinking I still was and still am. But it took away the need to go down all this these rabbit holes of is it diet? Is it genetics? Is it nurture nature? Is it my, my work? Is it my relationships? Is it where I live? Is it my bank balance?
Because you can see, I’m sure I wasn’t alone in that many of us spend a huge amount of mental energy trying to figure out what the problem is, and then trying to fix the problem. And sometimes we might, sometimes we don’t. But I think for some of us, there’s a pattern there that the seeking and working it out, becomes an end in itself. Because part of us feels like we’re doing something we’re trying to address it. And we actually just get very, very busy in our head. And out in the world. In my case projects were one of my coping mechanisms.
Alexandra: You said so many interesting things there. And I had a huge insight while you were speaking. Many people who are on this show, talk about all the things they’ve tried, myself included to “fix themselves”. And almost everyone to a person, including myself, says the things were helpful for a while.
My insight just then was that that’s because our thinking shifts momentarily. We think, Oh, this is the thing that’s going to fix me, this is the thing that’s going to work.
There’s this honeymoon period, because our thinking has changed. And then that fades, of course, our thinking changes as it always does. And that fades away. And then we’re on to the search for the next thing. So thank you for sharing that. I really appreciate it.
Juliet: You’re welcome. That’s really interesting what you said, because not only does your thinking change, but your thinking settles down, because it looks like the solution is here. And so all that stuff we have running about I’m wrong, it’s wrong, that’s wrong, everyone’s wrong, whatever it is, quiets down. And in that more settled mind it looks very true to me that as the mind settles down, the body settles down.
A lot of the fixes we look at are trying to do that the other way around, trying to settle the mind to settle the body. And it’s not to say some deep breathing doesn’t calm the nervous system a bit. But I think the power of insight is something I know you’re interested in. And before I call I was sort of reflecting a little bit so yeah, insight what, what was kind of what is that? And why is it such a common term in this conversations around the principles and what’s different about that from a good idea? Or a great strategy or and I think, for me, it’s a good idea or a great strategy. It’s something that I might try and put into place in my life.
I’ll probably need prompts and reminders and I might have to check in with why I thought it was such and my experiences that kind of relies on willpower to keep moving it forward, and sometimes they do and sometimes they don’t. Whereas insight feels that it’s raw is what I would call it. Where is a concept and an idea and a strategy is a bit abstract. It’s like, oh, that’s up there looks really great on this web page. And now I’ve got to like, pull it down, and I got to apply it. And you can feel it. It’s kind of work.
An insight is feels more like something arises in your bones. And because you know it in your bones don’t have to think about it. You don’t have to apply it. And so behavior shifting, or behaviors dropping away whatever it is, happens with apparently without effort. But maybe I should pause that, because I’ve got another piece that I’d like to say about insights.
Alexandra: I love what you’re saying.
For me, it’s pointing to that idea of freshness.
But you’re also pointing to, for me, it often can feel like the thing was already there and I’m just awakening to it. So that’s what I see in what you’re saying. Please, continue.
Juliet: Oh, that’s really nice. I really like that. Because it can have that quality of like, of course. Almost like I’ve always known this. I just didn’t know that I did. That almost. Is that what I’m hearing that that? Yeah, that’s, that’s beautiful. Because it is isn’t it once. It’s like, before we’ve seen it, we can’t see it. It’s invisible. And in the moment of seeing it has a rightness for us. It’s very tailored, I think, to each individual.
I think the other thing that is fascinates me about insight is …I can share an experience I had on Saltspring Island, it’s not far from you. It’s just where insight comes without any meaning or words or anything. In fact, I wouldn’t have even called it an insight. I was really, really lucky to get to go to the Salt Spring school, the Three Principles school on Salt Spring Island with Elsie Spittle in 2017. It was early in my Principles journey. And I’d been around it for a couple of years.
I was having an incredible few months just prior to going out there. A very kind of expanded feeling state. I can remember driving back from London to West Wales where I live, which is about five hour drive down the motorway. And after Three Principles training weekend, and the beauty of the autumn leaves on the embankment on the side of this freeway I just was welling up welling up and welling up. And again, no words, just this beauty filling me up in a way that I almost felt like I can’t contain it. It’s too beautiful.
And this was happening a lot. I often just had water falling out my eyes. I went to Salt Spring Island and I had just met the man who’s now my husband. And we were there together so that there is I should mention that because that was we were on a trip together there. But I sat in the three days school. And I just literally had water falling out of my eyes. I wasn’t crying in the kind of sense of being upset. And I was also moving around going to lunch in the evening, get together with people. I sat through the whole school and I can’t tell you anything that anybody said. I even watched some of the recordings they put out after the school. And I was like was I there? Because I don’t remember anything that they said.
But there was this what looking back it’s really interesting actually telling you about it now. I suppose I would say now that something was touched inside of me and all this was like a clearing or a cleansing and I had had no words for it then and I still have no words for what really was happening. But it was so outside anything I’ve ever experienced that I also didn’t have any questions you know, I didn’t I wasn’t disturbed or even confused and I just remember that everything else I was bringing looks so beautiful. I suppose what’s coming to me right now is I think I was surrendered. In that time and what a beautiful, beautiful feeling that is when we give up the fight.
Alexandra: What an experience! When the school was over, what was that like for you?
Juliet: Well, this very expanded state continued to some extent. I had a few days in Vancouver afterwards for flew back and again, I remember wandering around the city just being delighted by there’s some concrete works, you might know it on is it I can’t remember the exactly the name of the place. And they’ve painted them their huge structures with these gorgeous multicolored paintings. And that was one of many things I just found. Absolutely.
I had never been to North America, although I’ve traveled a lot elsewhere. And it was a dream, like getting the plane back getting back from London back here. And I think it’s quite a common story, as people who’ve been around this, I think I would say I had a sort of year, maybe more, maybe 18 months, maybe two years of just, oh, my problems have gone away.
I think that it’s very interesting, because what you’ve just seen earlier in the call about when we try different things and our thinking shifts, or settles or whichever it is, which allows wisdom to come in and then we might think that things on the outside are working in a funny sort of way. I think I’ve seen this really powerfully.
I obviously need to keep seeing this is that I somehow took the credit for what had happened. It’s a bit like, oh, go me! I’m really calm. I’m not calm. I’m the person I always wanted to be. And it’s really subtle. I think that you don’t realize you’re doing that. I was just very relieved. I just really enjoyed that.
I met some wonderful people and wonderful teachers through that time. And I was working as a facilitator myself and then it’s really interesting that in the last I’d say year, 18 months, the mood swings and things for me came back. And it’s very humbling. Because you kind of think, ah I’ve graduated. And so yeah, I mean, this is ongoing, and it is very humbling.
Alexandra: I was speaking to Maryse Godet Copans on a previous episode, and she had a similar experience. For her was panic attacks and physical symptoms that she has: headaches, that kind of thing. So that’s really interesting.
What did you see when your mood swings returned? Anything you could share?
Juliet: I think my first reaction was disappointment. Like, oh, these again.
I’m really glad you’ve asked the question, because just now as you were asking me, I immediately went into a lot of thinking about mood swings, which is a very old track for me, because I spent decades thinking about them. I’ve just seen that wants to kind of get going again. I sort of have an idea. And it was one shared with me by some wonderful teachers Ian Watson and Carol Boroughs, that things come back around. Because there’s something to see something further, something deeper to see.
And perhaps they would phrase it in terms of to see, either again, or more deeply the nature of the illusion. When we’re saying things come back around again, I can really see that where that’s gone on in my life, it might be a similar circumstance, it might be a thought pattern, habit. It might be a behavior. And sometimes you can be in a completely different situation, but it’s got a very old, familiar feel.
It’s really funny, I wrote a couple of poems called Old Tracks, one and two is very much about falling into the that habitual old thought patterns. And they’re kind of curious, because at one level, they’re familiar, and they’re comfortable. But then I think as our understanding deepens, they become uncomfortable.
I often feel like I should be in kindergarten with the principles. I’m a very slow and slightly stubborn learner. Because often, I see something, but I see it, and it’s helpful to see, but it doesn’t necessarily immediately change what’s going on for me. I think one of the deeper lessons for me, is that I’ve seen and felt what it is to be in a beautiful feeling to be in the flow of life. And it’s gorgeous.
Who wouldn’t want to be in that. But there’s a busy mind part of me that when things aren’t like that, which is often you know, often my head wants to get busy. That old impulse to try and figure it out, fix it, which went quite quiet for quite some time, kind of wants to come up again. So this time around, what it feels like is for me, I was on an episode of another podcast, which was called The Beautiful Feeling and we talked a little bit about it. I’m always curious about how deeply can I listen?
Where I’m at, I guess with it right now is that I have a sense that this is asking me to get quiet to listen more deeply, anything else that I might want to tweak and adjust. I am messing around with diet things, which is very familiar. Going back through those things, not to say that some of that might be helpful and menopausal. So there’s always things we can do.
I can feel the difference. My busy mind really likes the idea of eating more broccoli, or whatever it is. Because it’s got a sort of seek and destroy hunting and finding a solution. And it’s got that feel to it, which is very familiar, and used to bring an unlimited amount of satisfaction, let’s face it. Whereas getting really, really quiet doesn’t have that little pull, push pull.
It’s funny that I said about surrendered because I think that’s really what life is asking of me: to go deeper into not knowing. One of the things that I noticed in the disappointment is as soon as we make our experience wrong – it shouldn’t be happening, I should know better – it’s just more busy thinking. And then we’re listening to that. We’re just listening to that noise again. Which prevents us from falling into a quieter space.
Well, I don’t want to say prevents this because I do think it’s all, if I’m in a beautiful feeling, I feel gratitude. I don’t really think that I engineer that beautiful feeling. Maybe I can get in the way of it. But I’m not sure that I can click my fingers and go bright be here now.
Being still is like an act of faith that in looking towards the stillness, I’m inviting a felt sense of presence in and in that I do know that’s where the answers are. But it feels often that my busy mind wants to go off and be clever and, and go yeah, here. No, but what about this?
Alexandra: That’s amazing. Thank you for sharing that.
I was listening to a conversation with Dr. Bill Pettit the other day, and he was talking about presence. And it struck me, I was going through a period of pretty low moods, like depression, at the time. It’s extraordinary to wonder what it would be like to just be present with that feeling. So I’ve been exploring that lately. Not trying to change it, not trying to make it better, make it go away any of those things.
I think that’s what you’re pointing to. I’m just saying it in slightly different words, would you agree?
Juliet: Yeah, I think it is. Because I think when we feel bad, it can be Pavlovian to just want to push that feeling away. I haven’t got time for this or I’m too busy, or there’s important things to do, or it just feels lousy. Just get away from me be happy. I think there’s something really beautiful in that.
I love this expression, there are no mistakes in relation to our experience.
And really, by the time you have an opinion about how you feel, it’s already happened. It’s like, you have it, you have some feeling, it might be a sensation, it might be an emotional feeling. And then your mind gets busy making whatever it makes of that. But really, it’s all after the effect. I love the way that the principles teachings and Syd Banks very famous quotes, I’ll paraphrase, happiness one thought away. Sadness is one thought away.
If you’re feeling low, you can take that and beat yourself up with it and cry should find the happy thought I find that which we know, it just makes you feel worse. Because fundamentally, you’re saying that how I feel is wrong. And what you’re pointing to is, well, what happens if I just come into acceptance? I guess that right now, this is what’s here, in my experience. And I think that in itself just opens a little bit of space. I don’t know.
Have you found that? What did you find when you were led into that?
Alexandra: I found peace for one thing, because I wasn’t pushing against it and doing all the things you’ve just mentioned, saying to myself, this shouldn’t be happening. Why is this happening? What have I done wrong? How can I fix it? All that stopped and went away.
The feeling I really get that I love when I do that is it’s like I’m sitting with the feeling as a really good friend. I feel this lovely feeling of just complete acceptance and presence. It feels like the depression appreciates that from me just like a good friend does when we sit with them without trying to change them or fix them or anything like that. That’s been my experience.
Juliet: That’s just so beautiful, isn’t it?
Alexandra: Yeah, it was lovely.
Juliet: And it’s such a lovely direction to look in because since the love part of love and understanding, when we’re down there battling with our own mind trying to see more or get insights the feeling, isn’t there. And we can do that, like, I’ve seen this, but the principles, so I should, I should be able to get myself out of this. But what you did there, it’s just so beautiful.
I just had an image as well as that kind of catching and holding the lovely warm blanket or whatever it might be. And it’s so funny, because it’s really the most natural thing in the world to do. You alluded to that if you were with a friend, generally speaking, if we’re settled, that would be instinctive.
And yet, it’s very common that people in their own distress can go any other direction. And really we might call it self-criticism or self-judgment, but it’s just thought. It’s just more sensation moving through the way we don’t always think of thought as sense sensory based.
I’m beginning to wonder these days, if it isn’t actually slightly sensory based, we certainly react to thought in our body. But actually, at the level of the mental level. I’m just very curious about that. Is it a sensory experience?
Alexandra: And this brings me to a question that I sent you in advance about control. You have a podcast episode with Carla Royal on your website about control. And it struck me, well, a couple things, I guess.
When you talked about the experience of driving on the motorway, away from the retreat in London, and being on Saltspring, and having that beautiful, expanded experience. You, Juliet, didn’t create that, it just came. And then when it leaves, you don’t control that, either.
I’d love for you to talk about the illusion of control. And how it holds us prisoner, which is something that you said in the in the podcast.
Juliet: Carla, Royal, my co-host when we did those is a wonderful, warm woman, and we had some amazing conversations there. Yeah, control. I think it’s, like so many of our kind of negative thoughts, it’s a very compelling feeling. And it has this urgency in it.
One of the other things we related to this, and we might talk about is, I think I also said something to the effect that love is behind every feeling. I was pondering again on this, as I said it a little while ago, and it really looks to me that even when you look at all the behaviors that come out of fear and control is one of the number one behaviors to come out of fear.
Why do we try and control things? We control things because we think we’re not safe. That might be physically not safe, emotionally not safe, not safe from existential threats. And it goes without saying that if you’re bad fall into a sinkhole, or there’s bombs that are going to drop on you, you don’t need me or Alexandra to tell you how to deal with that your instincts will kick in and you’ll be hopefully off or hide or whatever it is.
But we’re talking about control in which is often an overreaction to an imaginary threat. And I’m not a psychologist, but I think psychologists will see patterns of where you might be responding to something because of something that’s happened in the past and talk about triggers and all this kind of thing. But what’s so lovely about the principles is that they’ll point to the fact that it’s back to my first insight really, you have a thought in your mind that looks true, it doesn’t really matter if it is true to anybody else. If it looks true to you, then this amazing body-mind system will kick in and do what it thinks it needs to do to protect you.
That can be fight or flight, one’s probably freeze. I think there’s more, but control looks in that moment, like if you literally were faced with a beast attacking you, then all those responses would be appropriate, and wise. But the reason I said that control creates a prison is that in daily life, if our system is responding, as if we were living with a beast, then your life becomes about survival.
It’s a very interesting thing when the body or mind is severely threatened. I’ve always been fascinated with the idea that it shuts off various functions that are not critical to life, like digestion would be one. And so when you think about it, this is where the love piece comes in. Your whole body-mind system, because I think at the core of us is a love of life. And by life, I mean, this spirit energy, this intelligent energy, that that leaves us to you. So touching on that. And control. Weirdly, I mean, I’m just saying this, the talk to you know, is about, given what looks true up here, the body mind doing its utmost to keep you alive and safe.
When you see it through that perspective, it is actually a very beautiful thing. I’m on my journey, I’ve come to be grateful for my many and varied coping mechanisms that I deployed, where I judge them harshly and resented them and worried about them. I’ve come to see a certain beauty in the ways that I kept going. Doing what looks like the best I’ve had with what I understood.
The prison is a paradox in the personal thought system you’re living in, it is keeping you safe. And that’s the principles in action working perfectly. And as the illusory nature of those fears falls away – for some, it falls away incrementally, very much in my case, and they haven’t been gone. But at the core of it I think when you hear stories of people’s sudden collapsing of a lot of insecurity, it looks to me that what is being felt, and really discovered or revealed back to your point in the beginning, what’s uncovered? Is that safety is both an illusion, but it’s what’s really, inside us is perfect health. At that more essential level.
Every time I see a little bit more of that I feel really grateful. And then I bump into things in my life that show me that there’s still more layers there for me. There’s still more to see. And this conversation is really touching me because I think at the core of it we are safe. How could we not be?
Life, as you said, is living us. It knows how to do that far better than we do. So thank you because there’s this invitation to surrender, which I think life gives you meet all of us at every turn is it might come off in little bits. But it’s always pointing you towards you have everything you need, and you can let go. But you’ll only let go when you’re ready.
Alexandra: So beautifully said. Thank you. I’m going to have to go back and re listen to that because it was it was so deep. I think I missed some of it. So yeah, really thank you for that. That was beautiful.
Is there anything we haven’t touched on today that you’d like to share with our listeners?
Juliet: I think something that is really helpful to me as I go through and deepen the two things really is.
One is don’t be afraid to own your interest and your exploration as a valuable thing in your life. Stand tall with that, because you’re being called. Make no mistake back to your point, it’s not us thinking, oh, one day perhaps I’ll look at spiritual matters. I do believe we’re part of something wider and bigger.
There are many, many people all across the planet who are drawn to what I call home. Now, that’s not a coincidence. So be proud and be stand tall in their exploration. Because you’re not just doing it for yourself, it ripples out to everyone you come into contact with and beyond in ways you can never see.
And then just in case, we start taking it too seriously, my second side of it is, lighten up, enjoy what there is to enjoy. Give yourself a break, you can’t force any of this. And you can’t be asleep on the watch. Because so much is percolating under the surface like that insight on Saltspring like you said, there’s no way I could have engineered that. I love the sort of Buddhist idea of relaxed and alert is or is there’s just less to do than we think.
Alexandra: So true. Yes, absolutely. Well, Juliet, this has been amazing.
Where can we find out more about you and your work?
Juliet: I have a website, which I’m sure you’ll probably point people to, but it’s solcare.org. And there’s a blog on there. And as the podcast episodes, you can people can contact me through there. I’m not super active on social media. I post mainly pictures of landscapes. That’s my one of the things I love to do. So if people want to find me on there, you can look up my name on Instagram or Facebook, per se. I’m not very interactive or active.
Alexandra: Okay, great. I’ll put a link to your website in the show notes at unbrokenpodcast.com. Thank you so much for being with me here today. It’s been a real pleasure talking to you.
Juliet: Oh, it’s been an absolute pleasure. Thank you for asking me.
Alexandra: All right. Take care.