After riding a roller coaster of a profound spiritual experience followed by post-trauma flashbacks, Carol Boroughs had questions about the root cause of suffering. This practised healer began a search and stumbled across the work of Sydney Banks, which highlights Thought as a central, powerful force that affects our experience of life.
Carol Boroughs brings together the skills and experience she has accumulated over four decades in the field of human development and transformation, in the early years as a human resources consultant and for the last 25 years as a holistic therapist, healer and teacher. She also draws directly on intrinsic knowledge and personal experience of awakenings which began in childhood and led to a transformational realisation in 2011.
She has chosen to use the Three Principles as the basis of her work as she recognises it to be a powerful teaching for our time.
You can find Carol Boroughs at ThreePrinciples.co.uk and on Facebook @Signposts1.
- Following the path of the wounded healer
- On having a powerful spiritual experience where reality dropped away
- How we innocently re-traumatize ourselves with our thoughts
- Changing our relationship to trauma by seeing what it is made of
- How we don’t need techniques to bring us back to the present moment
- Why we try to transcend our humanness
- On the wise nature of our search for peace
- How our own experience is the best teacher
Resources Mentioned in this Episode
- Sydney Banks website
- Sydney Banks book mentioned, The Missing Link
- My memoir about my cult experience, Cult, A Love Story
- My book about resolving an overeating habit, It’s Not About the Food
Transcript of Interview with Carol Boroughs
Alexandra: Carol Burrows, welcome to unbroken.
Carol: Thank you very much, Alexandra, it’s a pleasure to be here.
Alexandra: It’s lovely to meet you. And to be having this chat this morning.
Tell us a little bit about your background and how you got interested in the Three Principles.
Carol: My professional background is a career in two halves really, I started out in human resource management, did that for about 20 years. And then when I had my children in my late 30s, something woke up in me, and I just took a completely different direction. That partly came about because I was seeking to heal myself from some early trauma, and the after effects of that.
I started exploring, I’d already started exploring, but I went much more deeply into lots of different healing modalities. And the ones that I found really helpful, I studied them, and I learned to help other people with them. So I had a practice helping other people through lots of different holistic therapies, primarily homeopathy, but also specialized schools of counseling. And because of my own background, I guess I attracted people who needed help with trauma, but many, many other things as well physical, physical, health, mental and emotional health.
I was very identified with being the wounded healer.
And I also had all always been interested in spirituality. Ever since I was a child. I was the child of a long line of maternal healers in my family. And so an awareness of spirit had always been in my life. But because of things that happen to me, and in the family, it was very much something that I put away for a long time, it never really went away. But it wasn’t something I explored thoroughly. And then when I had my children, and I had this kind of wake up call about my own healing, I got interested in spirituality again. So there was a lot going on.
I explored all sorts of different avenues. And in about 2011, so about 12 years ago, I was on a spiritual retreat. And I had a very, very powerful experience. Ordinary reality just dropped away. I knew myself to be part of the indivisible whole, there was oneness, love, it was just the most powerful experience that shifted my being, at every level, physical, mental, emotional, spiritual. And that experience, I won’t go into all the detail of that it lasted for several days.
And then the bliss bubble that I lived in for the following weeks was extraordinary. And I was in that state, when all of a sudden it changed. And I was back into post traumatic flashback, spiraling down, terror arose. But this time, I was looking at it from a different place because of that shifting in consciousness. And I didn’t spiral all the way down, I recovered relatively quickly. And in the reflection after that, this powerful question arose?
The question was, how can a human being know themselves to be one with the energy of all life and still suffer like this?
As I reflected on that question, it was a powerful, luminous question. There is a spiritual answer to this. And what occurred to me was that I needed to find a spiritual teacher, a living breathing teacher, not books or anything else. I had to find a living breathing teacher. I went on an internet search and I thought, well, what’s out there? Who can I find I’d studied lots of different things. I’d had lots of different teachers along the way.
I chanced across Sydney Banks original website, and on their little clips, I don’t know if you’ve seen it, there’s some little video clips you probably I’ve seen them all. And what I saw in those clips resonated so deeply with that experience I’d had, I recognize truth. And I thought, This is my teacher, only to discover that he had died the previous year. So I thought, Okay, well look, the teachers, other people must be teaching this, this is, this is powerful. This is truth, this is what I need to explore.
So I started looking around for teachers who were sharing the principles. And but there was nobody near me, I think Aaron Turner had just recently moved back from the states to the UK. And he was doing a professional training, actually not very far away from me. But that didn’t seem appropriate. I just chanced upon this understanding. So it’s kind of a bit deflated, and thought, oh, what next?
And then into my inbox dropped an email from the teacher who I’ve been on the retreat with, when I’d had this experience. And that person was Ian Watson. He’d been my teacher, or many different things. He’d done all of those disciplines that I was exploring and teaching myself and working with people with. And in this email, he said, I’m not doing any of my old stuff anymore, I found this thing called the Three Principles. And I really want to explore that. So I’m going to set up a group in London. It’s going be called Truth at the moment, if you’re interested. So it was a no brainer.
For me, it was just one of those synchronicities, that was just perfect. So I spent six weekends with this beautiful group of people, and even exploring the principles. And the insights just came with her come fast. And for me, it was this missing link between the spiritual and the psychological. And he answered that question for me. That question that had arisen of how a human being can feel bliss and despair in the same day.
What happened was that the insight that I got was, or the beginning of the insights was something I’d heard in words over and over again: The past doesn’t exist. You can’t change the past, it can’t do anything to you. It’s just memory carried through time. Now, I had heard that over and over again. But now I saw it insightfully. And I saw how I had innocently been re-traumatizing myself over and over again with my own thoughts. When I saw that, at that deep, insightful level, this reflex action away from all of that thought happened. And it was just like the past, literally falling away.
I didn’t have another flashback for another three years. And it was like night and day. For me, it was just profound. And as I saw the way that I had innocently been re traumatizing myself with my thinking. I saw the universality of that. I saw that that’s what everybody is doing all the time. A whole experience has been created from that we can’t respond to anything that isn’t thought passing through our mind.
In the moment, I saw the universality of that, and the innocence of it, this great forgiveness, and compassion arose. And that was this this second level of radical transformation. It was beyond anything I could have imagined was possible. So that’s how I came to the principles. And just a little piece of what it’s done for me personally.
And of course, very rapidly, it was a question of, oh, I have to share this. I can see it so clearly, it makes sense of everything that I had learned, spiritually, and everything that I’d seen in my own psychology and that of the clients that I’ve been helping So that’s how I came to be doing what I do now.
Alexandra: That’s beautiful. Thank you so much. I have some follow up questions if that’s okay.
I love that you said that the past can’t hurt us. And I would love for our listeners, if you could compare a little bit about your strategy for dealing with the past before you saw this.
And what you see now about how we can deal with traumas from the past.
Carol: That’s a brilliant question, Alexandra. Because what happened in my work was it shifted completely because I saw something that was so much more helpful than what I had been doing before, both in terms of my own healing, and how I was working with clients.
Many of the techniques that we use to try to deal with trauma, depend on us, or encourage us, to go back and understand the trauma and see it from a different place. And while it can be helpful sometimes to go back and understand why certain things trigger you in this moment, and why certain behaviors keep repeating themselves, it doesn’t really get to the root of the truth of why you’re suffering.
The actual event of going back and thinking about what happened in the past and exploring that, in itself can be incredibly difficult and painful and re traumatizing. So what I came to see through learning about the principles is that we do not need to go back, we just have to change our relationship to it by understanding that it no longer exists, except in our own thinking, in this moment, only this moment is real. Everything else is a trick of our mind and our thinking.
All healing happens in this moment. That was one of the types of approaches to dealing with trauma that changed for me. The other things that can be incredibly helpful when we’re traumatized, particularly when we’re in the midst of a flashback, or in the midst of extreme terror, or anxiety or panic are techniques that bring us into the present moment. So things like mindfulness meditation, anchoring techniques, visualization techniques, where we visualize perhaps a safe space or something like that. So those were the types of things that I would reach for either myself or with my clients teach my clients about to help them in an acute episode.
From time to time, I will still do that, if it’s helpful in the moment. Because until someone is in a quieter, calmer space, it’s not impossible, but it’s unlikely that they’re going to hear something helpful in what I’m sharing in those moments, because they’re in a thought storm. But the difficulty with those techniques as they only last as long as you’re doing them. And you can very quickly if you do experience, things like post traumatic flashbacks, or panic attacks, you can very quickly get hijacked, and things very quickly snowball. So sometimes a technique like that will work, and sometimes it won’t.
And again, it still doesn’t get to the root cause of the issue. And really, the root cause of the issue is a simple misunderstanding about where that experience is coming from. And when we know that it’s coming from thought in this moment, just from memory, giving us this full on sensory painful experience. When we truly know that we don’t need to learn a technique for it to stop. There’s this reflex action away from that thinking when we really see the truth of what Sydney Banks was pointing to about where our experience is coming from.
It’s like pulling your hand away from the hot stove because it hurts. I love Dicken Bettinger’s metaphor for this. He says when you see that the headache you have is being caused by the hammer that you’re hitting yourself with, you don’t need to learn a technique to drop the hammer. There’s this reflex away from it.
Now, it has to be said that I had a very big insight, and so much fell away all in one go. For other people, it’s no less powerful, but it’s more incremental. They get smaller insights or shifts in consciousness. And gradually what they find is there’s a gradual move away from that thinking. And, it’s almost imperceptible, and then they look back and they think, oh, oh, something’s changed.
When I was reading your book, I think you describe a beautiful example, where you’re in the supermarket, and you find that you haven’t reached for the soda. It wasn’t something you did in your mind or with your thinking. It was just a natural shift, wasn’t it? That’s, that’s the same kind of experience that people can have. With this type of insight.
Alexandra: Oh, wow. So many things strike me and what you said, and one was, how powerful thought can be. That it can bring on not just thinking, but physical sensations and responses from our body and all that kind of stuff.
It strikes me how real that can look, and how, if someone is having – I’ve never had a flashback like that – but if someone is experiencing that, it’s so easy to see how we can get caught up in that kind of a physical experience, and want to try to control it or make it go away somehow.
And then I loved what you said about this incremental shifting. And it’s something I haven’t actually been able to find the right words for but it’s so true, what you said that we, as we explore this understanding, we can then look back and just see Oh, things have really shifted, but it has been so subtle. I didn’t notice in the moment, but I notice now, looking back, and I love that.
In your work now, you have this great quote on your website, which I’m going to quote back at you. Which is that “presence is surrendering to each moment, without seeking to avoid any event, thought or emotion. And by remaining present, we can deepen into the inner peace that is the core of our true self.”
So I wondered if you could expand on that a little bit for us?
Carol: What I’m pointing to there is about being in the now, about being present with whatever’s going on now. And as you just beautifully articulated, if we have something scary going on, whether that’s an actual event, whether it’s a thought storm, or very, very strong emotion, painful emotion, we don’t want to be present. We don’t want to stay in that we want to get away from it. But that’s natural, of course. That’s what we do.
And then we there’s so many things that we do to get away from that. And we take ourselves out of the present. We are no longer present in our life. We’re in our life and we’re trying to manage it. We’re reaching for food, we’re reaching for a drink. We’re reaching for the next technique. We’re seeking a therapy. Whatever it is we’re doing to get to a back to a better feeling.
What that does is it puts more thought in the system. It takes us further away from peace. It might be helpful temporarily, it might bring us temporarily some relief, because we stop struggling to get away from it. Then we stop the activity of our mind. If we can learn as Sydney Banks said to not be afraid of our present moment experience, because we know it’s an illusion.
It’s the play of mind, thought and consciousness in that our relationship with that shifts, we’re not scared. And so we don’t struggle away from it. We don’t struggle away from it, and we stay still. And we stay present. That difficulty, that strong emotion, those thoughts will pass through.
What’s left is space of no thought. We settled down into the quiet mind, and we reconnect with the truth of who we are. And when we touch that space, and is just in a peace, stillness, love, a sense of okayness it’s the better feeling that we were seeking all along. Only we looked in the wrong place.
Alexandra: Could you explain for the listener how that’s different from mindfulness, or what the difference might be?
Carol: There are many beautiful mindfulness practices. And in some ways, the principles describe why mindfulness is helpful. It’s because it takes us into the present moment. But there’s a way in which, remember, we were just talking about how we organically learn.
If our experience isn’t scary, we don’t need to get rid of it. We don’t need a technique to bring us back into the present moment. We just naturally go there. That, to me, is the main difference. There’s a natural learning that takes place where we don’t have to do any sort of technique. Unless we want to, or unless we can’t find our way back there. And sometimes the technique just helps us short, temporarily, until we get a deeper understanding.
Alexandra: That was beautifully put. Thank you.
Shifting gears slightly, one of the other things that I loved you mentioned on your website that you’re quite passionate about the subject of spiritual bypassing. Some of our listeners may know that I was in a cult in the 1990s for 10 years. And it was all about spiritual bypassing. And really negating our experience and using spiritual terms and techniques to do that.
You have this great quote about trying to rise above our humaneness before we have fully understand or understood and made peace with it. That sentence resonated with me so much, because that just put a pin right on what I had experienced.
What do you see about why we may be trying to transcend our humaneness?
Carol: I think it really relates to what we were just talking about, around us. Wanting to get away from difficult feelings and emotions and experiences, to a better feeling. That drives all human beings. We just have different ways of going about that. And, as I said, some of us will reach for a drink, or food or whatever that is. And spirituality can be one of those, exploring spirituality and using spirituality to make sense of our world and take us to a better feeling.
In many respects, that seeking to transcend our humaneness, the messier painful part of our humaneness is very, a very natural part of our experience in our physical form. I’m smiling a little bit because that blog that you read about spiritual bypassing has is literally the blog that has been most read and most discussed, and the one most people ask me about. I think at the time I wrote it, it just touched, touched something for people because they could recognize in themselves or others, that we have this tendency to use spiritual terms and language and techniques and teachings to make ourselves feel better.
But of course, while a true spiritual understanding can be profoundly helpful, we can use it without understanding it. And we can apply it to cover up the cracks and to try to transcend that pain. And of course, it’s a false spirituality in a way. And ultimately, eventually the wheels will fall off. I think I use the example that if you don’t address your interpersonal issues in your life, you’re not going to maintain a relationship, however spiritual.
The other thing that made me so interested in it is it’s something that I see in my work a lot. I think I was trying to sort of raise a flag to say that even the Three Principles community isn’t immune from that, because many people find their way to me having been around the Principles for a really long time, heard something of truth in it. So they know that their thinking has something to do with their experience, and therefore they’re uncomfortable experience. So they feel like they’ve got to manage their thinking.
And of course, that proves incredibly difficult. That’s not what we’re talking about, or pointing to at all. And they hear those terms of it’s just your thinking. And then they either get about trying to manage their thinking, or they tell themselves Oh, it’s just my thinking. It’s not real. It’s okay, really. And then they bypass what’s really going on for them, and then they get stuck. So it’s my job to unpack a little bit of that and have people take an honest look at where they might be bypassing.
Alexandra: It struck me as you were speaking, I could just suddenly see for the first time, the innocence of doing something like that, and you connected it with food and alcohol and the other things we use, and I hadn’t made that connection before. It’s the same thing.
Carol: Yeah, it’s the same thing. It’s that search for a better feeling. Or we can use spirituality in a way that we use anything else.
But you know, there’s that original question you asked me about what I see about why we try to transcend there’s a deeper understanding that I’ve come to around that which is the West seeking better feeling, because we know it exists. We all have within us. That spiritual essence, that’s perfect. It gets shrouded with thought. And we forget. But we still know, we still know it’s there. We still know it’s possible.
And the very movement towards wanting to feel better. That is that spiritual essence that wisdom, as Sydney Banks would call it, speaking to us. So yes, that desire to move into spirituality, that desire to eat something to make ourselves feel better, or to drink or whatever it is. That very desire is the clue that that is possible. And that’s beautiful, isn’t it?
What we take to be our wrongness or our brokenness, this is not that at all. It’s wisdom, speaking to us in every moment, moving us in the direction of thriving, moving us in the direction of truth of uncovering the fact that we’re really unbroken and perfect.
Alexandra: I’m so glad you brought that up. It’s something that I’ve been exploring a little bit lately. I’m writing a new book about this understanding. I just love that it’s slightly paradoxical but I love coming back to that.
The very the search proves that we are unbroken. We know it instinctively. And we’re looking for it.
Carol: That’s beautiful. And you kind of know that you’re getting closer and closer to truth when you really see the paradox. I love what Michael Neill says, about pointing to fire with ice. The closer you get to it, the less you’ve got to point with. And when we get into something that appears paradoxical, that’s because we’re getting much closer.
Alexandra: I hadn’t thought about it that way. Yeah, that feeling of paradox. You’re right. It is a big clue that we’re getting closer.
Carol: It’s harder and harder to explain. So it must have been quite a tricky for them to write. I look forward to reading it.
Alexandra: It’s always hard to put this stuff into words in a peaceful way without getting all tangled up in my own confusion.
What would you say to someone about trusting our own wisdom and our own guidance, while at the same time learning from others? Because there is a delicate balance there.
Carol: Yes, there is. And I think there’s some, I think Sydney Banks is quite helpful on this, isn’t he, when he talks about selecting a teacher in several places, including in The Missing Link, he talks about selecting a teacher who shows the qualities that you’re looking for, not somebody who tells you how to think or what to do. You have to use your discernment. You have to trust your own wisdom in teaching in selecting a teacher.
But really, what he pointed to is that the teacher is within. We have what he calls spiritual wisdom, we’re all connected to it. Sometimes it feels like we’re disconnected. But that wisdom is always speaking to us. And the best that a teacher can really do is point you back to that and help you to tune into that or to discern wisdom from your personal thinking.
I think if the teacher doesn’t do that, then that’s perhaps the time to find another teacher. Really, teachers can be incredibly helpful, but they can only signpost, the way they can only point us towards wisdom.
The most powerful insights come from within my own experience, I’d listen to dozens of teachers saying past doesn’t exist, your thoughts can’t help you. Let them go. But it wasn’t until I saw that from deep within myself through insight that it had any impact. So I’d love to know what your take is on that because your experience in the cult must have been very instructional now you’re on this side of it as to following your own guidance.
Alexandra: I think you hit the nail right on the head that that our own wisdom is the is the greatest teacher and that those who point at keep pointing us toward that is where my best learning has come from. And to me learning to rely on my own experience to teach me has been such a good lesson.
Whatever I hear now, and whatever I hear somebody else say, I always try to take it away and just fold it in and see if my experience reflects what the person has said.
Carol: That’s beautiful. And sometimes we have the experience of listening to a teacher. And we take it away. And we think, no, that’s not my experience. And having the confidence to say no, that’s for me now is really powerful. And maybe some, at some point, will come back to the same teaching. And we will resonate with it. Because our wisdom is not only unique to us, but it can change over time. So something that’s right for us one day won’t necessarily be right. The following day.
Alexandra: Yeah, that’s so true. There are elements in there, I can see of, of being ready. Sometimes, we’re just not at a place where we can understand something and I really think that’s okay. Waiting until, for me, this process has been a lot about learning not to force things, not to force myself to swallow things whole.
And just like you were saying a minute ago, there have been times when I’ve walked away and said, well, that hasn’t really been my experience. And then down the road, I do find that, that it is, something has shifted. It’s required a little bit of patience on my behalf sometimes.
I always go back to nature metaphors, because you can’t force a flower to come up out of the ground. It’s going to come up at its own pace. And when it’s ready. And for me, my learning has felt like that. I can’t talk it up. It will come as I let it.
Carol: That’s wonderful. There’s patience required. It’s easy to get insight and be honestly, that. So I love what you’re saying there about everything has its own time. Everything unfolds perfectly, even when we don’t feel like it is.
Alexandra: Absolutely. So we’re getting close to the end of our time together.
Is there anything you would like to share that we haven’t touched on yet today?
Carol: I don’t think so. That there’s so much we could continue to share. I think we’ve touched on some really beautiful things. I hope your listeners have found it helpful.
Alexandra: I’m sure they have.
Where can we find out more about you and your work, Carol?
Carol: Okay, well, the the best place to go is my website, which is ThreePrinciples.co.uk. And you can find out about me and what I’m up to in the world on there.
Alexandra: I will put links in the show notes at unbrokenpodcast.com so people can find you. And thank you so much for being with me here today. I really appreciate it.
Carol: It was an absolute pleasure. I enjoyed our conversation. It’s really lovely to meet you.
Alexandra: Thanks, Carol.