What if everything we thought we knew about human psychology was backwards?
What if there’s a built-in illusory nature to life that makes it look as though it works one way, when it actually works another?
And what if knowing these things could bring you deep peace and contentment and help you resolve unwanted habits?
The mother of all insights
In 1973, on a small island off the coast of British Columbia, a Scottish welder and spiritual seeker named Sydney Banks had a profound insight about the nature of how human psychology works.
What Banks saw during his spiritual experience is that there are three principles that govern the human experience. Principles that psychologists had been looking for pretty much since the dawn of psychology.
1. Mind is the word Banks used to describe the universal intelligence that powers all living things. It is a formless energy coming into form via us. Synonyms would be God or life energy or spirit or wisdom or The Force.
The fact that this intelligence exists means that a) you are connected to everything because you and everything around you is made of this universal energy and b) you can rely on this infinite intelligence to guide your life.
2. Consciousness is the ability human’s have to both observe themselves thinking and also it is what makes our experience of ourselves and our thinking so vivid. In other words, it makes your thinking feel real.
Which brings us to the third principle:
3. Thought is the river of creative energy flowing through all of us that brings the formless into form. Everything you see has been created by Thought; it was all once Thought. It is, as Michael Neill says in this video, “The raw material out of which we construct reality.”
Our innate well-being
When we get our heads around these principles what we can see they are pointing to is that human psychology, rather than being fragile and corruptible is actually infinitely whole and well. And further, that we don’t need to do anything to create or manage that wellness. It already exists. It’s always there. And it is ‘only’ our thinking that can make it seem otherwise.
I say ‘only’ in quotation marks because Thought is one of the most powerful forces in the universe. It’s right up there with a glass of red wine’s propensity to spill on a cream sofa or bird poop to find the hood of my just-washed car. It can make us feel paralyzed with fear when we’re sitting alone in a quiet room with nothing threatening us. It can create enormous anger out of a simple misunderstanding. Our thinking, which is created by Thought, creates our reality. Very simply, we tend to believe what we think.
The magic in exploring this understanding is that when we begin to see that this is how we work, it’s how our minds work, it’s how human psychology works, then we can relax. We can lean into understanding that life is not all on our shoulders.
Stirring up or settling down
Imagine your mind is a pond. Your thinking is the sediment in that pond. What we tend to do, innocently, when navigating life and looking for answers to problems we encounter is wade knee deep into that pond and begin stirring it up. We add more and more thinking to our problems until the pond is completely clouded and we can’t see anything but our own thoughts.
When we begin to explore the three principles what we learn is that we can step to the side of that pond. Even better, the pond is designed to settle on its own. When it does our innate wellness and infinite wisdom will guide us, providing answers with fresh thinking and insight.
I’m going to repeat something important here in case you missed it. Our minds are designed to settle like this. There’s nothing we need to do to make that happen. Just like gravity pulls the sediment in that pond to the bottom so that the water becomes clear, so too do our minds settle and become clear when we understand the nature of Thought and the nature of our thinking.
Looking at life from the inside-out
Have you ever felt your stomach flip when you’re watching a film or tv show about a roller coaster?
Have you ever felt utterly calm in a dangerous or volatile situation? Or the reverse, panicked in a calm and peaceful setting?
Sometimes, the Three Principles are referred to as the Inside-Out Understanding and those examples above are the reason why. It looks like we experience our lives reacting to the circumstances that happen around us (outside-in). However, what’s actually happening is that the formless energy of Thought is coming to life within us moment to moment (inside-out).
When I first started learning about the principles, this part of it sounded – I’ll be frank – nuts to me. If I’m walking down the street and I get hit by someone on a bicycle my feelings in that moment aren’t caused by that event? That didn’t make sense to me.
How can we know this is true?
When I began to explore the inside-out nature of life a little further what I saw was things like this:
- I could be sad on what was supposed to be a happy day
- I could be happy at the memorial service for a loved one
- I could feel rejected when surrounded by people who love and accept me
- I could feel loved when I’m entirely alone
- I could feel anxious lying in bed in the middle of the night with nothing on my mind and no worries to speak of
- I could feel utterly peaceful when things around me appear to be falling apart
Believing that life works outside-in is so fundamental to our understanding that coming to see that it’s the reverse can feel like the moment you learned Santa Claus isn’t real.
So I’m not expecting you to swallow this idea wholesale, but I do invite you to consider it and see if there are examples in your own life when your feelings don’t correlate with your circumstances.
Why does the inside-out nature of life matter?
When we feel like a victim of our circumstances, life gets heavy. Yet, to an enormous degree, we can’t control circumstances. So what do we do? We expend precious energy trying to create circumstances that we feel will lessen our suffering. More money. More love. More sex. A nicer car. A more symmetrical face. A fancy purse. A private jet. Thousands of adoring fans.
Have you ever known anyone who’s been in circumstances like this who has, nonetheless, been unhappy? Of course. We encounter this every day. In fact, I was raised by a man who had everything he’d ever wanted, more money than he’d every be able to spend, several big houses, the super fancy cars that he adored, a ton of freedom to do whatever he wanted, a fulfilling business and a hobby that connected him with members of the British royal family including the present Queen….and yet he was the most miserable, angry person I’ve ever met.
Happiness, contentment, peace, a sense of well-being; these do not come from circumstances.
So where do those good feelings come from? The Three Principles point to the fact that not only do they exist within us, they are what we are made of. What Sydney Banks called Mind, that universal intelligence is with us, and is, in fact, living us, all the time. We are never separate from the peace, well-being, calm, and wisdom that is the same thing that keeps the planets spinning around the sun and causes the flowers to bloom in the spring.
When we understand that our experience of life is moving through us from the inside-out, moment to moment, and that this experience of life is NOT dictated by our circumstances, life is less heavy.
A less heavy life and innate wisdom we can always rely on to guide us. I’d say that’s something work exploring.