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Black banner with green plant and green bar.  Less stress, more joy.

Right and Wrong: Painful Thoughts

Many of my clients are intensely engaged in a fruitless, frustrating effort to prove others wrong, or to get others to say or do what they expect. They come in angry and resentful because these people are “ruining” their life or “making” them miserable. They hang their happiness on getting what they think they “need” from people they who have “let them down”.

When”, I always ask them, “is the last time you complied with an angry, accusatory person who insisted that you do or say something?”

The usual response is, “Huh?” That is usually followed, “But you don’t understand. I’m right.”

Of course, in the state of mind we happen to be in, we all think we’re right. And, there’s the rub. Unless we know that “right” is our own thought, we are doomed to righteous indignation and seeking the company only of people who agree with us while demanding satisfaction from those who don’t.

Here’s an example. I was talking to someone who had gotten through a bitter divorce and arrived, painfully, at a shared custody agreement with her ex-husband regarding their young teenager. He started giving the teenager a tremendous amount of freedom, lots of money, and every material thing the teenager asked for. She was attempting to set boundaries, limit spending money and encourage her teenager to work for things that felt important. It wasn’t long before the teenager was playing one off against the other, and manifesting a lot of negative behaviors. So the mother demanded that the whole family go to counseling.

After one session, the counselor told her, “Well, of course, you’re right, but he’s not going to do anything you ask him to do. He feels if he supported your parenting style and helped you, it would be doing something for you, and he doesn’t want to do anything for you. He can’t stand you. So I think you have to work with things as they are, or maybe try to renegotiate your custody agreement.” The woman was devastated. She wanted an answer about how to create change, not a suggestion that she needed to get resigned to an untenable stand-off.

Right now, we live in a world that does not recognize that all people have the capacity to see their thinking for what it is and change their minds. We live in a world where resignation or argument is as good as it gets. We live in a world that assumes each person’s thinking is the way it is and nothing will change. We live in a world that gives all the power to situations, and no power whatsoever to the thinkers of the thoughts that created the situations in the first place.

In the resilient, dynamic, inside-out world represented by the Principles of Mind, Consciousness and Thought,Our life is what our thoughts make it - inspirational word by Marcus Aurelius on a slate blackboard with a white chalk and a stack of books against rustic wooden table that makes no sense at all. When our clients tell us that someone or something else is making them miserable or doing them wrong, we do not focus on “fixing” the situation or reinforcing their negative view. We focus on the only true source of power, the creative force of each person’s ability to think and think again, and see things for themselves, and appreciate their own unlimited power to change.

All of these situations we address are microcosms of the general failure to solve big problems in the world. People feel victimized by “intractable” situations, rather than seeing that their thinking about the situations is what is holding them in place.

Is it possible that a resentful ex-husband could come to understand that his negative thinking about the past is the source of his hateful feelings about his ex-wife, and question the wisdom of acting against his child’s best interest? Is it possible that an insecure ex-wife could see how her thinking, as well as his, played into the nastiness of the divorce, and question whether her own insecurity was preventing her from finding common ground about what is best for their child? Is it possible that a mental health educator who understood that thinking is a power we all can understand how to use could help resolve this situation?

Yes, Yes, and Yes.

Wake up, world! Wake up to the universal wisdom that could set us all free to resolve conflicts (large and small), create solutions (at home and in the world), and live at peace. It is one thought away from every person on the planet.

To find that thought — whatever healing insight is needed for the situation(s) we are in — all we need is a moment of truth, a moment in which we see for ourselves that we are creating our reality, and we can change it, a moment of quietude into which wisdom flows.

Here is a little talk I offered in 2013 about finding peace on earth, my vision for the 21st Century:



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The Joy of Teaching and Learning

At heart, I love teaching more than anything else I’ve ever done. And, at heart, I know the joy of teaching, and the pain of it, too. Teachers today face student attitudes and system restrictions that inhibit their sense of freedom and ease in the classroom. Teachers today, at every level from pre-school to university, are leaving the profession, just to escape the pressures they feel that have nothing to do with what drew them into teaching and learning.

Across a long career that included a lot of other work, I have taught middle school, high school, junior college, undergraduate, graduate and adult education — the whole gamut of teaching experience. At every level, I totally loved watching students flourish and learn, and at every level, I experienced frustration, disappointment, restriction in the system. I know the pain and the joy first-hand.

And I know, too, the most important lesson I have ever learned: The pain and the joy are not coming AT me; they are coming THROUGH me, depending on my understanding of how I hold and use my own power to think about my situation. There is a distinct dividing line in my life: Before 1989, and after 1989. What happened in 1988-89? I realized how the human mind truly works to create our experience of life. Before then, I honestly (like most people) believed that I had nothing to do with what I thought or how I felt about things; I honestly believed that circumstances created my experience of life. I honestly believed that if I was in a negative, difficult situation, of course I would feel terrible, and would have to extricate myself from those circumstances to feel better.

After 1989, I knew, without a doubt, that I was the thinker creating my own thoughts and becoming conscious of what I had created as reality — and that I and I alone was responsible for how I responded to life situations. This gave me a sense of freedom and empowerment that has allowed me, for the rest of my life, to make the best of any and every circumstance I have encountered. What happened in that year? I stumbled into a group of people sharing the logic of a discovery that there are Universal Principles that determine the way we create and experience our own thinking, and that simply recognizing them behind life provides immunity from suffering from our own worst thoughts.

You can believe this or not. Everyone has complete freedom to think whatever they do, and take it more or less seriously. But in my experience, over all these years, once people look to see what feels true to them, the recognition that they are creating their own experience via the power of thought resonates deep within them, and they, too, find freedom and release.

In all the years I have looked to see this more deeply for myself, and share it more effectively with others, I have always had in the back of my mind that the ideal starting point for this to help the most people possible would be schools. In situations I know from all my wonderful colleagues who teach all over the world from this perspective, where young people have recognized that they are creating their own lives from the inside-out with their own power to think, they have bypassed the insecurity and emotional instability that plagues so many in our schools now. They know how to find their own peace of mind, regardless of what others are saying or doing. They self-correct. And, free from insecurity and self-doubt, they truly enjoy learning, and being a part of the school community.

As a teacher myself, I know that from the perspective of understanding how thinking works, I no longer experienced frustration or upset at the system; I found I could access my own insights as to how to work with or around issues and obstacles that had previously seemed insurmountable. I lost my judgments about people and institutions, and saw that everyone was doing the best they could, given how they were holding and using their thinking. I stopped taking things personally, and just felt gratitude and love for my students, my subject, my colleagues, and my opportunities to contribute. I truly enjoyed teaching, without the burden of distractions. Once I started seeing and speaking to the resilience and well-being in my students, my “problem” students disappeared. I found that almost all my students enjoyed learning as much as I enjoyed teaching, and only occasionally, when someone dipped into a state of insecurity, did I have to stop what I was doing to help a struggling student come back into the present moment and calm down.

It may sound pollyanna to some who read this, given the state of many schools today. There are places in the world in which it may sound ho-hum — something that seems routine. The state of education, globally, is highly variable. That variability, however, has more to do with the way people are, their level of peace of mind and respect, than with the resources allocated. There are classrooms in remote parts of the world where even pencil and paper are scarce resources, and books are old and tattered, and schoolrooms are sparse and uncomfortable — and yet the joy is palpable. The gratitude the students feel for learning is profound. The love the teachers feel is deep and non-contingent.

Once we understand our own role in the creation of our experiences of everything we’re doing; once we understand how everyone’s thinking works, and how much control each one of us always has over what we do with our own power to think, everything looks different.

We are excited and happy to offer these courses globally, in hopes that teachers, students and schools everywhere will become the petri dish in which world peace is nurtured and grown through peace of mind in the generations to come.

Here is a brief video introduction to what you can expect from these courses:

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Feeling Our Way through Life

Keyboard close-up with three smiley keys (emoticons)

Keyboard close-up with three smiley keys (emoticons)

People seek help from counselors when they feel bad. No one has ever come into a session with me to complain about their thinking. They come in to say, “I’m really depressed.” “I’m sad and I can’t seem to get over it.” “I am so anxious that I can’t concentrate.” “I get so angry I feel like hitting my children.” That kind of statement.

So, intuitively, we know that bad feelings are a sign that we need help. But we believe the bad feelings are coming from the events, people and circumstances in our life. The expectation people usually start with is that a mentor or counselor will help them to “deal with” their feelings.

They don’t anticipate actually feeling that much better, just coping much better with how bad they feel. They’re usually looking for techniques or strategies, eager to tell me about all the things they’ve already tried that haven’t worked over time. Yoga. Meditation. Art therapy. Long walks. Medication. Massage.

Here’s the thing. If you make a recipe that doesn’t taste good, it’s not going to taste any better if you eat it by candlelight, or eat slowly, or serve bread with it, or use better cutlery, or put flowers on the table. You cooked it. You don’t like it. Smart money says you toss it aside take the recipe out of your recipe file, and stop making it.

Our feelings are the experiences we cook up with the thoughts we bring to mind. If we don’t like them, getting over them is no more of a big deal than scraping a plate into the garbage, avoiding that recipe, and moving on. If you keep cooking up the same combination of stuff, you’ll keep getting the same unpleasant results. We don’t do that with food. Why do it we do it with ourselves?

For me, it was simply not knowing where my feelings were actually coming from. Until someone pointed it out to me, I never noticed that the same people, events and circumstances did not always produce the same feelings, that I often felt completely differently about things at different times. I had just accepted the prevailing view I grew up with that we were always reacting to life, that life could and would make us feel bad or good.

It was a revelation to me that my thinking had anything to do with it. I rejected the whole idea at first. What? I was making myself miserable? I would never do that on purpose! How dare anyone suggest that? But it very quickly dawned on me that if I had the power to make myself miserable, I had the power to make myself anything. Maybe that was actually good news; I could change even if people, events and circumstances around me did not change. Wow!

The only thing in life we really do have any control over is ourselves. We can’t force other people to change; we can’t prevent life events; we can’t pick the historical or demographic circumstances into which we’re born. But we come fully equipped to make the most of our lives, whatever they are. Again, Wow!

We’ve learned to go over and over our same old thinking, trying to understand ourselves, or figure out why we think this or that, or resolve our past traumas by re-living them, hoping they’ll look different to us. As we do this, we feel worse and worse. In my experience of working with people, though, the hardest part of my work is to get them to stop talking about all the negative thoughts they have. “No, but let me explain. You have to see how awful …”

Stop! I’ll stipulate that it’s awful, and I will win the bet every time that if you continue to bring it to mind, you’ll continue to feel awful. I will suggest that as soon as your mind calms and turns elsewhere, you’ll feel different.

This is very clear to me because I stumbled into the Principles that describe how we create our experience of life, the Principles that show us that experience doesn’t create us. We use the energy of life to generate thoughts, constantly. Our mental activity begins when we come into this world and ends when we leave. We constantly create thoughts, which, when they form in our minds, sets a whole bio-psycho-spiritual chain of events in motion, affecting our chemistry, and thus our feeling state. Bad feelings are not our enemies; they are our navigation system. As soon as our feeling state starts to drop, we can be 100% certain that our thinking is not healthy, wise or functional. Whatever we’re bringing to mind, it’s taking us in a direction we don’t want to go. So bad feelings are not something to cope with; they are something to appreciate and use as a guide to slow our minds down. We can just let our thinking pass without paying a lot of attention to the details, until our minds quiet and better feelings return. They always will. And it happens very quickly because thoughts unexamined pass quickly. We are naturally self-righting, but we also have the free will to keep ourselves off balance. As soon as we let go of trying to figure out, organize or control our thoughts, our innate resiliency brings us right back into balance.

Better feelings, good feelings tell us to trust the thoughts we’re having. Once we are operating from a clear head and a quiet mind, the very “problems” that looked so horrible come into perspective. The past takes its place as the past. Present troubles seem more like situations than insoluble problems, and we start coming up with solutions, rather than frustration and upset.

It’s great to know that we are set up to enjoy life. Yes, we can disrupt that by using our power to think against ourselves. Enjoyment and optimism return quickly when we navigate by our feelings, and recognize when to leave our thinking alone.

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