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Posts Tagged “healing”

Cure Seriousness! Lighten Up!

Avoid being afflicted with Seriousness. It’s debilitating. It brings people down. It hurts. It takes all the fun out of life as long as you have it. It can linger a long time. It can lead to health complications. It’s much worse than the flu.

I talked to a client recently who clearly manifested that he had suffered from Seriousness for more than 40 years. He had the medical and life history to prove it. He cried a lot in the beginning of our session. His story included abusive parents, painful childhood, two abusive marriages; abusive girlfriends; abusive children; violence; deceitful friends — nothing and nobody good. He had just had another in a long history of surgeries and was finding recovery slow and painful. He couldn’t remember ever being happy or carefree. He had been in therapy for 30 of the last 40 years with all kinds of practitioners. But he had never talked to anyone who was a Mental Health mentor before. And he could offer no definition at all of mental health. Asked about it, he gave a definition that involved being marginally functional and able to survive despite mental illnesses. An example of mental health he came up with was being able to get to a doctor’s appointment while having a panic attack, even though the person who had promised to drive him let him down and he had to drive himself.

He didn’t know why he even asked to talk to me because, honestly, no one has ever been able to help. He had also done all sorts of New Age searching and tried all kinds of non-traditional activities. None of that had helped. He was sure he was born to be miserable. So he didn’t want me to feel bad if I couldn’t help him either.  Several counselors in his past had refused to see him for follow-up after a couple of sessions; he figured I would do that, too, and he was already mentally prepared to be rejected again. He had no hope and no expectations that anything could or would change.

“Given all that, why haven’t you just killed yourself?” I asked. “What’s the point of going on?”

That slowed his whiny train of thought. “What kind of damn question is that?” he demanded. “Why would I do that?”

“I don’t know,” I said. “I just haven’t heard you mention any reason to go on living yet, so I thought I’d ask.”

“Of course I have reasons to go on living!” he snorted.

And here’s how it went from there:

Me: “Great! Glad to hear it! What are they?”

Client: What are what?

Me: What are your reasons to go on living?”

Client: Well, you must know some. I can’t think of them right now.”

Me: Do you have any idea why you can’t think of them?

Client: They’re just not coming to mind.

Me: Why not?

Client: I don’t know.

Me: Do you want to know?

Client: Why? Do you know? How would you know that?

Let me stop here. The reason I’m telling this story is to illustrate that people can’t hear anything new when their minds are racing around the same old track. There’s no point talking to a suffering person about feeling better until they have at least a tiny inclination that they might want to hear you. It took me a long time to learn that. I used to think that just being in a good feeling and talking spiritual truth would lead our clients to change. But after a while, it dawned on me that the most unhappy clients who were mired in misery weren’t even remotely aware of how I was or what I was saying.  I might as well have been a lamp in the room. They were just thinking, thinking, thinking of all their problems without a moment’s interruption. So what I’ve learned is, even if it takes most of a session, there’s no use trying to explain to people that you can help them until they get curious enough to pay attention to something other than their insecure thoughts.

This is the crucial thing people who work from the Three Principles  know: People can’t be thinking a hundred miles an hour about the negative stuff they’ve always thought about and listen at the same time. But the secret to lightening up is that they are only one thought away — a millisecond away — from thinking differently. We can’t launch right into sharing new ideas until someone becomes curious enough to slow down and wonder. As soon as they do, things can change really quickly because the steady voice of their own wisdom breaks right through the din.

There’s no technique to that. I’m a former newspaper reporter, so I tend naturally to ask questions to get to the deeper point. Other people have other ways of going about it. The way is not the issue. No matter the intervention, it comes to us from wisdom in the moment, with the client, while we are neutrally listening to them. We need to keep listening until we get an insight about where to go with them. This is not burdensome because we don’t take their sad stories seriously and we know that the person is perfectly mentally healthy and has just lost sight of it. They can’t turn in a new direction until they notice that fork in the road. So until they stop high-speed thinking the way they’ve always thought in the direction they’ve always gone, our purpose is to care about them, “see” the health in them, listen to them, and know that the right intervention will come to mind.

The humbling part is that we are all very different and if you put the same client in the room with 50 different 3 Principles practitioners, the conversation would go 50 different ways. The common thread would be that the practitioner listened and had the faith to keep listening  until his/her own wisdom revealed a direction.  Anything we do and say from wisdom will work out. And once clients are turning towards their own health, instead of reviewing the history of their distress and their problems, they will start to change, and all we have to do is foster, nurture, and encourage that change.

The most fascinating part, to me, is that almost always, I am inspired to do something that causes the client to lighten up, that breaks the chain of Seriousness.  Wisdom takes us towards lightheartedness. Thinking back over years and years of working with people, I realize that the best moments came when the client could laugh at something they had cried over only moments ago.

In the case of the client story I mentioned here, by the end of that first session, the client was laughing at the fact that he was supposed to keep his feet propped up when he sat down and had totally forgotten, and he could still stand up.

“Look at that!” he said, when he stood up at the end of our meeting.  “I just stood up without my cane, and I hadn’t even propped my feet up while we were meeting. I must be getting better. Or something.” Then he laughed, “I suppose you would tell me it’s because I’m not thinking about how sick I am right now.”

Yup. That would  be a great reason to go on living. Imagine all the things you can think about that you’ve never thought about before!

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No need to fix everything!

Lately I’ve talked with several clients who are sure that “fixing” something in their circumstances will bring them happiness. One is determined to find a job in a bigger city, where she thinks it will be “more fun” to live. One is trying to find a new set of room-mates and a new apartment because she thinks she needs to be with people who are nicer to her to be comfortable at home. Another is worried about the danger of living within 100 miles of a major US military installation and wants to move with her children to the wilderness because she thinks that’s the only way to be safe from terror.  Another is trying to change schools because he thinks campus life at his college is dumb and boring. You get the idea. If I can just change this or that thing in my life, then I’ll be happy.Fixing thing

It doesn’t work that way. Or, in the words of one of my early mentors in the Three Principles, “No matter where you go or what you do, you take your head with you.”

  • People who are searching for happiness from places, things or other people will never find just the right ones; nothing, no matter how wonderful, can create happiness for someone who thinks it will come from circumstances.
  • People who are insecure and feel judged will think they are put down no matter how nice others are to them; self-doubt is consistently suspicious of kindness.
  • Worriers will always find something to worry about; worry is like playing endless whack-a-mole.
  • People who are dissatisfied can’t be satisfied by changing their situation; there’s something wrong no matter where they look.

Trying to fix things outside of ourselves is a fool’s errand. It keeps us really busy, in some cases it runs us ragged, to keep looking, looking, looking for that perfect whatever, that moment when we finally get everything right. all pretty and polished. It’s a lifetime of hard work that is destined to fail because the real source of what looks wrong to us is not “out there” at all. We joke about it (see chart), but even our jokes seem misdirected; tea and movies won’t “fix” anything, either, aside from providing brief distraction from the need to fix. Because, irony of ironies, the “fault” is in our understanding of ourselves, not in the world.

Now I’m not suggesting that people shouldn’t make changes in their lives if it makes sense to do so. There are plenty of good reasons to move or to make new friends or to shift from one school to another, and so on. The problem is that none of those good reasons come to light when we’re in a low state of mind. They emerge as insights from wisdom when we are at peace, not when we are invested in “fixing,” but rather in seeing opportunity in change. This may seem like a subtle point, but it isn’t.

When I first was exposed to the Principles, I was just like those clients I described, probably worse. I thought all my stress, anxiety, worry and depression was “caused” by the business I was in and the life I was leading. I dreamed of a Nirvana, somewhere, where I could find peace, but running off to some paradise was an impossibility; I had a family; I had civic obligations; I had business responsibilities.  I was a wreck because I thought the only way to fix my life was to change everything, but I couldn’t change anything. So on top of everything else, I was frustrated because I thought I knew what the “fix” was but it was out of my reach. A basket case, indeed. In that state, when I first heard that I could change my life from within without changing a single iota of the external details, I thought it was ridiculous.

But I was a business person and a pragmatist. I knew that when something you’re doing is not producing the result you want, you can’t succeed by closing your mind to alternatives.  You’ve got to listen to new ideas, try new directions. You’ve got to look at “best practices,” things that others are doing that are working. The more “Principles people” I met, the more I realized they were not overwhelmed, discouraged or disgruntled in the face of disappointment. Nothing seemed to bother them, and yet a lot of them were facing far greater challenges in life than anything I had. They were all at the front end of something brand new in the world that was generally greeted with negativity, suspicion. rejection, insults and mockery. Yet they happily persevered. They fearlessly took risks and they gracefully accepted the consequences when things didn’t work out. When things did work out, they were grateful, but not prideful. And they had a lot of fun.

It wasn’t really difficult for me to answer this question: Do you want to go on doing what you’re doing, exhausted, sad, crying every morning, blaming your business, losing your youth and vibrant health to the erosion of depression and stress — or do you want to enjoy your life and your work, embrace things the way they are, be unafraid to try things if you have a clearly wise idea, and have a great time?   Hmmm. It would be hard to call that a tough one.

What did it take? It was as easy as discovering you’re heading the wrong way on a road and just turning around. As soon as I was willing to admit that there was another way to understand life and started looking in that direction, I felt hopeful and calmed down. I stopped fighting my circumstances and started appreciating internal quietude. I discovered that when I didn’t engage circular thinking from the outset, it faded away. I defaulted to moments of peace of mind and started having insights that were real solutions to so-called problems. I began to see the logic of the Principles at work behind life and find great comfort in the face that every “reality” generated by my thinking was just an illusion of the moment.

All it took was the decision that it was worth looking away from the chaotic thinking that had dominated my waking hours and realizing that when I wasn’t trapped in it,  it disappeared from view and grew less and less visible even when I looked in the rear view mirror.

Peace of mind, it turns out, really is one thought away. Not any one particular thought. Just the one thought that works for you when you decide to stop trying to fix all the stuff in your life and look deep instead of far and wide. From a quiet mind, all the answers we need flow effortlessly.

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“What’s wrong with me?”

Since I have begun seeing clients one-on-one as a Mental Health Mentor, the most frequent questions they ask in the first session are: “What’s wrong with me? How did  this happen? Why can’t  anyone explain to me what happened to my mind?”

For the most part, they’ve had a lot of therapy. And they’ve been given diagnoses. But  diagnoses do not explain. Diagnoses describe and label symptom sets. What’s eating at people are the WHY? questions. Why can’t I just be OK again? How did I go wrong? How do people get chemical  imbalances? How come I have it and my siblings don’t?

What is so humbling and thrilling to me is that I can answer their questions with a clear,  simple,  logical explanation that puts their minds to rest. I remember when I was struggling  with depression and I had those same questions. I had everything a person could ever want in  life, except peace of  mind, and that’s the only thing that ultimately mattered to me. Until I  stumbled upon the Three  Principles, it seemed to me that I was somehow flawed, and that I could never be at peace. Then I saw for myself that I was simply tangled up in a web of insecure thinking. I didn’t even need to try to  stop thinking those thoughts. I just had to see them for what they were — the places my mind goes  and stays when I start getting insecure. My own thinking taken seriously. The illusions of low moods. Images that would simply pass if I didn’t take them to heart.

Everything changed for me with that insight. Absolutely everything. The misery was meaningless to me. It started looking like a bad movie I didn’t have to sit through. I could simply turn away from it and allow my thinking to move elsewhere. There was nothing wrong with me. I was just a regular human being experiencing the ups and downs of my variable thinking about life. I didn’t realize I was taking the “downs” to heart so much that I was holding off the “ups”. I didn’t realize that I was creating all my experiences, good and bad, via my own power to think and see my thinking as reality. When I did realize that, it all cleared up. I was fine.

Now, I can share that with others, and point them to their own insights. The simple truth of it — we are the thinkers of our own thoughts and we “see” what we think as real only as long as it’s in our thinking — just resonates with people. The most frequent comment I get when the first insights start to pop for them is, “Why didn’t anyone ever tell me this before?”

The answer is that the mental health field doesn’t know, either. No one told them before because they had not stumbled into a mental health educator who is not a traditionally trained therapist. Therapy assumes there is something wrong and does all it can to treat it. It often helps a lot. Three Principles practitioners assume there is nothing wrong and do all they can to point clients towards seeing that for themselves. It’s just a whole different paradigm. It offers the possibility of sustained change, what we call “cure”.

The fact that it works, time and again, is the evidence of its validity. Not proof. Evidence. People see their thinking for what it is, and see the power of the Three Principles of Mind, Consciousness and Thought at work and then they drop their negative thought habits, come into the present moment, and find peace of mind.

The answers are readily understood:

What’s wrong with me?  Nothing is fundamentally wrong with you.

How did this happen?  Over time, without realizing it, you started taking your most negative or upsetting thinking seriously and became even more frightened or distressed by it.

Why can’t anyone explain to me what happened to my mind?  Without realizing it themselves, people have been describing to you how unintentional misuse of your thinking creates the experiences we call mental illness. But since it is all an illusion created by your own ability to think, it’s impossible for someone who doesn’t see that for themselves to take the explanation any deeper than that. When you focus on what you have made up with your own thinking to try to “fix” it, you are caught in an endless loop. You have to keep thinking it to deal with it. As long as you’re thinking it with no understanding of how thinking works, it looks real.

How do people get chemical imbalances?  Upsetting thinking changes the chemistry of your brain, and ultimately your body. It all starts with thinking. There is a huge body of research describing the relationship between stress and chemical changes within us. When you stop entertaining stressful thinking and taking it seriously, your chemistry returns to normal.

Oh, yes. It is simple. And life-changing. As Sydney Banks put it in The Missing Link,

“All human psyches are rooted in universal truth and no person’s psyche is better than any other’s. Only to the degree of the individual’s psychological and spiritual understanding does it appear to vary.” 

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