We all change a lot over time. We grow from babyhood through childhood and adulthood to old age, with all the physical and mental changes that accompany life stages. We gain and lose weight. We get in shape; we get out of shape. We change our hair. We adopt new styles. We change locations. We change relationships. We change professions. We change financial status. We change our preferences. We change our politics. We change our reading habits. We change our minds in the face of new information.
Those “changes” are all illusions of reality we experience as we think our way through life. They have nothing to do with the spiritual change inspired by the Three Principles. So it is all too easy for people to say, “I heard so-and-so speak, and now I’ve changed my mind about …” Or “I listened to a Syd Banks tape and it changed me from being all stressed out to being really calmed down.” None of those represent the change we are looking for from an ever-clearer understanding of the Principles that are the essence of life. Any time change appears to result from some external interaction — with a person, an event, an incident, a book, a lecture, a tape — it is temporary and illusory. Even if it takes us in a better direction than we were heading, it is not true change.
True change is suddenly seeing a different world. It happens in an instant, from insight, and once it has happened, there is no going back. It is looking out through your own mind and eyes at the very same things or ideas you were just looking at and realizing they all look completely different to you. It is a realization of something suddenly so obvious that you can’t even imagine that you ever missed it. It is a surge of feeling, a sense of clarity and certainty that brings with it peace and freedom and hope beyond the limits of your intellectual knowledge of life.
Many people first engage with the Principles and immediately grasp the common sense of the idea that we create our experience of reality via thought. I couldn’t begin to count the number of clients who have sat across from me, nodding, and saying, “Uh-huh. Yup. That makes sense. I’ve thought that before.” — and they feel just the same as they did when they walked in the door. They were hearing and analyzing the intellectual content of the logic, without any connection to the spiritual truth of it. They are thinking about thought as content, missing the power of Thought as a Principle, the absolute freedom to create anything from nothing. What they’re agreeing to won’t make any difference at that point because the missing piece is the unfathomable experience of spiritual change, which is both ordinary and amazing at the same time. When clients aren’t listening in neutral but are engaging the gears of the intellect, I stop talking about the Principles immediately. Whatever they take from that conversation at that level will just make it harder to hear their own wisdom. (If I stop talking about the Principles, what DO I talk about? It doesn’t matter — anything that comes to mind that seems right in the moment to just put the client’s mind to rest and allow them to clear their heads and stop trying to figure out what I’m saying.)
It is a fact that the Three Principles, described and defined, are a logical, explanatory framework. They even seem linear to people — mind powers thought which powers consciousness — although the very idea of timeless, formless, immutable truths being linear, which is a time and space concept, is incomprehensible. People teach them like addition, or subtraction, or evaporation, or a million other simple things. It doesn’t take much for everyone to learn them. But then what? Big deal. When you keep adding items or taking items away, you get bigger or smaller numbers. If you leave a bowl of water out, it will eventually dry up. That kind of knowledge doesn’t do anything for anyone until something DAWNS on them — yes, just like the sun rising to illuminate the shadowy darkness — what it really means. It doesn’t awaken understanding that leads to peace, wisdom and freedom, until we SEE something deeper than the facts and the logic.
Remember when you were little and you learned to count? At first, the only point was you could delight your family by correctly telling them “how many.” But then when you saw the deeper implications of knowing “how many” — how that knowledge empowered you to interact with the world — counting meant something to you. It allowed you to discover things for yourself and see the world through fresh eyes.
Sydney Banks talks about (his capital letters intended) SEEING. When I first encountered that, in Second Chance (p. 15), I was totally baffled by it, and even a little annoyed because when the word SEE was first uttered, Jonathan, the wise figure in the book, says, “I can’t tell you what I mean by SEEING. It is something you must experience for yourself.” The intellect wants a definition and a chart. I was thinking my way through a book that was never intended to be analyzed like a regular book. The best advice I ever got was to stop wondering about it and trying to figure it out, and just leave my thinking alone. That’s what “reflection” means; turning to internal quietude and simply allowing new ideas to emerge from nowhere. That “nowhere” is the spiritual power of the Principles, the formless energy from which we are formed with everything we need to create the experience of our lives.
My first experience of SEEING was the realization of how many times I had already SEEN and truly changed in my life, when a new idea took form in my mind and completely eradicated everything I had previously thought about that subject. One example. At the age of 29, after 12 years of trying and trying to quit smoking because I completely understood all the medical and scientific evidence that it was bad for me and especially bad for ME because I was prone to bronchial infections, I SAW smoking differently. I had not been able to smoke while I was pregnant; it was one of those things that made me sick during that time. I could hardly wait until after the baby was born so I could smoke again. When I was first home from the hospital with my beautiful baby girl, a friend brought me cigarettes. I was so excited! I sat down with her to have a smoke, and I looked down at my sweet baby in her little lacy bassinette, and I SAW: “I am in charge of the air she breathes. She has no choice.” Suddenly, the whole idea of me, or anyone else, smoking anywhere near my baby was unconscionable to me. It looked entirely different. I never smoked again and I never gave it a second thought. That insight, in a moment, completely erased all the struggles and efforts of quitting. Why would I even think about it? It simply made no sense to smoke.
We all have moments like that, again and again, but we rarely pause to reflect on what they mean, on how deeply true change affects us and how it simplifies our life. We expend a huge amount of time and effort figuring out strategies for change, when all that is needed is quietude and insight. Sometimes the change is small, and sometimes it is a hugely significant turning point. — Always it is clarifying, refreshing. Always it is a reminder of the spiritual power that is our birthright; the extraordinary gift of the Principles at work behind all of life.