When I try and remember how life was before I came across The Principles, I think my fundamental belief was: "Life is difficult, but how we think about it can make a difference - and we have to work at that in order to counteract the hardships out there."
I studied (and taught) Tai Chi so that I could interact with life with as much ease and grace as possible - trying to remain centred amidst inevitable stresses. I studied and practiced Tibetan Buddhism because its teachers seemed to have all the answers to life's mysteries. These studies helped to maintain a positive attitude in the midst of challenges, but in addition, I wanted something which would help me interact with life in a more practical, day-to-day way. I thought I had found what I was looking for in NLP, where I developed new cognitive strategies, uncovered and transformed core limiting beliefs, and particularly loved working at "identity-level" change - change which transformed how I fundamentally perceived myself and how I operated in the world.
All of these studies/practices were of huge benefit. But there was always the underlying notion that I needed to work harder... in order to develop myself more and to get better at dealing with life. "I should practice more than I do..." or "I need to go on another training that will give me more skills/understanding."
In 2001, after several years of struggling with a 'lack of life purpose' and feeling seriously depressed about how stressful life was, I developed a sclerosis on the spinal cord - a health issue that has symptoms of mild Multiple Sclerosis. From when I was age three, I had watched my mother live with, and finally die from, MS. So, when I received the diagnosis with the word "sclerosis" in it, there was some charge attached to it - as you might imagine.
My 'self-development' had taught me to watch out for the kind of thinking which believed I might be following in my mother's footsteps, and to watch out for making meaning out of the diagnosis. Generally, I 'managed my state of mind' pretty well. I also practiced a type of healing qigong - another tool that helped me manage my physical and mental state. But, much of the time I felt very stuck - and couldn't see a way forward... "life's difficulties" were getting the better of me. I was doing doggy-paddle out in the ocean and Life's waves were getting bigger!
In 2012, I came across The Three Principles via Michael Neil's "Coaching from the Inside Out" online course. I thought I would be learning new techniques for learning to be a better coach, or perhaps some new self-development tips that I could apply to help me deal with life with new strategies I hadn't yet come across. I wasn't expecting to have my life-view turned inside out, or my whole reality brought into question! Some days after listening to the audio recordings, I saw the enormous truth that we can only ever have a psychological experience of the world. The world itself does not gives us experience - rather, I saw that my experience was being created from Thought, moment to moment. And by its nature, Thought can change.
In the moments after that first insight, all those periods of my life where I had felt truly stuck, at the mercy of outside circumstances, came rushing to mind and I saw how I had, in reality, been a victim of my own thinking - the 'outside' couldn't have made me feel that way... it was not possible. In fact, I had never actually known what was really "out there", because I could only ever experience it via the power of my own thinking. To know that all of my life's challenges up to that point were not as they had appeared... was pretty humbling! At the same time, I was astounded that I had never been shown this understanding before. I had such a sense of the potential available to us in every moment - in an instant the future was suddenly available again.
In that first year came many new insights - some big, some small - into how Thought created my moods, my perspective, and my sense of self. I often felt truly happy for no reason, and saw that happiness wasn't something that needed to be gained or worked towards - rather it was the default state when there was less on my mind. I saw the benefits of doing less thinking or analysis as it applied to my physical health as well. I was greatly impacted by a video with Marilyn Wendler who had caught on to the separation between physical sensation and wellbeing, and I too started seeing how my physical downturns (or worsening of symptoms) didn't have to automatically mean anything - I didn't have to feel down and depressed whenever my body was exhausted. My body always recovered quicker by itself if I didn't start thinking the worst or fearing for the future.
Now, in my day to day life, seeing the truth that my physical circumstance does not dictate my feeling (my mood, or my spirits), has been the foundation for a new contentment and ease in life. I didn't have to go looking for it, or work harder to deserve it - it was there built-in to the mechanism of how the mind and body work together. And I am so grateful for being shown this mechanism by the teachers of this understanding - especially of course Syd Banks for being able to articulate what he saw.
As someone who has spent a lot of time being conscious (mindful) of physical sensation, I now see that the mind comes before the body - even though it doesn't look that way. For quite a long time, I'd had quite a fear of flying, and on the last time I flew to Greece, there was a lot of 'very scary turbulence'. I was very mindful of each and every sensation in my body being created by the movement of the plane, and didn't like what I felt! Then, a phrase came to mind that I had heard Keith Blevens say: "We cannot be made to feel anything we don't think." Hearing a phrase like that in such moments, calls my understanding into question - part of me responded with "Yeah, right - the plane is definitely making me feel frightened!" But at the same time, I knew enough to trust that Keith wasn't just saying that as a 'good idea', so I kept exploring the links between the fear, the turbulence and the sensations... trying to see the truth of the mechanism. And there it was...
...The plane was not causing the fear; the sensations were not causing the fear. It wasn't possible for fear to be created from the outside - because fear itself is thought! It's thought giving meaning to sensation, not the other way round. That was a beautiful moment. Once again I was shown the awesome power of Thought. And at the same time, I felt powerful... something I had been afraid of for so long, no longer could have the power I had given it.
In just over three years, I have seen so much by way of this understanding; and the beauty is that there is so much more - there's no end to what can be seen. If I was to revisit my previous 'world view', it would now go something like: "Life is Life. Our thinking, moment to moment, creates our experience of it - and we don't have to work at changing that, because it's possible to see that all hardships aren't actually out there in the first place."