We are often asked, “Why is my child hanging out with ‘bad’ friends?” Or “Why do I keep falling for abusive men?” Or “Why do I keep doing business with people who cheat me?” Those questions arise from one deeper question: “What is it about the state of mind I live in that attracts me to the ‘wrong’ people?” Everyone lives in a range of feeling and understanding that they would call “normal.” People who live at the same level we do feel safe and familiar. So our own security and peace of mind determine our associations. As we change, some drift away and others are drawn in. If we want “better” friends, we deepen our own understanding and find more peace of mind. Then it happens naturally.
People tend to define themselves according to the outside world. We try to “be” something or someone, pursuing the ideas we and others have made up about ourselves, and react to events and people. The Principles show us we are guided by our spiritual power of Thought and, when we have peace of mind, by the quiet wisdom beyond our personal knowledge. Once we find stillness of our own minds, we act with the certainty, strength, and confidence wisdom brings. We fearlessly follow opportunities life presents us. We are at ease. We gain the perspective that allows us to understand others, and find peace with differences, rather than fighting for the illusions of our own thinking.
Many people struggle with the painful feeling of shame. Perhaps we were told as children that we “should be ashamed” of something. Perhaps we suffered mistreatment that we interpreted to mean we were not worthy of love and care. Perhaps we did things for which we harbor shame. Shame is nothing more than a negative thought about ourselves. As we understand that people are always doing what makes sense to them at the time, given their level of consciousness, we realize that there is nothing to be ashamed of. We can see beyond negative situations and learn from them, but there is no shame in being human.
(We are re-sharing a podcast from last year during the holiday season because it feels timely to us to remind ourselves and all of us that love and understanding are the answer to to human suffering and the problems of the world.)
The universal energy of creation finds expression in human beings through our ability to think and experience our thinking. It moves from perfect formlessness into the forms we create via thoughts. We “see” thoughts come to life as our personal reality. We remember our thoughts, which become our personal “library.” But each moment is a moment in which we choose to recall and reconsider memories or bring fresh thoughts from formless energy to form, so every moment offers the possibility of a fresh start. When we discover our true spiritual nature, formless energy at the essence, we are in touch with pure, unconditional love and understanding, the source of life and the forms we give love in it.
It’s that time of year again when we’re all expected to be joyful and enthusiastic, and a lot of people just feel stressed, pressured, and anxious about doing all the things they think they have to do for the holidays. We forget that we’re making it up. It’s our own thinking about holidays, our own exaggerated ideas of what we need to get done, our own pressure to make everything perfect for friends and family, that creates a lot of worried, stressful thinking. We don’t lose our natural resilience during the holidays; we simply forget to depend on it and get caught up in thinking and planning and striving. When we start feeling the tension build, it’s a good time to stop, clear our heads, and quiet down. It all works out.
People often express confusion about Sydney Banks’ advice to “just be yourself; be ordinary.” They hear it as if it means “mediocre” or “not realizing your potential.” Actually, the deeper meaning of “ordinary” is “part of the order of things,” and that is what we point to with the Principles. Everyone comes into life with extraordinary gifts: the divine universal energy of Mind powers us to be able to create Thought and become Conscious of our Thoughts as our reality. To be ordinary is to be comfortable in your understanding of the order of things and the power you have to use these gifts to create the life you want. That’s special, but it’s available to all people, so it’s ordinary.
Not being judgmental does not mean not using common sense to speak up or act honestly when we see people we care about or people we serve doing things that are contrary to living at peace, in harmony with life. Syd says “a non-judgmental mind is a mind at peace.” That refers to things like personal judgments — resentments, attitudes towards certain types of people or negativity, things that carry a bad feeling. But, for example, if you know someone you love is using dangerous drugs, the loving thing to do is to exercise your judgment that you will not encourage drug use or overlook it. It would make no sense to support the person’s drug use to avoid looking judgmental.
Discernment is not judgement. We can speak up if we see a friend heading down a dangerous path, or if we notice a client shading the truth, etc. The difference between the negativity of “judgement” and exercising our common sense with good will and a loving feeling is the difference between harboring negative opinions and speaking from wisdom when we see something of concern. It would not be an act of love or a responsible service to others to fail to reprimand a child for stealing, or try to stop a friend from entering a bad deal. As long as we are coming from a good feeling and sincerity, we should be true to wisdom and be able to express concerns without harm to others.
The Principles describe the way the formless energy behind life manifests in the creation of form. They describe the way creation works. Divine Mind, formless intelligent energy, is the force behind all of creation. Divine Thought is what allows us to bring ideas and images to life within our own minds. Divine Consciousness, the energy behind awareness, allows us to see our thoughts as true, as the reality we experience. The Principles are descriptive of what it means to be alive and how we navigate our way through the world in which we live. They are not a Theory. They are the true explanation of the inside-out nature of our experience of life; we are living what we think and thus see as real.
Many people ask us whether encouraging people to find a calm state of mind and contentment isn’t just positive thinking. Our state of mind is BEFORE what we think; when we are at peace and our minds are quiet, the quality of thoughts we produce is a much higher level than the thoughts we produce from a negative or upset state of mind. The problem with the technique of Positive Thinking is that is doesn’t come from our own level of Consciousness; it’s a technique we impose on ourselves to try to feel better. We don’t truly SEE or believe those thoughts. When we address our state of mind and quiet down, more positive thoughts naturally come to mind; we don’t need to read them from a list.
Listening to others in neutral is difficult until we understand how thinking works in all of us. Everyone is creating their own experience of every moment in life. No two people see anything exactly alike; we all think our own thoughts and draw information from our own memory and see things in our own way. And we express what we see to each other. Knowing how the power of thought works allows us not to take things personally, but to listen to each other without judgment. We can learn from others’ ideas when we can truly listen; and we find compassion for others who may appear to be harsh or critical or emotional because we understand it is their state of mind and thinking we are hearing, not anything about us.
When you hear about the Principles, you hear of “Levels of Consciousness.” What does this mean? Our ever-changing “level” is the degree to which we have insights that lead us to realize that all thought is illusion, merely what we make up in the moment. All of it, even though early on, much of it seemed “real.” The more we realize that the power to think is what sets us free and the content is variable and transitory, the higher our level of consciousness. The level is our ability to live at peace, knowing that everyone’s thoughts are unique. It allows us to find love and understanding for all people because we are all the same before we create the illusion, just thinkers making up our experience of what we see.
A lot of people talk about “doing the Principles,” or “using the Principles,” or “combining the Principles with other ‘approaches,'” or thinking the Principles are a “really interesting method.” That downplays the power of Principles as words that stand for and describe formless power, the essential energy, from which all creation takes form. We use words to represent the idea of what that energy means. But the Principles are the understanding of how life works that wisdom brings us when we look away from the form and deeper within our own soul or consciousness to gain “insight.” Long before we had words for them, before we “knew them,” the Principles were the eternal laws of creation.