It’s this: it’s based on a misunderstanding of how things work. It deals with the symptoms of being out of balance, rather than allowing you to see that emotional, physical and spiritual balance is your natural state.
The philosophy that wellness is our fundamental nature isn’t new. It’s intrinsic to ancient Chinese and other traditions. It’s the essence of homeopathic medicine. But it’s being refreshed as a concept right now by a group of people I’ll call Three Principles Practitioners.
3Ps has an unusual history. A Scottish welder by the name of Syd Banks who emigrated to Canada had a series of powerful insights that caused him to quit welding and start teaching.
The story goes that he himself had felt far from psychologically well. He’d gone in search – as I guess so many of us do – for solutions that would help him feel better. But something a colleague said to him served as a kind of awakening. What he began to see that he was looking in the wrong places for answers.
One of the first things he understood was that he’d been holding a completely wrong understanding of how things work.
He’d been working on the basis – as I guess we all do – that the world happens outside-in. That things outside us affect how we feel and what we think. But he saw that, instead, we ourselves are the creators of our experience.Which is not to say that shit doesn’t happen in our lives, but it’s what we then make of it that affects our wellbeing.
Let’s look at some examples:
An important client gives notice on their contract with you. The markets crash. Your son has a tantrum. You might respond with panic, depression, or anger; in part because that’s how you’ve been programed to respond by the outside world.
Traditional wellbeing or stress management advice will tend to focus on the event that’s “causing” your stress. It might offer you a mantra like “success lives in the land of failure” to help you get through. It might advise you to meditate to try to alleviate your depression. It might teach you relationship tactics for dealing with teenagers.
There’s nothing in essence wrong with any of this. It may even have a temporary feel-good effect.
But 3Ps thinking looks in a somewhat different direction.
See, clients sometimes quit. The market can be volatile at times. Children can behave as they will.
But the stress is not in the situation unless you choose to see it there. I know that it looks and feels as if it’s outside you. But it’s not.
We’ve just all been spoofed by an illusion of how things are for centuries.
Beyond this, Banks began to see that, underneath all the outcome-oriented psychology, all the personality theories, all the philosophies and religions are three fundamental principles.
What’s a principle?
Before we go on, let’s look at what we mean by the word “principle” in this context.
For Banks, a principle is a rule that always applies. We’ve come, through the years, and via the genius of certain key people, to understand other principles about life.
For a long time, for example, it was believed that the world was flat; that it had a finite boundary; and that if anyone was to go near that boundary, they’d fall off. You can imagine, back in the day, that if folks were moving around a lot, they may be a little preoccupied to make sure that they didn’t accidentally throw themselves into oblivion.
Greek philosophers in the 6th and 5th Centuries BC proposed otherwise. But it took Aristotle in 330BC to prove by observation that the earth was spherical. Now we take the globe for granted. That’s a principle.
Gravity is another example. The legend goes that Isaac Newton was sitting under a tree one day when an apple fell to the ground while he was reflecting on the forces of nature. This led him to explore that there’s a force required to change the speed or direction of a moving object. Today we accept that gravity is the principle that keeps us firmly on the ground; is one of the factors that allows planes to fly; and is what enables our planet to stay in orbit around the sun. Another principle.
I guess you get the point.
The world is not sometimes spherical and sometimes not.
Gravity isn’t sometimes in play and sometimes not.
And Banks introduced the three principles in this context.
So what are they?
Thought is a human principle. It’s always working through us taking form, often on the basis of what’s going on moment to moment in our lives.
We’ll most commonly recognize it as the mental chatter that goes on in our heads 24/7. But it’s also what’s behind the conclusions we come to about this or that.
You can look at what appears to be an impossibly busy day and interpret that as meaning you’re going to be stressed out. Or you can look at it as just a day with a lot to do. In the first scenario you may go through that day finding everything difficult and feeling unable to give anything your full attention. In the second you may choose to give your attention to one thing at a time. In the latter case, you may be surprised at what you get through and how you feel about it. In the former you may reach the end of the day feeling wrecked.
The day’s demands are no different, it’s how you thought, and hence felt about them that creates the differing experiences.
On that point, thinking and feeling are two sides of the same coin. If your feeling is off somewhere, the genesis of your upset will always be some off thinking.
Feel anxious? You’ve got some anxious thinking somewhere. Not that there’s anything wrong with feeling anxious, by the way. Anxiety is part of the human condition. But sometimes it’s just worth asking yourself where in your thinking your creating it.
Consciousness is another principle. It’s that moment by moment by moment quality of our lives that gives us the experience of being alive.
But most of us don’t spend our lives in the present moment. Far from it, we live thinking of things in the past: aching back to times that felt happier; replaying conversations to wonder what would have happened had we said something smarter; looking at how things played out on a particular occasion to gain some indication of how they’ll play out this time.
Or we’re way out there in the future: the ambitious goals we want for ourselves; upcoming events and how we’ll be at them; holidays and retirement and how different life will be then.
People often paralyze themselves with anxiety about what might or might not happen in the future.
“What if I do this and it doesn’t work out?” is a common thing I hear from clients. I tell them they’re getting ahead of themselves. They’re not in that future moment yet. They’re here now. If they stay present and pay attention to their own wisdom, they’ll know what to do in the moment. Won’t automatically mean that future-stress goes away. But it does help just to know that if you trust the flow of life, things have an uncanny way of taking care of themselves.
Speaking of which…
Mind is the third and the universal principle. It’s the principle that knows that there’s a greater intelligence than us at work in our world. Some people call it God, others Spirit, or just the Universe. It’s the force behind today’s solar eclipse, for example. The force behind the existence of life. The force behind the unfolding of everything from flowers to the shape of our lives.
In all the noise and through all the chatter, it can be difficult to listen to and to hear mind. But it’s there working in any case.
Why share all of this?
I’m sharing all of this with you because sometimes the wellbeing advice becomes just another part of the noise. It can become another set of things to do when you’re already busy enough. From a 3Ps perspective there’s nothing you need to do. Our systems, it turns out, are self-correcting. All you need is bring your awareness to how things are working and you’ll have whatever insights or discoveries you need to realign. That alone is a refreshing thought.
And I wonder, what changes, and what become possible for you as you hear that?
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