Rachel Norwood – Three Principles Practitioner

The Gentle Path to Fulfillment


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There Is No Magic Insight

I believe it was Roald Dahl who said, “those who do not believe in magic will never find it”.

I have to admit, I am loathe to talk about what I’m going to talk about because who would have thought that Rachel Norwood, the “supposed-to-be-very-perfect-three-principles-practitioner-who-surely-has-all-the-good-answers” would be here talking about her dirty, stinky smoking addiction and the difficulties that I’ve experienced these last couple of years untangling myself from that addiction?

Shock! Horror! Well, I suppose now the cat is out of the bag I may as well carry on and talk about it! And, who knows, talking about it might turn out to be helpful to somebody else – that would be pretty cool!

I was always a “fair-weather” smoker, which is to say that I would smoke at a fairly sustained rate for a couple of months a year, usually when there was finer weather and I could go outside on a café terrace to do so, then stop just-like-that for a year before taking up again. I smoked like that for around ten years, stopping completely when I started having children. In those times when I stopped, after only a couple of days the addiction was gone and it was as if I’d never smoked – it was really easy. Of course, my fair-weather smoking came from having “just one, just this once” and then finding myself pulled back into the cycle of addiction – I have to say that.

Back in 2010, I started having some serious issues that, not knowing at the time how we function psychologically, meant that I started smoking again, and very heavily, I would say between 15 and 25 cigarettes a day, sometimes more on those particularly bad days.

In 2012, I discovered the principles with Michael Neill’s very first “Living from the Inside Out” program. As I like to tell the story; I was in a suicidal state, desperate for a solution and by sheer accident came across Michael’s program and joined up. The course had already been running for a few weeks and so over a couple of days, I spent time catching up on the initial videos and listening to the audio recordings of the calls, not understanding a single word of what this guy Mike, casually dressed in sportswear and sometimes looking like he’d only just had his coffee, was going on about!…

… Until a few days later. I think I must have been about three or four days in, and I was sitting in my kitchen having a cup of tea and a cigarette when it suddenly hit me, “I’m doing this to myself! I’m not a victim of anything or anybody because I’m the one creating the feelings with my own thoughts in my own mind”.

And there it was, that one massive insight that transforms you for the rest of your life, that one insight that upends everything you thought you knew, and opens you to a new dialogue and, most of all, a new world; a new world where everything can be greener.

What has that got to do with my smoking habit?

I think that my débuts of understanding in the principles gave me a certain sense of euphoria. To have finally been able to get myself out of an horrific cycle of suicidal thought, it seems fairly natural that any kind of higher state of mind is going to feel a bit euphoric in comparison.

A couple of months after that first massive realization, I was again sitting at my table in my kitchen with a cup of tea and smoking a cigarette when I had, in my somewhat euphoric state, the thought that I didn’t need to smoke any more. And, although I was only half way through that cigarette I stubbed it out, then threw the remainder of the packet with all the accessories in the dustbin. That was it, I didn’t need to smoke any more. I believe triumphantly, I hastened onto the facebook group to announce that “thanks to the three principles I’d kicked my filthy smoking habit!” Of course, dozens of people “liked” it and commented “how fantastic”, “congratulations”, etc.

Except a day, or two or three later, I started to feel physically sick from withdrawal, with a deep desire to light up a cigarette – a desire that I gave in to. My ego took a bruising, obviously I couldn’t go and admit that in the group after so many people having “liked” my announcement and all the lovely, supportive comments – and here you have a vicious psychological cycle that can be extremely difficult to get out of – the vicious psychological cycle of shame.

And the more ashamed I felt, the more annoyed with myself I was getting – and so, the more I smoked. At that time, I was smoking a lot less, between 5 and 10 a day. Then, when life got a bit more complicated, the quantities increased to what I’d been smoking previously and, outside of most of my pregnancy with Emma, I haven’t been able to stop since despite several attempts.

I have spent the last two years, but particularly this last year, waiting for some kind of magic insight, a magic insight so mind-blowing, it would mean that I would never need or want to smoke again. And though insights I’ve had some, and they have been momentarily helpful – for example the realization that I was (still) attempting to control my emotions and avoid low states of mind via the “cigarette high”.

But here’s the hiccup. For over a year now, every morning of every day, almost without fail, I have woken up in a very black mood, churning negative thinking around in my head, feeling like a victim, angry and hostile – and it would take me at least two cups of tea and around four cigarettes for that mood to start lifting.

Now, we create our own feeling through our thoughts – yes, of course. We know that as a most simple truth. Addiction or no addiction, that is how it works.

However, one major realization that I recently had in reply to a question that I’ve been asking myself for some time, that question being, “why does a low state of mind feel so much more real than a higher state of mind?” And the answer comes across to me as very simple. – When we create stress in our minds, our bodies produce a stress-response which allows our bodies to realize what’s going on and to respond in accordance.

In a low state of mind, with low state of mind thinking, we create a stress via our thinking to which our body responds. The more negative the thinking, the more stress is created so logically even more of a stress response is called for. It’s that stress response that makes what we are thinking feel so real via a chain of reactions throughout the body – accelerated heartbeat and breathing, higher blood pressure, shutting down of certain body mechanisms, the need to go to the loo!

A psychological stress in the mind creates, thus, a physical stress (so to speak) in the body.

Why does it feel lighter and less serious, why does it feel less real when we’re in a higher state of mind? – Simply because the body is not being made to create a stress-response, our bodies are more in balance, in their natural state.

You could perhaps say that part of our grounding is also based in a balanced bodily state. *

The insight that I recently had is that (cigarette) addition acts like a subset of invisible thoughts creating stress while destroying the stress-responses and hormonal balance. The force of addiction switches off certain receptors thus increasing the need for an increased dose.

When I was waking up in the morning in a black mood, it wasn’t just because of my thoughts – my thoughts were being channelled via a low state of mind created by the cigarette addiction, and in this particular case, the fact that for six to eight hours I hadn’t been obliging my body, with the use of cigarettes, to answer to a stress created by a lack of nicotine.

In layman’s terms, it’s what I would refer to as a hellhole. You go to bed at night with the full intention of not giving in to the addiction the next day, waken up in a foul mood and the only thing that can break that foul mood is the very thing that caused it in the first place. So you take your poison and then spend the rest of the day being angry at yourself while praying for an answer to get out of the trap.

As I said, I was impatiently waiting for that magic insight that would make it so that I would be able to just stop smoking and never look back. I was looking for that massive insight, similar to my initial massive insight back in 2012 that had been so life-changing. But that insight was not forthcoming. Why?

Because there is no magic insight.

And there’s a very simple reason for that. The principles are a description, not a prescription. An insight is not a remedy to cure all ills. An insight is not going to do the laundry, the ironing and then fold all the clothes into a drawer.

But there is magic within the insight.

And I believe in magic!

Back in 2012, it was not the insight that changed my view of the world and of my life. It was the understanding within that insight, the magic within the insight – what I understand Syd Banks meant when he talked about “the feeling behind the words”.

The magic within that initial transformative insight comes from the realization that possibility exists. The possibility of any new thought bursting forth. The possibility of things not actually existing only in the way that I happen to be seeing them at one particular moment in time. The possibility of some new idea that will help get the laundry, ironing and clothes folded into drawers done.

In my addictive cycle I had closed myself off to any new possibility. In my mind, there could only be one insight that would allow me to stop smoking cigarettes. I forgot there was magic in insight.

Last Friday, I was crippled with pain in my back for the entire day, pain that I obviously was attributing to the number of cigarettes I had smoked in previous days, and terrified that this is a sign of cancer.

Again, I was in the struggle of looking for that one insight, that one realization, but still it would not come. That one insight whose presence I could sense but that I was unable to grasp in form.

I was so busy in my search for that one magic insight that I in fact missed the actual magic when it showed up.

At one point, last Friday afternoon, I made the conscious decision to find a solution to my smoking addiction, one way or another it could not continue. My mind responded to that with, “yes I know it can’t continue but I’m still waiting for that bloody insight that will allow me to stop” – I was completely missing the plot. “It cannot continue” and “find a solution one way or another” was the insight.

“Where’s the magic in that?”, you might ask. The magic is in the fact that in that short statement I made a separation between my spirit-self and the addiction. I did not say, in that moment, “I have to find a solution to stop myself from smoking”, I said, “I have to break the addiction”.

Therefore, I am no longer the addiction. (The laundry’s in the machine)

On Friday evening, as I had to pick up some medication for Emma, it occurred to me to speak to the pharmacist about the addiction problem and ask what solutions are available.

We had a very fun and very informative discussion, and I came away with patches and gum (refunded in part by the social security here in France, which I only discovered when I asked about addiction solutions)

On Saturday morning I started wearing the patches and I feel fine. Occasionally, I have a fleeting desire for a cigarette but it’s not a strong desire – but most of all I have cravings for lots of water and lots of air. (The laundry’s done and the ironing’s on its way)

(And I feel it’s only fair to add that tea and chocolate taste so much better without being ashtray flavoured.)

The magic within the insight comes from realizing that I didn’t have to do it all on my own; that help is available and that there’s nothing wrong with asking for help. That I don’t have to be in control, but that I can allow myself to be guided by insight and wisdom.

Getting help with an addiction problem is certainly very wise. In searching for that one magical insight, I was blocking my own wisdom.

The magic of realizing once more, and in a very profound sense, that the principles are a description and not a prescription.

I can see, I can know that any low state of mind will at some point in the future dissipate – but that doesn’t necessarily make that low state of mind easier to bear in the moment that I’m experiencing it. If your low state of mind is being created, at its origin, by something physically foreign to your own psyche, it is fairly logical that your own psyche is not going to be able to deal with that low state of mind. When the low state of mind is self-thought-created – yes, our psyche is more than capable of working it out; but mess with the hardware, which is what addiction does, and our psyche is going to find itself with one hell of a difficult job.

The insight is realizing that; the magic within the insight is accepting it, integrating it and not expecting some kind of superhuman answer.

I’ve not smoked now for three days. It’s early and I obviously can’t say that I have kicked the addiction. But with the help, I am giving my psyche the possibility to work stuff out, possibility that is robbed (in great part) by addiction. With the support system, I am more confident in my own wisdom, more trusting in the guidance of Mind and the unfolding of life. I have more hope.

These past two days, I have woken up in a good state of mind. I’m feeling less tired, more energetic – those positives likely coming from both the physical and the psychological. My lungs aren’t full of smoke – so my brain is being better oxygenated (better state of mind), as is the rest of my body (better physical state).

Of course, the clothes are not yet folded into the drawers, but my back is already far less painful than it was three days ago …

There is no magic insight, but there is magic within insight and the magic naturally appears when we allow the insight to appear, however unexpected that insight might happen to be.

One way of putting it would be, first comes insight that possibility exists, then comes magic that allows any possibility to play out in life – the feeling behind the words …

Love,

Rachel

 

* Here, I express my own personal understanding of what I see around how addiction functions. I make no claim to be any kind of expert on body mechanisms. For those interested in a clearer understanding of hormonal structures and “stress – stress-responses”, I warmly recommend Robert Sapolsky’s, “Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers”


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Insight Into Separate Realities

For some reason this past week has been particularly favourable to insight, despite having three sick little people sick, and I’d like to share one them here with you (more to come, very likely)

Last Wednesday morning, as I was driving my husband to work after having got Colleen off to school I had an insight about Separate Realities.
It has been clear to me for quite some time now that each one of us lives in Separate Realities, but as I was driving along it suddenly hit me, BOOM, each one of us lives in Separate Realities.

Now for those of you thinking, “Well, Rachel you just repeated the same sentence” – well, yes of course you’re right! Let me explain.

Emma was taken into hospital last Tuesday night and I got to sleep really, very late, it must have been around 3am by the time they’d done all the blood tests, etc. After about three hours sleep, I got up and I drove home to get the kids off to school. When I got home Alistair was already up being sick too, so I just had to take care of Colleen (not to be outdone by anyone, she was sick on Thursday and Friday and Saturday and Sunday!)

I was pretty tired, as you might imagine, though my head was working fine and I was in a really good state of mind, but as I was driving my husband to work and myself back to the hospital, I started berating myself because instead of giving Colleen her usual school-day breakfast of bacon, eggs, tomatoes and cucumbers, I’d just given her a “quick” bowl of cereal. And I started to feel bad – I hadn’t taken proper and perfect care of my daughter before she went to school; somehow in there I was being a bad mum. “Why should my daughter be deprived of her usual breakfast just because I’m tired?!”

As I began to see that I was starting to feel bad through those thoughts, I saw that they were leading me in the direction of a lower state of mind, and, as is always the case, as soon as I saw that, I was already putting some distance between myself and the reality in consciousness of that thinking. Then it dawned on me, I could actually think “proud” thoughts about myself given that I got up after only a couple of hours’ sleep, drove an hour to get home, took care of Alistair, got Colleen ready for school, did the dishes before leaving and was now driving my husband to work before returning to the hospital.

And that’s when it hit me: Each one of us lives in Separate Realities – not in the sense of, “we each of us have one reality that we live in” but in the sense of, “there is an infinite number of realities that we can create within ourselves, each of us as individuals”

And it kind of made me realize that one of the biggest mistakes that we innocently make as human beings, is to believe that there is only one reality available to us at any given moment.

A few months ago, one of my friends house was broken into. For her, “it was a catastrophe, she would never be able to get over the loss of some precious, sentimental items, not to mention the fear. Her family would absolutely have to move house because her children would never get over the trauma of what had happened. It was the end of the world. And there was no possibility of seeing that any other way.”

Of course, it’s an understandable reaction to a burglary, we can see why she could think like that and create that reality. What people don’t know, and for those of us who do but often forget, is that it’s not the circumstance that creates the feelings, it’s our thoughts. Thought has been, is, and always will be the link between not just our circumstances and our feelings about them, but also the simple fact that we are alive and that we even have feelings. Without Thought there would be no feeling. It is our use, or innocent misuse of thought, that creates all the Separate Realities that we can experience.

For me, this awareness of Separate Realities available to us at any given time simply allows us to wait and see, to wait and see what reality Mind is going to come up with next. This awareness allows us to reach a higher level of trust in the unfolding. That, in itself, gives us hope and maintains our natural resiliency …

We cannot know what is going to happen tomorrow, we cannot know what’s going to happen even 5 seconds from now! What I do know is that in a situation similar to that of my friend, those Separate Realities allow us to turn our faces to the day and see it from a low(er) level of consciousness where everything is a struggle and an effort and incredibly hard, or we can turn our faces to the day and see it from a high(er) level of consciousness where we can manage the situation with (more) ease and grace

Love,

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The Story of the Ring

When I woke up this morning, I had a memory come to mind of something that happened when I was an adolescent and still living with my parents.

My mum and dad had decided to grow a vegetable garden – and my! did they! We had almost every vegetable you can imagine! Peas, carrots, green beans, potatoes, salads, tomatoes, cucumbers – and in such quantity! I don’t think we went food shopping for a year!

One day, while out gathering peas, my mum suddenly realized that she’d lost her wedding ring in the garden and she was distraught, searching frantically and shouting to me to come and help.

We must have searched in the dirt and all around the vegetables for an hour and a half without finding anything until my mum despondently gave up saying that her ring must have got trampled into the ground and we would never find it now.

But I wasn’t buying it! Part of me just wanted to find the ring to make her happy (though let’s leave Freud out of it!), but mostly, I just had this very sure sense of calm and I was convinced, I had faith, that it was still possible to find it.
After all, my mum had lost the ring in the garden, it was just common sense that it should still be there somewhere.

In order to get a better look, I took a few steps back towards the house but I couldn’t see anything …
I stood on the back doorstep and I still couldn’t see anything…
I couldn’t see anything either from the kitchen window …

And then it dawned on me to go upstairs and to look from my room that looked over the garden. My mum, convinced that we would never find the ring, pooh-poohed the idea, saying that it was a waste of time, the ring was lost forever!

Nevertheless, I climbed the stairs leading to my room and peered hopefully from my window. And as I looked, the sun came out (hey, we lived in Scotland, that’s a rare occurrence!) and all of a sudden I could see something glistening right down there by the peas!

I called my mum to go and look and I tried to guide her, but she was still in the frame of mind that it was lost and that I was just imagining seeing it. She thought that the glistening I saw was a raindrop on a leaf in the sun …

By this time, she was getting surely angry – not only had she lost her ring, but here I was sending her on a wild goose chase into the garden anew, the place where we had already frantically searched without finding anything. So she said to me, “if you see it, you find it! I give up!”

But I had seen it, I knew it was there and I knew that because I’d seen it, I would be able to find it, to touch it.
So I went downstairs and back into the garden. I walked along the row of peas, slowly and carefully. I walked into the ray of sunshine and turned my head to look at the plants … and there it was! Caught on one of the highest branches of a pea plant was my mother’s wedding ring.

It had been there all the time, but it was only possible to see it from a higher perspective; and once the ring was found from that higher perspective, even at ground level it was possible to find it, simply because I already knew it was there.
We could have scrabbled around in the earth without ever finding it, or it would have taken us a very long time but looking at the garden from a higher point of view was what allowed me to find the ring.

And so it is with our human nature. When we are in trouble with our thoughts we can scrabble around in the darkness, hoping to find the glistening light, hoping to find that comforting thought, but it would take a really long time and there’s a chance that we might never find it.
But when we look at the same situation from a higher perspective, from a different point of view, that is where we are more able to see and find what we are looking for. We always have the possibility, no matter what, of taking a step back from our frantic searching and to allow our innateness to shine through naturally on its own – we don’t have to do anything because, like the ring was always in the garden, our innateness, that beautiful feeling of peace, is always there.

What allows us to take that step back, what allows us to be able to see the whole picture from a different perspective, comes through the understanding of where our human experience is coming from in the first place; how we really function psychologically – how our experience is coming from Mind, the energy of life, and is brought into feeling Consciousness via the guide of Thought. It is as simple as that – just as there was a beautiful simplicity in going upstairs to look out the window of my room to see the ring. I didn’t have to make an effort, I didn’t have to analyze or strategize in order to work that out – it just seemed like the right thing to do … and it’s what gave the clarity of sight.

Understanding how we create our human experience moment to moment is what brings that clarity of sight, and there is no analysis or strategy that can make that happen. The ring appeared out of nowhere, and so it is with insight

Love,
Rachel

sweet-peas


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Not Taking Ourselves So Seriously ;)

Shocking Revelations: Three Principles a Big Old Hoax; Misery is the Default

In a shocking announcement this morning, it has been announced that the Three Principles is a big old hoax and that we can all go back to feeling miserable.

The statement said that, contrary to what has been taught for the last forty years, we do, in reality, live 100% in the feeling of our circumstances, and thought has sod all to do with it. As such, we have absolutely no responsibility whatsoever over how we are feeling, as all feeling comes from uncontrollable outside circumstances – the best we can do to attempt to feel good about ourselves is to blame everyone else!

In order to cultivate this innate sense of misery, nothing could be easier; suffice to look outside of ourselves in order to find examples in our surroundings.

One such example would be the person on the telephone in the library. It is very important to focus on the behaviour of this person, preferably passing judgement as much as possible, i.e. “they are SO rude and inconsiderate!” and as this other person is wholly responsible for your irritability, it is totally justifiable that after only 5 minutes you angrily throw your books into your bag and stomp out of the library red-faced and muttering swear words under your breath. Shouting “Fucker!” is a very understandable reaction in this kind of situation!

Because your circumstances and other people dictate how you feel, there is strictly no point attempting to look to senses such as “Compassion” and “Empathy” – these are lies and do not exist in the “REAL” world. To come back to the example of the person on the telephone in the library who made you so angry, there is no point saying things to yourself such as, “well they were talking very, very quietly and evidently were trying not to disturb anybody else”, or “well, maybe a member of their family just died or they have something urgent to deal with” – looking for another perspective is a useless exercise; THERE IS NO OTHER PERSPECTIVE!!

In order to live fully in a sense of absolute misery, there are a certain number of techniques that can be employed. One such technique is “self-righteous revenge”. When, for example, somebody has upset you, one must remain angry at that person until one comes up with an idea for revenge. Again, there is no point attempting to look for “Compassion” and “Empathy”, clearly this person doesn’t live in the feeling of their thinking any more than you do!

An effective strategy for revenge is to sharply bop the offender on the nose and giggle while you watch their eyes smart. This will fill you with a wonderful feeling of self-righteousness for a full five minutes, but not to worry, you will be back to feeling superbly miserable immediately following that; as you have bopped everybody you know on the nose in the spirit of revenge, you have no friends left!

Another excellent technique for getting miserable and staying that way is to pass judgement on everything and everyone, including yourself. Ideally, you should consider everything you’ve ever done as proof that you are a big, fat failure. Here the ego and an evident sense of self-importance are the key to feeling shite. Comparing yourself and your achievements to others and others’ achievements is the rule.

Through comparison you will be able to cultivate feelings of jealousy, greed, anger, bitterness, self-pity and, the King of Misery, Fear. The truth is, in comparing yourself to others and being in competition with everybody else, you develop a keen sense of isolation. But fret not! Because how you behave is down to your circumstances, which removes any responsibility you may have thought you had in the past, you are always right!

Therefore, when things don’t work out the way you want them to, you can easily find someone or something else to blame. Moreover, it is perfectly normal to take everything you think very seriously and very personally, after all, thought is real. As such, when another person succeeds over you, your sense of self-importance will thankfully come to the rescue. Evidently you are far better than this other person, you’re just a victim of bad luck!

As for wisdom and clarity? Ha!

Clearly, nobody else in the world has wisdom or clarity as everybody else is totally stupid compared to you, but still be sure and carefully work everything out in your head before saying or doing anything. This does not ensure success but it will keep your mind veeeeerryyyyyy busy!

So, there you have it folks – everything you need to know to live a life of perfect misery finally revealed and the best bit, you don’t even get a choice in the matter – it’s all down to circumstances!

This announcement was made just hours after the NASA announced in a press release that Newton was a total fraud and gravity doesn’t exist!

Happy April Fool’s Day! ❤


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Hope and Breaking the Rules

Dear Friends and Students,

One of my absolute favourite things to do in life is drive… Like my kitchen, with cup of tea in hand, it’s one of those spaces where I feel very at peace and often have some insight.
The other day, as I was driving to do my shopping I had two insights, one on the way and the other on the way back, and I’d like to share them with you:

The on the way insight: Hope
I was thinking about an expression that we often use here in France, we say, “where there is life, there is hope” and it got me to thinking about what the word “hope” means to me now.
I used to hope a lot – I used to hope that my life would be better, I used to hope that things would go the way I would like them to, I used to hope a whole bunch of external stuff in the hope that I would ultimately feel good about myself and about my life, in the hope that I would ultimately be happy.
As I pondered the question, it dawned on me that I don’t hope any more (okay I do hope that my shopping isn’t going to cost me the skin off my arse and that I might get enough “me” time during a day in order to drink a cup of tea that’s still hot!) because, since growing within this understanding that our well being is non-dependant on anything that happens to be going on around us or that might come to us in a future moment, hoping for those things, and by doing so placing my future innateness on the realization of those outcomes, in the end seems somewhat pointless.
I’m not saying I don’t ever hope for external stuff, of course I do, we all do that, but even when I do, I quickly become aware of it and that awareness allows me to let that personal thought pass and to leave place for a wiser perception of life.

So, what does hope mean, for me, if there’s no necessity for anything to happen, nothing for me to achieve, if my happiness is not riding on whatever I may be hoping for?
What I see is a field of possibility… When I say “I hope” it’s because I fundamentally know there is that field of possibilty. I’m pretty sure that there’s a good chance that when the French first iterated that expression, “where there’s life, there is hope” what they were actually saying, the original meaning was, “where there’s life, there’s possibility” … and that’s really amazing because in that context, nothing is impossible… and nothing is hopeless.

The physicist Stephen Hawking is an amazing example of that. Despite illness, despite being told that he wouldn’t live a long life, despite being wrong in some of his theories, he’s still alive and, unless I’m mistaken, still looking for that one equation to explain everything (if we are to believe the film version at any rate!) He might not ever find it… but as long as he’s alive, the possibility is there for him to find it and the fact that the possibility exists means that, no matter how impossible it might seem, it can never be impossible… he can still hope for it.

In truth, the only thing that can close us up to “hope”, to “possibility” is our own personal thinking. Now, you might argue with what may come across as a very simplistic statement and say, “well, I don’t have the money for that” or “I don’t have the right qualifications or the knowledge necessary” or “I don’t have the right support, people are against me”… and this brings me to the second insight that I had on the way home …

My on the way home insight: Breaking the Rules!
On my way home, in some very surprising traffic jams, I switched on the radio and was suddenly bathing in the 2nd movement of Beethoven’s 7th Symphony. For those of you who don’t know this – depending on the period of music, each movement of a symphony has a particular form. Usually the second movement has a kind of free form where the composer can decide what to do with it but generally we find some kind of Theme-Variation-Theme form.
But bang in the middle of this movement Beethoven gives us a very complex form of music (a fugato) where the music and the instruments intertwine with each other – a thing of great beauty and grace and, as we would say in contemporary talk, “totally out of the box”. Beethoven was breaking the rules by stickin’ that in there – and thank God he did, it’s what makes that movement so very beautiful.
And it got me to thinking. All the really “famous” composers, the ones who are household names such as Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Vivaldi, Ravel, Chopin, Prokofiev (list given to me by my hubby), if you look very closely at their works, every single one of them, in one way or another, either were pioneers or visionnaries and/or broke the rules.

At the time of Bach, certain chord progressions were completely forbidden – some of his best works contain those very same chord progressions, Mozart took music that had become very “steady” during his period and turned it into something ornamented and embellished that I happily sing while I’m doing the washing up. Vivaldi wrote what can only be described as the very first “programme music” with the Four Seasons – music that depicts a scene. Programme music wasn’t officially “invented” until the 19th century (almost 200 years later)

It seems to me that even though certain rules are essential in life – when I’m driving, the rule is to let the person on the roundabout pass first to avoid an accident and it would be dangerous to not respect that rule – in the creative domain, some of the best successes ever have come from complete “disrespect” of the rules. I don’t mean conscious or deliberate disrespect, just that the creative genius was so strong that it couldn’t be held within any kind of limitation …

When we say things like, “I don’t have the money, knowledge, support, qualifications, etc.”, we are closing ourselves up to the possibility of creation. Clearly, I’m not saying that creating something will automatically allow us to break those boundaries but there is certainly no chance of crossing any boundaries if we already closed up to the possibility, if we have already lost hope.

I remember one day, a very long time ago when I was still studying and working as a professional musician, having a conversation with one of my flute teachers and I was copiously complaining about all the barriers that I was perceiving in order for me to pursue my career as a mucisian: there were age barriers, qualification barriers, even self-esteem barriers stemming from the other perceived barriers. My teacher very simply said, “there’s always another door. You might not have been to the Conservatoire de Paris, but that doesn’t mean that all the doors are locked!”

What I am very aware of today is that truly what breaks those barriers and allows us to cross those boudaries is very simply being “very good”. But in order for us to be “very good”, we have to allow that innate creative power a space to work in, something we cannot do when we are caught up in our ego, our personal thinking. For me, being “very good” has nothing to do with social recognition and everything to do with being vibrant and alive and purely conscious in any task that I undertake.
We always have the choice to “play it safe” in life. We can content ourselves, and thrive, within the pre-existant societal rules. We can go and look for that safe job, play into what society “dictates” to us, live in the box or we can break some of the rules…. I’m not saying to throw all caution to the wind but to allow enough rule breaking for that creative genius the space to do what it will, to not thwart it and to maybe just create something so thoroughly beautiful that it may touch the very society that believes, for a good part, that we should rein ourselves in …

What’s interesting to note is that a lot of those pioneers and visionnaries, those rule-breakers, were not appreciated at their just value during their time. Bach wasn’t the well-known composer that people believe he was – he was a fairly “minor” organ master in a small town. People walked out at the premier of Beethoven’s Fifth. Mozart was heavily criticized for his style. Prokofiev was at the origin of a new genre of music with neo-classicism that was at odds with modern contemporary music, to cite just a few examples.

Nevertheless, what appears very clear is that those people who are still spoken of today, allowed the creative genius to flow through without getting caught up in rules, whether personal or societal, and what is also interesting to note, is that they didn’t do it with the intention of getting famous, even posthumously.

No creative idea has any guarantee of bringing fame and fortune and when a project is brought forth with that objective in mind, then the personal thinking will tend to get in the way of creativity.

Yet pure creation is what makes humanity move forward. Those composers, artists, inventors, scientists, mathematicians, physicists, writers, philosophers, etc – all of those people have helped humanity progress by simply allowing creation to flow through them, by getting their own ego out of the way long enough to open up a space for something new and something true.

From my own experience, I can honestly say that there is nothing more rewarding in the world than feeling that your mind and body have been taken over by inspiration, by creativity; when your personal thought becomes so quiet that you disappear into a state of pure consciousness. It’s like electricity and that creative flow obeys no rules…
I can just imagine Beethoven uttering a “verdammte Scheiße!” just before writing that amazingly beautiful fugato that people are still wooed by today …

You can listen to this beautiful second movement of Beethoven’s 7th by following the link here, the fugato appears around the 6 minute mark: http://youtu.be/J12zprD7V1k

With Love,


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Keep Your Eye On the Man

For the audio version of this article click here

We should take care not to make the intellect our god; it has, of course, powerful muscles, but no personalityAlbert Einstein

I work a lot with people who come to me in the hope of losing weight. The majority of them have learned to be extremely harsh with themselves due to their weight, they see the weight they are carrying to be a scourge that they feel unable to see the end of, and so they are always surprised when I point out to them that “we are the lucky ones!”

As I wrote in my book “The Gentle Path to Definitive Weight Loss

“One of my relatives was recently diagnosed with gallstones and was immediately prescribed a low-fat diet. He’s not allowed eggs, red meat, any fried food, any oils or anything containing cholesterol. However, he never was a big eater of fatty foods and actually has a fairly healthy diet; he has never had a problem with weight gain, he is somebody that actually could be classed as underweight particularly for his height, yet when he was just in his fifties he suffered a heart attack and has since been under medication…”

What I point out is that my relative had absolutely no visible signs of any metabolic condition that could remotely lead to a heart attack or other metabolic related problems. The reason I say that “we are the lucky ones” is because we have a clear and visible sign on the outside that something on the inside is off track somehow and because we know that, we can see what we can find to do about it before we get to the stage of having a heart attack or gallstones.

And, so it is with this understanding of the nature of the human experience. We’re the lucky ones who have an understanding of how we function psychologically. We know that we are creating our experiential reality on a moment to moment basis via the gift of thought; we know that the formless energy behind life is being brought into consciousness via thought; we know that we can only ever be victims of our own thinking. We can see for ourselves what we are doing.

99% of the population are not aware of how we create our experience of life. 99% of the population believe that they are tributary to whatever happens to be going on in their surroundings. 99% of the population, as we once were too, have been duped into believing that what they think is real and that, because they think it, things cannot be any other way.

But because we have learned to see the mechanism of our experience, the knowledge of that allows us to see what we can find to do about it before we get caught up and stuck in our own thinking before we end up with psychological gallstones and heart attacks.

When I was young, I would often burn myself taking food out of the oven. As it happened, I would get lost in my thinking about how much it hurt and, invariably, I would end up with a massive blister that would be painful for several days.* Now, as I am older, I still can burn myself in the oven but as it happens, I just say to myself “oh, burnt myself a bit” and, funnily enough, I don’t get blisters anymore and if it hurts, it only hurts for a very short time. Interestingly, I also find I burn myself a whole lot less now than I did when I was younger – simply because I have learned how to get in and out of the oven without getting burnt.

And it’s very similar in life. We can get “burnt” by our own thinking and we can keep going there, focalising our attention on the burn, which will ultimately make it far more painful than necessary. The beauty in this understanding of the three principles, is that we realize we don’t have to keep putting our hand in the oven. We have the choice of getting burnt, thinking about it, not thinking about it and not getting burnt at all but when we do get burnt, and let’s face it, everybody cooks, we realize that we did it ourselves and that it’s not the oven’s fault.

But more than that, once we have learned how the oven works, we know how to approach it without getting burnt, or at least without getting burnt quite as much.

I don’t know why human beings have this unique ability to create pain for themselves with their own thinking. What appears clear, is that it is not what thought was originally designed to do, but that this is something that we have learned to do over time.

Our saving grace in all of that is our wisdom, which ironically is coming from the same source as our own personal thinking, and that wisdom is there to guide us away from the pain and hurt, away from the lostness, it is the guide that will lead us back home to our well-being, it’s the constant in the midst of the ebb and flow of our own personal thinking.

When we find ourselves in trouble because of our personal thinking, our bodies will produce physical symptoms, everything going from fatigue to extreme cases of mental illness and this too is our saving grace. In the same way as weight gain is a signal that our metabolism is off track, in those moments, and in the beauty of this understanding again, we learn to recognize more and more early the “physical symptoms” related to our own painful thinking; we become aware that our thinking is off track and that it is simply time for us to take stock of what we’ve been doing ourselves and allow for a quiet space for the thoughts to return to their natural fluid state. We allow the oven to cool down.

That’s the wisdom… and in all honesty, to live a peaceful and fulfilled life, if that’s the only “thing” you have then you already have a guarantee of a peaceful and fulfilled life.

When you are able to pick up on the off-track thinking and the off-track accompanying symptoms, then there’s your insight. There’s nothing else to do as the system is designed to self-correct and, no matter how crazy your thinking might become, the underlying peacefulness and well-being is still present as a constant.

When we are looking at mental illness and labelling people with such and such a “mental condition”, then we are going in the wrong direction. You see, we all have crazy thinking and if we’re honest, I would say we all have some crazy thinking on a daily basis. But looking to see what is going on in our heads as a measure of our mental stability is distancing us from our mental wellness.

In a recent discussion with a friend who had been having some troubles, she had been in a very low state for quite some time and was pushing herself to stay “up” and being very harsh on herself. Ultimately she pushed her system to the limit, which ended with an episode of total lostness where she didn’t know where she was and was unable to discern between what was real or imagined. She became afraid and used the expression “I’m going insane”. I pointed out to her that insanity is not the wild thinking that we have; it’s not those people who have hallucinations and a couple of days later become aware that they had some kind of episode because they have simply been pushing their systems too much.

Insanity is ignoring the voice of wisdom. Insanity is when we don’t waken up to the illusion of our own thinking and when we believe that what we are thinking is real, despite that voice in our head guiding us back to our well-being.

Insanity is some guy sitting in a car, blaming his circumstances and everybody in them, for his dis-ease and as you watch that person’s video, you can see the voice of wisdom telling him that he’s going the wrong way and that he doesn’t have to do what he is thinking of doing. When you can see him ignoring that wisdom, not believing that wisdom, then you are witnessing true insanity. Insanity is when we shut out and become immune to our own voice of wisdom.

What I said to my friend was that she was lucky because she has the ability to recognize what is going on with her own thinking and in seeing that, she can tap into her wisdom that will always bring her home. If we only looked at her thinking then we might say she was insane but, given that she can see what’s going on, for me, she is one of the sanest people I know.

Because this much is true: no matter the level of dis-ease that we can drive ourselves to, it only takes one new thought to snap us out of it. As Syd Banks said, “we are but just one thought away from happiness”. One thought is all it takes. All we have to “do” is be and to listen for it, seethe possibility of it.

Neil de Grasse Tyson is re-launching the Cosmos series that was originally done by the astrophysicist Carl Sagan. In a recent clip we see him walking on a beach with a dog on a leash (link to video here). In the clip he is talking about climate change vs. weather. As the dog meanders all around, Neil de Grasse Tyson walks in a fairly straight line and as he does so, he explains that the dog represents the weather, the weather that can be all up and down and all over the place but he, NDGT, represents the global climate walking in a fairly constant line. He finishes by saying that the weather is not an indication of climate change and that if we want to know what is going on with the climate to, “keep your eye on the man”

If we transpose that scientific fact onto the climate vs. weather of our human psychological functioning we quickly see that our thinking, the weather, can be all over the place but when it comes to the climate of our psychological well-being, peacefulness, compassion and yes, LOVE; that constant that never goes anywhere and, more importantly, is neither affected by the weather of our personal thinking, then it seems a good idea to “keep your eye on the man”.

With Love,

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On Being Human

“Don’t show me frogs and snakes
 And listen for my scream,
 If I’m afraid at all 
It’s only in my dreams” – Maya Angelou

One of the things that I sometimes have trouble with is, as a self-appointed practitioner with no “formal training”, the fine line that I am making up myself, the difference between being a practitioner “with all the ‘right’ answers coming from wisdom” and being a human being getting caught up in my own little life and my own personal thinking.

A few things occurred last week, in form, that left me troubled and very ungrounded – and though I’m aware that it’s my thinking around that, I can see where it’s coming from, it has still appeared and felt very real.

A month or so ago, I applied to be registered as a practitioner with the Three Principles Global Community and, after going through the formalities for that – interview, etc. – my application was accepted and I was added to that list. A week or so ago, the 3PGC sent out an e-mail requesting material: articles, podcasts etc. and also asking practitioners to participate in a recorded skype call to be edited and published on the website.

Taking on the responsibility of my own investment, I replied back, sending in some material, and informing them that I would love to do a video, and the arrangements for that were made.

But in doing that video, I found myself with a whole lot of insecure thinking coming up – the feeling of being an imposter, I’m listed alongside people who knew and worked with Syd Banks and who have thirty years experience teaching the principles compared to my meagre two years experience. But also many doubts came up about “what do I know about the principles?” followed by thoughts of, even though I was in a lovely feeling during the recording, that “maybe what I was saying was just a load of old bollocks”. Then I got more insecure thinking about the fact that the video is sent before a committee to decide whether it is suitable before being put on line. In one way, that’s a good thing – my thoughts were “well, if it is a load of old bollocks then I’m reassured that they won’t use it” but also thoughts of “what if they were to judge me as someone who is ‘really bad at this’ and who doesn’t have any grounding, then bump me off the list?”

I have to admit it was a bizarre place to find myself in – on one hand the feeling of being in the flow and unattached to the outcome, while on the other having fears bubbling up around “am I good enough?” and “will I be badly judged?” and the desire “to get it right so as not to lead people in the wrong direction”

The only thing I can come back to around that is where my experience of all of that is coming from, to take me back to that place before thought where there is only peace and quiet.

And then something “more serious” occurred. Recently I have been reading the books by Syd Banks that I had not yet read, Second Chance and Dear Liza. Where I was getting a really nice feeling while I was reading Second Chance, I was most troubled when I got to the end of the book with Richard’s sudden remission from terminal cancer through the fact that he had some kind of inexplicable shift in consciousness. Following the end of that reading, I read Dear Liza from cover to cover and found myself even more troubled by the end of that story. As the basis for the storyline, the outcome came across as being very outside-in – the little girl showed patience and much wisdom and by the end of the story her personal circumstances had improved greatly and, though she was about to die, her new family prays to God for her recovery and then she miraculously appears at the top of the stairs requesting a cup of tea – “my mum always said that when someone who’s ill asks for a cup of tea that means they are on the road to recovery”, or words to that effect had appeared earlier on in the story.

The following morning I woke up feeling fragilized and vulnerable, I couldn’t stop crying and the thought of “if this is what this is about, then I don’t want to be a practitioner any more”. I was furiously angry at Syd for seeming to insinuate such things, for seeming to insinuate that an understanding of the three principles was a cure-all, in the formless and in the world of form. I spend a lot of my time pointing out to “newcomers” to the principles that this is not some kind of plaster cast nor some kind of religious sect, but the praying scene at the end of Dear Liza was, it seemed to me, insinuating quite the opposite.

The whole of those experiences in that week left me feeling ungrounded and frankly incompetent as a practitioner.

We learn to teach from what we know and, after reading what Syd wrote, I didn’t know any of that… and I still don’t. Was I missing something? Was there some secret that I needed to learn? I felt that I didn’t know anything at all!

In 2007, my mother went into hospital for an operation, an operation that appeared at first to be successful. After two days in intensive care, she was moved to a high surveillance ward and asked for a cup of tea and drank it. Three hours later, she was urgently taken back to intensive care with acidosis and died three weeks later in the most horrible state of health and, but for the morphine, she would have been in intense physical pain.

Clearly, as my friend and colleague, Tammy Furey, pointed out to me, what Syd wrote was colliding with my own thoughts and experiences and, through that, I could see that I was creating for myself a deep internal conflict.

Part of my anger towards Syd and what I read also comes from the fact that I do sometimes wish that the three principles were a cure-all in the formless and in the world of form – I wish, sometimes, that this understand was a magic wand to make my circumstances better, particularly at those times when I perceive them as not being how I would like. Sometimes I wish that this understanding would greatly improve my circumstances and that the life-changing, transformative element would also manifest itself in the world of form.

And the fact that I read those things and that my circumstances, although certain things have improved, are still not the way I would like them to be, only added to my upset.

In my confusion I consulted a couple of friends and colleagues, and the responses I received have helped me gain quite a lot of clarity.

One thing that came up for me is that if Syd were still with us and I were to go to him with this anger and express all of that, what would he say? And it dawns on me that he might just have given me a hug. In any case, that is what I would do if someone came to me with those kinds of thoughts and those kinds of feelings.

But most of all, what occurs to me is that Syd too was a human being just like the rest of us and as such, he was not infallible so whether he was pointing to the idea that the principles can provide that kind of answer or not, in the end is of little importance.

I also am aware that, other than in those particular writings, I’ve never read or heard Syd say anything to that effect anywhere else and I have never heard any other practitioner or facilitator of the principles say anything like that.

And yet it’s true, there are stories of sudden remission, there are stories of miraculous recovery from illness but those examples are not in my experience, so I don’t know that and, as yet, I have had no insight or wisdom come through indicating that that sort of thing is possible.

As a human being, teaching from what I know, I would never be able to say that, and even if Syd was speaking truth that takes nothing away from the fact that I can still only ever teach from what I know, which in a sense creates a dilemma for me. I can only teach from what I know, but what if what I know is wrong?

Because I am a human being with a finite form, even though I have a connection with that formless energy and that formless wisdom, just as much as everybody else on this planet, I can never know all of its secrets, no matter how far I go in this voyage of exploration.

Bearing that in mind, someone else might have an insight that I may never have which leads me to the solution. In sharing what I know, I can help open a space for someone else and they can have their own insights.

The fact is, we all express this in the way that makes sense to us and, all we can do as practitioners and human beings, is trust that the system will be there to guide us in the best way possible.

So teaching from what I know, when a friend came to me the other day and told me that she had recently lost her baby while her pregnancy was well-advanced, all I could offer was my own sadness. When she said, “life can be so unfair” all I was able to offer up was “yes, I agree, it can certainly seem that way”. All I could offer her was my presence and love in, what was for her, a time of intense pain.

Maybe a more experienced practitioner could have come up with something more helpful, more comforting but, me, Rachel, as a human being and as a practitioner, that was all I had to offer. Where I found myself on the scale of consciousness and in regards to my own feeling of “ungroundedness” at that moment in time was where I could speak from and the system was there to guide me in that place where I was personally while accompanying another human being in pain.

So, this brings me to the conclusion that being a practitioner, no matter how much I attempt to persuade myself of it, can never take away from the fact that I am, first and foremost, a human being in all its perfect imperfections. Will I make mistakes? Of course, I will! Will I fuck up completely at times? I expect to, yes!

I remember a conversation recently with Dr. Mark Howard where he told us a story of when he was speaking with a group and somebody in the group asked a question and Mark gave the person an answer. During the break, he felt that his answer was unsatisfactory but instead of leaving it lie, which many would have done, he had the courage and the love to go back in and say “hey I’m sorry, I feel I got that wrong, I feel I didn’t answer in a way that was helpful to you, let’s go over that again”

One of the beautiful things about the principles is that we lose our fear of being wrong, we lose our fear of making mistakes, we lose our fear of being very simple human beings – and yet I am saying that now after having spent a week experiencing precisely those very same fears for myself.

It’s not because we have the insight that we cannot experience the fear and it’s not because we have the fear that we cannot experience the insight.