The Three Principles by Sydney Banks – the missing link in the psychology of parenting
A while ago I was scrolling in my Facebook newsfeed, as I sometimes do when I feel a little bored. I was glazing over most content that passed by, not even really looking. Until my attention was caught by a video by Nicola Bird.
It was about parenting. And thanks to this short video, I would discover all about the three principles by Sydney Banks much later on.
I probably would have scrolled on if it wasn’t for the big row I had had with my 12 year old daughter the previous evening. It felt still raw and delicate and I felt bad about it. A simple exchange and some innocent battling with words had blown up into one of those highly emotional drama’s. How on earth did I get caught up in this again?
Now, hand on heart, I can honestly say, I consider myself as a more than good enough parent. I feel connected to my daughter, we have fun, we talk and share, we cuddle loads, and all of that. Plenty of peace, love and joy flowing all round.
However, there are times, especially round my moon time, I seem to get triggered non stop. One week a month parenting becomes a very sticky area for me. We fight and bicker, the connection seems to be gone and drama seems inevitable.
Over the years I have hacked my way through the jungle of parenting books, reading brilliant parenting books, from How To Talk So Kids Will Listen and How To Listen So Kids Will Talk (Adele Faber), Positive Discipline (Jane Nelsen), Raising Your Spirited Child (a guide for parents whose child is more intense, sensitive, perceptive, persistent, and energetic (Mary Sheedy Kurcinka), The Wholebrain Child (Daniel Siegel) + Workbook!, No Drama Discipline (Daniel Siegel), From Daughter To Woman (Kim McCabe), the list is endless.
I also did a parenting course once. I learned a lot from this course and reading those books, gained tons of knowledge and I do recommend reading them all anyway!
I applied recommended techniques and insights from all of those books into my parenting style. Some things would work for a while, other things more sustainably.
But they didn’t help me gain awareness on the core issue in my parenting that was at play without me even realising it.
And it was so much simpler than I could have figured. It made me throw my hands up to the heavens and laugh out loud, once realising this.
Why did no one tell me this before, why did I not know this? Even though, I did know probably, deep down. I felt I had found the missing link in the psychology of my parenting.
Then I watched Nicola’s Bird video and I can’t even remember what she said but listening to her words gave me a feeling of hope. It was very strong. Nicola gave me the feeling there was something I had overlooked, something I had not been able to truly see yet. I was curious.
Not long after, I signed up for her online 5 week Lighthearted Parenting course. It was the best thing I have ever done where it comes to parenting. And not only that, turns out it affects all other areas in my life. Nice bonus!
This course changed everything for me. It gave me an understanding of something very fundamental about the nature of being human and the human experience.
It was a tad confusing to start with, I couldn’t get my head around it during the first two weeks or so. It almost seemed too simple, yet it was the most profound.
More important, inside me a deep feeling of peace kept arising as soon as I got engaged in this transformative conversation with Nicola and the other parents.
I kept listening to Nicola’s video’s and podcasts and she kept pointing us (we were a group of aprox 100 parents online) towards the same, over and over again, no matter what was going on in our (parenting) life.
Through this course I learned about The Three Principles by Sydney Banks. Understanding those principles has caused an inside-out-revolution and transformation for me within the space of two weeks.
Suddenly something had clicked inside my brain. Understanding the principles gave me one insight after the other, they just seemed to pop up out of nowhere.
This came as quite a shock to me. After all that I learned in the last 20 years, all the umpteen things I had been trying in the field of healing. I’m a yogi and dancer (and will always be), I sing mantras, I meditate, I spend time in nature, I have lovely friends and family, I created work I love, I live a fairly relaxed life and yes, this all helps me to stay on track with my health and wellbeing.
However, there was something missing, although I didn’t know this. A simple yet deep insight helped me find answers to my questions.
Why, despite my good life, do I get depressed once and a while? How do I get caught up in drama’s with my daughter? Where does my anger come from, and the sadness? How do I get caught up in stressful and anxious thinking and feeling? Of course, they are part of the human experience, but there is more to it..
Before I carry on, let me explain a little:
What are The Three Principles?
The Three Principle were revealed and first introduced by the late Sydney Banks in the 1970’s, as a way of understanding human nature and the human experience. He was an ordinary Scottish welder, living in Salt Springs, Canada, who went on to become a well known and respected philosopher and author after he had an experience of spiritual enlightenment.
After this profound experience he had an insight into the true nature of human beings and the process of how we experience life. His experience revealed a deeper truth about how life works and about who we are in essence.
When Syd Banks began talking about his insights into the human experience, he articulated their essence in the form of three universal principles, which he called:
1 Universal Mind 2 Consciousness 3 Thought
While those words mean different things to different people, the principles they point to have been observed and studied in science, philosophy, and religion throughout the ages. We can see them as the basic facts of life – formless, foundational elements which can be observed only through their effects:
If you would like to read an elaborate explanation of The Three Principles, click here.
In this blog I will limit myself to explaining the principle that made the biggest difference in my parenting psychology, although you can’t really see one principle separate from the others, so I really recommend reading the more elaborate explanation:
The Principle of Thought
Thanks to our thoughts we can feel. What does that mean? It means that every single feeling or emotion we experience comes via a thought we had. We think something, which in turn makes us feel something. Thought and feeling are two sides of one and the same coin. Thought always comes first, no exception.
And this is where it becomes mind blowing because this means that our experience of life always comes from within, from our own minds. Always, no exception.
Understanding this puts our world upside down because have we not learned that something happens out there in the world and we believe we feel something in response. And now it turns out to be the other way around. As opposed to experiencing something from the outside in, we experience from the inside out. The direction of this process is key!
To give you an example: yesterday evening I heard myself say on the phone to my daughter: ‘I’m feeling upset because you said you would be home by 8pm, now it’s 9pm, its gone dark meaning I have to come and fetch you as opposed to you walking home by yourself’.
What I understand now is that my feeling of being upset was not caused by my daughter being late. It was caused by my conditioned thinking about this fact.
Was it really a problem for her to be late? Was I not able to collect her?
It was my mind that made me believe I just didn’t want to collect her, which gave me the experience of feeling ‘upset’.
Turned out, she ended up making cupcakes with a bunch of friends and by the time they got into icing and gold spraying, time did not exist for her anymore. Ah well.
Now of course I will tell my daughter to keep her promises where it comes to home coming timings. But after my mind has settled, this message will not come from a place of irritation, it will come from a place of calm.
Even though it looks like something external is causing us to feel a certain way, the true cause of our feelings in any given moment is actually what we think about the thing that is happening outside of ourselves.
In other words, we are feeling our own thinking!
Whaaat??? I know there is going to be a lot of hair raising and resistance to this huge paradigm shift. (or maybe not).
‘But what about trauma, what about physical abuse and all that?’ are the usual questions that come to mind.
And I will come to that in later blogs, it’s a lot to explain and a lot to take in. One step at the time.
For now, try to understand only this:
Feelings are the barometer of our thinking
Feelings come from thoughts. We can only control our thinking till a certain extend but this takes up a huge amount of energy. It’s exhausting because we are trying to fight the less positive and undermining thinking we have. Therefore I’m not a fan of the so called ‘Positive Thinking’ movement.
Understanding the three principles and the creative power of thought is NOT about changing your thoughts, or making yourself think positively. It’s about seeing that our feelings are simply a barometer that tells us where our thinking is at. And about understanding that this thinking changes all the time.
When our thoughts are far off the truth of who we really are, we feel not so good. When they are more in alignment with who we really are, we feel good! It’s that simple.
Can we do anything to manipulate this process? No, we can’t. Even though we like to think we can, this is impossible. In principle we are not control of our thinking. (I know this is a tough one to swallow for us control freaks or fans of the ever so popular ‘positive thinking’ movement).
However, we can become aware of our thoughts and observe THAT we are thinking as opposed to engaging with the content of our thinking. This helps us step into our Awareness, our true nature, and realise we don’t have to latch on or unpack every thought. This will slow down our thinking immediately. And slowing down out thinking is key to allowing our mind to settle.
Life flows through us, at all times. When we welcome all thoughts and feelings into the light of our Presence or Awareness, with our deep most curiosity rather than our judgment, something magical starts to happen.
Those feelings and thoughts start to let go of us, they start to let go of their grip on our lives. We have fully acknowledged, appreciated and even loved them. Only then a letting go can start to happen.
The mind has got this incredible self correcting mechanism. We don’t have to do anything but welcome all that is passing through us into the light of Awareness. In other words, when we can be truly present to what is going on inside us (self inquiry) we can naturally fall back into our innate health and well-being.
This is the true meaning of showing up to life.
Natural healing takes place as a natural consequence of this. We fall back into our innate wholeness.
Thoughts and feelings come and go. Our personal mind is ever changing. New and fresh thoughts are always passing through. One after the other. Each new thought brings a new feeling and a new ‘reality’. But it’s our own reality, and it might not be someone else’s.
Our reality is not an absolute truth. It’s our perception. And all those different thoughts / feelings are just part of our human experience. We don’t need any surgery to cut out negative feelings from our experience. We can allow them to flow through us. They come and go. Always.
In our low mood or during our ‘3am night thinking’ we tend to have more negative and undermining thoughts. If they are very repetitive, we know they come from our old belief systems. We are running an old programme so to say. Those thoughts make us feel fearful, insecure, small, hurt and fil it in for yourself.
What to do?
Nothing! We’re off the hook here! We don’t have to go and fix those feeling or ‘heal ourselves’. There’s nothing wrong with us.
All we ‘do’ is show up. Noticing the feelings and know our thinking is ‘off’. We don’t have to take the thoughts passing through in our low moods so seriously. We know they will pass if we allow them.
The more we get out of our own way, the faster this process will take place. All we have to remember is that we are not our thoughts and our thoughts are not who we truly are, they are just thoughts.
In the meanwhile we intimately and lovingly stay present with what is going on inside.
However, as soon as we (mostly subconsciously) latch on to certain negative thoughts and start to consciously engage with them, even believe them as being true, or we start to analyse them (so tiring!), we allow them to have an impact on our lives. We have given them our power.
How do we know when this has happened? We feel ‘off’. It feels our innate feeling of health and well- being is then like that sun obscured by the clouds. Our thinking is ‘off’. It’s far off the truth of who we really are, our true nature which is love, peace and joy.
All we need to ‘do’ then is sit with them. Those feelings don’t want to be healed, they want to be held. But without holding on to them, without identifying with them. They don’t want to be fixed, they want to be seen.
They are like a little child knocking on our door, crying. Would we not take that child into our lap and offer it comfort? By just being there. No advice, no solutions, no fixing, just being there. Just offering deep listening, from the core of our being, from our heart, our silent but present being.
Those feelings will pass and make space for new thinking. Allow them to be and pass through you. Choose to avoid manufacturing all sorts of stories. Stories from the past, stories about the future. Stories have the power to create drama’s. All those stories keep us out of our pure Present Moment experience, THIS, HERE, NOW, where real life is, as opposed to the thought created realities that we call our lives.
Sleep on it
We all know the best solutions to a problem always come as a result of new thinking. If we allow time and space for new thinking to arrive, wisdom will come through. The expression ‘Sleep on it’ points to this.
When the mind clears, wisdom appears.
And remember, all feelings of wisdom, love, peace, joy come from the vast space of Universal Mind. Then we feel ‘connected’. It’s because we then are connected. This is our true nature.
Now I truly understand the growing popularity or practicing yoga, doing vipassana, meditation etc. We know that when we regain our bearings, when our thoughts settle and our mind is calm, we regain acces to Universal Mind, life itself.
Our Wisdom, Love and Peace where there all along. It never left us. It was just obscured by our own busy thinking like the sun gets obscured by clouds and all sorts of different weather events.
My child’s behaviour does not cause me to feel a certain way
To come back to my parenting challenge during my moon time now. Or any time really.
When the understanding of everything described above hit me like a bomb, I started to notice all the moments in which I made myself believe that my daughter’s behavior was causing me to have all those feelings. So much power I gave to her!
It was her behaviour that needed changing, correcting, fixing etc. All those chats, lectures, my God! Exhausting. And often without the desired results.
When I started to realise that in principle nothing that she does can ‘make me feel’ a certain way and that it was my own manufactured feeling through my own thinking, something started to shift naturally. I didn’t have to apply a certain parenting technique. It was because I started to see and understand this fundamental principle.
Real transformation comes from insight. A seeing from within.
I could suddenly just see her behavior for what it was. And it wasn’t personal. I would still feel a certain way, but now I knew this was not because of her.
Of course, our children’s behavior trigger us in a way that bring up all the old stories, old beliefs we have build throughout our lives, in a way that can be pretty confronting.
However, instead of tinkering on my child’s behaviour from feelings of anger, sadness, bewilderment, irritation, name it, now I knew I first had to come back to a calm state of mind before I could comment on her behaviour and express what is expected, in a more neutral way, coming from a space of love and kindness. A more lighthearted space.
Hey, we are all learning!
In essence we are all OK! And we all have our inner wisdom. Everyone us, including our children. Knowing and understanding this can give us new eyes to see with.
Also I understand now, that when my daughter is behaving unreasonable, she is in a low state of mind and insecure thoughts are passing through her, making her feel a certain way that makes her behave a certain way. I can feel more compassionate now.
She is truly doing her best in any given moment concerning the thinking she has. And knowing that this thinking wil pass, she also will come back to a calmer state in which she is more connected to her own wisdom from where she will be able to reflect and act. I see this happening with my own eyes over and over again.
Without me having to interfere, her behaviour naturally shifts back ion one that is more in line with her true nature. I just need to back off , get out of my own and her way, allow and trust the process of life restoring itself, because it always does eventually.
Low Mood? Back Off!
The big shift for me since starting to understand the principle of Thought is that it helped me move from being reactive to being responsive. To be able to respond from wisdom means I have to back off when I’m in a low mood myself, plagued by negative thinking about her, or for that matter, anyone’s behaviour (including my own!). I have to wait untill I reach that calmer state of mind.
Nowadays I’m not even engaging with behaviour I don’t like when I’m in a low state of mind or when she is hanging out in that state too, even worse. I know it will become a battle of wills and nothing good can come from it. I litterally back off and let things be.
And you know what, that’s ‘a biggie’ for me, or for the control freak in me. To back off and let it be! It means I have to sit with my own feelings. Backing off, giving her space, means I have to show up to myself first.
I’m so thrilled to have found that things resolve by themselves most of the time. When we both get the chance to ‘reset’ we just come from that different place, the place where we are ok, no matter what. The place where there’s love and understanding and lots of humour too!
When the mind clears, wisdom appears! For both of us. For all of us!
This is a process. Sometimes I forget and have moments I ‘lose it’. And that’s ok. It’s part of the human experience. I’ve become more forgiving towards myself and her when I know we’re both ‘off’.
Somehow in the last 3 months it hasn’t turned into big drama’s. When it started to go down that route we’ve managed to turn it around quicker, by just backing off and coming back to understanding how we create our own experiences.
There are great books for children by the way to help them understand those principles too. In the book ‘Inside Out Izzy’ (Angela Mastwijk) the author points us in very playful way towards the three principles, or the three popsicles as she calls them in her story. We have been reading this book together. It’s given my daughter the same insights in an age appropriate and playful way.
Love and Kindness
Am I not letting her get away with her behaviour by backing off is a question that comes to mind? Am I now teaching her that it is ok to behave in certain ways?
Of course I expect her to do her chores, I expect her to be respectful to someone elses needs, I expect her to stick to agreements, that hasn’t changed. However, what has changed is that this expectation is now coming from a different place.
It comes from a place of love and kindness so I guess what I’m teaching her is love and kindness. And its so much easier to discuss unwanted behavior when we’re both in a calm state of mind. Then we also laugh about it, take it in a more lighthearted way.
Understanding the Principle of Thought caused an explosion in my head. Everything was and is being rewired after that and my experience of life is changing. It’s an ongoing process of undoing and unlearning all that was conditioned into my being and doing.
And of course, feel free to fill in a different word in the place of ‘my child’: maybe in another case it can be our husband, a friend or parent, a colleague etc. because it’s true for everyone and every relationship we have.
If you like to dive deeper into this material, I hightly recommend you reading
‘The Missing Link: Reflections on Philosophy and Spirit’ by Sydney Banks
‘The Enlightened Gardener’ by Sydney Banks
‘Dear Liza’ by Sydney Banks
All those books helped me deepening my understanding of the principles.
If you ever need a hand or have any questions, feel free to leave them below and I will be more than happy to help you out.
Love & Blessings,
Founder of Young Yogis® Academy | Creator of Yogadance® Kids Method | (Kids) Yoga Instructor | Biodanza/Vitaldanza Facilitator | Waldorf Primary School Teacher | Teacher Trainer | Well-being Educator | Transformative / Three Principles Coach (in training) | Cat and Ice cream lover | Dutch | Traveling House sitter | Wife and Mother