I am trained and licensed as a Marriage and Family therapist. I love serving people and supporting them with suffering less and loving more. I entered the field of psychology because it looked like the best way to go about helping people. You can understand then why it would be disconcerting when I came across an understanding that revealed to me that the solution to suffering is not actually found within the scope of the discipline of psychology that studies thoughts, feelings, and behaviors.
The very thing I learned about to help people actually does not have the answers in it.
After coming across the teachings of Sydney Banks, it was a gradual process of unlearning my training and waking up to what is truly helpful and liberating for myself and others.
Prior to this understanding, I thought improving one’s psychology was the path to peace and freedom. I bought into the idea that there were issues to be healed and thoughts needed to be managed and changed for happiness to be experienced. Difficult emotions needed to be delved into and explored and expressed. I did all of this with good intentions. I went into the details of people’s lives and internal worlds thinking it would help them find more peace of mind.
The challenge with this is that there is an infinite amount of content to explore and emotions to be released. As soon as one issue looked contained or resolved a new one would arise. No wonder analysts work with clients for years. This does not mean insights and realizations can’t be had by looking in that direction. They do happen because that is the innate design of human beings. We naturally have insights not because techniques are needed to find the answers.
It took my willingness to look in a completely different direction for me to understand that my attempts to help were misguided. On a personal level, I was looking at my human experience and trying to fix the content of my thinking to make my human experience more to my liking. What shifted for me is when I took a step back and stopped examining and judging my experience and instead looked to where experience comes from. From that vantage point, I started to see more clearly the simplicity of it all.
The experience of life is created through us, and when we react to the experience we create, we suffer. There is nothing wrong with this. No fixing is required. It is just what happens. And the more we see what is happening the less likely we are to react to our temporary experience and the more likely we are to look toward what is behind it and unchanging.
Experience is temporary. What creates our experience is not.
I previously had no appreciation for the innate wisdom in the human design on the emotional and mental level. I knew there was an innate intelligence at play within the physical body that I did not have to be consciously aware of and monitoring, but that is not how I felt about my emotions and thoughts. I thought I needed to improve them and my work then became about helping others improve theirs.
The downside, however, was that it didn’t work. I was never good enough. The self-improvement never resulted in an experience of deep peace and acceptance of what is. It required work and maintenance. There was always more to do and further to go. The more I did, the more I saw there was more to do. It was exhausting.
What is the alternative?
The alternative is to understand that the experience of inner peace and freedom comes from a deeper place within than the constantly changing experience of our psychology. There is our human experience of emotions and thoughts that comes and goes, and then there is a deeper place within that is unchanging even though we don’t experience it all the time. It is the formless essence of who we are. It is beyond our beliefs and concepts. It is the space of potential and possibility.
For me, it has a felt experience of expansiveness and love. You know what that space is inside of you. You might label it differently, but feel into who you are beyond your thoughts and feelings. Feel into this deeper dimension of who you are and see what reveals itself to you.
Recognizing that this deeper dimension exists is what helped me to experience more freedom and peace of mind. I no longer needed to change my thoughts and feelings. I simply got more perspective on them. I could see that they didn’t need to be fixed even if I didn’t like my experience in the moment. I saw that trying to manage my experience and control it was completely unnecessary because it would naturally change, and me trying to manage what I was feeling was what was actually creating my suffering, not the actual experience itself.
Resistance to what is = suffering.
On a professional level, my new understanding required working with people in a completely different way. I was no longer delving in and asking my clients to face and express the content of their experience. I instead, asked them to step back and understand where their experience comes from and how it is created. My job became about helping people see the illusory nature of their psychology so they could experience more of who they are beyond that. I looked to help them recognize that their suffering is the result of focusing on their misunderstandings and misidentification with who they are. The true unchanging part of who they are is not their thoughts and feelings, it is the impersonal space of innate wellbeing that is peace, love, wisdom, hope, compassion etc…
Our behaviors always reflect our level of understanding of this. The more we know who we are the more our behaviors reflect the qualities of love, compassion, wisdom, and understanding of our true nature. Trying to change our experience because we don’t like it just creates more suffering. And trying to change our behavior without a shift in understanding is also often painful and definitely not sustainable.
You do not need to be enlightened to feel the benefits of what Sydney Banks shared. As regular human beings who still at times identify with our individual identity, there is still great benefit and reduction in suffering available just by looking in the direction of truth. Instead of managing and controlling yourself, try letting go and simply being with what is and see what reveals itself from there. Your direct experience is your teacher.
As George Pransky said at a recent professional training, “You are either uncovering the known or conceptualizing the unknown.” What is transformative is looking to what you experientially know beyond your intellectual concepts.
Rohini Ross is co-founder of “The Rewilders.” Listen to her podcast, with her partner Angus Ross, Rewilding Love. They believe too many good relationships fall apart because couples give up thinking their relationship problems can’t be solved. In this season of the Rewilding Love Podcast, Rohini and Angus help a couple on the brink of divorce due to conflict. Angus and Rohini also co-facilitate private couples' intensives that rewild relationships back to their natural state of love. Rohini is also the author of the ebook Marriage, and she and Angus are co-founders of The 29-Day Rewilding Experience and The Rewilding Community. You can follow Rohini on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. To learn more about her work and subscribe to her blog visit: TheRewilders.org.