Sydney Banks: The dream state is more real than our waking experience

Sydney Banks was a minimally educated Scottish labourer who, in the 1970s, had a spontaneous and inexplicable spiritual awakening. He truly was an enlightened man – a master wilfully reincarnated into a lowly station, no doubt – and shortly after his experience he quit his long term labouring job and, with no plan, embarked on his life’s work of spreading the truth about the nature of reality. He founded the Three Principles philosophy and spent the remainder of his life lecturing. He repeatedly taught that enlightenment could not be communicated through words – because words are form, and enlightenment entails understanding the true spiritual reality, which exists before form came into being. It is formless. That is why in the below quote, he says that the problems of the universe can be solved “only from here” – that is, only from within.

I found his words about the dream state being more real than the waking state to be particularly striking. With only a superficial understanding of their meaning, the words may sound like a vacuous Instagram quote – but with a deeper understanding, they become powerful fuel for meditation. With a true spiritual understanding, they contain the essence of all there is to be known about the true nature of life. This is one of my favourite sections from all of Banks’ lectures. Its true meaning will reveal itself with multiple readings, and some meditation.

Read on for the enlightened words of a truly humble, generous man – a true master, Sydney Banks:

“What everybody searches for lies within their own self. It’s an identity that you’ve lost. That’s what it is – it’s an identity that you’ve lost. It’s you – you’re lost. Not you the body; not you the little mind; but the energy – the true you – the true self. That thing that lies inside is a spiritual reality that lies within. And if you can see past what you see now and look within, and find a spiritual reality then the reality that you now see changes. Because the reality that you now see is the illusion – it is a dream. It’s called life. And it’s perfect. It’s a perfect dream. And nothing in this dream can be wrong. Nothing. It only appears wrong to the mind because only from the mind are there wrongs. And it’s the same mind that has created the life that we now see. It’s the creator of its own fear; but if you look within, there’s a greater creation. There’s the very essence of life. There inside you lies the place of the space where the dream is dreamt. And all you have to do is wake up. It’s like when you’re having a nightmare – and it’s real. You feel the pain. You feel the fear. You feel the hate. You feel everything in the nightmare – and it’s true. What you see is true; it really is – it’s as true in that reality as it is now. As a matter of fact, in the dream state, you are closer to the true reality of life than you are when you’re awake focusing only from your mind. But if you’re having a nightmare and you wake up, you know the feeling – you say ‘thank God it was just a nightmare.’ And this is the same as waking up spiritually. You start to wake up. The second you see your first spiritual fact – your Christ consciousness is touched. And at that second, that is when you start to wake up. And if you ever truly wake up, you’ll wake up from the nightmare to the beautiful, absolute truth of the inner self – the oneness; the realisation that all things are one single divine thought, broken up into pieces via Christ conscious states and the illusion of mankind. We have forgotten how to wake up to see what is instead of what isn’t. Because what we see really – really – isn’t real. The true reality lies within. And if you can go within, from here – and only from here – only from here can the troubles and the problems of the universe be solved.”

What is spiritual bypassing? Does it really exist?

Spiritual bypassing is a term used by people who advocate shadow work, to describe the act of attempting to paper over our gaping emotional wounds by means of a pretty, vague sense of outward spirituality. It certainly does exist, but sometimes the term gets used inappropriately, as I’ll explain in a moment.

If you’ve been around enough spiritual people, you’ve probably met some good examples of true spiritual bypassing. These are the people who post inspiring quotes on their Pinterest and Facebook pages, make frequent reference to the wisdom of the universe, carry crystals with them and perhaps read the occasional spiritual book recommended by Oprah, but never make any serious attempts to grow. They never set aside dedicated time for spiritual practices, never pursue any one spiritual practice with any tenacity, and never undertake any serious self-examination.

In short, they’ve adopted spirituality as a facade – an identity, and nothing more – and they expect their lives to improve simply by giving emotional assent to some vague higher power. This is true spiritual bypassing, or as I prefer to call it – fake spirituality.

Unfortunately, as it is a term primarily used by shadow work advocates, sometimes the definition gets broadened to include everyone who does not believe it is necessary or helpful to probe around in the past in order to find answers in the present. People who believe that negative thoughts, feelings and patterns can be changed and released without excessive analysis or acknowledgement of them.

Shadow work advocates claim that all emotions have a meaning and purpose, and if we don’t understand the purpose then we’ve missed the lesson. Even if we clear the emotion or change the thought, if the original cause of the thought or feeling remains then it will simply reassert itself in a different form. And the longer it’s repressed, the more malignant it becomes, they claim.

Study the teachings of Christ, Buddha and Lao-Tzu and you will find that all of these sages belong to the former school of thought. Nowhere in any of the Christian, Buddhist or Taoist philosophies is probing into the past recommended as a legitimate form of self-analysis. Nowhere in the Hindu-Yogic tradition is this recommended, either. In fact I’m not aware of any traditional school of spirituality that recommends this. Thoughts and feelings are just energy – but because they create our reality, sometimes we mistake them for reality itself. The true nature of our existence is absolute perfection, but because we were given the creative faculty of free will, it is possible for us to misuse that free will and create problems and suffering for ourselves.

If we truly dedicate ourselves to a particular spiritual path with devotion, persistence and realistic expectations, in time our consciousness will ascend to a state where negative energetic residue like traumas and trapped emotions begin to clear from the body automatically. The only thing that caused this negative emotional baggage in the first place was the misuse of our thought, not some complicated emotional damage that requires analysis and drawn-out healing. Even traumas are ultimately caused by our conscious misapprehension of a particular experience as being a threat to our safety. As our consciousness ascends, these thought systems begin to rewire themselves and become more healthy, also. Hence, a higher level of consciousness is a remedy for both the effects and the causes of our emotional baggage.

In addition to following a dedicated spiritual practice, it is also possible to use energetic techniques like EFT, The Emotion Code, The Body Code, The Sedona Method and so on in order to compel the body to clear trapped energetic residue. As we let go of these lower energies, we assist ourselves into a higher state of consciousness, and as our consciousness ascends, more of the lower energies automatically clear – so the process is reciprocal. Shadows simply cannot exist when exposed to the light.

The great enlightened lecturer, Sydney Banks, founder of the Three Principles philosophy – the “sage of the common people” as I like to think of him – described it thus:

“When illusionary sadness comes from memories, you don’t try and figure them out – please don’t try and do that. You’ll get yourself in trouble. All you have to do is simplicity again – is realise that it’s thought. The second you realise it’s thought, it’s gone. You’re back to the now, you’re back to happiness. So don’t get caught up in a lot of details.”

Of course, Banks is here referring to a deep spiritual understanding of the roles of mind, consciousness and thought – not the superficial intellectual understanding that most of us have of these matters. Only a deep spiritual knowing, of the kind that Banks himself possessed, has the power to instantly liberate us from all problems. The attainment of this deep knowing has been the object of all significant spiritual teaching throughout the centuries. Cultivate a true, enlightened understanding of the way things really are, and all your problems will vanish as shadows exposed to the light. The idea that we ought to examine the shadows instead of simply turning on the light is a by-product of 20th century psychotherapy, which has no spiritual precedent.

Proponents of shadow work sometimes like to claim that following the orthodox spiritual path of seeking enlightenment is attempting to find a shortcut to freedom. We’re ever searching for that elusive magic thought that will open up our spiritual understanding and collapse all our problems in an instant. That’s too simple, they claim, and the only path to freedom is to put in the effort and do the dirty work down at the coalface of our subconscious; understanding what made us the way we are and healing each individual hurt. On the question of impatience, I’ve often found the opposite to be true, though – that is, if someone is deeply hurting now, it can be very tempting to attack the problem directly by trying to understand and heal the causes – whereas searching for a comprehensive liberation from all suffering is often too vague, distant and elusive for the impatient. But note, of course, that the process of earnestly seeking enlightenment almost always leads to a measurable increase in a person’s consciousness and a corresponding decrease in suffering – so even if we never reach the enlightenment threshold, our search is certainly not wasted effort.

Many people who have experienced Reconnective Healing will tell you that their lives changed for the better overnight, due to the massive jump in consciousness caused by the healing. Things that previously bothered them no longer did, and they viewed life with an entirely different perspective. For many of them, the changes are permanent or at least long-lasting. For a few, however, things return to their usual negative state within a few days or weeks after the healing. This is not because the healing energy is in any way deficient – it’s because, unfortunately, they allowed their pesky thoughts to get in the way again. We’ve been told for such a long time that we’re broken, and the only way to return to wholeness is through an arduous process of self-examination and repair. The more deeply this lie has permeated our consciousness, the harder it is to accept that healing could be so simple. Consciously or unconsciously, such people will tell themselves “this is too good to be true…It can’t last!”

Our true nature is one of complete perfection and harmony, and Reconnective Healing – being the unfiltered source energy of the universe – simply allows us to get back to that state. But if we tell ourselves it’s too good to be true – that we need to struggle through the murky depths of our childhood and our programming in order to liberate ourselves permanently – then our thoughts will come true, since they are our creative faculty.

Understanding the programming may actually provide some relief from it for certain individuals – so by all means, if shadow work helps you then it may be a legitimate part of your spiritual journey. It is not something I can ever proactively recommend, but it is not up to me to direct your spiritual path for you. But please realise that identifying with your programming is not the road to enlightenment, and people who choose to walk the higher path of dissociating with their programming and embracing the higher truths of our eternal, perfect existence are not “spiritually bypassing” by doing so.

The amazing simple mindfulness hack that actually works

As well as being tremendously beneficial to our mental health, mindfulness is also one of the most powerful spiritual practices we can take up. In addition to improving mood and clarity of thought, mindfulness can also raise our vibration and lead to ego death and profound spiritual enlightenment. The classic book on the spiritual aspect of mindfulness is Eckhart Tolle’s The Power of Now. At the beginning of the book, Tolle describes his own experience of “waking up”, as though from a deep sleep, and finding that the world was vivid, exciting and deeply joyful – as though he was looking at everything for the first time.

The only trouble is, for many people it’s much easier in theory than in practice. Attempting to make this a habit can be quite a frustrating experience when we realise how full of thoughts our heads really are. Minimising multitasking and distractions and making a persistent effort to fully absorb ourselves in whatever activity we are engaged in is a first step towards cultivating the habit. But the modern world is full of distractions, and many of us find that our brains simply refuse to concentrate, no matter how hard we try. So here’s an incredibly simple technique that can get you started on this wonderful habit immediately, with minimal effort.

The technique

Before I get to the fun part, I need to discuss willingness, because nothing else will work without it. We need to be willing to put aside our endless stream of thoughts about the past and future when they arise. This is a big part of the battle, because being absorbed in our thoughts can be tremendously satisfying, in a way – why else would we do it? Making the commitment to switch our thoughts off even when we want to continue can be difficult at first, especially if we are prone to deep feelings of regret, remorse or sadness about the past. We need to have a conscious willingness to stop such trains of thought as they arise, or they will simply continue and we will quickly become absorbed in them. If we are absorbed in the past, we can simply choose to make peace with it and put it aside. On the other hand, if we are anxious or excited about the future we can make a decision to trust in a higher power and then put the thoughts aside until we can set aside an appropriate moment to make whatever plans we need to make. In other words, leave the past alone and let our thoughts about the future be limited to specific times when we are engaged in formal planning.

Unfortunately, nature abhors a vacuum and so when we attempt to silence the mind, most people find they can only manage a few moments before their thoughts return and they lose all sense of the present moment. The way to overcome this in the beginning is to use our thoughts to make us fully aware of the present, rather than trying to stop them altogether.

You can do this by describing everything that you’re seeing, hearing, smelling and feeling while you’re out and about. If you’re walking through a park you could simply say “green and red leaves, green grass with patches of yellow and a few fallen leaves. Birds tweeting, a gentle breeze on my face, the faint smell of pine.” You can freely repeat yourself, and describe in as little or as much detail as you like, provided you don’t get too absorbed in the details and lose your sense of presence. On the other hand, it’s good to pay a little extra attention compared to what you might normally, or you could find yourself mindlessly rattling off the names of things without truly absorbing yourself in their presence.

If you feel anxious that you might forget about something important that pops into your mind, you can carry around a reporter’s notebook to take down anything you feel is important. However, please don’t be tempted to use your phone for this purpose. An important part of the process of developing full awareness is weaning ourselves off distracting technology. You don’t have to throw your phone away, but don’t needlessly give yourself an extra reason to play with it.

You can also use this when you’re around the house, or engaged in any activity where your mind would normally wander. If you’re cooking, you can describe the kitchen bench, and the colour, texture and smell of whatever ingredients you’re chopping up. If you’re doing the washing, describe the feel of the fabric and the colours and patterns of your clothes. The more you remember to practise this technique, the more your mind will revert to it instead of wandering into endless streams of thoughts.

Remember, this is a stepping stone to full mindfulness. It’s the easiest way to unlearn the habit of letting your mind wander aimlessly through the past and into the future. The more you practice it, the more you’ll find yourself naturally tuning in to and observing the present moment, and the easier it will be to develop those periods of full awareness in between thoughts. Of course, the ultimate goal is to let go of the mental commentary altogether and simply be aware of your surroundings without the use of words. But you’ll be amazed at how much easier it is to achieve this when you use this intermediary step. Everything in life works so much better when we go with the flow instead of fighting against it. So use the power of your mind as a tool to promote awareness, instead of creating resistance by ordering it to shut up.

Truly, all our problems are just thoughts and beliefs – they can be changed

Many people respond angrily when they’re told that all their problems are caused by their thoughts and beliefs. I felt the same when I first became aware of this concept. I had a deeply held belief – a story, nothing more – that I had been damaged by childhood influences, and that my confidence and inner peace had been irreparably damaged as a result.

Part of the reason I was so defensive of this story was because I had done so much reading about psychology, and was intellectually convinced that certain events in my childhood had caused certain neuroses. It all made perfect logical sense. I didn’t feel any emotional need to cling onto this story like some people do – because it gives them excuses, or someone to blame, or some other secondary benefit. No, I felt the need to cling onto my story simply because I was intellectually convinced that it was 100% true.

I kept clinging on to that story until I made an important discovery that changed everything. That discovery was this: perhaps it was all true, exactly as I had believed it. Perhaps my psyche really had been damaged exactly as I believed. Perhaps these kind of bad experiences and poor parenting have similar effects in everyone who experiences them, just as the textbooks say. It’s not that the story is necessarily untrue; it’s that I don’t need to have a story at all. The truth is, I did experience some traumatic events in my childhood, and they did have an effect on me. But it’s not true that I’m stuck with those effects. The idea that the damage is permanent, or that it requires years of energy work or – God forbid – talk therapy to clear it is just that – an idea. A story. A fairy tale. It is true as long as it continues to be believed.

Many enlightened individuals prove that these stories and all their ill effects can disappear in an instant as soon as the soul fully grasps the truth that it is whole and complete, and it does not need to cling to its baggage. However, like enlightenment itself, it’s a truth that tends to be obscured by its very simplicity.

Sydney Banks is one such gentleman who had many of the personal, emotional and financial problems we all face. Chief among them was troubles with his marriage. In 1973, he and his wife went to a marriage counseling retreat to try and sort out the problems, but it didn’t appear to be helping. Sydney was confiding all his problems to one of the other attendees – coincidentally a therapist by trade – and the man responded by telling Syd: “I’ve never heard such nonsense in all my life!”

Though the therapist was fully unconscious of the consequences of his words, somehow they sunk in on a deep spiritual level. Instantly, Banks knew that all the problems he’d just been describing were figments of his imagination – like the plot of a virtual reality video game, if you will. For that’s what life really is, in essence – a virtual reality simulation where we can’t possibly lose the game. We are really here, for sure – and so are the people around us. But it is an artificial state of disconnectedness from the Source, which we take on in order to rapidly further our evolution.

Banks spent the rest of his life bringing his message to the world. Distilled down, his message was essentially that there is nothing wrong with any of us. Life consists of three principles: mind, consciousness and thought. The first two are entirely whole, perfect and complete as they are, and our task on earth is simply to make our thoughts whole, perfect and complete also. Once this happens, the artificial stories we have sustained with our thoughts disappear, and along with them goes all of our imagined problems. It’s like typing an invincibility code into the video game – suddenly there are no dangers, no problems, no inconveniences. We realise that the video game is forever giving us exactly what we need to learn the lessons we came here to learn. All is well. All of this can happen in a single instant once we truly, deeply realise the truth of it.

Judith Sedgeman, a teacher of Banks’ three principles, describes her experience in a profound post on her website:

“SEEING is fluttering briefly into the emptiness before thought where you KNOW the power of thoughts forming, your own power to form thought, as a spiritual gift before form. I realized that I had previously memorized, pondered about, and repeated the definitions of the Principles as they were always described, thus innocently focusing on the formed word to understand them, rather than awakening to the formless, the true Principles, the spiritual energy of all life in creation, before the words. I had been reading the notes, but missing the music.  That was one of the most exciting insights of my life, and it was a point of transformation…”

“The point is beyond words, in Universal energy we all share and through which we become our formed selves. Seeing the pure energy at the source, though, we have certainty that anything we see or know now could change, simply with the formation of new thought. Access to that reality is through stillness, through quietude, not thinking harder…”

“For me, in the instant I caught a glimpse of that, I SAW and KNEW the absolute absurdity of taking any thought seriously. No matter what. It’s no more possible to hang onto really beautiful thoughts than to drive away really ugly thoughts. They all pass naturally as the flow of formless energy continues to power us through life. We have to re-think them to “keep” them. When we SEE that for ourselves, we cannot possibly harm ourselves with our own thinking, any thinking. Because we KNOW we are living a dream brought to us by our unique imagination and the creative power of life. We know the dream is fleeting, evanescent, just images we create, passing across the screen of our minds, signifying nothing but the beautiful power to keep creating them.”

For most people, it won’t come as instantly and easily as it did for Syd. But until it comes, we can meditate on the truth of it, and live our lives knowing that all the three principles are sacred. Mind and consciousness are sacred because they are the essence of the divinity within us; the eternal, perfect creative force that existed before we came into mortal, physical form. Many of us have no trouble accepting this, but we have trouble realising that thought is equally sacred. Our task on earth is to make our thoughts whole, perfect and complete like the other two principles – and when we’ve achieved this, we’ve won life.  All our problems are over and we’ve found heaven on earth.

So our minds should be like a sacred altar – purged of everything unclean, with no place for anything less than pure, holy, positive thoughts.  Of course, this should not be read in any sort of dour, puritanical way, and we should certainly not berate ourselves or panic if we fall short.  We can simply adopt the sacredness of the mind as an attitude to help us realise the true importance of taking control of our thoughts.  The mind is truly sacred – take care of it.