Thought: Trick or Treat?

Jen and Becker Halloween1. My daughters imagine they are dancing and singing on the stage in front of an audience of adoring fans. Trick or Treat?

2. My client asks, “When am I going to stop making myself sad?” Trick or Treat?

3. My husband and I discuss a time when we made love almost everyday! Trick or Treat?

No matter your response to the above, whether you hear a trick or a treat in the description, there is one thing that all the above have in common. They are all concepts made up in our personal thinking.

“What?” You may be thinking. After all, imagining you are dancing on stage is very different than feeling sad. But is it?

All people create their reality through three laws of human psychological experience. These laws are universal and by themselves don’t tell you what to do, what to think or how to behave. Unlike religion or rules of conduct, these laws act similarly to gravity. When you know conceptually that gravity exists, it’s just an idea; but when you understand how it works, it opens your mind. A new understanding of gravity changes the way engineers build, or, more simply, it means you may be more cautious when picnicking under a coconut tree. Like understanding gravity, these three principles of human psychological experience provide an opportunity for a new understanding and new routes by which to build your life.

What are these principles and how do they work? It is very simple, so simple that you will have your own trick and treat responses to the very thought of them.

  1. Universal Mind: That everything is made up of the same building blocks, call it god, call it string theory, whatever you call it – it exists. And this is where our physical and psychological experience begins.
  2. Universal Consciousness: That there is an awareness of oneself in relation to other. A plant reaches for the sun. People know that they think.
  3. Universal Thought: Refers to all the content of our experience: thinking, sensation, emotion, and any personal stories we tell or anything that arises beyond our control. All of this content of experience is Universal Thought.

I hesitated even to enumerate the principles here because the life-altering experience comes not from the description of them, but from the understanding of them.

The next time you catch yourself experiencing thought, recognize your shared humanity, give thanks for the gift of thought, and enjoy the trick or the treat.

The End of Suffering

laughing_buddha_statue-1016x1024“The Buddha tailored his answers not only to the question but also to the questioner’s needs [§5, §99]. He could often detect the assumptions or beliefs lying behind a question [§66], and could tell when two questions—though widely different in their wording – were actually equivalent.” (DeGraff, 2010)

Two thousand five hundred years ago, a young man by the name of Siddhartha Gautama decided to leave his family and dedicate himself to the ultimate spiritual path – to find the end of human suffering. From the root of his experiences and teachings, Buddhism was born.

The focus of Buddhist practice is often called the middle way and is made up of a complex interplay of questions, dialogue and answers between a recognized enlightened human being (Siddhartha) and his students.

Most intriguing and often overlooked in preliminary introductions to Buddhism, was Siddhartha’s focus on what to give attention to when answering questions, and what not to dwell on. Through careful observation and study, Siddhartha’s teachings can be broken down into four classes of questions, “Those that deserved a categorical answer, those that deserved an analytical answer, those that deserved to be cross-questioned before being answered, and those that deserved to be put aside.” (DeGraff, 2010)

My favorite example of Siddhartha ‘putting aside’ questions is in the doctrine of no – self or Annata. “In fact, the one place where the Buddha was asked point-blank whether or not there was a self, he refused to answer. When later asked why, he said that to hold either that there is a self or that there is no self is to fall into extreme forms of wrong view that make the path of Buddhist practice impossible” (Bhikku, 1996). In this case wrong view is defined by the “element of self-identification and clinging, and thus suffering and stress” (Bhikku, 1996). Siddhartha was pointing at an essential component of Buddhist practice, recognizing the direction the question and/or the answer would lead the student.

While current day thinking leads to classifications, such as the four classes mentioned above, it is not at all clear that Siddhartha himself had any defining guide by which to answer questions. Instead, “Buddha explicitly cited the skill with which one addresses a question as a measure of one’s wisdom and discernment” (Degraff, 2010).

Siddhartha did not cling to classification and organization for the sake of intellectual rigor. Siddhartha was primarily concerned with the seed of the question, in what direction was the seed growing? Would the question lead to the cessation of suffering? In order to know the answer, it is not enough to know the question, one must see into the intent of the questioner.

What can we, modern day and unenlightened people, learn from Siddhartha? Instead of listening to what someone says, listen beyond the words. Hear the deeper feeling by which the words are executed. While you may not know what each word means, you will gain insight from looking deeper at the direction the feeling is going. This listening is not an analytical one, but one that is captured through insight. Analysis can never lead to enlightenment – at least not in the prescriptive way we hope to uncover.

For more on the end of suffering, listen to Jeanne’s recent radio show on this very topic!


Bhikkhu, Thanissaro. (1997). Dhatu-vibhanga Sutta: An Analysis of the Properties translated from the Pali.

DeGraff, Geoffrey. (2010). Skill in Questions: How The Buddha Taught. METTA FOREST MONASTERY VALLEY CENTER, CA 92082-1409 USA OCTOBER.

The Only Thing You Need to Know to Be a WRITER

writing pic croppedRecently I read a published piece by Walter Mosley on writing. I realized I had a thing or two to say on the subject:

If you want to be a writer, you have to write. There is no getting out of that one small prerequisite. Writers write. A paper, a pen, a notebook, a napkin, a laptop, a dollar bill, dragon speak or an iPad – none of these objects define you “writer.” No! In fact the only time you can say you are a writer is when you write.

Writing is not like being gay, or being president or being Catholic. Writing is not like being a mother or being a mechanic. No. Writing is an action which, when taken in multiple moments over time, accumulate into pages and pages of nothing. Then, slowly, or all in a rush, pile together into a structure which – oh my god – is a poem, or a story, or a book.

It doesn’t matter what time you do it, if you sit on the potty when you do it, if you wake up at 2 am to do it, or if you do it every day or think of it once a week. It doesn’t matter if you want to do it, or you think you are procrastinating or whatever. None of that matters at all.

For me, the act of writing is an act. Nothing more. No war required. No worry or concern. No need to push or overcome.

And while writing is an act, it cannot be achieved in isolation. There is no one who can write without living. Living is precious to writing. Don’t short change one to do the other. Don’t think of your daughter’s diaper change as one less word on the page. No. Writing happens when you write, but living – that is the secret to having something to say!

Referenced: Mosley, Walter. (2000) Writers on Writing; For Authors, Fragile Ideas Need Loving Every Day. New York Times. Archives. July 3

What does the act of writing have to do with understanding the Three Principles? Let your busy mind drop away and actions become simple, easy and repeatable. Worry and concern won’t take you to writing but understanding thought and letting it go will. This Monday on Waking Up internet radio with Jeanne Catherine-Gray: “End of Suffering,” including live coaching on the air!

Thought – the Power

Jeanne Cropped 2When you read these words, you may think that I am telling you that depression, dark thinking, anger, guilt, feelings are your fault.

Right now, as you are about to read these words, step out of this thinking, set it aside. It does not serve you, and it goes nowhere.

Assigning blame to a system that is perfectly designed to create experience is a lost cause. We are, each of us, experiencing the fact of thought ALL THE TIME. No one can be free of thought. It is a constantly, never-ending stream which we only “see” in very small glimpses.

Like a fish in water, we don’t know we are swimming in thought. When clients realize they are swimming in thought, there are as many reactions as there are people. Once people see beyond their habitual thinking, they wake up to a simple freedom that is full of life – thought is designed to give you the human experience, and your unique design defines the unique way thought flows through you.

We are all living within thought, the power of creation. WE ARE NOT IN CHARGE. We do not get to decide which thought will rain down on us when, and we do not get to decide how much or how little we are going to receive.

BUT there is one fundamental truth. When you realize the FACT OF THOUGHT as the power behind what you are experiencing, you can stop taking it so seriously. If you feel depressed, if you feel angry, if you feel anxious – whatever the human experience, you can be CONFIDENT that it is created through thought.

While there will be times when you will need a doctor to help you with the biology of your body, the only way you can know your needs is through thought. It is your personal thinking that defines how you read this, how you go for help, what you think of what you are doing. A word of advice: if you hear a small voice within you say “get help,” DO IT.

Saying that thought is how we experience the world doesn’t mean that we are in charge or that we shouldn’t get needed medical help. That is the beauty of this simple teaching. When you see that your world is a social construct, co-created by your personal thought habits and fueled by a much larger spiritual system beyond your control – then there will be implications for this understanding that are yours.

You will know what to do no matter what anyone else thinks, no matter what you think. Put down your busy mind. Listen to your wisdom. Make it simple.

Join Jeanne Catherine-Gray LIVE on international internet radio for LIVE questions, answers and coaching.


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