How Listening Can Lead to Better Relationships

I was talking with Sarah today, a client who came for the Four-Day Intensive. She was describing how her life has continued to change since the intensive. This is a woman who has struggled with relationships. As we discoverd during the intensive, some of her relationship issues came from having a mind that was constantly busy.  She had so much on her mind that it was hard for her to listen to people.  Oh, she could listen superficially, but mostly while she listened she had her own agenda on her mind.  So people felt like she was hard to connect with.  Her teenage kids were often angry with her because they felt like she didn’t listen to them or respect their requests.

During the intensive Sarah worked with the principles and her mind got much more settled and quiet.  She found herself noticing life around her  in a way she hadn’t for a long time.  Many people experience this during meditation or sometimes yoga, but the principles helped Sarah awaken to the mental chatter she carried around with her moment-by-moment in her life.  Once she saw that, she was able to be more settled and present, even when she wasn’t meditating or doing yoga.  In fact, she said that even during these practices there was always mental background noise; it wasn’t until she saw what was going on her mind that she was able to back off from what she had been doing that kept her thoughts going.

But what was really interesting to me was what happened later, 3 weeks after the intensive had ended.  Sarah said that she continued to become more and more aware of the feeling state that she lived in, and knew from learning the principles that whatever feelings she experienced were a reflection of  Thought.  The more she tuned into this, the quieter her thoughts became.  It came to her like an insight, just a quiet thought arising in her mind out of the blue.  But it impacted her with the feeling insights have, of taking her out of her ordinary mindset into a different level of awareness.  Something new was happening in her brain.

Since then, Sarah said, her mind has been getting more and more quiet.  Even her yoga teacher, who has known her for years, commented on it, telling her he was grateful that something had helped Sara’s mind get more settled and quiet.

I could tell that it was already easier to connect with Sarah than it had been, and have great hope for how her quieter mind will bring more depth and connection to all her relationships, especially within her own family.


During the intensive,k

Parenting – What Happens When A Mother Calms Down

A woman, who I shall call Susan, came to me for counseling because she was having trouble with her 9 year old son, Eric.  ‘I can’t get him to get out of bed in the morning.  When he does get up, he’s slow to get dressed.  He can’t seem to remember the order of his chores.  He forgets his homework for school.  He can’t even tie his shoes – he trips all over himself and can’t seem to get it right.  I’ve tried everything – giving him a list, putting a timer on for every activity, taking away privileges – nothing seems to work. I’m beside myself!’

Listening to Susan, it was obvious that she had a lot of stress.  She was agitated, talked fast and seemed easily upset.  While her problems with her son weren’t monumental, she seemed consumed with worry and agitation about him.  I wondered how much of her problems with Eric had to do with the mental stress she appeared to carry.  I suggested to Susan that she bring Eric in with her for the next session.

When I met Eric, he was shy kind, and polite.  We talked for a while, just getting to know each other, and then I asked him about the problems he had getting out of the house in the morning.  His shoulders drooped and he looked down.  He mumbled his responses to my questions, explaining that he tried to get everything done on time, but he just couldn’t seem to do it.  He didn’t know why.  ‘Do you do better once you get out of the house?’ I asked him.  ‘Are you able to get to classes on time, get your work done in class?’  ‘Oh yes,’ he said, brightening a little as he thought about the rest of his day.  ‘How about after school activities?  How do they go?’  ‘Really well’, he said.  ‘No problem.’ ‘ OK Eric, this is what I want to know.  Does your mother make you nervous?’  There was a pause.  ‘I’ve been observing your mother, and I can see she suffers from mental stress.  Do you find that the way she talks to you makes it harder for you to get things done?’  ‘Well, yeah,’ he said, slowly and shyly.  ‘I feel like it’s so important to get everything right for her that I do get nervous.  She gets so upset when anything goes wrong.’

I reassured Eric that he was a very healthy boy, and that with a little help things would go better in the morning for him.  His shoulders straightened again and the cloud on his face lifted.  He was so relieved that I wasn’t adding my own opinions of everything he was doing wrong that it was like watching a flower that had drooped over from lack of water straightening up and reaching for the sun.

I worked with Susan after that.  She began to see the relationship between her thoughts and her experiences in life.  She tended to think in very stressful ways – pushing herself mentally all the time, trying to do more, go faster, and get everything right. She had the best intentions – she wanted to do well in life.  But without a healthy mind set, the stress factor will build until everything becomes difficult.  Susan’s mind wasn’t functioning in the way it’s designed to  keep mentally healthy.  Our minds have a natural reset button.  They give us little prompts when we need to reset – time to take a break mentally from whatever you’re thinking about.  That break can happen right where you are, or it may occur to you to go for walk, get a cup of tea, or do a different kind of activity that allows your mind to relax.  If you watch children, they do this naturally – stop whatever they’re doing when it’s time for mental break and do something else.  Adults do it too if they haven’t taught themselves to override those prompts.  And that was Susan.  She never allowed herself to get a break.  She was constantly wound up.  Whenever she talked with her son, he felt that, and it affected him.

I worked with Susan until she began experiencing what it was like to have states of mind return that were calm and allowed her thoughts to flow.  This is the same kind of mental state people access when do their favorite sport, or art form – a sense of ‘being in the groove,’ or ‘in the zone.’  It’s also what people experience on a less dramatic level when they simply allow their minds to reset and be calm as they go throughout their day.  She began to reclaim these natural mental functions, and the quality of her life improved dramatically.  In fact, she soon stopped mentioning her son in sessions and began to focus on her career – how to make it a truer reflection of the contribution she wanted to make.  These kinds of creative, generative thoughts happen naturally to a mind not filled with stress.

I asked her to bring her son in for a follow-up session.  He seemed different – more self confident and relaxed.  I asked him how the mornings were going.  Both Susan and Eric laughed as they talked about how easy the mornings were going now.  No more trouble getting out of bed, doing his chores, remembering his homework or tying his shoes.  Before, he had literally been tripping all over himself trying to please his mother.  Now that she was more relaxed and happy, he was doing just fine.

We were able to end regular therapy sessions shortly thereafter.  A year later, Eric is blossoming – doing very well both at home and at school.  Susan checks in occasionally to get more coaching while she works her way out of the mental habits she innocently created that were causing her such problems in life.  Her work had become more satisfying, and now she’s brining the gains she’s made to her relationship with her husband.  Just as mental stress affects everything we do, so does mental health.

How I finally got married

Though this happened 15 years ago, I told this story at a women’s seminar over the weekend, and the women there found it so helpful I realized I should post it on my blog.  Here is my story of how I got married for the first time at the age of 43:

My father died suddenly and unexpectedly when I was 10, and though I am told I cried a lot at the time, I did not get over it.  My mother went into a deep depression, which lasted for the rest of her life, and my brothers struggled with it in their own ways.  I grew up and started dating, but things didn’t go very well.  When I fell in love, the man left me, and when a man fell in love with me, I left him.  With every break-up, I would experience a terrible sense of abandonment and loss that would shake me to my core.  I would be frightened, feel like my world was coming to an end, and feel very unsafe.   In retrospect, I realize that these were many of the feelings I experienced when my father died, though that didn’t occur to me while I was going through it.   This would last for several months, and then I would begin to get over it, and the merry-go-round would begin again with the next person I dated.

In my early thirties, I went into therapy to get help with these constantly failing relationships.  I wanted to get married and have children, and by this time I knew something was wrong.  My therapist thought I hadn’t grieved the death of my father enough to get over it.  So we began that grieving process again.  I cried non-stop for several weeks, then off-and-on for months.  After a while, the crying stopped.  Unfortunately, it did nothing to change my dating pattern.

Another decade went by.  I was  40, and my dating pattern had not changed.  I was beginning to lose hope about the possibility of ever having children.  That’s when I attended a seminar where the 3 spiritual principles of Sydney Banks were being taught.  These principles – Mind, the spiritual energy that is formless and has a diving intelligence; Thought, the mental activity all human beings have from birth until death, and Consciousness – how we experience our thinking – provided a huge awakening for me.  This was in 1993,  and I’ve been learning from these principles ever since (for more on the Three Principles see and my website,

I soon became a much happier person.  I saw how much thinking I did that created worry and stress for me, and as I began to understand the illusory nature of thought,  my innate well-being and wisdom had more room to surface more of the time.  But several years went by, and my relationship pattern STILL did not change.  However, in looking toward wisdom, and less through the lens of my personal thinking, my life changed in so many other ways that I had hope that somehow it would change this too.

Then one day another break-up happened.  I wasn’t really in love but was trying to be – that old biological clock thing.  Still, the man I was dating betrayed my trust in a way that took me by surprise and really hurt. As soon as I discovered this all the mental and emotional alarms began to sound.   I was barely into my familiar nightmare of feeling betrayed and abandoned when suddenly I heard a voice say:  “That wasn’t so bad, was it?”

The voice was in my own head, but it was so unexpected, and so loud and clear, that it startled me.  I knew I had just had an insight, as it came with that unmistakable feeling of something coming from beyond myself and gifting me with an unexpected perspective.  It stopped my emotional roller coaster in its tracks.  With that Thought, I suddenly had the presence to be with the thoughts and feelings about this break-up as they came.  That presence began to heal those thoughts and feelings.  Rather than going into memory as I had done time and time again (without being aware of it) of previous break-ups and, undoubtedly, thoughts about my father’s death, which amplified the experience I was having way beyond what it actually was, I was able to be with what was happening.  Surprisingly, it wasn’t a very big deal!   To my amazement, I found that within a matter of days I was feeling fine, and by the end of the week, I was over it.  This was an entirely different experience with any break-up I had ever had before.

After that, I was reflecting on my experiences with relationships.  A thought occurred to me, one of those brought by Mind to initiate a process of realization.  I realized that with my learning the Principles my life had become extremely rich.  I was very happy, had far less worry, was sleeping well, had more and better friends and was experiencing an outpouring of creativity.  Still, my relationship pattern hadn’t changed.  So it was a moment of decision:  Date, and get abandoned, or don’t date.  I thought about it for some time, as neither seemed a good option.  Finally, I decided on the first option – date, and get abandoned.  Rather than fearing that anymore, I would lean into it, even expect it.  But I wanted to keep dating because even with these endings it was more fun than not dating at all.

The next person I met was from the west coast, and I lived on the east coast, so I was sure it would end quickly.  Given my decision, that was fine with me.  But he kept pursuing me, and we got along wonderfully.  Within 6 months we got engaged and were married one year later.  We had our daughter a few years after that, and we have now been happily married for 14 years.  Thought had been getting in my way all those years – memory thought that I wasn’t even aware of, and that was healed by the power of the understanding that the principles of Mind, Consciousness and Thought brought into my life.