Seek without seeking, for
what you hope to attain is
already within you. — Sydney Banks
It was such a relief when I realized I did not have to keep working on myself and striving for self-improvement. I had been successful in many ways with an amazing husband, wonderful children, a successful psychotherapy practice, and a lovely home, but I struggled to relax and really appreciate my life. I was plagued with feelings of insecurity and self-doubt. I did not feel good enough. I felt unworthy. No amount of success on the outside made a difference. I had pursued many avenues of personal growth and this still persisted. I was always on the look out for the next thing that would help me feel whole.
I intellectually understood why I struggled with insecurity. I had a very tumultuous childhood. I was not a planned pregnancy. My father and mother were never married. Their separation was so acrimonious I had no contact with my father between the ages of two and twenty-two. Shortly after I was born, my father had an arranged marriage without my mother knowing before hand. We all lived together in the same home for a period of time with the neighbors thinking my father’s wife was a relative visiting from Sri Lanka, but the situation became more and more untenable as tempers flared.
My first memory is, me sitting in the back of a police car. I remember the flashing lights reflecting from outside, and the policeman smiling at me and putting his hat on my head. It took me twenty years to ask my mother about that memory. It turns out my father was with his wife who had moved out of our house at this point. My mother had gone round there to kill her with a carving knife. Being the fiercely loving, doting mother that she was, and is, she couldn’t leave me at home alone, so she took me with her. I have another memory of standing outside the front door of a home at night. I remember the door opening and the light streaming out into the dark. My mother tells me to go inside. The adult in the doorway says if I go inside, I won’t come back out. I never did ask about this memory.
My mother did eventually move on with her life. She married a Canadian, and we moved, when I was seven, from my home in London, England to the suburbs of Quebec. My stepfather was diagnosed with stage IV Hodgkin’s disease soon after we arrived. He was given five years to live without treatment. He chose to do all of the treatment and lived six years, but with all of the debilitating effects of the medical interventions. His mood and temper were impacted by all of this. We did not have a good relationship. He only hit me once, but his mocking and irritation with me were more painful.
Add school bullying, financial hardship, and racism to the mix, as well as another move across Canada at the age thirteen. It is no wonder I perceived the world as unsafe and unstable. I believed it was because there was something wrong with me. However, during my teen years, I got very good at internalizing all of this and presenting well. I perfected the art of cool even though I was naturally quite a nerd. Things fell apart in my second year of college, but that is an anecdote for another time.
I created a story for myself that convinced me I was damaged because I was so fearful. I escaped my painful feelings of shame by earning external approval and validation. I thought, if I could just please everyone all of the time, then I would be okay. This actually worked quite well in terms of propelling me forward in school and helping me get scholarships to college, but, as you can imagine, it set up a cycle of stress, burnout, and depression. I could never live up to the internal expectations I set for myself. Any kind of perceived failure on my part was the end of the world. At the hint of a misstep, I would drop into an abyss of shame and become consumed by self-loathing.
That is why I turned to yoga, meditation, and therapy in my early twenties. I could not keep going as I was. This was all tremendously helpful for lifting my spirits and giving me hope. It led to me studying spiritual psychology at the University of Santa Monica. Here, I experienced the loving essence of my true nature in a profound and unequivocal way, but I was still confused. Now, instead of seeking respite through external validation and approval, I had found a better high, and I wanted to feel it all the time.
My perfectionism co-opted my spiritual practice. I thought I could practice the tools and techniques I was learning to rid myself of my human frailties. I still felt less than, but I was convinced I now had the way to improve myself and eradicate negative feelings from my life. I saw peace of mind and wellbeing as something I could achieve, if I was courageous and tried hard enough.
It was not until I participated in an intensive with Linda Pransky that my whole perspective shifted in one conversation. I met with her as part of my quest for self-improvement. She asked me what I wanted to talk about, and I told her I wanted to feel less insecure. She had a conversation with me about how human psychological functioning works and where my experience comes from, based on the teachings of Sydney Banks. While listening to her, my personal thinking settled, and I had fresh thought.
I saw how I can get caught up in my insecure thoughts and feel unworthy. I recognized I have the capacity to use my free will to create from my own thoughts the illusion of my unworthiness, and that the illusion can look very real to me at times. I also realized, it didn’t matter one bit that I did this.
No matter how vividly I create the illusion of my brokenness and inadequacy, regardless of how real the emotions feel as a result of believing these thoughts, it doesn’t matter because they are never true. And, if they are not true, I don’t need to put any energy into trying to improve myself and make myself feel better. I can relax and wait for the illusion to pass.
I do not need to get freaked out by my feelings of shame and try to fix myself. I can just know when I am experiencing shame that I am gripped by my irrational thoughts. There is nothing I need to do. There is nothing I need to fix. My wellbeing, peace of mind, and loving nature are always there. They are constant.
I saw I do not have to stop myself from feeling insecure to be good enough. I recognized I am good enough even though sometimes I feel insecure. I knew I did not have to change one thing about myself in order to be worthy, none of my frailties or bad behavior mattered.
When I saw this I felt free — freer than I had ever felt in my life. I understood experientially what I had been learning at the University of Santa Monica. I experienced a tremendous release as I let go of self-judgments. I let them go because I could see they were not true. I wanted to cry. I was too embarrassed to cry in front of Linda, and that didn’t matter. I could feel every crummy feeling I had ever felt in my life, and it didn’t matter. I did not have to fix or change anything. I knew categorically my innate value. I knew I did not always have to feel good to be worthy. Just like my love is real for my children. Sometimes I don’t feel it when I am angry and upset, but it does not mean my love is not there. My loving essence is there no matter what. The beautiful feelings I attributed to getting from outside of me were inside of me all along. They would just get obscured when I believed my negative thoughts.
This meeting changed my life. I was high for days afterwards, but more importantly, it woke me up to my capacity to unconditionally love and accept myself exactly as I am with all of the range of my human experience. This has impacted every area of my life. My relationships are better. My health is better. My sleep is better. Sex is better. I am working less and earning more. I am more relaxed. I am kinder to myself and to others. I am appreciating all of the diverse opportunities I get to serve others. I am enjoying my life more and having more fun.
Yes, I still get caught up in the illusion of my negative thinking, but the profound difference is, I know it doesn’t matter, and there is nothing I need to do. I still feel anxious, insecure, angry, sad, and unworthy at times, but I know these feelings will pass no matter how intense they feel in the moment. I recognize, when they are present, that my thinking is distorted and the thoughts will settle. I am only ever one thought away from experiencing my true nature, and that is reassuring.
From that meeting forward, I knew I wanted to help others experience the depth of wellbeing I did. The teachings of Sydney Banks are echoed in all spiritual teachings, but, for me, the simplicity of how he shared them makes them so accessible and impactful.
We feel our thoughts. Our feelings let us know if our thoughts are on track or not. When they are not on track, don’t worry. The wisdom within will always move us to a peaceful settled state. We don’t need to do anything to make that happen. We are inherently divine beings connected with the formless essence of our loving nature. We cannot get in the way of that. It can never be taken away. When we slow down, our personal thinking settles, and the illusion dissolves. We then get to experience who we truly are. Wellbeing, peace of mind, clarity, joy, compassion and love are our natural state. They are not experiences that come from outside of us. They are who we are.
When we get even a glimpse of the infinite potential that is our true nature, we transform, our world transforms, and those we touch transform, as well.