A question I’m often asked by new and seasoned Three Principles practitioners is about developing some sort of form to support their work in various work environments.
For example, a client working in education with youth has created a curriculum for teachers and students that is being shared around the country. It’s a beautiful work of art, with practical tips for teachers on how to engage youth and to draw out the best in them. The curriculum also contains wonderful heartfelt stories for youth; examples meant to prompt insight and a sense of community for the students, so they can see that their peers are going through similar experiences and finding solutions through engaging their innate wisdom.
Another client working in the judicial corrections system has also developed a handbook with modules so that the team working with the inmates have something to follow when they’re teaching.
Been there—done that. I understand the need for form in this world that we’re living in. When I was working for juvenile justice, I was required by the organization that hired me to prepare a handbook highlighting modules that I would be teaching for the year. I was hesitant to create too much ‘form’ because I was learning that when there is too much form, it can entice the intellect rather than wisdom.
However, as I reflected on this, I knew that the opportunity presenting itself was too good to pass up and I came to trust that Mind had a lesson in store for me. I developed a manual with modules that incorporated the Three Principles, the health of the helper, the power of innate health, rapport, deep listening, and so on.
The manual contained some of Sydney Banks’ writings, some of my own, and questions at the end of each module to draw out what the students had learned.
It was fascinating to see what unfolded in the training. For the first couple of months, we pretty much stuck to the manual but gradually the tone of the meetings became more about student’s intellectual questions starting with ‘why’ rather than them having insights bringing them the answers.
This was curious to me as when I first started working with juvenile justice, I didn’t have an agenda. I’d been invited to do a two day seminar to see how the staff responded and if the response was good, I’d be brought in to deliver a yearlong training program.
The deep feeling that became evident in the first two day training brought out a wonderful response and amazing insights occurred in the moment. So why was the new training not bringing the same results?
One day, when once again, I went to the next module in the manual, a student asked if we could talk about something that had happened that morning that was of grave concern to the counselors and probation officers.
It was a situation concerning a youngster who had been admitted the day before who was so terrified at being in ‘juvy’ for the first time, that he had attacked an officer. The staff in the training wanted to discuss how best to handle this situation based on the Principles understanding. They had their own traditional ways of dealing with this but as their level of understanding was deepening; they intuitively felt there might be a better, gentler way of reaching this young lad, rather than confining him in a strait jacket.
We had an open, heart to heart conversation. I listened deeply and drew out from them their own insights, supporting their common sense in how they felt they could move forward and redefine their procedures for handling this in the future.
The feeling of the engagement amongst the staff was heartfelt, creative, and suggestions flowed with ease. It was such an energizing, enriching day that no one wanted to leave at the end.
The next month when we met again, I opened the manual for the next module but someone mentioned something else they wished to discuss in the moment, so I honored that and away we went into another totally different conversation than was planned in the next module.
As time went on, I reviewed the notes I’d made at the end of each training, briefly detailing what topics we’d covered. To my surprise and delight, I found that we’d covered all the modules, just not in the same order or even using any of the readings contained in the handbook.
I will say that the group all had copies of The Enlightened Gardener, by Sydney Banks, as well as my first book, Wisdom for Life. I always recommended that they read Syd’s book when moved to do so and I found out that they did.
For the rest of the yearlong program, the manual stayed in my briefcase. We carried on with conversations that were relevant in the moment. I discovered that having form in our work is a necessary part of the human work experience. I also discovered that form created in the moment has a distinctly different feeling from form created in the past.
When Dr. Roger Mills and I were primarily working in inner city communities, we used a manual, the Health Realization Primer, that Roger had written, and along the way, as his request, I had edited, as did a few other colleagues who helped us. As time went on, we could see that the facilitators who worked with us in the communities began to depend on the Primer, to the extent that they lost their own voice, in terms of sharing their wisdom, rather than the wisdom in the Primer.
We actually added a caveat to the beginning of the Primer, counseling facilitators to trust their own wisdom more and to use the Primer only as a support, not as a total presentation. Some did; some didn’t.
To me, the most important point in sharing the Principles with others to have as little form as possible. If you are required to have a handbook or whatever form necessary, treat it as a support, and really help your students understand the essential importance of that point.
Find your own voice; use your wisdom! After all, isn’t that the promise of the Three Principles? Discovering the unlimited potential within?