The three principles of the human experience (and why I’m renaming them)

Photo by Jonathan Pielmayer

A big concept behind the coaching I do is based on what’s called ‘the three principles of the human experience’. Essentially, my job is to point people towards three particular truths about the way we humans move through the world.

Turns out, most of us misunderstand this. Many of us believe that our experience is created from circumstance. Therefore, the way we feel about the world is fixed. It’s just the way it is.

This is an outside-in model of the world that traps us in our minds and leaves us no options. Until the world out there changes, we’re stuck. And we find that, no matter how many changes are made to that world out there, our inner state never quite improves.

I’m here to say that it’s wrong. Here’s an example…

Let’s say that you and I were drinking an Orange Julius. If this outside-in model of the world was true, we’d be thinking and feeling the same way about it. But we both know this isn’t true. I’d probably be loving it and you’d be wondering why we didn’t go to the organic juice bar down the street. Or maybe you’d be thinking about the game tonight and I’d be taken back to when my grandma used to take me to the mall and we’d drink our Orange Julius’s together.

We humans create our experience of the world from the inside-out.

Our thought in the moment is brought through our conscious awareness, animated through our senses, and made ‘real’.

It’s also true that there’s a creative force behind all of this. There’s a formless energy that underlies our personal thinking that’s restorative, healing, intelligent, and loving. We know this is true because, when we’re ‘out of our heads’, we feel amazing. When we surrender our personal thinking, we’re susceptible to insight — even epiphany.

(Problem is, most people look at this in an outside-in way and believe they have to ‘do’ something in order to have this experience, whether it’s jumping out of a plane, ski off a cliff, do AcroYoga, or more self-harming substances/activities; but really, it’s a function we all have access to at any time).

So far, I’ve given you a suuuuper short snippet of how these three principles work together. Classically, here are the names of the three principles (in no particular order):

  1. The principle of thought: We all think (as you and I are drinking our Orange Julius’s, you’re thinking one thing and I’m thinking another).
  2. The principle of consciousness: We all have the ability to experience that thought as it’s animated through the five senses via conscious awareness (when you’re drinking your Orange Julius wishing we were at the hipster juice place down the street, your anger and resentment is making your heart beat faster and you find it impossible to smile at my elation in the moment).
  3. The principle of mind: This all-intelligent, loving, epiphany-producing God-force that underlies all thought (If we’d both lay our narratives down, we’d experience oneness right there on the sidewalk out in front of the Orange Julius).

But there’s a slight problem that I want to attempt to solve right now in this little Medium post: I believe they could have been named in a way that’s more clear. I know this because, when I explain them to clients, they get even more confused. Which doesn’t help.

It’s true… This simple concept is the most powerful spiritual understanding I know of. It underlies the most profound truths of many world religions and philosophies.

But the naming is not so great. When Syd Banks had his epiphany (Google him; he’s the Scottish welder who this understanding emerged from), it came as a flood of insight. He parsed the principles out for mental health professionals to be able to utilize. He’s since passed, but hopefully he wouldn’t mind if I respectfully worked on the wording a bit.

So, I’m going to take the liberty at this moment to attempt to rename the three principles of the human experience so that people can hopefully see them more clearly and start realizing the effects of that understanding in their lives.

✅ The principle of ‘Thought’, we can keep the same
This one actually makes sense. The principle of thought points to our individual thoughts. We’re free-thinking beings. You and I can think totally different ways about the same thing. As much of a blessing as this is, it’s also a curse because we can potentially get ourselves in all sorts of trouble when we drift off too far into our heads and lose our connection with pure Source (principle #3, below). But when we’re tuned in, we know our thoughts are in alignment with Source when our feeling state is healthy. This is our innate mental/spiritual health and we find our way back to it through recognizing the nature of thought and being able to release it when our feelings take us in the other direction.

✅ The principle of ‘Consciousness’ should be called ‘Awareness’
When people hear ‘consciousness’, they think of principle #1 (thought). Which is close, but consciousness isn’t our individual thoughts. It’s the vast blank canvas of awareness that our thoughts are painted on. Consciousness is the mechanism that brings those thoughts in the moment to life through our senses. Without the canvas, no painting happens.

✅ The principle of ‘Mind’ should be called ‘Source’
When people hear ‘mind’ they think ‘thoughts’ or stuff of the brain. No, no, no. This isn’t what this principle points to, so why the hell did they call it this? What we’re describing here is infinite source energy — life itself — that animates and moves this entire thing. It’s the spontaneous, creative intelligence behind this whole design and our entire human experience. It’s the self-healing nature of life. It IS Life (capital ‘L’ intentional). All else springs forth from it. Problem is, when we hang on to old personal thinking, new thought can’t emerge.

Starry Night was beneath Van Gogh’s personal thinking at all times. Unfortunately, he thought he had to consume mass amounts of absinthe to uncover it. But it didn’t come from the absinthe. The absinthe just quieted his thinking enough for him to see it.


Through these three principles, I now see that the way I experience my world is totally from the inside-out, not the outside-in. These principles point the way to a creative state of being. I know that I create a better experience and make my mark on the world in a more lucid, impactful way when I live in a place of clear thinking and spontaneity. I know that beneath my personal thinking lies a source so loving, so intelligent, and so powerful that, if I truly understood its nature, I’d never be afraid. Through these three spiritual principles, I can experience the Grace of God amongst any circumstances. I can heal and be healed in any moment. And I can create anew. And so it is.