If you think of a time when you saw a beautiful sunset, or when you have done something good and worthwhile, think back to how that felt and what qualities were present in you? You will find that in some way you were present and in your body. You will find there was a sense of ease, or release and relaxation. You will find there was a sense of connectedness and wellbeing. You will find that in that moment, it would have been very difficult to be destructive or unkind, in fact it would have been natural to be generous and kind.
This is your true nature.
And here are the principles:
- We are present and embodied
- We are relaxed and soft
- We are in touch with our heart centre and compassionate
- When these three are present, any action which comes out of us of body, speech or mind will come from our true nature, it will be a natural action. One that is true to us and our divine nature.
This is something that happens in us every day in some way.
But what happens when we are in a situation where we are disconnected from ourselves, caught in history and habit? What happens when we are isolated by tension and worry? What happens when we have lost ourselves? If we can remember these qualities in those moments, then in some way we are back in that wholesome place and in a far more creative, flexible and compassionate space in ourselves. This is the gift of the Principles – they give us back to ourselves.
The First Principle
The First Principle is to be present. Without this we cannot begin. It is only when we come into the moment, when we wake up out of our dream, out of habit and out of history, that we have a choice for something fresh. We need to make it personal and grounded by being present in the body. It is then that we can see how out of alignment we are with ourselves and then choose something different.
The body is a mirror and when we are depressed, we collapse and leave balance. When we are frightened, we get rigid and leave balance. When we become present we can see this imbalance, and then use poise in the spine to come into a more wholesome, present, balanced and embodied place.
The Second Principle
If embodied presence is the essence of the First Principle, then the ability to release our muscles and unwrinkle our minds is the essence of the Second Principle.
Relaxation, in some ways, is the Second Principle manifesting in our bodies: the body of physical form and the body of mind. Any muscular tension that is a result of creating armouring or resisting needs, eventually, can be allowed to relax. So, too, the practice of ‘unwrinkling’ the mind, releasing the dynamic of tension in the scalp, in the forehead, face and ultimately the tension in the brain itself.
The Third Principle
The Essence of the Third Principle is come into your spine of poise, to put yourself in the region of the heart centre and then do what you do from there. To engage heart.
We are full of heart, we just don’t recognise it. Many many times as we go through our days, we express our hearts through a sense of appreciation. How about beginning to recognise when you appreciate something, a colour, a good piece of driving, a sound, or a view? To take a moment to be thankful on your way to work in the train, or the car, to take a moment to be thankful for this moment of life, for the presence of your family and friends, the support of your work colleagues. Sit down and breathe into your heart and be thankful, you will be amazed!
Can you open your heart to someone you have negative thoughts about, whether true or imagined? Remember we are all doing our best. Who is it that you close your heart to? Remember that when you close your heart to someone, you are also closing your heart to yourself. Can you come into your heart in the presence of that person? Can you just bring them to your mind’s eye and feel your heart constrict and then can you allow it to soften? See what happens when you do this. You may find that this act of softening, of opening is forgiveness without words, or the beginning of forgiveness. Can you at least open your heart to yourself in their presence even if you cannot open your heart to them personally? This is the beginning. Remember that until you can bless someone for the wound, they will continue to follow you around.
- Who are you really?
- What is your essence?
- What is your gift?
- What have you come to share with the world?
- Where does your heart sing?
We are like a diamond with many facets. We are many things and the question “What is the heart of me?” is difficult to answer. In many traditions, when asked “Where is your essence?” people point to their hearts. By paying attention, from the physical space of the heart, to the qualities that we find there when we move through our days, we can begin to know something of this diamond.
The Fourth Principle
Any action which arises out of the first three Principles is the Fourth Principle. It is authentic movement of body, speech or mind. It is the Tao or Mystery manifesting itself through the individual. It is Being Heartful Presence.
Emmanuel said to me on signing his book, “No forethought is required, you are to Live!” Imagine that? But whose living is it? If my actions arise out of neurosis or ignorance or reactivity then although that is a natural movement, and mine, it is not of my true nature. First are the three qualities of true nature – to become present, to soften, to be hearted – and out of these comes a natural action – this is the Fourth Principle. From here I can live my truth, my essence.
In the Fourth Principle we don’t give ourselves away to an outer authority – we listen inwards. There is a saying, “The man or woman of Tao needs no rules”. What does this mean? It means that if we need rules to live our lives then we are not listening inwards; we are listening to some outside authority. When we do this, we are following without knowing. But allowing ourselves to be in touch with the qualities of the Principles leads us to a place of unity, of authenticity and out of this place, through this lens, we get a feeling to act in a particular way. It is an authentic movement, in that it comes from our Being, the divine source within us, and so it is touched by that quality.
When Gandhi said “My commitment is to Truth not consistency” he understood that in the moment, a truth is seen fresh. When it is seen fresh without an insistence on how it used to be, it may appear the same or, because of a present integrity, it may seem different this time. If my commitment is to truth, in this moment I may be consistent with the past, but not because I am consistent with doing the same thing. I am listening, my commitment is to truth.
The Fourth Principle is Nature. Look out of a window and see a tree. Consider how it grew from a seed. What happened when the flow of life entered it? It allowed itself to follow the pattern of the seed without interfering. Contemplate water. Does it move itself? No, it allows temperature, the moon and the wind, amongst other things, to pull it this way and that. It stays true to itself as it is moved. It is the Fourth Principle, its naturalness, its complete innocence, its beingness, its pattern, allows it to move in this way. In our essence, we, too, are the same.