The KEY Questions: What is it that I need to know?

My dinner was bubbling away on the stove.

I stood out in the garden looking up at the stars. Something was bugging me but it was a beautiful night and I felt momentarily grateful to be alive. There is something very calming to me about the vastness of the universe. The late Stephen Hawking knew something about this when he commented: “Look up at the stars, not down at your feet.” Maybe that’s how he reached the age of seventy-six despite his doctors having given him two years to live at the age of twenty-one.

The fact is I needed calming. I’d been working hard as ever, trying to balance my family life with my professional responsibilities, trying to stay ahead of the game. Not for the first time I was feeling quite exhausted with the effort. But the stars did their magic and my mind gradually quietened down.

Then the insight came, a sudden, powerful and intense glimpse of the truth.

Before I share it with you I have to explain about an aspect of my childhood that revolved around the dinner table. In our house mealtimes seemed to be less about physical sustenance than the mental kind. My dad always insisted on discussing the political and social issues of the day. Not only that he fully expected me, his only child, to have an opinion about them and was fully prepared to take me to task if he considered that opinion to be suspect or just plain wrong. Why he did this remains a mystery. I never asked him and it’s too late now. He died eight years ago. I’m sure that in his way he felt he was preparing me for the world I was entering.

It seems almost cruel to me now and I feel a certain amount of sympathy for my younger self. As much as I want my own daughters to be able to think clearly and care about the society they’re growing up in, I can’t imagine subjecting them to an intellectual assault course over the evening meal, much less picking holes in their arguments as though they were panellists on Question Time.

It was a very long time ago and my dad was an alcoholic, a troubled man who was very embittered about his own life. I forgive him of course but what I see now is that those early experiences, compounded by my rather patchy and fragmented formal education, left me with a deep insecurity about my poor general knowledge, which only grew as I entered the world of work.

I was afraid of the unknown, so I built my whole life around knowing. In short I needed to know everything about everything!

It worked well at first. That need spurred me on and I found I was a pretty good learner. But as I now realise an insecure thought that’s subconsciously planted, with deep enough roots, will tend to persist throughout our lives. Sure enough at each stage of my career I found that however much I knew about my subject it was dwarfed by how much I felt I still had to learn. This generated a feeling of inadequacy that never quite left me.

Enter the Three Principles.

As with so many of my present clients when I was introduced to the Principles, as revealed to us through the teachings of Sydney Banks, I was blown away. The simplicity of this new understanding of human psychology astounded me, and it still does, every day. But here’s the problem, the one that I was struggling with on that starry night three years ago: I found it hard to come to terms with an understanding that relied upon innate wisdom rather than conventional knowledge. I was inspired on an intellectual level. I felt I had been waiting my whole life to be given this understanding, but…

I didn’t ‘get it’. Being so used to searching, on hearing about the principles I had simply continued the search. When my various mentors talked about insights I searched for insights. When they described a beautiful feeling I went in search of the feeling. I knew that I already had everything I needed within me – because that was the essence of the understanding – but I still searched.

Luckily for me once we truly ‘hear’ the principles they begin to work on our subconscious minds every bit as much as they do on our conscious ones, so in a relatively short time my understanding grew with no apparent help from me. But the revelation that I had that night was the beginning of the end of the search. I saw that I’d been carrying around a misconception about myself since childhood, and it felt as if a massive weight had suddenly been lifted from my shoulders. My insight? The only thing I truly need to know is that Mind has my back. In fact it always has, I just didn’t know it.

Dinnertime. I thanked the stars and went inside.