Three Principles Living

Judith A. Sedgeman, EdD

THOUGHT vs. thought

THOUGHT vs. thought

A lot of misunderstanding about the idea of “thought” pervades our work in the Three Principles. I’d like to draw a very clear distinction.

When people talk about “thought” in terms of what we have thought, the content of our thinking, we are not talking about the Principle of Thought. The Principle of Thought describes the formless energy (described by the Principle MIND) that flows through all life, our life, that empowers us to create “thoughts”. THOUGHT is energy, the spiritual, creative force of generating ideas about life. Once we have used that energy to form our own ideas, our particular “thoughts” look real to us while they are on our minds, a fact described by the Principle CONSCIOUSNESS, the power to be aware of what we see in our mind’s eye.

Quite often, people who understand this distinction might refer to each person’s individual thoughts as “just a thought,” without any realization of how dismissive and insulting that might sound to someone who did NOT understand the Principle of THOUGHT. I remember clearly the first time someone said this to me, early on years ago when I was really looking to grasp the profound nature of seeing THOUGHT as a power, a formless energy that set me free to create my own life and navigate it, free from external pressure. At a time when I was struggling to step into the unknown, and expressing doubts, a woman I knew casually said, “Oh, that’s just a thought. Let it go!” In the state of mind I was in, that left me infuriated and frustrated. It didn’t matter to me at that moment that what she said was true, because it was only true for anyone who has seen deeply enough not to take thought content seriously. At that moment, it felt like I was being judged and found wanting. I see-sawed between fearing that I was wrong and stupid to be upset and thinking that she was just mean-spirited and didn’t understand me at all.

Once I saw more deeply, I realized for myself that when people have upsetting, doubt-filled thoughts, those thoughts are a temporary reality, but knowing they are thoughts coming from within our own minds, they don’t seem important. They, like all thoughts, are understood to be transitory, part of the flow of ideas that create our moment-to-moment experience of life. We know for ourselves that they are “just thoughts,” images we’ve created. When we know it for ourselves, we know not to take any particular thoughts seriously; we know we are always thinking; we know we can think for ourselves; we know we can turn our backs on thoughts that are bringing us into dark emotional places and quiet our minds and think again.

But, here’s what’s important, WE know it from our own insights. No one can tell us something is “just a thought” because, until we see it for ourselves, it looks like an important reality that consumes our awareness while those thoughts are on our minds.

What I have been humbled, again and again, to learn over the 30+ years I have been involved in this work is that everyone can see this for themselves because all human beings are innately resilient and spiritually whole, no matter where our thoughts have taken us in life. But no one can make another person see it. Our role is to show love and respect for people and to truly see the humanity in them, the health and wholeness in them, to see that, regardless of their habitual thinking or their lack of seeing their own power to think, they are intrinsically and simply complete human beings. As people come to peace and quiet in the presence of unconditional love and respect, we can count on their own wisdom to start to surface, and for insights to bubble up. They set themselves free. And then we can celebrate that with them and explain it so that the logic of it is clear and they incrementally gain confidence in their own wise insights.

That is why, in the world of our work, clients often say we “didn’t do that much.” That’s the joy of it. There isn’t that much to do because wisdom is the coin of the realm, shared by all. We may have beckoned to it, but the clients welcomed it and made it their companion and guide.








  • Hello Judith
    Love this blog post and animated video!
    As it was you who first caught my attention about the 3 Principles, through a video with Molly Gordon, I’m always delighted to soak any goodness you share.

    My entire approach to working with clients has completely changed. It’s remarkable. I am so grateful to have discovered the teachings of Mr. Banks. I also find my writings point to a new direction as well. For example –

    Thank you for all you do.
    Sincerely, Susan

    October 16, 2017 at 3:54 pm
  • Gary Tolchinsky

    I think I understand this article, and the transitory nature of thought and danger of “buying in” to the content
    of any particular thought, which can then lead to a low mood/depression. But aren’t some thoughts objectively
    true and if so, how can awareness of the principles avoid the negative feeling which follows? For example,
    let’s say I know I should go to bed, but end up watching TV till 3 in the morning. I oversleep and
    am late for work and get rebuked by my boss. The following thought enters my consciousness:
    “I shouldn’t have stayed up so late, otherwise my boss wouldn’t have rebuked me”

    So I end up feeling lousy after this thought. This feeling can be a sign I’ve gotten off track and
    need to reset. But the reality of what happened–watch tv, get rebuked–is
    to me an objective truth (not only a thought) which leads to negative feelings. Am I missing something?:)….Gary

    December 7, 2017 at 5:37 pm
    • Judy Sedgeman

      What if you just had that thought and looked to learn from the experience and moved on? Feeling lousy is a thought about that thought — I should feel bad. In my experience, the more we see the transitory and illusory nature of all thought, the more we simply experience various thoughts coming and going and don’t attach extra feelings/meanings to them. The situation you described is an objecive fact; your reaction to it is your thought about it. There are infinite ways you COULD think about it, and that’s what makes each of us unique.

      December 19, 2017 at 5:38 pm
  • Bill Eimers

    Judy, Wow! I think I just had my first insight…thanks to Gary above, and your answer. “Feeling lousy is a thought about that thought” That really jarred me! I’ve been a 3P junkie on YouTube, read lots of books, etc. but that was so clear and impactful. I have a new feeling about how to just watch my thoughts go by. It feels easy to stop the thought about a though. Thank you!!!

    Bill Eimers

    February 9, 2018 at 8:30 am
    • Ryan Ramirez

      Great video! ☺️

      Out of curiosity… if most of the world are suffering from their thinking, and we come to realise that it’s temporary and impermanent, and can wake up to that illusion — what is the real, natural purpose and benefit of thinking? 🤷‍♂️

      April 15, 2020 at 6:24 am
  • Olivier

    Thank you for this great article!
    I’ve been reading and listening to nonduality (advaita) teachings for many years and only recently came across the wonderful 3P insights.
    What appeals most to me is the focus on the moment to moment interaction between the Universal and the Human.
    The only thing I’m struggling with is the principle of Thought (that’s how I stumbled upon this article 🙂
    So on the one hand it’s a universal force that flows through all life (not only human) and on the other hand it enables us to generate ideas about life (a more specific human quality).
    So even if Thought is presented as something universal in 3P, it always gives me the feeling of it being something specific for the human experience, and thought/thinking as something even more specifically human since it’s Thought in the form of thoughts.
    In traditional nondual teachings there’s mostly only a universal (non changing) aspect and a temporary, transient one (called illusion in some traditions).
    That’s what’s a bit confusing for me at the moment. Can you help me out on this one?
    Warm regards from Bruges,

    May 7, 2022 at 1:53 am

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