Joan Tollifson has long been one of my favourite writers in this field since I first discovered her in the mid-2000s. I’m fairly sure it was Jerry who first introduced her writing to me, and she immediately struck me as being outlandishly clear and succinct. She eschews all of the jargon and pretence that some of the more esoteric spiritually-minded writers and teachers occasionally have.
Tollifson was thoroughly profiled in a recent edition of the excellent online magazine One, and having been a paying subscriber to that publication for about a year, I was eager to read this piece. It’s absolutely worth the subscription fee to read this, along with the other numerous and well-conceived articles that are available there:
Tollifson’s profile begins by taking us through some of her earliest background. It’s also eventually made clear that part of her groundedness is based on her having lived a fairly chaotic life at times.
Even though she was raised without religion in the postwar Midwest, she claims to have recognized early on that “spirituality in some form” would be her vocation. Her father was an atheist and lay physicist who explained to her at a young age that free will was an illusion and that “nothing could be other than exactly how it is.” She remembers him teaching her that the physical world was manifest from an undivided field of pure energy; that the world and all of its contents were nothing more than an energetic dance of subatomic particles that had no real separation from one another at a cosmic level.
This world view was counterbalanced by that of Tollifson’s mother, who was herself more attuned to a selfless love for the world around her and all of its peoples. She believed in the infinite possibilities around her and in total acceptance of the way things and people were. Tollifson refers to her parents as her first real teachers, and it’s clear that her earliest spiritual insights were at least partly cultivated via her unique upbringing.
Tollifson was also raised with a personal challenge in the form of having been born as a partial amputee: her right hand and part of her right arm were slowly strangled to death by a ruptured amniotic band during her mother’s pregnancy. Growing up as a female with such a noticeable physical disfigurement was much more of a challenge than it might otherwise be today, and she recalls feeling a deep sense of being flawed or repulsive as she grew up. However, this directly spawned in Tollifson a foundational insight that would serve her well in later years:
As it turned out, this gave me a great affinity for all other human beings who were regarded as less than perfect—people of color, foreigners, people with mental disorders, outsiders of all sorts. Eventually I realized everyone feels flawed and wounded in some way, that my missing arm was a kind of externalization of a condition that is universal but more often hidden… Having only one hand has been one of my greatest teachers and greatest gifts, one of many opportunities in this life to discover perfection in imperfection and enlightenment in samsara.
Eckhart Tolle and Osho and many other authors, spiritual teachers and gurus are profoundly important, helpful and illuminating but Colin Drake is something else….he’s significantly better at explaining spiritual awakening and how to effect enlightenment and maintain it permanently. Colin Gives the essential facts and tries not to befuddle the reader. He is very experienced with years and years of direct experience of being on the spiritual path and also crucially of enlightenment itself.
This book is very important – if you are on the spiritual path then your days of seeking are over. You’ve arrived at journeys end. This book explains everything you need to know calmly, gently and without mystical gobbledegook to become aware of your true self.
Enlightenment in one easy read is very possible!
Here is Colin’s latest article:
Joy Without a Cause
I tell you naught for your comfort,
Yea, not for your desire,
Save that the sky grows darker yet
And the sea rises higher.
Night shall be thrice night over you,
And heaven an iron cope.
Do you have joy without a cause,
Yea, faith without a hope?
G.K. Chesterton The Ballad of The White Horse
John Wren Lewis describes Joy Without a Cause as the name of God, or at least that is how he experiences God. Further the Causeless Cause is described by Theosophists as An Omnipresent, Eternal, Boundless, and Immutable Principle…’ Divya Jivan, a Vedantist of the Sivananda lineage states that the Absolute is not related to anything. It is the causeless cause of all things; it is beginningless and endless, unlimited.
Pure Awareness (Consciousness at rest) is this Omnipresent, Eternal, Boundless, Unlimited Principle (Presence) and thus can be defined as the Causeless Cause. When one discovers that, at the deepest level, one is this Pure Awareness and fully identifies with (and as) That, then one is suffused with perfect peace for This is always still, effortless, pure, silent and serene. All of this is easily realized by directly investigating ones moment-to-moment experience and the format for this is given in the appendix.
This initial realization and the cultivation of this is the first stage of The Bodhisattva Path, of Mahayana Buddhism which they call joyful:
This stage is reached automatically once one has realized, and identified with, the deeper level of pure awareness. This creates great compassion and joy: Governed by compassion to liberate living beings completely, and always abiding in joy is called the first (1.4cd, 5ab).One is now truly a bodhisattva and cannot fall back, provided one does not re-identify as an individual self:
Because he has attained this, he is addressed by the very name Bodhisattva . all paths to lower births have ceased . all grounds of ordinary beings are exhausted (1.5cd, 7abc).
Once true self-discovery has taken place, and we experience the peace and joy of this, then all that is required is to cultivate this by further investigation whenever we revert to misidentification of ourselves as a separate object. This is easily recognized for it always will (eventually) produce mental suffering which can be used as a wake-up call to the fact that misidentification has taken place.
This joy and peace is the happiness that needs nothing described in an earlier article. Indeed this happiness is the joy without a cause, being without a cause for it needs nothing to manifest but just wells up from the realization of no separation.
This joy has many facets including:
The relief that is engendered by realizing that no separate individual self exists (anatta) resulting in the dissolution of all burdens pertaining to the non-existent me me me enlightenment in the literal sense of the word.
The appreciation that occurs when the world is encountered directly and not through the filter of self (grasping, concern, promotion, aggrandizement, interest, security, etc ), for it is found to be much brighter, more alive, friendlier, and less threatening than when encountered from separation.
The peace that is an attribute of the Pure Awareness that we already are, and the realization that this is unaffected by any thing. For all things are manifestations of Cosmic Energy, movements in Consciousness and all movements arise from, abide in , and subside back into stillness. Thus everything comes and goes in Pure awareness (Consciousness at rest) leaving it totally unchanged.
The joy of embodiment, see earlier article of this name, that is the joy of using the body/mind as an instrument (of Consciousness) for sensing, contemplating, experiencing, engaging with and acting in the world.
The compassion that arises from realizing that we, and all beings, are manifestations of the same essence and that there is truly no separation between us. This combined with realizing that all are equally valid instruments of the Absolute entails honouring all life.
The utter relaxation that occurs with the realization that there is nothing (in terms of enlightenment) to achieve, find, or acquire as you already are That Pure Awareness.
The fearlessness that results from this realization as all existential angst vanishes. This is not the natural caution which results from, and causes us to avoid, real danger – but the unnecessary fear caused by misidentification and its resulting self-image (which appears to need protection), fear of the future and that caused by dwelling on the past.
All of the above stem from realizing (that we are) Pure Awareness the Causeless Cause, and as This is causeless then so is the joy that comes from this realization truly Joy Without a Cause! This also leads to faith without a hope where the faith is the knowing that is the result of this realization, requiring no hope for Pure Awareness needs nothing as does the happiness resulting from this.
Below follows a simple method to investigate the nature of reality starting with ones day-to-day experience. Each step should be considered until one experiences, or sees, its validity before moving on to the following step. If you reach a step where you do not find this possible, continue on regardless in the same way, and hopefully the flow of the investigation will make this step clear. By all means examine each step critically but with an open mind, for if you only look for holes thats all you will find!
Consider the following statement: Life, for each of us, is just a series of moment-to-moment experiences. These experiences start when we are born and continue until we die, rushing headlong after each other, so that they seem to merge into a whole that we call my life. However, if we stop to look we can readily see that, for each of us, every moment is just an experience.
Any moment of experience has only three elements: thoughts (including all mental images), sensations (everything sensed by the body and its sense organs) and Awareness of these thoughts and sensations. Emotions and feelings are a combination of thought and sensation.
Thoughts and sensations are ephemeral, that is they come and go, and are objects, i.e. things that are perceived.
Awareness is the constant subject, the perceiver of thoughts and sensations and that which is always present. Even during sleep there is Awareness of dreams and of the quality of that sleep; and there is also Awareness of sensations; if a sensation becomes strong enough, such as a sound or uncomfortable sensation, one will wake up.
All thoughts and sensations appear in Awareness, exist in Awareness, and subside back into Awareness. Before any particular thought or sensation there is effortless Awareness of what is: the sum of all thoughts and sensations occurring at any given instant. During the thought or sensation in question there is effortless Awareness of it within what is. Then when it has gone there is still effortless Awareness of what is.
So the body/mind is experienced as a flow of ephemeral objects appearing in this Awareness, the ever present subject. For each of us any external object or thing is experienced as a combination of thought and sensation, i.e. you may see it, touch it, know what it is called, and so on. The point is that for us to be aware of anything, real or imaginary, requires thought about and/or sensation of that thing and it is Awareness of these thoughts and sensations that constitutes our experience.
Therefore this Awareness is the constant substratum in which all things appear to arise, exist and subside. In addition, all living things rely on Awareness of their environment to exist and their behaviour is directly affected by this. At the level of living cells and above this is self-evident, but it has been shown that even electrons change their behaviour when (aware of) being observed! Thus this Awareness exists at a deeper level than body/mind (and matter/energy) and we are this Awareness!
This does not mean that at a surface level we are not the mind and body, for they arise in, are perceived by and subside back into Awareness, which is the deepest and most fundamental level of our being. However, if we choose to identify with this deepest level Awareness – (the perceiver) rather than the surface level, mind/body (the perceived), then thoughts and sensations are seen for what they truly are, just ephemeral objects which come and go, leaving Awareness itself totally unaffected.
One may then investigate this Awareness further to discover its wondrous properties, for more on this see any of my books on awakening.
All of the following scriptural quotes (i.e. those with chapter and verse numbers) come from the Guide to the Middle Way by Chandrakirti, the principal disciple of Nagarjuna, which are contained in:G. K. Gyatso, Ocean of Nectar, 1995, London
G. K. Gyatso, Ocean of Nectar, 1995, London, p. 38
Ibid. p. 39
C.Drake, Beyond The Separate Self, 2009, Tomewin, p.106
The theory of relativity, and string theory, show that matter and energy are synonymous.
Ramaji’s main mission is to spread practical non-dual teachings about the Heart on the right, Amrita Nadi and Self-enquiry meditation in the Advaita enlightenment tradition of Sri Ramana Maharshi. Ramaji facilitates the non-dual spiritual awakening of the casual seeker and serious student alike via delivery of the RASA (Ramaji Advaita Shaktipat Attunement) non-dual transmission. He delivers RASA in person and long distance to groups or one on one over Skype. The RASA transmission takes only a few minutes, yet its spiritual benefits can last a lifetime. Physical distance makes no difference.
Based on his own experiences, Ramaji has clarified and streamlined Self-enquiry for the West. Ramaji strongly encourages meditators to arrive at the thought-free state. By dwelling in and abiding as the thought-free state, the Self is realized.
0:00 – 7:21 Introduction to Ramaji. Ramaji talks about how his book started and the nature of levels of consciousness. Compares his work to that of David Hawkins. Some spiritual biography. Function of empathy.
7:21 – 14:22 Some of the people rated and their scores. Value of this work in getting a handle on assessing nonduality teachers. David Hawkins’ ratings compared. Nature of Ramaji’s evaluation process. Receptivity to “mental density” or “outer protective layer,” or “mental armor.”
14:22 – 22:49 Ramaji gathering date on evaluations. Characteristics and features of different ratings levels with associated experiences described. Perfection of duality as it is at level 1000.
22:49 – 25:10 Nature of level 1000. “Everything is I.” Universal I-consciousness. It is all myself.
25:10 – 28:54 Mission to get everyone to level 1000. Value of RASA discussed. “I am kicking spiritual butt with this RASA thing.”
28:54 – 32:15 Value of the great desire for enlightenment. Be honest with yourself. Enlightenment has to be your passion. Main problem is indifference. Value of meditating a half hour a day toward achieving world peace.
32:15 – 38:37 The world as thought, corporations and the military as only thought based. All the masses have to do is start meditating and that would de-couple them from deep conditioning. Identification softens with meditation and space opens in our thought patterns. However, the masses are in a trance and kept in a trance by corporate advertising. “People think the world is real … and then torture themselves with it.” Being a human being: feel free, loving, peaceful.
38:37 – 45:27 More levels discussed. 500′s, nature of. Average person is 210. Spirituality starts at 500. Serial killers are below 100. Dictators are below 200. 300: Tanya Harding. 400s are scientists, wealthy people. Bill Gates = 524. Oprah = 582. Above 628 you’re living in non-doership, you can do whatever arises which may appear to come from a low rating level.
45:27 – 48:10 Potential for abuse if someone pretends they’re established in non-doership. Charles Manson mentioned. People rated 1000 are impeccable regarding abusive behaviour.
48:10 – Jerry asks, “Ramaji, should people believe you?” A new level of purification after enlightenment, which is a function of non-doership.
The transparent energetic clarity revealed to me by the LOC
1000 person who is “lost in the Absolute” has no parallel in
lower LOC levels. At the same time, since there are many “X
factors” in the delivery of satsang, it is entirely possible that an
enlightened teacher at a lower LOC may be presenting just the
right quickening of consciousness for his or her students.
It is natural to assume that “higher is better.” What matters
most is the “chemistry” between the two of you.
A higher LOC would be better for the teacher for their own
sake, but it is entirely possible that a teacher with a lower LOC
will be better for you. They may be easier to understand.
Best-selling author Deepak Chopra (LOC 562) is not yet
established in non-duality, yet his teachings have been a great
help to many. The consensus is that Chopra has made great
contributions to the modern non-duality movement.
As an educator, Chopra is hard to beat, but more advanced
and sophisticated students know that there is unparalleled
value to being in the presence of one who is established in
non-duality. In that case, Jeff Foster (LOC 678) and Scott
Kiloby (LOC 754) are examples of accessible compassionate
teachers who are well integrated in their realization. Likewise,
both Gangaji (LOC 1000) and Francis Lucille (LOC 1000) offer
liberating wisdom in a loving supportive context.
Even though I returned to Ramana Maharshi (LOC 1000) and
Nisargadatta Maharaj (LOC 1000) for clarification of many
subtle yet critical points, Ramesh Balsekar (LOC 764) was the
perfect guru for me in 1989. Ramesh’s message, down to the
exact words the he spoke in person to me, was precisely what
I needed to hear. The alignment itself was what mattered.
My conclusion from my spiritual initiation with Ramesh
Balsekar is that the LOC of the teacher is not the most critical
factor. Obviously, you want him to be stabilized in non-
duality. The “transcendental” attunement between your
awakened guru and you, the sincere disciple, is the key.
The purpose of this book is to elucidate apparent differences
between teachers in their presence, behavior and message.
When the facts are laid out, it appears that guru misconduct is
much more likely with teachers in the 600s and 700s.
The classic forms of misconduct are very familiar to us. Four
big areas show up again and again. They are abuse of power,
abuse of money, abuse of drugs and abuse of sex.
Of course, these are the same exact areas that exploitation,
misconduct and abuse can be found in worldly contexts like
politics, sports, business and entertainment. The guilty party
is usually a man, but not always. Women seem to be less
prone to scandalous behavior, but then they are not as likely
to be in a position of authority where misconduct is possible.
There is no simple explanation for this problem. In the case of
spiritual teachers, it is possible to come out too early publicly
as a teacher. In theory this should not make a difference, but
in practice a major awakening takes time to stabilize and
integrate. Coming out a few months or a few years after your
breakthrough into non-duality could be counterproductive.
There is no hard and fast rule about this. It is more a case of
“By their fruits you will know them.” Most people are not
even remotely prepared for being in a position of authority
where sex, money and recreational drugs may be made
available without the conventional rules or limits. Much like
the people who win the lottery and proceed to ruin their lives,
too much of a good thing can easily turn out extremely bad.
After a sage is ensconced in this position of authority, it will
be the rare teacher who decides that he or she needs to step
down and take a break. Usually a crisis needs to occur before
such an action takes place. Even then the sage may deny any
wrongdoing. As the saying goes, an ounce of prevention is
worth a pound of cure. That means wait until you’re ready.
To use traditional language, in the LOC 800s sages and above
a purification process has taken place that the teachers in the
lower non-dual LOCs have not gone through. This includes
deeply buried emotional traumas but is not limited to that.
The progression from the lower non-dual LOCs to the higher
non-dual LOCs on up to LOC 1000 is not just a matter of going
higher in consciousness. The final stabilization in the Absolute
is a full resolution of the world and the other. Love has been
fully integrated into the path. When you are a teacher at this
level, the student you are teaching is your very own beloved
Self. The evidence is strong that impeccable purity is more
likely to be found the higher you go on the LOC scale.
Highly revered masters like Ramana Maharshi and
Nisargadatta Maharaj were impeccable in their behavior as
well as in the clarity and effectiveness of their non-dual
message. They represent the gold standard to which the
majority aspire but to which only a minority attain.
“Self-realization” has been used to describe an absolute
separation between the “realized” and the “not realized.” The
evidence does not support this idea. Parallel to the evolution
of life on earth, there is unfoldment over time and integration.
Progression upwards in the non-dual LOCs means that the
mind becomes more and more attenuated until, at LOC 1000,
it finally disappears. It can be argued that the mind continues
with the difference that it is no longer a problem for the sage.
Either way, the mind as such is gone. Now there is Silence,
and in this Silence, thoughts may or may not arise.
To attain enlightenment and get established in non-duality is
one thing. To live as a human being who compassionately
embodies the truth “All is my very Self” is quite another.
If the apparent other human being in front of you is indeed
you, if they too are this Buddha Nature, then surely the last
thing you would dream of doing would be to hurt, harm, limit
or confuse them. After all, you are only hurting yourself.
In Buddhist circles, this challenge has been posed as “Would
you do this [act of misconduct] to someone you know for sure
is a Buddha?” Christians may ask “What would Jesus do?” The
answer is obvious in both cases, yet misconduct continues.
Clearly, these forces run very deep. Non-dual awakening does
not mean that every twisted knot of the subconscious has been
burned through and resolved. It does not mean that terrible
traumas from past lives and this life have been handled. One
of the gifts of awakening is that now you are in a position to
dig up and resolve submerged conflicts that the empirical ego,
when it ran the show, would not let rise to the surface.
At the “top of the mountain,” life is service. If everyone is your
beloved Self, then the ongoing daily suffering of these others
is your suffering also. There is no room for selfish behavior.
You live for the realization of all beings, for they are you.
Because you love yourself without limits or conditions and all
is your Self, this is inevitably true. How this will look to others
cannot be predicted. In your heart of hearts, you will know
that you are on an authentic path of compassionate love.
The teacher of non-duality is a doctor for the deeper soul. All
of us who seek to minister to the spiritual needs of others will
do well to remember the words of the father of modern
medicine, Hippocrates” “First do no harm.”
To rework a familiar discussion, at issue is not so much if the
teacher is “halfway up the mountain” or even “half-baked.”
The concern is whether they are integrated and capable of
profound and consistent love, service and sacrifice on a day to
day basis. The dynamics of teacher-student relationships,
including the tricks and traps as well as the rewards, are
lucidly covered by transpersonal psychotherapist Mariana
Caplan in her book The Guru Question.
On Nonduality Talk Radio, April 9 2014, Jay Rossi was my guest. Jay teaches Non-Duality Yoga in Nottingham, U.K. Co-hosts James Traverse and Mandee Labelle, both yoga teachers in the non-dual mode, added depth and dimension to the conversation.
“Any technique or system keeps the person in the vicious circle, because it is trying to heal what is fundamentally an illusion.” Jean Klein
When we were very young children we were just pure being, no sense of identity at all, and though the child cries because of the need for food, it is just an expression of simple crying because hunger is happening.
Then what seems to happen is there comes a moment when the child looks into the mirror and the parents tell the child, “you are Christine” and that the face in the mirror is them. Then comes the first contraction of energy and consciousness, as we become at that point a separate person, and therefore comes an embodied feeling that the skin is our limitation, our boundary with everything else outside and separate from us.
From that time there is a sense of loss with a deep longing to return home to that sense of childlike wonder and expansion. The whole idea of making your life work, of clearing your chakras, perfecting asanas, drinking, drugs, forgiving your mother, are attempts to return home.
The real problem with searching and seeking is that it fuels the separation. In fact from my observation the more bodywork and yoga you do as an individual the more energy gets compressed.
You see the individual needs a target, a journey, a path, a place to going the longing to return home. But this sense of loss can never be found through techniques or meditations, in fact there is nothing that needs to be done because an apparently separate entity can never draw itself nearer to its own end.
We actually live in two dimensions; we are here in form and space or awareness.
Space is actually what you are, a spacious awareness.
Life to me is the dance between form and space, the bridge.
When you look around you now as you read this, there are objects, things and the space filling the room, and there is your own space observing.
Objects and space make up everything, yet every object at its quantum level is also space.
No-thing or space is not merely nothing. Nothing, in fact it is a wonderful healer and is critical to the health and the balance of our nervous systems
Scientists have discovered that when a person attends to the space around objects or within their own bodies, the brain responds immediately by dropping into a whole brain synchronous alpha state.
A very relaxed, yet alert state.
The brain when attending to space has nothing to grip on to, or make sense of, to objectify. Space sometimes can be the only true intelligence, ‘not knowing’ is a powerful energy field. Sometimes magic arises from allowing stillness to speak.
The wonderful news is there is no technique we have to learn, it’s simply just a re-directing of attention. Spaciousness or presence is our natural way of being.
I’m not suggesting that we become zombies and just be open space, non individuals, letting life throw us around. I’m not suggesting that at all.
The personality continues, maybe an even more colourful personality, but everything becomes new each moment. Fears worry, anger can still arise but there is no one who takes possession of it now. So it doesn’t anchor, stay home, it simple falls back into nothingness.
So what happens when you come to a Jay Rossi’s Kashmir yoga workshop?
I am not teaching you anything you don’t already know inside, just simply a rediscovering of what has never left you. We meet in space, there is no you or me in space, but a oneness. Spaciousness is really what you are; emptiness is already fully present in you.
Yes we use breath, asanas to assist in the exploration of what’s most natural to you. We enquire and attend to facts, exploring bodily sensation and breath.
The goal of our exploration is not a relaxed or healthy body or even a more sensitive body but to know the perceiver of the body.
Usually health and vitality arise much more when all the energy that has been compressed by getting stuck in form has been liberated into the totality by our enquiries and explorations. You may discover your vibrational frequency changes with space because we free ourselves from being stuck in form.
Students have said these Kashmir workshops are liberating because tension seems to melt away. The tension of thinking I am inside a small, separate ‘body thing’ melts as I enjoy being once again boundless, airy and light, full of energy and full of the world. You can allow your energy to fully expand to its natural dimensions.
The experience of fundamental Openness is very natural and familiar; just as we were when we were children, spontaneous and relaxed, creative and very playful.
You see really what’s happened is consciousness is liberated.
“I myself have no idea or sensation of my body being limited. Whether my eyes are open or closed, I am everywhere, expanded in space. I cannot say how many meters or how far this expanded body stretches.” -Jean Klein
Ramana Maharshi, the great Indian sage was acknowledged by Zen monks, and the highest yogis in India as a great teacher. Trusted by millions of people in India as one of the greatest mystical teachers of the century said that liberation, (which is the seeing who you really are) is the easiest thing in the whole world.
However let’s be honest here, most yoga practioners & teachers have no real interest in awakening, or finding their true nature. They may want to heal their back, or relax more or increase their flexibility, or increase their energy and let’s face it that can still be a rewarding practice at a certain level.
Such people are not really interested in surrendering to this available ever present ordinary, openness, beingness. The individual is very clever in creating avoidance in very subtle ways because the nature of the seeker is to seek to be separate, to look for the next book, or technique or teacher.
Your central reality is spaciousness, presence and is direct, and as simple and natural as breathing and it’s very ordinary. It is usually not filled with bright lights or ecstatic states. It’s just very ordinary but absolutely wonderful and can change everything.
We discover in this approach the secret is really an open secret, it’s always been there and available all the time, it’s just been covered up by an idea of separation. We are not importing anything new into our lives or yoga practice except a re-direction of attention.
The Kashmir approach has its origins in the remote valleys of 8th century Kashmir and differs markedly from the well-known practices formalised by Patanjali. Dr Jean Klein bought this approach to the west from India in the 1960s having lived in India for a number of years and studying the Kashmir approach there. I studied with Dr Klein & his most senior students Francis Lucille & Eric Baret for the last 16 years. I have explored, questioned and expanded this approach to make it very accessible to the complete beginner & the most advanced meditator or yoga teacher.
My first article today is a compelling read on the pharmaceutical treatment of young boys resulting from ADHD diagnoses, which are on a steep incline in the US. The article is written by a senior editor at Esquire named Ryan d’Agostino, who contends that some boys are being drugged “simply for being boys.” He lays out a lengthy case involving many statistics, then shines a light on a certain kind of medication-free treatment modality for ADHD conceived by psychologist Howard Glasser called “The Nurtured Heart Approach.”
In Canada and locally, anecdotal reports from many teachers seem to indicate a higher incidence of seriously challenging boys to deal with in their classrooms. I’m also personally aware of certain teachers simply burning out or going on medical leave because of the severe acuity of the stress they face at school each day related to kids with serious behavioural issues. That’s a pretty sad thing in itself.
By the time they reach high school, nearly 20 percent of all American boys will be diagnosed with ADHD. Millions of those boys will be prescribed a powerful stimulant to “normalize” them. A great many of those boys will suffer serious side effects from those drugs. The shocking truth is that many of those diagnoses are wrong, and that most of those boys are being drugged for no good reason—simply for being boys. It’s time we recognize this as a crisis.
Admittedly, the “Nurtured Heart Approach” sounds like heavy flakery on the surface. It gets more interesting later in the piece when d’Agostino describes how Glasser shapes the dynamic in a weekend therapy group he runs with unmedicated ADHD-diagnosed kids. He describes how Glasser thought of flipping the regular system of rules on its head:
The problem with the positive rules was that there didn’t seem to be a very good way to teach them. The old rules were mostly taught when children broke them. If the rule is “No hitting” and one kid hits another, you’d teach the child the rule in that moment. “What you just did was wrong.” You’d tell him to go sit in the corner, or go to his room, or apologize. But in those moments, everyone’s upset. The kid who got hit is crying, the hitter is angry and scared, and the grown-up is amping up the authority. The offending child gets all the attention. The rule doesn’t stick.
Still, Glasser saw that kids seemed to like “no” rules because they’re clear. The line of transgression was definite. He had an idea: What if he told the children how great they were when they didn’t break a rule? It would be like a video game. When you do something great while playing a video game—when you simply do what the game expects—you get points and you get to keep going. When you go out of bounds or break one of the game’s rules, no one yells at you or reminds you what rule you’ve broken. You simply miss a turn or lose points. And there is no grudge once you pay the fine. As Glasser wrote in his first book in 1999, Transforming the Difficult Child, “When the consequence is over, it’s right back to scoring.”
Glasser later had a sudden insight into a new way to approach rules altogether.
And so he thought, What if a child was sitting quietly, not bothering anyone, and you went out of your way to congratulate him on that, very specifically, by telling him how proud you are that he’s not hitting anyone, not screaming, not throwing toys, but just sitting quietly? What if you gave a child the equivalent of points—what if you thanked him or hugged him—for not putting his feet on the couch? How would he respond to that?
He’ll like it, it turns out.
“I started accusing kids of being successful for not breaking rules. Nobody ever in my professional career had done that,” he says. “All of a sudden—and it was as weird as it could be—I knew I was speaking to some level of a kid’s soul. I knew it was nourishing them in some way. It was like me weeping at Michael Davis’s house. In my professional career, no kid had ever been told they were successful when it came to rules.”