I have had the unbelievable good fortune to be born into a family (my parents were divorced when I was young) consisting of a very caring, loving mother, and a courageous, rebellious father who would explore and expand the frontiers of both his culture and his field ... of psychology.
My father, Dr. Roger Mills, would meet and become a friend and student of Mr. Sydney Banks. Mr. Banks was a ninth-grade educated welder who experienced an insight in the 1970s that changed his life entirely. His insight revealed the essential role of Thought in the human experience, and in creating human suffering. Mr. Banks would later introduce the “Three Principles” of Mind, Consciousness and Thought as the psycho-spiritual trinity governing all human perception and experience.
My childhood was spent, partially, on Salt Spring Island, where Syd lived with his then wife Barb. My young world consisted of some of the most loving, generous and wise people on the planet. People who were discovering the endless depth of their own connection to wisdom and to truth.
In my twenties, I worked as a journalist. I wrote an article on depression that questioned the media message accompanying the rise of the “new” SSRI medications: that depression was solely the result of brain chemistry. My question about the biomedical view was: Where was the human spirit in all of this?
In the midst of writing this article—in which I interviewed both “depressed” persons and my father’s “3 Principles” colleagues, as well as top psychiatrists and authors in the field—it became crystal clear to me that I was leaving journalism to help people who suffer deeply in life.
I then began an intensive 3 Principles training and certification program (1996) offered by Santa Clara Valley’s Health and Hospital System (Santa Clara County). After graduating this program, I was hired by then director of “Health Realization Services” Barbara Faye Sanford and asked to teach in the county jails, juvenile hall, and work furlough programs, to lead “core courses” for county employees, and engage in trainings for specific departments. I also worked in schools, and with my father in community programs in San Francisco and the Bronx.
In 2004, I helped my father found the Center for Sustainable Change, a non-profit dedicated to expanding his profound work in communities, worldwide. Together, we built relationships with many Bay Area-based foundations, schools and government agencies, and began a four-plus-year partnership with the W.K. Kellogg Foundation that included local partners in Des Moines, Iowa; Charlotte, N.C. and Mississippi.
At the end of Mr. Banks’ life and my father’s life (they passed within a year of each other), I began to see that a “movement” is a movement, an appearance in form, and began to acutely feel the limitations and constrictions of any spiritual, religious, or self-help movement, in which some form (if not a lot of form), a culture, inevitably gets created. This culture may include a sense of hierarchy in leadership. It may include phrases, concepts or ideas parroted by members of the movement. It may include forms or practices for judging or “certifying” practitioners.
I began to pray, quite simply, for freedom. I sensed that Truth itself could not be contained in any one tradition, model, teaching or program, and indeed, I had found Truth everywhere.
In addition to being immersed in the world of the “Three Principles,” and being a direct student of Mr. Sydney Banks, my spiritual studies over the last 30 years include the teachings of: Hugh and Gayle Prather, Jesus, Joel Goldsmith, Buddha, Ramana Maharshi, Nisargadatta Maharaj, Jean Klein, Papaji, Lao Tzu, A Course in Miracles, various Jewish mystics, Rumi, Hafiz, and such modern-day teachers as Toni Packer*, Byron Katie, Adyashanti, John Wheeler, and others in the “non-dual” tradition. I have been enriched and enlightened by all of these sources of Truth.
About two years after the passing of Sydney Banks, and one year after my father’s death, I began to feel I once again needed the guidance of a truly “enlightened” individual. I prayed again. This time, for a new teacher. I wrote in my journal: “One who I could love, and who would love me back.”
It was then that I was introduced to Gangaji. In her writings and spoken words, I encountered a woman, a human being, who had discovered the vastness of her own being, and who spoke with great poetry—utilizing all language available to her. I noticed she, too, was surrounded by a culture, or sub-culture. She was the daughter of a lineage. But she spoke beyond all of this, while in the midst of it.
She recognized the “traps” of culture and sub-culture (including her own), of words and definitions, of labels and traditions. She had immense love and respect for her own teachers (Papaji and Ramana), but she recognized the Truth in other traditions, as well as what I shared with her from my own experience with Mr. Banks and the Principles of Mind, Consciousness and Thought.
I recognized someone who, like Sydney Banks, had founded a sort of “movement,” or following, and yet was also beyond all movements and followings. Someone who, like Syd, could let it all go in an instant. Gangaji helped me understand the here-ness and now-ness and constancy of Truth—the truth of Who We Are. So far beyond any label or name, gender, culture, movement or role.
During a retreat on the beautiful island of Maui, where Sydney Banks also lived for some time, Gangaji suggested I “let the land be my teacher.” ... Outside the small church in the Maui highlands where we had gathered, I experienced with profound clarity the Oneness of Truth, of teachers, of ourselves. There is a Oneness that has never been separated by form—by the forms of our bodies, or by the forms of “teachings.” This Oneness, this One Love, is beyond all words and forms, and yet lives in all forms. It lives in you. It is you.
Today, I support and feel indebted to both Gangaji’s “movement” and that of the 3 Principles. Both help people, directly, simply, and now worldwide, to discover the freedom and essence of who, or what, they really are.
And yet I encourage everyone to look directly into their own hearts for the Truth and to follow their own wisdom. You are your own authority. Let no one take this sacred capacity from you. A good spiritual–and even psychological–teacher is one who truly intends to “work themselves out of a job.” Mr. Banks emphasized, often, the importance of following one’s own wisdom. I discovered the importance of this within my own life–as well as the courage and honesty with oneself this spiritual mandate often demands.
In the end, Truth is gentle and loving and caring; and then also hard and wild and mysterious and unpredictable. Just when you think you have it “figured out,” Truth will point you in a direction you never expected. Are you willing?
All “forms of Truth,” if they are true, point to the same thing: this Consciousness that we are. This Oneness that is behind, and even within our separate identities.
Finally, all teachers, all lineages, all teachings end in You.