“Everyone in this world shares the same innate source of wisdom, but it is hidden by the tangle of our own misguided thoughts.” – Sydney Banks

unconditioned self

Beyond your ego there is an unconditioned self that is your true identity.

One of the coolest things about Transformative Coaching is that it encourages us peek behind the façade of our own story telling. That is, when we are willing loosen our grip a little and stop holding on so tightly to the personal thoughts we have about who we are and the way the world is supposed to work, we allow a space to open up in which we get to see our true nature more clearly.

You’ve probably heard the expression “the truth will set you free”. Well, the truth about who you really are and how the world really works is actually quite profound. So profound, in fact, that as you begin to get your head around it and understand its implications, you are likely to experience an incredible sense of personal freedom unlike anything you have experienced before.

Why? Because one of the first things that becomes very apparent, when you really take the time to look, is that the majority of the suffering we experience in our lives is not derived from what happens to us, but from our own scary thinking about what we make things mean.

The stories that seem to have the most authority in preventing us from being everything that we are truly capable of being are the stories we make up about ourselves. I’m not talking about intentional lies or works of fiction, but rather what we innocently choose to identify with when we think about the kinds of people we are.

Each and every one of us, if asked, “What kind of person are you?” would instinctively be able to rattle of a description of our own characters and personalities that we believe accurately reflects who we are in this world:

• I’m confident
• I’m a worrywart
• I’m outgoing
• I’m a loner
• I’m good at this….
• I’m not very good at that….
• I’m an optimist
• I’m a realist
• I’m organised and disciplined
• I’m laid back and go with the flow
• I don’t suffer fools gladly
• I’m pretty accommodating and forgiving

Whatever we have come to think about ourselves will inevitably feel right and real to us, and for the most part probably will describe the behaviour and attitudes we project out into the world, but it does not come anywhere close to describing who we REALLY are.

The truth about who we are is so much bigger and yet far simpler than we can possibly comprehend with our normal, everyday way of thinking about the world. In order to unearth the truth, it is worth knowing about the two versions of ourselves that we each carry around.

On one hand there is what we call the ‘Conditioned-Self’, or the ‘Learned-Self’, or the Ego. This is part of us feels pretty attached to the judgements we make about ourselves and the world around us. It is the part that is bought into our individual perceptions of what is right or wrong, good or bad, just or unjust. It is the voice in our heads that tells us whether we are worthy or worthless, below or above others, victims or victors. It is the part of us that likes answering questions such as, “What kind of person are you?”

Whilst the ego features so prominently and directs much of our day-to-day experience of life, there is one thing it is not very good at – Telling us the truth.

That is not to say that it is deliberately deceitful. It is just not particularly open to admitting that it might be wrong. The reason the ego is often referred to as the ‘Conditioned-Self’ is because it has had to learn over time what and how to think. It has learned this by listening to and believing what others have told us, by extrapolating meaning from our past experiences and by simply making stuff up (i.e. we put 2 and 2 together and get a banana).

While its intention is a positive one, when the ego talks to us in that most convincing manner, all it is really doing is letting us know its best guess about what is going on.

Zen teacher, Cheri Huber, summed it up perfectly when she said:

“That voice inside your head is not the voice of God; it just sounds like it thinks it is.”

Of course, everyone has an ego, and it is the extent to which we are able to listen to what it has to say, whilst not taking it seriously, that will determine the level of personal freedom and fulfilment we get to enjoy in our lives.

So, if we are not our egos, then what are we?

Let me introduce you to your ‘Unconditioned Self’, or as I prefer to call it your ‘Essential Self’.

This is who you are without any labels attached. It is the ‘YOU’ you were born with, and the ‘YOU’ that is incapable of changing in any way whatsoever.

For a bit of clarity, just for a moment, think about all of the labels or titles you identify with and that could define who you are at the level of your ego. For example:

Your name

  • Your age
  • Your gender
  • Your sexuality
  • Your job title
  • Your standing in society
  • Your star sign
  • Your weight
  • Your height

The roles you play in lives of others, such as:

  • Son / daughter
  • Mother / father
  • Brother / sister
  • Wife / husband
  • Friend
  • Supporter
  • Care-giver

You could keep going and going… even down to what the kind of car you drive says about you. Or the neighbourhood you live in.

If you were to strip away all of those labels and their associated meanings to you and your identity, then what you would be left with is the simplest, purest version of you, untainted by the ego’s misguided interpretations. This version of you is the truest most positive expression of who you really are. You could say that it is the ‘You’ that exists as pure formless energy; your essence, your soul, your life-force. Your true identity.

It doesn’t take a lot to deduce that there seems to be a natural intelligent energy behind all life. For instance, it takes energy for an acorn to grow into an oak tree, and for that oak tree to produce more acorns. Nature knows exactly what it is doing; it is pretty smart that way. Similarly, that same intelligent energy knows exactly what it is doing when it creates new human life, making us conscious of our own existence. At the purest level, the consciousness we are all blessed with is our awareness of – and our connection to – the energy of life. Not just our own life, but to ALL life.

Everything in the entire Universe is created with this same energy; from planets to bacteria; forests to humans. So when it comes to answering that big question, “Who am I?” an insightful answer could be, you are part of the perfect design of the Universe. And the reason that is significant is because the Universe exists in complete peace and harmony with itself.

The major consequence of letting the ego having too much air-time is that it separates us from the natural peace of mind and wellbeing that is our innate nature. The ego wants us to believe in the idea that we live in a ‘me versus them’ world. It needs us to believe that our happiness and wellbeing is derived from sources outside ourselves, otherwise it wouldn’t have a reason to exist at all. The ego’s one and only goal is to keep itself alive, and for that to happen it is entirely dependent on us believing its stories of separation.

The Essential-Self, on the other hand, loves you just the way you are and knows that you are already perfect. Regardless of how crappy life can appear to get from time to time your Essential-Self remains perfectly intact, because it is only ever aligned to the peaceful energy of the Universe which created it. It is never concerned with the rants and tantrums of the ego.

When you get you know who you really are beyond your ego – your true identity – it becomes obvious that continuing to believe the negative stories you’ve had about yourself is not only limiting to your potential but is also completely irrelevant and unnecessary. It is like trying to convince yourself that your lawn is dry and brown after you’ve already seen that it is lush, green and fertile.

It is also worth remembering that believing the ego’s positive hype can be just as limiting as buying into your self-criticism. Identifying with all the self-adulating stories you make up about yourself may feel good and cause your ego to stick its chest out with pride, but they are still stories based on your own subjective opinion and therefore require an act of believing on your part to keep them alive.

For many, this might be a controversial concept that goes against the grain of what we are often taught by personal development gurus. Aren’t we supposed to have a positive self-image in order to live full and happy lives? Well, yes. But there is a world of difference between upholding a positive opinion of yourself and simply seeing your true nature, which continues to exist regardless of whether you look in its direction or not.

You don’t need to convince yourselves that you are amazing… you just are.

When you think about it, it is not necessary for us to affirm what we already know to be true. We don’t need a daily mantra to tell us that the grass is green when we can look out of our windows and SEE that it is green, plain as day.

Now, that is not to say that affirmations are not useful, in fact they can be extremely powerful, so long as they are used as reminders of who you really are rather than as convincers for whom you think you should be.

When an affirmation is designed to convince you that you possess a quality that you do not currently believe you have, then all you are doing is further conditioning your ego to remember a script.

“I am confident… I AM confident…. I AM CONFIDENT….”

There is absolutely nothing wrong in doing this; it is just not a very effective way of tapping into your real potential. You will no doubt experience a positive emotional boost that feels a lot like confidence, because your neurology is wired to respond positively to this kind of self-talk, but accessing your authentic potential is more about seeing than it is about saying.

When an affirmation is designed to remind you of your true identity there is nothing you need convincing of. Human Beings always return to their natural default setting of happiness, confidence and wellbeing whenever the busy, opinionated chatter of the ego quietens down long enough for the Essential-Self to have a chance to shine through.

Here is what I’ve learned: Whenever I catch myself in the act of trying to be convinced that I have some positive quality that I think I should have, I know I’ve missed the bigger truth.

No amount of time spent trying to talk myself into believing that there is a wonderful expansive sky above my head can be a good enough substitute for the single second it takes for me to look up and just experience it with my own eyes. In other words, the moment I realise I have been relying on my ego to give me a pep talk, I know it is time to pause, relax and reconnect to the formless innate wisdom of my Unconditioned-Self.



Find some time for you to just sit and to be comfortably still and quiet.

Use that time to start thinking about all labels you carry around with you day after day. Then, gradually, let yourself get a sense of what it is like to be the person beyond those labels.

If it helps, imagine attaching each of those labels to a helium filled balloon and let each of them go, one by one, as you watch them float further away from you until you are left alone with your Essential-Self.

Be generous with the time you spend just hanging out in your true identify, and let yourself really enjoy the connection you feel to the intelligent energy that created you.

Take great care. Namaste.


p.s. If you would like to get to know more about how you can ultilise the wisdom of your unconditioned self to create authentic happiness and abundance in your life, sign up to my free personal development ecourse. It’s pretty good, even if I do say so myself!

Did you know that you carry two versions of yourself around with you all every day? One of them can prevent you from being everything you are true capable of being and the other provides a direct line to your true potential. In this episode, Paul explains what your true identity really is.

Confucius said, “Everything has beauty, but not everyone sees it.” In this episode Paul talks about the difference that makes the difference as to whether we are open to experiencing beauty in our lives, or not. The source of beauty is probably a lot closer to home than you may have realised!

“Everything has beauty, but not everyone sees it.” – Confucius

beauty of life

The beauty of life can been found everywhere (even in the most expected places) but you have to open to seeing it. In this post I’ll share with you the source of where beauty comes from, and why it is relevant to living a happy and inspired life.

They say that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, which is a notion that has always intrigued me greatly. We all have moments, every so often, in which we ponder deep philosophical questions, like, ‘What is the meaning of life?’ or ‘Does a falling tree make any sound if there is no one there to hear it?’ While we can go round and round in our heads never really getting to the bottom of these issues, it’s still interesting and fun just to investigate the riddle.

One of the questions that I seem to have spent a good chunk of my down time contemplating is, ‘Why is it that certain things appear beautiful to some people and not others?’ I don’t know if I’ll ever find an answer that truly satisfies my curiosity (and I’m ok with that), but there is something that has occurred to me that I think is relevant to each of us, in terms of the amount of beauty we get experience in our lives; it is this:

The extent to which we notice and appreciate true beauty in our lives is proportionate to the amount of time we spend hanging out in our own wellbeing.

Or to put it another way; when we are at peace with ourselves, the world seems to be a more beautiful place.

Or to put is yet another way; I’ve rarely heard a stressed out person describe their situation or surroundings as a delight to behold!

The Beauty of Life

When we are connected to the innate wellness that is part of the fabric of our true authentic selves, we have a tendency to see beauty everywhere. Have you ever found yourself relaxing in a quiet spot, observing your environment though a wider lens than you would ordinarily look through on an average day, just noticing the perfect flow of life? How easy it is, in that peaceful state, to pick out intricate details of your surroundings that you may never have noticed before? And have you also found that, for some reason, it brings a kind of contented smile to your face?

Beauty and wellbeing are interconnected. In the same way that ink needs a blank page in order for words to be written, beauty needs a peaceful state of mind in order for it to be truly appreciated.

When we are caught up in our thinking we are more inclined to experience the world through the filters of our preconceived judgements and beliefs, and often the beauty of life is invisible to us. It has not gone anywhere; we just don’t have the eyes to see it.

Of course, I’m not referring only to beautiful things that we perceive visually; beauty is much deeper than that. Beauty can found in everything, from sights and sounds, to concepts and feelings. For me, beauty is as much a spiritual experience as it is a sensory one, but wherever we believe it to exist, it does require us to be present and open to receiving.

When we live life from the outside-in (that is, when we let what happens on the outside of us determine how we feel in the inside) we let our egos subjectively decide what is to be beautiful to us, or not. But when we live from the inside-out, from our essential selves, beauty can be a quality that is experienced in all things; even the mundane.

Something that I find particularly beautiful is a sunset. I’m usually captivated by them. Now, I say ‘usually’ because I know that it has not always been the case. Most of the time when I look at a sunset it takes my breath away; I am filled with awe and I am humbled by the marvels of the natural world. To me, it can be like appreciating a priceless work of art that has been painted across the vast canvas of the sky. Other times though, when I’ve caught sight of a sunset, it hasn’t really done that much for me at all. It’s not that I’ve changed my mind about sunsets being beautiful; it is just that for whatever reason, in that moment, I am not at the right level of consciousness to be emotionally moved by it.

So we could say, then, that the difference that makes the difference in whether I see the beauty in a sunset or not, is my state of mind. I realise that when I am relaxed and at peace within myself, my attention will be drawn like a magnet to a fiery red sky, and my enjoyment of its beauty will be effortless. But if I am caught up in my own thinking; believing my stressful thoughts, or experiencing tension in my body, a beautiful sunset is likely to come and go, and I will hardly notice it. It will be as if, in that moment, the pictures and the sounds I am making up in my head are louder and more vivid than what is actually going on around me. But that doesn’t mean that the opportunity to experience the beauty isn’t up for grabs.

The point I’m making here is that every moment of every day we are immersed in the opportunity to connect to the beauty of our lives, and the only thing we need to do is to become quiet and still, and be open to experiencing it; be that in what we see, what we hear, what we touch, or even who we are with.

I believe that the world and the Universe (and therefore life itself) is an inherently beautiful place, regardless of whether we are open to seeing it or not. I also believe that the only thing that can ever stand in the way of our appreciating the beauty that exists all around us is our own thinking.

Regular readers will know I have written many times about the innate nature of wellbeing; that we are all born with our wellbeing already inside us and that it never goes anywhere, despite our innocent attempts to cover it up with the hypnotic power of our own thinking. Whenever our thoughts slow right down, we naturally relax and become more peaceful. That is when our wellbeing bubbles up to the surface, like a beach ball popping up and out of a swimming pool the second we let go of our efforts to keep it held down beneath the water’s surface.

So, why is it that wellbeing comes up when we calm down? Because that is the way the Universe works. Everything in the Universe, including us, is born out of the same principles of creation, and it all functions perfectly according to universal laws. The overriding quality of the Universe is that it exists in perfect harmony with itself. The only thing that is out of harmony with the rest of the Universe is the ability we have developed to think of ourselves as being separate entities. Thinking too much causes us to distance ourselves from the peace that is naturally all around us. When we let go of our thoughts, that connection is re-established in the form a sense of inner calm and wellness, which points us in the direction of noticing the beauty of life.

Ralph Waldo Emerson summed it up nicely when he said,

“Though we travel the world to find the beauty, we must carry it with us or we find it not.”

Here is what occurs to me when I think about that statement. The reason we see so much beauty in the world when we are in a peaceful state of mind is because our innate wellbeing is, itself, the true essence of beauty. So really, the beauty we experience around us is actually our own inner beauty being reflected back.

So I guess a more accurate way of saying “beauty is in the eye of the beholder”, would be, “beauty is in the ‘I’ of the beholder.”

If wellbeing is the essence of beauty, and wellbeing is innate, then you, by definition, are innately beautiful. Accept it!

Your mission, if you choose to accept it, is to see how much beauty you are capable of perceiving around you.

As a suggestion, why not go for a walk around your local neighbourhood and look at it as if you are seeing it for the first time.

Take the time to walk slowly and deliberately; feeling the ground beneath your feet and the air on your skin. Breathe deeply and, as best you can, clear your mind, expand your vision, and simply take in as much of the detail as that there is to notice.

Rather than seeing familiar objects with their usual labels attached to them (house, car, tree, grass, pavement, bird…), experience them all as if they were nameless and part of one perfect whole.

Pay curious attention to the interplay of shapes and form, colours and textures, sounds and sensations. Look out for beauty wherever it maybe.

I’ve no doubt that, if you’re willing, you will begin to experience beauty in the most unlikely places: perhaps in the cracks in the pavement, or in the bark of a tree, or in the sound of a passing car, or even in the colour of a piece of discarded litter.

As the beauty of everyday life reveals itself to you, don’t forget to smile, because really it is your wellbeing that you are experiencing, and it is you who are beautiful.


Take great care. Namaste.


Have you ever noticed how babies don’t need therapy? In this episode Paul explains how the wellbeing you were born with never leaves you, even though it can often feel like it does. He provides some powerful questions to identify where you may have been making other people the custodians of your happiness.

“Happiness is a butterfly which, when pursued, is always beyond our grasp, but which, if you sit down quietly, may alight upon you.” – Nathaniel Hawthorne, 1804-1864

happyA concept I often hear from people who are struggling to connect to a greater sense of happiness in their lives, is that they believe they would be much happier if it weren’t for the actions and attitudes of other people.

This covers a multitude of sins. For some it is the frustration of other people acting in unjust, uncaring, self-centred ways. For others, it is that their nearest and dearest are not understanding enough, or are thoughtless, or are disrespectful of options other than their own.

I hear comments like, “How am I supposed to be happy when they are being like that?” or “I try my best to be happy but they make me so mad.”

It is very intriguing; the amount of people who come to me asking for guidance on how they can get other people to change, so that they can be happy. That is not something I have ever been able to help with, nor will it ever be.

As a coach, I can only help the person I’m with. All I can do (and all that is ever required) is to reconnect each individual to their own wellbeing and to help them see that they are the cause of their own happiness, not other people or things.

If there is one principle that underpins just about every aspect of my work, it would be that everybody’s wellbeing is an innate part of their nature. There are no exceptions. Wellbeing is innate and it never leaves us, contrary to the notion that we can often feel like it does.

Whenever we think that our wellbeing has packed its bags and gone for a hike, the truth of the matter is that we are just masking it with our stressful thoughts.

We know that on a cloudy day the sun still exists, even if we can’t see it or feel its warmth. Our wellbeing works in the same way. The moment we drop our stressful thinking, it is like the clouds dissipate so that the warm light can radiate through once more.

We never have to work at re-creating the sun, because it never really goes anywhere.

But we’ve not been taught to think that way. We’ve learned that wellbeing is transactional.

We’ve had a life time of conditioning that has taught us that our emotional experiences are intrinsically linked to what goes on around us. And a big part of that has to do with other people; what they think, what they say and what they do.

If they behave in ways that are in conflict with how we think they should be behaving – or if they seem to be attacking us for not seeing things the same way they do – we suffer. We suffer because we’ve learned to believe that our happiness is dependent on agreement.

This has been going on for years. As children we quickly recognised that there were rules to follow, if we wanted to hold on to a sense of safety and belonging. When we did what we were told, all was well. And when we were naughty, or pushed the boundaries, we were punished and brought back into line.

The moment an infant start to become aware that he or she is sharing this world with other beings, they cannot help but assume their feelings are the result of what those other beings do. They are so dependent.

But prior to that awareness they are simply little bundles of pure wellbeing. As long as they are not hungry or uncomfortable they are at peace; completely in touch with their innate wellness.

Have you ever noticed how babies don’t need therapy?

This powerful, infantile idea that other people are the cause for our wellbeing is why so many of us spend our lives looking outside of ourselves in order to get it back.

This manifests itself in one of two ways. Either, we focus our efforts on trying to control and manipulate others into being the way we want them to be, or we are constantly trying to please them; going along with their desires at the expense of own. Whichever strategy we adopt, our intention is the same; to be reunited with our own wellbeing.

If wellbeing actually did work that way then this would all seem perfectly logical. I please you; you reward me with a good feeling. You please me; I return the favour.

But it doesn’t work like that.

The moment we get that our wellbeing is not, and never has been, anything other than an absence of our own stressful thinking, we are finally free to see our true nature. We are the cause of our own emotional experiences.

When we feel insecure, that is our insecure thinking at work. When we feel love, it is because of our loving thoughts. When you feel happy, sad, angry or joyful… that is an inside job.

When the mind is clear of all thought, the only thing you are left with is the peaceful innate wellbeing you were born with. It is like a quiet flute faintly playing against the din of a big brass band. To hear the flute, we don’t need it to play louder; we need the rest of the band to pipe down for a bit.

There is such a beautiful simplicity to it. It is so kind. You can be connected to your wellbeing and happiness whenever you want, and you don’t even have to do anything to get it; just be still and see that it is your thoughts that have been distracting you from the truth.

In fact, living with your stressful thoughts is like walking around with a close up magician all day long. Even though you know it is just a trick, you still keep getting caught out. You might think:

“Oh no, my partner’s not happy, I have to feel bad too!” and then it can dawn you, “Doh! Fell for it again. It is just my thoughts tricking me.”

And with the openness that follows, realise that you can be of greater service to them, and yourself, when you come from a space of peace, love and compassion, rather than stress and confusion.

Spend some quality time with yourself, reflecting on the important relationships in your life. Notice where and when you have been making other people the custodian of your happiness.

Asking yourself these questions may help you get clear:

• Who have I needed to be happy in order for me to be happy?
• What have I been wanting other people to do in order for me to be happy?
• How have I wanted them to change?
• Who have I blamed for making me feel bad?
• Who have I been trying to please?

As you identify areas of your life where you have been making your happiness dependent on the actions and attitudes of others, notice how much effort that has required from you. What has that cost you in terms of energy and peace of mind?

Now, I’d like to invite you to relax to look inside.

Begin by acknowledging yourself for the positive intention you’ve had for attempting to connect to your wellbeing this way. Then, with a sense of peace and inner knowing, recognise that there is a part of you that has always been well, regardless of whatever has been going on in the outside.

Pay attention to where that wellness resides, and let it begin to spread throughout your whole body, as if you are smiling from the inside out. Stick with that authentic experience and really feel it.

Then, from this space, think about how you will reclaim responsibility for your own happiness in each of those areas you thought about. Imagine how wonderful your life could be when you cut out ‘the happiness middleman’ and decide to feel good on your own terms.
Take great care. Namaste.