Three Fold Way
Relational Somatic Psychotherapy
Michael Sieck and the Origin and Development of the Three Fold Way
The Three Fold Way is more an evolutionary process than a fixed or formal doctrine. In essence, it is the current state of founder Michael Sieck’s decades long attempt to achieve a more realized and fulfilling life for himself and others.
It is impossible to pinpoint a time or event that started this journey except to note that Michael has always been deeply interested in how and why people think and act as they do. He began to formalize this journey with studies of Biology and Psychology as an undergraduate at Stanford University in the late 1950s and he went on to earn a Ph.D. in Neurophysiology and Psychology at UCLA in the mid 1960s. Originally trained as a neuroscientist with a strong interest and emphasis on psychological processes, he next pursued some early brain-behavior research at UC Riverside where he taught various Psychology courses at the graduate and undergraduate level. It was there in the early 1970s that his interest in what later became the Three Fold Way really started.
Two things occurred during his tenure at UC Riverside: first, this was still the era of Psychedelic drug experimentation and as a Neuroscientist he became interested in how these agents worked. In the process of this, he also experimented with them personally and had some life changing experiences that fundamentally upended his previous beliefs and perceptions of who we are and how the mind works. He explored the effects of various Psychedelics personally and through others for several years and deeply realized that they could provide glimpses and hints at more profound and deeply meaningful worlds but the results were not predictable or consistent and resulted in little carry-over into everyday life. Nevertheless, these early experiences awoke a deep hunger and need to more fully awaken to and realize a way to be more completely present, alive and fulfilled.
Toward the end of his psychedelic experimentation and while still at UCR, Michael discovered the works of Krishnamurti who was still alive and teaching in the United States. His words and writings were profoundly meaningful as they brought together much of what had been glimpsed previously in a far more accessible and grounded manner. Michael became an avid student of Krishnamurti for many years thereafter – following him as he traveled to various cities and countries and carefully studying all his written and recorded materials. His study of Krishnamurti yielded considerable clarity and understanding about who we are or could be and how we typically live lives of considerable suffering without ever understanding the root causes. More relevant, Krishnamurti always pointed toward a way out of the typical binds that we all live in.
Thus Krishnamurti often spoke and taught about the “Only Revolution” – a profound and complete transformation of how we experience and live our lives, and he made it abundantly clear that only through this would “true freedom” ever be possible. Krishnamurti constantly pointed out to his many followers how everyday consciousness limits us and causes suffering and always pointed the way toward a very different life. In his presence and through his writings, much like the psychedelic experiences before, Michael had potent glimpses and foreshadowings of the release and freedom he spoke of. Many deep shifts in his consciousness occurred but, like most of Krishnamurti’s students, somehow a deeper sense of limitation and suffering persisted.
Krishnamurti pointed out that to achieve the deepest freedom and release, one must pass through often significant crises (from the perspective of everyday life) without escaping from them in any form. In today’s parlance, he taught a kind of mindfulness and spoke of a great clarity of thought and feeling that ultimately sweeps away our fixed notions of who we are or how the world should be. For Michael, and indeed for most people, it was one thing to understand this notion from a distance but quite another to fully live through the processes and transformations that occur.
Realizing that he somehow could not “get” what Krishnamurti so eloquently pointed toward led him to the next phase of the journey – a long and multifaceted search to understand the structure and function of his own and other’s Psyche. What goes on in us that makes it so difficult to truly, fundamentally change? What can be done about it?
What followed was a several decades long study and practice of many different schools of Psychology and other Spiritual traditions – always with the implicit if not explicit goals of true or greater freedom together with an embodied life-in-the-world fully participating in meaningful relationships and activities.
Between the mid 1970s and mid 2000s Michael studied, trained in and practiced elements of classical and modern Psychology ranging from Neo-Freudian Psychodynamic approaches through Jungian Depth Oriented and Reichian/Lowenian and ultimately Hiltonian Body or Somatically oriented work. He learned the art of Neurolinguistic Programming, trained in Gendlin’s Focusing Technique, Gestalt Therapy as pursued by Fritz Perls, Ericsonian Hypnotherapy, Shapiro’s EMDR approaches and Moreno’s Psychodrama. On the “spiritual” front, he explored the thoughts and practices of Buddhism and deepened his prior work with Krishnamurti through participation in Diamond-Heart work as developed by Almaas. He also took up Transcendental Meditation and later explored the rapidly burgeoning approach now called Mindfulness as it became popular in the late 1990s. Trained as a Neuroscientist, he also stayed in close contact with the rapidly expanding field of Neurobiology that increasingly offered important insights and understandings of how the brain, mind and body interact and are related.
Always an integrationist, he increasingly brought his understandings and skills from these many approaches to his clients and students. He entered private practice in the late 1970s and still maintains this currently. He began to offer training programs to advanced students of psychology in the late 1990s after completing his own training in Hilton’s Relational Somatic Psychotherapy – itself an outgrowth of Lowen’s Bioenergetic Analysis. Later, he also taught graduate students in the Somatic Psychotherapy Program at Santa Barbara Graduate Institute. When that Institution was purchased by the Chicago School of Professional Psychology, Michael continued there as an Adjunct Associate Professor in Somatic Studies.
Krishnamurti’s teachings and personal example pointed the way to a different way of living that proved difficult in practice to achieve. All of the various paths and disciplines described above were attempts to discover why this is so and to find ways to achieve it. From his own experience and through work with others, Michael realized that potent emotional forces and typically unconsciously held beliefs inevitably arise when attempting this inner work. Krishnamurti often discussed these “crises” and taught how thought itself with its symbols and emotional underpinnings is the ultimate culprit. He knew that a great clarity was necessary to “see” through and beyond all this and attempted to describe the various steps and blocks most encounter when attempting it.
Although it must be possible for some people to accomplish this unaided or without additional tools, for most of us, this proves to be a nearly insurmountable task. For some, achieving inner states of peace and transcendence appears to occur only if they withdraw from active here-now participation in life via Meditation or other spiritual practices. Michael wanted to remain a citizen of the world and participate in a deeper way with all of creation – certainly with other people – without separating or rising above everyday life.
The Three Fold Way has become one such path toward achieving this. By deeply understanding the structure and function of the everyday self and with the aid of others with similar interests, many people can delve into and work through the potent binds that typically block a more authentic and open life. Our everyday self is a relational self and is born, grows and manages our relationships with others and the world. Established in and shaped by early relationships, the quality of current relationships is a critically important contributor to either staying “stuck” in or being able to move beyond it. Although not essential, Three Fold Way Work is often pursued in groups and there is a “domino” effect from this wherein each person’s openings and releases become natural catalysts and provide a kind of permission or path for others to follow. This harkens back once more to the theme that our selves are relationally based.
Another important aspect of this work is the recognition that mind, body and spirit are not separate but different aspects of our human nature. Three Fold Way work explores the links and dynamics of the body-mind from a stance of open curiosity and compassion. The result is a natural opening and release that occurs over time. It is not enough to “just” talk about one’s issues or problems or to bypass them via any form of substitution or escape. Thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations and actions and the quality of any relationships where all this occurs must be approached from a perspective that accounts for their intimate interconnectedness. Three Fold Way work utilizes many different tools and techniques to approach and deeply delve into these dynamics. People are encouraged and supported in the full opening and release of binds in their everyday selves through a combination of many modalities that encompass all aspects of mind-body-spirit dynamics. Again, the purpose is freedom from painful binds, unconsciously held beliefs that control our lives and ultimately a more open, response-able and authentic life in the world.
Returning to the introduction, the Three Fold Way is not a fixed system or dogma but an ever evolving exploration of what it is to be fully human. Many different avenues open in this exploration and different people bring different gifts and tools into the process. If there is any common denominator in all this it is the recognition that we are so much more than we typically know or believe ourselves to be and that a much more open, fulfilling and here-now grounded life is possible.