Benefits of the Van Tharp Institute Educational Programs Part I: The First Ten Benefits And Stage Five Awareness By, Van K. Tharp, Ph.D.

To help you understand the thinking that goes into the various benefits that I will discuss in the next few articles in this series, let me tell you a little about my background. I always wanted to figure out how successful people were different from others. The area fascinated me as a child so I started out by getting an undergraduate degree in psychology. That education occurred in the age of behaviorism — which meant that the person being studied was treated like a black box. You could look at what stimulated the black box, how it reacted and thus determine something about the black box. What the box itself did, however, was considered to be subjective and thus a taboo topic. Academics considered the approach as science and only economics – as a science – is worse.

I totally rejected the black-box model and I decided to get a Ph.D. in biological psychology to help me understand what was going on inside the black box. But the biological psychology model turned out to be the same — stimulate this and see what happens or cut out that part of the brain and notice what happens. These manipulations were supposed to provide some inferences about the black box. When I received my Ph.D. in 1975, I couldn’t tell you anything about how successful people thought compared to how non-successful people thought.

About four years later, I discovered Neuro-linguistic Programming or (NLP). I got certificates as a Master Practitioner, Associate Trainer, and NLP modeler. After my NLP training, I finally had the tools I needed to really discover the differences between successful and unsuccessful people.

In addition, in 1982 I formed my trading consulting business and began my spiritual journey (journey into awareness) by doing the 365 lessons in A Course in Miracles. Because of my spiritual journey, my mission has always been to help others to develop similar increases in their awareness. For example, if you understand “the market” doesn’t exist as a thing because it’s actually a process, not a noun, then you have a huge advantage over other market participants. Most people do not treat the market as a process and figure out all sorts of ways to represent it. Then they continue the illusion of the market by giving it all sorts of qualities. When you really get what the market is, then you realize that people can only trade their beliefs about the market and that success in the markets depends upon how useful those beliefs are.

So let’s start looking at the benefits of studying with the Van Tharp Institute.

Benefit 1: You Have Access to All of the Models Developed by the Van Tharp Institute

If you master all of the models that the Van Tharp Institute has to offer, then you should be exceptional in your trading. The table below lists these along with how/where to get those particular benefits.

Benefit 2: You Install all of the Tharp Think Beliefs, 86 major Neurolinguistic Programming presuppositions and major tenants of Alfred Korzybski

I used to ask my Super Traders to understand the Tharp Think beliefs so they could demonstrate them in the program. Later I found, however, that although the STs knew the beliefs, they acted as if they didn’t actually believe them and they weren’t applying them in their trading. As a result, we now include a process developed by Dr. Michael Hall called Mind to Muscle (M2M). We teach this process in Peak 101 and Infinite Wealth. We also have a video on the process.

The Trading Beyond the Matrix book lists most of the principles and STs install them into their neurology in lesson 3 of the ST Foundation phase.

Installing the NLP and Korzybski presuppositions (you can probably find them by Googling various websites) is the objective of lesson 8 in the ST Awakening phase. These principles are generally implied in many of our workshops and my books.

Benefit 3: You Understand How to Use Risk Control and Position Sizing Strategies to Meet Your Objective

You will never be a successful trader until you master these two skills and we address these up front in VTI’s core workshops (Peak Performance 101 and How to Develop a Winning Trading System That Fits You). I have written most extensively about the area in my book The Definitive Guide to Position Sizing Strategies. We have several e-learning courses on the topic and the first few lessons of ST Foundation focus on it as well. In fact, STs don’t earn permission to trade until they have proven that they have mastered position sizing strategies. In my opinion, most professional traders think they understand this topic but they don’t—especially bank traders generally and some hedge fund managers.

Benefit 4: Raise Your Consciousness/Awareness

We’ve developed a model of consciousness or awareness that has four levels and ten stages. The four levels are as follows:

1) Victim Level – Stuff happens to me. At this level, you are up against the world. Things seldom turn out like you want – because everything is against you. So latch onto someone to blame for your misfortunes. There’s no role for you in your success but find the magic system or person to give you advice and you may taste a little success. There are two stages in this level: a) victim and b) victim with some luck.

2) Personal Power Level – Stuff happens by me or because of me. Here you begin to understand that some things are useful and some are not but you are motivated to achieve more and more wealth and power. If you have ever had the thought: “If Van knows so much about trading, then why doesn’t he just trade,” then you probably are at this level. But I operate at a higher level because power or money or fame[1] don’t motivate me.

Some people at this level who are in authority positions make up stories that manipulate other victims to give them something or someone to blame. For example, one person who is motivated big time by success, power, and fame said recently: “I won big but the election was stolen from me.” Someone perceived as successful and powerful making such a statement tends to cause all victims to believe that kind of thinking. As a result, victims have someone to blame for feeling like they do. In the case of the example, victims tend to now hate those accused of stealing the election – even though all of this is made up for manipulation purposes.

People at this level begin to realize that many things are made up, that thinking differently leads to success, and that they can break rules/create their own rules. Because they are motivated by success and/or power, however, that’s not a great combination for reaching higher levels of consciousness.

3) Awakened Level – Stuff happens through me. At this level, people totally get that the world we experience is an illusion that our minds have created and projected outside of ourselves. That means they can make up what is useful where useful means giving value to many in a wide context. At this point, these people have determined their purpose in life and that’s what motivates them – not success and power. Those just happen as a byproduct of the level of consciousness. Here you also realize that the “what is” is perfect and you are happy for no reason.

There are three stages at the Awakened level. The first one, the fifth stage, is where I would like all of my Super Traders to be by the time they finish ST Awakening. I probably fluctuate between stages 6-7 of the awakened level, but I’m not yet at level four because I still have an ego that wants to run the show.

4) Enlightened Level – Stuff happens as me. Here you finally understand that everything is God[2]. And when you realize this about yourself, realizing the same about everything becomes much easier. You see everything is one.

Again, level 4 has three stages with the final stage being one in which you are ready to turn to light and disappear. You can only stay on the planet if you have some sort of attachment to this world.

When you reach the enlightened level, your sense of self is gone and you have either surrendered to your Higher Self or realize that you are just an unchanging witness to the illusion around us.

Since I haven’t reached the first stage of enlightenment yet, I’m not expecting anyone else that we coach to do so. But the awakening level is incredible and to get there I recommend

1) You take up a spiritual practice like Sri Vidya. There are a number of good practices you can select; and

2) Work on massive clearing as we do in the ST program.

Benefit 5: Learn Discrete Steps to Raise Your Consciousness Awareness Level

This is similar to benefit 4, but I’ve found that there are some things that you can do which will help change your beingness. These steps include:

1) Starting a spiritual practice such as the 365 lessons in A Course in Miracles; Sri Vidya meditation, or some other strong meditation practice. These are all very inexpensive but very hard on the ego because the ego tends to disappear during awakening and is gone by the time you get to enlightenment and the ego will fight for its survival big time.

2) I also recommend getting at least 400 blessings in a year. Before Covid-19 most of my Super Traders were blessing givers and they might get and give as many as 90 blessings at each in-person workshop. At the Super Trader Summit, they could get as many as 400 in a week or so. Right now, you can become a blessing giver through O&O academy and perhaps in a few months, we will start doing monthly Zoom meetings where you can receive the collective effect of say 50 blessings in a 30-minute period.

3) The last step is to clear out non-useful beliefs, stuck charges that might hold those feelings in place, and to merge or get rid of your parts. You can learn to accomplish this with the processes we teach in Peak 101 but massive clearing is the primary goal of the lessons in the ST Awakening program. ST Foundation sets the stage and the context, then ST Awakening helps push you to stage five.

Benefit 6: Become Totally Aware of the Illusion

Several religions have a fundamental belief that the world we experience is made up or is an illusion. Hinduism and Buddhism both call the illusion Maya. Sufism, the mystical branch of Islam also does so as does the Course in Miracles version of Christianity; Cabalism, the mystical branch of Judaism also holds this belief.

Here are a few quotes I’ve collected.

  • “Nothing real can hurt you. Nothing unreal exists. Herein lies the peace of God.” From the Introduction to A Course in Miracles – from Jesus.
  • “The veil between man and God is not the world, is not the throne of God, it is the illusion of “I”, pass beyond yourself and you are there. Anywhere the illusion of “I” exists is hell, anywhere “I” is absent is heaven.” – Asrar al-Tawhid
  • “When the world arises in me, it is just an illusion: Water shimmering in the sun, A vein of silver in mother-of-pearl, A serpent in a strand of rope. From me the world streams out. And in me it dissolves, As a bracelet melts into gold, A pot crumbles into clay, A wave subsides into water.” – Ashtavakra Gita 2: 9-10
  • “We do not see things as they are. We see them as we are.” – The Talmud, the basic tool for learning the ethics behind the laws and beliefs of Judaism.
  • “A wise man, recognizing that the world is an illusion, does not act as if it is real, so he escapes the suffering.” – Buddha.

“How can the world I experience not be real?” you might be saying. Think of it this way. First, at a fundamental level, everything that’s outside of you is really energy waves/particles. Thus, let’s look at a 650-nanometer wavelength of light. That impinges on the major slight receptor – the cones in the eye. The R-cones give you an experience that is basically electrochemical.

1) An electromechanical wave is not the same as the experience produced by an electro-chemical activation in the senses.

Next, we use language to give that experience a label – in this case, RED. We experience red as a color with embedded meanings. Each person has different meanings for red. For example, you might think of a hot/angry color. You might think of red-light districts. Stop signs are red which suggest danger or stay away, etc.

2) These meanings are not the same as the electro-chemical experience that happens in your eyes. And now we are two steps removed from the outside world.

Next, the world of language separates our experience into subject – object – verb or the knower, the known and the process of knowing. In Hinduism, these are called the three Gunas. Every language that I know of does this except Sanskrit which has no “I” sense. So now your experience is one of separation – just because of language[3].

3) Dividing the world into subject-object-verb gives one a sense of separation that does not exist in the real world. And as soon as you name an object, you cannot experience it. You might think every tree in the woods is the same if you were to say, “I went through the woods and I saw a lot of trees.” To me, that statement means that you really didn’t experience the tree – you only stated a concept of trees which you projected onto the forest. Do you realize that every single tree is totally different? That no two are even similar?
Next through language, we turn processes into things or nouns. One of the most relevant examples is the market. The market is a process in which buyers and sellers, usually through an intermediary, agree on a price and a transaction takes place. This is not a thing. But we like to represent it as charts with trendlines and all sorts of indicators. That’s all made up and it’s not the process. This is why I say you can only trade your beliefs about the market, not the market itself.

Other nominalizations include every living thing. So, you have been given a name and think of yourself as young/old, man/woman, etc. but you do not exist as those things, you are a process. Really getting this about yourself is a major step toward increasing your level of awareness. Really getting this about other people, your pets, and even the ants that might keep invading your house will help your awareness.

And then what about concepts such as time, space, reality, consciousness, and most of the things I’m writing about. These are processes, but in the illusion, we think of them as things.

4) Thus, language also creates the illusion by treating processes as things, as nouns. And, by the way, you can only experience this because most of the words I use are nominalizations.
If you really contemplate what I’ve said, you will come to the conclusion that our experience of the world is made up and then projected onto the world. When you get that at an experiential level on a continual basis, then you’ve reached stage 5 awareness.

This material is discussed in the Trading Genius e-learning course, Systems Thinking workshop, and in several of the Super Trader awakening lessons. Peak 203 also introduces you to Byron Katie’s The Work which is one of the best ways I’ve ever seen to help you realize that you project your beliefs onto other people. When you do The Work, you come to see how it’s not them that are the source of your problems, it’s you. You can, of course, learn The Work directly from Byron Katie.

Benefit 7: Massive Clearing of Blocks to Your Awareness

Your awareness is blocked because you believe yourself to be a “thing” and thus you take on the perspective of a separated thing. Thus, any belief that begins “I am” followed by a noun or an adjective will block you. Some of those beliefs might be useful to function in the world but most of them block you from awareness at Levels 4 or 5. In Peak 101, you learn the Belief Examination Paradigm, a method to determine if your beliefs are useful or not. We also show you how to get rid of those beliefs that are not useful.

All your parts have a perspective and a lot of identity level beliefs and they tend to block you from level 4-5 awareness. We have two methods of reducing the number of parts you have to deal with on a daily basis. In Peak 101, you learn the parts conflict procedure and in Peak 202, you learn the Transformational Meditation method developed by Libby Adams. In her 28 day course, you apply the TfM method daily for four weeks.

Finally, non-useful beliefs are easy to clear out when you realize that that they are not useful. You just drop them. Most non-useful beliefs, however, are impossible to release because charges (stored emotions) lock them into place. For example, if you have a belief that “I’m not worthwhile,” then obviously, that’s not useful. Getting rid of such a belief is difficult because the belief has some kind of charge locking it in place: shame, grief, sadness, or something similar. As a result, you must release the stored feeling. When that’s done, you can adopt a more useful belief or just eliminate the old, non-useful belief.

Feeling release is one of the major transformational exercises given in Peak 101 and once you’ve experienced it in the workshop, you can repeat it as many times as necessary to clear out your charged beliefs. You can also read about other feeling-release methods in the Peak Performance Course and in the Sedona Method Course – which we sell.

In the Super Trader Awakening phase, lesson 2 has you examine 400 plus “I am” beliefs and determine if they have a charge. You can release the charge in that exercise or do it later in lesson 5 about releasing stored charges. Of course, you can do all of this on your own, but few people are likely to do so.

Benefit 8: Become Happy for No Reason Which Means You Have a Happiness Score of 70 or More and it’s Relatively Permanent

I developed a happiness test because David Hawkins claims that happiness correlates highly with your level of consciousness. We measure it on a scale that goes from minus 55 (probably suicidal) to plus 85 (extremely happy for no reason).

If you attend our Peak Performance workshops, you will increase your consciousness and if you also do a lot of self-work, then you’ll probably increase your happiness to a high enough level to be happy for no reason.

The following figure shows a lifetime happiness graph that one of my Super Traders submitted after completing the lessons now in the ST Awakening phase. He estimated that he began life at about 60 and then went below zero around 2010. Then he recovered and began the ST program at about 45. The last few points show what happened while he was in the program and the arrow indicates the trend he was on. By the time he finished ST Awakening, he had a score above 70 and now he’s in the 80s.

The next graph shows the average of the happiness scores for the first 50 or so Super Traders as they progressed through the program. Most of them started out at a fairly high level. Generally, the higher you are the less likely your scores are to go up (it’s called regression to the mean). They started out with an average score of 41 when they began the program which went up to 76 by the time they finished.

A consistent happiness score of 76 indicates pretty well that you’ve reached the fifth stage of awareness on the VTI scale.

Now, you can get there through the steps given in benefit 3 but the Super Trader Program is probably the easiest way for people to get there.

Benefit 9: Develop Enough Awareness to Document at Least Five Major Life Transformations START HERE

When people make the kind of transformations I’m talking about, they tend to forget about them. For example, I took several Sedona Method retreats. Those retreats have you constantly looking for stored feelings to clear out. Most of the stored feelings I discovered were like gentle breezes feelings that were easy to clear out. Then I came across one that was like a category five hurricane. For such a beast, I had to first clear out the resistance, and then I could clear out the charge. I tell that story all the time but because I didn’t write it down, I have no idea what the charge was about. It must have been something major to have felt like a category five hurricane. That’s why you have to document your changes when you make them.

My Super Traders do this in their weekly reports to me. To complete ST Awakening, you must document at least five major, life-changing transformations that you have made. Why five? I believe that making and document five will pretty much guarantee that you will continue the process.

Benefit 10: Develop a Bond with your Higher Self/Inner Guidance

If you read chapter 10 of Trading Beyond the Matrix, you learned about my bond with my Inner Guidance. The chapter relates all the steps which include:

1) Find the best type of relationship you have with other human beings (teacher, best friend, guru, mother, father, sibling, beloved, etc.) and ask the divine to take on that relationship. Why? If you do, you will find relating to your divine easier.

2) Then notice what beliefs you are putting on yourself and on your Inner Guidance and how they limit the connection. Clear them out or at least be aware of them.

3) Receive a blessing for developing a bond with your Inner Guidance. I received such a blessing from Sri Bhagavan in 2010 and that was when I started a daily dialogue with my divine.

4) Keep a written daily dialogue with the divine and ask open-ended questions (not yes-no questions). If you write out the dialogue, then you have a record of it.

5) Keep a prayer journal. Notice what you ask for and notice what happens as a result.

6) In your dialogue always give thanks for your many blessings. Try to see the perfection of the “what is” and show integrity. In addition, the divine is likely to answer questions when you are willing to surrender (admit you are helpless and get out of the way). Here, helplessness doesn’t mean you are being a victim.

My Inner Guidance is the Hindu Goddess Durga – Divine Mother. I have kept a daily diary of our conversations since 2010 and have enough material to write several books about the conversations. Who knows, perhaps I will.

This is one of the strongest ways to get your awareness up to stage five. If you can do the Transformational Meditation Exercise in Peak 202, then you will have a regular dialogue with your Inner Guidance. This is also lesson 9 in ST Foundation.

In the next part of this series, I’ll continue with more benefits. For the moment, however, I also want to talk about our Super Trader Program because we have a special offer that goes through August 30th or until we have 30 people sign up. Currently, we have 13 of the 30. The offer applies to current Super Traders as well as new people.

Special Super Trader Offer: Get ST Foundation and ST Awakening Both for $30,000 and Get Two Years to Complete Them.

The mission of the Super Trader program is to not only transform your trading but also your life. To accomplish that mission, you will commit to investing a substantial amount of your time, money, and effort over the next few years.

Regardless of your previous trading experience, you will work together with me and my team of coaches to define specific objectives for you to meet during the program and create a customized curriculum to help you reach those objectives.

There are four phases to the current Super Trader Program, and you are given a year to finish each one.

Super Trader Foundation (STF)

The lessons in this phase are fundamental and necessary for trading success. STF has ten lessons which take an average of about 410 hours in total to complete. If you can allocate 8-10 hours a week, you can complete STF in a year. The STF lessons require no workshops but you are given allowed to attend all the workshops necessary to complete the next phase of Super Trader Awakening. The ST Foundation should provide most of the 1st three benefits listed above.

I do not coach people in the STF phase. Instead, I have several experienced Super Traders approach me about coaching new STs. Bruce Walicek, Gracia Roslow, Rui Lao, and Edwin Mercado are my STF coaches. All of them have finished STA and are consultants for the Van Tharp Institute. In addition, Louise Alexander, who just completed ST Awakening, offers a regular coaching session on Saturdays to help as well.

Super Trader Awakening (STA)

The STA lessons deliver all ten benefits listed above (and more benefits we have yet to discuss). STA has 13 lessons that require about 750 hours to complete. Thus, you could complete STA in a year working about 15 hours per week.

STA requires you to attend five workshops to complete the lessons. These include Peak 101, Peak 202, Peak 203, Infinite Wealth, and How to Develop a Winning Trading System that fits You. By the time most people finish ST Foundation, however, most people will have already taken all of those workshops at least once. In STA, you are free to repeat them. I coach the people in ST Awakening.

Super Trader Professional (STP)

A great plan is essential if you are to treat your trading as a business. In STP, you will complete your trading business handbook. Your handbook could have as many as 15-20 chapters and be up to 200 pages long. If you notice you resist working on certain parts of the plan, they indicate the parts of your trading that you probably most need to work on the most.

Much of the handbook material documents what you just learned in STF and STA. We have sample chapters for you in the STP section of the Van Tharp Institute Basecamp. When I first wrote my handbook, I was able to write a chapter about 6-8 hours, about one chapter per day. I expect people entering this phase could write their handbook in 2-3 months if they really apply themselves.

In STP, we also allow you to attend our technical workshops (except for a few workshops that are privately owned by our technical staff – Ken Long, Gabriel Grammatidis, and Chuck Whitman). If you get caught up in those courses, however, STP could take you several years to complete. That could postpone your business handbook completion so I strongly recommend that you write the handbook first and then revise it if needed as you gain more technical knowledge.

In addition, the STP phase has two lessons that involve attending three new workshops.

  • First, our “new” Blueprint workshop teaches the structure of your Trading Business Handbook but you can attend that as a part of ST Foundation, ST Awakening, or ST Professional.
  • Second, the Mental Strategies Workshop (Peak 204) teaches lessons on mental strategies is now just part of STP rather than STA. This requires our Mental Strategies workshop, which is only given every other year, but you can take it as early as STF and if you need it quickly, it’s also available as a video-on-demand program.
  • Third, you will need to attend the Trading Genius II workshop. One lesson requires you to master systems thinking — the subject for TG II. We don’t offer that often but we do make it available to STs as a video-on-demand course.

Super Trader Graduate (STG)

Finally, you will develop trading systems that lead you to financial freedom and learn how to manufacture R through mistake reduction. These two benefits are among the additional ones that we’ll discuss in the next article. Your goal for STG is to develop three non-correlated systems, document each, and get them approved by me. Once you have three approved systems, you can take as long as you like to graduate from the full ST program. Graduation criteria include you prove trade those systems at 95% efficiency or better – any time in the future. I will supervise this part of the program if you want to trade cryptosystems or if you want to develop your own systems. If you would like to work with one of our technical instructors, then they will supervise this part of the program for you.

Program Pricing

Pricing for the ST program has changed over the last few years. Before the pandemic, all of our workshops were in person in Cary, NC or overseas. When we shifted to online workshops last year, people all over the world were able to attend much more easily and our classes were no longer limited to about 30 people. In addition, your travel costs dropped to zero for workshops.

The old three-year ST program required payment upfront in total for all three years or in two payments in the first six months. That was a substantial investment for many people. As a result of moving our workshops online (which eliminates your travel costs) and a new phased structure for the ST program, we are making the program a more affordable investment for everyone. We have dropped the price to $20,000 for first year (ST Foundation) and then moved to a $25,000 per one-year period for each of the following phases. Now, STs only have to pay for each phase as you go rather than paying for three years all upfront.

Additionally, it used to take several years to complete the full ST program. With the new phased structure, however, it’s quite possible to complete STF, STA, and STP in a one year timespan. Edwin Mercado complete those phases in about nine months and Louise Alexander looks like she could do it in a year.

Let me talk about Louise’s example for a moment. She paid $25,000 upfront to do STF and participated in the GBTC offer last summer. She earned enough credit through that program to also pay for STA. She finished all of the lessons in both programs in about ten months and she believes she will finish her business handbook in two months. I’m rooting for her to do it. If so, and she finished STG in a year, then she will have completed the entire program for her initial $25,000 investment.

While cryptos don’t offer any no great opportunities like they did last summer, we have come up with a similar offer. STF and STA would normally cost $45,000 ($20,000+$25,000). But if you pay for these two phases of the program up front or in two installments six months apart, then you get two years to do both programs for $30,000 — a $15,000 savings or a 33% promotional discount. We are also offering a lot more discounts for past purchases because you are signing up for both programs together.

If you could duplicate what Louise has been doing, you could get the entire program for $30,000. Finish STF quickly and then do STA. Devote 3-4 hours per day to your ST work and you can easily do that. If you have a year or more left when you complete STF and STA, then there is no charge for STP. If you actually complete STP in the first year as well, then you get STG for free. Get your three systems approved within a year and then you have forever to complete the program—all for $30,000.

Now there is a catch – you must finish STF within a year to be able to take STA as part of this program. But we are talking a little more than an hour per day to finish STF in a year. You can find more details on our website and in this offer description.

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