Mar 14, 2008

A lesson in listening

I am so humbled by an experience I had recently.

Thinking I was being helpful, I offered feedback to a dear friend which turned out not to be helpful at all. My comments were based on my understanding of A Course in Miracles. As Kenneth Wapnick would say, I hit my friend over the head with the Course, deluding myself into thinking that I was acting out of love.

The knowledge that I had acted inappropriately threw me into one of the biggest episodes of guilt and self-condemnation I’ve had in a long time. The idea that I could have caused somebody else harm, hurt more than if somebody else had tried to hurt me. For several days all I could do was watch myself feel guilty. My biggest question was: how could this have happened to me?

I was mentally stuck reviewing the situation in my mind wishing I had acted differently. Through my insanity I could see how I had succumbed to the ego’s purpose, which is to keep us always focused on external situations. Eventually, though I was still tearing-up every time I thought about the situation, I was able to recognize that at least I could turn this into a useful lesson.

Listening to one of my favorite workshops on tape by Kenneth Wapnick called “Healing: Listening to the Melody,” I saw that what was hurting me was a judgment I had made on my friend. Instead of listening to him, my mind had been busy analyzing what he said. I was filtering his words through my own understanding of the Course. I was so concerned with his getting what I thought was the right interpretation, that I failed to remember that if I saw a lack in him, it was only because there must have been a lack in me. What we perceive in others is always a mirror of our own state of mind.

In the workshop Ken talks about learning to listen for the melody of Love which we all share. It becomes audible only as we are able to see others past our judgment. When we are busy reacting to what people are saying or doing; when we focus on our differences, or we contrast their beliefs and understanding with our own; we are listening to the ego’s discordant notes which become barriers to our perception of the underlying melody of Love.

A pre-requisite for listening is to let go of all our needs and attachments. As I looked back at the situation with my friend, I noticed that I had a huge investment in having him see the Course the way I do. I was so focused on what I perceived as his gaps in understanding - and I so wanted to help him see what I'm seeing - that I failed to notice how I was giving power to my incorrect perception of him to take away my peace. Instead of listening for the melody of Love that unites us, I was actively looking for differences between us.

A sure sign that I was acting with my ego was the guilt I felt. The Psychotherapy pamphlet on p. 17 says: “Guilt is inevitable in those who use their judgment in making their decision. Guilt is impossible in those through whom the Holy Spirit speaks.”

In "Healing: Listening to the Melody," Ken Wapnick points out that the way we teach in this Course is not by explaining it to others, but by our own choice for peace. As we choose not to allow situations in the world to take away the peace of God from us, we are demonstrating that there is a real alternative to the conflict and pain of the world.

I spent the day in Temecula last Tuesday at the Foundation for A Course in Miracles at a workshop by Kenneth Wapnick. Ken suggested we not give advice based on the metaphysics of A Course in Miracles. He said to do it based on the Love of A Course in Miracles. Whenever we are in a situation in which we are called to help someone or give advice, we don’t have to worry about the form that our response will take; once we connect with the Love in our right mind, that Love will flow through us and translate into the specific help that is most appropriate and at the level that the recipient can understand.

As we listen to our family members, friends, co-workers without the ego’s agenda of comparison, separation, blame, and conflict, we will hear the melody beyond the discordant notes. The Psychotherapy Pamphlet says “Who then decides what each brother needs? Surely not you, who do not yet recognize who he is who asks. There is Something in him that will tell you, if you listen. And that is the answer, listen. Do not demand, do not decide, do not sacrifice. Listen.”


  1. Another great post. I'm still trying to work through a situation in which I was so attached to the person's seeing things the way I was seeing them--if only for a second--that I completely lost sight of the goal of the interaction and she requested that I never speak to her again. Of course, her reaction was not exactly ego-free either, but the guilt and stickiness of that situation is something I'm still trying to free myself of and listen past. We're always only talking to ourselves. Thanks for this post. Your posts are always worth the wait! I'm going to check out that tape set.

  2. Thank you, Marian. I always appreciate knowing that you really get what I'm talking about. Though we are always talking to ourselves, at this level, it's very comforting :o)