Jul 26, 2008

Forgiveness is looking at the ego without judgment

As most of us who’ve studied A Course in Miracles for a while know, forgiveness is its central teaching. It is this practice which helps us, one situation at a time; withdraw our identification with the ego thought system so that we can become aware of our true Self as one Son of God.

As we become committed to the practice of forgiveness, we gradually begin to see everything through its lens. Forgiveness does not require us to do anything differently; it's simply an awareness that looks on what is happening and gently reminds us that what we’re seeing is not real. As Kenneth Wapnick often says, forgiveness is “looking at the ego without judgment.”

For the longest time as a student of the Course I didn’t know how to do this or what it meant. The intellectual understanding of it is helpful to a point, but it’s the practice that brings us the Peace which is our goal as students of the Course. I recently had a day in which I became especially aware of how forgiveness was operating in my mind.

Flying home from a workshop, I wrote in my journal about healing as a shift in perception. I wrote that to be able to experience a healing perception, it’s imperative to let go of the desire to be healed because if we allow the disease or the pain to take our peace we give it power over us by making it real.

As the plane begins its descent a strong feeling of nausea takes over me. In an instant it takes my sense of well-being and peace away. ALL I want is to get rid of this awful feeling.

For a second, I mentally laugh at myself. I realize that I’m not practicing what I just wrote in my journal. I’m feeling sick and I find it impossible to let go of my desire to be well.

When the flight attendant walks by, I call her attention and beg her for a diet coke. I don’t usually drink soda, but in my mind, that coke is going to settle my stomach. (My mother used to put it down a clogged drain, so it has to work on my stomach.)

As I wait for the coke I breathe in and out slowly noticing the nausea and praying I don’t lose it on the guy next to me who is engrossed in a bestselling thriller, completely oblivious to the colorful possibilities. Though I’m not at peace and I have not been able to let go of my attachment to the desire to feel well, I notice that I’m not condemning myself for it either. A part of me has been watching myself indulge in full body-identification without guilt. I’m not trying to change anything. I'm simply watching my ego act like an ego, but I'm not judging. I’m forgiving myself.

It’s as if I were watching the situation on a movie screen. The script has already been written. What’s going to happen is inevitable. Or maybe it’s one of those movies with several possible endings………but all of them have already been filmed. Will drinking a cup of coke help Aileen? Will she or will she not lose it on her seat? How will her neighbor react?

Though the script will unfold as it must, I become aware that though I don’t have control over the ending, I do have one choice. My choice is who I invite to sit next to me to watch the movie with me. It’s either Jesus (or the Holy Spirit), as a symbol of my right mind, or the ego.

Whenever we watch our movie with the ego, we're not really watching it anymore – we're in it, fully identified with the character on the screen. We’ve completely forgotten this is a movie and we think it’s all real and VERY serious. When we identify with the ego, we are the ego. There is no longer that forgiving perspective; we just react to the events of our lives. There is no space or awareness between what happens and our reaction.

It’s only when I watch my movie with Jesus that I gain this forgiving perspective. He’s the one who tells me…. Don’t take it so seriously, it’s just a movie…. and you’ve made it all up because you’re afraid of my Love…….

The coke comes. I drink it slowly and magically the feeling goes away as if it never happened. It served its purpose and now it’s gone.

Just a couple of hours later, I’m at my son’s last high school baseball game. He bats fourth, and it’s his turn to bat. After a couple of practice swings, he’s ready.

He has had a tremendous season. He’s ranked in the county, first in his league. Every at bat counts. There’s a guy in first base and two outs and as he swings, I mentally take a step back and I become aware of how much I want him to hit the ball. I can taste the elation of it flying high above the third baseman for a double. My peace and happiness at that moment are totally dependent on his hitting the ball – not for me, but because I want him to be happy.

He swings in the air and misses the ball completely. I feel it in my gut.

My son is ready to hit again and again I notice how much I want him to hit the ball. I’m totally attached to the outcome of this at bat. I WANT to see him running to first base. If I could will him there, I would.

Yet, I’m still watching my movie with Jesus next to me and I’m fully aware that this desire, like any want or desire in the world is costing me the Peace of God.

He swings and misses again.

He swings a third time and for the first time this season, he strikes out. I see a brief wave of disappointment cross his face and a part of me sinks.

As he’s walking back to the dugout, I mentally ask for a change in perception. I can feel how much this desire has cost me. But as much as I ask for a shift in perception – as much as I’m paying lip service to wanting peace – I know that on this day at this moment, I don’t really want it. I notice it in my body. It’s subtle, like drizzle slowly showering my skin. It’s fear. It has a soft paralyzing effect – like the inset of a panic attack.

It’s fear of not having a body that can go to baseball games. This is fun, I tell myself. It’s also insane! And I sort of see that, but having emotions is fun. I’m addicted to the uncertain, to the ups and downs of life. I see clearly how we are all confused when we believe we are enjoying what is really the excruciating pain of being separated from Love.

This fear we all encounter as we progress in the practice of this Course, is what the Course calls resistance. It's the secret wish not to make progress. It's resistance to the Love of God which we think will swallow up our individuality. This fear is inevitable because while our right mind is committed to the Course, the ego is terrified of our progress. To the ego our success is its demise.

Chapter 30 tells us that if we find resistance strong we should not "fight it.” So I don’t fight it. With Jesus still at my side, I simply watch myself not want the peace of God. Forgiveness is stepping back and watching ourselves choose the ego without judging ourselves for it. Jesus says that forgiveness “is still and quietly does nothing….It merely looks and waits, and judges not.” (W-pII 1: 4:1-3)

Through the lens of forgiveness we can look at ourselves with kindness, compassion and love because with Jesus at our side we are able to see that none of the feelings we’re feeling through our temporary identification with the ego are real. No situation has had any effect on Who we really are. We remain One innocent Son.

With Jesus holding my hand, I watch Aileen on the movie screen suffer because she loves being a body watching her son on his last high school baseball game. I watch her fear – her resistance to Love. And I forgive her for wanting this human experience so much.


  1. Thanks for sharing such lovely story. As Ken Wapnick says, parents and children are our most difficult classroom, and watching our own children suffer, and knowing how real it is to them -and to ourselves- can be very painful. But thank you for showing us the way. The very fabric of our world is judgment and that's why forgiveness is the key to it's undoing.

  2. Thank you for your comment, Don. And yep, kids (not to mention parents :o)) do tend to provide us with countless opportunities to forgive ourselves. What would we do without them?

  3. Hi, A. I too find that the most difficult forms of ego-attachment for me are when I want to see my child happy and he isn't.

    You say: "I’m addicted to the uncertain, to the ups and downs of life. I see clearly how we are all confused when we believe we are enjoying what is really the excruciating pain of being separated from Love."

    Byron Katie has some helpful stuff for parents in terms of letting go of our incessant desire to see our children be happy.

    It's a tough one, that's for sure. Another great post... thanks.

  4. Great post, Aileen. Waking up and writing at 3am really works for you. :)

  5. Thank you, Marian. I feel so blessed to be on this path where we can watch ourselves be attached and not judge ourselves for it. I'll look up the Byron Katie references. She has been incredibly helpful to me.

    Jamie, thank you for reading. I really enjoyed meeting you this weekend.