May 22, 2008

Living for enlightenment

I was in a workshop on listening earlier this month and during one of the discussions, the facilitator mentioned that when he plays golf, he doesn’t play for scoring; he plays for enlightenment. Instead of focusing on the score, he uses the game for the purpose of awakening. (Golf for enlightenment is the title of a book I haven’t read by Deepak Chopra)

As he was speaking, the thought came to me: “This is what I do: I don’t live for scoring, I live for awakening.” At some point during my years of practicing A Course in Miracles, I experienced a shift in purpose: from the ego’s purpose of separation, to the right minded purpose of forgiveness. As we practice and study ACIM, this shift is inevitable. When we practice forgiveness throughout our day, our purpose will eventually shift from trying to solve situations to our advantage to using the situation as an opportunity to undo the ego thought system with which we identify. Under the guidance of our right mind, we stop scoring and our purpose becomes awakening.

The concept of purpose is central to the teachings of A Course in Miracles. The word “purpose” appears 667 times; twice as many times as the world “miracles.” The Course says that the only question we should ask of any situation is “What is it for?” Only when we understand the underlying purpose for everything, can we use it for awakening.

Most of us begin our lives living for scoring. As we face new situations, we measure, compare, assess, categorize, evaluate, and then we solve the situation in a way that protects our best interest. We judge our worth by how successful we are at solving problems to our advantage and we are totally attached to results. Our purpose is do ‘do well,’ ‘to make it,’ ‘to get ahead.’ Our sense of self-worth depends on how well we score and our peace and happiness depends on our results. The purpose of our life becomes to score higher for ourselves, or for our group – our family, our church, our cause, our political party, our country and someday maybe even our planet. Scoring is based on judgment and it’s a full-time job that keeps our mind busy, completely unaware of our true nature in oneness with God. That is the ego’s purpose.

When we live for scoring, we define success by how close our results match our expectations. We are happier when we get what we want; we are unhappy, disappointed, sad, fearful, angry, apprehensive, annoyed, when what we see in front of us does not match what we think our lives should be. We are constantly arguing with reality. If what we are experiencing is not what we expect, we focus on changing our experience because we believe that we can only be happy when we get what we want. We drive our lives according our own judgment, unaware that we are serving the ego’s purpose.

At some point, if we continue to practice our forgiveness lessons, we may become subtly or overtly dissatisfied. We may begin to question the purpose of our life. Is life really about getting our way? We begin to notice that the happiness we experience when we get what we want is temporary. The next obstacle always seems to be around the corner. Or maybe we are getting what we want and we are still not happy. As long as we believe we know what life is for, the Holy Spirit’s purpose of awakening remains dormant in our minds, but as soon as we begin to realize that maybe we don’t have a clue what life is for, it surfaces.

Sometimes this shift is abrupt and can cause temporary confusion.

Chapter 17 talks about the effects this shift in purpose has on relationships as the Holy Spirit’s new purpose replaces the ego’s purpose.

When we offer a relationship to the Holy Spirit to use for His purposes the Course says (T CH 17 V 3:2) ….. “At once His goal replaces yours. This is accomplished very rapidly, but it makes the relationship seem disturbed, disjunctive and even quite distressing. The reason is quite clear…….In its unholy condition, your goal was all that seemed to give it meaning. Now it seems to make no sense.”

As the Holy Spirit's purpose takes over, we may become confused because suddenly all the goals we held dear for so long, are no longer appealing to us.

I experienced something like this three years ago. I was studying and practicing the Course more than ever before, but the more I practiced, the unhappier I seemed to be. It didn’t make sense at the time that as I increased my commitment to the Course, my interest in living decreased. While in the past I had been a doer, always enthusiastic about the next project or idea; I now couldn’t find fulfillment in any of my accomplishments. I was no longer enthusiastic about finishing projects, making money, raising kids, traveling, etc.., I still did everything that was required of my role – nobody noticed anything different about me -- but, I wasn’t happy. I felt trapped in the illusion and all I thought I wanted was to awaken from the nightmare.

A very perceptive friend suggested a Workshop called “Leading With Mastery.” “It’s a four day workshop where you are called to articulate your life purpose,” she said. Without asking any questions I bought a ticket to St. Louis where it was offered, and enrolled.

I won’t describe the workshop because it’s beyond the scope of this post, but I’ll share that I came away with a strong, lasting, sense of purpose that has kept me going until this day. By becoming aware of my purpose, I found my Joy again. There’s not a day that I don’t wake up looking forward to the opportunities for growth that it will bring.

I learned that purpose is the lens by which we filter our experiences. Purpose is what gives meaning to our life. As we face any situation in the world, we can choose to see it through the ego’s lens or the Holy Spirit’s. T CH 26 VII 8:5 says that “Forgiveness is the only function here, and serves to bring the joy this world denies to every aspect of God’s Son where sin was thought to rule.” When we choose the Holy Spirit’s purpose of forgiveness, we can use our life as a means of overcoming the illusion. Every adversity looked at through Holy Spirit’s lens of forgiveness, becomes an opportunity to let go of our identification with the ego thought system. We begin to see that whatever is happening in our lives has no effect on who we really are. Through our adversities we find our way home.

Since scoring is no longer our goal, we don’t focus on solving situations. Through the Holy Spirit's eyes we see there is nothing to solve -- because what's in front of us is just a screen; a projection of the guilt that is the result of our belief that we are separate. Our job is to forgive every problem or person that shows up is our lives so that one situation at a time, we forgive ourselves and awaken to the knowledge that we are One.

This shift in purpose is one hundred percent at the level of mind. It’s only concerned with our focus, not with our behavior. We are not doing anything differently than we would normally do. We are not required to change jobs, relationships, activities, hobbies because one situation is just as good as any other to forgive. One activity is not holier than another. It's our purpose that makes everything we do -- whatever it is -- holy. We can be taking out the trash, or waiting in line with the Holy Spirit or with the ego. That is our only choice.

Any time we focus on changing the form a lesson takes, we give it power over our peace and happiness and by doing so we fall back into the ego’s purpose which is to root us further in the dream.

When we are anchored in the Holy Spirit’s purpose of forgiveness, our actions become inspired by the Divine. Our life appears to be easier, more relaxed. It feels as if we're hitting from the sweet spot. Problems still show up, but we don't take them seriously because they have no power to take our peace. The solutions we come up with are led by the Holy Spirit's Love that we are beginning to identify with. We experience peace of mind because our mind is no longer busy seeking to separate. Through the Holy Spirit’s purpose we see an underlying connection between all people as we recognize that we all share a common interest.

Instead of a battleground, the world becomes a classroom. We see each encounter and every situation as a lesson that can lead us out of the illusion. We accept the lessons in the form that they appear because we know we have chosen the curriculum to suit our needs and we trust that there can be no mistakes.

This quote from Ch 24 VI: 4 sums it up. Note that whenever the Course refers to “healing,” it’s the healing of the mind that thinks it’s separate, not the body.

"Forget not that the healing of God’s Son is all the world is for. That is the only purpose the Holy Spirit sees in it, and thus the only one it has. Until you see the healing of the Son as all you wish to be accomplished by the world, by time and all appearances, you will not know the Father nor yourself. For you will use the world for what is not its purpose, and will not escape its laws of violence and death. Yet it is given you to be beyond its laws in all respects, in every way and every circumstance, in all temptation to perceive what is not there, and all belief God’s Son can suffer pain because he sees himself as he is not."

For another post on the subject of purpose click on the following link: