Dec 19, 2007

The metaphysics of projection

I just had a bizarre dream. I was in a parking lot alone at dusk looking for my car, when I noticed two very mean-looking and destructive young men dressed in black leather who were riding over some trash cans with their motorcycles making a huge mess of broken glass, paper, and remnants of fast food. When they saw me, they rode straight toward me as if they were going to run over me and just as they were about to hit me, they swerved and missed me. They did this over and over again. I tried running in different directions and would get fairly far, but on their motorcycles, they always caught up to me.

Finally, they cornered me so that I couldn't go in any direction. They folded their arms and laughed meanly – like the evil characters in Disney movies. Then one at a time, looking into my eyes, they each said: “I am you.” As they spoke they disintegrated into a million particles which flew in my direction in a current and my body absorbed them through my head.

A feeling of absolute terror took over me -- ten times worse than the fear I had experienced when I was being chased in the parking lot. Though I had been fearful as I was chased, at least I felt innocent. I was an innocent victim and they were the evil perpetrators. Now I had no one to blame but myself for the situation. The guilt that I had unconsciously projected outward in the form of evil motorcycle riders, I now experienced within me. The feeling was so awful it woke me up abruptly. As I write this, about fifteen minutes later, I still feel my heart beating against my chest.

After a few minutes of sheer terror, and of my asking “What is this for?” over and over again, I understood why we, as separated beings who identify with the ego, must project our guilt and fear. The Course explains that guilt had its origin in the belief that we chose to separate from God. As One with Him, we had everything, but we chose to give up that perfect existence for a life separate from Him. Though we don't have any memory of having made this choice, the guilt that we experienced is still with us. We must project it outward because we can't live consciously aware of it. The psychological pain, as I experienced briefly as a result of my dream, would be too much to bear.

By unconsciously projecting our guilt, we are able to live the illusion of being innocent victims subject to external forces beyond our control. We thrive on blaming others for everything that goes wrong in our lives. When we are unhappy we believe that external circumstances like the economy, political situation, our spouse, our children, our job, or our financial situation, are the cause of it. Like the Course says, not once do we think guilt has anything to do with it.

Our experience of the world is so real that we can't conceive of it being our own creation. We have no memory of our choice to project so we perceive our projections as external to us. The Course refers to the world as "an outside picture of an inward condition." Our guilt shows up in the world in the form of whatever causes us distress: two mean guys in a parking lot, a driver cutting us off in the freeway, a friend treating us unjustly, a repairman ripping us off, an employer taking advantage of us, a corrupt politician, a religious fundamentalist, etc. etc. etc.

As long as we look at the world through the eyes of the ego, we go about our day unconsciously looking for situations in which we can re-affirm ourselves as separated beings. We justify our anger, our moods, our attacks by always finding some external person or reason to blame. As long as we focus our efforts on all that appears to be external, we are prisoners in the ego's thought system with no chance of release.

The way out of the ego thought system is to re-claim our projections. What that means is that when I'm in a difficult situation, instead of finding blame outside of me, I forgive. I first notice my emotions. Am I angry, upset, anxious? Do I feel the need to shift blame elsewhere? If I do, I must be looking at the situation with my ego.

All I'm asked to do is shift my perception from the ego to Love. I invite the Christ to look at the situation with me. He reminds me that all the anxiety and fear I'm feeling does not come from outside, it comes from my choice for the ego. In reality, I am safe and at One with Him.

For a more detailed metaphysical discussion on this subject go to metaphysics of separation and forgiveness -- A lecture by Kenneth Wapnick, which is also available in tape or CD form from

Dec 5, 2007

"Enchanted" with our specialness

Like thousands of Americans last weekend we went to see the Disney movie “Enchanted” with our two teenage daughters. We love a good a fairy tale and this one did not disappoint us.

These days though, I can’t help but interpret plots through the lens of A Course in Miracles. This one made for an interesting case-study.

The movie begins with an animated 10 minute glimpse of Giselle, an ordinary girl in the kingdom of Andalusia. She lives in the forest with dozens of little animals that magically help her perform her daily tasks. Everything is blissful and effortless in this fairy-tale world.

Giselle dreams of finding her soul-mate and ‘love’s true kiss;’ the prince, who happens to be hunting in the forest, stumbles upon her and immediately they recognize the love in each other’s heart and decide to get married the next day and live ‘happily ever after.’

The next day Giselle arrives in the palace in her wedding gown ready for her royal wedding, but the evil queen, the prince’s stepmother, fearing to lose her throne, pushes her down a bottomless well sending her to a place ‘where there are no happily-ever-afters.’ This place is modern time New York City.

Giselle comes out a man-whole in the middle of a busy New York City street. Coming from fairyland where good intentions reign and everyone lives happily, she’s ill-equipped to handle the ups and downs – mostly downs – of the real world. I won’t go too much into the story line, but what was most interesting to me was that after a couple of days in the city Giselle begins to appreciate the contrasts. She begins to value the variety of people and the range of emotions.

She meets Robert, a down to earth divorcee who introduces her to emotions she’s never had before - like anger, sadness and fear. Giselle becomes so seduced by the complexity of emotions available in the real world, that when her prince comes to rescue her, she’s not so sure she wants to go back to Andalusia where everything is happy and simple. The prince seems too one dimensional now. While in Andalusia she had known the Prince loved her because she “knew what was on the Prince’s heart,’ now that he has found her, she asks him for a ‘date’, in which, she explains, ‘we can talk about our likes and dislikes and our differences.’

Giselle gets so hooked on ‘specialness,’ which is the term the Course uses for our attachment to our individuality, that she is willing to give up a peaceful life of unending love and happiness for a life of contrasts. She is thrilled the first time she feels anger, because now she has something against which to measure her happiness. As she gets more and more involved in the world she is no longer able to use the magic that made tasks so easy, but it seems like a small price to pay for the excitement of living in a world where you never know what's going to happen.

In a way, we are Giselle. We left a state of perfect joy – a state of non-duality - where all is good, in favor of a seemingly exciting life of opposites. We continue to reinforce this choice as we identify ourselves with everything that is special or different about us: our body, our talents, our mis-fortunes, our stories, and our past. The Course tells us that "Comparison must be an ego device, for love makes none. Specialness always makes comparisons. It is established by a lack seen in another, and maintained by searching for, and keeping clear in sight, all lacks it can perceive." (Ch24 II 1:1-4)

The movie reminded me of a disturbing recurring dream that began when I was about four and lasted throughout my teens. I floated in space high above the earth perfectly content. I didn’t need air, food, or water and there were no threats or fear. For a while I enjoyed the freedom as I floated in between the stars perfectly content. But after a while it would dawn on me that I was immortal and that this was what I would experience for eternity. The thought of eternity - which I saw as boring and uninteresting - caused me great anxiety and would wake me up completely unsettled.

Though I’ve overcome the dream, I am beginning to see how much our choice to be here is related to our fear of awakening. The Course says (CH24 II 6:5) "This is the only 'cost' of truth: You will no longer see what never was, nor hear what makes no sound. Is it a sacrifice to give up nothing, and to receive the Love of God forever?" Yet because we are so rooted in our human experience we cannot conceive of being without it.

As I choose to identify with the person in the mirror, I notice how attached I am to my identity. Like Giselle, if I had the choice, this is exactly where I’d stay! Yet, there is a part of me – obscured as it may be - that knows where I belong. As students of the Course we practice forgiveness and letting go of our attachment to illusions to begin to let go of our identification with our ego.

A Course in Miracles does not ask us to give up anything. It simply asks us to become aware of our attachments and how they cause us pain so that one day we will see the benefit of choosing again in favor of permanent Peace and Love, which is our Kingdom and our inheritance.

Dec 1, 2007

Judgment, forgiveness and the spiritual experience

Practicing the Course's daily workbook lessons years ago, I became frustrated with myself. When I tried doing the meditations in the morning, I couldn’t keep my mind focused; at night I would fall asleep. I felt that if only I had better control of my mind, I would be progressing much faster. The course says that “The memory of God comes to the quiet mind.” (CH 23 I:1) My mind was anything but quiet. As I woke up in the morning it was as if the radio turned on and I had no control over the tuning dial.

So during the summer of 2001 I dropped off three of my children at camp in Maine, left the youngest with my husband back in California and flew to Virginia to spend a week at The Monroe Institute at their “Gateway Voyage” program. People go to TMI for many different reasons, but my main hope was that the Hemi-Sync technology, as the research I had read suggested, would help me control my wandering mind.

That first Saturday afternoon, I immediately felt comfortable with the casual atmosphere at TMI. The 23 participants and the two trainers seemed friendly and I could tell that if all else failed, it was going to be a fun week. I instantly bonded with my roommate who like me, was married and had young children. Within a couple of hours I had sought out the people that seemed to have the most in common with me. It was a very eclectic group, with people from all over the world and in every profession imaginable. There were only a couple of people in the group whom I judged as ‘out there’ in their new age beliefs, but I welcomed the opportunity to expand my horizons. Growing up Catholic and later becoming a somewhat rigid Christian Scientist I had some growing to do in the field of acceptance.

The program was intense. We spent five or six hours a day listening to Hemi-Sync tapes and in the evening there were lectures or activities. But there was a lot of free time which I spent with other participants swimming at the lake, walking, or practicing yoga. I wasn’t having the flashy experiences people described during our debriefing sessions, but I felt that something good was happening within me.

During every guided tape, I used the quiet intervals to practice my workbook lesson. With the help of the Hemi-Sync technology I was able to experience moments of complete stillness.

As the week progressed I noticed my mind slowing down. I felt more peaceful. This feeling translated into my being more open and accepting of others. Though my behavior didn’t change in any obvious way, I noticed that whenever I was having a conversation with someone I wasn’t reacting or judging what they said. I was more interested in listening than in talking. My urge to want to ‘fix’ people was considerably diminished. I was seeing past people’s age, shape, color, occupation, nationality, and seeing more of who they really were. Everyone was or had been in some kind of pain and everyone wanted to be happy. At the time I didn’t have much intellectual understanding of the Course (I hadn’t met Ken Wapnick yet), but without consciously trying, I was practicing forgiveness.

As we sat with our group for the last time on Thursday afternoon, all the judgments I had made faded and I felt appreciation and love for every participant. One of the program trainers warned us that our perception would have ‘shifted’ during the week and that we may perceive things differently as we reintegrated into the world. His warning did not prepare me for the experience that I was about to have.

On my first flight I sat next to one of my new Gateway friends. We chit chatted about the week, and then got into a conversation about writing, James Joyce and “Ulysses,” which had been a favorite a long time ago. I felt nothing unusual beyond a sense of being relaxed, as I would have felt after a vacation without the kids.

We said goodbye in Pittsburgh and went in opposite directions to catch our next flight. As soon as I walked into the airport concourse and saw hundreds of people walking in different directions, I noticed something was very different. My mind was not commenting, categorizing or judging. The radio was off. I noticed my breath - in and out - and each thought was clear and spread apart. I was deliberate and aware of my movement through the hallway; my awareness was so heightened that I noticed every little thing: a spot of spilled coffee on the carpet, a tear-drop on a sleeping child’s cheek, the deep blue of a woolen scarf on an old lady at the sandwich stand -- but my mind didn’t say a thing. There were no judgments made; no conclusions reached. I felt connected to everything by this all-inclusive awareness. A deep sense of joy took over me. I could not stop smiling and my eyes were filled with tears.

Because my mind was not categorizing/judging others, I felt free from other people’s judgment of me. I walked unaware and unconcerned about how I might look to others, or what they might think of me. I didn’t feel the extra weight I was carrying from my last pregnancy or notice the fact that my hair was disheveled because I hadn’t used a hair dryer for a week. I was so content with the love I felt within, that I didn’t need external attention or approval. While I usually thrive on not making eye contact with strangers at the airport, I wanted to look into people’s eyes to find the love that was below the surface.

The experience only lasted a few minutes – the sense of peaceful contentment, about a week. Within two weeks of the program my mind was again full of thoughts and judgments and besides the occasional snippet of silence; my ego has been back to its old tricks. The voice of the ego in my mind can be loud and persistent. It talks, comments, censors, categorizes and judges hoping I will pay attention – hoping I will think the voice is me. Moment to moment I have to chose if I will identify with it. I have control over the radio dial and I know I can choose my station. I often choose to tune in to forgiveness, so that when I hear the ego’s voice in my mind, I can use it to show me what judgments I have inadvertently made, and by asking for help, I can undo them through forgiveness and this, will eventually lead to permanent lasting Peace (and quiet!).

I occasionally have experienced short glimpses of oneness. Invariably they happen after I’ve been practicing forgiveness consistently. The purpose of A Course in Miracles as stated in the introduction is to “[remove] the blocks to the awareness of love’s presence.” In keeping with the Course’s aim, my goal has been to recognize what’s in the way of the awareness of love rather than seeking the spiritual experience. It’s the undoing of the ego thought system through forgiveness that leads us home.

Nov 3, 2007

Wildfires and the Peace of God

Last week as we prepared for mandatory evacuation due to a wildfire that was rapidly advancing in the direction of our home, it became very clear to me why I’m a student of A Course in Miracles.

I woke up at 6am with a phone call announcing that school was closed until further notice. It smelled like burned wood and the sky was gray with smoke. On TV we saw houses on fire, people packing up their valuables and firefighters mobilized throughout the state. The stadium and several high schools were filling up with evacuees.

In the next couple of hours the phone rang off the hook. Friends and neighbors wanted to know how we were doing. They were understandably anxious and fearful for our safety or for their own homes. They shared what they knew from watching the news and their own fears or hopes about the situation. I noticed that though I was responding appropriately to the fearful comments and sharing what I knew of the situation, a part of me was still at peace.

I went outside to find our cats and saw ash falling from the sky like snow. The smell of smoke was so intense it burned my nose. Yet, as surreal as this sounds as I write it, there was a total disconnection between what I saw and the peace I felt. It was as if I were an actor in a movie, playing a difficult part, but all along knowing that none of it was real.

I remembered a favorite church hymn that said “The storm may roar without me, my heart may low be laid, but God is round about me and can I be dismayed?” Often, I have prayed to be spared from difficult situations. Now I realized that I didn’t have to pray for the storm to turn into a sunny day. I could watch the storm, or the fire in this case, and be spared mentally from the fear, anger, or anxiety. I could be in the world but not of it.

We can access the Peace of God by looking at trials through ‘forgiving eyes.’ As separated beings we have a split mind which houses two completely separate and opposing thought systems: the ego and the Holy Spirit. The ego is the thought system of guilt and attack whose purpose is to keep us unaware of our true nature as God’s image and likeness; the Holy Spirit is the memory of God in our mind. Moment to moment we chose with whom we look at the world. We can look through the ego’s lens of fear, or through the Holy Spirit’s lens of forgiveness and love.

The way we ‘see’ the world tells us which teacher we have chosen. When the Course talks about seeing, it refers to how we perceive the world or how we interpret it. While at this level we don’t have control over what we actually see, we do have total control over how we interpret what we see. If when we look at a situation we feel fear, anxiety, anger or any negative emotion, that is a clear indication that we have chosen to look through the ego’s lens.

The text tells us that “Trials are but lessons that you failed to learn presented once again, so where you made a faulty choice before you now can make a better one, and thus escape all pain that what you chose before has brought to you. (T-31, VIII. 3:1).”

Our emotions tell us when we have made a 'faulty choice.' As soon as we notice that we're not at peace, we know we have chosen to perceive the world with the ego. We can always choose to let go of the ego’s interpretation of a situation in favor of the Holy Spirit’s.

Sometimes, though we try to let go of pain or fear, we may feel trapped or unwilling to let go of it. In that case a step in the right direction is to at least realize that the reason we are feeling this way is that we have chosen to identify ourselves with the ego and that 'faulty' choice is costing us the Peace of God.

At 11am we received a mandatory evacuation order so we packed a few things and evacuated like all of our neighbors. We were out of the house for four days. Two dozen homes burned in our neighborhood – over a thousand in the county. When we returned I was happy to see our home was spared – the fire came within a mile. But I was even happier that throughout the evacuation I didn't experience any anxiety or fear. I was so infinitely grateful to know that while I have no control over the outcome of a wildfire, I have the tools to make a choice for Peace of mind.

Oct 2, 2007

Letting go of attachments

Last August I spent a week at The Monroe Institute in Virginia in a program called “Heartline.” What I like the most about TMI is that I get to spend 6 days by myself to work on whatever comes up. Both the beautiful setting in the Blue Ridge mountains, and the Hemi-Sync technology facilitate the process of going within.

My experience at TMI is often like opening Pandora’s box. After one or two days of experiencing 5 or 6 Hemi-Sync tapes a day, stuff is popping up from my unconscious that I hardly remembered was there. It all begins to surface in a very visual – sometimes painful -- way.

It's always helpful during these programs to set an intention. As I thought about it while driving to Charlottesville, I knew right away what I wanted to focus on. Though I have known this intellectually for a while, until this summer, I had not experienced how my attachment to my "special relationships," was standing in the way of my experiencing peace of mind. I became aware of how much my happiness depended on other people's love and approval. I also experienced a general disillusionment with special relationships.

It was clear to me that at the level of form I didn’t need to change anything. I can act the same around the people I love. However, at the level of mind, I sensed it would be helpful to be aware that my happiness comes from my Source and not from the outcome of situations involving special relationships.

A Course in Miracles calls “special relationships,” the relationships of the ego. These relationships, are substitutes we have chosen for the love of God. The ego, being the thought of separation in our minds, feels incomplete and constantly seeks for fulfillment in others. Page 345 of the Text says “The search for the special relationship is the sign that you equate yourself with the ego and not with God.” When I look for approval, love or comfort in others I am identifying myself with my ego. Through special relationships we attempt to fill the emptiness we feel as separated beings. As we allow our happiness to depend on our relationships, we further identify ourselves with the ego and our own body.

Special relationships are the ego's most effective tool for reinforcing the separation. Our constant seeking for joy and completeness outside of ourselves occupies our mind with illusions that keep us from the memory of our real Self which remains united in perfect Oneness with our Creator. The ego's purpose is to keep us mindless. As our attention is focused on the distractions of the world we forget that we are choosing to identify with the ego and that we can choose again.

A few tapes into the Heartline program, we are guided to Focus 12 – one of my favorite focus levels. Focus levels are meditative states in which the body is asleep, but the mind is awake. Unaware of the body, the mind is freer to explore within. In F12, I’m in perfect quiet; my mind is still. I offer this space to the Holy Spirit (the part of my mind that remembers I am one with God) to lead me to whatever experience will be most helpful. Within seconds, one by one, my closest friends, family, mentors, fellow club members, past program participants, trainers, appear in front of my mind’s eye. As they pass by, I viscerally experience the joy or pain each relationship has brought me. I see bits and pieces of past situations – like vignettes flashing in front of me. I re-live some happy moments and some sad ones. My sensitivity is so heightened that every small disappointment - every tiny incident which didn't bother me when it happened now appears painful beyond measure.

Through the experience I see how my peace of mind has been compromised by my attachment to special relationships. I recognize how the ego in me is dependent on the outcome of every interaction. If a situation goes well according to the ego's judgment, I'm happy, if it doesn't, I'm unhappy. I tell myself that now is the time to let go of these attachments - I want to be free. I look at the people in my life, especially those with whom I feel vulnerable. I want to let go of my attachment to them, but I feel huge resistance; the attraction is too strong. The thought crosses my mind that by this pain I know that I'm alive. By experiencing pain is how I can recognize what happiness is.

I come out of the exercise abruptly – my heart is beating hard and I am paralyzed with fear. I am just not ready to give up my attachment to special relationships. As much as I’ve paid lip service to wanting detachment, right now, it feels as a great sacrifice. As I examine my thoughts I realize that what I'm really afraid of is giving up my own ego and the specialness with which I'm totally identified.

After lunch I sit by the pool to read the Text. I open it randomly and read “Fear not that you will be abruptly lifted up and hurled into reality. Time is kind, and if you use it on behalf of reality, it will keep gentle pace with you in your transition. The urgency is only in dislodging your mind from its fixed position here….Find comfort rather than despair in this: you could not long find even the illusion of love in any special relationship here. For you are no longer wholly insane…..The Holy Spirit asks only this little help of you: Whenever your thoughts wander to a special relationship which still attracts you, enter with Him into a holy instant, and there let Him release you…… And your willingness need not be complete because His is perfect.” (T-16.VI.8-12)

I breathe deep relief as I read and I decide to invite the Holy Spirit to look at the situation with me during the next exercise. Back in Focus 12, again the people in my life appear one by one in front of me. As I look at each one with with the Holy Spirit next to me, I see them differently – these friends, family, teachers, are projections in my dream. I have projected my own desires and orchestrated every situation to serve a purpose. With the ego, the purpose is to reinforce the separation between us. As I let go of the ego's hand and take the Holy Spirit's a new purpose emerges for every situation which involves every one of my special relationships - they become a classroom. Each one of my brothers holds a ticket Home. They are there so that I can forgive them. I tell each one (from Gary Renard's CDs) “You are Christ, pure and innocent. All is forgiven and released.” I feel lighter as I let each of them go. I thank the Holy Spirit for allowing me to see through His eyes.

Writing about my experience in my journal, I realize that as long as I identify myself with my ego, I will not be able to completely let go of my attachment to special relationships. A step in the right direction is simply to notice my attachment and to realize that I'm choosing the ego instead of the love of God. If I were able to let all of my attachments completely, I wouldn’t be here. In the meantime, I’ll keep forgiving – over and over again.

Sep 13, 2007

The Miracle of Forgiveness

I've started this blog in my head about 60 times in the last couple of months. How do I begin? How do I explain everything that's happened in the last 15 years since I first found A Course in Miracles?

I decided to start in the middle of things. It's 3 am and I can't sleep because I'm busy hating my father. I woke up an hour ago, but my mind was taken hostage by this voice in my head that kept re-hashing his email of last night, plus every little selfish comment,
every unfair treatment, and every unreasonable request he's ever made of me (I don't have to explain the specifics -- you have relatives too.) He's sucking me dry and it's just not fair. Not to mention he's done this to me in a half a dozen previous lives, but that's another story.

I suddenly become conscious that as long as I'm thinking of the past (what he's done to me) and the future (what I'm going to tell him when I speak to him) I am not present -- I'm lost in illusions. I decide to reclaim my mind.

I allow myself to feel the anger and then the pain. I feel it in my chest and for a second I wonder if I'm dying. I notice there's a wicked kind of pleasure in this feeling and that's why I resist letting it go. This is a HUGE step for me. In the past I've done some serious sweeping under the rug in the name of "happiness" and spirituality. I remember that the Course urges me to look for the monsters that hide in the closet. The Course says "Do not hide suffering from His sight, but bring it gladly to Him....Do not leave any spot of pain hidden from His light and search your mind carefully for any thoughts you may fear to uncover...." T p. 243. This is how we undo the ego system: we bring all our pain out of the closet and ask the Holy Spirit to reinterpret it.

So I finally decide there must be another way. My own judgment of the situation has only brought me pain. I am open for new interpretation!

I close my eyes and I invite the Holy Spirit to look at the situation with me. I begin to own the situation through forgiveness. I tell my father mentally (inspired from Gary Renard's books and seminars) "You're not really there. I made you up. Everything you appear to be doing to me is a projection of my own ego and its purpose is for me to forgive. You can't hurt me, because you are innocent, spiritual, pure and perfect. I forgive you and I release you."

I sit with this for a while and soon, I see clearly that the role my father is playing, I've assigned to him. How can I blame him for acting out my own wishes? I forgive him for what he has never done. A sense of freedom envelops me. My pulse goes back to normal. I breathe easier. My mind is quiet again.

Related post: Forgiving our parents: re-visiting our self-concept