Dec 24, 2008

Listening, joining, and the Holy Instant

About ten years ago I went to the zoo with my daughter's Kindergarten class. All the moms were split into small groups and I shared my chaperoning duties with a mom who had just moved to town. Though I had never talked to her before, in our four hours together, she told me her sad story which ended with her husband cheating on her and a nasty divorce. It seemed random at the time that she would tell such a story to a stranger, but I've since realized that no interaction is ever without purpose. If you're not aware of its purpose, you can be sure that the ego is using it for its purpose of reinforcing the separation. Judgment is its key tool.

Over the years of practicing the Course and looking at my own mental activity as I interact with people, it has become clear that in any interaction there are simply two options: we offer peace by choosing to mentally join or we offer conflict by choosing to separate. Joining serves the right-minded purpose of awakening and judgment serves the ego's purpose of separation.

Thinking back on the way I listened to my new friend at the zoo ten years ago, I can't help but cringe. Though I was not aware of it at the time, my listening was laced with judgment. As my friend talked, my mind intuitively did what minds are designed to do; continue the belief in separation by finding differences. I had a good marriage and she didn't; she was unstable and I was stable. She was suffering and I was not. A mental inequality developed in my mind. I became the superior one in the area of handling love and marriage.

If we truly want to be helpful to someone in need, it is imperative that we notice these blocks that stand in the way of our listening. That day at the zoo, though I sounded kind, concerned and loving, I could not have really been helpful. By not being aware of the judgment in my mind, the gift I offered was that of separation, which is the source of all pain to begin with. Though on the surface the interaction seemed to be helpful, at a deep level it must have left us both dissatisfied.

In order to join, we must be aware of the obstacles that stand in the way of joining. As we listen to people, the first step is to notice the judgment in our own minds. This means that as we listen, we watch our own thoughts. We carefully take note of our reactions to what we are hearing. Notice your mind's attraction to opposition. Watch your reaction when someone is telling you something you don't agree with. Watch the anger rise. Or if you hear of a sad story, watch your outrage; your desire to protect the victims and your harsh condemnation of everyone you perceive as guilty. Watch yourself feel superior, inferior, right, morally justified, more spiritually advanced. All these reactive feelings make the separation real for you.

The second step is to forgive. As we notice the ego's agenda of separation in our own minds we forgive ourselves – we simply look and don't judge. To have an ego is no sin. As long as we see a face in the mirror, we have an ego like everybody else and it speaks loudly (even louder as you start to notice it more!) There is no reason to feel guilty about that. If you feel guilty. Notice yourself feeling guilty without judging yourself for it.

For a long long time noticing your ego as it seeks its purpose of separation is all that you may be able to do. Notice how it takes a stand for or against anything anyone says. Watch it send the senses out to look for evidence that differences are important. Watch how much you want to be right, how you want to blame, share your point of view, make a case that shows you in the most favorable light. Notice how much you want to be innocent; how you always must feel superior or inferior --- NEVER equal. Watch how you think you know better, how much you don't want to tolerate other people's view, or their habits.

This noticing becomes a kind of open-eye meditation where you progressively become fully aware of your mental activity as you interact with the people in your life. I found this excerpt from the writings of Pema Chodron that clearly describes this phase.

The first thing that happens in meditation is that we start to see
what's happening. Even though we still run away, and we still
indulge, we see what we're doing clearly. One would think that
our seeing it clearly would immediately make it just disappear,
but it doesn't. So for quite a long time, we just see it clearly. To
the degree that we're willing to see our indulging and our
repressing clearly, they begin to wear themselves out. Wearing
out is not exactly the same as going away. Instead, a wider, more
generous, more enlightened perspective arises.

As we notice the ego do what it does and do nothing about it, we begin to unmask it. Its movement in our minds becomes more and more obvious and it begins to have less of an effect on us. We are slowly releasing our identification with it. We begin to see it clearly in all its hate and ugliness. But still, we do nothing. We don't try to change it or fight it. It's reacting to it that perpetuates the belief in separation. However vicious it may appear, it can have no power over us if we don't identify with it.

When you least expect it you'll be listening to a friend, or even somebody you dislike and as you listen, you'll become aware of the ego's judgmental voice in your mind looking for differences that you can react against. You'll see clearly the ego's activity in your mind, but you won't be impressed with it. Then for just a second these barriers will disappear and a gentle, all-inclusive sense of love will take over. For an instant you'll lose track of the differences your ego was keeping tabs on and you will perceive only shared interests. All the differences in form that seemed so important will become meaningless.

A sense of joining in love and true compassion will bless the moment and you'll be experiencing what the Course calls the "Holy Instant." At that moment when you stop perceiving differences, you will have a glimpse of who you are in reality; beyond the body. You will understand the meaning of Matthew 18 verse 20, "Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them." (replace the word "joined" for "gathered.")

You will see that in reality you can only interact with yourself and that who you thought was a separate brother is nothing more than a projection whose only purpose is to help YOU go home. You will know who you are without your judgment, your defenses and your fear. That feeling, however fleeting, will have you so hooked that you will want to practice joining frequently – every time you have a seemingly casual interaction. And when judgment creeps in and you inadvertently offer separation, it will hurt so much that you will instantly choose against the pain.

The Course says "If you would let the Holy Spirit tell you of the Love of God for you…… you would experience the attraction of the eternal. No one can hear Him speak of this and long remain willing to linger here." (T15 IX 5: 1,2.)

Your choice to join will transform your relationships and in your loved ones' faces you will see your own progress. By choosing peace in every situation you will become truly helpful to those around you. You will be letting them know, that they can also choose that peace and love that you feel. Your choice for peace will speak louder than any words. It will be informing everyone around you that there is a 'real alternative' to their suffering and just as you are making the choice for peace, they can make it too.

Since it's Christmas Eve I wanted to share with you the Christmas message on T-15 X. which encourages us to join in celebration:

" Let the Holy Spirit teach you, and let me celebrate your birth through Him. The only gift I can accept of you is the gift I gave to you. Release me as I choose your own release. The time of Christ we celebrate together, for it has no meaning if we are apart.

The holy instant is truly the time of Christ. For in this liberating instant no guilt is laid upon the Son of God, and his unlimited power is thus restored to him. …. And to see me is to see me in everyone, and offer everyone the gift you offer me."

Let us release our brothers from our judgment and join together in celebration. Merry Christmas.

Related post: A lesson in listening

Nov 9, 2008

Forgiving our parents: revisiting our self-concept

I had a very helpful dream about a month ago. I was having lunch with a friend when I noticed my father and his wife entering the restaurant. He saw me from the distance and rushed to greet me. He was visibly happy to see me. From a bag he pulled out a photo album and handed it to me. “This is for you,” he said and walked away.

The album was filled with photos that captured a moment from every encounter we’ve had since I was born until I moved out of Argentina when I was seventeen. It wasn’t very thick since my mother and father separated when I was 10 months old and I didn’t see him at all between the ages of two and sixteen.

As I leafed through the photos, what stood out was the love that I saw in my father’s eyes as he looked at me. As a child, though I tried not to think about it, the feeling I had was that if he loved me, he would make the effort to see me. Even though I had a happy childhood with an excellent mother, a part of me felt abandoned.

At the back of the album there was a scrapbook where my father had pasted articles that appeared in the paper about him including a very favorable eight page biography with photos highlighting his accomplishments. As I began to read, he appeared next to me. Looking into my eyes with a sweet, innocent smile he said: “Can you see me from this perspective?”

The thought that occurred to me as I woke up was that for most of my adult life, I didn’t know who my father was. All I was intimately familiar with were my thoughts about him. For a long time I looked at him and interpreted his actions through a thick layer of beliefs that I had developed about him as a child. Once we have a belief about someone, unless we are willing to re-examine it, it colors our view of them.

His actions only confirmed what I thought I knew about him. Our mind has a way of only noticing what validates our beliefs. Everything else, we literally don’t see. A Course in Miracles points this out early on in the preface:”What perception sees and hears appears to be real because it permits into awareness only what conforms to the wishes of the perceiver. (Preface X.)”

Though I had a fairly good relationship with my father, a part of me blamed him for having abandoned me and assumed that his having done so had a damaging and permanent effect on me.

Sometime in my middle twenties I began to notice what I thought was the effect of my father abandoning me. I saw that though I outwardly appeared confident and outgoing, I was dependent on people’s love and approval. I needed to be noticed and appreciated and it was difficult to open up to people. I unconsciously feared that once they knew who I really was, they would reject me, just as my father had rejected me as a child. I blamed my father for the fact that physical touch from people I didn't know well felt uncomfortable, almost painful.

It is not uncommon to blame our faults, our reactions, and behavior to the way adults in our lives treated us when we were children. Many other factors like order of birth, social situation, education, religion, also seem to have an effect on who we become. This is obviously true at the level of form – we appear to be; both physically and emotionally, the product of our genetics and our upbringing.

But as long as we blame our parents, or the environment we grew up in for our feelings, defects, shortcomings or our unhappiness, we are tying ourselves to a limited self-concept that roots us in the ego-thought system of separation. The gradual building of a self-concept is the ego’s purpose. The Course tells us that “The building of a concept of the self is what the learning of the world is for.” (T-31 V.1:5) From the moment we are born, we learn who we supposedly are. It’s that identification with the self that prevents us from ever knowing who we are in reality. As long as we continue to ‘learn’ who we are by looking at our past and blaming others, we will strengthen our identification with a false sense of self and continue to live in an illusion. As long as we think we know who we are, the ego is safe.

Forgiving our parents is a first step in the direction of letting go of deeply rooted self-concepts that color the way we see. In the dream, my father urged me to look at him from a different perspective. Forgiveness always involves looking at a person or at a situation from a different perspective. As adults we have the opportunity to re-visit every assumption and interpretation we made as children and look at it through more mature, forgiving eyes.

After a fairly insignificant event, anger which until then had been masked as mild annoyance, surfaced one day in 2002. Before then, I thought I had a good relationship with my father. All the beliefs that I had been unconsciously holding about him rose to the surface and poured out. The pain felt like an open wound that keeps bleeding and does not scar. I knew exactly why I hated him. A trial took place in my mind. My interpretation of every one of our encounters was used as evidence against him. The verdict was that he did not love me and he was responsible for the way I was. If anyone cared to listen, I was able to come up with all the evidence that would prove him guilty beyond doubt.

For a while I paid lip service to wanting to forgive, but the resistance was like a granite wall. A part of me did not want to let go of the pain. That was the first time I became aware of how the ego wants and needs to suffer.

Eventually, I noticed a tiny desire to choose against the pain and the process of forgiveness began. I prayed daily for a change of perspective. I asked the Holy Spirit, which is the memory of God in our minds, for a new interpretation. A six year journey began in which I looked at every assumption, interpretation and story I had made about my father and let it go. I began writing this blog one night last year after one of the many opportunities I had over the years to practice forgiving him.

Over time, it became clear that the reason I felt abandoned was not because my father left, but because I interpreted his leaving as irrefutable evidence that he did not love me. Through the forgiveness process, I saw that the reason my father chose not to see me was not that he didn’t care about me, but that he was dealing with his own set of difficult emotional problems that prevented him from being there for me when I was a child. I understood that he was doing the best he could. He himself had had a very difficult childhood.

As I forgave my father, I became free from the belief that I needed him to appreciate me and love me in order to be happy, self-confident, or at peace. It became clear that neither his words nor his actions could have an effect on me. It was always my choice to give him that power over me.

Sitting at dinner last week with my father, his wife and their three adult children, I experienced freedom for the first time. We had a delightful evening. My mind was quiet – there was no reaction to anything my father said or did. On the contrary, I felt this gentle loving sense take over me which felt almost impersonal, but thoroughly loving and compassionate. When I spoke, the words came out of this love so I spoke kindly and without effort. I was uncharacteristically interested in what they were saying. I was in the moment, celebrating every story, every joke. We sat around the table having the best time until after midnight. It was as if time stood still.

I was aware of the incredible freedom that comes from being in the presence of someone from whom you don't need anything. As I sat on a stool in the kitchen watching my father cook and later at the table seeing him laugh and talk, I saw only love in his eyes. There were no interpretations, no second-guessing. The fog had lifted and I saw him as he is.

My actions were natural and free. I didn’t need to impress him or do anything to earn his love. I felt loved, not because he loves me, but because love was in me.

“Salvation is nothing more than an escape from concepts” (T-31 V. 14:3)

Oct 10, 2008

The perfect set-up

Everyone you offer healing to returns it. Everyone you attack keeps it and cherishes it by holding it against you. Whether he does this or does it not will make no difference; you will think he does. It is impossible to offer what you do not want without this penalty. The cost of giving is receiving.” (T-13 III. 5:4-7, italics mine)

Lying in bed unable to sleep a couple of nights ago I noticed myself getting increasingly angry as I thought about my daughter and a situation at school that I’ve been dealing with for over a week. At my daughter’s request, I’ve been trying to set up a meeting with her teachers so that we can look at ways in which she can improve in their classes. My daughter has ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder), which makes it difficult for her to focus and keep on task. It has been my experience that with a little willingness on her part and some minor accommodations from her teachers, she is able to compensate and do fairly well.

The problem is that her teachers have been unresponsive to my request for a meeting. A week and a half after my initial request, I was feeling powerless and frustrated; a victim of the circumstances. I blamed the teachers first for not caring enough and the public school system for offering me no real recourse. There are almost no consequences to a tenured high school teacher who doesn’t do his or her job. I know the system fairly well since I was employed by a public high school district as a teacher for over 10 years.

As I considered the magnitude of my anger, it seemed disproportionate with the size of the problem. Compared to the financial hardship that some people are going through right now, or some of the ongoing atrocities that happen in the world, my pity party over three unresponsive teachers seemed pretty trivial. It was tempting that night to just turn off the light and force myself to sleep, forgetting everything about it.

But having been in this path for a while, I know that covering up anger is not the way to go. Lesson 5 of the Workbook, “I am never upset for the reason I think,” encourages us to practice looking at all the forms of upset, as the same, regardless of their seeming magnitude. To help us prepare for the exercise, the lesson suggests we repeat: “There are no small upsets. They are all equally disturbing to my peace of mind.” Though it appears that it’s the form, or the specific circumstances, that make us upset -- in my case I believed I was upset because my daughter’s teachers didn’t seem to care about her -- in reality, the only real cause of all our upsets is that we are choosing to perceive ourselves as separate from our Source.

By perceiving ourselves as separate bodies – cut off from our Creator -- we live the illusion that we are in exile living in a cruel, dangerous world. The pain and guilt that the separation has caused us is barely hidden below the surface in our unconscious mind waiting for the right opportunity to erupt. In a way, we are looking for excuses, big and small, to project that anger or pain onto others.

Whenever we see the world as threatening, or as the cause of our upset, what we are looking at is nothing more than a picture of our unconscious mind where the guilt and pain over the separation reside. This is why the Text urges us to “See no one, then, as guilty, and you will affirm the truth of guiltlessness unto yourself.” The world provides us with an opportunity to look at our guilt, which is otherwise hidden in our unconscious mind. We see it in our interpretation of the events that we witness or in the people with who we become in contact.

As we recognize that we are not upset because other people make us upset, but because we are looking at them through a thick veil of guilt, we have the opportunity to hand over our faulty perception to the Holy Spirit (the memory of God within us) who through forgiveness will transform it. As we forgive others what we are doing is forgiving the guilt in our own unconscious mind and getting closer to the awareness of who we really are.

By looking at the situations in which we are upset as a mirror of the guilt in our unconscious mind, we begin to recognize that nothing external has the power to take our peace away. One of my favorite quotes in the text is "The secret of salvation is but this: That you are doing this unto yourself," (T-27.VII.10.1)

The Course tells us unequivocally that our anger (frustration, fear, sadness, annoyance, distrust, etc.) is NEVER justified. That does not mean that we should deny our feelings or ignore them or try to stifle them. When we feel them, we simply notice that we must be perceiving with the ego and we forgive ourselves for it. After all, that is what egos do and our goal is not to make our ego better, but rather to withdraw our identification from it.

The reason we don’t justify our anger is that when we blame somebody else for our unhappiness, our frustration, our anger, what we are doing is reinforcing the belief that the world real. For somebody to be guilty, he first has to be real. A character in a dream can have no power of its own to hurt us. If we experience any pain it is undoubtedly because we have given that character power to hurt us within the dream.

So every time we turn on the TV and allow that politician to push our buttons; or when our best friend, our spouse, or our child says something that hurts us; or when we become desperately frustrated because the environment is falling apart; or when we allow our child’s teacher to take away our peace; we are making the world real. We are choosing to believe that there is a power outside of God; that the separation is real, and that the world can have an effect on us.

As seen through the eyes of the ego, the purpose of all problems, no matter how big or small, is to create a perfect set-up for us to fall into the trap of believing that we are separate bodies, subject to powers beyond our control. The problems will come in whatever the most compelling form is for us to believe them. Our kids, our work, our loved ones, our beliefs, the environment, politics, all are suitable subjects and will provide us with plenty of perfect set-ups. Once we fall for the set-up – and we know we have when we feel anger, annoyance, frustration, sadness, confusion, fear, etc – we have fulfilled the ego’s purpose of reinforcing the separation. The ego’s only hope of survival is that we believe the set-up is real and that we react to it. As long as we fight, the ego will remain alive and well.

Forgiveness looks at the set-up, recognizes it as such and does not buy into it. It recognizes it as a dream that can have no effect on reality. The Workbook says that “Forgiveness recognizes what you thought your brother did to you has not occurred,” (W. PII. 1. 1) By forgiving the guilt we see in others, what we are really doing is undoing the guilt in our own unconscious mind. The Course entreats us to “See no one, then, as guilty, and you will affirm the truth of guiltlessness unto yourself. In every condemnation that you offer the Son of God lies the conviction of your own guilt. (T-13 IX. 6: 1,2)”

When we forgive others, we take responsibility for the interpretation we give to what we see. And while the situation may not change immediately, or at all, all the mental effects that we suffered as a result of it – all the anxiety, the anger, the frustration, the sadness – will dissipate and we will experience peace instead.

As I forgave the situation with my daughter’s teachers that night, a sense of love and compassion replaced my anger. I was able to see that these teachers are doing the best they can at the moment and even if it appears as if they are not interested in helping my daughter, it is still my choice to suffer. In reality, nothing has happened except in my mind.

When we met with my daughter’s school counselor yesterday morning, being free from all sense of blame, anger and frustration, I was able to listen to some options I hadn’t considered before. Every decision came easily, inspired by love rather than anger. We were able to come up with a solution that gave my daughter a huge sense of relief. Later yesterday, one of the teachers sent me an email agreeing to meet with me and my daughter today. During the meeting, unclouded by my previous judgment of her, I saw her as she is. Without the past to cloud my judgment, I saw her as loving, helpful and encouraging.

For all I know, this teacher was always the way I saw her today. I may have completely misinterpreted her emails of the past week. What I’ve come to realize is that it does not matter who is right or wrong, or even what happened. Every problem exists first and ONLY in our mind and only there can it be solved.

These ego set-ups when given to the Holy Spirit, their purpose changes. As we recognize them and we pass them over to our right mind for forgiveness, we begin to see people and problems as they are in reality and not as the ego set them up by projecting them into the world (T-27.VII.2:2). Given to the Holy Spirit these set-ups become holy opportunities to inch our way back home.

"Can you imagine how beautiful those you forgive will look to you? In no fantasy have you ever seen anything so lovely." (T-17 II. 1,2 Italics mine)

Sep 15, 2008

A Course in Miracles and the Spiritual Experience

On Sunday before Labor Day as I was going to bed, I plugged my cell phone to its charger and was about to turn it off, as I do every night, when I sensed I needed to leave it on. The thought crossed my mind that as long as my older son is in college (I had dropped him off three weeks before) I was never going to turn off my cell phone at night again. I’m sure you can relate to these small intuitions we sometimes get. They are not that significant, just little previews of the script the Course describes as already past and which we are simply reviewing.

A little after 2:00 AM the phone rang and I wasn’t surprised to see my son’s name on the screen. He has never called me in the middle of the night, but it seemed fitting.

I picked up the phone and right away I noticed that he was excited about something. His first words were “Mom, I know what Love feels like.” He then proceeded to tell me this story.

He was particularly awake that night and had nothing to do so he picked up the copy of ACIM that I gave him two years ago for his sixteenth birthday. (I gave it to him on impulse. I am pretty well aware that the study of ACIM is not particularly suited for young people. At the time, I told him that he could keep it in his bookcase and one day, maybe he would feel inspired to open it.)

As he lay in bed, he opened it and began to read Chapter 1. Though he had never read from it before, it seemed familiar to him. As he read he began to notice his body felt strange. Though he felt his legs on the bed, they didn’t seem to be his legs. His head felt very heavy and when he got to the passage quoted below on p. 10 of the text in the section called “Revelation, Time and Miracles,” he suddenly lost awareness of his body and felt surrounded by total, unconditional Love.

Spirit is in a state of grace forever.
Your reality is only spirit.
Therefore you are in a state of grace forever.

He felt safe and loved, as he has never felt before. He was moved beyond words - he now knew what being in God’s Love feels like. Then he noticed his hands. They seemed very far away and at that point he knew that if he chose to stay in that love, he couldn't be in his body anymore. He felt his heart beat racing with panic and the experience ended abruptly. For a few moments he couldn’t move his body and he had difficulty speaking. He wanted to say something to his roommate, but the words wouldn’t come out coherently and it took several minutes before he could function again. At that moment, in tears, he picked up his phone, went outside his dorm and called me.

As we spoke, he was shaking, but at the same time, was elated by the experience. He asked me: “Do you remember what you wrote as a dedication?” I admitted to him that I didn’t. He said that I wrote, “I love you more than you can imagine.” He said to me: “Mom, I know what that love is – a love that includes everyone and everything.”

We stayed in the phone for a long time. I comforted him as best as I could, trying to get myself (my ego) out of the way. I noticed my mind’s reaction as he spoke and forgave myself for it. By noticing the thoughts that crossed my mind as he spoke, I was able to listen without the ego's agenda. I was conscious of allowing my words to be informed by love rather than the ego.

A passage in the Text came to my mind and I shared it with him: “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.” (T.16.VI.8:1,2,3) I assured him that he was safe and that he was not required to give up anything. The transition is gentle and gradual.

As I listened to him tell me his experience, I had the feeling that all the work I’ve done over the years to progress on a spiritual path was for that moment -- so that I could be ready for his call.

He drove home from college this past weekend and we spent all of Saturday together. He seemed very calm and introspective. He told me the story again in more detail. I asked him if the experience had had a lasting effect. He said that things didn’t seem as serious anymore. He’s an athlete and results have often seemed important. He said that he didn’t need people’s appreciation as much because he knows “where love comes from.” He also mentioned that in the past two weeks he has often had the impression he’s “seeing from somebody else’s eyes.” He feels more detached. Certain things like having money don’t seem so meaningful anymore.

I’m not sure my son will continue to read or study the Course. If he does, he will someday realize what its practice involves -- a commitment to undoing the ego-thought system one situation at a time. The experience he had may prove to be helpful in that he will have had a glimpse of what the end looks like. But it’s the systematic practice of forgiveness that diminishes our identification with our body and undoes judgment so that we can become aware of the love that is.

The introduction to A Course in Miracles clearly states the purpose of its teachings. It tells us that its purpose is not to teach the meaning of love, but rather to help us identify the blocks that stand in the way of our awareness of love’s presence.

Introduction 1:6 The course does not aim at teaching the meaning of love, for that is beyond what can be taught. It does aim, however, at removing the blocks to the awareness of love’s presence, which is your natural inheritance.

It’s through the practice of forgiveness that we identify those blocks that are hidden in our unconscious mind; and with the help of our right mind we remove them one by one until we become aware of the presence of love that was always there.

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.

Jun 29, 2008

Beyond Pain

I’ve been in one kind of pain or another for most of the last two years. Most of it is sports related. It started with a condition called "tennis elbow," which lasted for about four months. When I recovered, I then I stretched a tendon on my left shoulder. Once that healed, I hurt both my Achilles tendons, then had plantar fasciitis, and the most recent one, since last October, is a intermittent lower back/hip pain that seems to move from one place to another.

I dropped off my son at school last Friday -- I’m in Buenos Aires and he’s taking Spanish classes for three weeks – and decided to run some errands before I picked him up. I had a lot of walking to do and as I walked, I noticed a burning feeling in my lower back and my left knee.

When this sequence of injuries began two years ago, I was frustrated and often made myself miserable thinking that this should not be happening to me. Until then, I had never experienced any chronic pain. Naive as it may sound, I thought I was invulnerable to it or that if I ever had to deal with pain, that because I'm mentally tough and prepared for it, I would be able to heal right away.

The more I fought the pain mentally, the more conscious I became of it, and before I knew it it was interfering with many of my activities. My days became colored by the level of pain I felt.

Looking back, I can say the experience has been most humbling and helpful and I wouldn't have it any other way. If I’ve learned anything over the last two (painful) years is not to fight pain. My purpose is no longer to heal the body, but rather to withdraw my identification from it.

While I may or may not, according to what I feel at the moment, take material steps to alleviate the pain (this is what the Course calls “magic”), mentally, I’ve learned that I feel less anxiety and less pain when I accept it as it is. After all, I am identified with a body. Discomfort, whether it's physical or psychological, comes with the territory. Watching the pain come and go without resistance or judgment is the key to diminishing our identification with the body.

As I walked through the narrow streets of downtown Buenos Aires, the pain became particularly intense. Both my lower back and my knee throbbed. I walked slowly and with difficulty. I felt crippled. Unable to finish the block I went into a cafe and sat down.

I watched my mind fight the pain and become lost in it and then become conscious again as I let go. Eventually, I settled into peaceful acceptance. I remembered one of my favorite lines in the Workbook Lesson 135:18-1, “What could you not accept, if you knew that everything that happens, all events, past, present and to come are gently planned by One Whose only purpose is your good?”

A non-dualistic God doesn’t really have a Plan. The Course often comforts us with the use of anthropomorphic language to describe god, but it’s meant to be taken metaphorically. It's the way by which the Course is able to reach us at the level we are at. There is, however, an atonement path for each of us. That path is exactly what happens in our lives. Each situation is a lesson in a perfectly crafted curriculum. There are no mistakes. As students, our job is to forgive, not to argue with the lessons as they come.

Sitting at a table now sipping a nice cup of coffee with milk, I watched the pain come and go. If you’ve ever watched yourself think or feel, you know that once you begin to watch yourself do something, you can’t be fully identified with it. You’ve become the conscious observer. As I looked at the pain without judging it (that's what forgiveness is), for a moment, I felt who I am beyond it. It became clear that this aching body was not who I am. I laughed out loud.

In the middle of the worst pain I’ve had in a while, I was suddenly happy. The pain didn’t stop, but it ceased to be the focal point of my awareness. My mind was no longer consumed with it. As I looked around the cafe I had the feeling I was seeing through a veil. The images beyond the veil didn't seem so real and important anymore. The Joy I felt came from the awareness that I wasn't there. I remembered Ken Wapnick's seminar entitled "Finding Joy in a Joyless world," where he quoted this line from the Text CH6-II:6 “How else can you find joy in a joyless place except by realizing that you are not there?"

I walked out of the cafe and continued with my original plan -- the pain there, but my mind completely clear of it. I walked around for a whole hour until I picked up my son.

I came away from the experience with a deeper understanding of what acceptance is. It’s simply allowing the body to feel like it will, but mentally withdrawing my identification with it. It’s knowing that my body can feel as it pleases, but it does not have power to cut me off from my source of joy and peace.

Leafing through “A New Earth: Awakening to your life’s purpose,” by Ekhart Tolle last night, I found this on p. 78 “What is spiritual realization? The belief that you are spirit? No. That’s a thought. A little closer to the truth than the thought that believes your are who your birth certificate says you are, but still a thought. Spiritual realization is to see clearly that what I perceive, experience, think, or feel is ultimately not who I am, that I cannot find myself in all those things that continuously pass away.”

Yesterday, I woke up free of pain. I can’t say the pain won’t come back, but right now, it doesn’t seem as important. The lessons will come and they will stay for as long as I need them. True healing is always of the mind.

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:

Apr 10, 2008

Finding Joy in the way things are

Our kids are out of school this week so we drove up to Park City for a week of snowboarding. I used to ski, but two years ago I decided to join the rest of the family and try snowboarding. I LOVED it. After three days of snowboarding school I was doing it – not fast or with total confidence, but I could ride slowly down the mountain turning both ways and falling only occasionally.

My budding confidence collapsed when I took a bad fall snowboarding on a very crowded day at our local mountain last February. I got distracted as someone passed by me going fast and fell hard on my left shoulder. The fall left me with a stretched ligament, and for over two months I wasn't able to swing a tennis racquet using my left arm.

At Park City, I had decided I was going to stay at the condo while everybody else went snowboarding. I was looking forward to some quiet time. But as I watched my husband and the kids getting ready on the first day, a part of me wanted to be there, so I decided to go with them.

Going up the lift I noticed fearful thoughts creeping up. Thoughts like “You're crazy,” “You don’t even remember how to do this,” “You'll hurt yourself," "You should go back to skiing,” took over my mind.

I got off the lift okay, but as we were ready to begin our first run, I slid forward a couple of feet and fell. I lay down, mentally paralyzed – all knowledge of how to ride, erased from my mind. The fearful thoughts came again “You can’t do this. You’ll break a bone and ruin your tennis season. You’re too old to learn something new….” In the distance, our kids expertly rode down the mountain, but my husband waited for me. I told him to go ahead – I would manage eventually, but he wouldn’t leave me, so I had to deal with it right away.

I’ve been reading “A Thousand Names for Joy,” by Byron Katie. I love the subtitle: “Living in Harmony with the Way Things Are.” Progressively, over the past year I’ve been moving into the space of acceptance. Rather than trying to change and control my experience, which is what the ego wants to do, I’ve been practicing accepting the way things are. I've noticed that when I let go of my desire to manage the outcome of every situation, there is a certain order that surfaces and as I'm in harmony with the way things are, I feel more peaceful and happier. This doesn't mean I don't take whatever actions are needed. It's just that mentally, I don't desire things to be different.

On p. 44 Katie says "When you have what you want - when you are what you want - there's no impulse to seek anything outside yourself. Seeking is the movement away from the awareness that your life is already complete, just at it is. Even at moments of apparent pain, there's never anything wrong or lacking."

In her book, Katie teaches how we can put an end to our feelings of fear and anxiety by questioning the thoughts which produce them. By questioning our thoughts, they lose their power to cause us pain. As we live in harmony with the way things are, we tap into the underlying joy that exists beyond all the stressful thoughts. This Joy is always available to us no matter what experience our life brings. This Joy is who we are.

Sitting on the snow it was easy to see that the feelings I felt: fear, anxiety, stress, apprehension, remorse, were all caused by thoughts which I believed were true about me. I could clearly see that these thoughts were not helpful so I decided to question them. I stood up and let myself slide down a few feet. The fearful thoughts came back instantly: “I’m out of control; I don’t want to get injured.” I felt my body tighten as fear seemed to shoot up through my blood. I fell again.

I tried Katie’s four questions and "the turnaround," “Is that really true?” I asked. Can you absolutely know that it’s true?” And then, “How do you react when you believe that thought?” Followed by “Who would you be without the thought?”

Was it really true that I was out of control? What is control, but an illusion that I am separate and in control of my own life? Can I ever really be separate or in control?

I’m afraid of falling. Is that really true? I’m only afraid because I have judged falling as bad and undesirable. What if I lived in harmony with the way things are? And like a child, I enjoyed the feeling of tumbling in the snow. How would I be without the thought of fear? I’d be relaxed and unafraid. I would know that my joy does not depend on my staying upright.

I stood up and continued. I focused on the beauty of the snow and trusted that even if my mind seemed to be caught up in insecure thoughts, my body remembered how to ride. I rode down gracefully turning one way and the other.

As the sun peeked through a cloud, the thought came: “It’s too bright and I can’t see the variation in slope or texture of the snow. If I can’t see well, I will surely fall.” Again, I felt the fear tensing up every muscle. I questioned again. Can you absolutely know that it’s true? Not really, if I focus, I can see well enough. It’s the fearful thoughts that are taking my focus away. What if I chose not to believe that thought? How would I feel? I would accept the conditions as they are and not feel the stress that thinking about them is bringing me.

Again I felt free. And then it got steeper – Ah! A blue run. I can’t do blue runs, I’m a beginner. Is that really true? I asked. Not really…… Oops, I’m going too fast! Can I absolutely know that it’s true? I can’t. What is ‘too fast’? It’s a judgment based on my own perception. There are dozens of snowboarders passing me who ride twice as fast. Who would I be without the thought? I might actually be free to explore going at increased speeds without the limiting thoughts holding me back.

I continued down the mountain questioning every thought and as I discredited the stressful ones, I noticed myself becoming grateful for the experience as it came. I was no longer expecting the experience to be a certain way in order for me to enjoy it. I stopped judging how well I was doing, or how good the conditions were. Instead, I noticed the snow in all its radiance and the view in front of me appeared more majestic than it ever seemed before. I felt present in my body and my muscles did what they needed to do without my micro-managing every motion. Free from distressful thoughts, I was able to enjoy the experience more fully. A feeling of joy began to rise in me.

I reached a flat area at the bottom of the hill and unexpectedly caught an edge and fell. As I was falling I smiled and welcomed the experience. There are no accidents. We always are exactly where we need to be, ready to learn what we need to learn. I took a deep breath and enjoyed the rest for a few minutes. Even if I injured myself, could that experience to take away my Joy? Can I really forget who I AM?

As a student of A Course in Miracles my purpose is to use every situation that comes my way as a means to regain awareness of who I am. It is always my choice to allow a situation to keep me trapped in a mindless, painful state of mind. Alternatively, we can all choose to look at our situations with our right mind and while the situation may not change, our stressful thoughts about it will be replaced by a deep, abiding, sense of peace.

I went up and down with the kids many more times and had a blast. I can’t say I didn’t fall. I fell a few times, but by questioning the thoughts that suggested falling could upset me, I didn’t experience it as traumatic.

Throughout the day as I encountered many new situations: increased speed, flat surfaces, moguls, a daughter yelling “Mom;” from the lift as I’m concentrating on riding on the run under it; a group of teens zipping by too close and splashing snow all over me, etc. etc, the fearful thoughts kept popping up, but as I questioned them, their power over me diminished and as I was no longer subject to them, what was left was pure Joy.

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.”

Feb 1, 2008

Healing and Prayer

It is natural for me to turn within for healing. I was brought up to believe that sickness is not of the body, but a decision made by the mind. I first became aware of this at Christian Science Sunday school as a young teen in Buenos Aires.
To most people who are not on a metaphysical path, the idea that sickness is mental may seem radical; after all, all evidence suggests the contrary. What hurts us always seems to come from outside of us. But the world is a manifestation of thought. This means that whatever beliefs or thoughts we hold, consciously or unconsciously, make the world as we experience it. Similar to a dream, where the dreaming mind is the source of what occurs in the dream, as a collective ego, we project the world we see. Mary Baker Eddy, founder of Christian Science, taught in the late 1800s that the universe is “the outward condition of your inward thinking.”
Last February, I went to Hawaii with my sister to visit my brother. At the beach one day, my sister noticed a cyst in my lower back. I put my hand to it and noticed there was a protruding mass of some sort. It wasn’t huge, but definitely noticeable.
Back home, I developed an obsession with it. It was the first thing I looked for as I woke up in the morning. My hand could reach back and touch the exact spot where it was. I noticed it in the mirror and also caught myself thinking about it several times a day. After a few months a few fearful thoughts began to creep into my mind.
I tried praying, but I fell into the trap of believing in what the Course calls “order of difficulty in Miracles.” It’s the erroneous belief that there is a hierarchy of illusions, making some harder to heal than others. While I was sure I could heal from a cold, or a sore throat, a growth seemed too solid and permanent.
So I decided to see a doctor. It felt a little vain for wanting the thing removed and awkward, especially because I hadn’t seen a doctor since my last child was born 10 years before, but I went anyway.
After measuring the growth and taking copious notes, the doctor said he could remove it and agreed to submit the request to my insurance which, of course, declined to pay for the surgery unless I went through more tests.
I’m not opposed to tests. Someday, I may decide that I want them and it won’t make a bit of difference. We are all heavily identified with our bodies. Just as our bodies need water, food, oxygen, warmth – all external things we believe we need to survive; one day, I may decide that I need medicine to live just a little longer.
But as I looked within for guidance on that particular day, I couldn’t see myself going through it. I remembered this passage from the Manual For Teachers page 18:2:5:
“Who is the physician? Only the mind of the patient himself. The outcome [whether the patient heals or not] is what he decides that it is. Special agents seem to be ministering to him, yet they but give form to his own choice. He chooses them in order to bring tangible form to his desires. And it is this they do, and nothing else. They are not actually needed at all. The patient could merely rise up without their aid and say, "I have no use for this." There is no form of sickness that would not be cured at once.”
So when I got home that day, I knew I needed to take a stand. I was either going to go back to the doctor and follow his recommendation, or I was going to handle my thought.
Re-reading the “Song of Prayer” Pamphlet, I realized that I was bound by my desire to see my body free of the cyst. I was basically believing that in order to have peace the cyst needed to be gone. Page 2 of the pamphlet says: “The secret of true prayer is to forget the things you think you need.….Also in the same way, in prayer you overlook your specific needs as you see them, and let them go into God’s Hands. There they become your gifts to Him, for they tell Him that you would have no gods before Him; no Love but His. What could His answer be but your remembrance of Him? Can this be traded for a bit of trifling advice about a problem of an instant’s duration? God answers only for eternity. But still all little answers are contained in this.”
I had heard Gary Renard talk about this “True Prayer” mentioned on the pamphlet at a seminar once. He had suggested we practice it for 30 days and see the change in our lives. Though God is not aware of our material experiences in the world; he only sees us Perfect and in His image and likeness, when we connect with Him, it is inevitable that our experience of the world will change.
Gary instructed the group to get into a meditative state and then imagine a bright welcoming warm light. He said it might be useful to think of Jesus, as a symbol of our joining with the right mind, leading us to an altar where we place one by one all of our desires, needs and attachments. (If I were to do this right now, I’d be placing on it my family, my tennis racquet, my work, my copy of A Course in Miracles, this blog, my laptop and the story I think I want to write.)
The altar, which is mentioned in many places in the Course, is the symbol for the decision maker -- the part of the mind which moment to moment chooses to identify either with our right mind, also called the Holy Spirit or Christ, or our wrong mind, the ego. As I place all my desires and attachments as gifts on the altar, what I'm saying is that I am willing to let go of all idols which stand in the way of my experiencing God. The altar then disappears as does Jesus (if we choose to take his image with us) and all that is left is our desire to experience ourselves as one with God. We then wait in quiet until He appears. (In reality he doesn't appear, He is always there. We just become aware of His Presence in us.)
In practice, it’s not as easy as it sounds. Some days, I notice huge resistance in the form of aggressive distracting thoughts. It might take an hour in the morning just to achieve a few seconds in the Presence of God. Most days, I never get to that place, but that occasional day when I do, makes all the others worth it.
After the mind is quiet and I’ve invited Jesus to join me, I place my attachments on the altar, and then he leads me to Him. I wait in quiet focusing only on my desire to feel His Presence. Suddenly, I become aware of an overwhelming sense of total release; like rest after a hard, arduous journey. I feel light as the veil of judgment dissipates and for a second, I know I am loved. The joy brings tears to my eyes. It’s a kind of joy that has no equivalent in human experience. It’s suddenly clear how much effort it was to be separate and how natural it is to be One. I feel an enormous sense of compassion and forgiveness that starts with me and embraces everything I’ve ever come in contact with and then all images and words fade and for a few seconds, I AM.
On the days where resistance is strong and I can’t get past it, I’ve learned to succumb to it. Resistance is fear of awakening. To our ego, oneness with God is equivalent to death, so instead of fighting resistance, which would only make it real, (anything we think we have to fight has to be real,) I just forgive it. “I must not want to experience the Love of God today,” I tell myself and just stop there. Other days, it seems natural to want to let go and I do.
Practicing True Prayer changed everything. As I became more in touch with His presence in me, the urge to look at my back gave way to a trusting feeling of peace. I didn't look because I was no longer attached to having a particular result. On occasion, I would notice the cyst, but it didn’t seem as important anymore. If I had to live with it for the rest of my life (or as bizarre as this may seem, if it killed my body,) it didn't matter too much. My peace came from myself and not from my body.

Jan 5, 2008

Living on Purpose - the ego's or the Holy Spirit's?

With all four kids home on Christmas break, I’ve been neglecting to take the time to start the day right. I don’t follow a strict routine; but I usually read a few pages from the Text; write in my journal, or listen to a Course CD and most importantly, I set my intention to stay “on Course” or on purpose throughout the day.

My purpose is to use every situation that arises as a means of finding peace. On the Text p. 366:5,2 we find that: “If [a] situation is used for truth and sanity, its outcome must be peace.”

By not readying my thought as I usually do, I noticed myself gradually getting off track. The ego’s voice seemed louder in my mind and it didn’t feel good. Finally, last Wednesday I woke up feeling mildly depressed and under the weather. Instead of handling it right away, I got busy with my day. By the evening I was feeling depressed, feverish, and I had a headache.

I have been helping my son review his college applications for the last couple of weeks. For one of his essays he had to write about an intellectual idea he found engaging. He wrote that our perception or misperception of a situation shapes our reality. He argued that it’s not the situation itself that determines our mood: we unconsciously chose our mood first and then go through the day interpreting situations in a way which confirm the way we feel.

The Course takes this concept a step further. It proposes that we experience the world according to the purpose or goal we have chosen. The Text, p. 367:5,8, says: “…the ego believes the situation brings the experience. The Holy Spirit knows that the situation is as the goal determines, and is experienced according to the goal.”

When we identify with the ego, every situation in our day serves to reaffirm the ego’s purpose of separation. Through its lens, we interpret situations in a way that makes us feel guilty, victimized, fearful, weak, or separate -- all feelings which make our separated selves seem real.

Last Wednesday I must have decided early on to identify myself with the ego. Having unconsciously chosen to see through ego’s eyes, I allowed myself to succumb to its purpose resulting in my experiencing a pretty miserable day.

In the morning I played tennis and as soon as I missed a few easy shots I couldn’t enjoy myself any longer. Usually, if I miss, I review the shot and adjust or laugh at myself and enjoy the exercise, but because I was operating strictly as an ego and the ego is one hundred percent attached to results, if I couldn’t win, I couldn’t have fun. My playing got worse and worse and by the end of the game I felt like a failure.

Back at home, I went outside and noticed that the gardener hadn’t planted the flowers the way I wanted them. What on a regular day would have seemed like a simple mistake, easily corrected, now seemed like a personal affront. The situation made me unreasonably upset.

My frustration escalated as the day went on culminating with my logging on to my Feedburner stats that evening to look at traffic for this blog. It showed only about one third of the usual traffic. Usually, the stats don't affect me at all. I look at them more out of curiosity. It's fun to see hits from all over the country and the world. My sense of fulfillment comes when I write as an expression of my connecting with my right mind, but because I was looking at them with my ego, and as separated beings we crave approval and confirmation, I was totally depressed.

Eventually, before bed, after indulging in a whole day of ego identification, I decided it was time to snap out of the tantrum. By then I felt physically and mentally ill.

I began by remembering why I’m here. My purpose is “to listen to One voice.” That phrase symbolizes my desire to go through my day allowing the Holy Spirit’s interpretation of every situation to shine in my mind so that no matter what my eyes see; I may experience the Peace of God.

I opened the Text on page 443:8,6 and read: “…hallucinations serve a purpose, and when that purpose is no longer held they disappear. Therefore, the question is never whether you want them, but always, do you want the purpose they serve?”

I was able to recognize that my depressed state of mind and my feeling weak and feverish, served the ego’s purpose well, as did every negative feeling I had experienced during the day. These negative feelings confirmed my identity as a separated self; a being, forever vanished from the experience of the love of God. As long as I perceived myself as a body, I was safe from the love of God – and that is the ego’s goal.

I continued to read (Text p. 443:9) “Only two purposes are possible. And one is sin, the other is holiness. Nothing is in between, and which you choose determines what you see. For what you see is merely how you elect to meet your goal. “

I invited the Holy Spirit to review the day with me. Seeing each situation through His purpose, I saw how silly my reactions had been. I saw how in every case, I had judged myself as an ego, a ‘self-made’ being I call Aileen. While I’m temporarily choosing to cling on to this self, it remains nothing more than a hallucination.

All my feelings of frustration, anger, and disappointment were directly related to my having chosen to serve the ego’s purpose. Choosing the Holy Spirit’s purpose, what I think of as my life can be a means to discover my True Identity.

In quiet, I allowed the words to sink in. One by one I placed each one of my needs, my desires and attachments at His altar and allowed His love to shine through all pain, doubt and frustration until I felt free and fell peacefully asleep .

Jan 1, 2008


Happy New Year! I was thinking about New Year's resolutions this morning. I was going to write about that and then, looking through Byron Katie’s site I found her response to a question from a reader. This summed up my feelings about New Year's resolutions.

dear katie,
have you realised the self?
love, g

Dearest G,
No one can realize the self. And what self would that be? No one exists or can exist to realize the self without defining the self that it realized, or the self that has realized the “it” that it believes itself to be. The I-know mind that would say, “Yes, I have realized the self” is in that moment stuck in its limitedness yet again.

Look at these statements, angel, look closely, be with them in many ways and then be with them differently again, if it is peace that interests you. The “self” is just one more concept, one more identity the mind would cling to (and that’s okay). What I experience is that I’m free (until I’m not).


I sat with this for a long while. Try it, see what happens.

More later…..