Nov 28, 2009

Notes from Ken Wapnick’s S-11 Workshop “Anger is a game children play” November 8, 2009

I attended this workshop a few weeks ago at the Foundation for A Course in Miracles in Temecula, California. What I transcribed is only less than half of the first hour and a half. It was incredibly difficult to condense this workshop and I apologize in advance because the only way to really do it justice would be to print the whole thing. I hope you will visit where you will find a huge amount of material compiled from Ken's writings and lectures.

The title is taken from the latter part of the text. The ego is a game that children's play. At the end of the section "What is sin?" in Part II of the Workbook, Jesus says, "Shall we not put away these sharp-edged children's toys?" (W-P-II.4.5:1,2) . It's very helpful to see that the ego-thought system is a game and the defenses that the ego employs are simply toys. Sin, guilt, attack, pain… are all aspects of special relationships.

What has kept the ego going for billions of years is that we take it seriously. The text says that, "Into eternity, where all is one, there crept a tiny, mad idea, at which the Son of God remembered not to laugh." (T-27.VIII.6:2) We all remembered not to laugh at the tiny mad idea that we are separate from our Creator and our Source. We took it seriously. The seriousness with which we took it led to "its accomplishment and real effects." The accomplishment is that the ego thought system actually happened, the separation from God is now a fact, and we are separated from our Source and what seemed to be the real effects, is this world. The whole universe, the entire Cosmos is the effect, not of the tiny mad idea of being separate, but taking the tiny mad idea seriously.

By using the symbols of the toys and the metaphor that all these are games that we play, what Jesus is trying to do, is have us not take the ego thought system seriously. We take our body seriously; we take the body of our loved ones seriously. Within the dream bodies should be taken seriously, pain is not a laughing matter within the dream, but outside the dream it's a silly game, a toy.

Our experience is like that of children playing in a sandbox. The problem is that you are playing with all the little kiddies and you're throwing sand at each other's faces. All you have to do is stand up and the sand will never reach your eyes. The problem is not what the little kids are doing; the problem is you think you're one of them. All you have to do is stand up. That is the key to being defenseless which is the key to forgiveness. You can't be forgiving if you feel you've been attacked. You can only be defenseless when you realize no one is doing anything to you.

What we are asked to do in this Course is stand up in the sandbox with Jesus so we can be spiritual adults.

What does it mean when we get angry? Why is anger a children's toy? Anger says I've been hurt by the sand thrown in my face. So now I'm justified in getting angry. Anger is a way of pointing an accusing finger that says that you deserve to be punished for what you've done to me. Jesus tells us in the text that "Anger is never justified. " He doesn't say not to be angry. You can't be in a body without getting angry. He tells us that the reason there is sand in your face is because you stooped down to play with the kiddies. You forgot this is a game children play.

There is always a reason why we stoop down and play with the children in our lives. We do it so we can blame our misfortune of them. Anger is a lethal game as long as you think you're in the sandbox. It's a silly game if you stand up and realize you're not part of it.

Using the language of the course, standing up in the sandbox, means I'm above the battleground with Jesus, realizing I'm a mind and not a body. Playing in the sandbox is identifying with the body, living in the world as if there were a world, as if my survival depended on what my body does and not accepting responsibility for crawling around the sandbox. The problem is not what these children did to me, but what I did to me. Nobody dragged me down into the sandbox. I willingly went down. The Course helps us recognize why we go down; why we choose to play.

We don't want to be told that our lives are not important and that God and Jesus don't know about us. We want them to be a personal physical psychological self that we call by name that is real and therefore is serious. We don't want to be told that Jesus is only a thought in the mind that represents a thought that we are. We don't want to be thoughts, we want to be bodies. And we want the body to be taken very seriously. That is why we made bodies, with an elaborate sensory system. We made them with pain receptors, not only physical but psychological. Pain screeches: the body is real, my ego is real and I should be taken very seriously.

We all know to bodies pain is very serious, but that doesn't make it real. It makes it seemingly real within the dream. We forget that the purpose of this Course, is to lead us along so we one day awaken from the dream; not to live more happily, not to live pain-free as bodies within the dream. That will get you nowhere. It will get you somewhere, but within the dream, it won't get you out of the dream. The ultimate purpose of this course is to lead you outside the dream.

When we are asleep at night and we dream, we think the characters in the dream are real people and we respond to them as if they were real people. When we awaken, we recognize that the dream figures are symbols; they are representations of thoughts. They are not real. Nothing happened in my bedroom last night when I was dreaming. It's a dream; a dream that we take very seriously.

We take everything very seriously. We let it get to us, we let it affect us, disturb us. We let it make us happy, give us pleasure, bring us pain. We are always running back to Jesus saying "look, this world is not an illusion. Look at the pain, the suffering, look what's going on in the world. Look at the torture, the war, and the natural occurrences that wreck such havoc in people's lives. Don't tell me this world is an illusion." We are all doing that. Every time we take any aspect of our life or anyone else's life seriously.

A line in CH 27, discusses the way out of suffering: "All that is needed is you look upon the problem as it is, and not the way that you have set it up." (T-27.VII.2:2) You don't have to change anything. You don't have to judge what you do; just look at it. Look at the seriousness with which we approach our lives and other people's lives.

What if you recognized this world is an hallucination? What if you really understood you made it up? The you, is not the person sitting in this room. The you, is the decision making mind, the dreamer, the author of your script. If you knew this world was an hallucination, would you take it seriously? How could you take it seriously unless you were psychotic?

Jesus' problem is that he is dealing with psychotic boys and girls who do not want to set free their hallucinations. That's why we ask him to fix things for us. We ask him to fix our broken relationships, our cars, our jobs. We tell him there is a problem in the Middle East. Fix it for us! We ask him to join in our psychotic delusion.

We believe there is a world that has to be saved; a body that has to be healed and we miss the whole point of this Course. What if we recognized this world as an hallucination? That is the question we should ask ourselves all the time. When you look in your bathroom mirror you are looking at an hallucination; a projection of the delusional thought that says that the tiny mad idea not only happened, but is a serious event.

This Course is not asking you to deny your experience in this world: physical or psychological. But it is asking you not to take it seriously. Hallucinations disappear when they are recognized for what they are. This is the healing and the remedy; recognize them for what they are. Look at the problem as it is and not as you set it up. The problem is not what your eyes see; not what you experience, but that you believe in it. It's your belief that's the problem.

The problem is not what the kiddies do with the sand they are throwing at you, but that you believe there is something is going on and you stoop down to play in it. The problem is not the ego thought system, or the tiny mad idea of being separate from God. The problem is not the whole Universe that arose from that tiny mad idea. The problem is we believe it. They are hallucinations that are the projections of a delusional thought system that says the tiny mad idea is real and serious and I am the effect of that reality and that seriousness.

I believe that as long as I can persuade God, the Holy Spirit or Jesus to join me in my hallucination I'm fine. That is why people love to ask Jesus for help. And we think they are doing a noble, spiritual, wonderful think and what we are doing is perpetuating a thought system that never happened. The real Jesus, as a symbol of the purity of right minded thinking, is the Atonement thought that says nothing happened so nothing has to be done. Just learn to smile at the seriousness with which you approach life.

And all you need to do is recognize that you did this. The you is not the you that is reading this book ; not the person you call yourself. The you, is your decision making mind.

If all this is an hallucination, why would Jesus address an hallucination? Unless he shared in your delusional thinking, in which case, he is of no use to you. The Jesus of the Gospels shares in the delusional thinking that wrote it. Please don't confuse the Jesus of the gospels, or the Jesus of the Christian tradition with the Jesus of this Course. The Jesus of this course is a symbol. It never existed because we never existed.

The Jesus you want to relate to is a living symbol of the love that is in your mind. So when you grow up you realize that there is no Jesus and there is no you. It's the top of the ladder which is a metaphor for the journey. At the top of the ladder there is no individual self. Jesus is a very important and helpful symbol that will help you get to the top of the ladder. But if you keep insisting he's real, and you keep insisting you are real, you'll never make it to the top, which is what the ego wants.

All you need do is recognize that you did this. Once you accept the simple fact and take onto yourself the power you gave away, you are release from it.

Lesson 132 is one of the most important lessons in the Workbook: "I loose the world from all I thought it was." It's in that lesson that we find the line "There is no world! This is the central thought the course attempt to teach." If you truly want to solve the problems of the world; If you truly want to be helpful to the people you love, you must recognize that there is no world. Without these underlying metaphysics, you do not have A Course in Miracles.

If you think Jesus wrote A Course in Miracles, then you don't understand symbols. Our collective right mind wrote this book, but because we think we are individuals, we have a mythology of a person named Helen, a person named Bill, a person named Jesus and the whole story. This doesn't mean that the story is not true in the dream, but it's a dream. We're not ready to understand the reality beyond the dream. So we need symbols. We need the indirect learning that chapter 14 talks about. We need the indirect learning until we are ready for the direct learning which happens at the very end. The direct learning is that there is no world. There is no body, there is no wrong mind; it's all made up. That's the acceptance of the Atonement. The Atonement is the Course's principle that says the separation from God never happened. We need to accept the Atonement for ourselves. That is our purpose in being here, that is saying there is no world that affects me. Before I can truly know that the world is really an hallucination coming from a delusional thought system, I still identify as a body, but now I can identify as a body that knows it can't be hurt by anyone outside.

Yes, my body can be hurt, but I now realize I'm a mind. I'm a dreamer dreaming a dream in which my body is hurt by someone else or something else. Whether it's a microorganism or another human being. Bodies can be hurt; bodies can be killed. Bodies can be tortured, but it's the thought you want to correct. If you really want to help people, you can't help them by being part of the problem that you are trying to help them escape from.

Once you accept the simple fact that we did this, the beginning of Chapter 27 says "The secret to salvation is this, that you are doing this unto yourself," you are released. Even if you are not yet ready to truly accept that you are not even here, you can begin the process of indirect learning of not giving power to what has no power.

Purpose is the single most important theme in this course. Once you understand purpose you understand why you are here and why you react the way you do. "Only two purposes are possible. And one is sin, the other 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. " (T-20.VIII.9:1-4)

What is your goal? What is your purpose? If your purpose is to remain within the dream, to remain a special individual, with special talents, special suffering, abilities, special inadequacies, then you adjust everything in your world to meet that goal. And that goal is very serious.

In this Course Jesus is knocking gently in our minds saying: what you are upset about is not there; it's a projection of your guilt of your having chosen the wrong teacher. Of having chosen the ego instead of me. That's all it is. No matter what the form of our distress or problem, his loving presence is the symbol of our healed right mind that is saying that this is not the case. The secret of salvation is this that you doing this unto yourself. All you need to recognize is that you did this. Look at the problem as it is and not the way you set it up.

Play with your children's toys, just don't think they are reality. Don't' think that anything you do that involves your body is a spiritual activity. It's not. The only spiritual activity possible in this world is forgiveness.

Once you accept this simple fact and take unto yourself the power you gave the world; the power you gave a virus, bacteria, a government, a person at work, a person in your family, the weather. Once you take the power back, you are released from all the pain. The pain does not come from anything external. There is nothing external. How could it give you pain? Pain comes from your belief there is something external, form the belief that you are something external i.e.; a body.

It's very helpful to understand our resistance. The way to make progress in this course is to recognize our resistance to it without beating ourselves up for it. I do not want to let go of who I am and my specialness. That doesn't make you a bad person. Recognizing that gives you an A+ for the day. I want a happier dream on my terms not on the courses' terms. Recognizing that without judgment is very helpful.

We want to be in control of our life and of this course so that it says what we want it to say. Instead of our going to where it is, we bring it down to where we are. It's very helpful to be aware of that need to bring this Course to our level rather for us to go into its level.



Oct 17, 2009

The ego’s sense of ‘self’ and the need to defend

"You're a liar. You say one thing and then you say the opposite to someone else. You are the biggest fake," she says to me.

My reaction is instantaneous. Outrage. I feel misunderstood and I notice the strong 'need' to defend myself. I'm not a liar! I want to say. It's actually just the opposite. I may not be consistent in form (what I do and say) but that's because I try to act consistently with the content of my mind. Whenever I'm conscious, I try to respond from a loving space. Love inspires you to say what is most helpful and sometimes the most loving thing to do is to talk in their language and at their level; even if that means that what you're saying is not necessarily what you would believe.

I want to correct her, but I don't speak just yet. I pause instead.

I remember this section in ACIM:

When you correct a brother, you are telling him that he is wrong. He may be making no sense at the time, and it is certain that, if he is speaking from the ego, he will not be making sense. But your task is still to tell him he is right. You do not tell him this verbally, if he is speaking foolishly. He needs correction at another level, because his error is at another level. He is still right, because he is a Son of God. His ego is always wrong, no matter what it says or does. T-9.III.4:2-10

I realize that the goal of this interaction with my daughter is to tell her she is right, not necessarily verbally, but mentally. I remind myself that the goal of communication is never what is being said! The purpose of any conversation is either to join or to separate; to reinforce the dream of separation or to undo it. If you talk with your ego you will be unconsciously seeking separation. The opposition that you feel will be telling them they are wrong and you will be reinforcing the differences between you. It won't matter what you actually say, even if your words sound patient and loving, mentally, you will be telling them that they are wrong.

If I respond to my daughter out of a desire to correct her image of me, I will be doing it as an ego. This doesn't mean that I should never explain to her the way I think and act; it just means that I can't do it out of a 'need' to defend my 'self'.

As egos, our goal is to develop and protect our sense of self. We depend on our self-concept because as long as we believe we are unique separated selves, we remain safe from the knowledge of who we are in reality. The ego's strategy is to keep us focused on the question "Who am I?" As long as we look for the answer in the world; in what we look like, what we do, what religion we practice, what language we speak, who our friends are; we are effectively hidden from the knowledge that we are not a body, but one with our Source.

I see that my daughter's claim about me is just a temptation to react in a way that will reaffirm my identity as my separated self. But the situation has the potential to be an opportunity to release myself from my identification with the ego. The choice is mine. The ego's knee jerk reaction is to oppose and protect my 'self', my group, my country, my beliefs, my version of A Course in Miracles, or whatever it is that defines me as different.

But if I am able to just notice what is going on; if I can see the ego's purpose in every interaction, then I can do something about it. The truth is that I'm being played by my own hidden desire to remain separate. I'm not really upset because of my daughter's accusation. I'm upset because I believe I'm an ego that needs to maintain its sense of individuality by opposing everything and everyone.

Having identified the ego's purpose for this interaction with my daughter, I am free to choose again. As I notice my desire to oppose her, the interaction becomes a classroom in which the goal is to learn that I am a mind and not a body. As I join with the forgiving part of my mind, the opposition melts away. The desire to protect my 'self' disappears because I'm no longer identifying myself with the body who has an ego that needs to protect itself.

Through forgiving eyes, I realize her accusation is true. I search my mind and in less than five seconds, I find several examples in my life where Aileen has lied, or been inconsistent. Now that the desire to protect my ego has dissolved, I can wholeheartedly agree with my daughter.

"You're right, honey," I say. "I'm trying to be consistent, but it doesn't always work."

Her face fills with understanding.

There is such freedom in releasing myself, even for a moment, from a limited, defined sense of "self!" All that energy spent in defense and opposition is released and I feel light, happier. I remember that phrase from the Course "Do you prefer that you be right or happy?" and I definitely prefer to be wrong and "happy."


Sep 13, 2009

Notes from Ken Wapnick’s S-9 Workshop “A Qualified Entente” September 12, 2009

I was at the Foundation for A Course in Miracles yesterday for a workshop and I thought I would share my notes with you.

The title, "a qualified entente" comes from the section entitled "The Closing of the Gap," at the beginning of Chapter 29 in the Text.

The word "Entente," comes from the French and means agreement. Ententes are unofficial treaties. It's a limited agreement we make with each other to limit love within the special love relationship.

Formal religions make an agreement with God. It's a way of telling God I will love you sometimes and express my love in certain ways.

One thing that is very clear in this section (T-29.I.) is the distinction between mind and body. We don't give God our total mind, we give Him our bodies. We tell him we will love Him by keeping his commandments, but if we don't, he is entitled to punish us. This is why we think love is fearful and we don't trust it.

The very fact that we're in this world in a body is telling God "I don't love you," because the body was made as a limitation on love. The world where the body inhabits was made as a limitation on God.

This section also makes clear that in the back of everything we do as a body, is a fear of losing our self – our individual, unique, special, autonomous self - also called the ego. The ego is the belief that we are on our own, self-created instead of God-created.

In "The fear of redemption" section in Chapter 14 Jesus says you are not afraid of crucifixion, your terror is of redemption. Because if you let God in then you and the world you made would disappear. In the presence of Love there is no "I'; no self. This is the self that we cherish and protect by being in a body.

The body is the embodiment of the thought of separation. The body is the proof that we are separate. The body screams to God "I hate you".

If we found God and expressed our love to him, if we let go of our ego, our self would be lost. When we limit the love, we keep something to ourselves. We're always withholding something and we are not realizing the hate.

How many people can read this Course with the full awareness that they are not bodies? That is the qualified entente we make with the Course. I will study the Course, but I will never give up the fact that it is "I" am the one who is reading and practicing this Course.

That's what we do with God and ACIM. Jesus doesn't ask us to let go of our sense of self, but be honest about it. Jesus tells us not to hide anything from him. Don't hide your ego from him, just be honest about it. That is the only way you will eventually learn to let it go.

It's very helpful to realize that you have forged a qualified entente with Jesus and this Course, just as Christians, Jews and Muslims have done for millenniums.

There is a reference to this in CH 28, the "secret vows" that we make with each other. We make a pledge to make sickness and the body real. We are all doing the same thing with each other, hell-bent on preserving this individual self.

We meet in order to separate. We meet not to join and remember we are, first all the same, and then One, but we meet in order to separate.

I want to learn this Course as a body. I want to distort it so Jesus knows my body is here and he answers me in a very specific voice; the voice of the person that the Bible says lived 2100 years ago. He is telling me what I should do. What job I should take, what relationship I should enter, what I should do and say? And we actually think that is what this course is saying!

The course has us recognize that the body is literally nothing. What makes us so afraid in this Course is not God's love – because this is not a Course in God's love – what makes us so afraid is that the body is nothing.

This Course will help us find God by helping us to undo all the other places that we look for Him. But we are terrified of losing the self, so this qualified entente with A Course in Miracles is that I want to learn it as long as I can retain my sense of "I."

I want to keep the dream figure real, when the whole function of the Miracle is to get us back to the dreamer, which is the mind. That is what the Workbook lesson means, "God is in everything I see because God is in my mind."

The memory of God is in my mind. The purpose of God, which is forgiveness, is in my mind. So we all walk around with this right minded thought of Atonement that would remind us who we are, at which point the world would dissolve into nothingness. So I do everything possible to avoid getting back in touch with that right minded thought of Atonement. We all have subscribed to the ego's strategy.

We first make a wrong minded thought system that says separation is real and the Atonement is a lie that conceals the right mind. And then we make a world to conceal the wrong mind, which means we become mindless. If I am mindless, it's because I'm in a body.

It's all about making the body real. T-29.I.4:3 "It is the symbol (the gap that the body represents) of a promise made to meet when you prefer, and separate till you and he elect to meet again." It's always a promise with each other to uphold the body's secret vow, that the separation is alive and well. I reinforce that for you and you do it for me, and it doesn't matter if we do it in what the world calls love or in hate. Either way, there is still a body.

T-29.I.3:9 says "Thus you and your brother but shared a qualified entente, in which a clause of separation was a point you both agreed to keep intact."

In our contract with each other, that clause is real, and bodies are what prove that the separation is real.

This is why we hate this Course. And anybody who says they love this Course is a liar. You hate it because it violates the treaty. Why do people love the Bible or love to hate it? Because it does not violate the treaty. It says the body is real.

That's why nobody likes this Course as it is. What they like is when they change it, so it reads the way they want it to read. This is not about having a happier body. This is not about living more happily or peacefully in the dream. The Course's term the "happy dream," does not mean living in this dream as a body. The term happy dream comes from being a "happy learner," when you learn the Holy Spirit 's lessons of forgiveness. That's what makes you a happy learner. It has nothing to do with the state of your body or what goes on in your life.

You must really recognize that this Course violates the treaty. The Jesus who lives in your mind violates the treaty. How could you love Him them? He is betraying the sacred trust you put in him to uphold your body and individuality.

What are you? If you think you are a body, you are a projection of the thought system of separation. When you recognize that there is something very wrong with that identification, then your body becomes a classroom. It is still an illusion, but now its purpose is changed. Instead of being a limitation on love, it becomes a way of unlearning the thought that is a limitation on love. That's why Jesus tells us that the body is neutral. "My body is a wholly neutral thing," the lesson says. It can either be seen as a limitation on love or as a way of unlearning the limitation on love. At that point it is neutral.

What would really help is if you don't take yourself and the world so seriously. What are you defending? What are you upset about? What are you planning for? What are you protecting?

You want to use your body and your experiences here as a way to get back to your mind. That is meaningful. Otherwise, there is no hope. So what the ego tells us is a violation of the treaty - a violation that has to be punished - is merely a recognition that there is no treaty. There is no clause, nothing can be violated when nothing exists. What are you violating? You are violating an illusion.

But to the extent that we identify as a body; to that extent, we will defend this experience. And we will go so far in defending this experience as a person, as to change what this Course says. Rather than grow into where this Course is leading us, we bring this Course where we are. And we think this is ACIM.

Jesus tells us to take little steps. Practice. You have to re-train your mind because the fear is so great. It is terrifying to be told that you are not here.

We are terrified of being found, so we hide. So in order not to be found, we make up a body and a world in which we can hide.

In the Course, purpose is everything. It doesn't matter if I use my body to feel pleasure or pain. It makes the body real. That is the purpose. That is what keeps me from being found.

You can't grow up as a body. You have to grow beyond the body. The way you know you are making progress in this Course is when you cross one rung of the ladder. Beneath that rung is your experience as a body. Above that rung is when you finally recognize that the 'you' that Jesus addresses in the Course is not the you you see in the bathroom mirror. He's talking about the decision making mind. When you realize that's what he is talking about, you begin to read this Course differently. It's not about bodies.

Sep 8, 2009

Withdrawing support from the dream

I usually shop for vegetables at a market that sells local vegetables at a very reasonable price, but in a hurry the other day; I ended up in a regular chain supermarket. Looking for fruit and vegetables I came upon my favorite tomatoes in the vine which I usually buy for 99 cents a pound, but to my surprise and outrage they were $2.99 a pound! Five feet to the right I saw pineapples for $1.39 a pound. I weighed one of them on the scale and calculated that each pineapple was at least $6.70; more than double of what I usually pay. The half gallon of organic milk that I pay $3 dollars for was $3.89 and so on and so forth….

As I walk up and down the aisles picking up what I need, there is a part of my mind that is noticing every opposing thought and laughing. I notice my mind throwing a mini tantrum over the quality of the produce, the prices, the layout of the store; almost everything about being in this store at this moment seems wrong. All these conflicting thoughts seem magnified and I realize how little it takes for a mind to react. I don't need the big issues like health care reform, or the war to get me going – an afternoon shopping trip at the 'wrong' store will do.

The practice of A Course in Miracles encourages us to watch our mind for all the little reactions. These reactions, or grievances, are what stand in the way of our experience of perfect Love and by noticing them we take away their power over us. That part of our mind that observes as the ego reacts to the world is our right mind. The right mind holds the memory of our true identity as one with God. Being in our right mind is watching ourselves react with the ego, but without judgment.

I am reading a book called "I Am That," about the teachings of Sri Nisgardatta Maharaj, an enlightened guru from India who lived in the 20th Century. He says that it's not by searching for truth that we awaken, but rather by understanding ourselves, or the ego we think we are.

He says: "What you are, you already are. By knowing what you are not, you are free of it and remain in your natural state," p. 26. And, "Study the prison you have built around yourself by inadvertence. By knowing what you are not, you come to know your Self," p.5.

The prison walls, which are made of judgment, fear, and even our most subtle opposition to what is, begin to crumble as we notice the ego's purpose operating within our mind. The ego's existence depends on our believing that the dream is real. It's by our reacting to the dream that we keep it real. So it's our not reacting, or for a while consistently watching ourselves react without judgment that undoes the ego and the "tiny mad idea" that according to the mythology of A Course in Miracles is the cause of the separation.

The Course says that "Into eternity, where all is one, there crept a tiny, mad idea, at which the Son of God remembered not to laugh." (T-27.VIII.6:2)

The tiny mad idea is the impossible claim that separation, time, and space can take the place of perfect Oneness. It's the suggestion that an illusory world, however convincingly serious, can take away our peace. It's what's behind the outrage over the price of tomatoes, the grief over the loss of something we cherish, or the belief that we are all different from each other. All reactions to the dream keep us equally focused on the world and make it real for us. The Text says it's the Son of God's reaction to the tiny mad idea - his taking it seriously -that gave birth to the thought of separation that caused the world as we experience it.

In his forgetting (to laugh) did the thought become a serious idea, and possible of both accomplishment and real effects. (T-27.VIII.6:3)

In my early days of studying the Course, I often felt trapped. I understood intellectually that this existence is just a dream, but I didn't know what to do about it. I imagined the tiny mad idea happening a long time ago and I thought of myself as suffering the effects of a choice I had no control over. But it's our present choice to accept and reinforce the thought system of separation that keeps it real. Every time we mentally oppose a thought, a person, a feeling, or a situation, what we are inadvertently doing is reenacting the moment when we took the tiny mad idea seriously.

Each reaction says the world is real because it can be the cause of our upset. If the world is capable of causing a reaction in us, it must mean it is real. Illusions can't cause real effects. The only way to undo the tiny mad idea is to laugh at it now. We laugh at it by looking at the world through the lens of the miracle which reminds us that there is no cause in the world. The images in front of us, however compelling and enticing, are not real and they can have no effect on us unless we give them power over us. A situation can affect our body, our financial situation, our property, but we it cannot take away our peace unless we identify with the dreamer in the dream. As the Chapter 27.II.7 says: "The miracle establishes you dream a dream, and that its content is not true."

It is important to understand that the forgiveness work that we do is always mental. It has nothing to do with the actions we take in the world. Not reacting doesn't necessarily mean that we don't react verbally or physically if we're attacked. What it means is that our focus is always in our own mind. We watch our ego involvement in every situation. We notice how much we want things to be different than they are and how much we believe that if things were different then we would be happy. We watch how when we feel anxious, our instinct is to leave our mind where the real solution is, and instead we put our full focus on changing people or situations so that we can regain our peace. For a while noticing is all we may be able to do.

As we become more aware of the ego in our mind we begin to see that it always responds with knee-jerk thoughts and reactions, but it's not who we are. We can watch it react all it wants with our right mind and still remain at peace. We don't have to attach ourselves to its drama. I like this quote from Sri Nasgardatta Majarah. He says: "My life is a succession of events, just like yours. Only I am detached and see the passing show as a passing you while you stick to things and move along with them," p.4.

The only way to begin to walk back up the ladder that separation led us down is to become conscious of how we support the dream in our daily lives. Watch your mind. Notice the thousands of reactions you have each day. Each one of them says the world is real. Through forgiveness we can begin to withdraw our support of the dream and increasingly, we will begin to see that the prison walls that seemed so solid, are nothing but a thin veil that cannot stand in the way of the Love and Peace that is our true nature.

What waits in perfect certainty beyond salvation is not our concern. For you have barely started to allow your first, uncertain steps to be directed up the ladder separation led you down. The miracle alone is your concern at present. Here is where we must begin. And having started, will the way be made serene and simple in the rising up to waking and the ending of the dream. When you accept a miracle, you do not add your dream of fear to one that is already being dreamed. Without support, the dream will fade away without effects. For it is your support that strengthens it. (T-28.III.1:1-7)


Jun 10, 2009

“…do not attempt to judge forgiveness, nor to set it in an earthly frame”

It is easy if not unavoidable to look at A Course in Miracles through the lens of another spirituality or religion. Just because the language seems familiar, we assume we know what it says. I spent many years straddling between two paths unaware that I was doing it. There's nothing wrong with that except that it's difficult to make progress, especially if the goal of the two paths is conflicting.

There is enormous resistance to the message of A Course in Miracles because its practice threatens the existence of the ego that we think we are. Practicing forgiveness as taught by the Course is asking the ego to choose a though system that will result in its undoing. From the ego's point of view, true forgiveness equals death. As egos we are consciously or unconsciously terrified of losing who we think we are, so as a defense we practice forgiveness in a way that looks like forgiveness, but instead of fulfilling its purpose which is to undo the separation, it reinforces it. This kind of forgiveness doesn't aim to heal the cause of separation. Instead, it makes the error real and reinforces our identification with our separated self.

The Song of Prayer supplement uses pretty strong language to describe this ego-centered practice of forgiveness. It calls it "forgiveness-to-destroy." It is forgiveness as interpreted or judged by our "earthly frame;" our body. This practice, while it may bring us some relief within the world, won't take us home. In fact, it will keep us firmly rooted in the dream of separation.

Forgiveness is the means for your escape. How pitiful it is to make of it the means for further slavery and pain. Within the world of opposites there is a way to use forgiveness for the goal of God, and find the peace He offers you. Take nothing else, or you have sought your death, and prayed for separation from your Self. (S-2.II.7:3-7 Bold mine)

Forgiveness-to-destroy has many forms, being a weapon of the world of form. Not all are obvious, and some are carefully concealed beneath what seems like charity. Yet all the forms that it may seem to take have but this single goal; their purpose is to separate and makes what God created equal, different. (S-2.II.1:1-3 Bold mine)

It is very easy to slip into forgiveness-to-destroy. We fall into the practice whenever we are afraid of God's perfect Love in which we cannot exist as individuals. The most obvious form of forgiveness-to-destroy is forgiveness as understood by the world. As bodies or egos, we believe there are other guilty bodies that have to be forgiven. We blame people for disturbing our peace and then decide to overlook their sin and forgive them. This kind of forgiveness does nothing to undo the separation. Instead of joining, it creates differences between ourselves and others by establishing that we are innocent and they are guilty. In contrast, true forgiveness shines a light in our mind that shows us that what we experience in the world is nothing but a senseless dream and that the only reason we are ever upset is because we believe that the dream is real and can have an effect on us.

The miracle establishes you dream a dream, and that its content is not true. (T-28.II.7)

Similar to Forgiveness-to-destroy, "false healing" or "healing-to-separate," makes the separation real and increases our identification with the ego. False healing is concerned with healing the body and not the mind that projects the body. The Song of Prayer says that healing, "… can be false as well as true; a witness to the power of the world or to the everlasting Love of God."

False healing merely makes a poor exchange of one illusion for a "nicer" one; a dream of sickness for a dream of health. This can occur at lower forms of prayer, combining with forgiveness kindly meant but not completely understood as yet…. False healing can indeed remove a form of pain and sickness. But the cause remains, and will not lack effects. (S-3.II.1:1-3,5)

We practice false healing whenever our intention is to heal or to change anything in the world. For something to need healing, it has to be real first. Having established that the body, the world or a situation we are in are real, we then use prayer, or the power of our mind to try to change the situation to what we think is better. Whether we want more money, success, a healthy body, peace in the world, our wanting establishes that there is an "I' that needs things to be different in the world in order to experience peace. Many spiritual paths use this approach. It has become very popular to use affirmations, repeat mantras or pray to God for solutions to our problems. There is nothing wrong with that and it may even work; our health may become better or we may demonstrate abundance, but what we are actually doing is trading one dream for another while we root ourselves further into the dream of separation.

In false healing, having established that we are separate, we then ask God or the Universe to help us or tell us what to do. Instead of taking our illusions up to Him and asking Him to dispel them, we define the problem from the point of view of our body; our 'earthly frame' and ask Him to validate it. What we are doing is asking Him to acknowledge the separation.

In contrast, within the practice of A Course in Miracles our focus is never on healing or changing anything. Instead of trying to manipulate effects; the body or the world, we deal with cause, which is only in the mind. As we notice lack of peace within ourselves, we realize that we must be believing the dream is real. So all we do is forgive so that the Peace of God is restored to our mind. Forgiveness shows us that we are the dreamer of the dream and that a dream can have no effect on us. This doesn't mean that at this level we have control over what we see. Our eyes may still see injustice, sickness, or a poor economy, but through the lens of forgiveness, we will not experience lack of peace.

A miracle is a correction. It does not create, nor really change at all. It merely looks on devastation, and reminds the mind that what it sees is false. W.pII.13.1:1-3

We undo the dream of separation by withdrawing our support to it. It's our reaction to the dream that makes it real. Our lack of peace says that there is cause in the world so it must be real.

Without a cause there can be no effects, and yet without effects there is no cause. The cause a cause is made by its effects; the Father is a Father by His Son. Effects do not create their cause, but they establish its causation. (T-28.II.1:1-3)

All spiritual paths serve a purpose. They meet us where we are at and we should not judge them. As we become less afraid, we begin to see A Course in Miracles for what it is and not through the lens of another spiritual path. We begin to read it from the point of view of the mind that can choose again, rather than the body. But while we experience ourselves as a body, we don't try to change our thoughts because that makes them and the ego real. Becoming aware of them is enough.

Very often I notice myself falling into old thought patterns. I notice forgiveness-to-destroy and healing-to-separate prevalent within my thinking. It's automatic for me to deny error, for example. And I can't help but affirm truth when I'm hurt. I feel pain and the thought "There is no pain in matter," shows up almost as fast as the pain. I see myself trying to manipulate my situation by exchanging limited thoughts about myself for unlimited ones. But there is a calm forgiving presence in my mind that just watches it happen and does nothing. By not reacting to what happens in our lives (I mean mentally!) what we are saying is that nothing is happening in reality and that we are still in perfect Love as One with Him.

Forgiveness… is still, and quietly does nothing. It offends no aspect of reality, nor seeks to twist it to appearances it likes. It merely looks, and waits, and judges not….. Do nothing, then, and let forgiveness show you what to do, through Him Who is your Guide, your Savior and Protector, strong in hope, and certain of your ultimate success. He has forgiven you already, for such is His function, given Him by God. Now must you share His function, and forgive whom He has saved, whose sinlessness He sees, and whom He honors as the Son of God. (W-pII.1.5,4)

Apr 13, 2009

Seeing with forgiving eyes

A friend shared this sweet poem about what it feels like to be seen through forgiving eyes. It really touched me, and I hope you find it helpful as well.

XOXO Aileen

To know
that I can sit
with you and that you
will hear my sorrow;
my excitement, self-
pity and fear;

To know
that you will lift
my most awful
delusions out
of my mouth and fold
them in a soft pile
by your side;

To know that even then,
you will still be looking
at me, seeing us,
with your forgiving eyes,
is worth everything.


Mar 15, 2009

Teaching and learning. What will you teach: Peace or Conflict?

A Course in Miracles makes it clear that we can't help but teach. Most of us don't teach in front of a group or classroom, or write books or make movies that teach, but whether we are aware of it or not, we always teach.

….teaching is a constant process; it goes on every moment of the day..... To teach is to demonstrate. There are only two thought systems, and you demonstrate that you believe one or the other is true all the time. From your demonstration others learn, and so do you…..Any situation must be to you a chance to teach others what you are, and what they are to you." (T-Intro.1.6;2.1)

What we teach -- the content of our lessons -- is who we think we are at any given moment, not what we say or what we do.

We may be teaching a child how to tie his shoe, or we may be giving directions to a stranger on the street, or we may be listening to a friend who is in need. In all three cases it appears as if the goal of the interaction is to help, or to convey some kind of information. At the level of the body, this is true. But at the level of mind, there is an underlying purpose to every interaction and that is to either teach peace or conflict; we either support the dream of separation or undo it.

When we identify with the right mind, which is the memory of our perfect oneness with God, we identify with Spirit and Love. As One, we can't help but teach the Peace of God. When we choose to identify ourselves with the ego, we believe we are separate bodies with individual personalities subject to pain and suffering. When we choose the ego, we can't help but judge. Judgment separates us from others. It creates hierarchies that stand in the way of our perception of Oneness. By judging others, even in our most casual conversations the ego actively seeks to reinforce the dream of separation.

Even at the level of the most casual encounter, it is possible for two people to lose sight of separate interests, if only for a moment. That moment is enough. Salvation has come. (M-3.2.6)

Whatever you teach; peace or conflict, you teach also to yourself because you are strengthening it by sharing it with others.

"Everything you teach you are learning. Teach only love, and learn that love is yours and you are love." (T-6.III.4.8)

We can't hope to be helpful to someone who is in pain while we are identifying ourselves with the ego. As egos we harm instead of heal. Instead of looking at the problem from 'above the battleground,' we identify with people's problems and make them real for them and for ourselves. Our most loving attempts at being helpful will fail because the underlying message we give them is that the world of separation is real and therefore their pain is justified.

The simplicity of this very basic message from the Course became clear to me about a year ago when an old friend called me late one night. We only speak a couple of times a year and it's usually when he is hurt and depressed. Stephen suffers from depression. He takes antidepressants which, as he describes, only take the edge off the pain, but help him stay alive.

As we began to chat, even though he did not say it right away, I could tell that he wasn't well. I've told him to call me when he feels he's at risk of killing himself. The feeling I had was that this was one of those nights where he was considering whether he should stay or go. When he gets into these episodes, the pain feels so intense and real, he sees suicide as the only way to end it.

Stephen's problem is that he feels alone. His relationships seem to fail over and over again and he is tired of feeling lonely. He looks at the world through a thick layer of pain and suffering and the world proves to him on a daily basis that love is not real, and that people are not dependable. He is convinced he will never be happy. Every time we chat he offers proof that suffering is real. He will tell you with a straight face, that if he found the right companion who loved him, life would be different for him and he would have a chance to be happy. His misery has become a part of his identity and he is not willing to let it go.

As I listen, a part of me would love to 'fix' him. I would like to share what I've learned over the last seventeen years of practicing A Course in Miracles. I would love to shake him up a bit and impress on him that his life is just a story that he is making up. I'd like to explain how his feelings come from his interpretations and not from what is actually happening in his life. I'd like to share with him that happiness comes from within and that no circumstances can bring him lasting joy and peace. And while I'm at it, I would love to teach him the forgiveness of A Course in Miracles because it would really turn his life around. More than anything, I would like him to know that he has a choice.

The problem is that the "I" that wants and needs so desperately to help Stephen stay alive, is my ego. Over our twenty year friendship, I have to admit that I have tried to throw hints at him. Of course nothing I say ever seems to help. Only now do I understand why. The ego is not capable of helping because masked behind sweet well-meaning words; the only gift it can offer is separation. Stephen is not happy because he feels separated. So how could I possibly be helpful if I mentally reinforce his dream of separation?

There is NOTHING wrong with helping people in need, or joining a cause, or whatever it is we feel inclined to do in the world to help others. The problem comes when, for example, we join a cause because we feel an investment to help. Through the ego's eyes, we must have decided first that the world is real, and that suffering is real. Real help is not possible from the standpoint of separation. While we may be helpful at the level of form, we won't be offering the only lasting kind of help, which is the help that withdraws identification from the dream of separation. As long as we help with the ego we will be doing what the Course calls 'forgiveness to destroy.' The only way we can help is by teaching peace to ourselves first and then extending it.

As I listened to Stephen a year ago, having noticed the subtle ego involvement in my listening, I somehow let it go. As I let go of my ego I become fully present with him. Because there is no movement in my mind, no need to be helpful, no chatter, I can actually hear what he's saying. He tells me about another failed relationship and of the pain he feels. But beyond the story, I hear a call for love. As judgment ceases the perfect love that is always there, becomes manifest. There are no reactions, no judgments, no comparisons, and no investments. His words pass through my mind unobstructed, as flour through a sifter. There is nothing real to hold on to. I see him as he is, without his story.

He tells me he's thinking about killing himself. I hear him say it, but there is no pain; no desire to keep him here because it's so clear that he is not that body. He is Love.

When I speak, the words are not measured or calculated to produce an effect. Love inspires the words and what comes out of my mouth feels natural. I ask him if he thinks killing himself will really end the pain. He doesn't know that, he says. What if it doesn't?

We talk for over an hour. I allow him to take the conversation where he wants to. My ego's agenda is not manipulating the conversation. Finally, he says that he feels good now. He's tired and should go to bed. "I really feel good," he repeats.

As we hang up I feel Joy. This is what the practice of this Course is about. I'm beginning to see what it means when it says that "my only function is to accept the Atonement for myself." It's not with words that we teach, it's not with hands that we heal. All we do is ask for help to see things as they are in reality and having made the choice for what is peaceful and permanent, we demonstrate that the Christ is real and that there is a real alternative to the dream of suffering.

When you accept a miracle, you do not add your dream of fear to one that is already being dreamed. Without support, the dream will fade away without effects. For it is your support that strengthens it. T-28.III.1.6


Mar 11, 2009

Becoming a symbol of love and peace

If you have 15 min watch this great short! Though this is not related to ACIM, it reminded me that by choosing our right mind, we can become a symbol of love and peace within the world.

Feb 10, 2009

Tennis and the choice for Peace

A few months ago, during a league doubles tennis match, the ladies I played against got angry at my partner for calling a ball out which they thought was clearly in. I also saw the ball land about five inches outside the line, so when they questioned me; I confirmed my partner's call. One of the women got even angrier and continued to make disparaging comments and accusations throughout the match. A part of me was focused on my own mental reaction. I always try to watch my mind as I listen to people because by my feelings I can tell if I'm responding to a situation with the ego or the right mind. If I feel upset in any way, that's a clear sign that I'm interpreting the situation with the ego.

As I watched my mind, surprisingly this time (I am not beyond reacting to one thing or another when I play tennis), all I felt was love and compassion because as Kenneth Wapnick quotes from (I think,) Plato, "we are all fighting a hard battle." The battle, of course, is with our own ego who works diligently at preserving our sense of individuality. (see: Be Kind for Everyone you Meet is Fighting a Hard Battle )

Seeing my opponents' anger, I recognized that they were no different than I am. Though at that moment they were angry and I was not, I certainly had the capacity to be angry. As long as we perceive ourselves as living in a body, we all feel the same pain and suffering associated with dealing with the ego's thought system of separation, guilt and attack. When we get angry at someone, all we are doing is acting according to the ego's plan, which involves projecting our anger onto others, so we can live the illusion that we are innocent and somebody else is responsible for our suffering. Anger is always the result of interpretation.

Perhaps it will be helpful to remember that no one can be angry at a fact. It is always an interpretation that gives rise to negative emotions, regardless of their seeming justification by what appears as facts (M-17.4:12) .

As I looked at these women and recognized that they were no different than me, it was easy to feel compassionate toward them. Their only mistake was that they had chosen to look at the situation through the ego's lens of separation.

By choosing not to react to their accusations, I was able to respond with kindness. My words, inspired by love, were unclouded by judgment or resentment. I experienced an amazing sense of freedom and peace as I talked with them. They eventually lost the match, but toward the end they had relaxed. They smiled more and they looked as if a weight had been lifted off their shoulders.

I've been listening to Ken Wapnick's workshops on tape about A Course in Miracles almost every day for the last three years. Through them, I'm beginning to see how simple the practice of A Course in Miracles can be. He often talks about how when we are faced with an attack, by our reaction, we either reinforce the attacker's choice for the ego and make the dream of separation real; or we undo the ego and its dream of separation by demonstrating that there is another way to look at the world.

When we react to an attack by feeling hurt, angry, or unfairly treated, by our pain, we send the message to the attacker that his attack must have been real because it had an effect on us. By suffering, physically or emotionally, we establish that the attacker is guilty of causing us harm and by doing so we reinforce his choice for the ego. Had I reacted to the angry woman with anger, even if my words had been civil, I would have mentally given her the message that her attack was real because it had an effect on me. If attack is possible, then separation must be real because one is against another.

When we don't react to an attack, by showing no signs of having been harmed, we tell people mentally, that their attack had no effect on us. That can only mean that in reality they have done nothing. Without the dark lens of blame clouding our vision, we are then able respond from a loving place, as if literally nothing has ever happened between us. Giving people the message that they are innocent is the most loving thing we can do. Not only will they be blessed, but the love that is extended through us will reflect back on us.

Within the practice of A Course in Miracles, every encounter is an opportunity to undo the dream of separation by demonstrating peace. We don't have to say a word. Even as we face the most vicious attack, simply by choosing not to suffer, we demonstrate that attack is impossible and therefore the separation never happened.

In Chapter 14 the section called "The Decision of guiltlessness," makes this point very clear:

Teach him, that, whatever he may try to do to you, your perfect freedom from the belief that you can be harmed shows him that he is guiltless. He can do nothing that can hurt you, and by refusing to allow him to think he can, you teach him that the Atonement, which you have accepted for yourself, is also his. There is nothing to forgive. No one can hurt the Son of God. (T-14. III. 7:3-6)

As I stood by the refreshment table after the tennis match to get a drink, the woman who had been the angriest during the match approached me and began to talk to me as if nothing had happened. She appeared to have completely forgotten her attacks on me. I listened to her, always keeping tabs on my own reactions, and soon, she was telling me about how difficult her relationship with her teenage son was and how stressed she was about it. She had learned through another player that I have three teenagers and she was asking me for advice. I sat with her for over a half hour and mostly listened. I saw clearly that her anxiety was caused by her unconscious choice to perceive the situation with the ego, but I didn't try to explain that to her. Instead, I comforted her in the simplest way. I knew that my own choice for peace was letting her know, louder than any words could, that there is an alternative to perceiving the world with the ego and that she could also make that choice.