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)