Choose to forgive yourself

In A Course in Miracles, workbook lessons 61 (“I am the light of the world”), 62 (“Forgiveness is my function as the light of the world”), and 63 (“The light of the world brings peace to every mind through my forgiveness”) form a triad in Jesus’ mind training program. They could even be seen as a decidedly positive summary of the entire curriculum. Just to remind ourselves, let’s quickly revisit the central message of this trio.

First of all, “I am the light of the world” is true for everyone, since God has only one Son (i.e., all life combined, also called the Sonship). However, saying this, we immediately find ourselves bringing together (or, perhaps: confusing) the Course’s metaphysical level (I), and the Course’s practical everyday level (II) in the ‘waking dream’ we call the material world. Since everyone who experiences himself living in this dream world has the same split mind (wherein both the ego and the Holy Spirit reside), everyone both has and is the light of the world.

The thing is that almost nobody is consciously aware of this ‘inner light beyond time and space’. On the contrary, most of us walk this illusory world in a state of ego mindlessness, that is, “uncertain, lonely, and in constant fear” (T-31.VIII.7:1). So when we read lesson 61 from this state of “wrong-minded thinking”, the ego will exuberantly conclude that I apparently am the light of the world, and others are not. Needless to say, this is exactly the opposite of what Jesus is trying to make us see here. Since you and I and everyone else are exactly the same, at least on the level of the mindeveryone is the light of the world.

That’s why Jesus says about this message that it is simply a fact: “This, then, is merely a statement of the truth about yourself.” But he also reminds us: “It does not describe the self-concept you have made.” (W-pI.61.1:4) In other words, the challenge is that we have not accepted this truth about ourselves as yet. This is because we still do not want the separation healed, since we are still so intimately attached to our special individual little self. I may be plagued by pain and anxiety, but at least I exist as an autonomous individual. In this lesson, Jesus is saying that even though we still experience ourselves as separated, we can at least begin to consider the truth of what he is conveying here.

Lesson 62 adds the central concept of forgiveness to this message. Here, he again emphasizes the fact that our view of our separated self is an illusion of self. Just as our nightly dreams are populated by various characters, so is our ‘waking’ dream world populated with seemingly separated people and events that are no more real than our nightly dreams. Again, God has only one Son, our daily experience to the contrary. That’s why Jesus states: “Illusions about yourself and the world are one. That is why all forgiveness is a gift to yourself.” (W-pI.62.2:1-2).

We usually see forgiveness as a process from me to you. I forgive you for what I think you did, or failed to do. However, almost every Course student has learned that such thinking makes the original ontological error of separation real, since it presumes a ‘better’ person who may rightfully judge ‘lesser’ people. To the ego, this makes perfect sense; but if God has only one Son, this cannot be the case. Who, then, is there to forgive? And for what? Here, once again, we can easily mix up the metaphysical level (I) of the Course and the daily, practical level (II), and this unfortunately happens a lot.

On the metaphysical level, we are taught that time is already over; on level II we are mentally reviewing what seemingly happened long ago. All people and events I perceive are “outside pictures of the inward condition of [the ontological] separation” (T-21.in.1:5); a condition that can only be sustained through constant judgment and attack, which is what we do all the time. But since the thought of separation has not left the mind of the seemingly sleeping Son of God, all “evil” that we perceive outside merely symbolizes (represents) darkness in my own mind. Therefore, true forgiveness means forgiving myself for having chosen to be the host of dark thoughts. I chose this to be able to uphold the idea of separation from God; a separation which in reality never happened. How silly!

Lesson 63, then, describes the mechanism of the practical process of forgiveness in this illusory dream world of time and space. As we all know, it is not enough to stubbornly repeat to ourselves: “I have no dark thoughts anymore. I have no dark thoughts anymore. I have no dark thoughts anymore.” That’s like trying not to think of the color blue. As long as we still experience ourselves in the level II dream world of time and space, interacting with other people, we are invited to shift the purpose of the world. Instead of constantly finding opportunities to blame, judge, and attack, we can train the mind to constantly find opportunities to see the sameness in everyone and everything. Others then become symbols of the light, which we can then recognize in ourselves as well.

So we heal our own mind by ‘placing’ others in the timeless light of Love, seeing the sameness in everyone and everything, including ourselves. That’s why Jesus says: “How holy are you who have the power to bring peace to every mind! How blessed are you who can learn to recognize the means for letting this be done through you!” (W-pI.63.1:1-2). And that’s also why Jesus answers the question in the Manual for Teachers (M-12) about how many teachers are needed to save the world with: “One”, since we are all a seemingly splintered fragment of the one seemingly sleeping Son of God, Who is still One, even in the waking dream.

This does not mean, by the way, that the one you lovingly place in the timeless light of Love, will immediately accept that light. In fact, usually they don’t. This, however, is irrelevant because time really does not exist and everything that seems to happen in time is really happening now. The ego sees this as a reason not to keep up this practice: “If I place someone in the light of Love and he keeps being an asshole, what good is it?” However, as Jesus reminds us in, the effect of our forgiveness practice (“the miracle”) should not be our concern (T-18.V.2:4). We should not be worried about whether our forgiveness will be accepted by the other. The Holy Spirit sees to it by definition that the miracle reaches its ultimate destination in time and space. All we are asked is the “little willingness” to choose to see our brother as sinless. As Jesus concludes: “What purpose could you have that would bring you greater happiness?” (W-pI.63.1:3).

Even though the observable effects of our forgiveness practice should not be our concern, many can attest to situations wherein there clearly were observable effects. In my own workshops, several participants shared their forgiveness decision about very strained relationships, wherein they found that that particular relationship unmistakably improved in the weeks that followed. This illustrates Jesus’ statement that “The Son of God looks to you for his redemption” (W-pI.63.2:2), albeit unconsciously. We all yearn to be seen as innocent and worthy of the Love of God. This is exactly the message that we send out when we decide to forgive that person, even when we’re not in their vicinity. Simultaneously, we have cleaned yet another dark spot in our own mind, which is of course the essence.

As our motivation to master this Course is strengthened by our experience of inner peace whenever we truly forgive, so does our peaceful countenance inspire those who still hesitate to make the same choice. This way, “a strong chain of forgiveness is welded” (T-1.III.9:2). The goal of A course in Miracles, then, is to fuel our own willingness to keep practicing our function of total forgiveness, embracing everyone, until “no single dark spot remains to hide the Face of Christ from anyone” (T-31.VIII.12:5). Once we reach that point, we find in glad astonishment that we’re done with time, and where we used to fear we had to sacrifice everything for salvation, we happily conclude that we gave up nothing!

— Jan-Willem van Aalst

The value of gratitude

In a world which seems to totally spin out of control, where the ego rears its ugly head on a global scale such as we have never seen before in history, it may at times be hard to feel grateful for the fact that each and every lifeform is still an integral part of the One Son of God, that the Holy Spirit is always there to help us see people and events differently (i.e., from Jesus’ perspective of Love), and that a happy outcome of all things is guaranteed. It may be hard to feel grateful for the fact that even now we need not worry about a thing, while the dire consequences of the societal polarisation become so painful. Let’s review this concept from Jesus’ viewpoint in A Course in Miracles.

In this world, we usually feel grateful if we feel we are fortunate, particularly when we experience ourselves to be more fortunate than others. As we read in workbook lesson 195: “Gratitude is a lesson hard to learn for those who look upon the world amiss. The most that they can do is see themselves as better off than others. And they try to be content because another seems to suffer more than they.” (W-pI.195.1-3). The number of people that thank God — consciously or unconsciously — for having ‘saved’ them from an accident, a serious illness, or a natural catastrophe, are countless.

As scholar Kenneth Wapnick remarked, the popular saying “There but for the grace of God go I” is hardly a kind and loving thought. I am grateful I have been spared, even though you may not have been. I am grateful I don’t have cancer, while many others are not so fortunate. I got what I wanted, but quite possibly at the expense of others. In other words, our gratitude is usually based on comparisons and differences, and upon a sense of inequality of worth between myself and others. Needless to say, this is hardly the concept of gratitude that Jesus in A Course in Miracles would want us to embrace .

Workbook lesson 195 explains: “Your gratitude is due to Him alone Who made all cause of sorrow disappear throughout the world. […] You do not offer God your gratitude because your brother is more slave than you; nor could you sanely be enraged if he seems freer. Love makes no comparisons. And gratitude can only be sincere if it be joined to love.” (W-pI.195.1:7;4:1-3). In other words, we should be grateful to God and our brothers for the fact that in truth all life is one, and that the ‘tiny, mad idea’ of the ego and its world of separation and differences is not true, and never will be.

In chapter 2 of the text, Jesus tells us: “It should especially be noted that God has only one Son. If all His creations are His Sons, every one must be an integral part of the whole Sonship. The Sonship in its Oneness transcends the sum of its parts.” (T-2.VII.6:1-3). So once again we see why it’s so important to keep the metaphysics of A Course in Miracles  always in the back of your mind when you read it. Workbook lesson 195 thus emphasizes: “We thank our Father for one thing alone: that we are separate from no living thing, and therefore one with Him. […] Therefore give thanks, but in sincerity.” (W-pI.195.6:1;5:1). Certainly in this world this does not seem to be the case, which is why the Course refers to this world as a dream world (T27.VII.13).

To be sure, in this dream world you should not feel guilty over, for example, being healthy while others are perhaps not so fortunate at the moment. Also, it is not very loving and kind to dismiss other people’s suffering, by saying: “This is all illusory anyway. In truth all life is One, so I’m only going to focus on that, and not try to mend anything that isn’t real at all.” Such thinking would be what Kenneth Wapnick calls level confusion. The staggering metaphysics of A Course in Miracles do not imply that we do not pay attention to the world in our everyday lives. On the contrary, this world can be seen as a useful classroom in which we learn how we can allow the ego to be gently undone completely, with the help of the Holy Spirit.

When you and I accept our function of true forgiveness here in this dualistic dream world, we become a Teacher of God. This means that our kind and loving demeanor serves a gentle reminder to others that they, too, can make the same choice of the relinquishment of judgment, in the grateful realization that all life is one and the ego is a silly mistake. Once more from workbook lesson 195: “Let your gratitude make room for all who will escape with you: the sick, the weak, the needy and afraid, and those who mourn a seeming loss or feel apparent pain, who suffer cold or hunger, or who walk the way of hatred and the path of death. All these go with you. […] Then let our brothers lean their tired heads against our shoulders as they rest a while. We offer thanks for them. For if we can direct them to the peace that we would find, the way is opening at last to us.” (W-pI.195.5:2-3;7:1-2).

Now to be sure, it may at first be hard to feel gratitude when asked to see the sameness in yourself and, say, the leading politicians of the nation. Or in others who seem to be unkind to you and shut you out. Realize though, in gladness, that this is the great reconditioning of the mind that A Course in Miracles offers us; namely that from shifting form form (“he’s the president”, or ”crook”) to content (“he’s merely a mirror of some unforgiveness in my own mind, as there are no others”). The only reason that we find this difficult is, as we read in chapter 15 of the text: “You have little faith in yourself because you are unwilling to accept the fact that perfect love is in you.” (T-15.VI.2:1). My gratitude should therefore come from the realization that perfect love is not only within me, but within ‘all living things’, regardless of form, since life is one. We therefore have every reason to practice kindness during the day, no matter how vicious the society seems to become.

We conclude with the lovely message from workbook lesson 195: “Walk, then, in gratitude the way of love. For hatred is forgotten when we lay comparisons aside. […] Gratitude becomes the single thought we substitute for our insane perceptions [of separation]. God has cared for us, and calls us Son. […] What more remains as obstacles to peace?” (W-pI.8:1-2; 9:4-5;8:3). The grace of God is not just for me, but for everyone, without exception. All perceived attack I perceive around me is actually a distorted call for love, and this has only one correct answer: love, as guided by the Holy Spirit (Who may very well inspire you to lovingly say ”No” in particular situations…). Practice this realization often during the day, so that eventually you can sincerely answer the question what your prevailing state of mind is with one word: gratitude.

— Jan-Willem van Aalst

What a wonderful world

This evergreen by Louis Armstrong, initially released in 1967 and covered by many artists since, invites us all to look only at the good things in life, and focus on the inherent love that is our desire beneath our superficial daily doings. It is often sung at spiritual events as well, where it is used as an affirmation to remind us of the beauty of life that is there for all of us, but for the choosing. All the ‘bad’ things and people that subsequently seem to cross our path are then at least not our fault, and we can continue to feel blissful about our advanced spiritual focus.

In A Course in Miracles, this world we experience ourselves in is depicted quite differently, namely as “…a dry and dusty place, where starved and thirsty creatures come to die” (W.pII.13.5:1). That’s hardly a wonderful world! Moreover, the Course’s workbook starts out by letting us know that nothing here means anything. What!? A Course in Miracles is one of the very few spiritualities that offer such a shocking view on the world and the material universe, and it is completely consistent about this stance throughout. So how could this be, if the goal of the Course is to attain a lasting state of unshakable inner peace, in the awareness that all life is one, and all the hurts in the world are illusory? This sounds somewhat contradictory, to say the least.

The explanation, of course, lies in the metaphysics that are the rock on which its message rests securely. When we say we want lasting inner peace, we usually mean we would like to experience that as a good healthy individual ego. A Course in Miracles brings us the most uncomfortable message that the entire ego, yea individuality whatsoever, is completely illusory, and even more so, the entire phenomenal universe and all our senses that behold it as well. The Course more or less equates the material world with hell, and summarizes the combined aspects of time and space as a hallucinatory nightmare. Why? Because the material universe is nothing but the imagined effect of the thought of separation from Oneness (God). The body, then, is nothing but a pitiful attempt to hide from the supposed wrath of the Creator over this ‘savage sin’, by splitting up in billions of fragments that now seem to have a life of their own. Jesus, in summary, is telling us that our seemingly individual autonomous personalities really do not exist in truth.

Now before you head for a deep depression about Jesus’ message (which would again be an ego tactic), hold on, and bear with him. A Course in Miracles would not be of much use if it stayed at that. There is, of course, a much better experience for us, one that reflects the truth of what we collectively are, namely the One Son of God (albeit seemingly asleep). The secret of salvation is but the realization that all the pain and misery in our lives come from choosing the wrong focus, or teacher, in the mind. As long as we focus on individuality, we continue to invite separation. It is only when we choose to step back and let the Voice for Love (i.e., he Holy Spirit) be the guide of our mind, that peace not only becomes possible but inevitable. This is because the Holy Spirit, through our choice for forgiveness, leads the mind back to the real world, the gateway to our true Home in the Heart of God.

We will, however, only make this choice for a better mind teacher once we fully realize the silliness of the “joke” of thinking we can actually exist, separated from God, in a material universe that was made as a place where He could enter not and we could be on our own. Our continuous wish to see separation is mirrored in how our physical senses work: “All idols of the world were made to keep the truth from being known to you, and to maintain allegiance to the dream that you must find what is outside yourself to be complete and happy. It is vain to worship idols in the hope of peace. God dwells within, and your completion lies in Him. […] Look not to idols. Do not seek outside yourself.” (T-29.VII.6).

So this is why A Course in Miracles is not your everyday spirituality that states that this world can be a place of love. It does promise that love can be a consistent experience in the mind, but only if we fully realize that the material world itself is merely illusory, and not at all what we want. Yet the Course does not ask us to deny our experiences in this ‘nightmare’ we seem to live in. Rather, it invites us to calmly and honestly look (in the mind) at what it is we choose to focus on each and every minute of the day, and then happily “choose again” to experience this world as a classroom for real spiritual growth, which ultimately leads us entirely out of the world, to real eternal peace. This final outcome, by the way, is not optional: in due time everyone will make the right choice, thereby ending the dream of time and space. It is solely up to us how long we still want to experience fear, pain, and death, before we finally choose the path of peace.

The world cannot be a wonderful world, if all things inevitably decay and die and pass away. The world cannot be wonderful as long as we perceive politicians and crooks whom we exclude from the light in us. The world only becomes wonderful once we realize, with gladness and in gratitude, that there is no world! (W-pI.132.6:2). Having chosen the Holy Spirit as the one guide to our thoughts, all the various competing forms the senses behold shift to the background, while we bring to the foreground the content of the light of Love we all share and are. And this is no idle wish; it is the way out of hell. “The body’s eyes will continue to see differences, […] but the healed mind will put them all in one category: they are unreal.” (M-8.6:1-5). Now we can forgive every unforgiving thought we hold in our own mind. Now we can see past all seeming differences. “Now can you say to everyone who comes to you in prayer with you: “I cannot go without you, for you are a part of me.” And so he is in truth.” (S-1.V.3:8-10).

To summarize: this world only becomes a ‘wonderful world’ once we realize that there is no material world, and that all life that we perceive around is us but a mirror of the mind. Perception can be guided either by the ego or the Holy Spirit. And it is entirely up to you and me which guide we choose; this power of choice is our one remaining freedom. And what a power it is! The world becomes wonderful once we choose to regard it solely as a classroom in which there is only love or calls for love, to which only one answer suffices: the answer the Holy Spirit gives us. And so Jesus says to us in the Song of Prayer pamphlet: “Hold out your hand. This enemy has come to bless you. […] He is a Son of God, along with you. He is no jailer, but a messenger of Christ. Be this to him, that you may see him thus.” (S-1.III.5:3-9). Practice in seeing this not in some, but in all people you meet, regardless of behavior. The world is wonderful because through it we can learn to undo the silly idea of separation.

— Jan-Willem van Aalst

Observing the control freak

Most of us know someone who seems to be excessively into control habits – for example, lunch and dinner must be at a particular given time; a haircut must be done every so many weeks; pictures must be arranged in this or that order; or perhaps they spend a remarkable amount of time on cleaning or tidying things. When this becomes too burdensome for those around them, we call it a disorder and we organize some form of psychological treatment. This often ends in the sobering conclusion that the person at hand does not really want to change, for he or she regards it as a primary safety mechanism, and will not be convinced (as yet) that this very same safety can also be found otherwise.

On a more subtle level, however, it turns out that we are all control freaks. This is born from the belief that this body and this world are literally all we have and are. And what’s more, we have to defend what we have against an unpredictable and basically hostile world. We might rank these ‘control needs’ according to Maslov’s famous pyramid of needs. At the bottom line, we must make sure we have control in the form of food, clothes, and shelter. This means we need an income, which means we need good health and can feel safe, by a set of laws or regulations. Living by these rules, we try to control nature so as to avert disasters (or pandemics…). Additionally, we feel we need intimacy, friendship, and some sort of social belonging. This, of course, mainly serves our need for respect and self-esteem, to be regarded as a ‘worthy’ individual person. Once you analyse this carefully, you’ll note that many of us go to great lengths to get a sense of control over these issues. Again, on these levels we are all control freaks.

We generally do not think this odd. After all, we all want to gain maximum profit from life as long as we’re here to live it, do we not? It is only when Jesus in A Course in Miracles asks the perennial question “What is it for?” (T-17.VI.2:1) that the insanity of all these subtle control mechanisms becomes painstakingly clear. The bottom line answer is that we want to control our dream of individuality; in fact, we will do anything – even physically kill – to keep our sense of special separated autonomous individuality intact. All the control mechanisms above share the ultimate goal of being able to proudly assert: “I exist! The separation from my Creator is real, and I am now the god of my own little personal universe!”

Now, just to address the common spiritual pitfall of level confusion: although Jesus repeatedly assures us that anything in time and space was not created by God and therefore in reality does not exist (W-p1.132.6:2-3), he does not urge us to stop earning an income, cancel insurance policies, or give up all possessions and retreat into a mountain cave to meditate for the rest of your life. As long as we are still utterly convinced we are a physical body living in a material world in time and space (and this includes virtually all of us), we cannot simply jump from duality (level 2) to nonduality (level 1). Awaking from nonduality to our true Home in the nondualistic Heart of God outside time and space is a slow process, in which we learn, step by little step, not only that the material world offers nothing that I want (W-p1.102.2:3), but that our salvation lies in training the mind to choose only that which has lasting value (W-p1.133), i.e., forgiveness and therefore the Atonement.

Just as Jesus teaches us that the Holy Spirit can turn anything the Son of God made to separate into a potent force for peace, merely by inviting us to shift the purpose of it (“What is it for?”), so too the Holy Spirit invites us to assign a different purpose to our need to control life. That is, instead of exerting tenacious control on maintaining a false sense of autonomous existence, we could also train our minds to be tenaciously vigilant for any thought that attempts to keep this silliness going. It’s sort of a way to turn the tables on the ego: instead being vigilant for keeping us mindless (through constant distracting control actions in the world), we could also choose to be vigilant for mindfulness. In the Course, Jesus effectively asserts this in the third lesson of love taught by the Holy Spirit: “Be vigilant only for God and His Kingdom” (T6.V-C).

This effectively means that we monitor the quality of our thought stream as well as we can. As soon as we notice anything that does not reflect inner peace – anything from a mild twinge of annoyance to outright fury, which is the same dynamic anyway (W-p1.21.2:5) – this should be a reason to stop and turn on the observer (or decision maker) “above the battleground” (T-23.IV). Once you succeed in doing that, your perspective on the situation at hand becomes quite different. You will suddenly realize that this negativity, whatever it is, is nothing more (but also nothing less) than the projecting out of your own horrid suppressed guilt about separating from God. Since the message of the Atonement is that this separation – and actually everything in time and space – never really happened, you can now make a better choice, that is, choose to follow the Holy Spirit, the Voice for Love, as the new guide to your thoughts. The negativity will then quickly dissipate, dissolving into the nothingness from whence it came (C-4.4).

So, yes, let’s all be control freaks, but in the right-minded sense of the word: be vigilant only for God and His Kingdom. Recall once again lesson 156: “Who walks with me? This question should be asked a thousand times a day, till certainty has ended doubting and established peace” (W-p1.156.8:1-2). And the best thing is, we don’t even need to mentally fight against all these wrong-minded forms of control urge. We merely ask the question (“Who walks with me?”), we ‘take our place on high’ above the battleground and look at the negativity; non-judgmentally, with Jesus beside us. Remember: “Forgiveness… is still, and quietly does nothing… It merely looks, and waits, and judges not” (W-p2.1.4:1,3). That’s the practice by which you become a happy learner (T-14.II) and choose to be a Teacher of God (M-1). Have a great and vigilant mind training day!

— Jan-Willem van Aalst, September 2021

You and your bother

This famous typing error by Bill Thetford, obviously caused by ego-resistance to the transcription process by Bill and Helen between 1965 and 1972, in a sense constitutes the core of Jesus’ message in A Course in Miracles, namely: the mindshift from seeing others as a bother, to seeing them as an equal brother. When meeting anyone, we unconsciously focus on finding something that we can dislike about them, or that would put the self in a subtly superior position to others. The core aim of A Course in Miracles is to train the mind to entirely shift from seeing differences to seeing sameness. How is that possible in a world that is clearly made up of differences?

We return once more to the crucial distinction the Course makes between form and content. This distinction cannot be discussed too often, for without a good grasp of the meaning of this distinction, a consistent focus on the sameness in everyone and everything would be very, very hard to attain. The core motivation for choosing to focus on sameness, by the way, would of course be that without differences, there is no need to dislike, judge, or condemn, which cancels out the root cause for fear. In other words, lasting inner peace is attained by undoing fear, which is attained by giving up judgment, which becomes possible once we perceive the sameness in everyone and everything.

This shift in perception, though, must happen in the mind. It cannot be done purely with the bodily senses such as the eyes and the ears, since these were made to see differences instead of sameness. Let’s see how this can work in practice. If you go for a walk in the park, or perhaps for a leisurely bicycle tour, you notice all sorts of people, with a wide range of characteristics. Some of these you may find instantly appealing, while others you judge as decidedly appalling. We usually see this as a normal thought mechanism in the human psyche. In A Course in Miracles though, Jesus focuses a lot on exactly this process of shifting and ranking. In one place, he summarizes it thus: “Each day and every minute in each day and every instant that each minute holds, you but relive the single instant when the time of terror took the place of love.” (T-26.V.13:1). Every dislike about another, however small it may seem, boils down to a choice to condemn instead of to love.

The core belief that’s behind such judgment is that you and I are distinctly separate beings, with nothing that inherently binds us to each other. However, when carefully reading the metaphysics of the Course in the text, we come to realize that not only the world of time and space is an illusion, but even more to the point that everything our senses perceive is the result of the projection of separation, that is, ultimately the ontological separation from God. The sleeping Son of God dreams about a material universe in which his self is split in billions and billions of tiny fragments, in a fearful attempt to hide from the supposed wrath of God about the separation. Every separated fragment projects the guilt and fear about this separation away, so that all evil now seems to be in others, while the fragment that I identify with can now be seen as an innocent victim.

It’s a mind-boggling shift in awareness of reality, but how does that apply to our everyday lives, which the Course certainly doesn’t ask us to deny? The body that you perceive yourself in perhaps encases your personality in this lifetime, but it is hardly what you and I fundamentally are. A Course in Miracles does not take a definite stand on reincarnation, but there are ample passages that hint at the  notion that you and I have already been here in many, many bodies before, and will continue to return in bodies as long as the Lessons of Love (Text, chapter 6) have not yet been mastered (the Buddhist would say: as long as there is still bad karma to clean up). Every single body you see, including your own body, is like a brief glow in time. The sleeping Son of God will continue to seemingly separate in a new body, as long as the dreadful sin-guilt-fear thought trinity is not completely given up. That’s why Kenneth Wapnick once stated that  “merely being born here is Self-sabotage!”

See how this insight might be applied during your stroll in the park, or on your bicycle tour. Each time you meet anyone (and no meeting is a coincidence, cf. Chapter 3 in the Manual), you have the ability to activate the decision maker in your mind, who, as it were, ‘stops the time’, and ponders: “Hmm. I see the form of a body, but that body is part of the dream world we choose to experience ourselves in. If I shift from form to content, I can see (not literally, but with the mind’s eye) the Light of Christ shining in that perceived person, just as I can see that same light shining in myself. In fact, it is the same light. I may not like the looks (or the behavior) of that person, but that’s form. In essence, each body is just a frightened fragment that – bottom line – yearns to return to the Oneness of God, but is simply still too uncertain, lonely and fearful to choose this. The inner light we share, however, is unchangeable, wholly lovable, and the ultimate reality of life.”

Just consider what happens to your state of mind once you would evaluate everyone you meet in this way. Would this leave any room for some sort of condemnation? Hardly. On the contrary, such an evaluation leaves only room for love, compassion and kindness. It opens up the heart to receive and give the miracles that the Holy Spirit wants to work through you. And what is the result in your own awareness? Joy, love and peace. Now, that’s exactly the experience Jesus wants us to practice in this lifelong curriculum. I do not master A Course in Miracles by diligently reading the text, workbook and manual for teachers over and over again; I need to apply this forgiveness principle (i.e., the separation never happened, and material form merely deceives) from moment to moment in my everyday doings. I will naturally stumble a zillion times each day, but each time I become aware of such a mistake, I can choose again: from ‘bother’ to ‘brother’. This is the practice that brings lasting inner peace a bit closer each day. Who could ask for anything more?

— Jan-Willem van Aalst, Oct. 2018

Looking at the choice for littleness

Although each New Year’s eve we all formulate an impressive list of good intentions for the year to come, for most of us it takes but a few weeks — or even days — to conclude that it’s sort of tough to keep that up. We want to be loving, joyful, patient, and understanding, but soon we notice that we keep falling back into being judgmental, impatient, angry, fearful, uncertain; you name it. It’s a frustrating experience, that does not really contribute to our self-esteem, to put it mildly. Why is it so hard to keep up the things that we know will bring us more peace in our lives, while we keep slipping back into old habitual patterns that merely lead to more misery in life?

Psychology tells us that beneath the superficial notions of the qualities of our own personality, deep within us we keep hidden a veritable cauldron of negative notions about ourselves. For example, if we feel parents did not provide us with the love we feel we need — and this includes virtually all of us, since no parent was able to be there for us all the time — somewhere deep inside we secretly conclude that the fault is ours; we are evidently not worthy of being loved. In A Course in Miracles, Jesus formulates this inner conviction to the extreme: “You think you are the home of evil, darkness and sin. […] You think if what is true about you were revealed to you, you would be struck with horror so intense that you would rush to death by your own hand, living on after seeing this being impossible.” (W-pI.93.1:1,3).

The metaphysics of A Course in Miracles clearly explain to us the source of these silly inner convictions. They stem from the original ontological instant of the separation (which, holographically speaking, is still here in each instant we prefer the ego), when the Son of God appeared to decide His Father’s Love was not enough; and so he seemed to attempt to separate from Oneness Love, and be god in his own little universe. The guilt over that seeming savage sin, plus the fear of God’s punishment for being so unloving, was so frightfully intense that we had to suppress and project it, in order to remain an individual without terror constantly striking at our hearts. This is why we consciously see all evil outside of us. But psychology also tells us that what is projected merely strengthens its hold on the unconscious part of the mind. Sooner or later it will rear its ugly head in our thought stream. And this is why all new year’s resolutions sooner or later fall prey to these suppressed but very active beliefs about our own unworthiness.

While the metaphysics of A Course in Miracles unmask the frightful beliefs about ourselves that we keep so well hidden (which is one of the main reasons people throw the book at the wall), the truly liberating aspect is that the Course convincingly explains to us that “This need not be” (T-4.IV), because “all these firmly fixed beliefs are based on nothing” (W-pI.93.2:1). The Course’s metaphysics teach me that “I am not a body. I am free. For I am still as God created me” (W-pI.201-220). The only reason we cling to these silly frightful beliefs is that a part of our mind (the ego) is still enamored by the idea of being a body — an autonomous, individual personality that can be a god in its own right in its tiny part of the universe. And although we fear physical death, it’s also a great way of raising the middle finger at God, effectively saying: “See? Perfection is a lie, and so are you. My separation from you is real.” And then we reincarnate in a feeble attempt to try it yet again. And of course we fail once again. And so on and on this karmic cycle seems to go.

Although we constantly decide to want to be a little autonomous separated individual instead of a holographic part of the one glorious — albeit seemingly sleeping — Son of God, the power of decision remains our own (W-pI.152). In the Course, Jesus teaches us that there is really only one decision to make: the choice between the ego (separation, fear) and the Holy Spirit (oneness, Love). As Jesus teaches us: “The secret of salvation is but this: that you are doing this unto yourself. […] No one can suffer loss unless it be his own decision. […] Nothing occurs but represents your wish, and nothing is omitted that you choose.” (T-27.VIII.10:1; w-pI.152.1:1;5). In other words, we are what Kenneth Wapnick calls the decision maker, with the power to choose either the ego or the Holy Spirit, from instant to instant. Hence the insistent calls of Jesus to us, such as “Heaven is the decision I must make” (W-pI.138); “I will accept Atonement for myself” (W-pI.139), and “Choose once again if you would take your place among the saviors of the world, or would remain in hell, and hold your brothers there” (T-31.VIII.1:5).

You and I are worthy of the Love of God (since we are that Love), just as all our brothers are. In fact, in the very first section of chapter 1 of the text, Jesus states: “You are a miracle, capable of creating in the likeness of your Creator. Everything else is your own nightmare.” (T-1.I.24). Even in this hallucinatory material dream world, you and I have been given talents at birth that we can employ to bring salvation of the Son of God a little nearer, if we but choose to let the Holy Spirit employ these talents as He thinks best. Deciding to become a willing vehicle for the Holy Spirit as the prime meaning of our lives, is the ‘royal road’ to have all these silly, frightful notions about sin, guilt and unworthiness be undone forever.

The problem is that if you ask anyone about what their talents are, the majority of people do not really have a clue. In the light of the potential threat to the ego’s existence of knowing and lovingly employing your talents, it’s no wonder that the ego makes up a myriad of distractions to prevent our decision maker from choosing again. As long as 99 problems confront our daily lives, we have a fair chance of staying mindless, and thus keeping the dream of dualistic autonomy alive. We will do so until the pain gets too much, and we exclaim that there must be a better way. A Course in Miracles helps us look at the ego for what it truly is; the Course helps us reach that turning point more quickly, with more clarity and conviction.

The Buddhist notion of “Dharma” can be a great aid in facilitating this process of thought reversal. In short, Dharma more or less means that true happiness in this life can be found by ‘optimally employing your own unique talents to make yourself and others happy.’ Sounds good, doesn’t it? Realize, though, that you and I need to be constantly vigilant for which teacher we choose while expressing our talents. You don’t live ‘in Dharma’ by making rational, ego-driven plans that would turn you into the ‘savior of the world’. Rather, you take a step back and let the Holy Spirit lead the way. Only this way will your days become effortless while your intuitive, miracle-inspired actions turn out best for everyone. Letting go (of thinking you know best), and letting come (the Holy Spirit’s intuitive inspiration)!

— Jan-Willem van Aalst, sept. 2018

Judging your partner

In the Western world, at least two out of five marriages end up in divorce. Additionally, of the remaining three out of five, at least two end up being not-overly-happy relationships. These couples stick together because they think they find some safety in co-dependency; or perhaps they fear the unknown that would envelop them should they decide to leave. So only a meager one out of five – at the most! – relationships might be described as reasonably happy. This, by the way, does not only apply to our relationships with spouses (or “significant others”); it equally applies to our relationships with all people, possessions and circumstances. We feel we could actually be happy, if only the world would conform to our wishes and desires. Instead, many of us feel their life is tossed about like a leaf on the wind, with no firm grip on how to ensure happiness, including the partner we’re currently living with.

How happy do you currently feel in your present partner relationship, if you have one? Do times of strife and arguments seem to outweigh the peaceful periods? Do you contemplate at times to find a partner that better suits your outlook on life, your values, your preferences and what you value? Do you sometimes wonder why you are still hanging out with this person who seems to give you such a hard time so often? Perhaps you feel you need another environment for further personal or spiritual growth? Are you perhaps seriously considering to leave your partner, as the “unknown” may be better than the current rut? Before you do, please read on.

First of all, realize that there is no such thing as coincidence. People don’t show up in our lives at random for no reason. In fact, each and every encounter is purposive, as we read in the Manual for Teachers in A Course in Miracles: “…what seem to be very casual encounters […] are not chance encounters. Each of them has the potential for becoming a teaching-learning situation” (M3.2:2-4). Just as it is no coincidence that you find yourself in this particular spot on this particular planet, in this era, in this particular reincarnation, the fact that you are now in this relationship with this particular partner is hardly coincidental. Apparently, the two of you are ideally suited to learn from each other what each needs in the process of spiritual awakening and the acceptance of the Atonement.

If you are spiritually inclined and your partner is not, as is often the case with Course students, it is not by definition helpful to find a more spiritually active partner. More likely than not, such an “all-spiritual” relationship would boost the “spiritual specialness”-ego in both of you, resulting in a sense of superiority and therefore separation from all those who are not as “spiritually advanced”. On the other hand, a partner that constantly seems to push your red buttons is an ideal ‘vehicle’ for you to truly practice the forgiveness process that Jesus would have us learn in studying and living his Course from day to day.

Perhaps most importantly, recall the fundamental tenet of A Course in Miracles that you always see in the other what you have not forgiven in yourself. All blame is ultimately always self-blame, to protect a projection of something we refuse to see in the unconscious (suppressed) part of our own mind. As the Psychotherapy pamphlet poignantly remarks, in the context of a therapist – patient relationship (which is really every relationship): “It is in the instant that the therapist forgets to judge the patient that healing occurs” (P3.II.6:1). So if I stop blaming, accusing and condemning my partner, I am really healing my own mind. If it is therefore indeed hardly coincidental that my current partner has been offered me for just this purpose, why then should I not gratefully use the opportunity to learn the lesson, day by day?

All this is not to say that one should never ever end a relationship or decide to leave a partner, just because that would be “the mistake of knowing better than Jesus / The Holy Spirit”. Even though all learning situations can be useful, they need not be lifelong: “Each teaching-learning situation is maximal in the sense that each person involved will learn the most that he can from the other person at that time.” (M3.4:1) The key to what to do lies in not making the decision whether or not to leave on your own, but by turning inward and consulting the Holy Spirit about what would be the most loving thing to do. When you ask in sincerity and in silence, the answer (impulse) may surprise you. Yet assure yourself that if (and only if) the overriding feeling is a deep inner peace, that advice will always turn out best for everyone involved.

So if you are still unsure about whether or not to stay in your current relationship, recall the most important question you can ask yourself at any time: “Do I want to be right, or do I want to be happy?” (T29.VII.1:9). For we cannot have both, which is of course the fundamental ego frustration. Then seek the inner quiet place in your mind “where sin has left” (T.26.IV), and ask the Holy Spirit what to think, say, and do. Wait for the feeling of deep inner peace to make itself known, usually in the lower belly area. If it does not come, you are not yet asking with full sincerity. In that case, postpone any decision and try again a little later. “Remembering the gifts forgiveness gives, we undertake our practicing with hope and faith this will be the day salvation will be ours. Earnestly and gladly we seek for it today, aware we hold the key within our hands, accepting Heaven’s answer to the hell we made, but where we would remain no more.” (WpI.122.9).

— Jan-Willem van Aalst

The only meaningful choice

In A Course in Miracles, Jesus teaches us that although we seem to make a thousand choices each day between the myriad of forms in the dualistic dream world, in content each choice boils down to a choice between the ego or God. In content, it is always the choice between fear or Love; between illusion or truth: “It is still up to you to choose to join with truth or with illusion. But remember that to choose one is to let the other go. Which one you choose you will endow with beauty and reality, because the choice depends on which you value more. […] For you can never choose except between God and the ego.” (T-17.III.9:1-2,7).

A major frustration with all students of A Course in Miracles is that although they consciously tell themselves they want to relinquish the ego and verily choose God, day in day out they notice that they almost invariably keep choosing the ego, even though they realize the pain this brings. In short, many feel they are a slave to the ego. But in the Course, Jesus offers us a major psychological eye-opener in this regard: “Under the ego’s dark foundation is the memory of God, and it is of this that you are really afraid. For this memory would instantly restore you to your proper place [as Christ], and it is this place that you have sought to leave. […] You believe that, by removing the dark cloud that obscures it, your love for your Father would impel you to answer His Call and leap into Heaven. […] For still deeper than the ego’s foundation, and much stronger than it will ever be, is your intense and burning love of God, and His for you. This is what you really want to hide.” (T-13.III.2.1-9).

So yes, we do want the Love of God, but at the same time we are also unconsciously afraid of this, since that would mean giving up our precious special individuality, fueled by the not-so-gentle ego whispering that God will severely punish us for our cardinal sin of separation. So, A Course in Miracles teaches us we have a conflicted mind. This conflict is always rooted in doubt about what we are: “There is no conflict that does not entail the simple, single question, ‘What am I?’” (W-pI.139.1:6). However, to Jesus, the answer is plain and clear: “Only refusal to accept yourself could make the question seem to be sincere. […] Uncertainty about what you must be is self-deception on a scale so vast, its magnitude can hardly be conceived. […] It is for this denial that you need Atonement.” (W-pI.139.2:2;3:1;5:2).

So the choice between God or the ego — between Love or fear, between Heaven and hell — only seems difficult because we stubbornly keep wanting to be an illusory separated special individual, instead of accepting our true reality as Christ, the One Son of God. And yet, since time and space are inherently illusory as well, Jesus tells us that this seemingly difficult choice is not a choice at all, once we clearly see what we are choosing between: “Heaven is chosen consciously. The choice cannot be made until alternatives are accurately seen and understood. All that is veiled in shadows must be raised to understanding, to be judged again, this time with Heaven’s help. And all mistakes in judgment that the mind had made before are open to correction, as the truth dismisses them as causeless. Now […] their nothingness is recognized.” (W-pI.138.9:1-4;6).

Jesus is in effect telling us: ‘The only reason you do not choose Heaven as yet, is because you are not really honestly comparing the alternatives and seeing the ego for what it is.’ That’s why we read passages such as: “Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all of the barriers within yourself that you have built against it. It is not necessary to seek for what is true, but it is necessary to seek for what is false.” (T-16.IV.6:1-2). And in chapter 11: “No one can escape from illusions unless he looks at them, for not looking is the way they are protected. […]  The “dynamics” of the ego will be our lesson for a while, for we must look first at this to look beyond it since you have made it real. […] How else can one dispel illusions except by looking at them directly without protecting them?”  (T-11.V.1:1;1:5;2:2).

But how vigilant are you and I in looking at the ‘dynamics’ of our ego? Are we really looking with Jesus beside us from minute to minute? Hardly. Let’s say I go out for a bicycle ride, with the intention of making each encounter with everyone else a holy instant, and never to leave a brother without a silent blessing. In the first few minutes, I radiate the light of love all around me and I love and bless everyone I meet, if not in form, then at least in content. But after half an hour, I suddenly notice how quickly I forgot to keep that up. Quite rapidly I fell back to merely judging form, and finding something to dislike in almost everyone I meet, however insignificant it seems.

This is why teachers such as Kenneth Wapnick constantly urge students to train their vigilance in looking, looking, looking non-judgmentally at what’s going on in the mind. Jesus gently reminds us that “Each day, each hour and minute, even each second, you are deciding between the crucifixion and the resurrection; between the ego and the Holy Spirit.” (T-14.III.4:1). It is also why I never tire of quoting Jesus’ ultimate vigilance training tip in lesson 156: “”Who walks with me?’ This question should be asked a thousand times a day, till certainty has ended doubting and established peace. Today let doubting cease.” (W-pI.156.8:1-3). This is the only way to become fully aware of the importance of the only choice that we can and need make in life: for the ego or for God.

The ego is and remains one hundred percent condemnation, hate, attack and separation. The only reason you and I still keep Heaven at bay is because, in spite of all the pain the ego brings, there is still some lingering hope that as an individual, can be God in my own world and find some sort of happiness there. Coupled with the fear that the ego had us associate with Truth, the ego seems to have made us perennially mindless. That is, until we choose to look within, and realize there is no sin. The ego’s tale of sin, guilt and fear is all made up. In fact, time, space and individuality are all made up. That’s why Jesus says that the only meaningful choice we must make (between God and the ego) is actually no choice at all: “You make but one [choice]. And when that one is made, you will perceive it was no choice at all. For truth is true, and nothing else is true. There is no opposite to choose instead. There is no contradiction to the truth.” (W-pI.138.4:4-8).

So by honestly and vigilantly looking at what’s going on in the mind, we facilitate our own process of making the only meaningful choice we can make in our lives, as we read in workbook lesson 138: “Who can fail to make a choice between alternatives when only one is seen as valuable; the other seen as a wholly worthless thing, a but imagined source of guilt and pain? Who hesitates to make a choice like this? And shall we hesitate to choose today?” (W-pI.138.10:3-4). Or, as Jesus asks us in the closing paragraph of chapter 23, to which this blog owes its name: “Who with the Love of God upholding him could find the choice of miracles or murder hard to make?” (T-23.IV.9:8). Happy practicing!

— Jan-Willem van Aalst

Composers as heralds of peace

Some students of A Course in Miracles may recall that Helen Schucman scribed a message from Jesus in the early seventies called “Notes on sound”. We won’t go into detail here on that message, but one of the key points made in those notes was about the importance of the vibrations / frequencies we experience as sound. Apparently, sound can be a useful aid in inviting the mind to enter a state of alert but peaceful rest. This in turn stimulates the mind to choose right-minded thinking, a prerequisite for our learning process in accepting the Atonement.

The sound may be simple, as in straightforward tones containing alpha, theta or delta brain wave frequencies; but it obviously also includes music. from the simplest meditative mantra music to the most complex classical composition; music can be truly nourishing for the mind. For example, many are familiar with the ‘Mozart effect’, wherein scientists have verified that primary school pupils listening to his Sonata for two pianos (K.448) actually improve on their own cognitive results.

This increased clarity of mind is obviously beneficial to all of us. However, an even more rewarding function of music, especially classical music, is that it invites a deep inner peace in. This is particularly the case with compositions that the composer feels were ‘given to him (or her)’. Perhaps you’ve experienced some heavenly music that is obviously ‘not of this world’. It’s been said (with tongue-in-cheek) that “While Beethoven’s music reaches to Heaven, Mozart’s music comes straight from Heaven”. Brahms himself said more than once that his best compositions felt as having been given to him while in a meditative state. Many composers felt they acted as a channel through which spiritual messages manifested through them into their best works.

As for myself, I can list dozens of works, many (though not all) of them of classical genres, that quite clearly had a healing effect on the state of my mind, that is, the experience of a sense of deep inner peace that cannot be disturbed by anything. This in turn stabilizes the brain wave frequencies, which then allow the brain to do better what it should do: take care of the normal functioning of the body. That’s when we call it a cure. In this sense, (classical) music can certainly be curative, that is, if you are willing to open your mind to a heavenly inspired composition.

For those who are interested in further exploring the truly mesmerizing landscape of healing classical music, I’ve published a website called Heralds of Peace. In addition to two basic lists ranking the top 250 classical composers and their works, there’s a list of 250 pieces that I personally feel are healing to the mind. Of course, such a list can never be truly objective. The list will be a bit different for everyone, but it might serve as an inspirational starting point to ignite the desire to find and experience your own list of healing classical music. Here’s the website:

https://heraldsofpeace.wordpress.com

Many if not most entries contain hyperlinks to the Prestomusic web store, where you can listen to the first minute of each work at no charge. You can even buy individual tracks according to your liking. And no, I’m not a shareholder of Prestomusic. Why not give it a try and see which ‘heralds of peace’ resonate with your mind’s desire to find that truly lasting inner sense of peace. Happy listening!

— Jan-Willem van Aalst, July 2021

The wholly neutral body

Although in the mainstream media the body is glorified and venerated to an amusing degree, we all secretly despise our body for its vulnerability and its mortality. No matter how attractively we try to mould and beautify our ‘little mound of clay’, one thing we all know for sure: it will inevitably deteriorate and die. Unconsciously I am worried, if not terrified, that some horrible disease might prematurely end my life in a very painful process. To avoid that fear, we blissfully watch movies and series about immortal and ever youthful vampires and werewolves and other creatures that we made up in the likeness of what we all would like to be: divine, and yet still apart from God as a unique autonomous individual.

A Course in Miracles, with its deep psychological roots, presents us with a major eyeopener when we, while studying and practicing its curriculum, begin to see that unconsciously but purposefully we made the body to be weak, vulnerable and fragile. After all, what better proof would be conceivable for our belief that the separation from eternal oneness has actually been accomplished in reality? If God is perfect and we are not, we are clearly separate from Him. Moreover, if you believe that our mortality is God’s punishment for the original cardinal sin in the garden of Eden, this conveniently confirms that God agrees with us that the separation is indeed reality; the Creator of All has no choice but to accept our decision for separation and its consequences. He can punish us, but he cannot undo the separation Himself.

In the text, Jesus comments that “if this were the real world, God would be cruel” (T-13.In.3:1). So to see the insanity of such thinking without the cloudy mist that the ego generates, we need be aware of the two levels of discourse that run throughout the text, workbook and manual of the Course. Let’s quickly recap. From a metaphysical point of view (Level I), everything in time and space is a made-up illusion. You and I seem to exist as separated bodies only in what Jesus refers to as “the waking dream”. This is somewhat similar to our nightly dreams while we are asleep: the worst things can happen, yet as we wake up we are relieved it was only a dream, with no basis in reality. It is the same with our waking time. That’s why Jesus explains in chapter 18 that “…what you seem to waken to is but another form of […] what you see in dreams. All your time is spent in dreaming. Your sleeping and your waking dreams have different forms, and that is all” (T18.II.5:11-14).

Level II is what we usually refer to as the daily life we live, in which we still intimately identify with our perceived body and its corresponding personality. On this level, we are firmly convinced that our body and personality are all we are and all we have, and so we strive mightily to keep ourselves healthy as long as possible, in the futile hope that we can prolong our own little kingdom yet a little while longer. All the time, however, subconsciously we realize this is hopeless – in the end we will perish. We flee from that painful realization by distracting the mind with special relationships, be it people, possessions, hobbies, work, travel, food, drugs, media, you name it. Until we reach a point where the pain won’t be suppressed any longer and we start to seek for a glimpse of our real Self, acknowledging at last that “there must be a better way”. A Course in Miracles is one such better way, although there a many other similar paths that all lead to God in the end (M-1.4:1-2).

So does the Holy Spirit, Who in Level II is experienced as the Voice for the Love of Level I, reject the measly body? Not at all! To Jesus (/HS), the material body, however illusory it may be, is a completely neutral thing. It’s neither good nor bad. Its usefulness lies solely in the purpose we assign to it. Do I use the body to root my thinking even further in the dream world of time and space and death, or do I use the body to demonstrate to those around me that we are not bodies? The body, when rightly seen, can act as a clear guide to which aspects of my thinking still require forgiveness: “… A careful study of the form a sickness [i.e., symptom] takes will point quite clearly to the form of unforgiveness that it represents” (P-2.VI.5). Jesus adds that only an unforgiveness can possibly give rise to sickness of any kind, since the body is merely an outward mirror of an inward condition (T-21.In.1:5).

So looking at our Level II identification from a Level I viewpoint (“Above the battleground”, T-23.IV), Jesus would have us say to ourselves in workbook lesson 294, in terms of our own right-minded reasoning: “I am a Son of God. Can I be another thing as well? Did God create the mortal and corruptible? What use has God’s beloved Son for what must die?” (W-pII.294.1:1-4). This clearly points to the purpose we assign to the body from our ego point of view: to prove that the separation is real. Yet above the battleground we can choose to see the body as a wholly neutral thing: “And yet a neutral thing does not see death […] its neutrality protects it while it has a use [i.e., to identify our own specific forgiveness work and demonstrate to others that we are spirit, not a body]. And afterwards, without a purpose, it is laid aside. It is not sick nor old nor hurt. It is but functionless, unneeded and cast off. Let me not see it more than this today; of service for a while and fit to serve, to keep its usefulness while it can serve, and then to be replaced for greater good. My body, Father, cannot be Your Son. […] Let me, then, use this dream to help Your plan that we awaken from all dreams we made” (W-pII.294.1:5-2:3).

So please stop despising your body. Any discomfort, dis-ease, symptoms, dysfunctions are simply signs that there still is some forgiveness work to do. It may or may not be feasible to learn that forgiveness lesson in this lifetime. And that’s okay, since in reality time does not exist anyway. You and I have been here already many hundreds of times before, and we’re all guaranteed to end the cycle of birth and rebirth at some point. In any lifetime we progress as far as we muster the courage to go, and then we’ll return as long as there still is work to do. But no-one will stay in reincarnation-hell forever (Lesson 292: “A happy outcome to all things is sure”). So much for the fear of physical death! Recall these very comforting words in the Song of Prayer pamphlet: “This is what death should be; a quiet choice, made joyfully and with a sense of peace, because the body has been kindly used to help the Son of God along the way he goes to God. We thank the body, then, for all the service it has given us. […] Now we can behold Him without blinders, in the light that we have learned to look upon again” (S-3.II.2). So pay loving attention to your body today; not to glorify it, but to identify your next forgiveness lesson that will bring you a bit closer to the acceptance of the Atonement. Happy practicing!

— Jan-Willem van Aalst, June 2021