For Christ’s sake

The above exclamation is usually an outcry of frustration or anger at a particular person. It’s a not-so-subtle attempt to convince someone to change behavior. In the light of A Course in Miracles, however, this idiom gets a decidedly different meaning. Although most people think about “Jesus” wherever they read “Christ”, in ACIM the term “Christ” denotes all life combined, including you and I and even the most horrible murderer. Christ is the sleeping Son of God, the collective Sonship, forever guiltless and forever safe. You and I who experience ourselves as individuals merely hallucinate about fragmentation and separation in a dream of time and space. A Course in Miracles has come to us, in this psychologically sophisticated age, as a plea from Jesus to honestly look at the world of thought we call our own individual personality. Jesus invites us to see illusions for what they are, and to learn about unconditional forgiveness as the sole function in our lives. It’s a curriculum in mind training, with lasting inner peace through acceptance of the Atonement as its inevitable outcome.

In the thought system of A Course in Miracles, “For Christ’s sake” is equivalent to “for your own sake”, meaning “for lasting happiness, your own and everyone else’s”. This is Jesus’ call to us in every chapter of the text book and every lesson in the workbook and the manual for teachers. It can be useful to bear that in mind each time you read another chapter or lesson wherein Jesus asks no less of you than a complete reversal of your entire thought system, not to mention giving up your very individuality! In lesson 133 we read that we should not value anything that does not last (W-pI.133.6), which includes just about everything that keeps us occupied daily. Many ACIM readers feel that Jesus asks too much sacrifice of us. Our beliefs, desires, plans, and passions seem more desirable than some vague promise that giving up all this is going to make us feel better. And so we read about spirituality a bit every now and then, and happily keep living on auto-pilot. Until the pain gets too much. Eventually you might reach the point that the emptiness becomes so unbearable that you exclaim “There must be a better way!” Reading A Course in Miracles, you begin to reconsider some key notions that have kept you dreaming for so long. Here are a few:

For Christ’s sake (for your own sake), Jesus calls on us, begin to consider the idea that you don’t have to live your life on auto-pilot. You have a kingdom to rule; it’s called your mind (W-pI.236.1). You are fully “response-able”. That is, you can actively choose how to respond to any situation. Each time you notice you get upset, you can realize that you “could see peace instead of this” (W-pI.34.6). Never again need you be completely mindless in your life again. All you need do is start to look at your own judgments and ask yourself: “will this bring me peace?” As you practice this more frequently, you’ll notice that the list of things that used to upset you but you can now gently smile at, will steadily grow. What joy!

For Christ’s sake (for everyone’s happiness, including yours), become aware of the universal law that holds that “as you sow, so shall ye reap“. Responding with judgment and attack on a perceived assault will result in more judgment and attack, as ten thousand years of human history clearly illustrate. You want love? Give it! The more love you put in your thoughts and deeds, the more love will pour back into your life. True, usually it’s not from the people and at the times you expect, but somehow, someway it’s coming back to you tenfold! From ACIM‘s point of view, this is obvious, as there is no-one else: there is only one Son of God, and we also share the same ego. You can but give to yourself (W-pI.108). That’s why it takes only one to save the world: you.

For Christ’s sake (for your own and everyone’s happiness), think now about the kind of thoughts you would choose for the rest of your days on this planet. At the end of your earthly life, your possessions and achievements (or lack of them) won’t be important. What will be important is how much love you’ve allowed yourself to express. How would you like to be remembered? The time to plan the next twenty years of your life is now, not twenty years from now. To be a Teacher of God does not require that you believe in God, but it does require that you choose forgiveness rather than condemnation. Could that be a difficult choice to make, for the sake of Christ?

Well… in practice: yes, it’s darn difficult to question every value that you hold and to completely reverse your entire well-conditioned thought system, which rests on judgment. So how to go about it? Certainly not by fighting yourself (T-30.II.1). One practical answer is so simple that it eludes many of us. The key is to realize that you don’t have to do anything. You should merely practice your willingness to let your mind be changed for you. In lesson 132, we read (W-pI.132.15): “Merely rest, alert but with no strain, and let your mind in quietness be changed so that the world is freed, along with you. You need not realize that healing comes to many brothers far across the world, as well as to the ones you see nearby, as you send out these thoughts to bless the world.”

Stillness silences the ego’s thought system, making room for the Holy Spirit (true intuition) to be heard. This is the voice that is guaranteed to lead you to inner lasting peace. Take time every now and then to resign from your busyness, to be still. Practicing quietness is a skill many of us have forgotten in this hectic society, but it’s actually the most valuable time you will ever spend. So for Christ’s sake, keep deepening your experience with stillness – it’s the key to let your mind be gently changed for you.

 


Also see my seven “guidelines for living in an illusory world” in “Miracles or Murder: a guide to concepts of A Course in Miracles”. This guidebook, endorsed by Gary and Cindy Renard, was published in March 2016 by Outskirts Press and is available at Amazon.com:

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I’m sorry I exist

In a recent family constellation therapy session, in which I was one of the facilitators, the lady in question summarized the core feeling about herself as “I’m sorry I exist”. Once she expressed that, you could feel the pain and recognition surge through the entire group. She conceded there was also another little voice that said “It’s so nice I exist”, but that voice could never fully erase the core depressive conviction that her coming into the world had been a sin.

If she had been familiar with A Course in Miracles, she would instantly have known what was going on. It is the core of the existential guilt that we all feel over apparently having rejected God, our Creator. You and I effectively project this guilt out onto the world, so we can blot it out of awareness, and hide from God and from our own mind. In the ontological instant where the Son of God considered the concept (the ‘tiny, mad idea’) of separation and hallucinated that it was achieved in reality, unbearable guilt flooded the mind. We, as sleeping Son of God, seemingly ignited the Big Bang, setting a dream of time and space in motion, so as to be able to hide from God’s perceived wrathful revenge, and in the process keep demonstrating to all other fragmented parts that continued separation in time and space proves you and I exist.

Most well-meaning professional psychotherapists might try to work on improving their patients’ self-image. They’ll invite their patients to reconsider their self-worth and examine their special talents. They’ll try to recondition their patient’s mind to count their special blessings in life, instead of dwelling on depressive thoughts. The patient gladly supports this, as (s)he is in dire need of a more benevolent concept of self, without having to give up the perceived identity of self. Jesus explains in A Course in Miracles, especially in the pamphlet “Psychotherapy”, that such therapists make the mistake of believing they are in charge of the therapeutic process and therefore responsible for its outcome. (P-2.VII.4:4) This will not work, because the patient’s errors now become the therapist’s failures. Jesus notes that the earthly psychotherapy curriculum teaches little or nothing about the real principles of healing – on the contrary, it teaches how to make healing impossible. Why is that?

If one feels the need to heal another (or be healed by another), both are still falling into the ego trap of separation. Healing occurs once either the therapist or the patient begins to see that the only problem is unforgiveness. Healing is nothing but recognizing shared interests, and forgiving all thoughts that yell otherwise. Healing occurs once at least one of them begins to recognize our shared Identity as pure spirit. As Jesus says in (P-2.VII.1): “Who, then, is the therapist, and who is the patient? In the end, everyone is both. He who needs healing must heal. Physician, heal thyself. Who else is there to heal? And who else is in need of healing? Each patient who comes to a therapist offers him a chance to heal himself […] God does does not know of separation. What He knows is only that He has one Son. His knowledge is reflected in the ideal patient-therapist relationship.”

So what is a psychotherapist to do then? Merely convincing the patient  that “Well, to be honest, you and I don’t really exist at all, and love cannot be found in this world”, is not going to be a big help, however much it may be true. On the contrary; it is only likely to deepen the sense of depression in the patient, perhaps leading to suicidal thoughts. Enter workbook lesson 129, “Beyond this world there is a world I want”. We will only be motivated to make a better choice if we see a much better alternative! Lessons such as this illustrate the importance of grasping the metaphysical foundation of A Course in Miracles to a certain extent. In this lesson, Jesus refers to the real world, which of course does not mean another physical world, but merely a change of perception of our world in time and space in which we believe we exist as an individual. Choosing the real world, or right-mindedness, heralds the end of all other illusions and therefore of all sickness (P-2.VI.5).

From a right-minded frame of mind, born from unconditional forgiveness, in the real world I still perceive myself as an individual, but also at one with all my brothers because this is God’s will and truth. My doings in time serve only to render the need for more time unnecessary. Having come to realize that my essence is not a body but pure spirit, I can indeed be thankful to realize that I do not really exist as an individual at all. Each upset mirrors my fear that I am not at one with my Creator. Each time I succeed in truly forgiving whatever seems to upset me, the obviousness of shared Identity becomes ever more apparent to me, as does the experience of inner peace. And it’s the experience that fuels motivation. We experience the reflection of Heaven in the times we practice quiet listening: “Be still and know that I am God” (T-4.In.2).

So how can the therapeutic process be organized much more effectively? The therapist begins to look at his own self-judgment, and invites the patient to do the same. Both are invited to learn to look and to listen. Both can learn to see in the other what they have not yet forgiven in themselves (P-2.VI.6). In the letting go of (self-)judgment, the Holy Spirit is invited in. He will direct the therapeutic process in the best way imaginable, once He is allowed to be heard. A miracle has entered where heretofore judgment and separation reigned. And gentle forgiveness of self made this possible.

 


Also see my seven “guidelines for living in an illusory world” in “Miracles or Murder: a guide to concepts of A Course in Miracles”. This guidebook is published in March 2016 by Outskirts Press and is now available at Amazon.com:

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You’ve come a long way, baby

A Course in Miracles is a mind training program about completely reversing your entire thought system. In chapter 24 of the text book, we read: “To learn this course requires willingness to question every value that you hold. Not one can be kept hidden and obscure but it will jeopardize your learning.” (T-24.in.2). The motivation for learning ACIM lies in the realization that nothing here works. Nothing lasts. Individuality, the thought that we can exist completely separated from our Creator, was a silly mistake. Not surprisingly, accepting Jesus’ message in A Course in Miracles engenders a lot of resistance, since we are asked to allow our precious ego to be undone completely. We are asked to honestly look at that resistance without judgment, and then be willing to “choose again”. The workbook aims at supporting the process of turning intellectual understanding into concrete experience. Many, if not most students at some point experience disappointment about their seeming lack of progress in accepting and applying Jesus’ message. “After all my diligent Course study and practice, why does peace still elude me?”, we sigh.

More than once though, Jesus reminds us that we really don’t have any clue about our advances in his curriculum. In (T-18.V.I:5), we read: “…you cannot distinguish between advance and retreat. Some of your greatest advances you have judged as failures, and some of your deepest retreats you have evaluated as success.” Also, in workbook lesson 123 we read a similar reminder, stated more encouraging (W-pI.123.1): “Today let us be thankful. We have come to gentler pathways and to smoother roads. There is no thought of turning back, and no implacable resistance to the truth. A bit of wavering remains, some small objections and a little hesitance, but you can well be grateful for your gains, which are far greater than you realize.” That is the point here. Just because we do not yet experience unshakable inner peace all the time does not mean that we haven’t done much at all in Jesus’ curriculum. We tend to focus on what we have not yet achieved, instead of a much better focus on being grateful for what we have achieved.

Consider: 99 percent of all the people around you still get upset about the tiniest things without knowing why. It could even be a mere disapproving look by anyone, for example. Instead of feeling bad about such a thing, you now realize that this is merely a perception, an interpretation, which follows from a projection of something in yourself you deem unacceptable. At least you now know people never get upset for the reason they think. Of course you also still get upset about various things during the day, but at least you now realize that each upset is a deliberate ego choice to emphasize differences and separation. You now realize that you “could see peace instead of this” (W-pI.34.1). Whereas most people you know still walk around uncertain, lonely and in constant fear (T-31.VIII.7:1) in a world full of predators that are out to get them, you’ll never feel like a helpless victim ever again in your life. You’ve experienced the power of unconditional forgiveness. You’ve tasted the experience of true tranquility, a certainty that we are all the beloved Son of God. You realize that all remaining trials and tribulations in your life are but lessons that you failed to learn presented once again by the Holy Spirit, so you can now make a better choice (T-31.VIII.1).

So instead of dwelling on your seeming lack of progress, spend some time being glad and grateful for your advances so far, through your willingness to hear Jesus’ message. In the same lesson 123, Jesus says: “Thanks be to you who heard, for you become the messenger who brings His Voice with you, and lets It echo round and round the world. […] He will bless your gifts by sharing them with you. And so they grow in power and in strength, until they fill the world with gladness and with gratitude.” (W-pI.123.6) You have no idea of the effect your practice might have on the people you work and live with. Each time you succeed in practicing forgiveness, you are reminding someone else of the opportunity to make a better choice as well. Each time you forgive you are inviting someone else to choose right-minded thinking. You do not have to convince or convert anyone out there (since in reality there is no-one out there; we are all projections of the same ego-mind).

You don’t have to do anything to learn Jesus’ curriculum. Just be sure to remember you are one with God, safe at Home in reality. Keep looking honestly, from above the battleground, at all the wrong-minded thinking that you still seem to choose. In every difficulty, all distress, and each perplexity you face, Christ calls to you, and gently says, “My brother, choose again.” And knowing you are God’s Son who can suffer not, you will make a better choice. Do not be depressed if you fear you will not reach the top of the ladder of atonement in this lifetime. Remember, time is a vast illusion anyway. How many more lives we might need is irrelevant from Jesus’ point of view. As he assures us in lesson 124: “You may not be ready to accept  the gain today. Yet sometime, somewhere, it will come to you, nor will you fail to recognize it when it dawns with certainty upon your mind.” (W-pI.124.9:1) In a personal note to Helen, he added: “You will have no trouble in passing the final exam. Midterm marks are not entered on the permanent record.” (Absence from Felicity, p.219). So have faith in your own progress, by keeping up the daily practice of non-judgmentally looking at your ego and gently allowing the Holy Spirit to do His work, through unconditional forgiveness. You’ve come a long way, baby!

 


Also see my seven “guidelines for living in an illusory world” in “Miracles or Murder: a guide to concepts of A Course in Miracles”. This guidebook is published in March 2016 by Outskirts Press and is now available at Amazon.com:

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Utterly wasted

The Bhagavad Gita is a very old philosophic treatise about the nature of the mind, the world, and our essence as spirit. It probably dates back to at least three or four thousand years ago. Its message is presented as a tale, in which two armies are about to commence war on a battlefield. Not surprisingly, this battlefield symbolizes the battlefield of the mind. One of the warriors is called Arjuna, who at this point wonders what’s the use of it all. He engages in a conversation with his charioteer, who turns out to be an incarnation of Lord Krishna, an avatar of the supreme deity Vishnu. The points that their discussion touch upon are remarkably similar to Jesus’ message in A Course in Miracles, especially regarding the illusory nature of all that our senses behold. Joy, peace and salvation are a choice of the mind, since there is nothing outside mind. Moreover, all seemingly separated minds are in fact joined, and are only hallucinating about separation. The entire silly idea of separate interests is discussed at great length in the Gita. At one point, Krishna assures Arjuna that “…While your mind is occupied with selfish desires, your life is utterly wasted.” That’s a pretty bold statement. What does it mean?

Since all of us are intimately identified with our ego, Krishna’s statement must immediately ignite a stab of grinding guilt in the ego part of our mind. Am I wrong – or, more concise: sinful – to ever think about myself first? Come on! I do need to take care of myself in this fearful world, do I not? Am I to choose to be treated like the proverbial doormat, since thinking of my own best interest would come down to a focus on selfish desires? Such considerations are completely unacceptable to the ego, and so we quickly repress the guilt. We then project the guilt away so that all selfishness is now seen outside of us: “Yes, everyone else is always acting out of selfish desires. I need to defend myself in order to survive.” Sometimes this is followed by an ego-driven spiritual guise: “I, being a faithful diligent spiritual aspirant, will be unshaken by this selfish ego tyranny, and focus on my rightful place in Heaven.”

This is of course not at all what Krishna means when he speaks of the mind that is occupied with selfish desires. The point is that a selfish mind is geared towards condemnation, hate and attack of everything outside itself. Such a vicious state of mind is always born of fear, convinced it lives in a world of battlefields with only one rule: kill or be killed. I can be kind, generous and helpful only to the extent in which my own personal safety is assured, and since everything outside of me is ultimately out to snatch from me what is felt lacking in itself, I can never truly give unconditionally. Such a tragic view on life follows from the conviction that there really are billions of competing life forms out there. Since the ultimate destination of life must be death, the only reason for doing something not selfish is that God might accept me back into Heaven and punish someone else.

Krishna patiently explains to Arjuna, just as Jesus patiently explains to us in A Course in Miracles, that we’ve made a mistake by believing that life is fragmented in competing life forms. Life is one, being the extension of God as the source of Life. The mind can think it sleeps (and dream of fragmentation and a world filled with competing life forms), but that is all (W-pI.167.6). The reality of you and me is one shared mind, which is pure spirit. All minds are joined as one. We come to realize this when we learn to look at mind “above the battleground” (T-23.V.1).  So what’s the use then of focusing on selfish desires? Such a focus is utter waste only because it’s an attempt to keep the dream world of separation and fragmentation ongoing. This choice of thoughts will not lead to the “peace that surpasses all understanding”, which is our true desire if we are completely honest.

Once we fully realize the illusory nature of fragmented competing egos, our own ego isn’t immediately out of business, to put it mildly. The ego has an impressive array of very subtle techniques in store to find a tiny backdoor in our mind and creep back in. It’s crucial to train your awareness of such ego tactics, if you truly want to allow the Holy Spirit to help you. Here is the key check: while you are honestly attempting to act for the common good, for the collective best interests, out of an holistic attitude of compassion and brotherly love, are you secretly expecting anything in return? Many so called ‘charitable’ actions are fueled by a sacrificial desire to receive recognition, praise, or applause. That’s what Krishna would call a ‘selfish desire’. The ego’s back on stage!

Again, this is not to say you should allow yourself to be treated as a doormat, but it does call upon the decision making part of your mind to realize that everyone out there is simply a projection of some unforgiving part of the mind. Projections are born of unforgiveness, saying we will oppose God’s Will to be One with all life forever. This calls for forgiveness, and nothing else. And so Krishna tells Arjuna: “They live in wisdom who see themselves in all and all in them, who have renounced every selfish desire and sense-craving tormenting the heart.” This is not to say we shouldn’t be active in the illusory world, as Krishna continues: “Perform work in this world, Arjuna, as a man established within himself – without selfish attachments, and alike in success and defeat. They are forever free who renounce all selfish desires and break away from the ego cage of “I,” “me,” and “mine” to be united with the Lord. This is the supreme state. Attain to this, and pass from death to immortality.”

 


Also see my seven “guidelines for living in an illusory world” in “Miracles or Murder: a guide to concepts of A Course in Miracles”. This guidebook is published in March 2016 by Outskirts Press and is now available at Amazon.com:

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Lovely facades

Anna Freud, the daughter of the famous psychotherapy pioneer Sigmund Freud, recalled a conversation with her father while taking a stroll through a mansion district in central Vienna. “You see those lovely houses with their lovely facades?” he remarked. “Things are not necessarily so lovely behind the facades. And so it is with human beings too.” Freud was referring to the extremely thin layer of civilization that covers our venomous selfish urges to judge, reject, attack, murder and sexually cannibalize almost everything outside of us. On the outside and in the public area we do our best to be kind, considerate, helpful, and to contribute to everyone’s best interests. Behind the front door, however, especially when not all of Maslov’s basic life necessities are taken care of, the beast inside is apt to rise to the surface as soon as our selfish interests seem endangered. All of us are familiar with stories of the pain and horror behind the front doors of some families in our neighborhood. And although we consciously tell ourselves we would never ever do such things, somewhere deep inside we know that the same beast lurks in all of us.

In A Course in Miracles, Jesus confirms the notion of the ego being 100% hate and attack. We may put up our face of innocence, projecting out all the condemning urges that we refuse to see in ourselves, so that all evil is now perceived outside of us; but while still choosing the wrong mind our thoughts will inevitably reinforce separation, and therefore condemnation and attack, regardless of form. A slight twinge of annoyance is nothing but a veil drawn over intense fury. But while Freud was pessimistic about the perspective for mankind, since he saw no escape from the ego, Jesus in ACIM happily assures us that the ego itself is nothing but a flimsy veil, to be lifted easily once we choose to look at all its dark silliness with Jesus beside us, that is, from ‘above the battleground’, calmly, and without judgment. Freud couldn’t do so because he was ‘trapped in the body’ — he could not imagine our essence as pure spirit outside time and space, let alone the notion of duality — that is, everything that we perceive — as the illusory dream of a sleeping Son of God.

Once again we see the importance of understanding the metaphysical foundation that Jesus elaborates on in A Course in Miracles. We will give up our complete identification with the ego only if we’re thoroughly convinced there’s an alternative that’s much better. Jesus won’t convince many students by merely saying we’ll feel better by letting our individuality go and return Home as pure spirit in the heart of God, leaving time and space and concepts behind forever. We cannot grasp what that would be like, so we won’t do it. We need the experience of the real world, the reflection of God’s Love here on Earth, in our daily activities in our life on this planet, however illusory it may be. Waking from the dream requires a slowly evolving learning program of mind training (M-9.1), in which we learn to allow our ego beliefs to be undone step by step. Each time we succeed in withholding judgment and following the Holy Spirit’s advice instead, heard as what we label ‘true intuition’, the resulting feeling of inner peace strengthens our resolve to change our minds more often. We smile more frequently as we slowly learn to see the illusory nature of everything that our senses perceive.

What makes this unmasking of our perception so difficult is the lovely forms it often seems to take. Who was never caught breathless by magnificent mountain views, fantastic flower fields, amazing architecture and idyllic islands? In this light, it’s hard to hear Jesus say in ACIM that this world was made as an attack on God (W-pII.3.2). Sure, we know that it’s all transitory — everything fades and dies eventually; but surely there’s something glorious about all life we perceive that’s indestructible, right? No, Jesus says, everything we perceive here as life is an illusion of life, as there is no life outside God, who knows not of duality. Analogously, Jesus assures us that real love cannot be found in time and space. Well, I might say, doesn’t the fact that I perceive people caring for each other then illustrate the reality of love here on earth, in the dream? Here, Jesus’ guidance becomes more subtle, though always consistent. No, we’re not miserable sinners who merely fool ourselves about love; we are merely troubled by a (seemingly) conflicted mind (T-6.V.B.3-8). One of the essential ideas in A Course in Miracles is that we have both a wrong mind as well as a right mind, and a decision maker that constantly chooses between the two. A Course in Miracles is basically a curriculum in training the decision maker to choose the right mind ever more often.

Therefore, Jesus emphasizes that the world we perceive isn’t inherently evil, as Freud concluded; it is inherently nothing (W-pI.132.4). The one question to ask with everything we perceive is: “What is it for?” (T-4.V.6)Purpose is everything, as we’ll all concede. Do I see my relationship with you, with my possessions, with the places I visit, as a means to emphasize my own specialness (the ego’s point of view), or do I see such relationships as lessons of love, kindly offered me by the Holy Spirit, since I had previously failed to learn them? All tribulations and trials in your life are nothing but opportunities to learn a lesson of love you had refused to learn up to now (T-31.VIII.3). Once we experience the inner peace that ultimately results of withholding judgment, of following the advice of the Holy Spirit instead (i.e., choosing a miracle through forgiveness), we find that our ego perceptions have shifted to true perceptions. We’re still perceiving illusions in time and space, but true perception does not breed further illusions. We’re happily on our way to the real world, which is also still in the perceptive world of duality, but so near to Heaven that the bridge is easily crossed. Until then, unconditional forgiveness is all we need do to walk the road to lasting peace that Freud did not perceive.

 


Also see my seven “guidelines for living in an illusory world” in “Miracles or Murder: a guide to concepts of A Course in Miracles”. This guidebook is published in March 2016 by Outskirts Press and is now available at Amazon.com:

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