Help, I have a split mind!

One of the most painful realizations of many students of A Course in Miracles is to experience the gap between ‘grasping’ Jesus’ message, intellectually accepting it on the one hand, but failing to follow through on that message in daily life on the other hand. This is often experienced as self-sabotage, and can be very frustrating. I keep telling myself that of course I want to walk Jesus’ path of forgiveness, and yet I still find myself becoming angry, fearful, and/or depressed. Such disappointments have led many sincere students to discard the book for a long time, or give up on it altogether. So why is this gap so persistent?

The answer to this question becomes plain once you dive into the metaphysical foundation of the Course’s message. “Into eternity, where all is one, there crept a tiny, mad idea at which the Son remembered not to laugh” (T-27.VIII.6). The Son seemed to fall asleep, dreaming of separation, of space and of time; in short: of duality. The ego is the idea that separation from Oneness, from non-duality, is possible, and that I, as individual, will be better off, because can now be god in my universe. The core focus of my life, while living on ego auto-pilot, is for my own survival and well-being. I may care for my kin and for others in the world, but only after I’ve taken care of my own individual necessities.

And then this Jesus guy comes along with A Course in Miracles, claiming that time, space, perception, consciousness, the ego – heck, my very individuality! – are nothing but flimsy illusions, lacking any reality whatsoever. He challenges my mind with questions such as “Would you rather be right or happy? For you cannot be both.” (T-29.VII.1:9); “There is no world! This is the central thought the Course attempts to teach.” (W-132.6:1) and “Accept no compromise in which death [meaning anything that does not last, which is everything in duality] plays a part.” (M-27.7). No wonder my ego is in strong resistance to such a message! No-one is apt to follow an advice that would surely lead to the complete disappearance of the universe and his very own self. Realizing that I have a split mind does not automatically lead to the willingness to heal the split, by henceforth only listening to the Holy Spirit.

Even if we are willing to train our ‘observant decision maker’ in the mind, so we learn to look at our thoughts ‘from above the battleground’, we still have to deal with the indomitable urge to bring Jesus’ truth into our illusory everyday lives. We might say: “Yes, I know the body is an illusion, but if I keep up my daily affirmations, I will keep illness at bay.”, or “Yes, I know the world is an illusion, but through my charitable work I might convince some more people to choose the road of peace and joy.” As long as I still believe that forgiveness means forgiving someone else, and that relationships are between two distinctly separate people, I’m not really hearing Jesus’ message, as Kenneth Wapnick frequently points out in his “Journey through the workbook of A Course in Miracles“.

Many Course students fail to get beyond their disappointment over failing to heal their split mind instantly and choose the Holy Spirit as their sole teacher all the time. I might realize that my right mind wants to ‘walk’ with A Course in Miracles, but my wrong mind wants it to walk with me. And when I realize, day in day out, that despite my faithful Course studies and practice of the workbook, my most unforgiving mind remains deeply split, I shouldn’t be surprised to lose heart and ‘water down’ my spiritual practice for long periods of time.

Jesus fully realizes the extent of our resistance to his message. That is why, on several occasions in the textbook, he gently reminds us that we are spiritual beginners, who are “very new in the ways of salvation” (T-17.V.9): “This is your language. You do not understand it yet only because your whole communication is like a baby’s. […] Still in this infant is your vision returned to you, and he will speak the language you can understand”. Jesus can afford to be gentle and patient, as he knows the outcome of the dream of duality with perfect certainty: this entire dream will end as it began – in nothingness – and in truth we are already safe at home. We are only mentally reviewing what has gone by. [W-158-4].

The meaning of Jesus’ persistent advice to us that we look [at what’s going on in the mind], is to be taken very literally. Healing a split mind requires that I look at the split, as often as I am willing to, from above the battleground. And that means: observing my every unforgiving thought without condemning myself. That last part is crucial. Rather than hitting myself over the head because I have failed to follow through on Jesus advice again, I should merely be honest in my conclusion that, when push comes to shove, I still choose the ego, the wrong mind. Practice this especially regarding seemingly ‘insignificant’ preferences. For example, every time I notice I dislike some aspect of a person or a situation, I can realize that I do not want to walk with God; want to be god. And every time I find myself hoping for this or that, I can realize that I want Jesus to support me in living more happily in the dualistic dream.

The answer to how to heal the split mind is not to become spiritually zealous, or becoming foolhardy in banging yourself for every unforgiving thought. The trick is to keep the metaphysical truth of Jesus’ message in the back of your mind always, even though you don’t really believe it fully yet, and “trust implicitly your willingness [to keep practicing forgiveness], whatever else may enter” [T-18.V.2]. Training your observant decision maker above the battleground remains the most productive exercise. As Jesus comforts us: “How can you who are so holy suffer? All your past except its beauty is gone. I have saved all your kindnesses and every loving thought you ever had. I have purified them [your thoughts] of errors that hid their light, and kept them for you in their own perfect radiance. [..] They came from the Holy Spirit within you, and we know what God creates is eternal.” (T-5.IV.8) So I am fully justified in gently forgiving myself my attachment to the wrong mind. The healing of the split mind is just a matter of time, and A Course in Miracles is a perfect guide to help me save time.

 


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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Defeating the ego

About eight years ago, the founder and chairman of a joint residential community in The Netherlands passed away due to terminal cancer. He was a very talented and spiritual man, who had helped many people in their quest for a meaningful way to spend their time on earth. His last words were said to have been “There’s just no defeating the ego…” He was referring to his life-long self-search to get past his ego. It’s a goal that occupies many a spiritually oriented mind. It leads to just as many disappointments, because the conclusion is, again and again, that there’s just no defeating the ego.

You might say that students of A Course in Miracles find themselves in a rather unique position in this regard. After all, the Textbook makes it very clear why such a goal simply cannot work. The ego is the idea of attack and separation. Fighting the ego merely feeds that very notion in the mind. Jesus cautions us against this urge, for example in (T-30.I.2): “If you find your resistance strong and your dedication weak, you are not ready. Do not fight yourself.” The ego loves being attacked, since this ensures that the mind’s attention remains focused on the physical world of bodies, instead of the observant decision maker in the mind.

The clue to inner peace, or salvation, is the metaphysical realization that there is no world (W-pI.132.6). The logical conclusion is that the ego, the maker of the physical world, is nothing. It is not evil, it is not a devilish voice that keeps me imprisoned: it is merely a part of my belief about what I am (see also W-pII.12, “What is the ego?”, and the Manual for teachers, M-2.2: “The ego – the Miracle”). As the ego was made by a choice to believe in it, so we can dispel it by withdrawing belief from it (T-7.VIII.5). So I can employ my mind to change my beliefs about what I am; a major goal of my life’s curriculum. That’s why A Course in Miracles is a mind training program.

A key mistake that many Course students subsequently make, often pointed out by Kenneth Wapnick, is a tendency to “minimize the ego”. The idea is approximately as follows: “Ah, since I now know that the ego is a flimsy illusion anyway, I merely need choose the voice of the Holy Spirit, who will happily undo my ego for me.” This is then followed by a persistent focus on trying to ignore the chatter of the ego. This might be accompanied by affirmations and visualizations in which the dark ego is made very tiny compared to the blazing light of Jesus and/or the Holy Spirit. Every day becomes a blissninny day, and every “setback” is labeled an ego trick that is not to be paid attention to.

Unfortunately, such students have not yet fathomed the notion that A Course in Miracles is not a course about Love; it’s a course in learning to honestly look at devastation. The Holy Spirit does not look on love; it looks on the devastation in the mind, and then reminds the mind that what it thinks is false (W-pII.13.1). Salvation is the acceptance of the fact that “I am doing this to myself” (T-27.VIII.10); but this only works if you fully realize what “this” refers to. Course students tend to skip over the more gruesome passages about our attraction to guilt and death, such as in the Laws of Chaos in (T-23.II), or the comparison of this world to “a desert where starved and thirsty creatures come to die” (W-pII.341.5), but such passages especially deserve careful attention. While studying them, the metaphysics of the Course should not be kept too far off, or else you may become very depressed: reading that there is no hope of love or peace in this world only helps when you realize and accept that there is something much, much better to strive for: the real world in your mind.

So when reading in A Course in Miracles that the ego is literally nothing (“There is no definition for a lie that serves to make it true”, C-2.3), I should be very wary of my temptation to try to minimize the ego. A healthy dose of respect for the power of the ego (which, again, is merely a part of what I believe about what I am), is much more helpful. Not to glorify myself, but to realize that I still so incredibly adore my own individual self, that it’s going to take  a lot for me to truly “choose once again” (T-31.VIII) and really mean it. I may even not be willing to make that choice in this particular lifetime, which I do not have to feel guilty about. Again, remember the metaphysics: time is an illusion. I am only “reviewing mentally what has gone by” (W-pI.158.4). I am already safe at Home in the heart of my Father, and together with Jesus we have the lamp that will dispel the ego. “The Kingdom is perfectly united and perfectly protected, and the ego will not prevail against it” (T-4,III.2).

The ego is defeated merely by (a) fully realizing its illusory nature (the metaphysical part), and by (b) your willingness to practice listening to the Holy Spirit, a much better Teacher (the practical part). Another not-so-subtle pitfall  of Course students is that they might expect to be able to undo the ego this way in a year, by diligently ‘doing’ the workbook. Ouch! Don’t forget that the main purpose of the workbook is to make you realize, by noticing you don’t ‘do’ the Workbook perfectly,  just how deeply attached you still are to your ego, your “individual little self”. That’s why the Course “is a beginning, not an end.” (W-Ep.1). The big comfort is that Jesus guarantees that once your Journey has started, the outcome (coming Home) is certain; as certain as God.

So I can take heart. I can accept my own silly ego-hugging for now and keep practicing forgiveness, while choosing the non-judgmental voice of the Holy Spirit in my mind, as often as I can. And also don’t forget that in truth, the ego has already been defeated, since time is holographic, and ultimately unreal. Within the dream the ego’s case is “fool-proof, but certainly not God-proof” (T-5.VI.10). And that’s why abstract metaphysics can, in a sense, be the biggest comfort in your life, and save you from inadvertently fighting your ego.


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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Pray for yourself to accept inclusion

While seemingly living in a world with competing egos, no-one can avoid planning for his own good fortune, hoping ceaselessly that things turn out not too bad. In a sense, ‘hoping’ is just another word for praying. This isn’t necessarily to a deity; it could be anything from ‘good fortune’ to ‘God’. Many people pray that they won’t be struck by some horrible terminal disease. But even simple things like hoping to find a parking space, or that some colleague will like you better tomorrow, are but different forms of prayer. It’s nothing to feel guilty about. As we read in the pamphlet “The Song of Prayer”: “No-one who is uncertain of his identity can avoid praying this way [i.e., for specifics]” (S-1.II.2:3). And anyone who still chooses to walk this earth is uncertain about his identity.

Praying in this sense means I am unconsciously afraid I can be assailed by anyone and anything. Only once I am absolutely sure about what I am (that is, pure spirit, the essence of Love), there can be no more uncertainty, no doubt, and therefore no fear, because I can “loose the world from all I thought it was” (W-132). Praying for specifics becomes meaningless then. How could God (or Jesus or the Holy Spirit) be called upon to fix something in an illusory world? “There is no world! This is the central thought the Course attempts to teach”, we read in (W-pI.132.6:2). When I pray for something specific in this world, I am actually pleading with God (or J or the HS): “I love you so much, and I know you love me. Please, fix this and this for me!” Again, it does not matter if that’s about an illness or a parking space. I seek safety in an illusory world. And of course I keep seeking and never finding, thereby happily (or unhappily) keeping my ego ongoing.

All doubts (and therefore their resulting fears) are ultimately about self-doubt. “The real basis for doubt about the outcome of any problem […] is always self-doubt. That necessarily implies that trust has been placed in an illusory self.” (M-7.5) ” Every doubt must be about yourself. Christ has no doubt, and from His certainty His quiet comes.” (T-24.V.9). And so, studying and practicing A Course in Miracles, I find myself walking a world wherein I feel uncertain about what I am. I can repeat a hundred lovely affirmations daily, and remind myself often of my true Identity, but this self-doubt will remain as long as I keep counting the days and years. This is because I have a split mind. Some part of my mind knows that I am forever safe at home in the Heart of God, but another part of my mind is still too identified with my separated, individual body to accept that. So what is a gentle and effective way to end this conflict-of-mind and self-doubt?

In terms of content, it comes down to accepting the Atonement, but that’s easier said than done. In terms of form, many thoughts and practices can speed us along our journey back to the undoing of the ego. Let’s discuss one form aimed at our ‘inner world’, and one form geared towards the ‘outer world’. Since the outer mirrors the inner, it’s really the same. And both simply take time while we believe in time. And beliefs are never undone overnight.

Let’s look at the uncertainty about what we are. Isn’t it true that you and I still regard God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit as external agents? We may tell ourselves that they’re the ultimate guarantee for our safety, but we still think of them as distinctly different from us. But in reality this is not so. Jesus is very clear about this in A Course in Miracles. In (T-1.II.3), that is, very early in the textbook, Jesus tells us “There is nothing about me that you cannot attain. I have nothing that does not come from God. The only difference between us now is that I have nothing else.” Thus, we are “…not in any way separate or different from me [Jesus] except in time, and time does not really exist” (T-1.II.4). Time is guaranteed to have an end. The Second Coming of Christ, a metaphor for the awakening of the Sonship to its true Identity, is inevitable. It may help you to help change your belief in a separated identity to repeat that quote by Jesus from chapter 1 of the textbook from time to time.

A more practical form is the daily exercise in changing how you perceive your relationships with people and things around you. Do I perceive separate individuals, possibly out to get something out of me, or do I perceive only shared interests with everyone I meet? “It is no dream to love your brother like yourself”, we read in (T-18.V.5). A truly helpful change of mind always comes down to a change in perception of relationships. And in ACIM we read that all relationships are ultimately relationships with yourself, as in truth there is no world out there to foster relationships in. Pray, then, for yourself, that you may not reject your brother when you meet one. In textbook chapter 9 we read: “You can no more pray for yourself alone than you can find joy for yourself alone. Prayer is the restatement of inclusion, directed by the Holy Spirit under the laws of God. Salvation is of your brother.” (T-9.II.6). You pray for yourself to accept inclusion.

So the next morning when I wake up, have breakfast, and prepare for another day in the illusory world, I can (a) remind myself that Jesus (being a symbol of the Love of God) has nothing that I cannot attain – even more to the point, will attain, and (b) each person I meet is a perfect classroom to practice true forgiveness. I have already spent too many lives refusing to forgive. I can now practice my willingness to choose again, from the certainty that “I am not a body; I am free. For I am still as God created me.” (W-pI.203.1). I can accept the fact that, at first, I won’t really believe that in my gut (or otherwise I wouldn’t be here), but it is certain that my acceptance will grow with my willingness to keep practicing. Not with strain, but with trust, honesty, tolerance, gentleness, joy, defenselessness, generosity, patience, faith, and open-mindedness (M-4). And this will do, even in my constant detours into praying for specifics. I can learn to gently smile at all such silliness. And that will do.

 


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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One more kiss, dear

In our Western society, roughly two out of five marriages end up in divorce, while yet another two out of five end up as an unhappy, dreary rut with much suppressed pain. That leaves a meager 20% of marital relationships that supposedly work out great and last a lifetime. And the statistics don’t seem to improve very much, at least not significantly. Why is it that it’s apparently so hard to enter into a lifelong satisfying relationship?

Psychologists argue that an important pitfall for many people is the mistake of focusing on physical attractiveness. Everyone’s eyes are unavoidably drawn towards what we regard as beautiful. As Hannibal Lecter reminded Clarice in The silence of the lambs: “Don’t you feel eyes moving over your body, Clarice? And do not your eyes seek out the things you want?” The assumption – usually unconscious – is that what is beautiful on the outside must surely be beautiful on the inside as well. Of course this does not hold. We blissfully enter into a new “beautiful” relationship with a “fantastic” special person, only to experience that we all share the same vicious ego mechanisms in our mind. As the imperfections in the other person silently remind us of our own imperfections, the magic of the relationship dissipates like a wilted flower.

Jesus in A Course in Miracles discusses relationships, or, better: our motivation for choosing relationships, in great depth, in both the Textbook and Workbook, since this is so clearly linked to ACIM‘s core theme of ending the separation. Our motivation for choosing is always linked to purpose. What do we want a relationship for?  In A Course in Miracles, relationships are categorized in special relationships (born of the ego, or wrong-minded thinking) and holy relationships (born of the Holy Spirit, or right-minded thinking). Additionally, special relationships are divided into special hate relationships (“I hate you”) and special love relationships (“I adore you”, or “I adore my car”). While in special relationships the form differs greatly, we are taught in ACIM that the content is always the same: to further exalt the specialness of the ego. While this is plain to see in the special hate relationship, this is not so obvious at first sight in the special love relationship. Does my honest love for another special human being not reflect the love of God on earth?

No, not as long as your main focus is on the body, or any aspect that pertains to form”, Jesus would say. In fact, Jesus even goes as far as to state that all special love relationships are cannibalistic, although he doesn’t use the word. In ACIM I read that I am attracted to a special person because I believe that such a person can supply something I feel is inherently lacking in myself. My special (but incomplete) personality is attracted to the “priceless pearl” I see in your special personality (T-23.II.11). In other words, my motivation for entering into a special love relationship with you is that I’m trying to get something back that I believe has been taken from me. Naturally, this “taking back” comes with a good bit of unconscious guilt, which I repress and project out onto the world as long as you meet my special demands of satisfaction. That is, as long as you please me, adore me, have sex with me, help me, obey me, you name it – as long as all that endures, evil is somewhere outside in the world and we’re in a “union made in Heaven” (T-16.V.8).

Unfortunately, this entire world of time and space is born of the idea of separation, and that’s what it will bring forth as long as time lasts. Unavoidably, some small irritations surface over things that I do not completely agree with. Judgment and condemnation have entered into the relationship. And a small irritation is nothing but a veil drawn over intense fury (W-21.2), so the collapsing of the relationship is usually only a matter of time. This is the mechanism of all special love relationships on this planet, at least as long as our motivation is fueled by a burning need to get something out of a relationship, something that you feel is lacking in yourself. You think you can complete yourself by “trading” your self for the self of another (T-16.V.7). In such a game, guilt and therefore pain are never far away.

Of course there is a better way. Instead of this constant “seeking-and-not-finding” (T-12.V.7), Jesus pleads with us to turn our special relationships into holy relationships. And this always entails a shift from form to content. The idea is as follows: I’ve apparently been much mistaken about what I want a relationship to be for. The reason is that I was confused about myself, about what I am (T-24-V.9). As long as I see myself as a special individual body, special love relationships will be about a special individual form. Studying and practicing A Course in Miracles, I come to realize – and experience! – that I am not a body, but a holographic part of the One Son of God – that is, part of the unified Sonship. The only relationship, then, can only be with my Self, which is Love, outside time and space – what Jesus calls a Holy relationship. My attraction should therefore not be to form, but to the content of you being a perfect mirror of the innocent, lovable and eternally loved Self. I recognize in my object of attraction the Face of Christ. Forms do not matter any more. Whether you are physically beautiful or not is irrelevant. I am entering into a holy relationship because I see only shared interests and our shared Identity.

At this point you might say: “So… I could start a relationship with anyone out there?” Answer: Yes, you could, but as long as you do not allow the Holy Spirit to guide your choice, your relationship will still be ego-driven, with no improved chance of lasting happiness. Truly helpful relationships do not happen by accident. In our lives we are offered three types of relationships – and therefore learning situations – by the Holy Spirit. The first type comes in casual encounters – except that they are not chance encounters at all. Each ‘casual’ encounter is a lesson in which you can learn to completely lose sight of separate interests. If you succeed, that will be enough – salvation has come (M-3.3). The second type of relationship is a more sustained relationship in which you experience a fairly intense teaching-learning situation, and then appear to part again. For example, your colleagues at work. The third type of relationships are typically life-long, as with your family and/or spouse. Jesus’ general point is that although the form or intensity differs, the content is always the same: opportunities for learning to see only shared interests. And this is always a choice of the mind.

Jesus’ message about relationships can thus be summarized succinctly: if the purpose for choosing a relationship is about the body in any way, you are asking for pain. And you always get what you ask for. It does not follow, however, that any focus on the body is inherently sinful. This is an often-seen pitfall with spiritual aspirants. As a good Course student, I might be tempted to rebuff any attention on the body (mine or another’s) as a silly mistake. Consequently, I might refrain from physical closeness, from kisses and hugs, since this is “obviously a wrong-minded focus on form instead of our oneness as spirit?” Nope, it doesn’t have to be! Let’s carefully read T-8.VII.3: “If you use the body for attack, it is harmful to you. If you use it only to reach the minds of those who believe they are bodies, and teach them through the body that this is not so, you will understand the power of the mind that is in you… In the service of uniting, it [the body] becomes a beautiful lesson in communion, which has value until communion is.”

To summarize: yes, please do use your body in your relationships. Use it lovingly. Use it to reflect the all-encompassing Love that is in your mind, as it is in everyone’s mind, albeit often deeply buried. One more kiss, given from the right frame of mind, can turn a cannibalistic request for pain into one of the holiest spots on earth, because an ancient hatred has become a present love (T-26.IX.6:1). Indeed, as Jesus advocates twice in ACIM: teach only Love, for that is what you are (T-6.I.13:2). Do appreciate and use your body, in service of that knowledge.

 


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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