In therapeutic group sessions, people will oftentimes complain that they lack inner peace because they are annoyed by others. Even though they know their inner peace need not depend on what others say or do, there seems to be an almost endless list of people to dislike. But if I complain that I do not like my neighbor, who is it that does the complaining? This question is rarely asked, and yet points the way out of the vicious circle of vexation.
A Course in Miracles teaches us that the world we think we live in is inherently illusory, and therefore so are the bodies that we think constitute our reality, as we read in many places, for example in Workbook lesson 155: “The world is an illusion. Those who choose to come to it are seeking for a place where they can be illusions, and avoid their own reality.” (W-pI.155.2:1-2). In this case, Jesus is not speaking metaphorically. He literally means that to experience myself as a body is a deliberate attempt to avoid the experience of my true reality as Christ, outside time, space, perception and matter.
Everyone who walks this earth therefore, still prefers to try to attain lasting happiness through individuality instead of the state of Oneness. Most of us do not fully realize our deeply cherished attachment to the imagined state of individual specialness. Only once you really take some time to contemplate what life would be like without a body, without time and space, without perception, heck, even without consciousness, might it be that the sweat of terror about losing your very self would break out.
This is why in A Course in Miracles Jesus patiently explains to his students, in many places, that the ‘me‘ that complains about that awful neighbor, is not my real identity – it’s my ego, the part of my mind that still likes to be a unique, special individual self. Still, once I lift my mind ‘above the battleground’ (T-23.IV) of my chattering thought stream, I can learn to non-judgmentally observe the dream world I think I’m living in, and then ask for another Teacher where true inner peace can be found, Who in the Course is identified as the Holy Spirit. (In other thought systems this Teacher is called by many other names, always referring to the Voice for Oneness Love.)
In other words, the real me in this world is what Kenneth Wapnick calls the decision making part of the mind. Though still apparently active in the dream of time and space, the decision maker has the power to choose between love and fear at any moment in time. In fact, Jesus refers to this power to choose as “…all power in Heaven and on earth” (W-pI.191.9:1; W-pII.320.1:4). Once my decision maker consistently chooses to follow the Holy Spirit’s guidance, my identity will unavoidably melt into my Identity as Christ. I will have accepted the Atonement and am awake again in my real Home in the Heart of God.
This sounds easy (and desirable) enough, but our aforementioned imagined terror about losing our special unique individual self makes sure we continually self-sabotage our journey Home in various ways. Of course, condemnation is the chief instrument to keep the ego alive, for as long as I can ‘prove’ that I am different and better than others, individuality clearly seems to be the truth. So how do I learn to embrace the guidance of the Holy Spirit, while still immersed in the conflict between wanting self versus wanting Self?
The key is to increasingly become aware – above the battleground, in silence – of the ego thought stream, and then non-judgmentally look at the thoughts you apparently choose. In Chapter 31 of the text, we read: “Be very still an instant. Come, without all thought of what you ever learned before, and put aside all images you made. The old will fall away before the new without your opposition or intent. […] Forgive your brother all appearances, that are but ancient lessons you have taught yourself about the sinfulness in you. […] Thus it is a way you go together, not alone.” (T-31.II.8:1-3; 9:1,6).
Workbook lesson 155 says that “There is a way of living in the world that is not here, although it seems to be. You do not change appearance, though you smile more frequently. Your forehead is serene; your eyes are quiet. And […] those who have not yet perceived the way [e.g., neighbors] will recognize you….” (W-pI.155.1:1-4). In other words, I find inner peace by my decision to “…step back and let Him [the Holy Spirit, the Voice for Love] lead the way.” (W-pI.155).
This does not mean that my ego should now like my neighbor. The ego will always differentiate and reject. It does mean that I can now look at that attack thought in silence from above the battleground, and remind myself: “Ah yes, of course my ego doesn’t like my neighbor. But I am more than my ego. I actually witness a projection of my dislike of myself because of the sin of disliking God in the original moment. I do this to perpetuate the dream of time and space, so that I might still find some happiness all on my own. That’s just plain silly. In reality, my neighbor and I are the same Son of God, at one in Christ. Will I decide to see his form (behavior), or his content (the same Light that shines in all of us)?
As such mindfulness is extremely threatening to the ego, which we still intimately identify with, all sorts of objections will rise about really following through on this, as in, for example. “I tried acting kindly to him once, and it didn’t work. What’s the use?” However, trying to change someone else means once again falling into the trap of specialness. Jesus only asks of me some sincere willingness to see him as the same; to visualize the same Light in him and me. Period. And the time will not be long when my neighbor surprises me by acting kindly to me. And that’s when I start to realize that my “ego me” is not me. I’m the decision maker, with all power in Heaven and on earth to experience peace. Use it wisely!
See also my “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:
See my Feb. 2020 Course workshop on YouTube called “A kingdom to rule” (English captions/subtitles available).
Dutch visitors may also be interested in this Dutch page: ikzoekvrede.nl.