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:


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