Thursday, March 25, 2010

Course Note #57: Just what *is* ACIM attempting to Teach?

I happened to catch a short dialogue yesterday:

Person A wrote: ACIM points at the Truth, but it fails miserably because nobody is interested in Truth.

Person B: You’ve said you never took ACIM so you can’t even know what it means much less how it works.

Person A:  I can read, and I recognize what it is pointing to.

Person B:  The Application of ACIM is it’s meaning.  It is impossible to understand the meaning of ACIM without taking ACIM.  It’s like a guy who wants to learn how to weld.  So he reads how to weld but never does it.  He will never understand how to be a welder until he does it.


            I suppose this dialogue caught my eye because this is a topic of interest to me: Just what is it that A Course in Miracles attempts to teach us?
            In the introduction of the “clarification of terms” it tells us that “this course remains within the ego framework, where it is needed.  It is not concerned with what is beyond all error because it is planned only to set the direction towards it.”

            The Course meets us where we are – within the ego framework.  The Course teaches that there are two worlds: the world “you see” and the “real world".  We are being taught to use the world we see as a classroom to learn within it, that there is indeed another world to see.  

            What I love about A Course in Miracles is that it never patronizes with admonitions to forget that I think I’m a body, or to deny the physical world I see; instead it tells me that it is impossible to deny all this, and then it gently reminds me that there is another choice.  I can choose Holy Spirit’s vision and thus see everything anew.  In my willingness to do this, I begin to wake up to who and what I am.
                  The Course calls itself a “practical course”, and I don’t think this means that it’s merely useful.  When I was in chiropractic college we had to take tests called “practicals”.  These tests were designed to test whether or not we were able to demonstrate what we were learning.  I feel that this is what ACIM means when it says it is a practical course – it must be practiced to learn it. 

            If I read a recipe for macaroni and cheese, let’s say; reading the recipe pales in comparison to actually making the dish, and then enjoying the experience of eating it.  In fact, there is no comparison. 

Our work with A Course in Miracles is exactly like that.  While I can enjoy a good Course debate as much as anyone, I recognize that intellectually discussing concepts in ACIM does not substitute for actually applying it in my life.  Let’s face it, it’s much easier to write about, talk about and intellectualize the process of forgiveness than it is to actually practice it day-in-and-day-out.
            It’s much easier to say that there is no one or nothing out there than it is to practice the truth that “I am not a victim of the world I see”.  I can only really know that I am not a victim of the world I see through the practice of being willing to give up my interpretation of events in exchange for a higher interpretation.

            Until I learn to see with Holy Spirit, the vision of Love – 24 hours a day – 7 days a week – 365 days a year, then I really need not be concerned with what lies “beyond all error”.  For me anyway, undoing error is a full-time job! Ha!
            And so this is my practice today and every day:

Holy spirit,
Help me see this person
or situation through your vision of
Love rather than through
my eyes of fear.
Thank you.

With the consistent willingness to practice choosing again when I feel angry, judgmental, guilty or afraid, little by little I come closer to understanding what lies beyond all error.  It is a process to awaken to the truth that I am Love.  

             I feel that most of the spiritual books we have available to us today only scratch the surface of ultimate reality.  They meet us where we are today, and when we are willing to choose again today, we will evolve into living the reality of the Truth of who we are.  Until then, let's persevere. ;)

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Course Note #56: Choose Another Street

 Hi there,
               I read the following autobiography around twenty years ago.  I held onto it because even then, I found it brilliant in that it chronicles the emotional and spiritual stages we go through in order to break out of self-imposed prisons and enjoy the light of day. 

           Autobiography in Five Short Chapters
By Portia Nelson

Chapter One

            I walk down the street. 
                       There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
                        I fall in. 
                        I am lost…I am helpless. 
                         It isn't my fault.
            It takes forever to find a way out.

Chapter Two

            I walk down the same street. 
                       There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
                        I pretend I don't see it. 
                        I fall in again.
            I can't believe I am in this same place.
                                    But, it isn't my fault.
            It still takes a long time to get out.

Chapter Three

            I walk down the same street. 
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
                         I see it is there. 
 I still fall in…it's a habit…but,
                                     my eyes are open.
 I know where I am. 
It is my fault.
            I get out immediately.

Chapter Four

            I walk down the same street. 
                        There is a deep hole in the sidewalk
                        I walk around it.

                                                            Chapter Five
            I walk down another street.  

          Chapter One reveals our tendency to feel victimized; while Chapter Two calls our attention to how we engage in denial.  Chapter Three introduces the idea that as we open our eyes to our repetitive thought patterns, we can then take responsibility for them and move on to Chapter Four – personal empowerment.  Chapter Five represents freedom through making another choice.

  The addictive, compulsive thought loops that drive our behavior are about falling into that hole over and over again.

 A Course in Miracles tells us: “Trials are but lessons that you failed to learn presented once again, so where you made a faulty choice before you can now make a better one.”
   This means that the hole in the sidewalk is going to come up again and again and again until you realize that it is a choice you have made.  Begin to view those holes in the sidewalk as simply opportunities to choose again.
            Chapter Three in the autobiography points out that we must awaken to the fact that we have a choice.  It is your responsibility to choose the life you want.  In relinquishing that responsibility, you are destined to drift through life aimlessly waiting for others to make your choices for you.  Realize that you do not have to choose anger, denial, self-pity or blame.  In the past you may have thought you were in pain because of what was done to you, but you now realize that you are in pain because of how you think about what was done to you.  To heal, you must come to the realization that you are doing it to yourself.  And yes, this is not fun, but ultimately it will set you free.
            Even with the knowledge that you have a choice, you can stay just as stuck unless you are willing to exercise that choice.  In some ways, knowing that you have a choice and not exercising it is worse because, you may then beat yourself up: ‘Now I know I have a choice, but I'm not exercising that choice, I'm just a failure!  I’m worthless!’  You just fell back into the hole.  But now you know that you don't have to stay there. 

            All too often, we forget that the greatest power we have been given is that of choice.   We let people and events enslave us emotionally – I am angry because you are doing this to me.  Or, I have financial problems because they are doing it to me.  Or, I have an illness because God is doing it to me.  In order to attain peace of mind, you must come to recognize that you always have a choice as to how to respond to what is happening in your life. 
            Blaming anyone or anything for our problems will not set us free.  Personal empowerment evolves through recognition that pain is stemming from how I choose to think about the circumstances in my life.  In any situation, I have a choice between imprisonment and freedom.  If I created something in my life, I also possess the same creative power to change it.  The obstacles, the holes in the sidewalk, are simply opportunities to learn a lesson.  Your life is a classroom.  You can learn your lessons with the Spirit Within (love) or the ego (fear).  Which teacher will you choose? 

            Chapter Five – Freedom.  I walk down another street.  It is probably fair to say that few of us are there yet, at least in the whole of our lives.  But it is our destiny to become free of our self-imposed limitations.  When, is our choice.
One of my favorite lines in A Course in Miracles says, In every difficulty, all distress, and each perplexity the Holy Spirit calls to you and gently says “My brother,  choose again”  I love that – My brother, choose again.

Begin to view the holes in the sidewalk for what they are – opportunities to choose again.  You will experience freedom when you stop condemning the world and choose to see it from a higher, more loving vision.

            Life really does become more fun and meaningful when you do this inner work.  You begin to see that there is meaning within all that happens to you.  Have you had the experience of going through a divorce, business failure, an illness or whatever; and in the aftermath realizing that you had gained a gift from the experience?  Through spiritual practice, we can learn to find the gift in our circumstances, and cease feeling victimized by them.
             We have all experienced those situations when we said, "I know one of these days I will laugh about this!"  Laugh now!  What is keeping you from laughing now when you know you'll be laughing later?  It's a choice.  You can laugh now.  But does that mean that you deny your feelings, invalidate them, or act like you’re not hurt?  No!  Feel bad!  Cry!  Moan to all your friends!  But in a few days, start laughing.  Choose again, make another choice – a higher choice.  Your choices can liberate you or keep you in bondage.
            The journey is about self-realization.  It’s a long process.  You are not seeking human perfection, but wholeness.  See your projections as a gift, as a thought process that can teach you whether you are choosing fear or love.  With awareness, you can then make another choice – a choice to extend love into the world rather than project fear.
            When you find yourself tempted to fall into that hole yet again, stop for a moment, enter the silence, and listen as the Voice for Love whispers, “Choose another street.

Holy Spirit,
I am willing to refrain from
substances and thoughts 
that are not helpful
to me at this time.
I turn to You for ever-present strength
and inspiration to 
choose again.

After I prayed this prayer this morning, I opened NTI to a prayer that spoke to me as a response to the one I had just prayed:

You must trust Me above all that you think and hear and see.
You must put Me above your self and your world.
And you do this by your choice,
By selecting the thoughts you will believe
And the thoughts you will let go.
                                                                                    (NTI Matthew 14: 36-43. 14-17)

Thank you!

As usual, we talked about much more than I have presented here.  You can enjoy in on the audio:
Recorded for an internet audience on 3/23/10, 1 hour and 9 min.

MP3 File

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Course Note #55: Lost, and Found

     I love the story of the prodigal son because it really defines God's relationship to us.  And did you know that it's the only parable from the Bible referenced in A Course in Miracles?  

          Several years ago I was going to give a talk on this story and that morning, I woke up in a really crappy mood! Throughout the day I was guided to meditate on the workbook lesson: I will be still an instant and go home
                   By the time I gave the talk that evening at 7pm, I realized that I had gained a deeper understanding of it through the experience of being still an instant and returning home many times throughout the day

I also realized that we don't depart to the far country in one giant step, we run there every single day.
We leave home and run to the far country when we are angry and resentful. We leave home in our worry and anxiety. We leave home when we feel sorry for ourselves. We leave home when we let the world and other people define who we are.
                 In a multitude of ways, every single day, we leave the home of Love and enter a world of fear. And most of us have not yet returned. But as I discovered that day, in any moment, we can be still an instant and enfold ourselves in God's loving embrace -- enfold ourselves in the truth of who we are. In any instant, we can indeed, come home.

                 The story doesn't tell us how many years the prodigal son spent in the far country before he came to despair.  Perhaps he was experiencing a midlife crisis -- a turning point that often leads to higher choices.  Whether at midlife or not, most of us reach a point when we cry, "Enough! Uncle! There must be a better way to live my life than this!"
               While working in a pigsty, he reached such a point, he experienced an "Aha!" moment: "My father's servants have more to eat than I do."  It's interesting to note that it wasn't a guilty conscience that sent him hope, but hunger. Hunger, an appetite that must regularly be satisfied in order to sustain life.  Yet beyond our striving lies a hunger for that place which will truly sustain life -- the home of  God's love.
                  Hungry for food and home the son thought, "I will arise and return to my father."  The memory of home is implanted within us.  We can deny it or push it away, but we cannot forget because we indeed always hunger for home.  We may have vague persistent feelings, "I'm different than everybody else; I don't belong here; something's missing..."
                 Or it might be expressed in the anxiety we feel, or in those panic attacks or insomnia.  Maybe it's expressed in the way we walk the world in worry, anger and fear.  Such states of mind tells us that we are not at home in this world.  A turning point occurs when you are willing to tune out the song of the worldly sirens and listen instead to the gentle and poignant Inner voice that beckons: "Arise! Home awaits you. Hasten there."
                We are not asked to leave this world, but rather, to arise in consciousness and find home within it.  Our true inheritance is not money or things; it is the remembrance that God is the Source of all good.  Once we remember this, instead of living in a place of isolation and fear, our lives become filled with purpose and meaning.

                   But...where's God in the pigsty?  
                 If God is a being of grace and mercy, why would he let his child get to the point of starving in a pigsty?  If with our free will, we choose to separate in consciousness from our Source, we will suffer need, lack and impoverishment.  God cannot enter the pigpen because God knows nothing of lack and limitation.  God is abundance.  You may feel that you are in a pigsty because you have forgotten that God, while not in the pigsty, is nevertheless in you.  This remembrance brings release.  The door of the pigpen has always been open.  You need only walk through it.
            And what about the older son?  Although he did not find himself in a physical pigsty, nevertheless, he harbored a pigsty in his mind.  His failure to recognize his abundance caused him to suffer as much lack and limitation as his brother had suffered.  His father's words to him, "You are always with me.  All I have is yours," speaks volumes to us.  We need only be still an instant and return to the remembrance that we cannot be separated from God's love -- we can only think that we are.  It is not the will of God that you live in a pigsty.  It is God's will that you return home.

             Both sons are prodigals, they wasted their inheritance.  They each deprived themselves of their father's resources; they each deprived themselves of God's love.  And so do we.
             The younger son speaks to us of our desire to run away and of our hunger to arise in consciousness and return to Love.  The older son exemplifies how we leave home every day through our resentment and intolerance of other people.  He might be more difficult to relate to because he shows us aspects of ourselves that we may not want to see.  While the older son was certainly dutiful and responsible, he was also angry, bitter and resentful.  
               They younger son judged and condemned himself, while the elder judged and condemned others.  It doesn't matter whether we condemn other people or ourselves, we remain lost.  We remain lost because home is not a place of condemnation, home is Love.  
               Ultimately, the two sons give us a choice: remain lost or become found.  The younger son was lost, but in recognition of his lost state, he was found.  Was the older son lost or found?  Did he forgo his pride, enter the party and fellowship with his brother and father?  Or did he stay outside only to remain bitter and angry?  What would you do?
                     The father in the story represents the universal Father/Mother/God of unfailing grace, love and abundance.  The parable of the prodigal sons reveals to us that we are children who leave home and waste our inheritance; that we are children who condemn one another and ourselves.  But it also reveals the Father/Mother/God within us that is the burning flame of love.  We are indeed, rebellious children, but we are also, Love itself.
                  We long to know, really know this mysterious God who we are told readily accepts us, and who embraces us with the warmth of enduring love.  We come to know who and what God is as we allow our inner light to extend to all of our brothers and sisters.  It is our purpose, and our responsibility to grow into the Divine parent who extends grace and unconditional love to all of humanity.
                    And so, as you go about your life, recognize that in various ways you leave home many times, every single day.  But in this moment -- be still -- home waits.  Hasten there. For you are not lost, but found.

Haunted by the memory
Of home
I become still.
From the silence
A Voice beckons
To the stranger
I am now.

Lost, astray and
Inheritance gone,
I long to return
And stranger
Be no more
In the land
That is
My home.

From the silence,
A Voice beckons:
Home waits. Hasten,
For you are not lost
But found.

(excerpted in part from "Lost, and Found"
a chapter in "Oh My God. It's Me!"
Poem written in collaboration with
Michael Harcourt.) 
Audio was recorded for an internet audience on 5/2/10, 57 min,
Lost, and Found

MP3 File


Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Course Note #54: Employed by Love

In my office above my desk I have a few quotes and affirmations that inspire me; and you know how it is with that sort of thing, after awhile they become like the wallpaper, there, but not really seen.  Recently, as I was sitting at my desk, I once again saw this one by Mary Baker Eddy:

I keep in mind that my “employment”
 is in expressing God.
I remember that I am about God’s business
whatever I am doing – and I am rewarded richly.
Love I am,
Love I give,
Love is my Master.
With this prayer in mind,
I know that I can never be out of work.

            I like this because it reminds me that my true work has nothing to do with being a chiropractor, writer or speaker, but has everything to do with expressing the Love that I am.  Later while running an errand, and now I forget the actual content of my thoughts, but they were something along the lines of pondering how to express God in my job in every moment. 
I then heard the Inner voice say: “Every thought of love blesses thousands.” 
            Now, this gave me something to ponder.  Every thought of love blesses thousands.  My “employment” lies in keeping my thoughts attuned to Love. 
            The next morning I awoke to: “every thought of love blesses thousands.”  Even though I’ve been at this spiritual stuff for many years, when I hear something like this I often ask, “How do I do that?”  This practice opens me to new growth instead of resting on what I think I already know.  So on this particular morning I asked, “So Holy Spirit, how, then, do I love?”
            I let my morning spiritual practice (as in reading, praying, meditating or writing) be guided by the Inner Teacher, and am usually led to just what I need at the time.  This morning was no exception as I opened NTI (The Holy Spirit’s Interpretation of the New Testament) to this:

            “How shall you pray?
            Prayer is the unceasing act of thought. With every thought you pray for everything or for nothing at all.
               How, then, shall you think?
            I have already asked you to think with Me by accepting My thoughts and laying your own thoughts aside. My thoughts are these: They are thoughts of forgiveness, love, acceptance, gratitude and rejoicing.
            Whenever you are not listening to My thoughts, you will know, because you will not be at peace and you will not be happy.  This is not a time to chastise yourself, for chastisement is not among the thoughts that I give.  If you are tempted to chastise yourself for forgetting Me, you must again be listening to your own thoughts and praying for nothing.  This is the time that you should ask for your daily bread.  This is a time of forgiving your own thoughts by laying them aside and again opening your heart to Me.” (NTI Luke 11:1-13)

            The next morning I woke up with the thought that since it was Tuesday (I teach twice on Tuesdays), I would be expressing God through my work as a speaker and a writer, and that the next day I would serve as a chiropractor.  I then heard the inner voice say, “Every thought of love blesses thousands. This is the content of your work, all the rest is form.” 
            Aha! Now doesn’t that make everything easier, my only work is to Love.  Each one of us are Divine Instruments – here to sing the song of Love.  No surprise that on this morning I was led to these passages in NTI:

            “Love is all that there is.  When any thought does not feel like Love, you may put it aside as false. Thoughts that are not Love are thoughts such as these: lack, limits, competition, victimhood, personhood, strife, and fighting, sickness, death, rage, and sorrow, helplessness, hopelessness, control and loss.
            These are thoughts that imply separateness, and separateness is illusion.  God is Love, and Love is everything. The thoughts of everything are these: acceptance, joy, gratitude, peace and welcome.”  (NTI  1John 4:7-12)
                Throughout the day, as much as possible, I attempted to bring awareness to the thoughts that are not Love.  It’s amazing really how often in a day I can forget about Love and focus instead on lack, limitation and myself.  Nevertheless, I let those thoughts serve to remind me that I have forgotten who I am.  I Am Love.

The next morning, I again heard the gentle voice of Holy Spirit whisper: every thought of love blesses thousands.  And on this morning I was reminded of that line in the Bible which I promptly looked up:

“And now, fix your thoughts on what is true and honorable and right. Think about things that are pure and lovely and admirable.  Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.  Keep putting into practice all you learned from Me and heard from Me and saw Me doing, and the God of peace will be with you.”            (Philippians 4:8)

As I read this I noticed that nowhere on the list did it say; think about yourself.  When I am immersed in the thoughts that are not Love, I can’t help but notice that they are all thoughts about self – and thus I am employed by this small, limited and fearful self, and no longer employed by God.

It was a month ago that I was given this little retraining period on thoughts of love, and as a reminder, today I was given inspiration to write this. 
Many people are looking for employment these days, and others are burnt out on the job they have.  May you be reminded today that every thought of Love blesses thousands, and with the content of Love in the forefront of your mind, you will truly find how to best extend God in this world of form. 
I am Love. 
You are Love. 
Enjoy your Self today!

I spoke on this topic on 2/16/09, audio is 52 minutes
Being about God's Business

MP3 File

Angel pic by Carmen thanks!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Course Note #53: Let Peace be Your Umpire

Hi There,
            Several years ago I came across this passage in the Bible and it really spoke to me: 

Let the peace of God rule your heart,
acting as an umpire;
deciding and settling with finality
all questions that arise in your mind.
                                                                 (Colossians 3:15 Amplified Bible)

   I love the idea of thinking of peace as an umpire.  What does an umpire do?  An umpire at a sporting event decides and settles with finality any question that arises in the game.  An umpire decides if a player is in or out of the game.  Basically, the umpire rules.
        It works the same with peace of mind.  Whenever I have a question about what to do in a situation, the absence or presence of peace supplies the answer.  Peace comes from a mind aligned with God/Jer who is the author of peace.
            Most of us have had the experience of feeling the absence of peace about something, and then going ahead and doing it anyway.  Afterward thinking something along the lines of:  I knew I shouldn’t have done that, said that, gone there, or whatever. 
            When I think back on some of these times, I now realize that I was being guided but just didn’t know it.  Of course, back then the word “peace” was not even in my vocabulary!  Nevertheless, we’ve all had those gut feelings about things and learned to trust them.  Anxiety or ill feelings in the gut are physical symptoms of the absence of peace.
            Spirit guides and leads us with peace, and so it behooves each one of us to learn to be aware of the absence or presence of peace within our mind.  NTI, The Holy Spirit’s Interpretation of the New Testament says this about it:

Peace is the guiding light that you  must follow
as you learn to look within the mind.
For it is peace that leads you to recognition of truth,
and it is lack of peace that reminds you
that you are not following your way.
                                                                 (NTI: 1 Thessalonians, 2:7-9)

I had an experience that at first glance seems like a silly example, but it has proved to be very instructive as to how we’re led by peace. 
One night I was traveling to my office to give a talk on the Course and it was pouring down rain, consequently there was loads of traffic.  I don’t know if you know this or not, but southern Californians cannot drive in the rain! Ha!  I began to feel somewhat agitated because I was concerned about being late.  I didn’t want to arrive to the meeting feeling that way because I’ve learned over the years that I cannot let Spirit come through me in a powerful way if I am irritated or angry.  And so I gave the situation to Holy Spirit and felt an immediate sense of peace.
A moment later I heard, “Take the 2”.  The “2” is an offshoot of the freeway I was on.  I had never taken that freeway to my office and wasn’t sure how to get there that way, nevertheless, being just moments away from the exit, I took the 2.  To my surprise there wasn't any traffic and I was able to get to my office in plenty of time.
I learned a great lesson from the experience: I was feeling anxious; I stopped in the moment and chose peace, and with peace I heard guidance, I acted on the guidance, and consequently, I was led in a new direction.
           We must come to understand that worry and fear cannot lead us in new directions. So what to do?  Again I defer to NTI:  

“Lack of peace in any measure is an opportunity to be healed.
            To look at the intrusion and to focus on it as a failure is to continue to hold onto error.  Do not judge your own lack of peace. Rejoice that the Holy Spirit has brought you to another moment of healing.
            Let Me change your mind about what you experience, so you may use your experience to heal without delay.”  (NTI: 1 Thessalonians 3:1-5)

So often, especially as people who want to grow in Love, we beat up on ourselves when we feel angry, guilty, and judgmental, etc.  But here we are told that lack of peace is simply an opportunity to choose again. 
The reason we aren’t healed overnight is because we are mesmerized by this world of form.  For most of us, it takes years to get to the point where we recognize a lack of peace for what it is, and then more time to grow into the desire let Holy Spirit change our mind.  As we are told in A Course in Miracles, the first obstacle to the flow of peace is the desire to get rid of it. 
We can be an effective force for healing in this world when we let peace guide and lead our lives.  Fear, worry and anxiety cannot lead us in new directions as these emotions only serve to keep the future continuous with the past.  All healing occurs in the present.  In the present we have the opportunity to choose peace.

See, when our mind is filled with thoughts of worry, anxiety and fear, we are unavailable to hear Spirit’s guidance, and thus we cannot be led in new directions.  So often when going through difficult times, we let them be distractions to peace, and in fact, excuses to not even choose it. 
“How can you expect me to be peaceful when I’m going through this!”

          It is not the world that disrupts our peace; it’s a fearful interpretation of the world that disrupts our peace. A Course in Miracles says this:

            How is peace possible in this world?  It seems impossible here! The world is but a fact. You cannot choose what this would be. But you can choose how you would see it. Indeed, you must choose this.  God’s word assures you that He loves the world; it is your judgment that says it is unlovable.  Who is right?
            In your judgment peace is not possible, but the reflection of God’s love through you, makes peace possible here.  It is not the world that makes peace seem impossible, it is the world you see that is impossible.  Peace is impossible to those who look on war.  Peace is inevitable to those who offer peace.  A Thought of God can turn hell to Heaven merely by being what it is.  The question is no longer, “Can peace be possible in this world?” But instead, “Is it not impossible that peace be absent here.”  (ACIM. M-11. paraphrased)

I believe with every fiber of my being that we live in a benevolent universe governed by a benevolent God.  And yes, you may watch the news and wonder how this could be so.  I am not privy to the big picture; there is much going on that I do not understand, nevertheless, I trust God, and in that trust I find that peace is here and now. 

Trust in God has caused me to feel comfortable with not knowing what the future holds because placing my future in the hands of God now, facilitates peace now. Peace of mind helps me to let go of my plan for my life and be willing to be led into God’s plan.

Today, Let Peace be your Umpire

This audio was recorded on 3/9/10 and is 55 minutes.
Let Peace be Your Umpire

MP3 File

Friday, March 05, 2010

Course Note #52: Do You Want to be Happy or Right?

Hi there,
A concept from A Course in Miracles that has facilitated much healing in my life comes to light in the very poignant question: Do you want to be happy or right?

        Those words jumped out at me because I was the Queen of Being Right!  I thought, "Dear God, I am willing to give up a lot of stuff, but please don't make me give up being right!"  
         Isn't being right a very satisfying experience?  When I first became aware of this concept, someone had sent me an inflammatory letter.  On my morning walk as I mentally prepared a defense, I heard the Inner Voice say, "Sheryl, do you want to be happy or do you want to be right?"
        "But God, in this situation, being right would make me extremely happy!"
        This discourse went on because in that situation "right" and "happy" seemed like the same thing.  As I heard the higher part of my mind whisper, "Sheryl, choose again." I had to laugh at myself.  And so, I did not respond to the letter and defend my position.  I refused to add fuel to the fire just because I thought I was right. I chose happiness when I let it go.
        Choosing happiness over being right is one of the hardest principles to put into practice because ego will exclaim: "What! You're just going to let her get away with that?  You're going to let him think that about you?"
The truth is that "they" are going to think "that" about you anyway, especially if you throw your stuff at them.  My problem is that I usually am right (and humble too!) HA!  Nevertheless, I have learned time and time again that when I have to make someone else wrong so that I can be right, I'm not happy. I want to be happy. And you?

Thursday, March 04, 2010

Course Note #51: Log-in-the-eye Syndrome

Periodically over the years I have read posts on various Course lists about how “course students are the worst”, or how “most” or “many” students of ACIM do this or that.  Invariably the disgruntled person will post an old article by spiritual author Hugh Prather about the effects of long term Course study.
            I recall reading Prather’s article several years ago and in it, he spoke about going to a gathering with many people in attendance who were long time students and teachers of A Course in Miracles.  As I read it, I was struck by his perception that with the exception of two or three people, everyone seemed to not have benefited from long term course study, and in fact, seemed more self absorbed than ever.  Everyone? Hmmm. 

            Let me say that I’m not a Course student who thinks that nothing or no one is out there.  I have always felt that when ACIM speaks of “illusion” it is speaking of a way of seeing.  When I look at the world through the lens of fear, anger and attack (ego), I see what isn’t there.  And I could be wrong, but I also don’t feel that if I observe that someone else seems to be behaving in a certain way that this is my projection; however if their behavior triggers reaction in me, then yes, that’s something for me to look at. 
Nevertheless, if I see “many”, “most” or “all” doing this or that, obviously I’m engaging in the ole log-in-the-eye syndrome.  Even the Bible speaks of this sort of ego projection; remember this from Matthew: Why do you stare at the splinter in your neighbor’s eye, and remain unaware of the log in your own? 

Certainly, I have been around spiritual communities long enough to observe how ego can create all kinds of havoc in the guise of being “spiritual”.   Yet, my personal experience with many course students over the years has been predominantly positive.  Sure, I’ve had problems with a few here and there, but not because they are  “course students” but because we are human.  Each one of us has an ego alive-and-well within that essentially struts around feeling better than, less than, or at least different than someone else.

A Course in Miracles is profound in that it doesn’t teach us how to love, more importantly, it teaches us why we don’t. 

Each one of us is doing the best we can on this journey to remember who we are.   When I started the Course I was angry and defensive, however, I had no idea – I thought I was happy!  Eighteen years of diligent practice and study of the Course has taught me to be brutally honest with myself, and it is this willingness to be brutally honest with myself that has helped me to actually become a better person.  But don’t get me wrong; I have by no means mastered the art of love and forgiveness.
Just this week, after engaging in a political discussion with someone, I happened across an article that asked me to look within to see if I held thoughts of irritation, resentment, criticism or self-righteousness.  Well…no doubt my Inner Teacher led me to read that because hours before, I had held all those thoughts as I ranted about corporate greed and most of the people in that other political party! 

Yeah, Busted!

My book “Oh My God. It’s Me!” was inspired by the many moments throughout my life where I had to face that the problem wasn’t “out there”.  I find that in order to remain at peace I must daily look at my own crap.

            My husband and I have been hooked on the TV show “Battlestar Galactica”.  While watching it, I engage in bashing the characters I don’t like.  My Inner Teacher brought to my attention recently that even condemnation of fictional TV characters injures me. Sheesh!  It seems HS doesn’t let me get away with anything these days!
And yes, I’ve had to look at my own use of the words “most” and “many”, especially in regard to that other political party, or all those fundamentalist religious people!
Yet, Holy Spirit consistently and gently reminds me that my condemnation of anyone or anything only injures me.  It’s a tough lesson, and I am willing to admit that after eighteen years with the course I haven’t fully learned it, but I persevere.
When I look outside of me to see that many people are doing this or that, I am learning to let that be an opportunity to take a deeper look at my own thoughts.  I woke up this morning with the inspiration to write this, and I thank you Holy Spirit, once again, for giving me the opportunity to teach what I need to learn.

Much Love to you Today!

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Course Note #50: What's Occupying your Mind?

In the past year I’ve been led to some teachings in A Course in Miracles that I find to be a powerful practice for healing. 
            First, I feel that the Course’s term “special relationships” is really synonymous with “idols”.  When I was new to the Course I thought that special relationships were about romantic relationships, but over the years my Inner Teacher has taught me that our special relationships are love affairs with the ego.

In the Bible it says that we are to keep ourselves from idols; from any sort of substitute for God that would take first place in your life. (1 John 5:17)
            And in ACIM: “See in the special relationship nothing more than a meaningless attempt to raise other Gods before Him… In the name of your completion (healing) you do not want this. For every idol that you raise to place before Him, stands before you, in place of what you are.” (T-16.V.13)
“Every special relationship which you have made is a substitute for God’s will, and glorifies yours… …when truth calls to you, as it does constantly, you answer with a substitute.  Every special relationship you have made has, as its fundamental purpose, the aim of occupying your mind so completely that you will not hear the call for truth.” (T-17.IV.3)

            When our mind is occupied with a special relationship we cannot know the True Self, because our very preoccupation is designed to keep us absent from our mind, and focused on the small limited self.
  What is occupying your mind “so completely”?
           Perhaps your mind has been occupied with thoughts about money, lack, your body, a relationship…

            When completely occupied with thoughts about self, do you notice that you feel a sense of unworthiness and failure?  These thoughts are not the truth about you. 
            I am not dwelling in truth when preoccupied with my own thoughts.  We have looked for love in all the wrong places, in all these substitutes for truth, but the only place we’ll ever find it is in the truth of who we are.  I am Love. 
            A Course in Miracles tells us this, “The Holy Spirit uses special relationships, which you have chosen to support the ego, as learning experiences that point to truth. Under His teaching, every relationship becomes a lesson in love.”  
            It says here that our special relationships can be teaching tools for HS, or used by us to support the ego, i.e., a belief in guilt. 
Call to mind how often you feel guilty within the special relationship currently occupying your mind: feeling guilty for eating what you feel you shouldn’t have eaten, buying what you feel you shouldn’t buy, getting angry…  We begin to see how ego uses the body to keep us focused on limitation, unworthiness and guilt, which serves the purpose beautifully of keeping us absentminded – absent from our mind where we can choose again.
We need not despair because Holy Spirit does not deprive us of our special relationships, he can transform them if we will let him.  Does this mean that I don’t have to give up pizza!?   
So how does this occur?

I have been a student of the Course for about eighteen years, and so I was privy to the information on special relationships and how they relate to a focus on the body and self.  However, in the past year, I have been guided to a powerful teaching that can be used to facilitate healing in these areas of compulsive and addictive behavior:
“The Holy Spirit asks only this little help of you: Whenever your thoughts wander to a special relationship, which still attracts you, enter with Him into a holy instant, and there let Him release you.” 
It goes on to say that our willingness need not be 100% because His is.  I love that.  One thing I love about the Course is that it addresses us where we are. It doesn't say; “My God Sheryl, when are you going to get it together?!  When are you going to start practicing?”
That’s not what the Voice for Love says, rather it says this, “out of your recognition of your unwillingness for your release, My perfect willingness is given you. Call upon Me and let Me call on Heaven for you.”
“Out of your recognition of your unwillingness for your release…” All we are asked to do is recognize our resistance to healing, because encased in this recognition is a call for Divine help.
When I was first guided to this practice, specifically: “The Holy Spirit asks only this little help of you. Whenever your thoughts wander to a special relationship, which still attracts you, enter with Him into a holy instant, and there let Him release you.”  I asked HS, how do I do this?  Immediately I was prompted to workbook lesson 365:

This holy instant would I give to You.
Be You in charge.
For I would follow You,
Certain that Your direction gives me peace.

So the practice I’ve been guided to frequently in the past year is this: whenever my thoughts wander to the body, guilt, unworthiness,etc.,  I am to return my mind to truth through the lesson 365 prayer.  Let me give you an example of what happened one morning.
I was driving to work, and I usually don’t have a desire to eat in the morning, but that morning I felt the urge to eat something that I really felt that I should not eat.  I prayed the L365 prayer. 
A few minutes later I heard the Inner Voice say, “Sheryl, if you’re hungry, by all means eat, and eat whatever you want. But, if you are not hungry, then your thoughts have wandered to a special relationship that still attracts you. Turn to Me.”  Wow!

Let’s say your special relationship is with money, feeling that you never have enough.  While you are sitting down paying your bills it is appropriate to think about money, just like it’s appropriate to think about food when you are hungry.  But when engaged in worry, anxiety and fear about money, or about feeling guilt or obsession about the body or food, then my thoughts have wandered to a special relationship that still attracts me. 
And this is okay.  I need only recognize that I am resistant to being free and turn to the Presence of Love within, or not.  We are not asked to beat up on ourselves for not practicing.  I can fall into that, and then stay stuck on not being able to change.  I get that I cannot change myself.
A self-powered life is attempting to use will power to change ourselves instead of turning to the real Power Source within us.  This morning I was prompted to Paul in the Bible who had a thorn in his side, and he kept asking God to remove it. And God said, “My strength and power are most effective in your weakness.”
Yes, in recognition of my powerlessness to change myself I am given all Power. I am reminded of the course lesson: God is the Strength in which I Trust.  If you are trusting in your own strength then, yeah, you have every reason to feel frustrated and afraid!
See, we don’t have to have any extraordinary will power, Holy Spirit says that he only asks for a little help: Come to Me and let Me release you.

So in this moment call to mind the special relationship occupying your mind so completely that you don’t hear the call of Love, and be willing to join with me as we ask Holy Spirit to release us:
Holy Spirit,
You’ve told me that my part is so little
compared to Your part, which is huge.
In this moment,
I recognize my resistance to healing,
yet I know that as I call on You,
You will call on Love
for me.
This holy instant would I give to You.
Be You in charge.
For I would follow You,
certain that Your direction gives me peace.

You can be anywhere, on the freeway, in conversation with another, and yet still join with Holy Spirit in a holy instant.  I also want to say that although I was guided to this prayer at the time, it doesn’t really matter what words you use.  Any lesson or prayer will do as it indicates willingness to choose again.  It could be as simple as, “Holy Spirit, Help!”
In my own life I recognize that the reason I’m still stuck in some aspects of my life is because I haven’t been practicing what my Inner Teacher has given me to practice.  I don't need to judge myself for this, but I do need to be honest with myself as to why I’m still stuck.  Nevertheless, I’m only lost if I wallow in my misery instead of continually having the willingness to choose again. 
Remember that while we have chosen these special relationships to support the ego; to support the belief that we are bodies, Holy Spirit can use them as a classroom to teach us that all can be used as lessons in Love.

The Audio for today’s session is 1 hour and 25 min.

MP3 File