Weekly Questions and Answers, 02/16/2005

This week's questions/topics:

Q #674  How can I speed up someone else's change of mind?
Q #675  What if all my love and kindness simply is not returned?

Q #676  To what extent is my wrong-mindedness responsible for unpleasant situations?
Q #677  What is meant by "you are its effect and cannot be its cause"?

Chronological List of All Questions.
Interactive Index of all topics

Q #674: What advice would you have for a teacher of God whose own healing depends on the change of mind of the patient? My mom was given a miracle through me, but it is waiting on her acceptance of it. This miracle will heal me just the same. The healing is not of an illness but rather of a lack of abundance. I feel healed because of revelation, but the continuation of symptoms is hard to ignore at times. I turn to the Holy Spirit as much as I can, and He helps me remember that I have an agreement with God, and that God does not change His Mind. Still, what is my role here? Can I do anything to speed up her change of mind? So far I have simply watched her progress and gave her the word of God when I felt she needed to hear it. Is there anything else I can do?

A: If we believe that our own healing depends on someone else’s change of mind, what we really need is a change of mind ourselves! Your intentions around your mother’s accepting the healing seem well-meaning enough, but Jesus cautions, "Trust not your good intentions. They are not enough (T.18.IV.2:1,2). For while you remain concerned about her acceptance of the miracle, or feel a need to help her progress in her acceptance of it, your mind is also not accepting it! Hard as this may be to believe, Jesus makes this point in the most uncompromising terms, in the section "Should Healing Be Repeated?" in the manual for teachers: "One of the most difficult temptations to recognize is that to doubt a healing because of the appearance of continuing symptoms is a mistake in the form of lack of trust. As such it is an attack. Usually it seems to be just the opposite. It does appear unreasonable at first to be told that continued concern is attack. It has all the appearances of love. Yet love without trust is impossible, and doubt and trust cannot coexist. And hate must be the opposite of love, regardless of the form it takes. Doubt not the gift and it is impossible to doubt its result. This is the certainty that gives God's teachers the power to be miracle workers, for they have put their trust in Him" (M.7.4).

Specifically, what does it mean that her symptoms are hard for you to ignore at times? Her continued symptoms are reminding you, at least unconsciously, of unhealed places within your own mind, and that is where Jesus would ask you to direct your attention, rather than to your mother’s continuing resistance. For if we are affected by someone else’s inability to accept a miracle, we are making the error of their thinking real in our own mind, believing that the ego is a real problem rather than merely a mistaken perspective based on an illusory belief in separation. Believing the ego is real is the only problem we need to address. And while we believe that someone else is in any way responsible for our lack of peace, we are missing the opportunity to heal our own misperception. For if we could really be affected by another’s choice, then we could be victimized by forces beyond our control. Yet Jesus makes it very clear, early in the workbook, that we are not victims of the world we see (W.pI.31).

In the same section in the manual for teachers cited above, Jesus goes on to say: "The real basis for doubt about the outcome of any problem that has been given to God's Teacher for resolution is always self-doubt. And that necessarily implies that trust has been placed in an illusory self, for only such a self can be doubted.…Conflict about what you are has entered your mind, and you have become deceived about yourself. And you are deceived about yourself because you have denied the Source of your creation. If you are offering only healing, you cannot doubt. If you really want the problem solved, you cannot doubt. If you are certain what the problem is, you cannot doubt. Doubt is the result of conflicting wishes. Be sure of what you want, and doubt becomes impossible." (M.7.5:1,2; 6:3,4,5,6,7,8). The illusory self is one that believes it is separate not only from others but from God and His All- encompassing Love. That is the misperception that needs to be healed within our own mind before we can be of genuine help to anyone else.

Now this does not mean that you will not offer support to your mother in her process of healing, but it will not be done out of any sense of need that she change. Your only role or responsibility as a teacher of God, which Jesus emphasizes in many places in A Course in Miracles, including this section, is to accept the Atonement for yourself (e.g., T.2.V.5:1; M.7.3:2). And he further elaborates: "The teacher of God is a miracle worker because he gives the gifts he has received. Yet he must first accept them. He need do no more, nor is there more that he could do. By accepting healing he can give it. If he doubts this, let him remember Who gave the gift and Who received it. Thus is his doubt corrected. He thought the gifts of God could be withdrawn. That was a mistake, but hardly one to stay with. And so the teacher of God can only recognize it for what it is, and let it be corrected for him (M.7.3:3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10,11; italics added).

Q #675: What does A Course in Miracles say about a person who has tried to be loving, kind, and giving to someone, and trying to use the Course’s principle of seeing the Christ in them, and having that person treat you with anger, rudeness, unkindness, and just plain nastiness? I know that this is not who he truly is; but his darkness has affected our relationship and his toxic behavior has gotten the best of me. I have reacted in unkind ways myself. I feel as if I have failed the lessons the Holy Spirit has presented me. How many times do I have to forgive myself? How can I justify someone’s poor behavior? I want to see this person as a loving brother, and I want to be seen as a loving brother in return. How can a miracle happen when there is so much separation?

A: You may be trying too hard! You just have to monitor your ego reactions and bring them to the non-judgmental love of Jesus in your mind, and do nothing else. You do not have to work at seeing the Christ in this other person. When you have let go of your judgments and specialness needs, you will automatically perceive the Christ in him and yourself as well. That is the meaning of the powerful statement in the text, "If he speaks not of Christ to you, you spoke not of Christ to him. You hear but your own voice, and if Christ speaks through you, you will hear Him" (T.11.V.18:6,7). For most of us, the process of getting to this level develops gradually over a period of time because of our resistance to being permanently without judgment and specialness needs. That is why your focus should be on not judging yourself for getting angry and being judgmental, rather than on trying to stop yourself from getting angry and being judgmental. There’s a big difference between the two approaches to forgiveness. When you tire of forgiving yourself, you can be sure that the ego has snuck into the process and therefore self-condemnation and guilt have crept in as well, for you could never tire of turning to the gentle love of Jesus that sees the complete meaningless of your ego and invites you to remain forever in that quiet center in your mind instead of the ego’s turbulent prison of perpetual conflict.

Your inner peace, as you are already aware, does not depend on whether your friend is kind to you or not, or whether you maintain the friendship or not (in form). Perhaps associating with one another is not in either of your best interests -- you cannot see the entirety of your or your friend’s Atonement path. Leaving a relationship can be a right-minded decision or a wrong-minded decision, just as the decision to stay in a relationship can be right- or wrong-minded. The content in your mind is the only important factor. It is normal to expect a friend to be respectful and kind to you, but that should not be a condition of your love for him, reflecting the unconditional love of God for His Son. The behavior of not continuing the relationship may still be bound to the content of love in your mind, in which case you would only feel peace.

While forgiveness never condones or justifies unloving behavior, it does perceive its roots in overwhelming fear and guilt, which is why condemnation is never an appropriate response. Yet, forgiveness never requires that a person stay in an abusive relationship simply to learn lessons. The ego, of course, would encourage that, for then you would always have a reason for feeling separate and not at peace: "I tried, but my friend’s toxicity infected me. It wasn’t my fault." Our unconscious and overwhelming fear of love is typically defended against through that kind of ego dynamic. That is why trying to stop your reaction will never be successful for long. Not judging yourself for your ego reactions will be successful in the long run, though, as you allow yourself to see what it is costing you to hold on to your judgments.

Q #676: The process of forgiveness of in A Course in Miracles is to remember, each time an unpleasant thought comes to awareness, that the anger, worry, fear or other troubling thought originated in the mind and was projected out to the seemingly external situation. However, often I find myself going a step further. I picture myself as the "decision maker" actually choosing the situation. So, for example, if I think I’m angry because I believe someone cheated me, I picture myself actually inventing the entire situation out of whole cloth. This immediately defuses the situation in my mind and removes any anger or feeling of being put upon by someone else. While this is certainly in keeping with the Course’s metaphysics, it implies that each of us, as seeming individuals, is responsible for the bad acts of others. However, I find the process more useful in reestablishing peace in my mind than the other process of just thinking that the feeling originated in my mind and not the entire situation.

A: One of the most important teachings of the Course is that we are minds with the power to choose. It also tells us clearly that our choice is always between the ego’s thought that the separation is real and the Holy Spirit’s thought that it is not real. It is very important to remember that the "decision maker" only chooses between the ego and the Holy Spirit, not among specific circumstances in the world of form. "The power of decision is all that is yours. What you can decide between is fixed, because there are no alternatives except truth and illusion"(T.14.III.4:3,4). The process you describe (seeing the specific circumstances as made up) may not be helpful because it obscures the real choice that was made in the mind and, most importantly, its purpose. Everything (good and bad, positive and negative) in the world was made to keep us focused on our identity as bodies in direct attack on the Identity God gave us as minds. Our goal is to get in touch with the mind that is actively choosing the ego instead of the Holy Spirit, and to take responsibility for that choice. If we are going to learn to make another choice, we cannot skip this step. Diffusing the negative effects of the choice by using mental imagery will not get us to the heart of the matter. It may bring temporary relief, but it will not lead us back home.

The goal of the Course is to awaken from the dream of separation, not to have a more pleasant dream. The process of forgiveness, which leads us to awakening, requires that we become more and more sensitive to our negative reactions (and positive ones, for that matter). They are the important clues to the activity of our minds. We are asked to shift our focus from the circumstances of the situation entirely, and to focus on the thoughts in our minds. In this practice it does not matter that the situation was made up and ultimately means nothing. The important thing is to recognize that it means something now in the experience of it. If you find this exercise helps you begin the process, it is a very good way to get started. Jesus does tell us the world is all made up. It is also important to recognize the actual "chain of events" in the mind as the Course explains them, so as not to short circuit the process. The Holy Spirit needs us to give Him all our twisted misperceptions in the specific form that we have made them up. "All things you made have use to Him [the Holy Spirit], for His most holy purpose. He knows you are not separate from God, but He perceives much in your mind that lets you think you are" (T.14.VI.5:3,4).

He needs our mistakes and we need His help. Our feelings, reactions, and perceptions are useful to the Holy Spirit because they make up the classroom where He teaches us the forgiveness that leads to true healing. Only then will the effects of the belief in separation be dispelled along with the thought of separation which gave rise to them: "When the thought of separation has been changed to one of true forgiveness, will the world be seen in quite another light; and one which leads to truth, where all the world must disappear and all its errors vanish. Now its source has gone, and its effects are gone as well" (W.pII.3.1:4,5).

When we have learned through forgiveness that we are, in fact, as God created us, and no longer fear this truth, we will know that the world and our experience of it is made up. Then we will not react at all to its insanity. That is the true peace we seek.

Q #677: Would you kindly assist me in understanding section VIII of Chapter 27, titled "The ‘Hero’ of the Dream," in particular, the meaning of the following quote:

"Though the dream itself takes many forms, and seems to show a great variety of places and events wherein its ‘hero’ finds itself, the dream has but one purpose, taught in many ways. This single lesson does it try to teach again, and still again, and yet once more; that it is cause and not effect. And you are its effect, and cannot be its cause."

A: This passage is saying that the ego’s purpose for the dream is to deceive us into believing that we are each a single, lonely figure in the dream of the world, each with our own separate interests and needs, rather than the dreamer of the dream of the world and all the figures in it. If we are a figure -- a body -- in the dream, then we are the dream’s effect and the dream is our cause. But if we are the dreamer, we are the cause and the dream/world is the effect.

To help understand this passage further, consider what is really happening in the split mind and what the ego wants us to believe, described in the sentences you quote. The "you" Jesus is addressing and is always referring to in A Course in Miracles is our mind, outside of time and space and outside the dream. It is the split mind of the Son of God, after we have seemingly fallen asleep and begun to dream of separation. Much like what we experience in our nighttime dreams, we do not remember that we are the dreamer but think instead that we are one of the figures in the dream, a body, the "hero" of the dream. So we have accepted the body as our identity and believe that all of the rest of the dream -- the world -- is outside of ourselves, beyond our control, exerting its influence on us against our will. And yet all along, we, as the dreaming mind, are making the whole thing up.

But this confusion about our identity is exactly what the ego wants us to believe in order to achieve its purpose -- to keep us asleep and dreaming the dream of separation, without ever realizing that it is our dream. So the world we seem to be experiencing outside of our physical selves, which includes our parents and their parents, etc., seems to be the cause of the self we think we are -- the body. In other words, the ego has convinced us that we, as a body which contains a brain which reacts and thinks and feels, are the effect of the world, and how we feel is a result of our interactions with that outside world and all the people in it. So we never consider the possibility that we, as a mind, are not the effect but rather the cause of the world, of the dream. And this subterfuge serves a very deliberate purpose, for now the cause of all of our unhappiness and pain and loss seems to be the world/the dream, rather than the decision we are making within our mind to see ourselves as separate from love. If we really knew our own choice is the cause, we would not remain asleep and dreaming much longer, and the ego -- the thought of separation -- would then simply disappear.

Think again of your dreams at night. We may have all kinds of experiences in the dream that we attribute to the other figures and the "outer world" of our dream while we are still asleep and dreaming. But upon awakening, we recognize that all those feelings were not caused by anything in the dream itself but rather by our mind that was dreaming the entire contents of the dream, including both the dream figure we thought we were and everything seemingly separate from it. The dream is one, single, unitary illusion that continues to fool us about reality while we remain asleep. So one of Jesus’ primary objectives with the Course is to help us understand the real nature of cause and effect, so we can undo our confusion and eventually remember Who we truly are, beyond even the illusory split mind.

In a lovely passage early in the text, Jesus calls to us: "Hear, then, the one answer of the Holy Spirit to all the questions the ego raises: You are a child of God, a priceless part of His Kingdom, which He created as part of Him. Nothing else exists and only this is real. You have chosen a sleep in which you have had bad dreams, but the sleep is not real and God calls you to awake. There will be nothing left of your dream when you hear Him, because you will awaken. Your dreams contain many of the ego's symbols and they have confused you. Yet that was only because you were asleep and did not know. When you wake you will see the truth around you and in you, and you will no longer believe in dreams because they will have no reality for you. Yet the Kingdom and all that you have created there will have great reality for you, because they are beautiful and true" (T.6.IV.6).