Weekly Questions and Answers, 03/30/2005

This week's questions/topics:

Q #699  What is the relationship between the body and the spirit?
Q #700  I am afraid that having a job may intefere with my ability to learn the Course.

Q #701  What does the course say about leaving a relationship?.
Q #702  Should I worry about "making a difference" in the world?

Chronological List of All Questions.
Interactive Index of all topics

Q #699: David Hawkins has written of the calibration of the body impulses to their spirit or mind source. Jesus mentions that the ego and the spirit are unaware of each other and the body in nothing. How relative are the calibration levels regarding the spirit? I find his work very informative and it helps put the ego/mind/Self in line with the way Jesus explains truth in A Course in Miracles.

A: We do not comment on the work of other teachers, but we can address your question about the relationship among body, mind and spirit. The Course teaches that the mind is not contained in the body/brain. Spirit is real, the body is not (See: T.6.IV.5). As you mention, the body is nothing. However, while belief in the body’s reality is maintained, it is used either by the ego or the Holy Spirit: "The ego uses the body for attack, for pleasure and for pride… The Holy Spirit sees the body only as a means of communication" (T.6.V.A.5:3). We are told in the Course that our problem is that we have identified with the ego, and thereby with the body, and the correction is for us to learn to identify with the mind. This does not involve levels, but rather a simple choice between the thought system of the ego based on belief in the separation, or the thought system of the Holy Spirit based on the truth that separation from God is impossible. The choice is then communicated to other minds through the body, reinforcing belief in either the ego or the Holy Spirit. That is what is meant when Jesus tells us we are always teaching. There are no varying degrees in this teaching/communication. Either the ego or the Holy Spirit is chosen, and then communicated in some form. Both thoughts cannot be held in the mind at the same time. Thus the line you refer to: "The ego and the spirit do not know each other" (T.4.VI.4:1). By recognizing the thoughts, judgments, and feelings that arise in our interactions and activities, we teach ourselves, as well as others, the choice we have made in our minds of which we are not aware. The mind thus communicates to itself through the body, which is the only useful purpose the body serves.

When the body is at the service of the Holy Spirit (by the choice made in the mind), it is not driven by the needs that arise from identification with the ego. We must remember, however, the fundamental Course teaching that action occurs only in the mind, where learning resides: "…only the mind can create, …correction belongs at the thought level" (T.2.V.1:7). Practicing the Course, therefore, involves focusing our attention on our thoughts and judgments, rather than body impulses.

When the mind chooses to believe in separation, the choice is defended by judgments and grievances. The inevitable negative effects of this choice (deep pain and misery) can then be used as further proof that the separation/body is real, or as an opportunity to see them for what they are (effects of a choice), so another choice can be made. By the same token, experiencing the deep peace and quiet that results from choosing the Holy Spirit strengthens identity with the His thought system, which heals the mind of the thought of separation. The body is then freed of ego driven impulses, although it need not be what we consider a "healthy" body. The content of the mind is unaffected by the physical condition of the body. When the mind’s healing is our only goal, the body will serve the Holy Spirit’s purpose no matter what form it takes: "…it [the body] becomes a beautiful lesson in communion, which has value until communion is" (T.8.VII.3:4).

Q #700: I was introduced to A Course in Miracles two years ago and took a few sessions at a local center. At the time, I was working 60-70 hours a week and found it impossible to combine both. 2003 was a bad year: I lost my job, my beloved pet, and my mother. My father fell apart; my resentment toward my sibling intensified dramatically; my depressions returned with vengeance. I tried to deal with everything the best I could. Needless to say, my best was not my best at all.

Yet my attachment to the Course is creating a financial dilemma. Since I lost my job, I’ve been basically living off my savings of which not much is left by now. I need to go back, but I am afraid that being a workaholic by nature, I will again get so involved with work, there will be very little room left for A Course in Miracles. I read your answer to Question #169 several times. On an intellectual level I am beginning to get sparks of understanding about the shift from form to content; effect to cause. But on the practical level, I am in a limbo. I hope very much to get your answer and your guidance that would allow me to handle this situation as peacefully as I can.

A: There are a few more aspects of your situation that you might want to look to help break up the log jam. It seems that you have no choice regarding whether to work or not. If you need the money, then you have to go back to work if there is no other source of income in your life. But you can do it differently this time. Do you recall Jesus’ helpful reminder in that lovely final chapter of the text, "Choose Once Again"?: "Trials are but lessons that you failed to learn presented once again, so where you made a faulty choice before you now can make a better one, and thus escape all pain that what you chose before has brought to you" (T.31.VIII.3.1,2). If in your wrong mind you were using work to keep you from the quiet peace that defines you in your right mind, you can now look upon your return to work as an opportunity to "choose once again." You can decide that you will see your job primarily as a means of learning that you are as God created you, which means that you will look first at your conviction that you are not as God created you; that is, that you are "a workaholic by nature," a victim of your makeup, which your ego would tell you can’t be helped -- it’s just who you are! Jesus sees you differently and invites you to join him, confidently acknowledging with him that "the images you make cannot prevail against what God Himself would have you be. Be never fearful of temptation, then, but see it as it is; another chance to choose again, and let Christ’s strength prevail in every circumstance and every place you raised an image of yourself before. For what appears to hide the face of Christ is powerless before His majesty, and disappears before His holy sight" (T.31.VIII.4.1,2,3). The idea would be to consider this not only for yourself, but for everyone else you associate with as well. In relating to others this way (in your mind, not verbally), you would be practicing forgiveness by seeing that we all share a common purpose.

In focusing on this new content, your job would no longer be an impediment to your learning the Course. It would be just the opposite. Many students think -- erroneously -- that they must be off in seclusion somewhere with nothing but the Course in front of them, or be with "Course-minded" friends and colleagues all the time in order to study and practice effectively. Nothing could be further from what Jesus intended his course to be. This course is best learned in the midst of our daily routines -- work, family, civic responsibilities, etc., for in those circumstances we, thankfully, are presented with innumerable opportunities to have reflected back to us what thought system we have chosen; if we are not aware of that, we have no basis for changing our minds. And in learning to forgive ourselves when we discover that three, six, or thirty-six hours have passed since we last thought of the lesson for the day, we are learning perhaps the most important lesson of all: that the tiny, mad idea had no effect: Jesus’ love for us is not lessened one iota because we forgot all about him. If we truly, truly believe that, we will be saving thousands of years on our Atonement path, to use Jesus’ perspective of time.

And if you could also practice raising yourself above the "battleground" (in your mind) -- all of the victim-victimizer situations and tragedies of 2003 -- and look back down on it through the eyes of forgiveness, which is what it means to join with Jesus or the Holy Spirit, you would recognize the ego’s purpose in having your life be filled with that kind of pain. You would see yourself as a figure on that battleground, weak and battered, depressed and despairing -- exactly where the ego wants you to wind up, because then you are obsessed with your body, problems, and tragedies, and the love and peace of Jesus are nowhere in sight. But above the battleground (in your mind), you would be able to re-evaluate your acceptance of this ego purpose and know that another choice is available.

Finally, it may be helpful to you to work with a kind therapist who is skilled in dealing with addictions such as workaholism. This compromise approach is actually recommended by Jesus to ensure that we will be gentle with ourselves and not deny our bodily and psychological needs as we do our inner work of learning and practicing forgiveness. (See T.2.IV.3,4,5.) Other students have had similar work-related concerns, which are voiced in Questions #74 and #246.

Q #701: I gave my special relationship -- a friendship -- over to the Holy Spirit a while ago, and have been dealing with problems as they have been developing as best I can according to A Course in Miracles. I recently discovered that my friend also has a severe problem with compulsive lying. This man was severely abused as a child, and I had felt, up until now, that given someone who would/could show him unconditional love, maybe he could come to know the Love of God, and learn that love and forgiveness really could exist for him. It seems that the more loving and forgiving I am to him, the worse he becomes and the more and harder he tests in order to make me go away and prove that the world and everyone in it is as horrible as he believes it to be. I'm beginning to feel that I have taken on a task that is beyond me, and that maybe I should leave the relationship all together. Does the Course have any suggestions as to how I might handle this predicament?

A: There is nothing in the Course that would tell you to leave the relationship or to stay. What it teaches is that before you make a decision you become aware of whether you are in a state of peace or conflict and whether you have any investment in either staying or leaving. It is true that your friend could be helped by recognizing and accepting unconditional love; that is true of all us, whatever our emotional/psychological state might be. But you can be most helpful by focusing on your own mind, which means, in part, letting go of any investment you might have in your friend accepting your help. Perhaps he is not ready to take this step right now -- there is no way of your knowing. Therefore, just set your ego aside as best you can for an instant and allow the love in your right mind to direct your thinking. It seems as if you have tried to do this; but it also seems as if you may have skipped some steps. Yes, compulsive lying is ultimately a "cry for help"; but that does not mean it should be tolerated. This reflects the Course distinction between form and content: the distinction between behavior and the content in the mind. Thus, as we have often said in our answers, being kind and forgiving (the content) does not preclude firmness and discipline: you can be loving and peaceful while at the same time holding firmly to standards of acceptable behavior. When you are in your right mind, having set aside your ego for an instant, you will automatically do what is most loving to you and your friend, even if that is not apparent at the moment.

Q #702: I feel like I want to make a difference in the world. Yet Jesus says: "Seek not to change the world, but choose to change your mind about the world" (T.21.in.1:7). I feel like I am making my career decisions based on being in others' lives in a meaningful way, and want not to be associated with those who are only out to "make money and don't give a damn about others." (My thoughts, i.e. judgments) I know that I have no way of knowing how I can help others or "the role that is best for me," as Jesus says but I cannot stop second-guessing the Holy Spirit. Can you comment on this?

A: The Course teaches that the only difference we need to make in the world is to allow our minds to be healed by the Holy Spirit through the process of forgiveness, which is what is meant by accepting the Atonement (See: T.2.V.4,5; M.7.3; M.18.4). Although this is ultimately good news, many times it seems it would be easier to change the world than to change our minds about it, or about anything for that matter. That is because, choosing to believe in separation and identifying with the body entails a strong attachment to specialness and to the ego’s interpretation of everything in the world. That is why the Course asks that we question everything: "To learn this course requires willingness to question every value that you hold"(T.24.in.2:1). This includes what we think are the needs of the world, along with the ways it could and should be changed. Since we do not know what else to do, we have the Course to tell us.,

We are asked to look at the judgments about careers, people’s needs, those who don’t give a damn, and those who do, and see in these judgments the opportunity to apply forgiveness as the Course teaches. That is the "career" of a student of the Course. Business is very good indeed, since we have numerous opportunities in our lives to forgive ourselves for our misperceptions. Whatever work or associations you choose can be given to the Holy Spirit to be used for the purpose of healing through forgiveness. In this way, your life and the world become a classroom for learning. This process involves recognizing how much we think we know what is best for ourselves, as well as for everyone else. In our identity as spirit the world is alien to us, and is the domain of the ego. We are very familiar with its dynamics. We are also very resourceful in identifying and solving its problems (or at least trying to). Everything we think we know is based on the ego’s interpretation, and is the source of second guessing the Holy Spirit. For, as bad as it is, we do like being masters and mistresses of the universe. However, considering the disastrous results of following the ego’s plan for the world, it seems reasonable to second guess the ego’s decisions, as long as we’re second guessing. It is worth our while and our little willingness to ask if the ego has ever given us what we truly sought, or even what it promised. In light of the painful effects of siding with the ego and being "right," Jesus poses some very helpful questions: "Under the circumstances, would it not be more desirable to have been wrong, even apart from the fact that you were wrong? (T.13.IV.3:1), and "Do you prefer that you be right or happy?" (T.29.VII.1:9). It may be helpful to keep these questions in mind when choosing whose guidance to follow in making any decisions.

Knowing our resistance to shifting from the familiarity of the ego’s guidance to the Holy Spirit’s, Jesus asks for just a "little willingness" (T.18.IV). Second guessing may be a good opportunity to remember that we do not know and, after putting forth our doubts, to ask the Holy Spirit to correct our mistaken perceptions about the world. Whatever doubts arise, or however many times we think we know what to do, we can simply return to the practice of forgiveness and remember Jesus’ promise: "All that is given you is for release; the sight, the vision and the inner Guide all lead you out of hell with those you love beside you, and the universe with them"(T.31.VII.7:7). What more could there be to offer the world, when Jesus’ love offers the rest?