Weekly Questions and Answers about A Course in Miracles: 11/23/2005

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This week's questions/topics:
Q #837 How can I think peacefully about a father who abandoned our child?
Q #838 Is the Course compatible with, or similar to, TM ?
Q #839 How can I feel differently about someone who is verbally abusive?
Q #840 Could my right perception heal the sick?

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Q #837: My daughter’s father abandoned us when I was three and a half months pregnant. He has offered no financial or emotional support since this time. He has had no contact with his daughter either. He has chosen to turn his back on the both of us. His family however continued to be interested in our lives. I found this situation extremely frustrating as his family would continually bring up my daughter’s father (as if reminding me he had chosen to abandon us).

I since cut communication with the family, as I was overwhelmed with the situation. Over six months has passed and I am asking to see everyone involved in this situation differently (i.e., without judgment). I would like to heal the relationship with the family and my daughter’s father. However, when I go to call or write a note or make some contact with them, I am reminded of all the pain I went through while I was in contact with them. I don’t know how to heal this situation. It doesn’t seem to go away.

However I just can’t bring myself to swallow my pride and try again at having a relationship with my daughter’s side of the family. Can I find peace with this situation without physically making contact with these people again? How do I know that I did the right thing in severing the relationship with the family? I still feel somewhat haunted by my decision, but really don’t know how to move on and find lasting peace in my mind with all of the above mentioned people. How can I look at a man that abandoned his/our child in a "different light."

A: Perhaps one of the hardest lessons to accept and learn as a student of A Course in Miracles is that our upset and pain, regardless of what our experience seems to be, is never the result of what someone else has or has not done to us (W.pI.5). Everything in our experience seems to shout otherwise, and it is usually not difficult to find allies who will support us in our perception of ourselves as victims. But if we genuinely want to heal our relationships and release ourselves from the conflict and hurt and anger, the Course asks us to shift our focus from the external situation to our own inner decision to invest in the belief in sin and guilt and attack and abandonment. For that is the only source of our pain (W.pI.23).

This is not to justify what anyone else does or fails to do, but rather to clarify that we have always first made a decision within our own mind to perceive ourselves as a victim in order to defend against the pain of our own choice for guilt, or we could not be affected by what the other person does. This of course contradicts all the counsel the world offers, but that is simply because the Course is offering us a radically different way of perceiving ourselves, our lives, our relationships, and our world -- one that affirms that we alone are the rulers of our universe and our destiny (W.pII.253). How loudly and vehemently does the world -- and our ego mind -- protest this acceptance of total responsibility for our experiences (T.21.II.1,2,3,4,5).

The Course will not advise you on the particulars of your situation, such as whether you should or should not have cut off contact with his family, or whether you should re-establish it. Helpful answers to those questions are only possible after you have addressed your own need to see yourself unfairly treated (T.26.X.3,4,5), a need by the way which you share, regardless of the form it expresses itself in your life, with everyone else who seems to walk this earth. So you don’t want to judge yourself for choosing the victim role -- all of us who find ourselves here, in our own specific ways, have made the same choice.

And so until you are able to release the judgments of unworthiness that you hold against yourself for abandoning your true Self, everyone else will only continue to be a symbol of that inner choice, and contact with them will necessarily continue to be painful. As inadequate as it may seem to us to be, the truth is we are all only ever doing the best we can, given our belief in our limitations and the guilt that naturally accompanies those perceptions. And that blanket generalization applies to the father of your daughter as well.

Are you aware that you do not refer anywhere in your question to the nature of your relationship with this man, other than to identify him as the father of your daughter? It appears that you so want to avoid acknowledging his relationship to you that you even refer to his family as your daughter’s side of the family. Perhaps he has been your husband or lover, but the real nature of the relationship that you want to deny is that he is your brother, a brother who is just as self-accusing and guilt-ridden as you may feel, regardless of what face he presents to the world. But you will only come to such a forgiven perception of him by first recognizing the mirror to your own self that he is holding up to you (T.7.VII.3:9; T.24.VI.8). And so to release him from judgment is only to release yourself. And in that release you will necessarily perceive the both of you in a "different light."

Q #838: I would like to know if you think A Course in Miracles and Transcendental Meditation are compatible spiritual disciplines? I am studying the Course but enjoy the centeredness from my meditation time. I am asking about TM in particular and not meditation in general.

A: If you find Transcendental Meditation useful as a technique for helping you relax and become more peaceful and centered, by all means, continue to use it in your life. But if you want to use it as a spiritual discipline, integrating it with the practice of the Course, you may be introducing some confusion and potential conflict into your life. Now there is some disagreement as to whether Transcendental Meditation is simply a meditation technique or an actual spiritual discipline. Its proponents generally present TM in a non-spiritual framework in an effort to make it accessible to people of all ages, cultures, and religious backgrounds. But it has been developed by the movement’s founder, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, from principles of the ancient Hindu Vedic tradition of India.

The expressed purpose of the practice of TM is to achieve a state of consciousness called transcendental consciousness, which through repeated practice leads one towards what Maharishi calls enlightenment. However, enlightenment as defined within TM circles would not be considered a spiritual state from the perspective of the Course. For example, in a 1998 interview, Maharishi is quoted as saying: "‘Enlightenment’ means lack of darkness, absence of darkness. And ‘absence of darkness’ means no mistake, no weakness, no shortcoming—success everywhere, fulfillment of desire everywhere—that is enlightenment. One is living in full accord with Natural Law" (italics added).

While the Course does provide a kind of mind training that leads to higher levels of consciousness (e.g., C.1.7:4,5,6), its purpose is to lead us ultimately beyond any perceptual-based consciousness and beyond any concern with the quality of our lives here within the world. In other words, from the Course’s perspective, enlightenment involves a process of gradually awakening from the dream and not simply making the dream better. So the two paths, to the degree that there is an intended spiritual direction implicit in TM, have very different purposes. From the Course’s perspective, TM would be like any technique or practice that provides some relief from the tensions and anxieties of seeming life in the body. The Course teaches that only the practice of forgiveness leads to the undoing of the guilt over separation buried deep in the mind that is the real cause of all tension and anxiety (e.g., W.pI.41.1:2,3; W.pI.194.2:1).

Q #839: How can one use the perspective of A Course in Miracles to look at a person who is verbally abusive and to become more peaceful within?

A: The first place the Course asks us to look in a relationship is at ourselves. Our feelings, judgments, and thoughts show us the unconscious content of the mind, i.e., the forgotten choice to deny the Self that God created and to identify with the ego instead. Guilt, along with feelings of emptiness, vulnerability, and unworthiness, are the inevitable result of that choice. When the guilt is projected out, it is experienced in relationships characterized by victimization scripts. Although victim/abused and victimizer/abuser have different roles in the relationship, both are acting out the fear that innocence has been irretrievably lost by the mind’s attack on the Self. And so, motivated by a deep feeling of worthlessness, the victimizer feels compelled to attack in some form such as verbal abuse. The distorted thinking is that making another look bad makes the attacker look better. Thus, someone else’s loss is his gain This is an expression of the fourth law of chaos found in chapter 23 of the text: "This seeming law is the belief you have what you have taken. By this, another's loss becomes your gain, and thus it fails to recognize that you can never take away save from yourself" (23.II.9:3,4). The victimizer convinces himself that his accusations are truly justified. The underlying belief is that he has taken the other’s innocence and now has it for himself. The victim believes the victimizer is to blame for his loss of peace and for his feeling unfairly treated. He is the innocent victim and many witnesses can be found to support this view. The true source of this feeling, however, is the mind that chose to throw peace and innocence away by identifying with the ego. The victim-victimizer plot is an ideal scenario for the ego to keep the mind’s power to choose from awareness, by focusing attention on the external dynamics of the relationship.

As with every relationship, peace is found in forgiveness. It begins with willingness to apply the above mentioned principles of the Course’s teaching to the example you give, which releases it from the ego’s interpretation of every victim/victimizer situation. It is now seen in a different light and for a different purpose. While the feeling of victimization may remain and should not be denied, the source is no longer seen as another’s attack, but as the mind that chose to deny its true Identity as God’s innocent Son. The attack then becomes an opportunity to see the guilt engendered by this choice in its projected form. Early in the text, Jesus gives us a process to help us practice forgiveness in any situation: "…. the first step in the undoing is to recognize that you actively decided wrongly, but can as actively decide otherwise… Your part is merely to return your thinking to the point at which the error was made, and give it over to the Atonement in peace. Say this to yourself as sincerely as you can, remembering that the Holy Spirit will respond fully to your slightest invitation: I must have decided wrongly, because I am not at peace. I made the decision myself, but I can also decide otherwise. I want to decide otherwise, because I want to be at peace. I do not feel guilty, because the Holy Spirit will undo all the consequences of my wrong decision if I will let Him. I choose to let Him, by allowing Him to decide for God for me" (T.5.VII.6:3,5,6,7,8,9,10,11). Because the true source of victimization is a decision in the mind, this format addresses the problem with no mention of the "attacker." The important thing is taking responsibility for the mind’s choice without judging this mistaken choice as a sin. When this occurs, peace is possible no matter what kind of attacks may be hurled at us. Then, with the Holy Spirit’s help, you may choose to take steps to improve the relationship in some way or discontinue it altogether. When the Holy Spirit has been chosen, whatever follows will be loving for both you and the other person.

Q #840: If the world I see is the guilt in my mind projected outwards, then does that not make me responsible for the suffering I see in this world? Jesus healed the sick with his right perception, so how can I practically apply that to the suffering I see in this world?

A: We do not know whether or not the historical Jesus healed the sick. There are no historical documents of his life, besides the gospel accounts, which were written many years after his death and whose factual accuracy is disputed by scripture scholars. The Course does not teach that Jesus heals our minds or our bodies. The healing Jesus teaches in the Course is accomplished by a choice in the mind. The mind that chose to identify with the ego thought system is sick, and is healed as it learns to choose against the ego by choosing the Holy Spirit. Neither Jesus nor the Holy Spirit makes that choice for us. As Jesus tells us in the text: "I cannot choose for you, but I can help you make your own right choice" (T.3.IV.7:11). That is the ultimate healing goal of A Course in Miracles. It is achieved through a process of exposing the sickness of the ego’s thought system: its dynamics, purpose, goal, and painful effects. Since the ego’s greatest defense is denial, its exposure is the beginning of its undoing/healing. Exposing the ego weakens it, just as some forms of bacteria cannot survive in the dry warmth of sunlight. Thus, bringing the darkness of the ego’s sickness to the light of forgiveness is the healing Jesus teaches in the Course.

What we are directly responsible for is the mind’s choice for separation, which is the source of guilt and the world’s suffering (including our own). The suffering we perceive is the reflection of our own pain, perception is interpretation. The problem lies not in seeing suffering in the world, but in seeing those who suffer as different from ourselves. We are taught in the Course that everyone who chooses separation is sick and in need of healing: "A sick person perceives himself as separate from God" (M.22.6:5). Sickness is thus equated with separation, and so healing is the undoing of separation. Everyone who identifies with the body is suffering, whether the pain is obvious, or camouflaged as pleasure. In the insanity of the ego’s plan for "life" apart from God in the body, pleasure and pain are the same: "Pain compels attention, drawing it away from Him (the Holy Spirit) and focusing upon itself. Its purpose is the same as pleasure, for they both are means to make the body real. What shares a common purpose is the same" (T.27.VI.1:3,4,5 italics added). It is not our responsibility to determine who is in need of help, not to mention the fact that we could not make the distinction if we wanted to. In the ego’s upside- down thinking we are confused about everything, especially pain and pleasure. Sin [separation/ sickness] shifts from pain to pleasure, and again to pain. For either witness is the same, and carries but one message: ‘You are here, within this body, and you can be hurt. You can have pleasure, too, but only at the cost of pain’" (T27.VI.2:1,2,3). Given this predicament, our only responsibility is to allow the Holy Spirit to heal our minds through the practice of forgiveness. Whenever we find ourselves upset about anything in the world, Jesus would have us see an opportunity to remember that we have chosen to believe the ego’s message that the body is real and, reminiscent of Pogo’s claim, we are "it." The healing Jesus offers in the Course is focused on this belief , which is the true source of everyone’s pain. The ego’s lie has made us sick, and the Holy Spirit’s truth will heal us.

If you choose to do something to alleviate a specific form of suffering in the world, the real goal remains allowing the Holy Spirit to heal your mind of the thought of separation. Choosing this as the purpose of your work is a truly meaningful contribution to the Sonship. At the end of the text, Jesus’ healing message to all of us is the same: "In every difficulty, all distress, and each perplexity Christ calls to you and gently says, ‘My brother, choose again.’ He would not leave one source of pain unhealed, nor any image left to veil the truth" (T.31.VIII.3:2,3).