Weekly Questions and Answers about A Course in Miracles: 01/25/2006

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This week's questions/topics:
Q #872 Can a shared goal be a simple worldly goal?
Q #873 What is the point of attempting any improvements on a level of form?
Q #874 Is a special learning partner still a special relatonship? 
Q #875 How can I change another person's hatred for me and our child?

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Q #872: I am a practicing hypnotherapist, and I work with people primarily on things such as weight loss and smoking cessation. Recently, I began studying the Psychotherapy pamphlet and I have a question about a couple things that Jesus says in there. He says about goals, “It is impossible to share a goal not blessed by Christ ..." (P.2.II.6:7), and then later, “Each one must share one goal with someone else, and in so doing, lose all sense of separate interests” (P.2.II.8:4). I'm assuming here that he means any goal ... such as losing 50 pounds? I realize that ultimately, all worldly goals must be renounced to the Holy Spirit, but if a client comes to see me for weight loss and has no interest in enlightenment, then on a practical level, how should I perceive my role and proceed in therapy? I'm assuming that I am simply to help her on a practical level in the way I normally would, but while at the same time forgiving us both in my heart and asking the Holy Spirit for guidance. Is there something else I'm not understanding?

A: Just stay focused on the purpose of getting beyond “all sense of separate interests” -- that is the point of what Jesus is teaching. Any interaction at all can be used for that purpose, and all that matters is your willingness to accept that as your purpose. The other person’s motive is irrelevant in this context. The content in your mind is to learn that you are not separate from your client, and the form in which you are learning this lesson is your joint participation in the weight-loss project. All that is truly meaningful in this interaction, though, is the joining -- that you would realize that you are both the same in your wrong minds, your right minds, and in having the power to choose between the two. That healing of the separation is what you both are calling out for -- you share the same problem at this level. At this time in her life, your client may be able to accept healing only in the form of a bodily change, but whether or not that happens is not your concern.

Further on in the Psychotherapy pamphlet Jesus says that the goal of all psychotherapy is reached when “the therapist sees in the patient all that he has not forgiven in himself, and is thus given another chance to look at it, open it to re-evaluation and forgive it. . . . The patient is his screen for the projection of his sins, enabling him to let them go” (P.2.VII.6:3,6). That is quite different from the approach normally fostered in the world’s training. But Jesus is helping us to realize that our perception of problems and solutions has been guided by the ego, and that we need to see that that was our choice and it has never led to peace and real healing. Jesus thus is training our minds to perceive in accord with his vision, which sees us all as the same.

Q #873: Re Question #613: I am confused about the sentence “It is very important in this process not to deny any part of our experience, and not to try to change it on the level of form.” We cannot deny what we experience in our illusion because we actually do believe that it exists. If I see a dangerous situation then I will try to do whatever I can to make sure that no one is harmed. I also realize that I can not change anything that I perceive because it is something that has already happened in the past and I am just reliving it. Now how is that for a Catch-22? So, on level 1 I have created a scenario which on level 2 I then decide to experience. If on level 2 I try to change the experience which had previously been created on level 1, then all I am doing is feeding the illusion because what I create on level 2 is ego based and just keeps me apart from my true identity. Is that about it?

A: The sentence you quote is based on the phrase found in the text: “…seek not to change the world, but choose to change your mind about the world” (T.21.in.1:7). In A Course in Miracles, Jesus is teaching us that we are minds, not bodies. For that purpose, the Course focuses only on the mind. Remembering this when applying the Course to everyday experiences helps to avoid the confusion of form and content. The statement “…not trying to change it on the level of form” does not mean not to rescue a drowning person or not to make home improvements. It means not believing that changes in form have any effect on the mind; an illusion is an illusion is an illusion. Therefore, there is no creation within the illusion. The past that is being relived is the choice for separation, projected out in a multitude of made up forms which vary within the same moment, the same lifetime, or from one lifetime to another. As we are told in the text: “Each day, and every minute in each day, and every instant that each minute holds, you but relive the single instant when the time of terror took the place of love… Such is each life; a seeming interval from birth to death and on to life again, a repetition of an instant gone by long ago that cannot be relived (T.26.V.13:1,3). A thousand times zero is zero, no matter how good the form may be, nor how “helpful” certain activities seem to be. Saving a body from physical harm does nothing, because bodies do nothing (See:T.19.IV.C.5, T.24.IV.2). Neither does the body impede the mind’s ability to choose between the ego and the Holy Spirit, which is the only decision that can be made. Once the ego is chosen, any experience will be interpreted in support of the ego’s thought system of separation. It is not the experience that is chosen, it is separation. That is why we are told we need to change our minds, not the world nor the experience. Thus, the reason you cannot change what you perceive is that it exists only as a projection of a choice in the mind.

It may be helpful to identify these levels as the level of the mind and the level of form. Salvation is not found in form, because nothing external to the mind has any effect on it. This is the direct opposite to the ego’s belief that salvation/happiness, and relief from the misery of separation can be found in the world. This explains the ego’s endless and exhausting search for solutions, changes, and improvements in everything from a house to a relationship, in an attempt to fix the problem where it is not. In this we find a good example of the ego’s maxim: “Seek but do not find”(T.16.V.6:5). Nothing in the world of form offers happiness or peace. In looking to our minds, not the world, as the source of our interpretation of every experience in our lives, we learn to accept what Jesus tells us in the text: “Anything in this world that you believe is good and valuable and worth striving for can hurt you, and will do so. Not because it has the power to hurt, but just because you have denied it is but an illusion, and made it real. And it is real to you. It is not nothing (T.26.VI.1:1,2,3,4). Simply remembering this whenever we are tempted to look outside ourselves to resolve conflict by fixing the world, reflects the mind’s willingness to choose the Holy Spirit instead of the ego, and will inevitably change our perception of every experience.

Q #874: Could you explain what seems to be a contradiction between what Jesus says in the text of A Course in Miracles about special love and special hate relationships being an attack, and what he says in the manual for teachers about “special learning partners?” -- “These are teaching-learning situations in which each person is given a chosen learning partner who presents him with unlimited opportunities for learning.” In one of your responses to another question, you said there might even be a special attraction, which the Holy Spirit uses for teaching. It appears then that some special relationships are even encouraged and guided by the Holy Spirit.

I think I am involved in such a relationship. After three years of close friendship, we are now going through the hostile stage, which does seem like it is going to last forever. I know that it is not the Holy Spirit who is causing the hostility, but rather our own egos, but it still does seem like you are saying that the Holy Spirit has had some role in bringing us together. But how could this be if the Holy Spirit does not act in the world? I have forgiven her as the Course teaches, but I just want her out of my life, because her personality has really changed for the worse. But she keeps coming back into my mind, almost as if our learning experience is not over. Would the Holy Spirit still want me to keep her in my life, even though she is causing me so much pain? She used to be a kind, moral, and good person, but now she has become dishonest, and cruel to just about everyone.

A: Although the language of the Course can at times seem to be saying conflicting things, there really is no contradiction here. Every relationship between two seemingly separate brothers or sisters has been made outside of time and space with our choice for the ego. Every relationship is always made as an attack so that the guilt and sin are not seen within our own minds but outside us, reinforcing the belief in separation and victimization. But once made, that special relationship provides the perfect opportunity with our special learning partner to learn the Holy Spirit’s lesson of forgiveness. And so there is a sense in which, although every relationship begins as special, we may feel guided for right-minded reasons as well to enter into and play out in the world of form the dynamics of the special relationship, so that the guilt we are projecting from within our own mind onto our brother or sister can be recognized and released. For we most likely are not even aware of the guilt within our own mind until we allow ourselves to experience the specific form of that special relationship, seemingly between our body and another’s body. And that can be very helpful, regardless of how unsettling the interactions may at times become, if we are willing to remember the purpose the Holy Spirit would always give to all of our relationships -- to heal the guilt within our own mind so that we can recognize that our interests are the same as all our brothers and sisters.

The Holy Spirit does not in reality intervene and bring persons into our lives, although Jesus’ words, as you note, at times seem to suggest that, and our experience can seem to support such an interpretation. But the dualistic language of the Course is always metaphorical, and Jesus presents ideas in such terms because he knows they will be reassuring and comforting to our fearful, guilt- ridden mind. A number of previous questions have addressed both the Course’s use and purpose for metaphoric language (e.g., see Questions #72 and #116) and the issue of whether God, the Holy Spirit, or Jesus intervene in our lives and the world, sending us both people and lessons (e.g., Questions #42, #235, #250, #286, and #336). The answers will elaborate on what we have touched upon only briefly here.

As for your relationship with your friend, it would be very difficult for most of us, identified with our egos, not to have judgments about what your friend is doing and not to want to avoid further contact. But the mistake would be to feel that the judgments and the desire to avoid are justified, based on the other person’s behavior. This is one of the hardest lessons Jesus is inviting us to learn. Our feelings of upset and pain in truth never have anything to do with other persons and how they may be behaving, but only with our own unhealed self-accusations. And so we will not truly forgive any of our special relationships until we have looked without judgment at the guilt within our own mind that is fueling our reactions. The Holy Spirit is not concerned with whether we physically include or exclude anyone in our lives. Rather He is asking us to be honest about whether we are including them or excluding them in our minds, for they represent split off parts of our own mind that we have not wanted to accept responsibility for. And so by excluding them in our thoughts, we are excluding ourselves from healing and from the peace that will naturally follow. Would that be the choice we would want to continue to make, once we recognize the consequences?

Q #875: I seem to be the target of a special hate relationship with my ex-partner, the father of my infant child. A previous relationship is a major factor in this situation. Even though I send my love and pray for forgiveness of myself and my ex-partner, I still see no proof of healing our relationship in the world of form. I send him love in my actions and words; I make no demands on him; but he has made no effort to see his child. How do I deal with this pain? How do I overcome someone who is hating me, despite my love for him?

A: A key part of forgiveness involves trying to let go of the need to have the other person change. This is extremely difficult, as most students would testify -- especially in the kind of situation you have described. The pain must be intense at times, with many regrets about the past. But what would truly help everyone, including your daughter, is for you to be at peace, which means seeing this situation as a classroom with Jesus as your teacher. The curriculum is the external circumstances, and the lesson is that the peace within your mind cannot be disturbed by what has happened. The importance of learning this lesson -- which is a process that takes time -- is that all of your thinking and actions would then come from that center of peace and love, and you would no longer be preoccupied with the outcome. You would continue to function in your roles as mother, etc., but with less tension and anxiety.

This is quite different from sending love and praying for your ex-partner to let go of his hatred toward you so he will be a part of your daughter’s life. From the world’s point of view that would seem to be the best and only solution. Yet, from the perspective of our Atonement paths, we really don’t know that. So what would help you most is a willingness to let go of your judgments and your investment in having him change. True forgiveness is not between two people perceived as separate. It has to do only with the relationship in your mind between you and your ego. Shifting that allegiance is really your purpose in life; and through the Holy Spirit’s eyes your current situation can be seen as a means of doing that. This does not mean that you would be indifferent to your daughter’s needs or your own; it just means that you would approach the situation differently -- not from the perspective of victims and victimizers, but from the perspective of people caught up in the ego thought system, looking for a way out of it. A giant first step for you, then, is to trust that by no longer wanting your ex to change, you are freeing yourself to be guided by the love that knows what is in everyone’s best interests.