Weekly Questions and Answers about A Course in Miracles: 03/08/2006

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This week's questions/topics:
Q #893 On sleeping, dreaming, observing, and awakening.
Q #894 On being a mother and watching my son make choices I do not agree with.
Q #895 On the suitability of the Course for someone developmentally "arrested".
Q #896 On problems acheiving a quiet mind.

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Q #893: That we are "asleep" and dreaming makes sense to me. I understand that I'm not alone in the creation of this dream and the real me is not what I think it is. I feel I'm making real progress.

Then there's the concept of "being somewhere" -- which I understand is an idea limited by the necessary use of language of time and space, caused by the belief in separation. And each lifetime is already over, so we are only reviewing. We are in fact not asleep, we are in a state outside of time. And we're being enthralled by guilt? by addiction? by what? causing us to keep compulsively reviewing what has already finished. But why the compulsive rehashing? Is it like wanting to dive back into a dream when you begin to awaken in the morning? If we are the observer, the sleeper, the reviewer -- is there actually no self in the dream at all? So it's not so much that "we are all one" here, but that our Self is one, and no one is here? I've had a flash that this is true, but then I got scared or excited, and lost the thread.

So is it that here there are just two patterns -- like energy patterns structuring thought, creating projections: the Holy Spirit's and the ego's? And that infusing those two movies with identity is the observer, sleeper, dreamer? And that by identifying with the thought system closest in vibration to the real one, we begin to resonate with the observer and remember that we actually aren't in the dream?

A: You are right -- there is no self in the dream, only projected images with which we each have chosen to identify. And the fragmented self or mind that has chosen to identify with only a certain image in the dream is simply an aspect of one self that we all share. However, that self we all share is not our true Self, but the illusory self of the split mind -- the observer you've referred to above. It is this self, outside the dream of time and space, that A Course in Miracles is asking us to recognize increasingly as our identity, through the practice of forgiveness. This self has the choice either to continue to identify with the false ego thought system of sin and guilt, or the Holy Spirit's true thought system of forgiveness and peace -- the two energy patterns you refer to. The Holy Spirit's thought system is still an illusion, because it is a correction for the ego's lies and deception, but it is a reflection of the oneness of our true Self, which has been completely unaffected by the imaginings of the split mind.

The reason for the “compulsive rehashing” from the perspective of the ego thought system is that identifying with the dream figure and relishing our various roles in the dream are what keep us unaware that we are the mind reviewing and not the figure acting in the dream. This confusion guarantees that the separation will not be healed, for we keep our focus on the projected dream, where no real change can be effected, rather than on the projecting part of the mind, where a different choice can be made. In other words, we want to remain identified with the ego and we want to maintain the separation (T.4.VI.4:2,3,4; T.13.III.2:5), and reviewing what is already over and past merely keeps the thought system underlying those dreams alive in our mind, with no apparent opportunity to make a different choice.

We reinforce our identification with the observer role in the mind through the practice of forgiveness, which is simply the releasing of our judgments. Judgment keeps us rooted in the rehashing, believing that something of import and significance is happening here, with some outcomes to be preferred over others. So long as we value our judgments, we will value the dream, and we will not be open to the process of awakening. And while we fear awakening, our insights into the unreality of this world can be both exciting and frightening.

Q #894: My younger son traveled to Senegal a while ago and joined a Muslim community, in search of his spiritual roots (his biological father is black American, I am white German). He and my husband never got along too well, causing me many hardships. Furthermore he had a rather difficult time here in Sweden, where we live, because of his ethnicity, and developed a negative attitude toward what he calls europe-centricity. Is all this my own projection? My concern is that the community he joined now might have a more or less fanatical side to it. On the other hand I am fully aware that he must choose his own spiritual way. And even A Course in Miracles tells us that there are many ways. So who am I to judge? I was mothering him long enough, but still have difficulties in completely letting him go. How can I meet him without being afraid, without trying to convince him that the way of the Course might be better for him. How can I ask the Holy Spirit for help?

A: It is a very difficult lesson for a mother to watch her child making choices that she does not agree with, especially if she believes the choices could place her child in danger. The Course does not offer any specific answer about what if anything to say to your son, or whether to intervene in any way. It does ask -- as it asks every student of the Course -- that you be honest about your reactions and judgments in response to your son's choices and actions, for these are your projections. And once you have acknowledged and released your own projections, then whatever you say or do, or not, will be loving and helpful.

What is critical to recognize is the interpretation you may be making based on whatever form in the world you are observing. Certainly, it can simply be an honest evaluation of the facts that leads you to conclude that there may be a potential for violence in the situation your son has become involved in. But if you experience anxiety or fear or any other form of upset as you consider that possibility, you must be making an ego interpretation ( e.g., T.4.IV.4) . For you are viewing the situation in terms of actual or potential victims and victimizers, and once that distinction has become real in your mind, you can be sure that projection is involved. Granted, the perception of victims and victimizers is very difficult to avoid while we remain identified with our separated selves, but that is only because the projection of our inner guilt, which is not real, is what in fact maintains the belief that there is danger outside of us ( e.g., W.pI.121.2,3,4) . But such a perception is neither accurate nor justified.

That we have been caught in the ego's interpretation of a situation is evident if we become involved in evaluating the relative merits of each position in the conflict, as the ego would have us do ( e.g., T.12.I.2) . For the only real problem is the very fact that we are perceiving the situation in terms of victims and victimizers, thus denying the power of every mind to choose what its experience shall be (T.28.II.5) . The world and people can be unkind and cruel, and apparent victims can feel justified in striking back. But unless we can step back and look from above the battleground, any perception we have will only reinforce our belief in victims and victimizers, no matter how hard we try to be fair and reasonable.

So you can ask the Holy Spirit or Jesus for help in looking with you at your fears and concerns and judgments. And they will remind you that nothing is at it seems, and the only reason you are in fear and conflict is because you continue to want to believe in the reality of the separation (T.2.VI.4:1,2,3,4) . For that is what keeps the self you want to believe you are, including all its various roles, such as mother, alive in your perception and your experience. Peace will never be found in any of the specific roles, but only when we can begin to take all of our roles less seriously, and recognize that we are all simply brothers and sisters to each other, with the same Father.

Q #895: I have a mental illness, which means that I am very unstable. I understand that part of my problem is actually an underdeveloped ego. The first half of my life I was intensely searching for a faith, probably largely because I felt so insecure, and I was not interested in worldly things. Now it seems that I need to get more earthed and I wonder whether letting go of my ego is a sensible thing for me to do, given my difficulties. On the other hand, I feel very drawn to A Course in Miracles and it makes a lot of sense to me in general. My development was arrested when I was very young and in reading someone's e-mail regarding children and that didactic teaching of the Course is not appropriate for them, I was wondering whether this might also apply to me.

A: Since letting go of the ego is the very end of the process that the Course is leading us along, and along the way, especially at the beginning, the focus is simply on recognizing our ego and not condemning ourselves for having one, the Course could in fact be a helpful part of your healing. For your description of your earlier flight from the ego suggests that, while overtly attempting to rise above worldly things, you were actually making them very real in your perception and were therefore reinforcing your ego, their source. But now, with the Course, you can begin to learn how to look at your ego and all its various expressions without fear or self-condemnation.

It is important to remember that the Course's process is not ever one of giving up anything, including the ego, but rather one of learning to use whatever we have already made real in our lives for a different purpose -- for forgiveness rather than for separation and attack and guilt and fear. For no matter what the various forms may have been, the ego has been in charge of all of our lives, until we learn there is a different choice for how we will use all our life experiences. And while we are identified with the ego, we all suffer from the same disease. As Jesus clarifies for us, “Sickness is insanity because all sickness is mental illness, and in it there are no degrees. One of the illusions by which sickness is perceived as real is the belief that illness varies in intensity; that the degree of threat differs according to the form it takes. Herein lies the basis of all errors, for all of them are but attempts to compromise by seeing just a little bit of hell (P.2.IV.8:1,2,3; italics added ).

Certainly, given your experience up until now, you will want to be careful that you do not simply focus on those parts of the Course that describe the end of the forgiveness process, trying to jump over the steps that it is attempting to lead you along that involve looking directly at the ugliness of the ego without taking it seriously. For this looking is a central part of the process of learning to accept yourself and others just where each of you happens to be on your Atonement path (T.9.III.6:4) . And that is really what forgiveness is all about.

Although parallels have been suggested to you between your arrested development and a child's, you have the benefit as an adult of being able to reflect on where you have been and where you are going. Certainly, much like a child, you may have to expend more effort learning how to cope with the world and its demands, but you have a capacity for self-observation that will enable you to recognize when you have chosen your ego as a way of avoiding dealing with the world, and what the costs are, so that you will be able to make a different choice, if you want to.

Q #896: While studying A Course in Miracles, I am really struggling with “not struggling” during the workbook practice periods. In other words, I can't seem to quiet my mind. Any suggestions?

A: Your struggle is addressed in lesson 9 of the workbook: “ It is difficult for the untrained mind to believe that what it seems to picture is not there. This idea can be quite disturbing, and may meet with active resistance in any number of forms (W.pI.9.2:1,2). Jesus tells us here that, to the ego, the message of the workbook (the Course itself) is disturbing. The busy chatter of a noisy mind is one of the forms that resistance to its message takes. It is the ego's way of insisting that the thoughts and experiences of the body are real, and have the power to obliterate from awareness the memory of God. The strategy works, because to whatever extent the noise is taken seriously, it is given the power to keep the memory of God's Love out. Struggling not to struggle is struggling, which is another form of resistance that gives power to the noise.

Because trying not to resist will not work, Jesus gives us another helpful instruction in the “Rules for Decision”: “…if you find resistance strong and dedication weak, you are not ready. Do not fight yourself “ (T.30.I.1:6,7) . The first thing to do in practicing the workbook, therefore, is to stay calm. Since Jesus tells us we will resist, we should not be surprised by the noise that seems to intrude on the quiet. The noise is saying: “I am afraid to be quiet.” As you have observed, struggling against this only compounds the fear and the noise, in a seemingly hopeless battle, wherein the busy mind is judged as sinful and thus made real, to serve as an obstacle to the quiet. Thus, the ego is safe as long as you struggle. Moreover, thinking that the struggle can be won further strengthens the ego's belief that it is in charge of the Atonement, which guarantees the continuance of noisy thoughts. Recognizing this is the beginning of quieting the mind, because the source and purpose of the noisy chatter have been rightfully acknowledged.

It is possible to train the mind to observe the invasion of thoughts without judging them, reminding yourself gently: “I am too afraid to be quiet.” This gentle, non-judgmental reminder takes the edge off the struggle. It is preferable to look honestly at how fearful and resistant we are without judgment for a brief instant, than to spend long periods struggling to be quiet. In this practice, less is definitely more. In fact, in several places in the workbook we find reminders to stop whenever there is any sense of strain ( see, for example, W.pI.12.6:4) .

The split mind has over learned forgetting, and it takes patient unlearning to remember. The patience that is one of the characteristics of God's teachers (M.4.VIII) rests on certainty of the outcome. So when your mind is full of thoughts, it may be helpful to remember that the quiet and the memory of God remain undisturbed by all the “toys and trinkets of the world” (W.pII.258.1:3) . The memory of God will return to awareness because it never left the mind. When Jesus tells us to remember that this is our goal, he does not establish a required time span, it is enough to remember for an instant at a time: “All that is needful is to train our minds to overlook all little senseless aims, and to remember that our goal is God. His memory is hidden in our minds, obscured but by our pointless little goals which offer nothing, and do not exist” (W.pII.258.1:1,2).

(For more on this topic see Questions #35, #90, and #351.)