Weekly Questions and Answers about A Course in Miracles: 06/07/2006

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This week's questions/topics:
Q #948 How should I respond to a relationship-counselor who does not follow Course principles ?.
Q #949 Am I wrong to feel such a strong link to a deceased pet ?
Q #950 How can the Course assist me in getting my weight under control ?
Q #951 I am homeless and feel hopeless. Where do I go from here?
Q #952
Does God know we are in the dream?

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Q # 948: I have been in a troubled love relationship for five years. Sometimes when we're in conflict, I accept what is being mirrored back to me as my own lack and wrong mindedness, and I feel at peace. At other times, I feel resentment toward my partner and envy other couples that I perceive as having more of a joint vision. A Course in Miracles teaches not to seek outside yourself and not to try and find another relationship that my ego would like better. Soon we will be seeing a counselor to help us with our issues. I know that the objective for the counselor will be to help us create more ego-based congruence. So how do I do this and stay true to the teaching of the Course? And if my goal is ego-based anyway, why not just find another relationship with someone who is more compatible with me?

A: A Course in Miracles is a guide that helps us shift from the ego to the Holy Spirit as our internal Teacher. It is not a guide to behavior. Thus, staying true to the teaching of the Course is solely a matter of what goes on in your mind. From the perspective of the Course, then, going to see a counselor for help with your issues is no more right or wrong than drinking water when you feel thirsty. The water is not healing. But it would be neither loving nor helpful to deny your body the liquid it requires to function and feel healthy. Similarly, counseling may not heal your mind. But if it can help alleviate your mental anguish, then it would be silly not to partake in it. In addition, all of our physical and psychological issues are, in reality, barriers we created to keep the Love of God out of our mind. Therefore, taking whatever actions will lessen their effects can be a helpful first step toward ultimately remembering God's Love.

In the pamphlet Psychotherapy: Purpose, Practice and Procedure , Jesus states that "It is in the instant that the therapist forgets to judge the patient that healing occurs" (p.3.II.6.1). Clearly, Jesus is not opposed to therapy. Moreover, we could replace the words therapist and patient with any two people who have a relationship. Healing occurs when we do not judge another -- or ourselves. Thus, from Jesus' perspective, whether you stay or leave a specific partner is irrelevant. What matters is how you stay or leave. This is why the Course urges us to ask the Holy Spirit for help questioning the purpose of all our thoughts and actions. The Holy Spirit knows that though they wear a million disguises, there are only two purposes we can have. We are always either projecting guilt or extending love. The Holy Spirit will always let us see which one we are doing.

Happily, He is an internal Therapist Who will always forget to judge us. So, if we hold His Hand, everything we do will become a healing classroom in forgiveness. Filled with His forgiveness and Love, you will recognize that neither you nor your partner is guilty -- you are both simply afraid of love. It might be helpful for the two of you to work on this issue together, or it might be better to do it apart. But whether you stay together or break up, you will do so with a gentle kindness -- a kindness that wants only what is best for both of you.

For a related discussion about special relationships, please see Question #701  What does the course say about leaving a relationship?.

Q #949: Recently my cat, whom I loved dearly, died. I know that animals are a projection of the collective mind just like the self that I identify with is. So, I take it that my cat's mind and my mind are joined. I feel that my cat tried to stay alive longer than she wanted to, just for me, because she could feel that I truly loved her. I can still feel her presence now telling me that she had a peaceful transition and that she knows I tried my best to help her. There is nothing in A Course in Miracles that would invalidate my experience; is there?

A: No, there is nothing in A Course in Miracles that would invalidate your experience. The Course tells us repeatedly that minds are joined, and it means all minds . It does not matter whether we appear in this dream as human beings or as animals, we are all fragments of the same one mind that fell asleep and dreamed up a world in which we appear to be separate from each other and from God.

It sounds like the connection you continue to feel with your cat is providing you with great comfort. In case you -- like many pet owners -- are tempted to feel guilt over her death, let's take a quick look at this issue. Because pets are dependant upon us for their very survival, owning them places us in a God-like role. After all, they do not appear to need God; they appear to need us . Unfortunately, along with the God-like role we play in our pets' lives comes the agonizing sense that we are not up to the task and will destroy them -- revealing ourselves as the murderers we judge ourselves to be. So relationships with pets (just like all relationships) are generally fraught with guilt. And indeed, there usually does come a point at which we have to decide when and how our pets will die. It would be difficult to imagine a more potent trigger for ontological guilt than this. But this can also provide a great opportunity for changing our mind.

The Course tells us that the body "neither lives nor dies" (T.6.V.A.1:4) and that "In the holy instant the condition of love is met, for [in that instant] minds are joined without the body's interference, and where there is communication there is peace" (T.15.XI.7: 1). Clearly, from Jesus' perspective (outside of this dream world), the body is nothing. To him, physical existence is irrelevant to the expression of love between minds.

So, crazy as it sounds from our perspective, your relationship with your cat is no more or less real now than it was when she appeared to be physically present. Either way, she is nothing more than a symbol in your mind. And either way, if you hold the ego's hand she becomes a symbol of guilt, while if you hold the Holy Spirit's Hand, she becomes a symbol of love and forgiveness.

If she has become a reminder to you that you do not have the power to hurt another and that there is a love in your mind that remains constant and unaffected by outside events, then that is a very helpful thing. Let her help you remember that no matter what happens between bodies, not one note in Heaven's song will be missed (T.26.V.5:4) .

For related discussions about pets, please see Questions #134 and #340.

Q #950: I have been working with A Course in Miracles for 10 years, and I feel stuck. In Question #655 you say there's nothing wrong with trying to get guilt based addictive behavior under control, I have tried for 30 years without success. My classroom is overeating and being overweight. When I eat or think about food, or I think about exercise I feel guilty. It seems no matter what, I feel guilty. I would like to know where the Holy Spirit fits in this. Do I just say help me with this; do I think about Him? I don't know how to recruit His help since I am always guilty no matter what.

A: At the center of the problem, as you describe it, is guilt, not food or weight. It is not only the problem, it is the goal. Seeking to change form (even for 30 years) without relinquishing guilt is the mind's way of having its cake and eating it, too. The missing link in the equation is the hidden desire to hold on to guilt. In the text, Jesus tells us the first obstacle to peace: “The Desire to Get Rid of It” (T.19.IV.A) is fueled by the “attraction of guilt” (T.19.IV.i). Although it may seem that cake, pasta, or potato chips, are the big attraction, the real draw is to the guilt seemingly engendered by the food. Guilt is the ego's nourishment, so when the mind chooses the ego as its teacher, it will seek for guilt and find it, in order to sustain its belief in the reality of the ego. Therefore, used as a classroom, being overweight is a very helpful tool to get in touch with guilt, which in turn reveals the hidden choice the mind has made to identify with the ego. Being willing to see being overweight and the body itself (large or small) in this light is the first way the Holy Spirit steps into the picture. Weight loss programs do not identify the mind's choice for the ego as the source of the problem. Nor do they offer a guilt-reducing regime to help solve the problem, as the Holy Spirit does.

The Holy Spirit's diet begins with the distinction between form and content, whereby the true source of addiction is recognized as the mind's choice between the ego and the Holy Spirit (content), rather than the body's choice (form) between chips or carrots. The Holy Spirit's goal is to teach us to recognize the source of the problem, so it can be healed. When the body says “I want potato chips,” it is reflecting the mind that says “I want guilt to feed my belief in the separation.” All the bad feelings that come with eating (or obsession with thinness) keep attention focused on the choices the body makes, which keeps the mind's power to choose between the ego or the Holy Spirit from awareness. Efforts to solve the eating addiction on the body's terms will fail, as your 30 years have proved, because the addiction is in the mind that wants to feed on guilt. Asking the Holy Spirit for help in undoing guilt means accepting, first of all, that this is indeed the problem, which is not as easy as it sounds. In fact, the reason we look for solutions in the body and its behavior is precisely because we do not want to let go of identity with the body. When the body thinks it can sneak in a few potato chips that won't show up on the scale, it mirrors the mind's sneaky thought that it can get away with seeking happiness in a thin body and God won't notice. The truth is God does not notice, but the mind will inevitably feel the pain and guilt that come from seeking from the ego/body what it cannot give, and turning away from the real happiness of oneness with our Source.

Overeating is just one of the endless forms the ego uses to camouflage content and act out its tale of sin, guilt, and fear. Every special relationship has this same goal. Anything serves as the subject for a special relationship. At the top of the list is the body with its multitudinous needs, and its crowning triumph -- death. The death of the body is the ego's final proof that the separation did occur and guilt is real, justified, and inescapable. With this belief firmly held, no wonder food looks good. The guilt of identifying with the body is severely painful. Jesus uncovers for us the insanity of the ego's attraction to pain and guilt: “Under fear's orders the body will pursue guilt, serving its master whose attraction to guilt maintains the whole illusion of its exist­ence. This, then, is the attraction of pain. Ruled by this perception the body becomes the ser­vant of pain, seeking it dutifully and obeying the idea that pain is pleasure. It is this idea that underlies all of the ego's heavy investment in the body. And it is this insane relationship that it keeps hidden, and yet feeds upon. To you it teaches that the body's pleasure is happiness. Yet to itself it whispers, ‘It is death.'”(T.19.IV.B.13:2,3,4,5,6,7,8). Just as weight loss programs usually ask clients to pay attention to eating habits so they can be changed, the Holy Spirit asks us to recognize the thought system the mind has chosen and its devastating effects, so another choice can be made. His solution to the body's being overweight is to undo belief in the guilt that keeps the mind frozen in its mistaken choice. His curriculum offers release from guilt and a new percep­tion of the body, whether its form be large or small: “…the reality of guilt is the illusion that seems to make it (the body) heavy and opaque, impenetrable, and a real foundation for the ego's thought system. Its thinness and transparency are not apparent until you see the light behind it. And then you see it as a fragile veil before the light” (T.18.IX.5:2,3,4, italics added ). Herein lies the real thinness we all seek.

Q #951: I have been living in my car because I have no money and no job; and I have lost confidence in my ability to provide for myself. What have I done wrong to be left in this situation? I am a good person and I envision a world of love and beauty; but I find myself living here in hell. What kind of act of God does it take to leave this behind and move on? I would gladly (I think) trade all this madness for a place of beauty and love; I just can't find it here anymore. What do I do? I still believe in asking the Holy Spirit for help; yet I still live in this illusory madness.

A: As strange as it may sound, it is still possible to be at peace even though your external situation is so bleak. If there is one lesson Jesus is trying to help us learn, it is that peace is not conditional on anything other than our choice to accept it as our natural state as God's Son, which means nothing external can either give us peace or take it away. Most students find this principle terribly difficult to apply. That is why it can be very helpful to approach your life situation as a classroom in which you can choose to be taught either by the ego or by Jesus. The ego would urge you to see the world as a hell that ceaselessly victimizes you, and then to blame others or yourself (“what have I done wrong?”) for being in that state. Jesus or the Holy Spirit in your right mind would encourage you to use the world to help you free yourself from the limited self-concept you have developed -- as a prisoner of the world, from which you seek to escape. The ego offers you one way of interpreting your situation; Jesus and the Holy Spirit offer you a radically different one; the ego's further imprisons you in the world of separation; Jesus' helps free you from those chains by having you shift the purpose of everything you do, and to learn to see your interests and your purpose as the same as everyone else's.

With regard to your dire financial situation, you might consider finding a shelter for the homeless, where you more than likely would be put in touch with sources of financial aid and job opportunities. To go in that direction could reflect a right-minded choice to identify with healing rather than defeat and the need to escape. If you keep in mind that you want Jesus, not your ego, to accompany you in your search for financial help, then you will be peaceful and advance spiritually, regardless of how things turn out. This, you might say, is the “act of God” you are asking about, and this is how you “move on.” As long as you see the world as hell, you can never escape from it no matter what you do, for you would be giving it a power it does not really have. That is the advantage of seeing the world as a classroom in which Jesus can teach you how to use it to heal your mind of its mistaken thoughts about who you are and what the world is. The world of love and beauty you desire is in your mind (your right mind), unaffected by external events -- and that is what you can learn as you go about finding a source of income and a place to live.

Q #952: Does God know that we are here in this so-called dream?

A: A Course in Miracles tells us that, "God does not know of separation" (P.2.VII.1:1,11) . Because this is obviously a world of separation -- separate bodies, with seemingly separate interests, leading separate lives -- such a statement means that God could not possibly know about this world, nor us as the individuals we think we are. At first, the concept that God does not know about all this can be very frightening. But this turns out to be good news once we realize that God does not know that we are here because we are not here. The Course teaches us that we are "at home in God, dreaming of exile" (T.10.I.2:1) . In other words, this is our dream. God, being outside of this dream, cannot know about this world, any more than one person could know the contents of another's sleeping dreams at night.

The process of the Course is one of gradually discovering that we are not the individuals we think we are, and that God is not a being who is separate from us. Jesus informs us that in reality "nowhere does the Father end [and] the Son begin as something separate from Him" (W.pI.132.12:4) -- we are a "Oneness joined as One" (T.25.I.7:1) . But Jesus knows that this is virtually incomprehensible to us from where we think we are inside this dream. He realizes that the first step of our journey to awakening must consist of replacing our fearful image of God with one that can be a source of comfort. For this reason, more often than not, he speaks to us in the Course as if God were a separate being Who knows about us. And as long as we believe that we are individuals, we really cannot help but think of God in this way.

So the most helpful thing we as Course students can do for ourselves is to simply follow the process Jesus lays out for us. That means increasingly choosing Jesus or the Holy Spirit instead of the ego as our internal teacher. As we do so, we will come to know that God's Love is real and available to us, despite our inability to fully understand its source -- an understanding that we can rest assured will come to us when we are ready for it.