Weekly Questions and Answers about A Course in Miracles: 08/09/2006

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This week's questions/topics:
Q #984 My child is dying. How can I deal with this loss?
Q #985 Do all forms of the "universal course" save time?.
Q #986 As I learn about guilt and projection I become afraid something bad will happen to my child..
Q #987 Doesn't marriage imply a special relationship? So how can married people be "teachers of God"?

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Q #984: I read your answer to a question a couple of years ago about grief. It's difficult for me to wrap my mind around what you had to say. I'd like to ask again, using my real life situation. My only child, a young woman, has been diagnosed with "final stage" cancer. I am praying to see beyond these appearances to her perfect Self in Christ and most often I can do that. But even though she is not her body, should her body cease to exist in this illusory world, how can I deal with the loss? I cannot seem to find peace with this situation. The thought of a world without my child seems impossible. I trust A Course in Miracles but sometimes find it's abstractions difficult. Can you help me understand, please?

A: Your words express very poignantly your feelings of fear and pain and grief over your daughter. Such personal losses are very difficult to look at and accept from within the world's thought system, for it can feel as if our hearts are being torn apart and it can seem that nothing is able to offer any real comfort. And it is essential to the healing process that you do not try to deny these feelings, or to attempt to make them go away, or to cover them over with ”healing” spiritual platitudes. But you can at least begin to step back from them and recognize that they are not who you are.

You see, the ego thought system may be one of pain and loss and grief (T.13.IX.2:3) , but we are not our egos. Now so long as we remain identified with its tenets of separation and limitation, these feelings will continue to be a significant part of our experience. But to the degree that you are able to begin to observe them without using them to define yourself, you may begin to experience some relief. Yet there will likely be a great deal of resistance to disidentifying with them, for who will you be if you are not a grieving mother faced with the loss of her daughter?

You say that you have prayed to see beyond appearances to your daughter's perfect Self in Christ, beyond her body. But have you considered that you too, in your reality, are perfect in Christ, and not your body? It seems that you are making that difference real, that somehow she, despite illness, is perfect, but that you remain a body that can be abandoned by her death. And it is a basic teaching of the Course that we can only ever see another as we have first seen ourselves (e.g., T.8.VII.5:1,2,3,4; T.15.V.6:5,6) .

Now any real healing will come, not from determining how to make you see both your daughter and yourself as perfect, but rather from uncovering all the reasons why you would choose to see yourself as a limited body that can experience loss and pain, and then forgiving yourself for those choices. The ego would want you to believe your pain is all the result of what has happened with your daughter, and the intensity of your feelings would seem to argue convincingly that that is the case. But Jesus in his Course is very gently telling you, as he is telling all his students, that we are wrong. He is trying to help us see that all our feelings of grief and pain and loss come simply from choosing to embrace the thought of separation, which, were it true, would mean quite literally that we are now separate from love (T.16.V.4:4) . And that is a painful loss beyond all words, triggering a grief that we can not even begin to imagine. And our special love relationships are the screens on to which we project such feelings, so that we are never in touch with their real source in the mind.

Instead, it seems that our special love relationships prove that we are obviously incomplete and that genuine love and happiness lie outside ourselves in others (T.29.VII.2,6) . And our relationships with our families and our loved ones provide powerful demonstrations of this ego “truth.” Jesus is asking only one thing of us with respect to our feelings: do not try to justify them based on our interpretation of what we believe is happening or has happened. For that is where we are mistaken. If we insist that our interpretation is right, we will never be able to hear the alternative interpretation that Jesus is offering us. And so the first question we may wish to ask ourselves is, “Am I willing to consider that I may be wrong?” (T.30.I.9,10) If the answer is no, that's okay, for Jesus always remains available, waiting patiently, until we are willing to reconsider (T.8.IV.6:3,4,5) .

The release of such intense feelings, projected on to your daughter, may happen only gradually over time, as a process. But if you can allow yourself even brief glimpses of the love and the truth that lie within, experienced in those moments when you join with Jesus in looking gently and nonjudgmentally at what you have made real in your mind, you will begin to understand that you have indeed found your ultimate path out of the pain and grief. But above all else, be gentle with yourself in the process. For Jesus is only trying to persuade all of us that we are deserving of love and, regardless of what seems to be happening in our lives and in the world around us, nothing but our own decision can make us feel bereft of it (T.4.IV.3) .

Q #985: In the manual for teachers it says: “There are many thousands of other forms, all with the same outcome. They merely save time” (M.1.4:2,3). I thought it was the Course that saves the most time. Is that a misprint or a grammatical error or am I missing something. They merely saves time seems to be referring to all the other forms out there.

A: You are correct, the manual does say that the many forms of the universal course save time. The reason for this is that the universal course is one of content, not form, and time belongs to the world of form. When the mind decides to accept the universal truth that the separation never happened, and God's one Son is innocent, the concept of time disappears. That is how it is “saved.”

Also, students of A Course in Miracles “save time” by not wasting it in pursuit of other forms that are very helpful, but are not their path: “You are not making use of the course if you insist on using means which have served others well, neglecting what was made for you ” (T.18.VII.6:5). We escape the laws of tine through the practice of forgiveness by returning to the thought in the mind that is outside of time. The ego's perception of grievances and its use of projection are concepts bound by time. The Holy Spirit's perception is a view from beyond time's boundaries because it perceives only two timeless thoughts: the separation that never happened, and reality that never changed. Learning to see with His vision thus removes all experience from the chains of time. That is the Course's “fast track.” It is not a linear process. Time is meaningless in the instant the mind chooses the Holy Spirit, regardless of the way time was used on the path that led to the choice. It is only the mind's choice (content) that matters. Each choice against the ego is what saves time and saves us from time.

Q #986: I've begun to understand the relationship between guilt, projection, and blame. Since beginning to see this mechanism, two things have happened. One is that I've become incredibly irritable. I sometimes seem to be projecting a low level of guilt all over everyone and everything, which I then experience as a constant buzz of irritation. I can stand back and listen to the litany of blame (this is too loud, he's chewing funny, she should just shut up, etc.) and I usually say "Jesus please join with me in looking at this situation. I can't stand feeling this way." But the whole thing is sometimes so exhausting I feel like I'm just going to jump out of my skin. I have a hard time smiling at it when it reaches that sort of crescendo. Although, I will say that if I can tell my husband about what's going on when this is happening, and just sit with it, it passes.

The other thing that's happening is that I've become afraid something bad is going to happen to my son. It's like the ego is saying "well, since you don't seem to be worried that something bad will happen to you , how about if we consider punishing you by hurting your child." It scares me! I know, intellectually, that this is just my guilt and my fear of God and of love. I repeat to myself "I am at home, fear is the stranger here." I try focusing on the Atonement. I also try asking for Jesus or the Holy Spirit to join with me and help me understand my innocence. Do you have any other tips for dealing with all this?

A: Your heightened sense of irritation and fear sounds like the normal reaction of an ego threatened by the message of A Course in Miracles . As you stated, your understanding of the dynamics of guilt and projection seems to have led you to project guilt in an even more obvious way. Meanwhile, the apparent easing of your fears about yourself has led you to focus your fear on an even more potent subject than your own body -- the body of your child. Obviously, your ego knows its game could be up and it is fighting to maintain its hold on you. It sounds as if you have a clear understanding of this. That brings you to what is, at some point, virtually every Course student's million dollar question: Now that I know why I am in pain, how do I get out of it ?

Here is the good news: You came very close to answering your own question! You stated that when you tell your husband what is happening and just sit with it , it passes. Reading between the lines, it would seem from your statement that your husband does not express judgment about what you describe to him. Rather, he simply listens to you and allows you to be with your feelings. A slight alteration in your internal process would make this same comforting companionship available in your own mind. Instead of deciding that you should focus on the Atonement or your innocence, try simply asking the Holy Spirit to help you look at your pain without judgment . Come to Him without any preconceived ideas about how your conflict should be solved.

He knows that when we are in the midst of pain, Atonement and innocence generally feel like distant and even aggravating intellectual concepts. He recognizes that we cannot jump from where we are directly into the Arms of God. Instead, we need to gradually learn that all our projecting of guilt has "caused nothing, and had no effects" (T.28.II.11:7) . Through the Holy Spirit's eyes, we slowly discover that not only does all the ego's kicking and screaming have no effect on reality, but in fact, it need not even affect us. This is where Jesus is taking us when he urges us to " be more aware of this quiet center of the storm than all its raging activity" (T.18.VII.8:2) . Indeed, watching the ego without justifying it or feeling guilty about it is the one thing it cannot use to further its own cause. In contrast, struggling against the ego in order to achieve lofty spiritual goals can fan the ego's flames just as effectively as funny chewing.

Q #987: Are Gloria and Kenneth Wapnick married? If they are married, doesn't this mean that they still have egos'?

A: To answer your first question: Yes, they are married. Your second question seems to imply a couple of misunderstandings involving assumptions about what we can tell about others from the external facts of their lives, and possibly about what is required to be a teacher of A Course in Miracles .

Many students of the Course have erroneously reached the conclusion that marriage -- or even intimate relationships of any kind -- is a form of special relationship and that therefore it is more spiritually advanced not to be in them. However, this is absolutely not what Jesus is trying to teach us in his course. He is not concerned with the form of our relationships. After all, how could he be concerned with something that he knows is not really happening? As Course students, we could avoid a lot of errors if we remembered this central teaching: "All [our] time [here] is spent in dreaming" (T.18.II.5:12) . In other words, nothing is actually happening here . So Jesus seeks to help us return to where the action is: our minds .

He defines the special relationship as our attempt to get from outside ourselves that which we think we lack. It is an effort to find a substitute for God's Love, which we think we have destroyed and lost forever. Note that this could be a description of our relationship with another person, but it could just as easily describe our relationship with such things as food, air, and water. And Jesus certainly is not telling us to stop breathing (nor to feel guilty about it). Rather, he wants us to gradually recognize that the special relationships we seem to have within this world are but reflections of the one special relationship we have with the dream itself. He would have us learn that we do not need to continue dreaming of exile because our guilt is made up.

The process he gives us for achieving this goal involves changing internal teachers -- dropping the ego's hand and taking the Holy Spirit's. He tells us that, "In His function as Interpreter of what you made, the Holy Spirit uses special relationships, which you have chosen to support the ego, as learning experiences that point to truth. Under His teaching, every relationship becomes a lesson in love" (T.15.V.4:5,6) . And so any relationship may be special or holy. What makes them one or the other is not the form our relationships take, but simply whether we use them to project guilt or to extend love. And again, this is an internal choice and not something we could judge about another person. Furthermore, as we attempt to follow Jesus' curriculum, most of us will go back and forth between a right-minded and a wrong-minded purpose in all our relationships, as long as any guilt or fear remains in our mind.

In case you asked your question because you think that a teacher needs to be ego free in order to teach the Course, remember the statement from the manual that "A teacher of God is anyone who chooses to be one. His qualifications consist solely in this; somehow, somewhere he has made a deliberate choice in which he did not see his interests as apart from someone else's" (M.1.1:1,2) . So, rather than focusing on whether a teacher is ego free (which again, we could never know about another person), it is much more useful to ask ourselves whether someone's teaching triggers our guilt or helps us to feel more loving. Ultimately, we need not concern ourselves with where others are in their process or even with where we are in ours. What matters is whether we are choosing love now .