Weekly Questions and Answers about A Course in Miracles: 10/04/2006

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This week's questions/topics:
Q #1016 Is it accurate to think of the body as a puppet or tool of the mind?
Q #1017 Why should one "sit up" when reading the workbook?
Q #1018 Could a healed mind even see guilt or experience the dream ?
Q #1019 I am experiencing difficulty when trying to forgive a romantic partner.

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Q #1016(i): (One answer for two questions submitted by the same person.) Lets say I go about my day referring to my body, in my thoughts, in the third person, regarding it as a "puppet" of my ego mind in my sad, sad dream. Is there a flaw in this approach in the context of A Course in Miracles ?

(ii): As a recovering perfectionist/workaholic I can look back and see how the body was abused when used as a tool for achievement (a role or goal misperception). There is a broader view of this arena, so I ask: How to perceive the body (role, purpose, goals) so as not to abuse it?

A: Yes, the body can be viewed as a “puppet” of the mind, since it merely acts out the mind's decision to identify with it, using it as the expression in form of the mind's choice for separation. It is also referred to as a dream figure, which is somewhat more to the point because, as we know from our experience of nocturnal dreams, the people and events in a dream are not real. Although it is a figure in a dream, it is important to pay attention to the body's thoughts, reactions, and feelings. These specifics have been purposefully designed to fulfill the ego's goal of making the body real and keeping from awareness the mind's power to choose. Dissociating oneself from them without recognizing this ego strategy could short circuit the process of learning to accept responsibility for choosing the ego's use of the body . The Course teaches us to relate to the body as a communication tool to recognize the choice that has been made in the mind. Since identity with the mind and its power to choose have been forgotten, the body serves to show us the effect of the mind's choice, if we are willing to look. This statement about the world applies equally to the body and gives us the Course's perspective on it: “The ego made the world [body] as it perceives it, but the Holy Spirit, the reinterpreter of what the ego made, sees the world [body] as a teaching device for bringing you home” (T.5.III.11:1). When the mind chooses separation, it identifies with the ego and with the body, thus becoming the body in its experience of itself. Yet, the mind that has forgotten it is a mind can use the body as a communication device to recognize the effect of its choice.

In the choice to identify with the body, it is the mind that is abused. It attacks itself by denying its true nature as spirit, and then exacerbates the attack by projecting itself onto the body obliterating from awareness all memory of its decision-making power. The ego always uses the body to reflect the mind's attack upon itself. It does not matter whether the attack is experienced in the form of punishment or pleasure, laziness or workaholism. The attack consists in the mind's belief that it is a body that can act and be acted upon. Of itself the body does nothing; it cannot suffer or enjoy independently of the mind. In fact, Jesus tells us in the text: “At no single instant does the body exist at all”(T.18.VII.3). It has no purpose of its own. In the service of the ego, the body is used to separate and attack. In the service of the Holy Spirit, it is a means of communication to remind the mind it is not a body. The goal is to learn to see everything the body experiences as the messenger of a decision made in the mind to listen to the ego or the Holy Spirit. Anything but perfect peace means the mind has chosen the ego, and can choose again. As the text tells us: “If you use it [the body] only to reach the minds of those [including, and especially, one's self] who believe they are bodies, and teach them through the body that this is not so, you will understand the power of the mind that is in you. If you use the body for this and only for this, you cannot use it for attack” (T.8.VII.3:2,3).

Q #1017: In the manual we are told: “It is better to sit up, in whatever position you prefer. Having gone through the workbook, you must have come to some conclusions in this respect” (M.16.5:4,5). I have gone through the workbook, and I missed it. Could you please elaborate on the importance/significance of sitting up.

A: In this passage in the manual, Jesus is giving us specific instructions as guidelines for our practice. Quite simply, it is likely that lying down at the end of the day or just before going to bed will induce sleep, which then prevents one from spending the quiet time he is recommending. It is also probably more comfortable than standing up. This is a very clear example of how Jesus takes into consideration our resistance, the nature of the ego, and the body's needs. He is helping us to find ways to make our best effort at complying with the structure set up in the workbook and reinforced here in the manual.

Jesus knows that we are not always eager to learn what he is teaching us in A Course in Miracles . One of the ways our resistance is expressed is by falling asleep while reading it. He assumes that we must have noticed that we come up with all kinds of excuses and distractions for not doing the workbook lessons. Sleep is just one of them. He also assumes we are serious about our commitment to the practice of forgiveness, and so he gives us these helpful tips. That is all that is meant in this passage.

Q #1018: I have a question regarding Gloria's "myth" in Awaken from the Dream . I'd like to understand a bit more about a point where she as a representative of the "middle group" is looking at physical reality and pledging that she'll endure any amount of suffering to get back into the dream and help others awaken. This, to me, seems to be a really important moment. Is judging the pain and suffering we are seeing, and feeling that it must be fixed, and that we are the ones to fix it -- is that a wholly fallacious judgment? Is viewing the scene in that way purely the result of guilt (which is always of the ego)? Is guilt the key to the continual recreation of the dream for people like us? Could return to the dream be motivated by love? Ever? I feel like this is a really crucial question and want to be sure I understand it correctly. Would a bodhisattva or a reincarnated lama who has pledged to return endlessly until everyone is freed fall under that category? Or is it something else with them?

A: Returning to the dream could definitely be motivated by love. We need to distinguish between the healed and the unhealed mind to get the proper perspective on this; and we need also remember that this cannot be understood from our very limited human perspective. Our human experience is the effect of the mind's choice to conceal its life as mind outside time and space, and so it can never be a reliable link to the truth. We must start there, for that is all we have to draw on; but Jesus cautions us regularly about using our experience as individuals as a criterion of what is real. He leads us beyond that to the dimension of mind we have sought to deny.

The healed mind is totally free of guilt -- it is no longer split into a right and wrong mind with a decision-making power. The healed mind is identified only with love and knows that anything else is illusory. That unrestricted love could then appear in the dream in a form recognizable by other figures in the dream seeking salvation. But this extension of love -- this healed mind, this Teacher of teachers (M.26.2) -- would not be experienced as a “coming into the dream.” It would simply be the form love takes. There would be no sense of having been sent on a holy mission to redeem or rescue souls, etc., and there would be no sense of sacrifice -- of reluctantly returning to an unholy place of sin, for example. That mind would be joyous and at peace, knowing it is not in the dream at all, and recognizing as well that that is everyone's true reality. It would not respond to anything as though it were real and in need of “fixing,” although in form it would appear to be just like everyone else. It is important to recognize that this way of being does not correspond to any motivation known to us who experience ourselves as limited individuals competing for survival in a world with an overwhelming number and variety of problems.

An unhealed mind would continue to take form in the dream in order to carry out its ego-driven objective of proving the separation real, projecting responsibility for it in an attempt to flee the punishment it thinks it deserves. An unhealed mind could also take form in order to continue to learn to awaken from the dream (a right-minded motivation). Again, we need to be wary of trying to conceptualize this in terms of our experience as humans. We can use analogies, as Jesus does, but all of this takes place only within the mind. There is not some non-physical entity somewhere that enters time and space as a body. This is always about the dynamics in a mind that never ceases being a mind. We need to remember as well that we are attempting to diagram something that is inherently illusory.

For the unhealed mind -- still guilt-ridden -- the world of separation would be perceived as a battleground of opposition between those protecting the separation and those seemingly imprisoned and trying to free themselves. If one perceives oneself as here to free those still imprisoned, or to use switch metaphors, to awaken those still asleep, then one is sharing the perception of the ego. If something needs “fixing,” then the separation has been judged real -- the fallacious judgment you referred to. Jesus is helping us realize that our only responsibility is to accept the Atonement for ourselves, which means to realize that nothing happened -- “Not one note in Heaven's song was missed” (T.26.V.5:4) -- the separation from God never happened: Yet, as we make progress in this, we will begin to perceive everyone else in the same way -- as here solely to learn this same lesson. If we are truly undoing the separation in our minds, it could hardly be otherwise.

Q #1019 : I am currently experiencing a lot of concern regarding recurring problems with a romantic partner. It seems like the same cycles keep on repeating themselves. Recently, I came across A Course in Miracles and have incorporated it into my life. I have tried to forgive myself and him, but it seems like the pattern is repeating. Even though I experience more of a sense of peace and less worry, I still don't know how to end this cycle or how to find the answer to what to do.

A: Having the intention to forgive is usually not enough, unless we have some understanding of just what it is we want to forgive. When we are new to the Course -- typically at least the first thirty or forty years of our study and practice of it -- most of us think we are trying to forgive others for what they are doing, and ourselves for getting caught in the traps that they have set for us. And that may not be a bad place to begin, because we have to start somewhere. But this must not be what Jesus has in mind by forgiveness in his Course, since he gives the following definition: “Forgiveness recognizes what you thought your brother did to you has not occurred” (W.pII.1.1:1) . The fact is, what needs to be forgiven has nothing to do with other persons. They are simply the screen upon which we see our own seeming sin and guilt projected. But our ego has given them the purpose of being responsible for how we feel, so that we don't look within to the real source of our disquiet and conflict -- our foolish choice for the ego with its accompanying investment in separate interests, attack, anger and guilt.

We all think our partners, and friends, and enemies do things that upset us and rob us of our happiness and peace. But that's just how we've tried to set things up so we don't see that we are the ones who have already chosen to be upset and to throw our happiness and peace away, while the other person is just the convenient scapegoat for how we feel -- regardless of what they may seem to have done! That's not to say that others don't say and do unkind, even cruel things. But I can only react personally to what someone else says or does if I have already made sin and guilt real in my own mind, believing I am a separate individual who can be attacked and hurt.

Is it really possible to accept that this is true and recognize that blame and anger are never justified? Yes, but not if I attempt to come to that realization on my own. This will be a process in which, each time I remember after I've become upset, I am willing to acknowledge that I have made an interpretation about the situation and I am wrong! And so I want to be able to take my faulty perception to Jesus or the Holy Spirit and allow them to cleanse it of all my judgment and self-centeredness. And nothing in this process has anything to do with the other person or with what I should say or do with them.

Now most of us can't simply allow things to remain as they are in our relationships without attempting to fix them, as we believe they need to be fixed. While there is nothing bad about doing this, it will be our ego's attempt to usurp control in the situation and diminish or minimize Jesus' role in the healing process, which happens only in our own mind, and not in the relationship between our body and the body of the other person. As soon as we shift our focus from the guilt in our own mind to the problem with our partner, we have become mindless. And we may find a temporary solution that seems to resolve the conflict, but we will have done nothing about the root cause of the conflict -- our own sense of guilt and sinfulness. And so, as you say, it will seem as if the cycles of conflict keep repeating themselves, and we will not understand why.

But little by little, as we are willing to acknowledge our own complete responsibility for how we are feeling and reacting, we will begin to release our investment in our guilt. And we will not be upset when the same issue seems to cycle back, but we will welcome it as a further opportunity to practice forgiveness and heal the pain in our own mind that comes only from our choice to see ourselves as separate and alone. As Jesus points out near the end of the text, and notice that he makes no mention of the other person in this process:

“Trials are but lessons that you failed to learn presented once again, so where you made a faulty choice before you now can make a better one, and thus escape all pain that what you chose before has brought to you. 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. He would remove all misery from you whom God created altar unto joy. He would not leave you comfortless, alone in dreams of hell, but would release your mind from everything that hides His face from you. His Holiness is yours because He is the only power that is real in you. His strength is yours because He is the Self that God created as His only Son” (T.31.VIII.3).