Weekly Questions and Answers about A Course in Miracles: 2/07/2007

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This week's questions/topics:
Q #1091 Is A Course In Miracles suitable for Muslims?
Q #1092 I have trouble applying Course principles to confrontational situations.
Q #1093 What is the difference between "specialness" and "difference"?
#1094 The Course seems to "leave one hanging".
Q #1095 Has the author of the Course used all our own ego-concepts to penetrate our thought system?

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Q #1091: Whilst I find A Course in Miracles very stimulating and thought provoking, it bothers me that it is based on Christian theology and the Trinitarian concept. I guess I could simply ignore this problem and have my own thoughts about it; but there is a nagging doubt. To the best of your knowledge, is A Course in Miracles acceptable for Muslims, or are there simply too many hurdles to overcome?

A: Anyone, regardless of religious affiliation, can practice this course. Its theology is part of its form, which is specific and differs from other theologies. But that is not the heart of A Course in Miracles , as reflected in this statement: “A universal theology is impossible, but a universal experience is not only possible but necessary. It is this experience toward which the course is directed” (C.in.2:5,6). Thus, if you are being helped by the Course on your spiritual journey, it would make sense to continue with it, as the experience toward which the practice is aimed transcends all theological expressions. “Its central theme is always, ‘God's Son is guiltless, and in his innocence is his salvation.' It can be taught by actions or thoughts; in words or soundlessly; in any language or in no language; in any place or time or manner” (M.1.3:4,5,6). The idea, therefore, would be to focus on the content not the form; and if there is anything about Christianity that is disturbing to your peace, this would provide an opportunity to look at it and forgive it.

Q #1092: As a manager of a retail business, I am faced almost daily with confrontational situations with customers. Although I realize that this offers me a lot of opportunities to practice forgiveness, I am having a hard time breaking the bad habit of feeling pressured and insecure when someone is really upset, mad, and being unreasonable. I try not to take it personally, but I can't seem to find the right perspective to resolve the situation and remain calm under stress. I know the problem is all within me. Can you please give a couple of examples of how to apply forgiveness to myself and step back to let the Holy Spirit help me deal with my daily dose of stress?

A: You have the right approach -- to see the situation as a classroom in which you are learning forgiveness, which means learning not to take the attacks personally. That is not easy to do, as you have discovered, because as egos we thrive on holding others responsible for our lack of peace: “If this person were more reasonable, I wouldn't feel so insecure and threatened.” What really is happening is that we make the decision in our mind to turn away from love before the exchange with the other person takes place, and then the guilt over that decision gets projected onto whatever happens to comes along. In other words, we secretly want to be mistreated so that our attention can be focused outward on what someone else is doing to us, rather than on the pain of the guilt within our minds.

The cause of feelings of inadequacy and weakness in the face of others' irrational behavior, thus, has nothing to do with those people and their behavior. It has to do with our feeling profoundly and permanently deficient in our relationship with ourselves (self-hatred) because we chose to separate from our loving Creator and then sever all connection with that Love, believing we would do just fine on our own. Therefore, by looking at this self-concept with the love of Jesus next to you, you will be dealing with the true cause of the problems you've been having. The next step would be to accept love's assurance that your self-accusation is unjustified, being founded on false premises. It is impossible to separate from Totality and to reject the Love that encompasses all reality. Thus, your only responsibility is to look at how you have identified with the ego and with guilt, and to realize that all of that is just a mistaken decision. Your innocence has not been lost (W.pI.93) .

When your perception is rooted in your innocence or holiness, you will not be affected by your customers, however belligerent they are. You will see right past their ego to the same right mind in which you are now centered. You realize that in your wrong mind you want to be weak and have others mistreat you; then you recognize that the problem is this decision to identify with the ego; then you ask for help to correct that choice; and when you accept the innocence in your right mind as the truth about you, you will remain at peace no matter what other people do or say. “Let them be as hateful and as vicious as they may, they could have no effect on you unless you failed to recognize it is your dream” (T.27.VIII.10:6). From that quiet center, which you know everyone shares with you, you will respond in a way that is loving to all involved. You will perceive any weakness in you as simply a defense against this truth, with no power to change it.

Q #1093: We are repeatedly counseled against specialness, not only in ourselves but in others as well. However, as there are differences in nearly all of us, this makes degrees of conditions: better/worse, smart/not smart, beautiful/ugly, talented/untalented, etc. As long as there are differences to any degree in anything, the contrast points to one's specialness or differences.  We can deny spiritual specialness, but what view can be taken with regard to one's differences, many of which are in the extreme.? Does anything that we do that shows our differences make us a tool of the ego?  Ex: If I write a best seller book, does this qualify me as special or different and what is the distinction? Are we right to acknowledge this type of difference without the error of being considered special. Therefore, must we avoid exercising any of our positive differences?

A: The dream of separation is founded on differences, division, and their mainstay; specialness. The ego's very existence depends on differences, as does the body's. We are not asked to avoid these differences, nor the specialness that is their foundation, but rather to see in them the ego thought system at work. To deny their importance in our lives is to deny the classroom in which to learn the lessons of forgiveness that will eventually undo the belief in differences. As Jesus tells us in the manual: “Do not despair, then, because of limitations [specialness/differences] . It is your function to escape from them, but not to be without them” (M.26.4:1,2). We escape from them by going beyond them, which requires that we first see them for what they truly are: projections of the mind's guilt for having chosen separation. Every perception of difference is thus an opportunity to become aware of the judgments that reflect the guilt hidden in the mind. Denying the differences, or trying to be without specialness, buries the guilt deeper and keeps it from awareness. This keeps the mind's choice for the ego from awareness, which also keeps love's presence from awareness. These are the steps in the ego's spiral of denial.

The steps for the ego's undoing begin with not denying specialness nor the guilt it engenders, but most importantly in recognizing that the mind has made a purposive choice for the ego and its offspring: specialness and guilt. There are numerous passages in A Course in Miracles where Jesus tells us that denial makes the error of the ego's thought system real, while looking at it without judging it as sinful gradually dispels it. The goal, therefore, is not to be without differences or specialness, nor to fight against them by forcing a false perception of sameness in form. Rather, the goal is to see in every perceived difference the reflection of the mind's choice for the ego. This changes the ego's goal of making differences real and important, to the Holy Spirit's goal of teaching us that we have a mind that chooses. In this way, the differences that were meant to separate become the means to learn that all differences are the same in that they reflect a choice made in the mind.

Whatever form it may take, the ego's content is always separation. The Holy Spirit's content is to take what is different and make it all the same by teaching us that it has the same source (the mind) and the same content (the ego or the Holy Spirit). In this regard it is important to keep in mind the distinction the Course makes between form and content. Everything in our lives reflects the mind's choice for the ego or the Holy Spirit. Special talents can be used by the ego to prove separation and differences, or by the Holy Spirit Who teaches that different talents (form) do not make any difference in our shared Identity as God's one Son. Jesus gives us the right minded use of different talents and abilities: “The Holy Spirit teaches you to use what the ego has made, to teach the opposite of what the ego has "learned." The kind of learning is as irrelevant as is the particular ability that was applied to the learning. All you need do is make the effort to learn, for the Holy Spirit has a unified goal for the effort. If different abilities are applied long enough to one goal, the abilities themselves become unified. This is because they are channelized in one direction, or in one way. Ultimately, then, they all contribute to one result, and by so doing, their similarity rather than their differences is emphasized” (T.7.IV.3:3,4,5,6,7,8).

Thus, if we choose to learn the sameness of our shared Identity as God's Son while developing and exercising a special talent, it becomes a tool in the hands of the Holy Spirit that will lead to that goal. So, to answer your specific question, by all means write your best seller, just be sure to invite Jesus to be your co-author.

Q #1094: I am struck by the fact that in studying and practicing A Course in Miracles one can get so overwhelmed by stuff coming up that there is little time, energy, or motivation left to do much else. Life becomes one long drudge of dealing with stuff; there is little time for fun, and it is impossible to earn the money necessary to pay for the therapy needed and sometimes hardly enough even to eat! That has been my experience. My question is whether there is any way out of this kind of Catch 22. The Course seems to be ineffective at supporting one in the process of going through all the stuff. It leaves one hanging in the midst of a mess with no real practical support.

A: What you may be forgetting is that you need only look at all the “stuff” and not judge yourself for it -- you do not have to do anything about it, in the sense of trying to change it: “Forgiveness . . . is still, and quietly does nothing. . . . It merely looks, and waits, and judges not” (W.pII.1.4:1,3). The idea is to learn that the only problem is our decision to choose the ego as our teacher rather than the Holy Spirit, a decision we are making in the present, and that therefore can be changed in the present. When your process becomes “drudge,” you probably are giving the ego a reality it does not have. It has no power of its own: “Only your allegiance to it gives the ego any power over you” (T.4.VI.1:2).

Then, too, you probably are forgetting to look at your stuff with Jesus' love beside you. That is where the comfort lies, because he knows it is all made up and has absolutely no effect on his love for you, and that you remain as God created you. Thus, all we have to “do” is bring the darkness to his light, where it will simply disappear: [Forgiveness] does not countenance illusions, but collects them lightly, with a little laugh, and gently lays them at the feet of truth. And there they disappear entirely” (W.pI.134.6:2,3). When our “stuff” feels too heavy and without end, we are forgetting that, in content, it is all the same stuff, and that, in the end, it is just a reflection of the “tiny, mad idea at which the Son of God remembered not to laugh” (T.27.VIII.6:2). Even though the ego's thought system can spew forth some rather hideous stuff, it rests on nothing, which, if we realized that, would produce in us only a gentle smile, rather than fear and depression. That is why Jesus encourages us to become “happy learners” (T.14.II), for, in the end, we are undoing something that never happened -- we just believed it happened. We can indeed proceed with joy, knowing that that terrible burden has been lifted from our shoulders. We need only accept this happy truth by realizing that we have been denying it and no longer wish to do so.

Q #1095: Is it fair to surmise that since this world and all its ideas, concepts, etc., are all of the ego, so is the idea of a god, a son, creation, etc. -- that the author of A Course in Miracles knows this and has used all of our ego ideas to penetrate our thought system, using the Course as a catalyst to bring us beyond everything, even beyond our ability to describe it?

A: This is one way of looking at it. What we would tend to revise is the idea that the author of the Course, Jesus, is actively doing something. There are many passages in the Course that say that Jesus and the Holy Spirit use our experiences, concepts, and beliefs to help us undo our mistakes so that our minds may be restored to their original state of oneness. That is part of the ego framework within which the Course remains in order to meet our needs (C.in.3:1) . But when you develop a sense of the total picture, you realize that it is we who are opening up to the truth that we have denied; it is we who are realizing that we banished the truth and attempted to replace it with a thought system of our own making and now can see brings more pain than it is worth. We are thus denying our denial of the truth (T.12.II.1:5) . Our choosing to become students of Jesus and his course symbolizes our choosing to reverse our journey away from oneness, and examine and then correct the many ways in which we have made separation reality. Jesus is our teacher and guide in this sense, but if we learn his lessons completely, the distinction between him and us would dissolve, because, again, this is a journey back to oneness. Love is an ineffable oneness. Reality is non-dualistic (T.18.VI.1) .

Chapter 17 in Kenneth's book Absence from Felicity provides a helpful discussion of the different dimensions involved in this crucial issue.