Weekly Questions and Answers about A Course in Miracles: 7/25/2007

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This week's questions/topics:
Q #1184 Can I feel someone is forgiven if I still feel wary around them?
Q #1185 Should I try to deny I am a body?
Q #1186 Can I combine the Course with other disciplines such as yoga and meditation?
Q #1187 Do we choose to remain ignorane of cause and effect to remain victimized?

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Q #1184: I need help with a forgiveness lesson. A situation occurred where forgiveness needed to be applied and I was able to do that mentally, but I still feel guarded around the person. Is it necessary to have complete restoration with the person? This person doesn't even desire more than a surface relationship with me.

A: A Course in Miracles teaches us that forgiveness is only about the content in your mind, not about behavior. It is about withdrawing the projections of your own guilt from the other person, and then letting go of the guilt within yourself. Your guiltlessness then allows you to perceive everyone through the non-judgmental eyes of Jesus or the Holy Spirit. It is possible to be free of judgment (condemnation and anger) toward another person, yet still not trust his ego -- egos are not trustworthy. So if you feel “guarded” in his presence, it could be because you sense that he is still identified with his ego, and not to be trusted with regard to certain forms of interaction. But your right-minded perception would nonetheless see him as a Son of God, and so you would not feel separate from him. You would realize that his ego is no different from anyone else's, that he also has a right mind like everyone else, and that his ego choices have no effect on his true Iden­tity. In an advanced spiritual state, you would feel no fear and you would perceive the call for love behind all of his ego manifestations. Then all of your responses to this person would flow from that holy perception, reflecting the compassion Jesus has for each one of us.

Q #1185: A question about level confusion. If I remember correctly, all illness is caused by level confusion. I would think that identification with all things of Level Two would cause illness. Please explain. Perhaps your answer might enlighten me about some subtleties of level confusion. If feeling threatened, I am to use denial properly, i.e. "nothing in this world can harm me" and yet not say "nothing in this world can harm me because I am not a body" since body denial is improper. True?

A: When we speak of Level Two, we are not speaking about a level of reality. We are referring to a level of discourse in A Course in Miracles . Sometimes Jesus makes Level One statements: “Pain is impossible,” for example (W.pII.284.1:2). Well, since that statement does nothing for most of us -- we continue to experience pain as real -- Jesus then must talk to us about pain as though it were real, even though he knows it is not. This gets us into the other level of discourse in A Course in Miracles . Thus, Level Two discussions focus on helping us learn about right-minded and wrong-minded ways of interpreting pain, to stay with that example. Level One says that all perception is illusory. Level Two contrasts wrong-minded and right-minded perception.

Level confusion regarding sickness refers to the “levels” of mind and body, where we tend to think that sickness originates in the body in some way, not with a decision the mind makes. The foundation of this is “the belief that there is a creative ability in matter which the mind cannot control” (T.2.IV.2:8). What corrects this distortion is understanding that the body is nothing but a projection of the mind; it is never anything other than an idea in the mind. A sick body is still an idea that has never left the mind; a healthy body is an idea that has never left the mind. It is a confusion of levels to think that physical and psychological symptoms are caused by something other than a choice made by one's mind.

Now to the issue of using denial properly. If you are feeling threatened, the first thing you want to do is acknowledge that, and not pretend you are not feeling threatened, by covering over your feelings and trying to convince yourself that you are not a body, when you are feeling very much like a body. Denying what you are feeling will not help you advance spiritually, as Jesus tells us (T.2.IV.3:8,9,10,11,12) . It would be more helpful to do something that would calm you down or take you out of the threatening situation. Then you can have a conversation with yourself: “I know the Course teaches that nothing in this world can harm me, but I feel threatened right now, and so I will ask the Holy Spirit to be my Teacher as I go through this experience. That will help me not judge or blame myself or anyone else, and that is what will bring healing to my mind, regardless of how my body is feeling.” This is the compromise approach that Jesus encourages us to follow that meets us where we are and gently leads us toward the experience of true invulnerability and innocence (T.2.IV.5) . At this level, we practice “true denial” by learning that we can be peaceful regardless of the condition of our body. Nothing external can give us the peace of God or take it away from us.

Q #1186: I would like some clarity around choosing A Course in Miracles as my spiritual path yet devoting time to yoga and meditation. I consider the Course to be my spiritual path with forgiveness being the way out of the dream. However, I also find that practicing yoga, meditation, and chanting are great tools for me to use to focus, increase my awareness, and remember my divinity. I also use yoga as a way to see the body and its energy symbolically, while understanding that it's not real. I also love my yoga community. Are there any conflicts with this?

A: Many students continue with other practices such as yoga and meditation while they are learning to integrate the principles of A Course in Miracles into their lives. There is no need to discontinue what you find helpful, whether that is yoga, going to a fitness center, meditating, long-distance running, or eating organic foods. Why stop doing something that helps you feel better and function better? Similarly, there is no need to leave a community you feel comfortable in and love so much just because you are a student of the Course.

Our goal as Course students is to become less judgmental and selfish as we go through our day interacting with others -- family, friends, groups, co-workers, team mates, etc. This can be practiced in any milieu -- forgiveness can be learned and practiced while doing yoga, shopping, or playing golf. The idea is to shift the purpose of all these kinds of activities from achieving bodily results to learning that everything is a classroom in which either the ego or the Holy Spirit is teaching you, depending on your choice (the content in your mind). With the ego as your teacher, you will continually feel special and separate in some way -- with interests you do not share with everyone else. With the Holy Spirit or Jesus as your Teacher, you will experience yourself as less and less separate from others, as you realize your interests are not separate from anyone else's. Form will recede in importance as content ascends and occupies more and more of your attention.

The discussion in our answer to Question #282 might be helpful in shedding further light on this issue.

Q #1187: This idea of us choosing to project our guilt onto our body really has me, and I just want to check my thoughts with you. Are you saying that A Course in Miracles is saying that if all of a sudden I have an outbreak of acne, for example, which is really upsetting me and which makes me not feel good about the way that I look, that I actually chose this? This hap­pened recently and then I realized afterward that the acne may have happened from my recent chocolate binge. So, assuming that I am right; the theory does not make sense to me, because if I had known the chocolate would cause this, I would not have eaten it. Is the Course saying that we choose on some level to remain ignorant of some worldly cause/effect relationships so that we feel victimized? How can someone choose to feel victimized if they are unaware of the possible consequences of their action or actions and they truly felt they were following a good course?   Do we know on some level that we are wrong?

A: The choices are made by the decision maker in the mind outside time and space, not by the person who appears to be living in the world as a body. Thus Jesus asks, “Who is the ‘you' who are living in this world?” (T.4.II.11:8) . The understanding of this is made a little easier by going back to the ego's plan that we have identified with in our minds. The main piece in its strategy to keep us bound to it is to render us mind-less and then ensure that we never regain awareness of our identity as decision-making minds. This strategy results ultimately in our experience of our­selves as bodies subject to all kinds of laws not of our making: laws of biology, physics, chemis­try, nutrition, etc. We thus have become oblivious to the source of all of our perceptions -- our mind's decision-making power -- and are left believing we come into a world ruled by pre-exist­ing laws. Jesus responds: “Perhaps you think you did not make the world, but came unwill­ingly to what was made already, hardly waiting for your thoughts to give it meaning. Yet in truth you found exactly what you looked for when you came” (W.pI.132.4:4,5). This is one of the Course's more radical teachings, to be sure, but it is necessary to come back to this level in order to understand the nature and purpose of the body, and why we experience things the way we do. It is the key to resolving your problem.

The body simply carries out the wishes of the mind; it has no life of its own. This is explained in many places in the Course; for example, “The mind makes . . . all decisions that are responsi­ble for the body's condition” (M.12.5:7); “The Secret Vows” (T.28.VI). Thus, it is not you as an individual person in the world who chooses to be victimized; it is the mind fulfilling its pledge of fidelity to the ego that so chooses. The mind decides to deny its identity as mind and substitute another identity in its quest to remain separate from God but not be held responsible for that state. It therefore makes up a world with certain laws and then projects itself into the world as a body that is born and eventually dies, in the process deliberately forgetting it (the mind) did this. The body does not age because of the laws of aging; and the face does not break out because of chem­ical interactions with chocolate (although within the world that is true). The mind is running the whole show in order to achieve its objectives. A vulnerable body reacting favorably or unfavor­ably to laws external to it is an essential part of the mind's plan. That is what Jesus is helping us to understand. It is the mind that has a need to perceive external victimization to avoid seeing itself as the victimizer of God, and so it makes the whole thing happen. It is all made up! But it is also very convincing, as we can all attest. Jesus points out that “resistance to recognizing this is enormous, because the existence of the world as you perceive it depends on the body being the decision maker” (M.5.II.1:7).

In “Sickness is a defense against the truth,” Jesus explains that these decisions are made in clear awareness, but for the plan to work, the mind has to forget immediately what it did: “. . . your plan requires that you must forget you made it, so it seems to be external to your own intent; a happening beyond your state of mind, an outcome with a real effect on you, instead of one effected by yourself. It is this quick forgetting of the part you play in making your own ‘reality' that makes defenses seem to be beyond your own control” (W.pI.136.4:3; 5:1). Again, Jesus is referring only to the you that is the mind, the decision maker. He is never talking about the bodily you , because he is telling us there is no such critter! “The idea of separation produced the body and remains connected to it, making it sick because of the mind's identi­fication with it. You think you are protecting the body by hiding this connection, for this concealment seems to keep your identification safe from the ‘attack' of truth. If you but understood how much this strange concealment has hurt your mind, and how confused your identification has become because of it!” (T.19.I.7:7,8; 8:1; see also T.18.VI.9).

The confusion of the body/brain with the mind is the root of many of the problems students have with A Course in Miracles . And it is a natural mistake to make, because we have no awareness of ourselves as minds (paradoxically, a choice made by our own minds). That is why we need a teacher like Jesus who is outside the dream. He has provided us with a carefully planned mind- training program that will restore to our awareness what we split off, our true Identity as one with our Creator. We need but humbly admit that we may be wrong about what we think is real, and that his non-judgmental presence in our minds will lovingly guide us on our journey back to the Home we never truly left.

For further study of the mind-brain issue, see Questions #117, #391, #825iii, and #901.