Weekly Questions and Answers about A Course in Miracles: 12/12/2007

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This week's questions/topics:
Q #1256 Sometimes I feel so angry and depressed, I wonder why I bother.
Q #1257 I am very frustrated by the lack of specific guidance in the Course.
Q #1258 I fear my lack of faith is creating my lack of well-being.

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Q #1256: I have read the text of A Course in Miracles and will be starting the lessons soon. I am feeling an increase in depression and health concerns. Having been a spiritual student for several years, I know that the body is just an illusion and that we are in control of our thoughts. But I feel I will never achieve peace. Sometimes I feel so angry and depressed that I wonder, why bother? I feel very desperate for help!

A: The state you describe -- knowing that ultimately our own thoughts determine our experience but still at times finding ourselves mired in depression and anger -- is undoubtedly very familiar to many spiritual students. Ironically, the knowledge that we do not have to be miserable often heightens our awareness of just how miserable we are. In addition, it is likely that the idea of beginning the workbook is extremely threatening to your ego. As the Course says , "The ego will attack your motives as soon as they become clearly out of accord with its perception of you. This is when it will shift abruptly from suspiciousness to viciousness, since its uncertainty is increased" (T.9.VII.4:6,7) . So perhaps you can take some comfort in the fact that yours is a common reaction to trying to achieve spiritual growth. It is not a symptom of weakness or a sign of failure on your part.

If you are feeling desperate for help, seek that help in whatever form you think would be most effective for you right now. For example, do not hesitate to get medical or psychological assistance if that could alleviate your health concerns and depression. It is true that real healing comes exclusively from the miracle, or change of perception that occurs in the mind, and that it is the only thing that can lead us to lasting inner peace. But as long as we retain any guilt or identification with ourselves as the separated, physical beings we seem to be, we do not want to deny ourselves physical or psychological comfort. While Jesus does label attempts to solve problems where they are not -- i.e. in the world -- as magic , nowhere does he say not to do this. In fact, he tells us that to deny the existence of the world or the body is "a particularly unworthy form of denial" (T.2.IV.3:11) . (See also, T.2.IV.4,5)

Emotional ups and downs, and endless concerns and pains, are inevitable for bodies. Indeed, we dreamed up this world precisely to be in a constant struggle that obliterates God's Love from our mind. So we cannot expect our issues to subside easily. Feeling guilty or frustrated that we still have them is not a helpful or kind thing to do to ourselves. What is helpful is to realize that our pains are the very curriculum that the Holy Spirit can use to teach us that we are not the victim of the world we see (W.57.1.31) . For that to happen, we need to ask Him to hold our hand and look at our pain with us, without judgment. He will teach us that our troubles merely indicate that our intellectual understanding of the illusory nature of the world and the body are still overshadowed by our fear. And fear calls for love and understanding, not punishment.

This, then, is the answer to why it is worth continuing on the spiritual path, even when it feels as though we are not getting anywhere. By realizing that the Holy Spirit's non-judgmental Love is in our mind -- right alongside our fear -- we discover that our insanity has no effect on God's Love. In this way, our fear and pain gradually lessen and begin to lose the power they seemed to have over us. They may not disappear for quite some time, but they slowly cease to be a big deal. Eventually, every time we feel pain we can simply look at it and say, "There it goes again. So what else is new?"

Until we reach that point, when we catch ourselves thinking that our pain is a miserable ending point rather than a silly, temporary roadblock, we can remember Jesus' loving advice: "The ego always marches to defeat, because it thinks that triumph over you is possible. And God thinks otherwise" (T.23.I.2:6,7) .

Q #1257 : I am very frustrated with my practice of A Course in Miracles because I feel that all that I want is specific guidance. I beg, beg, and beg for specific guidance but none comes.    I am so sick and tired of people saying to just follow the Holy Spirit's directions, because I try to and I don't hear anything. Unlike many others, I am willing to accept that “I don't know” as Jesus says, but I don't hear an alternative often for what I think that I do know. I am willing to be the most obedient student of Jesus, but how can I be obedient if I don't hear any answers?

A: To at least reassure you that you are not alone in this, we quote Jesus' statement that “very few can hear God's Voice at all” (M.12.3:3). Second, there are many different ways of “hearing” the Holy Spirit -- His guidance can come through an idea, a loving thought, a feeling, a dream, something you read or that someone else says or does, and so on. It is not limited to literal words or instructions.

The Holy Spirit, though, represents the content in your right mind, which essentially is the correction of the content in your wrong mind. That is what the Holy Spirit is about and speaks for. We are the ones who give the form to the content, meaning that, more often than not, we define the nature of the communication according to what we think we need. That is a severe limitation, but we do it only because of the tremendous fear we have of accepting pure love as our only identity. The reflection of pure love is in our right mind, and that is the content of any answer the Holy Spirit would give, because if we could accept that love, all our needs would vanish -- we would have everything and want for nothing, regardless of the circumstances in our lives. “Can this be traded for a bit of trifling advice about a problem of an instant's duration?” Jesus pleads in his discussion of the nature of prayer (S.1.I.4:6). Yet, he also recognizes that we are not yet on that level, and so goes on to speak about prayer as a ladder (S.1.II). Importantly, he never says it is wrong or harmful to ask for specifics; he is just helping us recognize that our needs are coming from a false identity we have accepted in place of the one conferred by our Creator, and that by continuing to ask for specifics without ever addressing our real and only need, we are ensuring that we will never have true and lasting peace.

Finally, what can simplify this for you is to see the issue not so much as, “Why don't I hear the Holy Spirit's Voice?” but as, “Why don't I do what He tells me, which is to forgive.” Forgiveness is our only function; and fulfilling that function is what will bring us the peace and happiness we seek. Lessons 121 and 122 in the workbook are wonderful reminders of this (W.pI.121, 122).

You might find it helpful to look at Questions #215, #538, and #555, which elaborate on the issues discussed here.

Q #1258: I am continually confronted by my lack of faith in Jesus, God/Higher Power to actually create change in my mind. I want desperately to believe that I can have joy and peace while living in this world, in this lifetime, but it continually eludes me. And then I fear that my lack of faith is what is creating my lack of well-being (e.g., physical, financial) in many areas of my life. The lack of "evidence" of well-being in my experience makes sustained faith impossible for me. It appears that the small willingness necessary for a change in perception is not really enough to create the miracle for me. I spend so much time in observation of my thoughts and in recognition of my misperceptions. I give those mistakes to Jesus, and nothing changes in my experience or in my mind. Could it be that the Course was not meant to be applicable to everyone?

A: There are very few students who have not held out some hope that their diligent work with A Course in Miracles would somehow lead to the betterment of their situation in the world. It is hard not to want physical, financial, and other levels of well being, and the Course never asks us to give that up or feel that it is wrong to pursue it. It is just telling us that we will never rid ourselves of the true cause of our unhappiness and frustration that way, because the real problem lies in our mind's choice to project guilt instead of looking at it without judgment. We know all too well that however secure we may feel in terms of external conditions, that security is always precarious -- our world today makes that abundantly clear. Therefore, Jesus cautions us, “Seek not escape from problems here. The world was made that problems could not be escaped” (T.31.IV.2:5,6).

Part of us believes that, and part of us doesn't. Thus our conflicted state of mind. Our investment in believing the body is our reality amounts to an addiction, and our fear of bodily impoverishment and inadequacy is that of an addict's fear of being without his fix. Jesus explains to us that the source of this investment is the body's role in protecting us from the devastation we believe is in our minds because we accuse ourselves of having thrown away our wholeness, in our selfish demand for individual existence. “The ego believes that mind is dangerous, and that to make mindless is to heal” (T.8.IX.6:3). As long as we identify with the ego, we will desperately need the body; and even more important, we will need to be successful in the body so that we will never have to go back to the disturbing chaos in our minds. That is the reason we panic when things are not going well.

In view of this, we cannot long sustain the thought that we are as God created us, for that means we are not bodies. But the body, once again, with all its needs and problems, is what protects us from what we fear to face in our minds; so we are caught -- wanting to believe what the Course says, yet fearing to go there. Therefore, we find a way to compromise between our devotion to the Course and our devotion to achieving security and stability in the world. This ego strategy then leaves us desolate and despairing when things don't work out the way we think they should, and then we conclude that our faith is wanting; or the Holy Spirit has turned a deaf ear to our pleas; or our sinfulness is just too great, or we haven't sacrificed enough, etc. That is exactly where the ego wants us to end up -- no longer in touch with the truth about ourselves, the world, Jesus, this course, the Holy Spirit, and God, blaming something or someone for our miserable state.

Fear is the problem, not a lack of faith or belief. Therefore, just try to be gentle and patient, as you would with anyone you encounter who is frightened. Accept where you are in your process, and ask Jesus to help you look at the real source of your crisis. It is only our fear that makes the Course seem beyond our capability, because as we well know, fear can distort perception and cause us to grasp for anything that promises immediate relief. This course is simply asking us to accept the truth and deny what is false. Again, our fear causes us to complicate this, because fear impels us to erect defenses against it, and then we get lost in the defenses. In the face of the temptation to believe the Course is beyond you, remember Jesus' many assurances, one comforting example being: “I would not ask you to do things you cannot do, and it is impossible that I could do things you cannot do. Given this, and given this quite literally, nothing can prevent you from doing exactly what I ask, and everything argues for your doing it. I give you no limits because God lays none upon you” (T.8.IX.8:2,3,4).