Weekly Questions and Answers about A Course in Miracles: 01/09/2008

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This week's questions/topics:
Q #1272 Why are "attack" and "praise" two sides of the same coin ?
Q #1273 After doing the Workbook lessons for 2 weeks, I'm starting to feel sick.
Q #1274 Technically speaking, isn't it "absurd" to study the Course?
Q #1275 What does it mean to be "true to the classroom"?

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Q #1272: Could you elaborate on attack and praise being two sides of the same coin. I understand the attack part but not the praise.

A: When you take either attack or praise personally, you are denying that you are as God created you -- invulnerable, complete, and innocent. The key point is taking the praise personally, in the sense that you need it in some way, that it makes you feel better than you did before you received it. That would just be another indication that you have identified with the ego, which always would induce a sense of lack and incompleteness, because to identify with the ego is to reject the wholeness of your Self as Christ. Taking praise personally could also reinforce a sense of separation if you perceive it as given to you and not to someone else, or if it results in a feeling of superiority or of difference from the giver of the praise. This, of course, does not mean that you cannot graciously accept and acknowledge praise when offered, but you would know that it is irrelevant to your inner state of peace. In your right mind, you take nothing personally, while being fully present to others.

Q #1273: I have been doing the workbook lessons for 16 days. Two days ago I started feeling sick despite the nice sunny weather and I was at home most of the time. I am wondering if this is my ego, or my system is trying to purge something out; or it is irrelevant? I will continue the lessons, because my curiosity has increased in the past 15 days and I am wondering what this course is taking me to.

A: It is not uncommon for students to have a reaction of some kind when they begin the lessons, and then when significant shifts are made. A major theme in A Course in Miracles is the ego's fear of our becoming aware that we have chosen the ego as our teacher and that we are beginning to think that that was a mistake. That ego fear can be expressed in many different ways; physical illness is one. A major part of the ego's strategy is to get our attention away from our minds and back to the body, so that we will be less inclined to question the reality of the body. That ensures the ego's survival, which it tries to convince us is our salvation.

Question #118 discusses this aspect of our process, and it also provides some references in the Course that can be helpful in understanding the ego's involvement in our practice of the Course.

Q #1274: This is a very strange question, but would you say that doing A Course in Miracles is an absurdity? For instance in Lesson 99 "Salvation is my only function here," the first paragraph basically says that we do not need salvation and/or forgiveness since nothing ever happened to us at all. At the same time, the Course places great emphasis on the fact that we need salvation from our strange or "mad" ideas about ourselves and "the world." Does, then, the Course not explicitly deal with what is totally unreal and even "unhealthy" if we engaged in it further? Would we not make "real" what is sick and "separated" within us, rather than step back from all these strange ideas and "do nothing," including letting go of the "doing the Course"?

How would you know that an argument pro or contra doing the Course is part of our resistance or part of our healthy "healed" Self? There seems to be a voice in me that likes to take a lesson from the Course, but at the same time they seem to be making me sick rather than healthy. Is that part of my "false" perception, or already part of the healthy aspect of myself that says that A Course in Miracles takes detours into sickness rather than health? Would you say there is a point in Course practice where we would have to let it go in order to come to its full understanding or would that be another trick from the ego providing me with the reasons for resisting the Course's teaching?

A: Valid concerns, indeed! From one point of view, yes, it is absurd to be engaged in undoing something that never happened. That sounds like insanity. And it is! In fact, Jesus uses some form of the word insane more than 150 times in the Course. He tells us more than once that we are seeing and hearing things that are not there, and that we are believing the incredible. Such a mind is truly in need of healing! Yet, this insanity is not real, which is why he says, “You need no healing to be healed. In quietness, see in the miracle a lesson in allowing Cause to have Its Own Effects, and doing nothing that would interfere” (T.28.I.10:8,9). And throughout the Course, especially in the workbook lessons, Jesus helps us become aware of how we are interfering and what to do about it so that nothing but the love in which we were created will be in our awareness.

Jesus once was talking to Helen (scribe of the Course) about her relationship with Bill, and he said that the intensity of her hatred for Bill -- a mutual “wish to get rid of each other” -- was something she was not fully aware of, but that she needed to deal with: “Your hatred is not real, but it is real to you. It hides what you really want ” ( Absence from Felicity , pp. 297-98). So, too, with us. Our bodies and the world are real to us ; our physical and emotional pain is real to us ; and our longing for peace is real to us . That is enough to justify our decision to practice this course, because it teaches us how to recognize and then let go of what we have made to hide true peace and love from ourselves. Our understanding is not needed -- our trust is. (See T.19.IV.7,8; W.in.8.) Jesus needs us to be humble enough to admit that we are too mixed up about things to be able to help ourselves, but that if we place ourselves in his hands, he guarantees that our minds will be restored to the eternal peace in which they were created, and in which they always abide.

One thing that we do need to recognize clearly, however, is that the ego part of our minds is going to fiercely resist the transition from mindlessness to mindfulness that our practice of the lessons will surely bring about. That part of our minds stores our decision for the insanity of separation over the sanity of our oneness as God's Son, and therefore we will inevitably encounter strong resistance to the continual practice of this course. That resistance, and the intense fear motivating it, will be expressed in the form of emotional or physical discomfort, problems, relationship conflicts, “accidents,” -- anything at all that will re-focus our attention on the body and the world. That fear and resistance must be respected and treated with compassion, patience, and gentleness. But there is no need to rush through this process -- coercion of any kind always comes from the ego, not from Jesus, who knows time is unreal, and that the truth about us remains untouched by our seeming attacks on it.

Q #1275: I recently listened to your tape series about the stages of spirituality, “On the Three Metamorphoses:” I have a hard time understanding what it means to be a camel. Do I have enough life experience to move on to being a lion? Do I have access to Jesus' love, or am I only subject to the ego's hate? I have survived. That's about it. Not triumphed. I've managed to hold down my job for three years and barely drink anymore. I think I've learned from many of my mistakes and am learning to be loving to myself and am letting go more of self-judgment. I feel somewhat more peaceful. What does it mean to be true to classroom I have chosen for myself so we can release the guilt within? Does being true to the classroom also mean being a whole person according to the ego? Does ordinary functionality mean that I am subject to the idea that only real men have been in fights so then to be a true camel and whole I must prove my manhood and be in a fight to be true to the classroom?

A: We can talk in general about what it means to be true to the classroom we have chosen, but ultimately that is something that must be defined by each person, because there are so many different kinds of classrooms and so many variations in each type of classroom. Then, too, it is virtually impossible to come up with a definition of normal that everyone would agree with, just as there is no notion of what it means to be a real man that everyone would agree with, although I think we can safely say that you do not have to get into a fight to prove your manhood -- that's just silly.

One way of approaching this for yourself is to look for the negative -- something you are running away from or strenuously avoiding in yourself. This would entail more than just having certain preferences, which we all have. If you have become reasonably comfortable living in society, chances are you are being true to your classroom as a human being in the world. Again, what this means specifically is virtually impossible to delineate because it not just about form: you could be a hermit out in the wilderness and still be a well-adjusted human being, or you could be a celebrity constantly in the public eye and be a neurotic basketcase, unable to function on your own. Externals do not necessarily indicate the state of one's inner life.

Our classrooms are also individualized, meaning we are not just human beings -- we are parents, children, male, female, citizens, employees, employers, teammates, neighbors, friends, etc. If you are a parent, for example, you need to be true to that classroom and fulfill your responsibilities to your children; if you are the head of your department at work, then you need to function authoritatively in that position; if you are married, then you need to carry out the responsibilities of that relationship. You do not have to be perfect on any of these levels, and you do not have to be free of hang-ups and neuroses, but being aware of your weaknesses and neurotic tendencies is important. What is detrimental to progress is using spirituality as a way of escaping from aspects of yourself or the world that you find too overwhelming to confront and deal with. That is all too common, and students of A Course in Miracles are not immune to this. But, again, you do not have to be perfect, as Jesus reminds us: “. . . be not disturbed that shadows surround it [your willingness] . That is why you came. If you could come without them you would not need the holy instant” (T.18.IV.2:4,5,6; see also M.26.4:1,2). We bring what is in need of healing to the healing love of Jesus; but we cannot do that if we are not aware of our limitations, our guilt and hatred, our need for specialness, etc. We need to have some awareness of how our ego is functioning in our lives, and we have to have learned through experience that the world will not provide the healing we now perceive we need. That is the transition to the lion stage.

Question #1126 discusses some aspects the camel-to-lion theme; and our publication The Healing Power of Kindness - Vol. 2: Forgiving our Limitations might also be helpful to you as you work through this issue.