Weekly Questions and Answers about A Course in Miracles: 4/2/2008

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This week's questions/topics:
Q #1319 I feel trapped and confused by the words of the Course, and I can't get past that.
Q #1320 I feel so ready to "wake up," so why don't I ?
Q #1321 Jesus says we have made some "real relationships." What are they?
Q #1322 How do I know if my blessings in this life are a good thing or a bad thing?

Chronological List of All Questions.
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Q #1319: I am so desperate to be released from the bondage of self-awareness that is keeping me from Jesus. I get so confused with the abundance of words in the Course. They seem to go nowhere. The overall thought is that I am fooling myself with the notion that I can find salvation. It is as if I am trying to digest the words to feed the hunger that I have for God. The self-awareness stays with me all the time like a sentinel that stops me from letting go of the physical world so I can go into the spirit world. In the simplest way, how can I apply the teaching of A Course in Miracles to this problem of being trapped in self-awareness? How can I use the Course if the words just get trapped inside my head?

A: You can use the Course very effectively by quietly slipping past the words to the Love that inspires them, and just staying with that. That, after all, is the goal of every student's work with the Course. The words are not what it is about, as Jesus reminds us: “words are but symbols of symbols. They are thus twice removed from reality” (M.21.1:9,10).

It is important, as well, not to be upset that you do not experience God's Love yet. Striving hard to experience Love reinforces the ego's claim that It is not present within you. We all have split minds; we all are both attracted to that Love and terrified of It, because we know that in Its Presence, our individuality and self-awareness would disappear. We know that our false self is an interference to our awareness of Love's presence, but part of us does not want to let go of it out of fear. Being upset just makes the ego all the more real. It is better to quietly acknowledge that part of you is still afraid, and that's okay. Don't fight against it or judge yourself for it. Gentleness and kindness toward yourself is a very helpful way of accepting the Love that is always present in your mind.

The path of A Course in Miracles is learning how not to take the ego seriously. It is dispelled with a gentle smile, the smile of calm assurance that the ego has no power to change reality; and reality is Love. The ego's raucous shrieking will fade into its own nothingness as you gradually learn to take the ego less seriously. “The part [of you] that is listening to the Voice for God is calm, always at rest and wholly certain. It is really the only part there is” (W.pI.49.2:1,2).

If you feel it would be helpful, there is nothing wrong with consulting a therapist to help you deal with your concerns and anxieties. Many times, this form of help blends well with our efforts to free ourselves from the blocks in our minds.

Q #1320: Several years ago I experienced a bout of depression basically because of my struggle with the idea that "there must be something more," and there have been several occasions when it occurred to me that maybe this life is all a dream. I have read many of the questions regarding people's reluctance to awaken. I want more than anything to awaken from this dream, so in my mind I have more than "a little willingness." If that is what Jesus and the Holy Spirit want for us also, why can't I awaken since I want to so badly? There is certainly nothing in this world that could possibly outdo Heaven and Oneness. I'm ready to wake up, why don't I?

A: We cannot determine from your question whether this is the case with you or not, but many times an intense desire to return home is accompanied by an abhorrence or fear of the world, though this may not be apparent. Wanting to return home so badly, in other words, can reflect an underlying feeling that the world is such an awful place and that it is such a painful burden to be here that we would give anything to be released from it. This can actually be an interference to awakening, as it would indicate that the world is still regarded as real: we cannot abhor or fear what we know to be unreal. There must, then, be a sense of sinfulness and guilt still hidden in the mind that gets projected onto the world. That is why so much of our work with A Course in Miracles centers on recognizing how we are “making the error real” -- that is, how our reactions and perceptions reveal an underlying belief that we are separate from God and feel guilty because of that. Once we make that connection, we can ask for help to choose to see everything differently.

Real deliverance from the world comes in the recognition that the world is the source of neither suffering or happiness, but is simply the projection of the mind caught in the illusory belief it is separate from God (W.pI.132; W.pII.226). We get to that stage by first becoming aware of how much we do see the world as the cause of both suffering and happiness. This is why Jesus teaches us that “Forgiveness is the key to happiness” and “Forgiveness offers me everything I want” (W.pI.121, 122) . This is the “real alternative” that Jesus discusses in the final chapter of the text (T.31.IV) , where he talks about the state of mind known as the real world, which precedes our awakening from the dream entirely.

As we continue on the path of forgiveness with Jesus as our teacher, we becomes less and less identified with life in the world, which actually makes living here easier, in the sense of relieving the pressure most of us feel from taking what goes on in our lives so seriously. As we choose the ego less often, the love in our right mind begins to direct our every thought and action, and our investment in being an individual special self diminishes greatly. We continue to fulfill our roles responsibly, but without pressure and conflict. In this state, there would be not be a feeling of urgency to awaken as quickly as possible because you would not experience yourself as separate from love. Being present to all things and all people with Jesus would be a source of security and quiet joy and peace. Peace, really, is the goal of our work with the Course, not knowledge (Heaven) (T.8.I.1; T.24.in.1:1) . And we are assured of peace by choosing the teacher of peace more and more often, who would help us experience our oneness with everyone. Patience and gentleness with yourself will help you through this process, as will trust in the process of forgiveness.

Q #1321: What does Jesus mean when he says in A Course in Miracles that we "have made very real relationships even in this world" (T.17.IV.3:1)? He goes on to say that we do not recognize them. What "real relationships" is he referring to?

A: The “very real relationships” are holy relationships: instances in which you forgave someone or did not judge; instances in which you did not see your interests as separate from another's. It could have been an interaction with a waiter in a restaurant who was having a bad day, but you did not judge him; or perhaps a child ran into you in the supermarket, but you did not get angry; or you may have had only compassion for someone who was unkind. You may not even have realized at the time that you transcended your ego; and in that sense you did not recognize these “real relationships.” In the manual, Jesus discusses this idea in the context of levels of teaching or teaching-learning situations (M.3).

Q #1322: There appears to be a contradiction in A Course in Miracles , or perhaps in my understanding of it. It is saying that the suffering in our dream is a reflection of the suffering caused by guilt in our minds, and the benefits of a healed mind is a happy dream. On the other hand, it says that our bad times in the dream are reflecting and bringing into our awareness our unconscious guilt and making it conscious so that we can forgive it and release. When we are able to do that, our innocent mind brings the benefits of reflecting that outward while we still believe we are here. Then why should we question these good times as just a cover over unconscious guilt? In other words, how do we determine if the blessings in our dream are covering up the guilt, or they are just the benefits of right thinking and a healed mind? And do most people believe that their suffering is bringing them closer to God, rather than a dream of health, abundance, and joy?

A: Good question! Many students have experienced confusion over this. What helps is to sort out form and content. A happy dream in A Course in Miracles is a state of mind (content) in which the Holy Spirit has been chosen as your Teacher, and only His purpose for everything is valued. Though still within the illusion, it is called a happy dream because instead of being the ego's dream of condemnation, judgment, and self-centeredness, it is the right-minded dream of forgiveness, compassion, and shared purpose. This is all within the mind -- its content.

Once this state has been reached, you are always at peace: all sense of lack is gone; there is no guilt or self-hatred; and no need for projection or other defenses. And most important for the context of your question, there is no concern over anything external, no investment in having things go a certain way in the world, or in having what the world defines as good fortune or blessings. Your peace and happiness are not dependent on anything external. Further, nothing is taken personally -- either so-called good times or bad times, because nothing is perceived in those terms. Jesus says this in many ways in the Course, one coming in the section “Above the Battleground”: “Think what is given those who share their Father's purpose, and who know it is theirs. They want for nothing. Sorrow of any kind is inconceivable. . . . They know it is impossible their happiness could ever suffer change of any kind. . . . No one who knows that he has everything could seek for limitation, nor could he value the body's offerings” (T.23.IV.8:1,2,3,6; 9:4).

Now, it is true that if there is no guilt in your mind, you would not seek to punish yourself in any way. But how that would appear in form is not knowable. It cannot be evaluated using the categories of the world. For instance, in the world's judgment, some pretty awful things happened to Jesus' body; yet, he did not suffer because he knew he was not his body, and he never perceived himself as persecuted or betrayed ( see T.6.I.5,9,11). We thus need to be cautious about drawing conclusions simply from the condition of one's body or life circumstances (form). And we also need to keep in mind the Course's central teaching that perception is always interpretation .

As another example: the projection of my guilt onto my body may be the source of my illness; but then I could let go of that guilt and choose to learn further lessons in that same bodily condition. In other words, my illness is now my classroom, and so I would perceive the illness in a completely different way. The illness may be ravaging my body, but if in the process I am learning that I am not my body and that no one else is theirs, I would not be experiencing the illness as anything negative, even as I continue with medical treatment. The content in my mind would have shifted. What brings me closer to God, thus, is not the suffering, but the purpose I have chosen to give it in my mind. However, I can choose that same purpose of undoing my belief in separation with a healthy body, too; and I can choose it whether I am financially secure or struggling financially. One more example: a healed mind could choose the appearance of a diseased or defective body as a means of teaching others they can be peaceful no matter what is going on externally. That mind would be totally at peace at all times (content), in the face of what the world might call misfortune (form).

That abiding state of peace is the “benefit” of having a healed mind. In that state, you would know that nothing else is real, and that nothing can affect that peace in any way. Moreover, aside from your smiling more frequently, your life would probably be indistinguishable from anyone else's (W.pI.155:1). On the other hand, if your state of mind is linked to external conditions, then you should suspect some ego dynamics at work. If you are happy and content only under certain conditions, and your happiness and contentment are threatened or disappear when those conditions change, that should tell you that the happiness is not authentic. The joy and peace that God intended us to have as His creation are eternal; they are not conditional and they do not fluctuate or change -- they are our very Identity unified with His. In Lesson 133, Jesus gives us some criteria to use in determining whether what we are choosing is of value or not (W.pI.133). The only true blessings are those that restore to our awareness the all-inclusiveness of love, the all-inclusiveness of the Sonship.