Weekly Questions and Answers, 04/30/2003

This week's questions:

Q #139: How do I know what my beliefs are about money?
Q #140: Conversations with Jesus and requests of him
Q #141: Why is the Course so difficult? Will it get better?
Q #142: I feel guilty about experiencing aches and pains.
Q #143 Dealing with depression about the Iraq war.

Look up a specific question by date or question no.

Q#139: I listened to the tape set Form vs. Content: Sex and Money. It said that you project out from inside your beliefs about money. How do you find out exactly what your beliefs are so that you can change them?

Before considering how you may identify your beliefs about money, a little clarification of A Course in Miracles approach to all of our ego thoughts and beliefs may be helpful first. We want to become aware of them so that we can accept responsibility for choosing them, but not so that we can change them. That would put us in charge of the process of Atonement, a surefire formula for failure. The goal with the Course is that we make our unconscious thoughts conscious, accept responsibility for choosing them, recognize what purpose they serve in the ego’s scheme, and then release them along with the guilt they necessarily entail to the healing light of the Holy Spirit or Jesus. But we don’t want to try to change them! For that would make them real and would involve substituting one ego belief for another.

Money is simply an external form or symbol onto which we project our beliefs about ourselves. So what are your attitudes and feelings about money? By the way, there are no right or wrong, good or bad, answers to the questions that follow. All answers will reflect basic ego beliefs about yourself and others, of either a special love or special hate nature. In the end, we will realize they are neither right nor wrong, good nor bad, but simply untrue. But we first have to look at them, because we do believe them, and look with Jesus or the Holy Spirit beside us so that we can look openly and honestly. 

Do you feel you never have enough? Are you afraid of losing the money you have? Does having money make you feel better or more secure about yourself? Do you save it as a symbol of security and safety against unforeseen dangers and obstacles? Or do you tend to spend it as quickly as you get it and are always in debt? Do you see having money as a symbol of status and success, a mea­sure of your worth? If you don’t have much money, do you try to pretend you have more? Or do you wear your poverty as a badge of specialness? If you have lots of money, do you like to flaunt it? Or do you try to keep a low profile about it? How do you feel about sharing your money with others or giving it away? Are you jealous or resentful of those who have more money than you? How do you feel your parents have been towards you with money? If you are in a relationship with someone else which involves joint management of money and resources, is there conflict around handling it? What is the nature of the disagreements you have and what judgments do you find yourself making about how the other handles money? 

As you reflect on your answers to these and other related questions about money that may come to mind, you want then to get in touch with the underlying thoughts, feelings and beliefs that these represent. These may be thoughts and feelings of inadequacy, scarcity, deprivation, limitation, insecurity, fear, victimization, irresponsibility, shame and guilt, pride, triumph, superiority, generosity, power, control, and so on. The important recognition that you want to foster is that these are basic feelings about yourself that have nothing to do with money, or other people, or anything of the world. These are repercussions from seriously entertaining the thought of separation in your mind and wanting it to be true. For the thought of separation is nothing less than the desire to be separate from love, including a willingness to attack and destroy love in order to establish an individual self. And in that process we believe we have destroyed our own value. And so all of the accompanying feelings of worthlessness, which become too painful to hold in our mind and acknowledge, become projected out onto a world of our own making, with many convenient targets and repositories for those feelings, including money. And then those external symbols seem to be the problem, rather than the thought of separation in our mind through which we devalued our true Self. At that point, the ego thought system is well protected from the Holy Spirit’s Atone­ment principle, which says separation is impossible except in illusory dreams and nothing has really happened to deprive us of the love that we are. But once we understand the ego’s purpose for the world, including money, we can look at all of it differently, and know it is a window to our own unconscious mind. And now we can make a different choice, remembering our true Value as God’s holy Son.

Q #140: I have been studying A Course in Miracles for a few years now and I am aware of the importance of the practice of asking for help. I am also aware of wanting and needing help. Whenever I attempt to ask for help, however, I become aware of the strong specialness component to my asking. For example I am now teaching again after many years of doing some­thing entirely different. I am nervous about doing the job well, and try to ask for help so that I will be able to do a good job but am aware that the main reason for asking is that I want to be special both to my students and superiors. I try to talk to Jesus about this issue but have a lot of difficulty with talking to him and wonder how important it is to be able to have complete conversations with him. They usually seem to evaporate -- maybe I don't really trust that he is there. I would appreciate any suggestions that you have in dealing with this block that I have to this essential tool of the Course. 

A: First of all, you should acknowledge yourself for recognizing the specialness thoughts that are behind your requests for help. That is a very big step. And then don’t try to change them. Just allow yourself to see where they are coming from -- a concept of an inadequate self that feels it needs to enhance its status by projecting a good image. It’s pretty clear which voice is speaking at that point. But if you can watch yourself doing this without judging yourself, then you are looking with Jesus at your ego, and this is the kind of help that he wants us to ask from him. 

In our beginning practice with the Course, we usually want to ask Jesus for help with specific problems and concerns in our lives and this is only natural. That kind of asking can be helpful in developing a positive relationship with Jesus in our mind, no longer seeing him as the angry Judge who will call us to account for ourselves on the Day of Reckoning, as traditional Christianity por­trays him. But you are already beginning to see the limitations of this kind of asking -- it is fueled by a desire for specialness. That is a major insight and it can help you get more in touch with the genuine help that Jesus is holding out to us -- a help that allows us to look at the limitations we believe about ourselves without judging ourselves or feeling guilty about those thoughts, so that we can look beyond them to the truth about ourselves. The first section in The Song of Prayer pamphlet addresses the steps we take up “the ladder of prayer” as we progress in our practice of asking for help (S.1). 

So your conversations with Jesus will change over time, and what you bring to him will shift as you grow into the teachings of the Course. Your present difficulty in sustaining your focus on him is simply a reflection of your fear of him and what he represents, for a part of you knows that he is leading you beyond your ego and the special self you are so identified with. You may find it help­ful to dialogue with Jesus by writing down your thoughts as if in conversation with him, addressing him very specifically about what is on your mind and asking him in the process for help in recognizing the purpose behind your thoughts and how to uncover them without reinforcing the guilt in your mind. The process of writing may be helpful in maintaining your focus and exposing your ego thoughts, especially as you become more familiar and comfortable with the process. You may even want to keep the writing as a journal so that you can refer back to helpful conversations when the fear level becomes too high and you can’t remember what you already know -- a common experience when our ego feels threatened. What is most important is not to become overly concerned about your resistance -- it is to be expected. Acknowledging it without fighting it will allow it to dissolve in your mind over time.

Q #141: Not to sound petty or like I'm whining or even that I have any regrets about hooking up with A Course in Miracles, but I have friends who, it seems, will never have to go through all the stuff I'm going through with the Course. This is not this easiest journey I could have picked. It seems like others can move through this journey with ease: they light a few candles, do some yoga, say a chant or two, and they're in bliss central, while I find myself in a scary Godzilla movie. I get centered and the fear goes away; but then it returns, again and again. It seems to be a long movie. But the Course is set up for a year. Will there ever be an ending to all this (like before my death) or maybe just an intermission? Any input will be very much appreciated. 

A: No, it is not an easy journey, and you echo the sighs of many other students. Sometimes we just have to lighten up and learn how to sit back and enjoy the show. It is, after all, the undoing of what never happened. It doesn’t feel like that, for sure; but we are simply choosing to watch reruns of the same old movie. When we are less afraid to approach the whole thing that way, and have not yielded to the temptation to deny our feelings, our internal experience will change for the better. We cannot judge where we are in the process, or where anyone else is either; time is part of the ego’s trick to keep us clothed in our false identities. And the sin, guilt, and fear that have turned our minds into torture chambers which we vowed never to go near again, are just silly thoughts that we have invested with tremendous power. We would do well to accept Jesus’ invitation to share his vision in seeing the seeming power of our egos as “not strong enough to stop a button’s fall, nor hold a feather” (T.18.IX.6:4).

 Just keep the faith! “Have faith in only this one thing, and it will be sufficient: God wills you be in Heaven, and nothing can keep you from it, or it from you. Your wildest mispercep­tions, your weird imaginings, your blackest nightmares all mean nothing. They will not pre­vail against the peace God wills for you” (T.13.XI.7:1,2,3). The only power Godzilla has is the power you give to him. He can be a monster or, like the Wizard of Oz, a cute little thing using amplifiers to convince you that he is something to be feared. It is your choice, and you probably know which choice Jesus would support. This would be the intermission. “The outcome is as certain as God” (T.2.III.3:10).

 One final point: When we have completed the 365 lessons, we think we have finally “done the Course,” only to read the first line in the Epilogue: “This course is a beginning, not an end” (W.pII.ep.1:1). It is not set up as simply a one-year course, therefore. When we begin to “get it”; that is, when we begin to see clearly where it is leading us, we dig in our heels usually, and then settle in for a very long journey, but only because we are too frightened to let go of our ego all at once in a given instant. It is a process that will take as long as we need it to take.

Q #142: I have been a keen student of A Course in Miracles for a good 12 years and find it the most appropriate spiritual path for me. Thinking of Jesus and his teachings has become a part of my life, a way of consciously forgiving myself and thus of course others as well. I also accept fully that all pain is some form of unforgiveness (“Certain it is that all distress does not appear to be but unforgiveness” [W.pI.193.4:1]). Now regardless of my practice, which is almost on a continual and absolutely unforced basis, parallel to whatever else I may be occupied with, various aches and pains and other ailments do occur at a level which makes me question the efficacy of my practice -- my only choice then remaining the same old magic, usually a pain killer. Even ardently repeating a maxim like “I am not a body. I am free. For I am still as God created me” [W.pI.rVI.3:3,4,5] during an attack seems quite ineffective. Is it basically still a very fearful subconscious that is at the bottom of this, or is it the ego taking me for a ride and having me believe that I have forgiven myself more than I really have?

 A: You’re trying so very hard, but you also want to be gentle and patient with yourself. It would be helpful not to try to evaluate your progress based on any feedback you feel your body is giving you. Aches and pains always reveal unhealed areas in the mind, and in that sense it is helpful to pay attention to them, but not as a yardstick against which to judge how well you are practicing forgiveness and whether you are passing or failing the Course. 

Yes, there is still fear, as well as guilt, buried in your subconscious mind, and yes, your ego will always want to fool you about your progress, but also your lack of progress (T.18.V.1:5,6). All of that is to be expected while you still identify yourself as the body which has the name you answer to. For seeing yourself as a body means you still believe that the separation and its accompanying guilt are real and you still believe you need a defense against that guilt, which is the purpose the body serves. The pain, apparently in the body, is intended to distract you from its real source in the mind. So if you are willing to make the connection back to the mind and see the cause -- unforgiveness -- that is all you really need do.

 If there is a pain killer that seems to be helpful in relieving your pain, by all means continue to use it. So what if it is not the ultimate healing? Know that Jesus is not judging you for what you may see as your weakness and inability to forgive completely. Taking medication is a gentler and more loving way of dealing with your pain than trying to persuade yourself that the pain is not real by using words from the Course as affirmations to shout down the ego and cover over what you still believe about yourself -- that you are a body. It will always be more helpful simply to get in touch with what you still believe and why, knowing, as you suggest, that it is only fear that holds you in those beliefs. By acknowledging and looking at the fear, you will be doing your part in its healing.

For a further consideration of issues related to the questions you raise, you may wish to look at Question #128.

Q #143: I know that A Course in Miracles is not aimed at the level of behavior and it indicates that depression is an attempt to attack God. Therefore, I have been angry with myself for being depressed about the war with Iraq, thinking that I should be “above” that. Was it wrong that I had hoped that peace would prevail on a physical level? Is it an indication of my specialness that I am depressed that it hasn't?

A: It is quite normal to hope that peace would prevail on a physical level; and many other people have also felt depressed about the war and about the world situation in general. The only mistake you are making is being angry with yourself and thinking that you should be beyond depression.

In connecting depression with blasphemy (T.10.V), Jesus is calling our attention, in a dramatic way, to the effects in our minds of giving our allegiance to the ego (specifically the god of sickness), rather than to his healing love. When you become depressed, all that you have done is identify with your ego’s view of things. But, more than likely, you identify with the ego in many other ways throughout the day. So why would you be surprised by this form? It is easy to forget that simply feeling scared when your supply of oxygen is cut off is an ego reaction. We have ego reactions all the time, and it is a mistake to have a hierarchy among them. Any time you are tempted to judge yourself by feeling you should be beyond a, b, or c, you should stop right there and remind yourself that that judgment is coming from your ego, and therefore should not be taken seriously. In his kind and gentle guidance of us, Jesus would never utter those words of judgment.

Wanting there to be peace in the world is quite normal, to repeat; but it can also be viewed in the context of your special relationship with your identity as an individual in “your” world. In this sense, your identity as an individual would be more secure and less problematic if there were no conflicts in the world. The impatience and depression about the turmoil might be reminding you of the profound insecurity you feel on a deep level, because, somewhere in your mind, you know that your existence as an individual is not authentic. In your wrong/ego mind you believe (as we all do) that your existence came at God’s expense. A world without major upheavals thus can be a defense against that insecurity, which is always present in the mind that believes it has separated from God. Also, since we are the ones who made the world to replace our true home in Heaven -- thereby saying that we could get along without God just fine -- then when the world “doesn’t work right,” we would feel as if we had failed. Depression would be one response to that sense of failure, for once again we have been reminded that we have denied God (blasphemy).

On the other hand, for some people, being preoccupied with the chaos and strife in the world protects them from having to deal with the chaos and strife in their minds. But this defense, as is the case with all defenses, reinforces their unconscious guilt, because they would then want there to be calamities in the world to serve their own need for protection from their minds.

The good news that Jesus imparts to us in the Course is that true peace is not dependent on anything external in order to be what it is. He helps us realize that peace in the world, even it were achieved, would always be a fragile peace, and therefore would not bring us the comfort we long for. It would depend on the presence of specific conditions, and it would require guardians, or a “peace-keeping force,” as governments typically describe them. The peace of mind that Jesus offers us is simply restored to us; it is not something we must earn. And, thankfully, it is restored simply by our choosing against the interferences to its presence, which means that we must first become aware of how we interfere with it, and how we defend against it. This would be our own personal “peace-keeping force” -- our ongoing vigilance for our attacks against our Self. Once these interferences are gone, peace will flow through us naturally, but we then would have no investment in how it is extended, or whether it is received by others when offered.