Weekly Questions and Answers, 06/18/2003

This week's questions:

Q #180: Should I stay in a relationship where my love is not returned?.
Q #181: Is it wrong to experience God's love as sensual?
Q #182: How can someone be sick if they are totally at peace?
Q #183: If nothing can harm me, why should I heed physical danger?
Q #184: Fear and uncertainty about whether my needs will be met.

Go to a specific date or question no.

Q #180: I am in love with someone who is not in love with me. He cares for me only as a friend. I realize I have chosen this relationship as a form of an attack on myself in order to prove that I am unworthy of love. Would the most loving thing be to stay in this relationship and ask Jesus to heal my perceptions or leave the relationship entirely?

A: We choose all of our relationships to demonstrate that they will fail us, that they will not meet our needs, and that love simply can not be trusted, whatever form it seems to take. Special relationships which involve a romantic component only seem to be different because the intensity of emotions elicited seems so much stronger. But the content or the purpose is always the same.

The belief that this self in the world that I think I am is unworthy of love is only a cover over the rage we all feel that we do not have the love that we feel we rightfully deserve. And that rage in turn is a defense against the self-accusation buried deep in our minds that we have rejected love by wanting something else. But the guilt and pain associated with that thought of betrayal are too great and so we project the responsibility for our lack of love outside of ourselves. If no one finds me lovable, it’s not my fault. It’s someone else’s, starting with God, then my parents, and everyone else who has not given me the love that would prove to me I am worthy.

The focus of A Course in Miracles is never on how to deal with the external relationship. So the Course would never counsel you on whether to stay in or leave a relationship. Rather it will help you to heal the buried guilt over attacking love that has been buried in your mind. The value of the relationship is that it has helped you get in touch with that hidden self-hatred. But if you do the inner work of healing the guilt in your own mind, the uncertainty you are experiencing over the form of the relationship will dissipate. The healing of your relationship with Jesus’ help can proceed whether you remain in the relationship or not. For that has never really been the problem at all, but only a distraction from the real problem of the guilt buried in your own mind.

For a related discussion, you may wish to review Question #20.

Q #181: When I worked the lessons in Part II of the workbook of A Course in Miracles, my experience of God’s Love was very profound. It felt very sensual. Even now, sometimes, during meditation, I experience the same warm, sensual feelings. I find myself feeling guilty. Is it wrong for God's Love to be experienced as sensual?

A: While it is true that any genuine experience of God’s Love is beyond all feelings, sensations, thoughts and symbols, a couple of things are still true while we continue to see ourselves as existing apart from that Love:

For one, our minds, still believing we are specific and concrete, will want to contain that limitless experience in a form or experience we can identify with, to avoid feeling overwhelmed by the immensity of it. So our minds may translate the experience into something familiar and comforting, even pleasurable, such as you describe. Early in the text, Jesus speaks of "the confusion of miracle impulses with physical impulses" and adds that "all real pleasure comes from doing God’s Will" (T.1.VII.1:2,4).

And another thing that is true is that our ego will seize upon whatever it can to sabotage the experience of love and peace to sow seeds of conflict. But that is only because it is threatened by the limitlessness of love in which it ceases to have any existence.

So the wisest thing is simply not to judge what is happening, acknowledging that your ego may have its agenda with the experience, but its counsel need not be sought. Allow yourself the experiences you are having without judgment, without making them into a big deal in any way. And remember that the experience of God can and should be the most natural experience we could possibly have. And if we’re not having it, it certainly is not because He is withholding anything!

Q #182: Chapter 2 in the text of A Course in Miracles, has a passage that says "Illness is some form of external searching. Health is inner peace" (T.2.I.5:10). Does this refer to physical illness and physical health? The first 100 pages or so in the text seem to associate physical health with a healed mind. If so, then it is directly relating the body -- which doesn’t exist -- with the spiritual being we all are. Also would it follow then that someone who has cancer or some other form of physical sickness can still be totally at peace and have no guilt in their mind? Our discussion leader has said that having complete inner peace and cleansing the mind of guilt have no correlation to physical health, because God does not know the body or sickness. This seems to contradict much of what is written in the Course about only the mind creating, because if you are completely at peace and free of guilt in your mind, how can the body respond with some sort of suffering or illness? I am so confused on this question!

A: 1) One thing that might be helpful is to keep in mind that one of Jesus’ purposes in his Course is to correct our faulty thinking, insofar as we have identified with the ego thought system and therefore are always interpreting everything from that perspective. Following the ego’s strategy, which has left us mindless, we normally associate sickness and healing with bodily conditions (physical and/or psychological): both the causes and remedies are found in the body and the world. This is the thinking that Jesus is helping us to correct, which is why he uses the terminology that the health of the body reflects the health of the mind. He is correcting the belief we all hold that the body’s health is related to conditions and factors in the world. The more we think that way, the less likely we are of ever getting back in touch with the power of our minds. So he teaches us in a number of different ways that the body and its conditions are nothing but expressions of thoughts in the mind. This is all part of the plan of "thought-reversal" in the Course. We have reversed effect and cause, and he is teaching us how to get them back in their proper relationship.

Taking us to the next step, he tells us later in the text: "Thus is the body healed by miracles because they show the mind made sickness, and employed the body to be victim, or effect, of what it made. Yet half the lesson will not teach the whole. The miracle is useless if you learn but that the body can be healed, for this is not the lesson it was sent to teach. The lesson is the mind was sick that thought the body could be sick; projecting out its guilt caused nothing, and had no effects" (T.28.II.11.4,5,6,7).

We usually do not instantaneously accept and integrate these teachings into our lives. So our gradual shifting to Jesus’ way of thinking would be reflected in our learning to break the connection between our internal state of peace and our bodily states. In other words, we learn that the internal experience of peace is not dependent on freedom from physical/psychological symptoms. This is one of the rungs of the ladder that helps us avoid denying what we are feeling. It is an interim stage, while we still go back and forth between the wrong and right mind. So we are not free of guilt entirely, but in instants of right-minded thinking we can experience peace while the body has symptoms of disease. That experience of peace is what attracts us more and more, and we gradually become less and less identified with bodily conditions; we become less and less identified with the body in general, and become re-acquainted with our minds.

3) Now if the cause of the symptoms is guilt, then when the guilt is gone, the symptoms would disappear as well. BUT, symptoms can be present that do not originate with guilt. They might be chosen in the mind as a means of teaching others that the body is really nothing. There would be no internal suffering in these cases, because there is a clear awareness in that mind that it is not the body. Jesus, for example, did not suffer during the crucifixion because he knew he was not his body. The lesson in this is not to judge by form. In other words, just because there are physical symptoms, we cannot conclude that there is guilt.

Now it is possible as well that a person (a mind outside time and space) has chosen to learn the lesson of the Atonement by means of what appears to everyone else to be a horrendous, tragic physical condition. We cannot see the full span of our own or another’s Atonement path, so we need to be cautious in drawing conclusions about what our eyes see.

Q #183: In A Course in Miracles we are asked to change our perceptions and see peace instead of chaos. But theoretically if I saw everything as loving then what is to stop me disregarding physical danger or emotional danger from others (because I am of spirit and nothing can harm me). How does one perceive correctly, taking into account our physical necessities while we are in the world.

A: I think you are confused about your responsibility, and that of the Holy Spirit’s. "Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all of the barriers within yourself that you have built against it. It is not necessary to seek for what is true, but it is necessary to seek for what is false" (T.16.IV.6:1,2).

At some point in time, we do realize that mouthing words of defenselessness while feeling completely vulnerable is not helpful. So we must begin to develop honest communication with ourselves. Focus your attention on all the ways you do not see things as loving, i.e., judgments of yourself and others, feelings of anger and hurt, disquiet of any kind. Once you are honest with yourself about what your are doing or how you are feeling, you can then bring this to Jesus or the Holy Spirit so they can fulfill their part: "My control can take over everything that does not matter [your ego], while my guidance can direct everything that does, if you so choose" (T.2.VI.1:3). Bringing our ego to Jesus’ truth allows him to guide us in ways that are most helpful. Needless to say, as long as we believe we are bodies, he would never guide us to do anything that is harmful or hurtful to ourselves, or others.

And while the choice to bring your ego to Jesus or the Holy Spirit is an important one, an equally important choice occurs prior to this decision -- that is the choice to look honestly at yourself. Because of your guilt and shame, you may think that you are keeping your "secret sins and hidden hates" (T.31.VIII.9:2) from Jesus, but you are really keeping them from yourself. This is why self honesty is such a crucial characteristic to develop. The simple act of acknowledging your fear, dread, hatred, etc. can work miracles.

Q #184: I had a moment of clarity recently. I suddenly became aware that all my forms of specialness are based round the body and so they are all doomed to fail along with the body. Strangely this was not depressing -- what I felt was mostly relief. The moment didn't last though, as peaceful as it was, and the fear returned. What I feel I want from you is reassurance that there is nothing to fear so that I can go back to the peace.

In the "Rules for Decision" section of A Course in Miracles, Jesus says that I can have the day I want. I consistently refuse to follow the steps he lays out though because I don't believe he will give me what I need. Can one take him at his word here? If the day I want contains my being happy and unafraid will he give me that? If the day I want contains being surrounded by people I love will he give me that? What if I feel I need other things, like food, sex, warmth and water? Will he give me them? I am frightened that Jesus, not being a body, will not because he doesn't think I need them. These are not things I think will make me happy, but they are things I do not think I could be happy without.

I understand from the story about Helen and her eyelash that it is not Jesus who gives parking spaces to me -- it is my own mind. But may I still think of Jesus as giving these things to me, for a little while longer anyway? It is easier for me to accept when presented like that. Certainly I wouldn't want to have to provide my own happiness since it is so plain to me that I don't know how.

A: You certainly have put yourself in a bind! You know you don’t know how to provide for your happiness but you don’t trust Jesus to either. There is nothing wrong with continuing to want to see him as providing for your needs, but since you doubt that he is willing to, you really are setting up both yourself and him for failure. Because then when you feel deprived of anything, you can blame him.

Jesus points out that "only you can deprive yourself of anything" (T.11.IV.4:1). It is we who believe we need to sacrifice and punish ourselves for the sin of separation and attack we accuse ourselves of. So long as this belief underlies our thinking, we will project evidence of scarcity and lack onto the various forms of our lives. But the goal of the Course is not to teach us how to provide for ourselves physically and emotionally, but rather how to uncover the love buried deep within our minds so that we know that real abundance -- love -- is ours.

When Jesus tells us in "Rules for Decision" (T.30.I) how to have the kind of day we want, he is speaking only about content and not form. And so that is why he is encouraging us to make all of our decisions joined with him, or the Holy Spirit, rather than with the ego, which is the source of our belief in scarcity, lack and deprivation. For then our own judgments of what we need and what will make us happy will not get in the way. But while we still think we are a body, it will be difficult not to believe we know what at least some of our needs must be.

Whenever you join with Jesus in your mind, even when it is in the form of asking him for help with specific needs, you have in the moment of joining set aside your belief in lack and limitation. Now Jesus in reality has nothing to do with form -- it is always our minds that decide about that. Nevertheless, early in your experience with the Course, you may find that your mind translates that experience of his love into the forms of what you believe you need. And so you have the experience of Jesus helping you in the world. There is nothing wrong with that and it can be very helpful in allowing you to develop trust in him. But over time, you will begin to realize that your real need and desire is for peace, as you experienced with your insight about specialness. And so what is happening in the world of form and your body will become less of a concern and what is happening within your mind will increasingly become your focus.

This certainly does not mean that your body’s needs will no longer be met, for if you are releasing the need to punish yourself, your body will over time become simply a neutral instrument that functions without concern or fear on your part (W.pII.294.1). But if there are still lessons of forgiveness to be learned, your mind will continue to project the guilt out into the world as a physical problem or a bodily need. But you will now see the world, not as a prison in which you are deprived, but as a classroom in which you are being presented with opportunities to uncover the guilt buried in your mind that is being projected as scarcity and lack. And your goal will be to heal the guilt in your mind and not concern yourself with the form it takes in the world. And that is where Jesus can really be of help. For he knows that the guilt is not real and deprivation is impossible. And in that shared realization, peace is yours.

For a related discussion, see Question #172.