Weekly Questions and Answers, 07/16/2003

This week's questions:

Q #202: How should I teach Course principles to children?
Q #203: Do the Workbook lessons need to be done daily?
Q #204: Is happiness the goal of the Course?
Q #205: Must everyone accept the Atonement before anyone can enter Heaven?
Q #206: What are some practical examples of forgiveness?
Q #207: Is it wrong to have questions and need answers about the Course?

Look up a specific question by date or question no.

Q #202: I am a professional who works with kids. I have wondered what are some basics of A Course in Miracles that you all talk about when it comes to working with children, as a parent, teacher, counselor, coach, or whatever role is in use. I use "what do you want to come out of this?" Unfortunately, most kids are not conscious enough to answer that question with much wisdom. I also emphasize the role of "choice." What else?

A: We addressed this issue in Q #179 in the context of parenting. It is always a good thing to help children (as well as adults) to accept responsibility for their behavior, and to help them realize that choices are available to them; but the concepts and principles of the Course are far beyond what children and most adolescents are capable of grasping. Children must first learn to become strong, healthy egos in order to function effectively and to cope with the many challenges in world. A basically sound level of psychological stability is necessary before anyone can "safely" begin to deal with the concept of the world and individuality as illusions. Immature or psychologically fragile people can be thrown into a panic, or far worse, if they are inappropriately confronted with such topics.

The best way to teach the Course to children is to demonstrate it in our own lives. The focus should always be on the content in our minds -- watching for, and then bringing to the love of Jesus, all of our ego thoughts and dynamics: for example, our need to control, dominate, or cannibalize (psychologically) others; our need to manipulate and use others to get what we want and then dispense with them. When we humbly acknowledge that we have been wrong in our choice of teachers, and then choose the teacher of forgiveness in our right minds, we will automatically manifest the message of the Course in our lives. The words we say do not matter, because if we are centered in the love of Jesus, then whatever we do or say will be loving and the most helpful to the children in our care. Children will connect with the source of our words or actions, and consequently they will feel safe and accepted regardless of what they do. When discipline is called for, if we have let go of our ego for just an instant, our behavior will be conducted in a manner that is appropriately firm and effective, but not punitive, retaliative, judgmental, condescending, nor triggered by anger or by fear. Again, the message the children will get -- after their normal period of pouting -- is that they are cared for and accepted, even though what they just did was not acceptable. We all can attest to the fact that the teachers and adults who stand out in our memories of our childhood are those who were kind and caring and accepting of us, or were just the opposite. The words they said have probably been forgotten -- except for those perhaps that manifested acceptance or rejection. Children immediately tune into the message being transmitted through the adult’s words and behavior.

Jesus asks us to be like him, to take him as our model. And therefore the way we teach our children is to be a model for them of our right minds. A helpful paragraph to study in this regard is under "The Function of the Teacher of God" in the manual (M.5.III.2).

Q #203: A group of friends and I are reading A Course in Miracles, and we want to know whether the lessons must be strictly done daily, or if you may stay with some of them for a week or two, until you grasp them deeply?

A: The only specifications for the Workbook practice are given in its Introduction. It does not say not to repeat a lesson, it only says: "Do not undertake to do more than one set of exercises a day" (W.in.2:6). It is therefore not out of keeping with the Workbook instructions to repeat a lesson. If it is a particularly meaningful or difficult lesson, it might be a good idea to stay with it for a couple of days. However, there is a risk in thinking that a lesson needs to be done perfectly, or even "grasped deeply" before moving on to the next lesson. This would be a trap, because it is unlikely that many of us will ever do one of the lessons perfectly. If we could, we would have reached such an advanced state of spiritual growth that we would not need the lessons at all. The best thing is to try to do what the lesson asks as best you can, being aware of the resistance that comes up. Resistance is what makes the lesson impossible to remember; it is behind our forgetting the repetitions, and our difficulty in understanding the lesson. It is important to recognize this, as a demonstration of our unwillingness to learn the thought system the Workbook teaches, and of our refusal to allow our minds to be trained "to a different perception of everyone and everything in the world" (W.in.4:1). If we mistakenly believe we can master a lesson in a few days, we are underestimating our attachment to the ego’s thought system, and this will hinder our progress rather than help it. The important thing is to be sincere in our attempts to study and practice what the Workbook teaches, aware that we are full of resistance, and willing to forgive ourselves for our often mediocre efforts. As long as we continue to study and apply the lessons as we are instructed, we will make progress. It may be helpful for your group to occasionally reread the Workbook instructions together. It keeps us on track to go back to the beginning once in a while.

Q #204: Is happiness the goal of A Course in Miracles?

A: It all depends on your definition of the word happiness. If your definition is "a state of well- being and contentment" based on getting what you want, whenever you want it, no matter what the cost, or to whom, then the answer is no. If, however, your definition is "a state of well-being and contentment" based on the knowledge of who you truly are, then the answer is yes. As you can see, one definition relies on external sources, while the other relies on internal sources.

Imagine every grievance you now have completely washed away. Imagine "gliding" through your day, with no impingement from outside sources. Imagine freedom from conflict, of any kind. Imagine knowing you are without sin and released of guilt. Imagine finding the innocence you thought was surely lost. Imagine everyone you meet as a brother you dearly love. Such a life comes from the peace of mind you will have once forgiveness has become perfected within you. This "happiness" is the goal of the Course.

Q #205: I may be wrong in this interpretation, but A Course in Miracles seems to be saying that none of us will enter into Heaven alone. Does this mean that every soul that thinks it is separate must accept and live the Atonement before anyone goes to Heaven? What happens to the souls that have not accepted the Atonement when the body is laid aside?

A: Yes, A Course in Miracles does say that "no one can enter Heaven by himself" (W.pI.134.17:7). But this does not mean that "every soul that thinks it is separate must accept and live the Atonement before anyone goes to Heaven." Jesus is correcting our faulty thinking that we are separate, autonomous individuals, and that we can, for example, condemn others without having that judgment affect ourselves. Thus, preceding the above quotation, he says "In everything you do remember this: No one is crucified alone" (W.pI.134.17:7). Similarly: "Brother, you need forgiveness of your brother, for you will share in madness or in Heaven together. And you and he will raise your eyes in faith together, or not at all" (T.19.IV.D.12:7,8).

The point of the teaching is that we are joined as one Sonship, so that we are mistaken anytime we think: I am worthy of passing through the gate of Heaven, but this other person or group is not and never will be; or, this other person is worthy and I am not. Jesus is helping us restore our minds to their original state as Christ, the one Son of God. He is using our language to get us beyond our usual way of perceiving, which is always grounded in separation, division, individuality, and linear time. The process is not linear. There is no "waiting." That is how we would envision the process from our perspective in time and space; but the process is entirely outside our temporal framework, and therefore not something we can fully understand. There is only the illusion of many unhealed minds. There is only one mind that is in need of healing, and that is yours. If you can keep that as your focus as you practice the Course, you will indeed learn its lessons and integrate its message.

Finally, it is not necessary to lay the body aside in order to accept the Atonement. The body would just be properly perceived, i.e., as a thought that has never left its source in the mind. Jesus knew he was not his body, and therefore never suffered. Things happened to his body, but they did not happen to him. That is why he asks to take him as our model. He did not perceive himself as victimized. His mind was healed. Lesson 226 describes this from a different angle, but it is the same idea: "If I so choose, I can depart this world entirely. It is not death which makes this possible, but it is change of mind about the purpose of the world. If I believe it has a value as I see it now, so will it remain for me. But if I see no value in the world as I behold it, nothing that I want to keep as mine or search for as a goal, it will depart from me. For I have not sought for illusions to replace the truth" (W.pI.226.1).

Q #206: A Course in Miracles seems to suggest that we watch our thoughts every day. Can you give examples of how to put into practice forgiveness on a daily basis?

A: In general, practicing forgiveness involves looking at your ego thoughts without judgment, and becoming increasingly aware of the price you are paying to hold onto these ego/wrong-minded thoughts. The kinds of thoughts Jesus asks you to watch for are thoughts of judgment or condemnation; thoughts of anger/rage/annoyance; thoughts of vulnerability, victimization, fear, guilt, anxiety, depression; special love or special hate thoughts; any specific thoughts that keep you feeling separate from others. The lessons in the workbook give specific instructions about how to practice searching your mind for these thoughts, and then what to do once you become aware of them -- this varies according to the theme of the day’s lesson.

Some examples: (1) If you are angry or annoyed with someone, you might simply remind yourself that your anger is not really about what you think it’s about -- "I am never upset for the reason I think" (Lesson 5). Then you might continue with: I rejected the love of Jesus again, judged myself for it, felt guilty over it, and then rather than smile at such foolishness, I listened to my ego and projected the guilt onto X. That is why I am feeling angry. Regardless of what this other person has done, my anger is an interpretation. Now I have a choice. I can simply ask for help to let go of my guilt and strive to see shared interests, or I can continue to blame this person for my being upset and feel that my anger is justified. And if I choose to continue to judge and blame, that’s okay. I will never feel peaceful or happy for very long if I do that, but that does not make me sinful or unworthy of Heaven’s Love. In Lesson 134, Jesus asks us to "briefly consider all the evil things you thought of him [the person at whom your anger is directed], and each time ask yourself, ‘Would I accuse myself for doing this?’" (W.pI.134.15:3).

(2) If you find yourself anxious or fearful about your own or a loved one’s well-being (e.g., physical, psychological, financial problems, or any form of victimization), ask for help from the Holy Spirit or Jesus to see the problem as it is, not the way you have set it up (T.27.VII.2:2). In other words, you could remind yourself again that you must be looking through the ego’s eyes, which are programmed to see innocent victims; because if you had chosen the Holy Spirit or Jesus as your Teacher, you would not be anxious or fearful, regardless of what is going on. Perception is always interpretation. The miracle "merely looks on devastation, and reminds the mind that what it sees is false" (W.pII.13.1:3). So you look on devastation -- you do not deny what your eyes are seeing nor how you are feeling -- but then you just remind yourself that you have chosen to ask the ego instead of Jesus to interpret what you are looking on. A wonderful way of going about this is described in the last paragraph of Chapter 5 in the text, which concludes with a series of statements Jesus asks us to think of whenever we are not wholly joyous. It begins with "I must have decided wrongly, because I am not at peace" (T.5.VII.6). Forgiveness always involves our admitting that we are wrong, and that we are willing to make a different choice. We need not make the other choice; but we must at least acknowledge that we are wrong in how we are seeing things. When our fear lessens over a period of time, we will gladly and quickly make the right choice as soon as we become aware of our wrong-minded thinking.

(3) If you are caught in a special relationship, feeling completely dependent on something or someone, and terrified of being without this source of comfort, pleasure, assurance, companionship, conflict, etc., then once again you can start by being honest about what is going on. Jesus asks for complete honesty with ourselves and with him: "Watch carefully and see what it is you are really asking for. Be very honest with yourself in this, for we must hide nothing from each other" (T.4.IV.8:1,2). The honesty would come in your acknowledging that you are not yet ready to accept the love of Jesus in your mind as your only reality; and therefore you have latched on to something outside your mind to supply the lack, and satisfy your needs as you have defined them. Not judging yourself for doing so would help you move along in your process of undoing your guilt. Being completely honest with yourself about the purpose of the relationship with the other person, object, or conditions is an essential part of the forgiveness process. When you focus on the purpose of the relationship, you are helping yourself prepare for the shift in purpose from the ego to the Holy Spirit, when you are ready to ask for His help. In other words, right now you are seeing yourself as limited and needy -- not as God created you -- and you are seeing this other person, substance, etc., as there to fulfill your needs, which constitutes an attack. The separation is thereby being reinforced. That is the purpose of the ego; so whenever you identify with the ego, because you are too fearful of the Love of God, that is what you will do. That does not make you a sinner, however! Heaven’s Love cannot be changed by our insanity.

Q #207: Does the very fact that we have questions and need answers just play into the hands of the ego and perpetuate it? But, also, isn’t it unrealistic to live under the premise of A Course in Miracles that we don’t know what anything means and we need do nothing, when all we ever do is question and want to do something?

A: Yes, it is true that our questioning and need for answers perpetuates the ego. There is a powerful section in the text that discusses this: "The Quiet Answer" (T.27.IV). There Jesus explains why this is so: "All questions asked within this world are but a way of looking, not a question asked…The world asks but one question. It is this: ‘Of these illusions, which of them is true?’…Thus is all questioning within the world a form of propaganda for itself" (T.27.IV.4:1,4,5; 5:3). But he does not say not to ask questions; he just wants us to ask an honest question, which can occur only when, for an instant, we have set aside our arrogant presumption that we know what our problems are, e.g., our diminishing savings, our diseased body, our disabled car, our devastated environment, etc. Practicing the Course does not mean that we would not attend to these areas of our lives; it means, rather, that we would realize that we are not upset or in distress for these reasons. Our distress -- our only problem -- is our willingness to continue to believe that we are truly separate from the Love of God; and our defense against our ever changing our minds about that -- lest we forego our special identities as individuals -- is to see a multitude of problems outside our minds and then ask Jesus or the Holy Spirit to join with us in doing everything possible to solve those problems, instead of asking Them to help us to change our minds about the thought system we have chosen to guide us.

In this context, then, it is not unrealistic to live under the Course premises. In fact, we would be far better off and far more peaceful if we did. Those premises are simply re-orienting our thinking; they are helping us to step back from what we are so convinced is reality, so that we can acquire a different perspective on our lives and all of our seeming problems. If we stepped back with Jesus, as he asks that we do, we would see with him that all of our problems are made up; their purpose is to serve as defenses against our ever getting back to the truth that is concealed in our minds. Once we are willing to view our problems that way, we would approach them entirely differently. But as long as we think we know what everything means and act automatically on that basis, we will be stuck forever in an unending cycle of problems that are never totally solved, or are solved and then immediately replaced with other problems. The ego’s strategy to keep us mindless would have worked.

So Jesus is training us to recognize that we have already chosen a set of premises on which to base our lives, and that it has resulted in unhappiness, frustration, and death. He is therefore teaching us that there is another choice available to us in our minds, which will lead us back home to eternal life and peace in God. The starting point in this reversal is our humble acknowledgment that we have been wrong about everything, and that it would be in our best interests to do nothing on our own, and to ask for help to see all things as he does. If this is done correctly, with gentleness and with trust, we can continue to carry out all of our responsibilities and obligations in the roles we have chosen, so that no one would notice any difference in us, except that we would be more peaceful and we would smile more frequently.