Weekly Questions and Answers, 11/12/2003

This week's questions/topics:

Q #303: What exactly is "grace" and how does one attain it?
Q #304: What exactly is "the authority problem"?.
Q #305: Still more about "I need do nothing."
Q #306: Why might I be preoccupied with death?
Q #307: What is the explanation of a buzzing or vibrating feeling while meditating?
Q #308: Why does the Course seem to arouse such antagonism in non-believers?.
Q #309: How can we know if we are truly bringing the problem to Jesus?

Look up a specific question by date or question no.

Q #303: My question is about grace. I'm working on Lesson 168-9 of A Course in Miracles…which says grace is not learned and grace is not the goal this course aspires to attain.…grace is the means to get vision first with knowledge but an instant later…I'm just trying to understand exactly what grace is and how one should try to attain it.

A: In the “Glossary-Index for A Course in Miracles by Kenneth Wapnick, grace is defined as “our natural state as spirit” and “an aspect of God’s love in this world (p.46). It may be helpful in reading passages in the Course which use the term grace, such as the Lessons you mention, to remember it is referring to the truth of who we are as spirit, and the reflection of God’s love present in our minds: “Spirit is in a state of grace forever. Your reality is only spirit. Therefore you are in a state of grace forever” (T.1.III.5:4,5,6). Grace is not, therefore, something that needs to be attained, nor can it be taught or learned. It is simply the truth that will be revealed of its own when we no longer believe in our guilty, sinful selves identified with the body. Our goal is to become aware of our true identity as spirit because it is what God created us to be. God’s grace, His gift, is the identity we share with Him. The process of forgiveness, whereby we uncover all the hidden beliefs about ourselves that are in opposition to this truth, is what will lead us to the awareness of this identity and acceptance of His grace.

In other places, however, grace is spoken about somewhat differently. Grace is vision in that it is awareness of our natural state. In the passage you refer to, the Course tells us that the vision of who we are in truth will be followed instantly by knowledge of our Oneness with God, and in that instant awareness of the world disappears. That is our goal, that is grace. It is “an aspect of God’s love in this world” (Glossary, p.46) because our minds hold the memory of God’s love and the memory of our true identity as spirit, God’s innocent Son. Whenever we are willing to choose to identify with this part of our minds, rather than with the ego, we accept the grace that is ours: “Grace is acceptance of the Love of God within a world of seeming hate and fear” (W.pI.169.2:1).

Q #304: I keep thinking about what A Course in Miracles refers to as the “authority” problem. I understand it to mean that there is a constant struggle within me between what I believe is the “reason” for being here and for my life, and what God “believes” is the reason for my being here and for my life. Unfortunately -- like most concepts the Course teaches -- I have a feeling my understanding is missing the mark. Am I even close?

A: Actually, you are not far off the mark at all. Someone once said: “If God is your co-pilot, switch seats!” Jesus tells us that the problem is much deeper than that: “The authority problem is still the only source of conflict, because the ego was made out of the wish of God’s Son to father Him. The ego, then, is nothing more than a delusional system in which you made your own father” (T.11.in.2:3,4). This obviously is insane, as Jesus himself remarks in the continuation of that passage; yet we continue to allow this conflict to rage in our minds and to project itself out all over the place in many forms, because we believe that to submit to God as our Author and Source would be a sentence of death. Or at the very least, we could not exist as we would like to.

Jesus explains: “The projection of the ego makes it appear as if God’s Will is outside yourself, and therefore not yours. In this interpretation it seems possible for God’s Will and yours to conflict. God, then, may seem to demand of you what you do not want to give, and thus deprive you of what you want.…You are afraid to know God’s Will, because you believe it is not yours. This belief is your whole sickness and your whole fear” (T.11.9:1,2,3; 10:3,4).

So to the extent that you value an individual, autonomous existence, you will unconsciously believe that you usurped God’s power in order to get and keep that existence and that He is coming after you to get it back. This is the one-or-the-other principle at the heart of the ego thought system, and fear is its unfortunate consequence. “To deny His Authorship is to deny yourself the reason for your peace, so that you see yourself only in segments. This strange perception is the authority problem” (T.3.VI.10.6,7).

Q #305: Does “I need do nothing” mean that it's not OK to consciously try to develop new habits to replace the old fear based ones, like avoiding eye contact or speaking softly or giving up too soon, etc....How can I get over these things if I don't do anything about them? Lesson 135 in A Course in Miracles says that planning for things is a defense and should be avoided. However, I feel that if I don't plan or practice ahead of time I won't be able to function: I won't know what to say or do when the moment arises. I am really quite stalled here. Perhaps I am misinterpreting all of this. Can you somehow clear this up for me?

A: When A Course in Miracles says: “I need do nothing except not to interfere” (T.16.I.3:12) it is telling us primarily not to interfere, because that is what we do. It is not telling us to do nothing in the world or with the body. We need do nothing to be who we are (God’s Son), except remove all the beliefs that oppose that truth. That is why the Course describes the ego thought system in all its diverse forms and expressions. Lesson 135 of the workbook is a very good example of this. It exposes the defense system that is set in motion when the mind chooses to identify with the body. In no way does it suggest that any of the defenses or behaviors should be changed or avoided. That is not its goal. The goal of the Course is clearly expressed in the following instruction: “…seek not to change the world, but choose to change your mind about the world”(T.21.in.7:1). We can paraphrase this important line replacing “the world” with “the body,” “your behavior,” “your habits,” “your defenses.” This is a Course in mind training, and nothing else. Understanding this distinction is essential to understanding, and more importantly, applying the principles of the Course.

Whenever the Course describes all the things we do as bodies, and the beliefs we hold, it does not tell us not to do them, nor not to believe them. It teaches by showing us the contrast between the effect of the ego belief system (pain) with the effect of the Holy Spirit’s thought system (peace). It tells us that what we do on the level of form neither causes nor resolves the problem of the separation on the level of the mind. Therefore, changing your behavioral habits because it will make you feel better about yourself is just as acceptable as any of the things we do to take care of our bodies, our houses, or our cars. As long as we believe we are bodies living in the world these things must be maintained in working order, and taken care as best we see fit.

Until our minds are healed of all belief in the separation and in our identity as bodies, our only goal must be to uncover all our hidden beliefs so they can be exchanged for the belief system of the Holy Spirit. Then the mind that is free of guilt will use the body, as described in this lesson, without defenses. This does not mean that the body will then be perfect, or not need food, or sleep, or eye glasses. It means the mind will not confuse itself with the body and will not look to it for safety or for anything. In the process of healing, we are not asked not to plan, or to try to live as if our minds were healed while they are still sick. It is always important in reading the Course to remember that it is addressing the decision making part of the mind. We are asked to choose which teacher we will consult in making our plans. The Holy Spirit tells us that as we make our plans we can remember to search our minds for all of the insane beliefs that interfere with our being able to allow His wisdom to lead us to our truth.

Webmaster's note: see also questions #293 #289 #90.

Q #306: I have been studying A Course in Miracles for about 14 years now and lately I keep thinking about dying. It comes to my mind all the time. It's not particularly scary; but why all this preoccupation with death?

A: It is not unusual to have thoughts of death become more frequent as you diligently work with Jesus in undoing your ego. The part of you that is identified with the ego -- and has been for ages -- will experience itself as “dying.” Actually, all that is happening is that you are withdrawing your belief in the ego thought system. “As you approach the Beginning, you feel the destruction of your thought system upon you as if it were the fear of death. There is no death, but there is a belief in death” (T.3.VII.5:9,10). A major part of the process involves shifting your sense of who you truly are, so it would be evident that the “you” that is withdrawing the belief and has chosen Jesus as its teacher is not what is “dying.” That decision-making part of your mind is simply choosing to identify no longer with a false identity, but with the reflection of its true Self represented in your right mind by the Atonement principle.

The preoccupation with death should diminish and finally disappear when there is no more fear of letting go of your identity as an individual. Without knowing more about you, though, we do not know whether this is the only source of the thoughts. In general, we would recommend consulting with a professional if these death thoughts persist for an extended period of time.

Q #307: I have been studying A Course in Miracles for over a year now. For the last few months, I have been having this strange and wonderful feeling -- my body starts physically vibrating during my morning and night meditations. I feel like something inside me is about to take off, like an airplane, a kind of inner weightlessness. After my meditation, I feel great and full of energy. But sometime this feeling that I am experiencing makes me think and think again. I wonder if other students are or have experienced the same thing I am. I also wonder if it is okay to feel that way.

A: Although a variety of explanations could be offered to account for your experience with your body, all you need to know is that our own minds translate any experience of abstract love, such as we may experience in meditation, into a form that we can accept, since our ego-identified minds fear the abstract. At times the form may be, as you are experiencing, sensations in your body that you find pleasant, even pleasurable. What will be most helpful to remember as you have such experiences is that you want to be willing to let go of any judgments you may have about them as either good or not good. Or any thoughts to make a big deal out of them. If you enjoy the experience, there is certainly nothing wrong with that. You just don’t want to make an altar to the experience and then seek after that, for, as wonderful as it may seem, it still falls far short of what Jesus is holding out to us in his Course. For it is still only a specific symbol, a temporary form, through which you are allowing yourself to feel his healing comfort and unlimited love.

For a related discussion, see Question #181.

Q #308: I'm not sure how to present this question, because anything I say will most likely be projection and/or an area of my own unrecognized guilt, some unconscious need for drama, to be a victim or martyr, some call for help in me. But please elaborate the Course's position as to why there is hatred and often times cruelty from others when the A Course in Miracles becomes one's path. This has been my path since 1986 and I don't thrust it upon others. If I am asked, I will talk about it. When I ask for help I often don't hear the answer or I'm too upset and caught up in fear.

A: First of all, it will be helpful to distinguish others’ feelings and reactions from your own. For your own reactions are all that you ever really need to be concerned with. Any thought system which so uncompromisingly threatens the ego thought system, as the Course does, will have to be perceived as threatening to anyone who is still identified with the ego. So, as you work with the Course, whether you speak to others of its principles or not, they at some level will have to recognize the difference in you in those moments when you are practicing forgiveness and are identified with your right mind. And if they are threatened by that, then hatred and cruelty -- among a variety of ego reactions -- are “natural” and not unexpected responses to protect their ego identity. As Jesus points out, “frightened people can be vicious” (T.3.I.4:2).

None of this really has anything to do with you or your own lessons in forgiveness, unless you in turn react to their reactions to you. For you are now in your wrong mind and are identifying with the guilt there over separation and attack on God that you believe is real. But this is nothing to feel embarrassed or apologetic about. All of us who still believe we are here in this world in the body have unhealed minds that believe in the reality of our own guilt. And any experience that allows us to get in touch with that guilt -- which will automatically be projected outward onto others if we are not aware of its origin in our own mind -- can be very helpful. So bless your brothers for being the screens for your own projections, for when you react to them with upset and fear, feeling like a victim or a martyr, you are uncovering what your ego has wanted to keep hidden from you, if you are willing to look at it that way. And whenever you remember and are ready, you can look at the no-longer-buried guilt with Jesus or the Holy Spirit, who will remind you that it is all made-up. You may initially be unable to access this help when you are in the middle of the confrontation with someone else, but the only thing that matters is that, at some point in time, you remember you have a different choice about how you can perceive that interaction. And that opens the door to the help that is always available to us.

Q #309: It keeps being emphasized in the answers here that we need to bring our ego thoughts to the love of Jesus in our right minds. How do we know we are doing that? What I mean is that it's not like talking to someone in human form where you can see them and hear them and speak directly with them and know you are doing it.

A: Although we can never be certain in any moment if we have turned our minds away from the ego and joined with Jesus, one of the clearer indications is when we feel a release from the heaviness and strain of the judgments we have been holding onto. For that in the end is all that forgiveness is and, whether or not we are conscious of joining with Jesus, we have when we let go of our thoughts of condemnation and attack. When we are honest with ourselves, we can always be aware of the tension we are holding (in our minds, projected onto our bodies) when we are judging, whether it is the negative judgment of hatred and repulsion or the so-called positive judgment of desire and attraction -- the feeling that someone or something outside of us is what we want and need. Tension in all its myriad manifestations is always a signal of conflict and separation, whether we interpret it as good or bad.

Jesus is not really a separate entity or being like your mother or a best friend, but rather is simply a presence we can experience, whom we can relate to in our minds, at a personal level, while we still believe we are persons. You perhaps have had the experience as you read his words in A Course in Miracles that Jesus is there with you and that he really is speaking to you. Don’t let your ego fool you into believing that is only your imagination. That experience is more real than all the experiences with other bodies that we seek after to stave off our loneliness. Joining and peace occur in the mind, and not between bodies. That is why we can feel very lonely despite being surrounded by others, if our thoughts are of separation and isolation. And we can feel quite content and complete just thinking of someone who is not physically present whose love and acceptance we are sure of. Jesus wants us to know that, no matter the vagaries and vacillations of worldly love, his love is always constant, always there. In those moments when we doubt it, we can simply pick up his book and read his words and his promises. There are many, but consider this one passage from the very end of the workbook: “You do not walk alone. God's angels hover near and all about. His Love surrounds you, and of this be sure; that I will never leave you comfortless” (W.ep.6:6,7,8).