Weekly Questions and Answers, 12/24/2003

This week's questions/topics:

Q #342: Why do I feel rejected and lonely?.
Q #343: Does the brain "think"?.
Q #344: A question about miracle impulses.
Q #345: Must we give up simple bodily pleasures ?
Q #346: What should I do if I am very uncomfortable at my spouse's church?

Q #347: I find Christmas very depressing. How should I see this?

Chronological List of All Questions.

new.gif (2362 bytes)Interactive Index of all topics

Q #342: Lately, I have noticed that I experience a lot of rejection in life. I have difficulty belonging and increasingly cannot see how to navigate a world which seems so shallow. Everything seems, especially now, to be reliant on privilege, money, looks, age, class, race, influence, brains or ability. I feel a lot of love, but feel no incentive to get nearer to people’s egos. I feel safe this way. Nothing to date can really convince me to be otherwise. Nevertheless this has become painful. I have a few friends yet it is lonely. I must be misinterpreting A Course in Miracles. Also, I thought it was good to have boundaries (walls). Any ideas?

A: You’re recognizing how painful, empty and meaningless the world of our egos is, and this can be a helpful but nevertheless very disconcerting realization. But you don’t want to stop with this insight without taking the next step, for you have not yet completely switched teachers. For it is only the ego that judges and fears other egos. While you remain where you currently find yourself, differences still seem very real and rejection based on those differences almost unavoidable. And so it seems safety can be found only in withdrawal from the world. Yet isolating yourself only reinforces the belief in differences and separation in your mind, which must be experienced as very painful. It makes the error real -- very serious and threatening -- which is the ego’s only goal.

And so you want help in seeing the world of differences differently, and above all, in coming to recognize the real source of the meaning your own mind is giving to those differences, so that you can be open to a different, more gentle way of looking at the world and yourself. As contrary to our conscious beliefs about ourselves as it may seem, the truth is that we all unconsciously want to be rejected, so that the responsibility for rejection rests outside of ourselves (T.7.VII.8) and we don’t have to look at the choice for rejection that we have first made and then buried in our own minds.

The initial rejection was our rejection of God through our desire to be separate and apart from Him and His All-Encompassing Love. As a result of that choice, we seem to have deprived ourselves of love, a very painful state. We have rejected not only God, but our true Self, the Christ, Who is forever one with the Father. Without separation, rejection would be impossible, for there would be nothing outside to reject. In fact. "the separation is the notion of rejection.... Any split in mind must involve a rejection of part of it, and this is the belief in separation" (T.6.I.18:4; T.6.II.1:1).

Now, in reality, we can neither reject God nor ourselves, but we can believe that we have and convince ourselves that we are very sinful and guilty for that choice -- and vulnerable to counterattack as punishment for our choice. And so we made up a world onto which we project the attack and guilt, as well as a self that can be rejected by that world, never remembering where the thought of rejection originated. And now we can protest our innocence, for clearly it is others who are doing the rejecting (T.7.VII.9). The Course’s purpose is to get us in touch with this self- deceiving dynamic, where we project responsibility for rejection on to others.

And so it is not with our external relationships that we want to seek changes, but rather with our internal relationships. We want to learn to reject the ego and its erroneous interpretations of what seems to be happening to us and turn instead to Jesus or the Holy Spirit, Who will help us understand what our ego has been up to. Those external relationships that seem to be the cause of feelings of rejection are nothing more than the effects of an inner decision to continue to hold on to the belief in separation and rejection. And so they are helpful triggers for directing us inward to where the real healing work needs to happen. So to avoid relationships in the world would be to avoid the opportunities to uncover and heal the guilt within -- exactly what the ego wants!

Now this does not mean you should force yourself to be in situations that you find uncomfortable or painful, where rejection by others is certain. Before we remember that we are really a part of the boundless Love that created us as Christ, boundaries in our external relationships can be very helpful as we learn to trust our inner Teacher and become more comfortable at looking at our judgments of ourselves and others. But as the willingness to look within and heal the darkness there increases, the fear of rejection from outside must diminish, as will the need for boundaries. For "only those who give over all desire to reject can know that their own rejection is impossible" (T.3.VI.9:1).

Q #343: Since it is my body's brain that is thinking, then in turn asking questions, listening to Ken/others and acting out in this world, isn't it quite unlikely that we will ever "get it?"

A: Now who told you that your brain thinks? It must have been your ego! Your question, which you are not alone in asking, only reflects how effectively we have accepted the ego’s ruse that we are a body and not a mind, and how totally identified we are with this false self, even though it is not our reality and it is not where our thinking originates. Jesus is aware of our confusion, for he observes, "You also believe the body's brain can think. If you but understood the nature of thought, you could but laugh at this insane idea," adding that it is "foolish... to believe the body's eyes can see; the brain can think" (W.p.I.92.2:1,2,4).

As further evidence of our confusion, in speaking of those of us who believe we are born into this world, he notes, "Their minds seem to be trapped in their brain, and its powers to decline if their bodies are hurt. (T.13.in.2:7; italics added).

Our mistaken beliefs about ourselves in no way change the fact that all thinking, all consciousness (T.3.IV.2), all judgment, all choice, happen in the split mind and not in the body’s brain, which is nothing more than an illusory shadow of the mind’s guilt over the seeming separation. But we have deliberately set up our mistaken identity, in league with the ego, so that we no longer remember that we are a mind that has a choice about this whole bungled state of affairs, thereby assuring the ego’s continued unquestioned existence.

But our goal in the Course is not to undo our identification with the body and our belief in the brain’s thinking powers. Rather our goal is to undo our belief in the reality and value of guilt and attack in our relationships -- experienced between bodies in the world, although they are happening only in the mind. Jesus never asks us to do any more than what he knows we are capable of. We may not be capable yet of releasing our identification with this body, but we are quite capable of forgiving our special relationships, with his help. And that’s all we need to "get." The rest, if we do our part, Jesus assures us, will take care of itself. We are not responsible for the effects of the miracle -- we are only responsible for choosing it (T.27.V.1:2,3,4,5). And it does not matter whether we think we are making that choice with our brain or with our mind. Our willingness to forgive, that is, to release our judgments and our insistence that we know what we need, is all that matters.

For further discussion of the relationship between mind and body, you may wish to review Questions #89, #117, #226 and #322.

Q #344: In A Course in Miracles T.1.VII.1 it reads..." Your distorted perceptions produce a dense cover over miracle impulses, making it hard for them to reach your own awareness. The confusion of miracle impulses with physical impulses is a major perceptual distortion. Physical impulses are misdirected miracle impulses. All real pleasure comes from doing God's Will. This is because not doing it is a denial of Self." I read a similar question/answer already posted around sexual impulses...but my questions are slightly different and I need some help understanding these series of phrases referenced above: Is this a different way of saying that the decision-maker constantly is choosing between the right-mind and the wrong-mind, the Holy Spirit and the ego? If a miracle is forgiveness, or a reminder that what the body’s eyes see/perceive is false, then is a miracle impulse part of a corrective thought process from the Jesus/Holy Spirit in our mind?

A: Yes, your explanation is a good one. It may still be helpful to clarify why Jesus refers to "physical impulses" as "misdirected miracle impulses" and how our "distorted perceptions... cover over miracle impulses." We were created to be in perfect joy without ceasing, and the split mind, despite its mistaken beliefs about who it is, still remembers that state of happiness indirectly, primarily through its acute awareness that it is desperately unhappy. And so it is impelled to seek to return to a state of peace and joy, our natural state.

The miracle impulse, or the tendency to choose a miracle, is motivated by the recognition that we are unhappy in our current state of apparent separation and deserve more than what we are presently experiencing. But more than that, the miracle leads to a recognition that the deprivation that we feel is self-imposed, that is, it reflects a choice we have made. The miracle is a natural tendency of the mind, for it is a step in returning the mind to its original state of wholeness and peace, with all conflict left behind. The miracle reminds the mind that it is mind, or cause, and not a body, or effect (T.28.II.9:3). So miracle impulses are thoughts of the Correction, which the Holy Spirit represents to us in our right mind, that remind us that what we think has happened -- the separation from love and all the accompanying pain and guilt -- has not really happened at all. And that recognition, when fully embraced, must spell the end for the ego and its symbolic expression, our individual self.

So the ego, unable to remove what motivates the miracle impulse -- our desire to return to our natural state of peace and joy -- must distort and disguise the impulse so that we fail to remember our role in what we are experiencing. For if we truly remembered, we would not remain identified with the ego and separation for long. And so, to prevent our changing our mind, the ego does not ask us to deny our state of unhappiness, but through its distorted perceptual lens, convinces us that our unhappiness has nothing to do with any choice we have made but rather is the result of being born a helpless body into a world over which we have no control. And so the ego acknowledges our unhappiness and the conflict we feel, but guides us to look outside ourselves -- to others, to the world -- rather than within to find the joy and the peace and the love. And the search is destined to fail because it denies Who we really are and what our real Source of happiness is. Nevertheless, when we seek for pleasure in any form for the body, which we mistakenly identify as ourselves, the seeking is still motivated by a recognition -- albeit unconscious -- that happiness is our natural state. This is the same recognition from which the miracle impulse arises, but the seeking is misdirected. And all seeking in the world, because it reinforces our belief in separation, denying the only Identity in which real joy can be found, must in the end result in pain. Thus, Jesus concludes that "all real pleasure comes [only] from doing God’s Will."

Q #345: Sometimes in A Course in Miracles, Jesus seems to be encouraging us to let go of the simple physical pleasures of this world (for example, a really good cup of coffee), not because they are sinful of course, but because they reinforce our belief in sin and death. Do you see in the Course's teachings evidence of the possibility of truly reaching the peace and joy of God while still enjoying that good cup of coffee. Put another way, is it possible to really experience "I am not a body. I am free" without giving up the body's simple pleasures?

A: Yes, it is entirely possible to enjoy a good cup of coffee and still know that you are not your body. But your experience of inner peace would not change if that cup of coffee were not there as expected, or if the cup broke when you picked it up and the coffee spilled all over the floor. When you truly accept and experience that you are not a body, you are no longer dependent on anything of the body or the world as a source of fulfillment or well being. You could enjoy the "simple pleasures of the world," but you would have no investment in either having or not having them. Enjoying a good cup of coffee can neither bring you salvation nor deter it. When your mind is healed, your real pleasure comes from the experience of shared identity with everyone else as Christ.

Jesus teaches us that we will be happiest when we fulfill our function of forgiveness (W.pI.121; T.1.VII.1:4), and he helps us distinguish between the truly valuable and the valueless (W.pI.133; M.4.I.A.). But he never asks us to give up -- in terms of sacrificing -- what we still want and feel is important in our lives. Honesty about what we desire is always a helpful approach to take in this, as is being free of judgment about it. This is not a course in asceticism; the body and the things of the world are not the problem, as many other spiritualities teach. The purpose for which we use them is the only meaningful aspect.

On one level, taking pleasure in anything of the world represents an attack on God and our true inheritance as His Son. However, since we are too frightened to simply let go of our mistaken belief that the world and the body are real, Jesus gently teaches us how to use the world and the body in a way that would facilitate the healing of our minds. He counsels us to see our lives as classrooms with either him or the ego as our teacher -- the choice is ours to make. So if we join with Jesus and view our lives as classrooms in which we are learning how to awaken from the nightmare of separation from God, then our focus will be on identifying how we reinforce the separation in our interactions and relationships. In this context, enjoying a good cup of coffee is irrelevant, unless we make it into a big deal, which we easily could by allowing it to make or ruin our day, and then hold someone else responsible.

Q #346: After years of searching and studying many religions, I have found A Course in Miracles provides the answers I crave. My husband has a copy of the Course, which I gave him, but has not paid much attention to it. Recently he was baptized and joined the Baptist Church here in the South. Wanting to support his need for spiritual nourishment, I also joined the church. However I find that I am extremely uncomfortable during bible study or services when they ask you to confess to being a sinner, that Jesus died for your sins, that Satan is real, hell is real, etc. I find myself struggling between 'joining' my husband at his church of choice so as not to separate our spiritual relationship, and doing what I'd like to do, which is to attend Unity Church, which provides a forum for Course students and a more 'open minded' theology. But the last thing I want to do is create separation of any kind in our marriage. Would I be abandoning my husband spiritually if I send him off to Baptist Church by himself and I go to Unity? Your advice would be greatly appreciated.

A: The seeming dilemmas of our lives are really only ever covers for the underlying conflict in our minds, which is always the same conflict -- shall I judge or shall I forgive? Despite what may seem to be the compelling nature of any external situation which is calling out for resolution, its only real value is what blocks it helps us uncover within our own ego thought system that prevent us from seeing shared rather than separate interests.

You seem genuinely concerned for your husband but you also seem to be torn over a sense that the choice is between your own spiritual progress and your husband’s. Or, as the ego likes to put everything -- it’s one or the other, that is, for one of you to gain, the other must lose. And this can only ever be the ego speaking. And it is this way of perceiving the situation, rather than the situation itself, that you want to look at and bring to Jesus or the Holy Spirit for help in seeing differently. It is only the ego that ever calls for someone to sacrifice.

The Course is a self-study program whose workbook lessons lead to a recognition over time that all situations and circumstances are conducive to learning to practice its principles. You have opportunities to put forgiveness into practice no matter which church you attend, or whether you attend no church at all, whenever you are with others, or whenever you are thinking about others, no matter who they are. The egos that we encounter, whether it be at the Unity Church or the Baptist Church or the grocery store, are always fundamentally the same, and we are only ever called upon to learn forgiveness, no matter what form our ego projections may appear to take. Learning to watch our own and others’ egos in action, without judging, is all that Jesus ever asks of us in any situation.

Now, lest you think that this is an endorsement of your attending the Baptist Church with your husband rather than Unity Church by yourself, it is also helpful to remember that joining has nothing to do with what bodies do and whether they are together or not. The only concern is with which part of the mind we are joining -- the ego or the Holy Spirit -- and choosing as our teacher. The joining occurs first in the mind and only then is reflected in the external relationships, which may or may not then involve bodies being together.

The important thing will be for you to uncover all the judgments and investments you have in each of the alternatives you currently perceive and take those thoughts to the Holy Spirit for help. Once you have released your own investments in any particular outcome, the important healing will have happened and the external solution will be only of secondary concern. For, joined with the right teacher and free of your own perceived needs, you will be acting in whatever way is most loving, whether you end up attending the Baptist Church, the Unity Church, both churches, or neither church!

For a consideration of how to be in a religious situation that you feel is inconsistent with the Course’s teachings, you may find Question #154 helpful.

Q #347: As a student of A Course in Miracles, I am finding the Christmas holiday season more and more difficult and depressing with each passing year. How do I reconcile the desire to want to take part in and be joyous and of good cheer during this time of the year which to me only seems to validate the special message and the meaning my ego has given to this season? It's like a tug of war: on the one hand wanting to make Jesus special for his "holy birth," and on the other hand wanting to make me special for not wanting to take part in the holiday. I am trying not to judge the holiday but rather feel apathetic towards it. Can you help me see this differently?

A: As our understanding of the Course deepens, we begin to see the meaninglessness of the world’s values and beliefs, including those most "sacred," such as Christmas. To the ego this is depressing, for the ego wants nothing more than to have "divine" validation. What greater proof that the world is real and we are in it, than to have God send His Son into the world to redeem it? Challenging this belief, therefore, is extremely threatening to the ego. The conflict you describe is very common, and is inevitable as long as meaning is sought in the meaningless. If the Christmas holiday celebration were not endowed with any "holy" significance (it has none), nor seen as any different from other simple pleasures one may enjoy in the world, there would be no need to respond to it any differently than an enjoyable day at the beach. Engaging in the activities of the season is not the problem, and being apathetic to them is not the solution. It is the desire that the ego’s insanity be true, and that salvation be found in the multitude of substitutes made up specifically to exclude God and deny truth, that reinforces guilt and causes the conflict you describe. Learning this is a process, and Christmas is a perfect classroom in which to recognize the deep investment we have in defending our identity as bodies and proving we are right. Thinking we are bodies in the world, and that Christmas, among many other things, will make us happy, is what actually makes us deeply miserable. Our true hope lies in accepting that we do not know who we are, nor what will make us happy. We may then be willing to accept the Holy Spirit’s definition of Who we are as God’s one Son, and find happiness in knowing our true Identity.

In themselves, the gifts, lights, and symbols of Christmas made by the ego to glorify specialness are nothing. In fact, Jesus uses many of these same symbols in the Course to teach us the opposite of the ego’s message of separation and specialness. The mistake is believing they themselves have the power to make us truly happy or give us the peace we seek. It is this belief that causes the distress you describe. Hope for a peaceful holiday lies in the willingness to look at these illusory beliefs, without judging them as anything but illusory.

We give ourselves a true gift when we do what Jesus tells us: "This Christmas give the Holy Spirit everything that would hurt you" (T.15.XI.3:1). What hurts us is identifying with the ego thought system. "It’s the thought that counts" is a common refrain in reference to holiday gift giving. It applies aptly here since it is indeed our mistaken thoughts that are transformed when given to the Holy Spirit, thereby bringing us immense relief from the madness of the ego’s lies. It is thus possible to take part in the holiday celebration, seeing it as yet another classroom to learn the Holy Spirit’s lessons of forgiveness rather than to reinforce the ego’s specialness. In this spirit we can find peace this Christmas season, while participating in the celebrations in whatever way seems fitting.