Weekly Questions and Answers, 12/31/2003

This week's questions/topics:

Q #348: Why do I feel spiritually more at home in a particular place?.
Q #349: How does one stop perceiving physical problems?.
Q #350: God, illusion, dreams, the dreamer, and separation.
Q #351: What is the meaning of: "The memory of God comes to a quiet mind"?
Q #352: What should I do if external circumstances are making me depressed and angry?

Q #353: How can I find my "purpose" in life?
Q #354: Is the ego just a long-dead mistaken thought?
Q #355: I study the Course but why do I feel terror, panic and fear?

Chronological List of All Questions.

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

Q #348: I first discovered A Course in Miracles in San Diego ten years ago, and I believe was initially drawn to California due to what I perceive as an incredible spiritual energy. It's been approximately two years since I moved to a mid-western state, and although I know on an intellectual level that my sense of peace and connectedness to God has nothing to do with where I am, I cannot seem to get over the fact that since moving away from California, I can't find the same sense of spiritual awareness, closeness to God, and peace that I felt while there. Could it be that this so-called "connectedness" that I felt in San Diego was yet another ego tactic that was easy to find in such a vibrant place, or could it be that San Diego truly is where I belong?

A: You are correct in saying that your peace has nothing to do with your location. Where you happen to be living neither gives you peace nor takes it away. Nor is a geographical area imbued with spiritual energy. The only "place" where we get in touch with our true nature as spirit is in the mind. Therefore, if you are not feeling at peace in your new home it cannot be due to your surroundings. It is a reflection of the loss of peace experienced as the result of a decision to leave your real home. The guilt for having "run away" from God is the source of the feelings of sadness and loss you are experiencing.

Needless to say, in this dream of exile it is very normal for us to develop a special relationship with a geographical area that we love, and that suits us. It is our belief that we are incomplete that compels us to endow certain people, places, or things with the power to meet our needs in some way. When they fail us or are no longer "ours," we then experience a deep sense of loss. They become our "idols," taking the place (pardon the pun) of where we truly belong, i.e., at home with God: "You are at home in God, dreaming of exile but perfectly capable of awakening to reality. Is it your decision to do so?" (T.10.I.2:1,2). When you feel homesick for San Diego, it is important not to deny all that you appreciate and love about it, nor to deny your feelings of loss. At the same time, you may recognize the real source of your pain and ask the Holy Spirit for the correction so that the process of healing the specialness can begin. Only in this way will the sadness and loss gradually dissolve.

Q #349: I am only on Lesson 36 in the workbook of A Course in Miracles, but I want so much to assimilate it all and grow this way.... FAST! Anyway... I am currently unemployed, running out of money very quickly with none coming in, facing mold issues in my rented house, unable to lose weight due to a newly recognized thyroid problem... all physical illusions I want to and am very willing to give up, but... how does one stop "perceiving" these body/physical/survival issues and deal with them?

A: The Course will, perhaps to your disappointment, not tell you what to do to get rid of your problems, but rather it will teach you how to look at them so that you may be as peaceful as you’re willing to be, regardless of what seems to be happening. Now that does not mean that you won’t make any effort or take specific steps to resolve the problems, just as any "normal" human being might. By all means, determine the best way to take care of yourself and your body. But wouldn’t it be preferable to proceed without a sense of urgency, fear or anxiety? Now that will more than likely take time to achieve, and patience is one of the characteristics of an advanced teacher of God (M.4.VIII)! So don’t get discouraged if shifts in your perception do not happen as quickly as you think you’d like them to.

You may wish to have a focus on developing a relationship with your inner teacher -- Jesus, the Holy Spirit, or whatever you’re comfortable with calling that presence -- which the workbook lessons should be helping to facilitate. For developing that relationship in your mind can go a long way towards offering you the comfort of knowing, as you address your life challenges, that there is Someone who genuinely cares for you Who is always available to you so that you know you are never alone.

To get an idea of how questions raising some concerns parallel to the ones you have identified have been addressed, you may wish to review Questions #128, #142, #229, #235, and #313.

Q #350: Since God is only concerned about eternal things (unconditional love, etc.) and did not create, recognize, nor is concerned about anything outside of the eternal -- material, bodies, earth, etc., I would like an answer to the following question: Since we were all God, "One Mind," originally, that means that there could not have been anything else. That would mean that there could not have been a "dreamer to dream any dream" nor could there have been any separation from God (through any autonomous desire to create ourselves) because there was nothing else. God would have had to be the dreamer and, thus, He would have had to separate from Himself. In other words, to say that "anyone" is an illusion could not be true and would have to be an illusion in itself because it could not have happened! After months of struggle this was revealed to me a few days ago. Please let me have your thoughts!

A: I believe you’ve got it! What makes such issues ultimately impossible to address satisfactorily is that we are attempting to make sense of an illusory state from within that illusory state. It’s enough to make you crazy, but we already are, for believing we’re in that illusory state. Only a split mind can have a question, for within perfect Oneness, there can be nothing that is unknown, hidden or forgotten. And "anything outside of the eternal" can only be nothing, although we make much ado about it. To say that an illusion is an illusion is to operate still within the illusion, but it has the advantage of not perpetuating further illusion. That, in a nutshell, is what forgiveness is (C.3.1:3,4).

For further discussion of the ego and its origins, see Questions #10, #88, and #171.

Q #351: Regarding the phrase, "The memory of God comes to a quiet mind," which "mind" is this referencing? If it’s the "brain mind" we use in the daily dream, does this mean that it is helpful to find and use ways to try to quiet the brain, for example, meditation? If the phrase refers to the one Mind, how is it possible to "quiet" that Mind through the interference of our "Brahmanic"?

A: The mind A Course in Miracles refers to here is the right mind, not the brain. This mind is quiet. It is only when the mind chooses to identify with the thought of separation that awareness of the memory of God is blocked and the quiet is replaced by the ego’s "raucous shrieking." The Course tells us that the purpose of the ego’s shrieks is to keep us anchored in its thought system, unaware that we have a mind at all, much less a quiet one.

Meditation may be helpful to keep us focused on our goal, and there are several meditative exercises in the workbook to help us. However, neither meditation in itself nor quieting the brain is the means the Course uses to bring about the mind’s healing of the thought of separation. It is asking us to look at the thoughts, beliefs, and feelings that flood into our awareness from the mind through our brains, not to try to silence them: "Our task is but to continue, as fast as possible, the necessary process of looking straight at all the interference and seeing it exactly as it is" (T.15.IX.2:1).

The beliefs we hold about ourselves as separate, sinful and guilty, and our attack thoughts that are projections of our guilt onto others keep the awareness of God’s Love blocked. They have been purposefully chosen in defense of the decision to be separate, and must be recognized as the cause of all the devastating effects we experience in the ego’s nightmare. Looking in this way leads us to question the value we place on our beliefs: "To learn this course requires willingness to question every value that you hold. Not one can be kept hidden and obscure but it will jeopardize your learning. No belief is neutral. Every one has the power to dictate each decision you make" (T.24.in.2:1,2,3,4). We will eventually learn that our beliefs have no value; only then will we be free to let them go so they can be replaced by the thoughts of the Holy Spirit Who brings healing to our minds. This healed mind is the quiet mind where the memory of God returns to awareness.

Q #352: I have been reading the text and doing the lessons in A Course In Miracles for the last six months. At this point I am deeply unsettled and in a lot of pain. As a veteran of the 12 steps of AA, I am used to looking at my uglier perceptions honestly, but I seem to be feeling a deeper level of rage and hate and it is not pretty. I feel neither the ego’s pleasure nor the peace of the Holy Spirit. I really do feel of two minds and my decision as to which one to follow feels random and confusing. I feel like I have no idea who I am and what I am doing. I am recently unemployed and have no idea what to do for work now. I have no lover or intimate relationship in my life and haven’t for a long time. My friendships are solid and supportive but I am torn between feeling depressed/angry on the one hand and grateful on the other. I have felt genuine gratitude for the events in my life, even though from a cultural perspective, I may appear not to have much going for me at this time. I am now sinking into a depression over externals and am afraid of being stuck there. I could use some advice.

A: The Course assures us that it can be a gentle path (e.g., T.6.V.2:1; T.14.IX.3:2; T.15.XI.1:5,6; T.19.IV.A.11:6; T.21.I.3:1,2). However, our egos, frightened of the prospect of losing control and being dissolved in love, seem determined to allow the process to be anything but gentle. For the ego thrives on gravity and seriousness and would never want us to take its antics lightly. Know that you are not alone in the struggle you are experiencing.

You speak of feeling that you are of two minds, with your choice between them as random and confusing. One helpful step in your process may be to understand what the Course is calling us to do when it asks us to choose between those two minds -- the ego and the Holy Spirit. For most of us, for much of the time, and certainly especially when we are first embarking on this journey, choosing the Holy Spirit will mean very simply learning to look at our ego and all its ugliness without judging it. We are not being asked to deny it, for we still believe it’s real. But if we can look at the ego very honestly, without judging it, it will begin to lose some of its seeming power. Rather than overwhelming, it will begin to appear merely pathetic, even silly. And we will begin increasingly to recognize that our ego does not really make us all that different from everyone else. We all share its insanity and if we feel ashamed of it, it can only be because we are denying that commonality with all our brothers and sisters.

Now obviously, this looking is not something we can do on our own, as you are experiencing. For when we look on our own, which really means looking with our ego -- the ego, by definition, is what it means to be on our own -- the result can only be pain and despair. They are the ego’s defense against our decision to become willing to lighten up with the help of Jesus or the Holy Spirit. Jesus has asked us to join with him in the process of looking at our egos (e.g., T.11.V.1) because without that gentle presence alongside us, we can only deceive ourselves into believing the horror of what we see in ourselves. Yet Jesus simply smiles at all of it, and perhaps that is why we hesitate turning to him, for we may not be ready to have our egos, while we remain so intimately identified with them, dismissed so lightly.

It is also good to remember that there is no need to force the process, no need to insist on looking more deeply when our fear is too great, for then we only succeed in frightening ourselves, another of the ego’s goals to keep itself alive and kicking. In Jesus’ own gentle, undemanding words, "If you find resistance strong and dedication weak, you are not ready. Do not fight yourself" (T.30.I.1:6,7).

Depression is yet one more weapon in the ego’s arsenal of defenses against the truth about Who we really are. The Course attributes depression to the fact that we are trying to learn an impossible curriculum -- finding happiness on the ego’s terms (T.8.VII.8). Yet while we are caught in its downward spiral, it may be that seeking support from others, such as a gentle, accepting therapist, can provide the helping hand we need to pull ourselves out of the quicksand of ego judgments. If you find yourself sinking in your interpretations of your life situation, by all means please consider looking for someone who can help you find a different way of dealing with your circumstances. Again, what is important is to recognize that you are not alone. It can only be your ego that wants you to believe that you are alone and trapped, and the ego is capable only of lies.

You may find some additional thoughts that could be of help to you in your situation in Questions #95 and #313.

Q #353: Please explain to me how I can recognize "my purpose" in life. I don't get an intuitive feeling that I have found it, nor do I know what clues to look for. I have been told several times that once it is revealed to me, my whole life will just fall into place! I would appreciate your input.

A: From the point of view of A Course in Miracles, your purpose is to practice forgiveness in every area of your life, so that you would awaken from the dream that you have a life and a will separate from God, your Source. The Course is not about success or fulfillment in the world, because it teaches us that the world was made to hide our true purpose and therefore to prevent us from ever experiencing the happiness that is our inheritance as God’s Son. On the other hand, the Course is not against pursuing a career or being successful in a role in the world. For example, it is especially important for young people just out of school to devote themselves to their work and relationships. It is not usually helpful for young people starting out in life to be confronted with the idea that the world is a defense against the truth. That should come later when a deeper level of questioning comes naturally from within themselves.

The Course’s view actually is quite liberating in the sense that you can fulfill your special function of forgiveness in any role, in any career, at any time, and in any place, because it has to do only with the content in your mind, not the form your life takes (T.25.VI). You thus can view your life as a classroom that presents one opportunity after another to recognize whether you have chosen the ego or Jesus as your teacher, and then to make another choice if you discover you have chosen the ego. You would know which one you have chosen by your experience. With Jesus or the Holy Spirit guiding you, you would see your interests as less and less in conflict with others, which means that you would realize that you share the same wrong mind and the same right mind with everyone else. You would be more inclined to relate to yourself and others in the context of sharing the same needs and dynamics of the ego and the same attraction to undoing separation. Growing into this way of relating to others is your function. The lessons in the workbook, combined with study of the text, are designed to facilitate this training.

Q #354: It is my understanding that the ego is nothing more than an erroneous thought system, and is in actuality dead. I see it as a cast aside useless balloon that we choose to pick up, infuse it with the life of our magnificent minds and give it instructions to play havoc with our lives, bodies, relationships and circumstances. Is my assessment of the ego, and our total responsibility for its employment in our affairs correct and in keeping with the teachings of A Course in Miracles?

A: Yes, your assessment is very much in keeping with the Course’s teachings. It is very simple, not complicated at all. As Kenneth once said: we keep betting on a horse that dropped dead at the starting gate. The problem is that we have constructed many layers of defenses to prevent ourselves from ever getting to this point of clarity, and especially of remembering that there is an alternative for us to choose. A major thrust of the Course, therefore, is to help us identify the nature of those defenses and how they operate in our lives. The purpose of our choosing the ego thought system is also a key consideration; and that purpose, of course, is so that we can have our own special lives, apart from perfect oneness. "By definition, an illusion is an attempt to make something real that is regarded as of major importance, but is recognized as being untrue. The mind therefore seeks to make it true out of its intensity of desire to have it for itself. Illusions are travesties of creation; attempts to bring truth to lies. Finding truth unacceptable, the mind revolts against truth and gives itself an illusion of victory" (M.8.2:3,4,5,6).

Knowing intellectually that it is erroneous and totally illusory is a major step; but the integration of that understanding into our experience is where the hard work comes in, because integral to this thought system that we have allowed to program our thinking and behavior is the terrifying threat of annihilation if we change our minds about its validity and then choose a different thought system. That is why we need to develop a relationship with an internal Teacher who stands outside that entire thought system and who sees us as we truly are. That is why there is A Course in Miracles.

Q #355: I have been a devoted student of A Course in Miracles (as well as Ken Wapnick) for the past 10 years; I truly try to live my life by its principles. For the past 4-5 years I have been living in what I can only describe as "mental hell". My mind is constantly filled with terror, a fear of impending doom and extreme anxiety. Since my external world is relatively problem-free, I do not even have anything onto which to project this terror. How do I deal with living in this "circle of fear"?

A: The terror, when it has us in its grip, can seem almost palpable. And it is in the ego’s complete self-interest to convince us that the terror is inescapable, no matter what we may know intellectually about its origins and the process of release. Not to underestimate or minimize the intensity of what has been your experience for the past four or five years, but the ego would prefer nothing more than to have you believe that terror has been your only experience. In other words, the ego is invested in the denial of any right-minded experiences you may have been having during this seemingly bleak period. Discouragement and despair are just as effective weapons in the ego’s arsenal as anger and hate, for they are all simply various forms of the same underlying content of guilt, screeching that the separation is real.

While it is certainly true that our responsibility is to uncover and acknowledge the darkness within our minds so it can be released, that does not mean we should overlook or negate the experiences of light that offer the correction for the darkness, brief as they may at times seem. Do not deny them, for it is in their acknowledgment that the lifeline to peace is reinforced in your awareness. It may at first seem like the most fragile thread, barely to be trusted to bear the weight of your heavy guilt as you try to climb out of your self-imposed quagmire. But as you recognize and accept those fleeting episodes of peace, the thread becomes a string, the string a cord, the cord a rope, and the rope a ladder of forgiveness that you can climb, confidently and sure-footedly, one step at a time, until you reach the top, rising above the "circle of fear," the quicksand of guilt, and the abyss of despair. And never forget the gentle hand that is always outstretched to help you with each step, for this is a climb you need not make on your own, nor can you. And that hand may come in a form you least expect, as a brother who offers you another opportunity to remember the truth about the both of you.

You do not indicate that the anxiety and terror are so disabling that they disrupt your functioning in the world. Nevertheless, there is nothing in the Course that says you should not seek help from outside yourself, in the form of a kind and supportive therapist who can help you uncover any of the symbols of terror that are buried in your mind, still exerting a strong unconscious effect on your recognition that you deserve to be happy and at peace. The journey is not an easy one through the heart of darkness, but your vigilance and perseverance will be paid off increasingly in a light-heartedness that will surprise you. You need only be open to it and it will be yours. Do not forget that although patience may be a characteristic of an advanced teacher of God (M.4.VIII), it nevertheless is a quality we can all begin to acquire now.