Healing in Holy Relationships

Over and over in the past week or so I have turned to these sentences from A Course in Miracles about healing and holy relationships.

Hear a brother call for help and answer him. It will be God to Whom you answer, for you called on Him (P-V.8:4-5).

I want to observe and reflect upon the circular – or entangled, perhaps – nature of the holy relationship indicated by these sentences.

When our brother or sister calls to us for help, it is in fact our own call to God for help. On this view, our brother or sister is our own self.

When we respond to our brother or sister, it is God to whom we respond. On this view, our brother or sister is God.

Thus, in our relationship with our brother and sister, they function as both God and our own self.

Also thus: our “own self” is – to our brothers and sisters – both God and brother and sister.

If we look at the relationship closely (the one between us and any other and the one between us and God), we see that the various entities – self, brother/sister, and God – are distinct but, depending on perspective, also the other entities.

In fact, the closer one looks, the more  one sees not “entities” but “relations” and, perhaps, “relating.”

So we could also say that “Self,” “God” and “Sister/Brother” are simply labels affixed to the same thing. The labels may be helpful in terms of organizing our thinking about that thing – that relationship, that relating – but they are not themselves that relationship or relating. They are indicative, not veridical.

What shall we do with this?

We could start by considering this sentence (from the same course section): “We are deceived already,if we think there is a need of healing” (P-V.7:4).

That sentence makes clear that there is no actual need for healing but that one can be deceived about this. Thus, if one is deceived, then there is a need for learning. There is a need for clarification (or the undoing of deception, if that is easier).

In other words, we need to learn that there is no need for healing, and the one who will teach us is “one who seems to share our dream of sickness” (P-V.7:5). This “one” is our brother or sister who comes to us in pain and asks for help; it is also our own self, when we bring it to a sister or brother in pain. Both instances beget forgiveness.

Let us help him to forgive himself for all the trespasses with which he would condemn himself without a cause. His healing is our own (P-V.7:6-7).

So we can ask: What will our living look like, and what will our brothers and sisters look like, and what will the world that we construct together and apart look like, when we realize that there is no need of healing?

We will see the face of Love shining in, through and as all things. Neighbors, sunflowers, toll booths, slippers and feral cats. All of it. This love is impersonal, all-inclusive and unconditional. That is why it is our – and all life’s – “natural inheritance” (In.1:7). And that is why it permeates all life, regardless of form.

Of course, this love – which in course terms is given to us in creation by God – can be overlooked and ignored. And that overlooking and ignoring can yield a state of suffering which appears to be a result of lovelessness.

But our experience of lovelessness is not proof of love’s absence or negation! It is merely proof of our confusion about love (and the need for healing).

So our learning – which is really a sort of undoing – has to do with no longer overlooking or ignoring love. The natural effect of this learning is that we remember – we see again – the love that is always there.

How shall we teach others to notice love? By noticing it in their own self and responding to it where it is.

How shall we teach them not to ignore their natural capacity for joy and peace? By noticing the pain ignoring it causes them and gently suggesting that there is another way.

Note that this “teaching others” is by definition a reciprocal act – it is literally a form of relating to God – and so it necessarily involves our own learning. We, too, are stubborn and ignorant. We, too, are confused and unsure. We, too, are in need to hand-holding, hugging, encouragement, and aid.

Thus, sometimes, “teaching” looks and feels like “being helped by others.” But, as we observed at the outset – at what I suggested is a “holy entanglement” – there are no others.

When we are in pain and our sister soothes us, it is the love of God. When our brother is in pain and we soothe him, it is the love of God. We think of “the love of God” as a noun – an object, a thing – but perhaps it is more helpful to think of it as a verb – as a process, a flow, a flux, a dynamic.

Thus, with respect to healing and holy relationships, we might think of two big ideas:

1. Nothing is actually broken and in need of healing, but we can be deceived that something is broken and in need of healing, so we need to learn that we are deceived; and

2. The process of our personal call for help and our personal response to others’ calls for help – and their calls and their responses, both to us and to others – is, collectively, the “Love of God.”

Again, in the case of point 2, Love is not seen as an object but a process. It’s not something one gives but rather giving itself.

Both of these points represent ways of thinking – or of organizing our thinking – that are unfamiliar. However, giving attention to them in a sustained way will naturally make their application more natural, which in turn inspires joy and peace.

Thus, our practice is to be present to our brothers and sisters – to go with them two miles when they ask if we will go with them one, and to ask them to go with us a mile when we are need of company and assistance, and to accept the help they offer in response.

In such a process, who could not be healed? This holy interaction is the plan of God Himself, by which His Son is saved (P-V.5:7-8).

Thus, we heal together but learning together that healing is not necessary but learning is. We are both student and teacher unto one another and the world we make is our classroom.

On Ending Projection

It is helpful to remember that projection is a mode of perception, not an action that we take, like writing a letter or mowing a lawn. It is a way of seeing that is at odds with reality and is thus dysfunctional. It enhances rather than dissipates our sense of separation from life.

All metaphors are clunky, but we could think of it this way. Yesterday, when I came in from my walk I looked at the calendar. I pulled my glasses from my pocket to read and saw only a blur through shadows. I squinted, moved my head back and forth, shifted my glasses and nothing helped.

Then I realized that I was wearing my sunglasses, not my regular reading glasses (insert embarrassed smile). Once I put the right glasses on, everything clarified. I could see again.

So when we project, it is like we are focusing through a wrong lens. The solution isn’t to do anything, other than focus through the right lens.

Even that is a bit misleading because it makes an image of us picking and choosing between lenses – like trying on this or that pair of glasses until everything comes into focus.

But the shift we are talking about – from wrong-seeing to right-seeing – is simply a change of mind. It takes place internally. There is nothing to do. We don’t have to resolve to stop projecting, we don’t have to apologize to the object of our projection, we don’t have to make an amends to Jesus for screwing up his ACIM program. Nothing.

We are  not seeing clearly and so we choose to see clearly. No more than that. No less, either.

The simplicity of this is both astounding and intimidating. When we see the truth of “the secret of salvation is but this: that you are doing this unto yourself” (T-27.VIII.10:1), we are given the means of ultimate liberation. We may yet delay our release – we may backtrack into denial and projection – but the game is truly over. It is merely a question of when we choose to bring the truth into application. How easy!

And yet, after so many years of resistance – lifetimes, perhaps – how frightening to think that we can at last be happy and at peace forever. We become paralyzed a little. We freeze up. It happens to all of us, and it is understandable.

When we discern that we are holding some external influence (a person, place, thing, event, etc.) responsible for our inner peace, then we are given an opportunity: to continue to obsess over and blame this external influence, or to accept that we can be hurt by nothing except our own thoughts (W-pII.281.h).

If we choose the latter, then we are taking responsibility for own salvation. This alone creates a powerful shift in perception. Our focus moves from the external – the person who impedes us, the job that doesn’t function, the city that’s too loud, the weather that’s too wet, whatever – to our thoughts. We give attention to thought itself.

When we give attention to thought, sooner or later we learn that its flow is no different than anything else that is external – a river, a tree, the song of a bird. Its apparent importance and power are simply affects we’ve assigned to it and then pretended that we weren’t involved in it at all. But the truth is that of itself, it is nothing. It is merely another external detail.

A Course in Miracles meets us where we are, accommodates our illusions of preference, and moves us as far into healing as we are ready and willing to go. It is very practical and efficient, and its efficacy is premised mostly our willingness to let it work without getting in the way.

And so at last our attention moves away from mental thought and towards what A Course in Miracles calls “the thoughts we think with God” (e.g. W-pI.51.4:4).

How do we do this? For me, it is a matter of making A Course in Miracles my spiritual practice, for lack of a better word. I read the text, I do the lessons, I heed my teacher and trust that eventually the requisite insights will blossom allowing me to heal my fractured perception. And, notwithstanding a few bumps and wrong turns here and there, that is pretty much how it has gone.

More and more I appreciate and respect the deeply personal nature of A Course in Miracles. It meets us where we are, accommodates our illusions of preference, and moves us as far into healing as we are ready and willing to go. It is very practical and efficient, and its efficacy is premised mostly our willingness to let it work without getting in the way.

. . . [T]he memory of God cannot shine in a mind that has obliterated it and wants to keep it so. For the memory of God can dawn only in a mind that chooses to remember, and that has relinquished the insane desire to control reality. You who cannot even control yourself should hardly aspire to control the universe (T-12.VIII.5:2-4).

I am not saying that ACIM should be anybody’s spiritual path and, if it is, I am not saying that they should walk it this way or that. I am merely bearing witness to how it has worked – and continues to work – for me.

There is really nothing to do but give attention to our practice, right here in the world, and trust that we are not alone in it. Tara Singh encouraged his students to bring a sense of order to their lives – to make God their first love – and to know as a result that “the Divine Intelligence is there to help” (Love Holds No Grievances 54).

It can seem boring and insufficiently mystical at first – to clean our house, eat simple healthy food, focus intently on the daily lesson’s directive or whatever – but that is only because, as a means of resistance, we insist that God be a mystery, or distant, or conditional.

God of course is none of that. God is here now, a present reality presently unrecognized. The slower we go and the simpler we live, the more vividly and clearly our recognition of that fact – that truth – dawns in our minds.

Healing Begins With Responsibility

One of the harder concepts to grasp in A Course in Miracles is the simple truth that we are responsible for how we feel. We are making a decision at the level of mind which leads either to happiness or unhappiness, peace or conflict. Thus, there is nothing to “do” with respect to healing through A Course in Miracles other than to give attention to this internal decision.

Giving attention is a deeply personal, even intimate process. It cannot be delegated, nor even shared. Tara Singh used to say “there is nothing to do, and only you can do it.” When we give attention, we are actively resisting the ego’s habit of “mind wandering” (T-2.VI.4:6), choosing instead to “gift” the Holy Spirit with our capacity to be open and attentive in the interest of remembering what we already know.

It is an internal process that often yokes itself to an external practice. For example, my morning walks before the sun rises are conducive to the solitude and interior focus that giving attention requires. Careful reading of course material (and certain teachers, certain other texts) can have this affect as well. A sort of energetic passivity emerges, in which I can “see” my thoughts, and beyond them too, to what is shared with God. I realize again the critical insight that “if you are as God created you, you cannot think apart from Him, nor make what does not share His timelessness and Love” (W-pI.132.11:1).

There is nothing that happens, nothing that arises, that does not have a correlative in thought: we are always interpreting, always thinking. This is as true of death as choosing ice cream. Separation from God pervades all our decisions.

That insight clarifies that external circumstances cannot affect my state of peace or joy unless I consent to such influence.

There is no world apart from what you wish, and herein lies your ultimate release. Change but your mind on what you want to see, and all the world must change accordingly. Ideas leave not their source (W-pI.132.5:1-3).

This is why A Course in Miracles so gently yet so often insists that we “[B]e willing to forgive the Son of God for what he did not do” (T-17.III.1:5). This is a miracle offered to ourselves and our brothers and sisters: we say to them “you are not the cause of my guilt and fear.” We are liberated with them when we believe this, because it reflects the truth inherent in all God’s creation.

Giving attention to our thought can reveal those moments when we are holding another responsible for how we feel. Remembering that this is a form of projection that injures all parties, we can make another choice. When we see projection, we are no longer projecting. This is what the course hints at when it invites us to “[a]ccept the miracle of healing” and see how it proceeds to “go forth because of what it is” (T-27.V.1:4).

It is its nature to extend itself the instant it is born. And it is born the instant it is offered and received. No one can ask another to be healed. But he can let himself be healed, and thus offer the other what he has received” (T-27.V.1:5-7).

Attention given to what obscures love undoes those blocks and love is all that remains.

The key is to apply this to all the experiences of our lives without exception: the people, the places, the things, the events. There is nothing that happens, nothing that arises, that does not have a correlative in thought: we are always interpreting, always thinking. This is as true of death as choosing ice cream. Separation from God pervades all our decisions.

As we practice this mindfulness – this giving of attention to what folds and unfolds within – it becomes more natural and familiar. We might say that our relationship with the Holy Spirit is deepening and supplanting our relationship with the ego.

Healing begins with responsibility: our willingness to give attention to the ways in which thought obfuscates our inherent creativity and love. As healing becomes the essence of experience in this made-up world, the real world of Creation is gently revealed.

You will behold the beauty the Holy Spirit loves to look upon, and which He thanks the Father for. He was created to see this for you, until you learned to see it for yourself (T-17.II.1:7-8).

That is the promise of A Course in Miracles. That is the joy and peace for which we are responsible: we need but give it to remember it is ours.

Faith Concludes the Journey

Reason takes us so far; faith finishes the journey.

Faith is in the nature of assent, a quiet yes offered internally. It is like reason delivers us to the desert’s edge, but faith is what sustains our first steps into that apparently dangerous wilderness. This is why A Course in Miracles teaches us that “[w]here learning ends, God begins . . .” (T-18.IX.11:4)

Love is not learned. Its meaning lies within itself (T-18.IX.12:1-2).

What then are we learning? We are learning to offer to the Holy Spirit that which we would withhold from God, the fragment of reality we think we stole and now rule in shadows and uncertainty. That part of us which cherishes darkness and separation and its own will is all that must be brought to light.

This is the little part you think you stole from Heaven. Give it back to Heaven. Heaven has not lost it, but you have lost sight of Heaven (T-18.IX.1:6-8).

This giving back (or bringing to light) is a symbolic gesture. It s important to see this. We are not actually returning a stolen piece of Heaven to Heaven. God, like Heaven, is indivisible. What never happened need not be fixed or repaired. But because we believe it happened – and because this belief is the separation – we need to mimic the amends.

In this sense, healing is simply the recognition that sickness never was.

We heal in this way by offering all the apparent symptoms of separation to the Holy Spirit: our fear that our bodies are the wrong size or shape, our anger at our parents, our frustration with money, our dissatisfaction with work, the injustice of war and poverty, the crossword puzzle we can’t complete, our headaches, stubbed toes and cancerous lesions . . .

All of these are merely symptoms – or symbols – of our belief in separation. They are in the nature of idols whose sole purpose is to obscure the unchangeable fact of our oneness with God. They are illusions and thus bound to failure.

Beyond all idols is the Thought God holds of you. Completely unaffected by the turmoil and the terror of the world, the dreams of birth and death that here are dreamed, the myriad of forms that fear can take; quite undisturbed, the Thought of God holds of you remains exactly as it always was (T-30.III.10:1-2).

Yet the question is never will illusion prevail, but rather how long will we postpone our celebration in God that illusions are not real? For the separation from God continues only so long as we insist it must.

Reason is what guides us through the text and workbook of A Course in Miracles. Reason teaches us that the myriad forms of fear we perceive are not separate problems in need of separate solutions but rather symptoms of the only problem we have. Reason persuades us that we need a Teacher to show us the other, the better way, which is accomplished by showing us that “[y]our one central problem has been answered, and you have no other” (W-pI.80.1:2).

Faith is what allows us to accept that all our problems have been solved, that peace is inherent, and that joy is now. Faith stands on the foundation reason built and leaps. Its gratefulness is akin to wings. It is not afraid so much as eager. It is ready to learn that the final lesson was what we expected all along it would be: We remain as God created us and God’s Will is done. Perfect wholeness abounds.

A Will We Share With God

The Holy Spirit teaches us that our will cannot oppose God’s will because they are the same will and that this lesson undoes everything the ego would have us learn (T-8.II.3:6-7). If we are unhappy or fearful, it is because we are aligned not with our will, which is God’s will, but with a substitute will advanced by the ego.

This is another way of saying that our only problem is that we consistently fail to align our thinking with the will we share with God. Thus, the solution to every problem we have, regardless of the form it takes, is the same: we need to shift our thinking from the ego’s confused and makeshift thinking to the quiet clarity that we share with God in creation.

This is the same as the shift from conflict to peace, from fear and sadness to joy.

When you have learned that your will is God’s, you could no more will to be without Him than He could will to be without you. This is freedom and this is joy (T-8.II.6:4-5).

It is given to us to discern between the two wills between which we can choose. This discernment is necessary in order for us to make an informed choice.

First, we have to evaluate how happy we are with the ego’s thought system. Are we consistently happy? Is our joy shared by those around us? Are we fearful of the future or are we quietly naturally Do we understand giving and receiving to be one action?

If we are honest, we are going to say that we are not happy, that we are not yet in perfect union with the peace that surpasses understanding.

The ego has never given you a sensible answer to anything. Simply on the grounds of your own experience with its teaching, should not this alone disqualify it as your future teacher? (T-8.II.2:4-5)

Clarity about the ineffectiveness – indeed, the malevolence – of the ego’s thought system is essential if we are going to open our minds in order to perceive the other will that resides there. God is not really a choice, but it seems like a choice at this stage, and so it behooves us to act as if it is.

When we turn from the ego, we become sensitive to its voice and its arguments. We begin to see it in action and can stop it. We can let it go. When we do this enough – and begin to experience sustained periods without the ego’s interference – we begin to see that God’s will is simply what is when the ego is not there to hide it.

Clouds cover the sun sometimes but the sun is always there, and its light always reaches us, albeit dimly or coolly. But the sun is not compromised. Similarly, when we give up the ego, we discover that God’s will is all there is. It permeates all things. Its radiance is our own.

The Will of God is without limit, and all power and glory lie within it. It is boundless in strength and in love and in peace. It has no boundaries because its extension is unlimited, and it encompasses all things because it created all things. By creating all things, it made them part of itself (T-8.II.7:1-4).

What we are in truth is the will of God – without qualification – because that is the nature of God and Creation.

I think the reason we learn this by degrees – and experience it in glimpses – is because its totality is utterly terrifying. Yes, yes – at the intellectual level I know it is not terrifying but peaceful and lovely – but we are frightened beings, still learning to tear ourselves away from the ego’s ramshackle shelter. So we give attention as we can, and we take our lessons as they come, and grow in faith that the end of all this apparent seeking and learning is sure.

In time and in the world, that passes for considerable peace. It strengthens and deepens us on our perceived journey from nothing to One, from exile home, from imprisonment to freedom.

Healing Begins In Honesty

I’ve been thinking a great deal about honesty lately. I say “thinking” –  “feeling” would be a better word. “Looking” might be better yet. I am learning that healing begins in honesty.

Jesus said “let your yes mean yes,” and I like to repeat that, and preach on it, but it’s fair to say my yes is almost always conditional, almost always shifting ground, and even sometimes at war with itself.

This inconsistency – this dishonesty – is taking place at a fairly deep level, a fairly hidden level. It is in the nature of inauthenticity, and reflects only fear.

This is what happens in our practice of A Course in Miracles (or any serious spiritual path or tradition). We forgive and forgive, we study and study, and then one day – like turning the corner in a forest and coming on a bear – you hit this wall. It’s no good to pretend it’s not a wall, no good to quote the course, or any other spiritual platitude. You can’t fake your way to Christ.

I am talking here about little things: subtle things: things so slight you barely notice them, and yet the whole separation is contained in their execution. I mean being asked by Chrisoula how my day was and playing up certain angles to elicit sympathy. Or writing about my morning walks without really exploring what Jung would have called their “shadow side,” a darkness of which I am perfectly aware, because I prefer thinking of myself – and would prefer to be thought of – as some kind of Thoreauvian mystic with a clear channel to the divine.

A few weeks ago I put some Chinese characters up on my website – they stood for miracle (well, maybe – I don’t speak or read Chinese so maybe they stood for jelly doughnut) – and after a week or so I thought, who am I? I’m not Chinese. I’m not a Buddhist. I’m just trying to capitalize on the whole Eastern mysticism Zen thing.

So I took it down – and replaced it with an image much more spiritually and culturally resonant – but still. We think we’re beyond being shallow or vain and then Jesus says gently, “not so much. Not yet anyway.”

I am working on putting a few books together, and while reviewing proofs came upon a line that read: “I made contact with Christ/outside of history.”

And my first response was: the hell you did.

And the my second was: Oh, Sean. You mean well but you are such a blowhard.

And then I just laughed – at the poem, at myself, at the whole welter of intention and function and brokenness and love. What else is there? Maybe I did make that contact and I forgot. Maybe I made that contact and I’m scared to consistently own up to it. It doesn’t really matter.

But I do want my yes to mean yes.

We have to be patient with ourselves. There’s nothing to be gained by reliving the spirit of crucifixion over and over. We’re beyond that now. We’re into the resurrection now – why pretend otherwise?

Being dishonest – fostering internal dissonance – is not a crime against God. No punishment awaits outside the one in which we already live: the pain of believing we are separate from God. So it’s okay in the sense of no consequences, but if we want to wake up – if we want to know inner peace and joy in a real way, a sustained way, an unchanging way – then we are going to have to look at our priorities. We are going to have to make some changes.

Really, we are going to have to figure out how to live with the single goal of truth. I think it is in the nature of a decision: I am going to live my life wanting nothing but what God gives me. That is a radical statement. And maybe I can only mouth the words but not  yet mean it. Okay. I can still be honest about that, right? I can say “Okay, I’m not there yet but I want to be. I am willing to be.”

And that counts. It really does.

It counts because healing begins when we are honest and clear about the need for healing, whatever form it happens to take. This includes our capacity for self-deception. There is no other way. It all has to go on the table so that all of it can be undone.

The Prayer of One Who Heals

I have sent out another newsletter. If you are interested in signing up to receive it via email, you may do so here or in the sidebar (or down below, depending on what type of screen you’re using). I seem to have gotten a tad long-winded with this one. Thank you, as always, for being here . . .

The prayer of the one who heals is “let me know this brother as I know myself” (T-5.in.3:8). No other knowledge is required. No other method will suffice to make whole what a belief in separation has viciously rent.

In Gifts from the Retreat, Tara Singh taught that “wisdom begins/with the discovery of who and what you are.” Wisdom is self-knowledge and self-knowledge is neither exclusive nor special. It is impersonal. It begins with our brothers and sisters and encompasses them, as their knowledge encompasses us. This is the radiant extension of God’s love in the world and it yields a circle of atonement (T-14.V.h) which “the power of God Himself supports,” guaranteeing “its limitless results” (T-14.V.6:7).

Teach no one that he is what you would not want to be. Your brother is the mirror in which you see the image of yourself as long as perception lasts (T-7.VII.3:8-9).

Can we be honest about our view of one another? Not our good intentions, not through rose-colored glasses, not as an ideal, psychological or otherwise, but the actual fact of how we see one another?

If we are honest, we will probably not like what we see. We want others to give us stuff – their attention, their bodies, their money, their praise. We can be very skilled at hiding this or reinterpreting it, but isn’t it true? So long as we believe we are bodies we will see our brothers and sisters as bodies and treat them accordingly.

Our debt to one another is large. We are literally the means by which our brothers and sisters are saved, as they are the means for our own salvation.

When we conflate our spiritual Self with a body, the body’s appetites and desires take on unholy importance. The body is weak and fragile, forever staggering toward the grave, and as such it begs defense. We forget God in our rush to satisfy the body and protect it from a world fraught with scarcity and filled with other bodies as helpless and hungry as our own.

The ugliness of this vision may take many forms, apparently harmless but nonetheless impeding our capacity to remember God. For example, sometimes when I teach, I find myself doing a sort of stand-up comedy routine that has nothing to do with teaching Emily Dickinson, and everything to do with wanting to be loved and admired. As the course teaches, “the particular result does not matter but the fundamental error does” (T-2.VI.4:7).

The results of our wrong-minded thinking are not the problem; they are symptoms of the problem at the level of illusion and as such do not deserve serious attention. However, the underlying error – or problem – which gives rise to the symptoms matters very much. That is the level of guilt and fear, and at that level our attention and willingness can literally heal the world (T-2.VI.3:7).

Our debt to one another is large. We are literally the means by which our brothers and sisters are saved, as they are the means for our own salvation. Do not think only in terms of how you see them, but also how they see you, and be willing to forgive any such perception that is temporarily not aligned with God. We are in this together; all we can do is help.

The Collaborative Nature of Salvation

We can be as mirrors to each other, mirrors in which the Light of Christ is perceived and strengthened in both of us accordingly. Indeed, until we see this Light in our brothers and sisters, we have not really seen them (T-5.III.1:1). And – importantly – we will not really see (or experience) it in ourselves until they have seen it there for us. Salvation is collaborative.

One of the more helpful shifts in one’s practice of A Course in Miracles comes when we stop thinking of ourselves as separate perceptual centers of the universe. It is true that from the body’s perspective, we are those centers – it is my eyes that see, my hands that touch, my brain that processes the sensory data so received. Our identification with the body is very strong and so this I-centered universe feels very natural.

But slowly that attachment (of self to body, self to world) loosens and becomes tenuous. It is not that my eyes stop seeing sunlight on snow or my hands stop kneading bread or my brain stops searching for the right way to put these words together. Rather, it is the awakening of the dim sense that those things in and of themselves are thin gruel and the real sustenance – what we might call Truth, or Reality, or God – is hardly so subject to containment. In that light, the body’s helpfulness as a means of communication is its only reason for being  and all to which we are attuned (W-pI.136.17:5).

Gratitude begets a strong cycle of healing, reinforcing our natural (if hidden and weakened as yet) inclination to radical loving

Thus, the course teaches that “[B]oth Heaven and earth are in you, because the call of both is in your mind” (T-5.II.8:5) and makes clear that the mind in question is the one that we share with one another, as we share it too with Jesus (and Buddha and Emily Dickinson and Jonathan Edwards and so forth) because it reflects our creation by God as equals (T-5.II.9:1). That is why Jesus insists in the course that we are, along with him, the “light of the world” (T-5.II.10:3).

The ego is not averse to this language. It is delighted to “share” a mind with Buddha. Of course it creates along the lines of Emily Dickinson. Light of the world along with Jesus? Never thought otherwise. That is because the ego equates – insists, really, because it cannot conceive otherwise – self and body. It translates the course’s vision of Oneness to specialness, making it about Sean (or Sue or James or whatever). And because that specialness resonates so perfectly with the body’s impression that it is indeed the perceptual center of the universe, we accept it. It must be true. What else could be true?

The undoing of this painful mess is not a solo venture. We do not heal the separation by more separating but by union (T-8.IV.5:4-5). When you search for the Light of Christ in anyone, you strengthen its radiance in yourself and, because it is not strengthened in a body but rather in the mind we all share, you also strengthen it in those you perceive as “outside” of you (T-5.III.9:5). That is your gift to me:  your conviction that you will find in me the Light of Christ. Because you believe, I will too.

[T]o heal is to unite with those who are like you, because perceiving this likeness is to recognize the Father. If your perfection is in Him and only in Him, how can you know it without recognizing Him? The recognition of God is the recognition of yourself (T-8.V.2:5-7).

The reciprocal nature of this recognition matters. It does not begin in me and end in you, to my benefit. It is more in the nature of a circular flow – a willingness to perceive only what God created – which blesses both of us simultaneously. When we understand that our brothers and sisters are blessing us, we make contact with both humility and gratitude. We understand that healing is a “collaborative venture” (T-8.IV.4:8), not a personal accomplishment.

Humility undermines our attachment to egoic thinking and encourages us to be “open to learning” (T-5.III.11:4) which always leads to gratefulness, which is love under another name. And gratitude begets a strong cycle of healing, reinforcing our natural (if hidden and weakened as yet) inclination to radical (because it is impersonal) loving. It is important to remember always that miracles bring more love both to those who give them as well as those who receive them (T-1.I.9:3). We must be open to the love that others offer us.

It is impossible to heal alone and to be healed alone (W-pI.137). This single concept is the bedrock of salvation (W-pI.137.1:1). We are so bent on awakening that we often lose sight of the fact that it is not personal. You are not an image through which I remember my personal oneness with God. Rather, our shared attention to one another is itself the Light of Christ. In this, giving and receiving are one.

When we approach one another as literal saviors rather than stepping stones (or obstacles) to a personal experience of Heaven, we align ourselves with “truth as God created it” (T-1.I.36:1). That is our function and its effects are peace and joy. Together we know it.

The Divine Flux

Ideals are a form of violence in that they obscure truth and thus sustain misperception. They are fantasies whose impressive pedigrees – world peace! The end of hunger! – serve only to reinforce the illusion that what we are in truth and what God is are not only separate but are separated by a divide that is unbridgeable. The only way to change the world is to change our mind about the world, and this is easy to say but hard to do because – see it happen – it is only another ideal.

The other day I walked with a friend along a dirt road I had not traveled in almost a decade. At one point, we turned into the forest and climbed a rocky hill to see the sun set. How cold it was! And how lovely all that light, the gold and violet falling into darkness! I pointed to the blue tree line a mile or more away and said to J., “that ridge is what composes this valley.”

So long as I am thinking about making the world a better place, I am not questioning the source which informs me that the world is real and in need of improvement.

And he said in reply – he is much quicker than me – “or does this valley create that ridge?” And on the one hand it was just a clever and funny word game, and on the other it was the lovely but unfamiliar realization that definitions don’t matter because it is all one thing – one divine flux – folding and unfolding. You see it that way for a moment and it changes something. It is like you traveled a thousand miles in an instant – gave a thousand lifetimes to worship – and came back here, confused but grateful, inclined ever deeper to reverence.

It is helpful to see our ideals clearly: solitude, inner peace, communities based on shared resources, dialogue, tantric sex, the end of time, food security, living to one hundred, the end of violence. All our lists are different and all are apparently impeccable – that is why they are ideals. By holding them we validate our goodness. By advocating for them, we broadcast that goodness to others. Ideals are always about the egoic self because the ego can’t make anything that isn’t (T-4.I.8:1).

Fantasy is a distorted form of vision. Fantasies of any kind are distortions, because they always involve twisting perception into unreality . . . Fantasy is an attempt to control reality according to false needs (T-1.VII.3:1-2, 4).

Ideals are ego constructs – made by what was made by fear to keep the engines of fear going. As attractive as they are, they are simply distractions from the real work. Indeed, it is their value as attractions that makes them so useful to the ego. So long as I am thinking about making the world a better place, I am not questioning the source which informs me that the world is real and in need of improvement.

But it is critical that we question the ego (T-4.II.1:1-2) and – this is important – that we not presuppose the answers or insights. Raise the ego to light and then trust God. Any answer that we can imagine – any ideal result we compose – is simply the work of the ego because it has to come from the past. Raise the ego to light and let God speak. Let God be.

Communication, unambiguous and plan as day, remains unlimited for all eternity. And God Himself speaks to His Son, as His Son speaks to Him. Their language has no words, for what They say cannot be symbolized. Their knowledge is direct and wholly shared and wholly one. How far away from this are you who stay bound to this world (W-pI.129.4:1-5).

We long to conclude. We long to know but cannot separate this longing from the terms and conditions of the world. Thus valleys, thus ridges, thus so many light-filled expanses. Our certainty that we know what peace looks like and what God will say remains a veil to the clear truth beyond. Our ideals are merely another wall we make to defend against the Love that would save us. The ego is altogether without answers and without solutions. Yet we are scared to let it go because we don’t know what will happen after we do. It is like the old saying – the devil you know is better than the one you don’t.

Yet suffering is not our reality, and we are delivered from it by a strength beyond our own (W-pI.130.8:1). This is all that is required: the willingness to set aside what does not work and wait – patiently, cheerfully, willingly – to be taught what takes its place. Nor will we wait for long: God’s joy is our joy, and nothing is that isn’t God.

The World As A Mirror

To call the external world and the many selves within it illusory is true enough but still leaves aside the important question: what are we supposed to do about it?

There would seem to be a lot of possibilities. At one extreme we might say something like, if cheesecake is an illusion, why not gorge on it? At the other, we might see in illusions a terrifying absence of meaning that extends to our own lives.

Is that it? A spectrum that ranges from orgiastic indulgence to bottomless abyss?

A Course in Miracles offers us another way to work with illusions. We understand them to be collectively a projection – an internal condition that we cannot bear and so “project” it (often violently) outside of us.

This was one of Freud’s major insights, borrowed by Helen in the scribing process. The individual cannot accept certain aspects of their self – lust, greed, anger, hate and so forth – and so they “solve” the problem by placing those attributes on other people, places and things.

In a sense, we make the world a screen on which our own personal horror show plays in a grim loop, with the caveat that we forget it’s only a show and – most importantly – that we are its author.

Projection makes perception. The world you see is what you gave it, nothing more than that. But though it is nothing more than that, it is not less . . . It is the witness to your state of mind, the outside picture of an inward condition (T-21.in.1:1-3, 5).

When we accept responsibility for the external, it ceases to be a screen for our projections and becomes more in the nature of a mirror. If we want to know our interior state of mind, simply give attention to the world which arises from it.

When we do this in a sustained and nonjudgmental way – which I believe was the essence of Ken Wapnick’s oft-repeated suggestion that we not take our lives too seriously – a sort of shift occurs. Cause and effect are perceived rightly – that is, the world becomes an effect caused by our thinking. We are not effects caused by the world.

See [the world] as damned, and all you see is what you did to hurt the Son of God. If you behold disaster and catastrophe, you tried to crucify him. If you see holiness and hope, you joined the Will of God to set him free (T-21.in.2:2-4).

It is important to remember that there is “no choice that lies between these two decisions” (T-21.in.2:5). We are either crucifying the world or setting it free. If we are bent on the horror of crucifixion, then we are taking our marching orders from the ego (T-20.VIII.10:6). If we are engaged in releasing the world from damnation, then we are working with the Holy Spirit, whose only objective is peace (T-6.II.5:1-2).

Thus, we can easily discern which teacher we are listening to – the ego or the Holy Spirit – by taking note of our perceptions. Anything less than perfect peace means we are still (secretly or otherwise) heeding the ego. And thus we can make another choice because we know that the power to do so belongs to us because it was given to us in creation.

The world you see but shows you how much joy you have allowed yourself to see in you, and to accept as yours. And, if this is its meaning, then the power to give it joy must lie within you (T-21.in.2:7-8).

This is a new way of engaging the external world: seeing it as a mirror in which the clues to healing are revealed. It is unfamiliar because it is the opposite of why we made the world. So we have to practice and be vigilant, and we also have to be forgiving. Jesus will not kick us out of the classroom, so neither should we.

Nor should we make it overly complicated (a trap into which I fall over and over). The clues aren’t hidden – it’s not a spiritual version of Where’s Waldo? We are either experiencing peace or not – there is no middle ground. And the solution to the absence of peace is not a spiritual puzzle that can only be solved by theologians in tall towers. All we do when we feel lost or confused or hurt or scared is ask Jesus to be with us. I can be a wordy s.o.b., but my best prayer is often nothing more than a heartfelt “help, please.”

The form of choosing again does not matter. What matter is our recognition that we are capable of choosing, don’t like the effects of our current choice, and so want to make another. Jesus will never leave us bereft in that space, nor will the Holy Spirit fail to deliver.

We have repeated how little is asked of you to learn this course. It is the same willingness you need to have your whole relationship transformed to joy; the little gift you offer to the Holy Spirit for which He gives you everything; the very little on which salvation rests; the tiny change of mind by which the crucifixion is changed to resurrection. And being true, it is so simple that it cannot fail to be completely understood. Rejected yes, but not ambiguous (T-21.II.1:1-4).

Give attention, then, to the drama playing out before your very eyes – the story in which you seem to have been involuntarily tossed – and be willing to have your right mind, the Holy Spirit, teach you its real meaning. We are meant to be happy. We are meant to be whole. The means to learn this and make it so are right here now.