From Vigilance to Peace

To live in the ego’s world is to live in illusion – that is, false beliefs. Illusions are made – and maintained – by false beliefs (T-7.VI.5:5). These illusions have but one purpose: to dissuade us in our search for Truth. The ego cannot abide a direct experience of God, because that experience will demonstrate conclusively that it – the ego – is not real. We live in a chattering distraction of our own making, accepting it as real because we made it, and forgetting entirely that it can be readily undone and an experience of peace and joy can prevail in its wake.

Indeed, the only reason that we have to be vigilant only for God and his Kingdom – a key lesson the Holy Spirit teaches – is because we still believe there is something else to have (T-7.VI.7:2). We think there is a choice. The ego needs there to be a choice – otherwise, we’d simply be with God and there would be no need for the ego. So the ego prompts us to make illusions – false ideas – and we become invested in them. I have to choose between God and family. Or God and money. Or God and sex. And it’s not the choosing that matters at all – it’s the mere fact that we allow for alternatives. Illusions aren’t real by definition. There is no meaningful choice between God and nothing! We only think there is.

Thus, our will is divided. We have one foot in the world of the ego – which is the world of perception, a world without meaning, a world in which change and alteration is pervasive – and the Kingdom of Heaven, a condition in which there is only sure knowledge and changelessness. The Kingdom of Heaven is a total commitment. We don’t get part of it. We don’t get to take a little of this and a little of that. We have to devote our full awareness to this state. It is a perceptual change we are talking about – not a place to which we are going in the future. It is a way of thinking – of seeing – that is new and now. And it comes from the Holy Spirit.

The last two chapters of the text have been driving home this idea that we are capable of hearing two voices, only one of which means us well and can restore us to the fullness of our identity in God. If we choose to listen to the ego, then we are going to be depressed and anxious and unhappy. The emotional barometer will drop. We’ll see death and pain and loss wherever we look. We’ll see people who are out to get us or with whom we’re in competition for limited resources – of food, land, love, light.

To choose the Holy Spirit as our teacher and guide is to allow for the perceptual change of mind that allows Heaven to become our reality. The Holy Spirit, remember, is our right mind – that part of our mind that has not forgotten its union with God and never fell for the tiny, mad idea that gave rise to the ego. Its mode and goal is love. Under its tutelage “Creation not separation” becomes our will (T-7.VI.13:6). But we have to choose this – and we have to be vigilant in our choosing. In a way, we have to choose over and over until the choice becomes habitual, our default state.

The fact is, we cannot have a direct experience of God so long as we believe that there are other things to experience – cheesecake, loss of loved ones, pain over pulled teeth, pride at watching a child succeed. By sitting in judgment – by believing these are good or bad and that it is up to us to decide which is which – we are effectively letting the ego make a series of illusions the sole objective of which is to stop us from looking at the only illusion whose undoing really matters: the one where we believe we are separate from God. Indeed, this belief is itself the ego. This is what we have to get at – the idea that there are lots of choices, some of which are perfectly healthy and sane, that exclude God.

For many of us – me included – this is so radical as to be impossible. Yet the changelessness of Heaven means that conflict is impossible. If everything is the same and if everyone has everything, what’s to be in conflict about? This section reminds us that we have to surrender conflict entirely – not hold onto even a shred of it. To the ego, of course, that’s impossible. But to the Holy Spirit, it is simply what is natural and right and true.

We don’t always have to understand these ideas. In fact, making understanding them part of our objective can be a great way of giving the ego a back door into frustrating our awakening. What we have to do is make a decision to take the Holy Spirit as our guide. This is not like hiring a guru or going back to school. To listen to the Holy Spirit is to listen to what is deeply true and real about us – it is a recognition of our holiness. Remember that we are the Holy Spirit in a very real and helpful way. So our job is to figure out how to make the impossible possible. Our job is to simply see that we can make a different choice in terms of guides, and then make that choice. And once made, learn its lessons and be vigilant in their application. No more, no less.

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