I have been mulling issues of defense lately, mostly because I see so much of it in my thinking, and somehow it asks for healing. It’s not that the defenses are necessarily being acted on – manifesting in the world – but that it’s there. Certain people, certain ideas, certain images – there they are in the world and resistance comes up. Very quickly, almost reflexively, I manufacture a defense. At the root of this defensiveness is the notion that reality needs to be protected and that I am the one charged with its protection.
A Course in Miracles repeats this theme over and over: reality does not depend on us for anything. It’s there and all we can do is block our awareness of it. But our blocks do nothing to injure or impair reality. Nothing. So when something shows up that’s distressing – a car crash, a vexatious fellow employee, a cranky partner, a headache – it’s not real. It’s simply part of the web we’re making moment by moment to keep the calm stillness of reality obscure.
How does one overcome illusions? Surely not by force or anger, nor by opposing them in any way. Merely by letting reason tell you that they contradict reality. They go against what must be true. The opposition comes from them, and not reality. Reality opposes nothing (T-22.V.1:1-6).
So perhaps it’s helpful to begin to explore our inclination to defend, to oppose. And as part of that exploration, to practice not defending, not opposing. What is the experience of simply allowing reality to be? What happens if we give up entirely the idea that any contribution from us is necessary?
One thing that happens is that we see almost immediately how little is asked of us. It is quite remarkable to just be still for a few hours and see that life goes on. The blood moves in our veins, the air passes through our lungs. The birds sing in the trees and at the feeder. The cat takes a nap. The sun shines. It’s easy enough to write, of course, but if you make it your experience, it is practically revolutionary. Life takes care.
So we can make contact with that. Even at the level of the world, we can see – catch a glimpse – of that reality. It feels like we’re the operative center, but we’re not. We’re just another little wave in this shifting sea. We can actually have the experience of the world as not a bunch of separate pieces clunking along but as One – shades that ease into and out of one another. We don’t read it in a book or on a website. We actually have the experience.
When that happens, some space opens up. A permissiveness enters. Trust enters. We see that it’s okay to let go – that we don’t have to protect reality. We see that our urge to defend is destructive, not protective. So it comes from the ego, the false self. Even then we don’t have to actually do anything – seize the momentum from the ego, argue with it, whatever. Seeing its efforts – seeing them from the space of knowing that reality takes its own care – means that we can just laugh at them. All these egos trying to run the show . . . You know, it’s just funny.
To some degree, this can feel intellectual. I think for a lot of us, that’s how it starts. We come to an understanding first and then we start to apply it. The application is a necessary step. We have to practice what we learn. It’s no good being shown the fingering for an E minor chord if you’re not going to practice it, over and over. But what happens is that the application merges into a realization, a direct experience.
That direct experience is frightening to the ego. So we have it and then we back away. The first time it happened to me, I pushed it away by letting the ego have at it. The ego swept in and said, this is our experience. As soon as I claimed it for this body, this self, it was gone. That’s just another lesson of how subtle and persistent the ego is. You can get that close to Heaven and the ego will say, Okay, let’s analyze this. Let’s take it apart. Let’s teach it. Let’s write it. Whatever. We really have to humble and vigilant.
So pay attention. When you see some defensiveness enter your thoughts, give it some space. What gives rise to it? What does it want? Can you look at it without judging it – without saying that it shouldn’t be there or that you’re a bad ACIM student because you’re getting defensive? That’s the key. Forgiveness is about letting it be without feeling a need to do anything – to change it, fix it, amend it, redirect it . . . Just sit with it.
Sooner or later we will come to see it as the illusion that it is. And on that basis, we will let it go. And we will learn that the letting go is all that is asked of us. We let go of our defenses and life doesn’t fall apart. It’s okay. Reality is where it is – where it has always been – waiting for us.