We think sometimes that the ACIM idea of special relationships is solely about people – our partners, our cubicle mates, our children, the neighbors, the kid behind the counter at the coffee shop. It is true that these relationships are important to our healing. But the special relationship is broader than just our fellow human beings. You can have a special relationship with a dog or a horse. You can have a special relationship with a religion or a career or a television show. In a sense, every relationship is “special” in that its goal is always to keep you from the unified truth that is Heaven. We are not at peace because we need – and cultivate – special relationships.
Special relationships exist wherever we decide something is unique or especially important. This is my house. That is my horse. This is my son. My car. My copy of A Course in Miracles. These are my sentences and the contain my ideas.
Wherever “me,” “my,” or “mine” play a central role, we’re in the special relationship. “I” is another verbal blue. We are using something that is perceived to be outside of us to strengthen our sense of individuality. We are perpetuating separation. We are creating a personality and a story about that personality. I’m a student of A Course in Miracles with a special interest in Tara Singh. I listen to Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen and John Denver. I wake up at 4 a.m. and walk in the forest. I read at least one Emily Dickinson poem a day. What do you do? Who are you?
Often – especially after we’ve logged a few years (or lifetimes maybe – what do I know) as spiritual seekers – this movement can be very subtle. We don’t even notice that we’ve become attached to the course, like lampreys to sharks, and that we aren’t practicing it any longer. We’re just using it to bolster this illusory self that we’re afraid to let go. You know how it goes – we get the warm fuzzies when somebody says, “Oh my God – I’m a course student too!” Or I mention Dylan and somebody says their favorite album is “John Wesley Harding” and it’s like, “Oh – here’s a member of the tribe. I’m cool with this person.”
And even if we’re past all that, we probably still feel differently about our Mom and Dad then you do about the stranger crossing the street in a city we’re visiting for the day. We are talking about an impulse that is very deep and very protective of itself.
We seem to do this reflexively. If we aren’t paying close attention, it just happens and it feels so natural and right that we don’t question it. Yet it wreaks such havoc in our lives! So long as there is an “other,” we are going to experience conflict. It is so clear and yet we skip right past the clarity and into the chaos. I don’t think we can get anywhere with the course if we aren’t able to admit that we a) want the separation and b) are actively keeping it going.
Yet when we can make that admission – to which we can be extremely resistant – things begin to get interesting. We start to notice when it’s happening. We’re unhappy or angry and we don’t feel like we have to solve it – we can just sit with it and when we do that, the role projection and denial have played become clear. We start to see that what we call “bad” is really just another idea. Our thoughts are driving us and they pretend they don’t. But then we see that and some creativity enters because now we can do things like try to get a handle on who the observer of our thoughts is. Or maybe we notice the gaps in between our thoughts. Or the space in which thought happens. It sounds abstract and difficult maybe, but it’s quite simple. And when we reach that state of attention, of awareness then conflict naturally settles. Peace isn’t something we create – it’s what we experience as we let the self go.
It is not that listening to Bob Dylan is bad. Or that being a student of A Course in Miracles is going to set you back a thousand years. Or that you shouldn’t be reading Emily Dickinson! It’s when we start to project identity onto those things – that defines me this way and this defines me that way. Then we are all tangled up because we are taking what is and trying to turn it into what it’s not. We are trying to escape the present by fashioning a more desirable future. Our effort enters – becoming enters. And everything literally goes to hell because of it.
I am saying that it’s okay to breathe and be still. That feelings of anger and hurt and guilt are going to show up but they’re going to drift away as well. You are not that stream! You are not even what witnesses the stream. We can’t read about it and expect anything. Nobody can take us to it. We have to experience it for ourselves. Tara Singh used to say, “there is nothing to do and only you can do it.” It requires some willingness. We have to give it some space. We have to remember and remind ourselves (and each other too) that we can’t fail. The end is sure. One day or the next, we are going to wake up in the stillness and perfection of the truth that is eternal.