The Confusion of Joy and Pain

The Holy Spirit will direct you only so as to avoid pain. Surely no one would object to this goal if he recognized it (T-7.X.3:1-2).

Two very important ideas in those lines: the first that the Holy Spirit has has its only objective our happiness, our freedom from depression and conflict, and second that we don’t know that and so cannot accept the Holy Spirit’s goal as our own. Thus the separation – the illusory fundamental conflict between self and God – continues.

The undoing that attends the study of A Course in Miracles can feel so subtle at times as to be all but unnoticeable. Our ideas of progress are often an impediment to the necessary work. We think nothing is happening, or that we’re taking a few steps backwards, when in fact we’re making great strides, and clearing a lot of interior ground. We don’t know. Or rather, the “we” we think we are doesn’t know. And so we have to surrender some control. We have to let go of the incessant need to lead and take charge and give direction.

Sometimes this undoing – this recognizing of the Holy Spirit’s goal and the concomitant acceptance of it – comes as a softening. For years and years I wanted to be strong and disciplined, to the point of masochism. You think you pray a lot? I prayed four hours straight on a cold wood floor without a mat or shoes. But this isn’t strength. It’s weakness wearing a mask and bluffing. Real strength is in yielding, in becoming so supple that we literally bend and blend with circumstance. We aren’t fighting anymore. We’re in a mode of acceptance. And contra expectations, there is great power in this. We learn that what seemed like attack is not. We learn that defenses are not necessary and so we can relax into love.

This softening is really the acceptance of trust. Or perhaps it’s better to say theĀ willingness to trust. We see the futility of our efforts, of the path that we’ve been following, and some flexibility enters, some softening. We can consider another, a better way.

The problem is not whether what the Holy Spirit says is true, but whether you want to listen to what he says. You no more recognize what is painful than you know what is joyful, an dare, in fact, very apt to confuse the two (T-7.X.3:3-4).

This is the problem! We don’t know the difference between pain and joy. Confusing the two is the ego’s objective. It ensures that we go in circles, pursue contrary goals, and never wander far from depression, anxiety, worry and fear. All the Holy Spirit – which is our right mind, remember – does is turn us around. Try this. Go there. Do that. If we can hear that voice, and if we will listen to it, we will be taught happiness. We will be taught peace.

In doing this, we are not creating a new world or establishing a new belief system or a new mode of law and order. We are becoming one with what is. God is already in us, and God’s peace is already part of us, and all we are doing is remembering that. The memory, as it grows clearer and clearer in our minds, is also an outflowing. That is, it radiates joy and peace, and so we naturally extend what we are which is love and which is joy and which is peace.

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