Ending Projection Through Service

Projection is the foundation of our grief and sorrow. It gives rise to illusions which confuse our ability to redress problems where they actually are.

One way to undo projection, and by extension its pernicious effects, is through service to our brothers and sisters.

It is understood by most students of A Course in Miracles that the external world – from the smallest of its flowers to its most cataclysmic wars to our most beloved and intimate companions – is an illusion.

The illusion arises through projection. When we project, we dissociate from our own ideas or attitudes and place them on external objects ranging from people to places to weather events. That way, we are not the source of discomfort or fear or guilt; the external object is. We see the rain that cancels our picnic as the cause of our sadness.

It is this cause-and-effect relationship that underlies our experience of the world as illusory. We are sad because we have projected responsibility for our happiness onto an external object which is neutral and incapable of causing anything, much less sorrow.

When you project, you disown, and therefore do not believe is yours. You are excluding yourself by the very judgment that you are different from the one on whom you project. Since you have also judged against what you project, you continue to attack it because you continue to keep it separated (T-6.II.2:1-3).

We can think of projection is a device that sustains our perception of separation from God. It is the means by which this fundamental dissociation is sustained. Thus, projection is an active and ongoing rejection of oneness. So long as it goes on, healing – and thus happiness and inner peace – are impossible.

The world has not yet experienced any comprehensive reawakening or rebirth. such a rebirth is impossible so long as you continue to project or miscreate (T-2.I.3:7-8).

It is imperative that we bring projection to its end, and it is also our responsibility to do this.

How shall we end projection?

For many years, I approached the question of projection from the experience of self as center. I would examine my experience of being Sean in the world and consider everything as a projection. This ACIM teacher is my projection. So is my wife. This student is a projection and that cashier and both my parents and the neighbor down the street whose dog is always after the chickens and . . .

I tried very hard to look closely at these and the situations that arose in conjunction with them: my feelings, judgments, desires, biases. What I was willing to see, what I didn’t want to see. What was I disowning? How could I retrieve it?

There is nothing wrong with that approach. In fact, there is a lot that is helpful. Our careful attention to the external world as a sort of unconscious extension of the self can be very healing.

In time, however, I began to experience this dynamic differently. Significantly, I saw that not only were you my projection, but that I was also your projection.

This insight destabilized the personal I which appeared to function as the center from which literally everything else radiated. Suddenly, the center as such was everywhere. And as a result, my personal projections and perceptions became less important. I began to see in a deep and sustained way that we are in this together, and so our healing is entangled.

This is the beginning of awakening.

A teacher of God is anyone who choose to be one. His qualifications consist solely in this; somehow, somewhere he has made a deliberate choice in which he did not see his interests as apart from someone else’s. Once he has done that, his road is established and his direction is sure. A light has entered the darkness (M-1.1:1-4).

Here is an interesting and helpful experiment: go through your day thinking not about your personal growth and spiritual evolution but rather everybody else’s. Think of yourself as simply another illusion in their dream of separation and then be the best illusion you can possibly be for them.

If you do this, you will notice that you are far less focused on your own stuff – your disappointments, fears, obstacles, goals. You become more interested in other people – what they’re thinking and feeling, what they’re trying to do, where they need help and where they simply need to be left alone.

You will find it becomes natural to understand what they want from you, and then to give that to them. If you have not yet seen the face of Christ, this can bring that experience much closer in a tangible and pragmatic way.

Few things are as satisfying as helping our brothers and sisters step a little closer to God. It is both an honor and a privilege to be a speck of light in another’s dream. Thus, our work becomes being there for them as wholly and fully as we can. We give ourselves without reservation.

This is effective because our brothers and sisters are our own self. The gift we extend to them is the gift that we extend to our own self. We are not losing anything in service; rather, we are gaining everything, even when the at of service appears illogical or irrational.

When a brother acts insanely, he is offering you an opportunity to bless him. His need is yours. You need the blessing you can offer him. There is no way for you to have it except by giving it (T-7.VII.2:1-4).

When I stand in front of a class, I think: they have put me here. They made me. And I try to be aware of that as I teach – as I move around the classroom, shepherding dialogue, grading papers, answering questions and prodding them to go deeper or farther with this or that reading or insight.

When I sit down at the dinner table, I do the same thing. And when I attend meetings with municipal leaders. And when I attend holiday gatherings with extended family. And when I talk on the phone with fellow ACIM students. And answer emails. And . . .

We are never not able to be of service to those who long for awakening, because their longing is our longing, and by responding to it, we respond to our own self. It is natural and simple and the way is always clear. The path opens up before us literally as we walk it.

Remember the beautiful words Jesus in Matthew’s Gospel:

For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

Thus does Jesus encourage to see that we do not live in a world of strangers but rather a world of brothers and sisters who are our collaborators in salvation. Everything we do can be holy; everything we do can testify to love.

In this way, we are redeemed by the power of service. It relieves us of self-interest and make our lives a record of giving to each other. We have to be here for one another in active and loving ways. We do not enter Heaven alone or by degrees: we go hand-in-hand, and our going is Heaven itself.

19 thoughts on “Ending Projection Through Service”

  1. Wow – I never thought of it this way, but it really DOES make a difference when I think of others in this way! “The center was everywhere.” I see that! I feel that! Thanks again, Sean!

  2. Thanks for writing about projection, Sean. I really appreciate your insights and the references from ACIM, too. I’m beginning to understand projection now and am becoming aware of it more often.

    Yesterday my Mom made a comment to me (which I perceived as unloving) about what I was wearing. I believed that her comment was a projection of how she was feeling (unloving, disconnected from God) and therefore I could feel compassion for her rather than feeling offended or defensive. I could “see through” her comment, knowing that it was my perception of her comment that made it seem unloving. I could have just taken the comment as an observation rather than as a criticism, which is possibly how it was intended, and not perceived it as unloving.

    I believe that I was “guilty” of judging her (as being unloving) in the moment she was judging (or making an observation about) my clothing.

    Okay, so now I’m wondering if you could address the difference between judgement and observation. I think at first I was judging my Mom (as speaking lovingly) and then after some processing, I was able to simply observe my Mom as projecting how she was feeling on to me, without judging her as being loving or unloving.

    This brings up a nother topic. My Mom thinks that sometimes criticism is loving. I think that observation can be loving but that criticism is not loving. Isn’t criticism thinking that I’m right and you’re wrong?

    One question leads to another. I think I’d better stop here. Thanks for being there, and for caring.

    Love,
    Mary

  3. Thanks for writing about projection, Sean. I really appreciate your insights and the references from ACIM, too. I’m beginning to understand projection now and am becoming aware of it more often.

    Yesterday my Mom made a comment to me (which I perceived as unloving) about what I was wearing. I believed that her comment was a projection of how she was feeling (unloving, disconnected from God) and therefore I could feel compassion for her rather than feeling offended or defensive. I could “see through” her comment, knowing that it was my perception of her comment that made it seem unloving. I could have just taken the comment as an observation rather than as a criticism, which is possibly how it was intended, and not perceived it as unloving.

    I believe that I was “guilty” of judging her (as being unloving) in the moment she was judging (or making an observation about) my clothing.

    Okay, so now I’m wondering if you could address the difference between judgement and observation. I think at first I was judging my Mom (as speaking unlovingly) and then after some processing, I was able to simply observe my Mom as projecting how she was feeling on to me, without judging her as being loving or unloving.

    This brings up a nother topic. My Mom thinks that sometimes criticism is loving. I think that observation can be loving but that criticism is not loving. Isn’t criticism thinking that I’m right and you’re wrong?

    One question leads to another. I think I’d better stop here. Thanks for being there, and for caring.

    Love,
    Mary

    1. Hi Mary,

      Thank you for reading so closely & raising such helpful questions. They prod me to think deeper about what I mean. So I am grateful. Don’t stop!

      As an aside, I think your careful attention to the judgment and forgiveness process as it unfolds inside you is very helpful. Really, it is a prerequisite to awakening, our capacity to look with clarity and honesty at what is going on with our perception. This kind of looking is an invocation of the Holy Spirit: it brings our healed mind to bear. Once that happens, healing – more healing – is certain.

      Sometimes it’s nice to just sit back and be grateful that we are not alone but have made that contact.

      I don’t know where you’re at with the Course in terms of reading and lessons and study, so forgive me if I sound too teacherish. One of my favorite sections of the text is “Rules for Decision.” It is deeply practical, laying out a simple plan by which we can align our decision-making power with that of the Holy Spirit. It really allows us to begin to turn our minds over on a minute-by-minute basis. Have you read it? Or spent any serious time with it?

      Few sections of the text have been as helpful to me in terms of accepting undoing.

      Our interpretation of anything is a projection: whether we decide it’s loving (like a Bob Dylan song or an Emily Dickinson poem) or unloving (like criticism of our appearance). The thing itself is neutral. The question becomes then, do our decisions about what is good/bad, helpful/non-helpful come from a place of love or fear?

      That is why it is so important to develop a relationship with Jesus and the Holy Spirit. Of course there are many ways and many teachers and many symbols but if you’re into the Course, they’re really the lights. Always our goal is to bring our perception back to them: they do the looking, we’re just the beneficiaries of the Love that they represent. They do the deciding, we’re just the recipients of the Love that flows from their decisions.

      In time, we get to that place where we don’t have to project our health and wholeness onto them – our need for such symbols will disappear as we accept the fact of Oneness – but it’s okay (it’s more than okay) to use them here i the world.

      I’m rambling a bit but I think that gets at the question of whether one is simply making an observation or offering a criticism. What is it for? And the only way for us to really answer that question is to to do with the Holy Spirit and Jesus, through the deeply personal experience of Love and insight that they offer us.

      We are always acting from either Love or fear – and so is everybody else. The quality and helpfulness of our capacity to observe (and I love that you use this word, because it invokes the careful thoughtful attention that the Course asks of us) is always dependent on our relationship with the Holy Spirit, the degree to which we are grounded in healing. What we say, what we hear, how we act and how we respond . . . it always comes back to that foundation relationship: ego or Holy Spirit, fear or Love.

      I hope that’s helpful! It feels a bit disjointed and rambling and off-the-point but who knows.

      Thanks again, Mary. Please feel free to keep in touch –

      Love,
      Sean

  4. Thanks again Sean, for your thoughtful response. I have been doing the Workbook faithfully (rarely to the extent prescribed, but always at least morning and night) for the past 5 years. I’ve read the Manual for Teachers once, but have not yet finished reading the text. Thank you so much for recommending the section on “Rules For Decision.” I will read it now! Love, Mary

  5. Sean, ironically (or probably not) the first quote you extracted from the Manual for Teachers was my selected reading yesterday and I’ve been thinking hard about seeing my interest apart from someone else’s. One the one hand, the thought of being someone’s best projection is very helpful. Perhaps I’m “owning” my own projection so that I see it in the most forgiving light, while also helping my brother along his path. I really like that idea. It keeps me responsible in the dream. On the other hand, I struggle with the concept of whether there really are others, since we are One and the figures I see in my dream are of my making. If my friend is my projection, how can he someone at all?

    I’m all in on this journey now, and know this will sort itself in time, but perhaps you have some insight that will help me speed up the resolution? I’ve thought that maybe my confusion comes from seeing myself as little “me” as opposed to the collective Me? I’d appreciate your thoughts.

    1. Hi Claudia,

      It’s nice to hear from you – I hope you’re well. I love that phrase – “I’m all in on this journey now.” It makes me happy. Me too!

      If we look at the Course from a purely metaphysical standpoint then yes, there are no others. It’s all an illusion – from the sweetest friend to the most bitter of enemies. We’re One. Full stop.

      I think that having that understanding is very important – it is a ground from which a helpful practice, a helpful undoing, can blossom.

      But very few of us have that experience of Oneness – we have an experience of separateness! I don’t like that, but it’s no good denying it. In fact, it’s not until I can look very clearly at my experience of separation that a) I begin to understand the importance and urgency of shepherding it to its appointed end and b) glimpse the means by which atonement (the undoing of separation from God) can be accomplished.

      For me, service – in many forms – is what undoes the separation. The mileage of other students will certainly vary.

      It doesn’t matter if our brothers and sisters are real or illusory – all that matters is that we believe they are real. If we believe they are real, then they are real. Such is the power of our mind. The beauty of the Course – what I cling to like a drowning rat – is that it works just fine in this nest of illusion. It allows us to interact at the level of illusion in order to undo the illusion and ultimately regain our memory of Truth, of Oneness.

      My own personal experience of the Course is simply that the more I focus on others, the more I learn about inner peace as well as the blocks to that peace. I don’t sweat the metaphysics too much – I study them and keep them in the back of my mind – and then just face the dream with as much grace and good humor as I can manage. Some days are better than others in this regard. I tend as best I can to hearing the Holy Spirit in the world of dreams and heeding that guidance.

      That seems to work for me. At least for now . . .

      I hope that’s helpful! Thanks again for reading, Claudia. Have a great weekend!

      Sean

  6. Dear Sean, thank you for your wonderful thoughts. In the world I create/project, you are a kind and loving projection with beautiful insights 🙂
    Everything about- Being a projection- is so incredible and delicate. You can’t hold it with your hands strongly or take it gently with pincers while holding your breath, it’s all about how light your heart is. To accept that truth, heart has to be lighter than a feather, filled with love. There is a beautiful Borges short story The Circular Ruins, in which idea of dreaming oneself is projected poetically. I believe, without light, there is no projection. We project, because it is in our – light -nature. But we forget that it is the projector who we are, not fragmented pictures of self that we create, and in a sense, emanate. When you own your – self, the (de)Light of being, and need no more separate projections (of self), played before your eyes to show you who you are, you become One with the projection. It is who you are. I wonder, is becoming One with the projection, by owning your light, the final projection, the victory of projectional self (that ultimately gives freedom of – self)? Imagine being in cinema, in a dark room light is projected. You sit in that simple and functional room that someone invented and you believed in it (even the chairs are provided!), bound by imagined parameters of depth and size, dwelling in the dark, sometimes with eyes open in fear – of the unknown (neighbour) lurking, sometimes with eyes slowly falling down, because it’s so easy to fall asleep during the commercials. But all that time the projection is happening and you know it, because it is – given – to you to be able to see it. No matter how focused or unfocused you are , you see It happening, that beam of light, creating dreamwave pictures. At one point it will make you wonder. When- in time – is of no relevance here, speed is just a button. You will start staring at the light. How beautiful it is. What it makes and how. After acknowledging what you see (through observing the process of light projection from as many perspectives as you wanted), perhaps what follows is becoming one with the projection – in owning your light, there is capacity to create – dreams:)

    1. Dear Zrinka,

      Thank you for the kind words and for invoking that lovely Borges story . . . “In the dream of the man that dreamed, the dreamed one awoke.” It is perfect. That’s the second time you’ve lighted these pages with some helpful and elegant literary reference, not to mention your own words (replete today with the Dickinsonian dash) in the presence of which – one writer to another – I am more than a little honored.

      What is the emoticon for gassho?

      Much love & gratitude,
      Sean

      1. Dear Sean, thank you for your loving words. I think that the emoticon for gashho could be a single flower. Flower is a face of a man, who has light and gratitude in his heart * Your writing is very poetic, sincere and heartfelt, so it inspires that kind of response. Poetry and music are like a waterfall of Love, they bathe our body and spirit with Light*ness needed to re-discover ourselves. My dearest E. Dickinson verse is, Not knowing when the dawn will come I open every door. Every word in this verse is precious to me (especially in my native language), and it always had so much meaning in my heart and life.
        As for elegant and poetic, yesterday I found this beautiful story about Audrey Hepburn’s favourite song, one Elegant Spirit, as her son said. http://adoringaudrey.tumblr.com/post/7145805292/this-is-one-of-audreys-favorite-songs-it-was

        I wish you and your Loved ones a beautiful day, filled with Flowers in every way*:)

        1. I love her later work, Zrinka. It is less wild – in the sense of thunderstorms or the sea – than what came earlier, but I sense sometimes that she was revisiting familiar themes and spiritual touchstones, reassuring herself of lessons learned or maybe just passing the time while waiting patiently for death. Few writers mean as much to me as Dickinson. She charted so much of the interior landscape and even now we are still just learning how to follow. Or I am anyway.

          Yes, you are right: a flower for gassho. But what kind? The small wild ones are my favorites: bluets, forget-me-nots. I assume you are far away: I have no idea what sorts of flowers you see while walking in forests or sitting beside gardens.

          Thank you for keeping me in the mind of flowers.

          That Hepburn story is exquisite. I think often of how little love we seem able to bear in these human forms of ours, and so constantly project it onto flowers and songs and moonlight and words. Or lovely women, for that matter. Dickinson said “Beauty – be not caused – It Is.”

          Yet our projections never cease . . . I wonder sometimes when we will simply accept we are the very light we are using to look for ourselves.

          Until then!
          Sean

          1. Today a child smiled at me, with blue flowers in her little, baby hair. I thought to myself, how beautiful – It Is. Beauty – It Is. But it was a glimpse of beauty yet to be – seen. The blue flower called me – to look further. And there I saw, the eternal White shining through her loving eyes in All Colors Beauty. What a gift to be seen.
            Today my mother gave herself a bundle of forget-me-nots, to grow in her little spring garden. Her favourite flowers are white. I was moved and grateful for being able to see – how she looked at the blues as if she sees all of her White in One.
            Dickinson always wore white, perhaps as an acknowledgement of All colors Living, – in her. Perhaps she tried to own it all, aware of projection. Without preference to any – separate color of Life. Seeing it all in herself, even literary because she lived in seclusion, she became a mirror for many (of our) dreams to come. I’m nobody!, Who are you? But acknowledging our (white) totality doesn’t mean lack of color, and even the beautiful ability to be the White mirror in the world of objects reflecting, is not the end. Not Forever. There will be color again. Simply because there is always more – to see. And again we shall rejoice and grieve. And then again, we will become deep/hollow enough to be aware. Our projections never cease. I came to find our Life beautiful. Being in this state is so beyond wrong or right, it is a drill for Always deeper being, always re-creating one’s (w)hole. It could be perceived as a curse or as a miracle, but it is given with Love. If we accept that we are the very light we are using to look for ourselves, we (could) also accept that we are – looking for ourselve, And as long as we keep looking*observing, we will find/create (more) Light. More projections. What a gift – we are to ourselves 🙂 Should we not look, afraid of our evergrowing abundance, or could we surrender our will to Life and celebrate abundance of our Love? We cannot contain Light, because it lives, it grows like a child in every imagined direction. In a flower, in a song or another human being. We see it. Is it – me- seeing – me? Yes. Is it the other – in One – also? Yes. Is it all One? Also yes. I cannot own it and be it – me – if I cease projecting, creating, giving Life. Projection is simply affirmation of Life. The relative interplay of myriad colors perceived with mind (daily), is actually Eternal White felt by heart. For a mind that became aware of Oneness (eternally felt in one’s heart), every acknowledged projection can seem like a separation (of Light from Light), bringing a moment of crisis. But in every crisis, Love is being eternally re-born. Could we BE (in Life) only with heart , never acknowledging the difference/variation/change perceived with mind? If that is our desire, we should not look – for ourselves. But close our eyes, and be reborn in someone else’s dream.
            Flower for gassho? Perhaps white and simple, almost unimagined, and therefore all-containing. Maybe daisy, because it’s a flower of children and innocence. Bellis perennis, meaning beauty everlasting. I myself could imagine Novalis Blaue Blume desire for infinite or Poppy in a field. But that are the colors of my joy and my sadness, not my Love. Love does not separate – colors. When I was a child, whenever my mother left me a note (‘Your lunch is in…Just heat it up, Mum), she would always draw on it a single flower. Simple. Empty. Without color. It meant – Love.
            Sorry if my comment is too long and riverlike, I am very inspired person in this life and it’s hard for me to see an end in sharing, words flow with me like flowers on water 🙂
            Until then!

  7. Hi Sean,

    It’s nice to read these thoughts on projection. When I frst started the course, I also looked at everything from my center. It can be helpful in the fact that it gets the person to look at their projections rather than accepting them as a “fact” that has nothing to do with them, but I think there is a downside to it.

    This approach can cause the person to become very overwhelmed by thinking that they projected everything in the world such as war, but also become very solipsistic and cause the person to fall even deeper into being even more self absorbed.

    Yet, in the UrText, it tells us that no single person projects everything, but the world is as it it is through a collective consciousness, when it says:

    The association of free will and imprisonment, which comes from placing your mind under the ego’s tyrannous control can be internally controlled only if the external conditions are peaceful. This is not safe, because external conditions are produced by the thoughts of many, not all of whom are pure in heart as yet.~UrText

    When I really began studying the course, I found that throughout the course, it tells us that salvation is found in our brothers and that we cannot find salvation alone. The course tells us this about trying to find the Holy Spirit in ourselves alone.

    If you make the mistake of looking for the Holy Spirit in yourself alone, your thoughts will frighten you because by adopting the ego’s viewpoint you are undertaking an ego-alien journey with the ego as guide. This is bound to produce fear.~ACIM

    I think in two different passages, the course sums up the problem in how we see our brothers and the solution.

    Insleep you are alone, and your awareness is narrowed to yourself. And that is why the nightmares come. You dream of isolation because your eyes are closed. You do not see your brothers, and in the darkness you cannot look upon the light you gave to them.~ACIM

    God’s Will is your salvation. Would He not have given you the means to find it? If He wills you to have it, He must have made it possible and very easy to obtain it. Your brothers are everywhere. You do not have to seek far for salvation. Every minute and every second gives you a chance to save yourself. Do not lose these chances, not because they will not return, but because delay of joy is needless. God wills you perfect happiness now. Is it possible that this is not also your will? And is it possible that this is not also the will of your brothers?~ACIM

    Eric: The course is a course on ideas. As it says, everything is an idea. The Holy Spirit is the idea of healing. God is an idea. You and I are ideas. Even the ego is an idea, though a miscreated idea. Through the idea of how we see our brothers, gives rise to either projection or extension. This is what is meant by the passage in the course that talks about being a course in cause and not effect is speaking about…. how we see our brothers.

    Do we as the course says, see our own split minds everywhere, see what is not there, hear what is not there, communicating with no one and isolating ourselves as if we were alone in all the universe? Or do we see our brothers, truly see our brothers and see that our brothers are part of us. That we are interconnected and interdependent to each other as the Sonship?

    I’d like to think the latter, but unfortunately, I often fall back into the seeing my own split mind. Service to our brothers though, can help us truly see with the vision of Christ.

    Eric

    1. Good points, Eric. I have always appreciated that passage on how the delay of joy is needless. There is a lot of love in that sentiment, particularly for those of us familiar with a less-than-generous God. As I’ve said in other contexts, I try to hold the metaphysics of the Course loosely – they matter deeply but as you note they can also lead one in endless painful circles – and stay close to this idea of service. I agree with you: it is not easy to avoid the seeing the split mind. Yet kindness and gentleness extended towards one another seems to ameliorate its effects and move us in the direction of true Love. It resonates at many levels.

      Thanks again, Eric. If I haven’t said it recently, I really appreciate your input here.

      Sean

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.