On the End of Problems

There are no problems. Not even the problem of thinking we have problems is a problem. Even that is an illusion.

It is a miracle that makes this perfection, this utter absence of problems, possible, and it is a miracle that allows us to see perfection so clearly that we know instantly it is our own self we gaze at.

Problems appear when we use our minds to project. Something scary arises and we disown it by pretending it’s about somebody else. I’m not vain and petty, so-and-so is. Projection always makes the cause of our suffering appear outside of us. So we become victims, and then spiritual seekers and healers. It’s a whole dramatic performance.

And all of it is a dream. All of it is an illusion.

When we let our minds function naturally – which is what it means to offer the Holy Spirit our “little willingness” (T-18.IV.1:10) – our minds open and fill with light. Understanding is given, not earned by degrees. And unconditional Love is remembered.

So the “work,” so to speak, is to constantly turn our mind over to the Holy Spirit. This means giving both the contents of our mind and the way that mind functions.

Imagine you are driving to Boston with the Holy Spirit riding shotgun. The Holy Spirit says “Hey, I know a better way to Boston than this route you’ve chosen. Also? I know a better way to handle the car than you do.”

And you, because you’re tired of being lost and pretending you’re not, and because you’re tired of the stress of driving, and because you really really want to get to Boston, say “okay. Tell me the way to go.”

Letting the Holy Spirit tell you the way to go is giving the Holy Spirit the contents of your mind.

Giving the Holy Spirit the way your mind works is pulling the car over, giving Holy Spirit the keys and just enjoying the scenery while the Holy Spirit drives.

We want to give the Holy Spirit both the content of our mind and the way our mind functions.

The metaphor is easy. In life, it is hard to listen to the Holy Spirit, much less do what it says. Often what it says is some equivalent of “stop and smell the flowers.” And doing so feels wasteful, childish, naive. It feels wrong in lots of ways. Maybe you hear your Dad’s voice telling you how wrong it is. Or a certain teacher’s.

We are conditioned to hold onto both the function and content of mind. This is what ego is.

When we hear “stop and smell the flowers,” what happens? Most of us also hear “stopping to smell flowers is wrong in all these ways I will now enumerate.” “Wrong in all these ways” is ego speaking. We want to give attention only to the Holy Spirit so we ask the Holy Spirit for help in dealing with ego. What does the Holy Spirit say in reply? It says, “I spoke first and told you to smell the flowers.”

Can you see this? The loving action was given first, then ego jumped in to judge and jeer so that we won’t do what the Holy Spirit asks.

The Holy Spirit doesn’t address the arguments of ego. It doesn’t care about them at all. It’s like they don’t exist. The Holy Spirit just knows that the flowers are beautiful, and that you are beautiful and deserve beautiful gifts, so it gives you the flowers.

And it invites you to linger there as long as you like.

The Holy Spirit always invites us to a quiet happiness that is so simple and clear it is hard to believe we ever needed or wanted anything else. All we have to do is accept it.

Coming Next: How to listen to – i.e., how to accept – the Holy Spirit’s directions. I had to break this post up – I’ve been crazy wordy lately 🙂


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17 Comments

  1. Always ask, “Who does this feeling/thought/perception serve? ” You will know immediately if it is the ego. We only have two teachers after all, so the choice to observe in the moment is basically all it takes to determine what is being served by the feeling/thought/perception.

    “The moment we condemn a feeling as “bad,” we want to get rid of it. Who wants to get rid of it? The one who wants to get rid of it is the one who creates it. The one who wants to get rid of anger is itself angry about being angry. It will never end unless you see the process.” F. Lucille, The Perfume of Silence.

  2. I am so stuck in my ego right now. My husband and I are barely speaking to each other. I just don’t know how to hear the Holy Spirit through so much pain and projection. I look forward to hearing what you have to say on this. I’m new here and really enjoying your blog. 💜🙏

    1. Thank you for sharing, Linda . . . I’m sorry that things are hard; I know that space 🙂 Often, for me, the Holy Spirit is those moments in hardship – too brief! – of quiet and peace that give me strength to keep turning my mind towards love and forgiveness, no matter how impossible it seems. Keep the faith and don’t give up!

      Love,
      Sean

  3. I so appreciate the words Holy Spirit speaks through you. The idea that being a spiritual seeker is actually performative and projection has given me food for thought this morning. Thank you!

  4. Thank you for this. I have been struggling a bit with my relationship with my 16 year old son and how to bring in the teachings of ACIM into our dynamic. One small example: my son works late at a local restaurant, and I wanted to get him a whistle to keep him safe as he walks back to his car each night. (He’s small). So I hop on amazon and as Im browsing I think–wait a minute. Am I creating a problem where there is none? Am I taking this perceived reality seriously? By buying him a whistle am I bringing into being the very reality I seek to avoid?I asked the Holy Spirit for guidance, as I do, but couldn’t hear anything. I bought the whistle, just like I chose a car for my son that had side airbags rather than one that didn’t, and just like I have him wear a mask in school. Illusion? Perhaps.

    I encounter variations of this issue numerous times each week, most often in relationship to my children. I feel protective of them, I feel attached to them and to their experiences in the world. I know intellectually there are no problems except those I create in this world of illusions. But practically speaking, I am going to take steps to keep my children safe if they’re available.

    So I guess I’m doing ACIM “wrong”?

      1. This was a big LOL moment for me – I absolutely hear this! Yes, it is EXACTLY like this. But then it’s not – the “problems do exist” piece floats away, little by little . . . and we become a tiny bit happier, and our happiness extends into all our relationships . . . baby steps are okay! If they weren’t, I’d be lost 🙂

    1. Hi Hillary,

      I would not say you are doing “ACIM” wrong.

      I would not say it first becuse I think we are either practicing ACIM helpfully or unhelpfully. Are we becoming happier, more peaceful, easier to be around? That’s the real measure of our success as students.

      “Right” and “wrong” tend not to help with that analysis.

      Second, I would not say you are doing ACIM wrong because you are being a kind, attentive and loving mother. That’s a waaaaay happier dream (for you AND your son) than a mean, distant and unloving mother.

      Your whole description of caring, asking for spiritual guidance, and taking action all sounds like EXACTLY what we are called to do as ACIM students (who also happen to be parents).

      Our work in the world is to bring forth love by changing our mind about what we are. This is not about what we do so much as the spirit in which we do it. The Holy Spirit is about shifting our focus from ourselves to others – so that WHAT we do is aligned with the needs of others, which is fundamentally more loving than just making everything about us.

      A Course in Miracles really is an invitation to adopt a posture of service with respect to our brothers and sisters.

      May I give an example from my own life as a parent?

      Last year my oldest daughter’s horse went blind. Both of his eyes were removed, and he spent a long time learning how to adapt. My daughter, who to that point rode Jack several times a week, suddenly couldn’t get on him at all. It was a painful and difficult time for Jack AND Sophia.

      After a while, I started to feel like maybe it would be good for her to try to ride him again. Maybe it would be good for Jack AND for her. I’m kind of a jump first, check the parachute later kind of guy. Why not just try it and see what happens? Just do it!

      And then I’d remember to be patient, and ask the Holy Spirit for guidance and every time I did the answer was some version of: let it go. This isn’t your problem.

      That was hard! I LIKE to solve problems for my children! And I felt like, what’s the worst that can happen if I offer my two cents?

      But I didn’t offer it. Sophia didn’t ask for my advice, she’s way better with horses than I am anyway, and the Holy Spirit was clear.

      I didn’t like it but I kept my mouth shut.

      Last week, for the first time in almost a year, Sophia rode Jack. And it was perfect and beautiful. It was incredible how aligned they were, as if no time had passed, and as if nothing had changed. It was clear that whatever they had done with all the time they’d taken had worked.

      And I felt so so grateful that I hadn’t shoved my way into that healing process. Everything had unfolded exactly as it was meant to, including me not playing a direct role.

      The point of that story is NOT that we should adopt a hand’s-off approach to parenting! Not at all. It’s about listening, letting the Holy Spirit speak in the form of a gut feeling, and just generally relaxing and trusting that the outcome will be okay. It’s always in better hands than ours anyway.

      In that instance, I was helpful because I was not an aggressive busybody. Other times, my kids need me to be more present – more like, do this or do that.

      I view all this from the perspective of the beginner’s-mind ACIM student I am: I am here in the world this way to learn to discern between fear and love. It is a learning process that occurs in a body in the world. So long as I am sincerely trying – by asking for help, being willing to look at my projections and ego and be responsible for them – then I am on the path of healing.

      One thing I have learned over the years is that the Holy Spirit either guides us to the most helpful action (buy the whistle! shut up about the horse!) or just gently fixes whatever “mistakes” we make. I mean, an error is just a chance for correction and correction is a blessing, so . . .

      For me, being an ACIM student is about giving attention to our lives so that we can bring forth more love, eventually remembering that there is ONLY love. It’s about practice and application, not theory. Well, it’s a little about theory 🙂 But mostly, it’s for those of us who are ready to get our hands dirty in the hard work of relationships. The call to parent is such a gift – there are SO MANY OPPORTUNITIES to learn!!

      That’s perhaps a longer answer than you were looking for 🙂 My two cents? You sound like a great Mom and a great ACIM student. I’m glad you’re here.

      ~ Sean

      1. I dont know how i missed this reply, Sean, but thank you. I appreciate your insight, and I do feel that in the year I have been studying the course I have become more loving and accepting of both myself and others–not everyone (I still struggle daily with certain people) but overall I feel a shift.

        Last week, my 19 yo son called me at 1 am on a Saturday–you know as a mom that when you get that call something’s wrong. I picked up the phone and just heard sobbing, sobbing, sobbing. I said “please tell me what’s wrong.” And he finally answered “She broke up with me.” and my heart broke in a million pieces. First relationship, first love. And dear Lord I wanted to fix it. And I couldn’t. I could just be there, be present, and tell him with time, it would feel better. I wanted to tell him that she wasn’t deserving of him, that he deserves someone who loves him as much as he loves her, that she wasn’t that great anyway, but I kept my mouth shut and listened as he cried. Like you, there was a part of me that wanted to DO something, anything, to ease his pain. But a BIGGER part of me knew to just listen, to invite him to cry, to let him walk through it. And that is a big deal for me–and I know it’s because of my studies with ACIM.

        Thanks for sharing your story, Sean.

  5. Good Morning Hillary and Sean,

    I hope you do not mind if I join in the conversation.

    As a mother of two adult daughters (who were 15 and 18 when I began studying the Course), I have found motherhood to be the most fertile, frustrating and fear-filled space in which to examine and undo “special” relating and practice (self) forgiveness. Then, now, and forever, I imagine. I mean, this is our heart in another body . . . how do we see beyond the “specialness” in that? How do we trust an unseen force when every fiber of our being wants to keep our child safe? At times, for me as a mom, it has literally been impossible to “let go and let God.” Especially with the big stuff.

    So I focus on the smaller stuff. Baby steps, as you say, Sean. When there is less fear that a choice my child makes could be life altering, there is more space for Love. And then, little by little, Love will — not overcome the fear — but nudge it into the background. For me, it continues to be such a process, you know? Learning to soften around that almost primal fear so that it doesn’t dominate, to ask myself what would Love do, to listen and to really hear. And then, if I still sense fear — and especially if I respond directly from that howling monster — I continue to soften around it as best I can and forgive myself (or try to.) That way, the fear doesn’t harden into the need to be “right.” And I become less resistant, more open to the lessons in Love my daughters have to offer me. And they — often without recognizing it — become less resistant to what I choose to say.

    Is it loving to allow our children to walk their walk, make their own mistakes, learn by fire? I would say yes. Is it not also loving to offer guidance and wisdom from what we have learned along the way? Of course. Is it at times impossible to tell the difference between words and actions wrought in fear and those arising from Love? Yes, at least it is for me.

    But I have begun to see how it is all about shining the light of awareness on our decisions and interactions when it comes to our sons and daughters. (What you are doing, Hillary.) And the more aware we are in the moment, the more opportunity we give ourselves to pause, ask what Love would do and choose again. . .or not. And that’s OK, too. Because if we are conscious that we have chosen fear over love, we then get an opportunity to practice self-forgiveness and self Love, which is much, much more difficult than offering that same grace to our children.

    But just as — if not more — necessary in helping to heal this world.

    And it is so helpful to know we are in this together and that each of our baby steps moves everyone forward.

    Love,
    Cheryl

    1. Thank you Cheryl . . . You are welcome anytime, you know that . . . 🙏

      Yeah, the emphasis on choosing again is a good point, and good ACIM practice . . . in a lot of ways the learning process is always about coming around to that space of choosing love over fear . . . over and over until there’s no fear left.

      Which, yes, baby steps 🙂

    2. Again, apologies Cheryl for not seeing this sooner.

      Oh, your statement about the challenges of being a mother resonate with me. I have a 16 year old and a 19 year old and I love your idea of baby steps. And yes–choosing again. As a mom, I’m a big fan of apologizing to my kids. “Hey, I approached this wrong and I’d like to try again. I’m sorry.” and in turn, my kids have also learned to re-evaluate and admit when they feel like they’ve made a mistake without berating themselves.

      Sometimes I do have problems determining whether fear or love is driving my choice. But again, I turn it over to the Holy Spirit. Thanks,

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