You aren’t real.
Generally, this is not a kind thing to say to another person. We all believe we’re here and embodied; denying that – especially when we’re projecting that denial onto another person – is a form of violence.
The clearest and most helpful thing a body can say to another is: “we are the same.”
To a body, bodies are real. A mind that believes it’s in a body has to deal with this. In the ACIM community, this “deal” tends to take two forms: we deny the body and/or we improve the self.
But there is – there is always – another way.
Denial of the Body
The body will not buy that either it or the world in which it lives, which includes other bodies, is an illusion. If you deny the body, you will eventually hurt it, and this hurt can extend to other bodies in many ways.
No matter how spiritually evolved you are, when you have to sneeze, you sneeze. When you have to pee, you pee. Can you stop your hair from growing? Can you breathe underwater unaided?
Rather than try to force the body into some premeditated ideal of oneness or spiritual giantism, why not just forget about the body?
Think for a moment about your hair. Do you have to remember every day to make it grow? Do you have to speed up or slow its growth? Do you have to recall the complex biology underlying its growth in order for that biology to function?
No. You do not. You forget about your hair. You don’t deny your hair – that requires conflict, which is idiotic. Who fights with their hair?
The suggestion is . . . consider doing that with the whole body. Just let it all go. It’s doing its thing without you – it really is. Just let it.
Forgetting is different than denial. Denial is a form of conflict – you have to concentrate. You have to use effort to keep a thing out of mind. It pushes back and you have to overwhelm it.
Denial is hard. Forgetting is easy because it’s just a recognition that your effort is not required and so you breathe. You relax.
This leads us to self-improvement. Self-improvement is a form of mind reinforcing the original error of believing it is in a body. We eat healthy, do yoga, meditate, read ACIM, journal, go to psychotherapy. And in all of that there is an undercurrent of “am I better than I was five minutes ago? Five years ago? Two decades ago?”
This is what drove Ken Wapnick and the Board of Directors at FACIM to litigation with Marianne Williamson. They believed she’d made a wrong turn with the course, essentially obliterating its metaphysics. You can’t liberate mind if you’re constantly doubling down on the idea of making a better home for it in the body in the world.
When mind believes its “in” a body, it adopts the posture of a self. It becomes a perspective and a narrative. It localizes and specializes.
All we can do is notice this. Well, notice it and not resist it. “You” and “I” don’t solve the problem of the mind that believes it’s permanently at home in a body because “you” and “I” are features of the problem.
“You” and “I” are what disappear when the problem is solved. “Sean” isn’t going to be in some heavenly post-time, post-body space thinking, “wow, that was insane – I’m so glad I’m not doing that anymore.”
The question isn’t really what happens after the mind-body problem is solved (although spoiler alert: it’s not actually a problem). Rather, the problem is how do we notice the mind-body dilemma in a sustainable way from within the dilemma?
If that’s all we have to do – and it is, because it’s all we can do – then how do we do it?
The Gift of Attention
Start by noticing that you have been given a gift: the gift of attention. You can notice things. You can notice beauty and joy and suffering. You can notice ideas and objects. You can notice relationships.
Your attention is also a gift that you give to others – whether they are sunflowers or horses or people. In the ambient rays of your attention, the other comes alive in deep and meaningful ways. You can perceive their needs and wants, and you can respond to those needs and wants in helpful and non-dramatic ways.
The sunflower needs nothing and so you just admire it. The horse needs hay or water so you give it. Your friend or lover or partner needs you to apologize or give them space or talk about their mother or whatever. So you do that.
Attention is oddly happiest – must fruitful – when it’s not about you but about others.1 It just loves to flow out of you and take in all the other lives and loves that are there to be observed. And interestingly, attention does not distinguish in its function. It beholds a sunflower the same way it beholds a kitten or your neighbor.
Your reaction to those images is different, sure. That’s judgment. We prefer an hot apple pie to a pile of steaming chicken guts. But attention holds them in exactly the same way.
The suggestion here is to forget about the material and just give yourself over to attention. What happens when you do that?
Love does not perceive differences. It does not see them and compensate for them – smooth them out, negotiate between them, choose one over the other. It just doesn’t see them.
You and I – being ourselves differences – do see differences. But attention is a subtle teacher that gently allows us to begin to notice how everything – no matter how we perceive it – is in fact the same.
That’s the critical insight that we want to bring forth in our living. And attention – which from time to time I suggest is the Holy Spirit – is the guide who instructs us on how to do this.
. . . the attraction of guilt is only fear. Here is the one emotion that you made, whatever it may seem to be. This is the emotion of secrecy, of private thoughts and of the body. This is the one emotion that opposes love, and always leads to sight of differences and loss of sameness.(T-22.I.4:6-9).
Being symptoms of the problem, we don’t actually solve the problem. We just agree to see the need for healing, and then watch the healing occur.
Being symptoms of the problem, we will disappear. Symptoms don’t hang around and watch the underlying error or sickness get healed. Don’t worry about waking up, and don’t worry about dying. Don’t worry about “getting” or “not getting” it.
Be present to life in a mild but consistent way and you will be led beyond self-identity to the end of suffering.
- This was where Ken Wapnick landed in his teaching. “Make it about other people.” When you’re driving on the highway, think of the other drivers. Eating out in a restaurant? Make it about the waiter. I have my issues with Ken but this is actually profoundly good advice for “living ACIM.”