As our study and practice of A Course in Miracles continues, our sense of ourselves as “special” begins to erode. This can take many forms – we are more patient with others, we laugh more readily at our “mistakes,” we don’t sweat the little things so much – but at some point it is always experienced as fearful and so we resist it. We cling to some shred of self, some fragment of egoic belief because it seems to minimize the fear. Unfortunately, that little piece is sufficient to extend our suffering.
What would your life be like if you related to everyone you met, and every experience you had, without specialness?
Every attack on our peace, without exception, arises because we believe we are separate beings – separate from one another and separate from God. We believe that yesterday’s experience is separate from today’s which is separate from tomorrow’s. This division permeates our belief system, rending everything into fragments.
What perceives itself as fragmented will naturally defend itself: that is what pieces do. They know they are not the whole, they know there are other pieces “out there,” that some of them are bigger and stronger and maybe even vengeful at the original break and so they defend.
It can be helpful to nurture a space in which it is possible to give sustained attention to what is – our thoughts and feelings, our relationship with Jesus and the Holy Spirit, our goals as students, our answer to the perennial ACIM question “what is it for?”
In that space, I can see the way in which my sense of self is both perilously fragile and incredibly aggressive and vexatious. It is as if the faintest breath could brush it away forever and so it flails and rages up its own storm in a frantic (and ultimately doomed) effort to keep that faint breath away.
What does this look like? I’ll give you a personal example.
A couple of weeks ago, a student approached me after class. She’s never had me before, English classes aren’t her strong suit and so forth. She wanted to be sure she understood the poem we were discussing. We’re talking, it’s going fine and then she mentions that she shared the poem with another professor who made a simple comment that turned out to be very helpful.
I responded to that comment first with fear and then with righteous indignation. I watched my response happen (this is becoming much more frequent for me – the capacity to observe internal response to the external without actually needing to respond or engage with it). What if this other teacher thinks this is the wrong poem to teach? What if she thinks I’m an idiot? What if she talked to other faculty and right now they’re plotting to fire me because of this poem?
Then, in response to that fear, came indignation. If this student wasn’t happy in my class then fine. Let her take it with someone else. If some professor wanted to cop an attitude about the material I teach, then fine. I’ll teach somewhere else. Hell, I’ll go climb a mountain and eat nuts and drink rain water all while writing beautiful haiku in the mist.
This was all this very subtle. The tone of my voice didn’t change, my commitment to being helpful didn’t change. I never said a word about it to anyone. But it was there.
And that is what the ego is and that is how specialness works. If it can’t ruin us at the surface, it will percolate as far down as it needs to go so long as it can still be there. That’s what it means to cling to some shred of ego. It shows up very quietly, almost unnoticeable. But it’s still there. It is still operative.
The spiritual practice of A Course in Miracles is simply to see this and to offer it to the Holy Spirit. We don’t have to take it to a therapist or spiritual counselor, or act it out in the world of form, or write it down in our wellness journal. None of those things are bad or wrong. They can be very helpful in their way. They just aren’t required.
All we have to do is recognize specialness and see how it makes us miserable. That is all. And it will be undone for us because – even deeper than crazy, is our longing for peace and even deeper than that is our knowledge that peace is ours right here, right now.
It can be hard to hear this but it’s true: when we are ready to be done with specialness, then we’ll be done with it. Period. It’s not like dismantling a mansion with a toothpick – it doesn’t have to a long, tedious and arduous process. That’s just a choice we make. Naturally, we can make another.
So why don’t we just let specialness go?
In that space of sustained attention I mentioned earlier, there is often a dim sense of fear, as if something is terrified of being seen or exposed. It’s not rocket science. If I let go of this self – this ego, this specialness – what will remain? What will “I” be? The ego cannot answer that question (because it does not know the answer) and so it always responds “death.” But in truth, A Course in Miracles assures us that “the death of specialness is not your death, but your awaking into eternal life” (T.24.II.14.4).
So we have to trust that. Trust is a by-product of a personal relationship with either Jesus or the Holy Spirit (or both). That relationship is what allows us to take a deep breath, drop down into the interior miasma, take another look at the seeming horrors of the ego and allow them to be undone. Peace is the sure – the inevitable – result. Trust that.