Twisting by the Pool

Spring is coming. The chickadees are more voluble; crows linger longer on the thawing compost. The horses call for their morning flakes of hay earlier and earlier, sunlight cresting eastern hills where the river turns.

I am sufficiently embodied to be deeply happy about this. And sufficiently right-minded to know it’s okay to say that to you.

Most of the weekend was given to writing about this line from A Course in Miracles: “It is sure that those who select certain ones as partners in any aspect of living, and use them for any purpose which they would not share with others, are trying to live with guilt rather than die of it” (T-16.IV.4:5).

It’s part of a relatively complex analysis of how we use special love relationships to avoid looking at hate, and how not looking at hate is the whole reason we’re so confused about what love is. Good stuff. I mean hard stuff, but . . . also good.

The idea was I’d write about this for today’s newsletter, but after seven thousand words and about as many rewrites it was clear that wasn’t going to happen. I went to bed a wee bit consternated, woke up at 5 a.m., and wrote today’s newsletter in a hot second.

What works? What helps? What flows?

You can sign up here for the newsletter if you like.

One thing about special love relationships is that they’re hard to notice. We are wired and conditioned to integrate them into our living without realizing that’s what we’re doing, much less why we’re doing it. We call them holy relationships. Or just love. And continue on our not-so-merry-but-at-least-a-little-merry way. It’s not a crime against God or nature.

But everything – without exception apparently – has to be raised into the light of inquiry, lest we hold onto some shred of illusion and from it build yet another cosmos in which suffering and loss abound. As the Buddha might say, were I not so smitten with Jesus, just how many times do you want to ride this carousel, son?

In the newsletter this morning, I ended up musing on the right/wrong binary which – while not entirely irrelevant to happiness – often obscures a much better question with respect to happiness, to wit: does this (whatever this is) help? If yes, press play. If no, shuffle onto the next jukebox and see if that one has any songs for dancing, making love, singing at the top of your lungs while driving down the interstate . . .

What does all this have to do with the afore-mentioned quote from A Course in Miracles?

Maybe nothing.

Maybe I’ll get to it in a future post or newsletter.

The thing is, what’s challenging about that quote is that it asks us to share the very thing we are most afraid to share. What is that? Is it sex? Praise? Attention? Love? A story about what our Dad did?

If we can answer that question quickly, then we probably aren’t answering it honestly. The easy answer is the one that’s given so we won’t see the real answer.

What feels so precious – makes you feel so vulnerable – that even thinking about giving it away to just anyone is tantamount to death?

I know what the answer is for me and – this is the whole point of this post – I don’t want to share it with you. I’m too scared. Which is why I wrote the newsletter I wrote, and also why this post dances with truth but only at a flirty distance. The loving embrace of the slow dance – that beautiful intimation of our shared oneness – remains . . . what? Do you know?

Anyway, I hope you will not stop twisting by the pool with me.


    1. Still choosing holy relationship…and letting go of specialness…….. enjoy your sharing fellow travelers!

    1. Well if you’re rattled Claudia then there’s no hope for any of us πŸ™‚

      Hope all is well (and yeah – if you have insights on this aspect of ACIM, please, share)


  1. Sean! Props for the song addition on this post; a little Dire Straights sprinkled in to help with the potential difficulty of this post is a gift! Because, make no mistake, the work with this particular Course text is inviting us to challenge and bring light unto something that is going to fight, maybe to the death, to stay hidden.

    And a nod to Claudia who said she is frightened by this one…this is a serious undertaking, not given for those who seek platitudes or nice, breezy stroll down the ACIM path.

    I am grateful for this invitation and even more grateful to know that we are not alone in the work. Let us all press on together as we move beyond the easy answers.

    peace and pace to us all today. πŸ™‚

    1. From time to time I am reminded that ACIM’s structure is fundamentally therapist/client. We’re here to do the deep dives into psyche that liberate us from fear. It’s not a COURSE – it’s therapy with Jesus. Those deep dives are yoked to the Holy Spirit, sure, but it’s also intensely dialogic – just talking with brothers and sisters who know the language and have our back as we all work through the ego’s nastier darker side. No escaping this work apparently.

      And yeah – it’s not the easy platitudes and not an easy walk (I know both you and Claudia know this already, have done a lot of the walking already).

      Still . . .

      Here we all are, circling the question, not quite getting to it and yet not quite ignoring it either. It’s as if all these years later, we still haven’t learned how to look together at what scares us most . . . or is it a question of trust?

      Thanks for sharing & being here Jessica πŸ™

  2. Fine post, Sean. Now trying to process the fact that EVERYTHING is either a special love or hate relationship. Special Hate: Bad back; malfunctioning oven; novel incursion of gophers in the garden; the anti-gopher granules that didn’t work; the nurses who bullied me in the ER last summer; too much chili sauce in the homemade Pad Thai. Special Love: My son; my sister; Perler fusible plastic beads; Ruth Carter in “Abstract” on Netflix; vegan granola; rain. Trying to see through the default that something external is sticking it to me or is improving life. Currently, I’m worried–afraid. I reached out to an extended family member whose spouse has a degenerative brain disease. I offered sympathy. Now the family member wants to chat. I don’t. I think that if I let it go–leave my friend to her own experience–everything will work out fine. I could just wait and see what happens without using my mortal mind to try to fix my mistake. Resist emailing a disclaimer: “I’m an ACIM person. So it would be counter-productive to try to forge a relationship based on pain that it’s my job to see through.” What. Will. She. Think of me If I don’t respond? The way she wants me to? I wrote her that my (special love relationship from which she is excluded) sister was visiting for two days and that we’d talk later. Sometimes I think that we should all just form a daily check-in, whereby we say to one another: “And how did you do with objective silence today?”

    1. Gophers man . . . For us fences helped with our local gopher problem. They seemed to just not want to bother burrowing under. One neighbor traps and releases them; another neighbor purchased a gun after they took out most of his wife’s herb garden. It’s a big ongoing conversation around here, for those of us whose gardens are a nontrivial food source. I’m glad our fences worked.

      My vegan daughter reminds all of us that gophers have a right to eat too, which always makes me hum “all God’s critters got a place in the choir” but that’s MUCH easier to accept when they’re not taking out your arugala in an afternoon . . .

      For me, that special love/hate divide softens when I realize/remember that the external world and circumstances are kin to a vast mirror. I forget this a lot, but when I see it, then the “external” becomes reflective rather than causative, and then I get curious about it in a new way and relate to it in a new way. Then the gophers really do have a place in the choir (and everyone and everything else too).

      I’ve been in conversation about this with some ACIM friends for a while now: a phase one reaches where it’s not really learning new stuff but rather applying what one has been taught, until it becomes the new and improved default. I tend to get bored in that space, think I should check out Nisargadatta or maybe go to church. Or I try and give ACIM lectures to people who aren’t really asking for ACIM lectures πŸ™‚

      But sooner or later I remember. Somebody always reminds me – I need a LOT of reminding πŸ™‚ . Thank you, Laurie πŸ™


      p.s. And gophers are easy compared to family . . .

      1. Great response! Thank you. One has to laugh. Rumor was that gophers had burrowed beneath a neighbor’s house two doors up. Then, beginning eight months ago, the neighbors had their basement dug out during a renovation and the gophers migrated. One day–before the presence of gophers in the neighborhood was official–my mother and I emerged from our house and spotted a critter creating his dirt dump in the middle of our front garden! They seem unfazed by the backyard fences too!

        This morning, I woke up too early, had a thought: Astrologists say that my sun sign, the Capricorn, will have a love/hate relationship with Cancers (my mother; a family friend). That’s the scam. What I actually have is a special love/hate relationship with the world. That awareness lightens it up for me and, so far, makes it easier to rest with the truth. You wrote about “the new and improved default.” I guess I’m a glass-half-empty kind of person, because I see ACIM learning as my exit from the box that I can’t cram myself back into. Helpful metaphor: “the vast mirror analogy.” The world is you. Or the world is the ego mirrored a zillion times. Am just warming up to that default. That’s why, I realized, there is nothing happening on Capitol Hill that isn’t already occurring within my own mind. Those people are not special. Correction: There are no special people. Debunking the world ultimately quiets the mind for meditation (and–scary!–God).

        1. I am quietly delighted by the perseverance of the local groundhog population around here. A reminder that it’s not all about me, when I bother to remember.

          “What I actually have is a special love/hate relationship with the world.”

          Can we reframe that? What we actually have is a special love/hate relationship with our Creator . . . ?

          I’m just spitballing . . .

          For me, the world is all a piece – a projection – and the work becomes turning to gaze upstream to the source – and realizing the fear involved in that. Will I find nothing but darkness? The God of my childhood? The God of ACIM? Nothing but light?

          Feels like that is kind of where the snag is now . . .

          Thank you, Laurie, for sharing with me here this way – I’m sorry you’re not my literal neighbor so we could meet at the fence, grouse about garden intruders, and talk about miracles πŸ™‚ When do seeds go into the ground? We’ve been ordering ours but it’s a while yet before we get into the garden.

          ~ Sean

        2. Hi Laurie,

          I have nothing of substance to contribute to this conversation, but it would feel remiss if I did not say this:

          You are delightful and oh so real. I enjoyed what you shared here and could not help but smile and nod while reading your words.

          Thank you from some one walking your walk,

  3. Sometimes all the chitchat after your post, Sean, is as good as the post. You and all your fellow travellers are so helpful. Thank you, one and all.

    But you will come back around to that scary ‘live with guilt rather than die of it’ quote, wont you? I could sure use some help with that. I’m feeling kind of guilty and I don’t know why.


    1. Hi Donna,

      I am also very grateful for the folks who share here πŸ™‚

      Yeah, that guilt . . . I am not being inattentive to that sentence and that to which it points but also . . . maybe I am being a little inattentive. Thank you for reminding me to keep it in the light of inquiry πŸ™

      ~ Sean

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