G. Peace of mind
H. How do I forgive?
I. Not making the error real
J. Investigating the self
K. The AAA approach to forgiveness
L. Collapsing Time
G. PEACE OF MIND.
Forget not that the motivation for this course is the attainment and the keeping of the state of peace. Given this state the mind is quiet, and the condition in which God is remembered is attained. T-24.Intro
Happiness is living in the space between two thoughts. Into that space the Holy Spirit is invited and guides all activities. In that space "I need do nothing".
To do nothing is to rest, and make a place within you where the activity of the body ceases to demand attention. Into this place the Holy Spirit comes, and there abides.
The past and future no longer exist. Memories, knowledge - once thought essential to judge and evaluate each moment - are released to let this higher power take charge of your life. Decisions are gone to be replaced by certain knowing. The ego warns that all will be chaos without its help but instead, all is peace. We are told to resign as our own teacher as we have been badly taught (T-12.V.8). How humbling, and to the ego, how insulting. "Is not all my past experience of great value?," it cries. "No", replies the Holy Spirit, for every moment is fresh and requires a unique response and only the Holy Spirit knows which one. And this response will benefit all for He can only give to all. "But how can the future be safe!" cries the ego. "Future is your concept," replies Spirit. "There is no time, only the present moment, and I can tell you exactly what you need to do to give you peace and joy. But reliance on memory-based thought must cease before I am made welcome and this includes your so called 'good thought' as well as your attacking thoughts".
As students of_A Course In Miracles should we be working for world peace? Is it selfish of us to only concern ourselves with inner peace? The Course tells us that this entire universe is but a projection of a thought of separation onto the screen of space-time.
The world was made as an attack on God. It symbolizes fear. And what is fear except love's absence? Thus the world was meant to be a place where God could enter not, and where His Son could be apart from Him. Here was perception born, for knowledge could not cause such insane thoughts. W-pII.3.2.
It is built into the very structure of this planet that discord and problems must exist here. The ego is a murderous thought system, kill or be killed, and so it must be mirrored here. Just to exist at all means we must kill something to eat - whether animal or vegetable. All ideas of achieving a utopia must therefore fail. If there is a world there must be an ego projecting it. When all separated beings finally decide to let the ego go (the Last Judgement) there will be peace, but there will not be a universe left to project. So our concern is not achieving peace in the world, not sending light to troubled areas, but learning to find inner peace through daily forgiveness. When the mind attains peace the memory of God will return and we will become a healing presence in the world. Some people will be drawn to our peace and they in turn will be encouraged by our example to choose forgiveness instead of attack. We will have no motive to change and influence others, for the mere presence of a teacher of God has the potential to heal others. By being at peace ourselves the greatest good can be accomplished.
The ego mind is constantly thinking, planning, scheming, defending and attacking. This is a very effective smokescreen for obliterating the thoughts of God. We cry out "Where is God?" whilst all the time making sure we do not leave Him a gap to enter. Can we give God a gap? Or do we believe God can't hit a moving target so let's live a life of constant thought and action and then we will be safe from Him.
I am willing to recognize that my thoughts do not mean anything, and to let them go. I choose to have them be replaced by what they were intended to replace. My thoughts are meaningless, but all creation lies in the thoughts I think with God.
To find the peace of God we must reach the point when we see "The world I see holds nothing that I want". (Lesson 128) Whilst we still believe we know what's best for us we will continue to scheme and plan for the ultimate relationship, career, etc. Peace, and therefore the memory of God, will elude us whilst we pursue the idols of the world. A point must come when we willingly surrender to the fact that we don't know anything about how to be truly joyful and at last step aside and let the Holy Spirit lead the way.
Only be quiet. You will need no rule but this, to let your practicing today lift you above the thinking of the world, and free your vision from the body's eyes. Only be still and listen. W-p1.125.9
H. HOW DO I FORGIVE?
It is impossible to forgive another, for it is only your sins you see in him. You want to see them there, and not in you. That is why forgiveness of another is an illusion.
from_The Song of Prayer. S-2.I.4:2-5
What is forgiveness?
We can only begin the process of forgiveness when we start to realise how much alike we are to the person we wish to forgive. When we cannot forgive someone it is because we cannot forgive ourselves for the same problem, albeit in another form. For example, a woman may hate her husband for his loud aggressive outbursts of anger whilst she may never have made him suffer in this way. However, her anger is just as strong as his but is given a different expression by her. When she feels angry she may withdraw herself and cut off from him emotionally. Her husband's anger but mirrors her own which she has not forgiven in herself.
The Course teaches that forgiveness recognises that what we thought was done to us we truly did to ourselves, for we can only deprive ourselves of the peace of God; therefore we forgive others for what they have not done to us, not for what they did. True forgiveness recognises an attack as a call for love and correction (T-12.I.8). Forgiveness is letting go of the past, is letting go of whatever we think people, the world, or God has done to us as well as whatever we think we have done to them. Forgiveness is a shift in perception. Everyone is our brother or sister coming from love or fear. Their attack, which comes from fear, is a plea for our love. Our only problem is the belief in separation from God, our only healing is by joining with each other through forgiveness.
The three stages of forgiveness
Kenneth Wapnick has identified in the
Course three stages or steps on the path of forgiveness which I
find helpful in understanding what true forgiveness is.
1 - Firstly we must take back our projections onto the world and take responsibility for our own pain. We must stop pointing our fingers at people and situations and accusing them of hurting us and see that they are mirroring to us the areas we have not healed/ forgiven in ourselves. In fact these people and situations merit our thanks for showing us what is in our unconscious for without them we would not see the forces that drive us.
The secret of salvation is but this:
that you are doing this unto yourself.
2 - After realising that there is nothing to blame "out there" we normally fall into the trap of feeling guilty on finding that the problem is in us. Our ego believes it has separated from God and wants to stay that way. It tells us we should feel guilty for our sins for in this way we come to take this world of separation seriously. Guilt always demands punishment and this prevents us from releasing our pain. During this second stage of forgiveness we come to see how deeply attached we are to our guilt. Guilt is the sum total of the negative thoughts we have about ourselves. It appears as a sacrifice not to feel justified in being a victim and the desire is to hang onto our anger, jealousy, greed etc. Although guilt is painful it is what we are familiar with and we prefer it to the increase in self-responsibility we know will come to us when we lose our attachment to being a victim. We can now choose to decide that guilt no longer serves us and that we would like it to be undone. This shift needs help from outside the ego thought system for we cannot do it by ourselves. Our little willingness to change, to shift our perception, opens the way for the third stage of forgiveness.
3 - In this final stage our guilt is undone by the Holy Spirit, Who was always there behind the barrier of our guilt, and peace returns to our mind. However, until we perform the first two steps He cannot take the third. Our steps can be likened to making a hole in our protective barrier we have erected to God's love allowing His love to pour in and dissolve our guilt.
The following prayer from _A Course In Miracles contains within it the three stages of forgiveness. The Course urges us to use it whenever we are not joyous.
I must have decided wrongly, because
I am not at peace.
I made the decision myself, but I can also decide otherwise.
I want to decide otherwise, because I want to be at peace.
I do not feel guilty, because the Holy Spirit will undo all the
consequences of my wrong decision if I will let Him.
I choose to let Him, by allowing Him to decide for God for me.
At the deepest level of experience we will come to realise that we are not our ego but still "at home in God dreaming of exile" (T-10.I.2:1.) We will discover that we are still as God created us, the one Christ, perfect and eternal and that nothing can harm us. What then will there be to forgive?
..... in complete forgiveness, in which you recognise that there is nothing to forgive, you are absolved completely. T-15.VIII.1:7
NOT MAKING THE ERROR REAL
In our day-to-day lives we are surrounded by challenges that need resolving. The ego is quick to jump in and take everything very seriously and declare any errors we have made as real and then tries to 'solve' them. By making errors real the ego ensures that we keep our focus firmly on the time/space illusion he has created and away from the source of real help - the Holy Spirit.
You do not understand how to overlook errors, or you would not make them. It would be merely further error to believe either that you do not make them, or that you can correct them without a Guide to correction. And if you do not follow this Guide, your errors will not be corrected...the way to undo them, therefore, is not of you but for you. T-9.IV.2:2-7
To help us understand the nature of the problem, and how it is resolved, we can turn for help to the analogy found in dreams. Imagine you are asleep and having a nightmare. In the dream you are caught in a situation where you appear to be in danger from other people. It all seems very real and the ego is busy 'helping' you deal with the situation. This help will, of course, be some form of denial and projection resulting in defence or attack. The nightmare seems so real that you start to shout aloud and wake your partner who turns on the bedside light. In your dream you become aware of the light, realise you are having a nightmare, and wake up. You look around the familiar room and breathe a sigh of relief. "Thank God none of that was real!", you say to you partner. "I thought I was such a sinner in that dream and that I had no other recourse but to attack to save myself".
Did the light come into your dream and protect you? Did the light attack your enemies? Did it do anything except remind you that it was a dream and nothing was really happening - that you made it all up? You feel no guilt about what you did in the dream as no sin was committed. The errors were not real and the light coming on reminded you of that.
Now you appear to be back in 'reality'. But are you?
All your time is spent in dreaming. Your sleeping and your waking dreams have different forms, and that is all. Their content is the same. T-18.II.5:12-14
The Course informs us that there is no difference between sleeping dreams and 'waking dreams' where we think we are a body in need of protection by our ego. Even the slightest tinge of irritation tells us we believe something real has happened to disturb our peace and our anger will now restore the situation to what we want by attempting to make others feel guilty (T-15.VII.10). We have made the error real again. However, the same solution awaits us as it did in the nightmare. We cannot heal ourselves but we can invite healing from the One who can give it. There is a light in our mind, the Holy Spirit, who is the memory of who we really are.
A memory of home keeps haunting you, as if there were a place that called you to return, although you do not recognize the voice, nor what it is the voice reminds you of. (Lesson 182)
If we can put aside the urge to fix ourselves up and realise we only know how to create problems and not heal them, we can create the gap in our defences for the light of the Holy Spirit to shine away our pain. The external situation that was thought to be responsible for our pain may be unaltered, but our perception of it will now be different and we will be at peace. A miracle has occurred. Did the light of the Holy Spirit do anything? Did it act in the world and affect form? No, it simply reminded us that there was another way of seeing the situation. Light does not attack darkness. Darkness is simply the absence of light. When you switch on a lamp in a darkened room the dark does not hide under the carpet. The Holy Spirit reminded us that the error we perceived is not real. It is of the same nature as the nightmare.
The Voice of the Holy Spirit does not command, because it is incapable of arrogance. It does not demand, because it does not seek control. It does not overcome, because it does not attack. It merely reminds . It is compelling only because of what it reminds you of. It brings to your mind the other way, remaining quiet even in the midst of the turmoil you may make. T-5.II.7:1-6
Sometimes in a dream you realise you are dreaming but still continue to dream. This is called lucid dreaming. At the moment you realise you are dreaming any problems you might have been having immediately disappear in the happy realisation that you are making up all the content in the dream and your reaction to it. And now you can change your response.
The journey we take with A Course in Miracles shows us that with the Holy Spirit's help we can change our response to any circumstance, now matter how seemingly dire, and accept the miracle the Holy Spirit is always extending to us.
J. INVESTIGATING THE SELF
Nothing real can be threatened.
Nothing unreal exists.
Herein lies the peace of God
A Course in Miracles ® asks us to challenge our conventional wisdom about who we think we are and what the world really is. Until we do this we are walking around asleep and suffering will be our constant companion. The above quote states that, "Nothing unreal exists", which means if something is not eternal (i.e. never born) its nature is that of a dream. In the Workbook Jesus states, "There is no world. This is the central thought the course attempts to teach." W-p1.132.6:2-3
If it is the 'central thought', then we need to pay close attention to it.
So what does exist? A man walking at dusk mistakes a coiled rope for a poisonous snake and is terrified. He sees what appears to be a real problem that needs an urgent solution and he will not hear otherwise. It might take considerable persuasion from someone who knows the truth that there is nothing to fear in this situation. The 'snake' is a projection of the man's mind and has no inherent existence. Some Buddhist schools would say it is empty and "does not exist from its own side", and that everything we perceive or think is likewise empty or void, without any inherent reality or existence.
I believe the Course agrees with this, referring to the ego as a dream that will disappear back into nothingness when we so choose just as darkness vanishes (not hides) when the light appears. Whilst we identify with the ego we make it real and therefore we insist we exist as an individual. To maintain the illusion of individuality we need to defend against the truth by concentrating on the unreal - a world empty of any inherent existence.
So who am I? This trunk with four limbs and a head? Do I feel diminished if I trim my nails and have a hair cut? Or lose a limb? No - the 'I' thought remains. What of our thoughts and the emotions they generate? We can watch them come and go, we can stand back and observe them or their absence so we can't be them. Are we a collection of our body parts, thoughts and emotions? Again no, for if we can't be found in the parts we cannot exist in the collection.
The thoughts of which I am aware do not mean anything because I am trying to think without God. What I call "my" thoughts are not my real thoughts. My real thoughts are the thoughts I think with God. I am not aware of them because I have made my thoughts to take their place. Lesson 51
The concept of an individual self is made up by the mind - it is just another thought taken as important. Our body, mind and feelings are just like the coiled rope and have no inherent existence. We have simply given a meaning to them or labelled them as 'me'. The early Workbook lessons emphasise this point. Lesson 1 states: "Nothing in this room means anything". In the review of Lesson 1 (see Lesson 51) it says, "The reason this is so is that I see nothing, and nothing has no meaning. It is necessary that I recognise this, that I may learn to see". In Lesson 7 Jesus uses the example of a cup saying, "What do you know about this cup except what you learned in the past? You would have no idea what this cup is, except for your past learning. Do you, then, really see it? Look about you. This is equally true of whatever you look at." This is another way of saying we label everything we perceive and give it meaning it does not possess of and in itself.
What God did not create does not exist. And everything that does exist exists as He created it. The world you see has nothing to do with reality. It is of your own making, and it does not exist. Lesson 14
When the first letter of the alphabet was written on the board, in our first reading class as children, we did not see an 'A'. Perhaps we saw a tent or a mountain. We had to be taught to label it an 'A' and that is how we now see it. But it is not an 'A' in and of it itself but a series of strokes. Even the word 'stroke' is a label.
Imagine for a moment that through self-forgiveness we let go of our personal identity as a man, woman, parent, child, worker, etc. Who is left to want gain, praise and a good reputation? Who is left who wants to avoid loss, blame and a bad reputation? Then we will know the peace of God and finally remember who we are - not an individual but Christ - the one eternal, formless spirit that God created in His Mind.
K THE AAA APPROACH TO FORGIVENESS
Awareness - Acceptance - Asking for help.
- The Undoing of Denial
Conflict must be resolved. It cannot be evaded, set aside, denied, disguised, seen somewhere else, called by another name, or hidden by deceit of any kind, if it would be escaped. W-pII.333.1:4
For the process of forgiveness to begin we need to realise the problem is in our mind and not in the world where our ego asserts it is. If we get upset at dictators like Hitler it is because we have a Hitler in our own mind. It is uncomfortable and painful to realise what we have kept covered in our minds and we resist this process. However, until we realise what needs to be forgiven we are destined to keep our problems. Further, if we allow our ego defences to be undone, the Holy Spirit would enter our minds and shine away the ego, and this is our greatest fear - the end of our uniqueness and specialness.
It is not necessary to seek for what is true, but it is necessary to seek for what is false. TT-16.IV.6:2
The main thrust of the Course is not in affirming the light and love within us but discovering and forgiving the ego blocks we have built to love's presence. When they are removed in the process of forgiveness the light and love of God will automatically dawn upon our minds. Jesus asks us to use our relationships as mirrors to discover all that is unhealed in us. For this we need awareness and this is our responsibility. As Jesus reminded Helen Schucman You are much too tolerant of mind wandering, and are passively condoning your mind's miscreations. T-2.VI.4:6
ACCEPTANCE - Not Taking Our Ego Seriously
It is sin's unreality that makes forgiveness natural and wholly sane, a deep relief to those who offer it; a quiet blessing where it is received. It does not countenance illusions, but collects them lightly, with a little laugh, and gently lays them at the feet of truth. And there they disappear entirely.
When we discover, through awareness, that the problem is in us, the ego tries to regain its lost ground by using our newfound insights to accuse us of our sin. There is a great temptation to believe this and our accusing finger now points at our own head. Our response makes the ego's world real again. However, this drama of ours is still occurring in the dream of separation from God and nothing is really happening. Just as you awake from a nightmare to realise nothing actually occurred,so Jesus asks us to learn to laugh gently at our ego dreams. Nothing we do can harm our Christ nature - otherwise sin would be possible.
To look at our guilt with acceptance is the shift of perception the Course calls a miracle. Anything we resist persists, but that which we accept will be healed. The Course is asking us to look into the darkness of our minds and accept without judgement what we find there. We are not asked to suppress our anger or transform it but to simply to watch it with gentle acceptance, waiting patiently for the time when it will no longer be there.
The cause of all our pain comes from our desire to maintain the seeming separation from God and thus keep our individuality preserved.
He bids you bring each terrible effect to Him that you may look together on its foolish cause and laugh with Him a while. You judge effects, but He has judged their cause. T-27.VIII.9:3-4
ASKING FOR HELP - Offering Our problems to the Holy Spirit
The Holy Spirit asks of you but this; bring to Him every secret you have locked away from Him. Open every door to Him, and bid Him enter the darkness and lighten it away. At your request He enters gladly. He brings the light to darkness if you make the darkness open to Him. But what you hide He cannot look upon. T-14.VII.6:1-5
When we decide to be happy and not right we are inviting the Holy Spirit into our minds to shine away the guilt we have been grasping onto.
It is important to realise that it is not ourselves that heal our mind - we simply allow the blocks to God to be removed by the Holy Spirit. We don't need to understand how this happens. Our work is in the first two stages of this process - Awareness and Acceptance. To be healed we need help from outside our ego thought system. This help must wait until it is called for as it would never force itself upon us against our free will.
Next time you feel you have lost your peace it can help if you stop a moment and become aware of where in your body you feel uncomfortable. This area is a reflection in your body of an unforgiveness in your mind. Place your hand on this area in a gesture of simple acceptance and tell yourself it all right to feel this way. When you feel ready, ask the Holy Spirit to help you see the problem in your life a different way.
Such is each life; a seeming interval from birth to death and on to life again, a repetition of an instant gone by long ago that cannot be relived. And all of time is but the mad belief that what is over is still here and now. T-26.V.13:2-4
To achieve the goal of the Course we need to practise forgiveness. To understand the Course we need a knowledge of its metaphysics which includes time. Forgiveness collapses time, speeding the moment of spiritual awakening when we finally accept the Atonement - the awakening from the illusion of time and space.
Jesus states we need new ideas about time but also says how difficult it is for us to understand these ideas. Linear time is what we take as the truth, whilst Jesus tells us that time is holographic - everything is happening in one moment. However, we can at least understand time's purpose and allow our deeply rooted ideas of time and space to be shaken a little. As we proceed along the Course's path of awakening we will encounter experiences that will seem shocking and fear-provoking to our egos. It will be helpful therefore to meet these times with some foreknowledge so that awe and not fear is experienced. (T-1.VII.5).
The ego uses time to preserve itself. It tells us that in the past we decided to separate from God and achieved this. To save us from the resulting overwhelming guilt it advised us to deny this ever happened. This imagined sin in the past is experienced in the present as guilt leading to a fear of punishment in the future. All our fear stems from this unconscious guilt from a separation that never really happened.
In contrast the Holy Spirit reminds us that the "tiny mad idea" (see below) of separation was undone by the Holy Spirit the moment it was thought.
God gave His Teacher to replace the one you made, not to conflict with it. And what He would replace has been replaced. Time lasted but an instant in your mind, with no effect upon eternity. And so is all time past, and everything exactly as it was before the way to nothingness was made. The tiny tick of time in which the first mistake was made, and all of them within that one mistake, held also the Correction for that one, and all of them that came within the first. And in that tiny instant time was gone, for that was all it ever was. What God gave answer to is answered and is gone. T-26.V.3:1-7
In that "tiny tick of time" the whole universe was born, evolved and died along with all the thoughts we experienced.
"All thinking produces form at some level." (T-2.VI.9:14), and so all these thoughts manifested in time and space. This is somewhat similar to parallel universes hypothesised by some quantum physicists - that all possible results of an experiment exist and the participating scientist chooses one of them to manifest. Although everything was corrected in that 'original instant' we have chosen not to accept the Holy Spirit's correction and perversely continue as if we are still special individuals separated in space and linear time.
The world of time is the world of illusion. What happened long ago seems to be happening now. Choices made long since appear to be open; yet to be made. What has been learned and understood and long ago passed by is looked upon as a new thought, a fresh idea, a different approach. Because your will is free you can accept what has already happened at any time you choose, and only then will you realize that it was always there. For we but see the journey from the point at which it ended, looking back on it, imagining we make it once again; reviewing mentally what has gone by. TM-2.3:1-5
To help make this a bit clearer I will use a couple of analogies. There are currently available fiction novels which give the reader a choice of which plot to develop. At the end of each chapter you choose from a choice of plots; for example, if the hero gets married or decides to say single. You are then directed to the appropriate page and the story continues based on your previous choice of plot. A multiple, but not infinite, story line. In that original instant of seeming separation we also had an enormous, but not infinite, number of stories which we now reviewing in our time and space theatre.
Dr Kenneth Wapnick, in his excellent book, A Vast illusion - time according to a Course in Miracles, uses the analogy of the VCR. The sleeping son of God or decision-maker is sitting there watching video tapes of what occurred in that "tiny tick of time". He has a choice between two huge and equal piles of video tapes - the ego tapes and tapes of their correction by the Holy Spirit. One of the correction tapes is entitled 'Atonement' in which the sleeping son of God finally wakes up and joyfully realises he never left his Father's home and that time and space are illusions. At this point he stops the pointless practice of viewing videotapes of what has already occurred.
It is important to realise that the way of awakening, like everything else, has already happened and can't be changed.
The time is set already. It appears to be quite arbitrary. Yet there is no step along the road that anyone takes but by chance. It has already been taken by him, although he has not yet embarked on it. W-pI.158.3:1-4
But when we decide to view that tape is not.
This is a course in miracles. It is a required course. Only the time you take it is voluntary. Free will does not mean that you can establish the curriculum. It means only that you can elect what you want to take at a given time. T-in.1-5
As the course emphasizes, you are not free to choose the curriculum, or even the form in which you will learn it. You are free, however, to decide when you want to learn it. And as you accept it, it is already learned. M-2.3 : 6-7
That is the purpose of the spiritual path - to speed the time of awakening. As Jesus states a few times in the workbook, we could save thousands of years (many reviews of ego tapes) if we did a particular lesson correctly. Thus time can be collapsed through forgiveness. As an example, your partner may suddenly die and leave you heartbroken. In that original instant you may have had two thoughts - to turn to drugs to alleviate the pain or dedicate your life to finding a peace that no death can take away - the choice of two videos to review. If you turn to the Holy Spirit for guidance He will urge you to review the latter and so save time.
Due to our fixation with linear time it is hard for us to realise the all our problems are solvable instantly. The correction video has always existed and we need not delay in reviewing it.
I seem to have problems only because I am misusing time. I believe that the problem comes first, and time must elapse before it can be worked out. I do not see the problem and the answer as simultaneous in their occurrence. That is because I do not yet realise that God has placed the answer together with the problem, so that they cannot be separated by time. The Holy Spirit will teach me this, if I will let Him. And I will understand it is impossible that I could have a problem which has not been solved already. W-pI.90.3.
This also relates to the teachings in the text about the Laws of Chaos were it states there is no hierarchy of illusions, no order of difficulty in miracles. Any problem, irrespective of its seeming magnitude, has already been corrected and is simply waiting acceptance. Our job is to turn to the Holy Spirit and ask His advice on what video to review thus speeding the time to when we review the Atonement video.
To you who still believe you live in time and know not it is gone, the Holy Spirit still guides you through the infinitely small and senseless maze you still perceive in time, though it has long since gone. You think you live in what is past. Each thing you look upon you saw but for an instant, long ago, before its unreality gave way to truth. Not one illusion still remains unanswered in your mind. Uncertainty was brought to certainty so long ago that it is hard indeed to hold it to your heart, as if it were before you still. T-26.V.4
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