Thoughts on A Course in Miracles

Lesson 5: I am never upset for the reason I think.

Commentary (full lesson beneath commentary)

It seems to us as if we’re upset for a never-ending number of reasons.  But the metaphysical explanation that A Course in Miracles offers us is that we believe we’ve separated from God, and the terror and the horror we feel at the thought that we are exiled from Heaven permanently, is the only reason we are ever upset.  Everything that we think we are upset about is just an ego distraction.  The ego believes it will be annihilated if we wake up.  And it will disappear back into the nothingness from which it came.  In the meantime, we can practice “I am never upset for the reason I think.”

The lesson goes on to say we can apply it to specific personal situations, as well as to whatever comes to mind.  I can fill in, “I am not angry at Mayor Bloomberg for raising the subway fare and bridge and tunnel tolls for the reason I think.  I am not afraid of my bills going up for the reason I think.  I am not worried about money for the reason I think.”  And what’s more, all upsets are equal.  A splinter, a tumor, a scratch on the new furniture, a death in the family–it is all the same.  The ego gloats at the obscenity of equalizing what, to it, clearly have different levels of importance.  We will never choose God if He is so insensitive to our feelings.  But the truth is that God knows us as we Are.  Our “work” is to undo the layers of forgetfulness which “cover” our True Nature.

“I am never upset for the reason I think” is one of the best reminders I have.  I apply it as often as I manage to remember and it always helps.

LESSON 5

I am never upset for the reason I think.

This idea, like the preceding one, can be used with any person, situation or event you think is causing you pain.  Apply it specifically to whatever you believe is the cause of your upset, using the description of the feeling in whatever term seems accurate to you.  The upset may seem to be fear, worry, depression, anxiety, anger, hatred, jealousy or any number of forms, all of which will be perceived as different.  This is not true.  However, until you learn that form does not matter, each form becomes a proper subject  for the exercises for the day.  Applying the same idea to each of them separately is the first step in ultimately recognizing they are all the same.

When using the idea for today for a specific perceived cause of an upset in any form, use both the name of the form in which you see the upset, and the cause which you ascribe to it.  For example:

I am not angry at _____________ for the reason I think.
I am not afraid of __________________ for the reason I think.

But again, this should not be substituted for practice periods in which you first search your mind for “sources” of upset in which you believe, and forms of upset which you think result.

In these exercises, more than in the preceding ones, you may find it hard to be indiscriminate, and to avoid giving greater weight to some subjects than to others.  It might help to precede the exercises with this statement:

There are no small upsets. They are all equally disturbing to my peace of mind.

Then examine your mind for whatever is distressing you, regardless of how much or how little you think it is doing so.

You may also find yourself less willing to apply today’s idea to some perceived sources of upset than to others.  If this occurs, think first of this:

I cannot keep this form of upset and let the others go. For the purposes of these exercises, then, I will regard them as all the same.

Then search your mind for no more than a minute or so, and try to identify a number of different forms of upset that are disturbing you, regardless of the relative importance you may give them. Apply the idea for today to each of them, using the name of both the source of the upset as you perceive it, and of the feeling as you experience it. Further examples are:

I am not worried about _________________ for the reason I think.
I am not depressed about ________________ for the reason I think.

Three or four times during the day is enough.

Let’s practice together!  Watch and listen to me reading each ACIM Lesson on Youtube.  Also, check out Workin’ the Workbook, my online class which supports the ACIM Workbook practice.

Lesson 4: These thoughts do not mean anything. They are like the things I see in this room [on this street, from this window, in this place.]

Commentary (full lesson beneath commentary)

This lesson asks us to look at our thoughts–watch them parade by, and then, apply today’s idea, “These thoughts do not mean anything” to some of the specific thoughts I am having.  It explains that what I consider “good” and “bad” thoughts are really neither, since they are often contradictory, which is why they don’t mean anything.  Ramana Maharshi just said the same thing in Regina Dawn Aker’s new book, The Teachings of Inner Ramana, “If all of the concerns for one day are written down, it may be seen that concerns and imagined solutions conflict with one another, so that no true peace can be found with the mind.”

Lesson 4 goes on to say that good thoughts are “but shadows of what lies beyond, and shadows make sight difficult.  The ‘bad’ ones are blocks to sight, and make seeing impossible.  You do not want either.”  After reading this, Bowl of Saki arrived in my email box and Hazrat Inayat Khan had this to say, “When you stand with your back to the sun, your shadow is before you; but when you turn and face the sun, then your shadow falls behind you.”Synchronicity.  Reinforcements of The Message :) I’ve often thought that good thoughts are the way the ego keeps us tempted to stick with it and bad thoughts are the way the ego keeps us narrowly consumed with a problem, therefore endlessly distracted from our True Nature.

Towards the end Jesus says, “Do not, however, examine your mind for more than a minute or so.  You are too inexperienced as yet to avoid a tendency to become pointlessly preoccupied.”  This makes me bust out laughing.  I have a tendency to become pointlessly preoccupied with nonsense all day long … I guess I feel understood, lol.

LESSON 4

These thoughts do not mean anything.  They are like the things I see in this room [on this street, from this window, in this place].

Unlike the preceding ones, these exercises do not begin with the idea for the day.  In these practice periods, begin with noting the thoughts that are crossing your mind for about a minute.  Then apply the idea to them.  If you are already aware of unhappy thoughts, use them as subjects for the idea.  Do not, however, select only the thoughts you think are “bad.”  You will find, if you train yourself to look at your thoughts, that they represent such a mixture that, in a sense, none of them can be called “good” or “bad.”  This is why they do not mean anything.

In selecting the subjects for the application of today’s idea, the usual specificity is required.  Do not be afraid to use “good” thoughts as well as “bad.”  None of them represents your real thoughts, which are being covered up by them.  The “good” ones are but shadows of what lies beyond, and shadows make sight difficult.  The “bad” ones are blocks to sight, and make seeing impossible.  You do not want either.

This is a major exercise, and will be repeated from time to time in somewhat different form.  The aim here is to train you in the first steps toward the goal of separating the meaningless from the meaningful.  It is a first attempt in the long-range purpose of learning to see the meaningless as outside you, and the meaningful within.  It is also the beginning of training your mind to recognize what is the same and what is different.

In using your thoughts for application of the idea for today, identify each thought by the central figure or event it contains, for example:

This thought about ______________ does not mean anything.  It is like the things I see in this room [on this street, and so on].

You can also use the idea for a particular thought that you recognize as harmful.  This practice is useful, but is not a substitute for the more random procedures to be followed for the exercises.  Do not, however, examine your mind for more than a minute or so.  You are too inexperienced as yet to avoid a tendency to become pointlessly preoccupied.

Further, since these exercises are the first of their kind, you may find the suspension of judgment in connection with thoughts particularly difficult.  Do not repeat these exercises more than three or four times during the day.  We will return to them later.

Let’s practice together!  Watch and listen to me reading each ACIM Lesson on Youtube.  Also, check out Workin’ the Workbook, my online class which supports the ACIM Workbook practice.

Lesson 3: I do not understand anything I see in this room [on this street, from this window, in this place].

Commentary (full lesson beneath commentary)

The instructions state, “The point of the exercises is to help you clear your mind of all past associations, to see things exactly as they appear to you now, and to realize how little you really understand about them.”  We are asked to keep an open mind and suspend judgment.  In the world, if I keep an open mind and suspend all judgment, couldn’t I get into trouble?  But when Jesus firmly suggests that I follow his instructions and have my own experience, how can I refuse?  I gaze around the room and find that my mind softens … I, who love precision, have no desire to even assign words to what I’m seeing … there is a blur of familiar objects devoid of names or relevance.  My heart eases in my chest as some internal pressure I live with daily abates.  Something widens expansively, moving through the heart, the lungs, the arms, and radiates beyond the body.  Here is the love, peace and joy the Course promises.

LESSON 3

I do not understand anything I see in this room [on this street, from this window, in this place].

Apply this idea in the same way as the previous ones, without making distinctions of any kind.  Whatever you see becomes a proper subject for applying the idea.  Be sure that you do not question the suitability of anything for the application of the idea.  These are not exercises in judgment.  Anything is suitable if you see it.  Some of the things you see may have emotionally charged meaning for you.  Try to lay such feelings aside, and merely use these things exactly as you would anything else.

The point of these exercises is to help you clear your mind of all past associations, to see things exactly as they appear to  you now, and to realize how little you really understand about them.  It is therefore essential that you keep a perfectly open mind, unhampered by judgment, in selecting the things to which the idea for the day is to be applied.  For this purpose one thing is like another; equally suitable and therefore equally useful.

Let’s practice together!  Watch and listen to me reading each ACIM Lesson on Youtube.  Also, check out Workin’ the Workbook, my online class which supports the ACIM Workbook practice.

Lesson 2: I have given everything I see in this room [on this street, from this window, in this place] all the meaning that it has for me.

Commentary (full lesson beneath commentary)

In Lesson 2 we are held accountable for assigning meaning to what we see.  Years ago, I was distressed and aggravated when Louise Hay told me I was responsible for choosing my parents in You Can Heal Your Life. Now Jesus is telling me I’m responsible for the meaning of everything!   The ego experiences this as an accusation and a burden of responsibility.  But then there is a glimmer within of … being pulled back in time, sliding backward along some continuum, so there is a telescopic view of how “little me” thinks.  From this long view comprehension comes that the collective ego “I” has assigned meaning to everything “seen”–everything I hurl out of me so that I don’t have to feel the terror of being separate and alone.  Lesson 2 suddenly makes sense, and there is a sense of promise that forgiveness, salvation and Atonement are what’s truly True. :)

LESSON 2

I have given everything I see in this room [on this street, from this window, in this place] all the meaning that it has for me.

The exercises with this idea are the same as those for the first one.  Begin with the things that are near you, and apply the idea to whatever your glance rests on.  Then increase the range outward.  Turn your head so that you include whatever is on either side.  If possible, turn around and apply the idea to what was behind you.  Remain as indiscriminate as possible in selecting subjects for its application, do not concentrate on anything in particular, and do not attempt to include everything you see in a given area, or you will introduce strain.

Merely glance easily and fairly quickly around you, trying to avoid selection by size, brightness, color, material, or relative importance to you.  Take the subjects simply as you see them.  Try to apply the exercise with equal ease to a body or a button, a or a floor, an arm or an apple.  The sole criterion for applying the idea to anything is merely that your eyes have lighted on it.  Make no attempt to include anything particular, but be sure that nothing is specifically excluded.

Let’s practice together!  Watch and listen to me reading each ACIM Lesson on Youtube.  Also, check out Workin’ the Workbook, my online class which supports the ACIM Workbook practice.

Lesson 1: Nothing I see in this room [on this street, from this window, in this place] means anything.

Commentary (full lesson beneath commentary)

The first time I did the A Course in Miracles Workbook, this lesson was disorienting and a little scary.  But as I practiced, I felt a child-like sense of wonder and a good not-knowing.  Now when I review Lesson 1, it’s amusing, relaxing, and freeing.  To be told that nothing I see anywhere means anything, is to be offered a whole new experience of life.  An experience which is free of pain, loneliness, inadequacy, guilt, sin, fear, and death.  To absorb this lesson is to begin to know that everything I have held as meaningful is meaningless.  This is not a mockery of me–it is a clarification of how I’ve been thinking.  “Jesus can be snippy,” someone said to me the other day with pleasure, and I agree.  What a relief to have Jesus be a bit impatient with a thought process which is driving all of us crazy, and for no reason!

The purpose of this exercise, we are told, is to be indiscriminate, and to begin to experience everything as equally the same.  “A comfortable sense of leisure” we are told, “is essential” to doing this lesson successfully.  I get a kick out of this because one of my bigger challenges is to slow down and relax, and my spiritual teacher, Jesus, knows me so well.

We are advised, “Do not attempt to apply it to everything you see for these exercises should not become ritualistic.”  We might think that if we apply “That [object] does not mean anything” to absolutely everything we see that we could erase our entire thought system right then and there.  But that is a fear-based approach, superstitious (similar to avoiding stepping on every crack in the sidewalk) and compulsive, (in order to this exercise well, I will overdo it, that is, do it totally and completely and double check myself afterwards), as well as perfectionistic (God doesn’t really know what the instructions for this exercise should be–I’ll show Him how to really do it well).  Ha ha ha!  Do it for yourself and find out that He really does know what He’s doing 😉   Click here to watch video reading of Lesson 1

LESSON 1

Nothing I see in this room [on this street, from this window, in this place] means anything.

Now look slowly around you, and practice applying this idea very specifically to whatever you see:

This table does not mean anything.
This chair does not mean anything.
This hand does not mean anything.
This foot does not mean anything.
This pen does not mean anything.

Then look farther away from your immediate area, and apply the idea to a wider range:

That door does not mean anything.
That body does not mean anything.
That lamp does not mean anything.
That sign does not mean anything.
That shadow does not mean anything.

Notice that these statements are not arranged in any order, and make no allowance for differences in the kinds of things to which they are applied.  That is the purpose of the exercise.  The statement should merely be applied to anything you see.  As you practice the idea for the day, use it totally indiscriminately.  Do not attempt to apply it to everything you see, for these exercises should not become ritualistic.  Only be sure that nothing you see is specifically excluded.  One thing is like another as far as the application of the idea is concerned.

Each of the first three lessons should not be done more than twice a day each, preferably morning and evening.  Nor should they be attempted for more than a minute or so, unless that entails a sense of hurry.  A comfortable sense of leisure is essential.

Let’s practice together!  Watch and listen to me reading each ACIM Lesson on Youtube.  Also, check out Workin’ the Workbook, my online class which supports the ACIM Workbook practice.

Who Is My Father?

 “Nothing alive is Fatherless, for life is creation. Therefore, your decision is always an answer to the question, “Who is my father?” And you will be faithful to the father you choose.” Even though fathers are participating in child-rearing more than ever, there is still a profound scarcity of nurturing, responsible fathers to be found in American society these days.

So many people yearn for a father-figure, a protective daddy to show them the ropes, to role model honor, to teach them courage, and kindness, to risk a little adventure. The above quote, from A Course in Miracles, offers us a solution. As always, the solution reminds us that though we seem to be in this world, we are not of it, and the answer lies in recognizing that fact.

A few weeks ago, while at the Heart Rhythm Meditation retreat I’ve attended for the past five years, we were working on the forward dimension of the heart. According to my teachers, Puran and Susanna Bair, energetically the heart has four dimensions. The forward dimension is also called “the driving heart” because it has the qualities of courage, leadership, generosity, and a sense of purpose.

But when the forward dimension is distorted, we can “confuse high-speed activity with progress” and “intensity with importance.” The forward dimension of the heart also contains the back of the heart–the tender spot between our shoulder blades. This is where we may feel burdened by our dysfunctional family history, or perhaps supported by our ancestors, or uplifted by Spirit breathing Its message into us from behind, like the wind at our back.

For this particular meditation, we were instructed to conjure up someone in our life with whom we wanted to deepen our relationship. As a longtime Course in Miracles student, I asked Jesus to be my partner. I desired to have a more tangible sense of Jesus, to increase my conviction and certainty about our relationship.

The Course tells us that what we choose to practice is what we strengthen in our mind. Choose ego, strengthen identification with the ego. Choose Jesus and the Holy Spirit, also called right mind or right perception, and strengthen the identification with God. “The strength of right perception is so great that it brings the mind into accord with His, because it serves His Voice, which is in all of you.” The “H” in “His” is uppercase to indicate the Holy Spirit, God’s invisible messenger, and Jesus is the manifestation of the Holy Spirit. So even though Jesus is our brother, and we are equals, the uppercase “H” reminds us that the teaching he brings us is from God’s mind.

Within moments, Jesus came to me and sat facing me. I was seated in a chair, both feet flat on the floor, the palms of my hands on my thighs. I didn’t exactly see him, and couldn’t tell you what he looked like, but he was there, and he knew me so well. He gently pressed my shoulders back to stop me from leaning towards the future, and invited me to relax into the present moment. He had to do this several times, as my torso habitually shifted forward. Eventually I hovered in the new posture, knowing I was upright, but feeling like I might fall backwards. Then I felt Jesus behind me, and something in me let go and dropped back into His presence. I rested in Him. He was holding me up, yet it took no effort on His part. My breath came easier and something inside me seemed to expand. I began to hear the word, “Trust.”

After a while, it seemed as if the word “T… R … U … S … T” was tattooed between my shoulder blades. An exquisite sense of safety and relaxation permeated me. Time barely existed. I laughed to myself, thinking, “Maybe I should get a tattoo … but it would be in a place I couldn’t see!”

Suddenly , a happy memory of my father surfaced. I didn’t have a lot of those, and it was sweet to feel happy thinking of my dad. I was little, maybe six or seven-years-old, and we were playing “Trust me.” My dad instructed me to hold my body stiff as a board and fall backwards in one straight line, no cheating by sagging in the middle. It had to be total, possibly skull-busting, trust.

“Trust me?” my dad would ask, and I would reply by tipping backwards and plummeting. He would admire my courage in keeping my spine rigid and I glowed with success. We would do this several times, and each time my dad would let me get a bit closer to the ground before his sure, firm hands broke my fall. It was so exhilarating to freefall like that! In those moments, I trusted my father completely; we were a perfect team.

A Course in Miracles teaches me to extend that trust to Jesus and the Holy Spirit, who lead me Home to my Father in Heaven by undoing my belief in appearances. “Nothing alive is Fatherless, for life is creation. Therefore, your decision is always an answer to the question, “Who is my father?” And you will be faithful to the father you choose.” When my ego mind reads this, I feel guilty, sad and disloyal. Why do I have to choose between my dad and my Father in Heaven? How can I be faithful to one without hurting the other? And the ego rests its case that we must avoid this God at all costs. Clearly, God is not to be trusted.

But when I choose the Holy Spirit as my teacher, I recognize that the choice is not between my dad and God. I am reminded that my dad and me and everyone in the world is part of One Mind—that we are always together. We are God’s creation. We have fooled ourselves into thinking we are separate…And what appears to be a societal crisis is actually a psychic crisis—it is the split in our mind that needs to be healed. The truth is, when I choose God, we choose God. When I return unto my Father, we return unto our Father.

The Sonship is all of us: as we undo our identification with ego mind, with the idea that we are individual selves, we uncover our original connectedness. The light cannot be broken into pieces. We are One Light extending through each other in a glow of brotherly love that originates from Prime Creator, our Father.

It is actually an act of loyalty for me to choose our Father because in doing so I choose for every frightened mind, including my dad’s–no one is excluded. Just the opposite, when we answer the question, “Who is my father?” by choosing God, a holy Light shines away ego illusions, and all that is left is an unbroken Sonship unified in our Father’s infinite and eternal Love.

Acknowledgment: A Powerful Aspect of Forgiveness

I have learned, after much hard experience, that if I want to de-escalate an angry person, an argument, a panic attack, a sense of being overwhelmed, depressed, embarrassed, anything and everything, the secret is acknowledgment. It is simple, but not easy.

At first, acknowledgment wasn’t easy for me because it seemed impossible to say the very thing that needed to be said. I was afraid of hurting the person’s feelings, and also afraid of the consequences of saying what I needed to say. What if I was attacked or rejected? Plus, I didn’t even know how to put into words what needed to be said. So, it goes like this: let’s say you’re claustrophoboic. As the elevator doors close, if you find yourself breaking into a sweat, feeling like you need to scream, your heart is pounding in your chest and your stomach is turning to mush … tell yourself: “Wow, when the elevator doors closed, I broke into a sweat, felt like screaming, my heart is pounding and my stomach is turning to mush.” There is a power in describing precisely and in detail what is happening inside of you to yourself. Then acknowledge your worst fear about what could happen, e.g., I could have a stroke or a heart attack and die! Notice that you are not dead yet. Ask yourself if you have ever had this feeling before. If so, chances are the feelings will move through you within a matter of minutes (anywhere from 3 to 20 minutes is typical). Even though this is a dramatic example of claustrophobia, we find ourselves becoming reactive (involuntary and bursting) or repressive (holding everything in and numbing ourselves) versus responsive (the voluntary ability to respond) in many situations.

Emotion is e-motion, or, energy in motion. When we freeze up in alarm (by tensing our muscles and holding our breath), we prevent the energy from moving through us. Identifying what is happening, even if you don’t know what to do, helps move your experience along. As you do this you educate yourself and can build a vocabulary of helpful self-talk to bring yourself off the ledge, so to speak. Some part of us answers the other part, so if we acknowledge the elephant in the living room, we usually release some fear and relax a bit. Physicists have proven that what we resist, persists. Acknowledgment is the antidote for fighting off fears. Whether the experience is personally happening within you, or you see someone else getting upset, acknowledgment basically works the same way.

Haven’t you noticed that telling a frazzled or angry person to “calm down” or “relax” only makes things worse? The secret is to acknowledge what they seem to be going through. Some people call it mirroring, some empathy. Although there are distinctions between these terms that we can get into, the idea is to name the feelings rather than fix the situation. This can mean stating the obvious. To paraphrase Denzel in Philadelphia, he told Tom Hanks, “Speak to me like I’m a five-year-old and spell it out for me.” So what you do is, say something like “That’s upsetting” or “It sucks when that happens” or “I’d probably feel the same way.” Use the person’s actual words when you can–they will feel understood. If a co-worker says, “I’m so frustrated!” after listening for a while, you can say “Sounds frustrating” and watch how well this works. If you say something that comes from you, such as, “That’s stressful” it may still work, but not as well because hearing our own words reflected back at us has a deep subconscious effect. Feeling understood must release positive hormones because a high percentage of time, acknowledgment works like a charm.

If acknowledgment further upsets the person you are dealing with then he or she is either inconsolable, feels deeply misunderstood in general, or, possibly, is a rage-aholic. Chronic inconsolability is a form of depression. Feeling misunderstood is a form of alienation and anxiety. Reactive rage is abusive. Past a certain point, stop trying to reason with these people. They want to dump their despair and anger onto you, so they can relieve themselves of it. Best thing to do in these cases, is take a time-out. Perhaps a permanent time-out (evaluate the relationship and assess whether, in general, it’s an energy-gain or an energy-drain). It can feel scary to let go of relationships, but at least acknowledge to yourself that you might benefit from spending less time with a particular person. Measured doses can go a long way towards your emotional health.

A Course in Miracles gives us a non-dualistic understanding of acknowledgment, “Your own acknowledgment you are one Self, united with your Father, is a call to all the world to be at one with you.” (W-95.15) In any given situation we always have the option of turning to the Holy Spirit, and allowing our right-mind to guide us. When we have the presence of mind to be lucid dreamers and acknowledge that we are outpicturing everything that seems to be happening in the world, we acknowledge the insanity of ego-mind. We can remember we are in this world, but not of it, and choose again. Each acknowledgment in this process dis-identifies us from the ego, and re-identifies us with God. At which point, nothing more need be said.