Undoing the Ego

It’s Easter–Time to Wake Up!

flower by john lucasEaster is here and A Course in Miracles invites us to celebrate this holiday without the church as middleman. Jesus tells us, “Let us give redemption to each other and share in it, that we may rise as one in resurrection, not separate in death.”

The world considers it a miracle that Jesus rose from the grave. Jesus tells us not to be duped by this ego-serving interpretation. He also tells us that his crucifixion was merely an extreme example of something we do everyday: carry the cross.

Yes, all our daily grievances effectively block the miracle of Innocence, Unity and Love that is our true Self. If you still have a taste for sin, guilt and fear, pain, alienation and hatred, sorrow, loss and shame, carry on! But if you’ve been studying the Course long enough to “get it” even a little bit, set your alarm clock for the holy instant instead, and, this Easter, lay that rugged cross down.

easter bunny n eggsThe crucifixion was quite an event–what a shame if we entirely miss the point! As Jesus says, “The only message of the crucifixion is that you can overcome the cross. Until then you are free to crucify yourself as often as you choose. This is not the gospel I intended to offer you.” (T-intro.3:8-10) and “You cannot crucify yourself alone. … Whenever you consent to suffer pain, to be deprived, unfairly treated or in need of anything, you but accuse your brother of attack upon God’s Son. … The Holy Spirit offers you, to give to him, a picture of yourself in which there is no pain and no reproach at all. And what was martyred to his guilt becomes the perfect witness to his innocence.” (T-27.I.1:5 and 3:1 and 5)

Let’s not sabotage Jesus’ effort to show us that there is no need for guilt, and death is not real. Let’s stop playing the crucifixion game and focus on ACIM’s definition of resurrection instead. In the Manual for Teachers, resurrection is defined as a change of mind about the meaning of the world. The ego wants us to believe that it has overcome God and is being pursued by a vengeful Father. This delusional thinking is easily undone by the Holy Spirit–when we ask for His Help.

Make this Easter truly meaningful by responding to Jesus’ invitation, “This week begins with palms and ends with lilies, the white and holy sign the Son of God is innocent. Let no dark sign of crucifixion intervene between the journey and its purpose; between the acceptance of the truth and its expression. This week we celebrate life, not death. And we honor the perfect purity of the Son of God, and not his sins. Offer your brother the gift of lilies, not the crown of thorns; the gift of love and not the ‘gift’ of fear. You stand beside your brother, thorns in one hand and lilies in the other, uncertain which to give. Join now with me and throw away the thorns, offering the lilies to replace them.” (T-20.I.2:1-6)

Now all of us rise together to the Home we never left.  white lily on white background

Related Easter posts from The Unlearning Classroom are:  From Crucifixion to Resurrection and What Is Easter, Really?

If you need help practicing the Workbook lessons from A Course in Miracles, sign up for my online class, Workin’ the Workbook.

Copyright © 2013 Amy Torres.  All rights reserved worldwide.

The Parental Disapproval Syndrome

If you are A Course in Miracles student, you know that being a parent is one big set-up. Babies aren’t innocent–they have chosen the ego as their teacher and so their experience will proceed accordingly. In other words, they have to be dissatisfied with their parents. Children have to feel victimized, no matter how idyllic their childhood may have been–and most are not so lucky. Here in the dream, the parent-child dynamic is perfect proof that life is unfair. The article below is a classic written by Leonard Orr and Sondra Ray, and gives some useful explanation of what the parental disapproval syndrome produces in the world.

The Parental Disapproval Syndrome
by Leonard Orr and Sondra Ray (Rebirthing in the New Age p. 59)

The Parental Disapproval Syndrome is another major cause of fear and negative programming. The syndrome develops as a result of your parents’ experiencing disapproval from their parents and their resentment of that disapproval. But they were not able to get even verbally or physically, so their true feelings were suppressed. They didn’t receive enough love and affection and found their parents difficult to please. So they spent the rest of their lives trying to get even with their parents or trying to please them to win their love. They constantly had to perform and conform according to their parents’ instructions in a futile attempt to win their love. This is later transferred to employers, authority figures, and “society.” They found little satisfaction until they had children (you). Then they had a captive child who was defenseless against parental hostilities and often coerced into giving them affection when the parents desire it.

To sum it up, parents take out their hostility toward their parents on their children (you). The spirit of the child is broken. Then you, as a child, have to suppress your true feelings until you have children and you take out your anger on yours—it goes on from generation to generation.

The fact is, you were a divine being when you came out of the womb.* Your parents began to disapprove of you and you resented it. But you couldn’t resist them or get even because you didn’t have a big enough vocabulary or a big enough body. The only way you could get even was to do what they disapproved of, which caused more disapproval. So you kept the disapproval syndrome going until you decided you could not win. Eventually you gave up and surrendered your loyalty to your divine nature and decided to follow instructions. So you followed instructions for the rest of your life. And when you got old enough to move out of the house, your parents (after they had invalidated your creativity, initiative, and natural wisdom) kicked you out and said, “Now is the time to succeed.” Then you went out and looked for somebody to give you instructions. That is the reason most people find employers and why people find mates. Hopefully, when you get married you will finally have found somebody who knows how to give you instructions, somebody who will solve all your problems, make all your decisions and plan your life for you. And, they don’t do it! Your mate doesn’t do it because he or she is expecting the same of you.

Behind that desire to have you plan their life for them, mates will express their hostility toward you. “Falling in love” is the hope that you have finally found a parental substitute. If you suppress your hostility successfully enough, then you will have a successful relationship. If you suppress your hostilities long enough in the relationship, then the relationship may last long enough to end in marriage. If you continue to suppress your hostility long enough, then your marriage might last long enough to have children. Guess what happens then? You get even with the bastards. You get even with your parents by taking it out on your kids. (It is obvious that people inhejit at least a portion of the subconscious minds of their parents as well as their bodies. In fact, financial and marital relationships usually follow the parents’ behavior so exactly that it almost seems mechanical.) The ultimate knowledge is self-knowledge and the ultimate freedom is internal freedom.

There are several vehicles by which the parental disapproval syndrome is transmitted. Three of the most popular are bedtime, mealtime and toilet training. You came out of the womb with “divine” energy and you probably didn’t need to sleep a whole lot. But your parents taught you that you do need to sleep a whole lot. Sleep is related to the birth trauma and to being in the womb. When you came out of the womb and all hell broke loose, you learned that the world outside the womb was a hostile place. You have gone through the rest of your life protecting yourself from a hostile world during your waking hours. After running around all day protecting yourself, you experience enough tension so that you get tired and you want to go to bed—you have reached the point of not being able to cope, which develops as an addiction. You want some rest from the world, so you go back into the womb/bedroom. You turn off the lights to make it dark, as it was in the womb. You crawl under the covers, which simulate the pressure of the walls of the womb and raise your body temperature. Then you go into a state of preverbal-like consciousness called sleep. So by going to bed you have recreated the womb experience. If you stay in bed long enough, your bed becomes a hostile place. It is hostile because your parents disapprove of your staying in bed too long, and they will come after you with sticks.

There is a lot of unpleasantness connected with bed; it is no wonder that some people have difficulty having fun in bed. It can be an unpleasant place, just as the bedroom is uncomfortable because children also get punished by being sent to their rooms. They go there and feel unloved. So it turns out later that those people can screw on Main Street and get off on sex in the back of the car, but in bed, no way! There is just too much tension and too much going on in the bedroom. It is better to make love on the dining room table, if the dining room table is a pleasant place. However, for most people, the dining room table was where they got all the bad news. Your parents criticized you for playing with your food and not cleaning your plate. Eating can make you nervous forever after.

Mealtime is the time when most kids get the bad news. That’s when you learn if you don’t clean up your plate you are not loved. So whenever people feel anxiety they go “clean up” a plate.

Then there is toilet training. Now if you had unpleasant toilet training and you go to the bathroom five or six times a day (and you “plug into” those unpleasant emotions every time you go to the bathroom), then it is no wonder you have difficulty ever being happy and experiencing bliss. Problems of constipation, diarrhea, etc., are probably all ultimately connected to your toilet training. I had one client whose mother was so obsessed with toilet training that he developed an anal fixation, became homosexual and could only get off sexually with anal intercourse. He took enemas constantly.

Being aware of parental disapproval is very valuable, because when you are disapproving you are just “running out” your parent, or replaying your parents’ tape. The idea is to express your hostility toward your parents and get it out. This will ultimately enable you to love them more. Otherwise, when your parents die, you experience failure. You never “got even” and now you are never going to get their love either. You feel disappointment for having suppressed your true nature and for not having gained their approval.

*From an ACIM perspective, babies are just as “guilty” of believing in a separate ego self as adults.


Thank you Leonard Orr and Sondra Ray for your many insights into healing.

Healing Sexual Abuse through A Course in Miracles

Ken Wapnick has an invaluable question and answer section at www.facimoutreach.org.  Below is his explanation of how to heal sexual abuse through the forgiveness practice offered by A Course in Miracles.

Q:  I am in my first year with A Course in Miracles. I was sexually molested as a child. The severe shame I feel from this has made relationships difficult. With each new failure to keep or maintain a relationship, they seem to become progressively more difficult. I don’t mind being in the constant process of forgiving the perpetrators. But my life struggle seems to be in sustaining forgiveness of myself. Is there any way I can address this specifically in my renewed relationship with God?

IM000631.JPGA: It is your ego that has convinced you that the shame you feel now is the result of those traumatic and shameful abusive experiences of your childhood. That way, the problem remains in the past, never really capable of being undone. But you are not alone in thinking this way. This is the purpose of the world, to keep our focus away from the real problem in the mind, the original and only source of guilt and shame, and on events in our lives that have happened to us and cannot be reversed.

This is not to say that those childhood experiences were not horrific or that you don’t continue to be haunted by thoughts related to those experiences. But what the Course offers you now is another way in the present of looking at all of that so that it need not maintain the grip on your life and your mind that it has up until now.

The guilt buried deep in our mind over the thought that we would want to and could separate ourselves from love is the real source of all of our shame. And it is a shame so severe that we believe that we do not deserve to be loved, that a lifetime beginning with abuse by those who are responsible for us is a fitting punishment for our “crime” of assaulting love. We carry the belief that we are somehow fatally flawed and that is the real cause of our shame.

But we never go back and look at that source of shame in our mind, where with the gentle support of Jesus, God’s symbol of love in our mind, we might begin to question the validity of that original self-accusation. Instead, we shift our focus to the world of bodies and the shame associated with being helpless and abused by others over whom we have no power or control. And then this seems to be the shame that poisons our whole life, and all the relationships we embark upon in search of the love that is missing that we yearn for. But the good news of the Course is that the problem is not where we are seeing it, in the world of bodies, but rather in our minds, where the solution — forgiveness — is as well.

And so this is where your renewed relationship with God and His representative, Jesus, and his Course, offers hope. For as you are willing to uncover the deeper ontological guilt and shame that your lifetime of personal shame is pointing to, looking at it with Jesus’ love beside you, you will gradually allow yourself to recognize that there is nothing to be ashamed of. For with his love there with you, you will begin to recognize that you have not abandoned or betrayed love, and love has not abandoned or betrayed you.


Thank you, Ken, for the clarity and power of your prolific teachings on A Course in Miracles which have made being a Course student much easier for so many of us.

Ask Amy: How to Deal with Abusive Relationships?

Guy QuestionQ:  When people in our lives will not stop abusing us, should we continue to try to love them and have our emotions hurt or stepped upon forever, or should we put an end to it?

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERAA:  When A Course in Miracles talks about love, it is a love that has nothing to do with the personal self or the personality of the people around us.  This Love is a recognition of the Inner Light which we all share.  When people in our life are abusive, we need to request guidance from the Holy Spirit.  He will direct us in a loving way.

As you open to guidance from your Internal Teacher (the Holy Spirit), signposts will appear.  This may involve getting help from a psychotherapist, support groups, reading books on healthy relationships, learning new communication skills, or whatever it may be.

Forgiveness, redefined by Jesus in ACIM as recognizing that “what we thought our brother did to us has not occurred,” is the healing tool on which the Course is based.

Jesus tells us to observe the ego vigilantly and uncover its beliefs so that we can free ourselves of victimization (e.g., see the ACIM Workbook, which addresses ego grievances in Lesson 68 – 78, and special relationships in Chapters 15 – 18).  There is more to be revealed from your relationship with this person.  Conversate with the Holy Spirit on a regular basis and miracles must follow.

But remember that you cannot dictate the form the miracle takes.  Miracle principle #3 says, “Miracles occur naturally as expressions of love” and this must be combined with “I need do nothing except not to interfere (with the Holy Spirit’s guidance).”

There is a Sufi quote I love, “The Message is a call to those whose hour has come to awake, and it is a lullaby to those who are still meant to sleep.”  If you are awakening, and interested in your Inner Light, and the abusive person in your life is still meant to sleep and remain in darkness a while longer, that is okay.  Eventually your perception of this person as “abusive” will shift to seeing her as fearful and calling for Love.

You can ask the Holy Spirit to help you see the Light in her, even if she is unaware of that Light.  Being willing to “see” her Light will empower you.  You can do this from a distance, without being in physical or verbal contact with her.

This Q&A appears in the Ask Amy column from the Jan-Feb 2013 issue of Miracles magazine.  Miracles is a well-loved staple in the ACIM community.  To get a subscription, email Jon@miraclesmagazine.org or call 845-496-9089.  To ask Amy a question, email miracles (at) amytorresacim (dot) com

God’s Vision or the Ego’s Eyesight?

surreal eyeMore than one spiritual path explains that this world is an illusion. Even science now agrees. But what do they mean? And if this world is an illusion, what good does it do us to know that?

This is especially of interest to Course in Miracles students.  We are told right from the start, in the ACIM Preface, that “projection makes perception.”  Another way the Course puts it is that our thoughts are “an outward picture of an inward condition.”

Workbook Lesson 15 explains, “My thoughts are images that I have made.”  It teaches us, “It is because the thoughts you think you think appear as images that you do not recognize them as nothing. You think you think them, and so you think you see them. This is how your ‘seeing’ was made. This is the function you have given your body’s eyes. It is not seeing. It is image making. It takes the place of seeing, replacing vision with illusions.”

ACIM posits that we are hallucinating this world by projecting our imaginary ego thoughts outward.  We are literally a figment of our own imagination.

Let’s break this down: “… the thoughts you think you think”–this tells you that what you consider thinking is not really thinking. What the ego (our sense of individual identity) does is replace God’s One Ever-Extending Loving Thought with images–imaginary thoughts that appear as pictures. You view these pictures and call them “eyesight.” You believe in them, but that does not make them real. The function the ego gives the body’s eyes is to hallucinate images which are not real to distract us from the Reality of God’s Vision which is Unified and Formless.goldenlight1

But why would the ego want to distract us from God’s Vision? Because the ego knows that if we re-discover this Abstract Creative Light within ourselves, the personal self as we know it will unravel and “die.” Within this “death” lies Eternal Life–but that’s not the way the ego sees it (pun intended). One scientist put it this way, “If you look at the universe through a golf ball-sized lens, you will see a universe the size of a golf ball.” The ego limits our experience, but denies that it does this.

Un-think your way through this. Tell yourself, “I do not really think. What I think are my thoughts are actually images the ego made. These images are neither good nor bad, they simply are not real. Would I rather think these puny little thoughts that lead to suffering and death, or would I rather gently peel these images from my eyes today, and truly see what God would have me see?” Ask God, “What would You have me see?” He will show you.

Then you can decide for yourself whether you prefer the image-making eyesight of the ego, or God’s Vision.

A Course in Miracles and Yoga

J meditatingA Course in Miracles offers us a highly individualized curriculum where we use the body as a learning device under the direction of the Holy Spirit. Yoga is one of the classrooms the Holy Spirit offers me, to use my body for spiritual purposes. ACIM provides a mind-training; therefore, all of its practices are in thought-form, or ideas. This can be challenging, since the body demands our attention all day long. Yoga offers a body-based sadhana, or spiritual practice, using the body and breath to reconnect with God’s Mind. This way, instead of letting the body run the show, we have concrete techniques so that the body serves the Mind.

“The body, valueless and hardly worth the least defense, need merely be perceived as quite apart from you, and it becomes a healthy, serviceable instrument through which the mind can operate until its usefulness is over.” W-135.

Most of us think of yoga as a physical practice, but the physical movements or asanas, known as hatha yoga, is but one of five yoga systems.  (Hindu philosophy speaks of hatha yoga, raja yoga, bhakti yoga, jnana yoga, and karma yoga. Each of these systems can be used autonomously to realize God, or they can be used in combination.)

Yoga comes from the Sanskrit word “yuj” which means “to yoke” or “join” as in union with our brothers and communion with God.  Swami Satchidananda defines yoga as “the science of mind” and explains that “the mind is a veil woven with thoughts.”  Yoga is a system that helps us harness the mind, because as long as the ego mind gives us the runaround, we’ll remain unaware of the One Mind in which we all truly live.

Hatha Yoga
SAMSUNG DIGITAL CAMERAHatha yoga is the physical movement of yoga, the asanas, or postures. The Rishis of five thousand years ago inadvertently “invented” hatha yoga when they surfaced from deep meditation and felt stiff. The stretching they did to limber up was based on what they saw around them in nature: they mimicked animals, mountains, and trees to loosen up and invigorate the body. Nowadays, hatha yoga is used as preparation for meditation. It can also be seen as a moving meditation in itself. When the movements are linked to the breath, and smooth transitions melt one pose into the next, the mind is smoothed also. By relaxing and strengthening the body, we calm the mind and are more able to harness our thoughts and concentrate, which leads to meditation.

ACIM is not strict about a formal ongoing meditation practice. “Nor is a lifetime of contemplation and long periods of meditation aimed at detachment from the body necessary. All such attempts will ultimately succeed because of their purpose. Yet the means are tedious and very time consuming, for all of them look to the future for release from a state of present unworthiness and inadequacy.” T-18.VII.4:9-11. Yoga is an unhurried, ancient practice based, to some extent, on an accumulation of good karma. It takes time to balance chakras, activate kundalini energy, and transcend the sheaths of the koshas.2 The Course is a refreshing counterbalance to yoga in this way: ACIM promises us over and over again that it will save us time. It provides a structured practice of meditation in the Workbook Lessons, but after that, we are on our own, listening to our Inner Teacher and using the Holy Instant to connect with Universal Mind as often as possible, and in our own way.

Bhakti Yoga
gopis n krishnaBhakti yoga is a path of selfless devotion to God. Krishna’s gopis exemplified bhakti yoga. Gopi mean “cow- herding girl.” The story goes that when Krishna played his flute, gopi women dropped what they were doing, whether it was cooking, tending to the cows, or washing clothes. Everything would be left in the middle and the gopis would abandon their families to dance ecstatically around Krishna as he seduced them with his flute. At night, Krishna would visit every gopi, in a unique form just for her, and make love to her. Bhakti yoga has a quality of unreserved love and passion for God, a full faith that recognizes that God comes first above all others.

Mirabai, the thirteenth century mystic poet, valued her spiritual marriage to Krishna over her family’s arranged marriage for her. She spurned convention, surrendered entirely to her passion for Lord Krishna, and experienced Love alternately through knowing It, and yearning for It.

A Course in Miracles asks us for the same level of devotion. Lesson 157.5, “Into His Presence would I enter now” expresses it this way, “From this day forth, your ministry takes on a genuine devotion, and a glow that travels from your fingertips to those you touch, and blesses those you look upon.”

Jnana Yoga
acim book coverJnana yoga uses the study of scripture as a means to comprehend our true Self. What starts out as an intellectual pursuit deepens into a felt experience. Jnana uses inquiry to uncover meaning beneath meaning beyond meaning until the Self is revealed. The great sage and realized master Ramana Maharshi taught through the question, “Who am I?” This question, aimed at everything, takes us back to the Witness, the Observer, the Decision-Maker (in Ken Wapnick’s parlance). “It undoes the veils that the ego has interposed between its little slice of mind and its Source.

Jnana yoga helps us return to the decision-making part of our mind by stripping away the false self, layer by layer. “This single purpose creates perfect integration and establishes the peace of God.” T-3.II.5:6. Ultimately, the Course tells us to “Forget this world, forget this course, and come with wholly empty hands unto your God.” W-189; but, until we reach that point, immersing ourselves in scripture can be the royal road Home. Rather than be lost in the ego’s unconscious, we saturate ourselves in the Holy Spirit’s teachings.

Karma Yoga
happy crowdKarma yoga is the yoga of taking action in the world through selfless service. It is a pure practice of brotherhood. It is the natural expression of the miracle, seeing Christ in everyone indiscriminately.  It is the application of the Course concept of “generalization,” which, essentially, recognizes that all actions should be equally loving toward all people, places and things, because we are all the same. “You will recognize that you have learned there is no order of difficulty in miracles when you apply them to all situations. There is no situation to which miracles do not apply, and by applying them to all situations, you will gain the real world.” T-12.VII.1:3-4.  And the way to do this is to see Christ in each other.

Raja Yoga
Patanjali, the sage who compiled the Yoga Sutras, lays out the path of raja yoga. Raja means royal and is considered a complete system. Its goal is to improve our concentration so we can move all our attention toward our Being in order to become that Being. Raja yoga is also called ashtanga yoga because of the eight limbs on which the system rests:

crown_chakra_poster-r31596d0ab74c4af2819dd4bc933ed9ef_w2q_525They are 1) Yamas, outward morality, consisting of non-harming, truthfulness, non-stealing, self- discipline and non-coveting 2) Niyamas, inner ethics, consisting of cleanliness, contentment, purification of body, mind and nervous system, study of metaphysical principles and self-examination, contemplation of God 3) Postures, or asanas 4) Control of breath and life currents, or pranayama 5) Withdrawal of the senses in order to turn within, or pratyahara 6) Concentration, or dharana 7) Meditation, or dhyana: prolonged periods of concentration which becomes contemplation and 8) Holy Trance, or samadhi, what the Course would call revelation, a direct experience of God.

As the Course says in the Clarification of Terms, “A universal theology is impossible, but a universal experience is not only possible but necessary.” ACIM also has a curriculum, and uses a text, workbook, and manual for teachers as its “limbs,” which, when used vigilantly, integrate its teachings and deepen our learning. The ACIM curriculum is not aimed at teaching Love or samadhi because that is beyond what can be taught and is naturally revealed as we remove the blocks to the awareness of Love’s presence.

The Yoga of ACIM
Though I was introduced to yoga first, along the way it became clear to me that ACIM is my path. The lack of ceremony and ritual, the lack of deities and complicated practices, suits me. I have a gypsy nature, which finds the “no baggage” dancing girl via bettina casimir clarkstyle of the Holy Spirit alluring. Still, it comes naturally for me to practice ACIM hatha yoga, where I find my mind often goes pleasantly blank and I spontaneously experience the peace of God. And ACIM bhakti yoga emerged effortlessly too, as it became natural to devote the fruits of my practice to God. ACIM jnana yoga is the pleasure of reading and re-reading the Course, experiencing a deeper and deeper understanding as I do, as well as cultivating the relationship with my guru, my inner teacher, the Holy Spirit. ACIM raja yoga is applying the practices, the Workbook lessons, and allowing the Course to work through me as an integrated whole. ACIM karma yoga is seeing Christ in my brother.

lotus headstandIt’s fun to reverse my upside-down perception simply by doing a headstand, and to evoke the holy instant by chanting “aum.” It’s fun “to let my words be chosen for me by ceasing to decide for myself what I’m going to say” (paraphrased from M-21). Recently, I heard myself giving a guided meditation to my yoga class during savasana inviting them to contact a glowing light within them that is always there, allowing it to permeate their bodies and then extend, radiating Its light through them, so that their very presence was a source of healing to all they came in contact with the rest of the day. “The light is in you,” I said, not realizing it was a line from Chapter 18, channeling straight through me. “You need do nothing except not to interfere,” I continued, transmitting Chapter 16 from the True Empathy section. The Light flowed through me on Its way to them.

In concluding, I say to you, “Namaste. The divine Light in me bows to the divine Light in you” or, in ACIM– speak, “You are one Self with me, united with our Creator in this Self. I honor you because of What I am, and What He is, Who loves us both as One.” Lesson 95.15:3.

1 These are five well-known yogic systems. Kundalini yoga, tantric yoga, and kriya yoga are also frequently studied and applied, and the list goes on.

2 Yoga is a vast subject and there are countless books and online resources to explore karma, the chakras, kundalini energy and the koshas, as
well as many other esoteric topics, if you are so inclined. David Hoffmeister has an interesting chart in his book, Awakening Through A Course in Miracles, that maps the ego mind and the layers are remarkably similar to the koshas.


Copyright 2009 Amy Torres. All rights reserved worldwide.

How the Homeless Made Me Feel at Home

A sthomeless shopping cartudent of mine mentioned her encounters with homeless people and it brought to mind a spiritual experience I’d like to share with you.

She was sharing how defensive and guilty she feels during her walk downtown where there are lots of homeless people.   I also felt guilty when I was living in New York City and there were many homeless on the streets.  Some were mentally ill, some were HIV positive, some were out of work, some chose a life on the street.

Some had kittens, some had dogs, some owned a grocery cart overflowing with neatly bound bundles of stuff.  Some hallucinated and shadow boxed.  Some drank and sat in their own excrement.  Many slept under cardboard boxes which made them invisible in broad daylight.  Some smiled, some lashed out, some were dead silent and hid behind their sign.  They all had the obligatory “begging cup.”greek coffee cup

I got to know certain “regulars”–folks who would usually be planted in a particular spot.  For the most part, all they required was, “Good morning!,” a splash of change in their coffee cup, and a smile.  If they disappeared from their appointed spot, I would feel uneasy, concerned about them.

penny or a smileBut more often, I felt guilty, and sometimes afraid, when I was around them–even if I gave money.  I didn’t want to feel that way–and I was determined to let the fear and guilt evaporate.  I just didn’t know how.  My heart was open … it seemed that I needed less guilt and more courage in my gut.  I began to feel increasingly irritated when I heard people say, “If I gave to all the homeless in NYC, I’d go broke!”  Something about that didn’t ring true.  In fact, it seemed a feeble excuse to look the other way.

One day, I decided to put that statement to the test.  I started putting a dollar into every coffee cup I encountered. It turned out that it was quite affordable to give to all, everyday.

I felt less guilty, now that I was being true to myself.  Often my encounters with the homeless were loving and uplifting.  At first, the gratitude they showed embarrassed me, but then I realized it would do me good to accept their appreciation.  As I relaxed and accepted their “thank yous” and “God bless yous” Love started to flow freely between us.  In fact, homeless people blessed me on a regular basis.

Their smilhomeless womanes and blessings nurtured me and gave me a feeling of community.  It was a time in my life when I was painfully lonely–I was homeless in my heart.  The connection with people who literally didn’t have a roof over their heads, and more importantly, didn’t have a community that embraced them, pulled my heartstrings.  I was having holy encounters with them, and being shown a perfect demonstration of the spiritual law, “Giving is Receiving.”  All for a dollar!

After a while, something in me shifted. The next time I was faced with the second coffee cup of the day, out of my mouth popped, “I gave today.”  I was met with a big smile and, “Bless you.”  No hard feelings.  This homeless person seemed to understand that I, too, had needs.  A Message was communicated:  do what you can, and everyOne will be okay if you continue to let go and let God.   I went back to giving once a day for a while–this time, guilt-free.

Ehomeless man smilingventually, something in me shifted again. The next time the cup was proffered, I cheerfully, yet kindly said, “No, thank you.” WHAT A MOMENT THAT WAS!  No one was more surprised than me, when those words popped out of my mouth.  “No, thank you”????  What did this even mean?  I had to think about it: the homeless person asked me for money, and I said, “No, thank you,”  … meaning they were offering me a service, and I was refusing it because I didn’t need it at this timeI had reached a new level of faith, equality, and guiltlessness. 

What freedom to feel so INNOCENT.  How liberating to now know that the homeless person had a higher power and an Inner Teacher, just as I did, just as everyOne did.  I didn’t have to play God anymore.  I didn’t have to save the world, one person at a time.  I just needed to Love and Be Loved.

My first encounters with the homeless had been fearful and guilty.  As I practiced seeing the face of Christ in all my brothers (which I first learned from yoga teachers), I opened up to an empowering humility.  The more I approached people on the streets of New York who needed a smile, a buck, and to be treated like an equal, with an open heart and the Holy Spirit at my back, what a healing we both received!

crown_chakra_poster-r31596d0ab74c4af2819dd4bc933ed9ef_w2q_525From then on, I embraced Service at a new level.  My crown chakra opened, Grace flowed through the vessel I call my body, and Loving Light left a trail of sparkles on the streets of NYC for all to be sparked by, whenever they were ready.

Rarely have I uttered sweeter words than, “No, thank you!”  They were my proclamation of Innocence and Liberation.  And they freed us all!



Pleasure and Pain are One and the Same

The article below, “Pleasure and Pain are One and the Same,” offers clarification on a subject many ACIM students find difficult to understand.  Thank you, Helgi, for such a clear explanation–very in keeping with A Course in Miracles.

* * * * *

In the world of form there is pleasure and there is pain. Everything in the world is subject to polarities, and so we could say that all things already contain their opposite; you cannot have good without bad, and every high has a corresponding low. In the very nature of gaining something lies the possibility of losing it, and we know this intuitively. And so if we look closer, we see that pleasure and pain are really one and the same: they are the two polarities of suffering.

The great misunderstanding

And how can pleasure be suffering, you ask? We may think that pleasure is an aspect of joy and peace, and this is certainly what our culture wants us to believe, but trying to derive pleasure from the world of form, and thus looking for peace and joy outside yourself, will always lead to suffering. And another aspect of the misunderstanding is that, counter to what we might assume from surface appearances, externally derived pleasure is really no closer to joy than pain. We associate the two because they often go together on the surface, but pleasure does not in any way contribute to the sense of joy, no more than pain does. And in fact, pain can bring us closer to joy than pleasure because it prompts us to break free from the polarity, whereas pleasure seduces us further and further into the illusion.

There is a verse in the Bhagavad Gita that addresses this:

“Pleasures from external objects
are wombs of suffering, Arjuna.
They have their beginnings and their ends;
no wise man seeks joy among them.”

The reason that pleasures from external objects are wombs of suffering, as Krishna is saying, is because we mistake externally derived pleasure for peace and joy. The suffering lies in the belief that you need to gain something, that you need to add something to yourself to be complete. This belief is included in the illusion that joy can be derived from the world of form, because what you are really seeking in all of this is yourself, and a sense of being at home, of having arrived. And this misunderstanding, that your identity and the sense of home is somewhere out there in the world of form, is actually the essence of suffering and the core of all human misery.

The truth is that the joy you are seeking is already whole, and already within you. It is God, the one, yourself, peace, joy, truth, love — whatever you want to call it, it is already complete and cannot possibly be added to in any way by something in the world of form. It cannot be outside of you because it is the essence of who you are. And the illusion that you need to acquire it from somewhere in the world of form is the suffering that then manifests as the polarity of pleasure and pain.

Renunciation is not required

However, and as if I haven’t complicated it enough already, pleasure and pain only turn into suffering when you are seeking yourself in them. Which is why it is not necessary at all to renounce all sensory pleasures in order to become free from suffering. Some people do this, and in some cases it works, but abstaining completely from worldly pleasures is certainly no requirement.

It is possible to enjoy worldly pleasures without suffering when you recognize that any sense of joy you may experience in conjunction with it arises from within and is in no way derived from out there. And when you realize this, you will feel that pleasure and pain don’t carry much weight with you anymore. You will begin to experience both with the same sense of detachment, and then it really doesn’t matter that much which end of the polarity you are faced with. Pleasure will most likely still be your preference of the two, but it is relatively unimportant none the less.

You are then free to enjoy the things of this world, without demanding that anything should give you joy or make you happy. And in fact when you don’t have the expectation that things should give you joy, you can engage with the world in a much lighter and more playful way than before, in a way that is free of tension and stress.

Freedom from pleasure

Our conditioning has a momentum, as I’m sure you must be very aware of, and the pull of form is strong. When things are going well and the world seems promising, it is very easy to fall back into the illusion that there is lasting fulfillment to be found in form. And as long as you believe, even just a little bit, that something out there can give you what you think you need, you will continue to seek for pleasure in the world of form, and continue to bounce between the two polarities of suffering, pleasure and pain.

The way to become free of this illusion is simply to see it for what it is, and to realize that pleasure is not really what you want. This realization can be reached in a number of ways, and one of the more direct ones is to directly question the values that we have been conditioned to project onto the things of this world; seeing one thing as desirable and another as undesirable. In relative terms this will of course be the case, but in the conditioning these are absolute judgments implying that joy is to be found in some things and suffering in others.

Here are a couple more verses from the Gita that talk about this:

“They do not rejoice in good fortune;
they do not lament at bad fortune;
lucid, with minds unshaken,
they remain within what is real.”

“The mature man, fulfilled in wisdom,
resolute, looks with equal
detachment at a lump of dirt,
a rock, or a piece of pure gold.”

Questioning the assumption that the high is good and the low is bad leads one to see that there is nothing to be gained by good fortune, and nothing to be lost in bad fortune. Having realized this, you become like the men of wisdom that Krishna talks about and simply “remain within what is real.” And what is real is beyond good and bad, beyond high and low.

Looking “with equal detachment at a lump of dirt, a rock, or a piece of pure gold,” is the result of this realization, and can also be a pointer to it. You can practice this, as an experiment or a meditation, and question the differences in value that you project onto the world as the thoughts arise. This will expose the mechanics of the conditioning, and the illusion will start to slowly unravel. We could say that it is a practice of withdrawing projected value from the world of form — not in a negative way, but in a way that values all things equally and fully. There will still be relative preferences, but what the practice does is make way for an intuitive seeing of how all things are inherently neither good nor bad. As Shakespeare wrote, “for there is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.”

When you see beyond the conditioned polarity of good and bad, pleasure and pain, you find what you were looking for all along, what was always there, what always is and always has been; a sense of peace and joy that is not of this world, and of which form derived pleasure is merely a pale reflection.

This article is reprinted from http://everydaywonderland.com.   It seems to have been written by Helgi … thank you, Helgi!

The Ego and Worldly Interests

The article below, “The Ego and Worldly Interests,” is an excellent commentary on detachment and non-attachment.  Thank you, Helgi, for a beautifully written piece–very in keeping with A Course in Miracles.

* * * * *

Part of life in the world, and especially the western world, is that we have lots of interesting things around us. And part of what makes up one’s personality, the form identity, are particular worldly interests and personal preferences. John is into vintage medical illustrations and Lisa rides motorcycles. That sort of thing.

Now, because they make up such a large part of our form identity, of who we are on the surface and in comparison to others, our worldly interests are part of the ego and as such vulnerable to its foibles. We tend to identify with objects, for example, and so when the objects are linked with something like expertise, community, or a lifestyle, the identification can become very strong.

In seeking mode

There is a good chance you will have experienced how the ego goes hunting for something to identify with, even if you may not have been conscious of it at the time. Usually when there’s a lull of some kind in your external circumstances, when you’ve just recently finished something, lost something, quit something, or when you suddenly find yourself with more free time for some reason, the mind goes into seeking mode for the next thing. The ego has just lost something it had identified with, and so needs to find something new to fill in the gap.

These seeking episodes can be almost too subtle to notice, or all-out desperate attempts at reinventing your identity from scratch. The subtle ones can come in the form of suddenly becoming very interested in a particular television series, for example, where you find yourself identifying strongly with the characters, having daydreams in which you act out roles or somehow project yourself into the show, and even adapt behavioral traits from your favorite characters.
Fantasies where you imagine yourself to have a stronger identity, either through association with some object or person, or through approval and fame — basically where you are “special” in one way or the other — are also an indicator of this seeking pattern.

The lure of “reinventing yourself”

But while identifying with celebrities or fictional television characters is an easy way of finding something to identify with, in times of desperate need the ego will want something more concrete to work with. Personally I have experienced this in the form of becoming absolutely obsessed with different hobbies or specialty interests; mainly communities of enthusiasts that center around some sort of object or industry. It is an urge to become part of a scene, to become that kind of person, all in order to find security in an externally supported identity.

To find one of these “worlds” to enter and become part of is an easy way for the ego to reinvent its identity. Like dressing up in a new costume, it is also a way of finding somewhere to belong; something we do in more subtle ways when choosing how we present ourselves to the world externally through clothing and such. Seeking to become this kind of person or that kind of person, experimenting with different externally derived identities, is of course very noticeable during adolescence, as we know, but the same pattern of seeking goes on long after that.

This idea of reinventing yourself is a favorite one to the ego. Starting the year with a clean slate, turning things around, becoming the person you want to be, etc.; it’s seducing, and entertaining these ideas is almost the equivalent of comfort food for the ego-identified mind.
But even if you become someone else on the surface, take up golfing or buy a Harley, all that’s really changed is the content of your illusory identity. The same clunky old projector playing a new film.

Attachment to being a somebody

However, there is nothing inherently wrong with having preferences or particular worldly interests. You can live in joy and inner peace and still have hobbies and belong to the national association of something or other. Even the game of reinventing yourself on the surface can be fine — as with other aspects of the world of form, the crux of the matter lies in your level of attachment to it.

It is unavoidable that as long as you are in this world, you will have an external identity. Even if it weren’t for social conventions like names, roles and other labels, you would still be in a particular human body. This is not problematic in and of itself, and only becomes a problem when you identify yourself with this external identity. When you say “I am this body” or “I am a basketball player.” In effect, the world of form is not a problem until you become attached to it. Having a Harley Davidson is fine, but basing your entire identity on the concept of being somebody who has a Harley Davidson is problematic.

There is certainly a correlation between strongly emphasized form identities and the level of attachment to them, simply because if you are free of attachment to the world of form you will have little interest in projecting a particular image of yourself, and vice versa. But the outward manifestation of something like a personal preference is still just an effect, a symptom, and not the cause, and so there is no reason to avoid or resent your form identity. In fact, making an effort to deny your form identity is really an indication that you have an attachment to another kind of form identity, perhaps as “the spiritual person who has no worldly interests.”

When it comes to hobbies, preferences, or other things having to do with your form identity, it will only be counterproductive to try and deny or resist them. What you can do however is observe, and allow them to be as they are. Fully embrace whatever the worldly interest is, and investigate in what way you may be deriving an identity from it. If you’re identified with something, there is an attachment to it because the ego needs it for its survival. In mild cases it may be enough to just notice the identification, and then allow it to fade away on its own, but in some cases it may be best to simply drop whatever it is you are attached to, at least temporarily.

There are also some pointers you can experiment with, ways of looking at things that separate the element of identification so that you can see it more clearly. For example, you can approach the thing, whatever it might be, as if you weren’t there, removing yourself from the mental picture. Or, if the interest is heavily based on community, a group of like-minded people that share a particular interest, you can try contemplating questions like “if I were the only one interested in this,” or “if nobody could ever know that I own this/did this/am interested in this, what would change?” If you have expertise in something, ask yourself “what if nobody could ever know that I know this?”

In essence, it is about seeing the things in your form identity that make you feel special, feel like you are a somebody, because these will be your points of attachment. The attachment to being a somebody is probably the main aspect of our identification with form, and observing how this plays into our worldly interests and preferences can be enormously helpful in becoming free of attachment to the world.

This article is reprinted from http://everydaywonderland.com.   It seems to have been written by Helgi … I hope I have that right. 

Confusion is a Great Opportunity

If you are practicing the Workbook from A Course in Miracles and you are feeling confused, take that as a good sign.   Spiritual paths are meant to disorient you.  If you remain unmoved and unshaken, you are not really allowing the teaching to affect you–which indicates you are too mentally organized and too emotionally defended.

After all, if you actually understood everything the Course says, you wouldn’t be studying the Course.  Intellectual comprehension can only take us so far.  The real work begins when the ground shifts under our feet, when our way of seeing and hearing, listening and communicating, being and existing, changes.

Confusion helps us open our minds.   Learning to tolerate confusion, and, eventually, to even welcome and relax into confusion, is, paradoxically, the quickest way to clear the fog.

Confusion can be experienced in many ways:

1.  You may feel out of control or disoriented.  Maybe the world feels a bit surreal–like you’re in it but not of it.  This disorientation is natural as you bridge the gap from the ego thought system to the Holy Spirit’s One Loving Thought.  Think of it as stretching 🙂

2.  You may feel conflicted and call it confusion, even though it’s more of a back and forth between, “I want my personal life to be happy” and “I want to awaken to the truth that I am really formless Loving Light.”  It’s understandable to struggle between wanting a happy dream and wanting (or not wanting) to take responsibility for being the dreamer of the dream.  Here lies the ongoing opportunity to choose again: ego as teacher … or Holy Spirit?

3.  You may feel foggy and unable to think clearly.  Confusion can be experienced as a thick mist obscuring what is just ahead and making us grope slowly towards … we don’t know what.  This holds the promise of moving through the fog into the Light–if we can tolerate the unknown and make small leaps of faith.

4.  You may feel overwhelmed.  You could be overwhelmed by choices, by the demands of your schedule, or by your emotional reactions.  “Overwhelm” takes many forms.  As a Course student, the Shakepearean prose, and the amount of material to read is often felt to be “too much.”  You can join with your brothers–there are more ACIM groups and resources than ever before.  Just ask the Holy Spirit for guidance–and it doesn’t hurt to “google” too!  If you are taking an online class like my Workin’ the Workbook, take advantage of all the support that comes with the program.

5.  You may feel paralyzed or trapped in endless procrastination.  In Gestalt psychotherapy, there is a tremendously promising moment that occurs if the work is going well, and we call it “the impasse.”

The impasse is an opening in the mind in which our former defense mechanisms are dismantled and new ones haven’t formed yet.  Visualize a clock that you’ve taken apart.  All the pieces are laid out on a table.

clock parts

Those pieces are components of your personality–the way your experience, your conditioning, and your temperament have come together to form your character.  There is great opportunity in this temporary dismantling.  Trust yourself to reorganize in a healthier way, free of old defenses.  ACIM Lesson 153 teaches us, “In my defenselessness my safety lies.”  One way of applying this lesson is to our relationship with ourselves.

A Course in Miracles, in Lesson 69, says it this way, “From where you stand, you can see no reason to believe there is a brilliant light hidden by the clouds.  The clouds seem to be the only reality.  They seem to be all there is to see.  Therefore, you do not attempt to go through them and past them, which is the only way in which you would really be convinced of their lack of substance.”

Only by walking into the thick mist, with the guidance of the Holy Spirit, will we emerge with clarity.  First, we must be willing to be confused.


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