Undoing the Ego

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.