Spiritual Psychotherapy

How to Deal with Your Worst Moments, Especially When They Seem to Go On Forever

What makes a “worst moment”?  It boils down to pain.  Pain can be physical (sensation), emotional (loss, helplessness, despair), or psychological (fear).  Much more common than a “worst moment” is the dread of a worst moment.  I call this “futurizing.”

When pain is unbearable we pass out (literally black out, go unconscious) or check out (this ranges from not hearing people talking to us to having a psychotic break — losing touch with worldly reality).  This level of pain is rare, and this reaction is relatively rare.  When you relentlessly worry about and imagine upcoming pain, you’re futurizing.  You’re not living – you’re holding your breath, walking on eggshells, and dreading what the future will bring even though it is highly unlikely.

“The worst thing you’ll ever have to face in life is a thought, a sensation, a feeling, a sound, a smell, happening in THIS moment,” says spiritual teacher Jeff  Foster.

When you actually take a look at your pain, rather than avoid it or try to deaden it, pain breaks out into thoughts, sensations, feelings, sounds, smells, tastes, sights–anything the five senses have to offer.

Is your pain unbearable right now?  If it was, you couldn’t be reading this essay.

Moment by moment, pain, be it physical, emotional, or psychological, is not only bearable, but potentially the moment when your perception shifts and you realize what seemed to be “the worst” was actually the opening you had been waiting for.

Peace comes when you realize that you’ve been making yourself god by taking your fears seriously.  Fears that the pain you have now will never stop, fears that you’ll never meet someone and have a family, fears that you’ll never get a good job (or you’ll lose the job you have), fears that you won’t be able to pay the bills, fears that you’ll never realize your potential, fears that your health will fail and you won’t be able to take care of yourself and those you love, fears that you’ll be at the mercy of unkind people, or people who are incompetent, fears that you can’t overcome your addictions.  Fears, fears, fears.  It’s best to get well-acquainted with your own, so that you can stop futurizing and choose to enter the present moment.

This moment, now, is where peace is.

There’s an opening, a holy instant, where time dissolves into timelessness, and the “you” you thought you were melts away.  Here lies freedom.  And this moment is available right now.  Feel it?  There’s no time like the present to recognize what you really are.  Turn your attention to Truth.  You don’t have to know how.  You don’t have to do anything.  Just stop playing god, and instead, “… spend a quiet moment opening your mind to His correction, and His love”* now.

You may also find The Challenge of Physical Pain and Disability a useful read.

*A Course in Miracles, Workbook for Students, Lesson 126

Copyright © 2013 Amy Torres.  All rights reserved worldwide.

Special Relationships

blue hands“Everyone on earth has formed special relationships, and although this is not so in Heaven, the Holy Spirit knows how to bring a touch of Heaven to them here.” (T-15.V.8:1)

A Course in Miracles students are often very afraid that their special relationships will be torn from them if they put ACIM principles into practice.  Or they mistakenly believe they are supposed to stop having special relationships and, finding this impossible, beat themselves up for continuing to relate to certain people in their lives as special and more important than others.  Rest assured that Jesus will neither tear away your special relationships, nor expect you to give them up.  All he asks is that we give our belief in special relationships to the Holy Spirit.

“Bring, then, all forms of suffering to Him Who knows that every one is like the rest.  He sees no differences where none exists, and He will teach you how each one is caused.” (T-27.VIII.12:1-2)

When we unconsciously believe in specialness, which is the source of the “life” we lead, we project that belief outward, and are convinced there are people in a world ruled by a cruel ego-god.  Even if we have a poor opinion of ourselves, even if we are atheists, even if we are obviously the innocent victims of other people’s viciousness, we are still unconsciously subscribing to the tiny, mad idea that we are special–different from God and from our brothers.

“Specialness is the idea of sin* made real.”  (T-24.II.3:1)

orb web spider eating its webWe start on the personal level, looking within the ego self we think we are, working with what seems to be our individual sense of sin and guilt (even if it seems the “other guy” is guilty–not us).  Little by little, as we learn to practice forgiveness, and clear the guilt from our personal relationships, we discover there is nothing personal to forgive.  First it seems as though we draw our projections back into our personal selves, like a spider devouring its own web.  This leads to a miraculous shift in perception and we realize that “I” is one ego mind, all-inclusive of every single brother in the whole wide world.

“And you will understand that miracles reflect this simple statement, ‘I have done this thing, and it is this I would undo.’” (T-27.VIII.11:6)

This “I” is the original thought of separation itself–what we now call “ego.”  The “undoing” is a  change of mind from believing in specialness (that we could leave God’s Mind to be “my self”) to a gentle laugh at the absurdity of such an impossible idea.  And here are all special relationships left behind, not with grief and mourning, but with joy and liberation from a false identity that bred only war, slaughter, and revenge.

“We had a wish that God would fail to have the Son whom He created for Himself.  We wanted God to change Himself, and be what we would make of Him.  And we believed that our insane desires were the truth.  Now we are glad that this is all undone, and we no longer think illusions true.  The memory of God is shimmering across the wide horizons of our minds.  A moment more, and it will rise again.  A moment more, and we who are God’s Sons are safely home, where He would have us be.” (W-pII.Intro.9:1-7)

heaven horizon

* “Sin” in A Course in Miracles means the belief in separation and serves the ego brilliantly in that the ego views sin as an unforgiveable crime to be punished. The Holy Spirit disarms the ego’s purpose for sin by reframing sin as a mistake, a mere error to be corrected and healed with unconditional Love.  Thus, we release the ego’s plan for salvation (sin, guilt and fear; kill or be killed) and embrace God’s plan for salvation instead (Sameness, Innocence and Unity; Love and Be Loved).

Copyright © 2013 Amy Torres.  All rights reserved worldwide.

Forgiveness is Illusion that is Answer to the Rest

“Condemn and you are made a prisoner. Forgive and you are freed. Such is the law that rules perception. It is not a law that knowledge understands, for freedom is a part of knowledge. To condemn is thus impossible in truth. What seems to be its influence and its effects have not occurred at all. Yet must we deal with them a while as if they had. Illusion makes illusion. Except one. Forgiveness is illusion that is answer to the rest.” ~from Lesson 198: Only my condemnation injures me.

What does this passage from Lesson 198 mean?

A Course in Miracles is using the word “condemn” to mean that we have chosen to believe a tiny, mad idea that we could separate from God’s Mind. God’s Mind is our Home. We were born there, and we live there right now. It is possible to daydream nightmares in Heaven, and once upon a time we had a thought that we could leave the Formless, Changeless, Perfect, Abstract Mind of God and be God ourself.* It was an idea that couldn’t be taken seriously because that would be like wishing to be human while extracting our own DNA–not gonna happen.

Anway, we went ahead and “remembered not to laugh” as the Course puts it, and believed our fantasy that we had separated from God’s Mind. In order to talk ourselves into this idea of splitting off and being an autonomous god, we had to divorce ourself from Infinity and Eternity. So we made up space and time. This was simply to put God out of our mind … or, more accurately, to become mindless about the fact that we are forever one with God’s Mind.

We tried to forget God and His quality of Unified Oneness (which the Course also calls “knowledge”). We fooled ourself into thinking there was more than one of us. Remember, this is all a game of pretend: if you see it you believe it–if you didn’t know better, an airplane in the sky would seem to be the size of an ant, but that doesn’t make it so! We pretended we were a separate thought from God and projected images out of God’s Mind that seemed real. Then we started a game of war: if I oppose you, that proves there is someone out there, which also disproves the Oneness of God. What a grand distraction!

This sense of being separate from God is called “ego.” The ego came up with the delusional idea that we could fence God’s Oneness off within individual bodies–bodies with senses with which to perceive the world. The perceptions we have seem to be facts–we believe the world happens to us. The Course teaches us we are the dreamer of this illusory dream world.

The Holy Spirit is the memory of God within our minds which we can never lose, just as a human can’t be human without DNA. This memory is restored to us through forgiveness, which the Course defines as recognizing this world, our senses, and the belief that we are separate individuals, is actually a tiny, mad idea–a game of pretend. Since we are so convinced, the Holy Spirit meets us halfway and uses our dream to help us awaken to God’s Truth. Forgiveness uses the medium of illusion to undo our belief in illusion. Forgiveness is the only illusion, within our illusion, which leads to awakening and recognizing what we already are: God’s Child, safe at Home, never alone, always at One with Each Other.

Feel free to ask questions 🙂 Email me at miracles@amytorresacim.com.

* I use “ourself” rather than “ourselves” because there is only one ego mind which seems to be split into all of our individual personal selves–but that, too, is an illusion.

Death Is Just A Belief

starlit skyAs a child, I felt terrified at the idea of death. No one had spoken with me about death, and no one close to me had died. Yet there was a picture in my mind of my body floating in an endless night sky, surrounded by stars, completely helpless, painfully alone, and frozen with terror.

This fear affected my entire early childhood. It was more important to play it safe, than learn to ride a bicycle, swim, or meet new friends. I was shy, and spent most of my time reading books. As I grew older, there was an uneasy feeling inside me that I was a coward. I admired people in stories I read, who would throw themselves in front of a bus to save another, and I sensed that I was not one of them.

It became crucial that I overcome my fear of death–but I no longer remembered that it was death of which I was afraid. I was now wrestling with the shame of calling myself a “coward.” This was my dirty little secret–I was yellow.cowardlylion

And cowardice infected my whole life. First, I was afraid of sports, then dogs, then water, then other kids, then summer camp, on and on. In order to feel safe, I had to withdraw from life. Safety came at a high price-loneliness and a great longing to play and participate; but instead I stayed in my room.

Although this was my plight as a child and young adult, paradoxically, I was not alone. Many people suffer from this kind of withdrawal. Lonely, terrified people are probably the majority of human beings. I found this out because eventually I went into psychotherapy–first as a client, and then when the therapy worked, as a professional. And I discovered that every client that walked through my door was lonely and terrified. Even when, externally, their lives appeared successful.

swirly omAs I faced my fear of death, spiritual wisdom came my way. Rather than comforting myself reading novels about lonely people, I started reading mystical literature. “If there is any death, it is that of death itself, for life will not die,” said the great Sufi teacher, Hazrat Inayat Khan. Such elegant logic. How can life die?

A Course in Miracles (ACIM) explains, “The ‘reality’ of death is firmly rooted in the belief that God’s Son is a body. And if God created bodies, death would indeed be real. But God would not be loving.” Again, impeccable logiclaverne-ross-while-adam-slept. If God is Loving, how could He create death? But what did “if God created bodies” mean? Where did bodies come from, if not God?

According to Advaita Vedanta, also known as non-dualism, this world and the bodies in it are an illusion, maya, the play of consciousness. As ACIM puts it, “What is seen in dreams seems to be very real. Yet the Bible says that a deep sleep fell upon Adam, and nowhere is there reference to his waking up.”

What? I read that over and over again, and then checked the Bible. I could not find a passage about Adam awakening. Could this all simply be, as the song goes, “Row, row, row your boat, gently down the stream. Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily, life is but a dream.”?

dreaming aboriginalAustralian Aboriginals believe in “dreamtime,” an infinite spiritual belief about the time of creation. The “Dreaming” is eternal and life exists before a person is born and after the individual person ends.

Quantum physics has theories about non-linear and simultaneous time. There is no past and future. Time is a limited and limiting concept made up by humans. There cannot be death without the grim reaper, Father Time. Yet if God is understood as formless, infinite and eternal, there can be no death at all. It turns out death is just a belief.

“It is not you dying. It is what you are not that is dying. In fact, you are never going to die! Death is a myth. This body, you have to give it up. But you must come to know, while you have the body, that you are eternal,” says Mooji, a contemporary mystic, who teaches self-inquiry.

As I began to understand that I am not a body, and the reality that seems so real to all of us is merely a dream, the fear of death dissolved. The real me-and you–can never die. The spiritual Self in which we are all One prevails. This is the truth that Jesus said would set us free. This is the Truth that dissolves all fear, including the fear of death.om sky

Death Is Just A Belief is an essay in my ongoing series, How to Use the Body While You Think It’s You.  If you liked this, you may also enjoy “Gatita Sparkles,” “Gatita’s Metamorphosis,”Body Health Is Not a Measurement of Spiritual Unfolding,” “How to Take Yourself Less Personally”,Flossing and Feldenkrais,” and “I Am Not My Hair”     Also, be sure to watch Webinar #10, The Purpose of the Body on YouTube :)   And you may be interested in my Facebook page devoted to body issues: http://facebook.com/acimbodyimage

Copyright © 2013 Amy Torres.  All rights reserved worldwide.

Body Health Is Not a Measurement of Spiritual Unfolding

sick teddy bearIt is a common misinterpretation of the Course to believe that body illness is an indication of giving in to the ego.*

Jesus is very clear in ACIM that the only illness is mental illness and that illness is believing we could separate from God and the guilt that perpetuates this mistaken belief.

There are places in A Course in Miracles that could be misinterpreted when read at a superficial level, but go deeper and it is clear: the only use for the body is to serve the Holy Spirit’s purpose of forgiveness. The form this takes is not for us to judge.

Physical “maladies” are of no consequence when we have peace of Mind. The body is a vessel for the Holy Spirit to send miracles through us. Miracles are mind-healing.

Mind-healing gives us peace of Mind. Taking care of the body is common sense and an outcome of Love, but simply the way we would maintenance the car or any other device we are using for a while. You are not your body. You are God’s Child, the Formless, Timeless Self which also goes by many other names, such as, Awareness and Presence.

It can seem very unfair to have an illness like COPD when, for instance, you were never a smoker.  Certainly, it could be linked to repressed emotions, but that’s only one of many possibilities. The ego’s world represents an insane thought system, so there are many reasons from an earthly point of view to account for illness. Don’t blame yourself, but do be accountable and look at your health situation with the Holy Spirit.

In my case, I was guided to do lots of work releasing deep feelings in psychotherapy. It’s a great way to open up, flow, and release hidden shame, guilt, anger, hatred, grief, aggression, etc.  It helps us come out of denial.  The work was so liberating for me, that I became a psychotherapist myself, and assisted many people in this same process.

However, as a Course student, it is missing the point if we only work on the body level.  And to use body health as a measurement of spiritual unfolding is to disregard everything Jesus is teaching us. There is so much confusion around this, I started http://facebook.com/acimbodyimage. Visit there for more on this subject.  Also, watch this video from Mooji, which points “beyond the body” (as ACIM says) to Eternal Life:  Mooji on Eternal Life

* “Giving in to the ego” is a blatant indication that we believe we have to fight the ego, which is exactly what the ego wants. That would “make the error real”– to engage with the ego is to operate as if the ego exists, when the real solution is to give our fears to the Holy Spirit. Request to recognize What you already are, and remind yourself that you could “see Peace instead of this” (the seeming problem).  Open your mind and guidance will come in a form that serves you well at this point in time in your dream — that form might even be physical illness.  Remember, as Jesus tells us over and over again in ACIM:  we don’t know anything and we cannot judge anything.

If you liked “Body Health Is Not a Measurement of Spiritual Unfolding,” you may enjoy other essays in my ongoing series, How to Use the Body While You Think It’s You, including, “The Purpose of the Body,” “How to Take Yourself Less Personally,” “Death Is Just a Belief,” and “Flossing and Feldenkrais.”   Be sure to watch Webinar #10: The Purpose of the Body on YouTube 🙂  And check out my Facebook page devoted to body issues: http://facebook.com/acimbodyimage


How To Find God Through Percussion

More than one student has commented on my measured reading of A Course in Miracles. They say it’s soothing, or grounding, or helps them slow down; they say the reading is unhurried and steady.  I attribute that to my dance background. I’ve always had a great love of rhythm and percussion. The melody was always secondary to the beat when it came to my enjoyment of music. Back in the days when I first started attending kirtans,* I heard someone say, “God is in the space between the notes.” Another way of putting it is, “God is in the space between the thoughts.”Is&Amy check

The ego mind uses “splitting” to keep us unaware of God. (Splitting is a psychological term that means dissociating from what’s real because it is too painful or disturbing to tolerate. A Course in Miracles explains that the ego mind uses this device of splitting and dissociating from God to believe it is autonomous–although that is impossible.)  Along with splitting comes a racing sensation. In yoga they speak of “monkey mind” which is a ceaseless chatter that keeps us unaware of God’s Stillness which is ever-present.

Many spiritual paths teach that the ego is using the past and future to keep us out of the present moment which is where God resides. The ego seduces us with guilt, fear and worry based on past experience (or even without experience– cautionary stories we’ve been told and swallowed) and projects those fears onto the future nimbly bypassing the present.

A Course in Miracles explains that the ego is actually reviewing the past, which is over and never even happened–the past is actually a delusional state of mind. That’s a juicy subject for another day. For now, suffice it to say, speeding up is a ploy for keeping us from our natural Stillness.

We each have an internal rhythm of our own. My Sufi teachers, Puran and Susanna Bair, say the heart is our signature rhythm, akin to our fingerprint–wholly unique to each of us. When we are able to slow down and focus on ourselves internally, we discover our signature rhythm. Once we’ve done this, we can honor our rhythm by connecting our voice and our breath and our movement to our organic flow.

The more we are loyal and true to our own flow, the calmer life gets. Phones and cars and cyberspace can zip and zoom around and we can remain unshaken. This provides the opening to recognize Spirit.

22178_1229352977280_1332755229_30579231_4122325_nAs a yoga teacher, I find this important because it keeps students centered and calm, and keeps the practice balanced as we hold a pose on the right side of the body, and then switch to the left. Many yoga teachers hurry a little and the second side gets short shrift.

Puran Bair taught me to have more impact on the world than the world has on me. He demonstrated the potential in this when he participated in an experiment where he placed his arm in ice while being monitored on medical equipment. Normally the body rejects the arm to save its life. Puran connected with his heart and mindfully sent warmth to his arm–eventually he melted the ice. Pretty impressive. But more important than this sort of feat is the practical application in everyday life of remaining connected with our own internal rhythm so we can be open receptors for God’s Stillness.

Many people believe that God’s Stillness is boring. And that it means doing nothing. But think about it–isn’t music riveting in the moment when all sound stops–just before it kicks in again? Don’t we hold our breath with pleasurable anticipation during that musical pause? Stillness is the Absolute–absolute Peace, Love and Joy … Unified Oneness. As long as we believe we are human, we can choose to apply the wisdom of rhythm to experience the space between the notes.

Musicians might experience this as a unified oneness while they jam. Dancers feel a seamless communion as they dance with a partner, a group, or God Itself, whether the movement is improvisational or choreographed. When doing the Sufi turn (the dance Rumi discovered to heal himself of a broken heart from losing his spiritual teacher, Shams), I feel the Oneness and the Joy of Cosmic Self. Union is natural and reveals itself between the beats–we become One with the Universal Heart.

A Course in Miracles tells me I can change my mind and experience a shift in perception called a “miracle.” One way of making this happen is, like any good percussionist, plugging in to a solid pulse and holding that beat no matter how many other sounds and distractions are around me. I practice this until I can stay the course, hold the rhythm, become constant. In this way I become an open conduit for God’s Rhythm. When that happens, I recognize what I’ve always been–the Source of percussion Itself. zmarmay2013_506_w435_h580

*In Sanskrit, “kirtan” means “to repeat” and is used in devotional services. Live musicians play the harmonium, tamboura and other instruments, and lead chants or mantras (repetition of sacred sounds to facilitate direct connection with God–Om Namah Shivaya is a classic) in a call and response format. Krishna Das is a well-known contemporary Westerner who has embraced this genre, performs regularly, and has recorded many CDs.  ACIM Lesson 183. “I call upon God’s Name and on my own” in the reading below, expresses something similar.

Copyright © 2011 Amy Torres.  All rights reserved worldwide. 

Amy Torres is an established spiritual teacher, as well as a Gestalt psychotherapist, interfaith minister, and yoga instructor. A Course in Miracles is the foundation of all her work.  To contact her, call 212-340-1201 or email: miracles@amytorresacim.com

The Mythology of A Course in Miracles

For those of you who didn’t make it to the “Who Are You Really?” ACIM Conference in Cleveland, and for those of you who did and requested a copy of my slide show, the first part, “The Mythology of A Course in Miracles” is now posted on YouTube–just search for “Amy Torres Mythology” and it should pop up.

Stay tuned for “The Metaphysics of A Course in Miracles”, coming soon 🙂   Enjoy!

Aftermath of Cleveland ACIM Conference 2012

Walter Davis and Rev Tony Senf did a tremendous job with the “Who Are You Really?” conference.  Love was overflowing from start to finish.  If you were there, you know what I mean.  If you were not, I’d like to wash some Love over you right now with a little description.  My fellow Course teachers were so sincere and so much fun!  What a pleasure to hang out with people who walk the walk.  And the students and volunteers were so engaged, warm, friendly, sweet, inquiring, and good-looking!  I love good-looking people, wink.  Plus, it’s always a treat to have Facebook friends show up in person and morph from cyber-friends into friends!  Thank you, everyOne–it was a joy being with You.  Oh, and one more thing–several people have asked for a copy of the slide show I presented.  I’m working on making a YouTube video so it will be available for all.

The Temple Within

Darling Beloved,

It has been three months since I have written here, and though I thought of you often, those three months were much needed and well spent. I have been settling into my new home in Florida and working on some health issues that needed to be addressed. I am feeling much better now! I have organized my home and provided myself with a meditation hall/yoga studio. The house is uncluttered, spacious, and filled with the face of Christ.

For a long time I have wanted to maintain better eating habits and in April something called Cleanse America appeared in my email box. Because of how easy and inspiring they made this 10-day raw food cleanse for all of us who participated, and because Scott joined with me for the 10 days, I finally kickstarted a way of eating that has me feeling healthier and freer in my body than ever before. It’s not just the good eating habits. It’s my spiritual practice increasing in me day by day. String together over 20 years of undoing one day at a time and 20 years feels like a holy instant of priceless transformation.

As a result, I would like to share a beautiful vision I keep having with you. The inside of my body keeps appearing to me as levels of an inner temple. It reminds me of Damanhur in Northern Italy. A spiritual center built underground filled with the most beautiful mosaics, meditation alcoves, stained glass and sacred nooks and crannies filled with color, light and sound.  Within me, the experience is of one room stacked above another–just as if my chakras were rooms of gorgeous reflective light in jeweled tones of ruby, citrine, emerald, sapphire and diamonds.  Rooms revealed through a practice of spring cleaning my internal physiology by using food as medicine.

As the documentary, Forks Over Knives demonstrates, food can be more powerfully healing than medication.  Used well, food cleanses the colon, helps the liver and kidneys do their job of detoxification, nourishes us, builds strong bones and muscles, sharpens brain function and removes the sludge and blockages that the ego relies on to keep us in a state of forgetfulness of our God nature.

The vivid clarity with which I’m experiencing my insides being gorgeous rooms filled with kaleidoscopic Light led me to design a new Course in Miracles workshop called, “How to Use the Body While You Think It’s You.”  I’ll be presenting this material for the first time at the Who Are You Really? ACIM Conference coming up in June. 

Song of Vajra by Nicholas Roerich

The difference between intellectual comprehension and personal experience is the difference between gazing at the beauty of the ocean from the shore and immersing your body in the water.  As the Course says, “The prayer of the heart does not really ask for concrete things.”  As we learn to use the body for the Holy Spirit’s purpose we experience a Godly state of Mind–we uncover the Love, Peace and Joy within us:  The Temple Within.  If you would like to go there with me, I would love to share with you in person at the upcoming ACIM conference.  Cleveland never looked so good 😉  It should be a lot of fun!


ACIM w Amy, Comments on Lesson 31

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