Saturday, December 13, 2014

Form and Content

The last message of November dealt with Acceptance and discussed the importance of distinguishing between FORM and CONTENT. I received several comments that indicated there was some confusion between the two.
These comments seemed to be centered around my paragraph: “My ego sees Form AS Content; the Holy Spirit sees only Content. Form is meaningless. Content is either an aspect of love or fear. To the Holy Spirit the difference between a hateful thought and a beheading is negligible. To my ego the difference in Form is exceptionally significant. But the Spirit’s reality is that hate is hate, fear is fear, anger is anger. It is of my ego – regardless of Form.”
I will elaborate.
If my perception reflects an aspect of fear, it is of my ego and cannot be an aspect of actual love. Fear and Love don’t mix, regardless of how well I try to shake them together. They don’t mix, regardless of the mental gymnastics I go through. Since Fear is of my ego, like every other egoic thing of mine, it is illusionary. It simply does not exist except within the universe of my perception.
The Holy Spirit understands this and will interpret my ego’s fear as a call for love, just as He will interpret your ego’s fear as a call for love. But the Holy Spirit needs human hands, eyes, and ears to help Him correct that perception. That’s where I come in. That’s where you enter the picture.
That’s our job. That’s our function.
To perform that job I need only do two things: I need to be willing – really willing – to see things differently; I need to learn to forgive.
The Holy Spirit helps me do both.
To try to forgive members of ISIS, for example, as an act of my egoic will is only a veiled form of insidious judgment. Conjuring up my egoic will, I will say to myself, “These ISIS folks are trying as best they can to find peace through their form of religious beliefs. They want to belong to something that provides a sense of meaning and purpose in their life. So, in fact, do I. Therefore, I must pardon their misguided acts of murder and hope they straighten-up and begin to fly right. I hope they begin to think just as I do. After all, I don’t go around and behead people. Help them, Holy Spirit to see the truth, as You and I both know it. Okay? Thank You. Amen”
I have just judged ISIS. It’s as if I were saying: I know better. I am more in tune with spirit that they. I believe in the Bible. They believe in the Quran. I know what’s best for them. All God needs to do is agree with me and grant my request to straighten them out – straighten them out as I see it, of course.
What preposterous BS!
True – I don’t go around beheading people. I just go around looking down my nose at bigotry, at ignorance, at self-centered power grabs, at fear-based political lies, at others’ obvious egoic behaviors. Yes, ISIS “sins.” Yes, I “sin.” But they really, really, really “sin.” I just sort of, kind of, “sin.” But my motives and intentions are good, I tell myself. How can theirs be?
All of this is FORM-based. All of this is illusionary.
But the Spirit’s reality is that hate is hate, fear is fear, anger is anger. It is of my ego – regardless of Form.
Rather than willfully trying to pardon ISIS, I need to understand that ISIS is not upsetting my peace of mind. My thoughts about ISIS are upsetting my peace of mind. As A Course in Miracles tells me, I need to remember I am never upset for the reason I think. This is a hard lesson for me.
So …
·      I need to still my mind by not paying attention to my thoughts.
·      I need to understand I am reacting to my own perception – not God’s.
·      I need to understand I need another way of looking at this situation.
That’s as far as my higher egoic mind can take me.
At this point all I can do is ask the Holy Spirit for a different way of looking at all this. I can ask for the true willingness to see things differently. Then I can begin listening – not to the loud boisterous voices in my head – but to the whispers of Spirit. The Holy Spirit will provide me with a different perspective, if I will recognize it. He will work through my changed perception and perform miracles I cannot begin to imagine. In all of this I will find true, lasting peace.
The actual process of changing my mind or the actual process of seeing things differently is not my job to do. It’s the Holy Spirit’s. When I find it difficult to separate Form from Content, it tells me I am attached in some way to the reality of the Form I believe I see. Most often this occurs when the Form I see is one I believe is right and just. Yes, those can be as illusionary as my more unsavory egoic perceptions.
Although these messages are mostly for me, thanks for listening. As always – feel free to forward this message to your friends, family, and those accompanying you on your spiritual journey.
Don
#1 December 2014

Copyright, 2014

Saturday, November 29, 2014

The Critical Nature of Acceptance

Last week I quoted a passage from AA’s Big Book about the importance of acceptance. I received quite a few comments from readers – some outside the U.S. – that indicated some confusion between acceptance and approval, as well as the misunderstanding between “accepting life on life’s terms” and our use of “past experience” to figure out life, I will attempt to clarify these issues at least as I understand them.
I will reiterate the quote here:  The Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous [page 417] discusses: “Acceptance is the answer to all my problems today. When I am disturbed, it is because I find some person, place, thing, or situation – some fact of my life – unacceptable to me, and I can find no serenity until I accept that person, place, thing, or situation as being exactly the way it is supposed to be at this moment. Nothing, absolutely nothing, happens in God’s world by mistake. Until I could accept my alcoholism, I could not stay sober; unless I accept life completely on life’s terms, I cannot be happy. I need to concentrate not so much on what needs to be changed in the world as on what needs to be changed in me and my attitudes.” [From the story entitled: Acceptance Was The Answer]
The key phrase for me in this quote is “… at this moment.” If I don’t accept the person, place, thing or situation, I will find no serenity. I will know no peace. I will continue to obscure whatever light and love there is within me. A Course in Miracles (ACIM) states that I am never upset for the reason I think. It also admonishes me to refrain from letting my past experience guide me in the present moment. When I bring up past experience, I am allowing myself to simply relive a perceived past failure or success. That is not dealing with what is in front of me NOW (… at this moment). That is only dealing with a perceived reality that exists in the universe that lives between my ears.
When confronted by a disturbing event or person, if I begin to ask myself “Why is this happening?” or begin commenting to myself about all the “shoulds,” “oughts,”or  “might-have-beens,” I am simply wasting my time and emotional energy – focusing on what is only my perception of the past. Thinking like this really damages my ability to deal with NOW – just as it is. I can discipline my mind to elect to be willing to allow the Holy Spirit to enable me to see the situation or person in a way that will enable me to respond. But, I cannot get myself there if I am bogged down in the muck of “Why me?” or “Why now?” or “This isn’t fair.” or “This shouldn’t be happening.” Focusing on that only keeps me stuck in my problem and in my past, both of which are not my answer to the NOW.
This sounds rather simple and straightforward. But it is hard to break my knee-jerk reactions, especially when I watch ISIS/ISIL or follow the events in Ferguson, MO or listen to stories about Ebola. But that is exactly what’s required of me to achieve serenity (AA) or peace (ACIM). When I allow the Spirit to be in control and am focusing on the NOW without the filters of my past, the common response I receive from those around me is that I don’t really understand or I don’t really care about what’s going on. People around me are confusing my dealing with the NOW as an approval of the situation or person.
Dealing with life on life’s terms means dealing with the situation or person in front of me by focusing on myself and my attitudes. If I do that, just as in an AA meeting, I begin to see a little of myself in all the others. I begin to hear a little of myself in the words of others. Watching stories about ISIS/ISIL I begin to see what could very well occur if I allowed my sense of right-ness to consume me. Seeing the fears and frustrations of ALL the actors in Ferguson allows me to see the same common fears or frustrations inside me. My “outside” actions/behaviors may be very different – the FORM may be different – but the CONTENT is very, very similar.
My ego sees Form AS Content; the Holy Spirit sees only Content. Form is meaningless. Content is either a type of love or a type of fear. To the Holy Spirit the difference between a hateful thought and a beheading is negligible. To my ego the difference in Form is exceptionally significant. But the Spirit’s reality is that hate is hate, fear is fear, anger is anger. It is of my ego – regardless of Form.
It is the reality of that age-old AA adage: “There, but for the grace of God, go I.” Consequently, I find myself often saddened, not angry. I find myself often humbled, not fearful. As I mentioned earlier, the typical reaction to that response is I do not understand or I do not care or I approve of what happened or I have become a doormat. Not true! I simply am trying to be willing to accept and learning to see myself a little (or a lot!) in my acceptance.
As I’ve said to myself and in these messages over and over, it’s not what’s “out there” that bothers me. It is how I perceive what’s “out there.” Do I see the other as an attacker or as another version of me? Do I see the situation as an aggravation or as an opportunity to see inside me? “I need to concentrate not so much on what needs to be changed in the world as on what needs to be changed in me and my attitudes.”
As it always is, it always is an inside job. I hope this helps.
Although these messages are mostly for me, thanks for listening. As always – feel free to forward this message to your friends, family, and those accompanying you on your spiritual journey.
I do hope you had a happy and peaceful Thanksgiving.
Don
#5 November 2014
Copyright, 2014

PS: I am on assignment next week so there will be no message.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Understanding My Special Relationships

I had always thought a special relationship was the closest thing I could get to having a human experience that mimicked the perfect God-Human relationship. A special relationship was love and marriage, Rock Hudson and Doris Day, Frankie Avalon and Annette Funicello. But, that never worked for me. The closer I seemed to get to someone, the more intense and disturbing things became. The closer someone was to me, as I understood me, the more I was vulnerable and ended up being hurt, angry, disappointed or frustrated. My special relationships more closely resembled the movie, “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Wolff.”
What was going on? What was wrong with that picture?
In my recovering from alcoholism, I got a glimpse of what was wrong. I heard people in AA meetings say over and over: “We don’t have relationships. We take hostages.” Everyone would laugh. Then, as I began to write my Fourth Step (“… an honest moral inventory of myself…”), I began to discover how true that adage had been for me.
In the end all my relationships had been all about me – all about being the perfect giver of love and nurture and, in doing that, being in control. In short, my relationships had been all about self-image and self-satisfaction. They never lasted very long. I would begin to run out of gas. I would try to be an occasional receiver of love and nurture – but I didn’t know how to ask for love and nurture and, by definition, the one I was in a relationship with was someone who didn’t know how to give love and nurture. In my mind the perfect special relationship was one where I HAD to be the “giver” and she HAD to be the “receiver.” That’s how my control was intended to work and, when it stopped working, the relationship always crashed and burned.
After almost 20 years in my current rrelationship, I’m still discovering portions of that lesson I still need to revisit.
In A Course in Miracles (ACIM) specialness and a special relationship are defined as: [Specialness is] “The idea of being set apart from others and set above others. Having more or being more than others. Specialness is the great payoff promised by the ego. We seek [specialness] in our special relationships, where others give us special love and their special selves…. We seek [specialness] with our body, adorning our body in order to attract [specialness]. We also seek it by accumulating idols…. All ways of seeking [specialness] involve attack, for specialness requires that others must be beneath us….  A [special] relationship [is] based on the pursuit of specialness, in which we try to (a) have a special arrangement (an exclusive relationship) with and (b) receive special treatment from (c) a very special person so that (d) we can feel more special…. To keep our allegiance, the ego must provide something that offers a semblance of the love we really want, yet is still of the ego….
We can describe this relationship in stages: 1. First we search for a person different from the rest, one who is more special…. 2. Then we offer him special behaviors and gifts that give him our specialness and, ultimately, give him our ‘self.’ These ‘gifts,’ however, are attacks designed to make her guilty and so induce her to give her ‘self’ in return. 3. We (almost certainly) do not receive from him the specialness we think we paid for, so we resort increasingly to taking vengeance on him for not reciprocating….”   [Robert Perry, Glossary of Terms from A Course in Miracles, Circle Publishing, 1996]
I don’t know about you, but those definitions of “Specialness” and “Special Relationships” have pegged me right where it hurts. It was as if Robert Perry looked into my soul and concluded: “Don provides a pretty generic and accurate description of everything there is about Specialness and its Relationships.”
The definition of a Special Relationship continues, however, with a fourth stage, which states: “The Holy Spirit, however, would not deprive us of these relationships or have us throw them away. He would transform them into holy relationships through forgiveness…. [Our special relationships] are holy relationships-in-training…,” if we are but willing to turn them over to the Holy Spirit.
In Alcoholics Anonymous the Big Book [page 417] discusses much the same thing: “Acceptance is the answer to all my problems today. When I am disturbed, it is because I find some person, place, thing, or situation – some fact of my life – unacceptable to me, and I can find no serenity until I accept that person, place, thing, or situation as being exactly the way it is supposed to be at this moment. Nothing, absolutely nothing, happens in God’s world by mistake. Until I could accept my alcoholism, I could not stay sober; unless I accept life completely on life’s terms, I cannot be happy. I need to concentrate not so much on what needs to be changed in the world as on what needs to be changed in me and my attitudes.” [From the story entitled: Acceptance Was The Answer]
Bottomline? As I’ve said to myself and in these messages over and over, it’s not what’s “out there” that bothers me. It is how I perceive what’s “out there.” Do I see the other as an attacker or as another version of me? Do I see the situation as an aggravation or as an opportunity to see inside me? Do I respond or react?
As it always is, it always is an inside job.
Although these messages are mostly for me, thanks for listening. As always – feel free to forward this message to your friends, family, and those accompanying you on your spiritual journey.
Don
#4 November 2014
Copyright, 2014

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Getting Back On Track - Spiritually

As you have recognized from my last several posts, I have been fearful, angry, frustrated, and generally upset about a myriad of things – mostly at myself.
Last week I received the latest issue of a publication based on A Course In Miracles (ACIM) that I relish reading. It is The Holy Encounter, a publication of the Miracle Distribution Center, Anaheim, CA., www.miraclecenter.org. As I began perusing it, “Voilà!” There were two articles that seemed to be written just for me. Sometimes, as a writer, I read someone who has stated what I want to say in a way I just cannot improve. The following excerpts are from the November / December 2014 edition, pages 1, 4. They are reprinted here by permission of the publisher.
From Beverly Hutchison McNeff: “As the season of gratitude and peace approaches, it is often difficult for us to believe God is present in the painful, confusing situations of life, or that anything ‘good’ can come of a tragic circumstance. And, yet, this is our guarantee, for as we read in the Course, ‘All things work together for good. There are no exceptions except in the ego’s judgment.’ (ACIM, T-4.V.1:1)
“The face of God is in that person who judged me unjustly, the hand of God is working in the internal political struggle our country is going through, and the peace of God is the final outcome for that battle between those warring countries. Yes, God is present, not because He caused the problems in our lives or seeming pains and conflicts in the world. God is present because He can never be absent from our minds.  God is in our minds as the reminder that there is a better way, that love is our strength, that forgiveness is the key, and joining with my brother past the seeming circumstances of life is the way that Christ is recognized. In that recognition is salvation accomplished. ‘Salvation of the world depends on you who can forgive. Such is your function here.’ (ACIM, W-p1.186.14.5).
”So, it becomes plain to us that wherever we may find ourselves is exactly where we should be, for we are there to bring salvation to the world through our forgiveness of the situation, or rather through our willingness to let the Holy Spirit’s perception be ours. This healing in thought may not always bring change in the way we think it should appear or come as quickly as we think it should happen, but ‘healing is always certain.’ (ACIM, M-6.1:1)” (underlining is mine)
From Gerald Jampolsky, MD and Diane V. Cirincione-Jampolsky, PhD: “Spiritual vision [or seeing with the vision of the Holy Spirit ] is experiencing the world through Love’s eyes and not through our body’s ego eyes of fear. More and more we are remembering the only thing that is real and that never changes is our united connection with our Source. We believe our spiritual vision has a DNA of happiness, unconditional love, kindness, tenderness, and gentleness. It is celebrating the Light and Love we know we are and seeing only Love wherever we go…for that is what we are. It is celebrating freedom from our self-imposed ego prisons.
“For me, utilizing spiritual vision is remembering I am blind when I make interpretations followed by judgments of other’s behaviors based on what I see through my physical eyes. And I am sighted when I remind myself I am not my past or my glaucoma, nor am I my body. I am the essence of the Peace of God. Spiritual vision is to see everything through the eyes of a loving and gentle God; through our hearts and not our heads.”
To see with this kind of divine vision is not something I can make myself do as an act of sheer willpower. I can only be willing to allow it to happen. All I need to be able to do is step out of the way.
I heard a member of the Fellowship in a recent AA meeting say something that resonated with me. She explained exactly what I had been doing. She said, “A very good friend in the Program always told me, ‘You cannot fix this,’ he said while tapping his head, ‘with this!’ while tapping his head again.”
And that’s what I had been trying to do – fix my head with my head; fix my egoic thinking with my intellectual (but egoic) thoughts.
I have been trying to figure out and understand why I was allowing myself to get so angry, exasperated, and frustrated. I knew that I knew better, but I was unable to stop the vicious cycle of fear-anger-frustration, which was only leading to more fear-anger-frustration the more I tried to intellectually deal with my fear-anger-frustration.  This may not make sense to you but it surely does to me.
All I need to do is recognize what is going on and do nothing but acknowledge it and focus my attention on becoming willing to allow the Holy spirit to help me see things through His eyes.
I am finally getting back and what a difference that has made!
Although these messages are mostly for me, thanks for listening. As always – feel free to forward this message to your friends, family, and those accompanying you on your spiritual journey.
Don
#3 November 2014
Copyright, 2014