Sunday, January 27, 2013

My Illusions Are the Way I Look at the World

During my Course in Miracles (ACIM) study group this week, we discussed the difference between being and existence. Both “existence as well as being rest on communication. Existence, however, is specific in how, what and with whom communication is judged to be worth undertaking.” [Txt 4. VII. 4. 1-2] As I thought about it, that comment really damned me because my illusions are the way I look at the world. Generally, when I see people, I see what I’m predisposed to see, not the “real” people themselves.
I was reminded of comments by Robert Perry in his book, The Path of Light – Stepping into Peace with A Course in Miracles. He discusses the mechanics of perception in a section of the same name [Circle Publishers, 2004, pp. 97ff.] “The Course says, ‘Perception selects, and makes the world you see.’ [Txt 21. V. 1. 1] If I look for acts of kindness, I’ll live in a different world than the person who focuses on acts of callousness, and each of us will live in a different world than the guy who has a shoe fetish. What we focus on makes our world.” [p. 98] “Seeing with true perception means that we look on the same old people and situations as before, but see a whole new meaning in them. It means seeing a different reality, one that has been right in front of u all along, but which we failed to notice.... For instance, when someone yells at you, the sights and sounds of this event come streaming in through your senses, impressing themselves on your mind. Yet this is not all that seems to come streaming in. The meaning of the situation also appears to come in from the outside. You probably experienced being yelled at as a bad thing, and this ‘badness’ appears to exist in the situation itself. It seems to thrust itself onto your mind, coming in alongside the sights and sounds, and making you feel bad…. The Course makes an obvious point: ‘It is surely the mind that judges what the eyes behold. It is the mind that interprets the eyes’ messages and gives them ‘meaning.’ And this meaning does not exist in the world outside at all. [M.8.4.1]” [p. 97]
How does this happen? How does my mind assign meaning to people, events or situations? “This, as you might guess, is where things go wrong. This is where ‘errors’ in perception enter.” [p. 98]
We have each developed categories into which we dump the people we meet, know, or interact with. Perry refers to these categories we have all developed as file folders. I have a file folder or category labeled Bible Belt Christians, fat people, Asian people, rich people, poor people, old people, arrogant people, illiterate people, and so forth.
You know, too, that you have similar categories as well.
For example, when I see people and, quickly in my observation or in our conversation, peg them as a “Bible Belt Christian, I mentally open up my “Bible Belt” file folder and unceremoniously dump them in. In doing that I am attributing all the characteristics I have placed in that folder to those people, even if I don’t know them.  My file folder, assembled throughout my life, “tells” me: They have all been taught that to be saved is to affirm a simple intellectual assent to the belief that the words of the Bible (usually the King James Bible only) are the words of God. Those words are therefore correct and true for all people all the time.  In fact, when pressed, they would state that their salvation and guarantee for a place in Heaven is their literal belief in the Bible, not their faith in Jesus Christ who has transformed them. By believing in the Bible this way, they can hate with their perfect, self-righteous hatred. They can fear anything – people, places, movies, books, history, science or philosophy– that is construed to be at odds with selected passages of scripture. The fact that hate is not a Jesus value does not bother them. The fact that an obscure, out-of-context quote from Leviticus has been given the same spiritual weight as a parable from Jesus’ mouth does not bother them. If it’s in the Bible, it’s true.
When I see people that are “old,” I dump them into my “old” folder. Old people are totally absorbed with themselves. They have confused steering, braking and accelerating with the act of driving. They are oblivious to things like what’s going on around them: The speed limit, The difference between a Yield sign and a Stop sign, That the left lane is for passing and the right lane is for slower traffic. Old people don’t stop their bad driving on the highway. Just try to negotiate around their grocery carts in a crowded store – seemingly always parked right in the middle of the aisle or right in front of a door as they chat with a familiar face.
These are categories or file folders I have created – partly because of my shared illusions and partly because of my own selective memory of prior experiences. I know that you, too, have your file folders. Regardless, it is my way of maintaining my sense of separateness. I am different/better/poorer/richer/healthier than you. I am me. You are you. Period. It is my ego.
Because I have these folders that are consistent with “my story,” I never truly see these people. I see my perceptions (AKA categories) of them. Pieces of these people that turn out not quite fitting the preconceived ideas in my folders are conveniently forgotten.
In short, I see what I want to see. If I don’t like what I see or if what I see is making me nervous, anxious, depressed, angry, or sad, then all I need to do is change what it is I want to see. Simple, but very difficult.
All perception of mine – all those file folders – are my creations, and they are all wrong and in error. They are not representative of the real world. They only represent my ego’s view of things. Only the Holy Spirit can help me change those perceptions. All I need to do is really ask for help and work like the devil to train my mind to look at life through the eyes of the Holy Spirit (vision) and not through the eyes of my ego (sight).
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.
#4 January, 2013
Copyright, 2013

Sunday, January 20, 2013

The Reality of Shared Illusions? No Way!

I received the following excellent question from a subscriber: I have talked to friends who study A Course In Miracles (ACIM). They use the phrase “Shared Illusions.” I also hear the phrase “Race Consciousness” in some New Thought groups. Are these the same thing? If so, I don’t think I understand what these mean. Can you explain?
Race Consciousness has nothing to do with race (Black, Hispanic, Asian, Caucasian, Native American, etc.) It is “race” as in human race. Race Consciousness is a term that is the same as ACIM’s use of the phrase “Shared Illusions.” These perceptions are not evidence of reality. They are merely shared by everyone or among groups. Many have been taught for generations or since history began.
For example, it is no surprise that someone growing up in an environment of fear will be fear based. Someone growing up in an environment of criticism will be critical. Someone growing up in an environment of bigotry will be a bigot. That’s how we are taught to perceive. Since it carries parental and grand-parental authority, it is absorbed as truth. You, then will teach this to your children and grandchildren. On and on.
These kinds of thought processes are the influence of our ego thought-systems. We live with the consequences of our thought-system – mostly the consequence of fear-based thinking. Over thousands and thousands of generations, some common fears are taught. Spiders are dangerous. Snakes are dangerous. Fear for your life.  There is not enough, so get yours before someone else does (Implied: You will be left with nothing). People who look different are dangerous. Different foods are scary – be cautious. People who pray differently are inferior, scary and association with them will tempt you to backslide in your beliefs. It’s safer to stick with what is familiar.
It doesn’t take much of an imagination to comprehend the fears one must be exposed to growing up in a fear-filled environment. Think of a TEA-Party household: The federal government is out to get us, guns are our safety, and the United Nations wants to control us. Don’t believe what you read. There’s a conspiracy to destroy our way of life. Or think of a few fears taught by religious fundamentalists: Satan is always lurking about you trying to steal your soul and, if you really believe in Jesus, angels will be there to fight the devil to protect you. Believing the Scriptures literally allows the Bible to be your personal shield against all the swords of evil that will trip you up. Scary, fear-filled thoughts.
All of these kinds of learned ways to view the world, repeated over generations and generations, can by summed up as “Shared Illusions” or “Race Consciousness.” These common fears among us provide a false sense of legitimacy to their validity. We say to ourselves, “Since so many others think as I do, it must be the Truth – the correct way to look at reality.”
Let me give you an example from the book review [Pacific Standard magazine Vol. 6, No. 1, Jan-Feb 2013, p.68] of The Republican Brain: The Science of Why They Deny Science – and Reality, by Chris Mooney, Wiley Publishing.
The author found “…that Republicans and Democrats are fundamentally different in the way they think about the world. Republicans … show lower tolerance for ambiguity and uncertainty, which makes them defensive about their beliefs and highly resistant to persuasion. Conservative Republicans score low on a personality trait called ‘openness to experience,’ which encompasses curiosity and intellectual flexibility.
“All of these processes contribute to what’s called ‘motivational reasoning,’ which is not reasoning at all, in the classical sense. The theory, derived from modern neuroscience, holds that we often process information automatically and emotionally, without reflection or even awareness. These hidden emotional priorities cause us to misinterpret or dismiss evidence – even technical, scientific evidence… [like] global warming is not related to human activity and is not a threat; abortion causes breast cancer and mental disorders; homosexuality is a choice that can be reversed. The list goes on….” The President can say over and over again that his proposals for restricting the sale of assault weapons doesn’t restrict the 2nd Amendment. Conservatives will react, “ Don’t bother me with facts. I fear the government and so I simply don’t believe you.” These are shared illusions.
The Course in Miracles deals with this early on in the Workbook for Students. In Lesson 12 is the following: “You think that what upsets you is a frightening world, or a sad world, or a violent world, or an insane world. All these attributes are given it by you. [WB: 1; 2-4] … It is [your attributes] you see. It is this that is meaningless in truth. [WB: 5: 1-6]
From ACIM’s Lesson 14: “What God did not create does not exist. And everything that does exist exists as He created it. The world you see has nothing to do with reality. It is of your own making, and it does not exist…. This is your personal repertory of horrors at which you are looking. These things are part of the world you see. Some of them are shared illusions, and others are part of your personal hell. It does not matter. What God did not create can only be in your own mind apart from His. Therefore, it has no meaning.” [WB: 1: 2-5; 6: 1-6]
I give attributes to the world because I love drama. I love my “story.” I think it helps me understand the world, but it’s really defining the world so I can interpret, react, or respond consistent with my self-image. In short, I am my “story. Since ACIM is a course in mind-training, [Txt: 1: VII, 4,1] I have tried to begin training my mind by changing my “story” – changing it to one that highlights my spiritual growth. It’s still ego-thinking, but I believe it helps me be more open to the whispers of the Holy Spirit rather than simply listening to the illusions of my “story.”
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.
#3 January, 2013
Copyright, 2013

Sunday, January 13, 2013

My Mea Culpa and A Holy Instant

Early this week a good friend in my neighborhood sent me an email with some rather funny political messages, but he prefaced his email with the following: I just hope God isn't too ashamed of us for taking away so many of the incentives that drove people to make this country great and for us allowing our government to spend over 16 trillion dollars of our children and grand children's money to (for the most part) try to help people [who are] too irresponsible to provide for themselves or their future.”
I responded with:
I cannot disagree with our enormous amount of debt - but I take issue that most of our debt is because of our entitlement payments to the poor / disadvantaged who are "mainly irresponsible".
In terms of real dollars, the reason for 1/4  ($4T) of our $16T debt are the wars on Iraq and Afghanistan – both of which were funded on the Government's credit card during Bush-II's administration, while kept off the books as a "special expenditure" so the Congressional Budget Office wouldn't have to analyze its effect. A second reason for the debt was the size of Bush-II's tax cuts (at the same time as the off-the-books- funding of the wars) - estimated cost (in terms of lost revenue): $1T. The third reason is the nearly $1T in Bush-II's TARP bailout of banks and Wall Street. The fourth cause of the debt is the continuing entitlement programs we allow big corporations (especially Big Oil) and huge loopholes for financial institutions  and corporations  - which has been estimated at almost $1T (in lost tax revenue) over the last decade. All this totals to about $7T. So, without all those financial fiascos, our enormous debt would be only about $9T. Still big, but manageable.
I do not remember any GOP member of Congress complaining about all this debt (and lost revenue) they racked up under Bush, until Obama was elected. He simply - in the name of transparency - put the cost of the wars and the cost of TARP formally "on the books." As soon as he did that, that's all the GOP could talk about - how Obama was spending us into oblivion. Unfortunately, most of us have bought their argument.
The cost of entitlements to the poor amount to very little of our actual budget. The cost of Social Security is also not part of our budget - it's separately funded. The cost of Medicare/Medicaid is the biggest budget-eater because of the constant inflation of the health care sector - which, since ObamaCare, has had the slowest rate of growth in 2011 since they began keeping records.
Thought you might like another perspective on this.
At first I felt pretty good about my response. But soon afterwards – maybe 45 minutes – I began having these sneaky little twinges that I couldn’t really identify, but they left me with a hollow feeling in my gut. Then they’d go away. At the most illogical times, that twinge and the corresponding bad, sinking feeling would make its reappearance. This pattern continued for about a day and a half.
In short, I had responded from my anger to someone’s fear. My anger is simply another form of fear. Even though I had edited my comments to be as straightforward and non-inflammatory as I could, I was responding to my perception of people whose life-view appeared to be filled with bigotry.
As a teenager in Texas, I took great affront at the rampant prejudice toward blacks in my small hometown – even to the point of near fistfights at times. This week I felt the same as I had in high school: angry, righteous, protecting the underdog, demonstrating my moral superiority. The fact remained, however, I had responded to someone’s fear with my anger. As far as the Course in Miracles (ACIM) is concerned, the feelings of fear and anger are the same thing. I was, in fact, being no different than my neighbor.
The next day, at our weekly ACIM meeting, we read the following: “Watch your mind carefully for any beliefs that hinder its accomplishment, and step away from them. Judge how well you have done by your feelings, for this is the one right use of judgment.” [Txt; 4, IV, 5-6]
So, after a day and a half of having feelings aroused by these anonymous “twinges,” being reminded of my 10th Step training, and after going to my ACIM meeting, I called my neighbor to apologize. He was very gracious. He told me he hadn’t interpreted my message as some condescending, holier-than-thou” rant. Rather, he said, it contained information he hadn’t considered before and it had given him pause to think. He then went on and chatted about how some of his golfing buddies railed and ranted on and on about Obama, the debt, the coming socialism, and the greedy poor, blacks and other minorities. He thanked me for calling and wished more people would be as thoughtful and considerate. I thanked him.
I felt good that I had called. I believe my neighbor and I are closer now – more as honest friends, rather than just neighbors.
I believe these anonymous twinge-thoughts were the whispers of my Holy Spirit. I believe what I had experienced was a small Holy Instant: The coming together of two people where the veils of ego were brushed aside and the two of us saw each other in love and respect and in the Now.
An accepted definition of a Holy Instant (from Robert Perry’s Glossary of Terms from A Course in Miracles) is: “A moment in which we temporarily set aside the past and enter into the present, in which we momentarily transcend identification with illusions and recognize what is real…. This allows our minds to be still and shift into another state of mind.” P. 48
From this month’s Holy Encounter Magazine, Miracle Distribution Center, January/February 2013, p, 14.  “When we encounter a fearful situation, the Course encourages us: ‘Peace be to my mind, let all my thoughts be still.’ It says to quiet your mind … because the answer is always right in front of you. Peace is always a part of you! All we need to do is embrace any situation in which we find ourselves and let God do the rest.”  
In my case, I just needed to heed the whispers of my Holy Spirit – my twinge-thoughts. God was dealing with my neighbor.
By the way, I have had no more “twinges” since the call.
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.
#2 January, 2013
Copyright, 2013

Sunday, January 6, 2013

A Spiritual Perspective For 2013

I was exchanging holiday wishes with a good friend and subscriber earlier this week. We discussed the rancor of 2012 politics and our hopes for for 2013.  I commented on her New Year’s greeting card she had sent earlier. In it she had written “… I can’t quite remember my early programming, but is fear and greed the result of our original sin?” During our conversation, she mentioned how it seemed to her that human history seemed to operate in cycles. It seemed to her that humankind would take 3 steps forward only to retreat 2 steps, followed by another 2 steps forward and then 3 steps backward – ending up maybe 400 years later with much newer technology but back in the same place culturally, politically, and spiritually.
I believe my friend is correct in the observation of cycles. Here in America, we have gone through quite a few cycles of 3 steps forward only to retreat 2 steps. For example, We have had what historians call “The Three Great Awakenings.” The first was in the mid 18th Century, the second in the early half of the 19th Century, and the third in the last half of the same century (1850-1900). The Third Great Awakening also spawned the era of the Social Gospel, which covered the period from 1890 to the outbreak of World War II.  
Each of these was precipitated by economic/cultural upheavals and associated alterations to our perceived cultural/social/moral values. Each “Awakening” was a step back to recapture perceived “lost” values but each also contained the seeds of further growth. For instance, during the 3rd Awakening there was an enormous movement to recapture personal (almost Victorian) piety, which gave rise to Holiness, Pentecostal and other similar congregations. These, in turn, were very fundamentalist – interpreting the Bible very literally and being rather judgmental in terms of all those that didn’t quite agree with their positions. On the other hand, this emphasis on personal piety gave rise to a strong sense of social activism within the organizational structure of religious institutions – within congregations and denominations themselves. From this came the Social Gospel Movement and its focus on suffrage movements, unionization, the Salvation Army, progressive political positions, as well as humanist philosophies such as the Theosophical Society, to promote care for the health and housing of the poor, needy, and downtrodden.
I do believe there are cycles that societies go through, where there are elements of progressive change as well as elements of severe resistance to that change. In short, there are steps forward and simultaneous pressures to try to step backward.
Since the late 1980s and into the early 1990s, many with a spiritual (not religious) focus have noted that we are moving into another significant social/moral/spiritual Era. Some have attributed this to the Mayan Calendar Cycle. Regardless, we are currently witnessing some pretty significant social and cultural upheavals: The progressive political movement in the USA (with its focus on accepting the growing  diversity of our citizens as well as wanting to modify the growing disparity of wealth) and the Arab Spring movements. This progressive movements is coupled closely with the resistance to these trends – the TEA Party, the Religious Right, fear of immigrants, the perceived battle between “socialism” and “capitalism,” the desire for more personal piety in sexual behavior enforced by laws prohibiting contraception for unmarried women, the stark distinction between voiced social criticism and perceived unpatriotic behavior.
As I stated in my Christmas greeting, I do believe we are moving into another Era – one encompassing the beginnings of an Age of Cooperation rather than Competition, Inclusion rather than Exclusion, Acceptance and Tolerance rather than Self-Righteous Arrogance, the Power of Love rather than the Love of Power. If history holds true as a guide, the old values of competition, power, accumulation of wealth, and very strict adherence to rigid religious dogma will not simply “slip away quietly into the night.”
My friend has asked a very good question for the beginning of the year. “[Within the cycles of history] … Is fear and greed the result of our original sin?”
My short answer: Yes and No. Let me explain.
If I define sin (original or otherwise) as something I have done that violates one of God’s Law(s) and therefore I will be punished – then the answer is “No.” If I define sin as an error (as does A Course in Miracles), in which I have mistakenly come to believe that the reality of this physical world truly exists and I am truly a separate-from-everyone-else biological human being, then the answer is “Yes.” If I perceive I am a physically separate entity in human form, then all other errors of my perception follow from this: Separation, Duality, Lack or Greed, a dog-eat-dog mentality (protect-defend-attack-retaliate). When I think about it, all of these perceptions can be boiled down to FEAR – the opposite of Faith. 
I leave you with several uplifting thoughts as this New Year begins. Hopefully, these might help each of you maintain a perspective about the events that are currently occurring:
  • ·      The powerful experience of inspiration that many of us feel at the beginning of a new year is the recognition that we really can do something that we hadn't believed possible before—that we are capable of breaking through to higher ground and reaching previously unimaginable levels of our own potential. Indeed, the uplifting experience of inspiration that we feel in those moments is the thrilling sense that anything is possible. That feeling of inspiration is a taste of spiritual freedom, because within it we experience liberation from any habitual sense of limitation. —Andrew Cohen. NOTEYou can read the full context for this quote in Andrew's new blog post, "When the New Year Doesn't End"  <>
  • ·      One of my favorite sayings.  “Strive for control over your experience of the events and people of your life – not control over the events or people themselves.”

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.
#1 January, 2013
Copyright, 2013