Friday, June 20, 2014

Atonement, Forgiveness and Peace

A friend asked: “Hi Don. You refer a lot about asking for another way of looking at things. What specifically do you mean? What am I supposed to look for as another way of seeing things?
This is another good question. I’ll do my best to explain. How we look at things starts with our belief in our Separation from God. The Bible uses common (in its time) mythology to convey this in the Garden of Eden stories: we sinned and thus were separated. ACIM states that we are only in error. The most common form of belief in separation is the simple statement: I am me and you are not. Everything we perceive from this egoic viewpoint is illusionary. We are not separated from God and never have been.
Being provided with another perception – another way of looking at things, events, and people, rather than seeing through our egoic filters – is the primary purpose of our life according to A Course in Miracles (ACIM). When the Holy Spirit is willingly asked for help, He (the Voice for God) will provide us with true vision, rather than physical sight. It is most often referred to a change of perception or a holy instant and will always lead to Forgiveness.
This change of perception from our “normal” egoic point of view is altered to one of seeing the Christ in others, including ourselves. This change of perception is what the Course means by the Atonement. It is not something we can do by ourselves. When we try to change our perception by acts of our own volition, our egos will simply hijack the process to serve our perceived needs. In short, our ego can wrap its fear-based / guilt-laced perceptions in the whitest robes of religious purity and altruism.
We have to train our minds to become aware of the instances where our egos are in absolute control of us. We have to become aware that our feelings of pain, suffering, anger, and fear are symptomatic of our egoic perception. We have to understand that these feelings are not “thrust” upon us from outside. Things, events or people do not make us feel afraid, hurt, or angry. Our perceptions do that all by themselves.
How we perceive, or interpret, the world we see determines what we think we see. To effectively change what I see, I need to change my perception of the world, of people, and of events.  We’ve all been to movies. When we walk out after it’s over, we do not believe the world we walk into is the world we left behind on the screen. Now, pretend you are in a special movie theater – in a special seat, hooked up to electrodes so that what you think and feel is projected on the screen. You are watching a movie that replicates what you’re thinking. The characters you see on the screen, including you, are a projection of your perception. That’s precisely the way ACIM says we truly are. We are seeing our projections when we look at people. We are not capable of seeing the real person. We are seeing our own perceptions based on our own illusionary past experiences instead of seeing the real person in front of us – NOW. Old-timers in AA will simply state: “If you spot it, you got it.” As I began to comprehend the Course, I used this movie imagery to help me see what I was doing. I wouldn’t be angry at the characters in a movie, so why would I be angry at my skewed perceptions of “real” people?
Forgiveness, according to ACIM consists of three steps. We have to participate in the first two. The Holy Spirit performs the third step. Step One: I forgive the images I've made or projected, and I forgive the people in these images, including me; Step Two: I forgive myself for making these projected images; and Step Three: I ask the Holy Spirit to help me see another way of looking at this situation/person – and then I still my mind and listen for the Holy Spirit's whispers and guidance. And I remember: Step 3 is not my job. It will just happen!
We need to perceive our world in another way. The Holy Spirit will provide that way when honestly requested to do so. That new way of looking at things will be with a different perception (Atonement) that allows us to see all anger and fear as a Call for Love. Responding to that call with Forgiveness is our true function while we are here on Earth, and it will give us the peace and serenity we truly desire.
Kenneth Wapnick, PhD, wrote about this very well in his book: Forgiveness and Jesus – the meeting place of A Course in Miracles and Christianity, Foundation for a Course in Miracles, 1998. From pages 79-80: “The belief in separation constitutes a decision we make to hear the voice of the ego, rather than the Voice for God. From this decision arise two distinct ways of looking at the world. The ego’s eyes see problems…. Central to this perception is the belief in injustice, seeing the world as divided into victims and victimizers, the former being the innocent objects of the sinful actions or thoughts of the latter. All beliefs in anger, sickness, and suffering are beliefs that justify this perception.
“The vision of the Holy Spirit, on the other hand, transforms our problems into learning opportunities, the special function through which we practice our lessons of forgiveness. Expressions of anger – towards others or ourselves – become transformed through His loving perception into calls for help, which His love gently answers through our forgiveness, healing the injustice that once seemed so real. Thus do … unholy relationships become holy.”
We put our egoic blinders on and we can begin removing these blinders by practicing the three step of forgiveness – honestly and willingly asking for the Holy Spirit’s help. 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.
PS: I will be away for a while – so there will be no messages until mid-to-late July. So enjoy a happy Summer Solstice and a great 4th of July!
 #4 Jun, 2014

Copyright, 2014

Saturday, June 14, 2014

My Attachments and My Frame of Reference

I recently read a great little book by Don Miguel Ruiz, Jr. It is called The Five Levels of Attachment – Toltec Wisdom for the Modern World [Hierophant Publishing, 2013].
Writing in the Foreword to his son’s book, don Miguel Ruiz [acclaimed author of The Four Agreements] stated: “My son has spent a great portion of his life silently rebelling against the way other people live, creating many judgments and opinions. He did not realize that in doing so, he was becoming attached to those judgments and opinions, and his emotional reactions were becoming increasingly intense.” [Page ix]
“…Although we live in the present, our attachment makes us dream of a past that no longer exists, a past that is full of regret and drama. Our attachments also take us to an uncertain future full of fears that do not yet exist, making us feel unsafe.” The book goes on to explain “… how your belief system has been making all the decisions in the story of your life. … how you create your identity based on the opinions and judgments of others around you…. how our beliefs become intimately connected to our identity; or who we think we are. This belief of what the truth is in turn creates all our attachments and all our emotional responses.” The Five Levels of Attachment, pp x,xi
A Course in Miracles (ACIM) states throughout that we interpret our past in ways that support our life story. If we think of ourselves as a victim, we interpret our past that way – it supports our life-view. If we think of the world as dangerous and we must always be on the defensive and ready to attack any suspected aggressor – be they store clerks, county officials, salespersons or business owners – we will base that frame of reference on our interpreted past. By so doing we are continuing to live in our illusionary past. ACIM goes on to say that this selective interpretation of past events controls how we perceive things, events and people now. However, we believe to live this way is to “learn from our mistakes,” is normal, and is the right thing to do. ACIM reminds us, however: “The one wholly true thought one can hold about the past is that it is not here.” [W-1: 8: 2,1] If I cannot let go of my past, that’s where I will continue to live – over and over and over again.
In AA I learned a very similar message: “If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got.” Although primarily on a superficial or behavioral level, I began doing different things and began getting different results. I have since learned that this truism is applicable on far deeper levels. Rather than using this axiom for behavioral changes, I’ve used this on emotional levels, as well. When a strong emotion occurs in me I look for the “trigger” that also occurred. My emotion is real (e.g., as they are in a nightmare) but often the “trigger” is based on a selected memory of my past, which is as illusionary as my nightmare dream. If I can do something differently – deal with my trigger and not my emotion – I will begin getting different results.
The ACIM Text, in many places, puts it this way: “God knows you now.  He remembers nothing, having always known you exactly as He knows you now. The holy instant reflects His knowing by bringing all perception out of the past, thus removing the frame of reference you have built by which to judge your brothers.” [T-15: V, 9, 1-3] (emphasis mine)
My attachments or my frame of reference limit and constrict. As an illustration, Christianity, as lived by Jesus of Nazareth, can instill in us a wonderful sense of gratitude for a visceral experience of God’s love for ALL of humanity – including me. In gratitude we embrace the Golden Rule (Do Unto Others…) – the second of Jesus’ three commandments to His followers. In gratitude we live, day-by-day in the Now, in a faith that has banished our fears.
Or ….
Christianity can be a terrible fear-producer. It can reinforce my perception of myself (and all humanity) as an unworthy sinner, falling short of the glory of God. It can reinforce the concept that “evil” is real, independent, a force against God, that lives outside and independent of me. As such, evil is beyond my control and is a force I must always fear and protect myself from. Consequently, if I don’t understand you, I can feel threatened and frightened. In my selective interpretation of past events I have learned to associate that feeling of fear as an indication of the presence of evil. As a result I become convinced that I fear you because you are evil. Even though I say the “correct” words – “I love the sinner but hate the sin” – my actions betray my faith in the power of Love that God has shown me.
For example, if we’re talking about homosexuality, which many (not I) believe is a sin, how can we say we only hate the sin, when we’re working so hard to banish the sin as expressed by the sinner? Oh, yes we love the gay guy, but hate his gayness. In the meantime, we will keep our kids from him, support efforts to get him fired from his job, and continue to castigate him and all he does. But we say we really love him – we just hate his sin. What mental gymnastics we go through!
Instead of homosexuality, I could have said the same about general religious tolerance or intolerance. I could have said the same about Right-to-Life or Freedom of Choice. I could have said the same about supporting the less fortunate or punishing them for making poor life choices.
The following two quotes are among my favorites and say much the same thing in very different words – words that may resonate better with you:
From Mahatma Gandhi:
Your beliefs become your thoughts;
Your thoughts become your words;
Your words become your actions;
Your actions become your habits;
Your habits become your values;
Your values become your destiny.
From Earnie Larson, Stage II Recovery – Life Beyond Addiction, Harper & Row, 1985, p. 30:
What you live with you learn;
What you learn you practice;
What you practice you become;
What you become has consequences.
All this judgment, analysis, comparison, condemnation – of ourselves and of others – is based on our selective interpretation of past events. We have put these blinders on all by ourselves, as we were “socialized” by our parents, friends, teachers, ministers, relatives, movies, television, politicians and employers. Toltec wisdom calls this socialization process “domestication.”
We put the blinders on and we can begin removing these blinders, as well. We just have to be willing and not be afraid to ask for a different way of looking at life.
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 Jun, 2014

Copyright, 2014

Friday, June 6, 2014

Living in the “Great Quiet”

On Thursday morning I received an email from a very good friend. She said, in part: “[My husband] and I have started studying ACIM together again and, of course, every time I get your wonderful [weekly message] I think of you doing it too…. At any rate, it's making a lot more sense to me than it did three decades ago.  I read someone the other week who referred to God as ‘The Great Quiet.’ I love that name – it rings true for me. So I think, ‘The Great Quiet is in me and I am in the Great Quiet.’ It helps so much.”
What a wonderful description – “The Great Quiet.” I had never heard that before.
Oddly [don’t you just love spiritual synchronicity?], that same Thursday afternoon I felt that Great Quiet. It had not been a very good day for me. I had to have some dental extractions and be fitted for a removable partial. The extractions went like clockwork. However, the partial had been made incorrectly, and I was going to have to return the following day for another fitting. As the day wore on the anesthetic wore off and my jaw began to hurt. On top of that I couldn’t eat anything REAL men eat – so I ate yogurt, soup, pudding and other foo-foo foods. I couldn’t work in the yard. I couldn’t lift anything. I couldn’t do much of anything.
It was a perfect storm consisting of perfect ingredients for me to crawl up into my King Baby chair and sulk long enough to conjure up a gold-plated Pity-Pot for myself.
Later that afternoon it began to rain – and rainstorms on Tennessee’s Cumberland Plateau, which creates a 1,000-foot overlook into the Tennessee River Valley, can be gentle, refreshing, life-giving nourishment for the woods. Yet, in an instant these storms can become wild, wooly, gale-blown sheets of penetrating water darts. It was that way this Thursday. Gentle rain fell straight down with no wind. I could almost hear the grass and plants as they were giving thanks. My Pity-Pot dissolved and I stood on my porch rather transfixed.
“The Great Quiet!”
Then trees began bending to the wind, shaking so violently tips of limbs were flying off. The gentle, nourishing rain became a squealing banshee [one-half inch in 10 minutes] and the grateful vegetation began yelling, “My God! Stop! In the name of Heaven what are you thinking of?”
I was fascinated with the sudden fury of the storm. What a change! – Yet I remained on the porch in that “Great Quiet.”
I was also very aware of what a blessing that was.
It made me realize I can do that anytime I want/need when I’m around people, places, or events. All I need to do is step outside myself and observe all the goings-on, including myself – just become the Great Buddhist Observer – standing shoulder-to-shoulder with (and in) the “Great Quiet.”
But, most of the time it’s hard for me to do that.
When I talk about quieting my mind I do not mean stilling all the thoughts that go on constantly in that universe between my ears. I seem to have a whole committee of voices that lives up there. If I try to quiet them, that’s where my concentration lies: trying to still the voices and thoughts that pop out of nowhere and demand my attention. My concentration does not lie in listening to the whispers of the Holy Spirit. It lies in fighting a very futile battle with my voices.
So, I’ve learned that to still or quiet my mind means simply to learn not to pay attention to the thoughts of my resident committee. This takes practice and a modicum of self-control. I can teach myself to do that. ACIM calls this process “mind training.” It’s not a brain-washing. Rather it’s a learned skill to pay attention to the whispers, not the shouts, of the constant stream of random thoughts that travel from one of my ears to the other. I use the mantra of Ho'oponopono to do this. It has been rather effective. [See Msg-1-Jun-2014: Experiencing the Peace and Truth of the Realities of Spirit]
There’s an old saying: I do not have to believe everything I think. The louder the voices in my head, the more I know they are of my ego. I am learning (and practicing) to listen for the whispers that will guide me to understanding the next, dumb, right thing I need to do. I’m beginning to understand that many times this next right thing to do is nothing.
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 Jun, 2014
Copyright, 2014