Friday, March 27, 2015

My Memory Is Not My Friend

As you have heard me discuss lately, this last 4 weeks of our winter has been hard for me – physically, financially, and emotionally. As is my habit, I immediately rely on learned behavior to deal with non-working blower motors on our heating/cooling system, with non-responsive repair people or manufacturers, with warranty companies and their excessive “fine print” that explains why my situation is not covered. Most of the time things work out. Some times they don’t.
In any case I find myself forgetting to simply deal with what is in front of me – the NOW that’s facing me. It may not make much of a difference in the final outcome, but it leaves my focus on the existing situation rather than on  (1) the situation itself, (2) the surfacing emotions – frustrations, angers, irritabilities – from a remembered similar situation, (3) my response to reliving those surfacing emotions, and (4) trying to “fix” those remembered past situations through my attempts to deal with the present crisis. Trying to deal with all 4 of these issues is much more unmanageable than simply dealing with #1.
One of my earliest learning experiences when beginning my study of A Course in Miracles (ACIM) was to comprehend that I can no longer use my past experiences to guide me. I really understood that to use my past experience is simply to relive that past all over again. If it was a good experience, well, that’s nice. If it was a horrible experience, then I’m reliving and “re-enjoying” that awfulness once more. But, in either case, I’m not living NOW. I’m shutting the door on the possibility that the Holy Spirit can use me in this situation to allow my love to help transform the encounter. He can’t use me because I’m no longer there. I’m too busy reliving the event that exists in my head.  I will continue to shut Him out because my belief is that my memory is replaying more of a reality than the true reality that is staring me in the face.
But the reality I think I’m replaying is not accurate. It is a selective, edited, supportive rendition of the past I created to support the image I have of myself.  I have a story I tell myself to explain myself to me. It’s my ego. It has created this magical movie that has cast me as the “unsung” hero of the story.
A while ago I asked you to test this out. The next time you get together with family or old high school buddies, recall a common incident and your recollection of it – what was important, what you learned, what stands out for you. You will hear some tell you they have no memory of that at all. Others will tell you different interpretations of that same event. Quite a few of you responded over the next month to verify that experience indeed happened to you.
In a novel I’m currently reading – “O” Is For Outlaw by Sue Grafton, Henry Holt, 1999 – the heroine states: “... I was ready to go through the box of memorabilia, though I half dreaded what I would find. So much of the past is encapsulated in the odds and ends. Most of us discard more information about ourselves than we ever care to preserve. Our recollection of the past is not simply distorted by our faulty perception of events remembered but skewed by those forgotten. The memory is like orbiting twin stars, one visible, one dark, the trajectory of what‘s evident forever affected by the gravity of what’s concealed.” [pp. 24-25]
I love the way Grafton compared memory to twin stars – visible and dark. It is a wonderful depiction of how my memory seems to work.
Long before I was aware of ACIM, I was dealing with my sponsor in AA over issues of respecting my past but moving on beyond it. My superior at work had been out of town on an extended work duty, and I had been having issues with my boss’s boss about how I was handling a difficult government client. This client was the Inspector General of a cabinet-level federal agency. One day I returned to my office after visiting another agency. My secretary rushed in with an urgent message from my boss’s boss to contact him immediately. My initial thought was very fearful. Had this difficult client called him with a complaint about me? Was I about to be fired? Demoted? Then I remembered what my sponsor had told me about dealing with my past. He had said that many times he had feared punishment from superiors only to discover he was really reliving difficult times he had had with his father.
So, I breathed in a long breath and told myself, “You are not being called to the principal’s office, nor are you being confronted by your angry father. Just call and go see your Senior Vice President.” I did just that and heard him tell me he had just visited this difficult client and had been reamed out. The client had told him – in effect – to mind his own business. The client stated he had some issues with me, but we had developed an honest and positive working relationship and, most importantly, he trusted me.
I had stopped letting the emotions of other bad experiences color the present. I simply dealt with what was in front of me.
Now, when I find myself with my perceived ineffective contractors, the only way I can correct this is to state: "I am <angry, worried, disappointed, etc.> at/because <name, situation> but I am only reacting to a world whose meaning I created from a selective memory of my past. I am determined to really see! I am neither the victim nor the victor. I do not know what anything, including this situation, means, so I do not know how to respond to it. And I will not use my own past learning as the light to guide me.” So, I ask – “I really no longer want this; Help me to see another way of looking at this situation."
Then I still my mind and listen for the message of my Spirit Guide!
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.
#5 March 2015
Copyright 2015

Saturday, March 21, 2015

My Body Is Not My Self

This has been a rough week for my little body. The weather in East Tennessee has been less than wonderful – cloudy, rainy, chilly, overcast. It’s a great time to catch up on pre-spring in-house honey-dos as well as outdoor yard and garden chores. So that’s what I was doing most of the week.  On Tuesday, while re-grouting some tile, I rolled on my side and heard one of my floating ribs crack and pop. It still hurts, but there’s no bruising or discoloration – so I know nothing is cracked or broken and no cartilage has been torn. It is just painful.
On Wednesday, I cleaned our wooden deck from accumulated mildew. The deck is in the shade virtually all winter. The mildew is as predictable as daffodils in the early spring. I use a hand brush and a bowl of ammonia or bleach (Clorox) water. It was very stubborn this year, so I decided to mix a little Clorox with the mostly ammonia water. I know that a Clorox/ammonia mixture will give off chlorine gas and is very dangerous in small, enclosed places – like showers and bathrooms. But I was outdoors, there was a light breeze and the deck is about 5 feet off the ground – chlorine gas is very heavy and sinks. It worked on the mildew like a champ – but the chlorine gas also worked on me – snorting, coughing, and making the skin on my hands become very sensitive. So much for being so very smart!
So, here I am – a sore rib and still dealing with the residue of chlorine gas inhalation.  After 48 hours my hands still smelled like a public swimming pool. But I’ve learned that it is difficult to think of my Self without my body. Afterall, I am not my body nor am I what I generally think. I am an already-loved eternal spirit that is a part of the Mind of God. That’s hard to keep in mind when my body is hurting and keeps itself front and center.
In ACIM’s Workbook for Students, the explanation for the body is clearly spelled out in Lesson 72, “Holding grievances is an attack on God’s plan for salvation.” As you read this please remember that “grievances” are having upsets, frustrations, being angry, condemning, having judgments/opinions, relishing self-pity, having expectations, trying to be in control, fighting to be right. In short, having a grievance is being angry at the reality I seem to see because it does not support my desire for separation and specialness.
From the initial paragraphs of Lesson 72 (bolding is my emphasis):
1 While we have recognized that the ego's plan for salvation is the opposite of God's, we have not yet emphasized that it is an active attack on His plan, and a deliberate attempt to destroy it. In the attack, God is assigned the attributes, which are actually associated with the ego, while the ego appears to take on the attributes of God.
2 The ego's fundamental wish is to replace God. In fact, the ego is the physical embodiment of that wish. For it is that wish that seems to surround the mind with a body, keeping it separate and alone, and unable to reach other minds except through the body that was made to imprison it. The limit on communication cannot be the best means to expand communication. Yet the ego would have you believe that it is.
3 Although the attempt to keep the limitations that a body would impose is obvious here, it is perhaps not so apparent why holding grievances is an attack on God's plan for salvation. But let us consider the kinds of things you are apt to hold grievances for. Are they not always associated with something a body does? A person says something you do not like. He does something that displeases you. He "betrays" his hostile thoughts in his behavior.
4 You are not dealing here with what the person is. On the contrary, you are exclusively concerned with what he does in a body. You are doing more than failing to help in freeing him from the body's limitations. You are actively trying to hold him to it by confusing it with him, and judging them as one. Herein is God attacked, for if His Son is only a body, so must He be as well. A creator wholly unlike his creation is inconceivable.
5 If God is a body, what must His plan for salvation be? What could it be but death? In trying to present Himself as the Author of life and not of death, He is a liar and a deceiver, full of false promises and offering illusions in place of truth. The body's apparent reality makes this view of God quite convincing. In fact, if the body were real, it would be difficult indeed to escape this conclusion. And every grievance that you hold insists that the body is real. It overlooks entirely what your brother is. It reinforces your belief that he is a body, and condemns him for it. And it asserts that his salvation must be death, projecting this attack onto God, and holding Him responsible for it….
7 This is the universal belief of the world you see. Some hate the body and try to hurt and humiliate it. Others love the body and try to glorify and exalt it. But while the body stands at the center of your concept of yourself, you are attacking God’s plan for salvation and holding your grievances against Him and His creation, that you may not hear the Voice of truth and welcome It as Friend….
9 The light of truth is in us, where it was placed by God. It is the body that is outside us and is not our concern. To be without a body is to be in our natural state. To recognize the light of truth in us is to recognize ourselves as we are…..
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 March 2015

Copyright 2015

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Twigs And Thoughts: What A Life!

East Tennessee is still recovering and cleaning up after a horrendous two weeks of snow, ice, rain, more ice and high winds. I have cleaned up most of the downed tree limbs (only one entire tree, fortunately) and general mess on our property. Most limbs were about 15 to 20 feet long and about the size of my thigh where they broke off from the trunk.
First I dragged and pulled the stuff together in four area of our yard. Then I waited until more rain had come and gone. Then I was able to use my chain saw to cut the smaller limbs off and saw up the bigger stuff into fireplace-sized pieces. After stacking this up, I was left with all the twisted, interconnected, and intertwined smaller branches. Those have been awful to remove and grind up in my chipper. I’ll grab a branch and a pencil-lead-sized twig at the end of a 40-lb, branch will get entwined with anther similar twig from another set of branches. Those two little twigs will hang on to each other until I am trying to pull 150 lbs. of limbs while balancing on one foot and holding onto my chain saw and my nippers.
It’s amazing how resilient these cute, little twigs can be.
Once I just stopped and screamed. Once I simply laughed out loud at the ridiculousness of the whole situation. Most of the time I’d just smile as I took my nippers to one of these twigs, saying quietly, “Take that, you little shit.”
But these intertwined and interconnected limbs reminded me of my thought process. One thought gets introduced to another, which is tied to a third, and the next thing I know my mind is off in places so far removed from the task at hand, it’s amazing. “How did I end up thinking about this?” I’d wonder. I had started off thinking about the limbs, then moved on to politicians and their shifting political gamesmanship, and ended up standing there angry about biblical literalists as well as Islamic fundamentalists. How did that happen?
I realized that my thoughts were being driven by my emotions. One “frustration” emotion-thought will lead to another and then to a “resentful” emotion-thought, which will lead to another and on to an “exasperated” emotion and its related memories and thoughts. It reminded me of that adage, “Whenever you mentally take a trip down memory lane you’ll find yourself in dangerous territory.”
But – and this is the important observation I made – this is the ego mind I use to navigate my self through life! No wonder I can get myself into such a tizzy – especially over the little things – like twigs, not downed limbs. I’ve heard in AA meetings: It’s not the bears that will chase you out of the woods. It’s the mosquitoes.
From A Course In Miracles, Workbook for Students, Lesson 71.2,3: “The ego’s plan for salvation [finding happiness, being at peace, being centered, being fulfilled] centers around holding grievances [having upsets, frustrations, being angry, condemning, having judgments/opinions, relishing self-pity, having expectations, trying to be in control, fighting to be right]. It maintains that, if someone else spoke or acted differently, if some external circumstance or event were changed, you would be saved. Thus, the source of salvation is constantly perceived as outside yourself. Each grievance you hold is a declaration, an assertion in which you believe, that says, ‘If this were different, I would be saved.’ The change of mind necessary for salvation is thus demanded of everyone and everything except yourself.
“The role assigned to your own mind in this plan, then, is simply to determine what, other than itself, must change if you are to be saved [finding happiness, being at peace, being centered, being fulfilled]….This fruitless search will continue, for the illusion persists that, although this hope has failed before, there is still grounds for hope in other places and in other things. Another person [including an out-there-somewhere God] will yet serve better; another situation will yet offer success.”
How can I escape this? Let God’s plan for my salvation go to work for me. What is His plan for me? To be happy. To be joyous, To be free. To be forgiving. To allow my defects, guilt and fear to be removed so the light within me (which has always been there) can shine. The Holy Spirit will then use me to become the Light of the world.
How do I turn my life over? By being still. By training my mind to quiet itself and to learn to listen – not to the raucous voices of my twig-like ego – but to the whispers of the Holy Spirit. By asking God to reveal His plan for me – asking what He would have me do, where He would have me go, and what He would have me say and to whom. And then simply listen for His whispers. [Lesson 71.9]
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 March 2015

Copyright 2015

Friday, March 6, 2015

My Image of the World and My Image of Me Are One and the Same

I’ve had several communications from readers that say, in so many words, that they do not comprehend how it is that if they change their perception, it will change the world.
That’s another tough question. How is that possible? How does it work that I allow the Holy Spirit to change my perception of a situation or person and the world will change?
But that’s exactly what A Course in Miracles (ACIM) states.
Lesson 57 of the Workbook for Students addresses this whole issue very well.
1. I am not the victim of the world I see. How can I be the victim of a world that can be completely undone if I so choose? … Only my wish to stay keeps me a prisoner. I would give up my insane wishes and walk into the sunlight at last.
2.  I have invented the world I see. I made up the prison in which I see myself. All I need do is recognize this and I am free. … The Son of God must be forever free. He is as God created him, and not what I would make of him. He is where God would have him be, and not where I thought to hold him prisoner.
3. There is another way of looking at the world. Since the purpose of the world is not the one I ascribed to it, there must be another way of looking at it. I see everything upside down, and my thoughts are the opposite of truth. I see the world as a prison for God's Son. It must be, then, that the world is really a place where he can be set free. I would look upon the world as it is, and see it as a place where the Son of God finds his freedom.
4. I could see peace instead of this. When I see the world as a place of freedom, I realize that it reflects the laws of God instead of the rules I made up for it to obey. I will understand that peace, not war, abides in it. And I will perceive that peace also abides in the hearts of all who share this place with me.
5. My mind is part of God's. I am very holy. As I share the peace of the world with my brothers, I begin to understand that this peace comes from deep within myself. The world I look upon has taken on the light of my forgiveness, and shines forgiveness back at me. In this light I begin to see what my illusions about myself kept hidden. I begin to understand the holiness of all living things, including myself, and their oneness with me.
I must always remember that what I see in the world I see in myself. It is all one thing – my image of the world and my image of me. If my perception of me changes, my world changes. If my perception of the world changes, my perception of me changes. From Lesson 62.2: “Illusions about yourself and the world are one….”
Paragraph 3 of Lesson 58 in the Workbook for Students, says: “My holiness is unlimited in its power to heal, because it is unlimited in its power to save. What is there to be saved from except illusions? And what are all illusions except false ideas about myself? My holiness undoes them all by asserting the truth about me. In the presence of my holiness, which I share with God Himself, all idols vanish.”
I wish I could tell you instance upon instance where this has happened to me. But I cannot. I can tell you I have had enough instances where I have seen mere glimpses of this reality – where my perception changed and my world changed which, in turn, continued to change me – that convinces me this is Truth. My life in Alcoholics Anonymous is enough testimony to that reality.
If I am wandering in the wilderness – lost, hungry and freezing – I don’t need to actually see a completed hot meal set before me to understand I am near civilization. All I need to realize is to become aware of wood smoke and savor the smell and sizzle of frying bacon to understand that help is very, very near.
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 March 2015

Copyright 2015