Saturday, October 24, 2015

Specialness, Forgiveness and Failure

There is a section in Chapter 24, the Goal of Specialness, in the text of A Course in Miracles (ACIM) that is very significant for me. I have witnessed many times the use of “forgiveness” as a tool to extract as much pain as possible from someone. I have been guilty of doing it myself. If I believe I’m better and more “spiritual” than you, then I can afford to forgive you. I am special and you are not. It is insidious, cruel and as opposed to the Gospel of Jesus as one can get. It happens with all of us.
The initial paragraph of Section II (The Treachery of Specialness) reads as follows:
“Comparison must be an ego device, for love makes none. Specialness always makes comparisons. It is established by a lack seen in another, and maintained by searching for, and keeping clear in sight, all lacks it can perceive. This does it seek, and this it looks upon. And always whom it thus diminishes would be your savior, had you not chosen to make of him a tiny measure of your specialness instead. Against the littleness you see in him you stand as tall and stately, clean and honest, pure and unsullied, by comparison with what you see. Nor do you understand it is yourself that you diminish.”
So what is specialness and forgiveness, as described in ACIM?
From the Glossary of Terms from a Course in Miracles by Robert Perry, [2nd Edition, Circle Publishing, 2005]: 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…. All ways of seeking it involve attack, for specialness requires that others must be beneath us. It causes us to look for and rejoice at any sin [or weakness] we see in others. It makes everyone our enemy and so makes us feel attacked from every quarter. Because specialness is a form of separateness, it makes us feel weak, frail, isolated, and alone.  And because it is a form of attack, it makes us feel guilty and afraid. A Special Relationship is a “… relationship 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.”
In Miracles magazine [date unknown] is an article by Louis Bourgeois entitled, The Five Faces of Forgiveness. Bourgeois describes these faces in the following way: FACE ONE – Our typical understanding of forgiveness “… begins with a belief in vulnerability. The possibility of attack appears very real, and to forgive one’s attacker requires a series of complicated ego maneuvers. The deception includes a core belief in victimization [and that the perceived world is truly real].”
FACE TWO – “The second face of forgiveness begins with a student’s willingness to admit that he or she does not truly know their own best interests. They become willing to explore the idea that their judgments of anything they see in the world are not sound…. A core ACIM teaching … states that all things are lessons God would have me learn. This means very simply that everything I look upon, everything I experience, is for my highest good.”
FACE THREE – “The third face of forgiveness rests upon the foundation of this acceptance. I do not have to understand how this circumstance, situation, or encounter is serving my highest good. I do, however, have to trust that this is so…. The third face of forgiveness recognizes that even though the ego judges a situation, circumstance or encounter, there is another part of your mind that listens to the whispers of a guiding Spirit. Just by saying to oneself, in the middle of some ‘problem,’ “Help me see this differently,” a doorway opens to another whole realm of consciousness. Awakening has begun….”
FACE FOUR – “The fourth face of forgiveness is where things really start to shift. This level of consciousness is dominated by gratitude. Gratitude is the most appropriate response we can offer in a moment described by the Course as the holy instant…. In this holy instant an amazing series of mind shifts occur…. The first shift, already mentioned, is the reliance on a power greater than ourselves. The second shift is acceptance that that power can and will show us another way of seeing the world. The third shift in our mind is the willingness to experience gratitude.”
The three shifts Bourgeois discusses in the 4th face of forgiveness reminds me of AA’s first three steps as summarized by old timers: I can’t. He can. I think I’ll let Him. Old timers in The Fellowship of AA also told me that forgiveness is quite simple – just don’t blame. If I remove egoic blame, then forgiveness is unnecessary. Without blame, acceptance can take its place and acceptance is the key to serenity.
From my readings in many books/articles about ACIM, I concluded, for me, a description of a 3-step process for forgiveness:  
1. I forgive the images I've made or projected, and I forgive the people in these images from the judgment I have pronounced against them.
2. I forgive myself for making my projections and judgments.
3. I ask the Holy Spirit to help me see another way of looking at this situation or person – and then I still my mind and listen for the Holy Spirit's whispers.
I must always remember: Step 3 is not my job. It will just happen!
The most difficult part of this process for me is the last part of the 2nd step – stilling my mind and listening. After an argument tonight, I might do this step tomorrow. But to do it in the midst of my snit is very difficult for me. However, those times when I have accomplished it, the results have been palpable.
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 Oct 2015

Copyright 2015

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Un-Learning the Ways of Un-Love

Here is a beautiful message that reinforces in me such a wonderful truth. It is from Swami Chaitanaya Keerti:
Often I say, learn the art of love. What I really mean is learn the art of removing all that hinders love. It is a negative process. It is like digging a well – you go on removing layers of earth, stones, rocks and then suddenly there is water. The water was always there as an undercurrent. When you remove all the barriers, the water is available. So with love. Love is the undercurrent of your being. It is flowing but there are many rocks, much earth to be removed. That’s what I mean when I say learn the art of love. It is really not learning love but un-learning the ways of un-love.”
A Course in Miracles (ACIM) states the same truth in the Introduction to the Course:
“This is a course in miracles. It is a required course. Only the time you take it is voluntary. Free will does not mean that you can establish the curriculum. It means only that you can elect what you want to take at a given time. The course does not aim at teaching the meaning of love, for that is beyond what can be taught. It does aim, however, at removing the blocks to the awareness of love’s presence, which is your natural inheritance. The opposite of love is fear, but what is all-encompassing can have no opposite.
“This course can therefore be summed up very simply in this way:
“Nothing real can be threatened.
“Nothing unreal exists.
“Herein lies the peace of God.”  [Bold Italics mine]
As a note to myself, I paraphrased the Introduction in the margin of my text this way: “This is a Course in un-doing and removing the ego-thought system of duality. It is a course in mind training. Collectively, we are the Son of God. So, I am to deal with myself to eliminate my fears. I am not destined to become “so cerebral and smart” so I can fix everyone else.”
I used to say to folks, “My spiritual job is to shine my light.” I was gently corrected. Now, I know my job is to allow my light to shine. That’s a significant difference. My light is always there – it is just covered up by all the crud I continue to clutter my mind with and believe is really important. I now understand my job is simply to remove the crud that has been hiding my light. It will shine on its own.
Consequently, my real “battle” has been (and still is) to un-learn my tendency to see all the barriers to love as being “out there” somewhere. The barriers to living my love are all in my head – all in my thinking and I can learn to change what it is I think. That is the mind training the Course discusses.
I am so grateful that I am a recovering alcoholic. When I get frustrated by my lack of progress, I just need to remember all that I have re-learned and un-learned in my decades of recovery in Alcoholics Anonymous. I am no longer the person who first walked into those rooms. What triggered my change of thinking? When did it actually happen? When did I become aware?
I have no clue.
However, by doing differently, by thinking differently, by responding differently, by reacting differently – day by day – I changed and so can you. I was changed and so will you be.
If I always do what I’ve always done, I’ll always get what I’ve always got. 
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 Oct 2015

Copyright 2015

Saturday, October 10, 2015

The Awesome Power Of Acceptance

I have written many times, including last week, about the transformative power of simple acceptance. For me, acceptance is a more meaningful word than “love,” which is so often overused and overworked that it has become almost meaningless for me.
I have also written about how my recovery from alcoholic behavior and the disease of alcoholism occurred within the rooms of AA – primarily because I fully felt, on a visceral level, that I was truly accepted for who I really was. It was the first time in my life I had really experienced that feeling of freedom of not trying to pretend who I was or figuring out the group dynamics so I could blend in without revealing what I thought was the real me. It led me to an understanding of spirituality that went far beyond comprehending the dogma of religion. That palpable acceptance, and its resulting sense of honest hopefulness, transformed my life.
As critical as that was however, it wasn’t just that people in the fellowship of AA accepted me. It was also that I began accepting me as well. I was told I was only as sick as my secrets. So, I had to trust the acceptance I was receiving in order to openly discuss internal secrets I had been hiding – some of which I had hidden from myself. As I slowly began unraveling my secrets, my compulsion to drink disappeared and I fully began what has become my lifelong transformation from a rule-based, dogma-based religion to an inclusive sense of spirituality – namely that I am no different than anyone else – including Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, Humanists and Fundamentalist Christians.
As I stated last week [Msg-1-Oct-2015; “I Want What I Want And I Want It Right Now!”], the only truly “real” thing about me is my spirit and my loving thoughts as I accept people for who they are. These things are real because they are as God created and the only real things out there are those created by God. My ego – which I call Felix – just doesn’t count.
My spirit, my loving thoughts and my acceptance of all people I meet are the only things that are true. I need to forgive myself for projecting Felix’s reality on people and for creating those projections I have made and am treating as reality. That forgiveness, itself, is an act of love and acceptance – both of myself and of others. That makes it “really” real and true as well.
My loving, accepting thougths. My acts of forgiveness. These are all I can do within the Truth of God.
For those of you who may still wonder what it is I mean when I discuss the transformative power of acceptance, you may want to “see” an image of what acceptance looks like. If so, I strongly suggest you buy, rent, or download the movie The Road Within. I saw it this week as a feature of the Cumberland County Film Society.
The Road Within is a 2014 American film written and directed by Gren Wells and is a "road movie" where the characters interact and change in the course of their journey.  However, in this road movie, each of the characters is very flawed. Each has a severe psychological malady that he/she must deal with:  one with Anorexia, one with an Obsessive/Compulsive Disorder (OCD), and one with Tourette’s syndrome.  The film has won several awards at film festivals. It depicts how the power of acceptance actually heals – themselves as individuals and collectively as a trio of very disturbed, but very human, beings. Be aware that, since Tourette’s is noted for outbursts of inappropriate and disturbing language, there is a lot of swearing and profanity. But the movie also portrays a lot of compassion and belly-laugh humor.
Find it. Get it. Borrow it. Download it. It is amazing!
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 Oct 2015

Copyright 2015

Friday, October 2, 2015

I Want What I Want And I Want It Right Now!

This is a short message today – I’m scheduled to be out of town next week and I’m to go into the teeth of this awful rain and flooding complicated by hurricane Joachim.
As I’m wrestling with travel plans and schedules I simply cannot seem to get the folks on the other end of the phone to accommodate me the way I expect. How odd! What is the matter with them? Are they dense? Don’t they know I am concerned and they need to bend over backward to make my trip better?
I read a quote the other day from a fellow in Alcoholics Anonymous [Michale Z of]: “I may not know how to make it better, but I sure know how to make it worse.” This is very true for me, as well. I want to “fix” things. I want to make things better, as I see them. I want to make you better. I want to make the Republican Party better. I want to make “haters” better and, if I can’t, I’ll hate them with God’s blessing … or so I tell myself.
Bottomline: I want what I want and I want it right now.
Then I remember a line in the quote I used last week from Beverly Hutchinson McNeff in this month’s “Holy Encounter” magazine:  Virtually everything we do is relatively meaningless except “…our spirit and our loving thoughts, which are eternal and the only things that are true about any situation in which we find ourselves.”  The Holy Encounter [September/October 2015, emphasis mine. []
The only truly “real” thing about me is my spirit and my loving thoughts. They are real because they are as God created and the only real things out there are those created by God. My ego – my Felix – just doesn’t count.
As I struggle to deal with travel specialists about my trip, I need to hear this message for myself: My spirit and my loving thoughts are the only things that are true. I need to forgive myself for projecting Felix’s reality on these people and for creating these images I have made and am treating as being real. That forgiveness, itself, is an act of love. That make it “really” real and true as well.
My loving thougths. My acts of forgiveness. These are all I can do within the truth of God. All else is a figment of Felix’s very limited mind.
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 Oct 2015
Copyright 2015