Projection Makes Perception

“The world we see merely reflects our own internal frame of reference – – the dominant ideas, wishes and emotions in our minds.” – – all quotes from A Course In Miracles,pg  xi/preface


     I read somewhere once that 95% of all behavior is unconscious.  While I can’t vouch for the percentage, I concur that the sleeping giant underneath my conscious mind dictates the direction any part of my given days can go.  I do believe that most of us operate in “default” mode most of the time, that is to say the our ego speaks first before we actually recognize an opportunity to think differently.  When an egoic idea looks so appealing, beautiful, wise, or rewarding, it’s very difficult at that time to consider the possibility that as beautiful as that sunset appears, as wonderful it is to be and feel “right,” as liberating as it seems to have the possibility of untold wealth at my feet, all of the above are merely shadows of what’s truly possible. Whatever my ego can conceive, “God,” the “higher self,” “the Is,” can conceive of it, oh, maybe just a little bit better. Maybe.

The long and short of what I’m getting at is that I came down with a pretty nasty fever this weekend and fortunately, fairly quickly, made a link to a conversation I had with an old friend early Saturday.  There are many attractive traits to my friend: he’s a nice guy, he’s very bright and well-read, and his sense of humor is almost as twisted as mine is.  However, the coffee I’d had yesterday morning began to churn sourly in my stomach about an hour or so into our visit when I realized that we were once again letting our talk degenerate into a rundown of all of the awful things that the people on or combined shit-lists have done over the years and consequently doesn’t allow them to measure up to our greatness.  In addition, I let myself take a parting shot at my lateness in keeping our appointment and blew an chance to set a boundary.  I had just spent two solid hours ignoring a golden opportunity to repair an internal behavior while being given a perfect reflection of areas in myself, “loveless places,” as Marianne Williamson calls them, that need forgiving. My friend was merely on the receiving end of my projections. The rest of the day held no plans for me to spend time with anyone. Rats. Holding ill will toward someone, like holding a resentment against my friend for his parting shot, usually works so much better when I can get a few people to agree with me what an asshole or bitch the person is. That way I feel “better” than them. For a little while, anyway, and then my mind spits out another projection and I have to start the whole process again. But no other people today,so instead a fever.

“We look inside first, decide the kind of world we want to see and then project that world outside, making it the truth as we see it.”

The idea of forgiveness loses the pious image I sometimes give it when I define it as “looking beyond.” As the Course itself says, “forgiveness is selective remembering.” The only person who gets hurt when I think of someone in a less than flattering way or when I hold a grudge is me. As I’ve heard it said many times, “resentment is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.” Knowing that these principles are so easy for me to forget, it would behoove me to also cut slack to others on their various paths, as they too likely don’t have the idea of holding everyone in their world in the highest esteem as often as the human ego will let it, which is rarely, if ever. It’s only when choosing with a different Source that the other person begins to look like what they truly are underneath their mask, which incidentally, is the Latin definition for the word persona. I just don’t have it down pat yet. Neither does anyone else that I know of. None of us has wings just yet. Then again, every person in my world bears an angelic presence in that they offer me an opportunity to forgive myself. As I treat others, I treat myself. As I treat myself, I will invariably treat others. This very much includes thoughts as well as actions. It’s so much easier to seek out allies to hate the people I want to hate with me. Strength in numbers, like I said.

“If we are using perception to justify our own mistakes– our anger, our impulses to attack, our lack of love in whatever form it may take – – we will see a world of evil, desruction,malice,envy and despair.”

I in no way am suggesting that if I see someone murder another that it makes me a murderer. What I’m suggesting is that when I see another person who is easily identifiable as an “asshole” or some other creative description, I likely have a similar trait, have acted the same way in the past, am acting the same way currently, or bottom line have a like attribute within me that I’ve not forgiven myself for. It is impossible for me to have unforgiveness of myself within and not project it outward at some point. I can take heart in the fact that reflections can be distorted: maybe I’m not being a jerk or a bastard to the same degree as that person over in the corner, but I’m giving myself a major snowjob if I’m denying any sort of reflection whatsoever. Whether I treat someone with ill will, or if I even think of them repeatedly the same way, each time I’m not only denying myself a healing opportunity, I’m spending more time doing damage to the world I live in rather than making it a better place like I sometimes like to believe that I do.

“All this we must learn to forgive, not because we are being ‘good’ or ‘charitable,’ but because we are seeing what is not true. As we learn to recognize our perceptual errors, we also learn to look past them or ‘forgive’ At the same time we are forgiving ourselves, looking past our distorted self-concepts to the Self That God created in us and as us.”

Last October my car was broken into, and considering what was stolen I made an impromptu assessment of the character of my thief. A) As my group therapy book for school was taken, I had a scholarly person and possibly a budding therapist break into my car. B) My “Sargent Pepper” cd was left behind, so my friendly thief was apparently not a Beatles fan. C) A set of Course In Miracles cds was missing, so possibly my thief pal was also an aspiring holy person. I was really pretty upset for about an hour or so after I discovered the theft when I began to laugh out loud at the irony: the title of the box set of Course cds that was stolen was “Be Kind, For Everyone You Meet Is Doing A Hard Battle.” I began to think of the life my thief was leading and what brought he or she to the point of stealing. Apparently they needed my goods more than I did, or at least their value. Text books can be pretty expensive these days. Maybe the person hadn’t eaten for a few days. Maybe they had circumstances that dictated they turn some cash in a hurry or face dire consequences. I actually learned more from the theft than I allowed myself to learn from the cds themselves. It was a good reminder as was my past weekend. Now, if someone is just plain trodding on me, its in my best interest to set a boundary. Humility is not synonymous with being a doormat. What I still need to remember is that the person I perceive to be the biggest jerk in the room is potentially my greatest teacher. The degree of conflict involved is directly proportionate to the amount of healing I can glean from both the person and the situation. It is also possible to set boundaries with a person and do so kindly. Life in the world is too short for me to pass up so many opportunities. I do not have the power to change myself. I do have the power of free will and consent to have a Power greater than me do so. The world looks so much more beautiful when I know I’ve done my best to allow harmony to establish Itself around me. Each of us has within us the means to change the world, beginning with considering that the person I’m perceiving as wrong, or that I’m having conflict with may have had a terrible upbringing that they haven’t even begun to heal from yet, and they are indeed fighting a hard battle. Or maybe they’re just having a bad day. Or week. Or a bad year. I’ve had them myself. What I perceive is usually not real. True perception comes from a Loving heart, not the projections of an unhealed mind. All of us have been entrusted with helping each other get back Home. Projecting unforgiveness of my own transgressions, the mistakes I make and then blow out of proportion so I can beat myself and inevitably others up with, is not the way out. Healing happens when I remember that it all begins in my own mind. When I allow myself true perception, I forgive both your mask and my own, allow both of us to be human, and simultaneously enable myself to see you for the beautiful, amazing, spiritual being that you truly are.



Across The Universe . . .

“A dream left unexamined is like a letter from God left unopened.” – – Alfred Adler


A few days ago I posted the following quote on Facebook: “Until we have seen someone else’s darkness, we don’t really know who they are.  Until we have forgiven another’s darkness we don’t really know what love is.”  Having lived a rather sheltered emotional life, there are few I’ve let get close enough to experience both poles with me, and thus few I’ve reciprocated with.  My late friend Paul was one.  In the late 1960’s my family moved in the West End of St. Paul.   We were the first Hispanic family in the neighborhood, and the neighbors kids reminded us of our ethnicity in the most unflattering ways they could dream up.  Anyone who thought civil rights had won out and equality was the order of the day either was caucausian or never visited my area when things heated up.

Across the alley from our home lived a family totally oblivious to any ethnic differences.  Paul was the youngest in their family at age three, and with me at age five, we struck up an instant friendship that would last his remaining 21 years.  Long before bullying made the headlines it does nowdays, I took it upon myself to become Paul’s more dominant half.   No matter what deed I perpetrated on him (boy, I could be a little creep . . . ), Paul would come back the next day as though nothing had happened.  Not that my nasty behavior was constant: we had plenty of memorable times together.  Those days as a kid when you get so into your play that you literally lose track of time?  We had lots of those.  The one disconcerting memory I had of our youth was that Paul and I always seemed to end up on the same little league team.  I was a pitcher and Paul a second baseman.  A second baseman who usually botched my perfect game by fumbling a grounder hit right to him. 

As high school called for me, we went our separate ways for a while,  occasionally running into each other, engaging in whatever activities for a few days and then separating again.  It wasn’t until Paul graduated from college that we took up again on a more “permanent” basis.  We ran into each other in a liquor store and we were off to the races.  Our most frequent activity was retiring to the basement of Paul’s parents to drink beer and play our guitars into the wee hours.  Paul’s sister Mary often joined us, and it wasn’t unusual for me to head across the alley to my own home at around six a.m.

After one of our early morning escapades, Paul apparently slept a few hours and then headed out for an outdoor music fesitval.  With temperatures in the mid-nineties, and Paul severely dehydrated, he died that day.  Heart failure at age 24.  In addition to just plain feeling enormous grief, the guilt I felt was huge, and lasted what felt like an eternity.  I had kept my friend out all night and caused his death.  Despite repeated reassurances from others, it was years before this dissipated.  Regardless, my friend was gone.

It was about ten years later while I was going through the residual grief of a relationship breakup that I had a dream that I was playing in a baseball game.  I was playing right field.  A batter lined a ball out to me and I attempted to throw the runner out at first, a rather unsusual maneuver in a ballgame.  I let fly with my best throw toward first base and as I released the ball my heart sank: Paul was playing first base.  Paul who had trouble fielding a ten-hop grounder.  As the runner bore down on the bag, Paul reached out for my throw.  The ball hit his glove, and of course, he dropped it.  As the runner continued to steam toward the base, Paul casually reached down, picked up the ball with his bare hand, and just as casually, without ever looking at the runner, tapped his back foot on first base.  Runner out.  The whole time Paul wore his usual big smile.  As the umpire gave the out signal,  Paul looked out at me in right field, wiggled the ball in his bare hand and shouted, “See? It’s ok to miss an opportunity.”

I kept in touch with Paul’s sister Mary for quite a few years, and she became a regular at my music shows.  I believe it was in 2006 that I told of yet another dream I had about Paul about six months prior to my show.  This one was brief: Paul and his dad were walking down a flight of stairs.  The only other real memorable feature of the dream was that there was a blinding white light at the top of the staircase.  As I recited the dream to Mary she began to cry softly.  She then explained to me that her father had “died on the table” about six months earlier and been brought back to life.  He was doing just fine at the time.

The number of years since I’ve seen Paul now surpasses the number of years he was alive.  In a body, anyway.  I’ve not had a friendship so rich and full since then, but then what can rival a friendship that begins at the ages of three and five? Still, I have hope.  I have friendships in the making with people who have sampled my less than savory idiosyncracies, and they still remain.  I’m sure I’ve been forgiven more than once.  With Paul I had the privilege of being able to convey without words how much he meant to me on an almost daily basis during the time we spent together.  There are those of you out there who I hope I do the same with.  You know who you are.  Sometimes it’s the fear of letting myself be vulnerable, sometimes its shyness, sometimes its just plain fear: these are the things I let prevent me from telling you how much you mean to me.  I’m promising myself to do better.   In the meantime I’m hoping that I convey to you during each of our meetings what a beautiful world you make it for me.  Sometimes its just the sound of your voice, sometimes the sight of you, sometimes even just a Facebook picture of you that reminds me how bIessed I am.  If a friendship the depth of the one I had with Paul is the end result, a few moments of vulnerability is a ridiculously small price to pay.  I’m all in.  I’ve experienced proof that friendships can indeed last a lifetime.  Sometimes longer.

A friend of mine today expressed to me that she misses a mutual acquaintance of ours.  The acquaintance is someone who was reaching out to me to talk several months ago.  I’m not sure what the topic of discussion was to be, but it seemed quite important.  Through several episodes of scheduling difficulty, it never happened, and the person has since been away for an extended period of time.   I’ve regretted it ever since.  One of the credos of the world I live in is “whenver anyone, anywhere, reaches out, . . . for that I am responsible.”  I’m very much hoping that Paul is right again.  I’m hoping that all that was lost was an opportunity.



Love At First Blog . . .

“There are two types of writer;  those that make you think, and those that make you wonder.” – – Brian Aldiss

     I hope to make you wonder.   Wonder strikes me as a state more akin to innocense than thinking, which we all do in various endeavors if we’re not doing what we love at the time.  There are of course those who have taken the leap to become musicians, or writers, or movie stars and just plain wouldn’t accept no for an answer until the ethers succumbed and granted them their dreams.  Approaching age 60, I’m finding with childlike delight that my dreams are far from impossible, and that in fact even the rudimentary  beginning actions are something that I can get a huge kick out of, rather than have them enslave me as something I “have to” do.

     I know of little that satisfies me as much as sitting in front of a “blank pad” as it were, getting into a nice calm, centered state, and letting ideas and words fly onto the formerly blank space in front of me, especially when I’m allowing my Unconscious do the bulk of the work, with my fingers becoming almost irrelevant.  This past January I performed my annual birthday show at the Coffeegrounds in St. Paul, likely the single most blissfully enjoyable performance I’ve had the joy of being connected with. 

     I suggested the same consequence of my guitar playing as I have with writing in the past – – if I’m truly “plugged in,” my fingers do indeed become irrelevant.  The true bliss is in the giving, allowing something higher to be channeled through me to others in attendance with a guitar and vocals being used as the medium, hopefully carrying all of us away feeling at the very least, a little happier than when we all walked in the door.  When I perform on stage, I too expect to be entertained by the presence of an audience that essentially has the same goal as me: they’re looking not as much for the medium, but for the feeling the medium, music in this case, can give them.

     It took me some time, and a few twists and turns in the road to figure out that writing would be the direction I would take to hopefully fulfill what I do believe is my path of least resistance to a happy life.  Until September of last year, the plan was to become a chemical dependancy counselor, until I found out that filling out forms would take up a large portion of my days.  Hence the shift over to writing, as I determined years and years ago that one needn’t be a counselor in order to help someone reach their soul. 

     Still, much like being a counselor, it takes having a person on the receiving end to truly complete the loop of going inside, connecting with my inner self, coming back out, and giving away what I’ve found, and enjoying what I once heard a pitching coach describe as “the cool of the evening,” that after glow of knowing that someone is enjoying something that has been produced not necessarily by me as much as it has been produced through me. 

     Daily interaction with others provides me with the possibility of several distinctly different blessings: 1) playing music for others, which happens with the least frequency. 2) listening to someone who needs to be listened to, unpredictable frequency, but immensely rewarding  3) Writing and having my work received by another.  Hopefully this one will happen weekly. In all three activities, the feeling of well being at the outcome is directly proportionate to how successful I am at “getting out of my own way” and fostering the beautiful, almost palpable “child” that’s born out of the interaction itself, and placing said child squarely in the lap of the recipient.  My reward, of course, is in the fact that the energy needs to pass through me first in order to reach anyone else.  So it is indeed a selfish endeavor, but I prefer to think of it satisfying the Self of me that begins with a capital “S.”

     So my first attempt is complete, and I’m hoping that someone out there, maybe more than one someone will read the words above and feel themselves in a slightly different place than they were upon reading the first sentence.  I get paid to work 40 hours a week to provide service to customers.   My real pay comes from giving service not only to those who call into my workplace, but to any who may need an occasional broken wing mended regardless of what office or building or outdoor space they’re occupying at the time.  According to  A Course In MIracles, “it is your job to heal the room.”  It’s a job I take very seriously. In the process, I hope I’ve made you wonder.