“They say that as you get older you gradually lose your mind. What they don’t tell you is that you probably won’t miss it very much.” – – unknown
I had a dream a few months ago in which I was clutching a copy of A Course In Miracles. I suspected I knew what it meant but took no action on my hunch for a few weeks. It was then that I started reading the text and doing the lessons. It is a lifetime process, comparable to the twelve step groups that saved my life. Indeed I have often said that A Course In Miracles is the Big Book on steroids so, I think it’s content can be summed up in one line: “Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood him.”
Step three suggests that we made “a” decision, not “the” decision. I read an estimate years ago that the average human has approximately eighty thousand thoughts per day. To me that’s eighty thousand opportunities to work step three. When I think of will it is not in the vein of “What does God want me to do? I honestly don’t think my actions play a large part of what I’m seeking with this step. What I think the step is telling me is to focus my attention on God, or ask to see something through God’s lens, then the proper action will follow. As St Augustine put it, “Love and do what you will.”
A Course In Miracles says that everything is either an expression of love or a call for love. What I’d like to tie this to is Eckhart Tolle suggesting that the need to be right is a form of murder. Throughout any given day I can be prone to a number of upsets – a rude customer on the phone, getting cut off in traffic, etc. In each of those cases I more often that not perceive an attack on me. It is precisely at this point that I choose between looking at this “attack” as an expression of love or somebody asking for love. I’m an infant to this concept. I’d rather be right.
Recognizing that I’m projecting my anger (most common emotion for example) onto someone else is actually step one of the ACIM forgiveness process. You’re attacking me. I’m pissed. What I can do at that point is the dynamic of the forgiveness process – bring my attention from outside of me (from the object of my ire) back inside, and ask for help in looking at my own projected anger differently. That’s step two. At that time God can step in and ease or erase whatever my dominant emotion was. That’s step three, in which I have no hand. This at least temporarily stops the “attack/defense” cycle I work every day. Most of this is subtle. I can coolly say “No, I’m not upset – I’m just making my point” as a response to a social media post for example, then add a lengthy addendum to explain what I was saying. That I’m right and you’re wrong. To my credit I have refrained from this lately. But even citing my non-participation is an attack. I’m basically saying I’m not like the people who do so. I’m better than them. Plus I’m right. They’re wrong.
My ego, like anyone else’s can be pretty clever. I have begun working the forgiveness process and it may be the most difficult mind exercise I’ve ever attempted. I have no clue how anyone can say out loud “Oh, I did this step” in referencing step three. To me it is hardly a one and done. But to each their own. A Course In Miracles says that the forgiveness practice is all-inclusive, and that any kind of upset is grist for the mill, because as it also says, a small annoyance is actually “a veil for intense fury.” Most of us aren’t aware of the mountain of anger we sit on. My need to be right is insidious. The amount of healing my mind needs is beyond comprehension.
There is one insane example that I’m embarrassed to say I still put into play even after thirty years in AA/Al-Anon. I take my turn and state confidently that “God’s will” has nothing to do with my actions, that in fact God will is something I align with, or as in step eleven I marinate in for awhile, and afterward intuitively my course of action. God does not want anything from me, as want implies lack and God already IS everything. So how can God “want” anything? Thus God will not be happier if I’m a fireman or flipping cheeseburgers for a living. Then the next person takes their turn and goes on and on about how they don’t know what God wants them to do about their car, or which job to take, or how to discipline their child and when will they get a sign. So I sit and stew because they did’t let me brow-beat them into my viewpoint. Don’t you know I’m right, dammit? That may or may not be true. But I’m sure not happy.
Within my mind lies a right minded Self (leaning toward forgiveness) and a wrong minded self (pure ego). In the middle lies my decision maker, often symbolized by the late Ken Wapnick as a tiny dot dwarfed by both sides. Every moment of every day I’m making a decision for either side. Inspiration or memory. Past or present. Looking at the sum of self forgiveness I need to do (through others)is staggering beyond comprehension. I prefer to think of it as job security for being human. And I truly have come to believe that someone with “good self esteem” still is in the same boat as the rest of us. Self esteem fluctuates. I believe there is a massive untold story of self loathing lurking in all of us unconsciously, just waiting for daily projection onto others.
I have a visual of the aforementioned forgiveness process. I see a miles high stack of paper detailing the contents of my mind, and each time I practice forgiveness a single sheet is removed. I feel more peaceful when it happens, and I feel hopeful every time I can conjure that image. Maybe I was wrong. Maybe I’d rather be happy.