Sunday, February 3, 2013
We Are not What We Think. We Are not The Person Who “Stars” in our Illusions
In response to last week’s post – My Illusions Are the Way I Look at the World [Msg-4-Jan-2013] – I received the following from a subscriber:
Dear Don! That is a lot of food for thought...we humans are sure full of potholes aren't we? But you are not saying all "folders" are wrong are you? If we were to decide that someone would rock our boat a little in a negative way and decide it is best to avoid them, is that a perception we should try to change or modify, in maybe a less sanctimonious way, and still avoid them? It seems like it is human nature, as well as in the rest of the animal kingdom, to avoid something that is threatening - based on our perception. Thanks for making me think!
The subscriber raises two very legitimate concerns: How real or true are the folders we create to categorize people; How to avoid unpleasant or threatening situations or people.
Several weeks ago I discussed Shared Illusions or Race (as in Human) Thinking. For example, some have suggested that the “fight or flight” responses that humans possess are mimicked behaviors of the animal kingdom. After some 300,000+ years, we have come to believe these mimicked behaviors are “natural” or “instinctive” responses. Additionally, we now have come to believe that to become “civilized” is to have overcome these more “base” emotional responses. “After all,” we say, “emotions are indicators, not dictators” because we no longer have to live in the kind of survival mode our very elderly ancestors had to face. Fight or flight has become one of the basic folders most human beings have.
The reality, however, according to ACIM is that we are not human beings. We are already-loved eternal spirits. We are simply having a human experience as part of an overall bad dream. And, yes, according A Course in Miracles, all our folders are in error because they come from our ego. It doesn’t matter how “right” you think you are or how “wrong” you think others are. Your folders are from your ego and, therefore, the world those folders represent exists only in your mind. You are the one ascribing meaning to your world. Others could be ascribing another meaning to their world. I, like you, have an entire universe of meaning that exists in the 6-inch space between my ears. That “meaning” of mine is not reality. Yet, I treat it as such. I use it constantly to provide meaning, purpose, confirmation, and justification for the person I have convinced myself I truly am. All this kind of thinking is ego-centric nonsense according to the Course.
ACIM states: “You perceive the world and everything in it as meaningful in terms of your ego goals. These goals have nothing to do with your own best interests because the ego is not you. This false identification makes you incapable of understanding what anything is for…. At the most superficial levels, you do recognize purpose.… For example, you do understand that a telephone is for the purpose of talking to someone who is not physically in your immediate vicinity. What you do not understand is what you want to reach him for. And it is this that makes your contact with him meaningful or not.” [W.L.25.2:1-3; 4: 2-6]
What makes this lesson so difficult for me is the same mental block that occurred to me while I was getting sober and working AA’s suggested Twelve Steps. In AA we recited the Serenity Prayer – which I’m sure you’re familiar with: “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” What can’t I change? What can I change? I understood pretty quickly that I can’t change people, places, or things. Well, what’s left? What I finally learned was the only thing I could possibly change or control – at least sometimes – was my attitude.
The first time I experienced that was a 2-week span that was really hell for me. I was about 18 months sober at the time. My boss at work, a Pakistani Hindu who believed employees were simply a resource to be used and discarded was driving me nuts. My car, a tri-toned (silver-gray-rust) Toyota station wagon I had nicknamed “The Gray Goose,” was on the fritz. Sometimes it would start and sometimes it wouldn’t. It also seemed it would never start on those mornings when I couldn’t afford to be late. There appeared to be little rhyme or reason for its behavior. The blower motor in my condo’s HVAC unit, like the car, was intermittently erratic. I was having severe issues with the woman I had been dating.
My sponsor kept telling me to keep my eye on the target – my daily usefulness to my program and to THE Program. “First Things First.” I was able to change my attitude by changing my focus – concentrating on my real mission in life – to stay sober and help other alcoholics achieve sobriety. I cannot take credit for this change in attitude. However, I discovered when my attitude changed my universe changed! My boss got better. Problems got handled: The Gray Goose needed spark plug wires; the condo fan blower simply needed a loose wire tightened. My relationship got better and finally ended on a friendly note.
By changing my focus and concentration, I got better, and my universe got better. It was always a miracle to me when this occurred. It still is! And it is still very difficult to communicate. You can read about my difficulty in Chapter 9, as I try to communicate my spiritual transformation, which A Course in Miracles (ACIM) says is really beyond words.
It seems ludicrous to believe that I created/invented/dreamed the world I see. How can that be? Am I really that powerful? But as I thought about it more, it began to be a source of hope rather than a ridiculous idea. If I haven’t invented the world I see, then I am like a Styrofoam cup being tossed about in an ocean storm. I am at the mercy of an erratic world. If I invented this world I see, then can I “un-invent” it? ACIM says, “Yes! But not by myself.” All I need to do is be willing – honestly willing – to want to see the world differently and the Holy Spirit will take care of the rest.
The second issue raised is how to avoid situations. This is the contradictory area in which we all live. Yes, we are spirits who have created the meaning we attribute to the world we perceive, but we are also here and have to deal with this “world” as best we can. I have often said we are “to be in the world but not of the world.” To do that is a very individual set of decisions made on a daily basis about all sorts of situations. There are no right or wrong answers as long as we are not attached to the outcome.
I cannot order my ego to “will” itself away, so I’m trying to change my “story.” I am trying to change how I think about me. Yes, it’s still my ego thinking, but it is moving me to look at my attitudes and assumptions that have created the meanings I have ascribed to my world and to the attachments I have. It is helping me keep myself open and willing to see things differently rather than constantly defending my “positions.”
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 February, 2013