Saturday, January 31, 2015

Most Difficult – Letting a Dream Die

A Course in Miracles (ACIM) describes the life we think we are living as a dream. In short, my life consists of illusionary images I have created. Yes, some of these images/illusions are shared with yours. We learned them together. Other religions/philosophies refer to these shared images as race (as in human race) consciousness. Carl Jung referred to this same phenomenon as The Collective Unconsciousness. Regardless, ACIM states what we think we think determines what we see. If we think “dangerous” thoughts, we will see dangerous things lurking about.
Fundamental to understanding what the Course is talking about is the fact that what we see is quite directly caused by what is in our mind. The commonsense idea of perception is that something outside causes an impression, through my senses, on my mind. The reality is the reverse, according to the Course. The thoughts of my mind are projected outward and cause my perceptions.  ‘Projection makes perception,’ says [ACIM].” Allen Watson, A Workbook Companion, Vol. 1, Circle Publishing, 2005, p. 85.
The Course also states that it’s common to think that, to change our mind and our perception to see a more Christ-like vision of the world and its people, we have to somehow sacrifice something of ours – our self-image, our wealth, our physical safety. The Course emphatically declares that it doesn’t recognize (much less believe in) sacrifice. All that happens to us, when we “get it,” is our illusionary world is replaced with true spiritual vision.
Since what we think we see doesn’t really exist and is not truly real, how can there be any loss when we give that up? This is a tough nut – but it’s true for me. I’ve experienced this.
My personal experience (rather than money or safety) is that to give up a dream or a vision or a hope or anything like that is the most difficult reality I have had to “sacrifice.” To illustrate, I want to tell you my story of giving up a critical vision I held of me.
In the early 1980s, I bought a 1972 white Mercedes 250. It was a great deal. I bought it from an executive in the company where I was a Program Manager. [I later found out that the “good deal” was because he was having an affair with my wife.] Regardless, the car was perfect for my pretentious lifestyle. I was starting to really drink heavily on a daily basis. My life was beginning to fall apart – my marriage as well as my relationship with my children. However, if I could maintain my to-the-world appearance, I felt okay.  Soon I was a single parent who had both of his children living with me, which was very unusual at the time. I was proud of that. Working in a high stress field, owning a condo in an upscale suburb of Washington, DC, having custody of my children, and driving a Mercedes (which I had nicknamed Mother White) all fit this pretend image I was trying to project and maintain.
The kids and I tried to change its oil and filter one holiday weekend. I thought it was all well and good. One of the children drove it to see a movie and the engine froze – all the oil has leaked out. It was a disaster. Mother White had died. It was going to cost almost what I had paid for the car to have the engine replaced. I didn’t have that kind of money and all my credit was used up.
I borrowed an early 1970s Toyota station wagon from the family of friends of my son’s. It was a tri-color: Dark gray, light gray, and rust. But it ran well and was very serviceable. I called it my Gray Goose. I let the Mercedes sit in the parking lot, hoping for the day I could have it restored. It was during this time I got sober and began working the Program of Alcoholics Anonymous.
The Condo Association was asking me to either remove it or get it fixed. I talked with my sponsor and he told me to sell it. I balked. Giving up that car was to give up on my dream, my pretense, my image of self-importance and success. I kept hoping to be able to restore it, and with it, return to my former glory. That day never came.
I finally made arrangements to buy the Gray Goose.
The day that did come however, was the day I truly understood why the Program stressed honesty so much. In meetings I began to share much of what I’m writing right now. It was humiliating and humbling. I had Mother White – a symbol of my perceived success – and I couldn’t afford to keep it; I couldn’t afford to repair it; I couldn’t afford to let it go.
I was stuck. Stymied. Frozen.
Women in the Program I had dated a little said they actually liked the Gray Goose. My sponsor kept telling me this was a real test of my desire to live a sober happy life. I remained stuck, stymied, frozen. I just couldn’t give up on the dream I had nurtured for so long.
But I finally got sick and tired of being stuck, stymied, frozen. So I placed an ad – honest about the engine – and it sold. Quickly. It was still a great deal – if you were financially responsible, which I had not been, and could act quickly, which the first responder to the ad did.
I was relieved that the ordeal was over – but remained saddened that the pretense was gone. Until ….
Nobody seemed to notice! No one laughed at me at work. No one jeered at me on the freeway. None of the parents of my daughter’s college friends seemed to mind. No one! Damn!
I had been honest – really honest – with both myself and others. I gave up that pretense – that illusionary vision – and what did I lose? Nothing! What did I find? I was happy, joyous, and free! No more lies. No more shame. I was really, really just plain old me –and still accepted at meetings, still respected at work, still …. What a sense of relief.
But I keep forgetting that experience. That’s another story.
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 2015

Copyright, 2015

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