The Lessons we have been looking at in this last section are about helping us access the truth in our minds, so we can experience the love, peace and joy of the Christ Self we are. Through our everyday experiences, which offer us all the opportunities for healing we need, we are being asked to let go of the ego programming so entrenched in our thought system. We experience a lot of resistance in this process because we are very invested in our identity as a body and personality. Jesus tells us we have overlearned the ego programming, which is why it is so challenging to release.
As we apply the exercises provided each day, our entrenched thought system is loosened. The world does not reinforce the Course teaching. Thus, we may feel very much on our own in undoing the thought system of the world. When we listen to the voices of this world, we hear messages that reinforce the egoic thoughts we still hold onto in our minds. Certainly the perspective of the world reinforces the ego thought system, but Jesus encourages us to listen to our inner Guide rather than be persuaded by the voices of the world. "Be not afraid today to circumvent the voices of the world. Walk lightly past their meaningless persuasion. Hear them not." (W.106.3.1-3)
When we listen to our thoughts, we can see how obsessive they are. They are tapes that play over and over in our minds, ruminating on the same problems, the same grievances, the plans and expectations we have, our frustrations, worries and anxieties, all thoughts keeping us from hearing the truth of who we are. They are fear thoughts, which block the love shining in us all the time. Sometimes we are aware of these tapes and other times they play in the background of our minds. Mostly they run our lives without our awareness until we learn to watch our thoughts, so we can bring this conditioned mind to awareness and realize how we have been deceived by its lies.
The conditioned mind holds many beliefs. These beliefs run our lives and dictate our actions. Beliefs such as: "Women/men can't be trusted." "Love is dangerous because I always get hurt." "I can only depend on myself." "If I don't defend myself, I will be a doormat for others to take advantage of me." "I can't trust anyone not to hurt me." "I need to get what I can." "I must take care of myself above all." "I am not worthy."
When these beliefs and millions of others we hold are not conscious, we do not understand why certain events keep happening to us. We define ourselves as a certain type of person and seem to get stuck in various roles we play as brother, sister, husband, wife, daughter, employee, loser, gambler, lover, nurturer, and victim. But roles offer no rewards. When we become conscious of our hidden beliefs that run our lives, we can choose to release them. One way we become aware of these beliefs is to look at what we are projecting onto others. Another is to look at the feelings that come up in us and trace them back by asking, what must I believe about myself for this to arise? Another is to become aware of how we defend against being hurt. When I get hurt, for example, I tend to withdraw. I feel safer in my aloneness. We each have preferred ways in which we protect ourselves from pain. It is important to look at our defense strategies, as they show us where we feel vulnerable to attack, which is all how we attack ourselves. When our minds are crowded with self-attacks, we will not hear the truth. The truth is in the stillness.
Jesus tells us the ego voice is a very loud, thunderous voice. It deceives us into believing what is not true. It is a noisy and boisterous voice, always demanding our attention and attempting to distract us from experiencing the Christ Self within. Stillness is like rat poison to the ego, because stillness opens us up to "'The peace of God which passeth understanding.'" (T.2.II.1.9)(ACIM OE T.2.II.18) This is the last thing the ego wants us to experience, but the Christ in us is given birth on ground prepared for holiness, and this ground is marked by stillness. It is in the stillness of our quiet minds and the stillness of the holy instant in which we enter the eternal present where Christ dwells and where the recognition of Christ within dawns upon us.
The voice of the ego is a very persuasive voice. It insists the meaningless things of the world are where our happiness lies. It keeps us blind to the truth. It is important to see we are not asked to analyze the meaning of this voice, but to circumvent it today. "Walk lightly past their meaningless persuasion. Hear them not. Be still today and listen to the truth." (W.106.3.2-4) "Be not deceived by voices of the dead, which tell you they have found the source of life and offer it to you for your belief." (W.106.2.3) We are being asked not to listen to the ego in anyone. The voices of the dead are actually the voices of those who are speaking from their ego. Jesus tells us the life we seem to be living in this world is not life at all. We have become convinced the source of our lives is our bodily experience in the world, starting with our birth in the body. What we call life seems to come through the body, but the body is nothing. It is a dream figure. Our reality is the eternal Christ Self. The Bible says we are created in the image of God, yet it is an image of a dualistic God. Jesus says don't listen to this as it is not the truth of who we are. God is only love and we were created in His image as love. As part of God we have all of the same characteristics as He has. The voices of this world that seem to witness to an individual self do not exist and have no reality.
We resist what Jesus is teaching and find it difficult to accept because the teaching is not in keeping with the authorities of this world. We must turn away from the pressures of those who speak of their belief in fear, belief in death and the belief that suffering can offer us something. If we invest in the voices of the ego, we cause ourselves increased suffering and pain. We don't need to do this anymore. We need to see the false as false. "It [the miracle] merely looks on devastation, and reminds the mind that what it sees is false." (W.PII.Q13.1.3) We can make another choice. We can go past all the voices of the world and say no to the ego's persuasive voice. It may keep talking, but when we don't listen to it, it drifts off into the background of our minds. We are not these separated selves with a name and a body as the ego insists. We are being reminded of who we really are. We are invited to accept the glorious gifts given us in our creation and are with us now. We can choose against the shabby gifts of the ego. They offer us nothing but pain.
Jesus helps us to see in this Course our "normal" state of mind is similar to what the Buddhists call "monkey mind", which is a mind constantly leaping from one thing to another, endlessly chattering, never still. The thoughts, which normally occupy this mind, are described in the Course as "raucous screams and senseless ravings." (T.21.V.1.6)(ACIM OE T.21.VI.49) This mind is constantly occupied with "the frantic, riotous thoughts and sights and sounds of this insane world." (W.49.4.4) We are constantly talking in our minds. We review our past and have fantasies about the future. We narrate our experiences in the world, talking to ourselves about what we are doing, and thus we never experience the stillness this and other Lessons remind us are in us. In a nutshell, this mind is in a state of conflict. It is constantly at war, both with the external world and within itself. If we pause to look at our thoughts, we can see the insanity going on in our minds. Our focus is almost entirely on our survival, on the physical and emotional level, constantly defending against threats to the safety of the body and threats to the psychological self. Even these thoughts are not a united front as we hold conflicting goals. No wonder when we first start with these Lesson, things seem to get worse for us, because the thoughts we had not previously recognized now become more apparent to us.
If we want to end the conflict and find peace, the first step is simply to turn our attention away from both the cacophony of the outside world and the constant stream of warring thoughts in our minds. This is what Jesus wants us to do when he asks us to still the mind and to empty the mind of its usual conflicted content, so we can be open to receive new content. "An empty space that is not seen as filled, an unused interval of time not seen as spent and fully occupied, become a silent invitation to the truth to enter, and to make itself at home." (T.27.III.4.1)(ACIM OE T.27.IV.32) "For what you leave as vacant God will fill, and where He is there must the truth abide." (T.27.III.4.1.3)(ACIM OE T.27.IV.32)
Jesus frequently invites us to take a moment and let go of everything that normally occupies our minds, as in the following passage: "Let us be still an instant, and forget all things we ever learned, all thoughts we had, and every preconception that we hold of what things mean and what their purpose is. Let us remember not our own ideas of what the world is for. We do not know." (T.31.I.12.1-3)(ACIM OE T.31.I.12) (See also T.31.II.8 and W.189.7) We will only be willing to "be still and listen to the truth," (W.106) when we truly come to believe in His promises. "He comes with miracles a thousand times as happy and as wonderful as those you ever dreamed or wished for in your dreams." (W.106.4.4) This is quite a promise. It means no matter how wonderful our manifestations are of what we think will make us happy, they offer us nothing except more guilt. His peace and joy will surpass all this and a thousand times more.
When we have an experience of His truth, we bring it to the world. Sometimes we extend to others with words that come through us and sometimes just with our thoughts and with our presence. We need to receive the miracles first, so we can extend them. "The bringer of all miracles has need that you receive them first, and thus become the joyous giver of what you have received." (W.106.6.5) We are told we have wasted a lot of time in resisting taking up our function of forgiveness. We are learning about the meaning of giving and receiving, and he says, "Your request is one whose answer has been waiting long to be received by you." (W.106.8.2) It is through forgiveness we learn to be still and listen to the truth.
Have you wondered what we are in this world for? Why are we here at all? For most of us, we probably don't think of our function in the world as some kind of ministry, yet that is how it is described here. We have an important ministry in demonstrating the choice for healing all can make. The Healer is available in all minds, and the power of decision is available to all of us, when we are ready. The way of the world is to believe when we give, we lose, yet we are to "teach the world what giving really means by listening and learning it of Him." (W.106.10.1) We teach only by example. We become a demonstration of the healing we have accepted for ourselves. What this requires is to let go of our grievances, our attacks, our fears, and our belief in sacrifice. Through forgiveness, the love we are extends to the Sonship, as we are one mind. This is how we bring healing to the world. We hear the message by allowing the truth to be itself, as it extends through us. It certainly does not mean preaching. It is only about the Holy Spirit extending through us.
"Your peace surrounds me, Father. Where I go, Your peace goes there with me. It sheds its light on everyone I meet. I bring it to the desolate and lonely and afraid. I give Your peace to those who suffer pain, or grieve for loss, or think they are bereft of hope and happiness. Send them to me, my Father. Let me bring Your peace with me
(W.245.1.1-7) This whole process of receiving, giving, and recognizing we have it by giving it is foundational to Course teaching. We become channels for the Holy Spirit, receiving everything from Him and, in giving it away, we have it forever. We can only know we have when we give. The Lesson assumes quite rightly we don't understand this kind of giving to receive. We think of giving as loss and sacrifice.
Now we accept the truth, "I will be still and listen to the truth. What does it mean to give and to receive?" (W.106.7.5-6) The answer is to accept the Atonement for ourselves. To accept the Atonement is to accept the correction. We need to take no responsibility for the error, but only to be constantly willing to receive His correction. It is the realization the answer is and always has been within. We only need to take our problem to the answer rather than listen to the ego, whose solution keeps us invested in the illusion and in our pain and suffering.
It is about shifting our investment from being right about our perspective and instead to be willing to recognize we don't know. Through His Voice and His message, we can become a light to our brothers and know the truth about ourselves. I can extend healing, peace and joy to everyone by healing my own mind. Thus, I can know the truth in me. "When everything is yours and everything is given away, it will remain with you forever." (W.106.7.1)
In this process, our individuality and specialness are released, and we are not so enamored with our own thoughts, realizing there is just one identity as Christ, and we are all the same. We no longer have to defend our own way, or compete for attention with others. There is no need then to make anything here important. Our strength lies in connecting to the stillness within the right mind. We can then release our need to show the world our special self, but instead allow the stillness of God in us to communicate His peace.
"Father, I come to You today to seek the peace that You alone can give. I come in silence. In the quiet of my heart, the deep recesses of my mind, I wait and listen for Your Voice. My Father, speak to me today. I come to hear Your Voice in silence and in certainty and love, sure You will hear my call and answer me
Thus, we lift "the veil that lies upon the earth, and wakes all those who sleep and cannot see. God calls to them through us," (W.106.5.1) as all minds are One. As we listen and respond to His call, we are guided by His love, and everything we think and do comes from His love.