"Nothing real can be threatened. Nothing unreal exists.
Herein Lies the peace of God."
A Course in Miracles

The Forgiveness of Illusions

VII. The Bridge to the Real World

59 The search for the special relationship is the sign that you equate yourself with the ego and not with God. For the special relationship has value only to the ego. To the ego unless a relationship has special value, it has no meaning, and it perceives all love as special. Yet this cannot be natural, for it is unlike the relationship of God and His Son, and all relationships that are unlike this one must be unnatural. For God created love as He would have it be and gave it as it is . Love has no meaning except as its Creator defined it by His Will. It is impossible to define it otherwise and understand it.

60 Love is freedom . To look for it by placing yourself in bondage is to separate yourself from it. For the love of God, no longer seek for union in separation nor for freedom in bondage! As you release, so will you be released. Forget this not, or love will be unable to find you and comfort you. There is a way in which the Holy Spirit asks your help if you would have His. The holy instant is His most helpful tool in protecting you from the attraction of guilt, the real lure in the special relationship. You do not recognize that this is its real appeal, for the ego has taught you that freedom lies in it. Yet the closer you look at the special relationship, the more apparent it becomes that it must foster guilt and therefore must imprison.

61 The special relationship is totally without meaning without a body. And if you value it, you must also value the body. And what you value, you will keep. The special relationship is a device for limiting your self to a body and for limiting your perception of others to theirs . The Great Rays would establish the total lack of value of the special relationship if they were seen. For in seeing them, the body would disappear because its value would be lost. And so your whole investment in seeing it would be withdrawn from it. You see the world you value .

62 On this side of the bridge, you see the world of separate bodies seeking to join each other in separate unions and to become one by losing. When two individuals seek to become one, they are trying to decrease their magnitude. Each would deny his power, for the separate union excludes the universe. Far more is left outside than would be taken in. For God is left without and nothing taken in. If one such union were made in perfect faith, the universe would enter into it. Yet the special relationship which the ego seeks does not include even one whole individual. For the ego wants but part of him and sees only this part and nothing else.

63 Across the bridge, it is so different! For a time the body is still seen but not exclusively, as it is seen here. For the little spark which holds the Great Rays within it is also visible, and this spark cannot be limited long to littleness. Once you have crossed the bridge, the value of the body is so diminished in your sight that you will see no need at all to magnify it. For you will realize that the only value which the body has is to enable you to bring your brothers to the bridge with you and to be released together there.

64 The bridge itself is nothing more than a transition in your perspective of reality. On this side, everything you see is grossly distorted and completely out of perspective. What is little and insignificant is magnified, and what is strong and powerful cut down to littleness. In the transition there is a period of confusion in which a sense of actual disorientation seems to occur. But fear it not, for it means nothing more than that you have been willing to let go your hold on the distorted frame of reference which seemed to hold your world together. This frame of reference is built around the special relationship. Without this illusion, there can be no meaning you would still seek here.

65 Fear not that you will be abruptly lifted up and hurled into reality. Time is kind, and if you use it for reality, it will keep gentle pace with you in your transition. The urgency is only in dislodging your minds from their fixed position here. This will not leave you homeless and without a frame of reference. The period of disorientation which precedes the actual transition is far shorter than the time it took to fix your minds so firmly on illusions. Delay will hurt you now more than before only because you realize it is delay and that escape from pain is really possible. Find hope and comfort rather than despair in this: You could no longer find even the illusion of love in any special relationship here. For you are no longer wholly insane, and you would recognize the guilt of self-betrayal for what it is.

66 Nothing you seek to strengthen in the special relationship is really part of you. And you cannot keep part of the thought system which taught you it was real and understand the Thought that really knows what you are. You have allowed the Thought of your reality to enter your minds, and because you invited it, it will abide with you. Your love for it will not allow you to betray yourself, and you could not enter into a relationship where it could not go with you, for you would not be apart from it.

67 Be glad you have escaped the mockery of salvation which the ego offered you and look not back with longing on the travesty it made of your relationships. Now no one need suffer, for you have come too far to yield to the illusion of the beauty and holiness of guilt. Only the wholly insane could look on death and suffering, sickness and despair and see it thus. What guilt has wrought is ugly, fearful, and very dangerous. See no illusion of truth and beauty there. And be you thankful that there is a place where truth and beauty wait for you. Go on to meet them gladly, and learn how much awaits you for the simple willingness to give up nothing because it is nothing.

68 The new perspective you will gain from crossing over will be the understanding of where Heaven is . From here it seems to be outside and across the bridge. Yet as you cross to join it, it will join with you and become one with you. And you will think in glad astonishment that for all this you gave up nothing ! The joy of Heaven, which has no limit, is increased with each light that returns to take its rightful place within it. Wait no longer, for the love of God and you . And may the holy instant speed you on the way, as it will surely do if you but let it come to you.

69 The Holy Spirit asks only this little help of you. Whenever your thoughts wander to a special relationship which still attracts you, enter with Him into a holy instant and there let Him release you. He needs only your willingness to share His perspective to give it to you completely. And your willingness need not be complete because His is perfect. It is His task to atone for your unwillingness by His perfect faith, and it is His faith you share with Him there. Out of your recognition of your unwillingness for your release, His perfect willingness is given you. Call upon Him, for Heaven is at His call. And let Him call on Heaven for you.

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A Course in Miracles

Part I
Introduction to Lessons 181 - 200

1 Our next few lessons make a special point of firming up your willingness to make your weak commitment strong, your scattered goals blend into one intent. You are not asked for total dedication all the time, as yet. But you are asked to practice now in order to attain the sense of peace such unified commitment will bestow, if only intermittently. It is experiencing this which makes it sure that you will give your total willingness to following the way the course sets forth.

2 Our lessons now are geared specifically to widening horizons and direct approaches to the special blocks which keep your vision narrow and too limited to let you see the value of our goal. We are attempting now to lift these blocks, however briefly. Words alone can not convey the sense of liberation which their lifting brings. But the experience of freedom and of peace that comes as you give up your tight control of what you see speaks for itself. Your motivation will be so intensified that words become of little consequence. You will be sure of what you want and what is valueless.

3 And so we start our journey beyond words by concentrating first on what impedes our progress still. Experience of what exists beyond defensiveness remains beyond achievement while it is denied. It may be there, but you cannot accept its presence. So we now attempt to go past all defenses for a little while each day. No more than this is asked because no more than this is needed. It will be enough to guarantee the rest will come.

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A Course in Miracles

Lesson 185
I want the peace of God.

1 To say these words is nothing. But to mean these words is everything. If you could but mean them for just an instant, there would be no further sorrow possible for you in any form, in any place or time. Heaven would be completely given back to full awareness, memory of God entirely restored, the resurrection of all creation fully recognized.

2 No one can mean these words and not be healed. He cannot play with dreams nor think he is himself a dream. He cannot make a hell and think it real. He wants the peace of God, and it is given him. For that is all he wants, and that is all he will receive. Many have said these words. But few indeed have meant them. You have but to look upon the world you see around you to be sure how very few they are. The world would be completely changed should any two agree these words express the only thing they want.

3 Two minds with one intent become so strong that what they will becomes the Will of God. For minds can only join in truth. In dreams no two can share the same intent. To each the hero of the dream is different—the outcome wanted not the same for both. Loser and gainer merely shift about in changing patterns, as the ratio of gain to loss and loss to gain takes on a different aspect of another form.

4 Yet compromise alone a dream can bring. Sometimes it takes the form of union, but only the form. The meaning must escape the dream, for compromising is the goal of dreaming. Minds cannot unite in dreams. They merely bargain. And what bargain can give them the peace of God? Illusions come to take His place. And what He means is lost to sleeping minds intent on compromise, each to his gain and to another's loss.

5 To mean you want the peace of God is to renounce all dreams. For no one means these words who wants illusions and who therefore seeks the means which bring illusions. He has looked on them and found them wanting. Now he seeks to go beyond them, recognizing that another dream would offer nothing more than all the others. Dreams are one to him. And he has learned their only difference is one of form, for one will bring the same despair and misery as do the rest.

6 The mind which means that all it wants is peace must join with other minds, for that is how peace is obtained. And when the wish for peace is genuine, the means for finding it are given in a form each mind which seeks for it in honesty can understand. Whatever form the lesson takes is planned for him in such a way that he can not mistake it if his asking is sincere. And if he asks without sincerity, there is no form in which the lesson will meet with acceptance and be truly learned.

7 Let us today devote our practicing to recognizing that we really mean the words we say. We want the peace of God. This is no idle wish. These words do not request another dream be given us. They do not ask for compromise nor try to make another bargain in the hope that there may yet be one which can succeed where all the rest have failed. To mean these words acknowledges illusions are in vain, requesting the eternal in the place of shifting dreams which seem to change in what they offer, but are one in nothingness.

8 Today devote your practice periods to careful searching of your mind to find the dreams you cherish still. What do you ask for in your heart? Forget the words you use in making your requests. Consider but what you believe will comfort you and bring you happiness. But be you not dismayed by lingering illusions, for their form is not what matters now. Let not some dreams be more acceptable, reserving shame and secrecy for others. They are one.

9 And being one, one question should be asked of all of them: "Is this what I would have, in place of Heaven and the peace of God?" This is the choice you make. Be not deceived that it is otherwise. No compromise is possible in this. You choose God's peace, or you have asked for dreams. And dreams will come as you requested them. Yet will God's peace come just as certainly and to remain with you forever. It will not be gone with every twist and turning of the road to reappear unrecognized in forms which shift and change with every step you take.

10 You want the peace of God. And so do all who seem to seek for dreams. For them as well as for yourself you ask but this when you make this request with deep sincerity. For thus you reach to what they really want and join your own intent with what they seek above all things, perhaps unknown to them, but sure to you. You have been weak at times, uncertain in your purpose and unsure of what you wanted, where to look for it, and where to turn for help in the attempt. Help has been given you. And would you not avail yourself of it by sharing it?

11 No one who truly seeks the peace of God can fail to find it. For he merely asks that he deceive himself no longer by denying to himself what is God's Will. Who can remain unsatisfied who asks for what he has already? Who could be unanswered who requests an answer which is his to give? The peace of God is yours.

12 For you it was created, given you by its Creator and established as His own eternal gift. How can you fail when you but ask for what He wills for you? And how could your request be limited to you alone? No gift of God can be unshared. It is this attribute that sets the gifts of God apart from every dream that ever seemed to take the place of truth.

13 No one can lose and everyone must gain whenever any gift of God has been requested and received by anyone. God gives but to unite. To take away is meaningless to Him. And when it is as meaningless to you, you can be sure you share one Will with Him, and He with you. And you will also know you share one Will with all your brothers, whose intent is yours.

14 It is this one intent we seek today, uniting our desires with the need of every heart, the call of every mind, the hope that lies beyond despair, the love attack would hide, the brotherhood that hate has sought to sever, but which still remains as God created it. With help like this beside us, can we fail today as we request the peace of God be given us?

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Sarah's Reflections

Lesson 185
I want the peace of God.

This is another interesting Lesson that contrasts special and holy relationships. This Lesson is long, and so much could be said about each paragraph. Basically, in our special relationships, our interests are separate. Each one tries to benefit at the expense of the other. "In dreams, no two can share the same intent ." (W.185.3.3) In the special relationship, what one gains the other loses. The happiness of each one takes primacy over the other. In other words, I want my needs met at your expense. The relationship reflects the ego's principle of one or the other. "To each, the hero of the dream is different; the outcome wanted not the same for both." (W.185.3.4) In other words, if my needs are being met, you will have to sacrifice something of yours.
Special relationships are based on bargaining and compromise. Thus, "Loser and gainer merely shift about in changing patterns, as the ratio of gain to loss and loss to gain takes on a different aspect or another form." (W.185.3.5) Such relationships may look quite perfect in form, but it is always about offering as little as possible to get as much as possible. It is always about self-interest. It is a relationship where "This 'self' seeks the relationship to make itself complete. Yet when it finds the special relationship in which it thinks it can accomplish this it gives itself away, and tries to 'trade' itself for the self of another." (T.16.V.7.2-3) (ACIM OE T.16.VI.49)
He goes on to say that each tries to sacrifice the self he does not want and trade it for something better or someone more special. We call this love in the world, where we are happy when we get what we want. It is a relationship where if my needs are being met, and if the other person's needs are met as well, we see the relationship as one made in heaven because we each take turns at winning. We each play our part perfectly in meeting each other's expectations, but there can never be a gain for both. In the end, the relationship is one of compromise that is approved of in the world of the ego.
My happiness depends on my partner being a certain way that I have determined is important to my happiness. If he would only...then I would have peace. If the towels were folded a certain way, if the dishes were put away, if the toothpaste was not squeezed from the middle, if he didn't interrupt me, if the garbage was emptied, if he didn't flirt with everyone, and on and on it goes‑‑‑then I would have peace. We set these foolish requirements and demands in order to address our specialness. This becomes more important than peace. Is it worth giving away our peace for such nonsense? It is all nonsense because it is all illusion. We throw peace away to meet a myriad of imagined needs and requirements, and we are using these situations precisely for this purpose. The first obstacle to peace is the desire to be rid of it. "If you would make it homeless, how can it abide within the Son of God?" (T.19.IV.A.1.5) (ACIM OE T.19.V.a.40) We make peace homeless by blaming others and making them responsible for taking it from us. If we do not have peace, it is because we do not want it. In the end, we can ask ourselves, in each situation, if this is more important than the peace of God?
In this world of illusion, we can never share the same intent. (W.185.3.3) We each put our focus on a different outcome, which is always about having our own needs met. Now the meaning of love is lost because when we are in a state of need and engage in bargaining to have our needs met. We give as little as possible in these bargains in order to get as much as possible. The value of the relationship is now on the form rather than on the content of love. "Sometimes it takes the form of union, but only the form." (W.185.4.2)
If we really want the peace of God, Jesus says that we must mean these words even for just an instant and then, "Heaven would be completely given back to full awareness, memory of God entirely restored, the resurrection of all creation fully recognized." (W.185.1.4) In other words, peace would prevail over our specialness. Joining with our brother would take precedence over having our needs met. This requires that "To mean you want the peace of God is to renounce all dreams. For no one means these words who wants illusions, and who therefore seeks the means which bring illusions. " (W.185.5.1-2) In other words, if we are sincere in our desire to know God's Love and know who we are, we must bring our illusions to the truth. We need to recognize that continuing to manipulate and strategize, using other people to meet our needs, will never bring true peace and joy and will continue to keep us in the illusion.
Our experience has shown us that our special relationships keep us in fear and in a state of lack and need. We sincerely ask for a better way to live in this world when we have reached a state of disillusionment, having done everything we could think of to make our relationships work. We are at a point where we begin to recognize ". . . that another dream would offer nothing more than all the others." (W.185.5.4) In other words, we can go out and find another relationship, but, increasingly, we see that we will never find what we truly want, which is the peace of God, until we heal our minds and make peace a priority in our lives. We will not find it in the next relationship, in the next house we buy, in the next job, or anything else in the world that we try to use to fulfill our lack. In the end, all it will bring is more despair. Fortunately, Jesus has the answer for us when we are ready to hear it.
"And when the wish for peace is genuine, the means for finding it is given, in a form each mind that seeks for it in honesty can understand." (W.185.6.2) Now our relationships have a different purpose. They are used for healing the mind. Instead of focusing on how to get our needs met, we bring our needs, and the belief in lack, to the Holy Spirit. Instead of blaming others for our lack of happiness and peace, we take responsibility for the dark thoughts in the mind and recognize that we are the ones responsible for how we feel. Instead of projecting guilt onto others, making them responsible for our lack of peace, we are willing to look at our misperceptions with the Holy Spirit. This means that we look on our mistaken perceptions without judgment. We ask for help to forgive ourselves for using the other to keep us from the love we are. We see the other as simply a mirror, reflecting back to us our own unhealed perceptions. In this way, they are our saviors, showing us where we need healing. We increasingly see that our relationships provide the perfect opportunity to learn the lessons of forgiveness, where the ego's insanity can be brought to the perfect Oneness of God's peace and love.
This Lesson challenges us to be really honest with ourselves by matching our words with our true intent. If we really meant it, when we say: "I want the peace of God," (W.185) we would have it. So there must still be other things we want more, and this is something we need to look at honestly. What is it that we are substituting for the peace of God? Jesus tells us to say, "I want the peace of God," (W.185) and that to mean it is to have it. "No one can mean these words and not be healed." (W.185.2.1) This suggests, for the most part, that we don't really mean it, for "If you could but mean them for just an instant, there would be no further sorrow possible for you in any form; in any place or time. Heaven would be completely given back to full awareness, memory of God entirely restored, the resurrection of all creation fully recognized." (W.185.1.3‑4) The mind is silenced in that moment. Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor speaks about her experience of having a stroke, where the mind went silent and all was still. The ego's thought system disappeared. She speaks eloquently of the beauty of the release from the incessant chatter of the ego. It was an experience of the holy instant.
Yesterday, I put a chicken on the barbecue and it came out black and charred because I did not attend to it soon enough. We had a friend over for dinner. There was a time that such an event would have spoiled my whole evening. I would have crucified myself mercilessly. My self-esteem depended on perfection. I could not allow myself to have peace if I did not do things perfectly, which ultimately meant I was not valued by God. Yet God values us, regardless. Only my own judgments of myself keep me from this knowledge. Our healing depends on looking at our self-attacks and how they are projected onto others. Our peace does not depend on outside events or conditions. We must stay constantly aware of how subtle our investments are in our specialness and aware of what we believe needs to happen for us to have peace.
If we are stuck in traffic, burn the dinner, spill the milk, someone beats us to the parking spot, cuts us off in traffic, increases our rent, or challenges our integrity, our peace gets threatened. But can any event do that unless we give it the power to do so? Everything is neutral. We give all events the meaning they have for us. Are we victims of these circumstances, or can we exercise choice? When these things happen and we are out of peace, do we crucify ourselves or simply recognize that we have generated these events for our healing and as part of the script of our lives.
When we defend against the pain of betrayal, we hide our emotions from ourselves. When this is the case, our lives and our relationships become dry, brittle, and dead. Without an open heart, we need excitement to generate a sense of aliveness. We escape from the boredom of our lives with the many games in which we engage in the world. But with willingness to look behind our defenses, to take responsibility for our pain, and to go through our darkness, giving it over to the light, a new birth comes. We are given many opportunities to heal in this classroom, where the events of our lives are perfectly orchestrated by our own soul. It invites us to go deeper into our hearts. The pain will bring a deeper opening, either to open like a flower or be cracked open. It does not matter which. What matters is that we have the courage not to turn away from these opportunities and not to continue to defend against them through blame, judgment, and defensiveness.
We need to have courage and be very honest with ourselves. "The Holy Spirit asks of you but this; bring to Him every secret you have locked away from Him. Open every door to Him, and bid Him enter the darkness and lighten it away. At your request He enters gladly. He brings the light to darkness if you make the darkness open to Him. But what you hide He cannot look upon." (T.14.VII.6.1-5) (ACIM OE T.14.IV.30) When we uncover the darkness, it is important not to get upset or to judge ourselves if we see that there are still attack thoughts in the mind. The idea is to be willing to open the door to them and let the light in. Hiding our specialness, spiritualizing it, or justifying it is never helpful if we want to awaken from this dream. We just need to let the light in by being willing to look at our darkness. Carrie Triffet recently wrote, in her blog, how each of us has a tipping point that seems to take us into distress. She looked at her own tipping point with such open honesty and humor. Someone responded to her by noting: "I am so thankful for your writing. Too many people out there trying to come over all peaceful and enlightened. It gets really boring, fast. You are always fun. All the best teachers are." I share this perspective. A spiritualized ego is not attractive, although it may seduce followers for a time.
What heals is when we are willing to open every dark corner of our minds to the Holy Spirit. Keeping secrets from the Holy Spirit creates barriers to joining our will with God's. Jesus encourages us, "Let in the light, and you will look upon no obstacle to what He wills for you. Open your secrets to His kindly light, and see how bright this light still shines in you." (W.99.8.3-4) What are these secrets that we hide from the Holy Spirit? Jesus invites us to search our minds to "find the dreams you cherish still." (W.185.8.1) These can be fantasies of what we think would make us happy, the needs we think we have, or those things that make us angry, ashamed, and hateful. Either way, we need to recognize and admit to the obstacles we put in the way of peace. If we truly desire peace, we will have it. It is not something to search for or to beseech God for because it is already in us. All that is required is the courage and honesty to look at our own dark thoughts.
Certainly, if the desires of our heart are for things in the illusion, we can manifest them as well because of the power of our minds. In coming to the recognition that those things will not bring us peace but only temporary pleasure, we become motivated to pursue true healing. When we learn that pleasure and pain are ultimately the same, our focus changes to one of healing. True happiness and peace cannot be found in illusion. Yet even when we are asking the Holy Spirit for something we think we want in this dream, it does not make it wrong. What we are doing is asking for a better dream rather than to be released from the dream. Release from the dream is where our peace and happiness lie.
"And when the wish for peace is genuine, the means for finding it is given, in a form each mind that seeks for it in honesty can understand." (W.185.6.2) When Bill Thetford, co-scribe of the Course, said to Helen Schucman, scribe, that he wanted to find a better way of being in the world than the strife he and Helen were experiencing, she agreed to help him find it. In their joining together on this mission, in a united goal, the form given to them was this Course. Through it, the world has been changed. This is the power of minds, joining in one intent. "Two minds with one intent become so strong that what they will becomes the Will of God." (W.185.3.1)
Only in the agreement to join, for the purpose of healing a relationship, is it made holy. When we join in a purpose to heal any relationship, we are fully supported by the power of the Divine. The person may not even be currently in our life since it is not about bodies joining but only minds. Joining with them does not mean they have to join with us. Joining is what is happening in our own mind. The ultimate goal is the recognition of Oneness.
It is challenging to be very honest in looking at our desires, but fortunately, we have the help of the Holy Spirit. We are told not to be dismayed by the lingering illusions that cling to us still. The dream of wanting to be a special Course student is still a dream and no different than a sexual fantasy or a dream of having a new car. Either way, we are dreaming. "The necessary condition for the holy instant does not require that you have no thoughts that are not pure. But it does require that you have none that you would keep. Innocence is not of your making. It is given you the instant you would have it. Atonement would not be there if there were no need for it. You will not be able to accept perfect communication as long as you would hide it from yourself. For what you would hide is hidden from you. In your practice, then, try only to be vigilant against deception, and seek not to protect the thoughts you would keep to yourself. Let the Holy Spirit's purity shine them away, and bring all your awareness to the readiness for purity He offers you." (T.15.IV.9.1-9) (ACIM OE T.15.V.43-44) This is all that healing requires, but it does mean constant mind watching.
Today, we make a strong affirmative statement: "I want the peace of God." (W.185) It is not only a statement but a request in statement form. All we have to realize is that we already have it. It is already ours, as given by God, and indeed it is something we cannot change. We ask for what we have already but are simply not aware of. (W.185.11.3) We are blocking the truth by the thoughts we are holding in our minds, and now we are willing to look at them and bring them to the light. Be willing to look with Jesus beside you as a symbol of love and non-judgment.
Ask yourself, "What am I asking for in my heart today?" (W.185.8.2) "Today devote your practice periods to careful searching of your mind, to find the dreams you cherish still." (W.185.8.1) "Forget the words you use in making your requests. Consider but what you believe will comfort you, and bring you happiness. But be you not dismayed by lingering illusions, for their form is not what matters now. Let not some dreams be more acceptable, reserving shame and secrecy for others. They are one. And being one, one question should be asked of all of them, 'Is this what I would have, in place of Heaven and the peace of God'?" (W.185.8.3-8) We do still hold onto dreams of specialness, but we are called not to judge ourselves for those dreams, nor feel guilty that we still have them. The only request Jesus is making of us is not to keep those dreams away from him by trying to hide them, justify them, or make them spiritual. He can only help us if we get honest with him.
"With Help like this beside us, can we fail today as we request the peace of God be given us?" (W.185.14.2) If Help and Love are in us, right this minute, and we don't feel them or experience them, it is only because we have chosen to separate ourselves from them. We have chosen to suffer and to blame something outside of us for separating us from His love. We are the ones that have actively chosen to throw it away. When we become aware that this is so, then indeed we have the opportunity to change our minds and give over our mistaken perceptions to the Holy Spirit.
Let us commit to bringing all our dreams, all our shame, all our guilt, and all our fears to the truth so they can be healed, and we can know the peace and joy that is our inheritance. If anything shows up to upset you today, be willing to see that you are holding onto the upset because of your fear of love. In other words, what we are doing, by holding onto upsets, is pushing the love we are away from ourselves and choosing to maintain our individuality. The cost to us is always to keep from us the awareness of the peace a nd joy within our right minds. Ask yourself honestly, "What do I want? What is the desire of my heart?"

Love and blessings, Sarah


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